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 “Epiphany”

The Epiphany of Joy, Introduction [2 of 2]

In January 2011 I attended a Fully Alive men’s weekend with Marc Owings, Pastor of Elevate Him Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, and author of The Original Sanctuary and All In.  The men on the retreat were given the opportunity for one-on-one time with God, in a spirit and environment of quietness, protection, and expectation.  During that time God spoke to me in the form of a letter penned by my own hand, directed by the Spirit.  “Set your heart right,” God wrote to me, “set your eyes on Me, and KNOW, KNOW, in your heart of hearts that you are going down the right path, that you are fulfilling My plans, and the plans are to give you joy, fun, and to prosper you in ways you can’t even imagine.  You’ll know when it’s time to transition; trust that I am right now creating these paths and opportunities to you.  You’ll know.  And write to your (and My) heart’s content!  Enjoy and be filled with joy!  This is the path.”  The scales fell off my eyes as I realized I’d been on the right road, the Road to Damascus, all along.  I cried a lot that weekend.

Fast-forward six months.  While on a business trip to Buffalo, New York, to engage with one of my suppliers, the Lord whispered to me in the hotel room: “I want you to write a book about joy,” He said. “I want you to become a joy expert.”  Me?  Write a book about joy?  In my past life my writing focused more on short horror stories, a “Twilight Zone” type novel, and poetry rather than Christian non-fiction.  Who was I to talk about joy, let alone write a book about it?  What did I know?

Turns out, I didn’t have to know anything, I just had to be obedient to God’s request.  As Caroline Barnett says in her book, Willing to Walk on Water, “You need to follow God’s voice.  And if He gives you a desire to do something, He will find a way to make it happen.” (page 161)

But a week after that trip to Buffalo, Satan attacked my mind with a full-on frontal assault:  “You’ll never finish the book,” he tormented.  “Who are you to write about joy?”  I stood in the shower, water splashing over me, praying to God and rebuking the devil.

“Lord,” I pleaded. “How am I going to write this thing?”

“All you have to do is be creative and organize it,” He replied.  Ha!  That’s all?!  And at that moment I made a commitment to not only write the book, but to disengage the project from the spirit of mammon: Since this is God’s book, I decided that, as the first fruit of many more to come, all profits from its sale will go to New River Fellowship, my home church in Hudson Oaks, Texas.  This book is my Jericho!

As Scott Crenshaw, Senior Pastor of New River, said “There is something when the winds of persecution blow on the flames of God in your heart.”  Satan’s rancid breath tried to blow out my joy completely.  But instead, he inadvertently helped fan the flames into an inferno of hope.  Through researching and writing this book, I’ve discovered how God means for us to live, not in slavery to expectations but in the freedom of who He created us to be.  God opened my eyes and heart to what it means to lead a joy-filled life alive with the Spirit, despite circumstances and past choices.

As I started writing The Epiphany of Joy, I was far from being a joy expert, and I concurred with my friend Stephen Erwin when he told me, “Joy is a decision–it doesn’t come naturally to me.”  It doesn’t come naturally to me either, although by the smile on my face, my persistence, and my sense of humor you’d never guess that.  That’s the funny thing about joy: it shows even when it’s not felt.

This joy thing continues to be a journey for me, a journey from despair and depression and hopelessness to trust and hope and praise.  I know this will be a lifelong adventure, a continuous education, and a reminder that joy is a gift planted in me by the Spirit of God; I need to remember to unwrap that gift and receive it daily in my heart.  Like the tattoo on my arm declaring my sonship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, it’s there, I just gotta show it!

So . . . what is joy?  I mean, what is it really?  Is it equivalent to happiness?  Why is it so elusive in today’s world?  Why do so many people rely on Things and Feelings and Money and People for joy, and never really experience it at all?  Joy is in my daughter’s squeal of delight as she runs across the back yard and launches herself into her inflatable swimming pool.  It’s climbing up to cloud base in a sailplane on nothing but the breath of heated air.  It’s continuing to go to work every day because I can be confident the Lord has put me in these jobs to train me for a mission way bigger than myself. It’s shouldering my cross and pressing through the depression, knowing Jesus’ power is made perfect in my weakness.  It’s the birth of a baby, the first moment of contact between her and me, despite the fear.

Despite.  This is a key word.  Joy is despite.  Joy is in the trials.  Joy is in the calmness.  Joy is in the seeing what others can’t see, doing what others think is strange, maybe even foolish, living a life focused on obedience to God rather than centering around myself.  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” Paul said in Romans 12:2, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  This command is prefaced in Romans 12:1 with the offer of our bodies–ourselves–to God, wholly and completely, without reservation.  Joy is a renewing, an attitude provided by grace by the Spirit who moves in us, by a God who loves us more than we’ll ever know or could even fathom.  As Bob Hamp, Freedom Pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas told me: “Joy is a way of looking at the world; it may not be okay now, but it will be.”  So step out in faith with me and let’s learn about this thing called “joy” together.  We don’t have to worry about taking the wrong path; it’s not the ending that counts, but the way we get there.

Enjoy!

 

Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes

 

The Epiphany of Joy, Introduction [1 of 2]

It’s all come down to this . . . after more than two years simmering in the crockpot of imagination, research, inspiration, and prayer, it’s my humble honor to serve to you the first course of The Epiphany of Joy.  I’m excited about posting the debut installment of this work-in-progress, and I’m even more excited to read your feedback, suggestions, and anecdotes to help move this project to formal release in book form (target for submission is June 2014).  As I prepped the first few chapters for draft release, this process reminded me of how Charles Dickens published his works, starting with Sketches by Boz in 1833.  Blogging provides a new twist on serialization, and I love that this work-in-progress is not solely my work, but our work.  God revealed this to me during a worship service at New River Fellowship a year ago: “This is your resource,” He said, meaning the people surrounding me, worshiping, giving their all.  Yes, you and I together will bring this book into a world sorely in need of a change of perspective.

So here’s the plan: once or twice a week I’ll post a quarter to a half of each chapter, starting with the first half of the Introduction today.  First and foremost, please enjoy each post.  Of course, you don’t have to respond to it, but I welcome your feedback, good, bad, or ugly.  More importantly, please share your thoughts, anecdotes, and experiences on the topic at hand, and let me know if you’re okay with me including your inputs in future chapters and revisions of the book.

Thanks to all of you who have already contributed to this project, whether it be through an interview, an email, a text, a comment on my blog page, a kind word, or your thoughts and prayers.  “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

So without further ado, I present to you . . . . The Epiphany of Joy!

***********

THE EPIPHANY OF JOY

by

David C. Hughes

Introduction

[Installment 1 of 2]

. . .do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. 

–Nehemiah 8:10

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh 

Somewhere ages and ages hence: 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 

I took the one less traveled by, 

And that has made all the difference.

–Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

It happened January 2011 during a men’s retreat in Lake Fork, Texas.  God wrote a letter to me.  And the scales fell off my eyes . . . .

He followed up in June 2011 while on a business trip to Buffalo, New York.  God spoke to me.  And my world changed . . . .

A week later, while sparring with the devil in the shower, God whispered to me.  And things solidified . . . .

I was raised a child of the 60’s and 70’s, immersed in a middle-class, hard-working, country-boy environment.  Dad worked for IBM in Endicott, New York, the first of his immediate family to transition out of a blue-collar upbringing in southwestern Pennsylvania into the white-collar world of Big Blue.  I grew up in the rural town of Maine, New York, with two younger brothers and a baby sister in a 1200-square-foot ranch-style house.  The joke was our town contained more cows than people.  The smell, especially on stagnant mid-summer afternoons, testified to the verity of that claim.

My parents instilled in my siblings and me a strong family experience, a Catholic Church-based spiritual foundation, and a solid work ethic, demonstrating the lessons daily as we lived life together in that cozy three-bedroom avocado green house with one bathroom.  Thanks to my dad, I gained an appreciation for story-telling, walks in the woods, and being an involved parent.  And thanks to my first-generation Italian-American mom, I gained an appreciation for polka music, hard work, meticulousness, and talking with my hands!  Both of my parents came from humble and challenging backgrounds, and they used that experience to teach us love, family, and integrity.  They made (and, after 50 years of marriage, still make) a great team.

When I was in elementary school, Mom put a duster in my hand and showed me how to run the old Kirby upright with the olive green bag.  When I turned 12 or 13, Dad demonstrated the ins and outs of starting and using the simple but dependable Craftsman push mower to cut our half-acre, hilly lawn.  To this day I remember having to yank the cable off the spark plug to stop that beast.  I quickly learned what 15,000 volts feels like, and what it does to your hand muscles.  I took on babysitting jobs at age 13, started working for a family-owned department store and ice cream store at 16.  I maintained flower beds and lawns for the church and for neighbors, and I even helped a local dairy farmer harvest hay.  I learned the value of hard work, of responsibility, and of making and saving money.  There was no question I was going to continue my education straight out of high school into college, get a degree, and procure a good-paying job.

The joy of childhood filled my heart those days.  I spent hours playing in the basement and romping in the woods with my dad and my brothers.  I built plastic model airplanes, flew balsa wood radio controlled aircraft, and graduated to piloting full-scale sailplanes over the pasture-embossed hills of New York’s Southern Tier region.  I spent endless hours rebuilding lawnmowers found in junk heaps, playing with small engines, and riding motorcycles in the woods.  I tore down, cleaned up, and rebuilt a Honda CR125 dirt bike on the front porch with no maintenance manual and no previous experience with two-stroke engines.  I just rolled up my sleeves and got to work, and the engine started right up after I put it all back together without a part left over!

My brothers, sister, and I spent cold winter days building forts in the snow drifts, and frigid winter nights sledding in the darkness down quarter-mile long bobsled runs Dad built for us and the neighborhood kids.  I was happy in my creativity in junior and senior high school, enjoying drawing, writing, collecting butterflies, and producing a couple darned hilarious Super 8 movies.  And even as my dream of becoming an Air Force pilot crashed due to a stomach ulcer developed in my junior year, I still pursued my creative outlets as I began my post-high-school education in engineering.

But somewhere between my sophomore and junior years of college, boredom, upheaval, and discontent roared in and body slammed joy to the mat while working a co-op job in the structured and demanding environment of a tech company.  Another bleeding ulcer almost killed me.  I had my duodenum and a third of my stomach removed, and I caught a brief glimpse of the power and enticement of Demerol.  I read Stephen King’s The Talisman while in the hospital, and questioned deeply the path I struggled down.  At that moment I stood in Robert Frost’s yellow wood, at the divergence of the two roads, and I made a choice:  I took the one leading to the completion of my Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering and the start of a career in the military aircraft industry which lasted almost three decades.

Dissatisfaction with my job, double-mindedness about my vocation versus my avocation, a failed marriage, a slump into clinical depression, a hyperactive sensitivity to the size of my bank accounts, and a six-year loss of my voice came close to pinching out the flame of joy between fingers of despair and hopelessness.  Whatever joy I had left retreated to the dark corners of my memory, wide-eyed, shivering, waiting.  It darted out to celebrate my engagement and marriage to my second wife, the birth of our daughter, the first flight of the jet fighter I helped build.  Joy’s voice emerged occasionally to sing high harmony to the songs I made up for my daughter, and it listened with rapt attention to the stories we created and laughed about.  But somewhere along the way I’d all but left joy on the side of the road to die.

Thankfully, it didn’t . . . .

 

Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes

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