Tag Archives: name

What’s in a Name…

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On the Saturday night of the weekend I was in New York I walked back to the hotel through Harlem by myself with the baby. The subway platform was crowded.  Rats were running along the tracks.  I observed some interactions that made me weary.  And then, I got on the train.

A dad and his son sat next to us. Baby promptly grabbed at the kid and we began to talk.  The boy was ten and wanted to be a chemist.

“A chemist?” I asked.

“He wants to solve the worlds’ ills,” his Dad told me.

“Well, how are your lab skills?” I asked.

The boy looked as if he really wished he could tell me. He looked like he might have gone out on a limb and told me that his lab skills were great if he even knew what lab skills were.

“Well, there are so many kinds of chemistry,” I said, “You’re best served keeping your options open so that you’re able to go down the path you want to follow when you find it.”

Dad looked at his son to see if he had absorbed that bit of advice.

The son continued to tell me how he was working hard to get good grades, the goals his Dad and he had set together, how strict his Dad was. And the way the boy talked, he was bragging.  He was proud of the contingencies that had been placed on his privileges and television hours.  Our stop came up.

“What’s your name?” I asked the boy.

“Craig,” he said.

“Well, good luck, Craig,” I said.

“And what’s your name?” I asked the Dad.

“Craig,” he smiled.

I smiled back.

“It was nice to meet you. You’re doing a great job, Craig,” I said.

The baby and I waved goodbye to the two Craigs through the window. And I wondered about it after that, the magic of bequeathing your name.  The willingness and care it takes to let someone else wear your name, how invested it makes you.

There was a sermon this summer on the name of God. The pastor talked about “Yhwh”.  He talked about the different ways to pronounce it, the implications of God revealing his name to us.  He said that lately Bible scholars have been drawing the connection between the sounds and spelling of the word “Yhwh” and the sounds and spelling in ancient Hebrew that represent the sound of human breath, nearly identical.

This is the depth of the Father’s commitment to us. And it is no small thing, that he would trust his name to our mouths with every breath.

And I think about young Craig from Harlem who will forever introduce himself with a name that was his Father’s first.

And I relax into the thought that before I was able to accomplish anything and long after I wear out my usefulness on this Earth my living breath will continue to proclaim the Father’s name.

Yhwh.

Fear…

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It has been unveiled to me lately, the amount of fear hiding inside me.

One day, about a month ago, on a walk I asked myself, “Barbara, what would you be able to do if you did not fear? Who would you pursue into friendship?  Who would you extend hospitality to?”

I was overwhelmed by the breadth of the image that came, what could be accomplished if I was not subject to fear. I have since been trying to feel the edges, notice the limits, and recognize the deceitful promptings of this fear.

In New York I was baby free for a few hours and my brother and I made a mad dash through the MOMA and grabbed a coffee. So as we’re cutting past the park I’m stuffing my face with the flaky corners off of an excellent cheddar chive scone.  I’m half watching this long line of what could only be Texan cheerleaders on vacation when I notice this homeless woman lying in the middle of it all on a bench.

Eight million people revolved around her, yet, she was unseen.

I walked a few more steps, stuffed another bite in my mouth, hesitated, and then stopped my brother.

“Just a sec, Dave, I feel like I’m supposed to give this lady the rest of my scone.”

I began to feel the pressure of the fear. It was determined to make me feel insecure and insufficient to this moment.  Which I was, always am.  I approached the woman.

She lay on her side with her eyes open. The eight million people she was invisible to were invisible to her.  She stared through them.  Her makeup was so ridiculously thick, that she brought to mind a geisha.  But she was under there, in there, somewhere.

The fear arrived and sat heavily on top of me as I prayed desperately for the words this woman needed to hear. Why was I standing here?  What exactly was I supposed to say?

“I have half of a cheddar chive scone here. Would you like it? I only used my fingers to break off chunks.”

She glanced at me then away and shrugged concession. I laid it by her head.

“God bless you,” I said.

I was aware of the triteness of my statement. It’s my fear that hides behind a generic blessing and carefully avoids naming the more polarizing Jesus Christ.  My heart pounded and I made myself stay as I waited for the words, awkwardly standing over a homeless lady outside Central Park just staring at her.

“God loves you,” I said.

The look she gave me was odd. I couldn’t read it, maybe anger, maybe disbelief.  It unnerved me and I succumbed to the weight of the breathless moment and left.  As I passed the line of Texan tourists the words arrived suddenly and in a flood.

I was supposed to tell her that she was not invisible, that God saw her, and that, though I didn’t know her name, he knew her name. This is what I could’ve told her if I had rested under the fear another minute until the words had come.  Is it strange that my fear would try to eat the very thing that is my strength and my love, glorious healing words?

I did not turn around, but kept walking, the words burning inside of me. There was grace for me in that moment.  God and I stared down the massive shape of my fear that had suddenly become oh-so-visible.

Oh, friends, there is work to be done!

It’s coming down.