Lessons from a Fat Cat

There’s a fat cat that lives in my neighborhood. She walks slowly and deliberately down the street and through my yard, jingling as she goes due to the bell she wears around her neck. My husband and I have frequently watched her disappear into the tall grass bordering the field behind our home, and we’ve chuckled imagining her futile attempts to catch a mouse—announcing her presence to all creatures in the vicinity with the ringing of her bell and lacking the speed or energy to pounce should she actually encounter one. “Lazy cat!”, we tease her. “You need to lay off the Fancy Feast!”

One day recently I was checking my mailbox when I heard the familiar jingling. The fat cat was plodding towards me at her usual leisurely pace, this time having come from the tall grass and heading back towards the heart of the subdivision. “Hi, pretty kitty,” I said, walking towards her, noticing as I approached that she carried something in her mouth—a fluffy toy, perhaps, with a red ribbon trailing from it. “Whatcha got?”, I inquired, stopping in my tracks when I suddenly realized what she’d “got.” It was a mouse!—a live one—or at least it had been alive recently. It was quite dead now, it’s plump little body clenched tightly between feline jaws.

The fat cat took no notice of my dismay but instead continued purposefully on her way, presumably traveling to a location selected especially for the devouring of her prey. It occurred to me that I’d misjudged her. Despite my belief that she was simply an over-domesticated pet, she knew who she was—a huntress, wild and free and fierce, able to get the job done any time she needed a mousey snack.

This was followed by the revelation that my misunderstanding of her and even taunting her had affected her in no way. At all. She lived out her true identity in the face of opposition, paying no mind to my pointing finger, neither slowing her pace in shame because I doubted her nor quickening her pace in an effort to prove me wrong. She remained single-minded and focused, and she was effective in accomplishing her goal, much to the chagrin of the poor mouse.

I want to be more like the fat cat--in the idealistic sense, that is. Like all humans and women especially, I sometimes struggle with issues of identity, particularly when I’m misunderstood or opposed. At times I’ve succumbed to the temptation to shrink back from a challenge because someone doubted me or to strive to prove myself to the world and prove my critics wrong. God has been working on these people-pleasing tendencies in me over the course of the past year, and I’ve surrendered to His hands-on lessons with all the grace of the fat cat. Nevertheless I’m learning to listen for His voice instead of the voices of those around me and to desire His pleasure more than theirs.

The single most helpful tool on my God-pleasing quest has been, of course, His Word, specifically those passages that tell me who I am as a follower of Jesus, woman who fears the Lord, and someone who calls on God. There are many such passages of Scripture, but here are several that have been meaningful to me lately, stated as affirmations:

I am approved.

I am a worker.

I have no need to be ashamed.

I am a truth-handler.

2 Timothy 2:15, as stated in Jen Hatmaker’s book, For the Love

I am bold and stouthearted.

Psalm 138:3

I am clothed with strength and dignity.

I can laugh at the days to come.

Proverbs 31:25

What would happen if I really lived like this was my true identity? I suspect it would change everything. I think I’d be like the fat cat, doing my thing and still getting a lot of weird looks and maybe even chuckles or outright disdain, but nevertheless living grounded, purposefully, and effective.

Is your identity rooted in who others say you are or who God says you are? How can you take one step away from people-pleasing and closer to God-pleasing today?

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5 Facts for the 5 Feelings of February

It’s February, month of the heart. When I reflect on the state of my heart during past Februaries, I see high highs, low lows, and everything in between. Whether due to a romantic relationship (or lack thereof) or simply life’s circumstances, my feelings generally fit into one of five categories: fabulous, fine, fickle, fragile, and fed up. This motley crew has made for an emotional roller coaster that has sent me running to solid ground for facts, truth to steady my reeling feelings. God’s Word has much to say about the heart, and its principles have been a lifeline for me. You may even see yourself here and find comfort in facts that are greater than feelings.

Feeling: Fabulous

Fact: “You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent.” (Psalm 30:11-12a)

God loves us so much! His ultimate gift of love to us is salvation through Jesus, but frequently He goes the extra mile to display His affection through good things that happen in our lives. If you’re in this spot, remember that He’s the source of the joy you’re feeling, thank Him, and enjoy the moment! Do something to memorialize it too--take pictures, write in a journal, etc.--so you can remember God's goodness to you the next time you're not feeling so fabulous. Tell someone else about it too! Your story is powerful and could have a huge impact on a discouraged friend.

Feeling: Fine

Fact: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

“Fine” is often the answer we give to people who ask how we’re doing when we don't want to discuss how we're really doing. We might be feeling pretty good, or we might be feeling pretty bad, but sometimes we prefer to live in a state of numbness rather than address our true situation. God is not the Authenticity Police, but He does care deeply about your heart because He knows it affects everything you do. Give your heart some self-care by reading the Word thoughtfully, prayerfully, and introspectively; it will meet you right where you are.

Feeling: Fickle

Fact: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1)

God knows that we can be fickle, and He’s not phased by how frequently we change our minds. Take comfort in the fact that He is sovereign—over your heart, the heart of the guy you'd like to call you, the heart of your boss from whom you'd like a promotion, and the heart of the estranged relative with whom you'd like to be reconciled. It’s not always clear why God does what He does, but He can certainly be trusted because He is good. So commit your heart and all the others about which you're concerned into His capable hands and rest.

Feeling: Fragile

Fact: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

Sometimes pain leaves us in a place of vulnerability; we don’t want to put ourselves out there, and we don’t dare hope because we can’t bear to get hurt again. Fortunately, we don’t have to muster the strength to go on because we can lean on God’s strength. He is our portion, meaning He is exactly enough for us. Tell Him how you're feeling, and ask Him to help you to draw on His strength.

Feeling: Fed Up

Fact: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

Feeling frustrated because nothing is going like you thought it would? Instead of focusing on making things happen and getting what you want, cultivate your relationship with God. As you do so, He may not drop everything you want right into your lap like a genie in a bottle, but He will change your desires to match His desires for you, and then He’ll fulfill them. By the way, many of the desires that we have--for husbands, fulfilling careers, children, financial stability--were given to us by God. He wants to refine us so our hearts will be ready to receive His gifts and give Him glory for them.

The Word contains many more truths about the heart and facts that speak to every variety of feeling. No matter where you are on the wide continuum, I hope this February finds you in possession of all the truth you need.

How are you feeling this February? What fact is giving you comfort, whether one of these or something else?

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I Heard the Bells

Several years ago I worked as a piano accompanist for a high school choral music program. Between rehearsing with the whole choir, pounding out individual vocal parts, and practicing on my own, I’d play any given song approximately 47.38 times from first run to concert performance. This overexposure endeared some songs to me and caused me to loathe others—sorry, “Seasons of Love,” it’s loathing for you.

One song I came to appreciate through this process was “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I love this holiday hymn because its lyrics, written by the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, have a rich historical background and speak to me personally as well, and its music, composed by Jean Baptiste Calkin, beautifully adds emotion to tell a more vivid story.

Read the lyrics of this song, keeping in mind that the tune places emphasis on the second line of each verse and finishes with a sense of resolution by the fourth. (If you need a refresher on the music, listen to this rendition by Echosmith.)

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”


I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat,

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men


And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along th’unbroken song

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men


And in despair I bowed my head:

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong, and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men”


Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, goodwill to men”


Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned these words in the midst of great heartache in his life. Several years earlier, his wife tragically died in a fire, and not long after that, the Civil War began. Longfellow’s soldier son, Charley, was shot in battle and nearly paralyzed, and it was while nursing him back to health that Henry wrote these lyrics.*

The Christmas bells that so encouraged Longfellow during such a dark season were undoubtedly church bells, and I imagine that hearing them was so comforting to him because they reminded him of the teaching he’d received within the church’s walls, foundational truths that transcended present circumstances.

The litany, “of peace on earth, goodwill to men,” comes from the angels’ pronouncement to the shepherds at the birth of Christ; they were told to fear not and to receive the good news for all people that a Savior was born (Luke 2:8-11). “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” (Luke 2:13-14) The birth of a Savior meant peace on earth and good will for everyone, and that has remained the greatest reason for celebrating the Christmas season from Bible times to the Civil War to the present.

Longfellow certainly had reason to bow his head in despair, lose faith in the possibility of peace on earth, and be overwhelmed by the hate he observed in the world. Most of us have found ourselves in a similar spot at one time or another, whether due to the turmoil we’ve seen on the news or the turmoil we’ve experienced personally through broken relationships, loss, and unfulfilled dreams. As implied in the song, it can be tempting to think that God is dead. Or for those like myself who remain convinced that God is alive, it can be even more tempting to believe that He is asleep at the wheel, snoozing on the job. I’m comforted by the same words in which Longfellow found solace:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121, emphasis mine)

This Christmas season, let the music and traditions remind you of some transcendent truth you may have forgotten about—such as the truth that whether in this life or the next, the wrong will fail and the right prevail (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Even if you’re skeptical about the Bible, read a few chapters and see if they have something to say to your modern life; let its words bring you comfort that’s outside of yourself—of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

In what truth are you finding comfort this Christmas season? Tell me in the comments.

*Biographical info taken from Come Let Us Adore Him by Robert J. Morgan.

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