The Chatterbox: Who Said That?

When I went to college, I started seeing a lot of those “coexist” stickers, the ones where the letters of the word is spelled out using symbols from various religions. When I first saw them, I loved them. But the more I saw them and thought about them, the more I started to dislike them.

Because we shouldn’t simply coexist with each other. We should love each other.

Being an English major and a writer, I see and hear a lot more than the literal meanings of words when they are used. There’s tone and connotation that go along with them. And while I do believe that those who make or own “coexist” stickers mean only positive things, the connotation of merely coexisting isn’t that great to me. It sends a message of learning to live with each other instead of respecting and loving each other. I understand that it accomplishes its main goal in stopping hate, but it doesn’t really go all the way to love. It seems to fall somewhere in the middle.

Much like coexistence, acceptance has a fairly negative connotation. It has the connotation of tolerating someone, not actually liking someone.

Last week’s post discussed how God loves and accepts us. But Pastor Alan wanted to clear something up in Sunday’s sermon, and I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t reiterate his point here. God doesn’t just love you; He also likes you.

That’s such a striking thought for me. It reminds me of a Tumblr post I saw not too long ago that said, “Is anyone else completely terrified by the concept that you could, someday, meet someone who actually genuinely wants to spend the rest of their life in love with you?” Someone replied by saying, “I don’t even want to spend the rest of my life with me.”

God wants to spend not only the rest of your life loving you, but He wants to live with you for eternity. He doesn’t get annoyed by you. He doesn’t want to spend some time away from you. He doesn’t vent to His friends about you. He legitimately likes you.

I suppose I often imagine God loving me because He made me and He kind of digs my personality, but there are days when I just imagine God getting frustrated with me and sighing deeply as He sees me making mistakes. Thankfully, He doesn’t really do that. His fondness for me is constant and unprecedented.

God made each of us individually, and He meant for us to remain individuals. He wired us all differently, and He did it on purpose. God knew that I would like things that you wouldn’t and that you would feel differently about certain things than I would, and He thought it was just fine. If we were all the same, life would be so unbelievably boring.

In today’s society, we’ve been trained to compare ourselves constantly, so it’s a hard habit for any and all of us to break. But in truth, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to everyone else because we weren’t made to be like them. You were made to be you. Like Dr. Seuss said, “Today you are you. That is truer than true. There’s no one alive who is youer than you.”

My relationship with God is going to be incredibly different than your relationship with God because I’m not you. The way I view God, talk to God, and act and react towards God is likely not going to be the very same way you do all of those things.

Your role in the Kingdom of God is probably not the same as mine either. Sure, we’re both called to love God and others and to point others to Christ, but how we do that won’t necessarily be the same. God will use you differently than He uses me.

There’s a part in the song “Amazing, Because It Is” by The Almost that goes:

I’ve been watching every part of me
Just to see, see
Why You need me to be
The boy You need me to be

When I first heard that song, it was then that I realized that not only should I be who I am because that’s who I want to be, but also because God needs me to be that person. Only that person can do whatever it is that God wants me to do.

It’s the very same with you. God made you who you are for a reason. You’re irreplaceable. God needs you where He’s put you, doing what He’s called you to do because you’re the best one for the job.

The scripture that was read on Sunday was the Fall of Man from Genesis 2 and 3. Eve ate fruit from the tree that God said, “Okay, guys. Eat fruit from any tree but this one.” His rule (for lack of a better word) was given to protect them from consequences they didn’t even want to know about. Then the serpent slithered in and caused Eve to doubt God, to lust after a food she knew she was told not to eat. Then Adam joins the party and partakes in the formerly off-limits food as well. The next thing they know, the snake is gone, and they realize they’re naked.

The first sewing circle was created as the two began stringing leaves together to cover themselves. Then Adam hears God heading their way. It may have been the first game of hide-and-seek. The couple was hiding, their eyes shut tight, mumbling words of hope and desire to remain unfound, when God calls out to Adam, “Where are you?”

I imagine no one has ever felt guiltier than Adam felt in that moment. What seemed like a great idea at the time had to seem like the ultimate slap in God’s face when His voice carried through the garden. It was the very same voice that spoke the garden Adam was hiding in into existence and the very same voice that consoled him or advised him every evening. Unable to lie to God, Adam comes out and confesses he was hiding because he was naked. God says, “Who told you that you were naked?”

Adam and Eve’s physical exposure wasn’t a problem until something told them it was, and that something was the Chatterbox.

The Chatterbox is still at it, telling us things that God would never say to us.

“You’re unloved.”
“You’re unworthy.”
“You’re ugly.”
“You’re stupid.”
“Your life is meaningless.”

Who said that? It certainly wasn’t God. Whenever you’re met with thoughts such as these, remember that the Chatterbox is a liar, and a loud one at that.

Remember that you’re not loved by God because He has to love you, but because He adores you. And while He loves everyone equally, there’s something special about you. It’s in how God made you, how He speaks to you, how He looks at you. You’re loved by God. you’re liked by God, and you’re important to God in ways that you’ll never even know.

By Carrie Prevette

The Chatterbox: STOP AUDITIONING

I’m not even going to lie. When I first heard our pastor say that he was going to do a sermon series called “The Chatterbox,” I thought it was going to be a series on how to be a better conversationalist.

Before you think, “Wow, Carrie, you are stupid,” let me just say I’m justified in thinking so. For starters, a person who talks a lot could easily be called a chatterbox. Additionally, there is at least one Bible verse that could go along with this. I’ll refer you to James 1:19, which says, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (NRSV).

And such a series would be totally applicable to my life. If you’ve ever talked to me, you’ve noticed that I love to talk. I’m not kidding. It’s almost impossible for me to shut up. It’s always been that way, even as a kid. Whether I was quoting The Lion King nonstop or telling a story about my imaginary friend, I was always talking. My dad used to say that I was going to be the white Oprah Winfrey one day (which I’m completely okay with. I could live with being that successful and rich).

So I was prepared for a sermon on why I should stop talking and start listening when I walked into church on Sunday. And while I didn’t hear the sermon I had braced myself for, I did hear a message that everyone should hear.

Pastor Alan gave a quick overview of what to expect in the upcoming weeks as we enter into this new series. He discussed how frustrating and sometimes legitimately disappointing it is to be listening to the radio only to have that great interview, story, or song you’re enjoying to be cut off and interrupted. He then pointed out that it is the same way with the Word of God.

The Word of God tells us so many truths that the world tries to drown out and interrupt. The Bible tells us that we are loved and that God has nothing but the best in store for all of us. But how many times do we hear the exact opposite? Maybe it’s not even from the world, but from ourselves.

I can honestly tell you that I’ve spent more time looking in both the literal and figurative mirror critiquing myself than is healthy. You’ll never find a person who is harder on himself or herself than I am on myself. Too many times, I let what society and the world tell me drown out the truths that God tells me. The worst part is that I’m so used to listening to the chatterbox that I sometimes let it warp my opinion of myself so that I become the source of negativity and lies.

It was said during the sermon that humans have 60,000 thoughts a day, and 80% of those thoughts are negative (statistics taken from Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt). Now we could debate and discuss the sources of this negativity all day long. Is it coming from me? Is it coming from the world and our society? Is it coming from Satan himself? Regardless, we can all agree that it is not coming from God or His Word. God not only tells us, but shows us time and again in the Bible and in our own lives that He is full of positivity and love. The best part is, you don’t have to take my word for it because God’s Word speaks for itself. Here are just a few verses that demonstrate what I’m saying:

Psalm 147:3 (NRSV): “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV): “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

John 10:10 (NRSV): “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

James 1:17 (KJV): “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

It amazes me the lengths that we all go to for acceptance. Alan referred to it as “auditioning” and rightfully so. We all get up in front of these people that we so desperately want to like us and put on the best version of who we are. Then when we’ve left, we hope and pray that we impressed them.

It’s the same way when you’re applying for any job. The phrase “selling yourself” leaves something to be desired and is very unsettling, but ultimately, it’s what you do when you go to apply for a job. You put only the best things on your resume. You dress up for the interview. When asked what your weaknesses are, you don’t list actual weaknesses; you say things like, “My biggest weakness is that I just work too hard,” or “I guess my worst habit is that I’m a perfectionist.” You’re trying to promote and sell yourself, all the while hoping that the employer is still interested in buying.

I have to say, I’m not much on acceptance. If you like me, great! In fact, I probably like you more than you like me. If you don’t like me, chances are that I’ll probably still sleep pretty soundly tonight. There are relatively few exceptions to this. And it’s nothing personal. It’s just that I like the person that I am, and if you don’t, that’s okay. It’s your opinion, and you are entirely entitled to it. But I’m not going to let the opinions and perspectives of others define who I am.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to feel this way.

And I haven’t always been like this. When I first started high school, I wanted people to like me. Even then, it bothered me. It was so cliché and out of character for me even then. But for a while, I would see all of these cool kids and just really want them to like me. I can’t recall the point that I stopped caring, but at some point, it didn’t matter to me anymore. And seriously, every person I wanted to like me freshman year did like me by the time we graduated. They got to see and know the real me, not the eager-to-impress version that I’d revealed at the beginning of our freshman year. Once I stopped auditioning, they loved me.

I went through something similar when I went off to college. I wasn’t worried about impressing people, but I was concerned that I wouldn’t make a single friend at WCU. I wasn’t going to be a person I wasn’t, but I was scared of living in a place that far from home and constantly feeling lonely. While I may not have made an exceptional amount of friends there, I now have some acquaintances, some friends, a few close friends, and two best friends that will forever and always mean the absolute world to me. The best part is that they all love and accept me for who I am.

The thing of it is, we’ve already gained the most important acceptance: God’s acceptance. I love all of you dearly, but in the end, the only one whose love and acceptance I’m concerned with other than my own is God’s. And the crazy part is, I’ve had His acceptance since before I was born. I’ll never get over how mind-blowing it is that God loved me knowing how weird and problematic I am.

Maybe you’re the same as me. Perhaps you’re broken or troublesome or odd. Maybe you need a little more help or guidance than you’d like to admit. You could be struggling with how you don’t seem to really fit in anywhere.

If you glean nothing else from this post, let it be this: God knows, loves, and accepts you exactly as you are. You don’t have to audition for Him. You don’t have to clean up or change before coming to Him. He doesn’t want the “better” version of you; He wants the real, every-day you. He’s seen you at your worst and your best and everywhere in between. He loves you just as much in your worst moments as He does in your best.

So stop auditioning. Nothing you do could make Him love you more or love you less. His love and acceptance aren’t earned; they are freely and immediately given. His love is there whether you want it or not, and it’s there whether you see it or not.

By Carrie Prevette

Who Am I? Where Am I? And What’s Going To Happen?

I remember the day I bought my favorite Bible. I was browsing the Bible selection at Barnes & Noble. I saw one that was a translation that not only wasn’t KJV (I was looking for literally any other translation), but it was also one I hadn’t heard of before. It was the New Revised Standard Version (the version I usually use for the blogs, if you haven’t noticed). I picked it up. It was a lovely gray with a beautiful cross and Psalm 46:10 on the front in black. I turned to some of my favorite verses, and I just loved the way they were worded. It’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. That Bible has been a lot of places, and it’s been through a lot, including getting caught in the rain with me and being shuttled back and forth from Jonesville to Cullowhee.

There are many great qualities about this Bible. For instance, the NRSV translation is the most historically accurate. My Bible doesn’t really have a concordance in the back of it. There are some recommended verses for when you’re feeling a particular way, but you can’t really look up verses based on their diction. It has some prayers in the back of it, including one of the greatest prayers I’ve ever heard or read. It’s written amongst prayers by saints and prayers from the Bible, but you won’t find its words on a stained-glass window or across plaques. It’s by a man named Thomas Merton.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

I could go on and on about the great qualities of this prayer, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll just hit on a few of them: the concepts of who we are, what we’re doing, and the unknown.

I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare. I’m not even kidding. I have his complete works, which I acquired after buying several of his plays individually as well and a book of his sonnets. I intend to read everything he’s written before I die. I have a book titled A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare that I also aim to read eventually. And my dog’s name is Othello (although it was my dad’s idea to call him that, not mine). This is a picture of him.

othello58

 

Anyway, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays is Hamlet. Of the Shakespeare plays I’ve read, it’s the one I quote the most. For those of you who haven’t read it, I’ll sum it up as quickly and simply as I can. Hamlet is a prince in Denmark. His father has recently died, and his mother has remarried (to the deceased’s brother, if I’m not mistaken). The ghost of Hamlet’s father comes to Hamlet and tells him that he was murdered by Hamlet’s stepfather. He wants Hamlet to avenge him. Hamlet then begins his journey to seek revenge. Hamlet begins acting crazy, but as the play goes on, even the reader (or watcher, I suppose) is unsure of whether or not it’s just an act. There is a well-known line from the play that, although it is not addressed to Hamlet, is significant and ironic. “To thine own self be true.”

Well, I’m sure Hamlet would do that if he knew who he was.

I’m sure everyone would if they knew who they were.

The question “Who am I?” is one that has been around as long as humans have, and I’m just about certain that every human has asked this question before. Some people spend their entire lives trying to find the answer to this question, and sadly, some never obtain it. There are people who think they know who they are but aren’t entirely sure. Then there are people who feel they know exactly who they are, and a portion of those are even comfortable with the answer they find.

I’m not trying to get into a large discussion here. Knowing who you are doesn’t make you a better person or a better child of God. It’s just something to discover for yourself. The point I want to make here is that regardless of whether or not we know ourselves – accept our personalities, habits, tastes, and purposes and decide whether or not we want to change who that person is – we find our truest selves in God.

Knowing the One who created us and who knows us better and in more ways than we could ever know ourselves allows us to discover who we are. We have a longing to be or become the person we were created to be. It’s a relationship that both reinforces the qualities we should keep and shows the qualities we need to work on.

The next issue the prayer addresses is knowing what we’re doing. Of course, we know what we’re literally doing, right here and now. But what about the path we’re taking in life? Is it the one that God wants us on for the next few miles or does He want us to take the next exit and get off as quickly as we can? Are we pleasing God with the way we’re going?

The path God wants you to take may not be the one you want to take. At least that’s what you think now. I assure you, God’s not going to make you take a road you don’t want to be on. He won’t force you to stay in a place forever if it’s not bringing you happiness or serving a purpose of some sort.

I believe that anyone who truly and actively seeks the will of God will find it. When we search for God’s interests and plans in our lives, we will ultimately find them, even if it’s not in the place we thought it’d be or within the time frame we were hoping for.

This is in close relation to the third quality of the prayer that I want to discuss: the unknown. I’m sure I don’t have to list the reasons the unknown is scary. And people have a right to be afraid of the unknown.

But there is always more comfort when you’re walking with God. For one, while we don’t know what’s coming up, God does. Secondly, God only has our best interests in heart. God isn’t going to lead us somewhere sketchy or harmful and leave us there. No, God will be with us every single step, every single minute.

As you guys may have picked up by now, I tend to see things a little differently than most people. (I get told by my brother at least once a week that I’m weird. I wear it as a badge of honor). My favorite translation of Matthew 28:20, the very last verse of that Gospel, that I’ve come across so far is the King James Version. It’s Jesus talking, and it reads, “…I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Most people read that as Jesus will be with us until the world that we are in ceases to exist. And I read it that way as well, but I also take it a different way. I take it to mean that Jesus will be with us through legitimately everything, through everything in the world, and that he’ll be with us even when our worlds start to fall apart.

We need not be afraid of the unknown because while we don’t know what is to come or what will happen, we know God is right there with us through it all.

By Carrie Prevette

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