"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 7, 2016
This past Sunday morning, our youth pastor shared with us a story that his brother had written when he was eleven years old. It was very good and had a great message. I want to share a very abbreviated version with you. (I am putting this in my own words, due to not having a copy of the original story.)
There were three trees in a section of a forest that was used for cutting timber to use to build things for the king. One of the trees was tall and slim and had a dream of being used as furniture for the king's house. Another tree was fat and had lots of wood to be used and dreamed of being used in the king's house, also. The third tree was a small tree. One day he had seen the king and his wife pass by, holding a baby. He loved babies, and dreamed of one day being used to build a crib for a baby.
The three trees were passed over year after year, the foresters thinking perhaps they would be big enough the following year to serve a useful purpose. One year, the tall and the fat trees were chosen to be used in the king's house. They were so excited that their dream was finally going to be fulfilled. They were filled with pride at how beautiful they were, once they had been built into furniture that the king would use.
The foresters looked at the little tree, thinking that there was nothing useful he could do. They went ahead and cut him down and sent him to the carpenters shop. There the little tree stayed for the next few years.
Finally, the carpenter decided to build a new stable. After he was finished, he saw the little tree and thought perhaps it would would be suitable as a manger. The tree was so disappointed that his dream wasn't going to come true. Instead, he was placed in a stinky stable and filled with scratchy hay. He was miserable.
One day the king called for a census to be taken, where people had to go to their own ancestral homes. People began flocking into the town, and the manger watched, hoping that perhaps he would see a baby.
One night, a man and his pregnant wife came into the stable to sleep, for they had no where else to go. During the night, the wife gave birth to a baby boy. She asked her husband if perhaps he could find a soft place to lay the newborn baby. He looked around, saw the manger and dumped out the dirty hay that was inside. He filled it with fresh, clean hay and laid the baby on top. The little tree was so excited that finally he was getting to fulfill his dream of one day being a crib for a baby.
After a while, some shepherds came inside to see the baby. Then, to the surprise of the manger, they all bowed down and worshipped this newborn. What was going on? He listened and heard them say that an angel had came to tell them that the Messiah had been born.
That little tree was truly humbled as he realized that the fulfillment of his dream was so much greater than anything he had ever imagined. All of his life, his dream had been to be used as a crib for a baby in the king's house. Instead, he was used to served as a crib to the King -- the Messiah. (The end.)
Many years ago, there was a book written named The Dream Giver (by Bruce Wilkinson). It is an allegory and tells the story of a man named ordinary, who was given a dream by the Dream Giver. He left the land of familiar to head out on his journey. Along the way he faced many obstacles and faced giants and bullies. He was told to give up. Even though there were times that he grew discouraged, he determinedly kept going. At the end, he faced giants who were beating him down and he felt as if it were impossible. Ordinary called out to the Dream Giver. The Dream Giver told him that yes, it was impossible and would take a miracle. But that He would help and the dream would be achieved, if he didn't give up.
Prior to reaching his destination, Ordinary ran across someone called the Wounded Warrior, who was lying bleeding and dying along the path. He said that he didn't know why God hadn't allowed him to see the fulfillment of his dream, but that he had gone ahead of Ordinary and fought giants, in order for him to one day reach his goal.
That reminded me of my brother-in-law, Jimmy. As pastor of a deaf church, his goal and dream for them was to have their own property. For many years, he encouraged the church to save money, so that one day that dream would be realized. Before it happened, Jimmy passed away from brain cancer. He wasn't here to see the fulfillment of the deaf church buying their own buildings and property. But he fought giants and prepared the path for the church to be able to do so.
I truly believe that God places within each of us a dream. Often we miss it, because we are looking for something grandiose. We think that it has to be magnificent and kind of like Mary, the mother of Jesus, there will be an angel appear to us and give us the message of what we're to do or what's going to happen. Maybe not quite that extreme, but we tend to look at other people who seem to be doing great things, and think that our dream will look the same.
In the first story that I used, the little tree's dream was to be used as a crib in the king's house. When that didn't happen, he thought that he had missed out or had misunderstood his dream. When he was made into a manger instead, he was miserable. He thought that his dream had died. But there was an even greater purpose intended for him, that he never even imagined.
Often what God places in our heart may seem impossible, so we try and minimize it. Other times, we are afraid to dream too big, afraid that it won't come to pass and we'll be disappointed.
What does a dream look like? It may not be something that is in the spotlight. It may not be anything that will bring us recognition. But it will serve a purpose and God will use it to bring Him glory; at least God-driven dreams will be.
I also believe that our dreams will expand and change as we mature and our life situation changes. I don't have the same dream today that I did when I was a teenager or when I was a single woman. I don't think that God gives us one dream per lifetime, and that's it; but I am convinced that as our dreams are fulfilled, God will grow something bigger in our heart; something else to work towards. At times, there may be a waiting period until we see the realization of what's in our heart to come to pass. We may face giants and naysayers and criticism. We may have to keep our focus on God, and hold fast to faith, as we wait.
When I was single, my heart's desire was to meet the right man and get married. I prayed, I waited, I prayed some more, and I waited even longer. I had someone tell me that I was being too picky, and perhaps I needed to lower my standards. But I chose to wait, until God sent the right man for me to marry. I didn't want to get involved in the wrong relationship, and spend my life regretting it.
In the meantime, I had a career as a supervisor in a bank, which I excelled at. I was involved in my church; serving as secretary, pianist, and in various other positions. I didn't sit at home, waiting for my dream to be fulfilled, but I worked and occupied my time, as I prayed and waited.
Then the day came, that it came to pass. I moved to Oklahoma, met Jon a few months later, we became friends, started dating 5 months later, got engaged and was married 13 months after we began dating. I don't believe that that was my one and only God-given lifetime dream; but God has continued placing within me other dreams.
A few years ago, my dream was to be a stay at home wife. The first couple of years of our marriage, our finances were not where we could even imagine that ever happening. Things were pretty tight money-wise.... actually, it was incredibly tight and a financial struggle. But our circumstances began changing over time, and we made the decision for me to quite working full-time and stay at home. We can see how God's hand was in that decision! So many things have happened over the years, where God has used me to give support and aid and help to family; which I would have been unable to do, had I had a career.
In addition, I've always loved writing and had a dream to be able to do so in some form. One morning in March of 2007, I was making my bed and God dropped the idea in my mind of writing a weekly newsletter with a devotional in it. I didn't really know how it all would work. I talked to Jon about it and he was supportive and offered his aid in setting up our website and being an active part in publishing our newsletter and writing his own paragraph in it weekly. Almost ten years later, we're still going strong! God placed this dream within my heart and we've seen him bless our efforts.
I will say this: There have been times when writing this weekly newsletter has been discouraging. There have been weeks when it's been inconvenient. There have been occasions when I've wondered if anyone is even paying attention or reading what we write; or if it's beneficial or encouraging or helping anyone. We have a counter where Jon can see how many readers we've had each week. There have been times when we've only had 3 or 4, and occasionally have had as many as 30-40. But we often don't get any feedback, so don't know if anything we're saying is helping anyone. But we keep going, because we believe that it's a God-given dream and our responsibility to continue writing this weekly newsletter.
I don't believe that God is finished placing dreams within my heart. I believe that He has bigger and greater things for me to do, that I cannot even comprehend or imagine.
What is the dream that God has place in your heart? We're all just like Ordinary; living normal lives and doing what we have to do each day. But God places something in each heart that He wants us to accomplish. It may be to do something like beginning a new ministry, or taking up a position within a church. It may be to write. Perhaps it's to invent something. It may be to be a successful businessman. Maybe it's to volunteer. It may be something that you've never seen anyone do before; something new. It may not seem possible. But if it's God-given, God will equip and help you to do it. Ask Him to help you step out in faith and know how to get started. Stop looking at all the "whys" it can't be done.... it's bad timing, you're single, you're married, you're old, you've messed up too many times in the past, you have health issues, you don't have anyone to encourage or help you, you don't know how to get started, you are afraid you'll fail or look stupid...... Start looking at the Dream Giver, God, and allow Him to show you that first step to take.... then the step after that.... then the one after that..... It may end up being bigger than anything you ever imagined! Instead of being a crib in the king's house, you may be a crib for the King, Himself (so to speak)!!!
Having a great dream is important. But sometimes, we can get so focused on what we think the path to the dream is, or what the dream should look like that we can miss out.
The small tree in the story was so focused on becoming a traditional crib that it was depressed to become a manger instead. But the end was an even greater variation than its original dream.
I've known several people (men especially) who dreamed of some wild single life, wanting to put off settling down till they were retirement age. Then they fell in love, got married, and had kids (preferably in that order but not always). They realized that their old dream was nothing compared to what they had achieved.
And some of us reach our dream and don't recognize it. That happens with a lot of small business owners, and I think my dad fits to a small extent. They dream of building a great company. But when they have built their company, they keep thinking it should be bigger, or focus on some other product, or having a bigger building. The company I work for is like that. The owner dreamed of making a company that was pleasant to work for, and would feel like a family. But even after he had achieved that, he kept trying to make the company grow. Now, it feels more like a big corporation than a family (for a time, we had to sign a tally each time we printed in color!). It's still a good job, but it went past the dream to something different.
Some people reach their dream, and don't know what to do next. It could be a dream of being the first in the family to get a college degree. Or it could be to have kids and raise them. Whatever the dream was, it's over. So, now what?
In all these situations, it's important to stop from time to time, and look at your dream. Are you there, yet? Are you getting closer? Should you? What does God really have in store for you? Is your idea of the dream His? Is the path you have picked out the one God means for you? And are there other dreams you should also be aiming for, or planning to aim for later?
6-8 quarts of popped popcorn
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pop 1cup of un-popped popcorn (equals about 6-8 quarts of popped). If using microwave popcorn, use make sure you get the unflavored; just the plain unseasoned popcorn. Put in a large pan and remove all the hard tacks and un-popped kernels. Mix all other ingredients, except the baking soda, in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and put the baking soda in; stir while it is foaming. Pour over popcorn; stir well. Spread on baking sheets and bake in oven at 200 for 1 hour; stirring occasionally while baking.
More Church Bulletin Bloopers:
Jean will be leading a weight-management series Wednesday nights. She's used the program herself and has been growing like crazy!
The church is glad to have with us today as our guest minister the Rev. Green, who has Mrs. Green with him. After the service, we request that all remain in the sanctuary for the Hanging of the Greens.
This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.
Thursday, at 5:00 p.m., there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club. All those wishing to become little mothers, please meet the pastor in his study.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double doors on the side entrance.
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
Freedom lies not in becoming who you THINK you should be or who others want you to be.
But in loving who God MADE you to be. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon