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

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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

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

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

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