Before I can tell you the story about the night of Howard’s unseemly visit to the young preacher’s class, I have to tell you about Howard. Howard was a cat. And you know how cats are. Dogs see their human and think, “You feed me, you pet me, you give me a place to sleep – you must be God!” Cats have a slightly different worldview. They see their human and think, “You feed me, you pet me, you give me a place to sleep – I must be God!”
Howard was all that and more. When he came into the parsonage from his nightly carousing, he headed straight for the bathroom where he would jump up on the counter and wait. He simply wouldn’t budge until one of us would fulfill our first two duties of the day. One – we gave him some liver tablets (a food supplement before there was such a thing as food supplements). And, two, we filled the sink with water for his first morning drink. His bowl on the floor was fine for the rest of the day – but daybreak required the sink.
Black and sleek, with just enough Siamese in him to give him the prerequisite crook at the end of his tail, Howard knew exactly what he was about at every moment of every day.
At least until that fateful Tuesday.
You see, Tuesday evenings were a little different. That’s when some of the younger men in the church would gather at the parsonage for a class Dad taught on preaching. It was a very practical class – they would learn about studying and putting sermons together. But they also learned little tricks like how to keep from getting nervous when they were first starting to preach. Picture all the men in the congregation in their skivvies, Dad said. Every man alive looks like two toothpicks in a pumpkin when he’s dressed down. Although I personally haven’t needed this technique from a pulpit, I can vouch for its effectiveness in numerous other circumstances.
But I digress. Dad’s preaching tips are best saved for another day. For now, I’ll get back to Howard and that fateful Tuesday.
One of the young preachers was Brother Morgan, a regular, big-faced country-type of man with hair so short you weren’t sure if he cut it that way on purpose or if he was going bald. He was definitely a little rough around the edges, not exactly somebody you picture kissing babies and fretting over the color of his shirt.
This particular night, Howard came out to nonchalantly greet the guests as they arrived in his home. And for some reason I will never fathom, Brother Morgan seemed compelled to torment Howard that particular night. Nothing serious – just some teasing and tail slapping and general country-type bother. This, however, was not something Howard handled well. Like a lot of the two-legged creatures we all know, Howard was one to tease, but had little patience when placed in the role of teasee. He promptly left the scene and retreated to the shadows of a nearby hallway where he positioned himself close to the wall but with a clear view of the family room where the class took place.
As they did every time they met, the class began in prayer. The men, chairs in a semi-circle facing Dad, would follow his lead, get up, turn around and kneel in prayer.
This, apparently, was why Howard was waiting in the shadows.
As soon as Brother Morgan was on his knees with his back to the hallway, hands folded in spiritual contemplation, Howard made his move. In that funny, bouncing gait that cats acquire when moving in on their prey in close quarters, Howard blasted into the room and attacked his former tormentor from behind.
It was, needless to say, one of the more exciting nights of study for the young preachers in our church.
I doubt seriously if Howard ever repented. In fact, he seemed quite pleased with himself and totally unaware of the havoc he created that night. Brother Morgan, however, was another matter entirely. He was quite stunned at the turn of events and fully repented by immediately and forever changing his ways when he and Howard were in the same room.
What more could God – or Howard – ask?
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