David C. Hughes, Writer

“Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others” –Colossians 3:23 NABRE

Archive for the month “April, 2014”

The Last Word (2014-04-29 Daily)

 THE LAST WORD

by

David C. Hughes

 

 

“Beginning in itself has no value, it is an end which makes beginning meaningful, we must end what we begun.”

          ― Amit Kalantri

 

On April 24, 2014, after almost three years of worrying, researching, interviewing, writing, imploring, and praying, I typed the last word of the last chapter needed to finish The Epiphany of Joy manuscript. The word was “said.” Yep, just plain ol’ “said.” It was in the middle of a paragraph in the middle of a sentence in the middle of a page near the end of chapter 16, an ooch past the two-thirds mark in the overall manuscript. I’d written the literal last word of the book a month prior (that word was “others”). That’s just the way I write.

When I wrote my first novel, On the Inside, which, incidentally, also took three years to produce, I generated the prologue and the epilogue first, then filled in the middle. I knew how I wanted the book to start, and I knew how it had to end, and I knew–sort of–how the story would transition from page 1 to page 510. So for several years the literal last word, “Medallion,” languished in a file somewhere on my computer’s hard drive, waiting patiently for me to type the actual last word so it could finally meet its predecessors. It did, and I was done. Yet I wasn’t, not in the least.

Almost twenty years later, when I typed the word “said” in The Epiphany of Joy, the feeling which descended over me was eerily reminiscent of when I typed the last word of On the Inside: it was anticlimactic. No bells clanged, no confetti fell from the ceiling, no applause erupted, no grunt of satisfaction or even acknowledgement emanated from my pursed lips; the only indication I’d even finished the manuscript was the muted “click” of the last keystroke on my laptop. Then you know what I did? I scrolled back to the beginning of the chapter and started cleaning it up. There was no hurrah, no deep breath of finality, no popping cork (the popping cork happened hours later). Chef Ramsay didn’t hug me and present to me a check for $250,000 and a new J.A. Henckels 16-piece knife set. I didn’t even call Mary to tell her the good news, and at least five minutes ticked by before I stopped to pray a word of thanks to God, the One who started this whole crazy deal.

And you know what I realized? For a writer, there’s never a last word. Never. Oh, we finish essays, we complete blog posts, we bring novels to a satisfying conclusion, we write “The End” at the bottom of a manuscript with a flourish, but it never really is “The End,” is it? Alas, no. It’s like the closing sequence of the 1958 horror classic, The Blob. As the helicopter flies over the flat, frozen tundra carrying the box containing the alien Jell-O mass, the words “The End?” pop onto the screen. The inflection rises as the scene fades to black, turning a traditional–and expected–declaration of finality into an open-ended question. And so it is with us: the inflection always rises because, like a mortician, a writer’s work is never done. Never. “The End” indicates the conclusion of one chapter of life and the teeing up of the next, a small section break inserted between one adventure and another.

But isn’t that the beauty of this craft? There are a million words in the English language, and, like the Blob, it continues to expand and grow as people touch it. The factory of human imagination, technology, functionality, and necessity churns out word after glorious word and adds them to the product selection, then we writers get to take those words and assemble them in infinite ways, limited only by our fears and misbeliefs. The joy isn’t in the finishing but in the process; “The End” is merely a road sign on the journey telling us we’re still heading in the right direction. “The End” is the signature on a masterpiece, or the baby’s breath amongst a handful of yellow roses. “The End” is not. Period.

As writers, our ordination, indeed, our obligation, is to take the pallet of a million words and craft as many beautiful combinations of those little pieces of experience, those iotas of pathos and jots of ethos, into our life’s work, our lifeblood, in the hope our careful (or not-so-careful) arrangement of the heart might inspire another heart to laugh, cry, love, live . . . awaken.

For me, “The End” is always the beginning. In fact, the title of my novel’s epilogue is “The Beginning.” No, for me, “The End” proves I’m just getting started. For me, “The End” is a rally cry to lower my head, raise my eyes, and charge forward. “The End” separates the real writers from those merely going through the motions; for real writers, “The End” is a carriage return rather than a hard stop. As Amit Kalantri said, “we must end what we begun,” but for a writer, there is no last word, only the next one.

 

-THE END-

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience (3 of 3)

NOTE: This will be the only post this week as I turn the crank on finishing the last chapter of The Epiphany of Joy prior to final update and submission to the readers.  Thanks again for supporting this effort, and I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on the latest status on The Epiphany of Joy and Melted Clowns as both books move forward to publication.

And now for The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience, installment 3 of 3 . . . . . .

*******

Obedience to God’s commands also keeps you planted firmly in God’s presence, and this brings about a joy that cannot be taken away. “’If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did,’” God promised Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah, “’I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you’” (1 Kings 11:38 NIV).

Disobedience to what we know to be right, on the other hand, has consequences of its own, and for the Hebrews of the Old Testament, it got ugly. God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden fruit. God turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt after the angels specifically commanded Lot and his family not to look back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God stripped away all but one of Solomon’s kingdoms after his fall from God’s favor. God allowed the Israelites to be captured and taken into exile to Assyria and to Babylonia: “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (2 Kings 17:7 NIV). In both Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, God very clearly defined the consequences of disobeying the Law. The Israelites, for their part, very clearly defined the term “stiff-necked people.”

But it’s from the single act of obedience by a young Hebrew virgin girl named Mary that forever changed history and brought permanent joy into the world:

 

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

–Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

 

“May your word to me be fulfilled . . . .” Christian obedience to God’s commands under post-resurrection grace is just as relevant as Hebrew obedience to God’s commands while living under the pre-resurrection Law. Just as the moral spirit of the Law remains as fully alive today as it did 5,000 years ago, obedience to Jesus’ new command to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV) encompasses “All the Law and the Prophets,” as Jesus responded when tested by the expert in the law in Matthew 22:40.

“If you love me, keep my commands,” Jesus told his apostles before his arrest (John 14:15 NIV). And as Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden led to the Fall, Christ’s obedience to the cross led to humankind’s reconciliation with God. “Son though he was,” the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, “he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. . . . For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 5:8-10, 12:2b NIV).

From the obedience of a humble Jewish girl to the obedience of her Son, mankind has been reconciled with the Father. “And being found in appearance as a man,” Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Philippi, “[Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV). By Christ’s example, and by our willingness to step out in faith and become obedient to our calling to live as children of God, we are made righteous. By grace we have been freed, and it is by love that we are called to remain obedient to the God who loves us so much “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

“There is an indescribable joy that comes from being obedient,” Caroline Barnett said in her book Willing to Walk on Water. “When all is said and done, you have willingly been part of a greater cause” (Caroline Barnett, Willing to Walk on Water, “Chapter 12: The Power of One,” page 218). Now if I could only get Hannah to listen to me when I tell her pick up her clothes and turn them right-side out, all would truly be right with the world.

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

 

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