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Posted Friday, November 16, 2012, at 8:02 PM

She had fixed a bowl of soup to eat and had just settled into her chair to enjoy her meal. The aromas of the potatoes, corn, butter, milk, cheese, bacon, and spices--especially the kick of green chili filled her with anticipation. She added a few crackers to the mix, asked the blessing and was about to begin eating when she caught movement from the corner of her eye.

She lifted her head and spoon just in time to see the kitten preparing to leap onto her lap from the floor. Moving her bowl (just in case) she blocked the kitten's path and told him "NO!" He remained on the floor. Watching him move off, she began to eat.

She savored each spoonful. The kitten had moved off out of sight, so she relaxed fully--no longer on guard. As she paused to take a drink of steaming hot tea she saw a blur of fur in motion. Grabbing the bowl, she held it in the air and felt the impact of the kitten's body on her elbow.

He fell back onto the chair arm beside her--stopped, but determined. His nostrils delicately sniffed the air. The aroma made him curious. He leaned as far forward as possible. She moved her blocking arm in tandem with him. He moved toward her shoulder--her elbow nudged him out of the way. She countered every move he made and continued to tell him "NO" with each move.

Finally, he gave up and curled into a ball on the arm of the chair, closing his eyes. She went back to her meal. Just as she was eating the last spoonful, a blur of white and yellow landed squarely on her chest. He finally caught her with her guard down. He quickly curled into her arms and purred his contentment. Having finished her meal, she pushed her dishes further away onto the tray and looked into the sleeping "innocent" eyes in her arms.

She knew he wasn't really asleep. She could see his nostrils flair as they sniffed the air--and her chest to see if any crumbs or goodies remained. His senses told him there was nothing so with a big sigh, he settled into a nap in the safety of her arms.

Later in the day, she couldn't resist his charms and picked him up from the sunbeam he was chasing around the room. "Silly boy, you will never catch it," she whispered to him. He certainly did try. Leaping over furniture, springing into the air, chasing it up a wall (as far as he could), the reflection from the sun continually eluded him.

She scooped him up to tickle his belly. He countered her move by stopping her hand with a paw. She moved to the other side and again the paw stopped her. She reached quietly with one finger to rub his throat, and the paw appeared again in the universal sign of "STOP."

She had to laugh when she realized his movements perfectly mimicked hers from earlier in the day. He had wanted her attention (and maybe to taste her food) and she had said "no" and blocked his access with her hands. Now she wanted to play with him and he was the one saying "no" and blocking her access.

As she laughed at his kitten antics, she realized that he had finally rolled onto his back, reached for her hands, and was pulling her fingers to him--for play. He had learned his lesson well--when momma says "no" she means "no" and when it is okay to play or cuddle she will draw you in to her. Such simple life lessons about boundaries.

If only we humans would watch and learn these simple lessons as well. Boundaries--the line where one ends and another begins. We encounter boundaries in so many forms: driving lanes of the street; merging lanes; property lines; seats on an airplane; personal space; skin; thoughts, ideology. The lists can go on and on. Unfortunately, we too often fight over boundaries rather than work within them: partisan politics; borders; whose ancestors occupied the land first vs. whose possess it now; etc. The arguments continue, escalate, and unfortunately become divisive and/or violent.

In Matthew 5, Jesus taught us about boundaries. He said:

Blessed are those who are free of pride.

They will be given the earth.

Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for what is right.

They will be filled.

Blessed are those who show mercy.

They will be shown mercy.

Blessed are those whose hearts are pure.

They will see God.

Blessed are those who make peace.

They will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who suffer for doing what is right.

The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

God, learning how to and maintaining healthy boundaries is too often a mystery. We think everything should be easy--and the way we think it should be. Help us instead to learn your ways; that the path may be hard; that not everyone will think the way that we do; and that what we live everyday will teach and influence others. Teach us, God that your boundary is love. So be it. Amen.

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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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