David C. Hughes, Writer

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

Archive for the category “Daily”

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

Dependence Day (2016-04-29 Daily)

God helps those who help themselves.

—Algernon Sydney

 

THE AMERICAN WAY

 

Like so many Americans raised in the 60’s and 70’s, my parents brought me up to work hard for what I wanted. Both Dad and Mom instilled in us kids a strong work ethic handed down from generations past, folks who struggled through the Great Depression digging graves, butchering livestock, and mining coal. My Great Aunt Marie wrote letters describing how they lived in a train caboose, how the children owned one pair of shoes between them, how they took turns wearing the single pair of shoes to school while the other kids walked barefoot. It sounds like the beginning of one of those “I walked to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways” stories the old timers like to tell with a scowl and a wagging finger—it would be funnier if it wasn’t so terribly true.

I grew up building plastic model airplanes in the basement of our tiny three-bedroom, one-bathroom house in the woods of upstate New York. Our back yard rose up to an abandoned field, which climbed to a line of trees, beyond which lay hidden a close-cropped plateau owned by an organization called The Aero Guidance Society.
The Aero Guidance Society, David C. Hughes

Members built and flew radio-controlled model airplanes, and some of the most exciting and impressionable hours I remember as a kid were spent hanging out in my back yard watching those airplanes bore holes in the sky. As I watched those brightly-dressed models barrel roll, tail slide, and loop-the-loop above the tree line, I knew someday I’d be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those guys, piloting my own aircraft.

I set my sights on a radio control unit, and my parents supported me: “This is an expensive hobby,” they impressed upon me. “If you want to do it, you’ll have to pay for it yourself.” At 13 or 14 years old I’d already been making money cutting lawns, but my savings account at the local bank wasn’t filling up fast enough to satisfy my eagerness.

David C. Hughes

So I upped the ante by taking on babysitting jobs, earning the reputation as the neighborhood go-to guy for kid-watching (I made 50 cents an hour babysitting all the way through my first years of college). Between the lawn mowing, babysitting, and earning a weekly allowance, I finally saved enough money by age 15 to purchase my first RC radio, a sweet 1977 Kraft 4-channel setup. That Christmas my parents gave me a balsa wood glider that had a wingspan taller than me.

David C. Hughes

David C. Hughes

By the time I graduated from high school I was working three jobs to support not only my RC habit but also the tickets I needed to tow the Schweizer SGS 2-33 glider I flew in to 3,000 feet so I could play in the thermals. Self-sufficiency began to settle deep into my psyche; if I wanted something I darned well had better roll up my sleeves and go after it. I was an American, dammit, and Americans work hard for what we set our minds to. Right? I mean, my life’s philosophical foundation included the truth that, “God helps those who help themselves.” It was the truth . . . . Right?

David C. Hughes

 

A NEW TRUTH

 

Over the years my wants led to arrogance, arrogance led to independence, independence led to pride, and pride led to a brilliant fall that literally left me folded into a ball of snot and tears, screaming at a God I didn’t believe in anymore (or so I thought) and kicking a shoe through a window. Not a pretty picture. But in that string of moments God opened my eyes to not only His sovereignty, but His closeness, His love, and His desire to help me discover the true want of my life: Him. Over the next several years He took me by the right hand and led me to the real truth: God helps those who depend on Him fully.

When I first started to read Scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6 confused the heck out of me:
             Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

–Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV®)

 

After all, God had given me a brain to think and reason, a mind to gather knowledge and to learn wisdom, hands and feet to labor and toil. And here He is, telling me not to lean on those? He’d given me freedom and independence, and here He is, telling me to submit to Him? I’m an American, by God. I’m independent, I’m confident, and I’m a go-getter. “Don’t tread on me,” and all of that. I don’t submit to nothin’. But as I dove deeper into the Bible, God opened my eyes over and over again to the wisdom of giving everything—my time, my labor, even my attitude—over to Him.

“Be still, and know that I am God,” He urges us in Psalm 46:10 (NIV®). “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning / I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly,” King David prayed (Psalm 5:3 NIV®). And again David prayed, in Psalm 27, verse 14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord,” (NIV®). Over and over Scripture implores us to wait for the Lord. But who has time to just wait?

David C. Hughes

 

JUST WAIT

 

Waiting is so difficult for me; I can’t count the number of times I acted without waiting, without thinking, without praying. I want everything now! Thank God His grace is sufficient, and He promises to make all things work together for our good, even if the path to the goal is long and convoluted. If good things come to those who wait, greater things come to those who wait on the Lord in triumphant expectation.

The first time I really read Exodus 14:13-14, Moses’ words prompted me to stop and read those two verses again.

 

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV®)

 

The Lord will fight for me? And all I need to do is be still? Holy cow! How unnatural is that? But isn’t that the point? It’s not natural to stand still in the face of your enemy, your “Egyptians,” nor is it natural to wait before moving forward with a plan that’s just chomping at the bit to get done. No, it’s not natural; it’s supernatural. God’s not saying to lie down like a doormat, hand over our freedoms, and let people and situations wipe their boots all over our upturned faces. No. What He’s reminding us is that He promises “he will never leave you nor forsake you,” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV®). Turn to Him with humility and confidence, and He promises to fight for us. All we need to do is be still and let Him work through both us and our situation. After all, He’s already been there. He already is there.

There’s a huge difference between pride and confidence; pride says, “I can do all things.” Confidence says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). There is a chasm between self-reliance and dependence on God; self-reliance says, “I’m free to do what I want.” Dependence on God says, “I’m free to do what God wants.” Ask Him what His will is, listen closely, then act (or don’t act) accordingly. It is for freedom that Jesus set us free, and, ironically, absolute freedom comes from complete dependence on God. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Now go celebrate Dependence Day—it’s way better than the 4th of July!

David C. Hughes

Copyright © 2016 by David C Hughes

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