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 “Trials”

Broken (2016-06-10 Daily)

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

– Vance Havner[1]

 

At first it began with a little blue smoke from under the hood of my Craftsman tractor. Ever since I’d let the oil drop to the bottom of the dip stick, that 21 horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine reminded me I’d messed up every time I mowed. As far as it was concerned, redemption from my mechanical neglect would be hard in coming, if at all.

David C. Hughes, Author

“Grandpa always told me that if you take care of your machines,” my dad shared when I was a kid, “they’ll take care of you.” The opposite was never mentioned but always implied: if you didn’t take care of your machines, well, they could turn into something like those demonically-driven trucks in that old Stephen King movie, Maximum Overdrive.

But onward I pressed my huffing lawn mower, performing my duties as the man of the house, topping off the crankcase with at least a half quart of 10W-30 before mounting that mighty red steed for a turn around the yard. The blue pall seemed to thicken with each passing week, until riding the tractor was like sitting in the back seat of Cheech and Chong’s ‘64 Chevy Impala in Up in Smoke.

Then came the black smoke as I tackled the thicker grass (no pun intended). With the black smoke came a horrid knocking sound, like a jackhammer on reinforced concrete. Sometimes the engine would stall. The smell of burning oil stuck in my nose for the rest of the day, and more than once I wondered what the exhaust was doing to my brain, let alone my lungs.

Finally, while attempting to mow the swamp that used to be our back yard, the blade drive belt slipped off the mower deck pulley array and the blades quit spinning. Like the Old Man in A Christmas Story, I wove a tapestry of cuss words that to this day is still hanging over the pond behind our house.

David C. Hughes, Author

Meanwhile . . . a feisty storm had taken our five-burner gas grill for a spin across the patio and left it lying drunk and disheveled against our wood pile. After Mary and I managed to lift it up and drag it back onto the porch, I reassembled it then lit it to make sure it still worked. Flames rolled out of the control panel in front of burner number three, melting the control knob. I sighed and shook my head.

David C. Hughes, Author

Meanwhile . . . I received a phone call from Mary while I was at work. “The stuff in the garage refrigerator’s freezer is thawing out. I don’t think it’s working anymore.” She transferred all of the meat from the 10-year-old fridge to the 32-year-old garage deep freeze. After I got home I measured the temperature and confirmed the refrigerator had gone kaput, like the tractor. Like the gas grill. Parts and labor to repair it would cost $428. I gritted my teeth until my fillings began to squeal from the compressive stresses.

David C. Hughes, Author

The day before the tractor spewed its last puff of blue smoke (which, coincidentally was only a couple days after the garage fridge spewed its last breath of cold air, and a week after the gas grill spewed its last flame), my iPhone glitched, spasmed, rolled over, and died a wordless death, spewing years of photos, notes, messages, and contact information into the black hole of technospace. It was all I could do to keep from punching it right in the shimmering blue screen of death.

David C. Hughes, Author

As I meticulously followed Apple’s step-by-step instructions on how to reset an iPhone using iTunes (hint: don’t even bother if the phone doesn’t turn on), I bumped a glass of wine off the computer desk where it smashed on the floor and painted the tile and the dining room wall a titillating shade of purple. iTunes failed to resurrect my decaying phone.

When Mary and Hannah walked through the door a few minutes after the creation of my smashingly ingenious work of art, I had that look on my face, you know, the one where life grabs you in its jaws and shakes you until your eyes bulge. As the wine stained the grout and the wall, my wife wanted to grab me and make my eyes bulge as well. I felt as broken as the tractor, the refrigerator, the cell phone, the grill, as broken as the wine glass lying in a pool of purple. I felt as broken as the leaking CV boot on my Kia, as broken as the tire that kept losing air, as broken as the window in our breakfast nook. I felt as broken as the grinding ceiling vents in the bathrooms, the flaking grout in the dining room, the flakey water softener in the garage, the peeling paint on the garage door header. With all the literal brokenness surrounding me, I wondered when God’s provision was finally going to bust loose from the reservoirs of heaven and pour through the floodgates as He promised in Malachi 3:10. I wondered . . . .

David C. Hughes, Author David C. Hughes, Author David C. Hughes, Author David C. Hughes, AuthorDavid C. Hughes, Author

The next morning, after my sanity had returned from its sporty jaunt through the topiary gardens of hell, Mary pulled open the door of the microwave and the handle came off. I smiled. I chuckled. I began to laugh. Mary laughed with me. “All we need to fix all the broken things around here is $3000,” I half joked. In the spirit of James 1:2 and Philippians 4:6, we thanked God for our current season of trials, knowing that trials produce steadfastness and character, even though going through them sucks.

I went to work the following morning, and later that afternoon, as I was wrapping up, my boss unexpectedly handed me a check that more than covered the cost to fix all the broken things at home. “What’s this for?” I blurted, looking up at him.

“Another 180 hours to keep you around,” he replied.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” I whispered.

Thank You, Jesus, I prayed over and over during my drive home. Thank You, Jesus!

When I walked into the dining room, I showed Mary the check. “I told you Jesus would take care of it,” she said. Indeed He did. We prayed in thanks, right there on the spot, for the surprising (yet completely expected) provision God had laid in our hands. “Thanksgiving comes before the miracle,” we reminded Hannah when she asked me how much the check was for. We told her about Jesus giving thanks before breaking death’s grip and raising Lazarus from the tomb. We told her about Jesus giving thanks at the Last Supper before breaking the bread and offering His body to be broken as the sacrifice to manifest the ultimate Miracle. All that brokenness, all that thankfulness, all those miracles.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,” Peter wrote in his first letter (1 Peter 5:6 NKJV). “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance,” James wrote to the twelve scattered tribes (James 1:2-3 NIV®). “Give thanks in all circumstances,” Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV®). Give thanks in all circumstances, even when all hell has broken loose and broken everything. Then pull out the broom and the dustpan and get ready to sweep in the miracles. There’s no stopping them.

David C. Hughes, Author

 

Photo Copyright © 2016 by Mary L. Hughes

[1] From: http://www.christianquotes.info/quotes-by-topic/quotes-about-brokenness/

 

Copyright © 2016 by David C Hughes

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The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 16: Joy in Suffering (2 of 4)

Over the next four and a half years Zac Chapman has recovered not only his frontal lobe but also its associated functions such as personality, demeanor, language, decision-making skills, and character.  A true miracle.  And although he still spends a lot of time in a wheelchair, Zac can walk with the aid of a walker, and he gives his physical therapy team a robust workout with his determination to press forward toward God’s promise of full restoration.  He texts on his phone, he writes, he reads, he talks, and he drives his Polaris 4×4 Razor ATV through the woods.  And more than anything he continues to inspire people with his positive attitude, his sense of humor, and his continuing recovery.

“People are always telling me,” said Fred Chapman, Zac’s dad, “‘You’ve been a great father, blah, blah, blah,’ and I’m like, ‘Dude, the only thing I’ve done is try to be obedient to God when He speaks.’  But I don’t want you to get a misconception—there have been tough times along the way.  It’s kind of that deal about joy coming in the morning, but, generally, the next day after the accident I was okay.”  Fred looked at his son, emotion welling up in his piercing blue eyes.  “Zac’s been my encouragement.  What I see in him is the joy that he has, the great outlook on life, and everything else.  He’s so motivated.  I’m around him every day, so I get more blessing because I see it, and that encourages me.”

My life experience has not been as intense and challenging as Fred and Zac Chapman’s, but even so, I’ve got my own scars from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, literally.  My body is a visual testament to not only my rough-and-tumble childhood, but also of a man fighting to define, discover, and ultimately live out his God-ordained destiny.  Some scars I laugh about, like the slice across the crown of my scalp caused by my brother Ron clocking me over the top of the head with a toy hoe when I was five, or the mark on the bottom of my right heel where emergency room doctors had to cut out a toothpick I’d stepped on when I was eleven.

Some scars are evidence of a disconcerted past and my continuous warring against perfectionism and worry, like the five-inch gash from my sternum to my bellybutton, reminding me how a bleeding ulcer almost killed me—twice—before I turned 21.  Other scars, both mental and physical, are permanent marks of past anger, shame, and extreme unsettledness, like the jagged tear on the inside of my right elbow, ripped open as I punched a plate-glass window in a fit of rage.  There are psychological scars of a six-year struggle with clinical depression and spasmodic dysphonia.  Even now these can become inflamed as the fear of slipping once again into that hell on earth tries to nudge its way back into my life.  Thank God those scars have faded over the years; He has truly turned my mourning to gladness as He’s anointed me with the oil of joy.

But what have I learned from all of these scars?  I’m tired.  But I’m also persistent.  I ache, but for the most part, I’m now at peace.  Though I don’t feel like it at times, I’m also incredibly resilient; I don’t give up.  Ever.  I’m humbled.  And after fifty years, I’ve finally opened myself up to being used as a vessel for God.  He disciplines me and He lets me go through some horrendous experiences to build me up, not to tear me down.  Like a sword hardened in a blast furnace, I have been—and am still being—put through the fire to purge me from imperfection and sinfulness.  I’m tough as carbon steel, a battle-hardened warrior for God.

One late summer afternoon Mary, Hannah, and I stopped at a local produce stand on our way into town.  While Mary picked through the okra, I perused the other fresh offerings, like vine-ripened tomatoes and sweet-smelling cantaloupes.  While selecting a cantaloupe to take home, I chatted up one of the farmers, a big man with a round, sunburned face and large hands.  During our conversation I lamented the failure of my tomato crop that year.  The farmer weighed in on my lack of tomato-growing luck.  “Do you water them a lot?” he asked.

“Every day,” I said proudly.

“That’s too much,” he declared.  “Hold off watering them until they start to wilt.  Let ‘em stress and they’ll produce.”

 Let ‘em stress and they’ll produce.  Isn’t that what God does with us?  He allows us to go through temptation, to be tested, so that we produce abundant fruit for His glory and the glory of His Kingdom.  “We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it,” said the writer of the Book of Hebrews.  “How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:9-11).

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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