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YODER: Herding stray cats

YODER: Herding stray cats


Let’s face it. Sometimes life can be challenging. In fact, it can be like herding stray cats. Have you ever tried that? First of all, as the old saying goes, no one owns a cat. A dog serves man, but man serves the cat. At least that’s the cat’s attitude. No matter how cute they are, they only allow us to think we’re in charge.

Secondly, there’s a reason you never see a herd of cats behind a fence, grazing in a pasture like sheep. They’re not followers. They’re leaders. They never say it out loud, but their theme in life is, “You’re not the boss of me.”

Many, many years ago I visited a home where three generations lived together. They lived very challenging lives. The youngest generation, who was around my age, never uttered a word.

Maybe that was because the older two generations never stopped talking. In fact, they talked over one another. It’s hard to listen to two non-stop talking people at once. You get whiplash trying to maintain eye contact. It’s like watching a ping pong tournament, except that there are two balls in play at all times, traveling in opposite directions. All their words blended together and became a tangled-up mess.

Which reminds me. They had a herd of cats living in their home. An older home with a grand staircase leading to the second floor, there was an ornate newel post at the bottom of the stairs. Each cat had a different colored, long piece of yarn tied around its neck. The other end was tied around the newel. That’s right. All the cats were hitched to the post.

Those colorful leashes were a tangled-up mess. No wonder the cats were meowing the whole time I was there. When I think of challenges in life, I think of those cats. It just wasn’t possible to untangle those leashes without cutting them all apart and setting the cats free.

Sometimes we look at life and see it as a tangled-up mess like those hitched-up cats. We know it’s impossible to untangle the mess we’ve made. Maybe we’ve unintentionally made a mess of things. Maybe others have helped to create the messes or added to them. Whatever our story may be, there is hope.

All we have to do is to look in the Bible to know that’s true. Time and time again the people of Israel strayed from God. After all he’d done for them, when good times came they had a tendency to forget his many blessings and go their own way. Essentially, they were saying to the one who created them and saved them, “You’re not the boss of me.”

Are we any different? In this country, founded on Christian beliefs, we have essentially taken God out of everything. Out of our public schools. Out of not only our government buildings where we’ve removed the Ten Commandments, but we’ve also removed many of our Christian beliefs and practices. We’ve removed God out of many of our homes. Is it any wonder there are so many broken homes? We’ve even taken God out of some of our churches. Too often we’ve tried to hitch him to the newel post of what we think is more tolerable than what the Bible says.

As the people of Israel found out many times the hard way, God is God and we are not. I, for one, am very thankful for that.

Throughout the Old Testament, the people of Israel go their own way, forgetting God, making a big mess of things and eventually landing them in captivity. Then they remember the Lord. They repent, crying out for God’s help, praying that he hears them and will help them. He not only hears them, he delivers them. Over and over again.

Jesus is talking to his disciples in John 16. He’s preparing them for his leaving earth to return to the Father. He tells them that it’s good he’s leaving because they will receive the Holy Spirit, who will be with them all the time and will lead them into truth. He warns them that they will have challenges in this world. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome this world” (John 16:33).

We need not live our lives like stray cats hitched to a newel post in a tangled-up mess. The Lord of all creation created us in his own image. He loves us and cares for us. He knows each one of us by name. He calls us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). We just have to do something a cat cannot do. We have to say “Yes.” We need to ask him to be the boss of us.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at


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