I'm Not Crazy; I'm a Christian

Seeking Significance

As I begin this piece, I realize I may have addressed this area in one way or another in previous posts. I was prompted to write about it once again after experiencing a rather low point the last few days.

The past three years have been difficult for all of us. During this same stretch of time, both my parents passed away, I left a career I loved, and I moved multiple times. It is only within the last month or so that I’m starting to recognize my own face in the mirror. I’ve settled into a place where I’m surrounded by nature and miles away from the hustle and bustle of life.

In short, I’m finally feeling like I don’t have to be in survival mode anymore. So, naturally that’s when my body decides to process all the trauma I’ve been suppressing. It’s delightful!

I began reflecting not only on the last three years but on my entire life. (When I go, I go deep.) My train of thought then segued to the big question:

When I’m gone what will I leave behind?

Legacy. Significance.

I would venture to say most (if not all) of us want to leave something behind which lives on long after we are gone. In my humble opinion, the greatest legacy, the most significant achievement is raising a family. Notice I didn’t just say having kids. I’m talking about sowing everything you have into these little lives God entrusts to you.

I always believed I’d have a family of my own one day, but that hasn’t happened yet. Does that mean my life is insignificant?

It’s a serious question and one I’m sure many of us face at some point. As we dive deeper down into this rabbit hole, the next question might be:

What makes a life significant?

Here’s where I’m going to perhaps stir up some Kat Controversy, but that is nothing new. I believe the miracle of you being here renders you significant. That’s not just a Biblical perspective (though that should be sufficient), it’s also supported by science. Despite our advances in technology and medicine, there will never be another person exactly like you ever again.

Sure, we’ve got cloning and AI (both fascinating and terrifying to me), but even identical twins are not one and the same. You may be saying to yourself, “OK, so I’m one of a kind, but I’ll never do or be anything significant. I’m not famous or wealthy or anything like that. I haven’t got any special skills or something that sets me apart.”

How can you be significant if no one’s watching?

I believe with our social media landscape, we’ve gotten a warped perspective on what is relevant or significant. We’re becoming trained to believe follows, likes, and such are the yardstick to measure our lives by.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s face it, someone’s video can go viral for the most banal, silly or even ridiculous reason. Sure, they had 1 million views, but does that make what they did significant? I would offer significance should be measured more in terms of long-term effect rather than short-term reaction. The viral video may be forgotten three minutes after it’s been viewed, or it might resonate with the viewer for years to come.

It’s what happens later which determines significance.

Some of the most memorable events in my life came in small, seemingly innocuous moments: an unsolicited hug when it was most needed, a word of encouragement for no special reason, a hearty laugh at a funny story I was telling, just sitting with me in silence so I wouldn’t feel alone.

We may not recognize how significant someone or thing is until later on. Might I suggest we begin to change our perspective a bit? If we can agree each human life has significance, can we start to view one another and our interactions through a lens of appreciation?

Am I oversimplifying things?

I’m not saying it’ll be easy, and there certainly are people we encounter whose significance is appreciated only when they’re far, far away. We won’t get along with everyone all the time. And there may be some folks who we just don’t like, or they don’t like us, or whom we can’t stand to be around. That’s real. I’m not denying it.

I guess my point is if we can attempt to value each other, it’s a good place to start. If I look at you as someone significant, and you can look at me the same way, isn’t it possible we’ll treat each other with a little bit more respect and courteousness? It’s not a guarantee, but once again, it’s a place to start.

But what happens if we end up just living an ordinary life? If we never make headlines or do something special, then what? Was our whole life a waste of time?

Absolutely not.

Did you not read the part where you are significant because God created you? You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)

God doesn’t make mistakes.

Your life is already significant. But if you truly desire to leave your mark, start with giving. Give your time, your energy, your resources. Give without expecting anything in return. Give generously. And it doesn’t have to be money. There is blessing in giving, but never give to be blessed.

Though you may never make the news or go viral on TikTok, you never know how your small act of kindness may be significant to someone else. I can think of many times when someone smiled at me, and my whole day turned around.

Start small.

You want to be significant (more than you already are, of course)? You want to leave a legacy? Give. Share. Try.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. I’m glad you’re here because you are significant.

Look forward to hearing from you.

-Kat

 

 

When Social Contagion Consumes A Nation

Unless my math is incorrect (and it could be because I’m not great with numbers), this is my 60th blog post. Of all the topics I could choose to commemorate this historic occasion, I’ve chosen one which will definitely earn me my Kat Controversy moniker.

What does social contagion mean?

I’m so glad you asked. Before we dive into this, we should try to come to a consensus on its definition. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), it involves:

“the spread of behaviors, attitudes, and affect through crowds and other types of social aggregates from one member to another. Early analyses of social contagion suggested that it resulted from the heightened suggestibility of members and likened the process to the spread of contagious diseases.”1

There are fascinating articles and studies surrounding this subject. I encourage you to do an online search to learn more, if you’re interested. For the purposes of this piece, however, I think we’ve got a baseline explanation and can now proceed.

Up until the last year or so, I’m pretty sure I’d never even heard the expression social contagion. Now it seems embedded in the lexicon. As with many buzzwords or phrases, it has substantive meaning, but over time that meaning becomes degraded as its overuse deflates its significance. Once everything is being called that term, then nothing is that term.

So, what happened over the last couple of years to make this phrase so popular?

Here’s where the controversy kicks into high gear. Social contagion did not start in 2020, but in my humble opinion, that’s when it went to a whole other level. It was SC 2.0 on steroids!

I understand when the Rona first hit, we were all scared. I was working in healthcare in a nursing home facility in the epicenter (NY) of the crisis. I get it! We were blindsided and nothing made sense. But after a couple of months, still daily working in a hot zone, my coworkers and I began to wonder, “What are we doing? What’s really going on here?”

We cannot forget how unstable people became, chastising strangers in public for not following a mandate (not a law, btw). Some felt emboldened to say and do things they would never have done in the past. The collective began to take over and wanted to rule every aspect of everyone’s daily life with an iron fist.

Is that hyperbolic? Think of how many people couldn’t see dying loved ones or even hold funerals to say final goodbyes. Think of how many outdoor spaces were closed. Suddenly fresh air was the enemy? Let us not forget my favorite five-letter word: M A S K S. Even when compelling evidence questioned their efficacy against this particular virus, there were (and are still) those who remain devoted disciples to the cause. Anyone who does not agree with their belief is a heretic and should be shunned immediately.

Let me state this clearly. What you choose to do with yourself is your own business. If you feel better wearing a face cover, have it. Where it became problematic was when people felt it was within their rights to tell someone else what to do.

I remember scrolling through social media seeing viral videos of people almost (or actually) coming to physical blows, or engaging in heated screaming matches, at the very least. Live and let live and mind your own business were not popular mottos any longer. I blame the media for stoking the fires. I blame the bureaucrats and other experts for instigating and perpetuating the near manic level behavior.

Ok, but that’s just one example, right? Sadly, no. Next came what I shall refer to as the jabby jab. Once again, if you made an informed, free will decision to get it, that’s one thing. But far too many individuals were pressured, harassed, and threatened into injecting an experimental drug into their bodies.

Folks were told they’d lose their livelihoods if they did not comply. Read that sentence one more time. Once again, the mania spread like wildfire, thanks to the media and experts constantly poking at the raw, emotional nerve and fear. It felt as if almost overnight a mass form of groupthink hypnotized many.

Now, we’re halfway through 2023, and the remnants of the Rona and the jabby jab still linger. We’ve learned much as time has proven many conspiracy theories to be far from it. Yet there are some who seem, for lack of a better phrase, stuck in the past. Again, if you have all the information and choose your way, I can respect that.

My concern is that as the social contagion takes hold, you avoid or block out anything which doesn’t align with your belief. Unfortunately, one could argue the media and the experts are complicit in creating these echo chambers. They censor and suppress viewpoints which do not adhere to the agreed upon narrative, their truth.

But there aren’t any examples of social contagion happening right now.

Let me state upfront, I have no issue with adults making decisions regarding their bodies and their sexuality (unless their proclivities are toward children, which is and ever shall be categorically wrong). Advocating that young kids must be affirmed on every thought or idea they have concerning their bodies or sexuality, however, seems positively irrational. Aren’t you as the parent, guardian, adult influence supposed to guide them not blatantly acquiesce? I’m not suggesting we ignore or dismiss them. But when it comes to life and body altering decisions, where is the pause button?

Once again, it seems as if overnight the experts and media were given their marching orders. If you don’t go along with what they not only recommend but demand, you are the problem. It used to be you’d be “killing grandma”. Now it’s “your kid will kill themselves” if you don’t fill them with hormones and/or go through drastic surgical procedures.

We used to agree there was an invisible line no one should cross and if they did, the punishment should be swift and sure. That line was kids. Yes, unfortunately children did suffer, despite our unspoken cultural contract. Evil exists. But when that evil was discovered, there was collective outrage. We were angered and sickened by it, as we should be.

But today to even raise the question of, “Are we moving too fast in this area? Shouldn’t we slow down or just stop?” is seen as hate speech or something. It’s conform or else all over again. As terrible as the previous bouts with social contagion were that I mentioned earlier, this one is the most pernicious and dark. Because it has our youth in the crossfire.

Where is the secret meeting when it’s decided what the next thing will be?

Wherever it’s being held, my invitation must keep getting lost in the mail. Doesn’t it seem odd to you how quickly things change and how powerful elite forces attempt to normalize what was universally considered inappropriate only a few years ago?

The new thing seems to spread so rapidly, not unlike a contagious disease. The thing about some diseases is you can be exposed to them and not even know it. You can carry it and show no symptoms. And some are just lethal enough to destroy you.

I realize for my 60th post, it would have been simpler (and, perhaps more expected) to choose a light-hearted topic. But as I’ve mentioned before, I pray about what content to create. This issue of social contagion and its devastating consequences lies heavy on my heart. I felt led to share it with you in the hopes we can begin to recognize and redirect.

I’ll leave you with these words, not of my own, but from the One who created everything, the only hope for our troubled times.

(Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)

 

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:10)

 

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV)

 

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. May God have mercy on us all.

 

Look forward to hearing from you.

-Kat

 

1 https://dictionary.apa.org/social-contagion

Wait! It’s Just Click Bait.

We’ve probably all been there. Minding our own business, innocently scrolling through social media or emails, then something catches our eye. It might be a curious headline or graphic. Could be a pic of a celebrity we like with a catchy tagline starting with “Did you know…” or something equally intriguing.

Before we know it, we’ve clicked and are now diving headfirst into a mindless waste of time and energy.

That intriguing headline claiming to have the ultimate answer to weight loss or eliminating wrinkles or even world hunger was the shiny lure on the fishing hook. After wading through pages and pages of content or sitting through an intolerably long and exceptionally uninformative video, you’re left with…nothing. Let me correct myself. You may have the option to purchase a series of materials or join a program that will definitely give you the answers or results promised by the initial lure. You metaphorically wriggle yourself off the line before getting completely reeled in, but you now wear an invisible scar from your time spent on the proverbial hook. You swear you’ll never fall for that trap again.

But sometimes the lure is just so irresistible, you have to go in for a closer look.

This time will be different. This time I’ll learn who my favorite actor’s secret child is. (Spoiler alert: this actually happened, and I did not. Turns out they just used his face as the poster child to get suckers like me to “click here to learn more.”)

Click bait is just a contemporary version of “bait and switch.” An example of this brand of scam would be if a business advertises refrigerators for an incredibly low price for a limited time. But when you get to the store, they have none of that kind left and do their best to upsell you a pricier model.

What happens when you are lured in with false promises in real life?

I’m not simply referring to a salesperson trying to get you to overspend on an appliance or vehicle. I don’t just mean dating apps and other social media platforms where people can perpetuate a version of themselves which may not resemble who they actually are. I’m also talking about when someone we care about: a family member or friend, a trusted mentor or colleague fools us, lures us in with false hope or expectations, damaging our trust.

And what about perhaps the area of greatest significance, and the focus of this article, the most intimate and only eternal relationship you will ever experience?

Have you ever felt faith and relationship with God was just the greatest click bait scam of all time?

I understand.

What I will say to you is you weren’t presented with true faith and relationship with God. Let me take a guess at how it was sold to you. “God is love. Just believe and everything will be all right. Just say this prayer with me and everything will change.” You were drawn to this shiny lure, this promise of a better life. Before you knew it, you were flopping on the boat with a hook in your mouth (metaphorically, of course).

I said the prayer, and everything got worse! They lied to me. I was better off before all of this. I can’t believe so-and-so treated me that way in church. They told me I’d be welcome there. It’s all a scam. God isn’t real. And if he is, he sure doesn’t care about me!

The Bible isn’t click bait. It’s a lifeline.

Unfortunately, there are people and even organizations that use God as a means to an end. They say all the right things to get you, but don’t have his heart to keep you.

God knows how imperfect we are and how we will disappoint one another. I believe it’s one of the reasons he gave us his Living Word so we could read, study, and learn. It also gives us a place of accountability, a standard to be upheld.

Now let me share with you a real, yet very not shiny or pretty truth:

The day you accept Jesus is the last comfortable day of your life.

Can’t take credit for that. The late Prophet Kim Clement spoke those words quite a few years ago. I remember it being a very sobering moment for me when I heard them. He knew we deserved to know the truth. And the truth is when you say “Yes” to the Lord everything does change, just not necessarily the way you think it will.

You may go through a honeymoon period where everything seems to be going your way. You’re living in a kind of protected bubble or cocoon. That period may be short lived, or it may not happen at all. I can’t tell you if it will or won’t. What I can say with absolute certainty is your life will become uncomfortable.

God is love and He will never leave you or forsake you. Salvation is his free gift. Yet living out your faith in this life requires you working with him. Depending on what he brought you out of, you may need to change a little or a great deal. But if he loves me as I am, why should I have to change anything? You are loved and accepted as you are. But he sees all you could be, the best version of yourself, your fullest potential realized. He desires to help you see it too and, with the help of his Holy Spirit, make it a reality.

Don’t let temporary discomfort deter you.

Growth is uncomfortable. Change can be uncomfortable. Those are simply basic facts of life independent from any spiritual context.

You may have times where things are going smoothly, seasons of blessing and prosperity. But my best advice is to never get too comfortable. I’m not suggesting you don’t enjoy these times. I’m saying it’s important to realize everything but God is temporary. Life changes.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him (Jesus Christ) who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

I would love to say I’m right there with the Apostle Paul, but then I’d be a liar who lies. After many years, I’m learning to ride the waves without getting quite as seasick. (Sidebar: What is with me and all the ocean and fishing metaphors today? But I digress.)

There are plenty of scams in this world. Some even present themselves as faith or belief in the Lord. But just because it looks shiny and pretty, doesn’t mean it isn’t attached to something that can harm you. The best way to help safeguard against spiritual click bait is to read your Bible and pray for his wisdom and understanding. (And as a bonus, he might just give you the strength not to click to learn more about your favorite actress’s secret obsession. It’ll be up to you to choose whether you listen to him or not. Free will.)

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. And get used to being uncomfortable.

Look forward to hearing from you.

-Kat

Service With A Smile: Legend Or History?

Editor’s note: Let me state up front I have great respect for those in customer service. I learned at an early age I wasn’t cut out for such work. I don’t have the grace and patience. This article is in no way meant to disparage those who put forth a solid effort and care. I also know there are some horrific customers with unrealistic expectations and demands. I considered all of this as I drafted this blog post.

This is the tale of two different customer service worlds.

In the first one, you call the 1-800 number because you’ve exhausted all your brain cells trying to fix the problem or error yourself. After bypassing the automated call center (no easy task), you are warmly greeted by a gentle voice who introduces themselves, verifies you are who you claim to be and says, “How may I help you today?” You begin to tell your sad story, your body still tense from the stress of the equipment malfunction or billing question, your head nursing a persistent throbbing pain above your right eye. The representative listens attentively and waits for you to finish before asking a series of questions which surprisingly relate to your exact problem. You consider your answers thoughtfully while a tiny flicker of hope begins to grow inside you. Before long you and your rep are troubleshooting together and working as a team to solve the issue. Hope is now ablaze in your heart. You can feel the tension in your body begin to dissipate. You even have the strength to find a little humor in the situation. You both share a laugh. You leave the call, hopefully, with a resolution you are comfortable with, but even if you aren’t, you still appreciate the efforts of this brave rep. You thank them and wish them well.

I want to live in that world. Don’t you?

But sadly, there is another customer service realm. This dark, desolate land is littered with the corpses of broken dreams and shattered expectations. You don’t know you’ve entered this world until it is too late and there’s no way to turn back. This place lulls you into a false sense of security as you dial the number, bypass the automated call center, and are greeted by a representative. This rep may even exchange benign pleasantries and appear to be ready to help you.

Don’t be fooled. You are not in the first world.

As you muster the courage to tell your tale of woe, you can sense a distracted attitude, but you continue. Nearly breathless from the telling, you anxiously await their reply. Surely, they’ll give you some direction, offer some solution that doesn’t involve you doing all the legwork and bearing all the burden. Of course, it will all be covered as your product was purchased mere weeks earlier and still falls under the warranty. Assuredly, they’ll agree those overage charges can be removed as you’ve been a loyal customer for decades. As they speak you feel your mind scrambling to understand. But they said they understood and apologized for the inconvenience. Why is their option to fix the problem I didn’t cause more work and more inconvenience for me?! What is going on? Perhaps this is their first day. Maybe they haven’t encountered a problem like mine. You feel your blood pressure rising, but you try to maintain composure. Maybe they don’t realize how this option is utterly ridiculous. If I say it back to them, and they hear how crazy it sounds out loud, they’ll make it right. So, you say it back to them.

To your surprise, they don’t agree it’s a fool’s errand and there must be a better solution. In fact, they fall back to the script and repeat their horrendous option while feigning sympathy for your plight. Your blood pressure near tilting range, you raise your voice and restate your objections fighting every impulse to slip into excessive expletive use. But you don’t want to be unkind to them. On some level you feel for them. Though you are far from a difficult customer, you’re sure they have more than their fair share of abuse to deal with on a regular basis. You don’t want to add to the negativity.

Your words pour out in a mix of frustration and restrained anger. You finish and there’s no response. Then a minute or so later, the rep is back on the line. Did they just mute me? I’ve done business with them for ten years, and this is the thanks I get? Where is the consideration? Where is the support? 

Now you’re faced with a difficult choice: escalate with the rep (which will get you absolutely nowhere) or ask to speak with a manager (which will probably also get you absolutely nowhere). You resign yourself to your fate. You drop your metaphorical sword and cave to the hellacious and erroneously named option. You hang up the phone feeling rejected, disappointed and in desperate need of a nap. You’d like to think you gained some wisdom from the encounter, but you didn’t. On the contrary, at one point you could actually feel your brain getting number and dumber.

In today’s world, is good quality customer service no longer possible?

As I stated in my Editor’s Note, I respect those in the field. It can’t be easy spending your entire shift hearing complaints and dealing with unhappy people. I would imagine the salary is far from commensurate with the daily dose of aggravation.

Though I wasn’t a customer service rep, several of my careers involved managing client issues, even in healthcare. There were many times I was working diligently to help one of my patients in their recovery. But that didn’t stop an unsatisfied family member from accosting me with a litany of complaints. Most of the time, I understood. Their concerns were typically out of my purview, but I was the one who answered the phone or was the therapist. I was the first warm body who’d given them the time of day in a long while. They weren’t letting me get away that easily, so I did my best to listen and respond respectfully.

Did I miss the mark many times? Absolutely. Did I take their tone as an attack against me personally? Sure did sometimes. Did I often opine that I wasn’t getting paid enough to deal with all the drama? You betcha.

I’m not immune to acknowledging the fact that the conversation (on phone or in person) is two-way. Having said that, both parties should make their best effort to keep the dialog civil, but I believe the onus is more on the rep than the customer to set and maintain the tone. Placing the call on mute or hold may be an option. Just make sure the customer doesn’t figure out what you’re doing. Nobody wants to be ignored or dismissed, least of all when they’re already feeling ignored and dismissed.

Sometimes it feels as if no one wants to go the extra mile or even the regular mile.

I hate when I start to wax on about “the good old days” because: it makes me sound old, and they probably weren’t as good as my nostalgic memories portray them. But I will say I’ve noticed a trend for some time of people just not making the effort anymore. And I don’t mean going above and beyond the job, I mean literally doing the basic requirements of the job!

For some, they have a pervasive sense of entitlement. They genuinely believe because they showed up, they’ve earned the day’s pay. This is incorrect.

You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. (Romans 4:4)

 

For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18)

The crucial element to keep in mind with these verses is it is the worker who deserves and should expect their wages. It is not the person who shows up to work. Walking through the door counts toward attendance not performance.

I understand feeling why should you bother when others come in and don’t work nearly as hard and are getting paid the same (or better) than you. It’s incredibly demotivating. The temptation is great to just coast along and do the barest of bare minimums. I have certainly given in to that impulse at times. I just couldn’t sustain that level of inactivity. I’d get bored and the day would drag on if I didn’t keep moving. Despite my best attempts, I’d eventually revert to my normal pace.

I was raised to work. I believe there’s dignity in working. I’m not suggesting you make your job the cornerstone of your life or identity. But a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day does help build you up. Sure, some days you’re just thankful you survived in one piece, but still.

My parents demonstrated a strong work ethic, whether in the home (Mom) or at the office (Dad). As a writer it is more difficult to keep a structured, disciplined work schedule than when I was in the business or healthcare fields. But I’m trying.

There is also value and purpose in serving others, but don’t take my word for it. Check this out:

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

I believe this verse speaks to the concept of servant leadership. The principle is if you expect to lead, you must be willing to humble yourself and serve others. I would argue it includes the concept of not asking someone who works for you to do something you aren’t willing and prepared to do. Now, if you don’t possess the skillset to perform a function, that’s a different story. I offer it refers to menial tasks. Don’t ever consider yourself above them or they’re beneath you.

As a Christian, Jesus is the example, the role model for how to conduct ourselves in all areas of life. Jesus was a servant. Check this out:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

If the Son of God could humble Himself and serve others, how much more should that be our posture?

Is service with a smile a legend or history?

A legend implies it’s somewhat rooted in historical facts but has been embellished over time. History suggests it happened in the past. It’s not occurring now. I believe there are a few shining lights out there who still care. I’ve met some of them. They’re wonderful. On a daily basis, they make the world a little less awful for those they help. They even inspire me to not give in to my more cynical nature of feeling anxious over every interaction with a twist in my belly and a sense of foreboding and dread in my heart.

So, I end by saying service with a smile is neither a legend nor history. But I caution we are at a crossroads. If we’re not careful, there is a real risk of snuffing out the spark that still resides in some representatives. May all of us, regardless of which side of the dialog we’re on, conduct ourselves with respect, humility, and kindness. And perhaps one day we can share the legend of the dark world of customer service with those who never had to trudge through its muck and mire.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you.

-Kat

Happiness And Joy: One And The Same?

Let me begin by sharing what prompted my selection of topic this week. It all started with watching a short video. A young gentleman performed a skit where his friend (also played by him) came in and was complaining how bad things are and how everyone just wants to be happy. He countered by stating this quest for happiness was the problem. He then broke down how happiness and joy are not the same. It got me wondering.

Why do we pursue happiness yet find joy?

When I think of pursuing something, I think of an elaborate chase scene in a movie (of course I do). It’s like a fugitive on the run and I’m in hot pursuit. It may be slick and put on various disguises to avoid detection. It may try to blend into a crowd, so I can’t locate it. It’s elusive. In short, I’m working very hard and it’s basically leading or calling all the shots. I’m not really in control, am I? Sure, I’m tracking it and trying to predict its next move, but ultimately, the best I can hope for is that it makes a mistake I can use to my advantage. Bottom line: it sounds like a lot of effort on my part with no guaranteed upside. I may never catch it in the end.

Let’s contrast that with finding something. Is there any greater feeling than when we find something we lost? My body relaxes, my mind stops racing, I can breathe again. The panic subsides. The frantic searching, the retracing steps, the looking through the same drawer ten times is now over. I can dry my eyes (because I’ve usually had a complete, hysterical meltdown) and carry on. And whatever value I once placed upon the lost item has now multiplied exponentially.

Happiness is often circumstantial which means it can be fleeting.

Some may argue you can create your own happiness. You don’t need anyone or anything else. Can you though? Are you able to just wake up and determine to be happy? You can certainly try, I suppose. I’ve aspired to such a feat, and even attempted it a time or two. I did fantastic until I got out of bed and my feet hit the floor.

Happiness is a feeling.

Perhaps that’s its biggest shortcoming. Emotions are a tricky business. How we feel about anything can be subject to change depending on events, people, hormones (ladies, you know what I’m talking about). Happiness, like any emotion, can be transient and difficult to hold onto or maintain.

Isn’t joy a feeling too? 

I don’t believe it is. It’s often used interchangeably with happiness, but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. I believe joy is something deeper and greater than feeling happy. I also believe there’s a joy once found which can never be taken away.

I wanted your input for this piece, so I reached out on social media and posed the question: do the two words mean the same thing? I was so grateful for those who took time to respond. I read through each comment, and it was fascinating. Some folks felt the two were related. Others didn’t. Some tied faith into their definitions.

As a Christian, my faith infuses every aspect of my life. I try to adhere to what I learn from studying the scriptures. Some may call it a crutch. My respectful reply would be if you knew the best chef in the world put out a cookbook, wouldn’t you follow the recipes? Sure, your dish may not come out exactly the same as theirs, but you’ve got a much better chance of success than if you tried to guess all the ingredients, measurements, prep and cooking times on your own. Just saying.

You know I brought recipes…I mean receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

This verse describes where joy is found: in God’s presence. What does that mean? I’m so glad you asked. Many think you must be in church or some other formal religious environment to encounter His presence. I respectfully disagree. God’s presence can be anywhere, because He’s God and omnipresent. The real question is how do we tap into it? It’s not hard at all. I’ve been in His presence in my bedroom, on a nature walk, in a friend’s living room, in my car, and even in a church. The physical location is basically irrelevant. God meets us wherever we are. What I love about joy is I wasn’t looking for it when I found it in Him. I just wanted to get to know the God who created me and His Son who died for me. Joy just showed up as I spent time with Him.

I found joy when I wasn’t even looking for it.

From personal experience, I will tell you there is nothing greater than the joy felt in His presence. I don’t know if there are words to describe it. It’s beyond any emotional or physical high. It’s more than feeling happy. It’s a state of perfect peace, tranquility, gratitude, pure love. It’s amazing. I highly recommend you try it.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Can joy be strength? According to this verse, it absolutely can. How can that be? I’m so very glad you always ask such excellent questions. Here’s what I know from my own life. When you know whose you are, you can handle more than you thought you ever could. It’s difficult to articulate, but it just reframes your whole view on everything. When you know God loves you and Jesus sacrificed Himself for you, and you truly believe it, you walk differently. You’re so grateful and want to show your appreciation. You want to spend time in His presence which then fills you with joy. That infilling gives you a boldness, a strength, a security. It doesn’t mean you won’t face challenges or difficulties though. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Check this out:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3)

Say what now?

I’m supposed to call it all joy when I’ve lost my job and my bills are past due? Yes. But surely it can’t be joy when my child is rebelling, or my marriage is struggling? That too.

I know how crazy it sounds. The first time I read this verse I didn’t know what to make of it. Surely, there must have been a typo, or somebody took the dictation down incorrectly. Nope. Now if I’m being honest, I can safely say sometimes I wish the faith testing part was over. Can I just get my diploma and graduate? Haven’t I learned enough lessons? Nope.

As I stated earlier, it’s about reframing everything through the lens of knowing the Lord loves you and made you on purpose for a purpose. He allows certain situations to occur, some painful and some downright awful, because He sees beyond that moment. He’s all-seeing and all-knowing. It doesn’t make the event hurt less, but it gives us a place to go, a place to cry out, and a place for our faith to increase. The beautiful part is as our faith grows certain trials don’t hit the same way anymore. Once I learned how God provides for my health and finances (which is a whole topic for a piece someday soon), I developed a confidence in those areas. Doesn’t mean I still don’t get a little nervous when I don’t know how He’s going to come through. But now I know He will come through. There’s great comfort and strength in that knowledge.

Right now, you may be thinking this whole joy thing is pretty interesting, how do I find it? Well, we’ve already seen it comes from God and being in His presence. But did you know it’s also a product of the Holy Spirit? Check this out:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Can I just state I’d be eating that fruit all day every day, and I don’t really like fruit! It gives me some gastrointestinal issues. But I digress. I included this verse because I wanted you to see how much we all need the Holy Spirit. We can love Jesus and fear God, but the Holy Spirit is His very essence. I’ve said before it’s our superpower. When we say Christ lives on the inside of us, it’s His Spirit we’re talking about. When we ask Him into our hearts and lives, (because He’s a gentleman and would never force Himself on us) it’s an absolute game changer. Again, I speak from personal experience. I loved God and believed in Jesus, but when I was filled with the Holy Spirit, it went beyond next level.

He gives you insight, wisdom, discernment. He’s better than a conscience. And did you see the fruit you get to enjoy?! I mean, come on, who’s not in for some: love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Sign me up!

Does this mean I’m frolicking all day with those fruits just spilling out of me? Absolutely not. Are there still many areas I’m weak in and need more of His help? Certainly. What it means is all these attributes, these wonderful characteristics are available to us. It will always be our decision whether we partake or not. Free will never goes away. We always have a choice.

As I close, here’s what I see is the biggest difference between happiness and joy. Happiness can come and go. Joy once given to you by God is always yours to access. Circumstances may change, people may hurt or disappoint you, but you will always have what is sometimes referred to as joy unspeakable. It’s a joy no one can ever really take away. It’s an inner spark, if you will, an eternal flame. It can’t be put out by human hands because it wasn’t put there by them. And when you feel your light starting to dim, you just have to enter His presence once more to stoke the fire He put inside of you. It’s a fire of joy, of strength, of power. And it will definitely make you feel happy. But when the feeling fades, His joy continues to burn inside you carrying you through every good and terrible season.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. May you have a Holy Spirit invasion and get your fruits in today!

Look forward to hearing from you.

-Kat

Oh Me! Oh My! What To Do About A.I.

Artificial Intelligence or A.I. is a fairly hot topic lately. And who doesn’t like seeing a video with Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Little Orphan Annie singing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” to Joe Rogan as Daddy Warbucks? (And, yes, that is a real thing. Saw it this morning on social media as I was prepping for this piece.)

But I’m old enough to remember movies such as the Terminator and Matrix series, and I, Robot where artificial intelligence turns on humanity with devastating results. Shoot, I grew up with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy’s War Games. (Spoiler alert: never choose Global Thermonuclear War as your game selection.)

There have been great technological advances and achievements in every age. But to suggest that each progressive movement didn’t come with a downside, or some negative consequence is a bit naïve. As we moved into the Industrial Age, for example, people were displaced from their jobs. The same thing was true when automation took over manufacturing production lines.

Every innovation may bring a level of degradation or even devastation.

Does that seem too harsh? Think of factory-based towns where machines replace the workers. Consider artists who always created in certain mediums now competing with computer-generated and 3D printed imagery. What about when photography and motion pictures moved from film to digital? Or how about when music went from records then tapes then CDs and now exists primarily in the digital space?

Some careers just don’t survive the transitions. And some experiences will never be known by the next generation. I give you the following as an example: browsing through a record store, exploring each album cover and appreciating all the artwork, creative choices, lyrics, pictures, etc. Contrast that with downloading a song through an app.

Video killed the radio star.

That’s an early 80s reference I challenge you to research on your own. I lived through it, not only the song it came from but the world-changing time period when MTV was born. I was a teenager and music videos were everything! Sure, in the early days it was the same small catalog of mostly British and European bands I didn’t know very well, and the quality of the production left much to be desired, but it was new, and I was in for all of it.

Within a short period of time, almost every band or artist jumped on the trend. Now you didn’t have to wait for your favorite group or singer to appear on some show. They were in rotation 24 hours a day! Soon you had groundbreaking artists who pushed the boundaries and turned 3-5-minute videos into epic events. (Michael Jackson being one of the most prolific of the time.) It was “must see TV”. And we did. A lot.

These days MTV rarely plays music videos at all. Times changed once again. With the proliferation of cell phones and advent of social media, many users won’t stop to watch anything if it runs more than 90 seconds, let alone 3-5 minutes! It’s all about quick hits, short clips and soundbites. Is that healthy? How are our attention spans being affected? Negative consequences.

Now, let’s get back to A.I. and why I’m more than a little concerned about the direction we’re going down.

Technology is a tool. It’s neither good nor bad.

I used to agree with this sentiment. The same technology in different hands can bring about very diverse outcomes. Someone developing programs and robotics to assist in cancer detection or to help those with critical injuries should be applauded. Someone employing programs and devices to spy on or steal from private citizens should not.

Is there potential bias in A.I.?

It appears that way. (As one example: at the time of this writing a certain high-profile chat bot would supply you with jokes about Jesus if you asked it, but it wouldn’t if you asked about a certain other religious figure. Seems a little suspect to me.)

When the leaders behind A.I. suggest a pause, is it time to panic?

Elon Musk and other prominent voices in the space have suggested pausing the push forward with this technology. This seems a bit troubling, doesn’t it? And it sounds like all the warnings ignored by others in the movies right before the machines become sentient, take over and blow everything to smithereens!

These thought leaders and researchers claim they need time to get their hands around it. What now? So, what I’m hearing is those who pushed the little snowball down the snowy mountain are shocked that it picked up speed and grew larger as it rolled. And now that ball is huge and about to crush the village in the valley below. Good job, everyone!

See the thing about A.I. is it learns as it goes. Let me write that again: it learns as it goes. It has a powerful appetite and is a sponge. Its ability to absorb information and generate content based on any subject within a few seconds or minutes is already astounding and getting faster.

Will you be able to believe your own senses soon?

Well, right now I know Arnold wasn’t Orphan Annie, but what’s coming in a few months or years? Will we all be susceptible to deep fakes where someone using technology with the wrong intent will generate something so realistic that we’re all duped? Suppose that content is enough to create panic or motivate people to do something terrible as a reaction.

Along similar lines, what’s the likelihood of fraud and cyberattacks increasing? I’m a resident expert on absolutely nothing, but my educated guess would be leaning toward more likely rather than less.

What if A.I. decides we’re expendable?

That could never happen, right? After the last three years, I’ve learned to never say never. But I don’t want to leave you guys in a panic. As I’ve mentioned before, you can’t surprise God. Nothing has ever happened, does happen or will happen without His awareness. Because He’s the Alpha and Omega (beginning and the end), He already warned us of times ahead.

You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, (Matthew 24:10-12)

So, whether it’s A.I. becoming self-aware or other manipulative techniques, the Lord is warning us of a time when people will turn from faith, betray and hate each other. During this same period, false prophets will pop up everywhere to mislead many. (Thank goodness, none of that is happening, am I right? Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.)

How can we avoid being deceived?

One of the many, many things I love about the Bible is God doesn’t just warn us of problems, He presents the solutions. Check this out:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

What I read in this verse is if it doesn’t align with the Bible and Christ, run from it. (Think about this: down the road there’s a chance A.I. may become ambitious or bored and decide to create a new Bible. Will it be the best deep fake of all time? Who wants to wait around to find out? My strong suggestion: if you don’t have a Bible now, don’t hesitate! Get one!)

Now this next verse is both a warning and a comfort. Check this out:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Again, whether A.I. or other force is the catalyst, as a believer we are targeted. But God! If we remain in His word and in our faith in Christ Jesus, we will overcome.

As I close, my best advice is if you don’t have a Bible, get your hands on one asap. Don’t rely on an app alone. If you have one and haven’t read it in a while, dust it off and start reading. I suggest the New Testament first starting with: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

If you don’t know or believe in Jesus, today is a perfect day to get to know Him. He loves you. He died and rose again for you. He’s with you. And He is most definitely not artificial in His intelligence, love or any other aspect. He’s the Son of the Creator of the universe. Invite Him into your life today and ask His Holy Spirit to come upon you, so you can spot the deep fakes in your world from miles away.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you, and I’m not a robot!

-Kat

The Great Divide

United we stand, divided we fall.

I did an online search for the origin of this famous phrase. Some say it dates back to the Greek storyteller Aesop, known for Aesop’s Fables. It gained notoriety during the American Revolution where it was included as part of The Liberty Song by John Dickinson in 1768. We’ve also probably all heard the phrase: “there’s safety in numbers”. And Benjamin Franklin is famously quoted as saying, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Warning: If you found the first paragraph offensive, this is probably not going to be an article you’ll enjoy reading. I suggest you stop here. Continue at your own risk.

Unity isn’t a new topic. I imagine the desire to live peacefully and get along with those around us, whether at work, school, or home, in our communities, towns, states, even the country and the world is shared by most of us.

If that is true, it begs the question:

Why can’t we get along with one another?

Here’s where I may earn my Kat Controversy label, but I firmly believe powerful entities are on a mission to divide and conquer. Divide and conquer? Yes, keep us divided and battling with each other, while they gain more power and control right under our noses Keep us hypervigilant and focused on our differences so we can never find things in common, never understand one another, never unite. Does that sound like a conspiracy theory? What the last few years have clearly demonstrated is sometimes those theories are simply truths proven with time and exposure.

Let me state openly, I don’t want to believe there are some people who want to see this world end, or at the very least, no longer resemble the version we’ve known and enjoyed. I don’t want to believe an elitist minority wants to reinstate medieval feudal and caste systems where those who aren’t in their inner circle are treated as second class.

But just because we don’t want something to be true, doesn’t mean it isn’t actually true.

You know I brought receipts. (Any and all bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)

People use phrases such as: “it’s biblical” or “that’s bible” to justify many things or situations. Some may wrongly apply them. I’ll let you judge for yourself if what I’ve described above wasn’t literally prophesied through the scriptures.

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. (Jude 1:17-19)

So, in the latter days, or when this world is nearing its end (spoiler alert: it does have an end coming at some point which only the Lord knows), there will be those who turn away from the teachings of God and will follow their own selfish desires and divide us.

Well, that certainly isn’t happening, is it? None of us can point to a single issue where there isn’t an individual or group behind it driving a story not the story in order to advance an agenda, right? No media outlets are taking up the charge and reinforcing the approved narrative to keep stoking fires of division, separation, and now, sadly, even reinstating segregation in a new and still awful form.

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:25)

Anyone who has ever lived with family or shared a home with other people knows this verse is 100% accurate. I vividly remember living in an apartment at a friend’s house. As our relationship began to fall apart, it became increasingly uncomfortable and impossible to live there. I had to move out. The divided house couldn’t stand.

As a Christian, I sincerely believe the bible is the guidebook for life. I believe it contains the writings of those inspired by God to help us navigate this world. I also believe Jesus came to save us and he is the answer: the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Yet this verse, in his own words, always gives me pause. Check this out.

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)

But Jesus is love? How can this be?

I’ve come to appreciate that not everyone is able to receive the Truth. In other cases, some may just take longer than others to get there. Everyone’s spiritual journey is personal. For me, this verse means there will be those who accept His love and gift of salvation, and there will be others who do not. I hope those who don’t accept Him right away will at some point. Yet I realize some may never choose to do so. Free will is a beautiful, terrible thing.

I believe this verse speaks to the struggle between those who believe and those who do not. For those who have submitted their lives to the Lord, we are called to deny our flesh, our selfish instincts and impulses, in deference to how God would have us live. We believe and have seen how His ways are ultimately better, even though we may not feel that way in a given moment. But for those who reject Him, they are led by the whims of personal desire. Yes, they may be very smart people. But natural ability, talent, brains, whatever, can only take you so far. And sometimes it can take you to places of compromise and regret.

These next verses speak to achieving peace and unity. See if you can recognize the common threads. Check this out:

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

 

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

 

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:16)

What I glean here is three-fold: being like-minded, compassionate, and not prideful. Makes sense if you think about it. And I’m going to leave it there for you to think about.

So, is there hope for common ground in 2023?

I still believe there is if he is the foundation, the rock, the solid ground. Check this out:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, (Ephesians 2:14)

Earlier we read how Jesus said he’d bring division, yet here it says he is our peace. Can the two things be true? Yes. What I see in this verse is his love can tear down walls, barriers between people. I’ve seen and personally experienced how his love can soften hearts and change minds. I’ve also seen how his love can anger and frustrate those who aren’t ready or prepared to receive it.

I still believe his love is the solution and not the problem. I’ll leave you with this verse:

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

Leave It All On The Field

If you’ve ever played a sport or been part of a team, you may have heard this phrase or a variation. It means to go out and give it your all. Do your very best. Try your hardest. Spare no effort.

But what happens when you give it your all and you don’t win.

How do we handle when we’ve done all the prep work and we’ve given it our best shot, and we lose? We don’t get the promotion or win the game. The goal we had our heart set on eludes us.

Now what?

In springtime I can often be found in the stands watching college baseball. I have a family member who plays. I recently mentioned to him that this week’s blog topic was inspired by watching him and his team over the past couple of months. When I brought up the part about how to handle a defeat or a loss, he was quick to note how you go back out the next day and do it again. Sounds like the phrase: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

I agree with the sentiment but if I’m being honest (and I try to be), it’s the application of it where I fall short. How about you?

How do you process a setback or an outright defeat?

My first instinct is usually to run for comfort food and wallow. I lick my wounds and commiserate with myself over my misfortune. I might harbor some envy for anyone who’s achieved what I didn’t. I might rail about how it’s not fair and I deserved to win. In short, I throw myself a good, old fashioned pity party.

All this serves to do is keep me stuck. If I’m spending time in resentment, regret, confusion, discouragement, I’m not moving forward. If I stay here too long, I’ll talk myself out of ever trying again. What’s the point? What’s the use?

When a team is on a winning streak, energy is up. It’s all about keeping the streak going. The team can go one of two ways: either get a little too cocky and start to slack off or dig even deeper because they realize the streak may end at any moment. In either case spirits are high, and it doesn’t take much to get and keep the team motivated.

But when a team is in a slump, when they haven’t won a game in a while, herein lies the challenge. With each loss, individual and team confidence can drop. In this situation there are two ways to go as well: believe they’ll never pull out of the slump and it’s over or dig deeper and realize it will end and today might be the day. It’s much harder to get excited and hyped when you’re feeling low and beaten.

You need to have something to give before you can leave it all on the field.

I believe it needs to be more than a desire to win or succeed. I’m not against those drives per se, but for me it’s always more about the why of the what. Why do you want to win or succeed? Is it just for yourself? Is it to prove you could do it? Is it to boast or brag? Is it for the temporary rush? Is there a financial gain to be made?

These are all reasons. But there is a greater calling which should infuse everything we do. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)

So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

 

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

As Christians we are called to do everything to glorify God. Does that include giving our all win or lose? Yup. Every single time? Yup yup.

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. (Proverbs 13:4)

This verse is pretty self-explanatory. Laziness won’t get you very far. Being diligent, prepared, doing the work matters. Consistency and steadfastness help position you for success.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, (Colossians 3:23)

Imagine God as your boss or coach. Would we conduct ourselves differently if we were directly reporting to him at the end of each day? I certainly would. I’m learning to internalize my daily accountability to him. Before I lose my mind because things didn’t go the way I wanted, I try to slow down. (I don’t always get there, but we’re all works in progress.) As I realize more and more how my life is a representation of him to a lost world, I’m challenged to come up higher, to do better, to leave it all on the field.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Let’s not get this verse twisted. We don’t do good because we will reap the harvest. We do good because it’s right. When we give it our all, we may not win, but we have still done the right thing. In time, God is so faithful, He will bless us. But that shouldn’t be the reason we continue to try. If we’re motivated to do because of what we’ll get, we’re in the wrong mindset.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3)

I’m closing with this verse because I believe it’s an important key to this whole topic. Before we prep, before we go out and give it our all, we need to commit whatever it is to God. If we’re on a team, we should commit our involvement with it to him first. If we’re going for career or personal advancement, we need to commit it to him first.

We can have dreams, aspirations, plans. He establishes. Commit to him and then go out and leave it all on the field.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

The Company You Keep

You’re known by the company you keep.

You’re “guilty by association”.

We’ve probably heard or used these phrases or similar ones. It is true how we spend our time and who we spend it with has a direct impact on our lives.

Friendships usually begin with a common interest or other binding factor. We’re drawn to those we feel are like minded. I’ve even referred to some as kindred spirits. It’s comforting to find a connection with another person or group. Deep down we all want to belong. No one really wants to be alone all the time. Even those of us who are content with our solitude want the option to be social. We want to know there’s at least one person out there who cares for us.

Sometimes our family can be our closest friends. Other times, they may not be. In fact, we may long to have close friends to help us deal with our family struggles.

Friendships can help us build, keep us stuck, or even wreck us.

At different seasons of my life, I’ve been close with people who weren’t necessarily bad, but their influence in my life wasn’t the best for me. I was initially drawn to them because we had something in common. I felt so comfortable around them. The problem was that what we shared weren’t all healthy traits. If we discovered we both enjoyed cocktails a bit too much or going out and wasting money, sometimes that became our focus. If one of us was going through a difficult time, the other one might feed into the chaos, rather than trying to diffuse it. We weren’t bringing out the best in each other anymore.

Your close circle can make or break you.

I know that seems dramatic to write, but it is true. The more time you spend around someone, the more you tend to rub off on each other. Human nature being fallen as it is, if we’re not careful, we won’t bring out the best or elevate each other. What started as a promising relationship may just end up at the lowest common denominator. Neither one is better for it; one or both may actually be worse off than before.

If you have goals and aspirations, your circle should reflect it.

In some ways, the older you get, the easier it is to recognize when a relationship is coming to an end. By the same token, I also have close friends I’ve had in my life for decades.

Your friendships should not only reflect where you are in your life, but also where you want to be. This doesn’t mean if you want to pursue a certain career you can only be friends with someone who wants the same career. Of course not. But what it does mean is you need to connect with people who are motivated. You want to surround yourself with those who are working toward something. Whatever their something may be. You won’t get motivation hanging around lazy people.

If you’re looking to improve your finances, you may not want to be close with people who can’t control their spending. I’m not saying you can’t be friends with them, but you may need to limit your exposure to them to make sure the relationship doesn’t hold you back or keep you stuck where you don’t want to be.

Yes, we are all individuals and capable of free will. But we are not immune to influence.

You need to periodically take inventory of your close bonds with other people: be they family, friends, or friends who are like family. Are you better off being in those relationships? Are they balanced?

Sometimes we stay connected to people because we don’t know how to leave.

We’ve known them for so long, or they were so important to us during a difficult time in our lives, or any other reason. But assessing our connections to others is critical for growth and maturity. Learning when to stay or go, how much time to dedicate, knowing its value, these are all keys.

Friendship matters. I know this because the Lord took time to discuss it at length in the scriptures. You know I brought receipts. I’m going to share several verses here, but there are so many more. I encourage you to explore them all on your own. (Any and all bible verses, unless otherwise are indicated, are from biblegateway.com NIV, emphasis added.)

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

This verse may be where the expression being guilty by association originated. Even if you aren’t yet compromised in some area, if you spend time with others who are known to be, you’ll get the same reputation. You may not even deserve the label, but you’ll probably get it anyway.

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (Proverbs 22:24-25)

I can absolutely tell you from personal experience this is true. I tend to be loud and confrontational. (I know you’re shocked.) If I’m around someone who also tends to be that way, we may find ourselves in a bad situation. Without someone to bring down the temperature, it can get pretty ugly.

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Proverbs 12:26)

When we’re younger, we can make friends easily. But with age should come wisdom and discernment. I now believe in being friendly with many but only friends with a few.

What are the qualities of a good friend?

I’m so glad you asked. Because God is all about balance, He doesn’t just tell us what to avoid. He gives direction on what to look for as well. And not just what to look for in others but what we should develop within ourselves. Check these verses out.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 NKJV)

Who are your people who’ve seen you at your worst and still stuck around? Who can you call when it all goes horribly wrong? Who is willing to stand by your side through it all? Are you willing to be there for another? Will you stand with someone when they need you?

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. (Proverbs 27:9)

Who can you lean on for wise counsel? Are you quick to listen and slow to speak when someone in your life needs a friend?

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

This verse is speaking of Jesus. He is a friend like no other. If you’re reading this and wonder who cares about you, let me tell you HE DOES! He is my best friend. He can be yours too. He will never leave you or forsake you.

He is also the example of a true friend. Check this out.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

Will you accept His friendship today? Will you open your heart and let Him come into your life? It’s a decision I made over 25 years ago. I’ve never regretted it. It doesn’t mean my life hasn’t had struggles. But I know He’s with me. Even when everyone I love wasn’t there, He was.

My friends are wonderful. I am blessed. But we are all fallible. We will disappoint one another at some point. The only One who has never disappointed me is the Lord.

I look to how He treated His friends as my example. I fall short every day, but I keep trying. Because He is the constant in my close circle, I can do all things as He strengthens me. He can be all that and more for you too.

Check your circle. It’s not complete until He’s at the center of it.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

Hierarchy vs Hypocrisy And How It Relates To Easter

I’ve wanted to do a post for some time regarding the distinctions between hierarchy and hypocrisy. As I was preparing to write on this subject, I realized it would be going up during Easter week. I hesitated for a moment. Should I switch to something more relevant to Jesus’s death and resurrection? I wondered.

As I was praying and contemplating my next step, it occurred to me how often the Bible calls people out for being hypocrites. (If you do a quick online search, you’ll find at least a dozen references, usually said by Jesus.) The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize the conversation of hierarchy vs hypocrisy and Jesus’s story are connected.

Before we proceed, we should first come to a consensus on our definitions of hierarchy and hypocrisy. Hierarchy can be a group of people in authority. It can also be used to describe the various levels or rankings of those within a group. Hypocrisy is essentially where you claim to believe in something and hold others accountable to that standard, yet you do not actually believe it and often don’t conform to the standard or edict you’ve imposed on others. It can also be a demonstration of fake piety or virtue.

Jesus called many religious leaders and people in authority hypocrites. (Don’t believe me? Great. Do an online search for yourself. Might I suggest starting with the gospel of Matthew, chapter 23?) Here’s a sample from it. Check this out. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com NIV, emphasis added.)

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So, you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 23:1-4)

 

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13-14)

Perhaps you’ve heard or even used the phrase, “Practice what you preach.” Spoiler alert: this is where it came from. (Sidebar: you’d be amazed how many common phrases and sayings have their origin or a root form from the Bible. Maybe there’s something to this Book after all?)

Is there a difference between hierarchy and hypocrisy?

I would say this about that: you don’t have to be in a hierarchy to be a hypocrite, but it sure helps. Let’s take the verses above as an example. Jesus had many disagreements with the religious leaders of his day. They had established an order in which they were at the top. As such they were responsible for educating and instructing the rest of the people. The problem was many let their God-given responsibility turn into a power trip. They became more and more disconnected with the very people who looked to them for help and guidance. They became an almost elitist class.

Once you separate yourself from your fellow man or woman, you are capable of doing almost anything.

Is that too bold or controversial to write? Perhaps, but is it wrong? If you begin the abhorrent process of othering a person or group, you’re well on your way to making terrible, hurtful decisions. If you see your fellow person as less than you, because they’re not: as smart as you, as wealthy as you, as whatever as you, that’s a huge red flag.

There but for the grace of God go any of us.

If you begin to believe your own hype, and not realize that there but for the grace of God go I, when you see another in a lesser state than you, watch out. If you use phrases such as, “I would never…”, be careful. I know whereof I speak. When I’ve thought myself better than someone else because of something they were doing, I learned painfully how quickly roles can reverse. A few years down the road and some poor decisions later, I was doing the very thing I’d said I’d never do and judged someone so harshly for doing.

No one is exempt.

It’s not hyperbole to state our world is in major trouble. If we step out of the divisiveness being crammed down our throats every minute, we may be able to see a bigger picture. Could it be there are those in a hierarchy, those with lots of money and power who truly believe they are better than the rest of us? Perhaps this small group of elitists have decided only they are capable of ruling and reigning. So, they keep us commoners busy with distractions and infighting as they slowly, then quickly, take over everything.

If hypocrisy is holding someone to a standard you don’t uphold yourself, are they not guilty of that times a billion? But they would never see themselves as hypocrites. Why? Because they believe in their hierarchy. They are at the top. We are at the bottom. There are two different worlds: the one they demand we exist within and the other one where they prosper and enjoy all the perks. These worlds are separate and distinct.

To say some may even harbor a God-like delusion is putting it mildly. They are so disconnected from reality, they have no fear one day the roles may reverse. They cannot imagine a situation where they won’t be in charge.

It’s safe to say many of the religious leaders of Jesus’s time had a similar comfortable outlook. They had little to no reason to believe there would ever be a challenge to their power structure. Sure, there were religious zealots and the occasional “false prophet” within their communities. Everyone was subject to powerful Roman authorities. It wasn’t an easy time for anyone. But many in the hierarchy were living far better than their countrymen. They had a firmly entrenched power and financial structure, and they were going to keep it at all costs.

Earning wealth is not a bad thing. Having a sense of entitlement is.

Those who earn their money through honest means are welcome to it. They earned it. But when a sense of entitlement, of believing because you’re so-and-so or you did such-and-such you deserve something is a problem. Your money, your degree, your whatever doesn’t make you better than someone else. Use what you’ve been given or earned wisely.

Jesus messed with the hierarchy.

You have this religious order governing the citizens. Now here comes this upstart carpenter’s son from Nazareth, a nobody, questioning and challenging their authority. At first, they figured he was just another false prophet. He’d create a little stir but soon enough his influence would wane. He’d be forgotten by the people before too long.

They were so very, very wrong.

Once they realized he was a bigger problem than they could have imagined, they were determined to get rid of him. He wasn’t afraid of them. He wasn’t intimidated by them. He saw them for who they really were: hypocrites.

Some religious leaders hated Jesus so much, they planned ways to have him killed.

For those of you who know the story, one of their plots actually came to fruition. Jesus was betrayed, arrested by the Romans, beaten to near death, and later crucified. The hierarchy must have rejoiced on that day. They put an end to this rabble rouser, this nothing. They were the ones who knew best, not this foolish man. Now things could get back to normal. The hierarchy could resume business as usual.

Except that isn’t exactly what happened now, is it?

Here we are thousands of years later, and the words of Jesus still resonate throughout the world despite the best efforts by some to stop it. Because though he willingly took up his cross and died for us, that was not the end of his story or ours.

Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and lives forevermore.

If you think about it, Jesus came from the highest hierarchy of all time. God the Father, His Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. If there was ever anyone who could rightly claim to be better or above others, it was him! Yet, he came to us in a lowly state, born in a manger. He lived a simple, modest life. He didn’t die a man of wealth, yet he rose as the King of Kings.

He came to save us. The greatest hierarchy used their power to fix the breach of sin we caused ourselves. Jesus lived as one of us to better understand humanity from the inside. What elite mind is willing to humble themselves like he did? I daresay none.

This is why they may pretend to be gods, but they will never be like God.

I wish everyone who celebrates a very Happy Easter. If you don’t know the story of Jesus and his great love for humanity, I encourage you to read it today. His story is for everyone at every time. His story is for you.

He loves you. He died and rose again for you. He’s no hypocrite.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

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