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Archive for January, 2009

Articulation, Vision and Mutual Experiences

January 13, 2009 2 comments

When a preacher speaks, a teacher teaches, an artist creates, or a write writes, they express or articulate in some form their vision. While the created work (spoken, written or otherwise) may articulate a new perspective, the power of resonation is hidden within the mutuality of the given articulation. Okay, now that sounds a but to abstract. Let me explain in terms of a speech or sermon. For the given word to move the audience to action, pathos (emotional connection), logos (logical connection) and ethos (crediblity connection) must all make authentic connections with the audience.

But what is the connection begin made? The vision articulated connects or resonates with a vision that is already in the listener. So in some sense a great writer or speaker or creator gives form and shape to something their audience knows or senses as well but has been unable to fully articulate. So when the audience hears a song that touches them deeply, the song may be touching a feeling or sense they already had before hearing the song. The song merely connects with that feeling or yearning that was already there, and in so doing gives the listener a sense of ownership. The song becomes their song. By identifying with the song, the listener may respond at a deep level.

So writing, preaching, speaking, painting, and all forms of creating is not simply expressing an exclusive vision, it is also about articulating a mutual vision between creator and audience. It is a conversation of similar visions.

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Vision and Love

January 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Just as true vision proceeds from the Father’s love, all vision is one sense an expression of love. Thus we often discover aspect of the vision when we are in the midst of a loving relationship. One of Van Gogh’s most creative phases was when he was exchanging letters with a close friend. The relationship seemed to draw upon his gifting and calling.

The people we love often stir or draw out something within us that we cannot fully grasp. In the mystery of relationships, we change one another and we stir vision and gifting in one another. In Paul’s letters and in the letter to the Hebrews, we are encouraged again and again to minister to one another, encourage one another, serve one another, submit to one another. In the act of loving and exchanging love we often discover gifts and abilities and dreams. So one key aspect of vision comes from human relationships.

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Vision and Revelation

January 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Just a reminder – These are rough notes and subject to critique and refinement.

Revelation and Vision
By discussing stories, memory, songs, dance and art, I am both developing the roots of vision and the idea that the world we live in is an outward expression of a symbolic center. In the center of the world is an idea about what constitutes the world and the destiny/purpose of that world. No one symbolic center can fully express the depths of our lives on this planet, so symbols may change and develop over time as new depths are revealed the rooted of our purpose.

“Revealed” is the key. We do not simply make up a purpose or a vision or a history. It is a calling. We are called out of the darkness into the light. N.T. Wright suggests that conversion and calling are one and the same movement of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit penetrates our heart with the Word of God. (Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word.)

While Paul was a master of the Torah as a Pharisees, he actually “hears” the Word on the road to Damascus. At first, he doesn’t even recognize the Word until the Lord of the Word reveals Himself. This encounter, this calling is the unfolding of Paul’s conversion and faith in Jesus Christ. This faith continues to unfold and open by the Spirit of God, bringing revelation to Paul, which becomes the driving vision of his life.

Revelation might be understood as the Spirit of God unfolding the call of God in our lives through the Word of God. The Spirit of God is revealing the Word of God. As we behold Him, we are changed into His likeness. As He transforms in loving relationship, He gives us vision and purpose, a realization that like Paul we are called to reconcile the world to Christ.

Divine Revelation is the Father sending the Spirit to reveal the Son, changing us into His people, His family, His called out ones. As we meditate upon revelation and vision, we may begin to see this as part of the larger call and response between the Father and His people that spans time and space.

As Dmitrue Staniloae says, time and space give us two realms for movement toward love. All of history is the story of movement toward love. At the beginning of time, the Father’s call of love goes forth and the echo of God’s people returns that call back from the end of time. When Jesus goes to the cross and passes through death to life, He is answering the call of love from the end of time.

And now that call is being unfolded in His people and will be fully unfolded in the Bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the people of God who join Jesus at the Marriage feast, returning the call of Love.

Singing the Vision

January 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Singing is one of the ways the ancient Hebrews remembered their history and their commission. The Psalms are songs of praise to YHWH rooted in the Law of the Lord. This patterns starts immediately after the crossing of the Red Sea. A song is composed to memorialize this event and YHWH’s redeeming hand in the midst of it.

The psalms climb to the heights of human joy and drop down to the depths of grief and lamentation. While focused on the objective unchanging Law of the Lord and the story of God’s people, these songs give full expression to human emotion and human experience. By singing the songs, the listener begins to enter into the story and world of the people of God.

Music integrates words, emotions, imagination and body. Singing requires both our breath and our thoughts. In one sense, dance is the song moving and expressing through all the members of the body. In music (song and dance), there is movement between words and ideas, and in this movement hidden connections may be revealed.

This is not irrational. Instead, it might said that music fulfills the real, objective connections between realities that may not be obvious otherwise. Because melodies can bend backwards, overlap and play atop one another, we can see multiple connections between notes that might be difficult to see if we were simply staring at a score.

These connections between notes are like connections between ideas and action and vision. Humans are connected in relational ways that may not be obvious to the human eye. For instance, I cannot see a physical connection between father and son but they are connected on multiple levels. Extend this outward between man and man, man and creature and even man and objects, and I may discover many more connections than I ever imagined.

The Church Fathers expressed this connection as perechoresis and rooted this idea in the Triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (one God in three persons). Perechoresis is sometimes expressed as the loving dance between Father, Son and Spirit. In the dance, we cannot distinguish between Father, Son and Spirit. They are one, and yet they are three.

They extended this idea of a loving dance to all creation and all the spheres. The whole cosmos is created to reflect the loving dance of God. Every particular person and thing in creation is distinct and yet all are created to move in a harmony of love. Music helps us to experience, remember, see these connections.

Thus music can stir vision by revealing unexpected connections and by rehearsing ideas in my body and memory.

Art and Vision
Developing out from the power of remembering in stories and song, we begin to see how all the arts express this memory in different ways. Painting, poetry, drama, architecture and all the arts put this music into forms: some more solid (permanent) than others.

Memory and Vision

January 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Memory is a source of cultivating vision. Not just the occassional memory, but the intentional act of remembering.

The ancient Hebrews reveal a pattern of looking back to see forward. They remember in word and deed.

In word – They retell their stories in poems, parables and songs.

In deed – They act out stories and the Law (10 Words) in ceremonial activities: from daily rituals to regular festivals.

We begin cultivating vision by focusing our thoughts on the past through word and deed. For instance, in visioning a future for America, I am listening to a coirse on US History. By listening to stories from our past, reflecting on our early documents like the Declaraton of Indepepence, I begin rehearsing the story of our nation imaginatively.

This can stir vision for our future (what could be) and cultivate ideas for action in the present.

Categories: vision Tags: , ,

Adjusting the Vision

January 11, 2009 Leave a comment

When I write vision, I also mean idea. Each of us make regular adjustments in our life, family, work and ministries. These adjustment may stem from a new idea or a change in my goals, the project, the situation, or the supplies. So my vision or ideas must remain flexible.

Flexibility – I may start out to write a poem on the leaves falling but end up writing a poem on the cold winter sky. As I plan and process and act, I may need to change. Some visions do not survive because we are not willing to change and adapt. I would suggest that other visions
appear and reappear in our lives in various guises. The young girls dreams of being a fairy princess may change into dreams of working in the fashion industry or dreams of raising a family. The one idea could morph into very different directions, but the root of the vision could still be there.

While there were at least four types of Judaism during Jesus’ time (Pharissess, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots) only one survived the destruction of Jerusalem. The Pharisees’ vision was not tied to the land and they were able to adapt to a changing world. The other three views of Judaism could not adapt when they were not in the land or at the Temple.

Is our vision conditioned upon factors that we might not be able to control. Consider the rapid changes in technology that we cannot even keep up with. Our vision may need to be both rooted in truth and yet flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.

Resources – One thing that may change my vision is the change in resources. When an essential resource is no longer available, I either have to find a new source or change resources. What seems like a problem in the beginning could be a blessing in the end. The shift in resource availability may force me to adapt the vision in ways that a new and better idea emerges.

Vision from the People I Don’t Like

January 11, 2009 Leave a comment

One interesting source of vision can be the people who get on my nerves, or the people who disagree with me, or even the people who I consider my enemies. By listening to people who oppose me, I may learn insights or critiques that will help clarify my vision or highlight real problems. While Nietzsche opposes Christianity and mocks the crucified Savior, his critiques highlighted real problems in the modern vision and in the ways that Christianity had become intertwined with the modern vision. It is hard to listen to people who mock or offend me, but sometimes they may tell me things that my friends fail to say for fear of hurting my feelings. So I must cultivate an ear to listen both to friends but also to those who oppose me.

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.

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