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 tag “Amanda M. Thrasher”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 12: Joy in Giving (1 of 3)

NOTE: On March 26th, the day I turned 50, I signed a publishing contract with Progressive Rising Phoenix Press for both The Epiphany of Joy and for Melted Clowns.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as Mary and I toasted this pivotal life event with not only Amanda Thrasher, co-owner of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, but also with my parents, who were in town to help celebrate my milestone birthday.  Special thanks goes out to both Amanda and her business partner, Jannifer Powelson, for their trust and confidence in me.  You ladies rock!  We’re shooting for a September 20th release date for the two books, and my goal is to participate in the Writer’s Extravaganza, an author meet and greet and book signing held at the Barnes & Noble in the Parks Mall in Arlington, Texas, on 9/20.  More information to follow.

Thank you all for your continued support, prayers, and interest as we take the next step on this incredible journey.  Without you all, my life’s calling would be meaningless.  With you all, the world is truly blessed.

Many blessings,

David

And now, The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 12: Joy in Giving, part 1 of 3 . . .

 

All you need do is recognize that you have the ability to allow God to work through you and bring happiness to others. And the more you give happiness to others, the more you will have it for yourself.

–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 117

 

One evening, a couple months after I’d left my steady job, I started to feel the pinch of our severely-diminished family income while balancing the checkbook. The three-figure tally at the bottom of the check register did nothing to assure me I’d done the right thing giving up my full-time six-digit income in exchange for the adventure of a writer’s life. I scrutinized the debits–mainly birthday party expenses for Hannah–and felt my blood pressure rising.

A couple weeks earlier, Mary had sacrificed her own birthday and anniversary gifts in exchange for throwing Hannah a big sixth birthday party, and she’d busied herself buying candy for the piñata, purchasing gift bags for the party-goers, and putting down a deposit to hold the professional magician. On top of all that, we’d caved in to Hannah’s persistent nagging for guinea pigs and ended up spending even more money on a cage and all the trimmings. And I knew Mary hadn’t yet finished: she still had to buy an assortment of colored sand for one of the party activities.

For months Mary had been trying to convince Hannah to relinquish her obsession with the purple Fisher Price kitchen she’d played with since she was a toddler. She’d outgrown the thing by a year or two, but whenever we broached the subject of donating it to the church, she’d whine about still wanting to play with it. So there it sat in her bedroom, taking up space and collecting a fine patina of dust. But when we revealed the guinea piglets to her on her birthday, we seized the moment to coax her into giving away the toy: “We need to make a space to put the cage,” Mary told her. Mesmerized by the piglets, Hannah agreed.

The next morning Mary happily loaded the plastic kitchen into the back of the car and headed to the gym with Hannah. After dropping our daughter off, Mary then drove to the church office and unloaded the toy. She’d intended to head into Fort Worth to purchase the colored sand for the birthday party activity, but she ran out of time and returned to the gym to squeeze in a homeschool session with Hannah between training sessions.

While teaching first-grade addition, Mary offhandedly mentioned to the other homeschool moms that she hadn’t been able to buy the sand she needed. Her intention was to make the 30-minute trip into town the next day. Michelle Lockhart, Hannah’s gymnastics coach since she was 18 months old, stopped what she working on and looked at Mary. “What did you say?”

“I have to go to the Hobby Lobby in Fort Worth tomorrow,” Mary repeated, “to buy colored sand so the girls at Hannah’s party can fill dolphin key chains.”

“Hold on one second,” Michelle said. She dropped the paperwork she was organizing and called her husband, Heath. After chatting a minute, she hung up: “Heath will bring you a box of sand and dolphin key chains we just got from our church,” she said. “They were throwing them out so we took them and brought them home last night. He’ll drop them off today.”

In that moment everything clicked: Mary had given Hannah’s plastic kitchen to the church that morning, and a huge plastic bin filled with play sand and dolphin key chains arrived on our doorstep that afternoon. Jesus promised in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38 NIV). That morning Mary had resolved to buy four different colored bags of play sand for about $10. She and Hannah then donated a toy worth not much of anything except to the hearts of the children who would now get to play with it. That afternoon our family received more than four dozen bottles filled with different-colored sand. We gave, and God poured about $140 worth of sand and key chains into our laps. In fact, we used only what we needed for the party and returned the rest of it. Thank You, Jesus!

I love to give! In fact, it’s one of my Spiritual gifts described by the apostle Paul in Romans 12:6-8. And the joy I receive from giving is truly worth the sacrifice of giving; the joy of giving is itself the reward. As Jesus promised, those who give with the right attitude will receive back what they gave, and more. Jesus’ allusion in Luke 6:38 refers to a basket filled with grain or flour which was first filled, compressed, shaken to settle it even further, then added to for good measure. A true abundance in return for a simple act.

Why do I give? First, I can’t help myself! Giving is my calling, even when it hurts–the reward, for me, is in the giving. But I admit I also give because of God’s promise to reward us in return. I have a heart of expectation, although what I receive may not be what I expected. God yells “Surprise!” to Mary and I a lot, and I’m completely convinced that because we faithfully and cheerfully donate our time, talents, and treasure, we’ve been blessed beyond blessed; God is glorified in our giving. The testimony alone is worth at least a few thousand denarii!

Mary and I also tithe, the Old Testament tradition of giving the first 10% of our income, our “first fruits,” to the church. We tithe to honor God, but we also tithe because, simply, it works as God promised. In Malachi 3:10, God threw down a challenge: test Him in this and watch what He does. Believe me, when you get your heart right, when you give cheerfully according to 2 Corinthians 9:7, when you drop dearth mentality, when you let go of pride, selfishness, and fear, tithing loses its potentially sour foretaste and produces the sweet fruit of God’s limitless abundance and “Praise Jesus” joy! You’ll end up wanting to encourage everyone to tithe as well!

(continued) 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 10: Joy in Our Calling (1 of 3)

We don’t do this for the money.  We do this because we love it.  The rest will follow.

–Amanda M. Thrasher, author and publisher

 

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 16:15b (NIV)

 

One cool November evening Mary and I invited Pastors Scott and Renee Crenshaw over to the house for grilled steaks.  After we finished dinner and enjoyed our slices of homemade Granny Smith apple pie slathered with equally homemade vanilla ice cream, I asked Scott, Senior Pastor at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, if he considered himself living out his calling.  To me it was a rhetorical question; it was pretty obvious by the joy he exudes.

“I think so,” he responded, smiling and stroking his goatee.  “I really do.”  I nodded.  You see, I’d been struggling mightily with my calling for years, not so much in figuring out what my calling was–I knew exactly what it was–but with stepping out and answering that calling with a trust in God deep enough to pull the ejection handle on my tech job and parachute into a new career in writing.  I truly wanted to live out Goethe’s imperative, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.”  I’d only been at this writing thing fulltime for three months when I asked Scott the question.  The man obviously loves his job, and his spot-on sermons, his animated delivery, and his love for the flock he pastors reflect the passion, love, and joy he has in his calling.

“I was duck hunting one time,” he told me.  “It was freezing cold, I mean, it was miserable!  We got out there in the boat and we turned the heaters on and we’re waiting, and we got some poor dog sitting on the floor of the boat waiting to dive into the water.  And so we’re sitting there, and all throughout the morning, in the freezing cold, the water almost turned to ice, I’m hearing this sound, this thump-thump-thump-thump-thump, and I’m thinking ‘There must be an oil pump or something somewhere around here.’ Finally I realized it was that dog.  His tail was thumping.  What was he excited about?  He was excited about the moment when the guy goes ‘Cut ‘im!’ and the dog dives out into that freezing cold water.  But that’s what he’s made for.”  The Pastor laughed.

“And so at the end of the day I’m petting the dog and he’s living life, and I noticed his tail was literally bloody.  And the first thought that came to my mind was ‘God, that’s how I want to be.’  I call it bloody-tail passion.  I said, ‘I want to live in that.’”

I want to live in that . . . .  Who doesn’t?!  I want to be so caught up in fulfilling God’s will for me that I sit in the bottom of the boat, tail thumping, just waiting to explode with a bark of delight to scatter the ducks of joy all over Creation.  But so many people seem to just exist, to merely move through life joylessly, cowering like a beat dog, or floating around like a piece of driftwood on life’s ebb and flow, either never knowing their calling, or knowing their calling but never pursuing it out of fear.  And they seem unmotivated to do anything differently, like zombies going through the motions, dead but undead, losing body parts like hearts and souls along the way.  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” philosopher George Santayana once said.  Those who cannot remember the past of their passions, those who cannot remember the past of what moved them, those who cannot remember the past of what brought joy into their hearts, all stand condemned by their own false truths, a parade of fools led by that king of lies: worldly security.

One of my deepest fears was getting to the end of life, looking back on not only what I’d accomplished but also the opportunities I’d passed up because of terror, and saying, “So what the hell was that all about?”  Rockford E. Toews, in his essay “One Less Accountant,” wrote, “Rather than purposefully living, the vast majority of people’s lives are little more than a series of reactions to events and forces outside themselves. That’s not truly living. That’s just survival. Yet most people willingly engage in simple survival today in the belief that they will get their chance at actual living tomorrow.  If they can earn enough money now surely they will be able to retire one day and enjoy life” (http://thoreau.eserver.org/oneless.html, retrieved 2/12/2014).

Jesus said as much in the Parable of the Rich Fool:

 

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

              –Luke 12:16-21 NIV

 

Let me ask you something: Do you believe God wants you to actually enjoy the work He’s lined up for you  to do instead of being miserable in the job you’ve lined up for yourself to do?  Do you believe God has a plan for you, a gift of purpose tailor-made just for you, an avocation to live out with excitement, joy, and, dare I say, fun that will leave you breathless with wonder and smiling with contentment at the end of each day?  Do you believe God doesn’t intend for us to spend all of our energy chasing a dollar, but instead He intends for us to spend all of our energy chasing Him?

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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