Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pumkin Dead and Stolen, What?

Pumpkin was a cat the color of, well, a pumpkin. She was a guy for many years, at least we thought she was. She came to us as a wild feral stray. Now I am a someone who truly dislikes feral cats. They are disease-ridden, songbird-killing, nasty little things. But this one, well I don't know why, but we took a liking to her and began to care for her.

Pumpkin and I met mornings and evenings on the front porch. She was fearless, and it didn't matter if our dogs were out there or not -- she was never intimidated by them. She would walk up and look at them, let them sniff at her, then she would walk to her bowl and look for food. She did it in a way that you felt compelled to get up and make sure she was served. Even me, the cat-disliker would be at her beck and call.

There was a long period of time when she was first making herself at home that we thought she was a boy. I guess it was the rough and tough exterior. We never, I never, considered having him (her) fixed or get shots or anything. I only began buying cat food regularly after a year or so of this dang cat, which I did not like, became a fixture on our porch. I figured OK, a barn cat is always good, so I will just consider my porch cat a barn-type cat, but then “he” became cool and I would buy cat food for “him.”

If there was ever a cat that had seven lives it was Pumpkin. She went through a fat-as-a-tick stage, then skinny and sickly looking. There were several occasions over the 10 years or so that this cat was around that she would drag up on the porch totally beat up. I don't know if it was with another cat or a fox or a possum, but she would obviously be hurting from something. There were times we thought she was going to die right on the porch. Sickly and lethargic we would try our best to nurse her back to health; each time she came back. Like I said, she was tough.

Winters were an old cardboard box with towels. The coldest nights she was usually found there in the box, but not always. She traveled the area around our house and sometimes ventured next door and visited there. She was an ‘ole feral cat, born to wander and seeking adventure, I guess. 

Not long ago we came home to find her on the porch in pretty bad shape again. This time my wife was adamant she was going to the vet. After the vet visit we learned “he” was a she and they didn't know what was wrong, maybe a snake bite? A little TLC and some time was all we could hope for to bring ‘ole Pumpkin back. She used another lifeline; she came back just fine.

Then it happened. It was a slow process, and we didn't really think a lot about it. Pumpkin would mosey over to the little house next door. There was a young gal living there, and we supposed she thought she was her porch cat and must have kept a small bowl of food out. Then I think she was letting her in the little house at night or during the day. We never really did that except in severe weather conditions. Pumpkin and the gal next door became buddies.

More and more her visits home were fewer and farther between. I was busy and didn't give it a lot of thought. One day I noticed a U-Haul truck backed up to the little house. We had never grown close to the young lady living there and realizing she was moving was a passing thought. Until a week later. I realized Pumpkin was not coming around at all.

Now a couple months into it I guess Pumpkin is gone, and I am assuming the neighbor girl took her when she moved. Wow. I don't know how to feel about it. I miss my tough little buddy, sorta. I mean I never liked feral cats, except this one.

So often we take a random relationship for granted. Someone we see every day, a person we know but not really and we hear they passed away. We think later that we should have called more often, said hi or had lunch with that person. It happens, especially as you get older. 

Song of Solomon 2:12,  The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land;

Know that sometimes we take things for granted, people, places things. No, you can't make physical contact with everyone; you can't and won't get everything right. Some things will just not be on your heart to do, a phone call or a special visit. But there will be some and you need to listen to that still small voice. He talks to us there.

Popper is our cockateal. We have had him for about 25 years. The average life of this type of bird is 10 to 12 years. He has always lived in the same corner of the kitchen and doesn't do much there except whistle, squawk and eat. But we love him and he is just one of those fixtures in our home that adds life to the family unit. Several times in the last couple months Popper has been eerily still in the bottom corner of the cage. One eye blind and the other getting there the last few days he has left almost all perch activity to sit in the corner bottom of his cage. It was just a couple months ago we lost his partner Blue, our parakeet. It won't be long before Popper goes.

Life is peeling away. God is moving. Right now it is our pets, a friend, things are getting close to home here. But I know and I have faith that all things happen for His good. I know that the offer to be back together as it is laid out in Romans 10:9 is real. Do I like it all? No. Do I understand it all? No. Do I like feral cats now? No. Some things are hard to change, but I will pray about it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Listen and Learn - What Did You Say?

I often wonder if my hearing is waning? I have lots of friends with high tech hearing aids; funny, I thought my friends needed them because they are all so much older than me, but then it's not so funny because my friends are mostly my age. Selective hearing has been a suggestion that my wife has given as a possible reason for the problem. She I am not listening to her a lot of the time or that I only hear what I want to hear. Imagine that.

Sometimes I question if the kids I mentor are listening or are just waiting to get out from in front of me so they can get to doing whatever it is they were doing before I came along. I remember once when I was substitute teaching a group of sixth to eighth grade boys in a Sunday school class. I was never much on the required teaching parts of our class; I just never really understood it. I probably would have if I had read over it, listened to the teacher in charge and asked questions, but I figured I was a fill-in and as long as we hit the highlights we were good. Well that just didn't work. That age group is a fidgety group, and I figured I had to come up with something more extreme

So, during the time I met with the boys I would get them in a circle outside, in a corner on the floor or anyplace but the table. I would make up grand tales of adventure, hunting bear, fishing for shark, climbing mountains and other exciting stories. After I had their attention I would include how the Scripture or virtue of that week fit into the hog hunt with spears on horseback story I had told

Early on I wondered if I had made any impact on the boys or if they heard even a small piece of God's Word I was sharing with them? In my heart I wanted them to hear that part of the story. Then I began to get comments from the director of the youth ministry at church, from moms who had a boy in my class and others

"I don't know what bear hunting had to do with what you were teaching my son, but he has not stopped talking about it all week," one mom said

My little stories and the moral of the story were being shared and actually making an impact in some little way.

What I learned from that was that we all listen and learn in different ways, and that is OK. Boys can be distracted easily and unless you can engage them, they will miss a lot of the lessons they need to learn. They are designed to roll in the dirt, learn with their hands, associate meaning with physical motion. Today the kids are Go Pro, Red Bull, extreme sports and video erudite. Things are fast and wide open to them

One of the hardest things to teach a kid is to listen. Watch any kid walking down the street today, and I challenge you to see one go more than a minute or two without looking at their phone. What about reading a book in a quiet nook in their room or a window sill as the sun shines down warming their back? It is a rare kid, mine included.

The Bible talks a lot about listening. In the book of James, he shares, (1:19) “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” in Proverbs 19:27, “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

Recently I was interviewing kids from our ministry, Kids Outdoor Zone. I asked each the same questions. There was one answer that was consistent. I asked, “Have you ever experienced or heard from God at a KOZ meeting?" All of the kids who heard God speak heard him in their sit spots. A sit spot is a period of time in which we send the kids out into nature alone to sit under a tree, along a creek, on a rock in the sun, in nature. But alone and with the mission to speak to and listen for God.

Wow. It was incredible. Almost everyone told me stories of God speaking to them, to their hearts. I cried as one of them described in detail how God loved him and told him to, “Stick with it."

I think we all need to find sit spots where we turn everything off and talk to Him but even more important, listen to Him. So often we miss the still quiet voice that wants to help us through something, help us make a good decision or just let us know all is well

As usual I need to pay attention to my own words here. We all need to be examples of listening for the next generation. If a small kid is talking to you, bend down and get eye to eye with them. Don't pick up your phone when driving your kids to school in the morning. Ask them not to pick up theirs.

When you first get together with your wife in the evening, let her talk. Do we really need to re-check our e-mails from when we left the office or sat in our car in the driveway before we came into the house? Do people really expect us to reply from our work e-mail at 7, 8 or 9 p.m.? Do we really need to listen to our family at night, talk with and listen for God each day? Of course.

Hemmingway had it right. "I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."  I need to get it right, too.