I’ve heard it said more than once that at some point you should work a job that you absolutely hate.  I hadn’t given it much attention but I’ve found it has merit.

I thought I didn’t like my job in golf course maintenance as a teenager because it was hot, sweaty work.  I was precious and thought I knew a lot of things.  Not much has changed.

Well, that’s not true, which brings me here.  I currently work as a Customer Service Representative in a call center for a company I’m actually not legally allowed to disclose here, but we’ll just say that some people have no problem losing their humanity on the phone for some mindless entertainment.

Needless to say, I do not look forward to going to the office everyday.  But, as much as I’m not fond of this experience, it is shaping me.  Sometimes, I get calls from people who are just looking to take out their anger on me, whether they realize it or not.  I have no face and represent a company, not a person.  Their circumstances have a safe outlet when they speak with me.  And yet, in the midst of what feels like sharp injustice, a new branch of love and humility can begin to grow if I’ll pay attention.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ attitude when He was betrayed, beaten, and mocked during the process of the greatest service ever given.  He loved with a humility I will never know.  In likeness, I must make a choice to love and serve regardless of how I am treated.  Every single day gives me new perspective on how this life is most beautifully lived, whether that be a pleasant experience or not.

lonely_flower_by_sed_rah-d41y7vq

Which brings me to my point: choice.  Even more than love and humility, God is teaching me to take ownership of my choices.  Though, from time to time, I have someone spitting the most profane venom you’ve never thought of in my ears, I alone have the ability to choose not only how I will react but how I will let it affect me at all.

Will this ruin the day, or even a moment?

Will this move me at all?

What kind of power am I willing to give away to this stranger?

Every day when I walk into work, sit down in my cubicle, place my headset over my ears, and take my last deep breath before logging onto the phones, the Lord says to me,

“Who has the power to move you but you?  Don’t give it away.  Choose love.  Choose to love those who are cursing you.  Even though isn’t fair and it hurts, choose to serve, especially when you are treated like a servant.”

Everyone has a choice.  Many choose to buck up, striving so desperately to make themselves feel strong and secure, yet, it is exactly that which is the evidence of their weakness and insecurity.  I am strong only because my Father is strong and because He has given me the awareness to choose for myself what I will think, say, or feel.  The actions of others belong to those who choose them, not me.

I have grown to no longer feel bad selling my customers overpriced distractions because every single one of them has a choice to make and they alone are responsible for that choice, regardless of anyone else.  Likewise, it is my responsibility to do my job to the best of my abilities and to remain faithful where I’ve chosen to serve.

Choose to step outside of our cultural influences and think, regardless of the grain.  Everyone is selling Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir of some kind or another, but only you can choose to buy in or walk away with your wisdom in hand, knowing you didn’t end up with a bottle of piss and ink.

You can choose.  Defend your pride, if you must.  Or, choose to know your worth and let all else fall away.

Because the truth is those who shout the loudest lack the most.

They crave love and affirmation and they are starving to death.

Those of us who know from where our value comes, you and I, have the ability to supply that demand.

Don’t be selfish.

Brent Hemphill

P.S.

When we make our sales we get ridiculous rewards like pickles and kool-aid.  Somehow I’m not motivated by that but I suppose somewhere someone was, so they kept it!

I think that somewhere, long ago

A treasure lost down in the snow

Of lights and games and good intentions

And the internet, not to mention

I think we missed it’s fond farewell

It bid adieu and we propelled

This grand idea that our arraignment

Would never be for entertainment

I think it grabbed us by the fat

And helped us down to where we’ve sat

But we don’t mind and think it’s nice

For someone else to sooth our vice

I think we look the other way

And say we’ll deal another day

But one by one we watch them go

Down deeper, deeper into the snow

I think those games and good intentions

And the internet, not to mention

Will suck us in and wish us well

Before we’ve seen we’re in their spell

I think I think, but I could be wrong

I may be also in this song

I’ll twist and claw and scream and fight

I’ll tear these bonds with all my might

I think you’re jealous, I’ve won the fight

I’ve got the answers, I’ve got the right

To point my finger and give your sentence

But I’m the fool who needs repentance

I think we’re broken, squeak, and still

He’s no longer there upon that hill

He gave us brains to seek Him with

To separate Him from our myth

I think somewhere we got distracted

Our brains walked out, we should have acted

We should have plead, and begged, and fought

We don’t think now, not how we ought

I think I’m sad to see them go

It’s awfully cold down in this snow

I once was used to how it felt

But now’s the time for it to melt

We think we think, but is it true?

I think I think we think we do.

Take a deep breath.  Hold it.  Breathe out.

I’m so glad I began this journey, but I’m also glad to be finished.  It’s hard to believe I’m here… finally? already? Both.

There are a couple of things I want to say before wrapping up this blog series.  God has spoken to me and taught me a lot, but He also used many others to poke and prod around in my thoughts as well.  I don’t think I can fairly name everyone, but let’s talk about a few that stand out in my mind.

The first to be mentioned is none other than Donald Miller.  Through his book, Blue Like Jazz, as well as his other works, Miller showed me that it’s not only ok but necessary to think simply and practically about my faith.  He also helped me understand that perfection is not my goal, but rather to be who I was made to be, dirt and wounds included.

Similar, but distinct, is Anne Lamott.  If you had told me a few years ago that my faith would be shaped, in part, by a brooding, snarky, liberal hippy, universalist, and feminist, I would have never believed you.  Her famed work, Traveling Mercies, opened my eyes to think about those that are not so high in our American caste system from a different perspective.  Maybe the culture I know and live in isn’t the only way to honor God, if at all.  She also helped me see that God prefers us as we are, raw with brutal honesty, self-awareness, and humility.  He wants holiness and reverence, absolutely, but we are better presented to Him as we truly are, rather than white-washing our tombs and showing up on Sunday morning saying, “Don’t I look pretty?”

Ian Morgan Cron is one of the most godly, well-spoken men I’d never heard of.  After roping me in with his memoir, Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me, he then took me on a journey in his fictional work, Chasing Francis, that helped reaffirm and compliment my most recent thoughts and ideas concerning God and the way He interacts with us.  Cron helped me better understand and embrace the Eucharist like I had never done before, stepping back from the flash and dash of evangelical churchianity and walking me through a faith that goes beyond external stimuli and instead goes straight to the heart through tradition, history, and liturgy.

Scholars like Dr. John Lennox, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Francis Collins, and most certainly my mentor and close friend, Dr. Scott Ellington, opened my mind and helped me not only to worship God with all of my heart and strength, but also with the way I think.  These are some of the most brilliant people you could learn from in your search to understand how God and ourselves fit into this world together.  They have allowed me to ask questions like, “Why do I believe?,” “What do I believe?,” and “Do I believe?”  No longer did I have everything figured out.  There are so many questions that I don’t have answers to and that can be really unnerving.  But as with the seasons of weather, it’s only when everything dies can it bloom and grow again.  These men don’t pretend to have all the answers, but they most assuredly have done their homework and I highly recommend listening to what they have to say.  They will help you wrestle with what you think you know and rest in admitting what you do not know.

Through this ragtag group of people sharing pieces of their own journey toward God have I been moved to think and live in whole new ways.  I’m forever indebted to these and many more that God has used to influence my love and understanding of Him.

The last thoughts I want to leave you with are best said through the lyrics of the song posted below.  I understand that parts of it will not appeal to everyone musically, I only ask that if you start it that you also finish it, as it is best experienced holistically.

Because of Him,

Brent Hemphill

Well, here we are.  Month #23 and we’re almost home.  It’s been a long journey with lots of falls, scrapes, and bruises.  As we crest the top of the hill, home awaits us in the valley with church bells ringing, smoke rising slowly from a few chimneys, and the smell of dinner greeting us from afar.  Relief washes over like warm honey as the weight of the journey slides off our shoulders and falls to the ground beside us.

Pitch a couple of tents with me and let’s take some time to debrief and think about what we’ve experienced, what’s changed in us and around us, and what’s happened between God and ourselves.  And let’s not rush.  We’ve been on a long trip, but we’ll get there soon enough.

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First, let’s be clear that I have not reached the pinnacle of perfection.  Listen,  I know you’re disappointed and all but if you thought I could actually do this without fault, shame on you.  I followed most of the rules, most of the time, for sure.  And I’ve tried to be conscious of everything and make the best decisions, but flawless I am not.  Where I’ve failed is a reflection of my brokenness, and where I’ve done well is a reflection of His grace and provision.

I think that’s been critical, though.  My desire is not to fail, of course, but through my failures I now have a far more realistic idea of my humanity.  If we’re honest, I think few of us really understand that.  But, from where I sit now, my sin and what seems like my inability to avoid sin, are more evident than I thought possible.

This past month I’ve developed a short list of things that I’ve learned and realized during the past two years.  This, of course, is not exhaustive since I’ll be processing this journey for a while, but it’s more concise than just rambling and I thought you might appreciate that.  So, here ‘goes:

  • Life is a metaphor.

Everything in this life is an illustration for everything else.  The good, the bad, and the ugly of our existence directly correlates with some aspect of God or the spiritual realm.  From the beauty of flowers and stars to the taste of your favorite meal to the way animals and people interact with one another, God has painted a picture of who He is and how He works.  Take some time to notice these things.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

  • Life is a story.  

And that story can be such a beautiful thing.  But know, your story is made beautiful by the hands of conflict, pain, and tragedy and the redemption of such.  I’ve known a few friends that really didn’t like some of my favorite movies because they had a sad ending, or because everyone dies in it.  And I think if beauty rested only on the pleasant things in life, they might have a point.  But it doesn’t.  Trouble and difficulty were not only promised by Jesus but it’s also the first thing you learn in Creative Writing 101.  It’s a technique that all good writers and storytellers use called narrative arc.  The rising action and the climax are what gets us interested and excited about what’s going on and the gist is this: without first having resistance, our story is a snooze-fest with two thumbs down.

  • A beautiful life is valuable.

I’ve had to put a lot of time and thought into what exactly I mean by that.  I know men who would raise their eyebrows at it, dismissing it as feminine.  And yeah, there are some aspects of beauty that many women represent very well.  But they’re only that, a physical representation of a very non-physical concept. The beauty I want comes not only from the redemption of pain but also in the form of integrity, love, and humility.

I want to leave X better than I found it.  I want to leave people feeling that I’ve somehow added value to their lives.  I want to know that I am honest in everything that I say and do.  These qualities give weight to your words and actions.

Another way of thinking about beauty is this: To be beautiful is to fulfill your intended purpose.  In that sense, almost anything can be beautiful if it is protected and used only for the purpose for which it was created.

My friend Adam is from Pakistan.  He’s good at everything and very intelligent.  He asked me the other day, “If you could solve the world’s problems with one word, what would it be?”  I had to think a minute to come up with my word, purity.  He likened that to his answer, honesty, and I had to agree.  The concept is as I said earlier, if we fought to keep everything in it’s purest form from coffee, beer, and cheeseburgers to clothing and sexuality to words, people, and money, we could live in a far more beautiful world.  It’s only when we become selfish and pervert these things to increase our gain, negligent of who it must come from, that we get such tragedies as rape, divorce, murder, poverty, slavery, and fast food.

I think we can do better and it starts with purity.  I’m sure I look hypocritical if you watch my life up close, but I’m not claiming to be completely pure, honest, loving, or humble.  I’m claiming that these are goals worth working for, despite our deficiencies as citizens of a fallen world.

  • God made both the heart and the brain.

Paul taught us that everyone is a part of the body.  Nobody can survive on their own, but we need each other to function properly.  In the same way, we must seek God with all of our heart as well as all of our mind, to say the least.  If we get bogged down in theological mumbo-jumbo, we’re going to miss the relational, emotional, inexplicable love and presence of God.

But also, if we are only focused on feeling Him with our emotions and trying to get that rush, then the deep, rich truths that reveal God’s character, personality, and values will never be known.  If you don’t know him, Ravi Zacharias is a brilliant scholar, apologist, and philosopher.  The motto of his ministry is this: “Helping the Thinker Believe.  Helping the Believer Think.”  I’ve found few other ideas that I can endorse as firmly as this one.

If we want to know God beyond the Sunday morning gathering, we must engage Him with the artful, fluid emotions and wonder of our hearts, while also not neglecting to weigh everything we do and believe with logic, facts, and good common-sense.  We can’t understand everything about God, given His eternality, but we should strive to avoid being a moron in the name of Jesus.

  • God loves me far too much.

For years I’ve felt God and I could talk openly.  I tell Him about my day, how I feel about this or that, and He dialogues with me.  Sometimes He brings correction and sometimes encouragement and even sometimes I sense a divine facepalm when I’ve done something stupid.

Often though, I’ve ventured to speak to God, more specifically asking Him to speak to me, and He says little more than, “I love you.”

Misty Edwards of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri once spoke of a similar experience she had in her late teens.  I’d be ready for God to hit me with His master plan or reveal some profound theological concept never before known but instead, He would just say, “I love you.”

It began to really frustrate me.  A lot.

“I know,” I would complain, rolling my eyes, “But that doesn’t pay my bills or tell me what I’m supposed to do with my life.  Couldn’t you say something more useful?”

“I love you,” He would repeat.

Ugh.

But I was missing the point.  Often, I’ve got my binoculars out, scouring the horizon for any sign of God and His deep truths when He leans over my shoulder, glances at me, glances towards the horizon, and says, “What are you looking for?”

I believe there is an eternal depth to the truths of God and I want to spend my life searching them out, one by one.  But He is not so far away.  If I can’t accept His love and intimacy as an immovable fact, then everything has fallen and there is no hope.

– – –

I feel I’ve been taught and been changed more in the past two years than during any other time in my life.  And yet, one concept stands head-and-shoulders above the rest.  If you don’t hear anything else I’ve said for the past two years, please hear this:

You can’t hear past the explosions.

I heard Propaganda say that in one of his poems and he’s right.  We take no time to pay attention because we’re so caught up in the important things.  And out of everything I’ve experienced on the course of this journey, that has been what I keep coming back to.   He’s not off waiting for us to find Him one day when we finish the race and “arrive.”  He met us back at the starting line when we decided to be apart of this race and we’ve only glanced over at Him a few times since.

Stop looking for Him and be with Him.  Stop talking about Him and talk to Him.  Stop making Him an occasional event.  You’re not dating, you’re married so to speak.  Two become one.  He’s the blood in your veins, the air in your lungs, the thoughts in your mind.  Put down the cellphone, log out of Facebook, and turn off Netflix.  Clear your mind.  As with the things I’ve gone without, there’s nothing wrong with these in and of themselves.  They’re just getting in the way and He’s simply saying, “Pay attention.  I love you.”

P.S.

Thank you so much for being apart of this.  Whether you have been in and out, scanning over a post here and there, or you’ve been a faithful reader all the way through, THANK YOU!  It’s meant so much to me to have you along for this process.

Please join me again on Christmas day for the last post of my Nazirite Journey!

When I was a bit younger, maybe ten years old or so, I loved climbing the trees in our front yard.  That yard, which was massive to me then, especially when I had to mow the grass on it, led westward out to a dirt road and across to an endless field of cotton and sunsets.  There were two trees in particular that had branches low enough for my sister and I to grab ahold of and hoist ourselves into.  Naturally, she claimed one tree and I claimed the other and we could only ascend one another’s tree if we had permission, or if they weren’t around.  (wink)

Once, I climbed all the way to the top of my tree, where the branches were thin and swayed a little under my weight, when my bladder thought it a good time to ring my bell.  It was only me and my buddy there so with little hesitation I unzipped the barn door and cut loose into the breeze.  What proceeded was a great golden shower of glory.  If someone were passing by they would certainly have witnessed the radiance of God shimmering down from above.  I mean, it weren’t no burning bush, but whatevs, you take what you can get.

Over the past little while I’ve really come to appreciate trees more than I once did.  They can be so beautiful and incredibly sturdy.  When they first begin growing, you probably wouldn’t even know it was a tree unless you knew what to look for and since I didn’t follow my dad’s footsteps into horticulture, I generally don’t.

Portland's Japanese Maple

One thing I identify with is that it takes so long for them to grow because they are developing a deep and complex root system down below the surface as they go.  Those roots, which creep and crawl as far as they can in all directions is what keeps them standing tall, strong, and beautiful when years later they are finally finished growing.  If they didn’t take the time to build a confident foundation then when it came time for them to bloom tall and wide, to display His beauty in their branches, and to meet the ideal standards for their breed, they would simply lean over and give up.

As I edge ever closer to the end of my journey as a nazirite I begin to understand that there are some seasons that are solely about trust and patience.  In my mind it starts to sound like an excuse to be less-than and complacent.  Instead, I find it humbling to say, “I’m staying here and waiting, because You know better than I do.”

My instinct is to charge towards financial security or, really, progress of any kind; to start living like an “adult” and forcing things into place.  Instead, He says to me, “Wait and be at peace.”

“Be patient and trust me.”

“And trust me.”

“And trust me,” and on and on like a big broken record.

Much of this season, and possibly the next season to come, has been about waiting on Him and developing a deep, strong root system.  I’m not sure what’s coming down the pipes for me.  I have a few ideas but in all reality, it could be anything.  But, if I plan on being able to withstand the coming storms, I best have myself firmly planted in Him and draw my life source through those very roots He’s forming now.

Because of Him,
Brent Hemphill

P.S.

Also, if you’re just now joining my journey then please know that I will not be on Facebook during my time of consecration so any messages or requests you may have sent will not be responded to for quite some time. It’s not personal, it’s Jesus.

You can purchase Nazirite DNA here: https://store.ihopkc.org/nazirite-dna-book/dp/2188.
You can also get the free audiobook here:http://www.thecall.com/Groups/1000080325/TheCall/Free/Free.aspx

As I’m asked about how things are going with my vow, I tell people that God and I are closer, but never how I’d expected.  In my mind, I think I expected crystal-clear direction and Christmas feelings from here on out.  I was going to be the most loving, kind, wise person you’ve ever met.

And yet, here I are: a “dirty, rotten sinner,” as my friends joked in college.

Instead of all the pretty decorations and ornaments, I find myself in the street; naked, blind, and hungry.  I haven’t become holier as I thought, I’ve become dirtier, more honest, and it wasn’t until I was free from my most beloved distractions that I could clearly see just how nauseating my humanity really is.

In the last twenty-one months I’ve wandered, hiked, tunneled, swam, and biked from the mindset of the Pharisee to the reality of the tax collector Jesus shares about in Luke 18:10-14.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Two years ago a friend gave me a word from the Lord, saying that He was going to take me high into the sky so I could see things differently, that He was going to “broaden my perspective.”  I was pleased to hear that, because at the time I was really seeking direction (story of my life, actually.)

I later realized that He intended to wash off all my pretty make-up, entirely undress me, and reveal my reality to me, as I had never seen myself before.  I can also see others as I have never seen them before.  It’s apparent to me now that apart from Him I’m no greater than an animal seeking to survive, rummaging for things I think will satisfy my hunger.

I tell others I feel closer to Him because, though I’m not playing a harp in the clouds as I somewhat imagined, I no longer have to exhaust myself trying to obtain holiness.  I can now be me, with no apology needed.  He and I can work on who I’m becoming piece by tiny piece.  Holiness accompanies humility and is not something to be gained by deeds.  I am only righteous, because He is righteous.

That kind of honesty and clarity is liberating and relieving.  I don’t have to dance around on strings pretending like I don’t have impure thoughts, selfish motives, or judgmental attitudes.  I don’t have to keep a condemning checklist of what I have and haven’t done for Him, straining to be enough.  Like butter spread over too much bread, as Bilbo put it.

Mostly, I love that I don’t have to impress Him.

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He knows I’m dirty.  It was I who was deceived into thinking I could be good enough.

And now, He is far more real to me than I’ve ever known.  And it’s cool, because there’s this loose balance between the intense reverence I’ve gained for Him, and the frank irreverence we can enjoy together.

He and I can enjoy humorous things together, regardless of their nature.  But He can also handle it if I get angry or frustrated about something.  We hash it out and never once have I offended Him, and never once have I bested Him.

It’s important not to forget that His identity does not change because of this.  He is still the I AM.  And, lest I forget, every time I take holy communion He grips my heart and brings me into a reality that doesn’t exist anywhere else.  It’s just He and I, sewing shut old wounds, healing pains, and reassuring uncertainties with every munch of His packing peanut.  His love made so real, and so tangible.

It’s much like what I imagine being best friends with a king would be like.  You can enjoy a game of laser-tag, talk about hard times, and share deep secrets.  But He’s still the King and when the time comes you give Him your love and honor, just like everybody else.

So, why are we pretending?  Who are we fooling?  Who’s opinion are we really worried about?

He’s not worried about our dirt, so… why are we?

Because of Him,
Brent Hemphill

P.S.

Also, if you’re just now joining my journey then please know that I will not be on Facebook during my time of consecration so any messages or requests you may have sent will not be responded to for quite some time. It’s not personal, it’s Jesus.

You can purchase Nazirite DNA here: https://store.ihopkc.org/nazirite-dna-book/dp/2188.
You can also get the free audiobook here:http://www.thecall.com/Groups/1000080325/TheCall/Free/Free.aspx

I’ve come to notice that almost everyone, in one away or another, is a cheapskate.  

Sometimes, we can be very frugal with our money, something I should get better at.  Sometimes I’m a cheapskate when it comes to the food I eat, settling for something fast, cheap, and easy, rather than something that is rich in quality, taste, and nutrients.  When I do take the time to cook something more organic and less processed, I can feel the difference from my tongue to my mind, and the rest of my body chimes in with the Hallelujah Chorus!

The other day I ate enough jalapeños that I could’ve filled the Hindenburg with all the gas I had.  Ugh.

I’ve also come to notice most of us are cheapskates when it comes to our entertainment too.  I consistently hear people rave about movies, music, and literature that has very little creative value.  The storyline of most movies are the same, just rehashed and dressed up a little differently.  A lot of music is filtered to the point where as long as you have a good engineer, even Ke$ha can get a record deal.  And, need I say more than Twilight or Ted Dekker?

We’ve all got areas where we sacrifice quality for convenience.

Our soul, however, is something we can’t afford to be cheap with.  Within each of us, we have an innate yearning for deep, intimate fulfillment.  We crave many things, sure, like food, water, sleep, sexual intimacy, and so on.  

But, this is something far more profound.

All else can seem to be right with the world but that empty place still chews at our heart.  To treat this, we choose to be distracted, which is why we often elect poor entertainment, wannabe food and friends, and dare I say, spouses that we settle for.

We hope it will be enough.  But it’s not.  And what’s bothersome is most often, we’re unaware that we’re trying to treat our lethal disease with over-the-counter pills and still can’t figure out why things don’t look like the end of a Disney movie.

Even hobnobbing around at church isn’t going to satisfy the hunger we’re dodging.  Church, potentially, can be a wonderful community that is absolutely necessary.  But it’s an ingredient, not a dish, much less a full meal.

No, what I’ve come to find really heals my soul and sets everything in it’s place; alongside friends, good movies, music, food, and so forth; is solitude.  

Don’t misread me.  It’s not the end, but it is a very powerful means that, it seems, most of us are trying so hard to avoid.  It’s nearly a crime to get in the car with someone and not have the radio turned on immediately.  And ever since I upgraded from my ’73 Volkswagen, I’m as guilty as the rest of us.

“Silence is the language God speaks and everything else is a bad translation.”- Mother Teresa

 

 

There are few things on earth like going for a walk in the cool of the setting sun and feeling His breeze pass close around me, birds singing, and trees shading, looking brilliant in the sunlight.  Or, slowly driving through the mountains or countryside, windows down, warm music playing, or not.  

When I was in college I loved taking my pillow and laying on my driveway at one or two in the morning, just looking at the stars.  I couldn’t grasp how the One that made all of that, in it’s infinite depth and majesty, would care to talk to me, much less be tortured and die on my behalf.

There in that solitude, just the two of you, His presence can wrap you, hold you, love you.  It’s there He reminds me that He hasn’t left and that He knows very well what is going on.  

There, I can know, without doubt, that He is.

Sometimes, it’s also in these moments, alone with Him, that my heart swells and wrenches like a ship tossed in a storm at sea, feeling the weight of His glory and the dense heave of my conflict and pain being overcome by His love and peace.  There’s an implicit knowledge that something so much greater than all that we find ourselves fretting over is calling to us, enlisting us for the pursuit of our lives.  An undeniable necessity to tear after the mystery that He is, as if we would drown if we don’t.

Solitude and taking time to be contemplative on a regular basis is something that our brothers and sisters in the high church (Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Anglican, etc.) have made a priority.  Oh, how we could learn from them if we didn’t already have God figured out.  Their attitude toward the Eucharist is astounding, but I digress.

Anyway, some, I’m sure, will have trouble taking me seriously when I say that when I eat some of my favorite foods, He’s there.  I think, “This is what God tastes like.  It’s so good, only because He is good.”  When I see something, or even someone, that is beautiful, I know that it’s only beautiful because He is.  That thing, so lovely, is only a reflection of His beauty.

You know when you want so badly to stay under your thick, burrito-like, covers in the cold winter mornings, because it just feels so good?

That’s Him.  It’s warm and comforting because He is.  It reflects Him.

Pain can be reflective too.  But that’s suffering and something for another conversation altogether.

The song I’ve posted below, regardless of it’s angst,  has been timely for me.  It reminds me that though there are very real concerns in this world, the things that are truly important are quite simple and don’t cost much at all.  

So, why are we being cheap?

 

For several years now I’ve worked with the homeless, inner-city, and disenfranchised in some capacity at different levels.  I’ve driven through the flattened and scattered neighborhoods of Moore, Oklahoma.  I’ve visited dirty children and broken people in the inner-city neighbors of Nashville and high-rise government-housing in New York City.  I’ve handed out plate after plate of food to the needy in downtown Atlanta.  I’ve given rides to strangers, I’ve listened to stories, and I’ve watched people survive like animals because it’s all they had left.  Survival.  Addiction.  Pain.

I’ve also avoided Jesus, when I saw Him in those places.  I’ve not stopped and given money.  I’ve averted my eyes.  I’ve found something else to do so I wouldn’t have to talk to that man who smells bad or who makes no sense when he speaks.  I’ve engulfed myself in busy work so I didn’t have to love any deeper than duty.  I’ve reduced them to a project to be done, a to-do list.

Ultimately, whether intentional or not, I’ve elevated myself above them.

Mother Teresa believed that in order to serve people as she would serve Jesus, she had to live like they lived, with nothing.  She, and those that served with her, had little or no possessions and gave to the people beside them, rather than serving downward.

Mother Teresa Serves Child

We are meant to help those in need, yes, and I’m not pushing a poverty-gospel agenda, necessarily.  What I am pushing is the realization that when comes to sin and love, we are all drowning in our own humanity.

I find myself groveling at Jesus’ feet uttering those words found in Luke 18:13:

 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

Physically, I have what I need.  I have a job, a home, friends, family, and a meal.

My heart however, is just as desperately in need of His love and forgiveness as everyone else.  I crave His affection, knowing that I’m so unworthy.

The artists known as Showbread said it well in their song, “Matthias replaces Judas.”

Jesus my heart is all I have to give to you,
So weak and so unworthy, this simply will not do
No alabaster jar, no diamond in the rough
For your body that was broken, how can this be enough?

By me you were abandoned, by me you were betrayed
Yet in your arms and in your heart forever I have stayed
Your glory illuminates my life, and no darkness will descend
For you’ve loved me forever, and your love will never end

If I’ve learned nothing else during my time as a terrible Nazirite, it’s that His grace, mercy, and love have no bounds and He consistently takes me back, no matter how much I betray Him.

This is why He is so deserving.  This is why I press on, trudging through my struggles, my pain, my selfishness.

“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

And He continues to do so.

Because of Him,
Brent Hemphill

P.S.

Also, if you’re just now joining my journey then please know that I will not be on Facebook during my time of consecration so any messages or requests you may have sent will not be responded to for quite some time. It’s not personal, it’s Jesus.

You can purchase Nazirite DNA here: https://store.ihopkc.org/nazirite-dna-book/dp/2188.

You can also get the free audiobook here:http://www.thecall.com/Groups/1000080325/TheCall/Free/Free.aspx

A few weeks ago I spent a week in some of the ghettos of New York City working with Metro World Child, an organization that ministers to thousands upon thousands of kids across the globe, but is based in a section of Brooklyn called Bushwick.

The last day we were there we went sightseeing for ourselves and enjoyed New York as tourists. I remember riding back from Staten Island on the ferry and seeing the New York City skyline up close, shining in the majesty of the sun.

During that moment, among others while in New York, I just stared in awe at its vast immensity. I thought, “How did this get here? How did all these people decide to live right here and build all this?”

New York City

I felt like God spoke to me, “It wasn’t built overnight.”

I’ve been on this Nazirite journey for a year and a half now and various seasons have come and gone. Which, of course, is true of life in general. But this season is different, distinct.

I find myself full of questions. Uncertain. To simply take what I’m told as truth without digging into it and finding out for myself seems not only criminal but also fragile and unstable. I mean that for anything really, but most specifically for what I’m told about God.

Don’t get me wrong, the most important parts of me are so anchored in God that I don’t believe anything could ever sway me from who He is or the relationship we share. That’s irreplaceable always, every time. Have no fear, my friends.

Regardless, I can’t say I haven’t been through a lot of doubts and suspicions about what I’ve believed about Him and who I’ve believed Him to be.

My knee-jerk reaction to having questions over the years has been to read my Bible and pray more. But, that’s just not enough sometimes. It brings God and I into deeper intimacy, yes, but there are questions and things to consider that the Bible, alone, can’t fix.

I know, stone me. But if you study other denominations and religious sects you’ll find that so many people believe so many different things and base them in the Bible.

The Bible is, hands down, the most important piece of literature we can study when it comes to knowing God. I just want to be careful and make sure that what I’ve been taught from it isn’t just as wrong as I’ve believed others to be. This is justified in my life when I look at the beliefs and culture I grew up in and begin to see things that are nothing like the God I’ve come to know.

We say we want Him, not what we’ve made Him to be. But then when we start finding Him, some people want to start throwing rocks. Some people want to stay Pharisees, believing what they believe, just because they believe it.

Honestly, I don’t really know how to explain it where I feel like I will be perfectly understood. I expect raised eyebrows and I’m fine with that.

In a lot of ways, I’m just starting over. It’s kind of a going-back-in-time-knowing-what-I-know-now sort of thing.

In my pride and humanity I want to have everything figured out, now. I don’t know many people, if any, that enjoy process. We’re a very impatient people nurtured by an impatient culture.

But, when I get frustrated by the obstacles, the mysteries, and the places where things don’t match up in my mind, God is there with me saying, “New York City wasn’t built overnight and neither will you be.”

Through this process, I’m learning a lot. I’m learning that perfection doesn’t really exist, not apart from His mercy at least. Which, I think we all “know” that, but few of us really know that.

I’m also learning that without dying, I can’t really live. Burning everything to the ground is a painful, agonizing process that feels very wispy and lonely. But from the cold death of winter springs up new life, blooming forth the beautiful grandeur of our Father.

I am absolutely certain that we’re not to be afraid of questions and doubt. That’s part of it. That’s how we strengthen our faith.

If you find that you don’t have answers, you’ve only given yourself a goal, something about Him to search for. And if, like me, you find questions to which there seems to be no answer, you’ll learn contentment. Finding peace in not knowing and trusting in Him, not because you’re lazy and haven’t searched for Him, but because that part of Him is beyond our ability to find, at least in this life.

Like a woman awaiting her lover, He wants us to search for Him and He wants to be found.  But He wants to be found as the truth that He is and not the caricature we’re accustomed to.

Because of Him,
Brent Hemphill

P.S.
Also, if you’re just now joining my journey then please know that I will not be on Facebook during my time of consecration so any messages or requests you may have sent will not be responded to for quite some time. It’s not personal, it’s Jesus.

You can purchase Nazirite DNA here: https://store.ihopkc.org/nazirite-dna-book/dp/2188.
You can also get the free audiobook here: http://www.thecall.com/Groups/1000080325/TheCall/Free/Free.aspx

Jesus has a spring of living water and I’ve been too lazy to come to Him for a drink.

I say I’ve been too lazy.  That’s part of it.  I’ve also been incredibly busy, working constantly and as of the past few weeks of May I’d been traveling a good bit.

Regardless, my box of excuses is empty. 

I’m thirsting to death and I need Him more than ever.  I have questions that want answers, doubts that want proof, loneliness that wants company.

Upon returning to China from the States, a Chinese missionary once said that he was amazed at what man had been able to do, admittedly, without God.

I’ve come to find that very thing in my own life.  I have been able to work two jobs and provide for my needs and wants half-decently on my own.  But in the midst, I’ve let Him slide to the backseat while I become distracted by the passing billboards.

In the meantime, my gas gauge has been falling ever since and I’m coasting to a stop.  I give Him a confused look through my rear-view mirror, pounding my fist on the steering wheel of my heart.

I’ve heard it said that if you want God to do anything for you you’ve got to hand Him the keys, open the trunk, climb in, slam the lid tight, and whisper through the keyhole, “Fill it up with whatever you want and you drive.”

I’d be lying if I said God had never given me the freedom to choose my own path.  Actually, He’s been doing that more and more often and honestly, it freaks me out sometimes.

But, what I mean is this: If I don’t submit to Him and make time to be with Him, I’m going to get off on the wrong road and get myself lost.

Image

Soon, I’m going to be in the middle of the desert wondering, “How did I get out here?! This isn’t what I wanted at all.”

One of God’s more beautiful qualities, however, is that when I am there, withering away in the hot sand, He picks me up and sets me near His fountain.  There I drink and am given life.  We then begin walking together, and amazingly He’s never failed to be with me every step of the way as long as I depend on Him to sustain me.

Because of Him,

Brent Hemphill

P.S.

Also, if you’re just now joining my journey then please know that I will not be on Facebook during my time of consecration so any messages or requests you may have sent will not be responded to for quite some time.  It’s not personal, it’s Jesus.

You can purchase Nazirite DNA here: https://store.ihopkc.org/nazirite-dna-book/dp/2188.

You can also get the free audiobook here: http://www.thecall.com/Groups/1000080325/TheCall/Free/Free.aspx