Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Dear Friends,

It’s 5 am and just a few days before Christmas. I start my day bundled up against the chill in the house, sitting in my reading chair with a cup of hot, strong coffee and a book. My cat jumps up on my chest and as I put down my book and enfold him in my arms, he turns upside down, looks up at me and begins to purr. He’s a fluffy, long-hair “tuxedo” meaning black with a white chest. In less than a minute he’s sound asleep and I think how differently his life turned out for him. Sean McDougal was born to a feral cat on my property and rescued on Father’s Day in 2014 when he was four to five weeks old. He was a little over a pound and loaded with fleas, ear mites, worms and an intestinal infection all of which were quickly taken care of by my Vet. With the numerous coyotes in my neighborhood, this feral kitten was destined for a short life but he did not initially appear grateful to be “rescued.” After he was brought in the house, he hid from me, terrified that the human-monster was going to eat him. 

But this morning, I look down at the healthy, thirteen pound cat in my arms who makes occasional kitten-like whimpering sounds as he sleeps. He’s warm, safe and well-fed. I think of the many homeless in Sylmar on this week before Christmas who are not anywhere near as fortunate as my cat. I look online to see that according to our local weather station at a fire camp in Sylmar, it’s 38 degrees outside with winds at 30-35 mph and gusting up to 52 mph. At this morning’s temperature and wind speed, the wind-chill factor is 26 degrees and you will get frostbite on any exposed skin in thirty minutes. I can’t image what it must be like to live outdoors when it’s this cold. In another hour, I’ll take Sean’s wet food out of the refrigerator and heat it for a few seconds in the microwave to just take the chill out of it. Homeless women with children will pick through trash cans to find their breakfast this morning. Lord, I don’t have the resources to “rescue” a homeless person but show me what I can do right now to ease the suffering of some of those who live in my community. That morning, I go through my closets and take an armload of coats to the Sylmar homeless shelter.

Sean has his own “toy chest” filled with high-tech, interactive cat toys. He prefers to play with a plastic cap from a bottle of drinking water. He’ll ignore the life-like, battery-operated mouse and spend an hour batting around and chasing a pencil that he swiped from the holder on my desk. But he always shares his favorite things with me. I have slip-on shoes just inside both the front door and the back door and usually a pair on the floor in my bedroom. As soon as he finishes playing with his toys, he will frequently carry one of them over and drop it in my shoes so that I can play with it too. I am far less charitable. Dear Lord, teach me how to be less selfish and show me how to more fully give to others the material things that you have so generously given to me.

I’m the introvert who would have been happy living as a monk in a monastery. Sean is an out-going, feline extrovert. When the air conditioning repairman came to my house, Sean rubbed up against his leg until he reached down to pet him. When people come over, my cat will run to them, lie down at their feet and turn upside down to invite them to stroke the soft fur on his stomach. As an introvert, I prefer to remain a safe distance from people. Lord, please show me how to be as hospitable as my cat. When I tend to put up shields to protect my inner vulnerability, help me God to more easily trust in people and to have faith in their goodness.

The official story is that I rescued Sean, but if he could talk, he’d probably tell you that he rescued me. I’m not sure which one of us is right and maybe we both are. But... (you dog lovers can roll your eyes about now) I will admit that God may have used my cat to make me a better person because he has inspired my three New Year’s Resolutions: 1) Be more other-centered and more sensitive to the needs of others. 2) Be more generous in sharing with others the material things and financial provision that God has so generously given to me. 3) Be more trusting of the goodness of others, slower to judge and criticize and quicker to accept and embrace.

The most popular New Year’s Resolutions revolve around a desire for more money, more exercise, better health and a better job. Along with the vast majority of well-intentioned people, I too have made and broken those resolutions for self-improvement. My natural focus is on bettering myself. But in the Kingdom of God when it comes to “betterment,” the focus of Jesus is always on the loving betterment of others. “This is my commandment, that you love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12 What if it was different this year? What if we were all less self-centered and more other-centered? What if Jesus were to write down your top three New Year’s Resolutions and hand them to you? What would they be?

No comments:

Post a Comment