Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Cat and the Rat

“I have not been alone in hearing… that God is moving His people …from a focus on self, personal healing and individual blessing to a focus on demonstrating the power of the kingdom of God beyond the walls of the church for the sake of all those Jesus came to save.” -a quote from Sanford article in Charisma Magazine.

Cat and Rat

When I was just a kid we had a yard cat that should have been out hunting mice, but instead, was always sitting at the screen door meowing and whining plaintively, “begging” for someone to let him in the house. “Meow, meow, meow!” he cried. Translated into English this means, “Let me in. Feed me, pet me, help me, comfort me, make me happy. I want to go inside where it is comfortable and safe. I don’t want to face the world outside.”

My Dad hated for a cat to sit at the door begging like that. So he pushed the door open, and shoved the startled cat out onto the carport. As he walked past he said, “When I get back, I am going to haul you off to the shopping center.” He fully intended to get rid of the cat.

About an hour later, I heard a commotion beside the corn barn at the edge of our back yard. I turned my head in time to see about 15 or 20 squawking chickens flapping their wings, jumping in the air, and scurrying in every direction to flee the water hole that had formerly been a mud-wallow for a few hogs. And among those chickens I saw that cat in the middle of a back-flip somersault a couple feet in the air. I ran over to see what was happening and found the cat locked in mortal combat with a large wharf-rat that was as big as the cat. Most of us have seen how a cat will often toy with a mouse, playfully tossing it into the air until he is ready to eat it. In this case, however, the rat had tossed the cat into the air.

I watched this battle until the cat finally killed the rat. He crouched over his prey and maintained a firm grip on the dead rat, as he looked up at me with blood flowing from a big cut running across his entire face. His expression almost seemed to say, “I did it! Thank God I’m still alive!” He then proceeded to eat as much of the rat as he could. A couple other cats wandered over and joined the feast. There was rat to go around, and rat left over.

When my dad learned of this event he decided to keep the cat. There was no trip to the shopping center, and the cat’s lifestyle changed dramatically after that. It was as if he had understood my dad’s threat to “haul him off.” He never again sat whining at the door, and every few days he would drag up a dead rabbit, or rat, or bird and lay it on the carport, as if to say, “I’m still on the job.” The cat, with that ugly trophy scar across his face, stayed with the family a few more years until it died of old age.

The "Door" of the Church
As Christians we tend to be like that cat. In our focus on self it is easier for us to “sit at the door” of the church seeking our own comfort and self-fulfillment, rather than facing the tasks and challenges associated with reaching out to people in the real world. We often fear getting involved in the spiritual battle that is involved in the advancement of God’s kingdom.

Contemporary culture surrounds us with things that look good, sound good, taste good, and feel good, things that are fun. We want to do what pleases us--- DVDs, movies, TV, Music, video games, sports, and various amusements. We don't want to face what is difficult, demanding, and tedious. We often expect rewards and fruit when there has been no effort or labor. And then we carry this over into our walk with God, expecting Him to bless us, help us, comfort us, etc, without our enlisting to serve Him and His purpose. We want the blessings of the kingdom without the travail and labor involved in the spiritual walk. We avoid anything that causes discontentment, inconvenience, adversity, or pain. We subconsciously think everything in our spiritual walk should be fun, convenient, and focused on “me.”

We expect our meetings to entertain us and not be unpleasant. We want positive messages that do not challenge us. This tends to produce a large crowd of superficial and shallow Christians sitting as spectators enjoying the performance up front. It seems that the multitudes are not attracted to depth and substance but to glitter, show, and celebrity. They run to the latest thing, the newest thing, and to what gets the most PR. They go after the latest trends and those things that feed their fancy. Church becomes either a buffet or fast food which makes us “fat,” rather than the family meal which provides real nourishment, strength, growth, and spiritual substance.

A crowd is a good thing when it is made up of real disciples who want to know and follow Jesus, but a crowd is not necessarily a good thing, when the self-centeredness of the people is indulged, and when they are not confronted with truth nor helped to see themselves or the purpose of God. I believe that the Lord does want to bring us in and set us on His lap and embrace us with His love and kindness, but I also think He wants us to quit sitting at the “screen door” and to boldly face the challenges and “giants” that await us as we conquer the land with the message of the kingdom of God. Otherwise, as one friend of mine said, "I'll see ya'll at the shopping center next week."

2 Timothy 3: 7 “I have fought the good fight.”


Anonymous said...

Amen, Billy! Good word. I always enjoy your cat and rat story. It's so funny how you tell it, of course, but the truth behind it is convicting! Thanks for sharing. Advancing the Kingdom is hard work so let's get after it!


Billy Long said...

[A friend of mine in Ga sent the following comment- BL]

Sometimes we are like the cat and forget what we are supposed to be doing.
Jim Hare

Billy Long said...

[Below is an email I received from a friend in Florida--BL]

Hi Billy,
Good Word. . . I grew up on a farm with barn cats who would drag in a rat or rabbit also.
The best animal we had to go after rats and snakes and coons was our little rat terrier, Trixie
She was fearless and would go after a rat or mole or snake all day long digging and barking
And sticking her head down a hole in the ground or sewer. She was the best little dog. She lost
Her hearing after she cornered a raccoon in our basement and my dad shot it because he thought
It would kill our little Trixie dog who thought she was a lion. She survived the raccoon but lost her hearing as the result of the gun shot. She was hit by a car after that because she could not hear.
I always have good memories of Trixie our fearless little farm dog. She dearly loved my mother
And would follow her everywhere.

Noel Cookman said...

Awesome and timely. Thanks Billy. You don't fit in the church world - thankfully. Hopefully I don't either. But, you are a wonderful part of THE church - and precisely the sort of "body part" so needful.

Robert said...

What a wonderful parable. Did I hear that the canon of scripture had closed? The Apostle Paul didn't use much parabolic teaching about the church but he would have used "The Cat and the Rat". Did you ever publish a Rev. Boonlevel book? Just a thought. I mean since you can't get your blog in the Big Black One. Does that sound a bit sacrilegious? :o}

Joseph Holbrook said...


hey Billy, great parable, but you need some kind of audio file to go with this to do the sound effects ... feeeed me... looove me ...

Have you considered telling these stories and recording them on a digital recorder and then putting them on youtube? Once you do that, I can show you how to embed the youtube video in your blog post. It would take this to the next level.

Stewart Funderburk said...

Enjoyed this tale of two pity's. It is indeed a reflection on the church at large...begging at the door of self-fulfilment, pilfering the powder rooms of pampering while their true purpose is neglected in avoiding the vermin of conflict. May God in His mercy open His screen door and shove us into non-complacency and pity-free purpose.

Billy Long said...

Thanks Stewart for your comments. I appreciate your "way with words" there.
Email me and send your email address. I'll put you on the list of those I notify whenever I post articles to my blog.