I have a dream…


I invited Vivien Kilner to lead a career discernment workshop for the college students at Western. At the end of a variety of exercises, she had us all close our eyes and imagine where we want to be in ten years. And so I did. I imagined it. The image came into my mind quickly. It was sharp, clear. I conjured up the sounds, the smells, the temperature, all the feelings associated with where I want to be.

This is something I do on a regular basis. I think about where I want to be in five, ten, twenty years. I scribble my dreams in my journal. I lead elders in imagining and describing what they want the church to be in the years to come. I remember the ancient words, “without vision the people will perish.” It’s amazing, when a community begins to think about what they want to become, that’s usually the first step toward things falling into place.

My friend Karen Blomberg calls this “setting your intention.” I’m in a writing group with her, and she often reminds us to set our intentions. Identify where we think God is leading us. Say it out loud. Write it down. Let it become a record that plays in our minds over and over again. It works. Strangely enough.

Friedrich Buechner describes a vocation as being the place where our greatest joy intersects with the world’s deepest need. Somehow in this process, I’m able to tune into my passions and gifts as well as the justice, mercy and kindness that God requires of me. When we identify that crucial place, it’s amazing the people that we meet who will begin to make things happen.

It’s been fascinating to see the Ethiopian clinic develop. We imagine what will happen there: that people who are infected with HIV/AIDS will have treatment, that the infant mortality rate might be lowered. We think about the mothers who will have the medical support that they need, and we picture in our minds the babies who will be saved through proper hydration and care.

As a result, in our congregation, I’ve watched the miraculous occur. A young couple joins our church, and the wife just happens to be a medical doctor. From Ethiopia. With many ties and connections still there. Medical supplies and money have appeared. People who know how to raise the support that this will take have appeared out of the woodwork.

I’ve seen people who are completely new to the congregation, take the project on with full force. In the short two years that I have been here, I’ve been shocked to see how things have come along. It’s been a lot of hard work for a whole lot of people, but I also cannot help but notice all of the things that have fallen into place in extraordinary ways. I cannot help but see God working through our intentional congregation.

Here’s the sticking point with me though. I’m concerned how this idea plays out in our society. I’ve watched The Secret, and I shuddered at the scene when the woman looks in the window, sees the diamond necklace, and through the law of attraction, it’s hers in a few days.

There’s also my father. He was a man with big dreams–huge, in fact. He wanted to break the second law of thermo-dynamics. He imagined that he could break our petroleum dependence by creating a new renewable energy source.

He didn’t build the machine that he always imagined. And now, after several small strokes, it looks like he’s run out of time. The sad fact is that he thinks of himself as a failure. After nine patents and a long, esteemed career at NASA. After becoming an expert in cryogenics, and watching over the development of so many rockets, at the end of his days, instead of looking at his accomplishments, all he sees is that he didn’t achieve his goal.

There are the tensions. When does our deepest joy spill over into our selfish greed? And when is it time to be grateful for what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, instead perpetuating a sense of failure when we don’t do what we’ve dreamed? How do you deal with the tensions?

4 thoughts on “I have a dream…

  1. I will pray for your father. It must be difficult when his greatest joy did in fact intersect with (arguably) the world’s greatest need (our dependence on petroleum).

    I think it goes back to the idea of who we are vs. what we do. Vocation is great, but it shouldn’t define who we are. Given how much time we spend at work, it’s difficult to separate yourself from that definition. And if you’re passionate about your work (as it sounds your father has been), then the struggle gets even tougher.

    I’ve often heard that you have to plan your work and work your plan, meaning you continually have to adapt both. I had a dream to be Chief of Chaplains for the U.S. Navy. However, that dream lived in tension with my reluctance to raise a family in the military. I now have a wonderful family and no commission. I’ve adapted my dreams based on each call I’ve had.

    I am feeling more as though God calls me to do some particular thing in some particular place. I too have imagined where I would be in five, ten, twenty years. The interesting thing is so far I haven’t been in any of those places. But I wouldn’t change one day.

  2. You can see yourself in five years? I can’t imagine it. Five years ago there is absolutely no way I could see me now. Six years ago it would have been even farther from my train of thought.

    I can’t imagine myself a year from now! I wouldn’t say that I don’t dream, but there is just so much else going on that it’s hard to break away from now to think about then.


  3. Five years ago, I didn’t think I would be here either, but I had an inkling about certain things….

    Thanks for the prayers, Patrick. It’s a sad story, isn’t it?

    It’s pretty interesting where you ended up, as a pastor so close to the Naval Training Station.

  4. Great post. I’d love to hear more about your 5-year dream (which is so different from a “5-year plan” isn’t it?

    My dad was like your in the dream department, but he never seemed to grasp the details of his dream (not true for yours it sounds like.) He died before they came to fruition, and yet, that’s part of the whole drama. We need to do what we dream of doing/be what we dream of being because we never know what could happen. And when we run out of time, it’s okay in a mysterious/cosmic way.

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