A Step Above The One Below

Two years ago, I bought a Fitness Tracker that syncs to my phone and records my daily activity.  My tracker runs on a watch battery and is fully waterproof allowing me to wear it 24/7.  The only time I take it off is to move it to my ankle when I’m biking and treadmill walking. I want every step to count!  The difference it makes wearing it on my ankle versus my wrist during workouts is roughly15,000 steps.

A few weeks ago, after I’d completed a grueling two-hour workout, I realized I’d neglected to transfer my fitness band to my ankle. Checking my wrist, I was disappointed to see I’d only recorded slightly over 4,000 steps; a mere fraction of an average workout.  Feeling crushed, it felt as if the last two hours were a complete waste of time – like I’d done nothing at all.

I nursed my anger for a bit until it dawned on me that not having a high number on my tracker in no way negated the work I’d done. My effort was the same with or without an activity number validation. My body benefitted from the exercise just the same.

Not for the first time, I’d been duped by the enemy whose sole job is to negate everything positive in our daily lives.

The enemy likes to minimize the good we do in life while maximizing our faults and failures. He taunts us into believing that our volunteer time is too little; our tithing inefficient or sporadic; our Bible study or daily devotions are ineffective; our prayers too lame or our church attendance irregular. All of these negative signals can make us feel as if our salvation is sketchy at best.

Satan wants us to believe that whatever we are doing for the Lord is all for naught and we are wasting our time.  But I like to say that just because I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast three weeks ago doesn’t discount the fact that my meal provided nourishment for my physical body. In the same way, each time we give to the Lord – be it through Scripture reading, volunteering our time, the giving of our finances or encouraging someone who is struggling -- we are feeding our spiritual body, and God is pleased with us.

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

While we may have a powerful enemy, we have an even more powerful Savior who reminds us that “Greater is He that is in us, than He that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) If you hear the enemy whisper that you are wasting your time with spiritual pursuits, feel free to tell him, “Get behind me, Satan!”  Anything we do for the Lord is a good thing!

Kathy Kurlin
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Fuel Your Fear or Feed Your Faith

For nine long months, I was blessed to watch in amazement as my youngest daughter grew a tiny human in her belly.  After watching this precious little girl fight her way into the world, I find that I am already fiercely protective of my granddaughter – as I was with all my children. That “mother bear” protective instinct we women possess must surely begin with conception. It’s only natural since the odds of everything syncing up in perfect harmony in order to create life are nothing short of miraculous!

Even once conception takes place, there are about a bazillion things that can go wrong in utero and then again during the actual birth process … and the first few hours … weeks … months and years of life. There are in fact, so many disasters that can occur in this life, it’s a wonder ANY of us survive without being institutionalized from a constant state of panic.  Those Facebook horror stories about all the tragedies that can befall our babies, toddlers, teenagers, grown children, loved ones, etc.  designed to install chronic worry in us are doing their job. After all, the Internet -- the source of all wisdom and knowledge -- doesn’t lie! Or does it?

In truth, there ARE a bevy of things to worry about from the moment we know we’re going to become parents or grandparents. But worry and fear, are in fact, counterproductive to faith and serve no purpose other than robbing us of the peace that passes all understanding.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.(Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

Giving in to fear and worry is the complete opposite of faith – yet so many of us have a hard time relinquishing control of our children, our family, ourselves and our lives completely over to Jesus.

The illusion we harbor believing WE are in control of our lives is just that … an illusion. God was, is and always shall be the One in control of this life. Simply stated, when we choose to live driven by fear or worry, we are living in sin … and it’s a colossal waste of time.

Each time I’m tempted to worry or fret over my children or grandchildren, I focus on Scriptures that remind me that God knit my children together in my womb (Psalm 139:13); and that God has a good plan for my children to give them hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11); and God did not give us [ME] a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Are YOU worrying overly much about your children or grandchildren?  Instead of worrying – give your worries to God and chew on the nourishment of Scripture that feeds your soul instead of fueling your fears.

 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:26 NIV)

Kathy Kurlin
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Double “Feet-tures”

Years ago, my daughter used to tell me I had such perfect looking feet, I should become a professional foot model. Whenever we shoe shopped together, every sandal I tried on looked amazing on my perfectly formed feet that were free from bunions, corns or any manner of foot-related defect.

My feet are still pretty cute, but what looks good on the outside is hiding a plethora of problems on the inside.  I’ve suffered for many years from plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and arthritis.  Any one of these problems is extremely painful alone but all three combined have created a trifecta of trouble and debilitating pain that can at times be off the charts. But still – these are nice looking feet.

God in His goodness has taught me that like my unseen foot pain, every day we are likely to encounter people who are hurting and broken inside – even though on the outside, they may appear happy and put together.

The fact is, EVERYONE has a story of some kind. No one escapes this life completely unscathed and untouched by trouble or trials. So even when someone may say, “I’m fine,” that may not always be the case.

In this fast-paced, rat-race, running on empty, crazy world we live in, it can be difficult to take the time to listen to what people may not be saying when their lips are moving. God tells us in Colossians 3:12: … Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

It can be tempting to concentrate on our own problems and live in a bubble of self-preservation and ignore those around us. But when God tells us “clothe ourselves with compassion,” this implies action on our part. When we get dressed every day, we PUT our clothes on our bodies. We don’t wake up fully dressed --we have to physically make an effort to put on our shirts, shorts and shoes. In the same way, we have to make a conscious effort to put on compassion and kindness.

The signs that someone may be hurting are limitless.

A forced smile from that snarky cashier; the waiter who is distracted and gets our order wrong; the co-worker who snaps at us for a simple error.

We can never know the effort someone may put into covering up what could be festering inside of them.

It may be easier for us to ignore the subtleties of a hurting heart, but in order to become more Christ-like in our behavior we must PUT ON compassion and kindness ... a great double feature of God’s love.  It’s never too late to jump in with both feet and make an effort to care! Otherwise … what’s the point of calling ourselves Christians?

*For further study, read The Parable of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.

Kathy Kurlin
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Bitter Beauty

A few months ago, I watched an interview program with a former Olympic ice skater.  Caught up in a skating scandal more than 20 years ago, this woman was forced to resign from the U.S. Figure Skating Association and withdraw from all competition. She was left with a felony conviction, steep fines, community service responsibilities and probation.  At 23 years old, this young woman lost her livelihood, any and all plans for endorsement deals and a bright, prosperous future.

Now at 47-years-old, she appears much, much older than her actual age. Public humiliation is the likely culprit for her premature aging. Upon hearing her full story though, one possible reason for her haggard appearance could be due to a lifetime spent harboring bitterness and unforgiveness toward her mother.

She credits her athletic downfall to her difficult childhood. She places much of the blame on her alcoholic mother whom she has yet to forgive and wants nothing to do with. Her hatred was quite palpable, practically spitting through the air waves into my living room.

This athlete may have gained physical or emotional strength for surviving her upbringing on “the wrong side of the tracks,” but it appears to have come at a cost. Her unresolved bitterness seems to have robbed her of more than outward beauty. Her unfolding story gave little indication that she’d lived a peaceful or joy-filled life.

Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." 

It’s fairly impossible for us to know what another person has suffered until we’ve walked in their shoes. No doubt this Olympian suffered much. Her story haunts me, moving me with compassion and prayer on her behalf. Hopefully she will eventually realize that forgiveness is rarely for the person who has hurt us, but rather for our own self-preservation and peace of mind.

Bitterness and unforgiveness will eventually eat away at the fabric of our soul, stealing the joy from our heart and robbing us of a better life. Over time, unresolved anger and buried pain has the ability to make us old before our time.

Are you hurting and having a hard time forgiving someone? Why not take your pain to God and give it over to Him?

Don’t end up as a bitter beauty … “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Kathy Kurlin
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Sandpaper Friendship

Every time she calls, I’m in danger of losing my salvation. It takes a strong will and superhuman strength to hold my tongue with her.  Well, that -- and massive amounts of prayer are usually in order just to carry on a conversation with her.

 

She’s a friend I’ve had since childhood and while we’ve drifted far apart in more ways than one, she’s still a part of my life - mainly because she doesn’t have a wide circle of friends. I’m all that she has left. 

She’s what I call my “Heavenly Sandpaper Friend.” To say she “rubs me the wrong way” would be an understatement. I remain friends with her because she’s been a lifelong project.

My mission? To lead her into a relationship with Jesus Christ and to help her transform from simply being “a spiritual being,” as she likes to refer to herself, to a full-blown follower of Christ. Because she’s such a difficult person, she’s left a long trail of broken friendships in her wake.  I fear that if I don’t continue our relationship and my tenacious pursuit of sharing the Gospel with her, she might never get it. As difficult as she is, as her friend, as a Christian, and as a human, I would be crushed if she were sentenced to a life in Hell.

Regardless of someone’s bad behavior, or even if their lifestyle pushes them to the head of the Hades check-in line, the thought of anyone burning in Hell for all of eternity should make all Christians uncomfortable. Some may argue that my friend doesn’t deserve to go to Heaven. I don’t disagree. But then again, I don’t deserve to go to Heaven and neither do you … or any of us, for that matter. We are ALL sinners.

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …” Romans 3:23 (NIV)

Maintaining a connection with this individual has made our relationship complicated, and I’ve come to realize that our friendship is as much for my benefit as it is for her.  Those “rough edges” that are being “rubbed off” of me are defining my character and making me more Christ-like. I believe the difficult people that cross our paths are frequently put there by God’s design and are His way of fine-tuning us for the future He has for us.

“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Matthew 5:46

It’s easy to love the loveable – but loving the un-lovable? That’s where God comes in. Is there someone in your life who rubs you the wrong way?  Rather than walking away from them, perhaps it’s time to let God smooth out your rough edges as He crafts you to be more like Him.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34 (NIV)

Kathy Kurlin
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Me, Myself & Hey-Soos

The daughter of a friend of mine, Lacey, spent a few years working her way through the ranks at a fast-food restaurant, until she finally became a manager.  During her tenure in restaurant management, young Lacey had a new-hire employee whose name was Jesus – spelled like Jesus, as in Christ, but pronounced like Hey-Soos, which is a popular Hispanic name.

Young Lacey was born and raised as a Christian and lived many of her early formative years in Alaska, so she wasn’t aware that there was a southwestern pronunciation for this name. What’s more, she couldn’t fathom why any mother would name their child after the Son of God. Whenever Lacey worked with this young man, she quite naturally called him Jesus (as in Christ) since that was the only way she’d ever seen or heard this name pronounced.
 
Anyone who has ever worked at a fast-food restaurant knows just how crazy busy things can get during a lunch or dinner rush. As a manager, Lacey was in a position to delegate work assignments. 

She was frequently heard saying things like, “Jesus, I need you on the drive-through register!”  Or “Jesus, I need your help up front at the counter!”  When things were just plain chaotic and out of control, Lacey could be heard simply saying, “Jesus, I need help!”

While Lacey’s fellow employees and customers always found her managerial orders quite funny, I can’t help but think that this young woman may have stumbled on to the secret of life’s success.  How many times a day do most of us encounter situations that require a little divine intervention?  Imagine how much smoother a problem could be worked out if we only took a minute to simply say, Jesus, I need help! 
 
The New Testament gives us many Scriptures reminding us that Jesus is ready and willing to help us if we simply call on Him.  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) and “They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household."  (Acts 16:31). 
 
We should make it a regular practice to memorize Scripture for those times when we don’t know what to pray … we just know we need the Lords’ help.
 
Do you need encouragement? Help on your job or with your relationships or raising your kids?  Whatever your need, with just a couple of quick words … help is on the way!
 
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord.    Psalm 121:1-2

Kathy Kurlin
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Undeserved Grace

He was a particularly evil, nasty, disagreeable human being. He verbally abused all those who tried to help him. He lived a sinful, depraved lifestyle and wreaked havoc on those closest to him right up until he died.  He deserved to die a slow, painful death and to be cast into the depths of Hell – but if he called upon the name of the Lord Jesus with his last dying breath, he would be sharing Heaven with me some day.

This isn’t a made for TV Lifetime movie with a happy ending. I’m actually talking about the man my mother married when I was 12. This man single-handedly destroyed mine and my sibling’s childhoods as well as my oldest daughter’s. He was responsible for sending my mother to an early grave and lived for 13 long years after her death, spewing hatred and squandering everything she’d worked hard to acquire.  Yet, the Word of God tells me I’m to pray for him and forgive him as Christ has forgiven me. (Ephesians 4:32)

In Luke 23, the gospel gives the account of Christ’s crucifixion. One of the criminals mocks Jesus saying:

“So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!.”

“But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

This story reminds us that criminals – yes even particularly wicked sinners like my step-father --can get a “get out of jail free” card if they call on the name of Jesus, even though we think they don’t deserve it.  This card isn’t foolproof though, as no one knows for certain exactly when they will die and if they’ll have even that split second to call on the name of Jesus.

I made repeated attempts to witness to my step-father throughout his life, practically choking on the words, “Jesus loves you and died for you.” I have forgiven him for what he perpetrated upon me and my family and asked God to have mercy upon him – yet … his eternal resting home will remain a mystery.  Only God knows what’s in a man’s heart and whether there is forgiveness or repentance there. 

The mortality rate still stands at 100%. We must all stand before the Lord one day.  Use your “get out of jail free” card today and call upon the name of the Lord so that you might be saved!

 "Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved."  Romans 10:13 (NLT)

Kathy Kurlin
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The Lies That Bind

It used to be the Ladies Home Journal – today it’s Facebook.  You know … those stories that start simply enough, “My headache turned out to be a brain tumor.”  OR, “Young woman discovers constant hip pain is bone cancer.”

I used to read these stories and have major anxiety attacks. I’d start to think, “Oh my gosh, I have all those symptoms!  Am I one headache away from a brain tumor? Is that liver spot melanoma? Is my stomach gas really colon cancer? Or … Insert disease of your choice here based on whatever current ache or pain you may currently be experiencing!

I’ve had to stop reading these Facebook news stories altogether. No good can come of them.  I refuse to give the enemy any type of foothold when it comes to my mind and thought processes. If I allow myself to read the story of a woman who had her leg amputated as the result of an ingrown toenail, I’m liable to start panicking over every little hangnail.

The devil would like nothing more than for us to be in a constant state of panic or worry. He is a master manipulator who does his best work when we are fearful. With just a few simple suggestions he can easily convince us that we have a disease-ridden body, or any number of things as equally terrifying. If we don’t renew our minds on a daily basis we can easily be conformed to the thinking of this world (Romans 12:2).  We can quickly fall into fear regarding our health, our marriages, our children, the future, financial ruin or any manner of life-changing disasters.  We all have to remember -- there is a battle raging for control of our minds!

In addition to the daily renewal of our minds, we must put on the full armor of God DAILY as outlined in Ephesians 6:10-20.  We must not lean on our own understanding but trust in the Lord ALWAYS as stated in Proverbs 3:5-6.  For optimal protection against our minds, rather than taking in negative thoughts, we’d do well to ingest massive daily doses of Scripture. And seriously … let’s steer clear of those Facebook disaster news stories!

 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

Kathy Kurlin
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But People

 

You’ve likely met them – or perhaps you’ve been one of them. I’m talking about the BUT people. They sound a little something like this:

“I know I shouldn’t tell you this, but …”

“I know I shouldn’t eat this, but …”

“I know I shouldn’t drink this, but

“I know I shouldn’t buy this, but

“I know I shouldn’t wear this, but

“I know I shouldn’t be jealous, but …” 

When it comes to us BUT people, the question begs to be asked … IF we KNOW we shouldn’t be doing something … WHY do we do those things?

The apostle Paul knew a little something about being a BUT person, as outlined in Romans 7:14-15: “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.  I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Emphasis mine.)

Clearly the problem with most of us BUT people is, we are human! We tend to live according to our flesh; always wanting to do what feels good right now, rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us to do what will mold us into people who will be more Christ-like.

If you’re a BUT person – why not try asking for God’s help before doing something you know you shouldn’t? Too many “I know I shouldn’t, BUT …” circumstances will eventually land us in the wrong BUT zone. The one that that sounds like this:

“Well … I guess there’s nothing else to do BUT pray!”

Stop living according to your flesh and practice surrendering your BUTs!

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”  Galatians 5:16 (NLT)

Kathy Kurlin
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Better Weight Than Never

To find out where it all started you have to go way back to the Garden of Eden. From the moment Eve took a bite of that forbidden fruit and suddenly realized she was naked, Satan threw down the gauntlet; the battle lines clearly drawn.  From that moment on women have been fighting self-esteem issues and struggling with their bodies, unable to make peace with their size or the number on the scale – all because Eve had to have that apple.

Because of Eve’s reckless decision, we stand in front of dressing room mirrors and curse our weight, despise our thighs and malign our muffin tops. We call ourselves fat and other despicable names and cover ourselves in layers of fabric because we don’t measure up to those Kardashian women, nor any other women who seems to have “the perfect body.” 

Satan has been oppressing women for centuries regarding weight issues. Based on most of the women I know, I’d say so far he’s a smashing success. Eating disorders and food addictions are at an all-time high and very few of us can say with confidence that we love the skin we are in.

God did not create us to obsess over our weight. God did not die on the cross so we could stand in front of a mirror and hate our reflections. Every time we call ourselves fat or despise the body that we are in, it grieves our Lord.  God wants us to love who we are because, He has made us wonderfully complex and His workmanship is marvelous!  (Psalm 139:14)

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

If we are so distracted by what we look like and what we weigh, it is difficult for us to do the “good things He has planned for us,” and Satan continues to win this battle.

It’s time to stop the comparisons and love who we are at whatever weight or size we are and believe that we are a beautiful masterpiece fashioned from the Master’s hands.

Kathy Kurlin, Author of
Diet Nuggets and Wisdom Appetizers, 365 Days of Encouragement for Dieters

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