Sunday, February 23, 2014

Molly's Miracle

This is Molly.

Molly is almost 16 years old and is a dingy-looking, part-white, part-tan, part-Siamese, outdoor cat that Tess got for her 5th birthday.  As a kitten, Molly was a super cute ball of fur.  Now she is a bigger ball of fur--or more specifically--lots of balls of fur matted together.

Recently, Molly appeared to be on death’s doorstep so I brought her into the house and put her into hospice.

The first days in animal hospice, Molly drank massive amounts of water, ate very little food, and slept most of the time.  She seemed unusually unsteady, her back legs wobbled when she walked, and her mouth and nose were a stained a weird brown color.  And she was kind of disgusting; every time she sneezed--which was excessively often--slime poured out of her nose (in fact, she kind of oozed slime out of her face in those first days--think Gary the snail on Sponge Bob). Being relatively sure that these were Molly’s last days, we (meaning me, since the children came home each day and emotionlessly asked, “Is Molly dead yet?”) tried to provide her with palliative care; furminating her dirty white coat as often as possible and saying comforting and entirely untrue things to her (like, "Aren't you a pretty kitty"). That first week, Molly did nothing but slowly creep out of her bed to drink water, eat a little food, or use the litter box, and then she would painstakingly creep back in and fall asleep. Then one day, maybe day eight in kitty hospice, I came home from work and Molly was missing. Her basket was empty and I was sure she had wandered off to hide herself under a bed and die with dignity.  But, just as I was taking my coat off, feeling a bit sentimental about the time she spent with us (and remembering the time she gave up several of her lives as a kitten when she almost gotten eaten by a dog), Molly jogged through the living room as if she had not a care in the world, holding her tail high.  Obviously, she must have been feeling better and decided to take a field trip to Tess’ room to lounge upon the green chair—the green chair which requires jumping to lie upon. Molly had not been jumping previously.  Molly had barely been walking. When she did walk, it was this wobbly, uncoordinated sort of gait that made her look like she was drunk. 

So now (probably week 4 in unnecessary hospice), with her remarkable transformation, and her impenetrable defense of what she deems “her room” when the other cats come inside, I am beginning to wonder if Molly was just recovering from a nasty hangover for that first week.  Maybe that’s why she was so thirsty when I first brought her in (alcohol is a diuretic) and why her face was stained brown (The Mexican Tequila in the pantry seems to have been opened…and drunk??).  Maybe she has been privately drinking for years but recently became so depressed that she tried to end it all and failed.  Max and Shamgar (yes that is his real name—Judges 3:31—look it up) would be a difficult duo with which to create compassionate community—especially when they dethroned 'the Queen' (Molly's former--and maybe current--view of herself) from her loft—and forced her to hang out in the plastic doghouse on the ground.  Maybe Molly has been depressed for years and was really crying out for help in the only way she knew how—self-destruction. 

Or maybe, and here’s my other theory, as she seems to be as spry as a spring chicken lately, maybe she has been secretly plotting her permanent import into the big house and decided that she would feign death.  She has always ALWAYS wanted to be an indoor cat, and maybe she decided that self-mutilation/starvation/dirtiness would win her the prize she coveted. Maybe. But now that I have discovered her deception and/or substance abuse/dependence, I am watching her closely and have installed a hidden camera in the mud room to track her movements. So far, so good.  I also put the inhalants out of reach.  She does, however, seem to sneak around at night.  I hear her little toenails click-clicking on the hardwood while I sleep and wonder what she is up to and why she has the need to traverse the entire house and why she thinks it is a good idea to use Cole's Witte Travel bag as a porta-potty or Shay's pillow as a slobber distribution site.

Regardless of the method of her madness, I do believe Molly thinks that she has won.  She, a former "Outside Cat" has now achieved the coveted  status of "Indoor Pet"; she has pushed her boundaries, pulled out all the stops, and humiliated herself to the point of being distasteful. And, though I think she is sober now, I've been thinking of signing her up for AA just to keep her out of trouble...and out of the house...which is where she will be again when the weather gets warm...except she doesn't know that...and I'm not about to tell her for fear she will again fall into patterns of self-loathing.

It's not sayonara yet for Mol; she has personally checked herself out of hospice and into happiness. It's a (temporary) dream come true!

Long live the Queen!

Now if I could just teach her to use a hankie.

For more adventures with Molly, check out a few more of her imperfections here and see pictures of her modestly bathing (she actually does this??) here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


I complain.

Really.  It's a problem.

I complain when my kids don't load their dishes into the dishwasher.  I complain when they load them into the dishwasher but don't do it with the Tetris-like exactness that I require.  I complain that something is wrong with the scale when it shows me numbers I don't like.  I complain when I am dieting so I can like those numbers better. I complain when I have to do burpees at boot camp.  I complain when I sleep in and miss boot camp.  I complain about my job.  I complained about not having a job before I had one.

Seriously.  Can I not be content?

I can, but I have to choose it.  And to choose contentment, I have to forget myself. And live as Jesus lived,
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death
even death on a cross! (Phil 2:6-8)

I complain because I think too much of myself.  But Jesus didn't do this; even though He was God, he choose to live in the skin of a man and be a servant to those who rejected Him.  He was silent when He could have been defensive.  He was soft when he could have been harsh.  He was obedient when it wasn't appealing.  He choose death so we could live.

Jesus had every right to complain that this world was full of darkness, that these people were ungrateful, that these religious folk wrongly portrayed Him, that He had to do what was hard.

But He didn't complain because He was confident in God's will for His life.  He didn't complain because The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3).  God doesn't complain, thus Jesus is a non-complainer; He is an exact representation of His Father.  I, too, am supposed to be a representation of my Father, so why am I complaining?  Because I haven't fully surrendered my will to Him.  Because sometimes I think my life is too hard.  Because I am lazy and habits are hard to change.

So, what will I do about my complaining habit?  
1.  I will purpose to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)
2.  I will remember that I am to be about God's glory and not my own because He must become greater; I must become less (John 3:30).
3.  I will memorize verses like this to help me:  Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation (Phil. 2:14-15)
4.  And I will recall Who I am to be reflecting; We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).

Any maybe, by God's grace and with His help (and yours, please ask me how I'm doing), I will be non-complainer by February 2015 and a more accurate picture of my Father.  

It's a choice.

I surrender.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 

1 Timothy 6:6

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Working for His Glory

Lest you think that I am promoting antinomianism (lawlessness; living in such a way as to imply that the Law is bad and/or useless) because of my last post, and lest I fall off the wagon of discipline because I am immersed in the luxury of God’s grace, I write today’s post to help myself understand the reason I still must strive for growth in my Christian walk.  Here goes…

So, if I am covered in Christ’s Robe of Righteousness, and if God sees me as perfect and forgiven and clean, and if I can do nothing to earn or reject His love, then why should I do anything at all?  If I suffer no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and my un-payable debt has been canceled by Jesus’ death on the cross (Colossians 2:14), should I still be required to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)? 

The unequivocal answer is “YES!”  Here’s why:

Let’s go back to Romans 5:20-21 where Paul says, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” and 6:1-2, “What shall we say then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”  So, it’s obvious in scripture that:
1) God’s grace is sufficient for all of our sin;
2) In our old life without Christ, sin reigned, but in our newfound life in Christ, (because of grace) righteousness is to reign;
3) Righteousness through Jesus brings eternal life;
4) When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are to “die to sin”;
3) We shouldn’t abuse grace by choosing to live in sin (live for ourselves alone) when we have been freed from it.
That brings us back to our main point:  We have been made righteous through Christ and we are to live in a different way because of this.  How does this look? I think it spurs us to action.  I think it looks like this:

In the Westminster Catechism, the question of man’s purpose is addressed in question 1:

Question 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever

If our purpose in life is to glorify God, how are we to do that?  With good works!  The Westminster also explains this reality:

Question 16.2  Are good works necessary in the life of a Christian?
Answer:  These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith; and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

So this means that the work of God’s free grace enables me, and you, to show the expression of my love and obedience to God THROUGH MY GOOD WORKS!  Now these good works SHOULD NOT be confused with justification.  Justification is the work of God’s free grace, and we can do nothing to earn or deserve it.  It is this work of God’s free grace that enables us to express our devotion and our love THROUGH good works.  Good works do not give us salvation, God’s free grace does.

When we bear fruit then (when we practice spiritual disciplines and put them into practice), we glorify God!  Tullian Tchividjian says, in his book, One Way Love that “We read the Bible and pray and go to church and partake of the sacraments, because it is in those places that God reminds us that things between Him and us are forever fixed.  They are the rendezvous points where God declares to us concretely that the debt has been paid, the ledger put away, and everything we need, in Christ we already possess.”

The primary requirement, then, for producing good fruit, is a longing after God…a desire to make His name great.  So, we go about completing these good works (that God prepared in advance for us to do according to Ephesians 2:10) by asking for Him to enable us, by immersing ourselves in Him.  We do NOT succeed and attain victory over sin by the strength of our will alone.  When we do this, we are worshipping our own will power—not the power of Christ.  Our own will power is fallible, but Christ’s power never fails.  Henri Arnold puts it this way, “As long as we think we can save ourselves by our own will power, we will only make the evil in us stronger than ever.”

So, my conclusion (assisted by Richard J. Foster in the book The Spiritual Disciplines) is this,  “The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us…This is the way with the Spiritual Disciplines—they are a way of sowing to the Spirit.  The Disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us.  By themselves, the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.  They are God’s means of grace…Spiritual growth is the purpose of the Disciplines.”

There you have it folks, an annotated dissertation on my journey through the question of good works.  Do I need to do them? Yes!  Does my salvation rely on them? No! How do I do them?  Through God’s grace and not my own power!   What is their purpose? To help me to glorify God! 

And that is my chief aim:  To Glorify God and to make Him known.  And it ought to be your aim too, if He has saved you. 

So, first, bask in His grace that requires nothing of you, and then, go make Him known by giving everything in you. 

The Bottom Line: Your works, enabled by Grace, show your love for Him.  And just like you, God longs to be adored. 

Let’s make Him famous, shall we?

 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16