Her persistent scratching on the door at the top of the basement stairs informs me that my fluffy black cat, Fuzzy Lumpkins, is ready for her morning milk. I pour her treat into the little Pyrex dish and somehow make it safely down the stairs despite her racing in circles around my feet. After setting it down on the basement floor, I scratch her back as she sprawls before me on the cold concrete, tickling her belly and patting her on the head a couple of times before heading upstairs to my first cup of coffee and my morning routine.
Fuzzy spends most of her life in the lower half of our home. Early on she became the appointed companion of an older and infirm feline who could no longer function upstairs and needed the stability and quiet of a more secluded spot in the basement. She happily provided that support until the older cat passed away last summer. Her duty done, she was welcomed upstairs once more, only to retreat again to excape the attention of a very loud and bouncy beagle puppy. Already on the skittish side, the least sudden noise would send her dashing for cover, and a barking dog looking for a furry black playmate was simply too much for her. The basement became her home once more, this time by choice.
But it's a lonely existence for a cat that loves the attention of people. Although she still sneaks up the stairs when she knows the dogs are not about, looking for a lap to sit on or a quick belly rub, for the most part any overtures of friendship have to begin with me. I'm the feline fancier in a house full of dog devotees. So lately I've tried to make a point of spending some quality lap and face time with her downstairs on a daily basis.
It's interesting that it's while visiting with my cat that I simultaneously spend time with my God. Likewise looking for a quiet spot for my nighttime devotional reading, I chose the beat up brown couch (similarly banished to the basement) for our time together. I sip coffee and read, petting her absently while she sits on my lap, purring at full volume and looking adoringly into my eyes.
But like everyone else these days, I'm a busy person, my days filled from daylight to midnight most of the time. Sometimes I come home late from work, church or family activities, grab a quick bite to eat (funny that I always have time for that!) and then am ready to climb into bed. Just as I'm stumbling towards the bedroom the thought comes to me, "Fuzzy hasn't had any attention today." And I stop short. Fuzzy...my cat, my responsibility, and more than that, my friend. I'm reminded that she came to be a member of the family at my request and that she deserves better than to be totally ignored except for the regular visits to bring her food or change her litter box. So I sigh, grab my book and head down the stairs for a quick visit. No matter how late the hour, I find her waiting for me, eager to interact once more.
Who couldn't use a little devotion at the end of a long day? It turns out that Fuzzy and I ...and even God... have this desire in comon. In fact, it was on just one such evening visit that God spoke to me and stated the simple truth that too often, He, too, seems to have been banished to the basement of my list of priorities for the day. While it's not always the case, there are days when I breakfast with Him as briefly as it takes for me to bring my cat her morning milk, and then I dash into the day's activities without giving Him another thought until I'm ready to fall into bed that night. Suddenly the thought comes to me, "I haven't spent any time with God today." And since He came into my life at my request, lives within me by my choice, and developing my relationship with Him is largely my responsibility, I grab my Bible and spend a few minutes reading His Word and talking to Him before closing my eyes for the night.
While it's a good thing to have my last thought of the day centered on God, it's not so good if that's the only thought I spend on Him each day. God desires a relationship with each one of us, genuine time and conversation on a day-long basis that spring from a heart devoted to Him and desperate for more of Him. He wants so much more than just a quick kiss and a wink His way out of duty before I head to bed. Callling myself a Christian but never spending any time with the lover of my soul rings as false as saying I'm married because I have a ring on my finger but never spending any time with my spouse. Both situations fall far short of the glorious and joyous experiences they were meant to be.
So what to do about it? As far as my cat is concerned, I've started to leave the basement door open more often, inviting her to visit as she dares, when the dogs are sleeping or outside. And she's taking advantage of it. This morning she came and sat in my lap as I was sitting at the kitchen table, and together we watched the birds outside the window for a while. The more she does so, the more accustomed she'll become to the dogs' presence and the more time we'll be able to spend together.
Likewise I'm leaving the door to my heart open more regularly for God, inviting Him into all the parts of my day, and deliberately directing my thoughts in His direction no matter what I'm doing. It's an action that becomes habitual with practice and which improves the quality of my spiritual experience with Him a hundred fold.
As I was climbing the basement steps yesterday after a late night visit with Fuzzy and God, I stopped for a moment and looked back to see her at the base of the stairs, watching me ascend with love in her eyes. And I knew that God was doing the same. While it still may be from the depths of my basement that I tell the Lord that I love Him, I want the words to come from the bottom of my heart.
"and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."
(Mark 12:30 NKJV)
(Mark 12:30 NKJV)