What’s in a name? It depends on who you ask. In Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Pulp Fiction” Butch Coolidge once said that in America, names don’t mean anything (or something similar I won’t repeat here). I’ve always found that interesting, because naming a child is a one shot deal. Throughout the Bible and indeed in many ancient cultures, an incredible amount of significance was placed on the name given to a child.
I’ve journeyed to some incredible locations in my lifetime. To recall a few: I’ve walked the Rocky mountains in the West, and the Appalachians in the east. I’ve traversed the quiet Canadian wilderness of Algonquin in a canoe under a canopy of stars, jumped through waves on Hawaiian beaches, Caught fish in the Gulf of Mexico, Jet-skied in Florida, and even went for a swim at Kilmurvey Beach on the Irish island of Inishmore. I’ve enjoyed the nightlife in cities like NYC, L.A., Toronto, Dallas, and Chicago, had lunch on a patio overlooking Niagara Falls, and solo hiked a wooded beach trail in Seattle. I’ve even watched the Yankees win in extra innings from a loge box in the old Yankee Stadium. Above all of these, one place in particular struck me deep in my heart; a place I’ve been twice and plan to return.
We hit the road before dawn after a fantastically unhealthy breakfast at a B & B just outside the City of Galway, on the West Coast of Ireland. This place, County Clare, is a place of beauty with green hills and the freshest air on earth. We drove through a densely green and rural area and witnessed an dramatic landscape change as we slowly found our way to the rocky landscape known as The Burren. This is a land that has seen countless invasions, devastating famine, and centuries of foreign oppression and occupation. Yet today it exists: a place of beauty, and timeless strength.
As we drove through the nearly empty countryside, I flipped on the local radio station. I recall the soft a capella voice of a man singing something in the region’s native Gaelic dialect. We were driving through patches of fog and then a clear sky, and then rain. Something about this scene touched me deeply at the core of my soul. It was a rush of emotion and a wave of sensation that became a monumental moment in my life; an “Irish American” roving about within a few miles from the very place his recent ancestors were born and buried in County Clare. Something felt so familiar, as if I’d been here my entire life, and at the same time came as an unexpected and overwhelming blast of sudden beauty and strength. Clare is sheer beauty; Clare is enduring strength. It was bigger than I was somehow; bigger than I can describe here.
God’s Grace in Jesus Christ is a thing of incomparable beauty and unconquerable strength. Absolute Justice and absolute Mercy on behalf of all humanity is found in the cross and empty tomb. Grace allows us to know God. Grace gives us a second chance at life in this world and beyond. Grace is God dealing with us as his very heirs as opposed being treated as trespassers on this very beautiful planet he formed from the dust. Grace is greater than any place I’ve ever been. Grace is all we have, all we could hope for; all we need.
My daughter is Clare Grace. Her name carries with it her undeniable beauty, and all her family’s strength. She is the best of what we’ll see on this earth. Yet Grace outshines everything else we can find in this world, and in this life. County Clare is a place I’ve been and will return; Grace is already the place I remain, and yet look forward to.
What’s in a name? Everything.