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 “Grace”

Volunteer Rain (2014-09-19 Daily)

“Even in the familiar there can be surprise and wonder.”

―Tierney Gearon

 

I’m weather aware. I remember sitting in front of the TV with my dad watching hour after hour of The Weather Channel in its early days, tolerating the “Local on the 8’s” to catch the progress of an arctic cold front or to get the latest update on Tropical Storm Umberto. My fascination with weather may have originated from growing up in one of the most overcast regions in the United States (Binghamton, New York), or from endless hours watching the sky as I cloud danced in a Schweizer 1-26 sailplane. But it wasn’t until I moved to Texas that my weather awareness developed from fascination into fixation.

The wet, cold climate of upstate New York drove me to southern California, where I lived and worked in Santa Monica for eighteen months. It didn’t take long for me to start missing the damp upstate New York weather as I endured day after sunshiny day with temperatures in the 70s. I’m sure many would argue that’s perfect, but I much prefer thunderstorms, the changing seasons and the occasional ice storm to keep things fresh and interesting. So when the opportunity to transfer to Texas came up, I gladly jumped on that plane and rode it east.

I arrived in Texas on January 26th, 1988, and the day I arrived, the temperature climbed to a balmy 76 degrees. The next week, on February 2nd, it snowed, and I developed one of the worst sinus infections I’ve ever experienced. Two years in a row, during the same week in May, tornadoes knocked out power to the building where I worked, forcing us to go home for the day. The area received so much rain from 1989 through 1992 that the “normal” yearly precipitation level had to be adjusted upward. In 1995 hailstones as large as softballs pummeled Fort Worth, causing $2 billion in damage and injuring hundreds of people caught at the Mayfest celebration on Fort Worth’s west side. On March 28th, 2000 a tornado hit downtown Fort Worth dead center, blowing glass out of the high rise buildings and inflicting $500 million in damage to the city. For someone so weather aware, Fort Worth quickly became my Holy Grail. Except in the summer. And especially during this extended drought the entire state of Texas is now experiencing.

As I write this, the latest measurements by the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in the Dallas/Fort Worth area show that 82% of the state is experiencing drought conditions, from abnormally dry to exceptional drought. This summer, while cooler than recent years, has been frustratingly rain-free, especially where I live on the west side of Fort Worth, where we’re experiencing extreme drought conditions. Having a large garden, I’ve pumped my fist in the air more than once this year as storm clouds have built to the north or west and then drifted slowly eastward, either dissipating before they reach us, or skirting around us. If clouds had tongues they’d all be giving us the raspberry as they slide over the parched brown fields and wilted jalapeño pepper plants. Pecan trees that Hannah planted last year are now three inches tall instead of the average six to eighteen inches they should be. The only thing green around here is me as I watch storm after storm drop their cargo of abundant rain 20 miles to the east.

Because I’m weather obsessed, my morning routine starts out with a quick peek at the latest weather forecast before I start the day, and lately I’ve dismissed the rain chance predictions because anything between 0% and 100% really means 0%. The forecasters should do themselves a favor and just type 0% into the published forecast so we rain-hopefuls can just suck it up and accept the reality that it doesn’t rain around here anymore.

A few days ago I rolled out of bed at o’dark thirty to take our two fat dogs for a walk. Before I left the bathroom I checked my phone to see how cool it was outside, and noticed the tiny weather radar icon showed a blanket of green pixels overspreading our area. I tapped the icon to bring up the full-screen radar, and much to my surprise, it showed it was raining! But the weather forecasters hadn’t predicted rain, I thought. Is it really …? Could it be …? Is it actually … raining …?  I finished dressing and stepped out onto the back porch and into a veil of sprinkles. “Thank You, Jesus!” I prayed. The porch was still dry, the warm cement gulping up the light precipitation hungrily, and the smell of rain lay thickly in the air. Humidity draped its comforting arm over my shoulders. I smiled. Big. Leaving the dogs in the house, I opened the front door, stepped into the light shower, and walked two miles in it, praising and thanking God for the volunteer rain.

“Surprising sometimes means unpredictable, but it often means more,” wrote Brother David Steindl-Rast in Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer. “Surprising in the full sense means somehow gratuitous. Even the predictable turns into surprise the moment we stop taking it for granted.”[1] I’m convinced God sprinkles our daily paths with little treasures of surprise to find along the way. Why does He do this? For me, these little surprises—volunteer rain, a witty zinger spoken by my six-year-old daughter, or a shooting star lighting up my walk—unburden my heart and brighten my hope. They remind me that God is not only there, He’s also intimately involved in every detail of my life, even if I’m not paying much attention. These surprises—unjustified, uncalled for, unwarranted—inspire thankfulness and shift my attitude from self-centeredness and worry to confidence and trust. Jesus demonstrated time and again that gratitude leads to the miraculous, even if it’s a greater appreciation for the moment and all of its splendor.

Yesterday morning, as I sat in my office with the blinds open and watched a broken layer of cumulous stirred up by Hurricane Odile, I smiled as I recalled the wildly gyrating precipitation chances I’d seen over the past 24 hours. Because, as uncertain as the weather forecast can be, there’s always one thing certain about it: the weather, like God, always surprises and delights those who are open to the possibility of mystery and wonder. As Boris Pasternak, poet and novelist, once said, “Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.” Surprise leads to gratitude, and from gratitude comes miracles. Now go run around in the rain if you can find it. And be surprised!

 

Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes

[1] Steindl-Rast, Brother David. Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1984. 9.

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience (3 of 3)

NOTE: This will be the only post this week as I turn the crank on finishing the last chapter of The Epiphany of Joy prior to final update and submission to the readers.  Thanks again for supporting this effort, and I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on the latest status on The Epiphany of Joy and Melted Clowns as both books move forward to publication.

And now for The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience, installment 3 of 3 . . . . . .

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Obedience to God’s commands also keeps you planted firmly in God’s presence, and this brings about a joy that cannot be taken away. “’If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did,’” God promised Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah, “’I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you’” (1 Kings 11:38 NIV).

Disobedience to what we know to be right, on the other hand, has consequences of its own, and for the Hebrews of the Old Testament, it got ugly. God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden fruit. God turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt after the angels specifically commanded Lot and his family not to look back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God stripped away all but one of Solomon’s kingdoms after his fall from God’s favor. God allowed the Israelites to be captured and taken into exile to Assyria and to Babylonia: “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (2 Kings 17:7 NIV). In both Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, God very clearly defined the consequences of disobeying the Law. The Israelites, for their part, very clearly defined the term “stiff-necked people.”

But it’s from the single act of obedience by a young Hebrew virgin girl named Mary that forever changed history and brought permanent joy into the world:

 

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

–Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

 

“May your word to me be fulfilled . . . .” Christian obedience to God’s commands under post-resurrection grace is just as relevant as Hebrew obedience to God’s commands while living under the pre-resurrection Law. Just as the moral spirit of the Law remains as fully alive today as it did 5,000 years ago, obedience to Jesus’ new command to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV) encompasses “All the Law and the Prophets,” as Jesus responded when tested by the expert in the law in Matthew 22:40.

“If you love me, keep my commands,” Jesus told his apostles before his arrest (John 14:15 NIV). And as Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden led to the Fall, Christ’s obedience to the cross led to humankind’s reconciliation with God. “Son though he was,” the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, “he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. . . . For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 5:8-10, 12:2b NIV).

From the obedience of a humble Jewish girl to the obedience of her Son, mankind has been reconciled with the Father. “And being found in appearance as a man,” Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Philippi, “[Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV). By Christ’s example, and by our willingness to step out in faith and become obedient to our calling to live as children of God, we are made righteous. By grace we have been freed, and it is by love that we are called to remain obedient to the God who loves us so much “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

“There is an indescribable joy that comes from being obedient,” Caroline Barnett said in her book Willing to Walk on Water. “When all is said and done, you have willingly been part of a greater cause” (Caroline Barnett, Willing to Walk on Water, “Chapter 12: The Power of One,” page 218). Now if I could only get Hannah to listen to me when I tell her pick up her clothes and turn them right-side out, all would truly be right with the world.

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

 

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