The Khaleesi Chronicles – Slow Progress

It has been a little more than a month since Khaleesi came to live with us. Because of her background, she is not following a typical path of settling in. The first two years of her life were spent in a setting where she had little or no interaction with humans, but was in the company of 40+ cats. When she finally met humans, she was being stuffed into a carrier, poked with needles, given medications – nothing that gave her any reason to trust humans or seek us out.

storage boxes furniture

Mostly, she still makes her home in the basement, among the furniture and moving boxes. She has explored the tunnels and passages from one end of the space to the other. She comes upstairs a few times a day for food and water, carefully choosing times when the rest of us are either asleep or gone. If she encounters Russell or Sadie, she stands her ground and has a loud and enthusiastic discussion with them. If she encounters me, she heads for a hiding place.

So we wait. We let Khaleesi set her own pace, get comfortable an inch at a time. I’ll look forward to the time when she is comfortable being in the same room with the rest of us. And I think it will happen. I just don’t know when.


The Khaleesi Chronicles – Finding Her Place

It’s been a few days since the last update on Khaleesi. She is still setting her own pace in settling into the rhythms of our household. She has the run of the house now; and she has discovered the basement, which provides lots of hiding places for a small cat among the furniture and boxes that are stored there.

Khaleesi still is far more comfortable with Sadie (the dog) and Russell (the resident cat) than she is with any humans, including me. That’s probably because the first two years of her life were spent in a house with numerous other cats and only one human who was unable to pay attention to the number of animals in the house. The other humans she has encountered were capturing her to go in a carrier, give her meds, or clean out her ears. So humans are a foreign species to her, and she has no reason to trust us. One of the “cat experts” at the shelter said that it could be up to a year before she is totally comfortable around people.

She seems to have developed a routine of spending her days in the basement and coming out to explore the rest of the house when Russell, Sadie, and I are sleeping. Last night I left some treats on the basement stairs, and they were all gone this morning. Once in a while she tries to explore the second floor during the night; that’s when I am awakened by a hissing contest, with a barking dog in the role of cheerleader. Given her history, I’m not sure how eager Khaleesi will be to expand those frontiers; but as long as she’s pushing the limits (despite protests from the resident cat), I think things are going well.

You’ve seen several photos of Khaleesi; so today I’ll give you a glimpse of the other two actors in this drama. Sadie is an 8-year-old Lab/Beagle mix; and Russell is a dark gray 14-year-old cat. (The other cat in the photo is Liza, who died soon after we moved here.)

The Khaleesi Chronicles – Another Fail

In case there was any question about who is in charge, Khaleesi decided that she didn’t want to meet her new doctor today. Even in a not-so-big bedroom, there are a lot of places for a small cat to remain out of reach. Under the back corner of the dresser, under the very center of the  bed, both out of reach. And even if I could reach her, she has teeth and claws to emphasize her lack of interest in making a “road trip” today. This picture, taken while she was at the shelter, expresses her attitude perfectly.Khaleisi 3

So it was just three of us who visited Thompson Animal Care Center this afternoon. Sadie was so excited to ride in the car, she didn’t really care where we went. And she was all happy-dance when she met Dr. Gary. Russell, on the other hand, doesn’t like car rides; as usual, he expressed his opinion by using all of his bodily functions in the first ten minutes of the drive. So the staff had to practically give him a bath before anyone could look at him.

Both critters are doing just fine. We may try to reduce the dosage of some of the meds they take, to see how that goes. And as they settle into the routines of this new home, they will get even better. And some day, Khaleesi will consent to be picked up and put in her carrier. Then she too will get to meet our new vet.

The Khaleesi Chronicles – Field Trip Fail

Since she came home on Thursday, Khaleesi has been camping out in the bathroom. That has given her a measure of privacy from the resident cat, Russell, and the very enthusiastic dog, Sadie. It turns out, though, that she is more anxious about humans than about other animals. Because she had lived in a neglectful setting, with almost no human interaction, she was very skittish around me, but didn’t seem at all troubled by the other pets.

Can you find Khaleesi? See that lump on the right side of the cushion? She’s under there.

This morning I discovered that Khaleesi had been exploring the bathroom. A washcloth had been pulled off the towel rack… right into her water dish. And she had opened the medicine cabinet and knocked a couple of bottles into the sink. I decided that she might need a little more space to play, so I planned a “field trip” into another room in the house. When I got home from church this morning, I was able to pick up her bed/cave, with Khaleesi tucked inside it, and took it into the bedroom. Sadie was eager to join the party; Russell preferred to nap in a sunny spot in the living room.


Russell was the smart one. For a while, Sadie and I watched Khaleesi; Sadie even stuck her entire head inside the opening, but was totally ignored. Remembering that she was active when the rest of us were sleeping, I decided to get in the bed. I read a book, I caught up on Facebook, I took a nap. Khaleesi never came out of her hiding place. From the time I brought her into the bedroom, the only movement she made was to squirm her way beneath the cushion that fits in the bed.

She will stay in a limited space tonight (bedroom or bathroom, I haven’t decided), mainly so that I can find her tomorrow when we have an appointment at the vet. After that, I think I’ll let her have access to the whole house, as much as she wants. And I’ll keep waiting for the day when she figures out that people aren’t so bad, after all.

The Khaleesi Chronicles – Getting Acquainted

20170415_092856Khaleesi came home from the Animal Shelter on Thursday, and hid in the far corner of her cat bed/cave for the first 24 hours.Scratch

On Friday, I visited her in her makeshift home several times. She allowed me to pet her, and perhaps I misjudged. I tried to pick her up. She let me know in no uncertain terms, with teeth and claws, that she was not ready to be friends just yet.

One of the things that surprised me is that neither Sadie nor Russell seemed to have any interest in the new creature who was living in the bathroom. That changed on Saturday morning. Russell especially was glued to the bathroom door, wanting to go in whenever I did. Finally I allowed him in, ready at any second to scoop him up and retreat. He poked around, didn’t come too close to Khaleesi, and then wandered out again, apparently not at all troubled that there was a new cat in the house.

I’m really hoping that their introductions continue to go well so I don’t have to keep Khaleesi confined in the bathroom. I’m eager for her to start to discover that life can be good, with good food, good cat and dog companions, and with a human companion who thinks she is very special.


The Khaleesi Chronicles – The Homecoming

Khaleisi 2 (2)A few weeks after my lovely cat Liza died, I started feeling the urge to look for another cat. I visited several animal shelters in the area; far and away the most friendly, professional, and enthusiastic staff was the group at the La Crescent Animal Rescue facility. And the fact that their facility is only 5 minutes from my home is an added bonus.

On my first visit, I was told that they had taken on some of the 45+ cats that were taken from one home in Iowa last fall. The group that came to our shelter were all given names from the TV series Game of Thrones. Because of the way they were raised, most of the cats had never experienced humans playing with them or holding them; they were completely on their own.

When I went in to meet the cats, one in particular caught my eye. Khaleesi was very skittish; any time I would come near, she would run to another part of the room. She had been at the shelter for about four months; according to the staff, she had relaxed a lot in that time. Khaleesi was in many ways the wrong cat for me: I’ve often chosen calico or dilute calico cats, and she has tortoiseshell coloring. I usually likeKhaleisi 3 cats who will spend time in my lap, and Khaleesi was unable to come close to humans without getting nervous. I had always chosen shorthair cats, and Khaleesi had medium length hair. But one look at her face, and I was smitten. The shelter took pictures when the cats first arrived; so it’s probably no surprise that Khaleesi was not in the mood to smile for the camera.

Because she was  just starting to get used to humans, and because I was still unpacking from my move, I decided to take my time and visit her a few times at the shelter before trying to bring her home. I stopped in every few days and gradually was able to get closer and even pet her a little bit.

Thursday was the day that we decided she would come home with me. Her temporary headquarters would be in the batKhaleisi 1hroom, to avoid overwhelming her with the whole house at once and to give her a space without the other two critters. I had set up a litterbox, food and water, and a cat bed that was sort of a cave. From Thursday noon until Friday morning, she had spent nearly all her time cowering in the back of the tent-shape cat bed I had brought in for her.

She seems so afraid! I really hope that she starts to feel comfortable soon. In any case, I’m glad to have her here.

Intolerance and Mansplaining

I was recently “unfriended” and blocked on Facebook by a high school classmate (I’ll call him “Matt”). I was really surprised; one minute there was a lively discussion going onmansplaining, and the next minute he had disappeared. I replayed the last few minutes of the conversation as best I could (since I could no longer see the conversation thread). Here’s what I think happened:

Earlier in the conversation, my classmate had decided to explain to me what was wrong with socialism, based on his professional experience. Interesting, I thought, because no one had mentioned socialism until he started mansplaining it to me.

I didn’t feel like taking it on at that moment, so I let the mansplaining go. Instead, I reacted to another part of what he said; I asked about his travels, something he had hinted about in his earlier comments. That seemed to move the conversation onto safe ground for a while.

A few minutes later, the subject had turned yet again. In the course of the conversation, I shared an observation about the various ways people process grief, based on my experience as a pastor. Poof! No more conversation. No more Facebook friend Matt.

So apparently the lesson to be learned is this: It’s OK for a man to have learned things in his career and share them in a social media conversation. But it seems that it’s not OK for a woman to have had a career, to have learned anything from that career, or to have shared that knowledge on social media or anywhere else.

Thank you very much for mansplaining that to me, Matt. And no, I don’t think I’ll make it a point to remember this lesson in the future.

Remembering Liza

17361708_10209667244772812_5054715515953374219_nI met her first at a humane society in Brookings, South Dakota. It had been several weeks since the death of Mollie (“the best cat ever”), and it was time. I had been looking through the listings on Petfinder and saw a cat that I thought would be a good match for resident cat Russell. When I got there, the cat I originally had in mind just wasn’t demanding to go home with me. So I started browsing around; and I noticed a petite dilute calico in a cage in the corner of the room.

Liza (I don’t recall the name they had given her at the shelter) had been brought to the Humane Society when she was young and pregnant. She lived in a foster home until her kittens were old enough to be adopted. The whole family was brought back to the shelter, where the kittens all found homes very quickly. Liza remained in her cage in the corner, watching her family and her cage neighbors be adopted one after the other. She was very shy; she didn’t know the flirting tricks that so many shelter cats have learned. So she watched from her corner as others left the shelter,  and she remained.

I have always love17352402_10210444869852847_7922528092644567055_nd the coloring of dilute calico cats; my first two cats were dilute calicos. Dilute calicos are gray, tan, and white; regular calicos are black, orange, and white. If dilute calico is a new term for you, think of a calico cat painted with watercolors instead of being drawn with crayon. Once I saw her in her cage in the shelter, I kept coming back to her. Finally, I asked to have her brought to one of the visiting rooms. The room that was available was a large room with lots of cat toys and a couple of other resident cats. Liza wandered the room, gradually getting closer to me, the stranger. As she got close enough, I would reach down to pet her. Finally she was staying close to my chair, so I picked her up and brought her into my lap.

We continue17308969_10209667245052819_4432556102763174414_nd to get acquainted, at least for about five minutes. That’s when Liza had made up her mind, and she curled up in my lap and went to sleep. I didn’t want to tie up the room forever, so I eventually had to wake her in order to do the paperwork and bring her home with me.

For the past seven years, Liza has been charming me and anyone who visits my home. She continued to be very shy around strangers; but once the house was again quiet, I could expect to see Lisa peeking around the column on the stairway. During her stay, Liza acquired a hose of nicknames: Elle-Belle, Liza Bellissima, PrettyGirlKittyGirl, and occasionally when she wad being difficult, Liza Beanhead. Despite being the smallest of the three critter2014-01-27 09.30.08s in the house, she successfully trained Russell and Sadie to treat her as the queen of the house. If she wanted to sleep in the dog’s bed, Sadie found another place to sleep. If she wanted the top perch on the cat tree, Russell took another spot. And mostly, when she wanted to take an afternoon nap right in the middle of my bed, Russell would soon join her, and Sadie would take a nap on the floor at the foot of the bed.

She did know how to scare me, though. Sometimes she got carried away with hiding. She would find a corner of a closet or a spot in the basement and stay there for long enough that I would get worried (five days was her record). And one evening while I was watching late-night television, she came into the living room carrying one of her felt-and-catnip mice (or so I thought), dropped it on the floor, and it ran for a hiding place!


A few months ago, we found a small lump in her abdomen. It was removed, and the lab results showed that it was malignant. She had more extensive surgery at the end of January, and for a few weeks she was recovering energy every day. Then, apparently, the aggressive cancer had taken root in her abdomen and continued to grow. Her last two weeks were spent napping in the sun or curled up on the soft cushion of Sadie’s bed. Late last Friday night, she just slipped away from the body that could no longer sustain her.

I will miss her. Russell and Sadie both miss her. We will probably be bringing another cat into our home in a few weeks, but Liza will always be part of my favorite memories.

Friday Five – March 3, 2017

Here are the Friday Five questions for the first week of Lent, along with my reactions:

1.) Are you giving up, or taking on? Some combination thereof?

I moved from a 4-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom townhouse two weeks ago, and I had shoulder replacement surgery the week after my move. As a result, I’m still living in a forest of cardboard boxes. I’m trying to go through a few boxes each day, with the goal of giving/selling/tossing things as I unpack them. So my Lenten discipline is focused mainly on giving up the excess “stuff” I accumulated in the five years I spent in that very large house.

2.) Fasting? What does that look like for you?

It’s very easy for me to fall into a cycle of using food or “stuff” to try to take away spiritual and emotional pain. Fasting in this season means dealing directly with what has been hurtful rather than trying to bury it under layers of other things.

3.) In what way is study helpful to you this season? Are you reading, studying, journaling…?

There are two books that I plan to read during this Lenten season: The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and Healing Spiritual Wounds by Carol Howard Merritt.

4.) Purple. Do you find that your wardrobe is drawn to participate in the season?

The main colors in my wardrobe – besides black, of course – are shades of purple and blue. So even without consciously trying, I will probably be liturgically correct most of the time.

5.) How are you finding ways to take “time apart” in order to avoid getting worn thin?

My activity is somewhat limited by my recovery from surgery. And I have recently moved into what I’m calling semi-retirement. So my challenge may be finding ways to avoid isolation rather than finding time apart. It’s a very odd sensation to experience this season from the pew rather than from the chancel. I believe that there will be new insights for me to gain; I’m curious to see what those will be.


Reformation Sunday -499 Years


Today is Reformation Sunday. It was 499 years ago that Martin Luther wanted to start a discussion about some practices of the church. He had no visions of starting a new denomination – his followers later adopted the Lutheran name for their movement.


There are some traditions that run deep and touch some very emotional nerves. For me, one of those traditions is Reformation Sunday. The paraments on the altar are bright red, the scriptures are always the same, and it just wouldn’t seem like a “legal” Reformation Sunday without singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

Gospel – John 8:31-36

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”


Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Every now and then, if I have trouble sleeping, I give in to the temptation of turning on the television. Infomercial heaven! Channel after channel with stories about products designed to fill a need I never knew I had.  Just the other day I saw an ad for a set of four dust-mop slippers that you put on your dog, so that as the dog walks around your house, shedding like crazy, it dusts the floor as it goes. Who knew we needed that?!

The people who heard Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel text might have had the same question about the freedom Jesus talked about in today’s lesson.  “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” was Jesus’ offer to them.  But why would they need that?

Jesus says, “I tell you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” It’s hard for us not to roll our eyes when we hear the crowd claim, “We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone.” Never been slaves? Seriously? What happened to the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Romans? You’re kidding, right?

It turns out that they are not kidding. They are in denial about their own sin. But are we any different? Do we take sin seriously? Freedom isn’t a gift unless you know you are not free.  So what about us?  Are we free?  Would this gift be any more appealing to us than it was to Jesus’ first believers?

In our confession, we say that we are in bondage to sin.  We are bound; our hands and feet are tied; we cannot do anything except sin. That’s what our words say; but do we actually believe that?

What do we really mean when we say we are in bondage to sin?

We might be talking about our own sinful actions and attitudes. The kind of sin that makes it really hard for me to trust others the way I should, worrying that they may take advantage of me. The kind of sin that makes it hard for me to share with others the way I should, afraid that there won’t be enough to go around and I’d better get mine first. We’ve talked before about the story “Stone Soup” that starts with a whole town full of this kind of mistrust and suspicion. Not one of those neighbors could have imagined a future that included a tasty, filling soup made from the contributions of every household. And we are often like those neighbors, trying to do the best we can for ourselves, and only thinking of others if there’s anything left over, which there usually isn’t.

And it’s not just individual sins, either. Our congregation is also in bondage to sin. Collectively, we make decisions based on what’s in it for us, not what God has called us to give to benefit our neighbors. And beyond the congregation or the community, we know that we live in a broken world. Every decision we make — from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive to the food we buy – takes a toll on the environment or on the living conditions of the people who make those things for our pleasure. As Paul says in the second reading, “All have sinned and fallen short.”

Luther knew that the real bondage happens when we imagine ourselves to be free, to be able to control our own destiny.

We read in the book of Genesis that sin came into the world in a garden a very long time ago.  When the serpent told those first humans that the tree that was off limits would give them knowledge like God’s, they couldn’t resist the power, they imagined that they would be free.  But instead, by taking that fruit, they sentenced themselves and all humankind to lives of bondage to sin.

Into our bondage comes a word of good news – God loves you too much to let you live in denial.  God loves you enough to force you to look your sin directly in the eyes. God loves you enough to call you to own your own sin.  Only when you know, not just in your heads but in your heart, that you are in bondage to sin, only then will the gift of God’s forgiveness have value for you.

Despite our stubbornness, despite our self-centered attitudes, despite our thinking that we can work things out on our own, God is waiting eagerly to forgive you. And even more amazing, God actually forgets about your sin. Out of his extravagant and unreasonable love for you, God regards you as if you were perfect, as if you were free of all sin, as if you were Christ.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.