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  • Rhonda Kelley

What’s in a Name?



My namesake died. I learned recently that the woman whose first name I was given has passed away. My parents were not following Jesus when I was born, so I was named after an actress/singer named Rhonda Fleming who was popular in the 1950’s. (My sister Mitzi was named after a dancer by the name of Mitzi Gaynor!) Rhonda Fleming died on October 14, 2020 in Los Angeles at the age of 97. Her obituary acknowledges her beauty (“green-eyes and auburn-hair”), her career (“starred opposite the top leading men in Hollywood”), and her full life (“She endured. She labored. But she was on top of it.”) My namesake obviously lived a long and accomplished life.


I am grateful to be named after her, not because of the spiritual meaning of the name, but the other alternative my dad suggested. Dad wanted to name me “Ludie Pearl” after both of my grandmothers (Ludie Harrington and Lupearl Compton). Oh, my! I loved both of my grandmothers dearly, but that name would have been a lifelong challenge. So, I am named …


Rhonda - for Rhonda Fleming

Joyce - for my mother, Helena Joyce Compton Harrington

Harrington - for my dad, Robert (Bob) Leonard Harrington

Kelley - for my husband, Charles S. (Chuck) Kelley, Jr.


My goodness, names can get a bit complicated! Through the years, I wished to have a Bible name like Ruth or Deborah or Anna or Lydia. Rhoda is the closest biblical name to mine. And, I do love Rhoda, the joyous maidservant of John Mark’s mother Mary (Acts 12:12-15). Though her account is brief, Rhoda was included in the text of inspired Scripture. After Peter was miraculously released from prison, enthusiastic Rhoda left him standing at the unopened door. She was so thrilled to see him that she ran quickly to tell those who were praying about his release and left Peter knocking at the door. When purchasing a name necklace on a mission trip to China some years ago, I learned that the Chinese symbol for my middle name Joyce means “joy.” Not just joy but double joy. So, I guess I can claim joyful Rhoda as a biblical namesake.


While I am grateful for my names, the most important name I bear is “Christian.” What does the name Christian mean? The name Christian was first given to the early followers of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26). Even today Christian means to be Christ-like or to belong to Christ. The name Christian literally links you in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. So, “Christian” should be the most important name for any believer. It is an eternal or forever name.


What is your name? Names may change over time as you marry or drop a nickname. But, once you trust Jesus as your Savior, “Christian” is your forever name. So, my eternal name is Christian, and my earthly name is Rhonda Joyce Harrington Kelley. Nice to meet you!

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