Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Visionary Dreaming

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~John Muir

We grew up on vast continents whose stories are no less expansive than the landscape. The American west and Australian outback are characterized by sweeping western landscapes, uninhabited except for a few brave couples and the resulting children. Their stories, set against jagged mountains and oceans of grass, spoke to a deeply rooted desire for a simpler life within each of us. A simple life – one without fashion magazines and TV’s blaring, without incessant music and advertising, without all the soul-sapping features of modern life. It is no wonder we first fell in love exploring Thoreau together. Dreams of nature, solitude and beauty still inspire our souls and imaginations.
We have a dream of a place, a plot of land. We dream of a piece of land with a house large enough for a few guests, a home for one small part of the Body surrounded by vast spaces and big skies with a lake or ocean. It is a dream bred in vast continents with exploration histories, where land and landscape are known for their power to change and renew, inspire and kill. John Muir wrote, “everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
Our small corner of earth would be a place where people could go for study, reflection, relaxation, adventure, inspiration, prayer, renewal. A place where an evangelical pastor, a charismatic preacher, and a catholic priest could share a meal around a campfire or large table and, as brothers, have a hearty, challenging, and uniting discussion. A place where the world weary could find respite from the too heavy concerns that cling to the edges of the mind, even while asleep. A place where those who are searching, young or old, could read, study, ask questions, work the land, camp, and meet God. A place where backpackers could stop for a week or a year for an entirely different type of adventure as they search for themselves along the leaves and trails of the world. Our dream is of a love child between L’Abri and summer camp’s that was raised in a monastery. A small part of the Body working out what it is to love our Lord and each other from day to day, no matter who is in the room next door. A community centered around our Lord, prayer, work, exercise, worship, rest, adventure, solitude . . . We call it a retreat center, but perhaps a better word for it is a homestead, a homestead open to whoever passes by.
We have a dream. Some would accuse us of being visionary dreamers as it is a dream of Christian community, an ideal of life together with other believers. If you have read Life Together, you would remember that Bonhoeffer does not approve of visionary dreaming. In fact, “God hates visionary dreaming.” While Bonhoeffer’s original point, in context, is a good one, being a visionary and having dreams is not always bad. If the dream becomes the end in itself and the dream becomes more precious than our Lord and the broken reality of his Body, then it is abominable. And if it is a pipe dream – a hope that has yet to be fully explored or realized but a desire that is whispered over and over again, a dream that you hold with open hand and pray for God to do what he will, waiting without hope or thought . . .
Visionary dreaming? Maybe. But we are not dedicated to serving this ideal. It is merely a dream we are willing, even happy, to have God change, strip, redefine, or refine. Until then, we dream of going to the ‘woods because we wish to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if we could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when we come to die, discover that we have not lived’ (Thoreau).


Matt Stone said...

Yes it's good to dream of solitude and beauty and the space to appreciate it.

Craig Tubman said...

ahh, the shadrachs....Such a good read to start my Tuesday morning. Your my newest link.
As I read I could see the homestead in my minds eye. I could feel it and in a strange way was encouraged by a place that does not yet exist. Keep the dream, embrace whatever change comes in between.
brother craig

Scott said...

Found your blog and happy I have. Reading this post reminded me of the two of you, reminded me of Mike Hammonds farm, and made me want to throw out my TV. But the more I critique the culture I swim in the more I feel trapped by it. I'd visit your place.

Jim said...

AH&JH - Your blog has really been playing on my mind over the past week. In such a way that I am doing some strong thinking at the moment about Regent College as well. Would love to chat to you both upon your return to hear what you have to say. Go well.

Kristi said...

Hello, I share your visionary dream! I'm applying for Fall 2006 admission to Regent and was searching blogs to read Regent students' blog. I love your dream here - it's mine, too! - and, God permitting, I look forward to meeting you guys this fall.
=) Kristi kristiana77@earthlink.net