Romans 16:20Romans 16:20
Even though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit;
though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren;
even if the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty…
Was there ever a more apt description of a place of dead dreams?
Our dreams represent our highest aspirations for ourselves. A place where we hope to soar with eagles on wings of vision and destiny. Habakkuk’s Vineyard on the other hand, paints a portrait where all has dried up, withered away, and died.
Not exactly the destiny we all dream of…
And yet if we are honest with ourselves a very REAL place that all of us have visited, or will visit, at least once in our lives.
Why does a God who loves us, I mean, really-really LOVE’s us (so much that He was willing to send His only Son to die for us…) why does a God who will do all of that, take us to dwell in a place as barren and bleak as Habakkuk’s Vineyard?
Notorious unfathomable question.
Could it be? Is it possible that there is The Place where “more” is born? Right there in that horrible desert of hopeless blight. Is that the “preparation place” for dreams that are far beyond our asking or imagining like Ephesians 3:20Ephesians 3:20
English: World English Bible - WEB
20 Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
WP-Bible plugin hints at?
“Now glory be to God who by His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” [TLB]
Infinitely beyond? From a place like that? How is it possible?
These are some of the questions we will ponder in the coming pages.
Perhaps, just perhaps, in all of our shattered dreams and devastating losses, God is setting the stage in our lives for a MORE life. More joy. More fulfillment. More fruit. Greater compassion and usefulness infinitely beyond our highest prayers. Infinitely beyond all our desires, thoughts, or hopes.
Could it be?
From Habakkuk’s Vineyard?
Crazy. Improbable. Impossible!
Yeah, but what if?
Instead of a place of death, God intends to give us more of something Jesus called – the abundant life?
I don’t know about you, but when I arrived at Habakkuk’s Vineyard I was angry, and very, very, frustrated.
To my thinking, I had obeyed everything that God had asked me to do. Yet, everything in my life was in a shambles and I was feeling more than a little ripped off.
I just couldn’t seem to reconcile my present realities with His promises, and the more I tried and failed, the more frustrated and ticked-off I became.
There was something missing and I had to find out what it was, so I decided to thrash out these feelings with God in my daily journaling.
Here’s where I need to tell you that I am a prodigal-daughter who has returned.
When I did, God and I made a contract: no head-faking-baloney. Only straight talk. As gut-level honest as possible.
I say this because in the “conversations” that follow, you will hear me pour out my angry frustration many times.
But, I also hope you will hear a dreamer’s hurting heart. One that is genuinely searching for all of God’s right answers.
In this book God will often be referred to as: The Dream-Maker.
I am (of course) the caterpillar.
I chose this metaphor because this book is all about transformation:
⦁ Transforming our wrong beliefs about God.
⦁ Transforming our wormy-thinking about ourselves…
⦁ So that, in turn, we can transform our anger and confusion into prayers-with-power…
⦁ Asking The Dream-Maker, to transform our present devastation, into His destined purpose.
In short, let’s bring our Wilderness wandering to an end. Let’s give God all our confusion, anger, and heartbroken devastation. Let’s let Him transform our faulty thinking into the dreams and visions that are fit for His plan and His Kingdom purpose.
Father I remember.
I remember how hurt, angry, and confused I was when I arrived at the end of my dreams, only to find myself living in Habakkuk’s Vineyard.
Help us, LORD. Help all of us who find ourselves living in this barren place. We need revelation. Faith-eyes to see what isn’t there yet. Faith-ears to hear Your Still Small Voice speaking truth to our hearts. Show us the way out of our captivity-thinking and believing.
You are our promised Comforter, Teacher, and Healer… and we need it all!
LORD, transform our hearts so that we can transform our asking. We need this, so that You, The Dream-Maker can bring about the plans You have for us. “Plans for good, not for evil, to give us a future and a hope.” [Jer. 29:11-14Jer. 29:11-14
English: World English Bible - WEB
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end. 12 You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says Yahweh, and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says Yahweh; and I will bring you again to the place from where I caused you to be carried away captive.
WP-Bible plugin] Bring this “promised end” to pass in our lives. Get the enemy’s foot off our neck, so that we can place our feet on higher ground. We receive ALL the new dreams You have for us by faith. Give us the hope we need to trust in Your word and Your promises again. Help us to pray the prayers that open the windows of heaven. Take our tiny caterpillar-dreams and turn them into wings-of-destiny. The destiny You have planned for us from before the beginning of time.
We come humbly. We come hurting. We come desperate.
Transform us LORD.
We ask all this in the powerful Omnipotent Name of Jesus. Amen. (let it be done!)
Picture it. I am living in my dream-city just a hop, skip, and a jump from Seattle, Washington. A city cut right out of the forest. Everything, everwhere, is GREEN. Tall lush evergreens cover most of the landscape with flowering shrubs, wild ferns, and thick lush mosses, carpeting forest floors. No wonder they call it the Emerald City.
Rain? Who cares. I am living in the Garden of Eden, in my dream-condo perched atop a hill overlooking the serene and picturesque Redmond Valley.
My views look down over Lake Washington with it’s myriad of sailboats, and beyond that, Seattle’s high rise’s with it’s landmark Space Needle. Towering behind that, the wall of snow draped mountains rightly called, the Olympics.
Every Saturday bright and colorful hot air balloons take off and land in the field across the road from where I live. I can hear the laughter of people walking or bicycling up and down the paths that run by my condo, to far down the valley floor, beyond my view. My small village is perfect in size; not too big, not too small, stores clean and tidy, accommodating all of one’s simple needs. Seattle’s big city lights twinkle just beyond, offering symphony, ballet, theater, and a rich night-life.
Yes, I am in heaven!
Add to all of this… I am working my dream-job at a large Eastside church. It’s challenging work with people I love and greatly respect. Friends abound, and though I am not doing the “exact” work I had always hoped to do, still it is interesting, with loads of future possibilities. Not completely perfect… but I have a plan.
I am single, in my mid-thirties, but content and growing in my relationship with Christ. Yet I am about to discover I still have a great deal to learn about this “Follow Me.” discipleship thing.
I am about to learn that God’s plan and my plan are on a direct collision course.
So I guess it’s not surprising when I tell you that one lovely spring day, God barged His way in on my beautiful plan and whispered, “It’s time to go…”
“Wait a minute!” I almost shouted it, “I’m living my dream Lord. Go?”
My immediate reaction was not the “willing and obedient” Isaiah teaches us. On the contrary, my first thoughts are, “No way. I can’t be hearing this right…”
The life I had, the life I was living here and now, was the answer to all of my prayers.
“…oh no, no! This can’t be right.”
God couldn’t possibly want me to give all of this up.
So I stalled. I argued my case. I presented all my grand reasons for staying right where I was.
God’s “whispers” got louder, and I kept stalling until one day, He finally took me by the scruff of my neck (maybe not literally but it felt that way) and made it absolutely, no-doubt-about-it, crystal-clear that if I stayed I would do so on my own terms without any of His blessings to count on.
I also understood that God was all DONE asking.
I will never forget His exact words to me, “Today you will decide.”
You have to have experienced that kind of ultimatum to understand how deadly serious those moments of decision actually are.
They are crossroad decisions with choices that will frame the rest of your life… and deep in your heart – you know it.
I can still see myself standing in that “impromptu” chapel service, tears pouring down my face choking back the sobs, as I finally let go of my dreams and surrendered to the LORD. It wasn’t a golden moment filled with all the shining light from heaven. (At least not from my perspective.)
I knew where I was headed. The place I dreaded. The place I had promised myself I would never go back to.
A very BROWN place; often drought-stricken, with scorching heat and choking smog. Jonah sitting under his weed wishing everyone in Ninevah would croak had an understanding and sympathetic friend in me!
When God whispered, “We are going into the wilderness…” I wholeheartedly agreed. Not a doubt in my mind. I often thought of the Sinai when remembering that valley!
Well, I obeyed. I returned to my Ninevah just as Jonah did with broken heart and dragging feet. I was about to begin my tenure as my mother’s live-in/full-time and only caregiver.
I told myself this new assignment would last three months, maybe six at the most. Surely no longer than that. Then I would head straight back to all I had just left behind.
“Okay,” I whispered. “I CAN do this.”
God would undoubtedly let me return when this temporary job was finished. After all, hadn’t I given up everything that I wanted to obey Him and come back to this wretched place? Surely God would see all my great and suffering-sacrifice, and make this an easy trip through the desert.
I had a lot to learn about God… and myself.
My “short trip” through the wilderness was to last ten long and difficult years. My captivity was going to teach me lessons that, had I known back in the beginning when I agreed to go? Had I known where this wilderness-journey would take me? The changes and “education” God had in mind? I would have voted for less “blessing” and stayed in the land of the green!
And God and I both knew it.
But, here’s the thing.
I would have missed out on the dream God had planned for me. I would have rejected any chance for receiving answers to long-forgotten sleeping prayers. Dream-prayers I hadn’t considered for decades. Dream-prayers I had misplaced
If I had stayed in Seattle, I would have chosen a “settle-for” life rather than the ABUNDANTLY MORE God was longing to give me.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
We need to go back to our desert vineyard.
A lot of things died there in that wilderness. Lesser dreams. Shallow hopes. Illusions about others. Contradictions and self-determination. Even well-meant “Christian” certainties. All were to be surrendered to that vineyard cemetary.
What was left was confusion, disillusionment, lots of anger, and daily battles with bitterness.
You see, Habakkuk’s Vineyard is a place where you believe it’s all over… dreams. possibilities. everything. All over. Dead and buried.
It’s a soul-place. An inner place. A grief-stricken place. Where endings are all you see. It’s a place where all of God’s promises seem contradicted. Where you wonder why you ever followed God. Why didn’t you just say, “no.”
The enemy torments you daily with the reality of how everything has turned out. With accusations of “What a fool you are!” and of course, daily slander against the God you trusted and obeyed in the first place.
You’re left in the aftermath asking, “How is this life better than the one I wanted? How is all this mess and chaos a “blessing” from God?”
In Habakkuk’s Vineyard all the things in your life that can be shaken, will be shaken, so that that which cannot be shaken might remain. [Hebrews 12:27Hebrews 12:27
English: World English Bible - WEB
27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain.
But, the remains?
To be honest with you I viewed “my remains” with contempt.
I wandered through the ruins of this vineyard thinking, “…so this is the reward for obedience.”
Endless questions tumbled around in my brain. “Why was I here? Why would God bring me to a place like this? What had I done? How was this place the blessing?”
I plainly believed, “I have been ripped off!”
Max Lucado once said, “When we’re out of options – that’s when were most ready for God’s surprises.”
Even in Habakkuk’s Vineyard?
Yep, but hang on.
I’m getting ahead of myself again.