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Redeemed: How Milky the Cat came Back

The day the cat came back.

It’s a strange feeling that comes when you must pay for what is already yours; when you must buy back to keep what you own.

There’s a story about that with a boy and boat. But I’m going to tell a different one, about how Milky the cat came back.

Losing Milky

I admit: it was my brainiac idea to take Milky and Oreo back to their barn of origin while our family vacationed in Florida. So a month ago, we carted the cats back to the farm, to Mom and Dad’s.

Mom thought crating them a day or two in the barn would be good. They could re-acclimate to their former home that way.

I didn’t think that’d be necessary. Milky and Oreo wouldn’t need that. They’d remember their old kitten haunts and the smell of the sheep and the hay and their cousins.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Stray Cat Dirge

The second the boys left the van, was the second the cats exploded in a mad dash from their hands. Milky south through the corn field, Oreo north through the garden. Like spooked cheetah cubs escaping a lion, they ran.

Gabe raced after Milky a few steps, but in the dusky light they were instantly out of sight. And as he burst into tears, Sam shook his head.

It’s all your fault Mom. You ruined vacation.

I miss my cats. They’ll never come back.

Those were the words to the song. The dirge that Sam and Gabe sang as I packed the van for a sunny spring break away.

They sang them again ten nights later, upon our catless return.

Fast forward 20 days from the day the cats escaped.

Redeeming Milky

Your cat has been found. Please contact Lakeland Animal Shelter at 262-741-1000.

I did.

That was on the answering machine after work. So I called.

A trucker found the cat at a rest stop [10 miles from Mom and Dad’s] and picked him up. He felt convicted that it might be someone’s pet so he took him to a shelter in Milwaukee. They read his chip and called us and the trucker brought him back down. So your cat is here.

And just so you know, it’ll be a $20 handling fee and a $25 repeat occurrence fee when you pick him up. (Yes, repeat. But I’ll save that story for another time.)

Worth The Fee

Jim redeemed Milky from the shelter an hour later at a cost of $45. Our “free barn cat” was worth much more now than he was when the boys found him behind between bales in the haymow last fall.

Milky was our cat. But he had strayed. Milky needed to be redeemed. And the cost to buy him back was infinitely- any amount is infinite from zero- more than the cost to own.

But now he was ours. Because we loved him. Milky was worth it.

And you, Christian, you are worth it too. The way you’ve been redeemed is proof.

Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb

The Greek word for redeemed in Titus 2:14 and 1 Peter 1:18 is “lutroo.” It means “free by paying a ransom, redeem…set free…rescue.”

Titus 2:14 shows Jesus’ death has rescued us from a life of slavery to sin: “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good work.”

The same word is used in 1 Peter 1, “knowing that you were redeemed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things such as silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without spot or blemish” (1:18-19).

We redeemed Milky with an infinitetesimally smaller price. Jesus gave himself for us. Himself. As a lamb without spot or blemish. He gave himself.

We only gave 45 perishable, measly little dollars for Milky the cat.

We’ve been redeemed by the blood of the lamb.

More Sinful Than You Know, More Loved Than You Imagine

Do you now this: that the only thing you contributed to your salvation was the sin from which you had to be saved? God redeemed you from that.

Which means that you are at once,

more sinful than you know and more loved than than you imagine.

Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

That is the Gospel.

It’s the priceless key to both true humility and truly feeling valued. You- we are more sinful than we know and more loved than we imagine.

After all, it took the precious blood of Christ to redeem us.

And our Lord Jesus Christ did do that.

He Who Knew No Sin Become Sin

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). The perfect lamb, who is also the Good Shepherd, laid down his life for you. Who redeemed us by his blood.

Which also means nothing in the life of the redeemed soul is wasted: no trial (they make us mature), no wait (God works for those who wait for him), not even sin (who is forgiven much loves much). God can even redeem the years the locust have eaten, the lost years, someone said.

And when he does that, just what are the redeemed to do?

What The Redeemed Do

Well, Milky lapped up two bowls of milk then purred loud and long in Gabe’s arms. But Milky’s only a cat.

Just what is the redeemed soul to do? The Psalmist wrote, Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

Or sing so:Let the redeemed washed by his blood come and rejoice in his great love.

O praise Him!

Alleluia!

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.

Isaiah 43:4

P.S. -As of 4/20/19, Oreo the cat is still on the lam.
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A Pathway to Health: Have you had your nature fix today?

What’s your secret? How do you stay so healthy? my friend asked, noting I hadn’t been sick all winter.

Ooh. Right into my wheelhouse. Because health and fitness are some of my favorite topics and I do have a few secrets. None of which, incidentally, involve dietary supplements, protein powder or organic juicing; some of which involve intermittent fasting, everyday friendship, and every other day push-ups.

And since today is my “golden birthday” -44 on 4/4- I’ll take full advantage to tell you one of my “secrets.” One the pathways to the good health I’ve enjoyed to this ripe old middle age.

But before I do, I must give credit where credit is due.

All Grace

Because the first and last word on health has got to be grace.

It is in Him we live and move and have our being. Because He is our life and the length of our days. And His word has given us life. (Acts 17:28, Deuteronomy 30:20, Psalm 119:50)

Any measure of health is a gift from God.

Because the LORD forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases, redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with steadfast love and mercy. He satisfies me with good so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:3-4).

Means To Health

Not to guarantee it, but to go to places where God’s grace flows. You’re more likely to get sunshine on Sanibel Island than in Seattle. God has revealed certain channels through which he regularly pours out his favor, David Mathis writes. And we’re foolish not to take his word on it.

Just like we can’t force electricity or water to flow our direction, we can’t force health. But God has given us circuits to connect and pipes to open and trails to hike. Pathways to power, water and health should he send them.

Mathis explains,

Our God is lavish in his grace, often liberally dispensing his favor without even the least bit of cooperation and preparation on our part. But he also has his regular channels. And we can routinely avail ourselves of these revealed paths of blessing, or neglect them to our detriment.

Health is a blessing. And going outside avails us of that blessing.

The Secret: Vitamin Sea (or just a walk around the block)

Physical health and spiritual health are closely intertwined. Very closely. A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).

So when I talk about this secret to health, I am talking about both. This pathway is a means to spiritual and physical health.

Have you been outside today?” is subtitled, “The Spiritual cost of Isolation from Creation.” In it, John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris hail the spiritual benefits of basking in the great outdoors.

Hear them make the case in the rest of this post.

Have you had your nature fix today?

One of the defining features of God’s Word is how often it points us to God’s world.Much of Scripture, in fact, assumes a level of understanding about nature. So, it would seem, if we fail to go outdoors, if we fail to experience and engage in God’s creation, our faith could suffer.

Nearly every book of the Bible is bursting with references to creation, chronicling in soaring prose the making of the universe, identifying God’s covenant promise with colors in the sky, and inviting us to gaze with Father Abraham at the starry hosts, where an even greater promise was written.

The psalmist compares the longing of his soul for God with the thirst of a deer running to water, fully expecting his readers to get the word picture! He sings of the heavens’ divine declaration, he praises the Lord for making mankind ruler of “all flocks and herds…animals of the wild…birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea…”

John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris

The Birds And Beasts Will Teach You

“Ask the beasts, and they will teach you,” exclaims Job, “the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”

The Bible at length promises that the consummation of history, like its beginning, will take place in a garden-city atop a mountain, with a river of life and trees whose leaves are to heal the nations….

Faced with this forest of references, it’s hard to see how someone who never spends time outside could fully grasp things the Scripture wants us to. Today, the benefits of modern technology have effectively cut us off from the natural world and the general revelation of God that it offers, perhaps more than ever before in history.

John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris

Go Outside!

There are costs to this insulation. Last May, the Washington Post reported that children today spend less time in unstructured outdoor play than any prior generation which, research indicates, results in worse school performance, less creativity, higher levels of obesity, fewer friends, and increased rates of depression and hyperactivity. Even more critically, the world kids experience today bears little resemblance to the backdrop of the Bible.

Writing at The Gospel Coalition, Scott Martin calls this modern isolation from creation not only physically, but spiritually dangerous. Citing studies demonstrating how time in nature reshapes our brains, he suggests that our manmade worlds of concrete and climate control rob us not only of the practical vocabulary to understand Scripture, but actually make unbelief easier.

Thankfully, there’s a simple solution: Go outside!

John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris

Path To Life

Now I realize I’m a privileged, living in the SE Wisconsin countryside and richly blessed to take a holiday at the sea every couple of years.

But even if you live the city or go to the sea, you can go out and look at the sky. You can be intentional. You can rouse yourself and gaze at creation. For your health, don’t isolate yourself inside.

He’s shown us the path of life. He has given us means to health and grace.

One just might be to see His work outside. So go take a hike.

You will show me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11

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Reroute: Do you trust the GPS Girl more than God?

Google Map Re-route

We’re closing in on Sanibel. Of 1,408 miles from home, only 148 remain. Twenty hours down, two to go. Unless traffic suddenly comes to a dead stop on I-75 en route to Florida for spring break as it’s liable to do.

Unless that happens and I don’t take the reroute.

Reviewing

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. That’s how the writer of the book of Hebrews describes faith in chapter 11. Faith means trusting God when we can’t see the road ahead.

It’s been two years since we walked these beaches and soaked in this island sun and two years since that little stop off the causeway got me wondering if others can see how much we’ve grown.

I don’t know if others can. But in this one way, I think I’ve grown: I’m learning to embrace life’s reroutes faster.

I’m getting better at accepting changes in my plans. I mean, I’m learning to accept them gratefully like the reroutes that suddenly pop up on my screen.

If you use GPS or Google Maps, you know just what I mean.

Rerouting

Just shy of Chattanooga last night, that calm female voice broke in to say, “There is a delay on I-24 two miles ahead. Exit on state road 11 and save 37 minutes. Press yes to accept this reroute.”

I did. In a heartbeat I did. I gladly accepted that reroute.

Because I trust that the GPS Girl knows best. I trust Google’s eagle eye view of the roads. So I trust her completely with the way our van takes.

But sometimes I question whether God’s got my best route figured out. Sometimes I get thinking that interruptions in my time and deviations from my plans are beyond His view.

As if they could halt his plan. The Lord will perfect that which concerns me, Psalm 138:8 says. As if accidents and wrong turns and lost jobs ever catch God by surprise.

As if.

Reassuring

After 24 years with the same employer, my husband’s job ends next month. After giving thousands of eye exams, the optical is in bankruptcy and this job is over. Paycheck ends, insurance ends, this stability ends.

We don’t know what’s next. The road ahead is unknown.

We all like stability. We like to know the route, the plan. It’s the uncertainty that’s killing me, we say as we await a lab result or a call back. It’s this not knowing what’s ahead that’s hard.

[A]nd he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge, the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure. That’s the comfort the prophet Isaiah provides God’s afflicted children (33:6).

Here’s where my relationship the GPS Girl helps me trust God. When make a wrong turn or the road gets blocked ahead, the GPS Girl doesn’t get mad. She doesn’t yell at me or go silent. She provides stability.

If we have ears to hear, we’ll hear her say in that same calm, composed way: Recalculating.

Recalculating

In her steady, calm way, she reassures, It’ll take a little longer, but I’ll get you there. Wrong turn, missed exit, accident- no matter, I’ll still get you there.

But the analogy between the GPS Girl and God breaks down here, because God never has to recalculate. He knew your days before you were born.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. That’s where Asaph lands at the end of Psalm 73, after he envied the prosperity of the wicked. Like when I envied the drivers that zipped along on the right shoulder while we waited at a dead stop north of Nashville.

Nevertheless. I love that nevertheless. Because I make wrong turns and because other people’s accidents affect my travel. They change my plans and slow me down.

Nevertheless…I guide you. Like the GPS Girl. She doesn’t get mad at me when wrong turns and accidents happen. She doesn’t give up either. We hear her say,Re-calculating.

And we hear God say: Trust me. I’ll guide you. There is another way.

Re-route map

That’s why Corrie ten Boom’s words makes sense, Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

Because He sees the road ahead. Because reroutes don’t come by chance, but from God’s loving and wise fatherly hand.

Resting

Faith is relying on God’s love and resting in him when we face reroutes. Faith is seeing God’s hand. Growing in faith is seeing his hand more and faster, more and more cheerfully

Author and theologian, Joel Beeke explains,

Faith sees God’s hand everywhere, unbelief sees God’s hand nowhere; not in big things or in small, everyday things.

If we see God’s hand we realize that we are dependent on him. This is maturity- to realize we need him.


I believe and help my unbelief. Because, truth be told, sometimes I trust the GPS Girl more than the Almighty God. I wonder about the route to Jim’s next job. But instantly I press accept and off we go on a scenic detour of Lookout Mountain outside Chattanooga.

I want to trust God like this, because he sees the road ahead better, and he’s got my best interest in heart. We cannot always trace God’s hand,Spurgeon said, but we can always trust God’s heart. I want to rest in that.

Because He knows the way I take. And he knows all the roads in front of me more than the GPS Girl.

So how could I trust him less?

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. 

Psalm 32:8

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One More Reason Patrick’s My Homeboy: Confession #60

The fire still burns. Not the Easter fire he defiantly set at Tara. I mean the one that burns in my belly for you to meet the real Patrick.

Last year, I introduced a grateful saint. The year before that, I shared my own bittersweet confession about a selfish choice to climb Patrick’s holy mountain alone. Next there were the 5 Reasons Why Saint Patrick Is My  Homeboy. Then one more reason Patrick is a kindred soul

This year I found one more. One more reason to love Patrick.

I might have worshiped the sun.

That’s right. Because I might have been a sun-worshipper. The kind that really bows down and sacrifices lifeblood. I get why the ancients worshiped that created thing. I’m sympathetic.

I think Patrick must have loved the sun, too. He was a self-described “rustic” and we can guess he loved those green hills and gorgeous sunscapes.

So, because I’m a beauty junkie and often stalk the sun, I latched on to these words in Patrick’s third to last Confession.

Hear how he describes the sun. The true sun.

Patrick’s Confession #60

The sun, which we see rising for us every day, rises at his command; but it will never rule over the universe, nor will its splendour continue forever. And all those who worship it will come to a bad, miserable penalty. But not we, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ. He shall never perish. And neither will anyone who does His will- instead he will live forever just as Christ will live forever, who reigns with God the Father almighty and with the Holy Spirit since before the ages began, and now, and for all the ages of ages. Amen.

That’s it. That’s Patrician connection this year. A tribute to one saint, for all the saints. We feebly stumble, they in glory shine.

Arise in the brilliance of the sun.

Patrick was a man of one book, living for one King. So when he was pricked, and pricked he was aplenty by his critics, he bled bibline. He knew 1 John 2:17, that, The world is and its desires are passing away, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

And so Patrick wrote about the day that we shall surely arise in the brilliance of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs with Christ, to be formed in His image, since through Him, with Him, and in Him we shall reign.

Be Thou My Vision

There’s something about Irish saints who write about High Kings and heaven and sun. A couple of centuries after Patrick wrote his Confessions, another Irish saint- maybe a saint who’d lost his sight– wrote a poem called Be Thou My Vision.

Do you know this last verse?

High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

And so- whether Irish saint or not- I wish a brilliant and blessed Saint Patrick’s Day to you.

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.

Malachi 4:2

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

Daniel 12:3

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:9