the nagging issue of a name

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,
but I’ve never been able to believe it.
I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


(the crest for my maiden name, Nichols)

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know that I’ve written a good bit
about my adoption…and that of a quest.

It has been a roller coaster of emotions with the exhilaration of discoveries–
all of which have been met by the slamming of doors, tightly shut…
all the way to the bewildering opening of different doors, much more welcoming.

In all of this is a name…
or more aptly, two names.

A before name and an after name.

The ‘now’ name of Julie and the ‘then’ name of Sylvia Kay…

Two names for one person that were exchanged after only three short months.

The Julie side of all of this has had the staying power of nearly 60 years while the
initial Sylvia Kay side was used but for a short time…

The whys and significance of Sylvia Kay remain unknown but to one.

Albeit a brief name, it none the less has most certainly remained in the recesses of the
conscience of a certain 83-year-old woman.
She has slammed shut the door but none the less has obviously allowed this name to fester…
just as it has festered in my own thoughts.

Yet Sylvia Kay was the “before” name.

The name following, which was officially Mary Julia and shortened by Dad to ‘Julie’,
has been the ‘after’ name—a name that has remained for all these many years…
the name with the real staying power of identity.

And so it was this morning, as I was reading a verse from the Bible, that I noticed
the real importance of before and after names.

I read a verse in which Abraham was referred to as Abram.

I am obviously no Bible scholar.
I was raised an Episcopalian and we all know Episcoplains are not Old Testament,
let alone Bible, aficionados.

I noted that it seemed odd as I am more familiar with the name Abraham
but I figured it must indeed be a “before” name for Abraham.

A sort of ‘before God encounter’ name.

And it seems that I was more correct than I realized.

You’ve often heard me quote and share the teachings of a simple
Benedictine monk from Australia who is currently living in a monastery in England.
He is best known as Father Hugh—Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB

The good Father’s post from yesterday opened with a picture of the
Jerusalem-version lectionary used throughout England and Wales.
Father Hugh asks all viewers if they can spot what it is that is the glaring mistake…
a mistake that is actually used twice.

The glaring mistake is found in a name.
The name Abraham.

Because of where this name falls in reference to the before and after encounter
of Abram with God, it is indeed, incorrect.
Instead of the after name Abraham, the Lectionary should use the before name of Abram.

Before Abram encounters God, he is known as “exalted Father”
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Genesis 14:19-20

After his encounter and ensuing covenant with God, Abram becomes Abraham, “father of many nations.”

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said,
“I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,
“As for me, this is my covenant with you:
You will be the father of many nations.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham,
for I have made you a father of many nations.
I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your
descendants after you for the generations to come,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Genesis 17:1-7

Why does any of this matter?
What is the big deal about a before and after name?

Well, it matters a great deal…
For we see time and time again throughout the Bible, names matter.
Names have meaning…purposeful meanings.
And in this case, the case of Abram, it matters because of the implications
of a covenant.

A covenant being an agreement.

And this agreement between Yahewh and Abram has lasting implications for all
generations to come…of which include both you and me.

On the other hand, my little before and after names are much smaller in scope.
They matter really only to me…and perhaps one other.
Mine is a simple matter of why…
Abram’s before and after is a matter of the beginning of reconciliation which
in turn leads to the salvation of all mankind.

Yes, big or small, names matter.

Please see the link below for Father Hugh’s most excellent teaching post

What’s in a Name

temporal or eternal and what name do you claim

“It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian,
but to actually be one.
Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch


(sculpture found in a shop window in the small Swiss town of Bremgarten / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Wait a little while, my soul, await the promise of God,
and you will have the fullness of all that is good in heaven.
If you yearn inordinately for the good things of this life,
you will lose those which are heavenly and eternal.
Use temporal things properly, but always desire what is eternal.
Temporal things can never fully satisfy you,
for you were not created to enjoy them alone . . .
for your blessedness and happiness lie only in God, who has made all things from nothing.”

Thomas a’ Kempis, p. 133-34
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

person, place or thing

“It ain’t what they call you,
it’s what you answer to.”

W.C. Fields

“Names and attributes must be accommodated to the essence of things,
and not the essence to the names,
since things come first and names afterwards.”

Galileo Galilei


(the honeysuckle in bloom / Julie Cook / 2017)

One thing for certain, I am not an expert.
Meaning…
I am not the go to guru on any one thing.

Oh I may know a good bit about this or that,
but I can’t say definitively that I am an expert.

Let’s take the subject of Language Arts for instance…
I know just enough to get by.

If we look back to the basics…
All the way back to the basic first steps in the study of the Language Arts…
We know that there is a process to learning the building blocks…
those building blocks which guide us to being able to understand writing,
reading and basic conversation….
That whole noun, verb, pronoun, adverb, adjective melange to our communicating.

We first learn that a noun is defined as a person, place or thing.

A bit broad, but it’s a start.

Verbs, they are action packed.

Adverbs help in all things action
while adjectives like to be on the dramatic side…they, for good and bad, describe.

But back to nouns.

We learn that in addition to nouns, there are things known as proper nouns.
As in they refer to one of a kinds, important sorts of things that always have capital letters.
For example, people’s names.
Properly put, I am Julie.
But I am also a woman, a girl or more simply, a female…
as in nouns but just not propers.

So the other day when I was reading a review on a book written by Alec Motyer
the book entitled
Isaiah By the Day
A new Devotional Translation

I was dumbstruck, or perhaps awed is a better assessment,
by a simple observation by Mr Motyer’s….

Which just goes to show us that when we thought we had God all figured out and
fit into our own little various boxes of understanding…
He goes and proclaims to us that there is always another facet to who He is—
far beyond the perimeters of our own limited understanding….

“If we were to ask him [God] ‘What are you?’
he would reply with the noun: I am ‘God’.

If we were to ask him ‘Who are you?’
he would reply with his name ‘Yahweh’.

There are two main nouns meaning God.
The most common is elohim, a plural of ‘amplitude’
indicating that this God possesses all and every divine attribute;
he is totally and completely God.

The other noun is el.
God in his transcendent majesty, glory and strength.
In order to keep you on the ball elohim is always translated ‘God’,
and el is ‘God’ “

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,
‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me,
‘What is his name?’
Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:13-14

“Amoretti”– a poem, obviously, by a love struck sandpiper

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(sandpiper, Watercolor Beach, Florida / Julie Coo / 2014)

Amoretti
One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
but came the waves and washèd it away:
agayne I wrote it with a second hand,
but came the tyde, and made my paynes his pray.
Vayne man, sayd she, that doest in vaine assay,
a mortall thing so to immortalize,
for I my selve shall lyke to this decay,
and eek my name bee wypèd out lykewize.
Not so, (quod I) let baser things devize
to dy in dust, but you shall live by fame:
my verse your vertues rare shall eternize,
and in the hevens wryte your glorious name.
Where whenas death shall all the world subdew,
our love shall live, and later life renew.

Edmund Spenser’s Amoretti (1595)