Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, January 14, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

I like my name. It’s classic, and means, “God is good,” or “the grace of God,” which is the same thing, since it is God’s grace that makes God good. If you go to one of those churches that starts worship with “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good,” you could save time, and get out in time to see the start of the Packers game, if you just said “John, all the time. All the time, John.”

 Also, it’s my father’s name, and my uncle’s name, and my cousin’s name, and my nephew’s name. I am happy to share it with them.

However, it’s not only men in our family who are the grace of God. There have been some famous Johns. In religion there are John the Baptist, and John the Methodist, aka John Wesley. In politics there are John Kennedy and John Kerry. In crime there are John Wesley Hardin, the Western gun-slinger, and John Dillinger.

John is such a common name that it is used for categories. A man who visits prostitutes is called a john. Toilets are called johns. Long underwear is called long johns. An unknown dead body is a John Doe. I am not as happy to share my name in those ways.

So in public, like at a restaurant, when they ask for a name, so they can call you when your food is ready, I tell them my name is Ambrose. It’s a good name for two reasons. First, Ambrose was a good man, the early bishop of Rome. Augustine, the church’s most important theologian, was converted from his dissolute playboy ways when he heard Ambrose preach. Second, when the food prep people call out “Ambrose,” nobody else jumps up and tries to get my food.

I’m not trying to be deceptive, just protective, and I have a good reason.

I once went to the x-ray department at the hospital for an x-ray of my elbow. A nurse came out and called for John. No one else responded, so I got up and went with her. They made me undress and put on a backless gown. That should have been a clue, but I was young, in my 40s, and assumed medical people knew what they were doing. They had me lie down on a big table and explained that they would shove a needle into my groin and that the dye would…

At that point, I said, “Isn’t that a bit much for an elbow x-ray?” They said, “You’re not here for an elbow.” I said, “Yes, I am.”

I looked at the chart. The first name was John, the same as mine, but the last name was not mine. “Why did you come in when we called?” they asked, clearly indicating it was my fault.

“Because you called for John, and my name is John, and nobody else answered.”

Turns out the other John was in the john at the time and did not hear the call. If I had told them my name was Ambrose, none of that would have happened.

I think that episode at a different hospital in a different state is the reason when I went to the doctor yesterday that first the nurse, and then the doctor, and then the lab technician, every one, asked me to state my name, and spell it, and give my date of birth. The entire health system learned something important from my experience looking at that big needle.

So Ambrose is the name I give now at restaurants. If I give “John,” when they call out my name, every old man in the place jumps up and tries to get my food. Nobody else is named Ambrose.

I told this whole thing to my nurse yesterday when she asked me for my name, because nurses live to hear the irrelevant stories of old men. Later, as I was leaving, she said, “By the way, my father’s name is Ambrose.”

Now I can’t go out to eat in our new town because some other old Ambrose will jump up and try to get my food.

I’m still in the grace of God, though, and I’ll bet you are, too, even if you’re not a John.

John Robert McFarland

I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter…

I tweet as yooper1721.

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