For the past several months I have had the privilege and joy of worshiping at our Northwest site. Of course we have incredible messages from The Story and inspiring music, but I also love the smaller Sunday gathering in the Concordia High School that allows for a casual, yet a unique experience and an opportunity to:
- get to know long-time members that I’ve never met
- touch base with families new to our congregation and
- greet guests who are learning about Beautiful Savior for the first time
I love to grasp a hand in welcome, share a cup of coffee and dive into a conversation, but I admit it is an ongoing struggle to remember everyone’s names. So many new faces and smiles to see each morning is a joy, but trying to recall the name that goes with the correct person is a hit and miss with me. So I focus on the first names (thank heavens for name tags). At some point I will attempt the last names.
Fast forward to last Sunday. After our 10:00 AM service and packing up our worship area (followed by a meeting) I needed to drive over to the main campus. Of course I arrived as the 11:00 AM service was leaving. It was a beautiful sunny day and as I made my way to the main doors I was stopped numerous times as people called out to me. I greeted familiar friends that I had not spoken to in a while. JD who waved in greeting; Young Emma who recently organized a fund raiser for a 6-year old friend faced with cancer; Jodi who shared a prayer request; Jim from my Stephen Ministry training; Diane previously from our Grover site; Jill who attended a Monday night bible study with me and Deb who shared many a meal preparation in our church kitchen.
It felt so good to reconnect, to share a hug, exchange a smile and “catch up”. And with all of that I continually heard my name – Doneta! Where have you been? Doneta! It’s good to see you. How are you? Doneta! What’s going on? My heavenly Father has blessed my life with so many individuals; friendships, which strengthen me, support me and encourage me. Yes it was good to hear my name. They remembered me. That morning reminds me of a blog I did in April (“What’s in a Name?). God created us as unique individuals and not cookie cutter replicas. He knows us personally and calls us by name. [“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1-3].
He created us one by one – not to stand alone, but to be in relationships – with Him and with one another. Knowing that love. Knowing that my Father cares about me – every single detail of my day – how vital it is to claim that and share that identity with all the new people God places in my life. He longs for them to know they are an intimate part of His Story.
So when days are good and warm, when skies are murky and cold; when I am strong like Peter stepping out of the boat, or flailing like Peter sinking beneath the waves – I can call out to Him in thanks, in cries of anguish, in songs of praise, in prayer for another – in all of that I can “name” Him as my God, my Father. I know His name and He knows mine. With such knowledge I can begin anew, meeting new friends, learning their names and sharing God’s love with them so they too can learn of Him.
Blessings as you reach out on a first-name basis to your Father and others! Doneta