Tag Archives: name

What’s in a Name?

I’m really enjoying One Thousand Gifts – a reflection on living out ευχαριστεω every day.

In one section, Ann tells the story of her Farmer Husband trying to figure out why the new litters of pigs are stillborn. He’s sent off samples to various labs, had the vet out numerous times, and generally exhausted every option for diagnosis. Finally, researching on the internet one night, he narrows it down to a particular (nasty) disease.

Expecting him to be frustrated or downtrodden, Ann asks if he’s alright. The Farmer says, “Yes… and no. I don’t like what it is, or that is looks like it’s nearly impossible to eradicate, but you know what? … I’m strangely happy… Just naming it… When you don’t have the name for something, you’re haunted by shadows… But when you can name something…” (pg 52).

Ann goes on to reflect that “Naming is Edenic.”

Man’s first task was to name things.  No wonder so many ancient mythologies associate a power with naming something!  It was our first task as caretakers of the earth to name the things in it.

Adam naming the animals. Wall painting in Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery (Greece), 16th century.

In a sense, medical diagnostics offer this power.  After five years of illness, when I finally heard the words, “You have West Nile,” I was giddy.  I remember skipping to the coffee house as I met my friends that afternoon, nearly shouting my diagnosis.  It didn’t matter that naming my disease offered up no new treatments – there was power in the name itself.  I had a name for the monster that hounded me.  I had a peace – I didn’t have to look anymore for what else the monster could be.

Heck, with a name, it can feel more like a pet than a monster.  It’s like I put a collar around it.

My colleagues’ and my research in diagnostics offers up names for the mysterious.  Some of the diseases we work on have treatments – knowing the name opens the door to healing.  Other diseases have no treatment.  But rather than being a fruitless exercise, identifying the disease provides some peace: no more searching for other diseases, no more fear of a nameless monster, no more treatment for a disease that’s not present.


I love that God tasked us with naming His creatures before the fall.  It is a good profession.


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When I talk to people from my other home(s), their first question – after a squeal of a delight or shout of “Congratulations!” – is, “So, when’s the wedding?”
Down here among career academics, I first get asked, “Will you change your name?”

My answer is a whole-hearted, “Yes.”
For me, changing my name to his symbolizes that we are starting a new family. We are not building a home by gluing together two separate lives; we are in this business called life together, through thick and thin, unified with one goal. God created man and woman to separate from their families and hold tight to one another. Having one name shows the world our beliefs on unity in marriage in a tangible way.

(Note: I do understand that many academic women want to keep their maiden name so that they will continue to be associated with old publications. For me, with my small number of publications (1!) and my strong beliefs on unity, taking his name takes precedence. Actually, I’d still change my name if I had 40 publications.)

If that weren’t enough, Greg’s last name has so many delightful pun possibilities.

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YET I Will Rejoice in the Lord

A string of generally related, Scripture-dripping thoughts from the last few days.

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?

“Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.”
-Habakkuk 12:2,5

So we read during Leadership meeting Sunday night.
“The Lord calls us to look beyond our own circumstances and to find joy in who He is and not what he might be doing for us at a particular time.”

I was reminded of the a passage in Corrie Ten Boom’s A Hiding Place. When Corrie and her sister Betsy arrive in a concentration camp, they discover that their beds are covered in lice. Corrie despairs, but Betsy bows her head and thanks God for the lice.
Several weeks later they find that they have been able to conduct Bible studies without interference because the camp guards didn’t want to brave the lice.
God is good, God is faithful, and He uses even the lice to His purposes.

My group of leaders shared our prayer requests, each of us saying, I don’t know where God is taking this situation, but I will give glory to Him.

Habakkuk says,

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
-Habakkuk 3:17-19

I love that. Earlier Habakkuk asks for help, and here he says, “I don’t care if every single thing goes wrong. I will praise the Lord.”

The famous Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego express the same faith just before Nebuchadnezzar throws them into the furnace.

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, o king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods.
-Daniel 3:17-18

BRH sings a beautiful song called I Am (I think) that sings out the names of God. Often, I think, God avoids giving us the yes or no answer we expected, but instead gives us The Answer: Himself, His great Name.
“I Am. I Am the God of Jacob. I Am the Alpha and Omega. I Am the Lion of Judah. I Am the Son of Man. I Am the Rock of Ages. I Am the Lord who Heals. I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I Am the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I Am.”

And that is all I need. Though life is stressful and confusing, I know that all of my questions have answers in the great I Am.

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What’s in a name?

In the world of Gilgamesh, a name was everything. Gilgamesh fought Humbaba, killed the Bull of Heaven, and built the wall of Uruk to make his name great. A famous name imparted immortality.

The Hebrew culture, which emerged out of the Gilgamesh’s culture, was also fascinated with names. However, the purpose of a Hebrew’s existence was not to make a name for himself in order to earn immortality; instead, the purpose of his existence was to make Great the name of the Lord.

“He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.”

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We’ve named our dishwasher.
Meet Myrtle.
She moans.

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When I first discovered this etymology about a year ago, I was thrilled to have a very Irish name from decidedly Greek roots. I thought nothing of being named for a precious stone; it didn’t seem to be important.

I learned recently that the pearl is considered a symbol for Christ.
The gate to heaven is made of one single pearl.
The pearl is the only precious stone to be formed by suffering and death.

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To my star-naming friend:

dictionary.com and etymonline.com lie.

They say the roots of “astronomy” are αστρον, star, and νομος, law.

I like mine better.
I always get νομος, law, confused with ονομα, which means “name.”
Thus “astronomy” becomes αστρ-ονομα, star name.
So an astronomer is one who names the stars, a Namer with a capital N in the L’Engle tradition.

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