200 N. Diagonal St / PO Box 487 • Decherd, TN, 37324• 931.691.4766
Decherd, TN Seventh-day Adventist Church

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Pews & Paws
PEWS & PAWS.  Many churches provide food to the needy.  So do we.  But God has also called is to a unique secondary ministry.  It is our Pews & Paws program.   While we provide His feral feline creatures with food and friendship, they continue to teach us marvelous truths about our mutual Creator.  Here are some of their stories and the ways they have impacted our lives.

RESTING ON THE STEPS OF THE FELLOWSHIP HALL  Young, strong, good looking, and in need of a good meal.  But like so many folks, he is very wary of church people.  In fact, we suspect his social interactions to this point were so limited that when his people moved on without him ("him" is unverified), life didn't change much.  Sampson seemed like an appropriate name.  We didn't need a mascot; but this castoff feline needed us.  While it's sometimes hard to get church folks to attend church, Sampson stares through the glass doors of the Fellowship Hall knowing he needs the church.  Lord, make us aware of others looking to us so we may direct them to You.  May we never be a club that can't see past our hymnals or PowerPoint music.  And may you change Sampson through us so that someday we might hear his voice praising You as he rubs a leg, the corner of a pew, or wanders across the board room table.

SPOCK COMES TO DECHERD CHURCH  It's funny how word gets out about that church down the block.  Our feline friend Sampson seems to have moved on but not before telling others about his homeless time and the church that met his temporary needs.  One of those was Spock (so named because of his pointed ears and ample tuft of protruding ear whiskers).  Spock found a small interest in the church folks along with a lot of apprehension.  While eager to enjoy the bounty of a free meal, he was quick to snarl and take a nasty swing at anyone who dared befriend him.  But with kindness comes heart change.  A while back he set foot in the Fellowship Hall for the first time -- a mistaken shortcut to the other door where his meal was waiting.  But what he found was a comforting place as he rested beneath one of the protecting folding chairs.  Maybe church wasn't so bad after all!  That's what we want for all our friends in the community surrounding our church.  Maybe Spock can be the meal-paid spokesperson we weren't looking for.

We are now months down the road since Spock arrived.  And he is teaching us a valuable lesson.  While he is not ready for church hugs in someone's lap, the snarling and swinging are giving way to a new level of acceptance.  He trusts a gentle stroke of his back and acknowledges his gratitude with a quick arch of his back while his face is buried in his dish.  It reminds us of an important lesson found in Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  (NIV)

SMALL, SHY, AND STUNNING  They showed up at the same time.  In the early days we simply called them The Twins.  Their colors showed family, their closeness suggested siblings, their beauty and charm suggested "she."  So that became our unofficial gender assignment.  And with great investigative skill, we were convinced that "she" was indeed correct when the men at the feeding dishes would move to another dish rather than start a turf war.  Sometimes they would look into the Fellowship Hall window to see if a care giver was immediately available.  Sometimes they would nap on the brick wainscot, enjoying the radiating heat as they watched the traffic on the nearby road.  But they were never far away no matter the time of day.  When we realized they had come to stay, we knew they needed proper family names.  Pumpkin seemed descriptive for the orange long-haired "girl" while Spice seemed a perfect fit for the white and orange short-hair.  One day while Spice was distracted at the food dish, one of her care givers just couldn't resist the temptation to pick her up.  But this shy lady was not ready for such personal contact.  Out came the claws, the teeth, and the hissing in such magnitude that a quick lesson was learned.  Sometimes we are tempted to do the same thing to people who don't know the Lord.  We throw a bunch of theology at them, give them all the scriptural references they will ever need, and hand them an arm full of books from our favorite authors.  But what they really wanted was just to be loved first.  Maybe we need to re-read an excerpt from one of those authors: "The Saviour mingled with men [and women] as one who desired their good.  He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence.  Then He bade them, 'Follow Me.'"  May our church be a place of love first.

In the days that followed, Pumpkin disappeared without a trace.  It was heartbreaking to see her gone, not know what had happened to her, and experience that empty feeling in the pit of our stomachs.  It was another lesson about how God feels when our paths take us from Him.  But we are gratified that Spice, like Spock, has learned that a gentle stroke down her back in the touch of love rather than a threat.  As we hear her voice at dinnertime and see her arch her back expectantly as she waits for her dish to be filled, we know that God has brought us someone special.

SCRUFFY VOLUNTEERED TO BE OUR GREATER  His coat wasn't Saks Fifth Avenue quality, he was always ready to pick a fight on the church lawn, and the scratches on his nose proved that he was someone to be reckoned with.  Thus his name was more descriptive than one of honor.  But Scruffy was a cat of a different nature.  Though he seemed to be homeless, he had great people skills.  He loved to be picked up, held like a baby, and would tuck and roll in front of you causing you to do the two-step to keep from trampling him.  The minute you opened the church doors, Scruffy was the first one in.  If there was a crowd, he would work the room while purring and rubbing.  Where did such a people lover come from?  It is a great mystery to this day.  We would often joke that when Scruffy missed a meal (or at least when he didn't come when the care givers were there), he was sitting in his real home by the fireplace or enjoying the air conditioning.  Someone suggested that we have a pastor, we have a First Lady (his wife), we have a First Daughter and First Son, and now we have a First Cat.  Scruffy seemed completely comfortable with that hierarchy as he would crawl into the lap of the First Daughter and drift off to sleep while humming a hearty purr.  Scruffy reminds us of Peter, the rough fisherman who was one of Jesus's disciples.  Yet Jesus could see beyond that.  He also knew the loving Peter who would transform the world.  May we also ask Him to change us from the inside out.


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