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 “The search for joy”

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

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

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