Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
“I have had dogs all my life, and not once have I ever had to get one out of a tree.” Those were the words I was muttering to myself just a few days ago as I stood at the trunk and looked up in the high branches of one of the giant oaks in our front yard. Duchess, our newly acquired kitten of about 8 weeks old, had at some point decided that it would be a brilliant idea to climb that tree, and now she could not get back down.
Our two faithful mutts, grumpy old Riley and blissfully goofy Echo, were mulling about the yard and occasionally looking that way as if to say, “and this is what you thought you needed to bring home for your oldest daughter, the traitorous cat lover?”
“What are we going to do, dad?” Karis asked me with the gravest of concern. “Well, babe, it’s like this. When that cat gets hungry, it will come down,” I said with confidence. She just gave me “that look” that daughters everywhere are so famous for, and I knew that this would not be the end of the story…
We came home from church that night, and it took my girls approximately .0003 of a second to be under the tree and looking up into the branches. Sure enough, there was a white kitten with gray ears and gray tail still in the branches mewing plaintively down at them as if to say, “Why am I still up here? Please send someone to fetch me, preferably someone with a platter of milk, a toy, and a crown with which to coronate me queen of this place.”
I shook my head in frustration and made my way to the basement to retrieve the only ladder I happened to have on the premises at that moment, an 8 foot step ladder. I put that ladder by the base of the tree and my daughter held the base of it, although I suspect her main thought at the moment was being there to catch the cat, should it fall, rather than trying to steady the ladder for what she believes is her invincible father.
I climbed onto the very top, the part that says “Do NOT stand here, NOT a step!” and reached up for the cat. She was within inches of my hand. All she had to do was crawl down just a little…
No dice. After five minutes of standing on a perch saying “Here, kitty kitty,” the tone of my voice had gone from Dr. Doolitle to Dr. Jekyl to Mr. Hyde, and I knew I needed another train of thought.
I climbed down the ladder, went and got my son’s truck that used to be my truck (funny how that happens), parked it under the tree, put the ladder in the bed, and tried again. This got me high enough in the tree for me to reach the cat, which I did. It was then that all of the Garfield cartoons of my youth came rushing back to me, especially the ones where the fireman would retrieve Garfield from the tree, and receive the wounds of a maniacal, sharp clawed whirlwind for his efforts.
That cat put scars across my chest that make me look like I was in the war. If I was the stolen valor type I could show these gashes and plausibly lie about being tortured by the Taliban.
When I got the cat onto firm ground, she raced for the food bowl, and proceeded to ignore every two legged creature who had rescued her or assisted in the rescue. I thought hard about retrieving her from that bowl, carrying her back up the ladder, and putting her back up in the tree, but neither my soft heart nor my cat-person daughter would allow me to long entertain that notion.
If one of my dogs had, somehow, gotten stuck in the tree, it would have licked me in the face to say “thank you” when I rescued it.
This is Thanksgiving week. Truthfully, it is a week that ought to reflect a year long lifestyle for us. Not turkey and dressing and too many desserts, something much more important; an attitude of gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
In everything give thanks. We may not be able to give thanks FOR everything, but we can certainly give thanks IN everything. No matter the situation, God is always good to us and, truthfully, most people we meet are pretty good to us as well. The reason the jerks stick out like sore thumbs and go viral in videos is because they are the exceptions, not the rule.
People quite often even do extraordinary things for us (see: cat, tree) that we do not even acknowledge, or worse, return evil for good (see: scars across chest). What a shame for people to justly earn the reputation of cats in that manner.
Please, do not lick anyone in the face this week, or any week. But don’t scratch or ignore them for their kindnesses either. Be consistently thankful to God and man; nothing makes for a more pleasant day both for the giver and the recipients of that thankfulness.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org