Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Empire's End - Book Review

Empire's EndEmpire's End by Jerry B. Jenkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story weaves in the Biblical epistles of Paul quite seamlessly into the story of his life. Much of the story was added, but not outside the realm of possibility, I believe. Some of it did seem unlikely, and I regretted that divorce was easily accepted by Paul and kisses sought at inappropriate times (one star off for that).  Overall, however, I really enjoyed this book. Paul was made out to be very human, yet bold and humble, growing in grace, and strong in the faith, matching up with what the Bible conveys about him. The message was inspiring and the end of the story touching. It left off a bit early in Paul's life, and I wonder if there will be a sequel (there is a prequel, I found out at the end).  The story-telling itself is not intricate--it is a straight-forward, first-person narrative, but with enough descriptions to add life.

Thanks, netgalley, for allowing me to review this book!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Loss of a Special Pet

My mom took a liking to this little, friendly, black and white kitten on the steps of friends' house. She asked if she could have it, and the answer was yes.  We took him home, and he acted as if he belonged at our place. He loved exploring.  He was an easy-going, non-confrontational kitten, who hardly made a peep even if he was hit accidentally by a door.  He ran to keep up with us, he rubbed against our legs, especially when he was looking for food, and he curled up on our laps when he was content or tired.  He would also lift and hold one or the other front leg up while standing, as if treading slowly in the air.

What to name him?  We thought of nearly everything: Christo-Fur (Columbus was his original name), Raymond, Tuxedo, Oliver.  Nothing seemed quite right, though we finally settled on Oliver, after a stint with Christo-Fur.  Then, while listening to his high-pitched little meow, I called him Pipsqueak.  How about Pip?  (Another Dickens character.)  This name stuck, beating out Oliver.  Then came the nicknames such as Pipster, Pipper, Pippin, Speedbump--because he was always lying in our pathway, almost making us stumble--and occasionally I called him Lumbering Bear, because he was big and bear-like in his stride, except when he bounced along at a faster clip.

He grew and grew, until he was bigger than our other cat, Kezzie, who was not enamored with him at first.  But eventually, though they sparred and tussled like alley cats, they became friends.  Kezzie would lick his head or paws as if she were his mother, and occasionally Pip would lick her as they were curled up next to each other.  Pip also liked to stretch out long, sometimes on his back with his feet sticking up and out.

This past week, Pip was struggling with an illness after getting neutered.  The first sign he was sick was when he wouldn't eat.  Pip's appetite was gigantic.  So this--this was concerning.  We wondered if he was still recovering from his surgery, but he had eaten since the surgery, so perhaps this was something else.  We started giving him tuna fish instead of hard food (noting that his gums were inflamed), which he ate a little bit.  But it was still not the Pip of earlier days.

We took him to the vet, got some tests, and some antibiotics and saline solution to give to him.  He had a 105-degree fever and was dehydrated. The vet said it could be a tick-born disease, and . . . that this was usually fatal.  We were still clinging to hope, and coaxing Pip to drink and feeding him droppers of yogurt.  There was no imagining life without Pip.  But by the fourth or fifth day of him not eating anything, and having very little reaction from him when we pet him (normally he would be purring away, even when we weren't petting him), I started to face the hard truth.  He wasn't getting better. I could see it in his half-glazed eyes, feel it in his thin body which had been plump a while before.  We treated him gently, lifting him to the sink to drink, putting him on a towel on the couch to relax.  But he didn't stretch out like before, he just sat, with his head sinking lower and his eyes barely open.  I cried.  Yes, he was "just" a cat, but he was also a buddy. . . . He would follow us around everywhere, getting between our legs, playing with grass, and generally being a cute nuisance while we tried to garden.  He wanted all the attention and time from us he could get . . . and in retrospect, I would have given him more attention.  Shouldn't it be that way for all the special things and people in life?  We never know how short their lives may be, so don't waste time on things of lesser importance (and I'm still learning that lesson).  Is a cat important?  Not like a person, who has a soul that lives forever.  But a cat is a beautifully created thing, given for our pleasure and God's glory.

A day or two before he wandered off.  He looked remarkably healthy here,
but you can tell by his dirty paws that he wasn't up to his usual self.
He enjoyed the outdoors so much that it perked him up for a while.

I wrote this free-form poem when I was hurting, yet trying to comfort myself.  All this came on top of the death of a tiny kitten of Kezzie's.
"A time to be born, and a time to die,"
Yet some die young.
It seems wrong somehow,
Like saplings blighted
Before the flowers appear,
Or robust redwoods
Chopped for no good reason.
Does not God want beauty
And friendship here?
Is not an animal innocent
Of sin and shame like ours?
Yet there they lie, still and cold,
The breath knocked from their lungs.
Is it all to teach a lesson,
To show our sin, to chasten us,
Or to make us long for kingdom days?
Perhaps, or further still
To long for Thee,
My Father, God.
Your arms are there
For us to cling to,
Your promises don't fail,
And nothing comes or goes
Without Your wise ordaining.

We couldn't find Pip when he wandered off when I left him for five minutes outside (where he loved to sit or romp).  We searched the bushes, combing back and forth, risking ticks, ourselves.  Pip now must be dead, and it still seems unreal, but not quite as nightmarish as it seemed when he first left.  God is good, no matter what.  Come rain, come fire, come sweet or sour, He knows our needs and loves us despite our every sin!  This is what we need to remember every hour.  This is why we can "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) 

And, sweetly, the message today at church was about trials, God's refining purpose in our lives.  Oh that I would readily rejoice even in the worst times!  Yes, there is a place for mourning, too, but there should be behind that a peace and joy, deeper than the pain.