Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Name Means Something

I was born into a Catholic family in 1959. From what I can tell it was a pretty standard family of that day. Five kids, mom stayed home and dad worked. I was the second of the five -- three boys, two girls. Brother, me, sister, brother, sister. We, for the most part, also carry the traditional Catholic names and names of our forefathers, grandmothers and saints.

I am Thomas Joseph. My grandfather and great-grandfather carried the same name. The family history is a checkered past with stories of troubled lives and mysterious happenings. Some of the stories have never been confirmed and probably won’t. Still, nothing unusual for the times, I don’t think.

Recently, I thought about my name and the apostle Thomas. Thomas was one of Jesus’ 12 favored followers. He was lesser known and, like many of the others, had a different name, Didymus, before Jesus came along. Jesus liked to change their names.

I grew up as Tom. Mom and dad called me Tom Tom when I was good and Thomas Joseph when I wasn’t. I heard the latter one named frequently as I got older.

Names back in the old country were many times given to a person for whom they were or would be. Bob Carpenter was a woodworker, John Smith, a blacksmith, Betty Crocker, a cook. Names in the new world did not always follow that trend; they created tough names like Buck, Wyatt, Jessie and Hop-a-Long.

Thomas is a pretty common name. It is very popular in England, Australia and Canada. It has over 24 spellings and pronunciations --, Tam, Tamas, Tamhas, Thom, Thoma, Thomason, Thomson, Thompson, Tom, Tomas, Tomaso, Tomasso, Tomasz, Tome, Tomek to name a few. Each one carries a little different history but, for the most part, ends up back to the doubting, yet zealous, apostle.

I believe that kids can take on their names, become a namesake. Say a doubting Thomas might be a guy who is always in trouble or a bit of a misbehaver but has a great heart and the sweetest disposition. He is, can be, a bit of a skeptic and learn a lot of things the hard way. He is probably really cute and had great hair, as a child anyway.

You have names that have got to be bad choices and influence those who carry them. Vader Blauwbaard was convicted of murder and rape, Adolph Hitler, hello, bad choice. Pedro Rodrigues Filho convicted of 70 murders and Gwendolyn Graham who murdered five elderly nursing home residents and claimed to have killed another. My favorite, Thomas Ketchum, known as Black Jack Ketchum, a cowboy and cattle driver who later turned to a life of crime. Just teasing about these names -- lots of great folks have the name Vader and Adolph.

I do believe we speak into our children who they are at a young age. If you tell them they are bad, stupid or are never going to amount to anything, guess what -- you’re speaking it over them. Parents, the most important people in the world to them, telling them they are not worthy of great things can be devastating.

Thank God we have a loving Father who does not care about any of those things you may have been told as a child. Thank goodness He loves us no matter what and teaches us how to forgive. Mark 11:25 says: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

As a Thomas, I did pick up the craft of carpentry and tend to be a skeptic and doubter sometimes. I have never robbed a bank but do like the way of the cowboy. I love the Lord and know I have been forgiven; I have forgiven others. Let April, the beginning of spring, be the beginning of your new life in Him. It is not who someone says or said you are, it is who you can be.

God bless,

TJ Greaney

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Pyromaniac - Burn Baby Burn

I remember when I was young I had a thing with fire. I made a lot of bad decisions with fire. When I was about 8, my father built us a life-size, full out playhouse. It had doors, windows, rafters and shingles on the roof. It was truly a miniature house. He was a great carpenter.

You can guess where this is going. One morning I climbed into the rafters and held a match to the wooden roof. I watched it as it began to catch on fire. By the time I ran and got a dog bowl full of water, it was too late – it took my dad, a hose and a fireman to put it out. My tailbone got a lashing that day.

A few years later I stood over a five-gallon bucket of water, poured gas on top and dropped a match in. The explosion burned my face and all my eyebrows off. I thought the water would minimize the effects of the gas -- not true.

Today I enjoy my fires contained in the fireplace at my home, carefully crafted and screened. I also enjoy a good fire pit at the ranch. I can sit and watch what has been called “Texas TV,” (a burning fire pit outdoors) for hours. There is something peaceful and calming about sitting there watching the flames and colors, the warmth and the sounds.

When I went to Colorado last November to the Wild at Heart conference with John Eldredge, I was again drawn into the flames. It was not a physical burning flame that consumes playhouses and five-gallon buckets, not even logs of cedar or oak. It was a burning flame inside me to be a better man. To come to know Christ in a deeper and more personal way. It is a fire I hungered for a long time.

It seems most of us today are always in a hurry and few of us fan the flames of our passions. Even fewer folks listen to the quiet talk of our hearts or when God speaks to us. Oh, we try to when someone gets hurt or we are in trouble, and I believe God listens to us then, but what about in between?

Our country after 9-11 is a perfect example. The flames of patriotism and a search for God in our lives was evident by the masses heading into churches and giving financially to help organizations. Eventually that all faded and we returned to the hustle and bustle, the business of our lives. God, well He will be there when I need to chat with Him, on my terms, right?

What I want to do is live in the peace and comfort knowing God, a loving Father, cares about me. I want to please Him in who I am and what my life means. The love of a father is an intricate part of knowing love, feeling comforted, feeling safe, feeling OK. When I was on the mountain, I learned a lot about it. I learned more about God as my Father and how important that love is to me and for me.

The fire that I now crave is the one God placed on my heart to know him. It is a deep and burning flame that warms me and fills me. Yes, it does burn down and I have to intentionally and purposefully stoke it. The difference is that I want to know it more; I want it to burn in me.

When I burned down the playhouse, I remember being confused as to why I did it. I also remember when I was looking at myself without eyelashes after the water bucket fire experiment, thinking how stupid that was. Today, though, I am excited about the new flame I found burning. The one for which I was looking. I want to sit and enjoy it, the warmth, the comfort, the quiet, the complete sense that no matter what, my Father loves me and it is all gonna be OK.