About Me

Florida, United States
I'm a mother of two children, an inspirational and motivational Author and Minister. My greatest joy is to see people gain new insight and understanding about the amazing possibilities that life holds when we put put our faith to action. 'Shoes For The Spirit, is a book filled with real-life stories of people who have walked through great difficulty and have found the right pair of shoes for their personal journey. Whether or not you are a person of faith, there is something uplifting, guiding and compelling in this little book, for everyone. The accompanying CD, 'Songs For the Soul,' is a compliation of original orchestrated tunes, with voice-over verse layered on top of the music. This CD has great encouragement for all who take the time to listen. I hope all of you bloggers will read the new sequel to 'Shoes For The Spirit,' listed in the blog posts below, and if you're so inclined, will purchase my book and CD. You won't be sorry! Be blessed. Love, Tamra

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's by Grace Alone

Punting Perfection

God is love and all who live in love live in God and God lives in them…Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid it is for fear of judgment and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. First John 4:16&18 NLT

I grew up in a small town in Southern Illinois similar to Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, where there is common familiarity and no strangers wander the streets. When I was five years old my dad gave me a nickel for ice cream and I casually made my way downtown alone; blonde curls bouncing, black patent leather shoes clicking on the concrete sidewalk for seven or eight blocks in search of the cone. The local cab driver picked me up and took me to the police station and there I sat in a huge wooden chair, entertaining the officers with my childish antics until my frantic father arrived to take me home. Children were safe in Herrin, and crime was virtually non-existent. There was a warmth about that town that you don’t very often find today. In truth, small towns have their benefits and their detriments.
My parents attended a house of worship, one where unusual occurrences were commonplace. People often came to the front of the church for prayer for various assortments of ailments and many of them left completely whole, relieved of their pain and suffering. It wasn’t at all unusual to see someone come in a wheelchair and leave without it. Afterwards, the ominous steel chair placed at the front of the house…a constant reminder to those who entered that hallowed place of God’s miracle working power.
I’m sure the music I heard in that church left a lifelong impression on me, and I still remember the words and chords to every old hymn sung there. The choir bellowed fervently with such great enthusiasm that it was hard for the congregation to stay in their seats. We’d all rise, hands clapping, hearts lifted toward heaven, spirits soaring, caught up in the deep and genuine emotion of praise to the Creator.
The minister had a theatrical approach to sermonizing that kept all of us enraptured. He painted a vivid picture of heaven and hell, and I’m quite certain there wasn’t a single soul in that house who hadn’t made a clear cut choice for their eternal home at the completion of the pastor’s message. It seemed all his messages had something to do with living right and behaving in an appropriate manner that would insure our heavenly home.
Expectations and rules of conduct were laid out precisely, most of them directed toward women and girls. The do’s and don’ts of that particular sect of Christianity were severe and when I was a child, I didn’t question them. But, as I became a teenager I struggled with the set of laws I was expected to adhere to. We couldn’t cut or trim our hair, no make-up was allowed, no long pants, or shorts. Therefore, I couldn’t participate in my high school marching band as pants were part of the uniform. No swimming with people of the opposite sex (called “mixed bathing”) in or around public pools, and we couldn’t go to movie theaters or parties, unless the party was thrown by people within our particular church. High School prom was absolutely taboo. Our clothing had to meet specific standards- high necks, long sleeves and dresses to or below the knee.
As long as we met the specifications, we were accepted with warmth and fellowship, but if the rules were broken in the slightest measure, the punishment was swift and sure.
When I was 16, I played the piano for the church and the minister noticed that I had trimmed an inch or two off of my waist length hair. He removed me from the platform, called me into his office and explained my disrespect had cost me my position. He promised to show me scriptural proof of my sin, but as the days and weeks progressed, the only proof of my hell-bound rebellion was his fiery sermons demanding absolute subservience to his interpretation of scripture. Love, grace, tolerance and acceptance were not a part of that denominational code, so as you can well imagine, I had a skewed understanding and interpretation of God and spirituality. In fact, the only real knowledge I had of God was one of fear, and strict expectation. I lived everyday with the apprehension that I would go to hell for this infraction or that one. I was completely unaware of the true nature of God’s grace and benevolence.
And with that particular belief system shaping my life, I came into adulthood with a driving need for perfection. I had to make myself perfect in order to please God, and to be accepted by those around me. I was a people- pleaser in every since of the word. Every aspect of my life was impacted by this gripping need for acceptance. I had no concept of my own identity, as it had been so wrapped up and defined by rules and expectations of my church.
This need for perfection and its illusive control over my life battered my self- confidence into the ground. Everything I did, or attempted to do, was from a point of searching for acceptance and love. When you feel that love from God and others is predicated on your ability to earn that love and acceptance by the perfection of your deeds, then you have no idea how to be yourself or find who you really are. Every move and decision is based on the need for approval. I was completely imprisoned by my misinformed beliefs, and unfortunately took some dreadful roads in my quest for love. The truth is, there is no perfection within the human effort, only the effort itself.
I moved to St. Louis to attend university and found a house of worship that intrigued me. The minister stood to deliver his sermon and I braced myself for the expected lashing. But instead, this man spoke of the love of God...of the gift purchased for us by Jesus death on the cross, how we are no longer subject to the law, as grace took its place at Calvary. He went on to say we would never be perfect, as there was only one perfect sinless lamb offered up for the mistakes of all mankind and it is in Jesus’ perfection alone that our imperfections are forgiven. I listened with an intent ear, never having heard such things before and wondering if somehow this grace was enough for a hopeless sinner like me. God is love and all who live in love live in God and God lives in them…Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear.
What a life changing revelation. Could it be true? I would never, could never earn my way into Heaven by the perfection of my deeds. Was it really through Christ alone and my faith in Him that I was forgiven and whole to walk in this new life I’d been given? What a freedom that came to my heart through the understanding of forgiveness. I felt like a one hundred pound weight of fear and needless expectation had been lifted from my soul. I could live, and be, and choose for myself how I would express my life before God. And He would direct my path each day. Such freedom was completely foreign to me, but joyously welcome.
This is how my journey began; it is one I live each day with the intimate understanding of His mercies, His power and His presence, all fresh every morning. And although I continue to struggle and will likely always have some challenge in the area of overcoming my need to be perfect, and to make everything around me perfect, still, I am a child of God, unique, gifted and talented in ways that are meant to bring Him glory and honor. My prayer is that I grow in His grace each day and that my experiences will enrich the lives of those around me. I choose to embrace the freedom to live my life in love, to give and receive that love freely, without the needless imprisonment of perfection and the fear of failure.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Self Control, Segment five

Skating Toward Self Control from ‘Shoes For The Spirit, Inspirations'


‘Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure, lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’ Philippians 4:8

My father and I were connected at the hip from the time he first held me in his arms to the day I gave him my last kiss. If he told the story of my birth once, he must have told it a thousand times to anyone who would listen. How the nurse brought me out of the delivery room, wrapped in a little pink blanket and carefully placed me in my father’s outstretched arms.
“Congratulations, Mr. Hampton…you have a baby girl!”
“Now, don’t tease me, because this is not a bit funny.”
He’d explain, with a serious and concerned face: “I’ve been waiting for a little girl my whole life and you’d better not be kidding me.”
“No sir, no joking here. This is your little girl.”
Dad would hold out his arms just like he must have done a half century ago, a look of wonder and excitement on his face. He’d then mimic taking me in his arms, and then quickly hand me back to the nurse. “Take her now; I sure don’t want to drop her!”
One of my earliest memories of my father was skating on a lake, on a small property my parents owned in the country. The Lost Sixty, as they fondly called it, was no luxury resort…more like a few wooded acres with a small travel trailer parked on a hill, overlooking a pond. But in the winter, it froze over and my dad would take me out on the pond in my ankle high, red rubber boots and we’d skate around that frozen wonderland like it was the Olympics in Salt Lake City. We’d spin and twirl and Dad would clap with exuberance at my childish antics.
I have vivid memories of him coming in the house after a long day of work at the tool and dye factory, and me leaping into his arms with glee as he laughed that big belly laugh of his and swung me through the air. My personal flying trapeze. The best part of my day was the moment Dad came through that door.
We’d find any excuse at all to take a walk together, or get on his beautiful Honda Gold Wing touring bike for a ride through the country. Many times we’d find ourselves in Paducah, Kentucky having been on the bike for a couple hours, and predictably parked in front of the ‘Fish and Chips’ restaurant. We’d always order our favorite; fried catfish and hush puppies with a big glass of iced tea.
And these are the thoughts I fix my mind upon, now that Dad is gone. It was incredibly difficult to watch him get old. Such a vibrant active man, he always had a joke to tell and a funny way of looking at life. I could barely stand to see his body bent over by the deteriorating effects of osteoporosis, and the once whip-sharp mind altered by the relentless pursuit of Alzheimer’s disease.
During this season of change and aging, Dad and I had a few cross words. He never seemed to be happy with his surroundings, always looking to move and I just wanted him to settle in and find contentment. We argued from time to time and I said some things to him I can’t forget. That’s the trouble with spoken words; they come back to haunt us.
He came to stay with us in Florida for six weeks over the Christmas and New Year Holiday and during that time we were able to do some of his favorite things. We ate breakfast at Mel’s Diner- the biscuits and gravy were always calling his name. We took long rides in my little red car, the faster the better. We sat outside and watched the pelicans dive in the bay, hungry for their daily meal. But most of all, we talked about all the wonderful people we’d known over the years and the many adventures we’d experienced in life together. Dad had no problem with the past…it was the present that threw him.
He couldn’t remember how to turn on the light switch, or the water faucet in the bathroom, couldn’t recall how to find his way to the kitchen table, or back to his bedroom at the end of the day. He’d lose his wallet and accuse me of stealing it, which of course I’d never do. But, that’s one of the sad and hurtful issues of Alzheimer’s. It slowly steals away the person you’ve known and replaces them with a stranger.
Dad took a fall in the early morning hours attempting to find the bathroom and broke his hip. We ambulanced him to the hospital and got him settled into a private room while he awaited hip replacement surgery. I sat next to Dad’s bed, holding his hand and listened as he spoke of years gone by, and as he laughed at silly stories he loved to remember. I stood to leave and as I did, I leaned forward and gave him a kiss on those withered lips. He smiled his great big funny smile and said, “You’re the best daughter a fella could ever have!” That was Dad’s last lucid moment, and my last memory of my father.
And now that Dad is gone my natural inclination is to return to those painful words I spoke in haste, and relive angry moments between us, berating myself for each one of them. Why is it we can always remember our failures, but so easily forget our victories?
‘Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right, Think about things that are pure, lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’ And this is what I choose to do. I choose to laugh rather than to cry, to rejoice rather than mourn, and to be thankful for every wonderful picture that still lingers in my memory. This takes a strong measure of self control to order my thoughts in a lovely and admirable way, but so worth the task.
Today my thoughts are fixed on those little red rubber boots and me, skating across the Lost Sixty pond, the darling of my father’s heart.