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Kitten Theology

Big news in the family (actually, tiny news): we’ve got kittens! Itsy-bitsy little babies, and five of them. The two bigger ones, about six weeks old, are at the Aho house right now, learning how to climb couches and destroy shoelaces. Michael and I are fostering them now, with about a 90% chance we’ll adopt them too. The three littlest ones are in Noel’s care, still learning how to walk straight and eat food, and so they come to the MPC office in a cardboard box every day and nap under her desk. These little ones will be looking for new homes soon. It’s kitten season in the Bay Area, and we have a bumper crop! (Pictures below, in “notes from the family.”)

When I was in seminary, I took a fascinating class called Material Theology. One of the more interesting exercises we did was called the “surprise theology box.” Each person would bring an object to put in the box, and in turn, we’d reach (blind) into the box, pick out an object, and do some improvised theologizing. This necklace reminds us of God because there’s an invisible string keeping it all connected… this matchbook teaches us about the Spirit, which can flare up with energy and light… and on and on. The more interesting challenge objects I remember from the class (we were a spirited bunch) were a USB cord, various pieces of trash, and a condom.

Well, the kittens were an unexpected blessing, and it feels like I’ve reached into the Surprise Theology Box and gotten two handfuls of squirm and delight. So, what lessons can we improvise from the experience of fostering these little ankle-biters? Well, it’s possible that some of us grown-up humans have forgotten a few important lessons. We may look at a crumpled piece of paper, for example, and see trash — rather than an inspiring and exciting toy. We may look at a shoe and think only of putting it on our feet — rather than the question of how many kittens we could fit in it, if we really tried. The kittens are constantly exploring, testing, experimenting and learning, much like children do, and in this, their creativity is a gift from God that we might seek for ourselves.

Last week I texted the youth a group message: We’ve got kittens and ice cream in the office. Stressed? Come by for a study break. Several of them came, and for a little while we were transported out of the world of essays and final exams, into the pleasures of exploring the world with kittens as our guide. We played for more than an hour, and the youth thoroughly exhausted the cats. We ended the afternoon with tiny furballs snuggling up sleepily in our hands, our laps, our hearts. On a more serious note the kittens remind us of the vulnerability of God in Jesus Christ. Big words, I know, for tiny creatures, but the point in smaller words is that in Christ, God became a tiny human, an infant who needed love and care from others. As we care for infants, kittens, the very sick, or those with serious disabilities who require such care, we practice the love of God. The same love that stretched the spangled heavens and makes us stand in awe also comes to us in the intimacy of a kitten cuddle, and pleads with us (meowingly) to open our hearts and hands and laps.

We’ll have the youth over for “kittens and ice cream” again this afternoon, 3-5. Or stop by before 3:30 on any work day if you want to see Noel’s even tinier furbabies.

Every Blessing,
Talitha

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(The kittens wanted to write this to you directly. They love typing. xoxo.)