New Year, New You


Christmas seemed especially joyful this year, at least to me. I think after the past year or so of nasty politics—and I’m going to blame both sides for that… and no fair saying “they” started it (if you think that, you weren’t on the same Facebook I was on)—all the joy was kind of sucked out of our country.

All the biased news stories, both sides waiting and wishing for the other candidate to implode—and that looked like a distinct possibility for either one of them—hateful responses on social media from supporters of both parties…

…I don’t know about you, but I really needed a little Christmas, as the song goes—and I got it:

  • The Christmas music seemed a little more joyful (I’m digging on the new Pentatonix Christmas album)
  • The glitter seemed a little more sparkly (and if past experience holds true, that same glitter will still be making an appearance in and around the house next July)
  • The lights seemed a little brighter this year, even in Florida where they DO NOT know how to tastefully put up Christmas lights outside (sorry Florida peeps—all those blinking, chasing, half-colored, half-white Christmas light displays with a bunch of inflatable “Despicable Me” minions in Santa hats in the front yard… To quote Nancy Reagan, “Just say ‘no’”…)
  • Even the Hallmark Channel movies seemed a little more fun. (Although I still don’t know what happened to the princess who ran away from her hotel room in New York City and took up with the contractor guy whose girlfriend dumped him. If you saw that one, leave a comment—I need to know how it ended.)

And now for the rest of the story…

A Mighty Fortress is my Garden

Fort veg

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay

Below is the next installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” a piece about gardening and God. I hope it grows on you… Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)

Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

Something you should know: I love fruits and vegetables. You can open my refrigerator or poke through the fruit bowl on my kitchen counter any time of the day or night and find peppers, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, melon, or sweet potatoes. (But please don’t come poking through my house at night, especially if I don’t know you’re there; that’d just freak me out. If you absolutely feel as though you must, however, would you mop before you leave? I’ve been a little busy.)

A while back, my church decided to spend time in prayer and fasting, and the Daniel Fast, where you only eat fruits, vegetables, and grains for 21 days, was presented as an option. Eating fruits, vegetables, and grains only? I don’t call that a fast; I call that last night’s dinner…

And now for the rest of the story…

Name calling

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

I love all things Disney: Disney theme parks, Disney resorts, Disney cartoons, Disney theatrical productions. Anytime I get to visit Disney World or watch a Disney animated movie or attend a performance of a Disney stage production, I can be assured that I’m going to have a great experience, even before I go through the turnstiles or the lights dim in the theater. After all, it’s Disney.

Even if you’ve never ridden Space Mountain or stayed at the Contemporary Resort or seen The Lion King onscreen or onstage, you know that – on that fateful day when you finally do – it’s going to be all you’ve ever dreamed it would be. Why? Because everything the company stands for, every bit of the “have a magical day” image it’s carefully crafted for itself over the years, every commercial showing smiling children running into the arms of Mickey Mouse is epitomized by the name “Disney.”

What’s in a Name?

When I first began studying Psalm 9:10, above…

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

…I had a little trouble making sense of it, and had one of those Scooby-Doo single-raised-ear moments while grunting “Roh…?” After all, I know a bunch of the Lord’s names: El Shaddai, Adonai, Yahweh, Jehovah, I Am. But why does the psalmist think knowing any of those will instill a feeling of trust in me?

To answer that, I had to get all scholarly and do a little diggin’. Here’s what I learned…

First, at the time this Psalm was written, an individual’s name represented everything there was to know about him or her. In other words, the same name association we have today with well-known corporate brands happened in Biblical times as well, only with people. I’m pretty sure Noah, Moses, and Jezebel didn’t need last names or any other “handle” for B.C. folks to know exactly who they were, even without 24-hour news channels or social media. (“We’re live on the scene at the Mesopotamia Hills home of Noah Feinbaum, wine connoisseur and amateur ship builder, causing quite a stir among his neighbors for violating association policies on the care and keeping of non-domestic, exotic wildlife…”)

Second, a more accurate meaning of the Hebrew word translated as “name” in this verse would be “essence” or, even better, “the essential reality of who someone is.”

While that would make for an odd Bible verse, it would definitely bring this verse to life for us English speakers:

Those who know the essential reality of who you are will trust in you…

Ungainly and not at all psalm-like, but much more accurate.

Keeping that definition in mind, knowing God’s name – His essential realities – makes it easy for me to trust him; add to that the truth the psalmist so eloquently notes in the second part of that verse and trusting God becomes second nature:

…for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Never – nunca, jamais, nie.

God is…

So what are some of the “essential realities” of who God is? I often find myself focusing on different ones of His traits depending on what’s going on with me at any given time, but in my (almost three-year) relationship with Him, I know God to be:

  • Sovereign (in control)
  • Giving (supplying all I need, whether spiritual or material)
  • Faithful (He does what he says He will do)
  • Gracious (giving me forgiveness that I don’t deserve)
  • Merciful (withholding punishment that I do deserve)
  • Unchanging (the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow)
  • Good (totally – nothing bad in Him, neither action nor motive)
  • Righteous (morally right, always making perfect judgments)
  • Holy (perfect in goodness and righteousness)
  • Omniscient (all-knowing)
  • Love (not just loving, but love itself)

And I know His essential realities the same way I know the essential realities of a Disney theme park – through personal experience.

Until I visited the Magic Kingdom for the first time in the 70s, the closest thing I had to that sort of experience were those pop-up amusement parks that occasionally set up shop in the parking lot of the local shopping center. There would typically be a Ferris wheel and something called the “Tilt-a-Whirl,” along with various games where one could win a large pink stuffed bear.

Once I walked through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, though, I realized that (in addition to being health hazards) those make-shift carnivals paled in comparison to a Disney theme park. The world-class quality and technical superiority that Disney uses to immerse visitors in its stories is unparalleled. Although you can settle for hearing second-hand accounts of someone else’s Disney vacation or even watch full length, high definition video of people riding Disney rides on YouTube, there’s nothing like experiencing it for yourself. Trust me.

If you’ve read “This is my story” where I recount my salvation experience, you know that I grew up hearing about salvation through Jesus Christ (or at least sitting in church services where I had ample opportunity to hear about salvation through Jesus Christ). I heard others talk about trusting God to guide them and hearing Him speak to them, but to me those were all just second-hand accounts.

Once I surrendered heart, soul, mind, and strength to Him and His will for my life, though, and began spending time daily in prayer and Bible study, my knowledge of His essential realities took on a whole new meaning – they became first-hand.

Just like a trip to Disney, truly knowing God’s name requires participation. There’s nothing like experiencing it for yourself.

Trust me…

Actually, trust God. Get to know His name – His essential realities – for yourself. He’s not inaccessible; He wants you to know Him.

If you don’t know Jesus as your savior yet, you can do so – right now, even. To know more, click here.

So seek Him today. Remember…

…for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

He never has and never will.