But hey, we just survived 2020, I think you should be proud of yourself. Being alive trumps any other accomplishment. Really.
Without meaning to, this episode somehow circles back to the very first episode that I ever published back in January of this year, and I’m a little proud of that.
So… in this episode we talk about identity crisis, how English is a horrible language to learn, the unfortunate girl who became widely known as Pee-Pee at school, and sundry other things.
But most importantly we will be talking about Genesis 17 and Abram who became Abraham, and Sarai who became Sarah. What’s the deal with the name changes, anyway? How does that affect us today?
Stick around and you’ll also learn about Sweet Almond oil, one of the best carrier oils there is.
Wishing you a happy 2021. Stay safe~
— [THEME MUSIC] —
Hi! Welcome to Feels and Flowers, a Christian podcast where I share with you a gospel based entirely on love: Love God, love yourself, love others. My name is Paula Perez.
I am a very sentimental type of person. I’m prone to sitting on my own and wistfully thinking about the passing of time while listening to music and watching the sky out my window. Sometimes I even make myself cry–particularly around the end of the Year, or on the eve of my birthday. Indeed, up until a few years ago, I used to write in my diary or my blog a letter to the passing year, where I would reflect upon my growth, and write down my goals for the next year.
But the older I grew, the less rewarding I found this activity. I mean, new year. Big deal. I’ve seen 30 something of them over the course of my life. That is why last year, on the eve of the new year, I refused to grow philosophical about the passing of time. I was just… so tired, and jaded, and bored, and I felt stuck. I refused to start a new bullet journal, I refused to make resolutions, I refused to feel excited as we started a new decade. On new years eve I was alone at a party. I was wretched. I remember I was going through a best friend breakup at the time. I was also a little cranky and a whole lot wanting to get this thing over with so I could get back home. So at midnight, while everybody was on the dance floor with friends, excitedly counting down the new year, I hung back in the AV booth helping with the sound and the lights.
Little did I know that was the last time I’d go out to party for a very long time.
2020 wasn’t like any other year, was it? I believe we all have earned the right to reflect and philosophize upon the passing of time and the meaning of life as much as we want. And while I am NOT going to tax your ears with more of my thoughts and reflections, I WILL simply say this: I am happy and thankful to be alive, and I am thankful that you are here and are listening. I pray that this new year is a good one for you and yours.
Now. We are continuing our chapter by chapter exploration of Genesis. This week we are talking about chapter 17 where God renews his pact with Abram and both Abram and Sarai get a name change as proof of God’s renewed promise and continued blessing. We are going to delve right into that.
However, before that let’s have our featured flower segment.
— [FLOWER MUSIC] —
It’s been a while since I covered a carrier oil, so let’s do that this week and talk a little bit about Sweet Almond oil.
Sweet almond is one of my favorite carrier oils. I use it in a myriad of ways because it has plenty of benefits.
- High in Vitamin E, A, and other minerals
- Helps soften skin (emollient)
- Helps retain moisture
- Relieves inflamed or irritated skin
- Suitable for babies and children
- Absorbs slowly, so good as a massage oil
- Light aroma does not overpower essential oils
- Does not clog pores
Sweet almond oil is gentle and does not have a heavy or sticky feel to it. It is good for all skin types, so people with combination or oily skin types like me can use it with confidence. It is a light oil so you can use it all on its own or with your favorite creams, lotion, sugar or salt scrubs, and balms. Because it absorbs slowly, it is also popular for massage oil blends.
However, please note that people with nut allergies should avoid this oil! Check out feelsandflowers.com for ways you can incorporate this carrier oil into your nightly beauty rituals.
I hope you can also experience the benefits of sweet almond oil. You will feel the effects of it as your skin feels softer and more supple.
Ok, now let’s go back to Abram and Genesis 17.
— [END FLOWER MUSIC] —
Growing up, I HATED my name: P-A-U-L-A
I was actually 9 or 10 years old when this began, and if you have heard my first episode, you know that A LOT was going on in my life, and all that reflected upon my self-identity.
So I hated my looks. I hated my name. I was uncomfortable with everything that made me stand out from others. I was learning English, and let me tell you it is a difficult language, where vowels have five different sounds, and there is no rhyme or reason to some of the crazy ways some words are either spelled or pronounced.
A shy and timid little me would mumble whenever people asked her her name.
“What’s that?” they asked, “Bola?”
No. Paula I said, trying to anglify my name.
“Yes. Bola.” Fine. Whatever. I’ll just be Bola [Bola, meaning, ball or lump in spanish]
And while this was going on in the classroom the kids laughed when I couldn’t even say my name, particularly those spanish-speaking kids that were in on the joke and gleefully joined in the game yelling different bastardizations of a name I steadily grew to loathe.
But what was worse is that one day a little smart-ass realized that both my first and last name began with the letter “P” and I suffered, red faced and mortified, as kids yelled out in sing-song mockery “Pee-Pee! Pee-pee!”
At that age, I would have really liked a name change–something that Abram experienced in Genesis 17.
Genesis 17 says:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord came to him and said, “I am God All-powerful. Obey Me, and be without blame. 2 And I will keep My agreement between Me and you. I will give you many children.” You will be the father of many nations…. 5 No more will your name be Abram. But your name will be Abraham. For I will make you the father of many nations. I will give to you and your children after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan for yourselves forever. And I will be their God.”… “As for Sarai your wife, do not call her name Sarai. But Sarah will be her name. 16 And I will bring good to her. I will give you a son by her. I will bring good to her. And she will be the mother of nations. Kings of many people will come from her.”
What’s in a name? Surely as Juliet Capulet observed, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, and things are what they are, no matter what name you give them.
But in the Old Testament, names were bearers of the person’s identity. A name conveyed a person’s defining characteristic, or was indicative of their destiny. That is why whenever a special baby was about to be born an angel came to the parents or one of the parents and announced the birth of the child AND told them what they would name said child.
But in the Bible we see several instances where God changed someone’s name, or where their names were somehow changed to reflect something about their purpose or life.
Abram “exalted father,” to Abraham “father of many nations,”
Sarai “princess” to Sarah “my princess,”
Jacob “supplanter” to Israel “Wrestles with God’
Salomon “Man of Peace” to Jedidiah “Beloved of God”
Simon “he has heard” to Peter “The Rock”
In this chapter, God was not really promising anything new. He was just re-stating the promise he’d made long ago. Perhaps Abram needed the occasional reminder. I would like to believe that God would show up at just the right moment when he knew his servant needed some cheering up.
I could go into great detail about the details of the covenant and the circumcision and historical significance, but…. I don’t really want to. I found more meaning in this chapter in the way that God presented himself to Abram actually, and that’s what I’ll focus on.
“I am God All-powerful. Obey Me, and be without blame.
Point #1. God here presents himself as El Shaddai which is conventionally translated into English as God Almighty. God All-powerful. a translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek before the time of Jesus translates this to the “One who has His hand on everything.” When it comes to accomplishing the things that seem impossible to us, God is able to do all that and much more.
It had been 13 years since the last recorded account of God and Abram directly interacting, and here was Abram–older, much less vital–being reminded that no matter how crazy or improbable his situation may be, God would still be able to deliver on his promise.
I have my hand on everything. God is saying, this assurance echoes to us from the ages and is as real to you and me as it was for Abram. I don’t know who you are praying for today, I don’t know the situations that keep you up at night worrying into the silent darkness. But I venture to say that it is all under control, if you choose to leave it to your Heavenly Father.
The only thing that he asks is that we be without blame.
Point #2. God expects us to live blamelessly.
Well! I guess that disqualifies every single one of us. If we read this at face value then we are all wretched sinners and there is no hope for us. But actually, the word blameless here literally means “whole.” God wanted all of Abram, a total commitment of mind, body, and spirit.
Up until now Abram had been a bit wishy-washy. Yes, he’d left his land in faith but so far his life in Canaan was a series of embarrassing events where he was going from deep failure to great victory with God exhorting him time and time again so his faith wouldn’t fail Him. God here is calling him to grow and be better than that.
It is time to be mature and to live up to your calling. It is time for you to get serious. God is requiring a grown-up faith. “Be responsible and mature in your experience with me.” He is saying. Put some skin in the game, if you know what I mean.
And… God expects the same from you and me. Not for us to, you know, put some skin in the game in that way, but rather to rise from our current state of wishy-washy lukewarm-ness to be whole and complete in our commitment to Him.
God is exhorting us today to be faithful. Even when things look uncertain and when the fulfillment of his promises looks far off, be faithful. Be without blame. Walk so that the world knows who you live for and who lives in you.
It doesn’t mean that you have to become a gross and priggish kind of Christian who is impossible to live with, but rather that as you live life through your highs and lows, you make the commitment to give yourself entirely to God. When you do that he will guide you and light your path so that you don’t stumble in uncertainty but stride along life with purpose.
Commit yourself to God wholly and entirely so that he may take the lead when you are weak, and lift you when you fall. Commit yourself to God so that you may live in a way that the world just knows who you belong to and serve.
As I was reflecting on the instances in the Bible where God gives a person a new name, my mind repeatedly skipped ahead to the very end of the Bible, where in the book of Revelations God, in the form of Jesus, reveals himself once more to a mere mortal. In this case he reveals himself to John the beloved disciple. In revelations 2 and 3 God is commending and exhorting the churches to be faithful. And if they are faithful God promises to give them heavenly rewards.
There is one particular church (I believe it is Pergamum) where God promises to give those who persevere a small stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. Some Bible scholars say that God is going to give us each a secret new name and it will be written on that stone. This theory harks back to the ancient Roman custom of awarding white stones to the victors of athletic games. The winner of a contest was awarded a white stone with his name inscribed on it. This served as his “ticket” to a special awards banquet, symbolizing how Jesus promises those who overcome entrance to the eternal victory celebration in heaven.
But while it would be thrilling to have a “secret” name, I actually like another theory presented by other scholars in which it is believed that this new name is actually God’s name as the Holy Spirit works to conform our lives to the holiness of Christ.
In the end of days when the old is made new and the earth is restored to pristine perfection, God will no longer need to conceal his glory and identify himself to his own. God will be with us and we will be able to see him as he is. Recognize him in the exact same way we recognize our own face in the mirror.
Not only will we see his face, but because our character now perfectly matches his own, we can be called by His name. When that day comes, there will be no more night, and we will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will be our light.
We will no longer need to cling on to far off promises. We will no longer have to exercise our faith to find comfort through difficult times. Because all the good things that we hoped for, all the promises we longed for, will all be fulfilled when we see him face to face.
Thank you for listening to Feels and Flowers in 2020, this is Paula Perez signing out.
See you next year.