April 25, 1999
Based on my vast years of experience, I would say the most often quoted sentiment from church members goes something like this, "I am not of much use and value for Godís work. I canít do much for the church. Iím too old, or I have little talent, or I donít know enough." Sound familiar? There are those among us who have lost sight of their mission, lost sight of why God put them here on this earth.
Then there are those who feel unfulfilled, who feel of little use and value, because they didnít live up to their dreams, they didnít end up doing what they thought they intended to be and do. They feel they 
The childrenís musical this morning speaks directly to any of us who feel that somehow we are of little use and value. The Tale of the Three Trees, an old American folk tale, tells the story of three trees who had high lofty dreams of what they might become, but God had other plans. The trees were disappointed because their dreams did not materialize, but they found new meaning. They discovered they were of tremendous use and value in Godís plan.
The first tree dreamed of becoming a treasure chest filled with dazzling gems, pearls, and gold. But God had other plans. Instead of becoming a treasure chest, the first tree was made into a box for feeding animals. It became a manger behind an inn in a little town called Bethlehem. You know the rest of the story.
The second tree dreamed of becoming the mast of a sailing ship carrying the royal flag at the front of a mighty fleet. But God had other plans. Instead of becoming the mast of a sailing ship, the second tree was made into a bench of a rugged fishing boat on a lake called Galilee, the boat in which Jesus rode with his disciples during a terrible storm. You know the rest of the story. If you donít, watch and listen closely to the children.
The third tree dreamed of staying where it was, growing straight and tall, pointing to heaven. But God had other plans. How disappointed the third tree must have been when they came with axes and saws to chop it down. How disappointed and humiliated the third tree must have been when a flaw was discovered in the wood and it was discarded as scrap, thrown on a pile. "Of what use and value am I?" the tree must have asked. The tree, which dreamed of pointing to heaven, was now on a scrap pile, seemingly of no use to anyone. Some people think they are of little use and value. But God has other plans. Watch the drama and see what became of the third tree.
The play begins and ends with a prayer song,
"Dreams, we all have dreams, what we can be, what we can do.
Lord, with all we are, we pray that our dreams will lead us to you."
We are all very upset about the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado. Two young men, dressed in trench coats, created a massacre; but evidently were thwarted in their scheme to blow up the school with their home-made bombs. The day after the tragedy I took my shirts to the dry cleaners, and entered into a conversation two other customers were having. The woman said, "I have two children in Golden Valley High School. They tell me there are trench coats in Golden Valley High School. The group stay by themselves. The rest of the students have learned to leave them alone." This is in Merced where we assume "it canít happen here."
Boys and girls, young men and young women, I want you to hear what I am going to say. Will you please open your ears and listen? You are of tremendous use and value.
But, your use and value do not come from guns! A gun doesnít make you important.
Your use and value do not come from what you put in your mouth, or shoot into your veins, or sniff up your nose. Cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol do not make you important.
Your use and value do not come from trench coats or anything else you wear.
Your use and value do not come from how you style your hair, or what color you dye your hair, or from the jewelry in your ear, or how loud you play your music.
Now, hear me! You can dress like the others and play loud music, but those things do not give you use and value.
When I was in high school, all the macho boys wore crew cuts. Of course, I wanted to wear a crew cut. I didnít want to stand out as different. I wanted to be "in", but my hair is soft and fine. It will not stand up straight like a military crew cut. Those were the days before gel! I didnít want to try library paste! I couldnít find anything to get my hair to stand up, so there I was, walking around with a floppy crew cut. I was envious of those boys who had hair that would not only stand up straight, but could be cut flat across the top. Besides that, my ears stick out, so with short floppy hair and dumbo ears, I was quite a sight! But, my value is not in my hair or my ears!
I am of use and value because: God made me, Jesus loves me, and the Holy Spirit powers me. The Holy Spirit powers me to be the person God made me to be, and to do what God calls me to do. Everyone, especially all the kids, repeat after me: God made me, Jesus loves me, the Holy Spirit powers me. What you dream of becoming may not come true, but like the three trees, God has a great adventure in store for you.
You are of tremendous use and value in Godís great plan.
1999 Douglas I. Norris