Serenity or calamity – which do I choose to follow every morning….the serenity of inspired readings, morning worship, prayer and meditation or the calamity abounding on my media feeds? Awful days do not just occur randomly. Good days are not merely accidental blessings from a gracious Father. The thoughts I think, the things I do, the images I feed into my brain upon rising will determine where I spend the following hours.
When I truly believe that I am worthy of goodness and mercy, peace and hope, then I seriously pay attention to my day’s beginning. Then I know with certainty that I am not walking alone on this journey through the dark valley.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” PSALM 23: 4-6
Lord, help me this day to shut up, listen up, open up and lighten up. You have a lot more to show and tell me than I have to show and tell you. Please be patient with me – allow me a glimpse, give me a hint of what is really going on around me as I walk and watch and wonder and work throughout this unfolding day. I know I need to worry a lot less – I need to stop overreacting- to be calmer and not to insist on being special or right. The world does not revolve around me nor am I its or anyone else’s savior. I must learn to look up and out, not just in. I must try harder to be wiser, nicer, less grouchy, a more sensitive human being. Please help me pray my life and live my prayers.
The one on the left, the handsome one…..that’s me, Rocky.
There is a part two, the rest of the story that needs to be told. It’s the ugly side of humans; it’s the abuse our beloved pets suffer.
Rocky suffered seizures which began about 10 years ago after a visiting family member, in a fit of anger threw him head first into the living room wall. About 3 or 4 weeks later, Rocky had his first seizure. Traumatic for us, his humans, we cannot imagine what our cat endured. His doctor confirmed the injury-related condition and placed him on a medication, Levetiracetam. Only Jim and I, Rocky’s doctor and the perpetrator know what happened to our cat. Initially, the vet suspected us of abuse. My anger is yet to subside when I think about this dark episode.
Rocky was not a wuss. He endured several more seizures, a few in the arms of his protectors, became unsteady on his feet, fell a lot more than cats should, lost weight and finally in recent weeks became incontinent. But, we adjusted to our cherished family member’s needs. Even the puddles of Rocky pee in which we stepped inadvertently on our nighttime nature calls became accepted routine. Last Friday, however, a decision had to be made. Rocky’s front paw was just dangling from his knee joint. Apparently, he had broken it in a fall.
The image of him trying to walk on that broken paw is heart-breaking. He did not yowl or complain, just wanted us to hold him and scratch his ears.
This post is all about me. A favorite saying runs through my head today….”dogs have owners to take care of them; however, cats have staff to wait on them.” Rocky is at peace, no more seizures, no more falling. He knows he has served us well as a ‘pet’.
I, however, am not at peace. The anger, the inability to forgive Rocky’s tormentor for the abuse that happened 10 years ago is festering in my day.
Please, Lord, let me forgive and also be at peace.
It’s never easy. The routine is the same. Staff explains the procedure and what we should expect. He is taken to another room to be weighed and prepped. We sit in the exam room, try to comfort each other,
“Yes, this is the right thing to do for Rocky’s sake. He has been suffering.”
Returning Rocky to his human’s arms, “5 and 1/4 pounds,” the tech announces.
Good God, he lost another 2 pounds. Never was a large specimen, but over the past few months the weight loss has been quite noticeable. Loose skin holding together a scrawny skeleton.
the tech shares as she shows where the IV has been started. Rocky doesn’t seem to care about all the attention he is receiving. His eyes, once the most beautiful yellow pools imaginable, are pale and dull. The opiate seems to be taking effect as he leans into his human’s arms.
The rush of memories which this creature has lived for us brings tears and a momentary wish to stop everything,
“We can make him better, let’s just take him home and love him as ever.”
He loved riding on the dashboard of his Freightliner trucking for America.
My humans walk me on a leash when we have time to stop at a truck stop. Tonight, one of my humans left the side box door open. I’m going for a walk by myself. I’m a cat, not a sissy dog that needs to be walked on a leash. The air is fresh and alive with scents new to me. The most enticing smells are coming from the field of sage and cacti in the field behind our rig.
I knew Rocky was missing from the truck when I began the routine checklist before heading out on the interstate to the next destination. Normally he was very attentive to activity on the truck and wanted to be involved. But, not tonight. When I noticed that the side box door had been left ajar, my fears heightened. Who knew where an inquisitive cat could be exploring. The fields behind us were coming alive with night life – wild dogs, coyotes, snakes, hawks and owls. A small 6 pound cat would be a tasty morsel. Got my shoes on and cap, grabbed a flashlight and started my search. “Rockee, here kitty, kitty, time to leave. Rockee.”
I hear my human call for me but, dangit, I’m just having too much fun. Critters out here in the weeds I have never chased before. And I’m running without a leash around my neck. Doesn’t get any better than this. Oh shit, what was that? Just came swooping down at me like an airplane. Yeah, I know what airplanes are, I’ve been to a few airfields in my life. Been to Offutt, Tinker, Eglin, Dover – you name it, I’ve been there. “Swoosh!” Oh shit, there it was again. Maybe I should head back. Don’t want to miss dinner.
“Rockeeeee, where are you?” I’m sending up prayers now. We have to be in Phoenix by daylight and there is no time to search for a wayward cat. One more lap on this path and that’s it. We have to go. “Dangit Rocky, get back here.” I hate snakes – especially when they slither across the path in front of me. “Rockeee!”
Those dogs I am hearing don’t sound like the two poodles I know from back home. I need to run faster, I’m hungry and scared. What’s that up ahead of me? It’s a human, but is it my human? I’ll just jingle the bell on my collar and hope for the best. “Jingle, jingle…….hey there, yoohoo, it’s me, Rocky.”
I am about to give up the search and head back to the truck empty-handed. “Oh Lord, one last plea. Rocky’s a good boy.”
Jingle, jingle, jingle.
Music to my ears. Turning around, there I see Rocky sitting on his haunches trembling five feet behind me. He is so upset and distraught that the body tremors are jingling the bell on his collar.
“I knew everything would be cool. I’ll just sit here and allow my human to pick me up, hug me and then scold me for running off.”
WHEN THE CAT YOU LOVE BECOMES A MEMORY, THAT MEMORY BECOMES A TREASURE. unknown
Sweet dreams, Rocky.
May all your road trips be safe, may you forever have salmon to eat and may your next life include me.
From today’s devotional message by LHM DAILY DEVOTION:
“Jesus is enough. In the end, it doesn’t matter if we are on an emotional mountaintop or down in the valleys of suffering – whether we keep company with the great or get ignored with the poor. Jesus, our savior is with us.”
Does this truth comfort me? Is it encouraging to know that I am not alone fighting my battles? Always – in the struggle with pain, in the uncertainty of aging, in the turmoil of politics, in the valleys of suffering – always He is there. His word and promises bring not only comfort, but also joy to life in a broken world.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” MATTHEW 11:28-30
According to John in chapter 6, Peter and a number of his brothers had just heard Jesus speak from Capernaum to the synagogue crowds saying, “I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” v. 35.
But then Jesus continued, ” Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you……He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. v. 53,56
Many in the crowd murmured at these words and argued amongst themselves about the meaning. Even disciples of Jesus were disturbed by this teaching and many chose to abandon his ministry. Jesus turned to the twelve and asked, “Will ye also go away?” v. 67
Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” v. 68
Lord, to whom shall I go? I have followed you from the depths of my alcoholism through the valley of darkness and death, to the top of the mountain and back down to the hell of earth’s reality. I have rejoiced with you, cried with you, pleaded with you, and loved you as you have wrapped me in your fatherly arms to comfort me. If not you, to whom shall I go?
I understand Simon Peter. He had abandoned his family and livelihood to chase after this charismatic “savior” baptized by John at Jordan. Peter suffered the slurs and innuendo of friends and neighbors who did not understand. Surely, they may have said, Peter, a successful fisherman and loving father, has gone bonkers to chase after a homeless charlatan who preaches about eternal life while feeding off the charity and goodwill of the people. And now this Jesus talks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood to attain eternal life in heaven with His Father.
To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.
But, we, Simon Peter and I, can explain our behavior. “And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” v. 69
Having been reared in the Lutheran Church, 1st cousin to the Catholic Church, the faith walk of President Joe and Dr. Jill as devout Catholics has greatly enhanced my trust in and respect for them as the First Family. You might ask, “Larry, why is that?”
The disappointing performance of their predecessors who tied their star to the Evangelical movement has brought down upon believers and non-believers alike a distrust of anything which reeks of religion. Of all major faiths, the Catholic Church has suffered tremendous harm over the past years for numerous reasons, most onerous of which has been sexual abuse.
Not to excuse this travesty, but to reflect upon and uphold the life-changing endeavors of many who have walked in the shoes of Jesus, St. Francis, Pope Francis, etc., it becomes necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is easy (and human) to fall into judgement of the Church, Lutheran or Catholic, while disregarding the great treasures bestowed upon society in terms of art, music, writing, and philosophy. Social justice is today the centerpiece of both faiths, the driving force in commendable ministries, personal and congregational.
Before charging all believers as pharisaical or, as I have often been labeled, a follower of an ‘imaginary’ friend, we should evaluate the path taken and the life lived as a believer. The Bible speaks of the fruits of faith. What are the fruits of the Spirit?
It’s not difficult to determine, when viewing our national leaders, where they have been and what fruits they have produced. An apple tree does not produce lemons, a grape vine does not produce poisonous fruit. What lies in the wake of one’s earthly journey speaks volumes of his/her inner life. Mine was tumultuous and tortured. My moral compass was surrendered to a life of addiction. My North Star sat next to me on a bar stool.
That’s why I am forever grateful to my parents for dragging me to the local Lutheran Church, to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School when I was a child. Although my story became that of the Prodigal written in the Book of Luke, chapter 15, my recovery and subsequent renewal of conscience were directly the work of a loving God, the commitment of people living sober lives and, of course the dedication of parents trying to raise a decent young man.
That’s why I trust President Joe and Dr. Jill. I know personally the moral compass which they profess and the North Star which they follow.
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. For this, my son, was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry” LUKE 15: 20-22, 24
January, 1981, my story was changed. On that cold night in the social hall of a local church, I wasn’t looking for sobriety, I wasn’t searching for a savior to guide my life forever thereafter, I wasn’t willing to take the steps necessary to become a new man. I just wanted to stop hurting, stop the pain that defined my life. What those men and women sitting at the table of my first AA meeting shared was a familiar story because I knew it well. After 17 years living the insanity of alcoholism, I was ready for a new chapter in my story, but, “Good Lord,” I cried. ‘What a tall order, I can’t do it. Living without alcohol forever. I can’t.”
Then that voice which has become so very familiar answered, “Yes, together, we can. It’s not forever, it’s one day at a time, let go and let me.”
Forty years ago my story was changed. Not by my will power nor luck, rather by loving, sober people who cared and a God who could and would make a new man out of me. That’s my story. Chris, Jack, Jo, Cindy, Tom, Danny, Father Bond are just a few of the characters from my recovery…..Jesus is the author.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” JOHN 8:36
“I love to tell the story! ‘Twill be my theme in glory to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” Catherine Hankey