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