Saturday, April 11, 2015

Undiluted, Pure Grace

Whenever I get confused about what I have to do, what God's will is for me, or whether I'm barking up the wrong tree, I always end up in either Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 5, or Galatians. 

Today, I decided to take a different tack with my approach - instead of reading a few favorite verses, I decided to read the whole book of Galatians, and in a readable, relate-able paraphrase called "The Message." I find that this paraphrase demystifies Paul's writings for me and helps me get to his intent, his real message, stripping away all the convoluted fancy talk. 

I wanted to see just what the church's problem was at Galatia. What specifically was Paul trying to correct? I wanted to see the big picture and not get "lost in the tall grass" as one acquaintance put it once. And it was so clear as I just read through all six chapters that the thing he was trying to correct was that the Galatians believed the lie. The lie is that humans can do something to make God like them more. 

What they didn't GET was that God already approved of them, had already gone to the cross for them, rescued them, and made them righteous in His sight through the sacrifice He made for them, putting them right back into the covenant that God made with Abraham: you know, the one based on faith alone, five hundred years before Moses was even born. They were stuck on keeping the law as a way to add to what Jesus had already accomplished for them; it was an insult to His grace. It detracted from it, diluted it.

To dilute something means to lessen its power by adding something else into the mix. While dilution can be a helpful thing in cases of making something more palatable or less toxic, the sense in which I mean it is of something that would be detrimental by being watered down. For example, the orphanage in Dickens' book, Oliver Twist used to water down the porridge served so that it was no longer porridge (oatmeal) at all, but gruel, or oatmeal-flavored water. It left the boys in the orphanage constantly hungry, which gave rise to Oliver's famous quote, "Please sir, may I have some more?"  

Grace gets watered down with religion - and the result is gruel. Nasty, tasteless, unsatisfying gruel. 

But people don't know the difference if that is the only diet they've ever gotten. The only way is to give them a taste of what they've been missing.

Here is a taste of Pure Grace. Jesus has done it all for you; He has already fully accepted you; there is nothing else you need to do for Him to completely love you and approve of you. God did that IN JESUS AT THE CROSS from before the foundation of the world. Nothing you can do can add to it or take away from it; the Grace of God stands alone. 

Photo "Rushing River" courtesy of Maggie Smith at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Your faith is nothing more than saying "Yes" to His Grace, believing that you can step into that stream of living water already flowing beneath your feet. He works His life out in you. 
He is with you, and as near as the breath you breathe. Always. Not just at some ornate altar somewhere, He is with you at all times, loving you, bragging you up, doting on you. 

Listen to what a friend of mine had to say about this:

It seemed that the gospel I was raised with required my faith in order for my sins to be forgiven. That God would not or could not love me until I worked faith out. This seemed to make my faith a work by which I gained or won salvation. Now I know that my faith simply accepts what is already mine. While I was a sinner Christ died and rose again for me. God has never held my sin against me. Christ was crucified before the world began. I was reconciled to God from birth. It’s all mine (and yours) now, though I won’t experience it until I believe it. However, the accepting of forgiveness does not produce it. Faith simply says ”I see it, I believe it.” Seeing it, believing it, is a work of grace, and then I have to simply say “yes” to it.

This radical shift for me has now begun to cross over into what I have as a believer. I have longed for certain gifts to be mine. Asked, begged, pleaded with God, to allow them to be in my life. Thinking that until I act in some worthy fashion and exercise my faith that they would not be manifested. But they are all mine already, and have been from the very beginning of all things, and thus certainly from the beginning of my spiritual life.

“For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” (Col 2:9,10)

“For every one of God’s promises are “Yes” in him; therefore also through him the “Amen” is spoken, to the glory we give to God.” (2 Cor 1:20)

Faith just says “I see it, I believe it.” Seeing that all his gifts are mine already is a work of grace, and then I have to simply say “yes” to it.

Demanding that anyone produce the work of faith before they can be forgiven is actually a sure way to keep them from it. If faith becomes a law, a thing we must do before God will love us, then we have fallen from Grace before we ever find it. If believing that the gifts are mine is a law, a thing I must do before they can be mine then I am already insulting the Spirit of Grace. I am already far from the reality as it is in Jesus.

It’s all ours now, all we have to do is see it, believe it, and say yes to it.
    - Rev. Stephen John Fenton, 2015-04-11.

I saw this work of Grace in the heart and life of my own dad. He was a chain-smoker, started smoking when he was five years old and had tried to quit SO many times, to no avail. He struggled with it all of his life. And for decades he had been judged and condemned by the religious elite of the community - which included his own wife many times - and sometimes he had tried to change, to clean up his life. He just. couldn't. do. it. He couldn't change himself, not one iota. He couldn't understand the Bible, didn't want to read it, didn't want anything to do with the people who'd judged him...the religious ones...or the petty, vindictive god they served.

When he was 58, he had a heart attack. And one day, after having developed a respect for the pastor who went to see him every day and showed that he cared about HIM, that pastor asked him for permission to ask him a personal question. With Dad's permission, the pastor said, "Are you trusting Jesus as your only way to a relationship with God?" And Dad thought about it and then he said, "Yes." And he meant it.

In that moment, something radical changed in him; he was never the same. And all he said was, "Yes." That's pure Grace

Yes, he struggled with his addiction. Yes, it eventually and ultimately killed him - first laying waste to his lungs, then his brain. But the person he was when he walked out of that hospital at fifty-eight years old was a different person than he was when he went in. He found himself automatically loving Jesus. He found himself automatically wanting to spend time with Him, reading what He had to say. He became more generous, more loving, more gentle, more humble. All without even trying. Jesus was doing the working out of Grace in his life, giving him the "want to" and the power to live each moment in gratitude and in returning the great love he had been given back to the One who gave it. And at the end of his life here, not even 10 years after that heart attack, there were so many people at his funeral that folks filled the foyer, and had to stand outside the church in the cold November air. 

Grace has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with God.

That's how it works. That's how it always works - full-strength, undiluted, pure Grace. 

Thank God!!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The unforced rhythms of Grace

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me
Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. 
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 
Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of Grace
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 
Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
- - - - Matthew 11:28-30  (The Message)

Tonight I listened to the Easter Sunday morning message (on Saturday night where I live) - streamed live from Hillsong church in Australia. Pastor Brian spoke powerfully on the overwhelming power of the message of Grace - the simple message that the Cross equals Love, just asking from the Giving God who gives (James 1:5, AMP). 

And then he read the above passage from the Message. One of my favorite passages in the New Testament, it is Jesus talking. I know that the Message is a paraphrase and I won't get into a debate about what version is authorized or not. (I'm thinking the original one written in Greek is, but that's just a theory...) but those words - 'the unforced rhythms of Grace' - reached out to me and ministered to my heart. 

So much of what church and Christianity has become for me and for so many others has more to do with being forced. Pushing, fighting, persevering, sweating, fasting, agonizing. Really. There's only so much effort one can make before strength fails. 

Strength fails.

"I will give you rest," Jesus said. "My yoke is easy, My burden is light." It's not forced, not accomplished by grimacing in pain or doing a Daniel fast or tithing thirty percent or hopping to it every time the church doors are open. 

It's rest. Rest in Him. "Come to Me," Jesus said. Not "go to church." 

Am I saying not to go to church? well-l, all I can say is that lately whenever I've gone to church I've come home more upset than before I went...from all the "ands" and "ifs" I've been hearing, all the mind-games and controlling practices I see. As soon as the worship starts, it starts. Raise your hands, stand up, sit down. No, really MEAN this song, you're not doing it right. Go around and greet people, love on them. Okay that's enough, stop doing that. No really, greeting time is over; be quiet, I'm talking now. What's wrong with you? how come you're not saying Amen? Now stand up. Now sing this other song. Now learn a bunch more of stuff I know but you don't. Now add this religious practice to your life. And that one. And this other one. It'll help your faith grow. If you don't do it my way you are missing something, you're defective. Repent and come to the altar, you sinners... and on it goes; it's so sickening. 

Now, if church isn't like that for you, if you look forward to going and you sense the real presence of God, great!! But I wonder if we really feel His presence there, or whether we are being manipulated emotionally. I only know that I feel manipulated and judged, when I listen to anyone's voice but His. 

Photo "Loving Father And His Baby" courtesy of
David Castillo Dominici at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
So when I go to church, I try not to listen to any other voice but the voice of Jesus, not to see any face but the face of Jesus. I don't sing for (or TO) anyone but Him. Anything less - any time I get my eyes off the One who loves me, and see the sea of people around me who are looking for a shepherd, I become discouraged and I sink into despair. 

I felt like that last Sunday. I was millimeters from throwing in the towel - not on God but on those who call themselves His people. I felt trapped, used, controlled, condemned. And I was dreading going to church this weekend -- of all weekends, Easter. Too many expectations, too much pressure. The prayers and words of a friend helped me to gain enough strength to just lay that aside and seek the face of God.

I was spinning my wheels all week, in turmoil, not knowing what to do or where to go (if anywhere).

And then those words. "Learn the unforced rhythms of Grace." 

I'd forgotten that the cross equals Love. That Love came down willingly and died for me, stretched out His arms to show how much He was going to take away - everything - everything in me that separated me from receiving His love. I'd forgotten how He rescued me, how He set me free, made me the righteousness of God. I'd forgotten how He took my sin away, loved it right out of me, blazed the trail back to Heaven by becoming just like me, just so I could let the Father love me.  

He led the captor captive, tore out his teeth and paraded him through the halls of hell to the cheers of those whom He had released from their long waiting. And He rose from the dead ... so I didn't have to fear that either.

And I didn't need a ritual to "remind" me.  I needed HIM. I needed His words. That promise of rest, of Grace already given for all time, of His presence with me. 

And it brought something to me that I have not experienced for a long time. 

Peace. Joy. And Love.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Eustace's transformation

Eustace, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis) is transformed into a dragon through his own selfishness and greed while he is in the care of King Caspian, and brother and sister Edmund and Lucy Pevensey. 

After several adventures, during which he learns a lot about himself, he is wounded in the foreleg by a knight who doesn't know he's really a human. 

He flies away, blinded by pain, and lands on an island where there was a clear lake. There, on the shores of the lake, he meets Aslan - the lion who is the saviour of Narnia.

Here is his story in his own words:

Photo "Lion" courtesy of tiverylucky at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
"The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. but the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I dont know if he said any words out loud or not.

I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and , instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bath.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bath.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

The the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke - 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I was smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them.

After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me - (with his paws?) - Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes - the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. and then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream."


I love this account because it shows that self-effort and religious rituals do absolutely NOTHING to rescue us. But Jesus (who is Aslan in Narnia) does it all. ALL of it. 

Thank God.  Thank GOD.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Narnia in winter

I'm not sure if you've read the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, a series of seven novelettes written for children, but completely compelling for adults. These are allegories, meant to picture the story of man's paradise lost, the Saviour's redemptive work, stories of faith and perseverance, and the final triumph of the kingdom of Heaven. 

In his most well-known book of the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Narnia (the kingdom, of which Aslan the lion is the king) starts out buried in snow - a concept I can easily understand because I live in one of the Canadian Maritime provinces!! 

In the story, it has been winter for many years in Narnia. Hope has all but died out that there will ever be any change. The white witch has ruled for many years, enslaving the creatures who live there, turning those who defied her to stone, and ruling the rest through fear. Her informants are everywhere; she sends patrols out to keep the residents in line, and to make sure that there are no humans in Narnia because she has heard the prophecy. The prophecy is that when the humans become involved in Narnia, winter will end and so - eventually - will she. Then - Lucy Pevensy steps through the portal into Narnia, and tells her siblings, and they too cross the threshold into another world.

One of the great things about allegory is that there are so many different applications to the truth it can represent. 

Photo "Kingdom Of Cold" courtesy of
evgeni dinev at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
I have been acutely feeling the icy cold of the witch's power, and it has been distressing me, making me to want to rise up and rebel, to call out for Aslan to come and rescue us, to break the witch's power. 

To me, the witch and her icy kingdom represent the frozen grip of religion and all the bondage that it brings. "Touch not, taste not, handle not..." Rules, regulations, exceptions, limitations and especially additions. Additions of conditions, the gospel of "Jesus AND." The "Jesus AND" doctrine has been around the church almost since its inception. People who believed like this were called "Judaizers" - those who believed that you had to be saved AND follow the law of Moses. The whole book of Galatians was written to counter this lie. 

This is ... the same lie mixed with truth that Eve began to believe even before the serpent deceived her. Surely you must have seen that before - the religion she had begun to create in her own mind, the one that added to what God had told her husband Adam. God had told Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, that in the day that he or his wife ate the fruit, they would die.  One simple commandment and the truth about the death they would die even while still physically alive.

But that one commandment wasn't good enough for Eve. No, she had to be religious about it. She had to create rules around how to act around the tree. She began to believe that the tree with its fruit was dangerous in itself, that God's commandment included not even touching the fruit, not even touching the tree. This was the enemy's tool to deceive her. For, you see, he was crawling all over that tree - and he was still alive. 

And that happened in a place that was perfect. Perfect. Don't think it isn't happening in the church. As a matter of fact, it's RAMPANT in the church. It panders to the tendency that humans have to want to control their own destiny; we don't like being powerless. However, without Jesus, that's exactly what we are. Going back to trying to hold up the weight of the world and fend off the devil by ourselves is not the kind of abundant life that Jesus talked about. It's bondage. It's dead and cold, stiff and uninviting, full of fear and dread and depression. The snow might be pretty - but a pretty prison is still a prison.

THAT is the winter I have been feeling - the icy tendrils of religion all around me, blinding people with how "beautiful" it is - because, don't you know, we humans love liturgy. We love structure. We love being able to slot this into this hole and that into that hole. Living life by rules (though it may be difficult at times) seems easier - more predictable, and sadly, more preferable - than living life the way Jesus intended: under the perfect liberty of His Love.

It's easier to live life with a playbook - but it's a living death. It's duty, dread, and depression - every day. And living in that kind of fear, we die a little more inside every day - and not in a good way.

It's HIS grace, HIS love that makes it possible for us to be in relationship with Him. ALL our sin is dealt with (past, present, future) and all He wants is for us to let Him know us - a progressive intimacy. Love bubbles up and melts the ice.

How tragic is it to miss the mark, to fall from Grace so far that we would willingly trade our God-given freedom for the rituals and rigors of regimented living? 

Come rescue us, Aslan. (Save us from ourselves, Jesus.) End the white witch's reign. (Put the spirit of Jezebel to death.) Melt the ice and make the flowers bloom again.

Soon. Very, VERY soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ears to hear

A number of years back, I started to lose my hearing. 

I wasn't aware of it. It happened so gradually that I had no idea that my hearing was deteriorating. Unknown to me, my world was getting smaller and smaller. It wasn't until my left ear started hurting that I realized that there was something amiss. I thought I had an ear infection or something. 

I went to see a doctor. He took a conical instrument with a light at the tip, and looked through it into my ear canal. He pulled a bit on my earlobe as he did, and a sharp stab of pain struck me where his instrument was inserted. I winced.

Photo "Cupping Ears To Hear" courtesy of
David Castillo Dominici at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
"Ah," he said. He took out the instrument. "You have a buildup of wax in your ear," he explained. "Normally I would flush the ear out, but it's been there for a while and has gotten very hard. So if I flushed it today, it would hurt a lot and could damage your ear canal." 

"So what do I do?"

He smiled to himself. "Olive oil," he stated, in a matter of fact tone.

Seeing my quizzical look, he said, "Get an eyedropper and a bottle of olive oil. Fill the eyedropper with the oil and lie down on your good ear. Squirt the olive oil into your bad ear, and let it sit and soak in for at least 20 minutes. Then you can get up, and the oil will drain out. Have a paper towel or something ready to catch the drips. Soak it like that three times a day for two weeks. It will soften the outside of that hard wax, over time. Then come and see me again, and I'll syringe out that ear." 

I did as he instructed. The olive oil went in and after the initial coolness, it got hot because the blood vessels were so close to the skin inside my ear. I couldn't hear a thing except that sound you get when you are underwater - that, and the sound of my heartbeat. 

I had to remain perfectly still when the oil was in there, or it would leak out. I used the opportunity to pray, to meditate, or to connect with my husband, depending on the time of day. After my 20 minutes, I'd stand up and let the oil drain out into a paper towel or a tissue. 

I knew that I was doing this to get rid of some obstructions I'd allowed to build up in my ear - and the spiritual application of my predicament (and of my healing process) didn't escape me. Much of my meditation time during those two weeks was spent pondering how the oil was a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and how soaking in His presence softened those hard things that got between me and my ability to hear His voice. And how that process took time - time that was no hardship for me to make because I wanted to spend time with Him. 

I thought about the water that would eventually flush out those obstructions - water being a symbol of the Word of God. I spent considerable time looking forward to my appointment with the doctor - and thanking God for the lessons He was teaching me about how the Spirit and the Word work together. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The two weeks passed, and I was once again in the doctor's office. I explained to the receptionist why I was there and waited for my name to be called.

When the doctor walked into the exam room, he tried to make conversation. "Got some wax in your ears do you?" 

"Whaaaat?" I asked.

He snickered. "Oh, I see. 'Get on with it,' right?"

I grinned. 

He told me how to hold my head, and then held a plastic container under my earlobe next to my neck. He had filled a large syringe with warm water and he started to squirt what felt like a great deal of water into my ear. I felt a lot of pressure, and then a shifting within as pieces of wax were forced out of my ear canal. It felt weird, but (thanks to the oil) there was absolutely no pain. He helped me drain the remaining water from my ear ... and as the last water bubble burst, a most peculiar thing happened.

I could hear, clear as a bell: in fact, better than I had in months

"How is it now?" the doctor asked. 

"Hey, don't shout," I quipped. He chuckled. 

After the appointment, my husband and I walked down the street, each lost in our own thoughts, enjoying the warm sun on our shoulders. It was summertime; the sun was out and the day was pleasant.

My pace slowed. And I stopped ... and lifted my head. Something was different. REALLY different.

I could hear birds.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Starsong Serenade

Can't you hear it?

Listen to the morning stars singing together. Know that He orchestrates them; each one emits its own pure tone, each one different. He didn't have to do that; He could have just made them to be pure light - but no - He created such detail, such mystery, such imagination, just so we could discover it and be awed by the fact that not only did He create it to do that, but He created us to be able to detect it. 

Hear it in the awkward flight of the bumblebee, tumbling from flower to flower, the impossible on the wing - an aerodynamic incongruity that should not be able to fly ... but it does. 

See the colours He has built into the rainbow - and the intricate structures of the human eye to be able to see them all - and more besides. He didn't have to do that. But He did. Why? because He wanted to bring us pleasure. 

Photo "Lightning" by
Suvro Datta at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Hear the symphony of life, the majesty of the mountains, the roar of the surf, the crack of thunder, the howling of the hurricane, the scream of triumph of a horse running free, the cry of the eagle in the pure joy of flight. 

It all is part of His serenade. His love-song. His call to intimacy. 

"Come away with Me, My love," is His call to lean all of our weight into Him, to hear His heartbeat cozy by the hearth, while the fire snaps and crackles in the fireplace. To whisper words of adoration and desire for connection in deeper and deeper ways.

The Serenade is a call to spontaneous intimacy, a wooing like no other, a plea to let Him love us, to ravish our hearts with His passion for us. 

Can you hear it? It's not a guilt trip, it's not a prescribed set of rituals, it's not a call of duty. It's the Master beneath our window singing to us, an invitation to the finest and best romance in the universe. 

He loves us. And as we realize just how much, we are more and more radiant with the knowledge of His love. We don't have to work at it; we just open ourselves to His attentions. And He so LONGS for us to do just that.

We respond to His advances. And we let Him carry us to heights we've never known - but He knew

In fact, He created those heights with us in mind: seated with Him in heavenly places. Not to lord it over others, but so that He could pour out His love so much that we can't help but be filled to overflowing.

So listen. Hear. Know. Embrace Him.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rescued

Last Thanksgiving, a four-month-old black-and-white kitten entered our lives. 

He was a rescue. Quite literally!! His mother - as near as we can tell - had been a feral cat and had abandoned him in the situation in which he found himself; she was unable to extricate him. And little wonder: trapped in a snowmobile engine at the age of about 6 or 7 weeks, a woman found him when she went to check on her vehicles. She heard his cries and tried for over a day - nearly a day and a half - to get him out of the engine. He was trapped, stuck inside the fan belt quite likely, and all her efforts to reach in and pull him out were fruitless. Covered in grease, stuck solid, and terrified, every effort she made only traumatized him even more. Finally she called the PEI Humane Society who sent an animal control worker to the scene. She was able to get him free in very short order, and took him back to the shelter to have him cared for, fed, cleaned up and (hopefully) put up for adoption.

It was not to be. The kitten bounced back from his injuries and ate well enough, but he was terrified of anyone bending down over him to touch him, pet him, or (God forbid) pick him up - to the point of hissing and growling at people. This did not bode well for him, so at that point they decided to have him fostered at the home of the animal control worker who'd found him.

He got along well with her animals (a dog and two cats, including one of the kittens she was fostering from the shelter) but he remained skittish and wild around people. In time, he and his foster brother were brought back to the shelter; the brother was adopted within a few days but ... nobody wanted this little guy. He'd hang back in his cage, avoid eye contact, shy away - definitely not your typical sociable kitten. The shelter workers worked with him for weeks trying to get him to accept being handled. He stopped growling and hissing but he was extremely skittish and shy still. 

By the time he was 3 months old, my daughter had noticed his online profile. She took an interest in his case - and even went to see him a couple of times. There was an instant connection. He didn't warm up to her but she felt a sort of kinship from the very first moment she touched the glassed in portion of his cage and he touched the other side with his paw.

From that moment on, she kept trying to convince herself that she couldn't have fallen in "love at first sight" ... but the more she tried, the less it worked. By the end of the second visit, the Saturday of the 2014 Thanksgiving weekend, she had herself convinced that he would be adopted by someone else, and she was grateful for the few photos she'd taken of him. He was barely four months old.

That night, I had a chat with my husband privately about this kitten. I outlined how our daughter felt, mentioned that we had been willing to have three cats in the house if our older female cat had returned (she didn't), so he agreed that it was a good idea to get this cat. I went on the website and applied to adopt him, using our daughter's name and email address. 

The next morning, we were all sitting in the living room. Our daughter had already checked the shelter's website and seen that the kitten's profile had disappeared from it, and she was grieving not being able to see him again, when she received an email from a worker at the shelter who was extremely thrilled that this kitten would go to "such an excellent home!" (We'd gotten two previous kittens from them in the past year so they knew us.) The worker wanted us to go in the next day and bring the little guy home. Our daughter was totally floored. She never expected anything like this. The expression on her face was similar to someone being told that someone had bought a ticket in her name in a lottery, and her number had been the winning one. Disbelief, happiness, gratitude, relief and more flooded her face. 

When the little guy first came to us, he was incredibly skittish. It took a shelter worker five full minutes to get him into the crate we'd brought! We put him (cage and all) into our daughter's room and allowed her to be the one to let him out ... behind closed doors of course. 

She let him come to her on his own terms. It took nearly a week for him to allow her to touch him. She worked really hard those first couple of weeks to convey to him that this was a "safe place" ... and we were amazed at how quickly he responded.  It wasn't the food, or the coaxing, or anything else that brought him out of his shell. 

The rescued one - at 7 months old.
It was the love. He learned early on in the relationship that she LOVED him. And there was a large part of him, deep down, that responded to that love - a shriveled bud that began to blossom into a beautiful flower. 

In his kitty heart, she had rescued him out of what his life had been, and taken him to a place where he felt secure, safe, protected, and cared for. And above all, he felt loved.

And he loved her right back. He still does. Yes, he will allow us to touch and pet him sometimes, and he enjoys being around us - but it's different with her

Every morning, after he has had his breakfast (I feed the cats in separate rooms so we know who's getting how much) I let him out of his room and the very first thing he does is head for our daughter's room. Not sauntering - no - he rushes to her room, squeaking a little meow as he runs. If she's in her bed and is awake, he jumps up beside her and rubs up against her face with complete abandon. The sound of her voice speaking to him thrills him and he begins to pad excitedly ... prancing in delight. She strokes him and his tail lifts up and the tip curls back and forth in extreme happiness. He stays with her until she gets up. Throughout the day he can be doing something else ... and as soon as she gets up and moves around, he is right there. At her side. He wants to be wherever she is.

It never gets old. 

Why would it? She rescued him. She loves him. How could he ever take such love for granted? How could he ever forget how she saved him? how much she has changed his life?

He reminds me that it isn't what we "do" for Jesus that matters; it's what He did for us. It's HIS love that made life, living possible. It's HIS love that compelled Him to make a way for us. It's HIS generosity and goodness that has changed us, transformed us, made us new. 

I watch this cat and I see love and gratitude reflected back toward the one who saved him, the one who loves him. 

And it helps me to remember what's really important.