Monday, May 15, 2006

The Presentation of God in the Book of Revelation

The Presentation of God in the Book of Revelation
Prof. Thomas F. Johnson
George Fox University


[This "paper" is part of a larger project I am working on - the presentation of the character of God in the Bible. There is a lot of diversity in the Bible's presentation of who God is and what God does. It cannot all be easily reconciled. We should expect this, given the long time frame over which the biblical documents were written and the various viewpoints represented by their writers. Revelation was written by and for a Christian community undergoing intense suffering in the Roman province of Asia, probably at the end of the first century A.D. They, through their author, the prophet John (probably not an apostle), represent God in a way that supports their need for a divine deliverer who will vindicate them and judge their enemies, if not in this life, then in the life to come. Revelation is nothing like the book portrayed in recent best-selling popular fiction. For an analysis of the readers of that "literature," see Amy Frykholm, Rapture Culture (Oxford University Press, 2004).]

I. God as the source of Revelation
The Book of Revelation, at the beginning and at the end of the book, attributes the content of the book to God. In an extended chain of revelation God gave Jesus a revelation that he gave to “his angel,” who gave it to his servant John, who gave it to God’s servants in the seven churches of Asia (1:1). Revelation 22:6 describes a shorter process: “the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets” sent “his angel” to show his servants (presumably John and the seven churches) what must soon take place.

II. The gospel message is called the word of God
In a related subject, the gospel message that John and the martyrs (including the beheaded martyrs who will reign with Christ during the millennium – 20:4) have testified to is called “the word of God” (1:2, 9; 6:9). The prophecies of Revelation may also be referred to as “the words of God” (17:17; 19:9; and “the words of the prophecy” in 1:3; 22:7, 9, 10, 18, 19, and “these words” in 21:5 and 22:6). Christ himself, the rider on the white horse (19:13), is also called “The Word of God” (as in the prologue to the Fourth Gospel).

III. Names, descriptions, and the character of God
A. God is called Lord, God, and the Almighty.
This includes the combination Lord God (1:8; 4:8; 18:8; 22:5), “our Lord and our God” (4:11), “the Lord of the earth” (11:4), “Lord God, the Almighty” (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 21:22); , “the Lord our God, the Almighty” (19:6), “God the Almighty” (16:14; 19:15), and “the God of heaven” (11:13; 16:11).
B. God is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
Twice in Revelation God says "I am the Alpha and the Omega" (1:8; 21:6), ironically at the beginning and the end of the book. In 22:13 Jesus says he is “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
C. God is the one who was, and is, and is to come (1:4, 6; 4:8; contra. 17:8, 11!) God is also called “You who are and who were” without reference to the future (11:17; 16:5).
D. God is the one who lives forever (4:9, 10; 10:6; 15:7; cf. 11:15)
E. God is the King (15:3) who has a kingdom (1:6; 5:10; 11:15; 12:10) and has begun to reign (11:17).
F. Like a King, God is the one who sits on the throne in heaven.
Beginning with the vision in chapter four , Revelation frequently returns to the heavenly throne room and refers to God as the one who is seated on the throne (e.g., 4:1-2, 9-10; 5:13; 6:15; 7:9-11, 15; 19:4). One of the culminating events of the book is the great white throne judgment (20:11) from which God judges all the dead. From this throne God pronounces, “Behold, I am making all things new (21:5), and in the end God shares this throne with the Lamb (7:17; 22:1, 3).
G. By far the largest category of passages that deal directly with God are those that show God as one who is worthy of worship in all its forms. All beings (heavenly and earthly) give God worship in various ways and tell the reader to do the same. The vocabulary of worship in Revelation is as follows:
1. Worship (proskuneō) (4:10; 7:11; 11:1, 16; 14:7; 15:4; 19:4, 10; 22:9); Everything in all creation worships God and the Lamb (5:13-14). (There are more uses of proskuneō for worshiping the beast in Revelation than for God! Clearly there was spiritual competition going on in John’s readers’ situation!)
2. Glory (doxa) (1:6; 4:9, 11; 5:13; 7:12; 11:13; 14:7; 15:4, 8, 9; 16:9; 19:1, 7; 21:11, 23)
3. Honor (timē) (4:9, 11; 5:13; 7:12)
4. Thanksgiving (eucharistia) (4:9; 7:12; 11:17)
5. “Dominion” (kratos) (1:6; 5:13)
6. “Power” (dunamis). Worshipers celebrate God’s power (4:11; 7:12; 11:17; 12:10; 19:1) and God uses it (15:8; 16:9).
7. “Authority” (exousia) (12:10)
8. “Great” (mega, megalē). God’s day of wrath is great (6:17; 16:14), as is God’s power (11:17), God’s works (15:3), God’s supper (19:17), and God’s white throne (20:11).
9. Marvelous (thaumastion) (15:3)
10. Might (ischus) (7:12; 18:8)
11. Blessing (eulogia) (5:13; 712)
12. Wisdom (sophia) (7:12)
13. Service (latreuō) (7:15; 22:3)
14. Fear (phobos, phobeō) (11:18; 14:7; 15:4; 19:5)
15. Salvation (sōtēria) (7:10; 19:1; cf. 12:10)
16. Amen (amēn) (5:14; 7:12; 19:4; cf. 1:6)
17. Hallelujah (allēlouia) (19:1, 3, 4, 6)
18. Praise (aineō) (19:5)
H. God or God’s ways are described as holy, righteous, and/ or true. Isaiah’s vision of God is quoted in Rev. 4:6: “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty” (Isa. 6:3). God is the Holy One (16:5) and holy and true (6:10). God’s character is righteous (16:5) and his ways, acts, and judgments are also true and righteous (15:3-4; 16:7; 19:2).
I. Revelation even attempts to describe God’s physical appearance as one who “looks like jasper and carnelian” (4:3 NRSV).

IV. God’s relationship with Christ, Jesus, or the Lamb
Revelation emphasizes the unity of God with the Lamb, Jesus. God is called both Jesus’ God and his Father (1:6; 2:27; 3:5, 21; 14:1). Jesus calls God “my God” five times in Revelation (3:2; 3:12 – four times). Jesus is the Son of God (2:18) and the Messiah of God (12:10). He is also called the beginning of the creation of God (3:14). Both God and the Lamb receive worship (5:13). Both of their names are written on the foreheads of the 144,000 (14:1). Both are called Alpha and Omega (1:8; 21:6; 22:13) and “holy and true” (3:7; 6:10). They share the same throne (3:21; 7:17; 22:1, 3) and are jointly the temple in the New Jerusalem (21:22). Both have priests in the millennial kingdom (20:6). They each send an angel to inform believers about the near future (1:1; 22:6), and both command John to write what he sees and hears (1:11, 19; 14:3; 19:9; 21:5). Jesus the Lamb also shares God’s title of Lord and King (17:14; 19:16).

Jesus takes several actions in relation to God. Her receives authority from God (2:27), confesses the name of the faithful before God (3:5), takes the seven-sealed book or scroll from God (5:7), purchased for God with his blood people from all nations (5:9) and made them a kingdom and priests to God (5:10).

V. God’s relationship with the Spirit

Revelation refers to “seven (s)Spirits of God (3:1; 4:5 ; 5:6), and after three days the (s)Spirit or breath of life from God comes into the two witnesses, causing them to live again (11:11). Somewhat less direct is the reference to God as the God of the spirits of the prophets (22:6).

VI. God and the Angels

Seven angels stand before God (8:2), and in one instance they mediate the prayers of the saints (8:4). An angel swears by God’s name and when he blows his trumpet the “mystery of God” will be fulfilled (10:6-7). God also sends his angel to show his people what must soon take place (22:6; cf. 1:1).

VII. God’s relationship with human beings

Multitudes of people stand before God: an uncountable redeemed multitude from all the peoples of the earth (7:9), the 144,000 who sing God a new song (14:3), and all the dead, the great and the small, awaiting his judgment (20:12). More specifically:

A. God is blasphemed by human beings. Inspired by Satan or the beast who blasphemes against God and his name (13:6), rebellious humanity refuses to repent, does not give God glory, and blasphemes the name of God (16:9, 11, 21). They worship dumb idols and demons, instead of God (9:20).

B. Judgment. The most prominent (by frequency) action God takes in Revelation is in God’s role as Judge, the one who punishes, avenges, and rewards or is expected to do so. In 6:10 the martyrs ask God how long it will be before he judges and avenges them. The twenty-four elders in heaven, who probably symbolize the entire people of God, Israel and the Church, give God thanks, because he judges the dead, rewards his people, especially the [Christian] prophets, and destroys those who destroy the earth (11:18). An angel announces that the time for God to judge has come (14:7) and celebrates God for justly judging and avenging the blood of the martyrs by giving their enemies blood to drink, just as they deserve (16:5-7). The city of Babylon, probably symbolizing Rome, is singled out for God’s avenging judgment in Revelation 17-19 (e.g., 18:8, 20; 19:2). In Revelation 20 God sits on his great white throne to judge all the dead according to their deeds from the books, including the book of life (20:12-13).

C. Wrath and anger. Closely related to this are the many passages where God exercises wrath (ovrgh/) and anger (qumo,j) against the ungodly. The day of God’s and the Lamb’s wrath has come against which no one can stand (6:17). The twenty-four elders celebrate the coming of God’s wrath against the destructive nations (11:18). In 14:10 an angel announces that those who serve the beast “will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (cf. 14:19 – “the great wine press of the wrath of God; 19:15 – “the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty”). In chapters 15-16, the seven bowls full of the wrath of God (15:7) are poured out upon humanity (16:1) and especially upon Babylon the great (16:19; cf. 18:5). This completes God’s wrath or brings it to an end (15:1). Related to this theme of God’s wrath are the warnings with which Revelation concludes: God will add the plagues of Revelation to anyone who adds to its prophetic words and take away their part in the tree of life from those who take away from its prophecy (22:18-19).

Due to these aspects of God’s action against them, it is no surprise that sinful people flee from God’s presence. “The kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man . . . said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb . . . .” (6:16). Even heaven and earth flee from his presence when God takes his throne to judge the world (20:11).

D. God’s people have a different relationship with God. Though they are accused night and day before God by Satan (12:10), Jesus Christ the Lamb has “made them to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (1:6; 5:10). The 144,000 have been purchased for God by the blood of the Lamb as first fruits (5:9; 14:3-4). They serve God day and night (7:15; 22:3; cf. 15:13, Moses is God’s servant). God seals people with his seal (7:3; 9:4), preaches the gospel to them (10:7), and hears their prayers (8:4). In chapter eleven God breathes life into his two witnesses (11:11), and in chapter twelve God catches up the “child” of the “woman” and prepares a place for her in the wilderness (12:5-6). Those who die in the Lord are blessed (14:13).

E. Final actions. In the end God will make all things new (21:5). Earthly kingdoms will become God’s kingdom (11:15; 12:10), and God will reign forever (11:15). God will send the New Jerusalem from heaven to earth (21:2, 10), and there God will make his home with his people (21:3) and have his throne (22:3). He will be their tabernacle and temple (21:3, 22; 15:5 identifies these two) and will cause them to see his face (22:4), to have his name on their foreheads (22:4) and to be his children (21:7). In that New Jerusalem God will be its shining glory (21:11); therefore the city will need no sun nor moon (21:23) nor lamplight (22:5). God will wipe every tear from the eyes of his people (7:17; 21:4) and freely give the water of life to the thirsty (21:6; 22:1). God commands John to write all this down (21:5).

VIII. God created everything
Recalling the Old Testament as well as early Christian (even Johannine) tradition, Revelation affirms God’s creation of all things (4:11 – “for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created;" 10:6 - “who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it” [NRSV]). It is also a way of affirming God’s sovereignty in times of tribulation. God is in control because God created everything. Humans should “fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; [and] worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters" (14:7).

IX. The sovereignty of God
Although the destructive, afflictive, and corrupt actions of evil powers (human and heavenly) are given wide range in Revelation’s visions, God remains sovereign, guiding the world and especially his people toward God’s goals for them. God’s sometimes secret sovereignty is directly revealed in Revelation 17:17, when an angel tells John that “God has put it in their hearts [the hearts of the evil powers] to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.”

Another way in which the actions of God are evident in the Book of Revelation, even when God’s name is not mentioned, is the frequent use of the passive voice, the so-called “divine passive.” In the New Testament use of the passive voice often points to God’s action when no actor or subject is specified. For example, there are seventeen examples in Revelation of the verb didōmi used in the passive voice. All of them imply permission given from some higher power or authority. In many cases that power is most logically God. For example, in Rev. 6: 2, 4, and 8 riders on three of the four horses of destruction are given something with which to carry out their actions. Angels are given powers in 7:2, 8:2, and 9:1. Other verbs also appear in the passive voice. The child of the woman in chapter twelve “was caught up” to God (12:5). In 12:10 and 13, Satan is thrown down from heaven to earth.

XI. Things God has, or that are associated with God, or “before God”
Finally, in addition to what has already been referenced above (throne of God, servants and people of God, word(s) of God, etc.), there are many things Revelation states that God has, or that are associated with God, or that are simply “before” God. There is a paradise of God (2:7), a city of God, the New Jerusalem (3:12), a temple of God (3:12; 7:15; 11:1, 19), a tabernacle of God (7:15; 21:3), an ark of His covenant (11:19), a golden altar before God (9:13), a special name of God (3:12), a right hand of God that holds a seven-sealed book (5:1), a seal of God (7:2; 9:4), a mystery of God (10:7), commandments of God (12:17; 14:12), harps of God (15:2), a great day of God (16:14), and a great supper of God (19:17).
XII. What is missing about God in Revelation
While the love of Jesus is mentioned in 1:5, 3:9, and 3:19, it is surprising that the love of God, so prominent in the other Johannine writings, is absent from Revelation. So is mercy or forgiveness. God’s grace and peace are mentioned in the opening salutation (1:4; cf. 22:21). All five uses of God as Father are with respect to Jesus (1:6; 2:27; 3:5; 3:21; 14:1) not to human beings, though in Rev. 21:7 the one who overcomes will be “God’s son.”

Copyright © 2006 Thomas F. Johnson, George Fox University

Saturday, May 06, 2006

UAL Flight 232 7-19-89

United Airlines
Flight 232 – 7/19/89

Apricot chicken
or seafood newburg,
the flight attendant asks.
I choose the chicken,
Iowa boy
no shoreline to the farm.
But this bird can't fly either
and I come home to rest
among the corn.

Lettuce - a poem

Lettuce

Lettuce
she says
contains a natural sedative
inducing salad sleep
in cal'rie wary dieters.
I keep to burgers
wide awake
until I die.

Norton Ford

Sacrament - a poem

Sacrament

I see a sacrament
in bread and wine
and cheese and chocolate
and good strong beer,
all vehicles of godly grace
which bring me cheer
and join my soul
to some most holy place.

The Presence - Part II

The Sense of the Presence

I know that the authority for the truthfulness of what I am saying here is shaky. It may seem to you completely insubstantial. You do not sense this Presence, and I am saying that I do, and you cannot know whether I am telling the truth, am mistaken, or am just nuts. Yes, it is what it is. I am testifying to my own experience as faithfully as I can. I do not know whether you can connect with it. I hope you will think about it, because it is a very good thing, perhaps, you may feel, too good to be true, just so much wishful thinking.

I respect that, but I can tell you that it doesn’t seem like wishful thinking. When I engage in wishful thinking, there is a kind of emptiness to it, a sense of fantasy, like thoughts that have no foundation, mere hypotheses not yet tested by experience. It might be fun, but I know that it is a game, a game I am generating. The Presence, though, comes to me, initiates Itself, confronts me, “plays” me.

This very moment, at 5:33 AM, a message popped up on my screen, without my asking for it, that a friend had just “signed in” on the network I am using. That’s how the Presence is. It just “signs in,” comes to you, uninvited. It is the Reality in which I am included; I am not the reality in which It is included.

I am not appealing to the authority of any scriptures for this. I am not asking you to believe it because the Bible, or the Koran, or the Bhagavad Gita says so. They do say so, but those writings cannot have any authority for you, unless you already know the Presence through one of these traditions. (And there are other traditions, traditions that may not even have scriptures, that witness to the same Presence, such as the Native American way.)

For now I am relying on something the Quaker mystic George Fox said: “There is that of God in everyone.” The Presence is universal and is available to every person. The Light of that Presence burns, perhaps dimly, within us and is also outside of us. That is, to use more technical theological language, it is both immanent and transcendent. We can all know the Presence, if we will. The apostle Paul said,
(Acts 17:27-28) "he is not far from each one of us. 28 For in him we live and move about and exist" (New English Translation).

The Presence and “Religion”
I am not talking about being “religious.” A person may or may not be “religious,” as people use that word and experience the Presence. In fact, I think that “religion” often gets in the way of experiencing, coming to know and live in accord with, the Presence. At its best it facilitates the Presence. The practices of various religions, at their root, are intended to help us know God, though it is quite true that fundamentalists in every religion mistake the means for the end. For them, the Bible or the Koran itself becomes an object of worship. Sacraments and rituals become a law and a source of argument and division. This has the effect of driving people away from God and making the Presence less credible. One would not buy a car from such people, let alone “buy” their god.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Presence - Part I

The Presence

I have the sense that our lives are surrounded at all times by a personal, benevolent, loving Presence, a Presence that is pure, right, or true and that sees and knows. I can no more deny the reality of this Presence than I can the reality of my own existence. The sense of it is just as real.

I got up at 3:45 this morning to write this. I felt that I wanted to get up, that I was free to, that it would be good to record this observation, this sense I was experiencing and that is really the truth about what I always experience or feel.

This Presence leaves me with many questions, but there is a sense of joy that we get to have questions and that asking them is also all right. It is a good and natural thing, not to know and, therefore, to ask. But the not knowing is itself also just fine. One can rest in not knowing.

How It is for me

I say that I sense this, but I am also saying that I think that it is true for everyone in the world, all humans. Not that everyone senses it, or that I do all the time. But that it is true for them, for us. Everyone is at all times and in all places surrounded by this specific Presence.

I call it Ultimate Reality. I believe it is what human beings from the earliest dawning of human consciousness have called, in their various languages, God. We capitalize it because it is not just a power, a presence, but the Power, the Presence. It is the dominant, ultimate reality at the root of all things. I use the pronoun “It” for the Presence to avoid misunderstandings associated with the pronouns “he/she,” “him/her,” etc. But this “It” is utterly personal, not impersonal, not a mere “force.” Paul Tillich called it “the Ground of Being.”

I have come at this sense of the Presence through the Christian tradition, but I believe, though I cannot know this, that the Presence is accessible through other traditions. We like to say that “God has not left himself without a witness.” At this very moment, 4:22 AM PDT, someone in China, someone in India, someone in Africa, someone who is not a Christian, senses this Presence and knows that it is true and good.

It is also true that people flee from this Presence in fear, even in terror. This is because we recognize the enormous gap, the chasm, between our own lives, our flawed, selfish, and hurtful character, and the character of the One who surrounds us and is always there. And this difference causes us to be afraid. (Of course, if you have not yet realized this about yourself, you are not yet ready to be afraid. Be patient: you can still hope that it will come to you.)

The Hebrew Psalmist knew this Presence and his first thought was “Escape!”:
(Psalm 139:7-12) "7 Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee to escape your presence? 8 If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there. If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be. 9 If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn, and settle down on the other side of the sea, 10 even there your hand would guide me, your right hand would grab hold of me. 11 If I were to say, "Certainly the darkness will cover me, and the light will turn to night all around me," 12 even the darkness is not too dark for you to see, and the night is as bright as day; darkness and light are the same to you" (New English Translation).

The writer goes on to say that this Presence knows us and has always known us, from the very beginning of our biological existence, completely and thoroughly.

Yet once we realize, and I do not know how this happens, and for some people it apparently never happens, that this Holy Presence is good and intends our good, then opens the possibility that we might stop running, stop being afraid of the Presence, and submit to it.

Submission is the right word, because it is a matter of Will, our will, our way, our wanting, even thinking that we need, to be in control of everything about our own lives. The Presence lets us believe this and lets us try to live this way. The Presence knows that we will discover that it doesn’t work. Sooner or later we realize (though some may never do so) that this doesn’t work. Our way doesn’t work. The assertion of our will doesn’t work. We are unable to bend the universe to do our will. We cannot get our children, or our spouse, or the people we work with, to do our will. Maybe like the apostle Paul we discover that even we ourselves do not do our own will.
(Romans 7:15) "15 For I don't understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want– instead, I do what I hate." (Romans 7:18-19) "18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want!" (New English Translation)

The problem, the very good problem, is that we are trying, without knowing it, to be the Presence. We are trying to be our own god. I am trying to be my own god. This is not good for us. It hurts us, but we keep on trying, until we die, or stop, and turn, and know the Presence, and submit to it, utterly and completely, with all our honest intention, submit to let the Presence be God and to do its will, in all things, at all times, and in all places, to do the will of the Presence.
(“Islam” means “submission, and a “Muslim” is one who submits.)

For most of us it takes all our lives to learn this. We must daily re-learn this submission, the submission of our will to the will of the Presence. A few fortunate ones apparently give up all resistance immediately, once and for all. And perhaps we all would do this much earlier and much more thoroughly if we knew how much we are loved and cherished by the Presence.

TJ's Brief Bio - Thanksgiving 2007



This is my 11th and last year working at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. I have had a variety of roles: interim president (97-98), dean of the seminary (97-01), professor of biblical theology (97-present), and a teacher in several departments (graduate and undergraduate): seminary, business, religion, and education. I am a generalist and someone who likes change and challenge.

By Myers-Briggs type (a tool I have found very helpful) I am an INFJ. The N (intuitive) and the J (need for closure and decision) are quite strong. The I (introversion) and the F (feeling as a way to make decisions) less so, as I sometimes test as a T (thinking as a dominant decision-making style), and my E (extraversion) has been getting stronger over the years.

A few years ago I did the Gallup organization's StrengthsFinder, which tests, out of 34 areas of possible personality strength, the five you are highest in. My top five are: Activator, Maximizer, Strategic, Relator, and Learner. You can find out more about this test and its usefulness and validity at www.strengthsquest.com/.

I am married to Michele (CPA and MBA) who retired last year from teaching accounting at GFU and before that at the University of Sioux Falls (SD). We have three grown and married children in their 30's, all involved in research, and two grandchildren. We currently live in Dundee, Oregon, but we are moving next summer to Coupeville, WA on Whidbey Island.

We have lived in Michigan (where we met, went to Wayne State University, and were married), California (where I went to Fuller Seminary), New Jersey (where I went to Princeton Seminary), Pennsylvania and Michigan [again](where we were in pastoral ministry and teaching), North Carolina (where I did my Ph.D. at Duke, and Michele taught special education), and South Dakota for 19 years, where we raised our family, taught college and seminary, did college administration, church work, and enjoyed the wide-open Dakota prairies and their hard-working, friendly people. I am thankful, since moving to the Northwest, not to own a snow shovel; there were winters in SD when even the neighbor’s full-size John Deere had a tough time plowing us out!

I love baseball and am a lifelong Detroit Tiger fan. Duke basketball takes care of the colder season of the year.

The best novel I’ve read in the past few years is Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow. I found it immensely satisfying.

While I am a fan of folk music, blue grass, and oldtime rock and roll, I could listen to Mozart all day.

I am also interested in Christian theology and spirituality and recommend Robert Mulholland’s Invitation to a Journey as an introduction.

Sailboat Dream


SAILBOAT DREAM
September 10, 1994


It is four something A.M., and this is what I remember of the dream I just had.

Michele and I were on a small sail boat on a lake in - was it? - a foreign country. We were sailing for a while with somewhat favorable winds; really, it was almost a cross wind. We approached an inlet where a river with a swift current was flowing out of the lake. I remember that we were wearing dress clothes, not appropriate for sailing. The boat started to head down the fast-moving river, but I realized that we could not keep following it, though it made the sailing easy! So I beached the small boat on a bank of the river.

We turned it around, and I knew that I would have to tack the small, narrow boat back and forth somewhat against the wind, and against the current of the river for a ways, before we could get back to where we had started. Where was that?

As we started back, it was later in the afternoon than I liked. Was it getting darker, stormier? I did not know whether or for how long we would be able to tack against the winds. Were the winds increasing? Were the waves higher? We had too much luggage with us, a picnic cooler that was too big for the seemingly smaller boat and another piece of luggage, like a suitcase. They had to be left or dumped in the water.

I don't think there were any life jackets. We could both swim but not all that well and not for very long. What if we got water in the boat? There was nothing to bail with.

At that point I woke up, still with the pictures from the dream in my mind and thought immediately about the enrollment of the college and the news I had heard that previous afternoon that we were down and down a lot. The meaning of the dream became clear.

I tried to sleep but the picture of the small sailing boat persisted. It was like one I'd seen some Cuban boat people on, but this one was barely big enough for two. It now seemed more like a kayak with a sail and a rudder. If we were going to get safely to the destination, we needed a motor. Why hadn't I thought of that before? Then I looked back and there was no gunwhale, no place to attach a motor! It was the wrong kind of boat for a motor, and certainly not the right kind of boat for these weather and water conditions.

As I awoke and went downstairs to write down the dream, I was uncertain whether to stay where we were and wait out the storm, wait for more favorable conditions for the kind of boat we had, or to get a different kind of boat, one with a motor and a little bigger.

Tom Johnson, President
Sioux Falls College

Epilogue - May 5, 2006 We got a bigger boat. In 1996 we changed the name of the college to the University of Sioux Falls. The college began to grow. We added masters programs. We became financially solvent. We tore down old buildings and cleared land for development. I left the college in 1997 to work at George Fox University in Oregon.

My successor, Mark Benedetto, has done a fine job, with strong leadership from the University Board of Trustees, in the past nine years building enrollment, new facilities, and programs. When I left we had about 950 students; today there are over 1600.