Author: Ben

May 13—Streams in the Desert

“We know not what we should pray for as we ought.” (Rom. 8:26)

Much that perplexes us in our Christian experience is but the answer to our prayers. We pray for patience, and our Father sends those who tax us to the utmost; for “tribulation worketh patience.”

We pray for submission, and God sends sufferings; for “we learn obedience by the things we suffer.”

We pray for unselfishness, and God gives us opportunities to sacrifice ourselves by thinking on the things of others, and by laying down our lives for the brethren.

We pray for strength and humility, and some messenger of Satan torments us until we lie in the dust crying for its removal.

We pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” and money takes wings; or the children are alarmingly ill; or a servant comes who is careless, extravagant, untidy or slow, or some hitherto unknown trial calls for an increase of faith along a line where we have not needed to exercise much faith before.

We pray for the Lamb-life, and are given a portion of lowly service, or we are injured and must seek no redress; for “he was led as a lamb to the slaughter and … opened not his mouth.”

We pray for gentleness, and there comes a perfect storm of temptation to harshness and irritability. We pray for quietness, and every nerve is strung to the utmost tension, so that looking to Him we may learn that when He giveth quietness, no one can make trouble.

We pray for love, and God sends peculiar suffering and puts us with apparently unlovely people, and lets them say things which rasp the nerves and lacerate the heart; for love suffereth long and is kind, love is not impolite, love is not provoked. LOVE BEARETH ALL THINGS, believeth, hopeth and endureth, love never faileth.

We pray for likeness to Jesus, and the answer is, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” “Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong?” “Are ye able?”

The way to peace and victory is to accept every circumstance, every trial, straight from the hand of a loving Father; and to live up in the heavenly places, above the clouds, in the very presence of the Throne, and to look down from the Glory upon our environment as lovingly and divinely appointed.

Eulogy for Grandpa Woody

Video of Memorial Service

We’ve gathered together today to remember and celebrate the life of Elwood Hughes, whom most of you knew simply as Woody, and whom I’ve only ever known as Grandpa Woody. My name is Ben Hughes, and I am the son of Woody’s son Bill, and I’m a pastor in Lexington, KY. I am one of grandpa Woody’s nine grandchildren, and I’m responsible for 5 of his 17 great grandchildren.

Semper fidelis. Always faithful. You would be hard pressed to come up with a better one-line description of Grandpa Woody.

He was a faithful soldier – as many listening can attest better than I can. He served his country as a member of the greatest generation and was witness to some of the most significant events the world has ever seen. And many years later, he would faithfully give his time to educate younger generations, providing us with a living portal into history.

He was a faithful gardener – award winning roses don’t grow themselves. In fact, they require quite a bit of time and devotion to get just right (roses love water but the hate wet feet, and Japanese beetles be darned), and grandpa lovingly tended to each of his hundreds of rose bushes, calling them by name as he gave them the diligent care they needed to become the best they could be.

He was a faithful homeowner and neighbor – the small split-level house on Marcy Lane, nestled between the equally longsuffering Bechtold’s and Flauchaus’s, was the one and only home of Woody and Susan many of us ever knew. Countless holidays, home cooked meals, cream soda from the garage, Christmas presents, basement workshop tinkering sessions, ping pong games (and I could go on and on) were enjoyed within those walls. It was a place of hospitality to the highest degree, and it was no small feat to finally convince grandpa to sell the house.

He was a faithful Cubs fan – it took nearly 90 years of life on God’s green earth for grandpa Woody to see the Cubs win the World Series. When they finally did win, he’s the only one I could think about (and whenever I did I couldn’t stop crying) because as happy as I was, to quote Emily Dickinson, “Success is counted sweetest, by those who ne’er succeed.”

He was a faithful father and grandfather and great-grandfather – he and grandma Susan were devoted to remaining a vital part of all of our lives, even across states and timezones. If there was one thing I knew about Grandma and Grandpa, it was that they were for me, and were rooting for me in whatever I did, and would either show up or send a thoughtful letter or phone call for every significant event not just in my life, but all of the extended Hughes clan.

And perhaps most significantly, he was a faithful husband – he loved Grandma Susan dearly, and 62 years of marriage proved it, as if it needed any proof. Though we will always be grateful for the sweet time we’ve shared with him since grandma’s passing, we all know that the signature gleam in Grandpa Woody’s eye was never quite as bright as it was before we laid Grandma to rest in Roanoke, right next to the very grave we will visit tomorrow, where Grandpa Woody’s devotion to her will be etched in stone forever.

But why is faithfulness held in such high esteem? Why is “always faithful” the motto of our nation’s greatest branch of the armed forces? Why do the lives of those men who, like grandpa Woody, simply persist in dutiful longevity – why do these lives become the stuff of legends?

I would suggest that these lives echo and point to a greater faithful one. The faithfulness of grandpa Woody’s life speaks loudly of what I consider to be an attribute of God unique to him, among all other gods or religions, and one of the things that makes him worthy of our devotion, worship, and obedience.

Scripture calls him the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, faithful to a thousand generations – more than that, it calls him the creator of heaven and Earth. It all started with him. And despite how many billions of times he has been ignored, denied, mocked, blasphemed, he has remained faithful to his creation. He has not abandoned his children. He has not walked out on his bride.

Ever since his first children Adam and Eve decided not to trust him and took matters into their own hands to live according to what was right in their own eyes rather than in the way God had instructed them, they separated themselves from God’s presence. He has been patiently and faithfully waiting for them to turn back towards him. After thousands of years proved that mankind was not going to be able to do it, he himself became like one of his creatures, to show us what it meant to be a faithful son.

Jesus told the story of a son who foolishly demanded his inheritance early from his still-living father, and who then went out and squandered it on reckless living. When the money ran out, he found himself fighting with pigs for a portion of their slop to eat. Jesus says it was at that point, when the man’s life had come to ruin of his own making, that he came to his senses. Finally the son decided it was time to go back to dad and offer himself as a hired hand. As the man approached his father’s house, it says his father saw him a long way off and ran to him and embraced him. This is a faithful father. This is the heart of God for us his children, despite the mess we make of life.

The death of Jesus, the son of God, is the ultimate expression of the extent of God’s faithfulness to us. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

I pray that everyone listening would remember Grandpa Woody as always faithful, but even more than that, would remember our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, faithful to the point of death on a cross to prove to us that if we too will come to our senses, and approach him with humility knowing we’ve made a mess of things, he will see us from far off, run to us, and embrace us, perhaps with a chuckle, a smirk, a witty remark, or a gleam in his eye that we could have sworn we’d seen somewhere before.


Welcome to my humble website.

If I don’t already have regular contact with you but you’re interested in occasional updates about me and my family, subscribe to “The Hughes Letter!” here.

I’d also love to keep up with you and yours as well. Maybe we’ll actually have some meaningful correspondence, instead of just thinking we’re keeping up with each other because we see each other’s posts by chance every now and then.


Neil Armstrong,  1930-2012

The Eagle landed and Apollo’s progeny
took one giant leap
with tubes and tanks and dreams
to plant Old Glory on her final beachhead.

He walked into the cold, silent vacuum
as glasses clinked in Houston.
His winged and echoing words
understated the immortality of the deed.

From behind mics and podiums
and museum glass he watched
his household name proliferate.

And on the night the inevitable darkness
swirled down over his eyes
the moon flew itself at half-mast.

The distance between mankind and immortality,
though leapt by few,
has never shrunk. Yet on certain nights
its massive amber draws our hearts
and flings them moonward
like an arrow from Apollo’s bow.


City Tour

See the city
drive around
the encircling highway
and streets named for dead horses

admire the trees
absorb the yellow shock
of gingko and the perfect
tulip poplar posture

locate the cemetery
gaze upon the eternal
ossified contrails
of rocketed statesmen



Not, as some have simplified the word,
two fellows in one ship, as if the two
at wind’s whim blithely cast off shore.
Steer starboard in your ark, send birds
to scan the climate, span the swelling blue
and light upon a different metaphor.
Imagine life’s a canvas (art indeed);
adjacent primary colors, me and you,
at calculated master strokes explore
new shades. Imagine all that we two bleed


Chronic Homiletic Burial

A fantastic stanza from “As We See” by Scott Cairns:

Which is why I’m drawn to—why I love—the way
the rabbis teach. I love the way they read—opening
The Book with reverence for what
they’ve found before, joy for what lies waiting.
I love the Word’s ability to rise again
from chronic homiletic burial.

A Hidden Gem

I came across this poem while randomly browsing a Library of America anthology of 20th century American poetry, and I’m sure glad I did. I will certainly be investigating this delightful and mysterious Ms. Branch further.

In the Beginning Was the Word

Anna Hempstead Branch

It took me ten days
To read the Bible through.
Then I saw what I saw,
And I knew what I knew.

Read More

Just Play Ball

For some reason, the parsons of the sports press have pushed the idea that demonstrations of high-level athletic skill, the result of uncountable hours of practice, were morally insufficient. Athletes, the parsons intoned, had to “give back” by dedicating their status to solving the nation’s endlessly unresolved issues of race, gender and—the inevitable guilt trip they laid on pro athletes—income inequality. … We live in a highly polarized country. If people want their sport and its performers to be an affirmation of their politics, feel free. I don’t.

“Why I Prefer Baseball,” Daniel Henninger, WSJ 9/29/17. Couldn’t agree more. Go Cubs go.

Rocket Man

Mr. Trump on Saturday spoke with South Koren President Moon Jae-in, tweeting later about the meeting in which he asked Mr. Moon about “Rocket Man,” referring to [Kim Jong Un].

—From the WSJ, “Trump Officials Warn North Korea on Nuclear Arms.” Without a doubt Trump’s finest nickname to date.

You Had Me at Intro

A Warning

The purpose of a commentary is to assist readers’ involvement with the text. Perhaps readers should therefore take warning before going further. Attentions to a text can turn into experience of its matter, and the judgments and promises of God as given through Ezekiel are so extreme that they can easily undo ordinary religiosity—to say nothing of the disastrous spiritual adventures that might be ignited by his visions.

—Robert Jenson (R.I.P.), Ezekiel, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, p. 30. This little mic drop occurs right at the end of the intro. I’m in, Mr. Jenson. Let’s do this.

Habakkuk at the Bible Project

I am preaching on Habakkuk this weekend. The Bible Project’s video on Habakkuk has been very helpful, as are all their videos—invaluable aids to reading and understanding Scripture.

Zephaniah Nuggets


I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests, those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens,those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom, those who have turned back from following the LORD, who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him.


Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD.


This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, “I am, and there is no one else.” What a desolation she has become, a lair for wild beasts! Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist.


She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD; she does not draw near to her God.


On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD.


On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Studies in Genre Series

The Studies in Genre series, overseen by the venerable classicist Louise Cowen, uses the four genres Aristotle proposes in his Poetics—tragedy, comedy, epic, and lyric—as more than mere stylistic or structural classification. Cowen et al formulate a comprehensive theory of literature from “the conviction that the poetic imagination always responds in its work of poesis—of making—to fundamental movements of the soul within distinctive landscapes of human experience.” Each of Aristotle’s four genres “represents an interior angle of vision and makes possible a critical orientation that situates the reader within a given text for the crucial act of interpretation.”

The series consists of four volumes, each corresponding to one of the four genres:

  • The Terrain of Comedy
  • The Epic Cosmos
  • The Tragic Abyss
  • The Prospect of Lyric

Each contains a collection of essays from different members of Cowen’s intellectual community, based originally in the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.

I am looking forward to diving into each of these over the next year or so. The Epic Cosmos is first on my list, since the Mars Hill book list is predominantly punctuated by the major western epics.