After the busy-ness of HOPE.21 and my recent visit to the Caucasus, Romkje and I have just spent a couple of days of relaxation and reflection in the Dutch Alps (highest elevation, 327 metres). In other words, we were staying in the beautiful rolling countryside of Limburg, where Holland, Belgium and Germany meet.
In a flat land like Holland, it is hard to see long distance. For vision, one needs elevation. The view from our window was unusually extensive, taking in wooded hillocks and stream-fed valleys, church spires and castle towers, ancient half-framed country inns and modern electricity-generating windmills. Yet as we watched hot-air balloons wafting through the lazy evening stillness, we tried to imagine the magnificent panaroma the lucky occupants were enjoying – stretching well past Charlemagne’s Aachen into Germany, as far south as Liege in Belgium, and back towards Maastricht, where the famous European Union Treaty was signed.
We were personally sensing the need for fresh vision and direction. We had focussed for months on a concrete short-term project. Our youngest, Philip, would soon be graduating from high-school and leaving our nest empty. We needed some spiritual elevation. We needed God’s perspective. We talked and prayed, shared inklings and intuitions, and began a process we expect will take some time.
As we drove through winding English-type country lanes towards Maastricht, we listened to a radio interview with Romkje, which just happened to be broadcast at that moment. While I was in Armenia, she had been interviewed about HOPE.21and we now heard her explaining that this event was not an end in itself, but a catalyst for ongoing processes of networking. Whatever the future held, we felt sure that part of our work will involve nurturing these networks.
We passed the congress complex on the banks of the Maas River where the 1992 Maastricht Summit took a huge leap towards European unity, and drove into the city. Romkje was explaining to her radio audience that a major goal of HOPE.21 was the recovery among Christians of hope and vision for tomorrow’s Europe.
Our visit to Maastricht began at the basilica of St Servatius. Now, there was a man who had a vision! Literally. And, believe it or not, he was from Armenia! He lived in the same century as Gregory the Illuminator, (whom we met in last week’s Weekly Word). Servatius went to Jerusalem, where through a literal vision he was led to Belgium, and later to Maastricht, on the rather wild frontiers of the Roman Empire. Most Dutch people will tell you that Willibrord brought Christianity to Holland in the seventh century, but here in Maastricht, three centuries earlier, Servatius had planted the first churches. So, Armenians were among the very earliest pioneer missionaries in northern Europe!
At the imposing portal to the cathedral where he is buried, we discovered a tiled labyrinth depicting winding pilgrim paths from Rome, Constantinople, Aachen and Maastricht, all leading to Jerusalem in the centre. Here again the theme of vision and guidance seemed to be hounding us. Walking the labyrinth is again a type of life’s pilgrimage, an exercise in faithfulness and perseverance.
A few hours later, after criss-crossing the Dutch-Belgium border, we arrived at the Drielandenpunt, where these two countries join up with Germany. To our surprise, we saw a sign there boasting the biggest labyrinth in Europe! Two labyrinths in one day! The park was closed, but tall hedges led in both directions for hundreds of metres and it was obvious that here was a place where one could spend hours seeking direction! Above the hedgetops we could see raised footbridges, and a lookout tower right in the centre, each offering perspective for the lucky ones who had gained elevation.
On returning home, I received an email review about a book called “Visioneering – God’s blueprint for developing and maintaining personal vision”. After this weekend, this caught my attention! By someone named Andy Stanley, published by Multnomah (1999), the book defines Visioneering as ‘the engineering of a vision’, the course one follows to make dreams a reality.
So let me close off this w e e k l y w o r d with some quotes from this book:
“Everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision.”
“People without clear vision are easily distracted. Maybe the most practical advantage of vision is it sets a direction for our lives. It serves as a road map”
“Vision forms in the hearts of those who are dissatisfied with the status quo. Vision often begins with the inability to accept things the way they are.”
“Vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be. Vision is a preferred future. A destination. Vision always stands in contrast to the world as it is. Vision demands change. It implies movement. But a vision requires someone to champion the cause.”
“Dreamers dream about things being different. Visionaries envision themselves making a difference.”
“From the outset, just about every God-ordained vision appears to be impossible.”
“You don’t know what God is up to behind the scenes of your life. God is using your circumstances to position and prepare you to accomplish his vision for your life.”
“The vision of an organization acts as its magnetic north.”
“The vision is a reminder of our dependency. We remain aware that if God doesn’t do something there is no going forward. For that reason, people with vision live with a sense of expectancy. They look for God to do something. They live by faith in the truest sense of the word. That is, they are living as if God is going to do what they believe he has promised to do.”
“Believers with vision live with the knowledge that how may come about independently from their planning. But it will not come about apart from their faithfulness. Faithfulness is critical to success.”
“Other than heaven, and possibly your health, what are you consciously depending on God to do?”
“Vision casting will always include an element of waking people out of their apathy. Vision casters rarely bring new information to the table. What they bring is an impassioned concern about an existing problem. They bring fresh eyes.”
“Vision requires the commitment of a parachutist. You don’t ‘sort of’ parachute. You are either in the plane or in the air. You either do it or you don’t.”
“If God has birthed a vision in your heart, the day will come when you will be called upon to make a sacrifice to achieve it. And you will have to make the sacrifice with no guarantee of success.”
“Money usually follows vision. It rarely happens the other way around. Consequently, vision always involves sacrifice and risk-taking.”
“Don’t confuse your plans with God’s vision. Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision.”
“A vision is what could and should be. A plan is a guess as to the best way to accomplish the vision.”
“Visions thrive in an environment of unity. They die in an environment of disunity.”
Till next week,
director, YWAM Europe