The Prodigal Cat

A few weeks ago, my sweet indoor kitty Stinkle ran away. I don’t know how, I don’t know when it happened, all I knew was that Stinkle was gone. I think she had gotten outside Monday night in the middle of a storm. It was really unlike her to bolt out the door and run down the street. The few times she’d been outside, she would immediately turn around and meow to get back in. The storm must have really spooked her.

With cats, it takes awhile to realize the cat is missing  because  cats love to hide indoors so I spent Tuesday looking inside the house for her. I looked in all of her favorite hiding spaces, I shook the dry cat food around the house (her favorite sound), I ran the automatic can opener (her other favorite sound). Nothing.   A strange mix of despair and panic crept over me as I was running out ideas and places to look in the house. Mom came home that night and acted as a second pair of eyes and confirmed that Stinkle was definitely not inside. It was Wednesday. Stinkle was outside and that’s all I knew.

I spent that morning and  afternoon walking up and down the streets calling her name, looking in bushes, talking to neighbors and  texting a lot of people to pray.  As I walked the streets over and over again, that same wave of panic and despair fell over me. I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, but I also wanted to ring every doorbell on the street and ask if they had seen Stinkle. As I looked for Stinkle, I knew there were three possibilities.
1) Stinkle was dead.
2) Stinkle was outside hiding somewhere.
3) Stinkle was inside someone’s home.

If she was dead, I prayed that I wouldn’t be the one to find her. If she was outside, I prayed that she would hear my voice and come. I didn’t even want to consider option 3. To think that someone would see my cat, let her into their home and keep her forever made me sick. She was mine. I adopted her, I named her, I raised her since she was a kitten, I loved her.

Thursday through Saturday I was out of town and couldn’t look for my cat. Luckily, I was kept pretty busy. Still no word of anyone finding her. We had put out fliers, and posted on every social media site possible. Sunday came and I was overwhelmed. A whole week without kitty snuggles, her purring in my ear or sitting on my feet as I read. Was this my new reality? If it was, I didn’t like it. I spent a lot of time that day begging God to bring Stinkle home. The shock/denial of her being gone was fading, and the anger had definitely set in. Luckily, I had church so I could pray forgiveness for the things I said to God in my car. (mostly kidding…but not really). That night I met with my community group and I talked about my cat, saying everything I said here. I choked back tears and we all prayed that Stinkle would come home.

After group, I started talking to someone and after our conversation I checked my phone. It was a text from my mom.

“She’s home!!!” And there was a picture of my cat eating food in the kitchen.

A few members of my community group were standing close by and I managed to squeak out one of their names and I said “SHE’S HOMEEEE. STINKLE CAME HOME.” and then instant bawling. Just lots of sobs of joy, and just an overwhelming feeling of relief.  My community surrounded me as I cried.  My cat was found a few houses down in someone’s backyard. They got in contact with my mom and the rescue mission ensued all while I was at church. After the longest drive home ever, I burst through the door and held my cat in my arms. She had dried up mud on her tummy and so I got a washcloth and scrubbed the mud off.

I really wrestle  with apathy. Specifically, apathy towards God. I am apathetic because I falsely believe that  God is apathetic towards me. I think I love the Prodigal son story because the Father is anything BUT apathetic as He sprints towards his son who has come home. In a  weird kind of way, I got to live the Prodigal son story through the eyes of the father this week. And as I experienced what it was like to lose my cat and  not know if she was dead, alive or lost forever, I experienced a small bit of what God must go through all the time. Here’s some things I learned.

God aches for you:  Whenever I thought about Stinkle (which was a lot that week she was missing) my heart literally hurt. I wanted her home so badly . How much more does God ache for those who are lost? God aches for you. When you find rest, comfort, your identity in anything other than Christ, it’s like you’re Stinkle living in someone else’s home. I thought about my life and how I’ve made gods out of myself, people, being liked, control and comfort. God is aching for me to return home to my First Love, and He is aching fro you to do the same.

God pursuits you: I spent several hours a day looking for Stinkle. I walked until I was too tired and needed to rest. When it wasn’t a physical battle, it was mental one.  I let despair win sometimes and I would stop looking.  God is pursuing you. He does not need rest and He will not give up. God became man and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He left all of Heaven’s glory, praise and perfection, for this measly place where there’s headaches, sunburns, blisters, rejection, fatigue, hunger and heartbreak. Nothing stopped Jesus from making away for you to be reconciled to God. Not even death on a cross. Not even death itself. What an amazing God.

God celebrates when you are found: If anything changed my view of God, it was all the emotion I felt when i got that text from my mom. I remember thinking “Gosh, if I feel this much joy and relief about a cat, how much more joy does God feel when sinners become saved?” There’s a party in Heaven every time someone accepts Christ, and for the longest time I thought that was weird and corny. But now,  man, I believe it and can’t wait to join in on that party. But until then, I want to give my life to make sure everyone knows that they are invited to this party  and that the creator of the Universe loves them way more than I love my cat (which is a lot guys)

 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:20-24

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Lost&Found

After a day of babysitting, I drove an hour to meet a friend for coffee. As soon as I parked, I reached over to the passenger seat to pick up my wallet, and it was not there. I looked on the floor, nope. I looked under my feet. Nope. I looked in the back seats, I looked in the trunk. I looked in the passenger seat again, and again. Surely if I moved my jacket enough times, my wallet would appear underneath, right? Guys, there’s no panic like “Losing your wallet” panic. I immediately retraced my steps from the day.  The house I babysat at, the McDonald’s I took the boys to after their basketball game, home. Worst case scenario, I left it at McDonald’s and someone grabbed it. Or Someone might have turned it in right? Right? I whipped my phone out, googled that McDonald’s that I went to and called them to ask if they had found a black wallet. No one had found my wallet. I realized after I had called them that my wallet must have at least made it to my car or my home with because I deposited my check from babysitting into the bank.  With a calmer spirit, I called my mom, and lo and behold my wallet was at home.

“Cool story bro,” said the reader.

Thanks.

But wait, let’s take into account one thing: I HATE CALLING PEOPLE.  Especially strangers. I went to the aquarium a few days ago with a friend. Before, we were unsure if they were open, so I told my friend I’d call the place and ask. But I never did because I hate calling people.  Guys. My job search was a million times more difficult for me because I did not call people to follow up on my applications. Never in my life have I called a business to ask them a question. Until today.  I found the number, pressed dial, and didn’t hang up.  (usually, I stare at the number to dial, never press the call button, or when i do, I hang up before they answer. I got some serious phone anxiety) I called Mcdonalds because I lost my wallet. I was willing to go to great lengths to find this wallet. Why? cause it had everything in it: debit card, credit card, my license, $14 in cash, and my chapstick. It was worth a lot to me.

 

You know what has even more value than a wallet? You. We’re all sheep gone astray, prodigal sons, the blind, the lame, the weak, we’re sinners. We are lost. And the Gospel is a beautiful, life-changing, heart-transforming story of how the God of the Universe went to great lengths to find, save and redeem us. Why? He is a loving, loving Father. We were made in His image and in the beginning, man’s relationship with God was perfect. A few chapters later in Genesis: the Fall. Man sinned. God is holy. Sinners can’t be in the presence of God. We were separated from God. The cost to find us? His only Son. God in the flesh. Left Heaven, became man, lived a perfect life, died a horrendous death, rose from the dead and beat sin out once and for all. Talk about going a great length to find what was lost! Whether you’ve heard this story a million times, or for the first time now: I pray the reality of the Gospel sinks in. You are loved so much.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it,he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Luke 15:4-6

Sunny days

Sonset

This was the sunset from my bathroom window.

John 8:12 popped into my head.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What a reminder. What a comparison.

God is love. The Sun is a ball of fire.

God loves. The Sun shines.

*My actions do not effect the Sun. I can stay inside all day, I can be outside all the time. The Sun is going to shine nonetheless. The sun’s ability to shine or not shine has nothing to do with me, but without the Sun I would cease to exist.
God does not love us base on what we did. Your actions, your words, your sin is not a measuring stick for how much God loves you. His Love does not waver each day based on your performance. It is constant.  God is love. It’s what He does, It’s what He is.

*At night, I might not be able to see the Sun, but I know it’s still there because I am alive. Without the sun and it’s heat, we die.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed: by darkness, sin, circumstance, addiction, lust, depression. He is our hope and he is our Comfort through the night.  His comfort is like the warmth of the Sun. You can not see warmth, but you can feel it.

*The sun does not make darkness. Darkness is the absence of the sun.
God does not create evil, or make bad things happen. He cannot make evil anymore than the Sun can make darkness. He is the Author of all life, and all good things. Darkness is the absence of God.

I heard this song recently, True Love by Phil Wickham, and the song starts out with:

“Come close, listen to the story about a love more faithful than the morning.”

I was confused at first, how could God’s love be more faithful than the morning? and then it hit me, one day the sun won’t rise, the morning won’t come, but God’s love will still remain.

thankful for the sun, even more thankful for the Son.

-Marlie

jeremiah 29:11, romans 8:28, philippians 4:13 all walk into a bar….

“the B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book about me, I stand alone on 3 verses:  29:11, 8:28, 4:13” That’s how the song went, right? There’s a few Bible verses that sit together in a popular kids club and sip virgin martini’s together. They are popular, possibly overused, but popular nonetheless. Excluding John 3:16, the top 3 verses have been misinterpreted, misquoted, misused to be all about us. Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:13. God has plan for me, His plan works out well for us in the end, I can do all things through Christ.  Though this is all true, we’re taking God’s word and twisting it to fit our own agenda. Prime example, Psalm 46:10. A verse commonly used to calm the worriers among us. “Be still and know that I am God,” It is important to be still, and to acknowledge God as Ruler over our lives. But did You know the verse doesn’t end there right? The rest of v. 10:  “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Doesn’t fit so well on the card with a butterfly on it. So, You mean, God get’s the praise in the end? You mean, life really isn’t about me? Exactly.

Let’s keep reading.

Jeremiah 29:11:

 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah is writing a letter to people who have been exiled by God to Babylon. Just before verse 11, God says they are going to be exiles for 70 years. 70 YEARS! Skip verse 11. Verse 12 refers to those 70 years in exile. God says to them while in exile “ In those days when you pray, I will listen.” Followed by verse 13: “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”  In those days of exile, I’ll hear you, look for me and you will find me. How fantastic is that promise. The God of the universe is listening, and can be found when we seek him! 

Isn’t that the purpose of our lives? To know Christ intimately? I fear so many miss out on this hope because we are in verse 11 mindset. Waiting for God to make everything work out for own good (more on that verse next week.) We start talking, “Alright God, what are you doing for me? Make my life awesome, alright? You promised remember? Good ole Jeremiah 29:11?” I remember being a young teenager, and hearing this verse and grabbing hold of it. And it’s a great verse to grip on to, but it can lead to some big frustrations.  I spent a long time waiting for this “plan for good” to come but instead, disaster frequently surrounded me. I got bitter at God, doubted Him because life was supposed to be good! The bible said so! But you see, I was using this one verse (out of context, i might add) and using it to promote my own agenda. God is going to give me an awesome future (i.e. a great writing gig, hundreds of followers on my blog, a husband 2.5 kids, 3 cats, a ranch, financial stability forever and ever the end.) Or whatever your dream future is. It might not look like mine, but man, we should NOT hold this verse up to God as a “get out of life trials” card.

In the same way, I fear many of us read this verse and take our 20-60 years of life experience and define the word “good” much differently than the God who has always been good, is good and will always be good. It’s a failed comparison, but it is similar to a child who thinks eating all of his Halloween candy in one night is good. The father would say no, and the child might feel frustrated: “You don’t love me!” He might retort. “If you loved me, you would give me what I want!!” However, the child has no idea that the candy he wants to scarf down in a few hours will lead to stomach aches. However, the father knows that that would not end well at all for his son. Because the father loves the son, he says no to him. We want worldly good things to happen to us all the time, yet God knows that will only lead us to sick stomachs and an empty bag. So He says no to us as well.
So if that part of the verse “future and hope” doesn’t mean God’s going to fulfill our own agenda. What does it mean?  Well let’s look,  how does God give the exiles a future and a hope? Right after verse 11,  He reconciles them with Himself. He gives them Himself. HE is our future, and our hope. He is better than any record deal, any cash amount, any dream job or career. At funerals, when people are speaking about the person who died, what are they saying? “Oh man,  I miss John’s stuff. He always bought me stuff.” No, they are sharing memories, priceless memories.  Likewise,  are we focused more on God’s gifts, rather than the gift giver, Himself?

Is Jeremiah 29:11 bad? No. Is God bad? No. Are we selfish people often in pursuit of personal gain and when we read scripture we sometimes adapt it to our own agenda instead of God’s agenda? Yes. I don’t want you to miss this: read Jeremiah 29:11, but don’t stop there. Read Philippians 4:13, but don’t stop there. Read Romans 8:28 but don’t stop there. As you seek the Lord, you might find that your personal agenda, falls to the back burner as God’s agenda takes a hold of your life. There so much more to a relationship with God than church on Easter, Christmas eve and occasional Sundays. Experience Him. Get to know Him by reading His word. Talk with Him. Seek Him, wholeheartedly, and you will find Him.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:12-13