Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Baxter has a build-in curiosity. He loves to explore both new places and revisit old ones to see what might be new. He sits and cries before a closed door wondering what lies hidden behind it. He surveys closets to see if any new items are living there. He loves to go into the basement and reconnoiter this underground maze to see if anything has changed from the last visit. If I have lost something under a piece of furniture and I hunch on the floor looking for it, Baxter is next to me exploring the hidden spaces. Even though he doesn’t know what he is looking for, he loves the hunt. His curiosity is never satisfied.

Children have an innate curiosity too. They want to know how something works, what’s in the cupboards, who is across the street, why the sky is blue. While their inquisitiveness can drive every parent crazy with fear of harm, it also is the key to their later success in school and in the work place. Curiosity is a key to initiative and innovation. When we explore new possibilities we learn and grow to understand the world more.

When we think new thoughts we find new solutions to old problems, and we open new avenues for knowledge and skills. Think of how the computer revolution developed. Curiosity feeds our zest for living by refusing to box life into a set of rules and routines that are never questioned.

Are we curious about God? Do we use our minds and imaginations to explore new aspects of this ultimate mystery of life? Or do we settle for the old answers we learned as a kid and the traditional routines we follow every day, week or year? Without curiosity, our faith grows stale and confined. It can begin to look like a museum piece rather than a living force to guide our lives. Faith engages the world to find the hidden treasures of God’s hand at work there. Before it dismisses or condemns, it first wants to understand what is happening and uncover whatever is good, true and beautiful about it. Then it works at shaping whatever is newly discovered according to God’s ways and purposes.

Of course, there are dangers of straying from the traditions that hold us together and in touch with God, but there are also dangers in not exploring. We can separate ourselves from the real concerns of our fellow human beings, and lock ourselves into a comfortable but artificial world of sacred jargon, artifacts and rituals. These may reassure us, but they may just look archaic and idiosyncratic to many people. Our job is to show the living God Who speaks and acts in the workings of our Church.

Curiosity can kill the cat, but it also can make it happy and a delight to those who witness its explorations. A curious faith rooted in a community of believers and its primary tradition is more attractive still. It connects to people where they live each day, and it brings them hope and encouragement based on God. So open some new doors, look beyond the sanctuary furniture, come alive with the living God at work in our world making it new. It’s a curious thing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

He Doesn't Talk Back

I often thank God that Baxter can’t speak a human language. Although he is very good at catspeak, few outside his species can decipher its meaning. I have learned after years of paying close attention how to interpret different sounds that he makes, but these are limited to his own desires and moods, and they don’t refer to anyone else in his world. Baxter speaks for and about himself, but he is mum when it comes to talking about others. However, this would not be for lack of material.

Baxter sees me at my worst and my best, but he doesn't tell a soul what those extremes look like in me. Certain sporting events are particularly telling in this regard. When my favorite team is performing at top proficiency and makes a spectacular play, Baxter witnesses my crazy antics and shouts for joy. He takes it all in stride, figuring I will get over it soon. The same holds true for when the game turns sour. Although the tone gets harsh, Baxter takes it, simply turning away to a favorite spot until the resident maniac calms down.

God sees the best and the worst in us as well. When we are at the top of our game, God rejoices with us and cheers us on. When we are in the doldrums of life, feeling defeated, lost and upset, God is there to share our pain. He often can’t do anything about it, and that might provoke anger from us. But God simply takes it. We expect God to perform for us, to keep bad things from happening to us, or when they do, to make it all better again. When this doesn't happen, we can go crazy, and God can become the object of our irrational and uncontrolled frustration and irritation. We lash out at the divine goodness, wondering what good He is. Afterwards, we may regret our words and actions, but the cat is out of the bag and what can we do about it.

We can give thanks to God for being God and not the petty, self-centered, volatile egos we often disclose about ourselves. We can thank God for not talking back when we aren't ready to listen. We can thank God for listening and caring about our predicaments because He cares about us. We can thank God for not talking about us but revealing Himself to us when the time is right for us. God-speak also takes time to understand, but when we get it, it has many layers of meaning for us to unfold. Thank God we have a life-time to figure it out.

You see, while we are rooting for all our favorite teams, God is rooting for us, staying with us, and watching us with care through the good times and bad. Best of all, in His kindness, God doesn't tell anyone about our crazy outbursts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Always There

Last weekend the clocks changed. We moved ahead an hour for daylight-saving time. Baxter didn’t notice the change. I didn’t change the timer on his feeder, so his eating habits remained on the same interval. For us, he was eating at 3:45 AM and 3:30 PM on standard time, and now he has breakfast at 4:45 AM and dinner at 4:30 PM. For Baxter, nothing has changed. He gets hungry about a half hour before he eats and whines about it. The portions are the same on either time schedule, and he continues to wish he had more. When the clocks fall back or spring ahead, Baxter’s world remains stable, even if the rest of us may change our routines and wish for more daylight or more sleep. Cats live in the constant present, and they are not easily distracted from the routines that anchor their lives. The world around them may alter its ways, but they go on with their steady way of life.

God works this way as well. While the world goes through revolutionary changes in technology, politics, life style, economics and culture, God remains constant sustaining the good, caring for the lost and broken, forgiving our sins, and providing a loving presence in our midst. He doesn’t get easily rattled by the changes that come and go in our world. He adapts to them in the ways He shows Himself and ministers to our needs. God looks differently in different eras. Yet it is the same God in all these appearances, always with the same intentions, to love and save us. Because many changes in life disrupt our expectations and routines, we might have to search for God at first. He may not be how and where we expected Him to be from our past experiences, but He hasn’t abandoned us. He moves with us from our workplace to our retirement community, from our home to a care facility, from child-rearing to an empty nest, from school to a job, from health to sickness, from affluence to unemployment, from marriage to divorce, from death to eternal life. God is with us in every condition our lives assume. His constancy always fits.

Ironically, God’s ever present love makes Him easy to miss when things change for us. In new situations, we can get stuck on focusing on what we don’t have any longer and what isn’t the same, so that we can’t see what new blessings are offered now that may open new doors to a deeper spiritual life. With daylight-saving time, a darker morning brings a longer evening light. We miss a little sleep one night, but we can gain more daylight to enjoy a new season of our lives. God is in every season of life, but we have to look for Him in a different light and be grateful for the new viewpoint it brings. 

Baxter’s steady presence is a blessing in my life now. God’s everlasting presence promises to make our whole life a blessing, no matter what the time or season. Look for God in whatever the present situations are in which we find ourselves. He’s there; He isn’t going anywhere; and He’s on time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Baxter loves food, but he isn’t greedy. I can reach into his bowl when he is eating and take a handful of food away, and he doesn’t get upset. He doesn’t hiss, scratch or try to bite me when I do this. He certainly wants to chow down, but not at the expense of someone else. Maybe because I raised him to know that there would always be enough to eat, he does not see someone else sharing from his dish as a threat. While Baxter doesn’t stop chomping until the bowl is empty, he won’t stop someone from having a few morsels, if they wish. Despite all his pleasure seeking practices, Baxter is a generous cat.

What about us? What is our attitude towards what we have and what we want to get? Is our instinct to grab and stuff as much into our pockets as we can, or do we figure there is plenty for everyone, if each takes his or her turn? Lent is a time to think through these questions for ourselves.

Remember when we were kids and dessert was being served. We always wanted a big piece. Even if we couldn’t eat it all, we still wanted it. My mother used to say, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach,” meaning you want more than you need or can handle comfortably. Favorite foods were more than a way to get nourishment. They were a sign that we were special, top cat, entitled to all that we want and going to take it. And forget it, if someone else wanted a taste off our dish. “This is mine. Get your own. Mom, he took my piece!” We were so self-centered, possessive and greedy at times--so immature.

Have we grown up though? Maybe the object of our desire has changed from endless quantities of candy, ice cream and cake, but are we still grabbing at life for all that we can get and looking for more? That is a very exhausting way to live, because we are always concerned about what someone has, how much better it is, and we are afraid that they will take what we have away from us. It is living with a defensive attitude towards others, seeing them as threats to what we have rather than partners in this world.

Our faith calls us to reach out to others with all that we can give. The model is set by God Himself, Who did not spare His own Son for our sakes. We are called to follow in this way, the way of Jesus,who gave us God’s Word,God’s forgiveness and healing, God’s boundless love, even unto His death. It’s the opposite of grabbing and greed. It is generously sharing with brothers and sisters so that all can have more, more joy and peace in living, even if each has a little less stuff to carry around. In this way we see each other differently. We aren’t competitors for limited resources. We are part of one human family where all benefit from shared goods and services that create a benevolent world. It is like the community of God’s Trinitarian life. It’s a holy way to live.

Baxter loves to eat, but he is not afraid to share his food. Lent calls us to become more generous, realizing that it is not what we have but what we give that marks us as God’s children.