Friday, June 23, 2017

Was Christ Catawampus?

Picture Book: The Catawampus Cat
Author: Jason Carter Eaton
Illustrator: Gus Gordon
Summary: A cat walks into a busy town; he walks with a lean.
The first to notice him is a married couple of many years. The husband tries to straighten the cat, but...
 When they turn their heads just so, 
she spies her wedding ring and suddenly... 
with that small shift in perspective, they remember love.
Next a barber spots the cat. Tilting his head while giving a client a new haircut may not seem smart...
but she loves it! 
Throughout the town, the cat meanders while the inhabitants notice his slanted ways and do likewise. 
An unfulfilled artist making his living as a house painter watches the cat. After it passes, the painter is shocked to find his work quite original. 
The homeowner, the mayor, proclaims it a work of art! 
Even the local daredevil is distracted during a stunt. Instead of jumping Deadman's Gorge, he takes a different route. 
His stunt even more unusual, he sets a record for height. The daredevil is delighted! 
After seeing the catawampus cat inside the library, Miss Reade pulls the wrong book off the shelf, 
 and her life is changed permanently. Adventure awaits!
Bushy Brows Billiam found that he could see the classroom board when he tilted his head. Suddenly math made perfect sense! 
Soon the whole town is transformed. Even architecture changes with the townspeople's perspectives. 
Slantiness leads to all sorts of sunniness. 
Eventually, the mayor stands before the off-kilter town on Catawampus Cat Day ready to give the cat an award for his positive influence. 
When asked what he thought now that the whole town was like him, the cat's response was surprising. 
Instead of answering directly, he did some calisthenics
Apparently wanting to keep his catawampus status, he walked out of town, straightened but still catawampus compared to the town and its people. 
Hanna’s Comments: When I read the gospels, Jesus contrasts with the culture of his day. Likewise, he contrasts with modern culture. People responded to his message in ways that transformed their view of life and others. Today we still are transformed by his message and way of viewing life. He was both a magnetic personality and a confusing one. Like the catawampus cat here, he tended to avoid answering direct questions and offered a new perspective on many topics such as outsiders, status, worry, and even the Law. I suggest you read this book while emphasizing the way the cat is transforming the townspeople. Then say, “Jesus was sort of like the catawampus cat.” Depending on your audience, provide those connections yourself or let your audience discover them. But that’s not enough! Go deeper. Ask your audience to reflect (or answer aloud) how knowing the gospel of Jesus has transformed their perspectives and their lives. Perhaps they have experienced love, been delighted by surprise, discovered their artistry, gained an adventurous spirit, soared to new heights, or found they can do things thought impossible. Even a catawampus cat can give us insight to our spiritual growth and desires to see more like Christ.
Original Publisher & Date: Crown Books, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: The Beatitudes (Matthew 5) and other statements from Jesus that were surprising such as “Whoever finds life will lose it, and whoever loses life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39); Stories about life-changing encounters Jesus had with others, particularly when it resulted in a perspective change and transformation, such as The Woman at the Well (John 4:4-42); Mary in the Kitchen (Luke 10:38-42); and Zacchaeus, the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10). Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what are the ways of God (Romans 12:2)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children to help them explore how a biblical perspective can be transformative. Connect this idea to how Jesus came into a town and changed the perspective of so many he met. 

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