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

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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

When Folks Don’t Like Your Flavor

Some people love chocolate ice cream. Others prefer vanilla ice cream (though for the life of me, I cannot understand why LOL). And there are some who fancy either one, depending on their mood. I am fixed in the chocolate camp (preferably with pecans or almonds added!), while my hubby is firmly entrenched in the classic vanilla camp. Thankfully, this has worked for us with relatively few dust-ups in almost 16 years of marriage. Have I tried to coax him to “just taste a spoonful” of my deep, rich, luxurious chocolate ice cream cone and he refused because it’s just not his “thang?” Absolutely. Has he offered to share with me his delight derived from a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream and I declined the extra calories for its blah-looking plainness? Yup. Does it have to be a deal-breaker? Of course not (if you’re wise and want to enjoy a good marriage – ha ha)!

So I’m talking about ice cream, right? Yes…and no. See, in my humble purview (especially after the week I’ve had), personalities of the people who cross our paths can be likened to ice cream flavors. <Full disclosure: I have no professional training in psychology, but bear with me for a moment.> Some people like outgoing folks – and others don’t. Some hold in high regard reserved, pensive thinkers – and others look at them like visitors from another planet. High-energy and bubbly vs. low-key and demure; impulsive free spirits vs. calculated risk-takers; there are so many seemingly diametrically opposed personality pairings we encounter during the course of a day. But that doesn’t have to turn into a conflict or a clash, right?

It’s very easy to say “you shouldn’t care whether people like you or not.” It’s quite another thing to deal with it when they are making known how much they don’t like you. I’m not as “soft” as I used to be (thanks to “mental toughness training” from a father and husband who are both former military). However, as a recovering people-pleaser, I acknowledge when I feel rejected or marginalized. That identifying and acknowledging part I’m pretty good at. It’s the mastering it and moving on part that I’m diligently working on in this season. Because while I realize that everyone doesn’t like my flavor (or me, for that matter), I don’t want any person, thing, situation, or circumstance to hold a hindering grip or exercise paralyzing power over me, impacting my present and debilitating my future. I don’t want to plan to avoid a particular location at a specific time just to get around speaking (or not speaking) to someone who has expressed disdain for my flavor. Both chocolate and vanilla have their merits – it’s just a matter of preference. And both have a place…it doesn’t always have to be either/or.

Granted, there is middle ground (and no, I’m not referring to fudge ripple ice cream, because that weak hybrid just doesn’t make any sense to me – ok, maybe it makes sense, but I just don’t like the taste…and not because it’s viewed as a compromise for someone who’s dug in their heels on one side or the other LOL). Reaching across the boundaries of personal preference to understand from another person’s perspective is a start.

Kinda like the vanilla cheesecake I made last night that my whole family enjoyed together. Even though it had light cream cheese, light sour cream, and sugar substitute. So I guess it could’ve been viewed as a compromise…but not really, because I’ve never made a chocolate cheesecake, and I wasn’t in the mood for one anyway. And I’ll be the first to admit that the vanilla cheesecake was SLAMMING and hit the spot – even though I’m still loyal to chocolate as my favorite flavor!

How can you appreciate someone else’s flavor today? You probably don’t have to look very far – and the opportunity may even find you. Accept the challenge; it may be more palatable (and maybe even pleasant) than you expect.

A Neapolitan Postscript: Ya know, it didn’t even dawn on me while writing that there are some folks who like strawberry, too. <gasp!> God’s got us ALL…and THAT, my friends, is good news!

 “12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
(II Corinthians 12:12, 14, 17-21)

  © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Interruptions…or God’s Call?

Recently, I got a little ticked initially (ok, annoyed, aggravated, and increasingly irritated) by two separate “interruptions” during my workday. I caught myself thinking, “There are 3 other names on the list – am I the only one they can call to sign for a package? I’m trying to focus on finishing up this assignment by the deadline.” But after the delivery people had left my office, I realized that both times that day, I’d been privileged with a golden opportunity to share the Word, let my light shine for Christ, and give some much-needed encouragement. How self-centered of me not to see the bigger picture; perhaps they were my most important assignment that day!

I had prayed for God to open doors for me to share His love…and here He literally brought the people to my door, practically dropping them in my lap, so I had to repent for not recognizing the blessing in disguise. It went right along with the Teen Sunday School lesson I was preparing to teach, so I was definitely convicted! Are you despising the gift Christ has placed in you for others?

May we always be prepared to answer when God’s opportunity to minister knocks on our door and presents itself – even at those unexpected moments! I had to take a detour during today’s evening commute…but the blessing was that I heard about the accident two lights ahead of me on the traffic report just before I saw the wreckers blocking the intersection. I was so grateful for that “interruption” of an unplanned detour (that added only 5 minutes to my commute) since it meant I wasn’t involved in the smash-up – hallelujah! My daughter rolled her ankle playing basketball during afterschool (2 minutes before I arrived to pick her up today). While that was definitely an unscheduled weekday event (to say the least!), I had to be grateful that it wasn’t broken. Though it changed our evening plans and we all had to move slower to assist her, at least she could still hop on one foot. It’s all in our perspective. This week, I challenge you to embrace a divinely orchestrated opportunity that at first glance may appear to be an interruption – God has purposely designed it with His children in mind. He is at work…may we adjust our attitudes to work with Him – all for His glory.

 “3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves.
4 Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus [look to Him as your example in selfless humility],”
(Philippians 2:3-5, AMP)

 © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Contentment vs. Complacency: Expressing Gratitude in the Here & Now

Well, happy new year to everyone, happy Black History Month, happy belated 40th birthday to me (do I sound wiser? LOL), and whatever else we’d like to celebrate! I haven’t been on hiatus from writing (as attested by the accumulation of post-it note scribbles bulging the front pocket of my purse), but life has truly been rich and full. When there’s more happening than I can keep up to write about, you know God is at work! 🙂 Nevertheless, I’m glad to be able to send a quick shout-out of encouragement before attempting to catch a few winks…

In the midst of it all, I find myself in a somewhat unfamiliar place. Yet, it is a place God told me He had prepared for me – one where I am required to rest in Him and trust Him completely. Oh sure, there’s plenty of hustle and bustle going on around me, but He is teaching me to focus on Him alone and to not be sidetracked by the multitude of distractions that come to divert my attention from what is critical, essential, vital, and key in this season. To me, complacency implies “zoning out” or not being engaged in the present, while godly contentment entails intentional acknowledgement of the present in light of what is yet to come. Contentment involves preparation – and the process of being perfecting in the presence of the Almighty Creator.

So I’m doing a lot of introspective work these days. Trying to listen more effectively and talk less often – unless led by the Holy Spirit. Letting God’s Word sandpaper away any remaining residue that doesn’t glorify His holiness. You know, stuff like that. Which requires that I be content where I am in Him, and yet not complacent to the point that I won’t change in order to line up in obedience to His instructions. Challenging? Yes! But rewarding? Absolutely. What has your new year been like so far, and what is God speaking to your heart? Feel free to share by leaving a comment. Let’s grow together in grace this year, encourage one another in this daily walk of discipleship, and mature – all for His glory.

“Be still and know that I am God…”
(Psalm 46:10)

 “Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances.”
(Philippians 4:11, AMP)

 © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

positive (+) vs. negative (-): Are YOU Sitting in the Seat of the Scornful?

scornful – contemptuous, disdainful, disrespectful, mocking, derisive, disparaging, sneering
cynical – pessimistic, mocking, skeptical, sarcastic, distrustful, suspicious, disparaging, detracting, sneering, scornful, derisive, negative, misanthropic, scoffing, sardonic, scathing
sarcastic – ironic, mocking, sardonic, cynical, acerbic, mordant, derisive, satirical, caustic

As many times as I’ve read Psalm 1:1, I can’t say that I ever interpreted it to mean that I should search myself to see if I was the one sitting in that scornful seat. I usually focused on the “blessed is the man that doesn’t walk, stand, or sit with those folks” part. Until today, when I had to examine my current position in relation to God’s Word from a fresh perspective – stripped bare of any camouflage, disguise, or mask. Last night, I read Psalm 1 because I was at an emotional impasse and just needed to simplify some things. Since I wasn’t feeling particularly full of praise, I decided to start at the beginning of the book on praise. When I saw the word “scornful,” I looked it up in my concordance and cringed; I had neither comprehended nor appreciated how intense scorn actually is.

Over the past 24 hours, God’s been revealing to me how much of a “repeat offender” I’ve been in the scorn department. I grew up watching (and mimicking) SNL humor in the 1990s (or “back in the day” as my children remind me) – sarcasm, satire, scoffing, and cynicism at its best. I thought most of the skits (before they got utterly raunchy, tasteless, crass, and uncouth) were just plain funny. However, many of the laughs are at the expense of others, are less than uplifting, and are full of scorn.

After looking at the synonyms for scorn, I realize how “unpretty” this is in me. Today, I read a health and fitness article about what to do to stay on track with your goals. It suggested a good exercise: to choose a positive attitude during challenging moments by writing down 10 positive things that could result from something particularly negative or challenging. Well wasn’t this just a timely gift?  I had several challenging moments I could try this with, so I commenced with writing my list – or at least I attempted to. But after each painstaking entry I wrote, I had a surprisingly strong snappy, cynical, and sarcastic (= negative) thought to counter it with…which kinda defeated the whole purpose of the “positivity activity,” right? I kept seeing that half-full glass as half-empty, and I realized how deeply rooted this thing was in me.

Sure, people used to call me Little Betty Sunshine and accuse me of chronic Bubbly Personality Disorder. But I guess I’ve become a little grizzled by life (in a sparkly, glitterholic kinda way) and I see things a bit differently now. I’m still able to see the positive, but I admit that I probably focus more of the negative than I should as I age, um, I mean, as I mature. Nothing like editing oneself, is there? But I want (and need) to change this…and not just because I’m not getting any younger – LOL. Prospering (according to God’s definition) has a direct correlation with me not sitting in the seat of the scornful. In light of current events, it’s easy to be negative, cynical, sarcastic, and scornful. But as believers who profess Christ in us as the hope of glory, we’re held to a higher standard, and we have the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in the face of tough times.

As we continue to adjust, change, transform, and be conformed to the image of Christ, may we turn from scornful ways (seriously!) – whether in others or in ourselves – and find our delight in the law of the Lord, meditating in it day and night. I believe that’s when we’ll start living the real blessing of Psalm 1.

“1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
(Psalm 1:1-3)

 © Copyright 2015 by Kayren J. Cathcart

The Linguistics of Lyingese

fluent – smooth, cogent, natural, well-versed, eloquent, effortless, flowing

I recently reconnected with a young lady from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who speaks fluent French. I enjoyed taking 5 years of French in high school (merci beaucoup, Madame Burwell – je t’aime!), but that was a couple of decades ago, and it seems that Spanish is in greater use in this part of the country. So when her husband asked me, “Where did you learn your French?” I grinned broadly and with my best Southern Belle twang, I drawled, “Virginia! Why do you ask – do I sound country?” and we all laughed. After being in the US for just 2 years, she tells me, “Your French is good; I’m trying to get better at English,” as we both work to bridge the steadily narrowing communication gap.

We all know how important it is to speak the same language when you expect someone to understand you and comprehend the meaning of what you’re saying. So when God illuminated this statement to me, I did a double take: “Firmly REJECT the lies of the devil – truth is a foreign language that he cannot speak fluently!” This means that the enemy of our soul is miserably inarticulate and absolutely unintelligible in the language of truth – which is the only language God the Father speaks. There is no way to translate the devil’s foolishness into something acceptable in the kingdom of God! Therefore, we cannot afford to be passive about “not receiving” a lie – as saints of the Most High, we should proactively REJECT lies in every form and iteration.

We must be steadfastly convinced of the need to incorporate this mindset into our spiritual communications. When we don’t resolutely and decisively reject what the devil introduces, suggests, or implies to us (remember – it’s a lie, because the only language he can speak as the father of lies is Lyingese), then by default, we’re agreeing with our enemy instead of with God. And that’s a dangerous spot to be in. So ask yourself today who you rollin’ with…and who’s your daddy? If you need to repent and adjust your position in light of God’s Word, I encourage you to do so right now…

“42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
(John 8:42-44)

© Copyright 2014 by Kayren J. Cathcart