August 4, 2014 at 4:20 pm



“My whole life hangs in the balance but, I will not give up…”  (Psalms 119:109a  LAB)


Many summers ago, I remember stepping out the kitchen door of our house into our backyard, holding my fifteen month old son, Mike; his legs wrapped tightly about my waist.  The moment I reached the grassy edges of the sidewalk, he always wriggled down anxiously from my grip to the ground.  Hesitant, at first, he’d pause for a moment for his two bare feet to ease into the feeling of green grass blades sawing away at his little toes; before he’d take off running in pursuit of the sandbox.  Situated under the shade of the umbrella-like branches of a giant cottonwood tree, the sandbox was the perfect place for us to begin our day.  While I emptied the caffeine from the cup of coffee I’d carried out with me, Mike filled up his plastic bucket with sand, one shovelful at a time.  My eyes closed and my heart content, I often thanked God for the tenderness of moments like these.  If life offered perfect moments, this was one of them.  I remember feeling the warmth of summer’s morning sunshine kissing my cheeks ever-so-gently.  I felt like one of Disney’s characters, caught up in a moment-come-true. You know…one of those moments in time where everything in life just seems right.  The moment when animated bluebirds sing on the shoulders of real people or a handsome Prince bestows a kiss that miraculously brings his Princess back to life!   These are the moments when the real collides with the surreal.


In my Disney-mindedness, I imagined opening up my eyes and seeing my perfect little boy all aglow in morning’s soft light.  The sunshine would be outlining his small frame and highlighting his amazingly skilled hands; both busy building the most magnificent backyard sandcastle ever.  And in the final scene of my imagination, I’d hear my blue-eyed wonder uttering these sweet words, “It’s for you, Mommy,” as he presents his labor of love to me with a kiss; as a gift from his heart to mine!  This, however, is not quite how my Disney moment played out in real life.  It became more like a Disney-meets-Jerry Springer sort of moment.  Very suddenly, my perfect moment transformed into a stark reality show.  My brain brakes (parts I didn’t know I had), brought my soaring imagination to a screeching halt!


By the time I opened up my eyes, I did see my perfect little boy, all aglow in morning’s soft light.  I also caught a glimpse of the sunshine outlining his small frame and highlighting his busy hands.  His little hands were even presenting me with an unexpected gift from his heart to mine…but, not the one I had imagined!  There, perfectly balanced on the end of his plastic shovel, I watched in horror while loose particles of sand fell away to reveal the un-imaginable.  Cat poo!

“Momma…” he said, pushing it in my direction with a scrunched up nose and a brimming smile.

In his mind, Mike discovered a hidden treasure.  In my mind, I could only hear the accusations of nature’s own Jerry Springer in the angry chattering of a squirrel perched high in the tree above us.  Though I don’t speak squirrel, my own guilt allowed me to translate his chatterings into this.

“Unfit Mom, unfit Mom, unfit Mom!”

After all, what kind of a mom sits her child down to play in the middle of a litter box?  Guilt-ridden for not having checked the sandbox more thoroughly, and aggravated at the furry, four-legged culprit who delivered his buried treasure to our sandbox, I confiscated Mike’s shovel.  In one swift motion, I placed this poo-packed weapon in an upright position, pulled back on its scoop, and hurled the poo straight back into the neighbor’s yard!  Though I realized shooting poo wasn’t a neighborly thing to do, I both justified and excused my action as a side effect of being immersed in the reality of my Jerry Springer moment.  Besides…I had done nothing more than send the poo straight back to its manufacturer along with my dissatisfaction with the product.  Isn’t this the American way?


Returning to the sandbox and handing a newly washed plastic shovel back to Mike, I caught sight of the infamous cat.  A sixteen-year-old, tiger-striped gray, cat named Mr. Jangles.  In my eyes, he was more of a living door mat.  He was the lethargic, fur ball who lived to stretch himself out across his owner’s back porch and wait for life to cater to him every day.  Rarely did anybody see him moving any faster than a snail’s pace anymore.  If I were to guess, Mr. Jangles had to be in the latter stages of his ninth life.  That’s why I was so startled to see him shoot out of the neighbor’s garden where I had launched the poo, like greased lightning.  His back paws only grazed the top of our four foot chain link fence while his front claws strained to connect with our Cottonwood tree.  The moment they did, I watched that old cat climb nearly thirty feet or more up into the tree to gain access to the same branch the Springer-squirrel was anchored to; still chattering intermittently.  Realizing he was about to become Mr. Jangles’ mid morning snack, the squirrel jumped for the telephone lines running through the back of the tree and escaped.  His prey now gone, and his new-found momentum still pushing him along, Mr. Jangles attempted to stop but, his back paws slipped from the branch.  Miraculously, Mr. Jangles caught himself; and there he dangled by his front paws for a couple of minutes.  He struggled to regain control, but seemed to lack the physical strength of kitten-hood to pull him back up onto the branch.  I watched in anguish as two paws became one paw…and then I heard the “MEOW” that preceeded his fall to the ground.  A thirty foot fall!


Picking up my son from the sandbox, I ran for the back fence to investigate what seemed to be a hopeless situation.  With every step I took away from the sandbox, Mike asked me again, “Momma…kitty?” Not wanting to believe kitty was anything but alright, I assured Mike that everything was going to be o.k.  Whether a myth, a miracle, or a unique gift from God, the idea of a cat always landing on his feet was firmly embedded in my mind.  I’d heard that not all cats survived falls, particularly the older and less agile ones.  My fear ws that Mr. Jangles fellinto this last catagory.  Out of breath, I leaned over the fence searching the neighbor’s garden for any sign of Mr. Jangles.  Then I spotted him…but, so did Mike.

“Kitty, Momma!” he cried out with excitement.

“Yes, kitty is taking a little nap.” I responded, seeing Mr. Jangles lying motionless in the garden.

Then I headed for my house to make a phone call to the neighbor I didn’t want to make.


Before I reached the door of my house, Mike wriggled down to the ground and took off running for the back fence again.  I assumed by now, all of the morning drama had overwhelmed his sensitive toddler mind.  I saw him pointing and heard him yelling back at me with desperation.

“Kitty…kitty…Momma, KITTY!”

Heading back for the fence, I was preparing my second, ‘kitty is taking a nap’ speech, in an effort to console Mike’s tender and concerned heart.  I expected tears but, he instead greeted me with a smile and pointed towards Mr. Jangles.  Confused now, I focused on the cat for a minute but, still could see no visible signs of life.  I did catch sight of the cat poo I’d hurled over the fence earlier.  Somehow, it didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore in light of this new life-or-death circumstance.  As I dropped to one knee so I could look Mike in the eye while I told him, “Mr. Jangles went to kitty heaven,”  Mr. Jangles suddenly rolled over, wriggled around  on the ground as if scratching his back, and then righted himself on all four paws!  He acted as though nothing ever happened!  But, I knew something happened to him.  I labeled him brain damaged as I watched him roll numerous more times in the tall garden grasses, batting at previously ignored butterflies with his front paws while doing the two-step  on his two back paws.  Mike stood at the fence giggling at the comical sight of Mr. Jangles and his new, very peculiar behavior.  I sat back down on the edge of the sandbox with my cup of coffee, pondering whether or not I was untangling a mere mystery or playing the part of an eyewitness to a modern day miracle.


Over the next few days, I kept a close eye on the creature I’d deemed, poor brain damaged, Mr. Jangles.  Sometimes on our morning treks to the sandbox, Mike and I would see Mr. Jangles stretched out on the neighbor’s back step like a royal rug.  Other times I’d see him furiously clawing at the base of a wrought-iron shepherd’s hook protruding from the center of the garden area; trying his best to knock down two birds from their houses, hanging high above his head.  For days, his behavior wavered somewhere between door-mat cat and clawing-fury. Then, one afternoon my neighbor solved part of this mystery for me.  While watching her water her garden, I commented on the eye-catching, purplish white flowers growing throughout her garden.  She responded with laughter telling me,

“They are pretty, but…I originally planted them as a remedy for laziness.”

Seeing my confusion, she pointed me back towards Mr. Jangles, napping across her back step.  Then she went on to say,  “You might know them better as catnip.”

Now things were starting to make a little more sense to me!  My neighbor and I laughed at my diagnosis of brain damage as an explanation for her cat’s altered behavior after his accident.  On a more serious note, she also discussed the possibility of the catnip perhaps having played a role in saving Mr. Jangles’ life after his fall.  She suggested that when Mr. Jangles landed in the midst of the catnip; the force of his fall might have released a greater than usual amount of catnip’s volatile oils.  The aromas of these oils would’ve wreaked havoc with Mr. Jangles nasal tissues, stimulating sensory neurons, and prompting both an emotional and a physical response.  This theory supported the sudden behavioral responses Mike and I witnessed when Mr. Jangles sprang back to life again, righting himself on all four paws!


Many years later now, as I look back on Mr. Jangles and this entire scenario, I don’t  just see a Disney-moment-come-true anymore.  I see more of a God-Moment-Come-True.  You see, that day when I walked back to the fence to try and calm the desperation I heard in Mike’s voice, concerning Mr. Jangles, he stood motionless against the fence.  As I drew closer, I saw his little button nose hard-pressed into the fence and his small fingers were turning white from being wrapped so tightly around the chain links.  What I failed to see that morning was that Love had already stepped down into that moment ahead of the unspoken prayers flowing from Mike’s tender heart for one of God’s own little creatures.  I believe Mike was clinging to much more than just the chain link fence that morning.  He was holding tight to Hope…and the Hand that is the Hope that we adults so often fail to see in times of desperation.  While I was too busy composing my toddler explanation and dismissing Mr. Jangles into ‘kitty heaven’, the Loving Hand of a passionate and selfless God was already busy answering the cries of my little boy’s heart and reviving Mr. Jangles in a patch of catnip.  Who knows…perhaps this Amazing God of ours who cares so deeply  about every detail of every life, may even have created the catnip plant with Mr. Jangles and this moment in mind!


Truly, this was a God-Moment-Come-True for both Mike and I.  Though God-Moments sometimes lack the feel good qualities that tend to enhance and define Disney moments, there is nothing like being fully present in a moment when the real collides with the surreal.  I believe every day holds such moments but, we must first be looking for them through the eyes of a little child in order to see them.  My fifteen month old son taught me that in the sandbox long ago.  While I was busy seeing only cat poo and disgust; Mike saw treasure and a gift.  When I saw Mr. Jangles falling to the ground, I put him in kitty heaven right away.  Mike witnessed the beauty of kitty’s new beginning, and I missed the depth of it because while he held fast to Hope, I shook my head in disbelief and labeled it ‘the end.’


When I think of the transformational effects that catnip had on Mr. Jangles whenever he strolled through my neighbor’s garden and brushed up against its purplish flowers; I can’t help but think of God’s Word and how we relate to it.  The Word, too, has the power to change our behaviors in this life.  This Garden of Truth holds the secrets to producing great change in us but, we must first choose to walk there.  Living, moving, and breathing within its boundaries allows us the privilege of rubbing up against the Flowers of God’s Promises, which stirs up the Fragrance of His Truths; reviving our hearts toward the beauty that is ours if only we will choose to live infused with God’s renewed passion and purpose.

Spiritually speaking, there’s a little of Mr. Jangles in each of us.  As a Child of God, the range of our daily behaviors falls somewhere between door-mat-cat, clawing-fury, and greased-lightning. Door-mat cat simply trades away the wisdom growing right in front of him; opting for a porch-life which allows him the small space he needs to become a self-indulgent, comfort-seeking creature, shrouded in ignorance.  His eyes remain closed to the beauty and possibility staring him right in the face. Clawing-fury has left the porch and is out  roaming in the Garden of Truth but, he’s still using his renewed strengths for digging in the dirt of his own agendas.  Greased-lightning is considered most desirable on the Mr. Jangles Behavior Scale.  This fat-cat is finally awakened to the pull of a higher calling on his life; trusting in a new-found strength and renewed vision that propels him to new heights in pursuit of another!


For a Child of God, greased-lightning tells the tale of what its like to live an other-centered life.  A life that strains to reach out and connect with the heart of another.  A Life that isn’t afraid of tackling the arduous climb required of us or enduring, with courage,  the great fall that  may result in going out on a limb for someone else .  This is God’s greatest call on our life; to first know Him…and then every  day afterwards to spend getting to know Him better by choosing to walk with Him in the Garden of Truth.  It is here, strolling through the pages of His Living Word (The Bible),  bumping into His Promises and rubbing up against Truth that we are infused with His power, renewed purpose and untapped wisdom…simply from our contact with God.


Mr. Jangles had nine lives to roam free in and out of the catnip my neighbor planted for him.  I’m not sure he ever really grew past loving much more than his door-mat cat days.  You and I are given only one life and a daily opportunity to walk in the Garden of Truth that our Heavenly Father planted for us here on earth; and we need to make it count.  Even today, when I step outside my back door and look across the backyard; my mind’s eye allows me another fleeting glimpse of Mr. Jangles dangling from our Cottonwood tree, though both the branch and the cat are gone.  I still see a sandbox that isn’t there anymore and a wooden shed now standing in the place where a bed of catnip once grew.  Though the  garden is gone, the memories connected to it still linger in my thoughts.  They point me to life lessons I couldn’t have learned any better than in my own backyard.  They continue to be vivid reminders of these things.  The day my fifteen-month-old son taught his Mother the value of ‘hanging-on’ to Hope and seeing life through a little child’s eyes of blue.  Truth isn’t always hidden inside perfect moments; often it comes at the expense of being able to see past the ‘poo’ the world buries in life’s sandbox. Finally, choose to stroll often in the Garden of Truth and discover for yourself the life changing reality of what can happen when Heaven meets earth, and time  transforms the ordinary into an unforgettable God-Moment-Come-True!

“Your (Words) give me strength in all my troubles; how they refresh and revive me!”

(Psalm 119:50)

“Your (Words) are my joyous treasure forever.”

(Psalm 119:111)

“I will never forget Your (Words), for You have given me life through them.  I am Yours.”

(Psalm 119:93-94a  HCSB)