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 “Norman Vincent Peale”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 8: Joy in Gratitude [1 of 2]

In celebration of Thanksgiving, I took the liberty of jumping ahead to Chapter 8 of The Epiphany of Joy: “Joy in Gratitude.”  I want to thank each and every one of you for faithfully following my blog and for keeping this project in your thoughts and prayers.  Without you, this blog and all it represents would be meaningless.  May God bless you and your families this Thanksgiving and every moment of your lives.  I appreciate you!


The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 8: Joy in Gratitude, Part 1 of 2


Joy is the fruit of appreciation.

–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 124


And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

–Colossians 3:17 (NIV)


One Saturday afternoon Mary kicked Hannah and me out of the house so she could host a baby shower for a neighbor.  Because we hadn’t visited Grandma and Grandpa in a while, I decided to head up to New Fairview, Texas, to help Mary’s Dad work on his 1926 Ford Model T coupe.  The trip takes about an hour, but can sometimes seem like five, depending on Hannah’s level of engagement and the mood I’m in; some days a road trip can be fun, other days I’d rather pawn her off to the Leapster GS, or play the “Quiet Game” for the whole hour.

The instant Hannah hears the seatbelt click into place, one of two phrases invariably rolls out of her mouth: “Dad, can I have a piece of gum?” or “Dad, let’s play the ________ game,” filling in the blank with a selection from the made-up-game library in our heads.  At that time, we had quite an extensive repertoire: “Tell Me a Story, Dad,” “Sing Me a Silly Song, Dad,” “The Rhyming Game,” “What Machine Makes this Sound,” “What Animal Makes this Sound,” “What Shape is It,” and “The Color Game” were some of her favorites.  But the one game she loved the best was the “Let’s Make Up a New Game Game.”

So on that cool March afternoon, as we drove up the farm road toward the interstate, I managed to get about three miles after the seatbelt clicked before Hannah asked the all-too-familiar question: “Dad, can we make up a new game?”

“Yes,” I replied. “How about the ‘Thank You God Game’?” I hoped that by immediately taking control of the situation I wouldn’t be sucked into one of her imaginary games fraught with a myriad of rules requiring the Rosetta Stone and an Enigma cipher machine to decode. That, and I’m a control freak.

“How do you play that, Dad?” she asked in her sweet little voice.

“Well,” I answered, “you think of something you’re thankful for and thank God for it.”

“Okay,” she said.

“I’ll go first,” I called.  “Let’s see . . . Thank You, God, for my job,” I said.

Hannah caught on instantly: “Thank You, God, for trees, because we can sit in the shade.”

I continued: “Thank You, God, for our cars.”

“Thank You, God, for heaven.”

“Thank You, God, for my family,” I said.

“I’m thankful for dirt, so we can dig in it and play in it,” Hannah said. “And I’m thankful for all the different colors, I’m happy for our whole entire planet, and I’m happy for our whole entire house, and for our whole entire neighborhood.”  She was even thankful for the floor in our house and our church family!

And as we continued to play I realized something: my thank you’s focused mainly on possessions, while her thank you’s encompassed not only material objects, like our house and our dog, but more subjective and sublime things such as her experiences, her spirit, her Creator and His Creations.  I choked up when she said “I’m thankful for my heart,” and I sat in awe as I realized my four-year-old daughter understood gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation better than I did.  In those few minutes of imagination, her expression of pure gratitude revealed the difference between the junk-filled head of an adult and the spirit-filled heart of a child–while I focused my thankfulness on “stuff,” she focused her thankfulness on God and His gifts.  Whew!  Talk about a life lesson in the form of a 25 pound preschool kid! This experience helped to remind me, again, of the joy and freedom of just being thankful.

One of the most influential books I’ve experienced is Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.  To say this book has reset my perspective more than once is an understatement. I’ve read The Power of Positive Thinking more times than any other book I own, including, I confess, the Bible.  If I was ever stranded on an island and had to choose only two books to wash ashore with, I’d clutch the Bible in my right hand, and The Power of Positive Thinking in my left.  This book helped form my perspective on the power of gratitude, the authority of God’s Word, and the power of attitude and prayer to align heavenly will with earthly reality.

In one particularly memorable anecdote from the book, a 52-year-old man consulted Dr. Peale because he believed “everything he had built up over his lifetime had been swept away.” The man had let the “dark shadows of hopelessness” distort his thinking. Dr. Peale challenged the man’s wretched, self-defeating beliefs by taking out a piece of paper and writing down the values the man had left.  With Dr. Peale’s prompting, the man ended up listing seven good assets he still possessed.  When Peale shoved the list across the table, the man grinned and said “I guess I didn’t think of those things.” (Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, Chapter 1: “Believe in Yourself”).

The negative influence of what we’ve forgotten, or what we’re taking for granted, can kick the piers out from under the foundation of what we remember, experience, and actually possess. Whenever I’m facing a challenging day, or when my mind wanders down the path of self-pity or negativism, or when I’m walking the dogs around the neighborhood at 5:30 AM immersed in my thoughts and the Holy Spirit’s loving whispers, I often just start thanking God for anything and everything which pops into my mind, challenging myself to play the “Thank You God Game” for 45 minutes straight. Believe me, it can quickly put things into perspective.  You’d be amazed at the smallest details your imagination can conjure to be thankful for! And you’d be amazed at how such a simple prayer of gratitude can quickly turn your mourning (or morning) into joy!


Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes


The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 2: Joy in God’s Word [2 of 3]

My first exposure to the power of God’s Word and its ability to bring about healing and change manifested when I read Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power of Positive Thinking.  When I discovered this little book and the message it conveyed, I was struggling with the first wave of unsettledness conjured by the tug of writing versus the practicality of engineering.  From the time I could remember I’d always been a worrier, and this book ushered in a new way of looking at circumstances, dreams, and desires.  My desire to write stood in stark contrast to the desire to live financially secure, and my inability to reconcile the conflict dragged me physically, mentally, and spiritually into the dark basement of depression and dissatisfaction.   But The Power of Positive Thinking turned on a light in the form of Philippians 4:13 (KJV): “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

For a season the little bits of Scripture I’d picked up from Dr. Peale’s guidance got shoved into a mental lockbox by self-focus, pride, self-sufficiency, and affirmations delivered on cassette tapes as I tried to settle my conflicted mind.  I’d remembered the first half of Paul’s assurance to the Philippians, “I can do all things,” but had forgotten the second half.  Indeed, the most important half: “through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  I took pride in my self-sufficiency, and ten years later I paid the price for it: I fell into a depression so severe I finally dragged my butt to a Christian psychological clinic and checked myself in as an outpatient.  A week or two earlier, God had clearly spoken to me, directing me to open a faded, dusty Bible I hadn’t had much use for during the prior 32 years.  His message, planted directly into my heart, awakened me long enough to dial the clinic, set up the consultation, and check myself in.  His Word saved my life, literally.

It was during the weeklong evaluation, group therapy, and emotional vomiting that I became reacquainted with God’s Word in spades as a tool for mental, physical, and spiritual recovery.  It was then I was introduced to the apostle Paul’s urging in his letter to the Romans: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2).  Fifteen years later Eric Owings, Marc Owings brother, slid up behind me during the first night of the Fully Alive retreat at Lake Fork, Texas, and slipped me a tiny piece of paper folded in half.  I’d just experienced a life-changing outpouring of God’s mercy as I opened up and confessed to twenty-five men my brokenness, my anger, my fears, and my desperate search for my life’s redemption from the death grip of past failures.  I sat, shaking, yet covered over with peace and love and . . . relief.  I opened up that slip of paper and saw Eric had written a Scriptural citation: Romans 12:1-2.  The very same verse given to me at the clinic.  I’ve since had that citation tattooed on my right shoulder under an old rugged cross surrounded by all the junk I’ve had to lay at its foot.  It’s truly my life verse.

Since then I’ve dived headlong into the Word of God.  Our church small group did a study reinforcing the power and practicality of absorbing God’s word through conscientious memorization and recitation.  Like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the apostle John, I ate it up!  “When your words came, I ate them,” wrote the prophet Jeremiah, “they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.” (Jeremiah 15:16 NIV).  I committed to starting each day by reading a devotional and the referenced Bible verses.  After all, Jesus started His day in solitary prayer: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35).  Jesus didn’t do anything until the Father directed Him; likewise I try to start my day with an attitude of open-mindedness and flexibility.  I find I still approach the quiet time with my own agenda in mind, and sometimes as something to just check off my to-do list, but the more I humble myself before the sovereignty of God, the more and more I’ll understand why Jesus did what He did so early in the morning.  The existence of these very chapters testifies to my willingness to open myself up to God’s direction through prayer and total absorption in His Word.

In St. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he commanded the Ephesians to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 5:11-17 NIV, emphasis mine).  In Paul’s metaphorical suit of armor, all the elements are defensive save one: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”


Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes


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