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 “Miracles”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 15: Joy in a Person (3 of 3)

“Fast-forward a couple of years,” continued Kayla McMillan, “and this is where my joy really started.  For several years I was in depression and nobody knew it.   I had my first boyfriend and he cheated on me and it was one of those ‘Oh my gosh, nobody’s gonna like me now’ moments.  After him, it just kind of crumbled, and I asked ‘God, do You even care about me?’  I remember several times asking Him, ‘Why am I here? I’m on this planet to do nothing.  What am I supposed to do right now?  I don’t care about anything, I have no hope.’  There was no hope for me.”

But the Lord soon answered her questions very dramatically.  One day, as she drove to school, she saw a spider on the windshield of her truck.  “I used my windshield wipers to get it off and it flew to the driver’s side.  I rolled down the window, grabbed a water bottle, and hit it, and as I hit it I swerved.  I was looking down for some reason, when all of a sudden I heard ‘Look up!’  And I thought, Okay, it’s just me in the car, but He goes, ‘Look up, look up, look up!’ and I looked up, but it was too late.  I hit the guardrail, broke it completely off.”  She had crossed onto a bridge the moment she swerved, and as she punched through the guardrail, missing both a tree and a sign, she threw her arm across her face and thought, This is it. This is it.  This is where I die.  I’m coming to see Jesus.  This is it.  “I flipped and I ended up upside down.  I opened my eyes—it felt like hours later—but I opened my eyes right after and I thought, What’s going on right now? and there was smoke everywhere.”  She realized that, miraculously, she was okay.  She grabbed her phone and crawled out through the driver’s side window, now collapsed to half its original height from the six-foot drop.

A neighbor had heard the crash and called 9-1-1 as he hustled to the scene.  When he arrived he asked Kayla is she was okay, and as the reality of the moment came rushing in, she started crying.  The man advised her to call her parents, and on the fifth try her dad answered.  Because she was so distraught, Kayla handed the phone to the neighbor, who explained what had happened.  He told him to meet her at the hospital.

Soon the ambulance arrived.  “I was sitting on the edge of the bridge where the guardrail was gone,” Kayla said, “and looking at all my stuff spread out everywhere. I was all muddy and blood was everywhere, and they walked up to me and said ‘What are you doing?’ and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said ‘You should not be there—you should be in there.’”  The emergency worker pointed at the mangled truck lying upside down in the creek bed.  At that instant her neck started hurting, so they put her in a neck brace, loaded her into the ambulance, and rushed her to the hospital.

“They got all the monitors hooked up and they took X-rays, and I found out I had no broken bones, no kidney damage—everything was intact.  Everything.”  The neck pain, she learned later, had been caused by the stress of the situation; she had been hunching her shoulders to the point of pain.  And the doctors told her that if she hadn’t flung her arm across her face as she plunged off the bridge, she would’ve ended up with a mangled face because of the flying glass.

“I had a bruise and it went away the next day.  I hit my knee against the wheel and my hip against the dashboard, so I had a little bit of tenderness, but no scar.  I went home and I was just kind of lying there and I heard God clearly say, ‘Do you see it now?  You’re not done.  There’s a reason why you’re here.  I have more for you.  I could’ve taken you, but I decided not to because I have more for you.’  I said, ‘Okay,’ and from then on I knew this was my turnaround.  That was the climax.  I need to live every day like He’s called me to, and I said, ‘I’m not gonna be depressed anymore, there’s a reason why I’m here, and I’m gonna go do what He’s called me to.’”

Since then she’s shed her depression, clothed herself in God’s mercy, and allowed Him to transform her into a living, breathing expression of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  “I just want to give other people hope—don’t give up on yourself,” she said.  “Don’t let the enemy steal your joy.  I know the end of the story, so why get defeated?  He’s been defeated, so why do we still let him defeat us?”

With folks like Jason, Amy, and Kayla, who so readily demonstrate what it means to live joy moment-by-moment, the answer to that question is: we don’t have to.  “You are the light of the world,” Jesus said.  “A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV®).  Indeed, each of us is called to be a light for others to glorify God and to be examples of His grace, mercy, power, love.  And joy.

 

Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 14: Joy in Everyday Miracles (2 of 2)

In all three of the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus concluded several parables with the phrase, “Whoever has ears [to hear], let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 13:43; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8, 14:35).  And in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Jesus said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, and 29). As the Spirit opens our spiritual eyes to see beyond the natural, He likewise opens our spiritual ears to listen to, comprehend, and witness the reality of the supernatural, the Kingdom of God on earth, where miracles are an every-moment occurrence.

Miracles happen all the time; I know–I’ve witnessed countless, both large and small, and I’ve heard stories from others that can only be caveated as miracles.  Why does God still dole out miracles?  For our joy and encouragement, and for His glory.  As a daddy myself, there’s nothing like hearing the squeal of surprise and unfettered joy erupting from my daughter as she opens up a gift she’s been nagging us about.  At six years old, Hannah’s at the age where nothing’s subtle, especially asking for something she wants.  She doesn’t drop hints, she just asks, asks again, asks yet again, asks continuously, like the persistent widow in Luke 18, until we either yell “no,” sigh “yes,” or begin plotting for the delivery of the gift wrapped in surprise.  Hmm, sounds a little like God when we pray, eh?

As Mary prepared for Hannah’s sixth birthday party, we asked her what she wanted.  “I want a magic kit!” she told us.  And during the weeks leading up to the party her desire never wavered, so we passed the information on to Grandma and Grandpa, who set out to fulfill the mission.  Mary had hired a professional magician to entertain Hannah and the dozen little girls at the party, so after the magic show ended, the cake and ice cream were consumed, and the piñata was smashed to confetti, we herded the sugared-up girls back into the living room so Hannah could open her gifts.

After Hannah had torn off the wrapping paper from a few boxes, Grandma handed her a long package.  I pointed the video camera at her and stood in anticipation of the incipient culmination of weeks of expectancy.  Hannah began peeling off the paper, and the instant she realized what she held in her lap, she squealed with joy.  I mean, squealed!  That is why God still performs miracles!  That is why Daddy still hands out fish instead of snakes, and eggs instead of scorpions.  He’s a good Daddy, and He loves it–loves it!–when we not only recognize His miracles with joy, but when we make known His marvelous deeds to the world.  Like Hannah, the more we squeal about our magic kits, the more we glorify the gift Giver.

Like I said, I’ve witnessed countless miracles, many small, some extraordinarily large, and it’s funny: I seem to remember the small miracles more than I do the large ones, maybe because they seem to happen so often now.  These are little signs He’s intimately involved in my moment-by-moment existence, that He cares about me more than I’ll ever realize.

In the fall of 2012 Mary and I (well . . . Mary) decided to replace the worn out, stained carpeting in our living room and hallway with laminate flooring.  We’re do-it-yourselfers, so we ended up in the flooring department at Lowes poring over various types and styles of laminate, asking for advice, and comparing colors.  Both of us quickly arrived at the same color and style: Pergo Hand Scraped Heritage Hickory.  Independently deciding on the same style and color at the same time could be considered a miracle in itself!  On that day, all the various colors in the Pergo style we wanted sold for $2.99 per square foot.  When we got home that afternoon, I calculated how much it would cost to cover our entire living room and hallway.  The laminate, vapor barrier, trim boards, and the flooring itself exceeded our $1,350 budget.  We’d planned to install the flooring over Christmas break, but put off buying the material until we came up with a more affordable alternative.

A day or two later a Lowes flyer arrived in the mailbox.  I opened it and casually flipped the pages to see if there was anything we couldn’t live without.  As I turned to the flooring page, I noticed the ad featured Pergo laminate for the original $2.99 per square foot.  Then I saw it: Pergo Hand Scraped Heritage Hickory, $2.49 per square foot, the only style that had been discounted.  What the–?!  I quickly calculated the new cost to redo our living room and hallway: $1,350, give or take!  We rushed to Lowes, secured a whole pallet at the sale price, and got to work.  Three days later (which was another miracle in itself!) we hosted Christmas at our house featuring a brand-new Pergo Hand Scraped Heritage Hickory laminate living room floor.  Oh, and you know what’s even cooler?  Both of the saws I used to cut the wood–the table saw and the compound miter saw–had been given to us by generous neighbors.  For free.  Yet another miracle!  Praise God and pass the vapor barrier!

God reveals Himself every moment of every day, and He loves it when we not only recognize Him in the everyday miracles, but when we squeal with delight when we open the package and recognize the gift as coming from Him.  And what’s even better?  When we store up those stories of God’s awesomeness in our hearts and then tell those stories to the world.  “Declare his glory among the nations,” urged the psalmist in Psalm 96:3, “his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”  God gets the glory and we get the pleasure and the joy.  As the psalmist sang in Psalm 107:21-22 (NIV):

 

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his

  unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
Let them sacrifice thank offerings
and tell of his works with songs of joy.

 

Be blessed, keep your eyes and ears open for those miracles, and tell of His works with songs of joy!

 

Copyright © 2014 David C. Hughes

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