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 “Jesus Calling”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 16: Joy in Suffering (1 of 4)

Joy emerges from the ashes of adversity through your trust and thankfulness.

Sarah Young, Jesus Calling[i]

 

When Fred Chapman woke up on the morning of Saturday, August 8, 2009, he had no idea his world would soon be flipped upside down.  A racetrack chaplain for the Central Motorcycle Road Racing Association since 2003, Fred looked forward to supporting and ministering to the racers at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Hallett, Oklahoma.  His youngest son, Jake, then thirteen, was scheduled to compete in a mini endurance race at Hallett while his 19-year-old son, Zac, warmed up for the WERA Nationals at Virginia International Raceway in Danville, Virginia.  Zac, already a professional racer, planned to do well enough that weekend to pay for tires, gas, and racing fees for the AMA Pro event at Virginia International the weekend after.

Zac had taken his own motorcycle onto the track that morning to log a few practice laps, but while rounding one of the turns something went wrong.  He lost control of the powerful motorcycle.  Instinctively he tried to correct the heavy bike’s trajectory.  “I started to fall and I saved it,” said Zac, “but when I did, it sent me off the track at an angle you don’t normally do.  It usually doesn’t happen that way.”  He hit the weathered, hard tire wall head on at 60 to 70 miles per hour.  Zac and the motorcycle decelerated in an instant, sliding along the barrier in a crunch of metal, fiberglass, plastic, and flesh.  He skittered to a stop in the grass, facedown.

By the time the corner workers reached him and turned him over, Zac insisted on getting up, but the officials wouldn’t let him.  After the track ambulance arrived, the crew transferred him to a backboard, strapped his head down, and transported him to the pit area where he talked to his team owner and insisted he was okay.  However, when Zac removed his helmet he began complaining about severe neck pain.  Another ambulance then drove him to the local hospital for a CT scan.

Soon after the crash, Fred received a phone call from Zac’s team owner telling him what had happened.  Because Zac had appeared relatively coherent and intact, Fred wasn’t immediately alarmed.  He hung up and continued to carry equipment to the staging area, helping his younger son’s team set up for the upcoming four-hour endurance race.

“I soon got another call,” said Fred.  “It was the emergency room doctor—he was on his personal cell phone—and he said, ‘Mr. Chapman, I’ve got your son. We’re going to give him a CT scan because he’s not answering all the questions right.’”  Not responding correctly to the questions was a sign of a concussion.  Fred hung up after asking the doctor to call him when he received the results.

“It wasn’t ten minutes later my phone rang and it was that same number,” Fred recalled.  “My first thought was, ‘Well, you can’t get the results of a CT scan that quickly.’ I answered the phone and the doctor said, ‘Mr. Chapman, I’m sorry to inform you, but when we put Zac into the CT scanner and started the scan he went into a coma and aspirated.’” The medical crew performed an emergency tracheotomy, then flew him via helicopter to Roanoke Memorial Hospital Trauma Center in Roanoke, Virginia.

A friend rushed Fred to Tulsa International Airport, and three hours later he was on his way to Roanoke.  On the flight to Virginia, the man sitting next to him offered to pray for him and Zac.  Until that moment Fred hadn’t invited the Holy Spirit into the situation, so as the man prayed over him, Fred also prayed: “Holy Spirit, all of my Christian life I’ve heard You say that You’ll give us peace beyond understanding,” he implored.  “There’s no way I could understand that right now, but I want that peace.”  Peace and relaxation suddenly flooded over him.  Back pain he’d suffered from for twenty-seven years melted away, like he’d just received a full-body massage.  “That’s when I laid my head back in the seat and closed my eyes, and I started talking to the Holy Spirit.  That’s when I heard Him tell me, ‘Don’t worry about Zac, I’m going to fully restore him.’”

On that promise, Fred rallied for his son after doctors confirmed he’d suffered from massive trauma to both his frontal lobe and his brain stem.  During the impact, Zac’s brain had torn loose from his cranium, a condition known as “brain shear.”  For all intents and purposes, the impact destroyed his frontal lobe.  The neurosurgeon at Roanoke Memorial urged Fred to let Zac go, but he confidently refused.  Joy and peace settled over him.  “When you hear from God it gives you a peace,” Fred explained. “The key to that is getting quiet and having the communication between you and God through the Holy Spirit.  When you hear from God, you have to be obedient to carry out what He says and do it.”

Because of the swelling, surgeons removed Zac’s cranium from above his eyebrows to the temples and across the top of his head, and for nearly three months he lay in a coma on a respirator.  Fred never gave up hope in God’s promise, and he never left Zac’s side.  After Zac was flown back to Fort Worth, a medical crew transported him to Kindred Long-term Acute Care Hospital, where, five days later, the staff managed to remove Zac from the respirator.  Three days after that, they succeeded in waking him from the coma, but he remained in a vegetative state.  Four more weeks passed before he was transferred to Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation in Dallas.  There doctors reattached the piece of bone removed from Zac’s cranium to protect his brain from any further injuries.

After successfully completing this procedure, the neurosurgeon at Baylor confirmed the status of Zac’s brain. “His frontal lobe is just like jelly lying in the bottom,” he told Fred. “Lifeless, just destroyed.” The area where his frontal lobe should have been was concave.  Because reattachment of the cranial bone was intended for protection and nothing more, the doctor cautioned Fred not to expect any “big results” from the surgery.

“I understand,” Fred replied.

After the surgery the medical team conducted CT scans every two hours throughout the night to monitor Zac’s brain for swelling.  “At six the next morning I was sleeping at Zac’s feet in a chair, and the doctor came rushing into the room and startled me,” Fred said.  “He really freaked me out saying, ‘Mr. Chapman!  Wake up!  Come here, you’ve got to see this! You’ve got to see this!’ He grabbed my arm and I threw off the blanket and here we go!”  The neurosurgeon hurried Fred to the nurses’ station where a bank of large computer monitors stood, each displaying a CT scan.  He pointed to the computer screens.  “As I looked at each one,” said Fred, “I saw that the frontal lobe had come back.  And I said to the doctor, ‘What are you telling me?’  He said, ‘The frontal lobe has come back!’”

(continued)

[i] Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. 301.

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 8: Joy in Gratitude [2 of 2]

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!  Please enjoy the 2nd half of The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 8, while I scamper off to help my wife start preparing dinner.  God bless you!

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As I write this chapter, Thanksgiving is only three days away.  As coordinator of the after-school program for The Rock of Sports and Performing Arts, the gym Hannah trains at, Mary put together a curriculum of thankfulness and gratitude for the month of November.  Mary felt called to help cultivate, and maybe even introduce, an attitude of appreciation for the everyday blessings we may take for granted. One of the projects she developed for the month was a “gratitude journal,” where the kids answer a series of questions beginning with the preamble “What are you thankful for that’s . . . .”  When asked “What are you thankful for that’s small?” one of the girls in the program responded “I’m thankful for how small is my love for God and [how] it will get bigger.”  Out of the mouths of babes, I’m tellin’ ya!

“A thankful attitude opens windows of heaven,” Sarah Young wrote in Jesus Calling (November 22nd entry). The moment I wake up in the morning, I try to jumpstart my day by praying “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it, for I believe I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” You may recognize my wake-up prayer as a combination of Psalm 118:24 and Philippians 4:13.  I find that starting off the day with an attitude of rejoicing, thankfulness, and appreciation banishes negativity and instills joy in my heart from the get-go; this simple prayer can sweep away some powerful negativism.  Mary wonders how I can be so happy immediately after the alarm buzzes and I roll out of bed.  Now the secret is out!

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul wrote “Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us, as is rejoicing (expressing joy), and praying (engaging God in conversation).  Giving thanks when things are going well is one thing, but thanking God for the challenges and flat-out nasty stuff?  That’s an attitude-changer, a door opening to God’s storeroom of unlimited joy.  As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 100:4, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).  The result of presenting our petitions with thanksgiving?  “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV).  The fruit of thanksgiving is peace, a peace which goes beyond the natural and is anchored firmly in the supernatural.

Thankfulness raises the awareness of God’s presence in my life, and with this awareness comes joy.  Little things I may have passed by without noticing come into sharp focus in the light of I AM: the peek of hot pink sunrise between the horizon and the thick gray cloud layer above, that flash of momentary radiance, God’s “Good morning” as I finish up the day’s devotional; the unexpected rain storm which pops up the day I write “Water trees” on my to-do list; the sudden discount on the hardwood flooring we’d been wanting to install, but didn’t want to pay that much for; the inrush of sudden inspiration tumbling through my head at 3:00 in the morning, thoughts that perfectly complete the chapter I’ve been stuck on for the past couple days.  When you embrace a moment-by-moment appreciation, God will play “Where’s Waldo” with you all day long by hiding His little pleasures wrapped in good timing just to see you smile when you notice them. He’s a great Daddy!

I like to think of these as “Thank You, Jesus” moments, where Mary and I just can’t help but smile and say “Thank You” to the One who orchestrates our joy.  And as gratitude becomes a habit, as I open my eyes to even the smallest things to be thankful about, I find myself saying “Thank You, Jesus” a lot during the day.  What a great way to start the day, what a great way to experience it, and what a spectacular way to end it.

One morning I woke up with my sinuses on fire and my throat irritated from the dry winter air.  “That’s one thing I don’t like about this time of year,” I said to Mary as we rolled out of bed at o’dark thirty.  “The heater dries out my sinuses.”  Then instantly I said “Thank You, Jesus, for the heater,” and I imagined what it would be like to suffer through a North Texas winter–or any winter for that matter–without a furnace in the house.  As I sat on the bathtub step writing this experience in my notebook, Mary walked into the bathroom to get a shower.  “Thank You, Jesus, for hitting my husband.”  Believe me, I’m thankful He clobbers me over the head with these nuggets of inspiration–it makes my job all that much joy-filled as I recognize the gifts He’s poured out on me and my family.

Appreciating the gifts–and the giver–makes having received the gifts even more valuable.  When I was a kid, my mom made sure I wrote out and mailed off a thank you note for every birthday present, graduation gift, or Christmas present I’d ever received.  I don’t think I fully appreciated this expression of gratitude at the time, especially after a particularly large haul from a birthday or graduation party, but as I grew older I realized writing out a thank you note by hand forces you to slow down a bit and actually reflect on the giver’s thoughtfulness, and maybe even sacrifice.  The act of expressing appreciation can make the gift all that much sweeter and more memorable–to this day I can remember specific wedding gifts Mary and I received, and who gave them to us.  Now we hover over Hannah for days as she writes out her thank you notes in halting early-first-grade script, and it warms my heart to see the enjoyment she now gets in doing it herself.

Gratitude raises my capacity to receive and express appreciation for even the smallest things, tangible or not.  As I practice gratitude, I look forward to finding the little pleasures God sprinkles throughout the day for me to find, pecks on the cheek from the One Who wants me to experience life with joy, peace, freedom, and gratitude.  Thank You, Jesus, for good health.  Thank You, Jesus, for financial provision.  Thank You, Lord, for opportunities.  Thank You, Lord, for my talents and abilities.  Thank You, Jesus, for my family, my friends, my church, and my relationship with You.  And thank You, Jesus, for the opportunity to glorify You by living today as You intended, with a heart of gratitude.  May You implant this attitude ever deeper into our hearts.  And, by the way, thank You, Lord, for You!

 

Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes

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