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

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