What's In A Name?

Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Isaiah 43:1 – But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. (NRSV)

Have you ever heard of the Tree of Heaven? What a beautiful name! The scientific name is Ailanthus altissima. Native to China, it is now found worldwide, often appearing as an invasive species. It is said to symbolize perseverance and hope amidst hardship. That sounds good until you realize that this tree often causes hardship for native plants, choking out flora and fauna with thick growth and rapid reproduction. National Geographic actually calls the Tree of Heaven "a hellish invasive species". So, how did it get its name? The name appears to come from the tree's ability to reach up to the sky very quickly, so that makes some sense and maybe explains why many folks in British Columbia, Canada, cultivated it, at least for a while. It has also been called the Paradise Tree. Where it has shown its deadlier side it gets names like varnish tree, copal tree and stinking sumac — names not so complimentary!

What's in a name? That's a good question. I am writing this the day before the birthday of our firstborn, a son. We had waited more than seven years for him. We wanted to spend time in thought and prayer before we gave him a name that would be part of his identification for the rest of his life. The hospital had other ideas. We were politely told that we could not take home our new bundle of joy until he was properly named. So much for deep thought and prayer!

We had a couple of days before my wife would be released and this gave us a little time to try to get this right. After all, we had never done this before. Newborn son, as the prophet of old said, we "called you by name; you are mine"!

As we signed out of the hospital, we proudly spoke his name for the first time to others: Jonathan David Kenneth Stright. His name embodied a biblical promise and a heritage from both sides of his family, and the hospital was satisfied enough to let us go.

That baby has grown into a wonderful man who brings honour to the four names that identify him! God has given us such a blessing in him, and he remains beloved of God and beloved by his parents, sisters, wife and all who know him. He is a comely man!

We are invited to remember that we are beloved of God and that we have been called by name. The names of those who answer His call are written in the Book of Life. Thanks be to God Who makes all this possible through Jesus Christ Who calls us His friends!

Prayer: You have called me by my name even in my mother's womb, and You have walked with me all the days of my life. I am grateful, Lord God, that You know me and love me and call me by name. Amen.

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About the author:

Kenn Stright <kennethstright@yahoo.ca>
West Petpeswick, Nova Scotia, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Comforting thoughts, Kenn.

    Thank you, for sharing God’s truth.

    Thank you, Kenn, and praise God for your son’s development into “a comely man.”

    Thanks Kenn for your interesting and meaningful devotional today. You and your wife did decide on a very good name for your son, and we can be assured that our loving Lord knows us each individually. Blessings for your writings.

    Good morning, Kenn!
    Thank you for your message today, especially for your prayers below. It is very much appreciated.
    Prayer: You have called me by my name even in my mother’s womb, and You have walked with me all the days of my life. I am grateful, Lord God, that You know me and love me and call me by name. Amen

    Good morning, Kenn,
    Your Daily Devotional today was well timed. My great-granddaughter was born yesterday and we didn’t know her name in advance. She has been called Charlotte May.
    I will be seeing her in a couple of weeks when I travel to NB.

    What a wonderful story, and truth about the fact that God calls us by name, because HE knows more about us than we know ourselves. It’s wonderful to be known! As we hit our 80s and start ‘losing’ longtime friends, we begin to feel the loneliness of having so few people around who’ve known us through the many different stages of life. This is a perfect example of how GOD loves us and knows us even to the end of our lives. God bless.

    Thank you for sharing this encouraging devotional with us. Names are indeed important. My parents named me after both of their grandmothers. My son’s name honors his father, whereas my eldest daughter’s name honors both grandmothers. My youngest daughter’s name reminds me of the miracle of an incubator that kept her alive after she was born. Thanks again for sharing this encouraging devotional with us today. It brought back cherished memories. Blessings.

    Good morning Kenn,
    My brother told me about the Tree of Heaven years ago when we were walking in June and it gave off its odor which he definitely didn’t like. It was a nice reminder of a good memory. I also reflected on when my husband and I were choosing names for our sons – good memories.
    A very encouraging devotional reminding us that God’s knows us by name and has called us. Blessings.


    Thank you dear friend!
    Wonderful devotional!! May God continue to encourage you to write!

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