Monday, July 26, 2010

Names

My newly four year old daughter was chattering away in the backseat. I was concentrating on the song on our radio, not completely tuned into what she was saying. It took a second to realize she was calling herself Riley. Not that Riley isn’t an adorable name, but we had named her Raleigh. The problem with that name though is that everyone who hears it thinks we are saying Riley, and that is what they address her as. I however, wanted her to know her name was indeed, Raleigh.

Turning, I said, “No honey, your name is Raleigh.” To which she replied, “No, it’s Riley.” My smart comeback was, “no dear, it’s Raleigh.” Which garnered her loud response, “I’m RIIII-LEEE”, and this argument continued, me trying to convince her what her true name was, her already convinced it was something else. Finally, in exasperation, I turned and looked her in the eye with my ‘mom’ look, and said, “I named you child, and I know your name.” This quieted her, she seemed to take it in, and I believed I had convinced her. I turned my head back and sat for all of two seconds before her sweet voice called out, “It’s Riley.”

In that moment, God spoke directly to my heart. How many times have we believed the names others have given us, or the names we’ve given ourselves? We listen to the voices, we believe we are called something different than we were born to be and all the while God is calling out to us, “I named you child, and I know your name.”

This thought stayed with me, pinging around in my head as I listed names we call ourselves in place of what God called us when he created us. I began to wonder, did our Heavenly Father have a name for us, just as our earthly parents did. Then certain verses started to jump out at me.

Did you know that there are at least four different places where people are given new names in the Bible. In Genesis 17, God renames Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah as he reveals to them His plan for their lives. In Genesis 32, after Jacob wrestles with God, he is renamed Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus tells Simon he is Peter. Each of their new names told them what God planned to do through them. It also revealed to me that God had a name for them other than their earthly name. Maybe he did for me too.

I continued to look and I came to two verses that I saw in a different light. The first was the verse from Psalms 139 of how God knits us together in our mother’s womb, how before we are even born, all our days were ordained for us, written in his book. As someone who loves to write, this verse intrigued me in a new way. When I have a story to tell, I create names for the people in that story. I don’t write them in my book without first naming them. God is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), surely that Author named us when he wrote us in his book.

The second verse that spoke out to me was Psalm 147:4, which says “He counts the number or stars; He gives names to them all.” Wow! Well, back up a minute. Earlier I mentioned some of the name changes that occur in the Bible. One of those was Abram to Abraham, which means “Father of many”. In Genesis 15, God had Abram look to the sky and told him “Look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them…so shall your offspring be.” He was making Abram a father to the nations and comparing his offspring to the very stars that He had already created, counted and named.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I believe if God has named an infinite number of stars, if He knows each one and can call them by name, then surely my friend, He has named you, and He knows your name. Isn’t it time you start listening for it?

Monday, July 19, 2010

What If?

Well ok. I’m starting a blog. Why, you may ask, or what will you be saying? Well, I haven’t quite figured all that out yet. But here’s what I have figured out.

I am thirty-six years old. I’ve had many passions in life; singing, writing, ministry….yet I’ve never thrown myself into any of them. I’ve spent the better part of my life thinking, What if? What if I tried out for that play? What if I tried to publish that book? What if I went to seminary? What if I threw out all those thoughts that are spinning in my head? To be followed by; What if they laugh? What if it’s awful? What if I fail?

Never have I asked, What if I succeed? Instead I’ve been ruled by the fear of failure.

It’s funny. When I was young, I was scared of the dark. I was scared to be home alone, or frightened to walk across that dark campus. Those were, in my mind, legitimate fears that I could battle. I armed myself with God’s word. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7)” and from Psalms, “I will not be afraid of the terror by night, nor the arrow that strikes by day” (Psalms 91:5). These verses, and a lot of prayer, allowed me to be free of those fears. Soon, I felt confident of God’s protection in my life. Never did I recognize that spirit of fear was still lurking, and it was keeping me from discovering God’s purpose in my life.

Well, I’ve recently recognized that I’m still allowing that fear to play into my decisions and my thoughts. Along with that realization came the decision that I don’t want to allow fear to stop whatever God may want to do with my life. I’ve given enough years to my What-ifs?

So, will I fail sometimes? Yes! But isn’t that where God teaches us some of our biggest lessons? And has He ever failed to reach down, brush us off and set us on our feet again? No one likes failure, but maybe, just maybe, we can handle it a bit better when we start to recognize that our failures are what draw us closer to God. Without them we would never be aware of our inborn need for His hand in our lives. If we succeeded at everything in our lives, would we ever call out to Him? Not to mention, it sure keeps us humble when we fail.

So, I’m going to start this blog. Will many people read it? Maybe not. I can count on at least three people. My mom, my best friend, and one alternating curious reader (fill in your name, whoever you are). But, I felt the nudge to do this, and just once I want to say, What if I succeed? instead of What if I fail?. I figure just by taking the leap to put this out there, and listening to what God’s calling me to do, I’ve already succeeded. Take that, Fear!