David C. Hughes, Writer

“Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others” –Colossians 3:23 NABRE

Archive for the tag “Spiritual”

Not for Men

“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  

                                                      –Colossians 3:17

 

Growing up Catholic, I had the opportunity to serve as an altar boy. My brothers and I started soon after we received our First Communion, and I served from third grade until well after high school. If the priest emerged from the sacristy with one or both of the altar boys absent, there was an obligation (and expectation) to leave the comfort of the pew, hurry to the back of the sanctuary, throw on a cassock and surplice, and join him as he opened the mass. I would have rather remained with the congregation, a mere observer and not a direct participant, but when duty called, I always answered.

Being on regular rotation meant I had to be available to serve as either the cross-bearer (and bell-ringer) or the book-bearer, not only on Sundays but during the week as well. When school was in session, mass took place at 7:00 in the evening, and during summer vacation, church started at 8:00 in the morning. Nine times out of ten we had to find our way to church on our own, traversing the one-and-a-half miles from home and back either on foot or on our bicycles. Many times one of my brothers and I hoofed it through snow, ice, and rain to make it on time to silently and respectfully (i.e., no giggling or horsing around) don our sacred vestments and queue up in front of the priest.

For the most part I didn’t mind serving. I fulfilled my duties when I was on the schedule, and I substituted when other boys didn’t fulfill theirs. For the ten or eleven years I served, however, one thing made always made me feel uncomfortable: emerging from the sacristy when the church was completely empty, accompanied only by the echoes of our swishing vestments or the squeaking of the priest’s black shoes. This seemed to happen more often in the evenings during the school year than in the mornings while on summer break.

I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but in the back of my mind I always hoped the priest would cancel mass so I could get back home and play Space Invaders or Breakout. He never did. And it seemed someone always showed up at the last minute to fill a seat or two. I don’t remember what prompted the priest one day to provide an answer to my question of why he officiated mass even when no one was in attendance, but I do remember the answer: “God is here.” And that was enough.

For years—decades—I did things only to serve myself, to bring attention to myself. I remember buying a knock-off Rolex watch soon after I graduated from college and had a real, paying job. I wore that watch to my grandmother’s funeral, not missing the chance to show it off to my family and later confessing it wasn’t a real Rolex but a cheap Chinese-made copy. For years—decades—I did things only to serve myself, even to the point of convincing myself that the foolish ways I sometimes handled money aligned with my own will for me to write for a living rather than carry out the duties supernaturally assigned to me by the Father. For years—decades—I did things only to serve myself, never really bothering to ask God what He had in mind for me, always assuming the burning desires of my heart and not my present reality were what God meant for me. As a consequence I lead a life of James 1:8 double-mindedness that cost me not only financially, but also relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. Lucky for me God was ready to pluck me out of the pit of failure when my way didn’t work. Again.

Thus the reason it’s been a year since I’ve written a blog post. My way didn’t work. My expectations completely misaligned with God’s desire for my life, a desire way bigger than me. But the Father, in His infinite kindness, let me barrel down the highway of selfishness, and the Father, in His infinite mercy, led me back to Himself with a soft whisper and a harsh lesson, yet another teacher gathered with all the other teachers He’s sent.

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,” the prophet Isaiah wrote, “your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, ‘Away with you!’” (Isaiah 30:20-22, NIV®).

I tearfully, humbly, confessed to my wife, Mary, that I’d failed in this writing endeavor, and I apologized for putting us into a stressful financial situation. “You didn’t fail,” she insisted over and over. “Look what we got instead!” A paid-for fixer-upper as the chasm between income and outgo opened its jaws wide in an attempt to swallow us up monetarily. Freedom from a mortgage. Lower bills. Our own little piece of the country, our own little corner of the lake. Flexibility in work schedule, more family time. But most importantly, a lesson in perspective and alignment of expectations. What failed is doing it my way instead of God’s way. What failed is putting myself first rather than God first. What failed is the enemy’s attempts for me to serve the idol of self-sufficiency and not the God of all Providence. A realization that, as a man of God, my work is not for me or for other men, but for the Creator of man Himself. My teachers are no longer hidden, and what lessons they have taught!

So, as Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians, “Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others” (Colossians 3:23 NABRE), I am now seeking to live my life for the Lord moment-by-glorious moment. As a planner and a worrier, this is sometimes hard. As a people-pleaser cut from the Proverbs 29:25 cloth, this is sometimes painful. As a self-focused introvert, this is sometimes excruciating. And so I write this blog with no more expectations that you will find it and read it; I do it to serve the Lord as He gives me the words to share for His glory. I do it because I’ve been called to be a light to His people and a witness to His glory, enjoying my Daddy. If you benefit from it, then praise be to God, but I’m now doing it to praise God. Period. As the priest answered my question as to why he officiated mass even when no one was in attendance, his simple answer is one of those teachers Isaiah spoke of: “God is here.”

Isn’t that enough?

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by David C Hughes

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Dependence Day (2016-04-29 Daily)

God helps those who help themselves.

—Algernon Sydney

 

THE AMERICAN WAY

 

Like so many Americans raised in the 60’s and 70’s, my parents brought me up to work hard for what I wanted. Both Dad and Mom instilled in us kids a strong work ethic handed down from generations past, folks who struggled through the Great Depression digging graves, butchering livestock, and mining coal. My Great Aunt Marie wrote letters describing how they lived in a train caboose, how the children owned one pair of shoes between them, how they took turns wearing the single pair of shoes to school while the other kids walked barefoot. It sounds like the beginning of one of those “I walked to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways” stories the old timers like to tell with a scowl and a wagging finger—it would be funnier if it wasn’t so terribly true.

I grew up building plastic model airplanes in the basement of our tiny three-bedroom, one-bathroom house in the woods of upstate New York. Our back yard rose up to an abandoned field, which climbed to a line of trees, beyond which lay hidden a close-cropped plateau owned by an organization called The Aero Guidance Society.
The Aero Guidance Society, David C. Hughes

Members built and flew radio-controlled model airplanes, and some of the most exciting and impressionable hours I remember as a kid were spent hanging out in my back yard watching those airplanes bore holes in the sky. As I watched those brightly-dressed models barrel roll, tail slide, and loop-the-loop above the tree line, I knew someday I’d be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those guys, piloting my own aircraft.

I set my sights on a radio control unit, and my parents supported me: “This is an expensive hobby,” they impressed upon me. “If you want to do it, you’ll have to pay for it yourself.” At 13 or 14 years old I’d already been making money cutting lawns, but my savings account at the local bank wasn’t filling up fast enough to satisfy my eagerness.

David C. Hughes

So I upped the ante by taking on babysitting jobs, earning the reputation as the neighborhood go-to guy for kid-watching (I made 50 cents an hour babysitting all the way through my first years of college). Between the lawn mowing, babysitting, and earning a weekly allowance, I finally saved enough money by age 15 to purchase my first RC radio, a sweet 1977 Kraft 4-channel setup. That Christmas my parents gave me a balsa wood glider that had a wingspan taller than me.

David C. Hughes

David C. Hughes

By the time I graduated from high school I was working three jobs to support not only my RC habit but also the tickets I needed to tow the Schweizer SGS 2-33 glider I flew in to 3,000 feet so I could play in the thermals. Self-sufficiency began to settle deep into my psyche; if I wanted something I darned well had better roll up my sleeves and go after it. I was an American, dammit, and Americans work hard for what we set our minds to. Right? I mean, my life’s philosophical foundation included the truth that, “God helps those who help themselves.” It was the truth . . . . Right?

David C. Hughes

 

A NEW TRUTH

 

Over the years my wants led to arrogance, arrogance led to independence, independence led to pride, and pride led to a brilliant fall that literally left me folded into a ball of snot and tears, screaming at a God I didn’t believe in anymore (or so I thought) and kicking a shoe through a window. Not a pretty picture. But in that string of moments God opened my eyes to not only His sovereignty, but His closeness, His love, and His desire to help me discover the true want of my life: Him. Over the next several years He took me by the right hand and led me to the real truth: God helps those who depend on Him fully.

When I first started to read Scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6 confused the heck out of me:
             Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

–Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV®)

 

After all, God had given me a brain to think and reason, a mind to gather knowledge and to learn wisdom, hands and feet to labor and toil. And here He is, telling me not to lean on those? He’d given me freedom and independence, and here He is, telling me to submit to Him? I’m an American, by God. I’m independent, I’m confident, and I’m a go-getter. “Don’t tread on me,” and all of that. I don’t submit to nothin’. But as I dove deeper into the Bible, God opened my eyes over and over again to the wisdom of giving everything—my time, my labor, even my attitude—over to Him.

“Be still, and know that I am God,” He urges us in Psalm 46:10 (NIV®). “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning / I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly,” King David prayed (Psalm 5:3 NIV®). And again David prayed, in Psalm 27, verse 14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord,” (NIV®). Over and over Scripture implores us to wait for the Lord. But who has time to just wait?

David C. Hughes

 

JUST WAIT

 

Waiting is so difficult for me; I can’t count the number of times I acted without waiting, without thinking, without praying. I want everything now! Thank God His grace is sufficient, and He promises to make all things work together for our good, even if the path to the goal is long and convoluted. If good things come to those who wait, greater things come to those who wait on the Lord in triumphant expectation.

The first time I really read Exodus 14:13-14, Moses’ words prompted me to stop and read those two verses again.

 

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV®)

 

The Lord will fight for me? And all I need to do is be still? Holy cow! How unnatural is that? But isn’t that the point? It’s not natural to stand still in the face of your enemy, your “Egyptians,” nor is it natural to wait before moving forward with a plan that’s just chomping at the bit to get done. No, it’s not natural; it’s supernatural. God’s not saying to lie down like a doormat, hand over our freedoms, and let people and situations wipe their boots all over our upturned faces. No. What He’s reminding us is that He promises “he will never leave you nor forsake you,” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV®). Turn to Him with humility and confidence, and He promises to fight for us. All we need to do is be still and let Him work through both us and our situation. After all, He’s already been there. He already is there.

There’s a huge difference between pride and confidence; pride says, “I can do all things.” Confidence says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). There is a chasm between self-reliance and dependence on God; self-reliance says, “I’m free to do what I want.” Dependence on God says, “I’m free to do what God wants.” Ask Him what His will is, listen closely, then act (or don’t act) accordingly. It is for freedom that Jesus set us free, and, ironically, absolute freedom comes from complete dependence on God. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Now go celebrate Dependence Day—it’s way better than the 4th of July!

David C. Hughes

Copyright © 2016 by David C Hughes

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