The Kingdom Value of an Old Man’s Dreams


'An Old Man Asleep, Seated by the Fire' by Rembrandt van Rijn“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…'”
—Acts 2:17 ESV

I’ve come to the melancholy realization that youth is departing and old age arriving. Gray is the new cast of my hair. And are those…jowls?


At such times, I find comfort in the Scriptures, but even there resides the lament of the aging. Abraham and Zechariah leap to mind, with their “but” responses in light of God’s revelation. “Too old, God. Dried up. Useless for your task.”

Except it wasn’t true, was it?

I also recall the prophet Joel’s statement from God regarding old men dreaming, and Peter’s use of the prophet’s pronouncement as an anchor for the New Covenant.

The young men get the sexier, more startling revelation: visions. The future. The pressing need. The warning.  A guy walks into the room and proclaims he had a vision, and everyone perks up. Being called a visionary is a positive that sets one apart from the greater mass of humanity.

Not so the dreamer, though. Get called a dreamer, and it’s a knock. Out of touch. Tilting at windmills. Fantasies. Won’t come to much. Anyone can dream. Nope, nothing special at all.

Old men, the ones with gray hair and jowls, dream.

Hey, I may not be 21 anymore, but I’m not ready for a porch-based rocking chair yet.

God gives dreams to old men because young men can’t handle them as well. Here’s the truth about dreams and why the older, wiser man (or woman) receives them:

1. Unlike visions, dreams pose puzzling questions older people are more experienced to answer.

Both visions and dreams can be strange. The Bible is filled with bizarre imagery that people receive in dreams and visions. The difference is that God tends to narrate visions as they happen. Dreams don’t get that same explanation. There’s no hand-holding or convenient running commentary in a dream.

What is the point of experience in life? To apply it. Old folks dream because they have the life experience to make sense of the imagery in dreams without annotations for what they see. God trusts the elders who have walked with Him for years to understand more readily because they know the character of God. They understand life in ways the inexperienced don’t. God entrusts dreams to those who can call upon a storehouse of knowledge or who have the walk with God down pat and can more readily tap into His supernatural wisdom.

2. Dreams bring older folks—and those around them who will listen—peace by taking the community back to the past and to the familiar.

In our youth, we sought out our elders to reassure us and lend their wisdom to us when we were troubled and uncertain. Unlike visions that often show disturbing, confusing images, dreams are associated more with a peaceful repose. Dreams are a sanctuary, a nocturnal sanctum. In dreams, we may see unusual combinations of people, places, and things, but they are usually already known. The past lives on in dreams. We recall the good times. What is lost or gone is alive and present again, and we can find comfort in knowing that nothing good is lost forever in God’s economy.

Dreams are the means by which the elderly help others recall the good times. When times aren’t good, the old folks serve as the community well to bring refreshment to others through their dreams.

That noted, being old also brings the burden of having seen too much. Dreams are not a mind bleach, but they do temper all the horrors and sadness that come with accumulated wisdom and life experience. Dreams reframe the good times that are past by bringing them, again, into the present as a balm.

3. Dreams help us recall anew what once worked well.

We tend to forget past solutions. Even wise, old folks. A seasoned mind is a bit more cluttered, and like a closet filled to the ceiling with life’s accumulations, wading through that mess to find the dojigger that does that one thing we need to do right this second…well, it can seem a daunting task.

Dreams allow experienced folks to cut through life’s clutter. They help reconnect with the past and what worked once so we can reuse that once-buried truth again. Because there really is nothing new under the sun.

4. Dreams allow seniors to recast the past and what is already known to form new solutions.

You know what they say about deep waters. Because the well of a life lived long with God is deep, the raw materials for new solutions may exist, just unseen.

Dreams are God’s way of remolding those raw materials of the past into new realities. Yes, the young men may see in their visions what is yet to be, but through dreams their elders can see the truths of the past combine in new ways to make something just as fresh and exciting.

Aren’t dreams intriguing when they bring together the disparate elements of life into one, impossible tableau? In a dream, what does it mean when a deceased parent, your soon-to-be born grandchild, and an old boss from a summer job three dozen years ago show up at your dream breakfast table and chat about life? What may God be saying through that impossible encounter? And how may that help others?

5. Dreams can also reveal the future and alert us.

To the one God has given much, much is expected. A life rich in God-given experience is a bank from which the banker invests in himself and others. Visions aren’t the only means of seeing what is to come. Dreams also are revelatory—only they don’t come with as many footnotes. God expects the person made wise with experience to fill in the annotations that aren’t there. Visions are for the raw. Dreams are for the already tested.

One of the most visited posts on Cerulean Sanctum is “God Speaks Through Dreams.” It’s so highly ranked because it’s one of the most heavily Googled. People are looking to make sense of their dreams. And people wonder if God is talking to them in those dreams.

If you are older, know that your dreams matter. God has something to say to you who are experienced with life, and He can do it through your dreams.

You matter to God’s Kingdom. Your dreams, your experiences with life and all its joys and sorrows have value to yourself and to others. Visions from the young may look great on the surface, but there is a surpassing value in dreams that give relevance to the seasoned saint, because God needs the service of everyone.

The Church and the Employment Dispossessed


Ageism & employmentIf 2013 was marked by any one trend, it was a sobering one: Many of my peers lost jobs.

For me, peer is anyone in that 46-56 age group. Somehow, we have been redefined as the new elderly—at least by some in the corporate world.

I don’t know if health care fears have driven some of this, but it is startling to see people who are supposedly in their peak earning years instead walking the unemployment line. Worse, the likelihood of such folks returning to the income level they enjoyed prior to being let go runs just about to zero.

This is not good. It’s not good for those people, nor is it good for America.

And it may be worst of all for the Church, since these are the folks who had the incomes that funded their local congregations.

I talk about a lot of Church issues on Cerulean Sanctum, but I think no other “daily living” issue is more ignored by the American Church than our work lives. The advice most churches dispense on being a Christian who works is to start a workplace Bible study and to practice ethical work habits. That’s as far as it goes.

But when churches start discovering they have many people in their late 40s and early 50s trying to find work and not succeeding, SOMETHING must give. This trend is not one we can continue to ignore. Technology is putting more people out of work, and tech job availability is not compensating for the losses. Worse, one recruiter told me that anyone with gray hair who walks into a tech company looking for work is just wasting his or her time. Even worse? The same recruiter told me it’s not just tech companies anymore—it’s every company.

Again, this is an enormous issue. Which Christian with a national presence is talking about it? In fact, which Christian with a national stage is saying anything about issues of health care costs, stagnant wages, the increasing ranks of the un- and under-employed, and this creeping down of when someone must consider himself or herself “done” with a career, even when he or she doesn’t want to be done?

I continue to get the sense that while the Church in America has no qualms talking about spiritual issues, issues of everyday living (such as work) are going unaddressed, and those issues cause the most worry and grief in people. They are looking for answers, and the Church is not providing them.

Problem is, Jesus didn’t leave behind an answerless Church. It may be true that in this world we will have trouble, but Christ has overcome the world. For Christians to throw up our hands and do nothing is not the way of the Lord.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and Why No One Can Get (or Give) Any


I’ve got about six months until I hit 50. That milestone isn’t sitting well with me, though.

Part of my unrest is that the major tropes of my youth with regard to the accumulation of years have failed. Or perhaps I should say that I failed to fulfill them.

By the time you are 50, you are supposed to be in the prime of your career. You are a leader in your community. Your savings account is overflowing. You have power. Your words matter to people and they listen to you because you are a success.

At least that is what I grew up believing because that’s what we were all taught to believe.

Problem is, I haven’t achieved any of those. My careers (yes, multiple) have all been derailed at one point or another by uncontrollable economic factors, so this elusive “prime” I keep hearing about seems to be some mysterious other’s to enjoy. I’m not rich, so I have no power, since the money = power equation only grows stronger the larger the number of years on the calendar. Politics seems to be the only avenue to leadership anymore, and no party will have me. And since achievements in those preceding traits are the sole signal for success in our society today (with the possible exception of scandal, so there’s at least that still open), I’ll never be a worldly success.

They say that youth is wasted on the young, and I understand this more and more. Supposedly, the counterbalance is wisdom, but no one cares about wisdom. In an age of knowledge, where Google can give you answers to nearly any question you have, and it’s all within reach of a ubiquitous cell phone, what is wisdom? The Internet is filled with dime store philosophers, and most days anymore, I feel like just another of their horde. Name a topic and there’s a pundit for it.

So if none of this works, what is left for the guy who has managed to get to 50 years without making a total wreck of life?

I was taught to always refer to adults with “Mr.,”Mrs.,” or “Miss” preceding their surname. Even when I was in my 20s and 30s, my parents’ peers were still “Mr. Kreider” or “Mrs. Frey,” not “Joe” or “Phyllis.”

This gave those neighborhood stalwarts some ethereal cachet that made them different from me. Better. Smarter. More worthy of respect.

Just the other day, I was out with my son, and we ran into the daughter of a friend. She’s 19-21, if my faulty memory serves, and she called out to me by saying, “Hello, Mr. Edelen.”

I found it almost startling to hear “Mr. Edelen.” Perhaps I am now an adult, part of that elusive set of peerage that reserved such titular prefixes for the friends of my deceased parents.

If anything, that callout got me thinking more deeply about respect.

If none of the other standards for adulthood drilled into me in my youth can be assumed, surely respect can. Yet despite being called Mr. Edelen by one well-raised young lady, I think that more of us can identify with Rodney Dangerfield.Rodney Dangerfield - No respect

Getting to 50 without screwing up one’s life no longer merits the special favor of respect. Perhaps it never should have in the first place. We keep hearing that respect must be earned, and if anything, that’s still the prevailing thought.

Yet if our societal beliefs on respect are to be grasped, no one is earning respect.

The presidency used to be a position of respect. I don’t know if that was forever shot down by the presence of presidential protein on an intern’s dress, but since that event, neither of our last two presidents have garnered any respect. Even from Christians, respect may be talked about with regard to the POTUS, and we can blabber with the best of ’em about Founding Fathers and the greatness of America, but the words we say about our president don’t encompass respect.

In fact, even in the Church today, I can’t think of anyone who gets any respect. The world at large has a built-in reflex for questioning authority, and that seems to have slid down the gutter into the American Church.

Don’t believe me? Consider the following.

An elder from your church pulls you aside some Sunday and says, “I notice your giving has been down this year. What can we do about that?”

For many of us, the first thought is, Take a long walk off a short pier, buddy.

Even if we substitute pastor for elder in that scene, nothing improves. Doesn’t matter who the person is, we don’t want anyone telling us we’re doing it wrong.

But, Dan, the giving thing is a naturally divisive issue, you may say. And I know you don’t ascribe to a New Testament tithe, anyway. OK, then have the elder or pastor suggest that you’re not spending enough of your time in service to either the church or the community. Or that a church leader noticed a sin in your life you may need to address. Or that you might think you’re a gifted teacher, but that class you really want to teach is not what the church needs from you now. Or that you’re not as gifted in teaching as you think you are, and that perhaps your gift is driving the church bus.

How quickly the thought becomes, So which other churches can I visit next Sunday?

We can talk all we want about respect, but no one seems to get any anymore. We are so selfish and believe ourselves so wise, that no one can speak into our lives with any authority and have us instantly consider his or her words worthwhile simply because who he or she is demands respect.

We don’t honor offices or the people who inhabit them. Titles now mean nothing. We have become like cliffs of granite, immovable, unswayable, and suitable only for jumping off for those who would suggest we move or sway.

Sure, plenty of Christian leaders have abused their authority. Sure, some people may not be worthy of respect.

But is anyone?

I maybe a poor example of human being and perhaps an even lousier Christian. Maybe respect should not be afforded me simply because I’ve hung around nearly 50 years.

Yet what else is there? If we can’t respect those people who are still standing after 50 years or more, especially within the Church, what hope do we have to ever move anything—including the Church—forward? Instead, we may be dooming ourselves to a downward spiral of selfishness that keeps crying out for others to respect us, even as we fail to respect anyone else.