530: How does Spirit move through us— and our pets? Why do we love them so?

At ReadTheSpirit, we’re sharing stories about spiritual connections with pets!
    We’re also publishing a remarkable Conversation With Harvard’s Dr. Harvey Cox about “The Future of Faith,” an important new book written in his 80th year! That’s more than 40 years since he first became an internationally respected author with 1965’s “The Secular City.”

    You might wonder how “pet stories” relate to Dr. Cox’s latest revelations. Part of the answer lies in an earlier book we strongly recommend—“Guardians of Being” by Eckhart Tolle and Mutts cartoonist Patrick McDonnell.
    That book makes a powerful spiritual connection between people about their pets. At one point, Tolle’s words (illustrated by McDonnell) are these:
    “Just watching an animal closely can take you out of your mind and bring you into the present moment, which is where the animal lives all the time—surrendered to life. It’s so wonderful to watch an animal, because an animal has no opinion about itself. It is. That’s why the dog is so joyful and why the cat purrs.”
    “Pet stories” also is the theme today at our new Web site geared for church youth groups, called “Bible Here And Now.” (Click here to check out how we present these themes for Christian teens at Bible Here And Now.)
    But, right here? Here on this page, anyone—of any religious background—can appreciate this sample of two stories we’re sharing today. (Psst! Here’s a link to read more about pets from our readers.)

(From Patricia Banker)

    One of the first Emails we received was from artist Patricia Banker, who has devoted her creative talents to reconnecting saints with our daily lives. She’s developed a whole array of artistic expressions of saints—real saints, she’s quick to explain in her Web site. These aren’t holier-than-thou, unearthly wisps—rather, as Patricia puts it on her Web site Saints Preserved: “To me, they are courageous folk-heroes who symbolize values that transcend any religious boundaries. They were true ‘characters’ who made things happen. They possessed ‘grace’ and ‘spirit,’ ‘heart’ and ‘soul’ in every sense of the words, as well as irony, wit and humor.”
    Adjust those sentences just a little bit and they might apply to Patricia’s lifelong affection for cats and dogs. Click here and you’ll visit Patricia’s “Our Staff” page. Scroll down on that page and you’ll meet … Well, here’s how Patricia describes them in her Email this week:
My dog Ben and my two cats have always been a part of Our Staff—though they are with me now only in Spirit. They were the inspirations for some of my pieces and I continue to be amazed, and often touched to tears, by the connections I have made with people throughout the world who have purchased them and call or write to share their stories.
As a journalist, I visited Patricia’s studios some years ago and wrote a story about her creations that appeared on wire services, helping to spread the word about her work. Knowing that her trio of pets shaped her work is not surprising at all to me. Thanks for sharing that note, Patricia!

(From Doug Bursch)

    Among other things, Doug Bursch blogs at The Fairly Spiritual Show. He sent us this personal story …

    Our family recently experienced exponential cat proliferation. My one cat limit (dare I say edict) was overruled by a persuasive stray feline and four persuadable children. By the time I weighed in, I was outnumbered. Cuteness trumps logic almost every time. Consequently, our kitty community doubled.

Although our family’s current cat quota is neither inappropriate nor extravagant, we are moving towards dangerous territory. If a third cat materializes, we’re in the “cat lover” category. Unless you run a farm, there are few logical explanations for owning more than two cats.

Three cat homes come with troubling incidentals. For instance, if your house decor has a cat motif, there are at least three cats motivating your feline feng shui. Pet stores are required by law to give cat aficionados an embroidered cat pillow with their third kitty.

If cat proliferation continues unfettered, one can quickly transition from cat lover to “crazy cat lady.” No one really knows the numerical tipping point for such a classification, but once someone earns the “crazy cat lady” moniker, there’s no turning back.

Some people might feel my fears are unfounded or exaggerated. Those people own more than two cats.

Despite my fears, I’ve tried to welcome our new cat with an open mind and a non judgmental attitude. I only speak poorly of our new guest when he is out of earshot.

If you drive by our house as we settle down for the night, there is a good chance you’ll hear me gently yelling from the front porch. “Nemo, Nemo! Here kitty, kitty! Here kitty, kitty! Nemo!” Only after at a minute or so of yelling will I begin to refer to Nemo’s truancy as “stupid cat” behavior. Of course, I never say this in front of the children. In fact, when I use the words “stupid cat,” Nemo and the children are nowhere to be found.

It’s probably not wise to name a pet Nemo. In finding Nemo, we assumed we were the completion of his story. What if Nemo has a propensity to get lost? Maybe Nemo has a terrible sense of direction. We might even be his third or fourth family. This might all be old hat to Nemo. A new name, a new place, a new family to find and then lose. I hope this is not the case, but time will tell. Nemo certainly has not let us in on his mysterious past.

The ultimate reason to bring in a stray is every pet needs a home. As Nemo mewed from the tall grass, as he voraciously consumed our meager scraps, as he incessantly rubbed against our legs while motorboat purring, we knew he needed a home. My children understood enough about beauty, kindness, and goodness to offer Nemo a family. Nemo gladly accepted.

The other night I called for Nemo. He must have been hiding or hunting in the tall grass. He lingered too long in the field, in the rain, in the dark. I closed the door, whispered my “stupid cat” retort, and headed for bed. My wife Jennifer replied, “I hope he’s alright.” I responded with indifferent calm, “Nemo might not want to be found.” Surprisingly, my heart sank as I said those words.

Now don’t tell anyone this. . . but when morning came, my heart lifted as I was greeted at the door by a very wet, needy cat name Nemo.
    “Creator God. Please bless all the strays among us. Amen.”


CLICK HERE to Email us (at [email protected])
and tell us about your pet—your current pet or one in the past. Tell us
especially how this pet in some way lit up your daily life. (Attach a
photo if you have one.)

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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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