Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place to pray.
I often get up at first light to go sit in the yard, read my Bible, pray, and watch the sun rise. Life is wonderful but exhausting, and this "mountain top" time is very important for me to get my head on straight at the start of the day. Jesus often did the same thing, we're told. And of course there are all those song writers who come to the garden alone, and who love to live on the mountain top, and who rest them in the thought of birds and trees and skies and seas...so I feel like I'm in pretty good company.
Six a.m. finds me fixing myself a cup of tea in the dark kitchen, being very sneaky so as not to wake up my wife and daughter. The Puppy hears me moving around and asks to go out. She is not trained to stay in the yard or come when called yet, so I take her out and slip her leash over the garden fencepost. Then I go back in and finish making my tea.
Having accomplished this, I head outside, put the Puppy on her tie-out so she has some room to run and play while I study and pray. We have an unfenced yard, so for now the tie-out is a necessity. I set up a lawn chair for myself near the Puppy--she barks if I don't keep her company--and go back inside for my Bible and cup of tea. Before I can make my escape, our Hunter Cat appears and loudly asks to be let in. I oblige, then grab my tea, head outside, and settle comfortably into my lawn chair. The sun is just starting to touch the mountains. The beauty is soul-enlarging.
I get up and go back inside to retrieve my Bible, which I have forgotten on the table.
Arriving back outside, I untangle the Puppy's tie-out from the the lawn chair. I set the chair back up, sit down and open my Bible. Today's reading is a particularly rich passage that I have been anticipating digging into. The mountains are glowing, as with an inner light, and my tea tastes even better than usual as I take a deep breath and begin to read.
From inside the house, I hear the Hunter Cat letting me know that she is out of cat food. This is nothing short of pet black-mail, and I'm pretty sure she knows it: If the pets aren't kept quiet, my wife and daughter will wake up, and in addition to three crazy pets I'll have two grouchy girls on my hands. So I rush inside, fill up the food bowl, express a few quiet but heart-felt opinions on the the Cat's vocal performance, then go back outside to my quiet time.
I untangle the Puppy from the lawn chair. Most of my tea is all over the lawn. The Puppy looks very sweet and innocent with tea dripping off her nose. But my Bible is unscathed, the mountains are still beautiful, and the birds are in full voice. I get comfortable and begin to read. So much to unpack in this passage of scripture...
Our Special-Needs Cat arrives at the back door and clamors to be let in. His finding the house on his own is something of an occasion, so I rush open the door, cringing at the noise. The Puppy, upset by all this coming and going, begins to whine. I go inside with Special Needs Cat, who is now complaining that he can't find the cat food. I place him next to the bowl, and he happily begins eating. I express a few quiet but heart-felt opinions about both his ancestry and his mental capabilities.
The Puppy is yipping, in that shrill, peel-paint-off-the-walls voice that can only be made by a puppy at 6:15 in the morning when the family is sleeping. I rush back outside and untangle her from the lawn chair.
I sit down to read, just as the Hunter and the Special Needs Cat both decide they want back outside.
I get up, put down my Bible and what remains of my tea, and get out of my chair, careful this time to place everything outside puppy range. I thoughtfully eye the .22 rifle hanging over the door as I let the cats out. I return to my lawn chair, get set up with my Bible and remaining sip of tea. The dog is still whining, so I put everything down, throw a few sticks for her, scratch her ears, and tell her in a quiet but perhaps less-than-heartfelt way what a great puppy she is.
About the time she finally calms down and I get set to read, the Cats--first Hunter, followed by Special Needs--begin parading back and forth just outside the Puppy Perimeter. The Puppy, who loves chasing cats more than she loves life itself, goes berserk. It takes me every ounce of Christian patience not to follow suit.
Five minutes later: The Cats have been chased out of sight, the Puppy is happily eating dirt or chasing bugs or whatever puppies do. And I, having expressed several less-quiet but no-less-heartfelt opinions about the possible origins and eventual destination of our pets, am once again settled down in my chair. The sun is high now, and I am ready at last to enjoy some focused quiet time.
"GOOD MORNING, DADDY!! CAN I COME OUT AND PLAY?"
Jesus didn't have kids, either.