David C. Hughes, Writer

Twelve Tantalizingly Twisted Tales featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tour, starting Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Archive for the month “August, 2015”

TMI (2015-08-28 Daily)

I do a lot of online research for both my writing and my engineering jobs, simply because the information on the internet is readily accessible, fast, and in some cases, accurate. Recently I did some research on a power supply design for a project at Vertex Electronics. Starting with a basic Google keyword search, I marched down the screen, clicking on results that appeared relevant to my design goals. I selected a link containing information about a 12 volt dual power supply and waited eagerly for the page to load.

The page finally popped up, and smack dab in the middle of the screen, between the lead paragraph describing the benefits of a +/-12 volt DC power supply and a description of a 14-0-14 volt step-down transformer, sat a photo of a woman dressed in nothing but a few twists of leather, a pair of black high heels, and a large helping of my imagination. She seemed to be contorted into some pleasantly painful yoga move, dark blonde hair cascading over her face.

TMI

“What the—?” I gasped. “TMI! What does this have to do with power supply design?!” Granted, her design was, well, electrifying (don’t judge me), but the prominent position (of the ad . . . ) was extremely distracting. After several minutes I managed to read the actual content of the website (all twelve words), but the experience left me feeling . . . dirty, like I had to go home and confess to my wife.

These kinds of non sequitur ads are all over the place now—they pop up like Donkey in Shrek—“Pick me! Pick me!” It reminds me of that movie, The Fifth Element, where ads crawl across the walls of buildings and on shop windows as people walk by. The Fifth Element was set in the future, but it didn’t take long at all for that kind of future to arrive. Good grief!

Once, while looking up commentary on Dr. Seuss’ Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, I practically fell out of my chair when a racy ad for Calvin Klein’s “Reveal” fragrance popped up right next to the article I was searching for. The ad featured a completely naked woman kissing a completely clothed man with a weirdly puzzled look on his face. I think his expression reflected mine exactly—“Why does he still have his clothes on?” I wondered.

TMI

The other day I found a website chock full of information on HTML, the web page programming language. After a few minutes I realized how distracting the site was going to be: the content frame was surrounded by colorfully-animated pop-up ads, no less than four at any given moment. All the ads moved, flashed, and cavorted on the screen. Each time I selected a new page a fresh set of ads appeared. “These guys are clever,” I declared to my boss. “Every time my eyes detect movement, they jump from the content to the ad. I hate these people. I wish they would all die.” I’m sure it took me at least twice as long to learn what I needed from that website—instead of helping me be more productive, the internet is now morphing me into a twitchy merchandising target with an attention span the length of a nanotube. Hooray for free enterprise. Good thing the computer has an OFF button and Amazon still sells real books fashioned out of paper and ink instead of Calvin Klein ads.

For months I’ve been grumbling about the pop up ads on my Yahoo! email inbox page. “No, I don’t want a girlfriend aged 50 plus!” I scream at my computer. “No, I don’t want to save $1.50 on my next purchase of Preparation H Medicated Wipes for Women!” I yell, shaking my fist. “All I want to do is read my freakin’ email. That’s it. Just . . . read . . . my . . . email . . . .” Of course I can’t get rid of those ads because I’m using Yahoo! mail for free, but I’m paying for it every day. If something’s free, I’ve learned, it may not necessarily be worth anything.

Remember the good ol’ days, when we actually wrote letters? On paper? With a pen? Letter-writing was truly an art form executed with deliberateness and abounding in love. Not long ago I would spend an hour or two every month writing letters. Now it seems a significant part of my day is wasted just deleting the plethora of emails asking me to send money to help repatriate a friend who’s stuck in Outer Mongolia. And having two email accounts doesn’t help. Neither does having the ability to access email on my cell phone. Now even precious bathroom time is spent deleting junk emails rather than reading the latest issue of Field & Stream. And that’s not even saying anything about Facebook . . . .

A few years ago I had a lunchtime interview-turned-information session with Bob Hamp, former Freedom Minister for Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. During the conversation Bob excitedly spoke about the benefits of setting up a blog site and establishing a Facebook account. He showed me the exponential exposure potential of Twitter, and explained how if Kari Jobe liked one of his tweets she might favorite it out to her followers. All 591,000 of them. “Wow!” I breathed, thinking about all the book sales I’d get each time I published a blog post. “Amazing!”

After that interview I embraced the dark side and busily set about building my WordPress blog site, establishing a LinkedIn page, setting up Facebook, and opening a Twitter account. Now I can’t keep up. Just the other day my publisher told me I needed to focus on building an author platform. Jeez! Enough already! Between email, social media, and maintaining my blog page, I have exactly 2 minutes and 39 seconds a day to actually write. And half of that is taken up by my daughter walking into my office and asking if I want to play with her plastic horses. “No, honey,” I tell her sweetly. “Daddy’s busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Answering emails.”

“I thought you were a writer.”

“I am. I write emails . . . .”

What’s that old saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?” Believe me, I’m trying to join ‘em, but this old 8-bit brain still processes information like a Tandy TRS-80 rather than a Tianhe-2. Gone are the days of just sitting down to write . . . and writing. But, who knows, maybe sometime in the future one of my pop-up ads featuring a scantily-clad woman seductively holding up The Epiphany of Joy will hit your screen and you’ll buy a copy. Then the griping will have all been worth it. In the meantime, please excuse me. I see I’ve got 43 Facebook reminders, 372 new emails, and 12 LinkedIn notifications to respond to. Not to mention President Obama wants me to refinance my house. Can’t waste any more time actually writing. . . .

 

Copyright © 2015 by David C Hughes

 

God’s Will (2015-08-07 Daily)

For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God’s will, to be what God wants us to be.

–Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

 

The will of God is not something you add to your life. It’s a course you choose. You either line yourself up with the Son of God . . . or you capitulate to the principle which governs the rest of the world.

–Elisabeth Elliot

 

 

For decades I struggled with the oft-asked question, “What is God’s will for me?” More than thirty years ago God planted a seed in my heart. He gave me the desire, the talent and the ability, patted me on the back, and said, “Go forth and write.” But fear scared me off. Big time. Over those three decades I struggled with embracing His will and chose instead to run after the desires of the world in the hope of “eventually” living out His plan . . . and ended up miserable. I had sold my soul to the demon of financial security and allowed it to take over virtually every aspect of my life. I served Mammon and ended up wondering why I trudged through life like a depressed Pig Pen from the Peanuts comic strip, surrounded by a great cloud of angst and despair.

I knew what God’s will was, I knew what He’d crafted me for, but I chose to conform myself to the pattern of this world . . . and wondered why I was so conflicted. I was the double-minded person James wrote about in James 1:8, unstable in everything I did. Quite frankly, I did it all in the name of God’s will, hoping to accumulate enough money in my striving to one day retire and finally live out His intended path for me. Problem was, I’d grown weary, sick, unmotivated, and lazy.

But God, in His faithfulness, had a way of reminding me He had much bigger plans for my life: just when I thought I’d retire with more than a million dollars, the stock market went bust. Five times. Just when I thought I deserved a bigger raise at work, I received a below-average bump-up. Just when I thought I’d received enough below-average bump-ups, I got yet another one to drive the point home. And just when I thought it was time our company went after a new military aircraft project, the government put the kibosh on spending.

Don’t get me wrong, God was not the One Who made me weary, sick, unmotivated, and lazy. No, it was me, my pride, and my belief I could do it all on my own. After all, I’m a true-blooded American, for whom “rugged individualism” is a birthright. Only it doesn’t work that way in God’s Kingdom. When I finally woke up, trusted His Word and His promises of provision, and jumped off the cliff of security into the brilliance of God’s arms . . . everything clicked into place. . . and here I am, living out His will as a writer under the covering of the Great I AM.

And the money I’d fretted and worried and agonized over for all those years? God redeemed it. It took a while, but He convinced me to let it go and use it to finance the alignment of my life with His will. “I was young and now I am old,/” King David wrote in Psalm 37, “yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken / or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25 NIV®). I had to finally quit relying on my own understanding and trust God fully. I have to admit, though: countless times since taking that leap I’ve whined to God about future provision. “I’ve given you provision,” He gently reminds me. “Your 401K is that provision.” Like manna in the desert.

Maybe I was lucky, knowing God’s will from the outset, but when you know something but don’t act on it out of fear, it’s worse than keeping your head buried in the sand. Ignorance is bliss, the old saying goes. I can vouch for that. Knowledge is power, but not acting on that knowledge when it aligns with God’s will can become hell on earth, pure and simple. But what, exactly, is God’s will? And how do you discover what His will is for you?

Let me begin by asking it this way: What is the desire of your heart? Chances are the desire of your heart is His will for you. After all, He’s the One Who planted it there. God doesn’t dish out dreams, desires and talent and expect us to squander it on false living or earthly wants. He expects us to search for it, recognize it and move out on it for His glory and our pleasure. Jesus said it clearly in the Gospel of John: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV®). He wants us to spit in the devil’s face (the “thief”) and live fully alive!

Carve this into your heart: God made us for His glory, and His will motivates us to please Him in all we do. “Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples,” King David sang after the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the tabernacle. “Give to the LORD glory and strength. Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him” (1 Chronicles 16:28-29 NKJV). And in Psalm 147:11 (NKJV), the psalmist wrote, “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, / In those who hope in His mercy.” Our only purpose in life, our only pleasure, is to love God and love others; all else is vanity, as the Preacher of Ecclesiastes pointed out.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,” King David wrote in Psalm 139 (verse 16 NIV®). God fashioned us to produce good works ordained even before we were born. As such, God planted His will in us from the start, and our purpose is to discover that will and align our lives with it. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,” the apostle Paul declared to the church in Ephesus, “which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV®).

So in this you can be sure: God does indeed have a purpose for your life, planted in your heart and firmed up before you even took your first breath. But how do you find it? The apostle Paul explained how to test and approve God’s will in Romans 12:1-2 (NIV®): “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In other words, give your life over to God by making an earnest commitment to live for Him and no longer for yourself (yes, this is hard!). Then dive into God’s word, reorienting yourself to His truth and allowing Him to replace the lies the enemy has planted in your mind with His infallible truth. Once God’s truth enters your mind and begins sinking into your heart, He’ll reveal His will for you. Test it, to ensure it’s God’s will and not a goal driven by selfish motivation, or planted by the devil, keeping in mind that God may ask you to do something totally unexpected, totally wild and totally nerve-wracking with your life. Like quitting a steady six-figure job with a virtually-guaranteed six-figure retirement to become a writer. Gulp!

But once your life aligns with His will, God “will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV®), including pouring out joy despite circumstances and peace that transcends all understanding. “You did not choose me,” Jesus told His disciples in the upper room the night of His betrayal, “but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last . . .” (John 15:16 NIV®).

So . . . what is God’s will for you? Have you earnestly sought it out, giving your life over to His perfect plan? What holds you back? Pray, search your heart, transform your life by aligning your thoughts with God’s truth, test and approve His will, and step out in faith. Believe me, the leap off the cliff is worth it. And the swan dive into the ocean below? Beautiful . . . .

 

 

Copyright ©2015 by David C. Hughes

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