EXTRAordinary: A Day Worthy of Celebration

I just whipped up a sugar-free boxed cake to throw in the oven. At 11pm on a school night. After returning from a hair appointment and battling a raspy throat for over a week. Why? Well, in addition to nearing the start of our corporate Lenten fast (who needs chocolate for 21 days? rhetorical question, of course), I have so many reasons to be thankful on this standard, run-of-the-mill school night. Today was anything but ordinary.

This morning, I said goodbye to my family and stopped to get gas during my commute. In the back of my mind, I was aware that this was part of the franchise where a local teen lost his life a few nights ago. Before I arrived at work, my hubby called to tell me that our son’s school was being evacuated for precaution of a bomb threat. A few minutes later, my son called to tell me he was safe and that they’d be returning to a regular school day since the authorities had deemed the building safe within 3 hours of the evacuation. My son auditioned for All-State Honors Band this weekend and found out that he wasn’t selected. However, knowing that my child came home safe today meant more to me than him earning All-State designation. Some things you just can’t put a price tag on.

The old folks used to sing the hymn while tapping their feet on wooden floorboards, “Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings, see what God has done.” Today was anything but ordinary, and I am sincerely thankful. Overwhelmed with gratitude. Overflowing with praise and thanksgiving to the God Who is big enough to keep me and my family and everyone else in the palm of His hand and under the Shadow of the Almighty. My list of blessings is growing by the minute – how about yours?

Do take a moment to reflect on your own list…while I go pour a glass of milk, frost this cake, and sample my handiwork…because today was an EXTRAordinary day, truly worthy of celebration! After all, who needs a special reason for a warm slice of sugar-free chocolate cake anyway? On second thought, I’ll skip the frosting…this moment can be savored “as is…” and I’d better get to bed soon!

 “…but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me…”
(I Kings 17:13b)
“I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.”
(Psalm 69:30)
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
(Psalm 91:1)

© Copyright 2018 by Kayren J. Cathcart

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Lost…and Found!

This year, I’m challenging myself to do new things and embrace experiences outside of my comfort zone. Oh, the places I am going!
Though I tend to be directionally challenged and beyond map assistance, this vignette is not about ME getting lost (this time) – read on, my friend…

Memories of MPLS Feb. 2018

A fond memory from my first trip to Minneapolis in February – when I discovered the outdoor covered waiting area for the light rail was equipped with a HEATER! #euphoria #elation #southerngal

This past Monday, I found myself flying for work to a Midwest a city I’d never visited. “Welcome to Minneapolis!” the pilot announced as we prepared to land. “The current temperature is 0 degrees…” I don’t know what else he said after that; I must’ve blanked out, because in my southern belle mindset, ZERO is not a temperature. It’s a level of tolerance, but it’s definitely not a temperature. So after grappling with the decision of whether or not to get off the plane (I did), experiencing zero degrees for myself (I don’t need to do that again), and surviving the cold to joyfully return two days later to 60+ degree February weather in North Carolina (with much gratitude), I was grateful for all of the layers of outerwear that helped keep me from becoming a popsicle. I probably looked like a 5-foot tall Minnesota Yeti (do those exist?), but I wasn’t there to make a fashion statement – I wanted to stay warm. Mission accomplished.

On this sojourn into the wintry tundra, I’d taken my Isotoner gloves (given to me by my dearly departed grandmother, maven of classic style), so not only are they functional (and insulated!), but they have sentimental value because I’ve had this personalized gift for (at least) a decade. My gloves arrived home with me, safely tucked into the pockets of my fur-lined winter parka affectionately dubbed by my hubby as “the mini-bear.” I wore “the mini-bear” to Bible Study on Wednesday, and when I reached into my pockets after service concluded, I gasped when I pulled out only one. I feverishly dug around for the matching glove, asking people who sat near me if they’d seen a black glove lying around, and felt my heart sink as I retraced my steps to the car, seeing no lone glove laying on the pavement. Grrr…what good is one glove?

Anyone who knows me is aware that I react in similar manner when a sock in my house is missing its mate (baffling – if two went into the washing machine, how can only one come out of the dryer? Is there a sock-eating monster hiding in my laundry room???). As I continue to explore the conspiracy, I’ve started pairing my own socks with a safety pin before tossing them into the hamper – this has brought me some semblance of sanity from the mysterious disappearances. But this wasn’t a sock; this was the set of gloves given to me by my grandmother – and I desperately wanted to find the match. Thursday, it was so warm that I didn’t need “the mini-bear,” and I tried to console myself that maybe the glove would miraculously turn up before it got cold again in a few days. By Friday, I wasn’t sulking about my unfortunately misplaced glove, and had somewhat resigned myself to the fact that I’d enjoyed the pair for over a decade, so if I needed to purchase another set of gloves, I was in a position to do so (hey – making lemonade from lemons, right?).

Saturday morning, as I dressed to take my children to a science enrichment program, I put on my comfiest pair of grey sweatpants, reached in to straighten out the bulky pocket lining gone awry, and lo and behold if I didn’t feel my long-lost glove! I squealed with glee and ran to proclaim the glad tidings to the rest of my family (who stared at me flatly for two seconds before returning to their breakfast without a word, shaking their heads as if to say, “That’s just Mom.”).

Though they didn’t share my jubilation, what immediately flashed through my mind was how God must feel about the return of someone who belongs to Him. Do we diligently seek to save that which is lost and bring them back into His sheepfold? Do we have any idea of the sheer delight it brings His heart to see the return of someone restored to where they rightfully belong because they humbly receive the sacrifice made by His dear Son? May we realize that souls are more important to our Father than a missing glove or sock could ever be…and align our actions accordingly to consistently build the citizenry of His kingdom.

4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
(Luke 15:4-10)

© 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

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

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

Capturing THIS Moment: A Celebration of Life

LIFE = Love In Full Expression
Kayren’s “definition of life” – February 2017

The vat of cheap bubble gel I bought over month ago for a leisurely dream bath (replete with candles) mocks me as it sits by the tub…unused. Each day, I’ve rationalized that “a shower is quicker and more convenient” when I’m exhausted after yet another long day, but I know I’m just putting it off. One small but significant act of self-care could have slowed down my merry-go-round of life for just a few moments – but I let the opportunity slip through my fingers like grains of sand. Today is the day I needed a bubble bath most…over a month ago. Get the picture?

In the past month, I’ve experienced the unexpected passing of my father-in-law, the joyous wedding of my nephew, a reflective Valentine’s Day with my wonderful hubby of nearly 17 years, and the commemorative 14th birthday of my firstborn son. Whew – talk about a sentimental time! With all of these life events touching significant men in my life, I’ve been calling my own daddy a lot more frequently – and the support on the other end of the phone has been vital, timely, and greatly appreciated. To say that these life events have taken me on an emotional roller coaster may not be an accurate analogy. Perhaps the churn of a washing machine more closely describes the variety of “cycles” I’ve whizzed through (at an accelerated pace) in a relatively short time span.

Which brings me to this unpoetic moment (inelegantly – yet perhaps appropriately – orchestrated by my dishwasher droning in the background) that I’m capturing to do what I encourage so many others to do in order to stay spiritually and emotionally healthy: journal. My cup nearly ran over today as I teetered dangerously close to the edge (trying to look like I’m keeping it together but I really wanted to go sit undisturbed in a dark closet for a few minutes to savor the silence and stillness). My mental filter was clogged and I needed to download and offload the multitude of thoughts cluttering my mind, heart, and soul. Yep, I was bracing for impact as I anticipated the sound of me smacking the wall. Nevertheless, God in His infinite grace used His strategically-placed children to pull me out of the melancholy. Because I still have a job to do for the King of Kings. My itty-bitty fickle feelings haven’t exempted me from fulfilling my purpose or completing my assignment. So I get back on track.

And I rejoice in this moment because I have much for which to be grateful. From now on, I will think of life in terms of “love in full expression” – it runs the gamut of highs and lows, ups and downs, sweet and bitter, laughter and tears – and spans everything in between. Love and life are inextricably intertwined. And I’m learning each day that God intentionally designed it that way. It solidifies my need for Him – my utter dependence on Him for every moment of every day…not just when I feel like my tank is low or empty because I’ve come to the end of my own sufficiency. What amazing grace from an awesome God…worthy of celebration. Take this moment to render a heartfelt worship to your Creator; it will shift and align you back into proper position to hear His next instruction. At least that’s what happened for me today…

“18 When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
19 In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.”
(Psalm 94:18-19)
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
(John 14:6)

© 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