Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

May 13, 2010

Cat in the Pulpit

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

After a stint in the East in graduate school and leading revivals, I returned to Texas in January to enter seminary.  One weekend I traveled to Waco to visit some friends.  Rather late on the Sunday night, a friend came by to see me, and he introduced me to someone.

The person I met was the pastor of a church about 90 miles from Waco.  He had heard of my student pastorates and that I had returned to Texas.  He inquired if I would consider doing youth and education work at his church.  That was a whole new arena for me.  The churches of my youth were small churches that did not have a youth or education program.  I had no insight to the work, and certainly no experience.  I acknowledged this to the pastor.  He talked with me further and insisted that I come visit the church the next Sunday.  I realized that each week it would be a 180 mile trip one way.  But it was a possible open door to ministry.

Eager to serve in any capacity, I accepted the invitation.  I was excited about the opportunity and prepared all week to understand the role of the church position.  The following week, I drove the 180 miles to the church.  They provided well for me on that Saturday night and Sunday night.  As a way of introduction, I visited the various Sunday School age assemblies.  They arranged for the youth to visit with me in the afternoon, and they scheduled me to preach in the evening service.

The church was in a large remodeling and building program.  During the construction, the church held morning services at a local school and the evening services in a Brethren church.  The church was my first exposure to a split chancel.  I had alway preached with the pulpit in the center and not to one side.  It placed me directly in front of one side of the church with the other side able to see from an angle my entire posture.  I was extremely aware of that and tried to keep good posture.

It was January and a rather cold weekend.  I was wearing a tweed suit.  As I began to preach, a cat wandered into the building.  The cat, evidently attracted to my voice, walked down the aisle and up the eight or ten steps to the pulpit area.  All eyes were on the cat.  I glanced down to see what the cat would do.  I later accused them of setting this up to see how I would hold my composure!

The cat came directly to me and began to go in and out of my legs.  When I ignored the cat, the cat determined that I would give it some attention.  The cat then began to put its claws into the tweed fabric and climb up my legs.  About the knee, the cat would turn loose and start over.  Because this was a time that I was being considered for the staff position, I sought not to be distracted.  The only way I was able to continue, without being distracted, was the response from my Heavenly Father who knew that my spirit was calling for His aid.

That cat continued throughout my sermon.  When I prayed prior to the invitation, the cat left me and went back down the steps and up the aisle.  Where did that cat come from? Is that God testing me?  You cannot imagine the thoughts and questions I had.

I had not been aware how much the congregation was involved in this event.  Those who sat on the far side could see every movement of the cat.  The side directly in front of the pulpit knew the cat was there and they were curious what was happening.  I am not sure that anyone really heard the sermon.  The entire message time was focused on that cat!  And why not?  How often have you seen a cat in the pulpit?

The church called me to the staff position that very night.  I am not sure it was the preaching!  But the one remark that I remember was, “If he can handle a cat climbing on him while he preaches, surely he can handle our youth!”

I look back on that experience and wonder what I would do today?  It may be there would be more self-confidence and I would just stop and remove the cat.  Then I realize I am speaking of an ability I assume I have.  That might not be so good!  For that night, so many years ago, a young preacher was scared, and far more dependent on God than on his own ability.  I must constantly be more dependent on Him than my strength, wisdom, or supposed ability.  May I always be somewhat scared and nervous that I will be totally dependent on Him.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.”  (Psalm 28:7)  ” . . . if anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised . . . .”  (1 Peter 4:11)  ” . . . therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9)



1 Comment »

  1. Haven’t seen a cat in church. Did have a bat in the service swooping over our heads. The funniest part was watching some men from the church try to catch it in the balcony by throwing coats and sweaters up in the air. Can’t say I remember the sermon though.

    Comment by Angela — May 13, 2010 @ 1:03 pm | Reply

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