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 “Religion and Spirituality”

Enough (2015-12-09 Daily)

My most amazing niece, Emilie Hughes, posted something on Facebook recently that stuck with me: “People need to stop expressing their opinions when they don’t know the facts,” she said. “If you want to seem completely ignorant, by all means, say what you want. If not, then either research what you’re ranting about, or save your uneducated opinions for something else.” A few days later she posted, “I see humans but no humanity.” She’s 17 and very much has her finger placed firmly on the pulse of post-modern society.

Her opinions resonated in me, her 51-year-old uncle. You see, I’m not politically correct but neither am I politically savvy—I’m woefully ignorant of all but the most rudimentary understanding of most political issues. As such, I tend to keep my opinions in those areas to myself. I’ve always been “the quiet one,” preferring to keep my mouth shut when it comes to piping up in a meeting at work, in a workgroup at church, or when the conversation turns toward politics at a party. I can talk to you all day about my Christian faith and about the Bible. I can jabber on about writing and gardening and raising a child in the way she should go. But ask me a question about the Constitutionality of the recent “laws” passed that violate not only basic morality but also the foundational principles on which this country is founded, and I act more like someone suffering from either disfluency or intermittent explosive disorder rather than a man confident in the truth of 2 Timothy 1:7.

Oh, I can rant and rave, but I usually reserve the projectile vomiting of my caustic political opinions for my patient and loving wife in the privacy of my own home, especially over a glass or two of wine. But, as Emilie so eloquently pointed out, most of these opinions, while formed within a framework of moral truth based on Scripture, the Natural Law, a conservative worldview, and middle-class upbringing, are not based on any deep research or substantive contemplation. On the contrary, like many people on social media, I’m quick to spout off an opinion based soundly on emotional fluff and ignorance.

As the moral fabric of this country has unraveled steadily over the past several years, my deepening cynicism (a rite of passage for those of us over 50) has driven me toward bouts of low-level grumbling between fits of guttural vocalizations and fist raising at my computer, especially when perusing Yahoo! headlines. Tired of bumbling around in political darkness and relying on internet sound bites to keep me informed of world events, I announced to Mary not long ago that I wanted to become more informed in preparation for the upcoming election.

Yesterday, as I wound down the day at the office, Mary called me. “I have a Jesus thing for you,” she said. She related how a man had walked into the laundromat where she and Hannah were washing dog beds and dog towels. The man, tall, trim, gray-haired, told her he noticed the New River Fellowship window sticker on our car. He introduced himself and said he was with an organization called the Parker County Conservatives.

“I know it’s short notice,” he said, handing her a flyer, “but if you could come to Parker County Cowboy Church tonight, Pastor Paul Blair of Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, will be speaking about how to become more politically involved.”

“I know you’ve been wanting to become more involved,” Mary told me, “and the cowboy church is right on your way home. Just saying.”

Recognizing God’s light kick in the booty (especially since Mary has only gone to the laundromat once in the last 11 or 12 years), I sucked it up and went.

“You know how when you go to a matinee,” Pastor Blair began, “and you walk out of the theater after the movie and the sun blinds you when you walk outside? You close your eyes and you blink a few times, then you can see clearly? That’s how this presentation is going to be. It’ll be enlightening.” And indeed it was.

In an hour, Pastor Blair, former Chicago Bears offensive tackle and leader of Reclaiming America for Christ (RA4C), re-educated the audience about how this country was formed, who formed it, why it was formed, and for whom it was formed. One of his first slides displayed a proposed design for the Great Seal of the United States developed by Benjamin Franklin: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.” The seal depicts a scene straight out of Exodus 14:28, with Moses standing in the background stretching out his arms while the Red Sea claimed the Egyptian horsemen and chariots.

Franklin's Great Seal

He explained that the United States of America is a union of sovereign states that delegated few and carefully defined powers to the central government. He reminded us how the federal government is composed of three separate branches—legislative, executive, and judicial—the weakest of which is the judicial branch, which was formed to interpret the law and provide opinions, not to govern, and especially not to impose governance solely by those opinions. He explained that the Constitution, finalized 11 years after the Declaration of Independence was penned, clearly outlines the powers of Congress in detail (Article I, Section 8). This list is very short. All other powers to make laws are left to the individual sovereign states.

“Did the government send bombing runs against Colorado and the other three states that have legalized [recreational] marijuana?” Paul asked. “No.” So why are the states taking the opinion of five Supreme Court justices as law, as the rule of the land? “Who rules?” Pastor Blair inquired. “Kings rule. Not five lawyers appointed, not elected, to the Supreme Court.” For almost two centuries this country stood on the Bible. We were not ashamed of it. But in 1962, 1963, 1973, and 2015 the Supreme Court’s opinions became the de facto (but not legal) “law of the land.” Take God out of public school and all hell breaks loose. Literally. We’ve been overrun by it.

The State of Oklahoma, through its Protect Life and Marriage program, is moving forward toward nullifying the Supreme Court’s edict in the recent Obergefell vs. Hodges case. Other states, including Texas, are joining the movement to open eyes to the insidiousness of the power grab going on in Washington, DC and restore the moral base upon which this country was conceived, nurtured, and matured (see www.protectlifeandmarriage.com).

Pastor Paul opened his talk with a quote by Woodrow Wilson in his article, “The Study of Administration,” published in the July 1887 edition of Political Science Quarterly:

 

With opinions, possession is more than nine points of the law. It is next to impossible to dislodge them. Institutions which one generation regards as only a makeshift approximation to the realization of a principle, the next generation honors as the nearest possible approximation to that principle, and the next worships the principle itself. It takes scarcely three generations for the apotheosis. The grandson accepts his grandfather’s hesitating experiment as an integral part of the fixed constitution of nature.

 

Throughout his talk, Paul continued to remind us of this apotheosis described by our 28th president. But the pastor’s presentation was not meant to bum us out but to raise hope and to inspire continued and even greater involvement. As Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” For too long we’ve stood back, crossed our arms, and have done nothing. Like Sarah Palin quipped, “How’s that hopey-changey stuff working out for ya?” Education brings enlightenment; education in the Truth brings hope. After last night’s “chance” meeting, I think my hope has been restored, or at least it’s been sparked again. And that’s enlightening.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by David C Hughes

Refilling the Well (2015-11-18 Daily)

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

—Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV)

 

A funny thing happened on the way to a full time writing career: I burned out.

It all started out with The Epiphany of Joy, a book God told me in no uncertain terms to write. The book took over three years to build, from inspiration to Amazon launch, but its release represented much more than the realization of a lifetime goal of becoming a published writer—it opened my eyes to the miracle of God’s moment-by-moment Presence in my life.

You see, until God gave me that assignment, I hadn’t written much in years, and what I had written consisted of an eclectic smattering of newspaper articles, a monthly column, poetry, short horror stories, a self-published book titled You Might be a Writer, and a novel called On the Inside. During that time the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.

What I discovered from that previous season of determination peppered with a taste of successes was this: Trying to make a living writing while working more than full time and recovering from a divorce leads very quickly to a puddle of melted candle wax with two sputtering flames, one on each end. It was a lesson in priorities, pride, and God’s sovereignty. He brought me to my knees in a very real way during that turning point in my life, and I’ve been on them ever since.

It took almost two decades after that for the phoenix of my writing desire to flap its clumsy wings and re-emerge from the ashes of persistence. In the meantime I’d met, dated, and married my gorgeous wife, begat an amazing child, and engaged in the thrilling responsibility of raising her in the way she should go. So far, so good. When God told me in 2011 to write a book about joy, His timing couldn’t have been any better (go figure). In the three years it took to do the research, crank out the manuscript, and get the book released, I garnered lifelong lessons in faith, joy, God’s provision, and what it means to step out in total obedience to His commands.

When God tells you to do something, do it, no matter how odd or impossible it may seem. When God told Abraham to “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you,” (Genesis 12:1 NIV®), he went, “as the LORD had told him” (Genesis 12:2 NIV®). He didn’t even know where he was going, he just went! When God commanded Abraham to “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and . . . sacrifice him . . . as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you” (Genesis 22:2 NIV®), Abraham “set out for the place God had told him about” (Genesis 22:3 NIV®). Abraham was fully prepared to carry out God’s command with total trust. Again, he went. When God told me to “write a book about joy” and to “become a joy expert,” I said “Really, Lord?” but then I stepped out in obedience, quit my job, and worked to complete my assignment. I went. And on August 29, 2014, The Epiphany of Joy (and Melted Clowns, my first illustrated children’s book) went live on Amazon.com. With the Spirit’s full-time engagement, I fulfilled God’s command in a little over three years.

So determined was I to make a living writing, though, I immediately started working on The Dark Side of the Covers and On My Daddy’s Knee, two children’s readers based on stories Hannah and I made up and told each other in the car. I also continued to write and maintain my blog, market my books, and plan additional projects. But within a few months after the release of The Epiphany of Joy and Melted Clowns, the royalty checks dwindled and stopped coming for months at a time. Despite assurances from the Spirit to not fret about the lack of sales (“This is My book and I can do with it what I want,” He told me in church one day), I soon realized (or remembered) that making living at this craft was going to continue to be elusive and challenging. It was déjà vu all over again. As a result, I worked even harder to finish the manuscript for The Dark Side of the Covers, and I released 10 Little Hiccups, another children’s picture book illustrated by my neighbor, Ken Bryson. My publishing goal for 2015 was five additional titles. I missed the mark by four . . . .

Since then my creativity has all but dried up. The story ideas that used to roll out of my imagination in the middle of the night, waking me up and forcing me to write them down in a bedside journal under the glow of the bathroom nightlight, have all but quit visiting me. Some days I look forward to my morning writing sessions as intensely as I anticipate a visit to the tax assessor’s office to challenge my latest property tax hike. I can’t even seem to be able to make up a good tale any more when Hannah says, “Daddy, tell me a story.” I’m as dry as King Tut’s arm pit.

Several years ago, after an intense North Texas drought that left my trees wilted, my lawn crispy, and my temper short, I discovered a squishy patch of grass near my well house while trimming the weeds. After lifting off the lid covering the well head, I discovered the main pipe running from the head to my pressure tank had ruptured due to a pronounced shift in the housing—the persistent dryness in the soil had caused the brick structure to tilt, stressing the pipe until it split.

I called the company that had drilled my well, and the owner dispatched his two sons to correct the problem. “Do you know how a well works?” the oldest boy asked as he cut out the old pipe. He couldn’t have been more than 17 years old. His brother was 13.

“No,” I admitted.

“Well, most people think we drill into an underground lake,” the boy explained, “but it’s more like a slow-moving river. We drill the hole deeper than the level of the water and set the pump above the bottom. When the well kicks on it draws water out of the hole, and more water flows into the hole from above to replace it. It doesn’t come up from below.”

The picture from that explanation has stuck with me ever since; it’s a visual very pertinent to not only the proper operation of my water well but the healthy functioning of my creativity. Several months ago I realized that the constant pumping of words onto the page have outstripped the capacity of my well of inspiration. The pressure has gone to zero. The water of creativity flowing from above has not kept up with my self-imposed demand (i.e., from below), and I’ve allowed the difference between fiscal expectations and economic reality to cloud what little water I have left to pump. Talk about turbidity . . . .

I’ve shared my consternation about the pace of book sales to my wife, Mary, who feels my frustration as deeply as I do (because she has to live with me). “Maybe God intended you to write the book for your benefit rather than for the world’s,” she told me. Her pinpoint assessment shifted my thinking: maybe, just maybe, God gave me this assignment to not only test my faith and willingness to obey His commands, to “go,” but also to strip me of my deep-rooted addictions to security and to money.

Later I expressed my anxiety about the lack of sales to a good friend. “Did you ever think that God might have intended this book for you only?” he asked. “I mean, you’ve certainly changed because of what you did.” Hmm. What’s the test of prophecy? When two people say the exact same thing without having corroborated, then the word is probably a direct message from the Spirit.

Recently Scott Crenshaw, Senior Pastor of New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, related how, while on a sabbatical, he had put together a list of several dozen issues he wanted to place before God to work out. With pen in one hand and journal in the other, he set out one morning to step through each question in prayer. Before Scott got a chance to pray about the first issue, though, the Father interrupted him.

“Scott,” God said. “Quit seeking My hand. Seek My face.”

In other words, quit seeking God’s provision, but seek God Himself. Get the intimacy right (God’s face), then watch God’s hand move. The water must come from above before we can draw it out.

So . . . what’s next? What do I plan to do to replenish the well before trying to draw anything more out of it? First, I’m going to continue to seek God’s face instead of His provision in this area of my life. “. . . seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” Jesus commanded, “and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV). I’m going to read. A lot. On my nightstand is a pile of books begging me to open them—after I blow off the quarter inch of dust. I recently bought books by Dave Barry and Leigh Anne Jasheway to stimulate my funny bone. I’ve been reading a book introducing the concept of Creationism, and I just finished The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck.  I also plan to re-read the Bible.

I’m taking a DVD-based course called “The Art of Storytelling from Parents to Professionals.” At the suggestion of my publisher, I’m studying how to build a more effective author platform, and I’m learning how to build a website from the ground up. To mitigate my OCD, I’m organizing my workspace, computer, and ideas. To ensure the banker doesn’t come knocking at my door, I’ve committed to taking a full time directorship position at a small startup engineering company. I plan to take more walks, go on more camping trips, take my wife dancing more often. And did I mention I plan to read? And read some more?

So where does my writing go from here? I’ll continue to post the occasional thought or two on my blog site. I’ve also started writing my children’s chapter book series called The Jean Gang, a string of books based very loosely on my childhood and the trouble I got into with my two brothers and my sister while growing up in the woods of upstate New York. You know, fun stuff like that.

So let me leave you with this thought: A bubble isn’t a bubble until life is breathed into it, otherwise it’s just skin. This is certainly not adieu, but au revoir.

Until next time, be blessed. And if you have any words of wisdom for me to get through this creative soft spot, please share. I look forward to your input.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by David C Hughes

 

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