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"Hear ye, hear ye," the head angel
said. "The first millennial meeting of the
Names of God Committee is now in session.
Angel Bubba will lead us in the first
order of business."
A burly angel stood. "Thank you,
Mr. Chairman," he said. "As y'all know,
God has recently created a new world,
and on the world He's put these things
called humans. Now, rumor has it that
God's become quite attached to these
humans, and He wants a special name
for them to use when they talk to God.
Our job is to come up with that name."
"How about His Awesome Majestic
Greatness?" suggested one angel.
"Or what about God Triumphant
and Powerful?" said another.
"Or, God Who Is Holier Than You'll
Ever Be?" said a third angel.
The chairman of the angels scribbled
furiously, pleased that there were so many
lofty names to choose from. Suddenly, the
door to the committee meeting room
burst open, and a messenger angel came
"Just got the word from the boss. He's
decided that the humans can call Him
There was an awkward pause, then
pandemonium broke loose in the board
room. "Father!" cried the angels. "But
that's so ... so personal! It's a familyname!
Why would such a powerful God want to
be called that?"
The messenger angel shrugged his
shoulders. "Simple," he said. "Because the
humans are His sons and daughters."
What's in a name? When that name is Father,
the answer to that question is everything. It's no
mistake that Christ began His prayer in Matthew
6 with these words, "Our Father" (italics mine).
With two simple words, Jesus confirmed what
we may already know instinctively: God of all
creation, Master of the universe and everything
beyond, is our Daddy.
Now, if we're honest, the word "father"
doesn't always conjure up positive images in this
sin-soaked society of ours. In fact, we've invented
a whole new vocabulary to describe fathers today:
Deadbeat dads. Alcoholic fathers. Serial abusers.
Incestual rapists. Absentee fathers. Family control
freaks. Cold. Harsh. Unaffectionate men. Disinterested
dads. Workaholic dads. Chauvinist
pigs. And the list goes on.
John Trent explains this in terms of a photograph.
"We've all grown up with different pictures
of what a father is," he says. "Some of the
pictures are underexposed: The image is washed
out and weak, a passive father maybe, or one
without passion. Others are overexposed: The
image is dark and
frightening, an alcoholic
or one who is just
angry all the time. A
few are torn pictures:
Only a partial image
is left, maybe because
the father died or
opted for a divorce
or just wasn't around to complete the picture.
Still others are distorted pictures: The full image
is there, but some part of the image is out of
balance, too much discipline and too little affection,
too much talking and too little listening."
Now here's the good news: Your heavenly
Father's not like that. Those faulty pictures may
too often be accurate when we're looking at our
earthly dads, but we mustn't make the mistake
of assuming the poor reflections of fatherhood
in our society are reflections of God our Father!
God never intended for His name to conjure up
associations like that. Our Father isn't like the
worst in our earthly fathers; He's the best of
those men—and more. He's our life-giver, our
caretaker, and the man- and woman-maker we
so desperately need to live healthy, fulfilled lives.
OUR FATHER IS A LIFE GIVER
I have a confession to make at this point. Often,
my neighbor across the street really annoys me.
It's not that Shirley's unkind or noisy or anything
like that. In reality, she's a warm, wonderful
person and a friend to our entire family.
What annoys me is her yard. Each spring
and summer, I gaze out my front window and
see ... that yard. Right now as I look across my
own lawn I see brown grass and, well, more
brown grass. Thirty feet away, in her yard, I see
a verdant carpet—lush, thick, and vibrant in
color. That's not all. Ringing the yard in glorious
splendor is a botanical paradise filled with
flowers whose names I can't even pronounce.
There are dainty little yellow ones, sprays of
purple ones, pink and red ones that reach for
the sky, and many others, as well.
What's even worse, I know, is what I can't
see from my viewpoint—her backyard. In that
place you'll find berry vines and a thriving vegetable
garden (from which we often get to eat
ourselves!). Shirley's yard is teeming with life, a
kind of gardener's paradise. The feeble efforts
my wife and I make at simply trying to keep our
lawn alive can't even come close to matching the
splendor of what Shirley does.
And so it is with God. An earthly father like
myself certainly contributes to the beginning of
a child's life, but that contribution pales in comparison
to the knowledge that our Father God
actually creates life. Our feeble efforts are merely
brown grass next to the garden of God's fathering
I'm reminded of a story I once read about a
physician studying the science of the human body.
"The dead body meant nothing at all to me," she
reported later. "I could not visualize the man or
woman it might have been."
For weeks, this doctor examined cadavers,
following with intricate care the mechanisms of
human physiology. And slowly a feeling of awe
began to engulf her.
"I was working on an arm and hand," she said
later, "studying the perfect mechanical arrangements
of the muscles and tendons.... I was all
alone in the laboratory when the overwhelming
belief came: a thing
like this is not just
chance but part of a
plan, a plan so big
that only God could
have conceived it ...
Everything now was
evidence of God—the
tendons of the
hand, the patterns of
the little blue butterfly's
all part of a purpose."
Yes, that's our Father. Our Father is the life-giver,
the planner of eternity and the moment.
When Christ exhorts us to pray "Our Father,"
He's telling us to revel in the intimacy that comes
from knowing personally the author of life!
An interesting thing about our Father: He
seems to have made a distinction between "life"
and "existence." Look at the world around you.
It's not simply an organic machine, plodding
daily toward further existence. It's a splashing,
ingenious, awe-inspiring sphere that bestows
life in colors and shapes and abilities that are
beyond our imagination!
This life our Father gives is more than existence.
It's Life with a capital "L." Think about it.
God could have created one gray flying animal,
but instead he made a toucan, a vulture, an eagle,
a mosquito, a butterfly, a bat, and more. He
could have made one simple fish, but instead he
filled our oceans with whales and dolphins and
jellyfish and hammerhead sharks and manta rays
and who knows what else that's hidden beneath
the depths of the waves. He could have made
copies of Adam and Eve, and instead he made
you and me and billions upon billions of others
of us, each unique and irreplaceable.
The life our Father gives isn't simply a prosaic
computer program (existence); it's art (Life!).
God intends your life to be painted with joy,
with love, with peace, with contentment, and
more. By the power of His spirit, your Daddy
can fill it (us!) with the textured exuberance of
relationships, colors, imagination, hopes and
dreams, laughter and tears, joy and tiredness,
children smiling, old folks grumbling, and even
writers rambling on about things which are, and
will always be, unexplainable.
And every inch, every molecule of this Life
lies comfortably in the hand of our Father—in
the hand that also reaches out to hold your own.
"Our Father ..."
Those words of Christ carry more than just
the recognition of God's awesome, life-giving
grace toward us. They remind us of the relationship,
the family that we have in God.
Like all good fathers, our Father didn't just
bring us into this world and then forget about
us. How desperate we would be if God had
done that! If He'd said, "There, I gave you life.
Now you're on your own. Hope you make out
okay. See you later!"
No, that's not the kind of Father we have.
Our Father is more like Mr. Maurice Rice, the
father of John Eades's boyhood friend, Matt. I'll
let John Eades explain what he means in his
own words here:
Mr. Rice was a veteran of World War
II, and I remember he was quiet with
steel blue eyes and a crew cut. He spoke
as if God had put a limit on the number
of words he could speak in his lifetime,
and he wasn't going to waste even one of
them. Since he seldom spoke, I always
paid close attention whenever he did,
and I noticed the adults did, too. He was
definitely a man of few words; and I'm
positive that in his later years, when he
most assuredly went on to heaven, he had
a whole bunch of unused words that he
turned back in to God.
I remember one night we were playing
baseball in another city, and the
crowd was plenty rough on us, as if the
adults had forgotten we were only eleven
years old that summer. There was this
huge man standing right behind the
backstop, and every time I threw a pitch,
he would throw an insult back at me. I
saw Mr. Rice come down from the stands
and edge right up next to him. In a few
seconds the man left the stadium and
didn't come back. I didn't know it then,
but later I heard my daddy tell my
momma that Mr. Rice had simply told
the man: "Leave walking or leave
stretched out." My daddy voiced his conviction
that the abusive man had made a
very wise choice.
It sure was comforting to know Mr.
Rice was on your side. It gave me a real
safe feeling when he was around. When
he would treat us to hot dogs after the
game, I thought maybe I knew how it felt
to be Matt, as Mr. Rice stood there with
his smile doing his talking for him. No
wonder Matt would rather go home after
school than hang around the park with us.
His daddy was really a special man....
I can't truly recall the very first time I
got the idea that Mr. Rice might have
had a tendency to lose things, but it seems
it was that time I needed a new pair of
baseball shoes. Being a pitcher, I had
worn out the toe of my right shoe by
pushing off the pitcher's mound and
dragging it across the dirt of the mound
each time I threw a pitch. I'm sure my
momma would have bought me a pair if
she could've, but the truth was we just
didn't have the extra money, especially
since Daddy had begun to make more
frequent stops at the tavern on his way
home from work. I do remember standing
beside Mr. Rice's station wagon that
day when he placed his right hand on his
hip pocket as a cloudy, worried look crept
across his usual sunny face.
"What's wrong, Mr. Rice?" I asked
him, not believing that such an intelligent
man like him could possibly lose his
"I seem to have lost my billfold," he
answered, checking all of his pockets as he
leaned over and peered into the front seat
of the station wagon. "There was a lot of
money in it; I have to find it. I'll go tell
the other boys to start looking for it. I'll
give a twenty-dollar reward to whoever
finds it," he announced as he stared over
toward the ball diamond with me right
behind him like I was a big imprinted
duckling. Suddenly he stopped and
turned around and instructed me to stay
right were I was. "You stay here and
check around on the inside of the station
wagon. Maybe it fell under the seat."
I went and opened the driver's door
and bent down, running my hand
beneath the seat as I searched for his wallet.
My hand came to rest on his thick
leather billfold, and I clearly recall hitting
my head on the doorframe as I raised
up quickly to yell that I had found it.
Mr. Rice came back to the car, shook
my hand, and thanked me for the good
deed I had done. He opened his wallet
and pulled out a crisp, new twenty-dollar
bill and handed it to me. "Well, Johnny,"
he said, "what are you going to spend
your reward on?"
I glanced down at my white-socked toe
sticking out of my right baseball shoe and
quickly smiled. "I sorta thought I'd get me
a new pair of baseball shoes, Mr. Rice, but
I feel funny about taking the reward
money. I didn't do nothing to earn this
much." I held the twenty-dollar bill in my
hand and pushed it toward him.
Mr. Rice closed my hand over the bill
with his hand as he smiled. "You saved
me hundreds of dollars, and that's the end
of the matter. After practice I'll take you
over to Dixie Sporting Goods to be sure
you don't spend it on a bunch of foolishness
instead of shoes."
That was how Mr. Rice's pattern of
losing stuff began.... I'm not sure exactly
how much stuff he lost when I was growing
up, but it seems it was quite a bit as I
think back on it. He must have lost his
wallet at least a dozen times, and I suppose
I became an expert at finding it for
him. Of course, he always gave me a
One time I found a brand-new baseball
just lying in my front yard on a
Sunday morning when Momma and I
got home from church. Several times I
found a lot of change in the front yard,
and most all of the coins were fifty-cent
pieces. One time at the Little League field
I found a shirt that looked brand-new,