The Power of Active Choice vs. Default

default – failure to act; course of action that a program or operating system will take when the user or programmer specifies no overriding value or action

Saturday afternoon, I had a great conversation with another mom of growing adolescents. Our chat meandered from grocery store budgeting tips for keeping our giants nourished to specific foods they like. As we talked about the weeknight (anytime!) lifesaver known as ramen noodles, I told her I didn’t eat them anymore because of the high sodium content of the flavor packets. She quickly assured me that she enjoys hers with reduced sodium chicken broth…and I saw sunbeams emitting from the heavens.

Sunday afternoon, my hubby grilled hot dogs for the family. Knowing I didn’t need the excess sodium, I skipped the hot dogs, but wasn’t sure what I wanted for lunch. After my nap, I thought about those ramen noodles and pulled out my low-sodium chicken broth. Three minutes and three dashes of pepper later, I was enjoying some tasty soup on my front porch while birdwatching. It wasn’t until halfway through the bowl that I realized, “Hey, I made a better decision instead of just going along with what everyone else was doing!” I also took a 20 minute walk with my children instead of perfecting my couch potato skills all afternoon.

Fresh off of yesterday’s triumph, I ordered a salad today for lunch. When I opened the box, nestled right next to the wheat crackers and the pickle spear, I noticed a frosted sugar cookie (that I didn’t order) wrapped in cellophane…staring at me…summoning me to take a tiny nibble. I refused the invitation and promptly took the cookie intruder to our office break room so someone else could give it a new home.

So many times I just gave in to the thing in front of me because it was easier than politely declining or steadfastly refusing something that looked/smelled/sounded/seemed soooo good – but really wasn’t. Yet, these past couple of days have been different. So I guess the “Shake Up Your Routine” speech I gave this week at Toastmasters is having an impact on ME. And I’m proud of myself for finally making some necessary changes. Sure, it was “just one meal,” “just one walk,” and “just one cookie that didn’t slide down my gullet.” But it was a start. And it was MY fresh start of commitment to continue down a better path so I can see positive results and experience improved health. This week, challenge yourself not to yield to the default…leave a comment if you’d like some support on your journey – because you’re certainly not the only one who has to put effort into actively making righteous choices!

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”
(Deuteronomy 30:19)

© Copyright 2018 by Kayren J. Cathcart

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Pull the Plug on Foolishness

After transparent self-disclosure while teaching Teen Sunday School class last week, I knew by Monday what I had to do. And I was more than a bit irritated as I scrolled past the sports shows and sci-fi stuff to delete the mini-hoard of chick flicks (harmless, right?) I’d accumulated on the DVR since December…here’s the backstory…

I admit that I’m artistic and quirky, perhaps not in that order. I like documentaries, cooking shows, black and white movies, mysteries/suspense/conspiracy theories…and unbeknownst to me until the recent holidays, Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel. The ribbing from my family got so bad that my hubby would enter the room (where I’d hunkered down with popcorn and my comfy fuzzy socks) and smugly grin, “Hey – I know how this one’s gonna end! The dude’s gonna ride in on his white horse and save the day…” He would come in on the last 5 minutes of the movie and blow my warm happy feeling right outta the water (like sports doesn’t get repetitive – someone wins and someone loses every time, right?!).

I’m not a hopeless romantic, but “Cinderella” was my favorite Disney movie as a child (and still is). I say there’s nothing wrong with a formula movie or a predictable movie – I mean, it takes a certain degree of creativity to rework the same plot in 50 different ways and in 50 different movies (whether by changing the setting, the characters, or the theme); I think this nurtured the creative writer in me. I convinced myself that I was just enjoying a movie with a happy ending that seemed like good, clean entertainment. I looked past the lie of Santa Claus, multiple tree lightings on the town square with hot cocoa, countless mentions of luck/wishes juxtaposed with the lack of mentioning Jesus (though multiple holiday carols were sung – how can this be?) to remind myself the importance of witnessing Christ to others – and not just during the Christmas season. However, Christmas movies rolled into Winter movies, which rolled into Valentine’s Day movies. Why? Because this TV channel is an outgrowth of a greeting card company that capitalizes on getting money and marketshare by tugging at the heartstrings and manipulating emotions. And I thought I wanted to work for them after I got out of college…however, I digress.

As I set my DVR to record the movies that looked interesting to me (the ones about career, cooking, and mother/daughter relationships – and don’t forget WEDDINGS and princesses – rose to the top of my list), I was amassing a veritable library for which I couldn’t be the curator. I knew I didn’t have time to watch all of this content and take care of my responsibilities. Plus, they were centered around stuff that doesn’t even pertain to me (dating?! um, hello – I’ve been happily married for 17 years LOL…snowboarding – yeah right, I don’t even pretend to have a personal interest…yet, I watched that movie for 2 hours after my household went to sleep).

Strong conviction came as I talked to my middle-schooler about time-management during our morning commute…after I’d stayed up until 2:30am that morning to watch 4 hours of movies. I couldn’t find where I’d spent 4 hours communing with God or studying His Word over the past week. My actions needed to change to align with what I said were my beliefs (“I love You, Jesus”). So that brought me to this very moment when I knew the fantasy world, make-believe, play-play, pretending, princess fairy tales, and imagination had to come to a screeching halt in the intersection with real life. I briefly considered keeping 1 or 2 movies for a “rainy day,” but quickly dismissed that unviable non-option since I didn’t want to have the accursed thing in my camp. I have discarded anything that might prove to be a stumblingblock.

I must’ve deleted at least 15 movies (both in queue and set to record this weekend)…I stopped counting as I scrolled and clicked the remote. It felt like pulling the plug for the bathtub drain, but it didn’t really hurt. Some movies I’d recorded weren’t particularly worthy of watching – it was just comforting to know I’d have something to watch while the rest of my household was engrossed in sports – mind candy or mental fluff…a way to pass some idle time (like I have that laying around to spare! Something important was obviously going undone, getting neglected, or being postponed). In the midst of my resolute and determined progress, the DVR powered itself down and rebooted. Undaunted, I picked up where I’d left off and plowed ahead determinedly. The recording space available went from 9% to 18%.

Full disclosure: I’ve gotta admit, I was looking forward to watching “Cooking With Love.” And the sequel “All of My Heart: Inn Love” (not because the first one was so good – because it wasn’t stellar – but because I wanted to see what happened next with the characters). Were these movies my personal kryptonite like spy thrillers, solitaire, spy thrillers redux (that I blogged about 7 years ago), or Words With Friends (moment of silence…would someone in my house please play live Scrabble with Mommy so she doesn’t have to think about WWF???). I dunno – but they sure were a distraction from me obeying the Master with a clear heart and mind.

Why am I taking time to put all my stuff in plain sight for everyone to see? Because even if you happen not to be a closet Hallmark Channel junkie, there’s something that competes for your attention, devotion, affections, and investment of time and energy – and it draws you away from building relationship with your Creator. The question is: when are you gonna pull the plug on your foolishness? I just did – now it’s your turn.

“O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.”
(Psalm 69:5)
“I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.”
(Psalm 119:113)
“The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.”
(Proverbs 15:14)
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
(Colossians 2:8)

© Copyright 2018 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Hot Pepper Hands: Play With Fire & You’ll Get Burned

Not sure how I got distracted from posting this back in September 2017 when I drafted it (ok, now I remember – I wanted it to be perfect before posting it, and then I got sidetracked and didn’t get back to revisiting it…until today).
Since it’s still a timely message for me, I hope you’re able to appreciate it, too…
God’s warnings are evidence of His extravagant love for us.

Determined to make the most of our garden’s bounty before the seasons change, I recently got busy incorporating a little “kick” into my standard spaghetti and tacos (thanks to 3 lbs. of ground turkey on sale this week) when I got the brilliant idea to take the seeds out of the peppers without using gloves – reasoning that the hand using the knife wasn’t touching the peppers, and that I was holding the stem with my other hand and I’d be fine…what an ill-advised move!

A short time after both of my gourmet dishes were complete, I noticed that my fingertips were throbbing. I washed my hands vigorously, and then decided to take a bubble bath – surely that would soak away any offending pepper particulates remaining on my skin, right? WRONG. A few minutes after my bath, I noticed that my knuckles were starting to tingle, and I got more than a little concerned. My hubby told me to look online to see how to remedy the situation. My increasing discomfort pushed me to the computer without hesitation. Who knew I’d find a wealth of information about “hot pepper hands” (which I’d never heard of) and how to find relief in a matter of minutes. Of course I could’ve prevented all of these shenanigans by just putting on gloves, but I guess that was too simple…

I decided to forgo washing my face for 24 hours to err on the side of caution and protect my eyes (fine time to be risk-averse – AFTER the fact, eh?). Anyhoo…

Granted, my culinary creations were tasty – but I didn’t have to pay for it with a chunk of my skin. Lesson learned. Are there any questionable situations you’re handling without proper spiritual protection? I urge you to get the gloves to avoid contamination – and ruination. Choose to learn from wisdom instead of having pain as a harsh taskmaster to whip you into submission.

To recap in laymen’s terms (for those of us in denial that we’re flirting with danger):

  1. Don’t try to outsmart the system
  2. Don’t take an unnecessary walk on the wild side
  3. You will pay to skip a step
  4. Appreciate the value of living under the protection of a Sovereign God – just use the gloves!

“And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:”
(Mark 9:43)

© Copyright 2018 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Stop Offering a Tainted Sacrifice!

“For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”
(I Thessalonians 4:7)

Have you ever justified in your own mind that “what I’m presenting to God should be good enough” or “at least it’s better than what I did in the past” – or am I the only one guilty of this skewed line of reasoning? I have learned (through experience) that when I try to do God’s thing in MY way, it leads to me offering a tainted sacrifice. I’m giving Him (in some form) what He asked for, but I’ve ever so slightly (or boldly) altered/modified/amended/revised/adjusted it to fit my own convenience, thought pattern, comfort zone, or whatever. And He doesn’t receive it…because He doesn’t recognize it…since it doesn’t meet His expressly-given standards, qualifications, or conditions. So basically I’ve put wrapping paper and a big ol’ shiny bow on some unacceptable vain works, idle efforts, and wasted energy. Not exactly the fruit or gift of a diligent, submitted, committed servant, eh?

Sacrifice indicates there’s some stretching beyond or outside of one’s personal comfort zone or current capacity – otherwise, it’s just normal, rote, routine everyday stuff. It’s not special, set apart, sanctified, holy, or consecrated. It’s not giving up, forgoing, letting go, or surrendering anything but a half-hearted and unacceptable piece of mess.

I got up this lovely Saturday morning with the intention of reconnecting with my blog to write a cheery message of encouragement. However, today’s scripture verse grabbed me by the neck so quickly that I snapped to attention when THE Author and Finisher began to speak to my heart. I believe sanctification is the desire of our Lord’s heart and purification is the order of the day. The preceding verses in I Thessalonians 4 (Amplified Version) speak for themselves:

3 For this is the will of God, that you be sanctified [separated and set apart from sin]: that you abstain and back away from sexual immorality;
4 that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor [being available for God’s purpose and separated from things profane],
5 not [to be used] in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God and are ignorant of His will;

Of course, we know it’s not only lust of a sexual nature that God is highlighting for deletion from our lives – “knowing how to control our own bodies in holiness and honor” (v. 4) and avoiding “lustful passion” (v. 5) applies to gluttony of food, entertainment, worldly thinking, and any self-indulgent pleasure of the flesh that leads to idolatry and is contrary to God’s Word.

Exemptions + Exceptions = Excuses

My congregation is preparing to embark upon our annual corporate 21-Day Fast during the Lenten season. However, my gracious Lord (knowing me and my proclivity to make exceptions, exemptions, and excuses for my not-quite-on-point behavior under the guise of “I’m trying to get it right”) started requiring ACCEPTABLE sacrifices from me 2 WEEKS AGO that caused my flesh to SCREAM OUT. If I thought I had 2 more weeks to act crazy and do things “my way,” He put an abrupt end to all of my foolishness with yet another wake-up call. Yup, bells have been ringing in my life since 2017 started LOL!  How ridiculous is it to have the audacity to imagine that His Word applies to everybody but me?! Utter foolishness…I am included in His instructions and commandments…and I must change and OBEY.

Consequences of a Tainted Sacrifice – Cut Off from God’s Presence and Excluded

“When you [priests] present the blind [animals] for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and the sick, is it not evil?  Offer such a thing [as a blind or lame or sick animal] to your governor [as a gift or as payment for your taxes]. Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you graciously?” says the Lord of hosts.”
(Malachi 1:8, AMP)

In the Old Testament, there were grave consequences (literally!) for offering a jacked-up sacrifice, acting like it was okay, and hoping that the Lord would let it slide – NOT SO!

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Tell Aaron and his sons to be careful with the holy things (offerings, gifts) which the children of Israel dedicate to Me, so that they do not profane My holy name; I am the Lord.
3 Say to them, ‘Any one of your descendants throughout your generations who approaches the holy things which the Israelites dedicate to the Lord, while he is [ceremonially] unclean, that person shall be cut off from My presence and excluded from the sanctuary; I am the Lord.”
(Leviticus 22:1-3, AMP)

Who wants to be cut off from the presence of the Lord??? Not me!!! So in order to stay connected to Him as my Source, I’ve gotta get rid of ALL uncleanness in my life – every day …and it starts today! I don’t get the luxury of “just one more time and that’s it. Cleansing, disinfecting, decontaminating, and sanitizating starts NOW.

Be Careful with the Holy Things – Separate Yourself NOW!

“16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”
(II Corinthians 6:16-17)

Let us heed the urgency in the Lord’s voice TODAY to repent and return to purity. His requirement is holiness, and we must meet HIS conditions if we are truly His children. May a pure and acceptable sacrifice of ourselves be our gift to Him in this season leading to our celebration of His death, burial, and glorious resurrection.

“7 For God has not called us to impurity, but to holiness [to be dedicated, and set apart by behavior that pleases Him, whether in public or in private]. 8 So whoever rejects and disregards this is not [merely] rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you [to dwell in you and empower you to overcome temptation].”
(I Thessalonians 4:7-8, AMP)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Relief, Rest, and Release from Unrealistic Expectations

Over the past month, several wake-up calls have underscored my finite capacity and helpless inability to whip out the “invisible Wonder Woman cape and boots” from the back of the closet at a second’s notice. Not that I didn’t realize I had limitations (gee, am I aware of my personal limitations!)…but in my trying not to focus on them, I kinda blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. I didn’t notice that I’d been slowly but steadily creeping back to attempting to save the world in my own strength – again. But my sheer exhaustion and utter fatigue should’ve tipped me off.

Case in point: Last Thursday, I learned about an extra-curricular activity (regional academic team competition) my children had earned the opportunity to participate in…outside of the city…on this Saturday. (Anyone who knows me is aware that I LIVE by my meticulously updated family calendar). Now a *normal* person who *already* had several commitments on that same day would have no problem identifying that they couldn’t squeeze one more ounce into an already full container. But not me! I didn’t go into flat-out panic mode. Yet, I DID start brainstorming options for how to “make it happen” – for my children, the team, the coach, the school whose reputation would be enhanced by a team win…world peace – yeah, my foolishness was just that lofty and unrealistic. Unfortunately, this entailed either (or all of the following):

  1. Asking my wonderful hubby to forgo his work assignments to get at least one child to another city by 9am…because I was already committed to an activity that starts at 10am in Charlotte.
  2. Putting my child in a car for a 1-hour drive with a parent I’d only met once who was going to the same event.
  3. Assuming that there would be no traffic or accidents on I-85 while attempting to get the second child back for afternoon orchestra rehearsal (for a concert in 2 weeks)…by 1:30pm.
  4. Ignoring the fact that I’m scheduled to be in choir rehearsal Saturday at 1pm, so I probably wouldn’t be of any real assistance in these transportation gyrations.

If you think there were gaping holes in my logic, you’re right…I was just trying to cobble together potential solutions, regardless of the feasibility, practicality, or achievability of my improbable pseudo-goals.

None of these options would fly with my husband (especially the second one: “What do you know about their driving habits, what they’re carrying in their vehicle, who else will be with them?” etc., etc.). I knew before I asked him that I had no satisfactory answers. Yet, I asked anyway, in a feeble attempt to salvage the mirage of “being able to get it all in and assuage all parties involved.” And for what? You already know that he firmly vetoed every option I unconvincingly presented.

The children’s egos wouldn’t have been crushed by not participating; they were cool with it and knew there were prior commitments on our schedule. Yet, I still had that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to have to tell one or more parties, “I’m sorry, but we’re unable to participate in this activity at this time.”

Relief (from self-imposed anxiety because I anticipated potentially disappointing someone else) came only with the cheery e-mail response that the teacher completely understood that I was unable to 1) clone myself, or 2) be in two cities (one hour apart) at the same time. In the meanwhile, I had worked myself up into a froth – in vain. There was absolutely NO GODLY FRUIT to show for this flurry of mental histrionics and “what ifs.” How absurd was that on my part?

So what’s my point? Let’s free ourselves this year from the “what will people say?” mindset. Commit to “stop doing crazy.” Fight that random, bizarre pop-up thought that may be residue from PPD (People-Pleasing Disorder) or CHD (Chronic Helping Disorder) that still lingers, no matter how hard you’ve scrubbed. 🙂 As long as we’re doing our best to walk in excellence according to God’s Word – which includes taking care of ourselves and our families (and not minimizing or excluding this as a priority) – we can breathe a sigh of relief, rest in the Lord, and release ourselves from unrealistic expectations (whether real or, most likely, perceived). Then we can be about our Father’s business…

“28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

A New Lump

God is doing a new thing in this new year. Will you let God mold, shape, and sculpt you today? Selah…

“6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
(I Corinthians 5:6-8)
“20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
(Romans 9:20-21)
“But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
(Isaiah 64:8)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

His Work, His Way

Many who claim to wear the label of “Believer” and think they’re doing God’s work privately ascribe to the attitude, “I’ll do it my way.” However, as followers of Christ, we are called to do God’s will.

Even Jesus yielded and surrendered His will for the ultimate glory of the Father, “…nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42b). Why do we think we can take shortcuts and create loopholes when our greatest Example was required to take the straight and narrow path of obedience? We are not exempt from doing God’s work in the way He instructs us to complete it!

During my morning devotions (on this day we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), I reflected on how grateful I am to be #FreeAtLast through the finished work of Christ on Calvary. I am free from the bondage of sin, free from the entanglements of my old hang-ups and mindsets, free to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, free to obey Him fully and reap the rewards of delighting myself in the Lord. Hallelujah!

Yet, in some nagging, lingering areas, I still find myself struggling to fully surrender my will to the will of the Father – why? Is it a commitment issue? When I commit my way and my work unto Him, that commitment means I trust Him – completely and totally. My way is the road, course of life, or mode of action I find myself taking on this journey called life. My work  is a specific action, activity, or product. This means I have to yield ALL to His will – from the big things to the seemingly  inconsequential minutia of my day. In this, He will be well-pleased, and I will remain covered under the Shadow of the Almighty, safe and protected.

What do you need to commit to God afresh and anew this week so you can do His work in the way He’s instructing? You never know who is depending on you to be in proper position and right-standing with God. Don’t delay – the new year is well on its way, and you want to stay on His appointed schedule for every assignment He’s given you to complete.

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”
(Psalm 37:5)
“1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.
3 Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established..”
(Proverbs 16:1-3)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart