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 “May, 2014”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 14: Joy in Everyday Miracles (1 of 2)

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my

     heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

     I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

–Psalm 9:1-2 (NIV)

 

 

After finishing a six-hour-long editing session one afternoon, the writing urge pawed at me, turned circles at my feet, and whined.  “Okay, okay,” I sighed.  I scratched its ears and it cocked its head, looked at me, and wagged its tail tentatively.  It had been days since I’d written anything other than criticism of someone else’s writing; it was time to play catch with my muse.  But I had a problem: while I’d spent the past few days editing and catching up on housework, fear had slipped in and was now perched on my monitor overlooking my keyboard.  It sneered at me.

I’ve been at this writing game off and on for over thirty years, and I’m here to tell you that even after so many stories, articles, chapters, poems, and books, the fear of failure still dwells in the dark recesses of my brain.  Luckily, God’s Spirit is alive and well and living in my heart!  Over the past several years I’ve learned how to wield the power of Truth against it, but even though this fear is emaciated, weak, and a crust of its former self, it can still bite.   So that afternoon, as I cast off the editor’s hat and slipped on the writer’s beanie (you know, the one with the little propeller on top), I struggled with doubts, a writer’s worst enemy.

I knew what I wanted to write.  I even had an outline tucked away in my head, but as my fingers touched the keyboard in creative rather than editorial mode, a feeling of dread, heaviness, and foreboding swept over me.  The fear of failure remained perched over my keyboard, and its ugly sneer deepened into a snarl of impending triumph.  Saliva dripped onto my number pad.  But I took a deep breath and typed nonetheless.  What came out seemed forced, contrived, amateurish.

I knew I could do far better, but as I tried to gain creative momentum, fear settled back on its haunches, stuck a toothpick in its lips, and guffawed.  Yes, it guffawed!  But I kept pushing until . . . something shifted.  Words began to line up in an orderly fashion, giving shape and form and grace to the thoughts, stirring them to action.  Ideas gelled, paragraphs rose up, points declared themselves.  But the fear of failure remained firmly seated on top of my monitor.  Granted, the sneer had reversed into a frown on its misshapen face, but it hadn’t budged.  It leered, staring at my fingers and the words forming on the screen.

Then the most wonderful thing happened.  The piece I worked on was called “A Change in Perspective,” and the intention of the essay was to convey how changing the way we look at a situation can shift not only the outcome of the situation, but also the moment-by-moment experience of that situation.  We all have the ability to reframe our experiences, no matter what they are.  As such, life is a matter of perspective; we always have a choice about whether or not to believe the thoughts flying through our heads, and how we subsequently act on those thoughts.  “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” the Apostle Paul advised in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV).

I had wanted to include in the essay the Scripture from Isaiah that says something like, “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways,” but didn’t know the citation off the top of my head.  While writing the piece, I’d included Jesus’ teaching about prayer: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NIV) and had to look up that reference as well.  I jumped onto the internet and brought up BibleGateway’s web page, and there, in the Verse of the Day box, was the following Scripture:

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,     neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth,     so are my ways higher than your ways     and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

–Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

 

I laughed.  And laughed.  And cried and laughed some more.  “Thank you, Daddy,” I sobbed.  “Thank You, thank You, thank You.”  I’d just received another kiss on the cheek from a God Who cares about me more than I’ll ever know, and Who loves to encourage His children with little, strategically-placed miracles just like that.  Defeated yet again, the fear of failure slid off my monitor and slinked away to its dark cave to lick its wounds, and for the rest of the day I happily played catch with my muse.  I finished the essay the next morning covered in joy, peace, and a sense of triumph.  I posted it on my blog page three days later.

Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that as we press into Him, study His precepts, and obey His commands, He will increasingly open our eyes and our ears to the mysteries of the Kingdom.  On this earth, there’s more than meets the eye; God’s Kingdom is literally at hand.  In the Second Book of Kings, chapter 6, the king of Aram, enraged because the king of Israel always knew where he’d set up camp, determined to expose the mole within his ranks. “’Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’” the king of Aram demanded of his officers.

“’None of us, my lord the king,’ said one of his officers, ‘but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom’” (2 Kings 6:11b-12 NIV).  The king of Aram set out to capture Elisha, and as the Arameans surrounded the city of Dothan, where the prophet resided, Elisha’s servant panicked:

 

“Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

–2 Kings 6:15b-17 (NIV)

 

Elisha asked God to open his servant’s spiritual eyes and give him a glimpse into the reality that surrounds us.  The Bible doesn’t explicitly indicate the servant’s reaction to what he saw, but I’m sure it was the same reaction we have when God kisses us on the cheek with one of His countless everyday miracles: joy, relief, encouragement, and confidence.  I bet that guy wore an ear-to-ear smile for days and weeks after his encounter with the heavenlies.  Maybe he wore it for the rest of his life!

 

(continued)

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

Publication and Writing Status as of May 15, 2014

Here’s the latest status of my writing projects as The Epiphany of Joy and Melted Clowns move toward publication.  This process has been fun, interesting, exciting, and sometimes nerve-racking as I prepare the final manuscripts for submission to Progressive Rising Phoenix Press (www.progressivrisingphoenix.com).  After this post, I’ll report the latest status of all of my projects in the “Book Projects” tab at the top of my blog page.

 

Projects Under Contract:

The Epiphany of Joy 

The completed, edited second draft is now in the hands of the readers.  To ensure theological and Biblical veracity, I provided the manuscript to more than a dozen folks I consider extremely knowledgeable and very well-acquainted with Christian doctrine and the Bible, including several pastors.  Once the readers provide their feedback, I’ll incorporate their suggestions into the final draft.  In the meantime, my amazing wife, Mary, graciously answered the call to use her Spiritual gift of administration to fact-check the book and procure permissions to use quotes from other authors.  Once we accomplish all of this, I’ll ship it off to Progressive Rising Phoenix Press for design.  My sixteen-year-old niece, Emilie Hughes, enthusiastically took on the assignment to produce the artwork for both the front and back covers, and I can’t wait to see what she creates.  She’s one talented young lady, and I’m proud to have her on the team!

 

Melted Clowns 

Speaking of Emilie, she completed and submitted all of the artwork for Melted Clowns, and the next step is to submit the final concept to Progressive Rising Phoenix for design and layout.  I’m excited about this process, not only because the book will showcase Emilie’s immense talent, but also because this is my first experience creating an illustrated children’s book.  I’ve got so many ideas for future books and Melted Clowns is blazing the trail for all of them.

 

Other Projects:

 

Ten Little Hiccups 

Ken Bryson, a retired Air Force Colonel and my neighbor, agreed to illustrate my pre-school board book, Ten Little Hiccups.  My six year old, Hannah, drew the first sketch of a Hiccup after I tried to come up with a rendering of my own.  Ken took Hannah’s simple drawing and brought it to life, giving each of the ten Hiccups a personality and coloring scheme based on Hannah’s inputs.  Gotta love this kind of collaboration!

 

Children’s Story Collection and Love Me from the Inside Out 

While I wait for the readers to submit their comments on The Epiphany of Joy, I’m taking the next couple of months to put together a collection of short children’s stories based on tales developed while playing the “Tell Me a Story” game with Hannah.  I intend to write several fairy tales in the style and voice of the brothers Grimm, many of them humorous.  I also intend to throw in a couple of weird ones (I still love writing ghost stories, and Hannah loves listening to them!).

 

After writing the book of children’s stories, I’ll then embark on the initial planning and interviewing for Love Me from the Inside Out, a true story about our friend Courtney Gonzales’ challenge to maintain hope after doctors diagnosed the baby she carried with omphalocele, a gestational condition in which the fetus’ intestines, liver, and other organs develop outside of the baby’s abdomen in a sac.  Miraculously, Courtney not only delivered her son, Landon, but she was also instrumental in convincing and assisting the medical staff to treat Landon’s condition with a method known as “paint and wait.”  Landon not only left the hospital years early, but he is now a healthy, energetic four-year-old boy with one astounding feature: he has no belly button!  He is truly a miracle!

 

In Conclusion . . . .

I’m having a blast, and with your support, encouragement, and prayers we’re producing real fruit!  I appreciate each and every one of you.  Please continue to spread the word about my blog page, and keep me, my family, and Amanda M. Thrasher and Jannifer Powelson at Progressive Rising Phoenix Press in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to live this adventure one amazing moment at a time.

 

God bless!

David

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