Tag Archives: Nightmare

Dreams, Visions, and Bad Pepperoni

source: h-k-d via Flickr
source: h-k-d via Flickr

For God does speak—now one way, now another—
    though no one perceives it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
    when deep sleep falls on people
    as they slumber in their beds,
he may speak in their ears
    and terrify them with warnings,
to turn them from wrongdoing
    and keep them from pride,
to preserve them from the pit,
    their lives from perishing by the sword.
Job 33:14-18 (NIV)

I woke at 2:30 this morning out of a deep sleep and disturbing dream. Like most dreams it was surreal and strange. A thread of storyline was wound loosely around snatches of scenes and emotions. Terrorists were after me. I could trust no one and spent much of my time hiding and trying to avoid those who I knew were enemies bent on my death. I found myself entering what appeared to be a pre-game meeting with the Judson University men’s basketball team when I realized that the room was set to explode. I ran for the door and was barely outside when the bomb went off. Suddenly I was in the custody of two or three of the terrorists and they were dragging me away. I struggled from their grasp and ran for my life. I turned a corner and found that a large contingent of people from my alma mater had arrived (basketball fans, presumably?) and were getting off a bus. If I could just reach them I would be safe, but everything was moving in agonizing slow motion.

I’m not sure what to make of all that. Perhaps it was simply the effect of some bad pepperoni from my pizza the other night.

My local community of Jesus followers has been exploring the subject of dreams and visions of late, beginning with a look at the dreams, visions, and visitations surrounding the Christmas story. There were a lot of them when you think about it:

  • Zechariah (John the Baptist’s dad), had a vision in which the angel told him his barren wife was pregnant.
  • Mary had a visitation telling her she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the Messiah.
  • Joseph had a dream telling him not to put Mary away, but to marry her.
  • The shepherds were visited by the angelic host telling them of Jesus’ birth.
  • The Magi were warned in a dream to go home and avoid Herod.
  • Simeon had received a vision that he would not die before he had seen the Christ.
  • Joseph was warned in a dream to flee with his family to Egypt to avoid Herod’s murderous wrath.

I have no doubt that God speaks to people in dreams, in visions, and in visitations. It happens time and time again throughout God’s story. Elihu makes a point of it in his words to Job in today’s chapter. God can and does speak to people through dreams. I believe it a gross mistake to deny this, to close myself off to the truth of it, or harden my heart against the possibility that God might speak to me in such a way.

By the same token, I don’t believe that God speaks to all people through all dreams. A dream may be spiritually significant, inspired by Holy Spirit. A dream may be the surreal by-product of memories, thoughts, and emotions inspired by bad pepperoni. I tend to think that the latter is a common reality, while the former is more the exception than the rule. When signs and wonders become common, everyday occurrences they cease being wonders.

Today, I’m thinking about the wonder of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, and the role that dreams, visions, and visitations played in this most momentous of events in human history. I’m thinking about my own life journey in which wondrous events of divine design seem to happen on prescribed occasions for specific purpose. They are interspersed by long periods of mundane, daily toil. I’m thinking about finding and maintaining healthy balance and perspective in all of this. I don’t ever want to be guilty of chasing after  obscure, hidden meaning in my dreams while ignoring the plain truth presented clearly in God’s Message.

By the way, I’m also thinking about the Judson University men’s basketball team who blew up in my dream last night. Sorry guys. I’m not a prophet, and I really don’t think that was from God. Blame the pepperoni. Go Eagles!

source: 15918528@N00 via Flickr
source: 15918528@N00 via Flickr

Hit Your Cue

southpacificThere is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

       a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
       a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
       a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
       a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
       a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
       a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
       a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

 The musical was South Pacific and I was playing Captain Brackett.  One particular scene in the show begins with a meeting in Brackett’s office between Brackett and three other characters. As the lights came up on the scene that night it was clear that someone was not at the meeting. It happened to be the gentleman playing Commander Harbison, Captain Bracket’s next in command. There are few experiences more terrifying to actors on stage than when someone misses his or her entrance. My fellow actors, aware that something was desperately wrong, held their focus well, but I could see in their eyes that they were having the same “Oh shit” moment that I was.

So, I did what military officers do. I started screaming. I stood, slammed my hand on my desk, and went into a full out crusty sailor rant.

“Where’s Harbison?! WHERE THE HELL IS HARBISON!?”

I knew that Dayrel Gates, who played my admin Yeoman Quale, was standing just off stage because I’d passed him during the scene change.


Dayrel immediately ran in and stood at attention like a terrified sailor.


Dayrel was brilliant. He picked right up on what I was doing, gave me an “Aye Captain!” salute and exited. As soon as he exited the stage he started yelling in the wings. “Commander Harbison!? FIND COMMANDER HARBISON!” Others cast members who realized what was happening started yelling for Commander Harbison as well and you could hear their screams in the hallway outside the auditorium as if an entire platoon of personnel were scrambling around the camp looking for the tardy Commander. It didn’t take long before the actor playing Commander Harbison came running on stage. He was out of breath, sweating profusely, and in a full panic. It turned out he had stepped out between scenes for a smoke and didn’t realize it was his cue.

When you’re on stage you learn that one of the fundamental essentials is to hit your cue and make your entrance on time. It’s critical to the success of the show. Bad things happen when you miss your cue.

Solomon’s words are brilliant and powerful in the simplicity of the truth he communicates. Timing is critical to almost every season and to every element of life. There is a time for everything. I have learned, however, that attention, observation, introspection, and wisdom are required to discern the time you are in and to respond accordingly.

All the world is a stage, as the Bard said, and we are all players in it. It’s fundamentally critical to success that we hit our cues in life. Bad things happen when we don’t.

You Don’t Say “No” to Robert Redford

At the premiere of "The Conspirator"...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I had this dream.

I was standing in the hall of the Pella Community Center looking at an interactive map of the world. This is funny since the only interactive things in the Pella Community Center are flush toilets. Anyway, I was standing there thinking I was looking at a street in London and realizing it was a golf course in New York, when Robert Redford walks up to me and says, “Hey, Tom.”

“Hey, Bob,” I answered. Crap. I just called Robert Redford “Bob.” I don’t know him, of course, but he just addressed me on as if we were on a first name basis, so I just went with it.

“The men’s club would like to come see the show you’re directing, ‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever.’ We would need, like, 500 seats. Can you make that happen?” he asked.

There are two problems with this question. First, I have no idea what men’s club he’s talking about. Second, the Joan Kuyper Farver Auditorium in the Pella Community Center only seats 330 people max.

“Sure, Bob. I can make that happen,” I answered calmly.

“WHAT?!” My ego screamed at my super-ego deep within REM sleep as it frantically accessed all sorts of hidden synapses in my brain trying to figure out how on earth I was going to get an extra 200 seats in the auditorium in the next four weeks.

“Hey!” my super-ego snobbishly retorted to my critical, moralizing ego. “When ROBERT REDFORD addresses you on a FIRST NAME BASIS and asks you for a favor YOU DON’T SAY ‘NO!!!'”

It was then that my id graciously woke me up to pee. I was angling towards one helluvan anxious nightmare.

Tom’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 21

CHICAGO - JULY 23:  The United Parcel Service ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

If you had to choose the worst work experience you’ve ever had, what would you pick?

For one semester after high school I attended a conservative Bible College (that’s another post for another day – several posts, actually) and got a part time job at Des Moines’ UPS hub loading trailers. Because the school had a strict dress code I had to wear a suit and tie to class, but then I had only had about 20 minutes between my last class and the beginning of my shift at the UPS hub which was at least 15 minute drive away. So, each day I changed from my suit to my grubby work clothes while I was driving, but that’s another story.

The first month or two of my job went well. I liked my supervisor. I showed up on time, worked hard, and looked forward to advancing up the UPS food chain. I was making a nice hourly wage even though the number of hours was limited.

When you are a loader, you have multiple trailers for which you are responsible. The boxes come down the conveyor and a picker sorts them so that they come down a shoot into the trailer. You grab the box, double check the zip code and start building your walls of boxes. The bed of the trailers had a false floor, so you start by filling the bottom of the trailer, then lower the false floor and build more walls of boxes on top. Of course, you are constantly running back and forth from trailer to trailer trying to get ahead on one before you get too far behind on the others.

One day I showed up at work and got my assigned trailers, which included the dreaded Bedford Park trailer. The line started and we got slammed quickly. I got into the Bedford Park trailer to find that the entire bottom of the trailer was piled high with boxes. The boxes had to have been dumped in the bottom of the trailer before the shift started. The boxes were coming down the conveyor so quickly that I had no time to try and clean up the mess. I shut the false floor on the pile of boxes and started building my walls on top.

When I told my supervisor what I had found, she refused to believe me and blamed me for it. Suddenly, she turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. To this day I don’t know who I ticked off or what I did, but suddenly I found myself the team scapegoat. I was made to feel like the team leper. Nothing I did was right and my supervisor came into my trailer to tell me what a terrible job I was doing and threaten to fire me. I had done nothing wrong, but I was in a no-win situation. No one believed the word of a young new hire against a tenured supervisor.

Obviously, I was not wanted so I quit before I was fired. I had to work more hours at another job to make the same money I was making at UPS, but I found a job I enjoyed and one where my hard work and contribution were valued. I sometimes wonder what the true story was, but all things considered I did just fine.

And, I didn’t have to change clothes while driving any longer.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 23

"The king acted immediately…." 2 Kings 23:1a (MSG)

I walked into the Fine Arts Building on the campus of Judson College. As I rounded the corner towards the theatre, I was greeted by an actress I didn't know in full make up. She had a look of terror in her eyes.

"There you are! Hurry up! You're on in a minute!" she said frantically.

It then struck me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I had been cast in a small but significant part, but I completely forgot about it. Pushed down the long hallway toward the backstage entrance by my fellow cast member, my heart raced and my mind spun.

"[expletive deleted]!" I thought to myself. "What are my lines?"

As I passed another actor standing at the stage entrance with his script, I nabbed the dog-eared copy and grantically began leafing through looking for my lines. It was useless. As I stood in the blackness off-stage and heard the actors on the other side of the curtain already well into the first act, I realized that I was out of time. I didn't remember my lines. I had no clue what my blocking was. This was going to be ugly.

"You're on!" the actress frantically whispered, pulling the curtain back and waving me on stage.

I stepped out onto the stage. I felt the stage lights hit my face like a 2×4.

Then I woke up.

I have this "actor's nightmare" every once in a while and I never cease to wake up in a nauseating mixture of relief and terror. I'm as suceptible to procrastination as anyone. It's easy to put things off until they are completely out of mind. Like Josiah's Israel, some of the most crucial acts of obedience and ritual were such a distant memory that it took a dusty, forgotten copy of God's message to bring it back to mind.

But Josiah acted immediately. No more procrastination. No "I'll get to it later." The thought of letting someone else worry about it or waiting until later when there was "more time" had to end. When I fail to obey immediately, it's possible I may never get to it until I find myself standing and stammering idiotically under very bright lights.

I found out last night I was cast as the lead in our community theatre's next production.

I think I'll start working on my lines today.