Sunday, September 25, 2011

Taking the Chill Off

Baxter gets cozy when the weather gets cool. I have noticed the change in his behavior the past week when the mornings have had a little bit of a brisk edge. During the summer he staked out his own turf in the house, and for the most part, he didn’t want to be bothered by me or anyone. He wanted only to lie in the various spots he claimed for his own, a solitary mound of fur content with his privacy. “Leave me to my own world” was his clear and persistent message through the warm and lazy days of summer.

But now he is sending a different message. To put off the chill of the early morning, Baxter now wants a place on my lap. Of course, he picks the place, and this choice sometimes takes a few exploratory circles around my lap until he finds just the right spot. Then it’s plop, purr and the picture of contentment as he snuggles to stay warm. Actually, this is a very symbiotic arrangement for the two of us. Once he is settled, Baxter is like a lap blanket for me, sharing his higher body temperature to stave off the chilly morning. In a cold environment, two can make a warmer place if they share their space.

The same holds true for God and God’s children in a cold world. Too often we try to make it on our own in this world. We have to show that we are tough, independent and able to stand on our own two feet. So we isolate ourselves and work out our discipleship and its challenges alone. We take care of ourselves, and don’t ask for help or companionship. We prove our worth by showing that we don’t need anyone to deal with the cool reception that often comes with being a believer today.

But there is another way. To combat the cold, share the warmth of God’s love by allowing God to get close. He won’t growl. He won’t push you away. He won’t feel you are intruding on His space. He will welcome the opportunity to get close and share what each of us has to offer to bring warmth to a cold situation. God’s lap is large enough for everyone to find a place to feel at home and comfortable. But we need to realize that it’s cold out there and that we need a little help to stay warm.

Only a warm believer is a credible one. Standing aloof from the weaknesses of others only says that we are out of touch with our own vulnerable humanity. Staying isolated from the complex problems of today’s world only says that we are afraid of our confusion and uncertainty. Thinking that our faith is self-sufficient only raises doubts about its authenticity, because faith is first a gift, if it is true at all. It takes our knowing the warmth of God’s love to communicate a message that attracts others and invites them to share our space.

Holiness doesn’t have to be cold to be true. More often than not, a cold spirituality is hiding something not of God, but of our own troubled soul. God reveals Himself for who He is—a loving Father who takes the world in His lap to hand it over to His Son for healing and forgiveness through His cross. The Son, in turn, releases the warmth of the Spirit to renew the face of the earth. As fall brings a chill to our mornings, say a prayer for the warmth of God’s love to touch you, and through you, others.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Baxter Is Back!

Baxter is back! He had a great summer doing his usual cat activities - sleeping, eating, getting in trouble, sleeping, eating, sleeping, eating, sleeping, eating, getting in trouble. You get the picture.

He passed his annual physical. He lost a pound, got a rabies shot and some drops for his ear, and overcame the trauma of going to the vet. He is ready for another year of cat routines. See the list mentioned above.

Fall is full of start-ups with new or resumed routines. The weather is cool. It’s football season. School has begun on all levels, and we are back to our more typical life style. This time of the year provides an opportunity for us to take stock of what we make a routine part of our lives. Sometimes we just fall into routines, and the routines rule our lives. But are we giving our time, talent and energy to what matters most?

Sometimes our lives get out of our hands because we get caught into meeting the expectations and demands of everyone else. We keep adding more and more activities to our schedules, and wonder why we are so exhausted and stressed. We fill free time with commitments and have no time to relax. We find ourselves in schedule conflicts, and so we end up meeting our commitments half the time and ignoring the rest. We gear up for a new school year, but we run only at top speed. There’s no time to think, reflect, pray, or watch our kids have fun without a “win” at stake. Is it any wonder we are depressed, distressed and disoriented?

God gave us only twenty-four hours to a day, seven days to a week, and fifty-two weeks to a year. How do we fill the time with what we need to be complete persons, nourished in body, mind and spirit? How do we get into a routine that helps us grow as persons and disciples of Christ? It doesn’t happen automatically or through some form of magic. We need to have time to pray, worship, relax, be together without an agenda except to connect with each other.

Baxter’s routine is quite simple. He does what cats need to do to be cats, and he doesn’t care what others want to make of him. No stupid cat tricks for him, no social commitments, no forced organized sports, no alarm clocks—except the one in his stomach for meal time. Our routines are a lot more complicated, but are they balanced to shape us into complete persons and faithful Catholics? Fall’s start-ups give us a chance to adjust our lives for the better. Think about it.