Monday, January 01, 2018

upside down + focus // 2018

“when we reach the end of our days, our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default” (tim wu)

a friend of a friend was telling us about a recent trip home to visit his extended family. he told us how excited he was that he got to see his 12 year old nephew who was adopted into the family not long ago. he said the family was going through boxes of old family photo albums and keepsakes handed down through the years when they came across an old, over-sized magnifying glass with 2-inch thick glass somewhat warped over time. his nephew, fascinated, took off his glasses and held the magnifying glass up to his face and looked around the room, and as he did, a huge smile grew across his face.

he went around the house peering at objects and family faces through the special glass, giggling, excited, and soon he was full-blown belly laughing at everything he saw so clear and magnified. our friend said the boy's laughter filled the room with joy. all the family members watched him and soon they, too, were giggling and laughing. the boy's joy was contagious! and seeing him experience the effects of a magnifying glass for the first time was incredible to witness. but also, he said, they were laughing because the reflection of the boy's face staring back at them through the looking glass was upside down...

a few nights after hearing this story, which, at the time was just a random conversation that i was part of, i tossed and turned in bed, wide awake when i should have been sound asleep. i was trying to settle myself with breath prayers, when my mind wandered to the upcoming new year. do i need to make resolutions? (ugh, not a fan.) what goals do i have? what are my hopes for 2018? what changes do i need to make? all of those thoughts became really overwhelming and made me even more restless. suddenly, out of nowhere, i was replaying in my mind this story about the magnifying glass that our friend of a friend told us days earlier...

a magnifying glass that brought new clarity. 
fresh vision.
brought things into focus.
made everything clear.

which induced excitement, a contagious joy.
caused a change in the environment.
inspired the witnesses.

and the reflection was upside down.

the Lord showed me right then and there in the middle of the night what he wanted from me in the new year: focus. an invitation and conviction to see what he wants me to see, the way he wants me to see: more clearly and magnified. to focus on the things he wants me to focus on, more focus on HIM, and to not be distracted by what's in my peripheral. a promise that what i see in this new way will bring great joy - a genuine, authentic, contagious joy. a caution that this newfound perspective might make me look upside down, but it will be good.

okay, God, i resolve to focus. 
"think about things of heaven, not things of earth." colossians 3:2
i spent some more time digging deeper into the word, searching God's directive for my focus, and i landed in Romans 12, the living sacrifices chapter. there, i found very practical ways to focus on the things God wants me to focus on: my health/body (12:1), my thoughts (12:2-3), service and my gifts (23:4-8), my relationships (12:9-10, 14-21), work ethic (12:11), faith and prayer life (12:12), and hospitality (12:13).

every command is for the glory of God. none of it is self-serving, instant gratification, or blurred for popular acceptance. to some, this lifestyle might even look upside down. 

"it’s an upside-down kingdom where leaders are servants, neighbors and enemies are loved, and poor widows give away half their money...humility is exalted, the first shall be last, offenders are forgiven 70 times 7, and ethnic outsiders kneel down to help half-dead strangers lying in a ditch. the way of Jesus is countercultural. it is upside-down and inside-out—a kingdom, where weakness is power, power is weakness, and suffering leads to glory." (preston sprinkle)

it was an awakening, as though i was given a magnifying glass to see not just what to focus on, but also why and how. "this is the way; walk in it." (isaiah 3:21)

and then, on an icy new years eve morning two days later, this conviction/challenge was undoubtedly confirmed as our pastor challenged the church: "what has your attention? in order to focus you have to master isolation...multitasking is essentially doing several things halfheartedly. what you look at (focus on) is what you will gravitate towards - literally, and figuratively (perspective.)" [my notes/paraphrase]

"make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word." psalm 119:35-37

okay, God, i resolve to focus. 
on how i treat and think about my body. on thinking "good" thoughts. on prayer and Your Word. on serving my family. on loving others well. on my relationships. on being hospitable. on my work and service. on making the most of where you have me. what matters eternally. and mostly, on You.

"if you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live— yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him." (oswald chambers)