Anna, by any other name, would still be Grace

20 08 2010

Anna’s name was taken from the New Testament character in the Gospel of Luke who met the baby Jesus and his parents at his presentation at the temple:

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

But the name Anna is really the Greek form of the Hebrew name, Hannah.  When Hebrew words and names were transliterated into Greek (not translated, but simply written with Greek letters) some of the sounds were lost.  The initial “H” in “hannah” was left off of the Greek word and replaced with what we call a rough breathing mark–a replacement for the letter “h”, which does not exist in Greek.  When the name was then transliterated into Latin, the transformation was complete, since Latin not only has no H but has no equivalent of the rough breathing mark of Greek.  The same change occurs with the word Hallelujah.  With the H as the first letter, the word is taken from the Hebrew Old Testament.  Written “Alleluia” without the H, the word represents the Greek and Latin equivalents of the original.

In the Old Testament, Hannah is the mother of Samuel (ironically enough).  Her prayer in the tabernacle when she offered her son, Samuel, to the Lord is recorded in 1 Samuel 2.  Here is one bit taken from her prayer:

There is no one holy like the Lord;

there is no one besides you;

there is no Rock like our God.

The name Hannah, as many Old Testament names, is derived from another word.  Hen is the Hebrew word translated “grace.”  The Greek word used in the New Testament for it is charis.  So, from Hebrew to Greek to English, Anna’s name comes from the Hebrew word for “grace.”

There is another variant of that word that plays a significant role in God’s revelation of his own character.  When God revealed himself to Moses at Mt. Sinai in Exodus 34:6-7, he used these words:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

The beginning of the verse in Hebrew begins like this: yahweh, yahweh, el rahun wehanun. That final word, hanun, is the word “gracious.”  This passage became one of the most often quoted passages in the Old Testament to describe God’s character.

It is good to have a name of noble character.  Usually we understand that to mean, and rightly so, that we ought to preserve a good reputation.  But I think, just as important, is to provide our children with names of nobility, good character, examples of heroes of the faith.  When naming children, heritage might be better than originality.


Loving Jesus

19 08 2010

This morning I read something from Charles de Foucauld in Meditations of a Hermit.  “The hour in our life in which we are best empoyed is the hour in which we best love Jesus.  A soul does good to others not in the measure of its knowledge or intelligence but in that of its holiness.”

I was reminded of Timberley’s story about tucking Anna into bed one night.  Anna was not reading as she normally was, but simply staring at the ceiling.  Timberley asked her if everything was okay.  Anna answered, “Oh, Mommy, I just love Jesus so much.”

During lunchtime–I believe it was the day of Anna’s accident–she asked Timberley at the table, “Mommy, what are the spiritual fruit that I lack in my life?”  Then followed a long discussion about each of the spritual fruit, and  an assessment of each person in the family.

Anna was able to keep her relationship with Jesus present in her mind at all times.  She oriented her life based on who she was in Christ.  She chose her clothes based on who she was in Christ.  (It greatly bothered her that when we came back to the US when she was in the second grade, all the girls wore short pants to school as part of a uniform.  She did not like showing her knees and thought that she would have to follow suit.  She chose instead to wear long pants or a skirt.)  She chose the words she said and the way she listened to the words of others based on who she was in Christ.  The walls of her bedroom that surrounded her bed were covered with laminated scripture vereses that Timberley provided her.  She wanted the last thing she saw at night to be some of her favorite Bible verses.

I write these things not to draw attention to Anna, but to draw attention to her Lord.  I would want each nine-year-old girl to know that there is a Savior who loves her.  I would want her to know that it is okay to devote yourself to your God.  I would want her to know that it is okay to dress modestly.  It is okay not to show everyone your shoulders and knees, and more.  It is okay to where a one-piece bathing suit at the swimming pool.  I would want her to know that it is okay to be serious about life.  It is okay to love good music and good books.  I want her to know that it is okay to love Jesus with all your heart.  And if the example of Anna helps to get that message across, then I will tell her story.

Hearing Beethoven, Reminded of God’s Sovereignty

14 08 2010

At work yesterday I listened to Beethoven’s Third Symphony–the Eroica.  It had been some time since I had listened to it, but whenever I do I am reminded of something I wrote early on after Anna died.  This came at a time when we were struggling with, and affirming, the sovereignty of God and the goodness of God.  It is still a struggle, and it is still an affirmation.

Take a moment and read Beethoven, Schoenberg, Cage and the Sovereignty of God.

Nancy Guthrie: Make Your Church Safe for Sad People

10 08 2010

I don’t often link to other things here, but I saw this today and thought it would be helpful to all of you who are dealing with grieving people in your church or in your other circles.  It is an interview with Nancy Guthrie where she talks about making your church a safe place for sad people.  You can read it here.

Dog Hickeys

3 08 2010

Timberley took Sam and Anna into the backyard of our house in Semarang to take some pictures of them.  We did not have school pictures or other portraits of the children, so she thought she would dress up the kids and try to take some nice pictures.  Unfortunately, the day she planned to take the pictures, the kids went out into the yard and played with our newly born puppies.  They were amazed at how the puppies would root around looking for milk to drink.  They discovered that they could fool the puppies by putting them next their chins.  You can see the result in the picture.  Timberley was not very happy with the result.

But even with tongue out, and a hickey on her chin, you could not mask Anna’s beauty and charm.