David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 11: Joy in Serving (1 of 3)

 

 

Once you experience the thrill of being God’s hands and feet to someone in need, you will look for more and more opportunities.  Your reward?  Indescribable joy. 

–Caroline Barnett, Willing to Walk on Water, “Chapter 1: Willing,” page 16

 

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

–Hebrews 13:2 NIV

 

I often traveled to Buffalo, New York, for my engineering job, and from November through April the work occasionally gave me the opportunity to re-experience one aspect of life growing up in the northeastern United States: cold and snowy weather.  And western New York in the winter can deliver some of the coldest and snowiest.

On this particular trip, the Delta Airlines MD-88 I flew in transitioned into the Buffalo-Niagara International airspace on a quiet February afternoon, with temperatures hovering around freezing.  In any given year the area gets about 94 inches of the white stuff, and during February the typical monthly total is a bit over 17 inches.  But this particular year the snowfall totals had been significantly lower.  So as the jet skimmed over the dairy farms and neatly-packed suburbs on approach to the airport, I noticed the area was not blanketed by snow as expected, but covered in the flat brownness of a worn-out winter.  Threads of discolored slush huddled in the shadows of the naked woods, and dirty piles of it stood hunched around the perimeters of parking lots.

That night the thin cloud deck drifted out, unveiling a crisp full moon and opening the stage for temperatures to fall below freezing.  The next morning when I peeked out the hotel window I saw the cars in the parking lot covered by a patina of crystalline frost.  Lucky for me, the rental car I drove came equipped with the one piece of standard equipment all cars in upstate New York need: an ice scraper.  Unfortunately, not all rental car companies ensure their customers leave the airport with this critical piece of hardware.  After I left the hotel and started the Ford Fusion, I began to attack the ice on the driver’s side window.  That’s when I noticed the car next to me was running, steam wafting out of the tail pipe, windshield wipers occasionally stuttering across the ice-covered windshield.  The driver, a young woman, tall and bundled in a long coat, swung open the door, rushed out of the car, and hustled into the hotel.

“Well, that ain’t gonna cut it,” I thought as I worked on skinning my Fusion of its coat of rime.  Obviously the young lady didn’t have a scraper, and I wondered if she had run back into the hotel to see if she could borrow one.  At that moment I determined I would scrape her windows when I finished mine.  I’m not going to pass this up, I thought.  What better opportunity to do a kind deed for someone?  So after I finished the Fusion, I started scraping off the windshield of the young woman’s car.  Suddenly the passenger side door opened and another young lady peered over the car roof.  “Thank you,” she beamed.  “Thank you so much!”

“No problem,” I replied, and kept scraping.  The first woman hustled back down the sidewalk from the hotel entrance, hands in the pockets of her long coat.

“Thank you,” she called as she climbed back into the driver’s seat.

“You’re welcome,” I answered.  “I saw your windshield wipers moving and I thought ‘That ain’t gonna cut it.’”  I worked my way around their car from driver’s side windshield, around the back, and finished on the passenger’s side windshield.  The passenger cracked her window to again express her appreciation as I finished up.  “Are you going to the airport, or going to work?” I asked.

“We’re going to take the bar exam,” the woman replied.

“Awesome!” I said.  “God bless.  You’re both going to do well!”  After saying goodbye, I climbed back into my car with a smile on my face, a light in my heart, and joy in my spirit.  That felt good!  Real good!  And as I pulled out of the parking lot and headed to work, I actually got choked up with joy: a kind deed, even something as simple as scraping ice off someone’s car windows, had made my day.  Literally.  I thought of the verse in the Bible where it says to be kind to strangers because, who knows, you may actually be serving angels (Hebrews 13:2).  To me, those two young ladies were angels because they unknowingly provided me an opportunity to serve, even in a seemingly insignificant way.

The rest of the day I was charged up–I worked with confidence and assertiveness, and with a clarity and alertness that lasted the whole shift.  Man, I thought, if doing a simple kind deed does this, I need to keep my eyes open for every opportunity I can find!  What a disproportionately huge reward for such a simple act.

Recently Fred Chapman, a fellow church member at New River Fellowship and an active volunteer for the Parker County, Texas, branch of Kids Against Hunger, invited volunteers to show up one late afternoon at the distribution facility on the west side of Weatherford.  The goal for the evening was to load two trailers with enough bags of food to provide over 100,000 meals for people in Mexico.  I jumped at the chance to bring Hannah, then five, to participate in this roll-up-your-sleeves service project.  She squealed with excitement and anticipation.

After we arrived at the distribution center that hot North Texas summer evening, I set Hannah to one side and told her to stand clear of the line of volunteers wheeling out pallets and passing box after box, bucket brigade style, from the pallets to the trailer. Each box contained a dozen bags of rice and soy mixed with vegetables, vitamins, and minerals.  Hannah never complained as she watched, despite the glaring sun and shimmering heat.  “Are we volunteering, Dad?” she asked.

“Yes we are, Sweetie,” I assured her, sweat dripping off my forehead.  “This is what we do.  We help each other.”

After we finished stacking boxes in the trailers, and the crew distributed the loads evenly over the axles, the volunteers hugged and said goodbye to the drivers as they started their long overnight journey to the border crossing into Mexico.  Fred then picked up Hannah and visited with her for a few minutes, holding her and talking to her eye-to-eye.  Hannah smiled and nodded, perfectly comfortable in the arms of this strong leader who still exudes continuous joy despite experiencing tragedy several years ago.  Knowing Fred, he poured as much encouragement and excitement into Hannah about serving as I had, most likely more.  I then collected my daughter and whisked her to off to get a dish of ice cream for a job well done.  “When can we volunteer again, Daddy?” she asked as we headed to Chik-fil-A.

“We’ll have lots of opportunities to do this again,” I assured her.

“Yay!” she cried.  Her joy in volunteering is just getting started, but for that day, her joy was complete.

 

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

A Change in Perspective (2014-03-11 Daily) [2 of 2]

One of the biggest obstacles to quitting my full time job and diving into this writing career was, of course, money.  From the time I was a teenager making 50 cents an hour babysitting and three dollars a yard mowing grass, I kept meticulous track of my financial status.  As I grew older I discovered the joy of keeping a budget, but soon this handy tool became an obsession; I would do and re-do my budget up to twice a day.  So you can imagine how hard it was for me to change careers at age 49, turning loose a six-figure income in exchange for a shot at living my dream, and writing full time on hope, prayer, and trust in God’s promises.  Fear of poverty is a vestige of my “old man” I still deal with, but back then that fear held me in bondage, causing me to wait three decades to finally step out and answer God’s call.

One day, as I rubbed my budget between my fingers for the umpteenth time prior to leaving my comfy job and a relatively secure pension, I fretted about the bottom line and how much I’d have to make to remain financially afloat as I embarked on my new lifestyle.  I calculated and recalculated the minimum hourly income I’d need from a side job to keep the house and pay my expenses, and I went so far as to figure out how many years I’d have before I would be forced to sell my house and move into something more financially in-line with a writer’s income.  That’s when God stepped in: “You’re not taking into account the revenue from the books,” He declared, gently.  Oh My God!  He was absolutely right!  In my clouded, pessimistic thinking, I’d basically planned for failure, calculating the number of years to financial insolvency with no thought that my writing would be successful; I hadn’t even given my dream a chance to thrive let alone survive.  In one word of encouragement, Daddy shifted my thinking from one of wretched poverty to one of brilliant hope in following His calling.  It was a change in perspective, a 180 degree flip in my attitude.  And my reality.

Several months later, while participating in a Freedom class at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, Korby Taylor, the course facilitator, asked us to close our eyes and allow God to show us how His Kingdom is being manifested in our lives right now.  I leaned back in the chair, took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and opened my mind in anticipation of what the Lord would reveal.  Moments later I clearly envisioned an empty bookshelf on our massive wall unit in the living room.  Suddenly a book appeared and slid into place on the shelf, leaning against the left-hand side.  Then another book appeared and slid into place, nestled up to the first one.  Then another and another and another.  I smiled at the vision, reveled in the revelation that what God called me to do was coming to pass.  “Notice the bookshelf,” He suddenly said from within the thankfulness of my reverie.  “It’s the same one.”

Oh My God!  He was absolutely right!  As I enjoyed watching God stock the bookshelf with my future writing, He opened my spiritual eyes to the fact that the bookshelf He was populating was the exact same bookshelf which now stood in the living room.  Of my house.  The same house I worried about losing because of the uncertainty of my future financial status.  This little kiss on the cheek affirmed I still had nothing to worry about: I’d still be living in the same house as the books–my books!–stacked up on that bookshelf.  He again changed my perspective and brought my future into the light of His reality.

A good friend of mine, Luke Ogle, shared the following story with our life group recently: One day while driving to work, Luke fell into his habit of praying and spending time with Daddy.  He asked God to bless and protect his family, to walk out his day with him and clear out any obstacles that might lay in waiting for him, and to shower down His love.  “In the midst of all that,” Luke related, “I said something that was so innocent, so nonchalant, that the true meaning never crossed my mind.  It was a thank you: ‘Thank You God, in all Your Majesty, that You love, protect, and bless a grain of sand like me.’”

The Presence of God swooped in.  “It hit me like a freight train at full speed!” Luke said.  “I’ve encountered the Lord before, but never in this this magnitude, and never so quickly and clearly.  Jesus definitely took the wheel of my morning commute because I no longer saw the road and the cars around me.”  God took Luke in His arms and took him on a half-second ride from his car up to the top of the world.  “More literally above the world, our earth,” Luke continued.  “I was sitting in His arms looking down upon the earth.  He spoke in my ear and He said ever so gently, like He always does, ‘I didn’t create you to be a grain of sand.  I created you to be so much more.  More than all you see now.  I created you above all else, so do not be a grain of sand any longer because I died and rose again to make you heir to the Throne.’  Then my Daddy kissed me on the forehead, like He always does, and gave me a hug.  I thanked Him again, this time for allowing me to see Him and the experience that I will never forget.  I thanked Him for creating me to be on top of the world and heir to His Mighty Throne.  Then I was returned to my car.”  All of this took place in the stretch of a quarter mile, in traffic, at 70 miles-per-hour.

“Now I see the bigger picture,” Luke concluded.  “The one I was made for.  The one I am destined for.  The one I am heir to.”  In other words, a change in perspective.

 

Copyright © 2014 by David C Hughes

 

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