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 Thoughts from Scripture

Psalm 2

Last week, I mentioned how persistence opened up beauty and wisdom in Psalm 2 that I’d never seen before. I hinted at the light that switched on in my mind, but I didn’t go into details. This week, I want to share just a glimpse – just a taste of what I saw in those verses and what has spurred me on as I’ve continue to work methodically through Psalms.

Throughout the week, I acknowledged the angst found in Ps 2:1-3. This is a hymn of frustration about the state of the world – one that rings with familiar tones as we compare it to those our hearts tend to sing today, over three thousand years later. Nations still rage and kings and rulers still plot in vain. The world is a mess, and we have to deal with it. Even so, we can chuckle when we get to verse four and see the Almighty King of kings laughing at them. He mocks their supposed wisdom and planning and scheming. He reminds them that they’re not really in charge like they think they are. And He promises to send His Son to rule over them.

These observations were nothing new to me – I’ve noticed them every time I’ve read this psalm over the years. But as I wrapped up this particular week of reading and rereading, it was as if blinders fell off, revealing a new layer of beauty. I suddenly saw God’s response in verses 4-6 as a comfort instead of simply a statement of His mockery. How can such things be comforting? Well, when looking at this passage in light of the whole of Scripture – in light of the fulfillment of the promise to grant the nations as an inheritance to the Son – I remember that I belong to this Lord who sits in the heavens. I may be under the temporary authority of worldly rulers, but the King of kings, Lord of lords, and Ruler of rulers truly knows me. I am not relevant to His power. I am not critical to the accomplishment of His will. He works through me simply because He chooses to, not because He needs to. I may not be relevant to His success, but I’m relevant to Him and included in His plan.

I’m in awe. Not at all because any of this is about me, but because I am so very often distracted by those insignificant, temporary rulers of this world. Those who will ultimately be “shatter[ed] like earthenware.”

The greatest beauty is revealed in the final verses.

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Ps 2: 10-12)

Is that not a perfect prayer for those in authority? Is it not a powerful way to lift up our rulers, asking that the Ruler over them all open their hearts to help them show discernment, take warning, worship Him, rejoice, and do homage? Should it not be my heart’s cry that they be saved rather than perish? That they be blessed rather than falling to His wrath?

Yet in my distraction, I rarely have prayed in such a way for the temporary rulers of this world. I’ve been frustrated by them, filled with angst because of them, and discouraged by them. My prayers have been more imprecatory than a cry for their salvation.

After progressing from a point of limited understanding to a sense of great comfort, my final awareness was one of deep conviction regarding my own sin of neglect and need for change.

This is what God’s Word accomplishes in us. It shows us the truth about the world in which we live. It shows us the truth about ourselves – both in comfort and in conviction. But, above all, it continually teaches us more about who God is: the one who is never thwarted by the temporary rulers of this world. It draws us to respond, not because of what we learn about this world or ourselves, but because of what we learn about Him.

Posted in Meditations & Meanderings, Thoughts from Life

Happy New Year!

Okay, so maybe I’m about a week late on that new year greeting. But, there is a point, even to that.

I love fresh starts. And I love succeeding in my fresh starts. But, all too often I miss them. For instance, I had intentions for welcoming 2019. I had productivity plans and writing plans and decluttering plans. But, as often happens, so much ended up getting crammed into the days off school that I didn’t get around to the “extra” plans. It was all I could do to make sure I got enough work hours in (and I didn’t always succeed even at that) and tackled the necessities. I wanted to start the new year ahead of the game. Blog posts ready to publish. Projects ready to go. Stuff done. Instead, I accomplished what had to be done, leaving the whole hopeful list still waiting for me.

So now, here I am, a week into the new year, launching into a Monday after a night of very little sleep, carrying a few basic tasks over from last week and seeing none of my “get ahead” hopes accomplished.

With my personality, that’s not a very encouraging fresh start.

Over the past few years, though, I’ve been trying to change my mentality about fresh starts. Several years ago, my boss wrote an article entitled “Tomorrow is Always Fresh,” combating the lie that we have to wait until a traditional “fresh start” day to reorient ourselves after our plan or routine falls apart. Why do we have to wait until Monday? Or the first of the month? Or the beginning of a new year? Why not tomorrow?

This is my tomorrow.

So, I didn’t start the new year as I’d hoped. So, I don’t have a writing plan or a new schedule or a head start. So, I have to just dive in and work on it all as I’m processing through a normal week. If I let all of that stop me, I’ll never truly enjoy fresh starts. I’ll always be waiting for that next Monday. That next first of the month. That next first of the year. That day upon which I hang hopes that will not materialize. Something will always stand in the way. Something will keep me behind. Something will always need to be caught up.

This morning, I choose to start fresh right here, right now. Yes, it’s a Monday, but the fresh start is not because it’s Monday. The fresh start is because it’s today. Because I have an opportunity. So, I’m going to take it.

And guess what? Tomorrow will be fresh as well. So if things fall apart as today moves on, I’ll get to start again tomorrow.

So, Happy New Year! No matter what your past week has produced, may today be a fresh start for you as well.

Posted in Meditations & Meanderings, Thoughts from Scripture

Unity and Harmony

Over the years, I’ve grown to love the way the Holy Spirit helps me see portions of Scripture more clearly. Sometimes, I see connections within a multi-verse passage or between two different passages. Other times, a single word jumps out at me, and I realize the preconceptions I have applied to that word. Then I get to explore and determine whether those preconceptions have helped or hurt my understanding.

“Unity” is one of those words. Recently, while studying 1 Peter, I got a bit hung up on a word in 1 Peter 3:8. I was using NASB (my favorite study translation) to read through the passage each morning: “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit” (emphasis mine).

I’d read and studied the whole focal passage (1 Peter 3:8-12) over and over again for several days already, and I’d been processing through the passage as a whole. But, “harmonious” kept standing out to me. I looked it up in other translations, and I realized that other translations seemed to favor “unity” and “of one mind.” Only NASB chose “harmonious.”

And that’s where I realized my preconceptions. You see, in my mind I often equate unity and uniformity. They are not the same. But, that’s what I frequently come to the table thinking: if you want me to be unified with you, you want me to think like you. To process like you. To engage like you. But that’s not really unity. That’s uniformity.

And uniformity is not what is meant by Paul, Peter, and other New Testament writers as they presented a concept that we usually translate as “unity.” The concept they present is one that, in my mind, is more easily expressed as “harmony.” Why? Because I’m a musical person. I grasp the idea of multiple voices or instruments playing a variety of notes in a variety of ways, together producing something amazingly beautiful. They are together. They are accomplishing a united goal. But, they are each doing so in a way that reflects their own personality. Harmony.

That is the truth of unity as expressed in Scripture. Both words are correct. But one resonates more clearly with me simply because of the way my brain works.

Peter would not have thought differently of the two. I’d have to do more research to validate this thought, but I don’t believe musical harmony was much of a concept in Peter’s day. He did, however, understand that a good fishing team needed to have multiple strengths to work together and accomplish a common goal, just as Paul described the different parts of the body functioning together. That’s harmony. Unity, but not uniformity.

I’ve always known that. But, my subconscious preconception that equated unity and uniformity has still negatively colored my reading of “unity” passages in Scripture. One little translation choice to use “harmonious” instead of “unity of mind” or “like-minded” made me stop and deal with my preconception.

That, my friends, is how the Spirit works. How He grows us and teaches us and helps us dig more deeply into the Word of God. How He conforms our thoughts and our minds to more clearly reflect the mind of Christ. May we never take that teaching lightly! And may we never cling to our preconceptions more strongly than to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

Posted in Thoughts from Life, What I'm Learning

Sufficiency and Tightropes

I’m procrastinating today.

We slept in a bit this morning, which has me running a little later on the routine than normal. But, that’s not really what has me moving slowly. In reality, it’s the subconscious knowledge that, if I keep putting off writing, I once again won’t have time to get a blog post written, edited, and published before I absolutely have to get to work in order to get my hours in before church. That subconscious knowledge has actually become my safety net. And I’ve been spending more time in the safety net than on the tightrope where I belong.

You see, I have quiet a few blog posts stored in my files right now. Some are just thoughts tapped out quickly that need to be fleshed out. But others are fully written and just need to be edited. I have good intentions of starting my morning with some editing, photo searching, and publication prep so I can get one of those posts up. But each morning I find a whole list of other things that just have to be done. Then my time is spent, and I have to get to work. So, the posts never go up.

But it’s not really because of a lack of time or because of so many other things that are pressing. It’s really because staying in the safety net is more comfortable. It keeps me from falling. Because I know that I’m not going to stay on that tightrope. I will fall. How much easier to just stay down here where I know I’m going to end up anyway?

I’ve always been like that. I’ve never been a risk-taker or a daredevil. Thrill has never enticed me. In some ways, that’s a good thing. There is a place for people like me, because we like to keep the show running. We like to be in the background providing everything the thrill-seekers and dreamers and brainstormers and visionaries need. We make their ideas happen because we’re good at the practical and the organizational and – to be completely honest – the boring. That’s our place. That’s our strength.

But, too often it’s also our hiding place. And we have a litany of reasons to hide. One of the big ones for me is a feeling of insufficiency.

One of my daughters surprised me one day by verbalizing exactly how I feel so often, especially in the presence of my children. They are so talented. So amazing. They all have such incredible skills. I feel pretty mediocre standing next to them. Yet, one morning my daughter expressed how she felt useless and untalented, especially compared to her siblings. They, in turn, stared at her with mouths gaping and quickly began stating all of the ways she was so awesome and her talents were so amazing and useful, especially compared to how they viewed their own talents and strengths. As I worked to build up and encourage each of them, I also ached because I knew exactly how they all felt.

Insufficient.

They believe about themselves the same things I believe about myself. We may have our skills and talents, but what difference do they actually make in the real world? How can we possibly compare to the extraordinary offerings of so many other people? What impact can we, with our piddly contributions – actually make?

We recognize that we’ll never know if we don’t try, but we’ve also all – yes, even my three precious children at their tender ages – have tried and have fallen off the tightrope. Multiple times. Sometimes because of our own failing and other times because we’ve been shoved. Every time because of some insufficiency.

We long for the tightrope. We even do all of the preparations needed to walk the tightrope. And really, we don’t mind falling in the process of learning to walk the tightrope. But, we know that we won’t always fall on our own. Sometimes we will be knocked down, whether accidentally because of a lapse of attentiveness on someone else’s part or intentionally because of jealousy or rudeness or pride. But, it will happen. And in that fear, we stay in our safety net and wish that we were already experts on the tightrope. Already skilled to the point of being able to better resist the shoves. Unsure that we can handle both the learning and the struggling.

That’s why I’m procrastinating today. That’s why multiple posts remain in my folders, unedited and unpublished. And that’s why I’m forcing myself to publish this post today. Because it’s time to get out of the safety net and get back on the tightrope.

Posted in Family, Thoughts from Life

Together

A couple of weeks ago, we headed out for a much-needed and highly anticipated family getaway. We left early on a Thursday morning because our mouth-watering, start-vacation-off-right, pancake and omelet breakfast treat was an hour away in the destination city of Hot Springs. It was a delight to hear the proclamations of, “Wow, that’s just good,” and see the expressions of delight as the kids tasted phenomenal apple pancakes, delectable omelets, fresh-squeezed orange juice, local sausage, thick bacon, and delightful apple butter. Before climbing back into the car to head on to our cabin twenty miles away, we walked off our fullness by browsing the shops that were open at such an early hour, and I once again delighted in the responses of my children as we entered a cute shop with pottery and carvings and jewelry. We ended up having to drag them out, even after they’d made small purchases and thought they were done looking. They kept finding new treasures they’d missed!

And then there was the cabin on the lake. A glorious retreat into peace and quiet and fresh air and beautiful views. A treasure for each and every one of us. Some of the time, we interacted. Walking around the park. Hiking a trail. Skipping rocks at the lake. Closing out each day with s’mores or warm beverages and a game of some sort. Other times, we did our own thing. Curling up with books either in separate rooms or scattered around the cabin’s living room. Wandering around outdoors. Sitting out on the porch with a cup of something or other, watching the rain fall.

But even when we did our own thing, we were together.

And that’s what I love about our family. We love being together. Oh, we frequently go our separate ways out of necessity, but we all like coming back together. We enjoy sharing things with one another. Laughing together. Discussing with one another. Speaking in movie or book quotes and pursuing philosophic contemplations together.

Just being together. Whether we’re interacting or doing our own thing.

When I think of all of the families I’ve known through the years, the consistent reality is that the happiest of those families are those who enjoy being together. Whether they have plans or are just being. And there is a very distinct common thread that runs through all of the families who enjoy one another. They are all intentional about their togetherness.

Togetherness doesn’t happen by accident. Neither does the desire to be together. Both must be intentionally chosen. Actively cultivated. Even stubbornly pursued through the times when togetherness is not the pleasure and bliss we enjoyed during our recent vacation.

Sometimes togetherness is hard. Sometimes we get on one another’s nerves or wish for someone else – anyone else – to be with. (And yes, there are many times when we need to be with other people, but that’s another topic for another day.) But the good only comes when we choose the work. The discipline. The intentional interaction.

As our children grow older, we know we are rapidly approaching the day when togetherness will not be so frequent or so easily accomplished. My prayer is that we will never lose the joy of our togetherness, even if it has to be enjoyed through phone calls and sporadic visits. But I also pray that our children are able to take that joy into their own adult lives as they marry and have children of their own. That they are able to cultivate and celebrate their own togetherness and teach their children the joy of that interaction.

Because it’s a beautiful thing to enjoy life…together.