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 category “Daily”

Not for Men

“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  

                                                      –Colossians 3:17

 

Growing up Catholic, I had the opportunity to serve as an altar boy. My brothers and I started soon after we received our First Communion, and I served from third grade until well after high school. If the priest emerged from the sacristy with one or both of the altar boys absent, there was an obligation (and expectation) to leave the comfort of the pew, hurry to the back of the sanctuary, throw on a cassock and surplice, and join him as he opened the mass. I would have rather remained with the congregation, a mere observer and not a direct participant, but when duty called, I always answered.

Being on regular rotation meant I had to be available to serve as either the cross-bearer (and bell-ringer) or the book-bearer, not only on Sundays but during the week as well. When school was in session, mass took place at 7:00 in the evening, and during summer vacation, church started at 8:00 in the morning. Nine times out of ten we had to find our way to church on our own, traversing the one-and-a-half miles from home and back either on foot or on our bicycles. Many times one of my brothers and I hoofed it through snow, ice, and rain to make it on time to silently and respectfully (i.e., no giggling or horsing around) don our sacred vestments and queue up in front of the priest.

For the most part I didn’t mind serving. I fulfilled my duties when I was on the schedule, and I substituted when other boys didn’t fulfill theirs. For the ten or eleven years I served, however, one thing made always made me feel uncomfortable: emerging from the sacristy when the church was completely empty, accompanied only by the echoes of our swishing vestments or the squeaking of the priest’s black shoes. This seemed to happen more often in the evenings during the school year than in the mornings while on summer break.

I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but in the back of my mind I always hoped the priest would cancel mass so I could get back home and play Space Invaders or Breakout. He never did. And it seemed someone always showed up at the last minute to fill a seat or two. I don’t remember what prompted the priest one day to provide an answer to my question of why he officiated mass even when no one was in attendance, but I do remember the answer: “God is here.” And that was enough.

For years—decades—I did things only to serve myself, to bring attention to myself. I remember buying a knock-off Rolex watch soon after I graduated from college and had a real, paying job. I wore that watch to my grandmother’s funeral, not missing the chance to show it off to my family and later confessing it wasn’t a real Rolex but a cheap Chinese-made copy. For years—decades—I did things only to serve myself, even to the point of convincing myself that the foolish ways I sometimes handled money aligned with my own will for me to write for a living rather than carry out the duties supernaturally assigned to me by the Father. For years—decades—I did things only to serve myself, never really bothering to ask God what He had in mind for me, always assuming the burning desires of my heart and not my present reality were what God meant for me. As a consequence I lead a life of James 1:8 double-mindedness that cost me not only financially, but also relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. Lucky for me God was ready to pluck me out of the pit of failure when my way didn’t work. Again.

Thus the reason it’s been a year since I’ve written a blog post. My way didn’t work. My expectations completely misaligned with God’s desire for my life, a desire way bigger than me. But the Father, in His infinite kindness, let me barrel down the highway of selfishness, and the Father, in His infinite mercy, led me back to Himself with a soft whisper and a harsh lesson, yet another teacher gathered with all the other teachers He’s sent.

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,” the prophet Isaiah wrote, “your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, ‘Away with you!’” (Isaiah 30:20-22, NIV®).

I tearfully, humbly, confessed to my wife, Mary, that I’d failed in this writing endeavor, and I apologized for putting us into a stressful financial situation. “You didn’t fail,” she insisted over and over. “Look what we got instead!” A paid-for fixer-upper as the chasm between income and outgo opened its jaws wide in an attempt to swallow us up monetarily. Freedom from a mortgage. Lower bills. Our own little piece of the country, our own little corner of the lake. Flexibility in work schedule, more family time. But most importantly, a lesson in perspective and alignment of expectations. What failed is doing it my way instead of God’s way. What failed is putting myself first rather than God first. What failed is the enemy’s attempts for me to serve the idol of self-sufficiency and not the God of all Providence. A realization that, as a man of God, my work is not for me or for other men, but for the Creator of man Himself. My teachers are no longer hidden, and what lessons they have taught!

So, as Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians, “Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others” (Colossians 3:23 NABRE), I am now seeking to live my life for the Lord moment-by-glorious moment. As a planner and a worrier, this is sometimes hard. As a people-pleaser cut from the Proverbs 29:25 cloth, this is sometimes painful. As a self-focused introvert, this is sometimes excruciating. And so I write this blog with no more expectations that you will find it and read it; I do it to serve the Lord as He gives me the words to share for His glory. I do it because I’ve been called to be a light to His people and a witness to His glory, enjoying my Daddy. If you benefit from it, then praise be to God, but I’m now doing it to praise God. Period. As the priest answered my question as to why he officiated mass even when no one was in attendance, his simple answer is one of those teachers Isaiah spoke of: “God is here.”

Isn’t that enough?

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by David C Hughes

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Broken (2016-06-10 Daily)

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

– Vance Havner[1]

 

At first it began with a little blue smoke from under the hood of my Craftsman tractor. Ever since I’d let the oil drop to the bottom of the dip stick, that 21 horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine reminded me I’d messed up every time I mowed. As far as it was concerned, redemption from my mechanical neglect would be hard in coming, if at all.

David C. Hughes, Author

“Grandpa always told me that if you take care of your machines,” my dad shared when I was a kid, “they’ll take care of you.” The opposite was never mentioned but always implied: if you didn’t take care of your machines, well, they could turn into something like those demonically-driven trucks in that old Stephen King movie, Maximum Overdrive.

But onward I pressed my huffing lawn mower, performing my duties as the man of the house, topping off the crankcase with at least a half quart of 10W-30 before mounting that mighty red steed for a turn around the yard. The blue pall seemed to thicken with each passing week, until riding the tractor was like sitting in the back seat of Cheech and Chong’s ‘64 Chevy Impala in Up in Smoke.

Then came the black smoke as I tackled the thicker grass (no pun intended). With the black smoke came a horrid knocking sound, like a jackhammer on reinforced concrete. Sometimes the engine would stall. The smell of burning oil stuck in my nose for the rest of the day, and more than once I wondered what the exhaust was doing to my brain, let alone my lungs.

Finally, while attempting to mow the swamp that used to be our back yard, the blade drive belt slipped off the mower deck pulley array and the blades quit spinning. Like the Old Man in A Christmas Story, I wove a tapestry of cuss words that to this day is still hanging over the pond behind our house.

David C. Hughes, Author

Meanwhile . . . a feisty storm had taken our five-burner gas grill for a spin across the patio and left it lying drunk and disheveled against our wood pile. After Mary and I managed to lift it up and drag it back onto the porch, I reassembled it then lit it to make sure it still worked. Flames rolled out of the control panel in front of burner number three, melting the control knob. I sighed and shook my head.

David C. Hughes, Author

Meanwhile . . . I received a phone call from Mary while I was at work. “The stuff in the garage refrigerator’s freezer is thawing out. I don’t think it’s working anymore.” She transferred all of the meat from the 10-year-old fridge to the 32-year-old garage deep freeze. After I got home I measured the temperature and confirmed the refrigerator had gone kaput, like the tractor. Like the gas grill. Parts and labor to repair it would cost $428. I gritted my teeth until my fillings began to squeal from the compressive stresses.

David C. Hughes, Author

The day before the tractor spewed its last puff of blue smoke (which, coincidentally was only a couple days after the garage fridge spewed its last breath of cold air, and a week after the gas grill spewed its last flame), my iPhone glitched, spasmed, rolled over, and died a wordless death, spewing years of photos, notes, messages, and contact information into the black hole of technospace. It was all I could do to keep from punching it right in the shimmering blue screen of death.

David C. Hughes, Author

As I meticulously followed Apple’s step-by-step instructions on how to reset an iPhone using iTunes (hint: don’t even bother if the phone doesn’t turn on), I bumped a glass of wine off the computer desk where it smashed on the floor and painted the tile and the dining room wall a titillating shade of purple. iTunes failed to resurrect my decaying phone.

When Mary and Hannah walked through the door a few minutes after the creation of my smashingly ingenious work of art, I had that look on my face, you know, the one where life grabs you in its jaws and shakes you until your eyes bulge. As the wine stained the grout and the wall, my wife wanted to grab me and make my eyes bulge as well. I felt as broken as the tractor, the refrigerator, the cell phone, the grill, as broken as the wine glass lying in a pool of purple. I felt as broken as the leaking CV boot on my Kia, as broken as the tire that kept losing air, as broken as the window in our breakfast nook. I felt as broken as the grinding ceiling vents in the bathrooms, the flaking grout in the dining room, the flakey water softener in the garage, the peeling paint on the garage door header. With all the literal brokenness surrounding me, I wondered when God’s provision was finally going to bust loose from the reservoirs of heaven and pour through the floodgates as He promised in Malachi 3:10. I wondered . . . .

David C. Hughes, Author David C. Hughes, Author David C. Hughes, Author David C. Hughes, AuthorDavid C. Hughes, Author

The next morning, after my sanity had returned from its sporty jaunt through the topiary gardens of hell, Mary pulled open the door of the microwave and the handle came off. I smiled. I chuckled. I began to laugh. Mary laughed with me. “All we need to fix all the broken things around here is $3000,” I half joked. In the spirit of James 1:2 and Philippians 4:6, we thanked God for our current season of trials, knowing that trials produce steadfastness and character, even though going through them sucks.

I went to work the following morning, and later that afternoon, as I was wrapping up, my boss unexpectedly handed me a check that more than covered the cost to fix all the broken things at home. “What’s this for?” I blurted, looking up at him.

“Another 180 hours to keep you around,” he replied.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” I whispered.

Thank You, Jesus, I prayed over and over during my drive home. Thank You, Jesus!

When I walked into the dining room, I showed Mary the check. “I told you Jesus would take care of it,” she said. Indeed He did. We prayed in thanks, right there on the spot, for the surprising (yet completely expected) provision God had laid in our hands. “Thanksgiving comes before the miracle,” we reminded Hannah when she asked me how much the check was for. We told her about Jesus giving thanks before breaking death’s grip and raising Lazarus from the tomb. We told her about Jesus giving thanks at the Last Supper before breaking the bread and offering His body to be broken as the sacrifice to manifest the ultimate Miracle. All that brokenness, all that thankfulness, all those miracles.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,” Peter wrote in his first letter (1 Peter 5:6 NKJV). “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance,” James wrote to the twelve scattered tribes (James 1:2-3 NIV®). “Give thanks in all circumstances,” Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV®). Give thanks in all circumstances, even when all hell has broken loose and broken everything. Then pull out the broom and the dustpan and get ready to sweep in the miracles. There’s no stopping them.

David C. Hughes, Author

 

Photo Copyright © 2016 by Mary L. Hughes

[1] From: http://www.christianquotes.info/quotes-by-topic/quotes-about-brokenness/

 

Copyright © 2016 by David C Hughes

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