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

A Real Passion

Several months ago, I was looking for an image to add to a blog post when I came upon this precious image of a child reading an old, battered Bible. Although the image did not fit the post I was preparing to publish, I couldn’t help but save the picture anyway. It was beautiful, and I wanted to use it someday.

There are so many reasons this image struck me. The child with his scrunched up little forehead trying to read the words in front of him (probably still in Isaiah, based on the way the pages are slightly visible). The wear and tear on the paper cover. The way the pages are crisp despite their yellowing, indicating that this Bible is more old than worn. So many little details releasing so many thoughts in my heart and mind.

Above all of these thoughts, though, rose a passion. I never fail to feel deep excitement when I see someone connecting with the Word of God, whether it’s a small child trying to decipher the words of that big book lying around the house or an adult seeing an old truth with new eyes. Excitement abounds when my children share something new they have discovered in Scripture. Delight overflows when the girls in my Sunday school class ask questions about what they’ve read in the Bible. Joy fills my heart when I get to be a part of a Bible study where others truly want to engage and dig and explore and learn and grow.

That simple picture reminded me of that excitement and that joy.

But here’s the thing: our natural inclination is not to seek out those opportunities for engagement. We may say we have a passion for Scripture and that we want others to engage as well. But, it’s too easy to fall into phases of life when our passion looks a little too much like the Bible in the picture. Worn, yes, but not from loving use. Instead, simply worn from being around for a while. Familiar because of its presence, not because we’ve plumbed its depths. We engage when the opportunity presents itself, much like this Bible is read when a child just happens to pick it up, open it to the middle, and try to decipher the good old King James translation of what the prophets had to say.

That’s not how I want my passion to look.

If I say I love the Word of God, I have to act on it. I have to read it. And, I do. I started the habit as a child. I’ve been more diligent about it in some seasons than in others, and there are times I still struggle with the discipline of being truly attentive to what I’m reading each morning. But, I know it’s worth it to work on that discipline. To be diligent. To make an effort to wear my Bibles out.

My passion to see others connect with God’s Word has to be just as intentional. It has to be active. I can’t just plan to happen upon it now and then. Instead, I have to actively engage my children in discussion about what they read. I have to structure Sunday school in a way that will encourage my students to ask questions. I have to seek out opportunities to study Scripture with fellow believers.

A passion with worn edges but no real internal use is a false passion. It’s a sweet picture that is completely posed. But God knows the truth. He sees the little clues that reveal my lack of intentionality. And, because He is Truth, He will work to reveal those clues until I recognize that it’s time to get real.

Guess what. It’s time to get real.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Life

Unharried

It was a lovely Saturday morning. The chilly breeze blowing in through open windows offered a delicious contrast to the humid, oppressive heat that is typical of the last days of an Arkansas summer. The sound of rain against leaves and the roof provided one of my favorite auditory backdrops, and I wanted nothing more than to just sit there and soak up the beauty. Although my ultimate preference would have been to find a covered porch and a good book to enjoy on that delightful day, I found myself enjoying even the prospect of tackling a work day with the coolness and sounds of rain flooding the “office.”

Although Saturdays aren’t normal, routine work days in the Hibbard household, they are still full. Some are filled with outside obligations. Those that aren’t still produce full lists. School prep for the new week. Finishing up any remaining work hours from the previous week. Fitting in any yard or housework that needs to be done. Working in any ministry and writing tasks that didn’t fit naturally into the week before. It’s the catch-all day, and that can sometimes make Saturday even more intense that a typical work day! Unfortunately, that can leave me somewhat harried as I head into Sunday and launch a brand new week.

It’s funny how God embraces me on all sides with lessons He wants me to learn, and one of the lessons He started teaching me last year (and is still working into my heart and mind) is connected to that harried feeling. This lesson is a natural follow-through to what He’s been teaching me about Sabbath rest for years now. It’s the realization that there is no true rest one day a week if I live the rest of the week in a state of maxed-out rush. I’ve long known this reality, but I haven’t truly known what to do about it. We live in such a rush-rush world. Full investment. Full engagement. Full planners. Full lives. That’s our culture. How do we keep our commitments, maintain productivity at work, and truly engage this lost world if we slow down at all? Is that not laziness? Sloth? Unproductivity? The opposite of all that is good and exemplary?

I still don’t really have an answer to that question, although I learned much through my studies of James and 1 & 2 Peter last year. And, books I’ve already mentioned like An Unhurried Life and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking have helped me consider practical aspects of the changes that need to be made in my life.

But, in all honesty, I recall even now how that cool, rainy morning enabled me to get a glimpse, for the first time, of what it looks and feels like to tackle a full day with an unhurried, unharried mentality. No less work. No fewer tasks. But a mind of calmness and peace.

The realization is rather convicting. I was incredibly relaxed and peaceful on that delightful fall morning because the weather and the physical conditions of the day met my preferences. It was easy that day to be thankful for my office with many windows (a room which now serves as my daughters’ bedroom). It was easy to let the cool air wrap around me and chill me and leave me feeling wonderfully energized for the tasks ahead. But what about when the heat returned? Or when the days turned cold and cloudy with no nourishment of sweet rain or even beautiful snow? When being unharried and unhurried would require more work? That’s where I am hit hard with the realization that I do not submit myself fully to the rest and peace of my Savior. In sinfulness, I attach rest to a specific set of circumstances. Hebrews 4 tells me Christ Himself is to be my rest. The guilt of my idolatry makes plain why I cannot seem to escape a harried life, even with all I’ve learned about Sabbath rest – I connect rest to environment, not Christ.

I wish I could say that I can flipped a switch and automatically took the revelation of that beautiful Saturday into each new week, immediately implementing an unhurried, unharried approach. But, that’s not the way growth works. I still have to actively learn how to live this out – yes, even months later, I’m still working on it! How to take the ease of a perfect day’s peace and rest and choose to engage in it when it’s not so easy. That day, though, was a lightbulb moment. A day when I recognized the conviction and training of the Holy Spirit. An Ebenezer I can look back on and remember as I move forward into a life of increasing rest and peace, as I am doing even now.

Oh, precious Lord, may I learn the lesson diligently, no matter how long it takes!

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings

The Persistence of Listening

I’ve long claimed to love the Psalms. And I do. Well, some of them, at least.

When I say that I love to read Psalms, the truth is that I love to read the beautiful ones. The passages that overwhelm my passions and help me see the glory of God so much more clearly. The passages that restart my stilted prayer life. Those beautiful poems that reflect my angst and remind me to move on to praise. Yes, I love those portions of Psalms.

Toward the end of 2018, I started a new, daily exploration of Psalms. But this time, I don’t intend to read a passage every day until I’m done. This time, my intention is to spend a week on each psalm, simply reading it for the first couple of days, then spending the remainder of each week exploring the deeper nuances of the psalm.

Psalm 1 was lovely, as always. I never tire of the exploration of the “tree firmly planted by streams of water,” and I thoroughly enjoyed spending a week relishing the beauty of this psalm. But then it was time to move on to Psalm 2. And Psalm 2, on the surface, just doesn’t have quite the ring of Psalm 1. It’s good. It’s powerful. But, it’s not quite a personally nourishing as the first entry in the book. At least, on the surface.

On the first day of that week, I read Psalm 2 with enthusiasm, riding the excitement of the previous week. Day 2 was much less enthusiastic. By day 3, I was tempted to go ahead and move on. Was a full week really necessary? I hadn’t made a commitment to anyone – just created a plan for myself. Why must I stick to a week? After all, it would take a long time to process through the entirety of Psalms at that pace.

But I stuck with it. I kept pouring through Psalm 2 with diligence. And finally, at the end of the week, the diligence paid off.

Somehow, a light switched on in my head and heart, and I began to see nourishment and relevance and power in Psalm 2 – things I’d never noticed before.

Now I cannot read Psalm 2 without being deeply moved. Now each word seems obvious in its passion and relevance. It seems hard to believe that it took days of reading and rereading to see this depth. But, that is the nature of our hearts. Our minds. Our spirits. Often they are closed to even the most obvious until we take the time to intentionally listen.

But we don’t listen. We rush. We move quickly. We speed through. We pick up and meditate on what we automatically love, because it takes little effort. But, we neglect to ponder what doesn’t resonate immediately, because it takes too much energy. I’m so guilty of this!

Oh, to take the time. Oh to ponder. Oh to be willing to stop rushing through the glories of Scripture. Oh to cease blocking out the work of the Spirit simply because we don’t see immediately. Oh to stop refusing to sit in the quiet. Oh to truly learn persistence, even when silence precedes it.

Because that, my friend, is what makes passages like Psalm 2 come to life. Will you join me in the persistence of listening?

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

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.

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.