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Sources of Vision

January 10, 2009 Leave a comment

The last post talked about the challenges of translating vision, and I want to think through and write more about that. But for now, here are some notes I made during a recent discussion in our monthly idea night on sources of vision.

Triumphalist Visions – Immediately someone asked, “What about Babel?” How does Babel relate to vision. Wow. Good question. Not all visions are positive. Many visions, even good ones, are triumphalist. In other words, the vision is more important than the people involved. Based on the pattern of God’s dealing with man and nations throughout the Old Testament, I would assume that Babel, in addition to some form of man-oriented worship, was oppressive.

Scripture reveals a pattern that when other gods move into the position of the Creator-Covenant God, people are enslaved. I would suggest that many modern visions, including ones that came from Christians, were triumphalist in nature. The drive to enflesh these visions meant crushing, oppressing and wounding people. Many great visions have broken many relationships. And this is a problem.

So what can we learn from triumphalist visions? We can learn the dangers of vision. We can gain wisdom. We can realize that our vision is subservient to the Creator-Covenant God and that neither we nor our vision can displace the Sovereign rule of King Jesus. So there is value in studying visions gone awry. Sadly, the Reformation spawned many tragic triumphalist visions, and some with disastorous results.

Consider the Munster Rebellion. The leaders took over a city and created their own version of “heaven on earth.” The end result was tragic and makes me think of how many cults begin with a good vision that goes awry. The leader of leaders displaces King Jesus’s Lordship and become little Pharoahs. Eric Hoffer tells the tale of the prophet in the dungeon who rails against the king. Gradually he climbs out of the dungeon. And eventually reaches the king who hides in the tower. The prophet promptly kills the king, declares himself king and immediately locks up all the other prophets. This parable is played out again and again in churches, ministries, governments and families.

As we seek to cultivate vision, may we learn from the failure of others and hold our own visions lightly, trusting that King Jesus is not reliant upon us, we are reliant upon Him.

Failed Visions – Alongside triumphalist visions, we might consider visions that were good but somehow didn’t have the resources to translate the vision. Someone mentioned the community of Rugby. Some English gentry founded this community in Tennessee with wonderful visions of a society that could be. One problem. They didn’t have the ability or resources to sustain this community over time. Today it stands because some folks saw the historic purpose but in reality, it is a community that time left behind.

American history is scattered with a wide-range of communities that started and flourished for a season only to fade or fail over time. From the Shakers to the communes of the Jesus movement. In each of these visions, we can learn many things. We can listen and learn from the visions as well as the problems people encountered in translation. One thing I see is that sometimes one group has part of a vision and part of the resources, but they need relation with others who can bring completion and resources. This is difficult because visionaries sometimes struggle with relationships. But we cannot fulfill the vision of the kingdom alone. It requires people working together, and entering conflict, and learning how to forgive and somehow learning how to continue serving and helping one another over time.

I’ve got more notes, but I want to watch a movie, so I’m stopping for now.

Challenge of Translating Vision

January 10, 2009 2 comments

One of the challenges of vision is translating time into space. Vision is in the future. But in order for it to be fully realized, it needs to be translated into outward space. This is a challenge because the act of translation changes the vision. As I type these words, my thoughts are changed by the words I choose. Suddenly, I realize that my post has taken a slightly (or largely) different direction than I had originally intended. Nothing really ever turns out exactly according to plan. The outer world where the vision is translated, resists our attempts at change.

This resistance requires energy. Sometimes we have the energy to complete translation (expression of vision) but sometimes we quit in the midst of the processes. Or we change directions. Or we adapt. We may like the finally outcome better or we may be disappointed. But the translated vision never looks exactly like the image that I am stretching toward.

The Power of Vision

January 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Last week at our monthly idea night, I asked the group a simple question. “Where does vision come from?” This launched into fascinating discussion on the source of vision. So I thought I’d post some of our notes about where do we find vision? But first, I might suggest, why do we need vision.

Vision is a source of energy. When I set out to write a few words on vision, I have some picture in my wind of what I might write and where I might post it, I have some picture of the value of capturing my thoughts. These pictures are aspects of vision. Without them, why should I write? If it doesn’t mean anything and has no purpose, why really waste my time.

When I used a child, I used to imagine being a famous magician. This dream translated into practicing magic tricks, performing for the neighborhood kids and eventually earning pay for my performances. The vision of performing gave me energy to act. I performed magic all the way through college, but gradually my magic shows sudsided. But oddly the vision of performing was translated into theatrical performances, public speaking, preaching, a radio talk show and so on.

Somehow the vision tapped something deeper inside of me that has been translated in a variety of ways. Vision fuels us to the next step. The Scripture says that “without a vision the people perish” or cast off restraint. With vision, we lost our momentum to move forward. Some folks lose vision as a result of failure or loss. Their momentum can slow to a hault. We sometimes call it depression.

A young person who has not experienced many bitter disappointments, should be rich in vision. They are pure energy and are ready to give their mind and body to service. Some kind of service. Any kind of service. Their passion may find release in music, concerts, mission trips, Peace Corps, politics and so on. Over time, disappointment and failure may sap them of vision.

At some point vision changes places with memory. As people grow older, they feed on the joy of good memories. Many older people are no longer trying to make a mark in the world, they are simply enjoying the fruit of their labor. This is what makes the prophet Joel’s words so power. He says that your old men will dreams. Instead of simply looking back, they will begin looking forward with expectancy.

But what about all the visions that fail? I think that it might be possibly to analyze our old abandoned visions and learn from them. Much like a floor of deflated balloons, the old visions lie just beneath the surface of our hearts. I begin writing down every vision I could ever remember from childhood onward. I’ve begun to notice that some visions passed by the wayside, they contained aspects of of dreams and visions. In other words, one vision may have given me energy to step forward in one direction but in the action the vision morphed into something slightly different.

I see a variety connecting points in all these visions that relate to some basic drives and desires that seem essentially part of my core. This is actually helping me to clarify and consider the vision and dreams that currently drive me forward. Are these drives and longings from within? Possibly. But they may also be from without. In other words, whether we realize it or not, we may be responding to a call from beyond us: a call from the creator of our souls.

Direction in 2009

January 10, 2009 1 comment

If you read this blog on occasion, you may run across my reference to Eugen Rosenstock’s Cross of Reality. He talks about man moving in four directions (backward-forward -time) and (inward-outward – space). We live within the time/space axis, and yet oddly we often get stuck in one of the four directions. Some people, groups, nations are stuck in the past. On the other hand, some are stuck in the future. To live and move within time we must enjoy the freedom to move backward and forward.

Space is the same way. Some folks, groups, nations are trapped in inner space: reflection, meditation, philosophy, etc. Lots of ideas, passion, existential reality but little contact with outer world. Early in his life as a son a “righteous one,” Martin Buber was caught up in ecstatic encounter with the divine. A student came to see, but he turned the student away for the inner ecstasy trumped the call from the outer world. The student committed suicide. This horror shook up Buber and was one of the key influences that moved him to developed his thoughts on the life of dialogue. The call to move out beyond ourselves and encounter the other in dialogue.

Buber reminds us that we move between two directions in space inner world and outer world. Both are fundamental and one doesn’t trump the other.

One amazing power of humans is our power to change. While trees shed their leaves in the fall and have no choice, we can shed our hair in the spring and grow long beards in the fall. Or we can do the opposite. We can turn around. We have the power to decide when to move and when to rest. We can change our world. We can put trees where there are no trees, or we can add trees to fields and create a forest.

This quick reminder allows me to talk about and think about direction in 2009. With the lay-offs and economic news in our country, many people are turning inward. Fear is driving people backward. Looking back to better times.

I would suggest the two directions that I am focusing upon during this season of fear and distress is outward and forward. Now is the time to look ahead with vision and expectancy. Now is the time to act in ways that bring hope and courage to the faltering. Now is the time to plan for tomorrow and act on the basis of a vision for tomorrow.

This gets me to vision but that’s another post. I’m thinking about vision and how vision works, where it comes from and what is its purpose.

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