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

What’s in a name?

If you have read any of my previous posts, you may be detecting a bit of a trend, if you will, between my name and me. Legal name, nickname, biological name, adopted name, married name…names, names, and more names!!

It is obvious that a name is very important. It is important because it creates identity. It tells others who we are. It tells others a little about who we are. It tells others from where we originate in relationship to a particular location on the globe. A name is very telling.

Remember the old defiant saying we use to say as kids?…sticks and stones may break our bones but words can never hurt us. Well I’m not so sure about that. If you were ever called an ugly name, as a child, by other children, I guarantee you can still recall the name, the place it was stated, who said it –plus, I can even bet that the same sad uncomfortable pain you felt back then, can still be felt as you read this today. Name-calling creates a negative identity, one that can have a lasting effect.

As soon-to-be new parents, part of the joy and anticipation of the nine months of waiting is deciding on what to name the baby. Truth be told, many a young girl, and I bet a few boys as well, have always dreamt of what they will one day name their future child, even as that event is many years away.

Fathers-to-be usually wish to bestow a part of the family legacy on future generations by naming a son after themselves, or after their own father or grandfather—hence junior or the III. Mother’s sometimes opt for a family name as well or the name of a dear friend. The new moniker carries loves, honor, and respect. Sometimes even originality but I don’t wish to get into that debate, as the news is full of kids having names that actually force families to court to create legality or legitimacy to a particular chosen name that is, say, off the beaten path of names.

There can also be, however, the lasting negative connotation of names. Who wants to be named Judas, or Hitler? A name that was once ok and common, by the act of one individual can alter how the world views that name from that day for evermore—always casting shadows on anyone who carries such a name in a future generation.

Those of the religious communities, particularly within the Catholic and Orthodox faith, usually take on a new name upon their ordination or consecration—particularly those seeking a life in the monastic communities. The choice of name helps to create a new identity in the new chosen life. The leaving of the old self behind, a death in many ways, giving way to a renewed birth—a new life, a new identity, a new future. There is the hope of being able to live up to the new name, as it is usually the name of a Saint—big shoes to fill.

We recently witnessed the importance of names, as just last week, the world waited with bated breath, as to what name our new pope would choose. The name Francis has resounding possibilities—will he live up to the chosen name remains one of the questions we all wonder as we have placed so much strength and hope in this particular name of choice. And why is that? Is it because of one Francis who lived so long ago? One person with one name cast his stone to the waters and the ripples continue to reverberate to this day. Yes. There is power in a name.

Many of those of the Jewish Orthodox Faith will not say the word that we so often take for granted…God. Nor will they not write the name; it will appear often as G space d. It is too powerful a name for us mere mortals to utter. And so it use to be. More about this momentarily.

One of my most favorite quotes by Mother Teresa is: “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.” I used that on my school e-mail as my tag line. It was important to me that those of us, especially in Education, to be reminded of the most important part of our job—creating lasting relationships with our learners/ students.

In a time that has only created suspicion and paranoia about the adults who are entrusted to tend to and care for children I thought, and still think, it very important that those strong bonds be able to continue to be forged. And those bonds and relationships all begin with the learning of a name.

On the first day of school the roll is called and there is acknowledgment made to the called name and it is at this important moment a relationship begins…

As I think about the beginning of relationships, I think of Moses meeting God for the first time…when that most of important relationships began. It is hard for me to even imagine such an encounter. But because of that relationship, I now have a relationship with the very same God.

As Moses came upon the burning bush—a conversation began. Moses was uncertain as to whom he was speaking. From the story in Exodus (Ex 3), we all know that the voice and the presence form the burning bush is that of God, but can you imagine…you are out in a barren land (look at pictures of this area of Sinai—barren sums it up pretty well) tending to some sheep or cattle. All they have to eat is some dried brush. Jagged mountains, dust, rocks, sky is all that surrounds you. Suddenly you see what you think is a brush fire.

Upon closer inspection…it is not a brush fire per se. A voice from somewhere breaks your intent curiosity. It tells you to stop. Take off your shoes as you are on hallowed ground. Perhaps the shoes separate your being from touching the hallowed ground. There can be nothing that separates you from this Presence. Perhaps the shoes denote some sort of disrespect. You take off the shoes.

Moses had grown up in the court of Pharaoh. He knows all about respecting authority. He knows all about telling someone to do something and it is expected that whatever task it is will be done. He knows of rank and order. He also knows about suffering and torment.

God begins a conversation with this wayward shepherd, this lost soldier, and this lost child. As the conversation continues, Moses is told he needs to go back to the others of his “clan”, his people, the people of Israel and God’s people and “lead” them. A tall order, but Moses knows that when one is given an order by Authority, one must obey. It’s the others he’s a little worried about.

So he says to the bush (God), “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of our fathers has sent me to you’, and they ask me ‘what is his name?’ what shall I say to them? God says to Moses,” I AM WHO I AM.”

WOW, that’s pretty powerful. I Am Who I Am. No more explanation needed.

‘And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

So now I come to the whole gist of this little lesson in names.

Our society has become, shall we say, a bit more casual of society then previous generations. We don’t possess the same sense of need to be formal which can in turn be perceived as a lack of respect. We are casual with what we call one another. Names used as a general term of recognition today, generations ago were seen as an insult, a slur, a reason to fight. I don’t like this casualness.

We take names for granted. They no longer hold the authority that they once did. Street names take on greater importance than that of a birth name. It’s as it we have multiple personalities. The birth name is one person, the nickname, street name, the stage name …is someone else entirely. I don’t know if this is a good thing.

Over the years I have read a good bit about the Eastern Orthodox Church. Our Christian cousins. They remained a mystery to me—something seen as foreign. I knew the succession from Catholicism on down the western Christian family tree to the Protestant denominations we see today, but it was the Orthodox who I didn’t quite understand. And that I feel is a shame as Western and Eastern Christians have so much to share and offer one another.

So I immersed myself in reading the history and beliefs of these “cousins”. One thing I’ve discovered is that the Orthodox have a tremendous reverence for the name of Jesus, for the very power that exists within that name. I had not quite looked at it that way before.

As this society, of which I live, takes that name, and all other names for granted– the power it holds lessens. Not so much in reality of the name of Jesus, but in today’s perception of the name.

How many times do you hear someone say “Jesus Christ” as a form of frustration or anger?—a phrase clumped into the 4 letter word category. (and don’t get me started on the whole casual use of foul language in our society. People argue, “it’s just a word”…yes, well, words have meaning and power and should not be uttered with abandon and disregard—and others will argue “they only have power if you let them”…well let’s go back to the historical lesson we have here, shall we, and see what the Bush had to say about words, names and actions…but then you’d need to believe in the Power of a bush wouldn’t you—-I do.)

I suppose I was convicted that I had/have not taken the name as reverently as I should. My generation has been inundated with the irreverent use of the word. Form “the church lady” on Saturday Night Live to those oh so Southern television evangelists, from days gone by, who would slap people on their foreheads spouting “in the name of JEESSUS, be healed”…we make fun, we laugh, we lessen the power and importance of the name and of the Person.

I realized that I had become perhaps jaded and cynical– having lost some of the respect and awe that this name, Yeshua יֵשׁוּעַ holds for me and should hold for me, as it should hold for all of us who claim to be believers. We cannot make Him small but we have tried. We have tried to bottle Him up, make Him tiny and make Him our “friend”, our feel good drug, if you will, our quick fix, our fashion statement…but He is greater and deserves to be treated as such.

And so it was with the learning of an ancient prayer that is but simple and yet very powerful. I had originally intended to write about The Jesus Prayer, but I felt to understand the importance of the name would be the issue today more so than the history of the prayer. Once I was reintroduced to this oh so Powerful of Names, I came to claim this prayer, as countless numbers of believers before me, as a powerful tool.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me a sinner”. It is a prayer that evokes deep feelings and yearnings. It is direct. An arrow prayer if you will. A prayer that is used to bring an inward sense of stillness and quietness for one’s very being. It is a prayer of focus and control. It is a cry in desperation. It is a soothing balm to a broken and contrite spirit.

I will write at a later date more about the prayer, its use, and its history. But for today, this Monday in the midst of Lent, I will leave you with the importance of a name and of the importance of a prayer. A prayer that calls upon the most important Name of names. May you find it as powerful as I have and may it bless you as it has blessed me.

Goose chases, passports and the times in which we live

Ok so I don’t know whether to scream in frustration, cry in frustration or to laugh in resignation.  I think I’ve figured out the entire root of my troubles. I can trace it back, all the way back, to the day I was born.  The first red flag.  I was born then immediately put up for adoption (and that story is for another day).  A wonderful couple was matched up with this new little bundle of joy and was to soon become a family.

My father (the one adopting me) tells of how on the night before they were to pick-up their new daughter, they were out eating with another couple.  The other couple wanted to know what my (soon to be) parents were going to name their new child.  My dad tells them that his mother’s name is Julia and that his mother-n-law’s name is Mary.  The other couple exclaims “that’s it!!!–you name her Mary Julia, but call her Julie.”   “Great idea.”  Who said that???  The rest is history.

That is the second beginning of all of my troubles, and remember, the first was the whole being born thing.

Life rocks along pretty well until it’s time to start school.  On the first day of school teachers start calling roll and are looking for “Mary.”  “Who’s that?!” I wonder– “my name is Julie.” “That Mary girl has my same last name”.  And so the story goes on and on, all the way through college.  I think I’m Julie but legally, I’m Mary.  Ok, I can live with that little piece of confusion.  I’ll just correct all the first day roll callers.

One day a nice boy asks me to marry him. I’m going to get married!  YAY!  Julie is to pick up a new last name.  And like all good southern girls of the day, who love things monogramed, I will be Julie, Maiden Name, New last name—the best of both worlds—–or so I thought.  Has anyone figured out yet where all of this is going ??!!

Once I’m married Social Security says I need to update my name on my card so I can still get paid at work and match up with who I say I am and so the Tax man, no doubt, can find me.  Ok.  I can fix that.  I’ll go stand in a very long line, wait and wait for my number to be called and change my old name to my new name.

But for some reason, a reason I do not know or recall, my driver’s license is still using my “legal” name.  Ok, no problem, it’s just one of my now many names, it has a picture, I’m good to go.

All of that is fine, that is until 9/11.  After 9/11 everything changes.  Everything changes for everyone.  We suddenly realize our lives will never be the same as we knew them to be.  The Government has decided it must now do a better job of identifying people. It must know who is or who isn’t a citizen.  I still don’t think they have this part down quite yet but I suppose it’s just a work in progress, kind of like the Budget…. but I digress.

The Government tells me via the DOT and Social Security that I need to have all legal documents match.  Ok.  I can do this.  I can take time off from work and go to the Social Security Office and wait in a long line, again.  I can wait and wait for my number to be called and change my name–again.

Whew!  Glad I got that over with!!!

Then the Pope dies.  John Paul II.  I am devastated.  And yes, I sincerely was (still am) a huge fan of JPII.  My passport…where is my passport??!!  AGH! It’s expired!!! AGH!!! I want to go to Italy for the funeral!!!  I need to get a new one!!!  However I can’t get one in time!! AGH!!!  But I still need to renew it.  So I do.

“What name do I use?” I muse to myself.  Well I still go by Julie, Maiden name, Last Name so there you go.  And a few weeks later, the Passport arrives…Julia (? hum), Maiden name, Last Name.  OK. That works. Good.  I can now go to Italy to pay my respects.  And I do.

And then a couple of years later my aunt wants to go to Paris.  And we do.  And then my husband wants to go to Vermont.  And we start to– but Delta says “hold up”!  The TSA agent at the gate states “Do you know your name with Delta, which is on your ticket, does not match your license?”  “Oh sure..see I go by Julie.  The other name is just my legal name….”  “Well I can’t let you go through this gate until both ticket and license match.”  “Are You kidding??!”  TSA agents don’t ever kid I discovered.  I tell my husband to go on to the gate and I’ll go back to the counter and get things fixed right up.  When is anything fixed right up at the airport??!!

I stand in a long line, staring back and forth at my watch.  Finally I get up to the desk.  “That will be $350 to issue a new ticket mam” I’m told.  “WHAT!!??”  My phone starts ringing, it’s my husband telling me Security says he has a knife in his bag.  I packed the bag, there’s no knife, “tell them that’s just my straightening iron”– but he is insistent and his voice is getting higher…something about jail.  I have to hang up, I have to figure out this $350 thing!!

I feel tears stinging at my eyes.  Finally a different nice Delta lady tells me it’s going to be OK.  She issues me a new ticket.  I dash to the TSA man.  This time he let’s me pass.  I see my husband. He’s looking very pale.  He’s putting his belt back on and slipping on his shoes.  He starts screaming in that “we’re in public so I can’t scream too loud but I need to scream voice”.  Seems our son who last had the bag had put a pocket knife in the side panel when he was driving back from a Spring Break fishing trip. Who knew??!!  But luckily the panic and horror on my husband’s face signaled to Security that he truly was as surprised as they were. They kept the knife, but let me take my husband.  Don’t know if that was too wise at that very moment, but again, I digress.

Then I retired and my aunt and I wanted to go back to Europe.  Remember the license, the passport, as well as for my name with Delta now, do not match.  But I’m going to Europe, heck yeah!  Surrrre you are.

We’re at the airport and I have to get Delta to issue me my ticket at the desk as I can’t do it on-line because I have so many names—but I’m still me and my pictures are obviously me so I don’t understand, what’s the big deal.  The agent is so nice and issues me my ticket and I’m good to go….or so I think.  There’s another one of those pesky TSA agents.  Do they ever smile??  She looks at my passport and my ticket.  “Why don’t these match?”  “Well you see, they do but Julie is the name I go by.  “It’s a nick name and we don’t honor nick names”  “Oh no it’s not, it’s the name I go by”  “Is it your legal name?  “Well, not exactly, but it is my name!”  “Let me see your license”   Long pause and held breath.  “What’s this name?”  “Oh that’s my maiden name”  more long pause and not breathing.  She finally waves us through. Thank God!! Europe here I come…….

Then there was the whole trying to get through the airport in Berlin when we were suppose to fly home. Another debacle I’m just too tired now to relay and you’re too tired to read….Just imagine all of the above  but it happens all in German.   As soon as I finally got on that plan I swore I’d get this passport thing straightened out once and for all!!!!  Righhhht……..

I call the Passport folks and begin my tale of names blaming all of it on my father.  As if that helps.  They tell me I need certified copies of this and that, sworn affidavits form 3 different people who have known me by all my names, more money, the correct forms, etc……

I look for birth certificates, high school diplomas, college diplomas, tax stubs, pay checks….AGH!!  Why don’t any of these match!!!???  Panic is sinking in as I’m beginning to realize I will never travel or leave this country again.  I call my aunt in Florida.  She has my baptismal record.  Good!  “Certify you know me and send it my way.”  I call the Passport folks again.  This time the nice lady tells me I just need a birth certificate, a marriage license and my drivers license, more money, a letter of explanation and I’m good to go.  Great!!  Now where is that marriage license……..

Fast forward to today.

I was married in Atlanta.  No problem.  Bet my license is there.  I look on line and I can go downtown to the Probate court and purchase a certified copy.  I haven’t been to downtown Atlanta in 30 years so I call my oldest and dearest friend who lives in Atlanta.  I tell her we have an adventure but she has to drive.  She’s in.  Off we go to the Probate Court.

Did you know you have to pass through security just like at the airport?  I began to panic about my whole name thing when I remembered this wasn’t the airport.  Whew!!  We make our way up to the proper office where I sign in.  Seems there are lots of folks wanting firearm permits. Go figure. That makes me a little nervous but then I remember I just want a marriage license.

The clerk calls my name.  I tell her what I need, give her my name, wedding date and proceed to wait as she scans the records.  Nothing.  She has nothing.  What!!??  Here’s my husband’s name, try that.  Nothing.  “WE’VE BEEN MARRIED 30 YEARS, WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE’S NOTHING??!!”  At this my friend quips “guess you aren’t really married.”  At which all the clerks behind the counter start laughing.  I’m not laughing.

And then I remember.  I tell the clerk that I remember we had our blood test in Talladega, Alabama.  “TALLADEGA, ALABAMA?! my friend shrieks.  “What in the world for, Why?!”  I remind her that I am not married to a man who is a planner.  When he realized that we needed a blood test and the wedding was looming, he found  the closest place within driving distance, where we could wait for immediate results without having to go to Vegas –downtown Talledega.  Had we gotten the license there as well??!!

The Clerk told me to call the county office there in Talladega where I could probably find the help I needed —I needed more than help at this moment–a strong shot of liquor was sounding pretty good.  Once back outside I call my husband telling him I have no idea where our license could be–was it in Talladega?  “Talladega, why would it be there?” he asks a little confused.  I explain the whole blood test story hoping to trigger his obviously failing memory.  “Yeah, we got the blood tests there but we got the license in the county of Georgia I was living in at the time.” “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??!!”  “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THIS WHEN I TOLD YOU I WAS GOING TO DOWNTOWN ATLANTA TO GET OUR LICENSE??!!”  He quietly states that it appears as if I am blaming him for this goose chase of a trip.  He assumed I knew what I was talking about when I told him I was off to Atlanta to get our marriage license.  Now he tells me he thinks I know what I’m talking about….damn straight!!  AAAGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!

A now very long story short, I called the county office where I now thought my elusive license to be hiding and BINGO!!  Tomorrow I will pay $10, bring home a license, gather all of my other identifying information, write a check for $110 and send it off to the Passport Office.  I will light candles, have a novena said, and offer my oldest child all for a Passport, a Drivers license and a Social Security card to match.

And now the Pope retires and I don’t have a working passport.  Perhaps by the time we have the Conclave and our new Pope—I will be able to go pay my respects.  I will go.