Posted in Around the Web, Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings

Source of Delight

Sometimes I have to go back and revisit what God has taught me in the past, either through journals or old articles. Today, I’d like to share one I wrote for work – probably for Family Magazinefour or five years ago. I needed this reminder today. 

What delights you? Obviously, our families and good friends bring delight. But, we can’t forget that good bite of chocolate, either. Okay, so maybe we need more than just a bite, but you get the picture.

I can think of several activities that bring me delight. I find great relaxation in sewing and writing. Other times there’s nothing like curling up on the couch with a warm drink and a good book when I catch the chance. I feel energized when I have something to organize, whether it be a kitchen cabinet or a well-laid plan. Even though I typically would prefer to leave cooking to just about anyone else, I do thoroughly enjoy whipping up a delicious baked treat. And then there is teaching my children. Oh how I truly love being the one to watch that precious trio learn!

I have noticed something about myself, though. There are times when none of these activities appeal to me. Somewhere deep inside of me I might want the relaxation of a good book or the accomplishment of completing a sewing project. But, that little something seems to be so greatly buried that it offers no motivation. Instead, I find that I just don’t care about anything. I’m so restless that inactivity drives me crazy, but none of the things that normally delight me tempt or motivate me at all.

Maybe I’m the only one who ever ends up in a place like that, but somehow I doubt that to be true. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find at least one reader battling similar feelings right now. I hate that part of myself and never want to be in that place. But, it has taken me a very, very long time to learn how to battle against those times of lethargy.

Rediscovering Delight

Once I did finally discover the key weapon in my battle, I found it to be something so incredibly simple. It comes from a verse many of us have known for as long as we can remember.

Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

This is such a familiar verse, and it is one that frequently gets taken out of context. So, just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, let’s look for just a moment at what is going on in Psalm 37. Essentially, David observes that the wicked seem to be living in the lap of luxury while the righteous struggle day after day. But, he also notes that the success of the wicked is temporary, and he reminds us that only trust in the Lord will endure eternally and bring us success, fulfillment, and even provision. He’s calling us to delight in the Lord in the middle of frustration, agitation, and injustice. We are reminded to put aside the earthly temptations that draw in the wicked and intentionally find delight in God alone.

I can guarantee you beyond any doubt that those deep, dark moments of life in which I lose all interest in everything can be traced back to a choice regarding where I place my delight. When I delight in the Lord, I find myself fully delighting in the things He created me to be and do. I cannot help but write. I itch to sew. I look at my bookshelf and hunger to find a book that teaches me more about His Word or tells the story of a character, real or fictional, who delighted in Him. I want to keep my life organized, and I want to bake just so I can delight someone with the treat. And oh how I want to teach my children. The hunger and passion to instill that delight in the Lord in them almost overwhelms me. But when I stop delighting in Him, I begin trying to find joy in all of those other things. And suddenly, they’re not good enough at all.

The only treatment for times like these is a restoration of our delight in the Lord. But we fight against it so strongly. We don’t want to pray. We don’t want to read His Word. We don’t want to fellowship with other believers. We know we’re rotten, and we are convinced that diving into anything of spiritual significance will do nothing more than reinforce our own blackness. All we want to do is avoid that spiritual depth. And the more we avoid delighting in the Lord, the more we lose our delight in everything else.

So, what do we do? We try to rev up our delight in all those other things. It will never work. The opposite happens instead, and we find ourselves even more repulsed by the very things that typically fuel us. Amazingly, though, the moment we push through and make ourselves delight in the Lord, we see a change. We see the passion begin to spark again. We feel the energy begin to flow. There is an instant, cleansing power found through delighting in the Lord.

Are you in a place right now where you have lost delight in everything? Take that first step toward delighting in the Lord. It might be as simple as getting on your knees and crying, “Help me!” It could involve forcing yourself to read a passage over and over until you sense the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking life back into your heart. Joining with other believers in a place of good, Christ-focused fellowship might be the step you need to take. Whatever it is, take it! It will be hard. It will take all of your energy. But as soon as you take that step, you’ll sense the delight returning to your heart.

My friend, may you delight yourself in the Lord, and may He overwhelm you with joy in the desires of your heart.

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Posted in Faith Nuggets, Family

Learning from One Another

Friday is my family’s day of rest.

There are certain things lacking in our Friday Sabbath, like the corporate worship portion of Sabbath that is such a critical part of our rest. But, the honest truth is that we are in a season where Sunday and rest simply cannot coincide. That does not, however, give us an excuse to disobey the command to rest. The command is still there. Not just moments caught here and there, but intentional, weekly, full-day rest.

And, for this season in the life of the Hibbards, that day is typically Friday.

The thing about our Fridays is that we have had to learn how to make the rest happen. And, we’ve had to learn how to do it as a family. Or, maybe I should say that we are having to learn to do it as a family. It doesn’t come naturally, partly because we live in a culture that works against true rest. In our culture, nothing is truly restful. Days off work are filled with catching up on chores that cannot be done during the week, engaging in an overly exhausting pile-up of ball games and tournaments, or filling the time with non-stop “vacation” activity. Days off do not equal rest. True rest has to be learned.

Many books and resources are available these days to help us learn what true rest is – and just how counter-cultural it is! In fact, if you’re interested, I could recommend some of the best of those resources to you. (Be warned – your toes WILL be stepped on.) Ultimately, though, it all comes back to the reality that we each have to learn what rest looks like for our individual circumstances. The specific details of rest will look different for you than for me because our needs, personalities, and circumstances are different. Unique. Specific.

Here’s the catch. When we share advice or experience with one another, we make one of two mistakes. Either we share what has worked perfectly for us and expect it to also meet others’ needs perfectly (or we’re on the receiving end of that sort of advice!) or we refrain from sharing because we know that we’re unique and weird and different and that what works for us will not work for someone else. What we should be doing is sharing with one another because we know we need motivation, encouragement, ideas, and foundations upon which to build.

I’ll be honest. Our family has struggled to figure out what our day of rest should look like. Why? Because in past seasons, rest flowed more naturally. It presented itself in the rhythms of our life. We didn’t have to actively protect it and be as intentional about it as we do now. It just happened. Which, in a way, was nice because it wasn’t a struggle. In another way, though, obedience was easy and we didn’t have to think about it. So, we didn’t grow in that aspect of obedience.

Now we do have to be intentional. We do have to work at it. And, we have had to rethink every aspect of what it means to rest as a family. We’ve researched and read and explored (thus finding all of those awesome resources that we can recommend!), learning much through books and commentaries and blog posts and such. Sadly, in all of our exploration, there has been very little exchange of thoughts and ideas with our immediate community.

Friends, that ought not be.

First, we should be obeying the command to observe regular rest. Second, we should be sharing as a community in the process. Sabbath is counter-cultural in our society – it should be the norm within our Christian communities.

Last year I “met” a new “friend” named Shelly Miller. No, I don’t really know her. I enjoyed her book Rhythms of Rest, I read her Sabbath Society e-mails each week, and we exchanged a few e-mails at one point. None of it is enough to allow me to truly claim her as part of my community. Yet, what she has to offer is what I long for in a community. She shares as she learns, engages in conversation with those who are learning alongside her, and craves growth as a community.

That’s what WE should be. A community that encourages one another to learn, whether it be about rest or any other area of obedience.

So, what are you learning? How are you sharing what you’re learning? Who is sharing their lessons with you? And if you cannot answer any of those questions, what are you going to actively do to change? Let’s actively learn from one another!

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings

Blog Post or Devotional?

I was fifteen when I was handed my first devotional. It was a small, leather-bound copy of My Utmost for His Highest, given to me as a Christmas present by my great-aunt Lula. I still have it. And I still read it. Not every year – it’s not in my stack of morning reading this year, but it goes through my rotation every few years.

In the “off” years, I try other devotional books. Some have been good. Others have been okay. But this year, for the first time, I stopped reading my chosen devotional book only a month into the year. It’s not that it was a bad book. I had not come across anything unbiblical or questionable. I just realized something about it: it was not really devotional. Instead, it felt more like a collection of blog posts.

I enjoy blog posts. I write blog posts. And I’m challenged and encouraged by blog posts. But, I’ve come to realize something. A blog post is not a devotional. Instead, it is a sharing of thought, opinion, or experience. It forms camaraderie as we share with one another and realize we are not alone in our thoughts, opinions, or experiences.

A devotional, however, is a very different thing. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word devotional two ways:
1. Adj: of, relating to, or otherwise characterized by devotion
2. N: a short worship service

Ultimately, devotional reading should be all about emphasizing our worship of and helping to express our devotion to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. While our experiences might be used as an example in a devotional, ultimately the primary thrust of the writing comes back to one thing and one thing only: a growth in the Word and worship of God. It isn’t about us. It isn’t even about fellowship and community. Those are important and very much have their place, but sometimes we need to come back worship and true devotion. Purely and simply.

When I sit down to read in the morning, I hunger for everything I take in to point me back to God’s Word. Some would say that I should, therefore, not even pick up other books in the mornings. And, there are some mornings I skip my other books and just dive into my study of 1 Peter or the upcoming week’s Sunday school passage or my Proverb of the day. But, other books, whether devotionals or otherwise, also help me break out of the rut I sometimes read myself into. They help me think outside the box I sometimes trap myself in. They make me examine myself in new ways.

Unfortunately, too much material written for women these days tends to fall into the “blog post” category. It may be packaged as devotionals or spiritually nourishing books or even Bible studies, but the focus is primarily on encouraging one another in shared experiences, doing little to drive us back to worship of Christ or to Scripture itself. It does not break us out of our ruts. It does not help us think outside our little boxes. And it does not force a deeper level of self-examination that compares our hearts and lives to the purity demanded in Scripture.

There is a huge place for expression of mutual comfort and a sense of fellowship. This lets us know that we are not alone in our struggles. That we have fellowship. Oh, how desperately we need that! But a deeper need – our deep, burning, foundational need – is to become more like Christ. To learn a greater devotion to Him. And if what we choose to take in only focuses on the encouragement of human community and not on our deeper need for growing devotion, we starve our spiritual selves.

So that brings us to this question: are we daily challenging our devotion to the Lord? Are we engaging in true devotional time, or are we merely contenting ourselves with blog posts?

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings

Forgiven

I love different perspectives on the same story. Consider the story of Jesus, early in His ministry, healing a paralytic during a stay in Capernaum. Most of us head to Mark 2 for this story because we get the fun of watching four friends cut a hole in the roof of the house to get their buddy to Jesus.

But then there’s Matthew’s version. Matthew glosses right over the fun details about the hole in the roof and heads right to the words of Jesus:

And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2, emphasis mine)

Hearing a living, breathing human being declare forgiveness of sins through His own authority was a novelty at the time, leaving the scribes to mentally fume over such blasphemy and the people to widen their eyes in awe. Such a thing had never been heard of before, not even among the great prophets of old!

We, on the other hand, read this with incredible and precious familiarity. We’ve seen the rest of the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We know that our forgiveness was the focus (which, incidentally, is why I think Matthew started off with that part of the story). We have the big picture.

The newness left the Jews befuddled, preventing them from accepting that God could possibly have granted authority to this Man. Meanwhile, in our familiarity, we love to criticize them. And yet, what has our familiarity done to us? Does it cause us to miss the power of this just as much?

The morning this question hit me, I felt buried under a cloud of yuck. Sleepiness had reigned over me for days as allergies, a full schedule, and multiple stresses took their toll. My journaling up to that point had been pure wonderments of how in the world God could use me as I lay buried so deeply. How could His Spirit flow through me when I felt so paralyzed by life? But, after pondering Matthew’s introduction to the story, I read Jesus’ response to His critics.

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’?” (Matthew 9:4-5)

Suddenly, it clicked. I realized the depth of significance behind Jesus’ words. Your sins are forgiven. You see, the paralytic was more than just paralyzed. He was cut off, not only from work, but also from the temple. From community. From worship.

His friends thought he needed physical healing. Jesus knew he needed restoration.

Physical healing might allow a little more freedom in life, but it wouldn’t provide true restoration. Only forgiven sins could possibly fill that need. And it is the same with us. When we are buried in our yuck – our ailments, our bad circumstances, our utter discouragement – we think a physical change is what’s needed. But the reality is that we already have everything we need because our sins are forgiven! Our fellowship with the Father has already been restored. We are complete. Whole. Unified with Him.

The physical healing did come as well, just as I have seen the Lord reveal His power through the physical circumstances of my own life. But, it usually only happens when I finally realize that the important thing is fellowship with Him. That His forgiveness raises me above the yuck and makes me His. Makes me usable. Everything else is just a bonus.

I am forgiven.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings

From Separation to Rain

Every time I read or teach about Adam and Eve and the fall, my heart breaks over their sudden separation from God. And, each time I stop and consider the fact that our Bible “heroes” were part of building what we now have fully compiled in Scripture, I realize just how different their interaction with God was. But recently the reality of this hit home more powerfully than ever before.
The starting point is in John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:1-4)

The Word of God has always been there. Always. And, this Word was fully present with Adam and Eve in the garden. But, when they sinned, they were cut off from that Word. Cut off. No daily walks in the garden. No Holy Spirit. No written word. No nothing. Can you even imagine?

We are so immersed in the Word of God that we don’t even realize what we have. The fullness of Scripture is right at our fingertips in so many forms – bound books, audio presentations, digital searches. Within seconds, we can fills our minds with any portion of Scripture we desire.

And then there is the Spirit to illuminate that Word, helping us to understand not only the written text, but the mysteries of Jesus Christ Himself and the truth of our adoption a children of God the Father.

Adam and Eve were left with none of that. Completely cut off.

And yet…

Oh how I love that! The story wasn’t over. Instead, it was just beginning. Scripture is full of “therefore” and “for this reason” and “because of this” and all sorts of other conjunctions that make us realize just how deep the Word of God is. It flows and intersects and connects in ways we only begin to fathom this side of heaven. In His wisdom, Almighty God did not ever leave humanity completely void of Himself and His Word. From the first moments after the fall of man, He was working to restore His Word to us, first through His mighty acts toward and through the the early descendants of Adam and Even, then, centuries later, through “the Word [who] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Isaiah explains this incredible gift so eloquently:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

I love the way Kathleen Nielson explores this amazing passage in Word-Filled Women’s Ministry:

Seeing verses 8 and 9 [of Isaiah 55], we grasp even more the wonder of verses 10 and 11, that God’s words, from which we’re cut off, should come down to us like the rain and snow from heaven to give us life as opposed to death. How amazing. How merciful.

God has not left us cut off. Neither has He given us mere breadcrumbs or sprinkles of water to keep us tagging along like puppy dogs until we finally reach the restored fullness of His presence. Instead, He has rained down His Word upon us through the provision of Scripture, the sending of His Son, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Oh that we would grasp the magnificent gift that we hold. Oh that we would see that, where we once were cut off, we are now immersed. And oh that the ground of our hearts would be soft and receptive to this amazing rain.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings

Enjoying

When we read that God rested, it certainly can’t mean that he removed his hand from the work of sustaining the creation that he had just made. It means that he enjoyed it. – Aimee Byrd, Theological Fitness

For years, I’ve had these little naggings about Sabbath. It’s a big deal in Scripture, but we never quite seem to know what to do with it as Christians, other than declare it an Old Testament principle. After all, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, and salvation is our Sabbath rest, so we’re good, right?

But about three and a half years ago, those little naggings began to form into conviction. A realization that the Holy Spirit was trying to point out an area of disobedience in my life. An exploration to discover what obedience was supposed to look like – because I didn’t have a clue!

Since then, the Holy Spirit has been slowly teaching me – us, really, as it’s a family thing – what it means to rest. We’ve made tangible changes and have grown a lot, but we also know we still have a long way to go. Last year, we read several books that helped us process through what God’s Word has to say about rest for believers, and those were amazing. But, the interesting thing is the number of places I’m still seeing rest mentioned. The necessity of it. The importance of it. The obedience of it. It seems that many people are being reminded that God did not make us for 24/7 busyness.

One lesson I’ve learned along the way is that rest is not just about stopping. Because stopping can be counterproductive. Stopping can increase anxiety instead of easing it. It can fill us with restlessness instead of rest. It can be harmful instead of helpful.

No, rest is not about stopping. So, what is it?

Last year as I was reading Theological Fitness by Aimee Byrd, I came across the quote I shared above. The day I read it, the quote jumped off the page at me, and it has stuck with me ever since. As have the thoughts I wrote in my journal the morning I read those words:

Do I enjoy what God is doing around me? Do I stop long enough to notice? Perhaps this is a key to Sabbath. Not simply taking a break, but ceasing from labor to enjoy. Enjoy what God is doing around me. Enjoy what He has done through me.

In our go, go, go lives, I’ve noticed that we often seem to have very little time to enjoy what we’ve accomplished. In fact, it seems that we never finish. Oh, we might close up a specific task or project, but we’ve already started a new one before that one is anywhere near complete. It’s a constant cycle. A constant running. We can never celebrate the completion because we’re buried in the middle of the next thing.

God created. Then God declared it good. He enjoyed His creation.

What if we were to stop and do the same? What if, every day, we were to stop and find something good from the day? What if every week we were to stop, take a breath, and just spend a day enjoying? What would change about us? About our attitudes? Our stress levels? Our health? Our outlook?

I’m going to make a choice to enjoy. Enjoy what God is doing around me. What He is doing through me. What He is showing me. Him.

Will you join me?

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings, Thoughts from Kids, Thoughts from Scripture

More

I recently had a conversation with my girls about books they are reading during their quiet times.

First, let me back up and say that Scripture reading is the number one most critical portion of our morning devotional times. We have daily Bible readings (many years all five of us go through the same plan) and we all copy a portion of Scripture every day, just to help us slow down and truly meditate. But, we all also enjoy adding other thought-provoking books into the mix. We usually pick a devotional to read, then often have another book or two going as well.

My oldest decided to move slowly through James with me this year, and we are using two books to help us work through them: James: A Devotional Commentary and The Book of James: A New Perspective: A Linguistic Commentary Applying Discourse Analysis, both by Dr. William Varner. The second of these two books is highly academic. And here we are, a high school junior (a smart high school junior, but still just a junior) and homeschool mom a long way from her academic pursuits trying to push our way through a very academic look at the book of James.

Needless to say, we frequently feel like we’re in a bit over our heads.

Meanwhile, my nerdy middle child is always searching the bookshelves for something new to stretch and challenge her. Her current attempt is Knowing the Character of God by George MacDonald.

As we discussed the books, both girls admitted to sometimes staring at the page with no real understanding of what they are reading. And, if I’m honest, there are days I do the same. I have to go back and read and reread to try to process and let the concepts sink in. All three of us confess that, sometimes, it doesn’t feel worth the effort when we could focus our full attention on books more on our level.

But, about the time we had this discussion, my youngest unwittingly contributed to the contemplation. His Sunday school lesson that week had been about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. You can read the whole story in Acts 8, but there are two verses that really rang in my memory as I listened to my son.

Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Acts 8:30-31

The key was this: if the man had not been reading something he didn’t understand, there would not have been an avenue through which he could learn about Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. We can – and do – very often grow through books (and tasks as well) that are closer to our level of understanding. They stretch us in different ways. But, there are also many ways in which we need to push ourselves beyond our apparent capabilities. If we never reach – if we always just stay right where we are doing what we’ve always done – will there ever be an avenue of growth in our lives? Will we ever learn more, experience more, grow more, or be capable of more?

I can’t help but picture a baby taking those first tentative steps, a child choosing to give no training wheels a try, or a teenager first sitting behind the wheel of a car. From birth, we learn and grow because we stretch ourselves. Why should we not do the same as adults?

What more do you need to do this year? Where do you need to step up and challenge yourself to dig into something you don’t understand or don’t really feel capable of in this moment?