Sunday, September 30, 2012

When I Am Weak ...

When I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10b
There are certain times in life when this verse means more than others. 
  • Times when schedules fill up
  • Times when stresses pile one on top of the other
  • Times when you don't feel well physically, and wonder how you can do all you need to do.
Right now is one of those times for me. A lot is happening this week including a medical visit to Singapore, catching up with some of my work responsibilities, as well as planning for my daughter's 7th birthday party.  And the list goes on.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Not Your Average Geico Gecko

I haven't actually had a blue one...but I have had lots of other colors
I thought it might be fun to use one post every week or so to share something kind of light-hearted, funny, or depending on how squeamish you are ... appalling.  There may or may not be any spiritual application to these particular stories. I won't try to force one, but if it is obviously there, I'll share it.

I live in a southeast Asian country where there is no shortage of wildlife. That wildlife has no qualms whatsoever with adopting a "Your home is my home" philosophy. Consequently, my daughter and I share our home with a variety of creatures ... most of them NOT by choice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

God's Motive for Coming to the Rescue

Find on Amazon
After six posts about how temptation is very similar to an odd 6 foot tall feline who brings chaos to the home of a pair of bored kids, it is about time for something else. It is not an entirely different topic, though. 

Today, I'd like to share with you a chapter from my book From Captive to Conqueror, a series of reflections on 2 Samuel 22.   You can find two other portions which I shared in previous posts by clicking these links.  
In this chapter, a person who had been nearly drowning in stormy seas has cried out to God for help. God has heard and come swiftly and powerfully onto the scene.

And then ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What the Cat in the Hat Teaches Us About Temptation - Part 6

Hooray! The "cat" is finally gone! He packed up those "Things" and he took them away!

In case you have missed the previous Cat / Hat posts, we have been looking at the children's classic tale The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss to see what it has to teach us about temptation. What makes us vulnerable to it? What happens when we don't reject it at the start? How does giving in to begin with allow things to get out of control? Finally, we saw that all the warnings in the world cannot kick out the "cat" until we engage our will in the process. If you haven't read the other posts, you can find them by clicking these links.

Let's see what happens now that the "cat" is gone.

Cleaning Up

OK, so the "cat" leaves, but there still is a major problem.  The house is a wreck.  Lives are in chaos. To quote the fish:

“This mess is so big and so deep and so tall.
We cannot pick it up. There is no way at all”

If we choose to let the “cat” stick around in our lives, we are ultimately responsible for the resulting mess.  Depending on how long we allowed the "cat" to stay, and how many "Things" he brought with him, that mess may be enormous. We may have lost much that is precious - family, job, health, dignity, joy, etc. We are responsible for the mess, yet we are unable to put things to rights on our own, no matter how hard we try.

At this point, Dr. Seuss’s story ceases to have any parallel whatsoever to dealing with temptation and it’s consequences in real life. In the story, the cat himself came back and cleaned up the mess he and his pals had made.  He cleaned it up so well that the kids’ mother had no idea anything had actually happened.  In real life, the Tempter NEVER comes back to clean up his messes. 

That is why we need Jesus.  He was, in fact, active all along.  He was speaking to us through the voice of the “fish” in our lives, through our own conscience and the warnings of others. He was the one backing us up when we finally took a stand to kick the “cat” out. He is the only one who can ultimately restore our lives, and bring order out of the wreckage.  

Some of the things we allowed the "cat" to destroy may indeed be gone forever. Other things that seemed to be a hopeless mess may be marvelously put right again. Either way, Jesus is more than able to restore us to a life of joy and peace in spite of those losses.

We cannot do it alone, although we do have to be actively engaged in the process.  No one can do it for us, although others may support us as restoration takes place.  We may be able to make some progress on our own, but ultimate, full restoration cannot happen apart from Him.  

The beauty of it is, Jesus is more than ready and willing to help us.  He constantly and earnestly invites us to allow Him to come in and begin the work of restoration that only He can do. 
So what have I learned from the Cat in the Hat and the Fish in the Pot?  Three things:
  1. Listen to the “Fish” when he sounds the alarm that something is wrong.
  2. Kick out the “Cat” whenever he shows up.  Decide ahead of time to do this.
  3. Invite Jesus to live in the “house”. With Him there, we never face the "cat" alone.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10


What about you?
As we finish this series, have you learned anything new that might help you keep the "cat" from sticking around to begin with?

Do you find yourself longing for a "house" free of the "cat" and the chaos he causes? Have you looked at the mess and realized it is too big for you to clean up on your own? If you have questions about inviting Jesus in to restore your "house" and live there, please feel free to email me. My email address can be found on my About Me page. I'd be more than happy to hear from you.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What the Cat in the Hat Teaches Us About Temptation - Part 5

In the previous four posts, we've taken a look at the children's classic The Cat in the Hat to see how has strong similarities to how temptation works in our own lives. If you haven't read the earlier posts, you can easily link to them here.
We left the kids "looking down the business end of the mother of all messes". I believe that is a quote from the movie version of the story. Their fish has repeatedly sounded the alarm, but the kids didn't heed the warning. They were likely taken by surprise at first, but after a while, they may have been a bit impressed by the cat's antics.

Today, we will take a look at what happens when it all is about to catch up with them.

About To Be Caught

The fish in the story sounds a new alarm. 

“Your mother is on her way home, do you hear!”

As fast as you can, think of something to do.
You will have to get rid of Thing One and Thing Two."

The kids are about to get caught with their house in chaos. End of the line, kiddos. Crash and burn. There is NO WAY they want their mother walking in and finding those two Things tearing through the house. How the kids wish they had never let them play. For that matter, why had they ever let the cat stay in the first place? 

Those of us who have ever allowed the “cat” and his pals to have free reign in our lives know how bad that situation is.  We are about to…or finally have…hit bottom. What will it take to put on the brakes?

Here is where we see something new happen in the story.  The boy finally takes charge.  He gets his net. He takes action. He catches the two Things and makes them stop.  Then he looks the havoc-wreaking feline in the eye and says,

“Now you do as I say.
You pack up those Things 
and you take them away.”

The Will Kicks In
The boy’s will had finally kicked in.  He decided that enough was enough, and then some. Of course, the cat was not happy to be kicked out of the place he had overrun, but he had to go.  The boy didn’t apologize for kicking him out.   

Neither should we apologize to the Tempter for kicking him and his pals out of our lives.They don't belong. They have no right there unless we give it to them. If we have already given them the right to wreak havoc in our lives, we have the authority to kick them out.

We cannot kick out our "cats" and his pals by merely saying, "I know this is wrong." That is no different than the fish shouting his warnings.

Our destructive visitors won't leave if we merely point out what a mess they are making. No, those pesky "cats" will stick around as long as we allow them to stay, breaking families apart, wrecking health, and drawing us into habits and patterns that would eventually destroy us if allowed to continue. 

We have to engage our will, our power to choose, if we are to ever get rid of them. We must bring our will into agreement with the voice of our "fish". This is not easy. Not at all. But when you are "looking down the business end of the mother of all messes", the alternative is far, far worse.

Today, we have seen the importance of engaging our will and bringing it into alignment with our conscience. We have seen that the "cat" and his pals have no right to stick around when we actively choose to evict them.

Tomorrow, in the final post in this series, we will see that the Cat in the Hat metaphor doesn't quite work all the way to the end as we face the monumental task of cleaning up the mess left by the "cat".

What about you?
If you have been following this series, have you gained any new thoughts or perspectives on this topic for yourself? I am writing these posts for adults, but have they given you any ideas for using the children's book to talk to the kids in your life about temptation? Feel free to share any thought in a comment.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What the Cat in the Hat Teaches Us About Temptation - Part 4

In the last three posts, we've considered what the classic children's book The Cat in the Hat has to teach us about temptation. We've seen how boredom and negative feelings set us up for temptation. We've seen how when we are not prepared to reject something that is wrong, we often will fall for it. We've also seen how our conscience and other people sound the alarm when we head the wrong way. It becomes clear that when we ignore the warnings, we can count on a real mess.

If you haven't read the first three posts yet, you can check them out here.
Today, let's consider why merely knowing something is wrong is not sufficient.

The Fish’s Voice Isn’t Enough

When the "cat" shows up in our lives sometimes, only our consciences protest, but our wills have yet to come on board.  In the story, we find the single voice for what is right saying:

“You get out of this house!” said the fish in the pot.

Unfortunately, the cat was already there.  He liked to be there and refused to leave.  The kids had given him a right to be there when they did not kick him out from the start.  This was actually the first parallel I noticed between the story and our experiences with temptation.   

In the story, the fish could protest the cat’s presence all he wanted, but the cat was not obligated to obey the fish. In the same way, our consciences can scream all day, other people can warn us till they are blue in the face, but no one can make our personal “cats” go away until we engage our wills, choose to kick the cat out, and take back the house, so to speak.

Out of Control

Some people will listen to the “fish” at this point and take action to kick the “cat” out of the house.  They still have a mess to clean up, but nothing compared to what they will face if they fail to take action.  

You see, the cat has another trick up his sleeve.  Another “fun” game.  In the story, the cat runs out and then comes back in with a box.  In the box are two things that wreak absolute havoc in the house. 

Of course, the cat tries to pass “Thing One” and “Thing Two” off as being tame, innocent, friendly creatures that just want to show the kids a bit of fun.  

Once again, the fish sounds the alarm.  Once again, the cat tells the fish to “Have no fear!”  Once again, the kids are unprepared to make a decisive response.

“And Sally and I didn’t know what to do.
So we had to shake hands with Thing One and Thing Two.”

Once we are so far gone down the wrong road, we find that other things take over. We feel that we no longer have any choice in what we do, or say, or think. It seems that we HAVE TO do whatever “Thing One” and “Thing Two”, (whatever those Things are to us), tell us to do. 

This is the point where addictions kick in, full-blown affairs wreck marriages, health is completely broken, and compulsive thoughts and actions dominate lives.

Today, we have seen that the voice of the "fish" whoever or whatever you consider that to be, is not enough to get rid of the the "cat". Does this sound like a depressing scenario? Unfortunately, many people live every day in such a situation. Thankfully, this is not the end of the story.  

Tomorrow, we will see how bringing our will into line with our conscience and the warnings of others makes all the difference.

What about you?
Do you have a "Thing One" and "Thing Two" in your life? Something that you know is not good, but has a strong hold on you until you feel you are powerless to resist?  Have you perhaps had a "Thing" like this in your life in the past, but now are free. You may share anonymously if you like. Perhaps we can encourage each other to find freedom from the "cat" that just won't go away.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What the Cat in the Hat Teaches Us About Temptation - Part 3

In the post two days ago, we saw how bad feelings set us up for temptation, and if we are unprepared to reject the temptation, we are likely to fall for it. 

In yesterday's post, the "fish", a.k.a. our consciences, sounded the alarm, but the "cat" a.k.a. the Tempter gives us many reasons to ignore that warning.

Today, let's take a look at what happens next.

The Cat Wreaks Havoc

As we listen to the cat instead of the fish, we allow the cat to do more than talk.  Bit by bit, he makes a mess in our lives.  

Do you remember how it works in the story?  The cat began by balancing a few things on the tips of his fingers and on top of his hat.  Then he added more and more items to the balancing act, each time bragging, 

“But that is not all I can do.”   

It is the same with us.  Once we give in to temptation, we often find that just a little bit is not enough.  We want more.  A little more won’t hurt.  And then a little more, and a little more.  

Eventually, we reach the point where we cannot keep doing it all, and disaster catches up with us. 

“He came down with a bump from up there on the ball,
and Sally and I, we saw all the things fall.”

For the kids, the disaster came in the form of a messy house, things broken, bent and smashed.  For us, it can mean strained relationships, health problems, early signs of addiction, poor work performance, and so on.
“Now look what you did!” said the fish to the cat.
Just look at this house!  Look at this! Look at that!”

For us, whatever voices have been warning us that our particular “cat in the hat” would bring nothing but trouble might start screaming again.  

I told you this would happen!  
You made a mistake letting the cat get started in the first place.

In our minds, we might be saying, 

I have to stop this.   
This isn’t good.   
This is wrecking my life.

What are you to do when caught like that? There is a way out. But it's not easy.

Tomorrow we will look at the place of exercising our will if we hope to get rid of the "cat".

What About You?
Has there been a time when you ignored the warnings and found yourself in a big mess? Are you there right now?
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