Janet Olsen-Goldberg

Several days ago, Janet received a letter from Morgan Park Academy, the exclusive private high school on the south side of Chicago that she attended. It was a fund raising letter, asking her to donate to the school. One problem – it was addressed to the wrong Janet. Not Janet Toussaint, or Janet Boyd Toussaint – but to Janet Olsen-Goldburg. Figure that one out. This isn’t the first time that we have received mail addressed this way. Every year, when the school sends out its petitions for donations, Janet gets this plea, and every several years or so we call the school and let them know about the mistake they continue to make. We keep getting promised that they will fix the mistake but, of course, that hasn’t happened yet. I have to tell you, I can’t possibly imagine that Janet would ever support the school in view of the fact that they don’t care about her name – only that they want her money…

I’m sure that this may sound harsh to you, but Janet has wrestled with people not knowing her name for years now – and it really bothers her when people get it wrong – it really does. I must say that I have suffered from the same problem – but not to the degree that she has. Periodically, I am called Stew or Steve instead of Scott, and if it happens repeatedly, I get a little irritated, but for the most part it rolls off my back.

Not so with Janet. She gets called Janice, or Jan (which she dislikes) or many other variations, but people rarely get her name correct. In fact, last week-end, we went to look at automobiles and even went for a test drive. We were serious buyers. Then the thank you letter came from the dealership. It was addressed to Scott and Janette Toussaint. Wrong… Several months ago, we decided to sponsor a child each month for a ministry that reaches out to assist at risk children in Indianapolis. The thank you note from them was addressed to Scott and Janice Toussaint. Wrong… Finally, within the last several days, Janet Olson-Goldburg received a letter at our home… Wrong…

I have to reveal all this tonight because I made a mistake earlier today. I have a dear pastor friend, Keith, who had breakfast with me yesterday. He is a great guy and we had a serious, direct conversation about a topic near and dear to each of us. Today he sent me a note expressing his appreciation for my candor and with heartfelt thanks, I responded to him with a rather long note of my own. Only problem – auto correct changed the name to Kevin and that’s the way it was sent. I felt like a fool… Of course I know his name, so a I sent a short note apologizing for my mistake – then I signed it “Steve” with one of those little smiley faces next to it. I felt kind of stupid.

Usually I am pretty careful about calling people by their correct names. Names are important to each of us. In fact, at the cafeteria where I work, I am emphatic that our employees wear their name badges when working on the line. I don’t think anything gets my ire up faster than people who are casual about the names of one another. To me, it almost borders on disrespect – and I can’t tolerate that.

Jesus knows each of us by name. Sometimes in the Scripture, Jesus actually assigns new names to His people, including Peter, one of the apostles. And He knew the names of people before he ever had been introduced to them in person. Yes, Jesus takes names very seriously. So does God the Father – He renamed people as well. Abram to Abraham – Sarai to Sarah – Jacob to Israel. And let’s not forget that angels came to the father of John the Baptist and Mary – announcing what their names were to be before the children were even born. Such was the case with Isaac in the Old Testament as well.

So, however you feel about names, they are important to God and I submit that they should be important to us. The verse for tonight is from John 17:12, where Jesus is letting God know that He has taken care of those entrusted to His care. We are told, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost…” The verse goes on to list one exception – Judas – who turned to Satan, but that shouldn’t be important to us – Satan was on the wrong team. My encouragement this evening is that you realize how important you and your name are to God. My prayer is that you will take it just as seriously to address people by their proper names and that you will make it a habit to go out of your way to learn the names of people. It’s important to them, and to God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

 
 
 
 

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