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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.

Andy-Kehoe-Levine-AM-28

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

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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?

 

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