The Seeker

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m usually done with Christmas as soon as Christmas day is over.

As of December 26th, I’m typically not in the mood for it anymore. The day designated for Jesus’ birth has passed, the presents have been given out, the music and movies are over (for the most part). I have no more of a craving for candy canes or eggnog than I do on May 15th. For me, when Christmas is over, it’s over.

If that’s not you, that’s cool too. I won’t try to stop you from celebrating and having a good time. Keep doing your thing.

Anyway, my reason for saying all this is because although it’s after Christmas, this is a Christmas-y blog post, and if you’re someone like me, I hope that won’t hinder you from reading it.

Alan started his sermon on Sunday by asking, “What is a seeker?” What I really wanted to do was raise my hand and say, “It’s a quidditch position.”

But a seeker, at least in the context Alan was creating, is one who tries to locate, reach, or find something or someone.

The story of Christmas is filled with seekers. God sought a mother and father for Jesus. Mary and Joseph sought answers. People of all sorts – shepherds, wise men, old men, prophets – looked for Jesus. Herod looked to kill Him. And the Jews, who had been searching and waiting their entire lives, finally received a Messiah.

It’s a great example of how we’re all seeking something. Maybe the search has been long like that of the Jews or one of panic like Mary and Joseph’s. Maybe it’s been a venture to the unknown like the wise men’s or something out of your normal life and limits like that of the shepherds. Regardless, we’re all seeking something.

I think it’s safe to say that what we’re all really searching for, no matter how it manifests itself, is happiness.

We think love and romance will bring us happiness, so we search restlessly for it in clubs, online profiles, and church events. We look down on friendship and companionship because although they won’t leave us lonely, they aren’t as glamorous and they aren’t the same.

We think money will ultimately make us happy, and in order to get it, we work overtime and/or save money for no real reason. It’s nice to know it’s there. Or it’s nice to do things, and you can’t do too much or have too much fun without money.

Or social status is our door to being happy. We change the bold lines and colors that make us who we are to something faint that can float around and blend in anywhere. And everyone will like us. And then for some odd reason, that’ll make us happy.

I’m going to step lightly out on a limb here and say that you’re still looking. Either you haven’t found your manifestation of choice, and you’re still determined to find it, or you did find the manifestation but not the happiness, and you’re still seeking that.

Here’s the simple truth: if it’s not God, that’s not it. If what you’re pursuing isn’t God or isn’t okay with God (as in it goes against His plans for you or His commandments), it’s not what you need to be seeking. And if you’re what you’re pursuing isn’t God or isn’t okay with God, don’t expect your search to stop here. This isn’t the end of your unhappiness. You’ll keep seeking until you find God and His perfect will because that is true happiness.

When you look at the seekers in the Christmas story, they all got what they wanted except for Herod. That’s because everyone else’s desires lined up with God’s. It was all part of His plan. Herod’s heart and goals were selfish and terrible and held no concern for God in the least.

“Carrie, I have been seeking God and trying to do what He wants, but I’m not getting anything. I’ve gotten no results. I’ve got no idea why I’m still doing what I’m doing. I’ve got no clue where God’s at in all of this.”

There’s something that keeps coming up in Alan’s sermons that God clearly wants everyone to know and remember, and that point is this: just because you can’t see or hear God moving doesn’t mean He isn’t.

This blog is a perfect example of that. When I first started writing these posts, there were very few readers. It was mostly friends of mine from church whom I originally thought were reading out of some feeling of obligation. It took longer for the blog to grow than I expected, and it was a little disheartening. I didn’t see how any of it was making any difference to anyone. I knew it was a way for God to reach people, but as far as I could tell, God wasn’t reaching anyone through it.

I know now that wasn’t and isn’t true. I don’t know how many people read this blog regularly, but I know some people do. I’ve received so many compliments while doing this that I wouldn’t even know where to start in relaying them all. There are several subscribers, some of whom I know and some of whom I don’t. There are hundreds of views, some of which are from people in other countries.

I cannot begin to tell you how much every last bit of it means because it was just four months ago that I thought it was pointless.

God was moving even when I didn’t see it. He was preparing hearts, getting my words right, lining up topics so that it could all come together beautifully and actually make an impact on someone instead of just being something someone read online that one time.

So don’t give up. If God’s not leading you somewhere else, don’t go somewhere else. You don’t know what’s coming. If it’s God’s will, whatever is coming is going to be great.

Continue to seek God and His will. To do anything else will leave your heart hurting and your hopes empty. We were all born with the inclination to seek something. Just be sure it’s the only One worth seeking.

By Carrie Prevette

Humble Beginnings and the Last Chapter

People who read the last chapter or page of a book first kind of amaze me.

How do you do it? Are you confused at any point, and if so, does that not bother you? Don’t you want the mental and emotional build-up before reaching that last section without knowing what will happen? What about any unfamiliar characters? Don’t you want to form opinions about them before finding out what happens to them? If you read that last bit and decide to read the book, how does it affect the way you read it? (By the way, these are legitimate questions, and I would like for anyone who does this and is interested in answering to please do so.)

Let me give you an example of why it would be a bad idea for me to read the last chapter of a book first.

My family is a Tolkien family. We’ve had a dog named Frodo and a dog named Bilbo. My dad read us The Hobbit when we were kids. My mom used to call me her “precious” when I was little, which was a reference to Gollum’s name for the ring, but my mom never said it in a creepy way like Gollum does. My sister is a big fan as well. My brother’s knowledge and love for Tolkien is probably only a step or two below Stephen Colbert’s.

Then there’s me. I’ve seen all three Lord of the Rings movies more times than I dare to count, and I enjoy them greatly, but I haven’t seen the extended versions. Until about a year ago, I hadn’t read a complete Tolkien book. I promised my brother I’d read The Hobbit before I saw the movie., but it was so hard for me to get into it that we made a deal that I would read to where each movie left off, which broke his heart a little.

I decided to finish the book last year instead of just stopping where the second movie did. I didn’t do it just to get it over with. By that point in the story, I was interested and invested.

I vividly remember finishing the book. I was in the living room with my mom and my sister. They were watching TV, and I was reading, sitting in the recliner my brother likes to sit in. He came home from work just after I read the part where my two favorite characters die. He walked into the room getting ready to say, “Get out of my seat,” when he saw me crying. And it wasn’t just a dignified tear or two. It was an ugly cry. Scrunched-up face, puffy eyes, wet cheeks, and more tears falling. Through gasps and sobs, I managed to tell him why I was upset. He sympathized with me. Everyone did.

Had I read the last chapter first, I would’ve thought, “Oh, this’ll be easy to get through. I can see why everyone loves Tolkien so much.” Then I would’ve been extremely disappointed in the first half of the book when I wished Tolkien would give all of the description a rest and just get on with the story.

But then there’s the Bible, a book in which you have to read the last bit to know how it’ll all turn out.

Billy Graham said, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”

It’s a comfort we all need sometimes. We all have our low points, and personally, my low points tend to be filled with doubts. I guess when I’m down, I feel ignored, unwanted, and/or irrelevant. Knowing that heaven awaits and that I’m just as important as the next person that’ll be up there helps me feel better.

Let’s revisit The Hobbit for a minute. For those of you who aren’t very familiar with hobbits and their social standing among other creatures in Middle Earth, hobbits aren’t very glamorous, popular, or highly regarded. The largely keep to themselves, or at least their own kind. No surprises. No adventures. They’d rather be left alone at home, and most of everyone else has no problem leaving them alone. It’s these very creatures that become the heroes in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. They change their world.

God does the exact same thing. He takes the smallest, most insignificant people and places and uses them for His glory.

That’s why Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem. He wasn’t born in a clean, luxurious hospital surrounded by other little babies. The wise men and shepherds didn’t have to fight big-city traffic to get to Mary’s room and see the boy. No, Jesus cries echoed off cave walls and the nearby inn that was too crowded with those who returned for the census. Those travelling to see Him might’ve wondered where they were because the star wasn’t guiding them towards a large, industrious place. Jesus’ first neighbors were animals, not other swaddled babies resting gently in cribs.

Talk about humble beginnings.

Then He grew up in Nazareth, a place people said nothing good came from. Jesus was born in a tiny town and raised in a dirty, rough city. He never let that stop Him because He held onto God’s promises.

I’m not saying that God will move you around like He did Jesus, but I am saying that God has big plans for you. You’re already relevant to Him, but He’s going to use you in ways that will make the world see how relevant you are as well.

“But I’m not that smart.” Neither were the disciples. They were commoners and craftsmen, not philosophers and priests.

“I can’t speak that well.” Neither could Moses. He has a speech impediment.

“I’m too old.” So was Abraham, but them Isaac was born.

“I’m too young.” Jeremiah thought the same thing, but God corrected him really quickly and used him as a prophet.

“I’m set in my ways.” Paul was too before he started on the road to Damascus.

“I’m too poor.” John the Baptist lived in the wild and earned no money at all.

“I just can’t.” That’s what most of the people God’s ever used have said.

God told Paul, “My power works best in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, NLT). It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t have. It doesn’t matter how insignificant you think you are. Where we see defects, God sees His power and opportunities for Him to dazzle.

We see our imperfections as what’s wrong with us. Really, they’re what make us unique, specific people that God loves and wants to use to further His kingdom. What’s “wrong” with you is just a way for God to show how mighty He is. What you “don’t have” is simply God waiting to give you something.

Don’t doubt your worth or your importance for a minute because they’re both immeasurable. One day, when you know everything’s okay and you’re basking in God’s love, you’ll finally see it. And if you forget, that’s okay. God’s always ready to remind you, and He wants to spend eternity doing so.

By Carrie Prevette

Hope for Humanity

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I know, let’s alert the presses; no one’s ever loved Christmas the most before.

I have many reasons for liking Christmas as much as I do. I love food, and there’s a lot of it around this time of year. Presents are cool. Seeing people enjoy the presents I give them is even cooler. There are pretty lights everywhere. I’m an absolute sucker for nostalgia, and I have some wonderful memories of Christmas time from when I was a kid. It’s a holiday with its own music and movies (and while it’s not the only one, it’s still pretty cool). There are festive socks, hats, sweaters, and decorations. For the most part, (if you’re not in traffic or in a store at the wrong time) people tend to be friendlier and more compassionate.

Basically, the whole Christmas season is fun for me. It’s just lovely. But most importantly, it’s the time to celebrate the birth of Christ.

To me, if it wasn’t for Jesus’ existence, no other holiday (or any day) would be worth celebrating. My life would be meaningless, and I don’t know where I’d be.

It might seem odd, at least at first, for a Christmas sermon to be about hope, but once you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Consider the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem:”

Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

Jesus was the answer to the Jews’ hope for a Messiah. They’d heard of His coming for such a long time. I imagine many were ready to give up on it until Mary brought Jesus into this world. I also imagine their hope was rekindled upon hearing of or seeing the boy. He was everything they hoped for and everything they feared would never come.

He’s our hope as well. He gives us hope for a better, more meaningful life. We live in a world where so much can go wrong and so much can drag us down to our lowest. And Jesus is the One that keeps us going despite all of that and lets us know that, somehow, it’ll all be okay.

The really outstanding thing about Jesus’ life is that no one part of it is terribly more significant than all the other parts. Obviously without the birth, none of the rest would’ve happened. If it wasn’t His death and resurrection, none of it would’ve mattered in terms of His divinity and title as the Messiah. Without Him living the life He did – free of sin, but not free of temptation – no one would’ve believed Him to be the Son of God, and His life would’ve drawn no believers to spread the word and essentially start a revolution.

For me, the life of Jesus is probably what I find most compelling about Him. He did everything with purpose. He could’ve belittled those around Him, but He chose to love and uplift them instead of condemning them. He was honest and sassy, and He had a temper at times, but not once did He use those aspects of His personality in a way that reflected negatively on His ministry or His Father.

It’s crazy to think of how many times Jesus could’ve given into temptation. There’s temptation like all of us experience, but Jesus was more than a common person. He was a leader, and He had power, and from my understanding of the way the world typically works, that only brings more temptation. Not to mention the fact that Jesus had several enemies who went out of their way to try and make Him fail.

But He never did. Not even once.

“That’s nice and all, but I’m not Jesus, so what hope does that give me?”

Don’t be so hard on yourself; none of us are Jesus. And please don’t think anyone expects you to be exactly like Him. That’s a level of perfection none of us can reach and a heavy goal to pursue.

If you just think about how imperfect you are, you’ll just feel awful. But if you think about how perfect Jesus is and how He lives in you, you’ll start to see it differently. 1 John 4:4 (NLT) says, “But you belong to God…. You have already won a victory…because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who is in the world.”

My dear, I believe you have the power to overcome temptation and any problem you’ll face because the love and power of Christ resides within you.

“But Carrie, you don’t know my problems. You don’t know my history and my past, what I’ve done and what I’m prone to do. I’ve got some wounds, and I also have scars.”

I may not know your problems, but I do know God, and there is literally nothing He can’t handle. There is no issue, addiction, or hard heart that’s too much for Him. And believe me, there is no personal past or history that can stop His love for you. He’s already moved on from it, and I believe He wants you to do the same.

Scars are a beautiful thing. They can be gruesome and hard to look at sometimes, but they’re beautiful.

They tell a story. Each story is different, but the premise is always the same. You were hurt. The details of that experience are unique – who, how, when, and why. Then you were healed. It may have happened quickly or it may have taken some time, maybe even some stitches or surgery.

Regardless, here you are. You’re alive to tell the story.

Maybe you can’t get through the story without getting upset or without pausing to gather yourself. That’s okay. Healing never comes all at once. But know that without God, it wouldn’t happen at all. There’s the hope: you’re still here, and it’s not some cosmic accident that you are.

We have hope because Jesus came to life. He came into this world a crying, screaming baby boy, but He was so much more. He’s still living within us each and every day. He doesn’t cry, although we may break His heart at times, and there’s no need for Him to scream. The hope and love He gives us is loud enough.

By Carrie Prevette

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