The Chatterbox: Turning Off the Noise

Pastor Alan Parsons said Sunday morning in the final sermon of The Chatterbox, “The best way to preach is by example.”

The words struck me because I’ve had a feeling recently that I was going to have to give some background on why The Chatterbox has meant so much to me.

On Sunday, Alan went on to talk about how difficult his week was and how he had listened to the Chatterbox and let it discourage him. And I would like to take a moment to commend him for speaking so honestly. It was something that most people don’t have the boldness to do. Alan also went on to attest to how everything changes when we hand our situations over to God and listen to Him instead of the Chatterbox.

Now I suppose it’s my turn to demonstrate the very same thing.

The weekend of the first Chatterbox sermon, I was depressed. I wasn’t just sad or bummed out. I don’t remember the last time I had felt as purely awful in my heart and soul as I felt that weekend. I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but I’m typically pretty loud and happy. That Sunday, I was quiet and I couldn’t even really bring myself to smile.

I felt entirely pointless. I thought about everything I do, and I couldn’t think of a single way that I wasn’t replaceable. The ways I volunteer at church, my job, what I do around the house, everything. I started feeling like all I did well was get on everyone’s nerves and take up space. I started questioning God, asking Him what I was even doing here because I could not see what function I was serving in the grand scheme of things.

The ironic thing is I’m usually the one trying to encourage other people and let them know how loved they are by God and by others, telling them that they have a huge purpose in this world. But no matter how much I thought about it, I couldn’t seem to believe it about myself, at least not in that moment. I wasn’t just listening to the Chatterbox. It was the only station I thought I could pick up.

I can guarantee you that there wasn’t a single person who needed to hear about how much God loves and accepts them more than I did that Sunday. So I’ve been drawn to this series because I needed to hear it and because I fully believe that everyone needs to hear it.

Isn’t it amazing how God orchestrates everything?

The reason this series helped me turn off the Chatterbox is because it forced me to hear what God was really saying about me. It showed me reasons to love God and praise Him. It shifted my focus from being on my misconceptions and disappointments to being on God’s love and greatness. And honestly, it’s hard to listen to the Chatterbox when all you see is how perfect God is.

I was reminded of God’s truths about me and promises to me, and I was reminded that they’re just as present and accurate even in the moments when I don’t believe them.

I’ve said it plenty of times before (I’m sure I’m not the only one), and I’ll say it again: God is faithful even when I’m not.

Isn’t that remarkable? The one who’s bringing everything to the relationship is completely loyal to the other. I’m the one that messes up. I’m the unworthy one. I’m the one who needs Him just to make it through the day. You would think that I’m the one who would cling to Him, regardless of my changing world or whatever circumstances I find myself in. But it’s the other way around. God’s the one who’s always there for me, whether I ask Him to be or not. He picks me up, helps me out, listens to me rant or cry or babble away. He’s my Savior, yet He’s the one that’s head over heels in love with me. I give up on God more often than I care to admit, but never – not for a second – has He given up on me.

Nor has He ever given up on you.

I’m lucky that my depression lasted only a few days. Some people go through it for years. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe while you were reading about my experience you found yourself thinking, “Yes! I know exactly what you’re talking about. I feel that way every day.” And people always say to those who are struggling that things will get better. I say it myself. I’ve actually had one girl tell me that people say that all the time, they’ve been saying it for years, but she still feels empty. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times, and you’re probably tired of it. But let me tell you, it will get better. I know it will.

“But how do you know that?”

I know it will happen because God is faithful.

God knows you’re struggling. God knows that there are times when your faith isn’t just running low, it basically doesn’t exist. There are moments when you turn from Him and seek help or shelter elsewhere. But the thing about God is that even though He knows you’ll do it to Him, He won’t do it to you. He’s right there with you. He’s not leaving you, He’s not giving up on you, and He isn’t done with you.

Hebrews 10:23 (NRSV) says, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.”

Don’t give up. God certainly won’t. And imagine how much better you’ll do if you work with God instead of working against Him or being apathetic about Him.

When you truly want to turn off the Chatterbox, and you can’t find a single other thing to praise God for, praise Him for just being there. Maybe you don’t see Him. Maybe you wish He would be more active. Regardless, don’t doubt for one minute that He’s with you, and don’t doubt for one minute that He loves you. And remember that even the smallest bit of praise can begin to shut off the Chatterbox.

By Carrie Prevette

The Chatterbox: The Static of Discouragement

I went through a period every single semester in college when I doubted that I was in the right major.

If you’ve never been through it, it may sound sort of silly. But at least once every semester, I would look at the students within my major and think about how much better they were at English than I was. Whether it was writing a short story or analyzing a book, there always seemed to be some point when I just felt completely inadequate because it felt like people were doing so much better than me.

Then I would start thinking about the most depressing things. I considered how competitive the field I wanted to enter was, how seemingly few jobs there were within it, and I would get so bummed out. I would think, “And I have no backup plan because writing and analyzing are the only things I’m good at, and I’m obviously not even terribly good at that.” I can’t tell you how many times in those four years I asked God why He wanted me to pursue this degree and enter a field when I wouldn’t do well in it.

I’m not telling you this so you’ll shower me with compliments on my writing abilities. I’m telling you this to prove how easy it is for me, and a lot of people, to become discouraged.

In truth, it took a long time for me to even call myself a “writer” because I felt you had to be a good writer in order to be called one at all. A beloved professor of mine, Pamela Duncan, changed my view of that. Even now, I don’t consider myself to be a great writer, but I don’t think I’m horrible at it. I’ll admit that I’m pretty good at it.

Then why is it so easy for me to get discouraged?

Discouragement is born of doubt. When I begin to doubt my abilities, I start to see only the areas and ways that I fall short.

I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie The Replacements. It’s a movie about a professional football team goes on strike and the team is then made up of (you guessed it) replacements. After a bad game, they’re talking in the locker room, and their wondering why they’ve been playing the way they have. Keanu Reeves (I think) says that it’s like quicksand. They keep focusing on the mistakes they’re making and they keep struggling with that on their minds, which is only making them worse.

It’s the very same way with discouragement. We get down and all we do is focus on what’s wrong, and we start seeing more mistakes and sinking even farther down into the quicksand.

When we’re looking for something or at it, we tend to find or notice it a lot more. For example, in my Postcolonial Literature class last year, we read TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (which is a great book), and my professor pointed out the picture of McCann on the back of the book. It was a black and white image, and he was wearing a scarf in it. Dr. Wright said something along the lines of, “These pictures kill me. He wouldn’t wear something like this in everyday life.” McCann came to speak at the annual Spring Literary Festival, and my class was privileged enough to have McCann come speak to our class, where I got to interview him for a project. When he walked in, he was wearing a scarf of the very same style in his picture. Not only that, but when he spoke at Literary Festival events, he was also wearing a scarf like that. Of course, all of us in the class joked about it. Then I started noticing more of those scarves in general. It wasn’t cold out, so it’s not like a ton of people were wearing them, but I would see one in pictures or something. It was on my mind, so I began finding it, not even intentionally looking for it.

It’s not too surprising that when we focus on disappointment and discouragement, we begin seeing it in abundance. If I only focus about the things I’m doing wrong, those mistakes are going to pop up everywhere, and they’re going to seem massive.

The next thing I know, I don’t enjoy whatever I’m feeling discouraged about as much. When I would feel awful about my writing, I didn’t really look forward to writing. I was overly critical of it and doubting myself. And of course, I thought of all the people who could probably write whatever I was working on a lot better than me. I didn’t want to do it. The enjoyment and passion I felt towards it lessened considerably.

“How did you find encouragement, Carrie?”

I’m so glad you asked!

Every time I felt discouraged about my writing, God would show me that I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was. Sometimes it was through a friend who read a paper of mine or needed help with a paper if their own and sought my assistance. Other times, it was making a great grade on a writing assignment. In truth, there are probably other ways He showed me that I’m not remembering because as I say, it happened every few months.

God would remind me that my abilities are a gift from Him and that He was the one instructing me on how to use them. My focus shifted from looking at how I was doing to looking at what God was doing. The sound of the Chatterbox turned down, and I could clearly hear God encouraging me. But I found more than encouragement in God and what He was saying. I found that He was actually cheering me on. He wasn’t just saying, “Don’t worry, Carrie. I’ve got this. It’ll all work out.” Don’t get me wrong; that was part of it. But He was also saying, “Look at how good you are at this! I gave you a gift; keep using it! You’re doing so well.”

God doesn’t just encourage me like this. He’s cheering for you too. Maybe you can’t hear it over the sounds of the Chatterbox, but He is. And the only way you’re going to hear it is if you can manage to turn down the volume of the Chatterbox or start listening for sounds beyond it, sounds that don’t blend in with what it’s saying.

John the Baptist – cousin to Jesus and the forerunner for the Messiah – even doubted. If you don’t believe me, read Matthew 11. John’s situation was one that the Chatterbox lives for. He was in prison, a bad place he probably never expected to be in, and wasn’t seeing in Jesus’ ministry what he anticipated would happen. So he sent some of his guys to ask Jesus what was up.

Jesus sent word back to John of all the good that was happening in His ministry. (I’d be willing to bet that the good Jesus was doing wasn’t making as many headlines as news of the company He was keeping and places He was going did.) It was to encourage John and let him know that his faith had not been misplaced for a second. Was the reality of Jesus’ ministry what John expected? No, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t exactly what would change the world.

Not only that, but Jesus then praised John to the people around Him. He said many good things about John, but my favorite among the compliments is by far, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:11, NRSV).

In other words, “That guy that just needed confirmation and encouragement? Out of everyone that’s ever been born, there’s not a single person better than that guy! I love him.”

The next time you begin to doubt and feel disappointed or discouraged, remember that you’re not alone. It really does happen to all of us, yes, even the best of us. More importantly, remember that God’s trying to tell you (and maybe even other people) that it’s okay, that you’re amazing, and it’ll all work out in your favor.

By Carrie Prevette

The Chatterbox: Deciphering Sounds

There is something to be said for familiarity. Sure, there are times when familiarity holds us back. It tends to bring comfort, which usually doesn’t help us to grow in God. But the familiarity I’m talking about has nothing to do with finding comfort in our situations or with our relationship with God. I’m talking about being familiar with God.

Many of us, if not all of us, have at least one celebrity that we just absolutely love. It could be an athlete, an actor, or a band member. If we’re being honest, we’d probably recognize this person out in public faster than we would recognize our own family members. We know all their songs. We see every movie they’re in. We watch every game. We watch interviews, read articles, look up ticket prices, and buy merch. We know their voices, their personalities, and their likes and dislikes. In short, we’re familiar with them.

We’re also familiar with our loved ones. It’s almost scary how well I know my best friend. I’ve only known her for four years, but it feels like we’ve been besties our entire lives. I know her existing opinions on things, but I can also tell how she would respond to new things. I can tell you whether or not she would find a certain joke funny, whether she would like a particular dress, if she would like a song or not. And she’s the exact same way with me. We’re know each other’s views on life and what makes each other happy. We’re familiar with each other.

That’s the way we should be with God.

The thing is, God speaks to everyone differently. It goes back to us having a personal relationship with Him. But the only way to develop that relationship with God and recognize how He speaks to you is to get to know Him. You have to spend time talking to Him, listening to Him, responding to Him, and seeing how He responds to you.

The reason this is so important is because the Chatterbox is actually pretty good at sounding like God sometimes.

While God loves you to death and back, He knows you’re not perfect, and He wants to work on those imperfections with you. Obviously you can’t change something if you don’t acknowledge that change is necessary, so the Holy Spirit convicts you and points to the areas you could stand to improve. He does this in order to better us.

The Chatterbox, however, has very different motives for pointing out our wrongs. It doesn’t do it to improve us, but to bring to light our flaws. This causes us to further develop a negative view of ourselves. And once that negative view exists, it becomes easier for us to listen to the Chatterbox because we already believe, on some level, what it’s telling us. God’s voice becomes more distant and unrecognizable while the Chatterbox grows louder and clearer.

In addition to pointing out what’s wrong with us, the Chatterbox also excels at reminding us of those things that we try so hard to forget.

Have you ever woke up with the previous day’s mistakes on your mind? That slip up at work. That thing you shouldn’t have said to your friend. Wishing you had done everything completely different. It’s a new day and God’s new mercies are ready to greet us, but the Chatterbox won’t shut up long enough for us to realize it.

Then there are those things that we’ve been trying to forget for years. You know, those scars that we wish would grow fainter as the years go by. That girl you hurt back in high school. That embarrassingly stupid thing you said in class in college. The times that you completely disregarded God. They’re things that we wish we could erase from our history, pieces of our lives that we hope never make any kind of highlight reel. We want to forget them, and God also wants us to forget them. Dwelling on our less-than-glorious past will only hinder us from reaching what God has planned for us. The Chatterbox’s mission is to keep us focused on that past. The more our eyes linger there, the less time we have to invest in our promising, Chatterbox-less future.

Unlike the Chatterbox, the Holy Spirit reminds us of something other than the bad. He reminds us of what God’s done to right our wrongs and help us move on from our past mistakes, no matter how big they are. He provides us with hope, and that’s something the Chatterbox will never do. That is how we can ultimately tell the Chatterbox and the Holy Spirit apart.

I know I’ve said something like this before, but it won’t hurt to repeat it: It’s ridiculous how easily we forget everything God’s done for us. We can remember some of the most pointless stuff, but we can’t remember what our Lord and Savior did for us. (If you were at church Sunday, you’ll recall my Fresh Prince of Bel Air rap during the sermon as a prime example of this.)

The good news is that God is patient while we come to remembrance and realization. It doesn’t matter how often we forget or how much we forget. He has the most fantastic ways of reminding us that He always was, still is, and will forever be God. Maybe He reminds you in the smallest of ways. Maybe it takes a grand production of sorts to jog your memory. Perhaps it’s through spoken or written word, through a sight or an occurrence. However it happens, the point is that it does happen, every time.

I can’t tell you how many times God has to tell me that He’s got it under control. Honestly, you’d think I’d learn my lesson, but old habits are difficult to ditch, I suppose. God doesn’t get frustrated with me and contemplate giving up on me. No, He jogs my memory with this feeling of amazement. It could be a brand new kind of problem, but when God handles it for me, I get this familiar sense of peace and relief, and it’s like He’s saying to me in the comforting voice that only a loving father has, “Carrie, I’ve got this. I’ve always got this.”

It’s familiar because I’ve experienced a lot of struggles like that with God. I try my hardest to handle my own messy situations before I give them over to Him. For whatever reason, I’m always left in a familiar, yet newfound shock at how great God truly is. I’ve developed a relationship with God where He can tell me, “Carrie, what you’re doing is kind of stupid. Look at what you’re doing to this. Why don’t you let me take this from you?” And I say, “Okay, God. Let’s give your way a shot.”

He’s not mad at us when we need reminding of how perfect He is. He’s not fed up with us when we finally remember who He is. God knows how powerful the signal and noise of the Chatterbox is. He doesn’t fault us for listening to it. He just turns His mic up and speaks louder. He understands that it might take a minute for us to decipher the sounds. He knows how hard it is to tune out the Chatterbox. He doesn’t care how long it takes for us to hear Him as long as we do eventually hear Him.

By Carrie Prevette

The Chatterbox: The Fear of God

I have some pretty odd fears.

Above anything else, I’m afraid of clowns. For whatever reason, they just all look like serial killers to me. Bits and pieces of clown getup don’t scare me, but the full-on face paint (which gives them that creepy smile and those high eyebrows), red noise, colorful hair, odd clothes do scare me. I’ve always been terrified of them. And honestly, I don’t even know how or why the fear started because I didn’t have a bad experience at a kid’s party when I was little or anything. The only exposure to a clown of any sort I had when I was little was Ronald McDonald, and it just never sat right with me. Now, some of you may be afraid of clowns, or you may know a few people who are afraid of clowns, but when I was little, I didn’t know a single person who shared my fear. And no one in my family really understood it or ever told me I wasn’t crazy, so until I got older and met people with this very same fear, I thought I was an absolute freak.

I’m also scared of bridges. Unlike my fear of clowns, I can tell you exactly when and how this fear developed. It was my senior year in high school, Spring of 2010. A few years before, the bridge connecting Jonesville and Elkin was ruled unsafe to drive on. It had been that way for a while, and they’d just been letting people drive right on across it. It could’ve fallen apart before they caught it. That was unsettling to me, but it didn’t play a part in my fear until I was in Physics class my last semester in high school.

I don’t remember what exactly we’d been going over when we started discussing bridges and bridge-building (I’ve tried to block out as much of that class as I can), but we did a bridge-building project, and the entire point of this project was to see whose bridge could withstand the most weight without breaking. (I came in third, a feat I’m still baffled and impressed by.) So I saw these model bridges being broken and thought of what would happen if all of these huge bridges in real life were to fall apart with people on them, and I realized how dangerous they are. Additionally, the results of falling from a bridge over water would combine two of my other fears – heights and drowning. It’s not a typical fear, but it’s one of mine nonetheless.

There was one night when the disciples’ fears were much more practical and realistic than mine are now. (The scripture for this passage, if you’re interested, is Mark 4:35-41.) The disciples and Jesus were sailing across a large lake. A storm came, and no little one at that. The sky was black. Waves smacked the side of the boat, pushing it from side to side, knocking hard against the boards. Water started to fill up the boat. The winds pushed the sails to their farthest point and whipped anything not tied down around in the air.

Needless to say, the disciples were freaking out, and for valid reason. But where was Jesus?

Asleep. He was napping in the stern. I’m sure He would’ve preferred something a bit more stable and luxurious than a boat, but He had the time, the space, and a pillow to rest His head on. He must have been sleeping pretty soundly too, since none of the commotion woke him up.

While the storm didn’t wake Him up, the disciples did. I imagine some of the disciples burst into Jesus’ makeshift bedroom, out of breath and soaked to their very souls. They didn’t walk over to Him and politely ask Him to wake up. No, they came in and shouted, “Jesus, what are you doing? Wake up! Don’t you care if we drown?”

The Bible doesn’t say how Jesus woke up. I feel it’s pretty safe to assume that He jerked right up, drool on His pillow, dazed yet startled. But knowing how cool Jesus is, it also wouldn’t surprise me if He just rolled over and opened one bleary eye to look at the disciples. Whether he gasped or groaned as He woke up, one thing is for certain: Jesus wasn’t too happy to be woken.

I believe there are two reasons that Jesus was a bit upset. Number one, he was woken from a much-needed sleep. This may seem silly or even trivial to you, but I firmly believe it’s important. Jesus and His group were constantly on the move. It’s not like they owned a piece of real estate where they stayed every night or even every few weeks. From my understanding, it’s hard to get a decent amount of sleep in such a lifestyle. On top of that, they weren’t exactly staying in five-star hotels everywhere they went. So here Jesus was taking advantage of an opportunity to rest, and it was ruined for Him.

Second, Jesus was legitimately upset with the disciples’ obvious lack of faith. Before the gang shoved off, Jesus was telling parables, one of which was the parable of the mustard seed. His words on the subject were, “It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade” (Mark 4:31-32, NLT). He had literally just told them about having faith, and here they were running and shouting for their lives. Why didn’t they listen? Why didn’t they believe Him or believe in Him?

So Jesus says three words to the wind and the waves. “Silence! Be Still!” (Mark 4:39, NLT). And everything stopped. It was calm and quiet. I’m sure it felt almost like there hadn’t been a storm in the first place.

“Then [Jesus] asked them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:40, NLT).

How do you even respond to that? There is no response other than fear and amazement, which is exactly what filled the disciples in that moment. They began wondering who this man who had control over legitimately everything – including the elements – really was.

What else could scare you after seeing an act like that? Absolutely nothing. You realize that there is nothing God can’t handle or overrule.

That is the fear of the Lord: being afraid to do anything apart from Him and His protection.

You better believe that if I’d been on that boat, thrashing around in the storm and in danger of dying, I’d never leave Jesus’ side. Wherever He went, you’d see me right there beside me. Not only because He could help me out of whatever trouble I was in, but also because He could keep me from ever getting into those awful situations. He provided the disciples with not just protection, but calmness. Jesus could’ve just put them in a little bubble and let the storm rage around them. What a scene that would’ve been. Instead, He calmed everything because that is exactly what they needed to see to fully believe in Him.

But haven’t I been on that boat? Yes, if I look closely, I’m familiar with the tattered sails and water pooling on the deck. Haven’t I been in situations that were going to drag me all the way down if I hadn’t called on Jesus and had Him get me out of them? Hasn’t He saved my life in the most spectacular ways? Hasn’t He given me a sense of peace and comfort when I needed it most?

Hasn’t He done that for all of us?

The Chatterbox loves to play on our fears and lives to talk about them. The only way to defeat the Chatterbox is if we fear nothing but God. There is no “What if?” scenario that can trump God. There is no scenario scarier than being mid-storm without Him.

By Carrie Prevette

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