Thursday, July 7, 2016

Vision Testing

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Gratitude Year 4-Day 188: Today, I am grateful for vision testing ... beyond the current focus. 

Illness. Unexpected health crisis. Job interviews. Job loss. Broken hearts. Loss of a loved one. Plot twists on life's journey.

Understanding. It is elusive at times. Speaking the truth that "God only knows" is easy, until the struggle is mine... up close and personal. I have multiple friends and family facing different kinds of "vision tests" at this very moment. 

Seeing God's hand is not always easy. Understanding "his ways" eludes us at times. We focus on one or two specific things. He is balancing time and space. All of it. Forever. Wow!

As I suspected early on, my gratitude lesson in "Year Four of Daily Gratitude" is clearly about "vision". This past month alone, there have been multiple times God has challenged me to think about vision...not just my immediate focus. 

My "life-verse" that I chose for this year is Habakkuk 2:2-  "Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it." The goal is to memorize it and apply it to daily living...every day.

This day...this week... and this month... I find myself holding on to these words like a love letter. I find I am clinging to it and longing for more insight. Did I miss something? You see, the "been there, read that and learned something" doesn't mean we check it off and put it away. No way! His words are like a treasure chest full of rare gems and precious metals.

To write His word on our hearts, we must revisit some passages over and over. Golden nuggets of truth and wisdom are waiting to be discovered...  if we invest the time to dig a little deeper. What is on the surface is good, valuable and easy to grab and run. But, what lies below can be life changing. 

It appears that I am obviously not done with Habakkuk 2, so today, we go a little deeper. 

Imagine the watchmen on the wall of a city or a castle. They perch in the high towers looking down to see what dangers may be on the way and who is returning to the safety of home. They shout good news of homecomings... and sound the alert when trouble is on the way.  

Sometimes the job is really boring.  Other times, it fuels the adrenaline. Caught in the middle between the city below and the heavens above is a good place to have a little God chat.  

Those who watch on the wall must have good eyes. Excellent vision required. Watchmen must be able to focus on things far off and judge the risks on the way.  No "Mr. Magoo" applicants need apply! 

"The Message" does a beautiful job with Habakkuk 2:1-4. It paints a clear picture. Imagine the watchmen almost shaking his fist at God, demanding an answer... an explanation for the circumstance God has allowed. Perhaps, it is an unanswered prayer...or another disappointment. The man demands, "God, why didn't you do something?" or "Why did you allow that trouble to come?" 

What if God replies: "Because I AM, God...that's why."?  No further explanation needed. 

Oh, that's right. We struggle to accept an answer of "not now" or even, "No." . We challenge the God of the Universe, but expect our own children to accept, "Because I'm the Mom and I said so. That's why." 

With that in mind, here is the scripture: 

What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m braced for the worst. I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I’ll wait to see what God says, how he’ll answer my complaint.

And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. 

It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.
 “Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—
    full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.

What this verse says to me is that I am not alone in my bold questioning of God's reasoning at times. Habakkuk reaches my soul with this passage. It reminds me of the importance of making lists (another devotional I have been working on that applies to the Year Four vision lesson). It reminds me that although I might be confident of my "focus"... it is God alone who has clear vision of yesterday, today and what is to come. 

He is the First and the Last...and everything in between. We are "present company". His hope is to write eternity on our hearts in our time here through Jesus. Written in blood red. Not to evoke guilt, but as a reply to the question: "How much do you love me?" 

The answer is: "I love you enough to leave heaven's splendor to take human form...locked in a specific time and place. I love you enough to choose to take on your sin. I am your blood sacrifice and your redeemer. You focus on the baby in the manger...the healer...the teacher...but you forget the peaceful warrior. I completed my God ordained mission by making the ultimate sacrifice. I gave my life, in service... so that you can be saved. All can be saved who ask me to apply my blood to their sins... and believe in their hearts that I am who I say that I am." 

There is a difference between focus (paying particular attention to one thing) and vision (the state of being able to see; to imagine) . We humans tend to have stubborn focus, but we don't always have true vision beyond the current moment. We are creatures who desire immediacy. Not our fault, right? Designer flaws? God's fault? I don't think that is the case.

This is where grace comes into play.  Did you think grace was getting forgiven and then you are "good to go" without making any serious changes? Grace is a day-to-day life changing application of His love to our messy lives. It is choosing to look beyond the current circumstances... and what seems "in focus" today. We gain clearer vision only when we submit to the truth that there is a bigger picture. A love story that is so much bigger than any of our own "short stories". I love "Big Block Letters". 

Still, our short stories matter to Him...even our chapters. We matter enough that he comes when called...  and intervenes more than we will ever know. We can't see the angels protecting us in all of our days in and in all of our ways. He sends them. 

We can't see what is coming. He can.  
We obsess on one focal point. He sees the whole picture in detail.
We have a short depth of field... He clearly sees eternity.

...the person standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.

When we embrace God vision (not with understanding...but cling with tenacity), we become fully alive. Even, when life is hard, disappointing, out of focus or simply exhausting. We can run. 

“Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run." Great instruction for daily living. 

Earworm woke us and is singing "You Are My Vision" by  Rend Collective. He would like your earworm to sing it, too. It is a more modern re-translation of the old hymn "Be Thou My Vision" from the original Irish and Old English that a friend brought to my attention in the past few weeks.  AND...we sang the old hymn last Sunday. testing continues. God winks...and sometimes he struts his stuff. 

Today, I am grateful for vision testing ... beyond the current focus... as we ride our tiny little bus through and into His big picture. Your story matters to him. 

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