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 “New River Fellowship”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 15: Joy in a Person (1 of 3)

One of the most easily identifiable characteristics of Christian happiness is attractiveness. . . . Christian happiness . . . is tremendously attractive and very contagious.

—Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy: Living in the Presence of God[i]

 

 

“Dad, you’re weird,” Hannah declared one morning as I waited for the toaster to eject my English muffin.

I grinned.  “Why do you say I’m weird?” I asked, sipping my coffee.

“Because you’re a writer.”

Yes, I am a writer, but first and foremost I’m a child of God walking to the beat of a heavenly drum.  For years I stifled my bongos under a blanket of conformity, smiling nonetheless, because, as the eyes are the windows to the soul, a smile is the window that opens to hope.  And now that the blanket has been stripped off, my drum beats loud and strong as I walk the path marked out for me through the jungle of status quo.

Mother Teresa once said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”[ii]  A smile can change your demeanor in an instant if you take the time to consider the possibilities painted in the brightness of the offering.  As I walk through life, I pray my smile touches people’s lives in some small way, with some small hope, with some small encouragement.

“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening,” said Greta Garbo.[iii]  In so many ways, I wear this smile as a badge of defiance against an enemy who’d like nothing better than to steal it away and replace it with a scowl of defeat.

The Bible is filled with examples of people whose lives brought joy to others.  In the book of Esther, King Xerxes, king of Persia and Media, honored Mordecai, Queen Esther’s cousin, because Mordecai exposed a plot to kill him.  And because Esther revealed she was, in fact, a Jew, destined to be annihilated under the “vile” Haman’s orders, King Xerxes ordered Haman impaled, elevated Mordecai to second in command, and gave Mordecai authority to write a decree allowing the Jews to avenge themselves against their enemies.

Because the edict authorized God’s people to stand their ground, they ended up killing over 75,000 of their enemy.  Mordecai then established the celebration of Purim “as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration” (Esther 9:22 NIV®).

In his gospel, Luke recounts the angel Gabriel’s announcement of John the Baptist’s birth and ministry to Zechariah, John’s father.  “He will be a joy and delight to you,” Gabriel told the old priest, “and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.  He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.   He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:14-17 NIV®).

John the Baptist became a joy and a delight to Zechariah, but more importantly, he became a joy and a delight to those who paid attention to his message, repented, and turned back to God.  But why did Gabriel tell Zechariah to keep John away from wine or other fermented drink?  Because, as the last prophet before Jesus’ coming, God had filled him with the Holy Spirit in the womb, and God wanted to ensure folks didn’t confuse John’s intense joy for inebriation.  He was drunk with the Holy Spirit!  And he became a joy for others as he pointed his followers to the Messiah.

Earlier, I told the story of my friend, Jason Hoffman, and how a woman approached him at work and asked him, “What’s the source of your joy?”

Jason pointed up and responded “It’s all Him.”  Jason displays his joy in not only his beaming countenance and gentle character, but in his willingness to step out and serve others.  He’s a true model for what it means to be a joy-filled Christian walking in the footsteps of Jesus, our ultimate Joy.  Another inspiring person I know who’s wrapped in a mantle of gladness is Amy Copeland, Preschool and Special Needs Director at New River Fellowship.

Talk about someone who radiates joy!  The woman displays it as brightly as the moon wears the sun’s reflection.  The moment she walks into a room dressed in her almost perpetual smile, you can’t help but feel lighter and happier. “I think of joy as a deep feeling of happiness and contentment,” Amy told me, “knowing that no matter what happens, I am going to be okay, because God has me in His hand and He is in control.”

 

(continued)

 

References:

[i] Kelly, Matthew. A Call to Joy: Living in the Presence of God. Beacon Publishing, 1999. 134.

[ii] “Mother Teresa Quotes.” BrainyQuote. n.d. 12 June 2014. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html.

[iii] “Greta Garbo > Quotes > Quotable Quote.” goodreads.com.  2014. Good Reads Inc.  19 June 2014.  https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/252365-anyone-who-has-a-continuous-smile-on-his-face-conceals

 

Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 11: Joy in Serving (2 of 3)

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”  [The expert] answered, ”’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’”; and, “’Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

–Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

 

When God handed down the Law through Moses to the entire assembly of Israel, he commanded “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 NIV).  When the law expert tested Jesus, Jesus turned the question back on the questioner by asking him how he read the law; his reply was accurate.  “Do this and you will live,” Jesus said.  Yes!  Your heart will be glad.  Your face will be radiant.  You’ll walk in God’s light, God’s energy, God’s communion.  You’ll walk in joy!

In John 13:34 (NIV), Jesus gave the disciples a new command: “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  By His death, Jesus brought the Law to fulfillment, but loving one another transcends the Law as Jesus transcended death.  Jesus’ command–this new command–placed the Father’s imperative to love our neighbor as ourselves in the context of Jesus’ ministry among us: we love one another because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Jesus’ ministry cleared away the religiosity blinding us to the Father’s true nature.  Jesus walked the earth to demonstrate, in the flesh, God’s glory, meekness, power, love, and simplicity.  Jesus served, and time and again throughout the gospels, He clearly demonstrated that, while redemption of mankind was paramount to His mission, service was the context in which that redemption and salvation was wrapped.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,” He iterated in Mark 10:45 (NIV).  After He had washed the apostles’ feet the evening of His arrest, Jesus asked the Twelve “Do you understand what I have done for you?” (John 13:12 NIV).  The King of kings and Lord of lords–the Creator of the universe and everything in it–had just put on the role of servant, stooped down, and washed their dusty, stinky, calloused feet.  The teacher had lowered himself to serve the students.  Why?

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:13-17 NIV).  We will be blessed if we do them.  We will be blessed as we look up to our Savior and God and follow His example of service, love, and humility.

With both of us working, Mary and I sometimes struggle to keep the house in a relative semblance of order.  For two perfectionists living out our Spiritual gift of administration, being able to write “I Love You” in the dust covering the dresser, or watching the clumps of dog hair chase each other around the living room floor when we flip on the ceiling fans stretches our tolerance for disorganization to the edge.

One of my pet peeves is piles: unfolded laundry piled for days in the clothes baskets on the cedar chest; stacks of Hannah’s artwork perching on top of the jewelry case; mountains of unread mail heaped on the kitchen bar ready to slide into my quiet-time space like the slipping of a tectonic plate.

Mary has little tolerance for unwashed dishes, especially when the strata of plates, silverware, and cooking utensils leaning over the sink provides archeological clues to what we ate two days ago.  “I wish we had a kitchen fairy,” Mary once complained.  Unfortunately, neither Whirlpool nor GE manufactures those, but we discovered that we do indeed have one.

One morning after showering, I walked out of the bedroom into the kitchen to fix breakfast.  As I rounded the corner I saw Hannah standing on her blue plastic step stool in front of the sink, singing.  She scrubbed a plate with a soapy washcloth while cold water streamed from the faucet.  “Good morning,” I greeted, not wanting to startle her.

She turned and smiled at me, brown eyes bright with excitement.  “I’m the kitchen fairy, Daddy!” she declared.  “I’m washing dishes before Mom gets up.”  Talk about melting my heart!  Here stood my six-year-old with sleeves rolled up, dish in one hand, washcloth in the other, happily serving her Mom without being asked.  She saw a need and jumped in with no complaints, but with determination and birdsong and a happy smile.

Hannah loves serving with Mary and me on Sundays in the church nursery.  In the “Yellow Room,” we get to hang out with a dozen or more one and two-year-olds still in diapers.  Hannah proudly wears her “Leader” badge around her neck, and she enjoys reading to the kids, serving them Pepperidge Farm Goldfish at snack time, and supervising the wiggly children while they scribble on coloring sheets with drool-covered crayons.

“Why do you like to serve in the yellow room?” I asked Hannah one morning.

She thought for a moment, then replied “I like putting the drawing paper down, helping with the snack, putting the chairs down.  I like doing that.”

“Why do you like doing that?” I prodded.

“Because it’s fun!”

Yes!  Because it’s fun!

“Our kids are terrible about following our instruction,” declared Scott Crenshaw, Senior Pastor of New River Fellowship.  “But they’re great at following our example.”  Give a child an opportunity to serve, and you get to watch Jesus in action, real-time.  And, if you’re like me, you’ll end up learning from their example as much as they learn from yours.

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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