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Columnist: Dreams — do they really have meaning?

The dictionary defines dreams as a series of thoughts, images and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep. We all have them. Some of our dreams end up in nightmares — causing us to awaken feeling distressed and shaken, believing that in some instances we had experienced a catastrophe.

Many of us believe that our dreams do in fact, have meaning and can warn us of impending doom or disasters or even something good and pleasant. This is especially true, some feel, when they have the same dream continuously.

We hear about such people all the time in the media. They believe that their lives were spared as a result of their dream warning them not to take a specific airline flight or to engage in other activities that they later discover results in human casualties.

We all are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous, April 3, 1968, speech in Memphis, Tennessee. It was called “I’ve been to the Mountaintop.”

Most people – researchers included – tend to believe that the speech, which essentially predicted his own death, was predicated on a dream. The famous civil rights leader stated the day before his death, “he’s (referring to God) allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

Of course, King was fatally shot the next day by an assassin’s bullet.

The Bible and dreams

One of the most famous passages in the Bible that deals with dreams is found in Daniel 2:1-49.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a horrible and disturbing dream. He wanted to know its meaning, and he summoned a number of his senior staff: magicians, conjurers, sorcerers and Chaldeans.

The king, however, was crafty. His charge to them was something he had never asked of them before. Nebuchadnezzar wanted not only to know the meaning of his dream; he insisted they first tell him his dream. In doing so, he felt that the dream would be accurately interpreted.

Nebuchadnezzar was a kind of sadist. He had no problems or conscience when it came to disposing of his enemies.

We know that he was inclined to torturing those whom he considered his enemies by placing them in fiery furnaces and even roasting some alive. When none of those whom he had assembled could interpret his dream he issued an “edict” that they should all be killed. Even after they implored him that what he asked them to do was beyond human capacity – he was resolute that the edict would be carried out. His so-called wise men destined to die, admitted that any “God” who could fulfill the king’s request would be a “God” of a different (higher) order.

By the grace of the Lord, Daniel came to the rescue. Realizing that he too, would be killed he appealed to God to share with him Nebuchadnezzar’s dream for interpretation. God answered and responded to him in a vision. Daniel was finally given an audience with Nebuchadnezzar and shared with him what he required and requested.

In providing this information the king understood fully that as he pondered the future, God was informing him through his dream that the future was in His hands and not determined by kings. It was through Daniel’s intervention that Nebuchadnezzar understood that there is but one God.

A personal experience related to dreams

Several years ago I was an administrator in a major urban school district. After receiving yearly, exemplary performance ratings related to my job I was terminated without cause.

I was furious and for a while lost my faith in God. One night, however, I dreamed of the biblical passage, Psalms 3:3. It had to have been God talking to me – I was not familiar with the Bible passage. He was telling me in my dream that He would be my shield, my sword and lifter up of my head.

I did not worry after that dream. The people involved in my ouster were publicly ridiculed and will never work in the field of education again.

What about you? Do you believe in dreams? Has God ever spoken to you in a dream?

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By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

Dr. Glenn Dowell, a LaGrange native, is an author and columnist who lives in Georgia. He has been an instructor at Texas Southern University, guest speaker on major college campuses and appeared on TV programs including ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ He may be reached at gdowell@live.com.