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 “Lake effect snowstorm”

Fear Not! (2014-10-07 Daily) [2 of 2]

After that day I dreaded driving when it was snowing, especially at night. The distress induced by trekking through that storm would manifest its full emotional fury whenever winter weather caught me on the road, twisting my stomach into knots. I lived through fear’s full-on attack in January 1985, and it took years for the effects of that experience to diminish and eventually disappear. I can truly say it changed my life.

“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself,” Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his famous inaugural speech on March 4, 1933. “Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Advancing into a lake effect snowstorm is trivial compared to a newly-inaugurated president taking the reins of a suffering nation, but by God’s grace we both managed to steer our vehicles through fear’s onslaught and emerge on the other side victorious.

I am totally convinced that Satan and the evil forces of the spiritual realm are real because I’ve experienced his direct attacks, both mentally and physically. His demons literally crossed the line into my house one time, and it took a mighty spiritual counteroffensive to drive him out. After the release of The Epiphany of Joy, the devil ramped up his attacks against me and he’s been pummeling me ever since. He’s pissed off because my obedience to God’s command has added one more brick to the building of God’s Kingdom on earth. He’s furious because my stepping out in faith counteracted his campaign of doubt and helped open the door a little wider to the salvation of souls. He’s angry because I allowed the Spirit to direct my thoughts, words, and actions in this endeavor, and my surrender has reinforced my testimony, and my testimony is yet one more voice against the lies being perpetrated across the planet. I have no doubt in God’s divine plan for me, and I have no doubt in Satan’s plan of fear and defeat.  As Jesus assured in the Gospel of John, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV). I’ve resolved that the devil’s not taking me out. No way in hell.

While God provides His word, His rhema, as our sword, the devil’s weapon of choice is fear, and he uses his weapon skillfully and ruthlessly. After all, he’s got nothing left to lose. “Faith is the power God uses to create,” wrote Kenneth Copeland. “Fear is the power the devil uses to destroy.”[1] And destroy he will, with relish and to completion, if we let him.

As I mentioned in The Epiphany of Joy, one of the biggest fears I faced when I left my job and launched my full time writing career is lack—not having enough to pay the bills, losing our house, living in a cardboard box under a bridge. Fear pounced hard after my first royalty payments weren’t even enough to cover the electric bill. But time and again God has brought me around to the truth, and time and again He’s remained faithful to His promises. God cannot lie. Satan cannot tell the truth. So it comes down to a choice: who am I going to believe, God or the devil? The choice is obvious, but sometimes it’s a very hard decision to make.

It took over two years from when God commanded me to write The Epiphany of Joy to when I actually left my job to finish the book. In that time, both Mary and I fought mightily against the enemy’s whispers regarding financial provision. One afternoon Mary walked into my office, and we got into a discussion about the fear of not having enough money to make ends meet. As we talked and cried and prayed, I recalled something I’d recently heard.

“Jesus is my husband,” I assured her. I know, it sounds weird, but it’s Biblically accurate. As the church is the bride of Christ, and because I’m a member of the Body of Christ—the church—Jesus is therefore my bridegroom, my husband. As my own wife looks to me to provide her with security, I likewise look to Jesus for all of my provision. All of it. He is not only my Savior, He is my Lord, and as my Lord He is my Rock, my Security and my Provider. He is ever faithful to His promises and He cares for me deeply; there is nothing to fear—I can rely on that Truth until the day I die, and then some.

Seventy times the words “Do not be afraid” appear in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Seventy times God invites us to step out in faith, let go of fear, and put our total trust in Him. “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?” Jesus asked. “And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7 NKJV). I am valued, I am thought of, I am provided for.

But can I tell you something? Not a day goes by without worry or fear crossing my mind in some form or another. Some days the fear is strong, other days it’s just a passing thought. Some days the writing clicks along, my creativity explodes all over the computer screen, and my thoughts are as clear as the horizon after a passing cold front. Other days, especially lately, fear seems to crawl into bed with me first thing in the morning and cling to me as I try to churn out an essay, a blog post, a book chapter, or a curriculum. The worst days, though, are when fear germinates inside of me and tears me apart like the gastro alien in the classic movie. But I move forward despite the fear, because I know exactly what it is: a spiritual attack designed to knock me off my horse and trample me into ineffectiveness for the Kingdom of God. I know what Satan is up to, I know he’s already lost the war and I refuse to relent to his messed-up plans.

“Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free,” said Robert Tew,[2] and there’s nothing like walking solidly in the will of God to set a person free. Doing what I’m doing has forced me to face my deepest and most persistent fears in the fight of my life.  And you know what?  I’m kicking the snot out of it.  When Mary and I took the final step into this new lifestyle over a year ago, we told God flat out we were ready to let go of everything, including the house.  Now that was scary!  But we’re standing on God’s promises of provision, wisdom, courage, and joy. “… seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” Jesus commanded, “and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV).  This life was meant to be an adventure, a joy-filled journey met head on, a gift of experience to be lived out courageously, squarely planted in God’s palm. Even if we have to drive through a blizzard to achieve it.

I would like to leave you with a prayer by Thomas Merton from Thoughts in Solitude. Be blessed and fear not, for God is with you. Always.

 

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.[3]

 

[1] Copeland, Kenneth. “Fear or Faith: The Choice is Yours.” kcm.org. 1997-2014. Kenneth Copeland Ministries. 2 October 2014. http://www.kcm.org/real-help/article/fear-or-faith-choice-yours

[2] Tew, Robert. goodreads.com. 2014. Goodreads, Inc. 2 October 2014. https://www.goodreads.com/search?q=Robert+Tew&search%5Bsource%5D=goodreads&search_type=quotes&tab=quotes

[3] Merton, Thomas. Thoughts in Solitude. 1956. Wikiquote. 27 June 2014. Wikimedia Foundation. 3 October 2014. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thomas_Merton

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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Fear Not! (2014-10-03 Daily) [1 of 2]

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.”

—Victor Hugo

 

January 1985. I drove north on Interstate 81 through Cortland, New York under a brilliant blue, cloudless sky. Outside the temperature hovered near 5 degrees, but inside my mom’s 1976 Chevy Impala I sat toasty-warm, bundled in my heavy winter jacket with the heater blasting. No passengers accompanied me except my thoughts as I transitioned from the frost-covered rolling hills of New York’s Southern Tier into the windswept plains of the Tug Hill Plateau. Syracuse lay 35 miles in front of me. From there my route took me past the east shore of Lake Ontario where I’d catch U.S. 11 in Watertown on my way back to Potsdam and another semester at Clarkson University.

My thoughts weighed as much as the car’s cram-packed trunk. Only a week out of the hospital, my stomach muscles, not yet recovered from major surgery, ached from the exertion to sit upright. Despite my parents’ efforts to convince me to take the semester off, I had made the decision to press forward and return to college to keep my education—and my graduation date—on track.

Instead of upending me, the tribulations I’d experienced over the past month had done just the opposite: they’d shifted my way of thinking away from fear and shyness to one of fierce resolve and determination. Despite the pain and memories, I was unstoppable. A bleeding ulcer had almost killed me when it perforated an artery. A after that, anger and extreme frustration spun into a fury which I took out on a plate glass window. I’d added insult to injury. Literally.

The broken glass won, almost severing the tendon in my right elbow and putting me in the hospital yet again. A week later, surgeons sliced open my abdomen, removed my duodenum, took out the lower third of my stomach, and permanently severed my vagus nerve in an effort to prevent a future bleed out caused by another ulcer. The enemy had struck a severe physical blow in an effort to kill me. But what he killed was my fear. His plan had backfired.

As I continued north on Interstate 81, the Syracuse skyline came into view. The sun still shone brightly and the roads were still dry, but beyond the city a gray wall of clouds spread across the horizon from west to east like a giant fog bank. Above the line of clouds I could still see bright blue sky; below, the cloud bank obliterated the horizon. More fascinated than alarmed, I drove into it. Instantly, it began to snow. Visibility dropped to mere feet as the heavy snow, driven by the engine of a lake effect blizzard, pounded my car relentlessly.  I snapped on the windshield wipers. As I drove further, I dialed them up to full throttle. The wipers couldn’t scrape the snow away fast enough despite their spastic flailing, and soon I couldn’t see the end of my hood. A foot of snow spread across the highway and I struggled to keep the Chevy’s tires in the ruts formed by the cars in front of me.  As the visibility deteriorated, I learned first-hand what the term “white out conditions” meant; I was driving through it.

At one point I spied a state trooper standing next to his patrol car on the right shoulder, attempting to clear his back window with an ice scraper. His car had slid off the interstate and had plowed into the mountain range of snow accumulating along the berm. The officer shrugged, helpless, as I drove by. That’s when the first electric twinge of fear hit my gut. If a cop had crashed, how could I do any better traveling on this snow-clogged highway?

Leaning forward against the steering wheel and peering through the struggling windshield wipers, I tried to figure out where the berm ended and the interstate began. The driving blizzard erased the lines and blurred my path. As I squinted and focused on keeping my tires in the ruts, the car ahead of me suddenly plunged off the side of the highway to the left, falling sideways down a shallow embankment and erupting in an explosion of white. The car disappeared completely. As I rolled along, I saw the passenger door, covered in at least four inches of snow, crack open as the people attempted to escape from their vehicle now entombed in a frozen grave.

My first thought was to pull over and render aid, but my survival instinct kicked in, revving my heart and wrenching my gut even tighter. Witnessing the disabled state trooper and the sudden crash of the car in front of me drove home the very real fact that I was now in danger of becoming stranded in the middle of a lake effect blizzard. I’d brought along some food, but I realized I could very well die out here on the interstate turned frozen tundra. I pressed on nonetheless, white knuckled now, doing all I could to remain calm in the worsening situation.

Ahead of me two circles of dim red appeared. Another car! I crept up to the back end of the vehicle until the two tail lights shone through the blizzard, beacons of hope in an otherwise bleak situation. As I drew closer I recognized the car I now followed was a four-wheel-drive Jeep. I focused on the two moving circles of light leading me through the storm as the snow on the road became so deep it began scraping the undercarriage of my car with a loud growl. Fear would not relinquish its hold on me as visions of becoming stranded in the blizzard with the temperature hovering just above zero bombarded my thinking. But somehow I knew I would be okay. Somehow, deep in my twisted gut, I believed I would emerge from this latest tribulation intact. I continued on.

After thirty miles of constant apprehension, the snow tapered a bit, to where I could actually see the car ahead of me. The left and right berms became clearer and I relaxed a little as I realized I’d actually make it to the other side of the storm. Suddenly I popped out of the blizzard, emerging from the pelting snow in the blink of an eye, into the storm’s hazy, swirling fringe. After another mile, bright sunshine again poured down on me. There was no snow on the ground. The roads were absolutely dry. A man standing on a bridge spanning the interstate waved his welcome, as if I’d just driven through a time warp into another era. Behind me the massive gray storm wall rose above the horizon, but ahead of me it was nothing but blue skies and sunlight. I’d made it.

Two hours later I arrived at the off-campus farmhouse on the outskirts of Potsdam and began to unload the car. “Why are you here?” one of my college roommates asked as he met me at the front door to help me unpack.

“What do you mean?” I said, confused.

“They closed Route 81 due to a lake effect blizzard.  It’s already dumped three feet of snow.”

“It wasn’t closed when I got on it,” I answered. But it should have been. I knew I’d been extremely lucky to have made it those arduous and nerve-wracking thirty miles. Now I know I was blessed.

(continued)

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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