Category Archives: Spiritual Growth

“All That”

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Is anyone really “all that”? I’ve tried it but didn’t have the experience or knowledge to pull it off. At one point in my life I was torn down, stripped bare and left pridefully fraudulent. It’s taken years to, if not get over it, at least move forward. I don’t feel numb or useless anymore. I’ve been waiting to see if God will ever use me for anything again. I’ve botched up so many times that I fear He’s done with me. I want to do something I just don’t know what. My dreams of playing piano, singing, leading, teaching and writing are just that. Dreams. I’ve not put in the time nor had the training to qualify for any of it. Nothing unique here. Just getting older and feeling more stuck. The gifts God graced me with aren’t the shiny, “look at me” variety. I’ve known all along they’re quite the opposite. I just didn’t want to use those. I wanted the spotlight.

Years ago I took piano for a bit and thought the rest would come from above, I’d be the church music leader. Later on in life I was asked to sing on a praise team. Surely the preacher knew my limitations…he’d heard me in the choir?? I took a few vocal lessons and thought I’d shine like a star. A little later on and a few compliments on my writing I decided, finally, this is it! I took a few online writing courses and, well, you be the judge. My punctuation is atrocious.

You see, a midst my list of recoveries, I’m a recovering people pleaser. Some years ago I landed in several consecutive situations. Walked right into them I should say; knowing…knowing…I was unqualified. I unfairly sought assurances from people because I had zero confidence in my abilities. The lack of confidence was generated from the lack of ability. Duh. Regardless I allowed myself to be caught up in the flattery of having been asked to do something and took off running with it. Like a child running with a knife in her hand. I eventually tripped and fell, the wound was deep but not fatal. From that point on I’ve grappled for a place to serve in the Church. Trying this, and trying that, with no true idea of what I was supposed to be doing. Yearning and straining to see what God was calling me to do. I’ve only recently discovered He’s not calling me to do anything. Period. No great agenda. No followers. No one seeking ME out for MY greatness. This was the massive boulder called pride that tripped me up. Being more concerned with what people thought. Trying to be “all that.” I’ve beat myself to pieces chasing dreams that weren’t mine to chase. I’ve not done the time. I simply don’t have the skill, passion or drive it takes to succeed in these grand professions. It feels good to publicly confess this. Great actually!

About a year ago in an online Bible study, the following passage from 1 Peter came up. God revealed something to me for the first time that has been life altering.

1 Peter 2:9, 10
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called (emp. mine) you out of the darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

My calling is to be a Christian. Yep, just me being a Jesus girl. All God has ever called me to be is His own daughter and that through His mercy. I’ve been in training sense I walked down the center aisle of my grandmothers little country church many years ago. I’ve fallen off the wagon and climbed back on so many times. You can take the wagon saying as liberally as you want, I had a whole wagon train. But here I am. Alive and well. Figuring out all I need to do is be the best person I can be, and that through Christ’s strength. Loving my God and my Savior Jesus with *“all my heart, all of my soul, all of my strength and all of my mind.”  I’m loving my husband with a brand new appreciation and my family and friends. I strive to be the best I can be. I will strive to carry what I know about Jesus out into the world in hopes that His light will pour through my words and actions. In hopes that people won’t see me at all but Him who saved me. And that my friends is shiny enough.

*click to see passage of Scripture

“Realization, Reflection, Appreciation”

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My husband had hip replacement surgery this past Wednesday. He had researched the procedure and talked with other “hippies” (pardon the pun) and all the data seemed optimistic. Things were said like, “Oh I was up walking the same day” and “I couldn’t believe the difference the surgery made.” I think we went in knowing it would be major surgery but somehow believed recovery would be a breeze. I think my husband will tell you, it’s not a breeze. We realize now that recovery will be a larger undertaking than we first thought. The first week or so after surgery had been left out of the data. Maybe for the best, or maybe because the happy healed ones had forgotten the initial post surgery pain.  Regardless, it will take time to heal. It will take work to rehabilitate the abuse his leg took at the skilled hands of the surgeon. Oddly enough the pain radiates not from the hip, but his quadriceps…didn’t see that coming!

When we have an organ, joint or limb that isn’t working properly we want the surgeon to operate on it. Removing or repairing the offensive part. We get stitched up and sent on our way home with a list of instructions. It’s during the first few days after surgery that we begin to wonder if the original ailment was really all that bad…it really hurts to get fixed! Sometimes we find pain where we least expect it! We leave the hospital or surgery center with our instructions in hand, promising in our hearts to do exactly as they say. Sadly, a lot of times the list falls by the wayside after only a little time.  So often a procedure fails because we stubbornly refuse to follow the physicians post-op instructions. My husband and I have had major surgeries before and learned to appreciate these instructions and follow them. We realize the trained professionals have given us these guidelines for our own good. We’re also thankful for the  dedication of good physicians.

In reflection, becoming a Christian is no different. We hear people’s testimonies and see the glowing change and peace and want that healing immediately!  People tend to believe that once they repent of their sins, and ask Jesus to come dwell in their hearts, that’s it. They’re done. They go on as before with no change to lifestyle or thought process.

That’s not how it works.

When we sincerely cry out to our Master Physician to come and heal our brokenness, more often than not it will hurt. Oh how it can hurt! But then the healing sets in. Our Supreme Surgeon works on the heart that admits it needs help. He removes what needs removing, and reshapes what needs reshaping. Refining surgery. But He does have a list of
post-Christian instructions like the cleansing bath of Baptism, and a daily dosage of Scripture and prayer. He gave us His word to teach us the things that will insure a healthy and complete recovery. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us” (Romans 15:4a NIV). You see, unlike earthly doctors, Jesus wants to continue a relationship with you long after your recovery. He longs to know how you’re doing and continue caring for you always.  He doesn’t want you to toss the instructions aside and go through the pain of opening old wounds. He doesn’t want you to return to brokenness. He wants to assure that you keep Him in your favorites list, and stay the course of good spiritual health.

My husband is looking at several weeks of restorative physical therapy. It will be painful at first. But the result will be a looser, pain free hip. He will have to exercise the joint, sore as it is, to make sure it begins to work properly. He’ll heal and regain his peace and contentment. He will always have to care for his cool new joint. As we age we’re encouraged to keep moving…to flex muscles and bend joints, working them to the best of our ability. Our hearts and minds age too. So even years after turning our lives over to Jesus, we continue in Christ therapy. Prayer, worship, service and daily devotion time.

With out it we know we we’d weaken and break.

 

“A Different Kind of Freedom”

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In my anguish I cried to the Lord and he answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118:5 (NIV 1984)

I was a sailboat without wind in its sail, drifting in my sea of confusion and hurt. Bobbing along, waiting for a gust to carry me to a shore that was nowhere in sight.

I never felt like I held a grudge…but maybe I did. Until now. My formative years were lacking which led into an adulthood that was unstable but it hasn’t destroyed me. (Psalm 129:2) I’ve been through abandonment issues, substance abuse and physical abuse. I’ve grieved my lack of mothering skills ad nauseam. I learned that I could be as addicted to sympathy as to that from which I’ve been freed. Alcoholics and drug addicts have to learn how to live sober and straight. Victims of neglect and abuse have to learn to live lives unafraid and worthy of love. It’s so much easier said than done. But it’s ok to be free of it. It’s ok to be happy, God wants that for us! I’m praying for myself and the hearts that read these words to fully forgive the wrongs of the past. And to forgive ourselves for our own misdeeds.

I believe there comes a time when we have to accept that we’ve been put back together. We need to learn to live in the healed state of brokenness. I’ve been under the misconception that being a Christian would somehow wipe my past away, like I’d never been broken. It has taken years to realize that’s not how it works. Yes, I’ve been completely forgiven, my sins forgotten by God’s grace and He is working in me daily. But I’ve been searching for that shining moment when I’d know my calling. My grand calling and felt lacking when it wouldn’t come. I finally understand that being a Christian IS my calling. It was me making the choice to answer the call to come out of the darkness and into His perfect light! (1 Peter 2:9) 
I am living a changed life…I do desire to draw ever closer to God and I have used talents in service to Him! I’m not perfect nor will I ever be, I’m a mess most days. I have the scars to prove that and I’m battle weary to the bone. So why is living healed so hard? Why do we hold on to that which seeks to destroy? Because Satan prowls around trying to destroy our peace. (1 Peter 5:8)

My scars and your scars will always remain. They’re wounds that are healed and tell our story. Don’t try to hide them else you give them back their power of pain. Scars remind us of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come, but they no longer hurt! We’re free, through Christ who strengthens us, to live free of pain and despair. (Philippians 4:13)

Two weeks ago I started an online Bible study through Proverbs 31 titled, “The Mended Heart” by Suzie Eller. Through this study I’ve had some soul reviving revelations. The fact is that my brokenness led me to my life in Christ. I’m on the other side now. I don’t miss it and certainly don’t want it back. But now I know who I am without it.  I’m a daughter of the King, transformed from victim to victor, from follower to leader. There is something more for me when I finally run aground, my sea of despair now looks like waves of opportunity and I do believe I see land just ahead…praise God!

Pruning Pains…

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Bradford Pear

Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.

I simply couldn’t believe my eyes when I pulled in our driveway…

In an effort to save our older Bradford Pear tree’s my husband sought the advice of a professional. In his defense (grudgingly) we had talked about trimming them from time to time but I blew it off. I didn’t really listen. I mean…do we really hang on every word that comes out of our husbands mouths? I heard, “they’ll trim, snip and shape the branches of our beautiful trees to keep them from breaking during storms.” I, in total denial, thought they would maintain their former splendor.

I was not ready for the horror that stood facing me…I was grief stricken. There were no branches at all!! You have to understand, I’m just this side of being a tree hugger. The trees also housed my bird feeders and I love bird watching as much as trees.

Needless to say this resulted in an all out sulk fest. Everything was my husband’s fault…he didn’t tell me, I didn’t know…you get what I’m saying…I’d make him pay! I refused to admit I’d known what was coming.

Now months later as I’m watching the birds feed from the one scraggly limb my husband asked the pro’s to leave, just for the bird feeders, just because he loves me and knew how I’d react, I’m humbled. You see the sight of my trees in their current state reminds me of myself.

Recent events in my life have left me bent by the force of the gale. God knows me; He knows that some of his children require a little pruning here and there while others just take more. Like the lush foliage hid the flaws in the trees, so good works and a righteous attitude hid brokenness in my heart. God has painfully pruned me back time and again to expose my gnarled up soul. Like the birds in my naked trees, there’s nowhere to hide. I’m forced to listen, forced to see the areas of my life that need shaping up. And I’m thankful.

The tree professionals assured me that in time I’d be pleased with our trees, that the new growth will be stronger and healthier. I pray that’s so for me as well. I did indeed have to eat crow (pun intended) and assured my husband he did good even if it hurt. Pruning pains equal growth.

Patti D. Hemphill
February 2015

Thank You, Rahab

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Ever feel like you don’t quite measure up? I do.

I will be the first to tell you that I don’t have a college degree and that my GED was hard won at the age of 17 and 8 months pregnant. At this point I knew I’d need every advantage. From my pre-teen years through my mid 30’s I allowed people to make me feel less than second class. It’s no surprise I have issues I still battle with.

But there is something I’ve got that books simply can’t teach and that’s tenacity, which is a nice way of saying I’m stubborn. I’ve gone to great lengths to prove myself, even to my own detriment and it’s been exhausting.

In the weariness from failing on my own, I turned back to God and His word. Imagine my relief and yes, even joy when I encountered Rahab. Not only did God use Rahab, a woman of ill repute, to help His people gain a victory, she became a link in the lineage of Jesus! I went on to meet the Woman at the Well and Mary Magdalene – I was astounded to read how Jesus not only loved these women, He forgave them and used them to further His Kingdom! He associated with those women…those less than second class women. People you’d least expect and I found hope!

Trying to please people rather than God is a nasty habit and incredibly hard to break. Do you know it’s actually easier to please God? He already knows we aren’t perfect.

It’s amazing to realize we don’t have to measure up, or have degrees, or understand every aspect of the Bible to gain salvation. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to those scholars who can take Scripture and broaden my understanding. True Christianity leads to the desire for a changed lifestyle and to be in the Word, its saying yes to a God who wants to use YOU in His kingdom. God gave us all we need to obtain eternal life…He gave us Jesus.

So go, meet Rahab…her story can be found in the Bible in Joshua chapter 2, you may want to thank her too!

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand!!” Psalm 40:2

Patti D. Hemphill
April 2015