Learning from a Cat

Today’s post is written by Lisa Nofzinger:

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34)

In December 2012, when I moved to my apartment in Eagan, I looked on petfinder.com to find a feline companion.  My previous cat had passed away in April 2011 of kidney disease and I missed him.  I looked through the pictures and stories.  I considered getting a one year old female cat, but the one I was most interested in was moved to a foster home two hours away.

So I kept looking, and I felt a pull toward Mr. Jingles, a 6-month-old kitten who had been a stray, and came into a vet’s office after getting a parasite, possibly from eating a diseased crayfish.  He was severely underweight, but had been treated and was available for adoption.  I called and made an appointment to see him.  On December 17, I brought him home.  The first few weeks he ran around and knocked over lamps at night, and then he started sleeping with me and eventually became a lap cat. Jingles cat --IMG_0133

I do not know anything else about Jingles’ history.  I do think he had contact with people at some point.  He is almost three and has calmed down a lot, but still can be wild on occasion.

I believe that Jingles has learned to trust me.  I treasure the time we spend together, sleeping side by side or me watching TV while he is on my lap.  He enjoys being petted on his terms, and looks to me for food.

As I write this, I am on a medical leave from work.  It is expected to last several weeks and may go longer.  I exhausted paid leave so am unpaid.  I do worry about money, and look at my savings, and then I remember how much Jingles trusts me.  The Bible tells us that we can trust God to provide for our needs one day at a time.  God wants us to come with our needs as my young cat comes to me.

 

Lisa Nofzinger attends Easter Lutheran, works for the state of Minnesota, and lives in Eagan with Jingles. 

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy… Or Not

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:22

This Sunday Intern Pastor Brandon Newton preached on the story of Paul and Silas’ first arrest (See Acts 16:16-40). The men were falsely accused, stripped naked, beaten with wooden rods and then imprisoned. The underground dungeon that served as a Roman prison would have been dark and dirty. I can only imagine the stench, the fear, the pain and the indignation. Wounded and chained in the dark it would be understandable if they had given in to fear and hopelessness. And maybe even anger.

All this and they were innocent. All this for a God who had seemingly abandoned them. All this pain and misery to save people who were ungrateful and cruel.

I would have been very angry indeed.

And yet, Paul and Silas spent their time in jail praying and singing hymns. They chose to praise God even in the midst of a situation far worse than most of us can imagine. At first it’s easy to think that Paul was exceptional. That God endowed him with some sort of super human ability to seek joy in even the most appalling situations.

But the truth is that we all have this ability to choose joy, to make a conscious decision to be joyful even in the midst of tragedy. Joy is not happiness. Happiness is an emotion that is, by its very nature, fleeting. We get a promotion, we go on a vacation, we get engaged, we have a baby and we are happy. Everything seems right in the world; life is smooth sailing for the time being.

Of course, no one can be happy all the time. The car breaks down, work get stressful, we lose a loved one, someone gets sick and we are no longer happy. We are stressed, frustrated, sad, mad, hurt and confused. And that’s okay. The command was never to be happy all the time. Paul and Silas were not happy. They were joyful, and that is something altogether different.

Joy is a choice. It is not about getting rid of all our problems so that we can have a perfect life. It is about trusting God in spite of the fact that we live in a fallen world and things are decidedly imperfect. Joy is the knowledge that even in the midst of hardship, God is with us always and that the things we endure can and will be used for a divine purpose, even if we don’t understand how, or why. Joy is deep in the soul and cannot be shaken by the circumstances of our lives.

Of course, this kind of deep, abiding joy comes only when we are walking closely with God, when we are willing to trust Him implicitly in all things. It is an adventure, a leap of faith… a promise. Will you choose joy today?

As Long as I Have Breath

What is the reason to pray? We come to God in prayer for many things. We ask for wisdom, for guidance, for understanding, for others’ welfare, for peace, for acceptance. We share our blessings, our gratitude, our love, our humility. Sometimes our prayers seem to be answered and other times ignored. So what then is the purpose for prayer? If we don’t get the results we expected for our prayers, what makes us keep praying?

For me, prayer is not about outcomes, but about a relationship with God. Prayer is a way to keep my heart open to all that God displays around me and sends into my path. When I pray for someone to be cured, I don’t know for certain if that will happen. But what I do know is that God heard me. And that God’s love will surround that person no matter what outcome.Scripture Because he bends down

Prayer is the foundation of my relationship with God. I empty my heart to him and he pours his spirit into me. Through prayer, I can be reflective about my life and my choices. Through prayer, I can hear the needs of others and respond. Through prayer, I can see the God in someone else. Through prayer, I can bring his heart to this messy world.

My prayers are not a child’s list to Santa for all that I want in this world.  It is my way of letting God know I will keep listening for him and know he is listening for me.  As long as I have breath.

What is the reason you keep praying?

Trust in God–even in the hard times

Editor’s note: Thank you to Pastor Paul, for sharing the following devotion: 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, 
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  –-Romans 15: 13

In my late teens I had a great struggle with the Christian faith in which I had been raised.   After rejecting Christianity as both irrelevant and untrue, I found myself in a terrible disquiet of heart.  How could I live in a world without God; a world with neither moral nor spiritual guideposts?

After many turns and twists of mind and heart, I came back to a faith which for the first time was mine.  In was at this time I memorized this hymn, “Praise the Savior,” which remains for me forever associated with my new-found joy in knowing the Savior:

 

Budding leaves--Trust in God--Julie McCarty - Cropped CopyPraise the Savior, ye who know him
Who can tell how much we owe him?
Gladly let us render to him,
All we are and have.

 Jesus is the name that charms us,
He for conflict fits and arms us,
Nothing moves and nothing harms us,
While we trust in Him.

 Trust in Him, ye saints, forever,
He is faithful, changing never,
Neither force nor guile can sever,
Those he loves from him.  

Keep us Lord, O keep us cleaving,
To thyself and still believing,
Till the hour of our receiving,
Promised joys in heaven.  

Then we shall be what we should be,
Then we will be what we would be,
Things that are not, nor now could be,
Then shall be our own.
(Words: Thomas Kelly, traditional German melody)

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord,
be with us in the times when it seems that we are alone in a dark world.
Give us light for our paths and hope for our journeys.
May your Holy Spirit give us the gifts of unquenchable hope and joy.
As we pray with whatever faith there is in us,
give us courage to believe and the strength to follow you
whether we see you or not.
Amen.

 

Pastor Paul Harris has been serving at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, Minnesota since 2000. His special emphasis is adult education, and he is also known for his dedicated ministry to the people of Tanzania.