Posts Tagged ‘child of God

26
Apr
21

Your Real Name

As Juliet once famously asked, looking heavenward from her balcony, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

Juliet’s ambivalence on the topic of names is understandable; if her lover Romeo hadn’t been cursed with the surname “Montague,” their affair would have been totally copasetic. 

For the rest of us though, names seem to matter… a LOT!

They connect us to a family history, for one thing. They provide the good folks at Ancestry.com with a healthy revenue stream for another. They give us clues about identities or qualities our parents hoped to instill in us, or perhaps detected in the first hours of our lives. 

Take Hunter, for example. Or Rex (Latin for “king”). Or Linda (Spanish for “beautiful”), or any name with blatant biblical origins such as Ruth, or Deborah, or Paul, or any one of the 12 disciples.

On a personal note, I have been engaged in a lifelong tug-of-war with my feelings about my name. My grandfather’s name was George Clifford Brown. My father’s name was George Clifford Brown, Jr. And for reasons I was never privy to, I got the name George RUSSELL Brown. I guess my dad SORT OF wanted to carry on the family lineage but didn’t want me to be burdened by carrying that oh-so-pretentious “III” through life. 

As a very young guy I decided GEORGE sounded “too adult,” so I went with a shortened version of my middle name. That is why, to all my friends and family thereafter I was RUSTY

That name, however, caused me to become the butt of a Sunday school teacher’s cruel joke. I thought it was a little strange that day when she called on me read a passage from the lesson. The subject of the lesson was the Dead Sea Scrolls and as I read aloud, I read that the author described the scrolls as having, “… a rusty brown color.”

Hardy har har, Mrs. Crompton. At least the rest of the class enjoyed your little stunt.

When my family moved from Ohio to the suburbs of Seattle just before my senior year of high school, I decided it was high time for a rite of passage. That was when I dropped RUSTY and went with RUSSELL.

Then, ten years later, I got my next name surprise. When applying for my first passport, that I discovered I had been misspelling my own name. There, in black and white, on my birth certificate, on the space marked, “Middle Name,” it read: RUSSEL. 

One “L”. Not two. 

Now, thanks to the website, “Behind the Name.com,” (https://www.behindthename.com), I have discovered that the name GEORGE comes from the Greek and means “farmer or earthworker,” while Russell (two “Ls”) is derived from French meaning “little red one.” 

How’s THAT for auspicious? 

Here’s the thing though; at this ripe and maturing age, I am finally at peace with my name. As the jokester once said, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner.”

I have also come to learn that there two other names that mean a lot more to me… much more than “Rusty,” or “Russell,” (or “Russel,”) or “George.”

As John the Evangelist tells me in the book of 1 John, I have been given the name CHILD OF GOD; “See what great love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God!”

(1 John 3:1, NRSV). 

And Jesus himself called me the best name of all. He has called me “friend.” He was really talking to his original group of disciples when he said this, but I hear Jesus speaking directly to me in John’s gospel when he says, “… but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15, NRSV).

And you know what? YOU have also received those two awesome names!

How cool is THAT!!

Abundant blessings;

05
Nov
19

My Tribe

DNA research“Where are you from?”

It used to be such a simple question… with an equally simple answer. People asked it as a way of understanding a little bit more about what made you tick.

I used to envy people who were from “someplace else.” They seemed strangely exotic and mysterious… even if the “someplace else” was no more than two towns away.

My response was usually to hang my head and mumble, “I’m from right here” if anyone even bothered to ask.

These days, however, simple answers to the origin question just don’t stand up. We hunger for deeper, more archival, more historically researched answers to what used to be a pretty simple question.

We want to know who our people are and what traits we have in common with them… all as a way of peering more deeply into our own souls, I suspect.

In response to our yearning, companies like Ancestry.comand “23 and me” have sprung up. Their sole purpose in life is peeling back layer after layer of the genealogical onion to help us discover our REAL origin stories. With enough time and carefully harvested saliva, they can tell us about roots going back six or seven generations.

I have not yet jumped onto the ancestry bandwagon myself, but I know people who have. They describe moments of tremendous excitement as names and snippets of personal histories of long-lost ancestors come floating into view from deep beneath the mists of time.

I imagine there is a lot of insight to be gleaned from this kind of exploration. But honestly, I am not sure how finding out I had a great-great grandfather who either, A.) Captained a slave ship, or B.) Built the first school in the western U.S. (neither of which are true, incidentally) would alter my approach to living or making decisions.

That kind of information might make me a more scintillating conversationalist next time I find myself stuck in an elevator with eight strangers. But honestly, beyond that, I really can’t figure out how it does much to alter the landscape of my life.

The Bible tells the story of the Israelites and the various stages of their quest for identity… going from their exalted status as “God’s Chosen Ones” to the shame of exiled personas non gratis in Babylon.

It was a painful passage, but as Paul reminded them centuries later, their identity was restored and their origin renewed by the merciful hand of God’s abiding grace: “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’there they shall be called children of the living God.”(Romans 9:25-26, NRSV).

I’m not really sure what my DNA test would show if I sent it in. But I am pretty darned certain that if you sent your spit in to be analyzed, the results would come back telling you that you are, “100% that child of the living God.”

31
Oct
17

The Real Deal

“To thine own self be true.”
– Polonius, in Hamlet

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,
and that is what we are.”
– 1 John 3:1, NRSV

“Authentic” is a word that has been crossing my radar screen with increased frequency lately.

Naturally, authenticity would be a theme that would come to mind on that annual holiday we spend dressing up as someone – or something – else.

It also popped up this morning on a local radio talk show. The guest was the owner of a restaurant in town that specializes in Ramen noodles. Yes… that is apparently a thing. During the show, many syllables and much air were employed in identifying the difference between authentic Ramen and… I guess the inauthentic variety.

Over the weekend I had the honor of officiating at the memorial service of a friend of my son’s who died of pancreatic cancer. He and many friends in attendance had spent most of their lives outside the institutional church. However, in the last months of his life, this young man experienced something powerful and convicting that led him to ask me to baptize him a month before his death.

I found myself wrestling deeply with the question of what an “authentic” celebration of his life might look like…. And then not being terribly sure I even understood the question.

Often we give very high “authenticity” marks to people in the public eye who don’t really take the time to weigh and carefully consider their words before speaking. We applaud them as “genuine”… “unfiltered” and “authentic.” We say that those folks are a breath of fresh air in comparison with the carefully crafted words of professional “spin doctors.”

And then it makes me scratch my head and ask, “So then what does the word authentic actually mean?” And then I follow up with myself and ask, “And how has authenticity become such a paramount virtue today?”

One answer I hear is that the word authentic must mean something like “core,” or “essential,” or “foundational.” It’s what is left over when you strip away all of the mystical window dressing.

hotfudge_sundaeBut then I have to ask, “Does that mean all of our efforts to enhance or improve something are fraudulent because they take us away from its ESSENCE? Should I just leave my vanilla ice cream alone and not add the chocolate syrup, whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a cherry… in the name of authenticity?”

I also hear authenticity being defined more along the lines of “raw” and “unprocessed” or that other phrase currently in fashion, “… like it is.” The implication here is that the more spontaneous and unplanned something is, the more authentic it is.

I am not going to lie… as a guy who writes and re-writes and tries to think carefully about words and what they mean, this definition offends me. I am sure it offends me because it seems to assign a higher virtue to unplannedness and spur-of-the-momentness than to thoughtfulness.

And personally, I think that is one messed up set of virtues.

MYRIAD are the examples I can give of times when my ill-considered, spontaneous words caused hurt and complication in a situation.

MYRIAD+ are the examples of times when slow, deliberate, thoughtful consideration of words brought light and healing.

Think about it: what would it look like if we all really followed Polonius’ advice to be “true” to our own selves?

The next, natural question is: which self are we talking about?

  • Is it the self that feels like punching a hole in the wall when the home team fumbles the opening kick-off?
  • Is it the self that can’t resist taking a second helping of apple pie?
  • Is it the self that has deep doubts about its talent or worth?

And are we really the ones to be trusted to choose which of these “selves” we are supposed to be true to?

I believe personal authenticity is all about being the fullest, most complete version of ME that I can be.

And so for me, that includes being every bit of the goofy, thoughtful, impulsive, tender-hearted, self-centered, creative, emotional, dim-witted, spiritual, energetic, joyful, deep, shallow, inconsiderate Russell Brown God made me to be.

But mostly, it means going back to the Source and reclaiming my identity as a Child of God; infinitely beloved by the One who created the whole Universe.

THAT is really who I am.

And it is really – authentically – who you are, too.

Blessings;




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