Jesus, the Cat Herder

Cat’s can be expensive. Every single day they need food and water and litter. Every day. And they take time too. You have to clean out water bowls, scoop out the litter box, play, pamper and pet.

They need toys and vet visits, which can lead to medicines, vaccines, and special diets. It all became clear just how much they cost when the vet used the word, ‘hydrolyzed’ diet. To be blunt, hydrolyzed means that a 7 dollar bag of cat food now costs 50 dollars.

I didn’t have to think about it for long. Toby (the cat) is in pain and this could relieve that discomfort. It’s worth it to keep him happy. And that is what we do. We keep the cats happy. They get treats and playtime and they get my seat and my shoes. They have fancy cat stands and hammocks to sleep in, they have special places on the porch and in the other rooms.

We have a rule that if someone has a cat in their lap, someone else has to bring them things so as to not disturb the cat.

Sure, they are cats and they act like cats which means being jerks and all, but we still love them.

Now I’m going to ask you a question that a cat owner never asks… what does the cat do for me?

They don’t cook or clean or help in any way. They don’t contribute to chores, finances, or stability. They bring their needs and their affections and that is all. They are a burden, an extra responsibility, and every cat owner knows this.

But, we love them and not only want to take care of them, we genuinely want them to be happy. Not for what they bring us, but for we want with them. We want that family and relationship they provide. And this is how you know its a genuine and true and honest and fully loving relationship… because we don’t ever expect anything in return… in fact, it’s physically impossible for them to do anything for us.

While cat owners do deserve a special pat on the back, there is one thing we need to clear up.

You are the cat.

You bring absolutely nothing to Jesus except for yourself… just as you are. You can’t create. You have no power or authority. You are a mess that brings along a lengthy list of needs and frustrations.

But Jesus, picks us up, sets us in His lap, and desires to hear us purr. What He wants from us is that relationship… and nothing else, as it would be impossible for us to even bring anything else anyway.

If you have a hard time understanding how Jesus could love a mistake like you, consider the cat. They scratch the good furniture, leave hairballs in the most inconvenient places, wake us up all hours of the night, hiss, run away… and all we really want is have them purr in our laps as we comfort them and take care of all their problems.

Jesus wants a real, honest, true, genuine, loving relationship with you. No strings attached. Not only does He not want anything from you… you couldn’t bring it anyway. He just wants you. Not the results of you, but JUST you.

There is nothing more rewarding to a cat owner than a purring, cuddle session. To know they trust us, love us back, and want to be with us. Go ahead…. be a cat. Climb in God’s lap and let Him know His love is returned. Accept the safety. Accept the food. Accept the gifts… Accept the Savior.

Live IN the Future, Not for it

We spend our lives trying to get to the good moments. When bad things happen we strive to overcome and repair. It’s often about getting back to our happy places.

Pain is not just inevitable, it’s a guarantee. It’s a promise wrought on by a fallen world desperate to take it all. Where is the hope? There are glimpses here and there, but in its fullness we won’t see it until we have nothing left. Death, for instance, doesn’t cost different things for different people… it’s the same price for all and it simply costs everything. This can be difficult to understand whether we fear our own or lose others we care so much about.

We take nothing with us. Jesus knew this and yet stayed on mission. His task was not to find Joy only to lose it in the end when all is left behind. He didn’t amass wealth or accolades that would be stripped from Him as He passed on. His death was how He returned to the Father and it’s also how He saved us. And so He locked on to that moment and bee-lined straight to it.

No time to waste, no distractions, ‘I’ve got a death to get to’. Why me? Nope he never said those words, ‘why me?’. How silly would it have sounded for the only person equipped to live out his life and death for us to ponder if someone else not capable could take His place… and how ironic as His task was exactly that… to take our place.

You are expertly equipped and placed into your life circumstances unlike any other. Others know pain, but no one knows YOUR pain. Why you? You are the only one who can. You can wallow in regret and pity or you can embrace the inevitable and bee-line through destiny knowing the truth of Jesus.

Life isn’t the relationships we make in this world. It’s not about getting back to the good moments or experiencing the peace and calm… it’s about that mission that takes us from one rocky moment to the next… the ones we were trained for… the ones we have been made and prepared for. And when our mission is complete, it’s not about what we leave behind or are left without… it’s about what is ahead.

Whether we lose children or parents or struggle with illness and debt and loneliness and many other things… it’s never, why me? Why NOT me? Who else could do this? Getting through this moment with eyes on God, thinking eternally… that is exactly what Jesus came and showed us how to do.

COVID, school, jobs, sickness, death, despair, heartache… we have the tools to look up. It’s not about getting back, it’s about getting up. We can stand up and face any day that we give to God. Not through our strength, but with His.

The enemy offers consolation in grief and utter loss. His cure is stagnation. His goal is doubt and confusion. He will whisper that you deserve more, he will dangle sad memories and terrible challenges through your anxiety and frustration. He wins when we give in to ‘why me?’.

It means we have lost sight of the Savior who constantly chanted, ‘it HAS to be me’ while He sacrificed beyond all understanding. You have the power to do the same. His name is Jesus and He gave it to you. You can look the doubt and fears and turmoil square in the eyes and giggle with the faith of being created to be led directly through the storms and into the hope that awaits you.

You can do this. You were made for this. It’s not about the people around you or the weakness within you. It’s not for the stuff or the memories. It’s certainly not for posting and sharing… It’s about getting through while looking up. Eyes on the Father. That is how Jesus did it. That is what we have been prepared for.

We get to live in the future. IN the future. Normally that isn’t possible. You might think I meant to say, “FOR” the future. No. For the future is planning ahead. You exercise today to be buff tomorrow. You study today to be smart tomorrow. That is living “FOR” the future.

Living “IN” the future is being aware of when eternity begins. It’s knowing God who is omniscient (all knowing). It’s doing things today BECAUSE of tomorrow. Crazy things that don’t build you up at all. Sacrificing money and food, or even just being kind to someone that will still hate you after. That is living IN the future. It doesn’t better yours, it betters theirs.

Living IN the future knows the score. It knows how things have already turned out thanks to the death of Jesus Christ. It exclaims, “I’m there!”. I want in on that! I receive the gift of Jesus. And everything I do will be with that gift in mind. It’s not building a better tomorrow, you already have the best tomorrow! It’s accepting and knowing what your tomorrow will be no matter how terrible today seems.

You will be tempted to look out on life and try to get back to some point, some moment, or maybe even some feeling. This is where despair comes from. Trying to get to something that you were never meant for. Try living each moment as though God is leading you through to something fantastic… because if you let Him, He will. The confusion comes from temporary fantastic and eternal awe and amazement. Living IN the future will help discern between the two.

I’m a Disciple and I’m Sorry

I am a disciple of Jesus. But before I get into the apology, I should state that I’ve always wanted to be one. Look at them. Biblical legends. Walking on water, tongues of fire, healing, communing with Jesus. And why shouldn’t they have been? He took every opportunity to teach them. He sought their company and even asked for their prayers.

I guess where it went wrong for me is that I kept reading after the Sunday School excerpt stopped. Before Peter could walk on the water, he had to question Jesus first. In an act of both doubt and testing, he asked, “if it is you, command me to walk on the water”. If? Jesus had already announced who it was. But lets cut him some slack, maybe a translation problem made it sound worse than it really was.

So he walks on water. Jesus commanded him, he stepped on faith (what an amazing testament to faith, by the way… it’s why he is a Bible icon after all), but just a few steps and the wind reminded Peter that his legs are meant for land. His faith exited stage left and his fears jumped into the driver seat. Then he sank into the water. But as he began to plummet, he still managed a final plea, “Lord, save me!”. More faith? No. Desperation. Faith kept him above the water, fear drug him into it. Submission to fear caused him to cry out.

I don’t think I’m taking things too harshly or literally here, after all, Jesus had to rebuke Peter for his lack of faith. Now, it goes on to say that after the wind died down (because Jesus made it), that they all believed. Here is the problem. Peter believed… until it got difficult. Then he returned to his pre-Jesus ways of living. How is that heroic?

But, it’s not just Peter. It’s all of them. I should have started with the worst of all… Judas. Do we even remember that he was a disciple? I think most of us just frown at the sound of his name and move on. What about doubting Thomas who demanded evidence over faith? The disciples in bulk tried to send a woman seeking healing away because she was “crying out to them”. When they couldn’t heal a demon possessed man, Jesus seemingly mocked their dismay with the reason of their failure… they did not have the faith that the healing required.

They argued over who was the greatest among them, they desired to know the forgiveness limit, they tried to stop the children from getting to Jesus, they denied Him, rebuked Him, questioned Him, abandoned Him, tried to stop others from working in His name… our heroes. Our Bible legends. In all of their mistakes and selfishness.

Through the power of Jesus, these men did amazing and miraculous things. Through the power of the tempter and great liar, they did horrible and despicable things. The same men. One great feat followed by a giant failure, later to be followed by an amazing miracle. Why? How?

  1. Jesus did not wait until the men were perfect before leaving them to their mission. They were still human when he left them. We are still human now.
  2. They were never expected to be perfect this side of heaven. Neither are we. They were forgiven and still maintained the company of the Savior even after massive regression to sin, fear, and doubt… we too are forgivable, and can maintain our relationship with Jesus even after we mess up.

I feel like I must apologize. I’ve made the same mistakes. As someone who claims Jesus in His life and has read and experienced such amazing things… I still have fear and doubt and struggles… just like the disciples. And in one way, I am incredible proud to be one:

  1. They never stopped following Him… even after He went to a place they could not physically follow. Neither should we.

So while we are human and imperfect, just like our predecessors, I pray we remember this truth… that while we are in the company of the Savior we can enjoy all of what makes him our Lord, including forgiveness. Go easy on yourself at times. There is only one Jesus… the rest of us are Peters and Judases. Flawed, yet in the Master’s presence.

I pray you find encouragement and also resolve to strive to learn. While they made many mistakes, each one was a learning opportunity. Don’t neglect the teaching moments.

True Love’s Kiss. What Will Break the Curse?

The TV show Once Upon a Time goes into great details about how the amazing power of true love’s kiss can break any curse. There are 2 rules the show expounds on that I think are worth covering briefly before we examine who our true love is.

First, the love must be reciprocated. If only one party has love for the other, then true love is not established and the kiss is powerless against any magic.

Second, The biggest curse is broken by the love between a mother and son. When Emma kisses Henry on his forehead, the entire kingdom is freed because of their true bond and maternal love for each other.

The sad moments generated from this knowledge showed failed couples, who had fallen out of love in one way or another, unable to wield the magic breaking power of true love. Either one party or both no longer cherished the other and the kiss would simply fall flat.

Nothing spoke stronger about the deepest, truest feelings one could have for another than seeing the results of a kiss when needing powerful spells broken.

So I’d like to pose a challenging question for each of us to ponder for a while. What is our true love? Before you answer, consider that many people think they have a true love, only to find that circumstances can prove surprising and upsetting results.

We don’t need fairy-tales to see the wreckage of failed marriages, broken homes, friendless individuals and desperate souls. How many people find their true love only to wake up to an empty bed and a broken heart? Easily more than half. We all know the lies told of “love”. Few of us know the truth of real love.

So when life’s curse falls on you, what truth would be revealed? Would your spouse be able to break the spell? Would your love for them, and their love for you unite in an explosion of salvation and healing? Or would it fizzle into despair as you realize that at least one of you only lives for another?

Would it be your children? Would their love for you be pure? Is it your career? Would cold hard cash release the spell as the thing you love most in this world? Popularity? Health? Status? Possessions?

What about Jesus? Would His kiss on your forehead have the reciprocating power of true, eternal love?

Remember, this is a magical fairy-tale and the deepest thoughts of the heart are revealed against all will and logic. It’s not a question of, would you want it to… It’s a question of, would it work? Is the love already there, deep deep down in your heart. If Jesus planted one on your cheek, would the world find out that you truly love Him back above all others, or would He walk away broken hearted?

Who do you really love? For some of us… the question may be, what do we really love? While this might be a revealing and depressing process for those of us being really honest with ourselves… remember this. The cross proved Jesus’ love for us once and for all.

Instead of true love in the form of a kiss, He showed His love by taking on our mistakes and nailing them to a torture device while He still held them. Should we choose to love Jesus the way He first loved us… we never have to wonder if He might return the sentiment or not.

We never have to question that we are His greatest desire. The price He paid proved that far beyond what any make believe story could attempt to describe.


Image by JacLou DL from Pixabay

We Need More Strange and Dim

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”

Helen Howarth Lemmel (1922)

Those words are from a beautiful hymn and if you haven’t heard it there is a short clip of the chorus embedded at the bottom of the page. You might wonder about a few things. Strange. And dim. Those aren’t typically positive things. Try asking your best friend or spouse if they could start being strangely dim for you. Some of them may be way ahead of the game or already there… others will just look at you weird.

The best way to explain why we want strange and dim in our earthly things can be described in a short camera tutorial.

Examine the picture at the top of this page. You might recognize Emmet from the Lego movie. Hi Emmet! Can I ask you to see what is behind him? I’m going to presume you can’t… even if I tell you. From left to right we have Chloe from Secret Life of Pets, A Camel from Prince of Egypt, the Ghostbuster’s car, Bob the minion, Teddy Pierce from Community and the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard. How many did you get right? I’ll show you another picture in a moment.

That blurriness in the back that you can’t make out is called bokeh and most photographers will pronounce it wrong. It’s pronounced BOH-kay. It is intentionally putting parts of an image out of focus using light and depth of field. You might start noticing that most pictures and even movies and TV use this effect because it makes the subject stand out. It separates items from the background and immediately draws the eyes in to what you want the viewer to look at.

To pull this off you have to do a few things that I will itemize below.

  1. You have to put the subject in focus.
  2. You have to open up the aperture to let in more light.
  3. You have to separate the subject from the background.

Briefly put, you have to put your focus on what matters. You can’t be a good image of Jesus if you aren’t even looking at Him. We must focus. If you have used a camera, you likely know that isn’t as easy as it sounds. You may have to zoom in and isolate the object you desire. You have to wait for lighting, move things around to get them in or out of view. Adjust settings, change positions, etc. You don’t just click a button and walk away. You may need to brace yourself against something to reduce arm shake, or get down on a knee to get the correct angle. Focus means taking time and really studying the subject.

We are taking an image. A likeness. The more time we spend on the subject, the more accurate the picture will be. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more reflective we will be of Him. We can’t just take a quick glance and claim Christ-likeness, its a lifelong process filled with blessings of pain and hope. And each step along the way we are perfecting our portrait of Him in our lives.

Opening up the aperture is widening the hole that lets light come in to hit the sensor. More light means a better picture and less grain. But as you do this it creates a depth of field. The more light you let in the easier it is to focus on what matters. The subject pops off the screen and looks incredibly sharp as it is contrasted against things that begin to blur away. The more depth of field you have, the more the focal point stands out. We need more light to look like Jesus. He is the light of the world and many of us turn out underexposed when we try and act like Him… without Him in our hearts.

If you need to, scroll back up and check out Emmet again. He is the only discernible thing on the page. The final way this happened is that I separated Him physically from the background items. If they all existed on the same focal plane (i.e. they were all side by side), there would be no way to visually differentiate them to create any depth. They would all be blurry, or they would all be sharp, but either way, no one would like the image. It would just be a jumble of items.

When we focus on Jesus, and separate Him from the garbage of this world, and let His light into our life… the stuff that doesn’t matter begins to blur. The junk disappears. The treasure in heaven becomes sharper, brighter, and closer and the things that will burn up with this world will darken into a distant background.

If what you want is Jesus, there isn’t room for the other stuff. We either take Him and only Him and we push back the lies and garbage that the enemy promises… or we buy the lies and enjoy the temporary treasures of this world. But look at what happens when you leave the camera in the same place and adjust the focus…

Now you can see the cool toys I lined up behind Emmet. But what happened to Him? Like I said, you can’t focus on both. If we make a grab for the strange and dim… we lose the Savior. Focusing on Jesus isn’t easy. But once we realize the things of this world are traps, garbage, and extremely temporary use-once kind of things… We can begin to see how its easy to find joy in seeing them fade out.

What are you focused on? What is keeping your eyes from locking in on Jesus? Why is it so hard to let go of addictions, pride, greed, lust, anger, and all of that trash? We hate it, we are ashamed of it… but we can’t seem to let it out of sight. Try focusing on the Master and letting His light in your life. And when things that seem important now start to slip away… let them! It’s the only way to get Him in clear view. That is when we can start to look like Him and draw others to the one we strive to imitate.