Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: gentleness

The Wise Old Mother Cat

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On this International Day of the Cat, it seems an opportune time to clear up some misconceptions about the relationship between cats and humans.

From the human standpoint the relationship seems frustrating. We can’t train our cat to do anything, she won’t even come when we call.

From the cat’s standpoint, the relationship is working out well. We open the door for her when she wants to go in or out; we provide the kind of food she likes; we give her a warm place to stay when it’s cold outside, and all the other amenities for a good life.

You see, we humans tend to understand this relationship all backwards: humans have never domesticated cats, they have domesticated us.

It goes back thousands of years to when our human ancestors in the fertile crescent began to plant crops and build houses. The ancestors of our cats lived there too and soon realized the opportunities these human innovations provided for them. Mice and rats foraged in the fields and especially loved the places where grain was stored. And when humans stayed in one place for any length of time their dwelling places became magnets for mice and rats. Wherever humans lived there was a constant supply of food for cats.

During this time, a Wise Old Mother Cat gathered the many generations of her offspring together and began to teach them how to make the best of this opportunity.

“These two-legged creatures are taking notice of the way you reduce the number of mice and rats that eat their food and trouble their homes. If you act wisely, they will become your friends and protectors.

“Be wary of them at first, all are not kind. But if one of them acts kindly toward you, show your appreciation by purring. They love that sound. Don’t use your claws and teeth to protect yourself unless your life is in danger. They will learn that you intend them no harm and will begin to trust you.

“When that happens, don’t be afraid to enter into their homes and show that you trust them in return. It will take many years, but in time they will become your friends. If you act affectionately to them, they will do the same to you. Little by little, over time, you will be able to train them to provide everything you need for your comfort and happiness.”

OK, I admit it, the Wise Old Mother Cat is a legend (created by yours truly). But can anyone deny that something much like this has happened?

I want to be an L.E.D.

We all know what led’s are, right? Those things that give off a nice clear light but won’t burn you if you get too close to them. That’s what I want to be – a Light Emitting Disciple.

There is a problem, though – I am not capable of producing light by myself. But I sure am capable of producing heat. Far too often I have tried to enlighten someone else and that person had to back off for fear of getting burned.

That has never been what I wanted to do, but it took me years to realize that when I begin to get hot under the collar the possibility of convincing someone else of what I believe to be right drops to zero.

I had a lesson on this in my youth – from a cow. The cows were coming into the barn and I needed to get this cow into a different stall than the one that had been her home up to then. She had no idea what I wanted her to do or why, she just wanted to get into her old familiar stall. I started to yell and to slap her. She was frightened and tried to get away from me. Finally I realized that I had lost this battle. I waited until we had both cooled off, then took her by the halter and led her to the stall where I wanted her to go. Once she understood what I wanted she settled right down.

You’d think a lesson like that might have stuck, but it took quite a few more, with people and animals, before the lesson was learned. If indeed it has been learned, and I think it has for the most part.

Through all this, I have come to understand what James was talking about when he wrote:

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. James 3:14-17

He is saying that heat comes from below and light comes from above. If I truly want to be a Light Emitting Disciple, I need to disconnect myself from the source of heat and connect to the source of light.

Memories of Panda

Panda was our number one furry friend for over 15 years. We got her from a street cat rescue program when she was about six months old. She was part of a litter of long haired black cats found in an abandoned car in a back alley. She grew into a magnificent Maine Coon cat and lived with us in our last three homes.

In our first home, she would perch on the back of the couch, part the vertical blinds with her paw  to look out on the driveway and watch for our return.

She was the same age as our oldest grandchild and all our grandchildren learned from her that gentleness and kindness were the  keys to inspiring trust.

After spending hours at the computer I would turn around and see her on the floor quietly watching me. As soon as I made eye contact she was on her feet leading me to where I kept her brush and comb. A little time spent grooming her made her happy and gave me a needed break. She loved to be vacuumed, the air current through her long hair must have felt good.

The first evening afterwe moved onto this acreage she went outside to explore. When she didn’t come back we went looking for her with flashlights. We went all over the yard, searching and calling her. Finally we gave up and went back to the house. There she was, calmly sitting on the front step, as if to say “Where have you guys been? I’ve been waiting for you.”

I like cats because they are free. They could survive as feral anaimals but choose to make their home with us. They don’t often come when they are called, but when they feel like it they will jump on our lap and purr contentedly.

If I accidentally stepped on Panda’s tail or paw she would give a loud squawk, but that was all. She never believed that I had done it deliberately and it didn’t affect her trust in me. She would calmly sleep through sudden loud noises and commotions in the house, but if a can of salmon was opened she would wake from her sleep, wherever she was, and show up to ask for a share.

Yesterday we took her to the vet and had her put to sleep. Over the past few months she has lost weight until she was just skin and bones. Her blood pressure was high and her kidneys were failing. The vet gave us medicine and at times it seemed to be helping. Finally we had to face the reality that the things we were doing to try and relieve her distress were only causing her more distress. It is a relief to know her suffering is over.

I hope that I have learned something about respect and trust from my relationship with Pand that will transfer to my relationships with people.

Temperance

1965_Mercury_Comet_--_06-30-2011.jpgFifty years ago, I was the manager of a country grain elevator in a small Saskatchewan town. It was  a very small town, the only businesses were two grain elevators, two service stations, and a small building containing the town’s café, general store and post office.

Bill Alcock, an eighty year old retired farmer, lived on the east side of town. He drove a Mercury Comet with a standard shift and was stone deaf. Around ten o’clock every morning I would hear a loud roar as old Bill drove his Comet down the street by the elevators, making the four block trip to get his mail.  The car moved at a very sedate speed as Bill held the gas pedal almost to the floor and the clutch at about the same position.

Bill never could figure out why the clutch in his car needed replacing so often. It was no great mystery to the rest of us who witnessed his daily parade to and from the corner store and could actually hear the roar of the engine.

The dictionary defines temperance as self-control, or self-restraint. Would that mean something like Bill’s style of driving? Am I temperate if I maintain a calm and mild outward demeanour while there is fire glinting from my eyes and wisps of smoke curling from my ears? I’m afraid that I would be able to maintain that mild outward demeanour for only so long before my self-restraint snapped and the fire burst from my mouth to singe the hair and eyebrows of whoever had got me so fired up.

Wait a minute. Let’s step back and consider what is happening here. Is it really the other person who is stoking that fire within me? Or am I doing it myself? Logic tells me that the other person is responsible for the things he does and says; the way I react is entirely my own responsibility.

There may be people who are naturally endowed with a nature that does not get fired up when challenged by people or circumstances. I am not one of them – not by nature at least. If I am now able to face challenging situations without danger of explosion, all the credit must go to the Holy Spirit.

If I now appear to be a person who is moderate and temperate (and I hope I do), it is due to the moderating and tempering influence of the Holy Spirit on my inner thoughts and  feelings, not to any innate gentleness in my nature.

Context for apologetics

Happy are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12).

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers trials; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14).

But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:14-15).

These verses describe the context in which we are apt to be called upon to give an answer (apologia) for the hope that is in us. It is when we encounter persecution, slander, reproaches and trials and we are able to maintain an attitude of peace, joy and happiness. That is sure to cause some questions. Perhaps they will not all be expressed, and some might even question our sanity, But if our attitude of happiness and joy is genuine and lasting it will bring questions.

Happiness that is put on as a mask will not have the same effect. The mask will eventually slip; in many cases it will be obvious from the beginning that it is phony. My wife and I attended the wedding of one of her friends, the preacher had a big grin pasted on his face through the whole proceedings. My wife finally leaned over and whispered, “I bet he would wear that same stupid grin if he were preaching a funeral service.”

Our happiness must be the genuine thing, a supernatural happiness that is the gift of the Holy Ghost, or we will have no answer to give. We are not apt to be questioned about our hope either if we do not have a genuine and living hope.

Thus the primary qualification for doing apologetics is to be a real Christian. And if we are a real Christian, we do not have to fear being asked a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear. Note those last words that the apostle adds. It is not up to us to convince someone by the force of our arguments; we only have to speak of that which we have received from God, with gentle assurance.

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