Never Rope a Cat

As we’ve looked back over the things we’ve learned over the years, today I’d like to share with you a very wise nugget of wisdom:

Never try to rope a cat.

This bit of wisdom all started in the early 70’s when Tony and I decided we needed a pet. After all, we were barely subsisting, sinking deeper into debt and wondering where our next meal would come from. What better time to add another mouth to feed?

Off we went one bright Saturday morning to the animal shelter. Actually the term was a bit of a misnomer. The place wasn’t so much a “shelter” as it was a holding tank for cats and dogs until such time as they could be euthanized. Abandoned animals were kept for a specified period of time, then they were ‘put down’. We knew it, and I think in some perverse way, the animals knew it too.

We came into the shelter that day intending to find a smallish dog. Tony’d grown up with Beagles, and since we were pretty much living in the country there in eastern Colorado, we were convinced this would be just the ticket.

No dogs. We couldn’t believe it, but there were no dogs that day.

As we were turning to go, a Siamese cat in an adjacent cage caught our eye.  Knowing that he had us, he began to hoot and holler as only Siamese can do.  I had grown up with Siamese cats, so I was naturally suckered in.  He continued his charade until both of us were near the cage, and then he amped it up with desperate cries that sounded a lot like,  “Help Me…. SAAAAAAVE me!!”  It didn’t help that the sign on his cage read, “abandoned”.

Who could resist?  We walked out with him entwined around our necks.

What can I say? He was a wonderful cat. We named him Oliver, taught him to adapt to the great outdoors, and especially not to stand outside with his legs crossed, howling to come in to use the litter box.  He was a quick study, and soon he was loving his new horizons, often bringing us dead rats, field mice and anything else he could find.  Fortunately for all of us, he never brought in a rattlesnake,  for which the area was actually famous.

One weekend, we decided to drive the hundred miles or so to our parents’ house. What the trip cost in gas was more than made up for in the haul of food we managed to commandeer. This trip ended up costing us more than we took in though, on account of the snowstorm that blew in suddenly. The closer we got to our parents’ house, the worse the snow got, and we hadn’t even started up the mountain yet. We finally decided we’d better stop for the night before getting into the Colorado High Country, where the snow would definitely be worse.

We found a cheap motel, got them to agree to us taking our cat inside and began to settle in. “Oh, but wait,” I thought, “Oliver better ‘do his business’ before we go inside.”

Because we lived in the country, and because we were cheap, we’d never invested in a collar or leash. Why would you ever need one?  Now we had a problem. What to do?

“Oh! We have some rope in the trunk,” I said with relief.  We always kept it there for the very likely event that we would need a tow.

And so we tied this one-inch thick, 50 ft long rope around a small cat’s neck.  We had every reason to expect that the plan would work. Oliver would cooperate, “do his thing”, and we’d settle in for a long winter’s night.

Oliver had other ideas. He tiptoed cautiously through the snow to the end of the rope.  Then quicker than greased lightening, he jumped straight up like a young fawn, did a dainty little pirouette in mid air, came down free from his constraint and shot off into the night.

Tony and I stood in shock and horror.  There went our cat!  We were done. We had no more great solutions.  There was nothing we could do but stand there in the falling snow while the music faded into a minor key.

And then, almost as soon as he was gone, I felt a familiar rub on my leg and there he was, purring and looking up at me like nothing had happened.

We scooped him up and took him inside.  There was no more thought of his toilet needs, and he didn’t seem to be too distressed with all the attention we were giving him. We snuggled down, happy that we were a “family” again.

So what’s the point, you say? Simply this: lately I’m beginning to wonder if we’re all not just a little bit like Oliver sometimes.

Like that cat, we’re completely oblivious to the snowstorm around us, to the traffic speeding past us, and yes, oblivious to God and whatever Plan He might be developing.  Instead, we take offense at whatever seems to be confining us (like, in our case, cancer) and we just choose to ‘jump the noose’ and take off into the night.

But God doesn’t despair like we did that night. He doesn’t get crazy. He just waits until we can finally begin to see things from the perspective He’s been showing us all along.  He waits until we find our way back to Him, and we rejoice with great purrs when He scoops us up into His arms and take us into the warmth.

Do you remember what Jesus said to His disciples in Jerusalem when they just weren’t getting it? “How much longer must I put up with you?” (Mark 9:19)

But of course we know the answer to that question already: as long as it takes. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows that we will find our way back to Him. Or, if we become hopelessly lost, He will come and find us.

We had the best Christmas and New Years we could have dreamed of.  Everything was just perfect. There was that noose around our necks, but it wasn’t allowed to steal our joy, thanks in a big way to your prayers.  Whenever we started feeling the rope tighten, God would step in immediately and go straight for the heart with a message, “I’ve got this.”

God didn’t cause the cancer, any more than He orchestrated the storm that made us seek lodging that snowy night so many years ago. But He did invent everything and knows these things happen. He knows how to care for us, and we need to accept His tender loving care.

To that end, we’re leaving on Tuesday for a (doctor ordered) cruise.  Yes, it seems bizarre, but we’re both fit and hearty and Tony has to simply wait until March so that the radiation will be most effective.  Yes, we have a noose, but we might as well go visit some places we love and see some old friends.  Theoretically there’s nothing ominous that can happen, except maybe put on some of those pounds we’ve lost.

We’ll try to post again next week from Singapore, where you’ll remember we spent time last year setting up Tony’s Bible Study, “Anagaion”.    Then we’ll be on a boat all along the Asian coast until we reach Hong Kong.

We dock the evening of the beginning of Chinese New Year, (remember, these are the people who invented fireworks) so you may not hear from us for a few weeks, but please know we’re living in the first half of that verse in Proverbs 17:22, A cheerful heart is a good medicine.

Till next time, God bless,


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