The refining fires of life have the potential and power to transform us and with it the lives we touch. They rudely shove us from our comfort zones and worlds of self sufficiency and self satisfaction. We are no longer permitted to live life on our terms, but are compelled to dig deeper, learn more, and change how we approach and handle challenges in life.This has never been more true than in the life of my friend, Ken Hughes.
Ken began to re-dedicate his life to Christ in recent years. The seeds of childhood faith ceased to remain dormant as he began to seek greater understanding of beliefs imparted by his mother. Something prompted Ken to call me shortly after surgery to remove a large brain tumor. He was stunned to learn that I –an intense type A personality–had had no fear of death and experienced only a peace that surpasses understanding. Long conversations began and so it was that our friendship was established 5 years ago.
Since our paths have crossed, there has been an unrelenting series of refining fires. I watched the Lord allow hardship to wake Ken, His truth to transform him, and His compassion to protect him. When Ken relocated to Florida in 2012, he began to attend the Church By the Glades in Coral Springs, launched a new business, and generally started over. He chose to be baptized, characteristically taking a stand and making an outer profession of that inner faith. No, Ken did not become perfect, but he did change as he embraced the compass and goals of his renewed faith.
In spring of 2014, Ken was diagnosed with lung cancer and life changed for all of us close to him. When life deals you the hand it dealt Ken, the world gets pared down to the essentials. On one hand there is no time or energy for the extraneous; on the other hand top priorities come sharply into focus. Loss, release, and good-byes are unrelenting and hurtful. Belongings, activities, and simple pleasures are in good measure usurped by protocols, pain, and uncertainty. It is a refining fire that reveals the heart.
Most noticeably after his diagnosis, Ken began to have a heightened sense of what mattered. He looked up. The photos so many of you have viewed and enjoyed this year were the result of a new appreciation of God’s presence in the world around us.
The Lord blessed that seeking after Him in a series of remarkable sightings– sightings that are missed by those too busy or too preoccupied to be still and know He is God, sightings not allowed everyone. Ken’s photos revealed a glimpse of heaven.
I firmly believe Ken’s experiences and evolving relationship with the Lord became a road map for others around him.