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

Taking Inventory, Measuring Growth

What a full year it’s been; I have MUCH to be thankful for – and I’m sure you do, too! The “Watch Me Grow” chart with the giraffe comes to mind – you know, the one where a parent measures how tall their child is growing every so often? It felt like God kept His spiritual measuring stick handy for me in 2016, but thinking back over the year, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every step of the journey was preparation for what is yet to come.

In retrospect, God has kept my family through one transition after another, and I am grateful. One of the most significant adjustments was the mid-year 180⁰ career change of my spouse. Prior to that, God sustained us during a stint when my hardworking hubby endured a 3rd Shift role with valiant strength and dogged determination that ministered volumes to our family and friends alike. Both children are in middle school and are successfully navigating those potentially turbulent waters with the God’s grace, parental patience, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and protection. Were things perfect in my family this year? By no means – but I am a witness that consistently-applied discipline DOES indeed bring forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness! 🙂

I’ve put a renewed focus on my personal role within the ministry of marriage as we celebrated our “Sweet 16 Wedding Anniversary” for an entire month. As I committed to make my 40th year on the planet fabulous every day (and it has a wonderful celebration filled with glitter, laughter, tears, and joy!), I learned that a sign of true maturity is to admit the things I don’t know (and to be okay with it) – this was a liberating epiphany (especially since I consider myself to be a planner extraordinaire)! I’ve learned to embrace where I am at this specific point in time instead of allowing dissatisfaction to propel me to attempt to achieve some unrealistic and elusive goal that was never mine to begin with.

We’ve mended bridges with family members and friends, realizing that time really does heal all wounds, even though it doesn’t change the past. I’ve learned to extend forgiveness proportional to the amount of times I need to ask for it.

I’ve diligently worked on holding my tongue so I don’t respond before thinking (as much…trust me, this is progress for someone with my DNA – LOL). I’m doing this not through clenched and gritted teeth to “finally take that vow of silence I’ve been threatening forever” (but been woefully unable to make good on – it’s in the genes; what can I say?!). Now, this refined behavior comes from a primary desire to please God and to allow the fruit of the Spirit to be manifested in every facet of my life.

Sometimes we can’t see how much we’ve grown because it’s like waiting for a flower to bloom 5 minutes after we dropped the seed into the dirt – or more accurately, it’s like watching paint dry. We’re too close to the action to be able to fully absorb the progress. Yet, by stepping back with objective observation through a time lapse lens, we notice the flower unfurl, the seed begin to sprout and bring forth abundance, and our personal growth and development come forth according to God’s Word. I encourage you to take inventory of your own growth over this past year – you may be surprised to see that, though you’re not where you intend to be, you’ve far surpassed your starting point…and this, my friend, is indeed praiseworthy!

Join me in looking ahead to a new year full of promise and potential with joyful anticipation…God’s best is yet to come!

“20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
25 The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”
(Lamentations 3:20-26)

 © Copyright 2016 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