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”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 15: Joy in a Person (2 of 3)

Amy Copeland, Preschool and Special Needs Director at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, knows all about God’s control, and God’s grace.  While growing up, she aspired to become a teacher, and while still attending the University of Kentucky, she married her husband, Barry.  After graduating, Barry’s job led them to Cincinnati, then to Ridgeland, Mississippi, where she gave birth to their first daughter, Kaylyn.  “I was passionate about my child as any new mom would be,” she said, “but perhaps a little more so, since I never really knew if I would be able to have any children at all.”  Amy had been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and her doctors had cautioned her that conceiving a child could be very difficult. “Once I saw that little girl wrapped up in that tiny little hospital blanket, I knew my role as a parent was going to be the biggest and most important role I would ever have here on earth.  This new passion would spark everything I did during the next fifteen years.”

As her oldest daughter went off to kindergarten, her second miracle baby, Ashton, missed her sister so much she begged her mom to go to school as well, even though she was only two.  So Amy applied and got a teaching position at New River’s Kids Day Out, or KDO, program, and Ashton attended KDO’s three-year-old class.  “I fell in love with the kids, and from those years of serving God’s little ones, I learned I was supposed to work with young kids.  I had found my Joy and my Calling.”  So over the next four years she studied for her Texas Teaching Certification and substitute taught at a local elementary school.

“During my last two years of subbing,” Amy said, “I got a call to cover a class for a lady I knew, Angie, an aide in the Autism Unit.  She told me she felt terrible that day and asked me to cover her on Thursday.  I said hesitantly, ‘Sure.’  Until that moment, I had avoided the Special Education Department like the plague.  I didn’t feel comfortable in those classrooms at all, and I had no desire to work inside one.”

“Well, little did I know what God was about to do,” she continued.  “I worked for Angie on Thursday and received a call from her again that evening.  She asked if I could work for her again on Friday.  I thought, Well, I survived one day, I guess two won’t hurt.  Her last words to me during our phone conversation on Thursday evening were, ‘Thank you, Amy.  By the way, the class is going on a field trip and you can wear my T-shirt that is in my locker.  I just don’t think I’m going to beat this illness before the weekend.’  Wow! One day in the Autism Unit and now I was headed to the Special Olympics at the Weatherford High School football field.  God is funny!  He just loved putting me outside of my comfort zone.  I realized that day that special needs kids are just like any other kid.  They need to be loved, nurtured, corrected, and just have fun playing.”

Tragically, the Sunday after Amy took the kids to the Special Olympics, Angie passed away from the swine flu.  The school asked Amy to continue to substitute teach until they found someone to take over the position permanently.  She stayed on for two and a half more months, but Amy never applied for the position; she’d given in to the voice in her head that she didn’t have what it took to tackle the job long term.  The lead teacher later told her she should have applied for the position.

“I never thought of myself as a Special Education teacher until the moment she told me she wanted me to stay.  That’s when I became the ‘Sped Sub.’”  She then substituted at the Autism Unit almost daily, and at the encouragement of the lead teacher, Amy went back to school and obtained her Special Education Certification.  “I love teaching and I love kids, all kids!  God has had me on quite a journey to show me what my passions and abilities truly are, and working within my passion in a way that brings glory to Him.  This brings me joy!”  Amy understands it, and she demonstrates that joy amazingly well.

Another person who understands joy is Kayla McMillan, also known as Kayla Mac.  Just being around this enthusiastic young lady for a few minutes can lift up your mood, and, like Amy, Kayla also had an epiphany that painted her life with permanent joy.  It started in her freshman year of high school when she failed her standardized state assessment tests—all of them.  Then her best friend died.  “I think my ninth grade year was my turning point,” said Kayla, “I saw my best friend the night before, then I found out the next day she was dead in a car accident.”

In addition to struggling with the heartbreaking loss of her best friend, Kayla also wrestled with feeling secure in her own identity.  But the reality and finality of her best friend’s death opened her eyes to the fact that she was her own person.  The tragedy spurred her to question what she was going to make of herself.  “So I determined Kayla Mac was gonna be me.  I was scared nobody would recognize me,” she said.

“Throughout high school I made a name for myself,” she explained.  She really wanted to become an athlete, but “I wasn’t good at sports.  I tried basketball and I tried volleyball.”  She even did track, but “God had a different plan: I became an athletic trainer.  I got to stand on the field.  I got to be at every game.  I did athletic training for football, then I did basketball.  I wouldn’t change anything, I was so excited.  The best years of my life were spent on the field.”

(continued)

 

Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes

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The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience (3 of 3)

NOTE: This will be the only post this week as I turn the crank on finishing the last chapter of The Epiphany of Joy prior to final update and submission to the readers.  Thanks again for supporting this effort, and I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on the latest status on The Epiphany of Joy and Melted Clowns as both books move forward to publication.

And now for The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience, installment 3 of 3 . . . . . .

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Obedience to God’s commands also keeps you planted firmly in God’s presence, and this brings about a joy that cannot be taken away. “’If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did,’” God promised Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah, “’I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you’” (1 Kings 11:38 NIV).

Disobedience to what we know to be right, on the other hand, has consequences of its own, and for the Hebrews of the Old Testament, it got ugly. God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden fruit. God turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt after the angels specifically commanded Lot and his family not to look back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God stripped away all but one of Solomon’s kingdoms after his fall from God’s favor. God allowed the Israelites to be captured and taken into exile to Assyria and to Babylonia: “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (2 Kings 17:7 NIV). In both Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, God very clearly defined the consequences of disobeying the Law. The Israelites, for their part, very clearly defined the term “stiff-necked people.”

But it’s from the single act of obedience by a young Hebrew virgin girl named Mary that forever changed history and brought permanent joy into the world:

 

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

–Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

 

“May your word to me be fulfilled . . . .” Christian obedience to God’s commands under post-resurrection grace is just as relevant as Hebrew obedience to God’s commands while living under the pre-resurrection Law. Just as the moral spirit of the Law remains as fully alive today as it did 5,000 years ago, obedience to Jesus’ new command to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV) encompasses “All the Law and the Prophets,” as Jesus responded when tested by the expert in the law in Matthew 22:40.

“If you love me, keep my commands,” Jesus told his apostles before his arrest (John 14:15 NIV). And as Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden led to the Fall, Christ’s obedience to the cross led to humankind’s reconciliation with God. “Son though he was,” the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, “he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. . . . For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 5:8-10, 12:2b NIV).

From the obedience of a humble Jewish girl to the obedience of her Son, mankind has been reconciled with the Father. “And being found in appearance as a man,” Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Philippi, “[Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV). By Christ’s example, and by our willingness to step out in faith and become obedient to our calling to live as children of God, we are made righteous. By grace we have been freed, and it is by love that we are called to remain obedient to the God who loves us so much “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

“There is an indescribable joy that comes from being obedient,” Caroline Barnett said in her book Willing to Walk on Water. “When all is said and done, you have willingly been part of a greater cause” (Caroline Barnett, Willing to Walk on Water, “Chapter 12: The Power of One,” page 218). Now if I could only get Hannah to listen to me when I tell her pick up her clothes and turn them right-side out, all would truly be right with the world.

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

 

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