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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Latch Onto Flat Irony

A few years ago when she was an impetuous elementary school student, we bought my daughter (now a full-blown middle schooler) a latch hook set. Harmless enough, right? Read on, my friend…
It’s a hair thing – I’m sure you’ll understand…

It was a small, simple soccer ball pattern that shouldn’t have taken long to complete, and we thought it would teach her tenacity and persistence – along with giving her a sense of accomplishment – once she saw the completed product she’d created. We challenged her to finish it within a month…and then within several months, and then before we moved. I even threatened her (with what, I can’t remember…but obviously, it was an ineffective tactic). Neither challenges nor threats worked, and that latch hook soccer ball was never finished so she could hang it proudly on her wall or use it as a rug – or whatever folks do with completed latch hook projects. So today (after apparently unearthing some foreign objects submerged in her closet region), she meekly approached my husband and asked to use the internet. When he inquired the reason and she said she wanted to search for a latch hook tutorial – he seemed more than pleasantly surprised and more than eager to oblige her.

I courteously stepped aside from the household budget spreadsheet I was reviewing on the computer to allow her to conduct her own YouTube search. Sidebar: Since my son just entered high school and I can no longer get away with operating as Helicopter Parent-In-Chief, I’m making a daily concerted effort to step back to allow my children to use their own wings. As a matter of fact, I went to my room and started journaling about adjusting to feeling not-quite-as-needed (and rightfully so) now that my children are growing up into teenagers. Then I heard a knock on the door. When I heard my daughter’s voice, I invited her in. What she said next, I wouldn’t have expected in a million years. Really.

“Mom, I was scratching my head, and I got this stuck in my hair.” And there (in all its glory) was the latch hook tool suspended in air like a linear halo as her hands gestured towards the back of her head. Incredulous doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt about this unlikely and improbable turn of events. Like seriously – this has really happened…just now? Like, I leave you alone for 5 minutes in the dining room and you get a small metal object stuck in your hair? (Though I was grateful this didn’t precipitate a trip to the neighborhood urgent care – where I think we’re a couple of visits from achieving VIP status). Mind you, she has cornrows….in a bun. Yes, let the mental picture sink in. I could just picture myself having to take down 3 rows of braids tonight and explaining to people in public that we’re just hanging on until her hair appointment in 3 days.

I calmly stepped away from my journal and said, “Let’s take a look at this under the bathroom lighting.” As I got my small comb and began to extricate the hook from the first braid, I gently probed, “Did you not consider putting the tool down before scratching, dearheart?” to which she replied with a straight face, “I forgot I had it in my hand.” And what else would you expect from a middle schooler? Gratefully, this story has a happy ending: the latch hook was disentangled (expeditiously, safely, and without further incident) and the braids are still – for the most part – intact. I witnessed today – up close and personal – the miracle-working power of Almighty God. I dare say that when this soccer ball is completed, I will shout hallelujah, ‘cuz He’s faithful! Can I get a witness?

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
(Jeremiah 33:3)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Life is Like a Fireworks Show

On this humid Independence Day holiday weekend, I purposed to stay unplugged from electronic devices (and hence, my usually tightly choreographed schedule) and enjoy vacation in every sense of the word – especially physical and mental. It started with yesterday’s long country drive with my family – replete with taking in the cows, goats, and horses in various pastures green with nothing in particular to do. It truly made me smile. Tonight, my kinda calorie-free southern fried beauty included sitting in my wicker porch chair watching the fireworks from my front lawn while rolling my hair by the streetlight’s glow – priceless!

After returning from a lovely informal afternoon family gathering full of grilled yumminess and plenty of funny stories (shout-out to the Cathcart Cousins Council!), I decided to take in the fireworks before showering and getting ready to return to work and daily routine in about 8 hours. Little did I know that God had a message in store for me – written colorfully across the sky. So what parallels did I draw between life and a fireworks show?

Both life and fireworks can be:

  • Noisy – and then full of intermittent silence while gearing up for the next BOOM!
  • Beautiful – as many times as I’ve experienced fireworks, I never cease to be delighted by what I see…especially the sparkly, glittery ones!
  • Smoky – after the beauty, some things have to blow over…so just let it GO!
  • Unpredictably spontaneous – though I didn’t know what color combination or size fireworks would be displayed next, I still waited with bated breath for the spectacle of the next dazzling array.

So why don’t I appreciate these same characteristics when I encounter them in real life? Why are my feathers so easily ruffled by the unexpected and the unknown? Aside from the obvious answer of still getting over some traces of being a semi-OCD control freak…after 2 funerals in the past week (one at the week’s start and one at the week’s end), I’m admittedly more pensive than usual. But I’m coming to realize (that along with my own aging process – which is hopefully accompanied by maturation and increased sagacity), I have to become more deliberate in setting the pace for my day – rushing and busyness to a future God holds in the palm of His hand have got to take a backseat to intentional consciousness of the present moment.

Yes, the consummate planner in me has to take off her hat periodically and just breathe instead of always pushing forward. So as I approach the second half of this calendar year, I plan to incorporate these concepts for balance, serenity, and peace. It’s got to be better than mindlessly zipping along and speeding through on the interstate of life. I don’t want the cares, worries, and distractions of this world to choke out my ability to enjoy the abundant life in Christ. I want to be fruitful and productive, so I will actively practice the spiritual muscle-building exercise of casting every care on Him – and enjoy the fireworks…and the freedom Christ provides! What about you?

“And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the word, and it yields no fruit.”
(I Peter 5:7, AMP)
Casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].”
(Matthew 13:22, AMP)

© Copyright 2017 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

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

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