Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kids' Names and a Cat Named "Freezer Burn"

"Did I ever tell you about my cat, "Freezer Burn?' my church member asked as he entered my office.
"You have a cat named 'Freezer Burn?' " I tried to ask without sounding as ridiculous as the question obviously sounded.
"We lost the cat one day," the proud owner beamed. "We couldn't find him at all until we went into the garage and heard this faint "meow" coming from the refrigerator. When we opened the freezer door, there he sat, nearly frozen. His hair was stiff and he had this odd streak up his back. So when I took him to the vet, and the vet asked 'What's the cat's name?' I said 'Freezer Burn.' And the name stuck."
This particular church member has a knack for hanging strange names on people and things, so don't let him near your children.
Speaking of children, my wife and I worked hard to give our offspring absolutely normal names. This came as a result of my having to live with a name no one could pronounce or spell in spite of the fact that it is all of one syllable. (After a lifetime of "Lard," "Lord," "Leared" and "Lurid," I threatened to disown our daughter is she named any of her children after me. She did anyway, and the middle child shares my middle name.)
So when our one son came along, I opted for a safe and manly name: Andrew, which means "manly" and that was about as manly as I could get. Andrew is one of my favorite disciples because you always find him talking to people about the Lord and bringing them to Jesus.
Andrew it was until he came home one day with his name spelled D-r-u. I could have lived with "Drew"as a shortened form of "Andrew," but no, "It's D-r-u" he said. One of his friends had spelled it that way. One of his friends who couldn't spell.
What possesses children at any age to mangle a perfectly good name? Andrew (It's still "Andrew" under our roof) has a friend named Steven, another good biblical name. So naturally he calls himself "Spaz" to the utter consternation of his father.
Sure, there are people in the world with names like "Moon Unit" for example. But the parents are responsible for that. And there was a baby I heard about who was named something that sounded like "Pahja May" but is spelled P-a-j-a-m-a. ("From the Sears Roebuck Catalog" said the mother.)
So if you're one of those preacher's kids who is tired of your Bible name and yearning for a change, you might think again. You could have ended up like "Freezer Burn." Or I could just send over my church member to make suggestions. He also has a dog named Happy Killer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why Can't I Believe Now?

By the time I entered seminary I was tired of being alone, but there didn't seem to be any hope of change. Four hundred miles from home and away from almost everyone I knew, what chance was there that I was going to meet the girl of my dreams? One day when I was feeling especially lonely, the thought came to mind that if I didn't know who or where my future wife was, God certainly knew. So I decided right there to pray for her, that God in His providence would take care of her and some day guide her to me in His own time. The result of my prayer was a greater sense of peace and confidence that God would meet my need. Little did I realize that I was standing literally over my wife while I was praying. She lived in the apartment beneath me. We still laugh about the way God was bringing us so close to one another. We celebrate our thirty-fourth anniversary this year.
Looking back on that experience, I'm struck by how much God enabled me to rely on Him in faith. I had complete confidence that I would be married some day and that God was certain to bring my lovely wife into my life. No question about it. Now, however, I am faced with a new challenge, and I am a bit mystified at myself.
These days, my need is not for a wife but for growth in our fledgling church plant. We have a solid core, but we need serious growth in order for our new church to survive and thrive. We pray for growth and work toward that goal constantly. But as I pray and listen to myself, I've noticed something and it troubles me. I pray, but I don't seem to believe as easily that God will provide new church members as much as He could provide a wife.
What's the problem? If I could believe that God would send me a wife, why can't I believe now?
The answer is a lesson about unbelief. When I prayed about my future wife, I was willing to accept God's Word and His promises so completely that I would not allow myself to entertain doubt. There was never a "What if this doesn't work?" in my mind. Why? Because I knew two things: 1. That the situation was totally out of my control, and 2. that I had done all I could do about it. But when I prayed about our church the circumstances were quite different. As pastor, I still felt like there was something I could do, or rather that I had not done, so that I was not really trusting in God.
I've had to come back to the basics and realize afresh that our church is still God's work, not mine, and He is perfectly capable of taking care of it. The real issue is not His ability -much less His faithfulness - but my obedience and complete reliance on Him. If the church is His, He knows where the members are, now and in the future. If I have been completely obedient to Him, I have no reason to doubt that He will hear and answer our prayer and bless His church. I should be able to trust Him to take care of those people where ever they are, and to guide them to us in His own time. Someday I will learn about our church what I learned about meeting my wife: that I did all that worrying for nothing. When I found it so hard to believe, God was still faithful.