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Friday, April 27, 2018


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…

[I get an idea, write as much of it as I can, file it where I’ll find it easily so I can finish it up and post it, lose it for days, months, maybe years, and then it pops up and… I can’t remember if I have already used it. So it is with this column. It sounds so familiar, like I’ve posted it before, but I can find no mention of it in the fairly careful indexing I used to do so that I would not repeat posts. It will be especially embarrassing if I forget and repost a column in which I brag about how good my memory is, but…]

I have 23 “children” in the ministry, young people who heard the strange calling because, they said, I made it “look like fun.” They all hate me.

They did, however, name a scholarship, and several dogs, for me, the latter, I think, so they can shout, “John Robert, get your furry bottom off the sofa.” Come to think of it, that’s what Helen shouts, too, except for two of the words. [She doesn’t call me John Robert.]

In response to the column and emails on the occasion of Helen’s birthday, about Helen making it look easy to be a preacher’s wife, [1] Raydean Davis said satirically, “Of course, you make the ministry look so difficult.”

I suppose I did make it look easy at times, because I remembered names. At least, that was my reputation. I’m still fairly good at names, although like all old people, the forgetter demons--the ones that live by eating names--have taken up residence in my brain. [2] I was never really as good at names as my reputation. But I love stories. Stories and names go together. When I knew a person’s story, it was easy to remember his or her name.

A name is simply a shortened form of story. Say “Adele” or “John Lennon” or “Steve Jobs” and you don’t hear just a name, you hear that person’s whole story, or at least as much of it as you know. There are names I have forgotten, but I still know the stories; I just can’t give you the short form of it, the name.

The very nature of life is story. When I say your name, or you say mine, we are saying that we both have a story,

Any name is good if it tells a good story.

Here, I think, is what is necessary for a name: 1] You must have a story. 2] It must be your story. 3] It must be bigger than just your story. 4] It has to be big enough to include everyone.

The tragedy today is that so many want to stop at number three. Oh, yes, they’ll claim their story includes everyone, but it’s inclusion by exclusion. If you don’t agree with them at every point, you are in the story only as evil, infidel, the enemy. That takes all the meaning from a good name.


1] Barbara Reick, the wife of the Lutheran pastor in Hoopeston, IL, told me: “I hate your wife. She makes being a preacher’s wife look so easy, and it’s not.” I told her, “That’s because Helen isn’t the preacher’s wife; she’s just herself.”

2] Strangely, the first letter of a name and the rest of the name are stored in two different places in the brain, accounting for the oft-occasioned, “Oh, I know his name starts with an S, [or some other letter], but I just can’t think of the rest of it.”
I used to keep a careful index of topics and stories so that I would not bore readers with repeats. But that became cumbersome, and since this blog is primarily for folks in the winter of their years, I figure they won’t be able to remember if they’ve heard it before, anyway.

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