The Parable of Picking Okra: Maturing From Beneficiary to Benefactor

beneficiary – recipient, receiver, grantee
benefactor – contributor, sponsor, supporter, backer, patron, promoter

Maturity requires that we move from being takers all the time. I had to apply this truth to my own life today. Case in point: my husband lovingly planted a garden to nourish our family. He took the lead, and he does 99.9% of the work on it (thank ya, kind sir!). Due to my strong aversion to bugs and other creepy crawlies, I don’t generally spend a lot of time in, near, or around the garden – and especially if he’s not out there. But this fine evening, I got home first and decided to gather some fresh herbs to add to my planned entree. To my great chagrin and utter disdain, there were plenty of annoying gnat-like beings buzzing around the thyme, so I opted to use (less infested) rosemary from the front yard as this evening’s standout seasoning. Did I mention that I really detest bugs? However, I digress…

Well, before I could head towards the rosemary, I looked up – really high – and saw that there was some okra ready to be picked. Mind you, my wonderful hubby is always telling me and the children “Somebody needs to harvest the okra every day so it doesn’t get hard and unusable.” Now have I ever heeded those words? Not directly – because I always ask him sweetly to bring in any okra and I’ll be delighted to cook it for him. Yesterday I discovered (thanks Google recipe search!) that roasted okra is every bit as delicious as fried okra (hey, I’m a true Southerner…don’t judge! LOL), there’s less mess to clean up after cooking, and of course it’s healthier. Soooo, I decided to try to pick the okra myself (for the first time ever) – even though the stalks towered over 1 foot above my head. After carefully grasping a pod to lop off with my kitchen shears a few times, I finally decided to let gravity work on my behalf (and get away from the bugs faster). I grabbed the too-high okra plant looming over me, pulled it close enough for me to cut from the tippy-top, and I was on my way. Snip, plop, snip, plop, snip, plop, gather. Ah, I could almost taste the roasted okra melting on my tongue!

Something had irritated my skin terribly, so I ran to put some cream on the red rashes spreading over my forearms – but even that didn’t deter me from the roasted okra joy that I was soon to experience! I’m very excited to have 11 okras I picked myself to add to the 2 my hubby brought in yesterday with the peppers and tomatoes. And I should be proud of taking this major step forward – because though I could’ve waited until my hubby got home to ask him to bring it in for me to cook with dinner, why should he have to when I’m fully capable of assisting – even when it’s outside of my comfort zone? I had time and energy that he probably wouldn’t have after a longer workday than I’d had. So this was my gift to him today – and I know he’s gonna be tickled that I actually put into practice what he’s been saying for years. 🙂

It’s high time that ALL God’s chill’uns choose to move from being beneficiary to benefactor. At some point, we have to realize that God has given us so much that we must give back to someone else. Even when you have multiple areas of need, prayerfully consider who you can help this week from an area of your own abundance. Then you will see and experience the true blessing implanted within the process of maturity.

Now if you’ll kindly excuse me, I’m off to cook dinner!

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
(I Corinthians 13:11)

“12 For if the eagerness [to give] is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
13 For it is not [intended] that others be relieved [of their responsibility] and that you be burdened [unfairly], but that there be equality [in sharing the burden]
14 at this present time your surplus [over necessities] is going to supply their need, so that [at some other time] their surplus may be given to supply your need, that there may be equality;
15 as it is written [in Scripture], “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not lack.”
(II Corinthians 8:12-15, AMP)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

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Salt in the Wound: A Potential Prescription for Healing

At my recent dental cleaning, the hygienist asked the standard question about any changes in health. I mentioned that a small (yet painful and unwelcome bump) had risen between my lip and gum, and that I was swishing with hydrogen peroxide to hasten its departure. She responded, “If you really want it to go away more quickly, put salt on a cotton swab and hold it there for a few moments. It will sting, but if you can take the initial discomfort, the bump will heal faster. Also, swish with salt and warm water.”

She gave me a wise recommendation and prescription for healing – if I chose to apply it. Well, I applied it, and it did indeed sting! However, after the initial shock and burning sensation, I realized that a few days later, the bump was going down. I wanted to be healed more than I wanted to be comfortable. And when we reach that crossroads in everyday life, we will change.

Salt has curative and healing properties. So does the truth of God’s Word. May we apply His Word to the areas of our lives He illuminates in this season and see His healing hand at work.

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
(Matthew 5:13)
“Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”
(Mark 9:50)
“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
(Colossians 4:6)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Pop-Up From the Past: Ongoing Saga of the Accursed Chili

Have you ever thought you were over something, and then a trace of its residue just rears its ugly head at the most unexpected time? Yeah, me neither LOL…

Being the self-declared “delivered from cluttering” gal that I claim to be (intentional tongue-in-cheek sarcasm), I was grabbing one of those super-useful plastic grocery bags to <ta-dah!> reuse (of course, you saw that one coming, right?). Well, lo and behold if it didn’t contain a grocery receipt – not just any grocery receipt, but the one from 9/29/16. Why is this significant? September 29, 2016 is the fateful day that I purchased the remaining ingredients to complete my masterpiece homemade turkey chili – a meaningful demonstration of loving sustenance for my family on an overcast Fall day.

What made this a less-than-perfect foray into slow cooker bliss was the kidney beans. Alas, I choose to put the onus for the gas that came upon us all on the fact that I got a different brand (I know, I know, bigger isn’t always better, and the sale item may not be the highest quality item – yada, yada, yada – I get it). But my innards can tell the story that lasted for several days as those beans meandered their way through my intestines…oh so very slowly. Thankfully, I recovered (with assistance from some leafy greens). But I really didn’t need a reminder of the experience – and I really wasn’t expecting that today. And here was that receipt, weeks later, staring me in the face from the bottom of that plastic bag that I was about to place in the bathroom trash can. Memories…it just made me mad all over again as I scowled at the receipt I should’ve shredded days ago.

I’m being a bit dramatic (who, me? ha!) to drive home this point:

When it’s time, throw away the turkey chili.

No matter how good it tasted (and still tastes). In spite of how warm it made you feel on a cold night. Forget the fact that it was perfectly seasoned. It’s no good for you. You’ll regret it later – trust me. Trust that inner voice. Trust what your family is telling you. Trust the rumbling in your belly.

No matter how much is left in the container you prepared for a busy week. Ignore that brilliant last-ditch idea to valiantly take it with tortilla chips for a twist on workday lunch at your desk because no one else in your house is brave enough to face the inferno in a bowl.

If it’s giving you gas (or something worse), it has to go. Now.

Spiritual application: Get rid of the old, useless, and hazardous to your health stuff you’ve been hanging onto for way too long – things you’ve been holding in your heart, emotional baggage that’s weighing you down, relationships dangling by a thread that you just haven’t cut off for your own good, whatever.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned. If you ignore this wisdom (garnered from personal experience), you may unnecessarily have your own October horror story. My take on it: not worth it. Let it go. Pass! (pun intended…)

See hubby, I did learn my lesson (this time…after all of my other similar and near-disastrous gastrointestinal incidents). Progress – let’s savor that flavor!

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
(Proverbs 4:23)

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
(II Corinthians 5:17)

 © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Absolutely Audacious Residue: God’s Cleansing Rx is the Fix

audacious – daring, bold, brave, overconfident, impudent, risky, foolhardy

How audacious, big-headed, and myopic to be a tool (in the hands of the Master) that wants to be used only in the way it sees fit, instead of in the way deemed proper and timely by the Expert Creator of the Universe. It is a selfish and unloving view indeed that cares only about how I feel instead of how my obedient service will bless someone else or supply the need of another part of the Body of Christ.

Am I so intimacy-averse and apprehensive of true transparency of my own underlying issues that I’d contribute to atrophy of muscles being developed within the Body of Christ? When I move out of my God-ordained position, do I acknowledge that I’m giving place to the devil? When I feel like giving up, giving in, quitting, or throwing in the towel, do I admit that I’m really telling God that the joints He put in my presence to supply my need are woefully insufficient and inadequate? Do I see that I’m devaluing God’s creation (that He made in HIS holy and righteous image) when I attempt to separate into a cocoon and isolate myself from my brothers and sisters?

When I’m too agitated to pray, too distracted to see the needs of others (needs that may prompt them to act unseemly or out-of-character), and too absorbed in the mindset governing my personal universe and its exclusively hand-selected inhabitants – I need to step back and allow God to correct my focus according to the lens of HIS unconditional love.

These words flowed from my pen when I recently found myself needing an emergency “spiritual chiropractic adjustment” before I was fit to minister before God’s flock. Faithful as ever, God was answering even as I was calling. Have you ever cried out from that wretched place of brokenness and repentance, pleading to be changed and cleansed so you could be put back into service with a right heart? It is a highly cathartic experience called confession that really is good for the soul. If you find some audacious residue built up in your heart that’s hindering a free-flow of pure worship, obedience, peace, or anything else that is promised to a child of the Most High, I recommend humbling yourself and making an appointment with The Throne Room…for today’s prescription.

“10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
(Psalm 51:10, 17, KJV)
“5 Everyone who is proud and arrogant in heart is disgusting and exceedingly offensive to the Lord; Be assured he will not go unpunished.
6 By mercy and lovingkindness and truth [not superficial ritual] wickedness is cleansed from the heart, And by the fear of the Lord one avoids evil.”
(Proverbs 16:5-6, AMP)

© Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

XS: When is “Just Enough to Satisfy” Really Too Much?

excess – extra, additional, surplus, spare, superfluous, glut, overload, overflow, overindulgence, immoderation, extravagance
abscess – boil, sore, swelling, eruption, blister

So the title of this post is a play on words (XS makes me think of an “extra small” sized t-shirt that I haven’t fit into since high school – okay, middle school LOL), but I figured it needed explaining. While watching “Love it or List It” on HGTV last night, I was awestruck by one of the homes a family was looking at “upgrading” to. It wasn’t that the house was so grand – I was more amazed that they’d leave the ample space they already had for something that was obviously more space than they needed. The walk-in closet alone (that was deemed a “must have” for the father/husband of the family) was the size of a bedroom…and there was one for the wife, too…and it went on from there. Believe me, I love a well-appointed set of bathrooms under one roof as much as the next gal, but this was a bit over the top even by my standards.

Perhaps I’m more attentive to excess in light of presently dealing with an abscess (under my armpit, no less). I’ll spare you the “armpit selfie” I had my daughter take for me (encouraging her inner Doc McStuffins meets medical photographer – yes, blatant career planning and exploration is around every bend in our household, even with mom’s unfortunate mishaps). The good news is, after last Thursday’s doctor appointment when I couldn’t take the pain and tenderness of that ballooning bump any longer and they scheduled me for a surgical procedure to drain it (2 weeks out was the soonest they could get me in), the bump burst on its own and started draining on Monday morning, to my surprise. As unpleasant as it is to see (and feel) that fluid draining under my arm, it’s a great relief to get the pressure and swelling down, along with deflating the sizeable bump that looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame had taken a detour under my arm. And it’s an answer to prayer, because I really wasn’t looking forward to a small surgical procedure, even if they promised to numb me and send me on my way as good as new in 30 minutes. Yes, I’m making light of it, but it made me realize that there was something extra inside of me that didn’t need to be there – and my body was taking expeditious steps to get rid of it.

What are we trying to overcompensate with (and for) these days? Society tells us we need “bigger, better, more, extra” – and we keep believing the hype. Do we really need a newer (or different) vehicle, outfit, accessory, or companion? Do we need to acquire additional items when our closets, drawers, and storage bins are already bursting at the seams? Do we need the extra serving on our plate just because it’s offered? When will we be content? Is there excess we can resist (or even expel) in our small corner of the world? Is there some emotional baggage we’ve carried for way too long that needs to be offloaded? (Can you tell I’m starting to parent pre-teens?!). Prayerfully consider – then decisively act. When we earnestly consider the valuable gifts God has placed in our lives, we must admit that we have more than a-plenty. As we enter the season of giving thanks, may we be truly grateful for that which we’ve already been given – which is much.

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
(Philippians 4:11)
“6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”
(I Timothy 6:6-8)

© Copyright 2015 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Matters of the Heart: Recognizing the Un-Gift

Kayren’s generic definition of “un-gift” – a masquerading “blessing” that will likely end up being a curse due to its intrinsic or inherent value (or lack thereof)

The other day, a restaurant near my job e-mailed me some coupons. Now anyone who knows me is aware of how much I love getting a deal, a perk, or a freebie. However, as I looked at the nutritional info for the lunch item to be discounted, I realized that in my right mind, I can’t afford to receive and use their coupon because it makes no sense for a person on blood pressure medication to knowingly ingest over 1200mg of sodium in one entree. “But it’s on sale…yeah, but it’s gonna take you somewhere you don’t need to be, fool!” Back and forth I argued in my mind, until I tentatively scheduled when I’d cross the street to try this disaster of a meal choice (since the coupon expired within 2 weeks – of course, creating an urgency to hop aboard this train wreck of an externally-influenced decision). Finally, I confessed to my family when I got home that I had been tempted by this cleverly-disguised, flesh-tickling “offer.” However, knowing that it wouldn’t benefit me (or my family if my blood pressure skyrocketed), I asked for their support as I made myself accountable to them (once again) with my personal health stewardship. 

I should’ve gotten a clue when that same week, I got a separate “congratulatory” message from this same restaurant telling me I’d “earned” a “reward” for a dessert I don’t even like (they are few and far between, but they do exist – LOL). So let’s see here, I’m getting the “opportunity” to pay 99 cents for a food item I don’t like, one I probably wouldn’t eat even if it was free, and I’m ingesting extra calories and sugar I’ll have to work off in the meanwhile? No thank you! Honestly, I’d been contemplating whether to unsubscribe from this restaurant’s e-mails because their suggestions for food I hadn’t even been considering is moving from slight annoyance to constant bombardment. I can turn off the faucet to their cleverly-marketed “gifts” with one click – that may be the best gift for my health!

It seems simple, but every day, we’re faced with innumerable choices to receive “gifts” offered to us. It’s helpful to remember that just because something is offered doesn’t mean we have to accept it! If we actually take a moment to evaluate the pros AND cons before receiving an offer, it will help us stay aligned with the will of God for our lives instead of getting sidetracked, derailed, or distracted by ungodly, untimely, unwanted, or unwarranted options sent on assignment by the enemy of our souls. Whether well-intentioned or not, if a gift isn’t of value or benefit, it’s not really a gift. My prayer is that we stay alert and aware to keep and guard our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23) – not only in this Valentine’s Day season when emotions may be more vulnerable than usual, but each and every day. There’s no sin in responding “Return to Sender” for some gifts (or un-gifts)! 

“He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.”
(Proverbs 27:14)

© Copyright 2015 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Temporary Light Affliction

temporary – not permanent; lasting only a short time; momentary; provisional

Last week, I really understood the saying, “When it rains, it pours.” It was enough to learn on Thursday that my daughter had been diagnosed with tonsillitis and needed to stay home from school the next day due to high fever. This was after an unexpected visit to the neighborhood urgent care facility (which I’d visited last month for my son’s strep throat diagnosis). One emergency averted, right? Good. After delivering her home to my hubby with antibiotics from the pharmacy in tow, I found myself whizzing back to the office in the dark that evening to retrieve my laptop so I could work from home the next day while caring for my sick child.

After saying a prayer for mercy and leaving my car (and keys) with the valet at the hotel adjacent to my office building, I dashed through the lobby and into my building, past the security guard, up the elevator shaft, and to my cube on the eerily empty sixth floor. As I unlocked my laptop, an unknown number was calling my cell phone. I almost ignored it, but I answered it while trying to shut down my computer. “This is the Cabarrus County Health Department; if you ate food from this particular Papa John’s restaurant between these dates…you may have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus and need to get vaccinated at tomorrow’s clinic from 4:00-8:00 p.m.” Seriously? Like, right now, is this really happening and we’re among the potential 3,000 people affected?! Alas, it seemed that our pre-weekend 3/28/14 fun night at home with pizza had taken an unpleasant turn for the worse.

After a call to the pediatrician’s office the next morning, I was relieved to find out that both children’s shots were up-to-date, so they were not at risk – hallelujah! However, two more calls revealed that both my husband and I would need to get vaccinated. Ugh – I really don’t like getting shots, but that prospect outweighed a desire to be impacted by the disease’s symptoms, so up the road to the clinic we went, and into line I went to go under the needle and get my “bravery badge” that most folks call a Band-Aid. And so, another short-lived drama played itself out in our household. It came to pass…granted, I’m still waiting to see the “eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” that is yet to be revealed from this one. But I’m truly grateful that we were notified in time for the vaccine to be effective (one day later and we would’ve been outside the window); temporary light affliction indeed…God remains evermore faithful.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,”
(II Corinthians 4:17, NASB)

© Copyright 2014 by Kayren J. Cathcart