Shapeshifter

There’s a guy in Asheville who turned my whole weekend around on Saturday, and he doesn’t even know it.

I have no clue who he is, although we chatted in such a way that my sister thought we did know each other. All I know about him is that he works at Farm Burger, he ran the cash register on Saturday, he is a redhead, he has a mustache that was actually kind of nice and wasn’t creepy, and he was kind. And he was a really big blessing to me.

I started out happy and excited on Saturday, but it changed. At every turn, I was being ignored or forgotten about, and I know that sounds exaggerated, but I promise it’s not. No one listened when I talked, and I had to repeat myself a lot because no one cared to listen the first time. So we were at the Asheville Comic Expo, which was very busy and filled with people, and I felt like a ghost that was trying to tag along.

Now, I’m a big girl with bright red hair. I look very different, and I take up a lot of space. I’m also very loud and opinionated, qualities that individual people and society as a whole tend to critique me on. So you can understand why I think it’s hard to flat-out ignore me without trying to on some level.

It wasn’t until someone actually looked at me and saw that I was just about ready to cry very publically, despite the fact that I hate crying in front of people, that anyone even realized something was wrong, let alone bothering me.

I know this probably sounds like a little kid whining that no one’s paying attention to him or her, but it was more than that. I felt so insignificant to everyone and everything around me; I doubted that I mattered, that my presence made any sort of difference at all.

We went to lunch at Farm Burger, which was new to me and completely crowded. I was feeling the contrast of being ignored and being big, so I felt bad about myself and bad about being in the way. I’m also a tad claustrophobic, so I started hyperventilating a little. As we moved forward in the winding line, I calmed down and started to feel a little better, like maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

When I got to the front of the line, I was prepared to just order and move on, but when I asked the cashier how he was doing, he spoke honestly about how they were busy and how he sort of wanted it to calm down a little. He sounded overwhelmed, and I could relate, so I told him about how dreadful the back of the line was compared to the front. I think it was just the case of two friendly talkers who needed someone to talk to. Although I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, I think he made me feel better because he was nice enough to act like he cared even if he didn’t, and out of everyone in that place, he vented to me. Even if I didn’t matter to anyone else, for a moment, I mattered to him because he seemed to feel better after our interaction. I know I did.

Doubt is one of the worst monsters because at some point, it comes after us all, and it comes with different faces to attack us. It’s a shapeshifter.

We doubt if we matter. We doubt our choices. We doubt ourselves. We doubt if God’s listening to us. We doubt if God loves us. We doubt God and His promises.

Faith is the opposite of doubt. Where doubt cripples us, faith heals us. Doubt harms and faith helps.

In our spiritual lives, we’re constantly practicing one or the other. Either we’re believing in God for something or we’re telling Him we don’t quite think He’s up to the task.

When Jesus invited Peter for a little stroll on the waves in Matthew 14:22-33, Peter stepped out in faith. When he got out of the boat, his mind, his eyes, and his heart were all set on Jesus. He’d seen Jesus do so many wild and weird things that, for a moment, walking on water seemed as normal as walking down the street.

Then the wind caught Peter’s attention. He began paying attention to the storm around him instead of his God in front of him. Doubt poured on deck, and our pal Pete began to sink.

Peter’s walk on the water and our walks with God were/are totally dependent on whether we have faith in God or whether we doubt Him.

If we believe in God, we need to act like it. We need to pray about things and speak encouragingly when we talk about them. Our mindset needs to be positive, and if any doubt tries to seep in, we need to pray that God would remove it.

Praying does no good if we don’t have faith.

I know a girl whose parents got divorced, and a few years later, she told me, “I pray they’ll get back together, but I know it’s not going to happen.”

I actually chuckled (rude, I know) and replied, “Then what’s the point of praying?”

If we have enough faith to believe that God loves and listens to us, if we have enough faith to pray, why not have faith that God will answer our prayers? Why not have faith that He’ll give us our hearts’ desires?

Doubt is a huge monster, and it pursues us all. It’s hard to beat regardless of the form it takes, but all it takes to defeat it is prayer and faith. Yes, it’s hard to take down doubt, but when it goes down, it goes down hard.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S.- I’d also like to thank the cosplayers at ACE who were dressed as Jack Sparrow, Robin, and Aang because they also made me very happy.

Spiritual Monsters

My biggest fear has always been clowns. I don’t mean the ones that are made to look really creepy, although I don’t like those either. I’m talking about clowns that you book for children’s parties.

It’s usually hard to explain this fear to people who don’t share it, but the truth is that it’s the makeup. The high eyebrows, the crazy hair, the huge and constant smile all create the look of someone who’s insane (and might murder you) and would look happy doing anything (like murdering you).

I now know many people who share this fear, but when I was little, I didn’t know a single real person who was terrified of clowns like me. In addition, people never told me they understood or that I wasn’t crazy. In fact, they often laughed at me or brushed it off like it was silly and no big deal. So for years, I felt irrational and alone.

Some people avoid haunted houses at Halloween because of monsters like ghouls or zombies or axe-murderers. I avoid them because of clowns. (And it’s worth stating that I also avoid some McDonald’s commercials for the very same reason.)

We all have our monsters, and we all have our spiritual monsters.

When I was in AP English, we read Lord of the Flies, and we had to write an essay on a theme from the book once we were done. The paper that our teacher handed out that told all of the themes had over 30 different ones on there. I chose to write on fear of the unknown. I can’t recall how long the essay had to be, but it seemed like an impossible task when it was assigned. But I soon discovered that I had more than enough material to work with to write my essay because fear of the unknown is a big theme in that book.

Likewise, Fear of the Unknown can be a big theme and a big monster in our own lives. If we’re uncertain about many things or even one thing, it can keep us from accepting a calling or reaching out to someone or leaving something or someone detrimental to our relationship with God. It stops us from moving forward.

Another monster is Unequipped. We think we don’t have what it takes to do whatever it takes to move forward. If we need to pray more, we may struggle because we don’t have the time. If we feel like we need to donate, we may not have the money or the means to do so. We feel like we’re not enough or that we don’t have enough.

Moses felt that way; he stuttered. So did Jeremiah because he was very young. Peter denied Jesus three times after he told Jesus he would never dream of doing such a thing. Paul called himself “the chief of sinners,” and he didn’t have to campaign very hard given all of his deeds from his old life.

They thought their issues meant they weren’t right for the job. They thought they didn’t have what it took, but when they finally moved forward despite what they thought, great things happened.

Maybe your monster is Temptation or Waiting or Worry or Apathy or something else altogether.

Maybe your monster seems small to someone else, but to you, it’s big and horrifying and leaves you with nothing but dread. Regardless of what the monster might be, it’s stopping you from going further in your relationship with God.

And our monsters are no match for God.

When we deal with our monsters by ourselves, we’ll always lose, but when we join up with God, we’re unstoppable. And He’s not going to send you to face your monster without wanting to go with you.

Whenever we try to face our monsters by ourselves, we forget our biggest ally. To go further with God, we must do so with Him, and we have to rely on Him to get us past whatever’s standing in our way because what’s a monster to us is nothing to Him.

By Carrie Prevette

Grace in the Gray

As I write this, I have been angry for 94% of the day. I’d rather not go into why (partially because it makes me look petty and odd), but suffice it to say that I wasn’t in the mood to write, and I particularly wasn’t in the mood to write anything uplifting. However, I refuse to write something here that will in no way benefit and/or encourage you, so I began to flip through my notes and my Bible, and I found something marvelous to share with you guys.

It all started with the first line in my notes. When Alan said that there are weeks in life filled with gray, I wrote “grace” instead.

I believe this is a wink from God because today, let alone this week, hasn’t seemed very graceful. Nothing about it apart from my loving mother and a very nice nap earlier seems to have any part in grace.

So I began flipping through my Bible and came across a small devotional in the back. It says that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a prisoner in Germany during World War II and a Lutheran pastor, wrote in his journal not too long before his execution in 1945, “Lord, whatever this day may bring, thy Name be praised.”

That’s coming from a man who was oppressed and executed by Nazis, and I’ve been upset for most of this day simply because I want to be.

The scripture that was with this devotion was Psalm 145:9, which reads, “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made” (NRSV).

It’s hard to accept that when we feel like nothing is going our way or when we’re so upset, regardless of the reasons why, that we just want to avoid the world and stay in bed all day. It’s difficult to see grace when all we see is gray.

Have I felt incredibly loved by God today? No, I haven’t. But why not?  I woke up this morning and ate breakfast. I got to spend my day however I wanted to. Nothing truly terrible happened to me or anyone I love. I got to live in freedom. Sure, some things might’ve gone differently than I would’ve liked recently, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care for me. The fact that I don’t feel God’s undying love doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

One of my sincerest hopes in running this blog is that I’m very transparent with you, dear readers. I want you to understand that I’m a real person who messes up daily and struggles just as much as you and probably with the very same things that you struggle with.

I talk a lot about the love of God and how vast and beautiful it is because it means so much to me. I would be a completely different person without it. And I think it’s great that you guys have this chance to see that sometimes I forget all about it or that sometimes I even feel far from it.

My day was filled with gray, but it was also filled with grace. I didn’t treat God or people the way I should have today, but God and others have shown me nothing but grace. They’ve looked past it or forgiven me for it. They haven’t treated me the way that I deserved to be treated, and I’m so thankful for that. I’m grateful that they’ve met me with kindness and mercy instead of anger and fairness.

Gray and grace aren’t mutually exclusive. They often go together; we’re simply too shortsighted to see one in the presence of the other. Grace can come and consequences will still have to be faced, and gray can come with some positives. That’s not to say that each don’t come separately. It’s just that they can coexist.

I hope that you’ve had a better day than me, and I hope that you’ll remember this the next time your day isn’t so fantastic. I pray that you would remember that God loves you and cares for you even when you don’t feel that way. And I pray that you’ll always find grace when you’re surrounded by gray.

P.S.- I wrote a post recently that touched on rain much like Alan did in his sermon, and I think they go fairly well together. Here is the post if you care to read it: Seasons.

By Carrie Prevette

Our Journeys

There’s something about a trip that really excites me. Whether I’ve been to the destination before or not, whether it’ll only last a few hours or whether I stay for days. I just like going places and seeing things and meeting people or meeting up with people. And I love the ride there. Listening to music in a car and shouting the words or having conversations with someone and seeing all of these people who are on the road with you, who are on their own journeys. Scenic views and snack decisions at gas stations and maybe kicking your shoes off in the car. I find it all very exciting.

Jesus’s entire ministry is one big journey, but in Luke 7:11-17, Jesus and His crew go to a town called Nain, where they happen upon a funeral procession. The funeral is for a young man. Jesus approaches his mother, who’s a widow, and tells her not to weep. Then he tells the dead man to rise, and he does. He starts speaking, and everyone in the crowd is scared. Then they glorify God.

Dramatic and impressive, right?

We have a woman who is looking at the beginning of a lonely road. She’s lost her husband and now her only son. In terms of hope, she’s dead. She probably feels like her world’s ending.

Then we have a guy whose world has literally ended. We don’t know much about this man – not his name, his age, or his cause of death. What we do know is that he must have been loved because there was a crowd traveling with his body to its grave.

It’s fairly safe to say that this journey, this trip to this man’s final resting place, started off badly. But then Jesus steps in, and everything changes.

The guy wakes up like he was only asleep. He starts talking like it’s an everyday thing. (Personally, I would love to know what he said. Did he say he was thirsty? Did he ask where he was? Did he comment on whether or not he saw heaven? I’ll file it under “Things to Ask When I Get to Heaven.”) As much as this man’s journey began badly, it ended happily.

If you ask me, this is classic Jesus. I see this as something that could happen any and every day. Not necessarily someone having breath put back into their lungs and sitting up in their casket, but certainly changing from death to life on their journey.

Alan said on Sunday that it’s about our ending, not our beginning, and he’s absolutely right because we all start at the same place. We all start with a life of sin destined for death. It doesn’t matter what your poison is because we’re all poisoned. And it doesn’t matter how much poison you have in your system because even one drop of it is enough. All of our journeys start off badly.

And if we stay where we are, if we don’t move forward, that’s where it’ll end. If you are in a bad place and never do anything to change it, you’ll stay there.

In the words of Relient K, “We all struggle with forward motion.” It’s easy to get stuck in a certain mindset, a routine, an emotion, or a season of life. But if we don’t make any sort of move to get out of whatever ruts we find ourselves in, our journey will be a circle and we’ll end where we began. Circles don’t move you forward, they only move you around.

Jesus can change your journey in an instant. He can take you from death to life so simply and beautifully that you’ll never be the same.

Maybe your journey has already taken a turn for the best. Maybe it hasn’t. If it hasn’t, I hope and pray that it does. Because journeys are beautiful and fun, and I think you would really like the change of scenery at your new destination.

By Carrie Prevette

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