A Rose By Any Other Name

God goes by many names.
names of god 2

For a long time it was believed that when Jesus referred to God the Father as “Abba,” it conveyed a very personal parent/child relationship with God. Abba was thought to be child-speak meaning “daddy,” evoking the image of a toddler dandled of his father’s knee. Scholars have discounted this meaning of abba, but it’s hard to erase the image of such a close relationship.

I sometimes hear people describe their relationship with Jesus Christ as a close, personal friend, or as a personal lord and saviour. Like the abba image, this terminology also conjures up images of a person and Jesus walking down the street together, perhaps engaged in a meaningful conversation.

And that got me thinking: if our relationship with God is supposed to be deep and close, like a parent to a child, or like best friends, then what name might you call God besides just God, or Jesus, or Christ, or some variation of the formal name? Our parents have actual names, but traditionally we call them Mom & Dad. Many people prefer to be called by a nickname, or a familiar version of their name. If Jesus is closer to us than any of those people could ever be, and if you could imagine the two of you walking down the street engaged in a meaningful conversation, would you want to address God as abba, or some other familiar?

The first deeper question is what difference it would make how you address God. Sometimes the names we use for Jesus describe the kind of dealings people have with him. He’s a shepherd, but would you address him as “Shepherd?” He’s a servant. Would you address him: “Servant?” I’ve been known to begin a prayer of frustration or exasperation with, “Dude…” I don’t really think God is a dude though.

The second deeper question is if God cares how we address God. In Exodus, Moses and God are in conversation and we read, “Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.'” That doesn’t sound like God is bound to any name we might assign. In Jeremiah we read God saying, “Call to me and I will answer you.” Is God just glad we keep in touch?

What do you think?

Gifts that keep on giving

Recently I was blessed with a wonderful interaction with a true geek.
No, not this kind.

I mean a person who loves what he does so much that the boundary between the person and the vocation is blurred.  This beautiful soul would talk almost non-stop about what he did, and all the little nuances of it that only someone fully engaged in the work would notice.  And he did so with the joy of fresh discovery, even though none of it was new to him at all.  This is the kind of person who lives fully into the gifts that God has given, and it inspires me to live into the gifts God has given me.

As I ponder what a gift from God is, I find the most satisfying answer has to do with gifts that keep on giving.  If something truly is a gift from God, using it will prove to be life-giving.  There will always be energy to keep doing it.  Being prevented from using the gift will be depressing, or even unthinkable.  What do you think would become of artists if they could no longer write or play music, paint, photograph or dance?  What do you think would become of the great athletes if they could never again compete?  I imagine there would be a deep sense of loss and purposelessness.

In Isaiah we read that “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  If we’re doing what God has ordained us to do, using all the gifts we’ve been given, then we will always have the strength and stamina to continue.  No?  There are things that I love doing that I will always love telling people about, and of which I will never tire – at least I haven’t yet.  In fact, the more I do the things that bring me joy, the more energy I have to do them.  The gifts are self-perpetuating.

So there are the gifts of the Spirit, which are things that we can do, like teaching, knowing languages, healing, leadership, etc. (see 1 Corinthians 12).  These are the outward signs.  Then there are the fruits of the Spirit, which are what we feel within ourselves when we’re using our gifts.  The letter to the Galatians (chapter 5) describes feelings of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control for those who live into all they were created to be and do.

When you think about the gifts that God has given you, ask yourself first, what you simply cannot live without.  If someone told you you could never sign again, how would you feel?  If someone told you you could never run again, would you be okay with that?  Once you’ve identified those things you feel passionately about, consider how you feel when you’re doing them, and if doing those things gives you energy to continue doing it?  Finally, ask yourself how your gifts, and acting on them, could inspire others to discern their own gifts.