All I could see was your left turn signal. You had it blinking, hoping you could get over into that turn lane, but we were all waiting behind you. The light was green. You weren’t moving. Which means I wasn’t moving, because I was two cars behind you. Didn’t you know I had to get to work by 4:15pm? It was 4:06pm, and you weren’t moving. What if I got to the parking lot by 4:12pm and couldn’t find a spot? The parking lot at work is usually packed on a sunny afternoon around this time. But you sat with your left blinker on, trying to get over to turn left while a huge line of cars, including mine, sat behind you. It’s as if you didn’t realize the parking lot might be full when I got to work. What were you thinking?
I was pretty frustrated with you. Not frustrated… angry. Not angry… furious. I screamed out my window and waved at you. “MOVE! You’ve GOT TO GO!” I half-assumed you wouldn’t hear me, but you did. You heard me loud and clear. You heard my words and you heard my anger… my fury.
Luckily for you, I negotiated a deal with the car in the lane next to me to let me in so that I wouldn’t have to wait behind you any longer. You were being selfish, anyway. Holding up a whole line of cars just so you could attempt to turn left. Didn’t you see the oncoming traffic that would prevent you from turning left, anyway? Your whole plan to turn left might not even come to fruition, anyway. But your plan to make us all late was sure working out alright.
The car in front of me pulled off into the right lane. Now I could see your whole car…
Your right blinker was on, too.
Right and left, they were both blinking simultaneously. You responded to my yelling and angry waving: “DUDE, MY CAR IS BROKEN DOWN!”
In an instant, we switched roles. You were innocent. I was the selfish one. You still weren’t moving, and I was still likely going to be late. But now you were justified in being stuck. Because that’s what you were…stuck.
I blew it, man. I was the merciless jerk that failed to see you were enduring through the horribly embarrassing experience of being broken down in the middle of a busy intersection at rush hour. But didn’t you know I had to be at work by 4:15?
Last month, I detailed my goal to read one book a month for the entirety of 2015. That may not sound like much, but for me, it’s a big goal. One book per month equals about 12 times as many books as I usually read in a year. To be honest, a few days ago I thought I wouldn’t make it out of February with the goal intact. I had three or four days ago and a lot of pages left, but somehow the time came. Against all odds, my reading adventure carried on into uncharted territory… two books in two months. I know, this is too exciting for you to handle. I should have warned you.
February’s book was Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, the pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The premise/purpose/subtitle of the book is “hearing God’s voice above all others.” As somebody who has a constant mental conversation going upstairs (I promise you I’m not crazy), this sounded like an intriguing read. Shout out once again to my friend Jenn, Kristen Wiig’s twin, because she’s a major fan of this book and recommended it to me. I have a hard time believing she actually read it, though, because that acting schedule must be crazy, right?
Crash the Chatterbox was a big change from Blue Like Jazz, because the two books are completely different in style. Blue Like Jazz basically functions as a collection of memories with profound insights about God and life along the way, but Crash the Chatterbox is more of a pep-talk meets how-to kind of book. Donald Miller and Steven Furtick also write very differently. I’ll just say it – Miller is a much better writer. That doesn’t make Furtick a bad writer, though. He’s actually very good at crafting memorable, quotable lines that stick around and can serve as reproducible advice:
“When your perspective is preloaded with the Word of God, lies lose their power over your life.”
“We don’t have to fear what we face when we know who we’re trusting in.”
“[The enemy] loves to project the past into the future, thus squeezing out the potential of the present.”
“Don’t let what you expected keep you from what God wants you to experience.”
While I love those easily reproducible one-liners, here are some larger lessons I learned from Crash the Chatterbox:
We waste an excessive amount of mental time and space with our “what-ifs.”
God WILL carry me through any unfavorable circumstance I will ever face.
Many of my worries are unwarranted and unproductive.
I AM a child of God.
I can distinguish between the voice of the enemy and the voice of God.
It is possible to deflect the harmful thoughts the enemy sends my way.
I have believed many lies the enemy has told me, causing many insecurities to develop.
There are many other principles I learned by reading this book, but most of all, it helped me in a practical manner. Over the course of reading this book, I’ve found myself veering away from useless worrying sessions that have crept in and caused destruction in the past. I’ve learned to distinguish between what Satan tries to tell me and what God IS telling me. I’ve learned to rest in the security that is found in my very identity in Christ, rather than allowing insecurity to make a home in my heart and mind. I’ve caught myself many a time ready to drift into another harmful state of worry, when suddenly, it’s almost as if I hear the voice of Elrond saying “There is nothing for you here, only death!”
While that’s a somewhat cheesy and overused quote from Lord of the Rings, it’s TRUE. Matthew 6:27 says “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
No. The answer is no. There is nothing for you in worrying, only death.
I’ve always said that I’ve always been a worrier, but I’m no longer willing to accept that as a part of my identity. My identity is in Christ alone. Whom shall I fear? No weapon formed against me, especially the voice of Satan telling me to worry, shall prosper…
Crash the Chatterbox helped me realize the detriment of worry. While that’s a different lesson than many people probably take from the book, worry is the most frequent type of mental chatter that plagues me. When I let worry stay, and then grow, and then allow it to make its home in my heart and mind, it blossoms into full-grown insecurity. Crash the Chatterbox has assisted me in simply telling worry to leave. When it knocks on the door, I’m having dinner with some good friends named Identity in Christ and Blessed Assurance, so I can’t answer.
As somebody who overthinks and over-analyzes, I’m very thankful for the mental rest that Furtick’s words have helped me find. That rest has always been available to me in Jesus, but this book was a road map of sorts to help me find its exact location.
Clearly, Crash the Chatterbox was a practical and useful tool for me, and it’s very quotable, to boot. However, I do have a few critiques about this read:
I’m not a huge fan of Steven Furtick’s writing style. It’s often too choppy. While quotable, the highlight content comes in small chunks rather than flowing throughout large sections of his writing.
I feel like this book could have been much shorter and accomplished the same purpose. It was pretty repetitive and contained what seemed like a lot of filler content.
A little bit of celebrity pastor arrogance was present throughout the book.
I had a hard time connecting with the author on a personal level, which was tough because he tried to write the book in a very personal manner.
It didn’t dive deep enough. I was waiting for the plunge, but I felt like many of the book’s topics floated near the surface level.
All of that being said, I did like Crash the Chatterbox and I would recommend it to anyone who struggles with fear, worrying, insecurity, or any other type of mental chatter that you feel like you can’t control. God is bigger than the seemingly ongoing battle taking place inside our heads. Victory is real, and fear is a liar. Crash the chatterbox that says you can’t read one book a month for a year. Crash the chatterbox that says you aren’t worth it. Crash the chatterbox that says you won’t get through this. Crash the chatterbox that’s constantly trying to take what can’t be taken from you – your identity in Christ.
Crash. Crash. Crash.
2 down, 10 to go. Next up: Creation Regained by Albert Wolters, which I’ll be reading as a possible basis for my senior thesis project.
When I was a little kid, I loved reading books. I think I read most of The Hardy Boys series, like any boy should do. I bet there were some days that consisted solely of me peering into the lives of Frank and Joe as they solved yet another mystery (how did they get in so many strange situations?).
Recently, though, I’ve been distracted. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and plenty of other things I love to waste time doing have choked out the power of reading in my life. I read a book by Francis Chan, if you could call it reading. It was more like reading and then forgetting what I read and then reading some more and then forgetting again. I think that took about a year. I couldn’t make it through a book if I tried. And I didn’t really try, anyway.
I went to Michigan over Christmas break. I stayed in a house that held one of the most impressive book collections I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. In front of me was a wealth of stories, knowledge, and inspiration. On one of the bookshelves, I’m pretty sure I saw the complete works of William Shakespeare, which I would never read, but it was cool. There was an entire bookcase filled with what looked like ancient books. The classics. Even as a non-reader, I was impressed. I didn’t know the WiFi password for the house, if it even had WiFi, and I would only be staying there for a few nights. Opening a book and looking inside couldn’t hurt for those few nights, I thought.
I picked a book that I’d be able to get something out of without having to finish it. I found a book called Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey. Each chapter was about a different person who greatly influenced Philip’s life, and more specifically, his walk with God. I read the chapter about Martin Luther King Jr., who I thought I knew everything about. It was not so. Some of the MLK quotes included by Yancey truly shook me. I was inspired. I’ve always been fascinated by Martin Luther King Jr., but this time I was fascinated at something else, too – why did I ever give up on reading?
It was an epiphany. Surrounded by thousands of books in a quiet room, I realized I needed to start reading again. Reading could be the escape that I admittedly search for sometimes by scrolling through Twitter, as shameful as that sounds. The new year was about to start, but I didn’t want this to be a New Year’s Resolution that I gave up on after a week and a half, like every other New Year’s Resolution that ends in dissolution.
I wrote down a goal: one book per month in 2015. Not terribly difficult, but if you do the math, that’s 12 books throughout the year. That’s 12 times as many books as I would usually read in a year’s time, so I figured it a good goal. This goal was actually inspired by my friend Jenn, who set the same goal in 2014 and succeeded. Jenn looks like Kristen Wiig, but she doesn’t think so. She’s wrong, because she definitely looks like Kristen Wiig.
Back to those miracles I mentioned. When I got home from Michigan, I looked on the bookshelf downstairs and pulled out a few books that looked interesting. I found my first book for 2015, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. It sounded vaguely familiar, and I knew who Donald Miller was, but I didn’t know what to expect. Hopefully I would follow through with my goal. I opened the book and started reading. That was the first miracle.
Today, January 12th, I finished Blue Like Jazz. That was the second miracle. Maybe I will even exceed my goal. Maybe I will read two books this month. Miracles do happen.
I decided to blog about my reading adventure for the sake of accountability and because Kristen Wiig told me she wishes she would have done the same thing in order to remember what she learned from her year of reading. When I finish each book, I’ll share what I learned and why you should or shouldn’t read the book. It turns out, Blue Like Jazz was a good place to start, because Donald Miller taught me a lot.
Here are some things I learned from Blue Like Jazz:
I am a lot like Donald Miller in some ways.
I am nothing like Donald Miller in other ways.
Donald Miller is a very unique writer.
As Christians, we should be apologizing to people we’ve failed to love.
There is something profound about friendships that rest on the basis of appreciation of differences.
I suck at loving people.
Jesus can truly set us free. He can set us free from closed-mindedness and give us the ability to love everyone as if they were our best friend.
When Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself,” he meant it.
It’s ok to be weird. And to tell people about how weird you are.
Sometimes, I should live a little.
I am addicted to myself.
I realize that last one is a bit heavy, but that’s one of the main ways I could relate to Donald as he told his story. He thought the world revolved around him. Until he truly experienced the unconditional love of Jesus playing out in his life in a beautiful manner, he was subconsciously but harmfully addicted to himself. He prayed that God would rip this self-addiction from his grasp. God did, and Donald was free. Free of himself. Free to live, free to love. Free to experience Jesus. Free to experience Christianity as “blue like jazz.”
“The first generation out of slavery invented jazz music. It is a music birthed out of freedom. And that is the closest thing I know to Christian spirituality. A music birthed out of freedom. Everybody sings their song the way they feel it, everybody closes their eyes and lifts up their hands.” (Blue Like Jazz, p. 239)
I realized that I’m trapped in the same addiction of myself. That’s a pretty heavy revelation for my first book of the year. If the rest of the 2015 plays out like this, I’ll be in trouble. It’ll be a good kind of trouble, though, because I’ll be a better person for it. As I read Blue Like Jazz, I heard God telling me to let go of all of my pride and prejudice (pun halfway intended). There’s no room for self-addiction if I want to follow Jesus and truly love people. I need to let go of myself and understand that the fullness of my worth is found in Jesus. I can love myself fully by receiving the love Jesus has for me. Lose my life, and I’ll find it. I think somebody important said that once.
Donald Miller certainly isn’t one of those authors caught up in theological debate or concerned with “the (insert number) things that will help you with doing ________ in your life.” He tells his story and hopes and prays that people will learn from it. It’s possible that I learned more from his writing than I could ever learn from some Bible scholar who’s smarter than both Donald and I put together. Donald really knows how to be transparent and honest. I like that. I also feel like I have taken on a variation of his writing style throughout the course of this blog post. I guess he really impacted me.
Blue Like Jazz revealed a self-addiction that I didn’t really know I had. It was a hopeful revelation, though, because that’s what Jesus does. He gives us hope despite our attempts to choke it out.
I’m excited for the 11 or more books I’m going to read throughout the rest of this year. Please keep me accountable. I hope you enjoy the thoughts I will share along the way. Oh, and read Blue Like Jazz. It will take you from Portland to the Grand Canyon to the innermost caverns of your heart and mind. I am recommending that you read this book, which is something I usually can’t do, because I haven’t read the book in the first place. Supposedly there is a movie about this book. I think I will watch it now. Kristen Wiig says I can be one of those people that makes snarky comments about the movie because I read the book first and the movie left out so many important parts. Wait, I read the book first?