It all started when a friend invited me to attend a large crusade held at the old fairgrounds on Orchard Street here in Boise. As a young teenager, I was certainly impressed with the size of the crowd that gathered to hear Oral Roberts. But even more impressive was what happened at the end of the service.
At the close of his message, the evangelist invited all those who wanted prayer to come forward and stand in a line. Hundreds of people lined up across the front and around the sides of the auditorium. As the evangelist and his associates passed among the people, I noticed a singer by the name of Bob Daniels approach the microphone and began to sing, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling … calling oh sinner, come home.”
I was familiar with the song because we had sung it in our church in Parma on many occasions. But I was so impressed by Daniels’ beautiful baritone voice and the effect it had upon the audience.
I became so intrigued that I walked to the front, not for prayer, but to get a closer vantage point to enjoy this man’s singing. In fact, I was so concentrated on the singer that I was surprised when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, young man. Could I step around you?” It was Oral Roberts himself. I was so absorbed with the singer, I did not realize I was standing in the way of the evangelist wanting to minister to the waiting mass of people.
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The experience so affected me that when I got home, I would slip over to the church next door as often as I could to be alone. Since there was no one around to laugh at my childish imaginations, I would stand at the pulpit of the little church and sing that song, imagining people were coming forward for prayer. Through my mother, God had given me the gift of song, which I often exercised in our church services. But there, all alone, my teenage heart offered the most sincere imagination God ever heard.
One day, while engaged in this fantasy, a thought outside myself distinctly said, “If you will devote your life to Jesus Christ, you will see this possibility become a reality.” I did not hear an audible voice, but I knew God was speaking into my heart.
I dedicated my life to God’s service, and while serving on the pastoral staff of a large church in Washington state 10 years later, I was asked to sing at the close of the service. The music director had already selected the song, so I stepped to the microphone and began to sing: “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling … calling oh sinner, come home.” The recesses of my memory opened up, and I recalled that moment as a young lad I dreamed I was Bob Daniels. As people were coming forward for prayer, another sacred thought spoke clearly, “See. I told you I can fulfill sacred dreams.” I was so elated that I sang with humility and great fervor, celebrating a God who was faithful to a flawed kid from Parma.
This experience fueled my focus on Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob, who experienced dreams of being a leader and savior for his family. The ensuing years bore rejection, heartache and false imprisonment. But the last 10 chapters of the book of Genesis described how one day those dreams came to pass.
I know some dreams are the result of too much pizza or a scary movie, but it is also possible for God to plant a life dream in your heart and challenge you to live it to fulfillment. Don’t discount inspired ideas. Dreams will come true if you don’t oversleep.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.