I was one of a small group of writers and editors who were part of the faculty and staff for the annual God Uses Ink conference. On the night before the conference began, we were told that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada was unable to continue putting on God Uses Ink, and so this would be the last year.
I’d been coming to the conference since 1988, and it was my only tangible link to other writers and editors. The others in our group felt the same way I did—that we had to find a way to keep it going—but no one knew how to do that, and there were a lot of glum people.
I woke up very early Thursday morning with an idea I felt God had given me. I phoned my husband Les and asked him if he thought our new publishing company, That’s Life! Communications, could somehow provide a way to do banking so that we could continue the conference.
Knowing my goal was to write full-time while Les and I started a church plant in the area we’d just moved into, Les asked me if I was sure this what God wanted me to do.
“Yes,” I said. I can only say I knew in my heart we had to do whatever we could to keep the conference going. No matter what happened, I had peace about it.
“Okay, then,” he said. “Tell them you’ll do it.”
Of course, our plans to keep a little conference going soon expanded into all that The Word Guild encompasses as God kept giving me a larger and larger vision. And our plans to start a church and my plan to write full-time went out the window.
However, in those first months as we struggled to understand exactly what it was God wanted us to do, God spoke to both Les and me in different ways. I dreamed about a map of Canada with little flames popping up all over, first a few and then more and more, until the whole country was engulfed in flame, but the map didn’t burn up. The same week, without knowing about my dream, Les had a dream in which a map of
Of course, many other people, in particular Wendy Nelles, have also played major roles in making The Word Guild a reality, and Imago allowed us to become a project of theirs, which allowed us to raise money and give tax receipts, which both gave us credibility and helped us stay afloat.
God chose to give me not only a vision of what was needed, but also awareness of the steps that had to be taken, determination to make it happen, and faith that if we just went ahead and did what we had to do, God would look after the results.
God gave Wendy a related vision, and a lot of determination and faith. Even though we barely knew each other before we started The Word Guild, God uniquely prepared us to work closely together. I’ve often referred to her as the quality-control person. She’s been the one ensuring that everything we did was always done to the best of our abilities. So many times we’d do something and she’d say, “Let me see it one more time” and I would give it to her very reluctantly because I just wanted to be finished with it. Other times, she took the rudimentary idea I had and expanded and improved it to make it much stronger.
And many others came on board, taking large and small roles, and growing the vision into reality. We’ve also had a very strong prayer team, without whom we’d have been sunk long ago.
God often chooses to work that way. He lets one or two people see the possibilities in his mind—see what he sees—and then he lets them run with it. And then—sometimes sooner, sometimes later—he brings others to work alongside them and supply all the rest of what’s needed. Because of course a vision is only a beginning, and there is so much more that has to happen to bring that vision to reality. Bringing a vision to life is a lot more like a team relay race than an individual marathon.
And so The Word Guild has grown from a vague hope of keeping a little conference alive to a national organization of over 300 people, and much more. And I feel that God has now told me it’s time to pass my baton on to others.
In four days, I’ll turn 60. No, it doesn’t seem possible. Inside, I feel about 18. But while in some ways, I feel I’ve earned the right to take it a bit easier from now on, at the same time, I’m not retiring from my journey with God, and I actually can’t wait to see what vision God gives me next. I have the glimmerings of one; but not the full picture. Yes, I’ll still be part of The Word Guild—just no longer the driving part. And I will continue to write, speak, and teach.
Thinking about all this has led me to spend some time considering the nature of visions.
I think God wants to give all of us some kind of vision—something to hold on to and strive toward. A vision can give us that sense of purpose and significance that we are all born needing. It may only encompass what he wants us to become, or it may be a larger vision for our family, our community, or our country. It may come gradually, growing larger as we grow older and wiser. Or it may come in an instant, when we suddenly know what we have to do. Some of us may have one vision that grows with us as we grow. Others may have a series of visions that may or may not appear to be related.
Most visions call for us to do something that isn’t easy to do. They may require putting other plans aside for a time, as I did when we started The Word Guild. Or they may require us to leave family and friends behind, as the disciples did when Jesus called on them to follow him, and as Abraham and Sarah did when God called them to go to a new land. They may even lead to suffering—as happened to Joseph, Paul, and many others.
And then there was Noah. What a totally strange vision he was given! Build an enormous boat in the middle of the desert. And the strangest part of it is that the story in Genesis doesn’t even mention his questioning God, as Moses and Gideon and others did. It just says, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Talk about faith! Talk about seeing something God wanted and putting everything else aside and doing it!
When I look back on my life, I really look back on a series of visions from God—from teaching high school to planting churches, homeschooling, leading small groups, working with World Team, writing, The Word Guild… Often, it began with just a vague idea of what God wanted, and then my vision grew and grew as I got into it. Usually, I started with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm because it was new, and then it slowly become less fun and more work, until sometimes it seemed almost drudgery. I recall moments when I felt I had become a slave to this thing I had helped create, and I wanted nothing more than to be released from it. But then a new challenge would appear, and my enthusiasm would come back.
And then there would be a point at which I knew it was time for me to move on, that my part was completed. God’s timing is always right. And there is so much more joy when you know you have run the race, and the baton has been passed on…
For some reason, 60 is feeling like a really good age to me. And God has assured me that he still has exciting things for me to do—a new baton for me to pick up. My prayer is that, like Noah, when God gives me something else to do, I’ll just go and do it.
My prayer for you is that as 2008 begins, God will give you a vision that will make your life worth living, and you will eagerly grab for the baton.