‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’  –Exodus 33:12b

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and Ted Danson was the guest being interviewed.  He mentioned about his struggle to remember people’s names, and how he has to “load-in” the names of people he’s about to see.

My first thought was, “Wow!  I have the same problem!”

My second thought was to laugh, realizing that the theme song for his most famous television show describes a place “where everybody knows your name.”

I desperately wish I could remember the name of every person in my church.  I envy people who can do it.  I would be so much more hospitable with second time visitors.  I would greet everybody at the door by name.  I would serve communion by name.  Every phone call, every committee meeting, I’d be throwing out names, left and right.

I’m not sure why I have such a problem, but I do.  Even with people I’ve known well for half a decade, sometimes the name just escapes me.

I looked on WebMD for some help.  They listed 36 conditions that contribute to the loss of names.  Naturally, I gravitated to the more severe ones:  Stroke, Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow Disease.

Probably not.

Then I thought, maybe I just have a phobia about it.  I looked it up:  It’s called Athazagoraphobia, the fear of forgetting or being forgotten.  Kind of funny that its name is something I will NEVER be able to remember!

Maybe I do have Althazha….Athazagrapi….nevermind.  Whatever you call it, I suppose it describes me.  Scared of forgetting people by name.

There are 35 times the NIV Bible uses the phrase “by name”.  Many are census listings in Numbers or Chronicles, or conversations between God and Moses in Exodus, but in Isaiah 43, God says this to God’s people:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. –Isaiah 43:1b

God knows me.  By name.  Not just me.  Every person who walks through the doors of the church.  Every person who fears forgetting–or being forgotten. No need to fear.

That doesn’t allow me to abdicate my job to “load in” as many names as I can, but truth is, there are few places where “everybody knows your name”.  It’s just not the Norm. (Get it?) Names are tricky sometimes, slippery.  Some people are better at it than others.

But in God’s redeeming of our lives, we are known, by name.  God claims us. God knows us, and wants us to know God, too.

God is the master of name-knowing.  You and I are just apprentices.  Disciples.

So as we continue the hard work of getting to know those around us, we can rejoice that God has long been on the job.

For that, we must be eternally grateful…

So say it with me…





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Paying Back Your Instructors


How many of your teacher’s names can you remember?

I am positively TERRIBLE with names, but I can still remember many of my teachers.

Mrs. Head, my 6th grade teacher who gave me extra attention.

Mrs. Gerling, my 8th grade English teacher who sent me to the principal’s office. (I deserved it)

Mr. Waccholz, my 10th grade biology teacher, who talked way too much about spiders for my comfort.

My education adds up to 13 years of teachers, plus college and seminary.  That must be close to 50 people who helped to teach me and guide me along the way.

Well, the scripture above talks about instructors.  It makes it sound like I owe them something.

It says I’m supposed to “share all good things” with my instructors!

Actually, on a second reading I realize we’re talking about instructors in the Word–so maybe I’m indebted not only to my school teachers, but also my Sunday School teachers!

(How many Sunday School teachers can you name?)

And not just Sunday School teachers, but also Pastors, I suppose.  Pastors did a lot to instruct me in the Word.

And parents and grandparents.  They taught me how to read and how to pray.

And there were certainly others along the way.  Yikes!

Are you telling me I’m supposed to share all the good things that have happened to me with all of these people?


Here’s what you do:  Get out your checkbook.

Whatever your bank account is right now, split it into about 60 amounts.

Can you imagine what your 11th grade physics teacher’s response would be if she opened up an envelope and there was a check inside and a note from you that said, “Thanks for instructing me”?

Actually, that would be kind of cool, but I’m not sure that’s what the passage has in mind.

I think it means celebrating that you have learned with the people who have taught you.

That you have learned.  That a connection was made.  Information retained.  Wisdom acquired.

That efforts to teach you were at least partially successful.  That the learning has been passed on, from one generation to the next.

You may not remember all your teacher’s names (I only remember about half), and you may live far from where you went to school.  Maybe enough time has passed that your teachers are long since departed.

How do we pay them back?

I’ll tell you what. Why don’t we try to share our thanks?

Let’s simply thank our teachers for teaching, and keep them in our prayers.

Not just our teachers, but all teachers.

That may not seem like much, but the simple acknowledgment that teaching is making a difference may be all most teachers ever need shared with them.

Now if you want to write them a check, that’s entirely your call.

Have a great week,


Teacher Subway Sign

That $%#^@ from Aurora.

I started to look up his name.

I’ve already heard it or read it a hundred times, but I wanted to make sure I was going to spell it correctly.

And then I stopped.

This guy gunned down a theater of people.

Do I really want to point out his name?

Truthfully, I have enough on my mind. It’s been a busy week. I have matters to attend to at work and at home.

Now, thanks to this inhuman act, my thoughts and prayers have been on people I’ve never met, who share with me the love of movies, and who never saw this coming.

Maybe my brain is just too full to remember your name, buddy.

I’ll think of you as $%#^@.

Or Monster.

Or maybe I won’t think of you at all.

Maybe you’re sick. Maybe insane. Maybe you need help.

Surely, you need help.

But I don’t want you to be famous for what you’ve done.

I want to say a name, but it isn’t yours.

I want to call out to the One, Jesus,  who can provide Peace to this violent world.

I want to hug my wife Jan and my dog Charlie, and remember to cherish the lives of those I hold dear, and never take them for granted.

These are the names I lift up.

And I pray for the families of Jon Blunk, Alex Teves, Matt McQuinn, John Larimer, Jesse Childress, Rebecca Ann Wingo, Alex Matthew Sullivan, A.J. Boik, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Jessica Ghawi,  Gordon Cowden, Micayla Medek,

And yes,

I will pray for you, too, $%#^@.

Angrily, perhaps…

but I’ll pray.