When I retired from teaching I had a lot of dreams that I wanted to fulfill in retirement. For example, I wanted to put together a woodshop and one of my first projects would be building a grandfather’s clock with a kit from Emperor Clocks in Alabama. I envisioned other things I would do, such as writing a book, traveling in the U.S. and abroad, etc. Dreams! I put those dreams in a journal that I began writing every day (and still do) after I retired and moved to Kansas from southern California. for the first few years, once every year I looked up those dreams in my journal and wrote a “progress report” in my journal about my successes and failures in achieving my “dreams” and what I planned to do about it the following year. Dreams are important! They give you a reason for being, for living!
I recently worked for several months with leaders of my home church to evaluate our church and what could be done to improve it. In the process we used the “Life Cycle of a Church” found in George Bullard’s book—Pursuing Your Full Kingdom Potential—-and decided we were in the “Maturity Phase” , which is one phase beyond the prime time of the church and beginning the downward part of the life cycle that leads toward death of the institution. One of the telling points in the committee’s decision was a decided lack of a “Vision” or “Dream” for our church. Vision is the first thing that disappears, according to Bullard, when a church begins a downward trend. When I asked the group of spiritual leaders who were gathered for evaluation what the vision was for our church, I was met with silence—-no clue.
Long ago, the writer of the Book of Proverbs wrote (KJV) “Without a vision, the people perish!” That is true, and without a vision, the church will perish. It has no raison d’etre, no ” reason for being”.
As I grow older I ponder two things—first, where I have been and what I have done, and where I am going and, secondly, what remains undone in that uncertain future that I have ahead of me. I guess I’m a lot like the late Robert Kennedy, who is quoted as saying: “Some people see things as they are, and say why? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not!?” When I give up dreaming you might as well bury me as I’m the “walking dead.”
Many people and many churches never achieve their full potential because they fail to dream big enough dreams! Churches, especially are weakened by their failure not only to dream big enough dreams of their church’s future but to dream God’s dream for them. However both ourselves, and our churches limit our potential if we do not dream large enough dreams and if we do not become aware of God’s dreams for us!
When I dreamed about my retirement I failed to dream large enough dreams. I achieved much of what I dreamed originally—-not all, but enough—on my list. But my life is full of much larger dreams and much larger achievemenst now because God had much larger dreams for me than I did for myself! For example, when I retired from teaching, I was going to build some things in a wood shop I would put together, write and travel—-God’s dream was for me to go back into ministry where I had originally started fresh out of seminary years ago. I became a pastor to 7 different churches in Kansas, after retiring from teaching—five of them as an interim minister helping put churches back together for the next pastor. It was also God’s dream for me to be a chaplain for three years in southeast Kansas and to touch numerous lives of patients and their families during their end of life experience. If God’s dream for me had not prevailed over my limited dreams for retirement I would be much less the fulfilled person that I presently am! A second example, I felt my dream was to retire with my wife of 50+ years and live out the rest of my life. But my wife died after 56 years of marriage and I found that God had other plans for me. Although the original dream was shattered by the death of my wife, God found me a wife at a church I served after my first wife’s death, and I am now enjoying a wonderful loving relationship with her in complete retirement! As my present wife and I express often—-it was a “God thing” that led us together and made life so much better for both of us than we could have dreamed. She lost her husband about the same time I lost my wife. God had other plans for both of us. God’s dream is always bigger and better than we can dream ourselves.
I need to ask you, my readers: “How big are your dreams?” “Have you included God in your dreams and are you trying to dream God’s dreams, as well as your own? We are never too old, and never too young to “dream dreams, and see visions”. Make sure that your dreams are “big enough” and that they are God’s dreams and visions for you. And we will be blessed by those larger dreams! That’s my experience!Amen.