Monday, July 9, 2012


"You said princess."
"When she asked what your name meant, you said princess."
"Well, that's what it means."
"But I've never heard you just say princess. You usually explain more."

A good friend of eleven years shared this observation with me two weeks ago. He was referring to what happened at church when I asked for prayer about a guest blog post I had written. And he was right. When the topic of what one's name means comes up, I almost always explain that Sarah is Hebrew for princess, and while I like my name, princess makes you think of pink and frilly girly things, which isn't me.

I give my name explanation a bit more often than most because it's usually in the context of someone asking me what is on my ring. 

It reads in Hebrew:  
שָׂרָה בַת-מֶלֶךְ  

which is pronounced Sarah BatMelek (which is where the title of my blog comes from). Sarah means princess. BatMelek is a compound word. Bat is daughter and Melek is king, so it means daughter of the king. The essence of a princess is that she is a daughter of a king, and as Christians, we are all children of the King. I studied in Israel for a semester in college and a friend there gave me the nickname BatMelek. It's how I became reconciled with the meaning of my name—it wasn’t just pink and frilly, but had cool theological significance!  And my ring, which I had made in Israel, is an ever present tangible reminder of who I am--a daughter of the King.

Interestingly, I thought that the grammar wasn't right in the Hebrew of the nickname my friend gave me. It's a noun construct and I thought the "the" definite article was missing. Several years later, I was talking with God—in a season when He wasn't replying much—and I asked Him how I was doing. Was I doing good, bad, indifferent? I just didn't know. So what did He think? God was being quiet again, so I went through the motions of my habit of reading and praying in the morning. Just as I was about to get ready for the day, I remembered that I hadn't read a psalm yet. I like to cycle through the book of Psalms, not randomly, but from one to 150 in order and back to the beginning again. That morning the next psalm up was number 45. I was in the NASB version and was just reading along until I was floored by verse 13a:

The King’s daughter is all glorious within;

Well, that's me! Any other translation wouldn't have grabbed my attention.  Most of them say princess and fill in where that “within” is, instead of leaving it open ended like the Hebrew (see here).

God answered my beginning question of how I was doing--which was really a question of worth and value--in the psalm I almost forgot to read.  The king's daughter, me, is presently all glorious within.  That He saw me as all glorious within, right then, in the middle of the process of walking with Him.

And it gets better. I decided to geek out a bit and pull out my Hebrew tools. I was interested in finding out more about what "all glorious within" meant. But what I really found was that "king's daughter" was BatMelek. Spelled exactly like my ring. So it really was me!

That's why my answer to the question of what my name means is usually not the simple one word, princess. I have a really cool story about how I came to terms with what my name means and it’s fun to share cool God stuff.

I love psalm 45. And that is one of my very most favorite moments with God. But it just dawned on me this week that BatMelek, daughter of the King, is a definition.  BatMelek defines my position with God—He is King and I am His daughter.  But Sarah, princess, is a term of endearment.  The current Disney princess craze wasn’t happening twenty-five years ago.  And because I actually never have liked pink and frilly things, I don’t remember anyone ever calling me a little princess.   Except that princess is what my name means.  Names are declarations over people (I’ll expand on that in a later blog post).  So every single time someone says my name, God’s term of endearment is spoken over me.  "Sarah, princess, dear one." The presence of the ring on my finger reminds me of who I am relationally to God. Hearing my name now is a reminder of who God says I am--His princess, dear one.

So the next time someone asks me what my name means, I’ll say, “Princess.”  And smile.

This is part one in what will be an occasional “What's in a Name” series.

I think God is fond of nicknames. He takes many and likes to give them.  Today ask God what He thinks of you. What is He calling you? Not what is He calling you to, but what is He calling you? What is His nickname for you?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Barking at Fireworks

Image: my own photo

Stewie, my dog, doesn’t like fireworks. 

Not in a I-don’t-like-peas-but-I’ll-eat-them-if-there’s-enough-mashed-potatoes-to-cover-them sort of don’t like fireworks.  More like the I-don’t-like-velociraptors-figuring-out-how-to-open-doors sort of way.  It’s a deep hatred for Stewie and it triggers his fight or flight response.  The trouble is, he’s missing the flight part, so my 95lbs black lab mix runs at the windows and doors, barking his thunderous bark at every boom of a firework.  Oh, and the county in which I live allows some pretty serious personal fireworks.  So for five days I’ve got a freaking out dog on my hands. 

Last year I tried giving him Benadryl.  It made him groggy, but didn’t lessen his freaking out barking.  I think he was more frustrated by the drugged feeling of not being alert, and so fought it more.  So this year I’ve used a multifaceted plan of helping Stewie cope.  We went for a five mile walk this morning.  I haven’t let him nap all day.  I’ve got the (white) noisy fan in the bathroom going, and classical music at the upper limits of comfortably loud.  He’s had the maximum recommended dose of doggie herbal calming tablets.  He hasn’t had any dinner, and I’m going to give him a big beef bone to focus on, right when it gets dark and the fireworks kick into high gear.  On the milder nights leading up to the fourth, I cut up several hot dogs, and every time we heard a firework, I gave Stewie a piece of hot dog and told him he was a good boy. 

My friends who have kids say that they learn an amazing amount about God through their children.  Well, I learn a lot about God through Stewie.  I’m not saying that he’s like a kid.  I am emphatically not Stewie’s mom.  I am not a doggie parent, I am a dog owner.  But that said, Stewie is a heck of a lot more work (and reward) than a hamster, and God really likes to speak to me in object lessons.  Therefore, Stewie plays a part of my spiritual formation in this stage of my life.  This time, help Stewie with the fireworks reminded me of something God showed me years ago, and added a layer of meaning to it.

A number of years ago I was going through a particarlly rough patch.  One night I had a dream that I was out on a battle field but terribly wounded.  God, as a knight on a horse, comes charging over at the head of a group of calvary, picks me up, and rides out from the midst of battle into a castle.  In the infirmary, my wounds tended and resting, God’s sitting beside my bed.  We’re inside the castle, but in my semi-delirious state, we can hear the roar of battle, and I’m flinching at every sound.  God is patiently calming and soothing me. 

When I woke up, I read the bible in the morning.  At the time I was cycling through the book of Psalms, reading one or two psalms a day.  That morning, the next psalm was the 18th. Go ahead and read it.  The highlights are:

1I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
    he drew me out of many waters.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
    he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.

The psalm of the day mirrored my dream.  At the time it was a great comfort, that God had rescued me, but was still patient as He and I worked through the ramifications of what He’d rescued me from.  That instead of being mad or disappointed that I still had issues to work through, He was patient and understanding of the process. 

Now several years later, helping Stewie deal with the fireworks gives me a whole new appreciation for how awesome God’s patience with me then (and now) is!  With Stewie, I get frustrated that I can’t explain to him that he’s inside, the fireworks can’t hurt him, that his barking will do nothing, and it would be best if he’d just chill out and go to sleep!  I feel like saying, “Dog! Will you just believe me!  You’re OK! Calm down already!”  How much more should I believe God when He tells me not to worry?  Or when He tells me to rest?  What a difference there is between me and God!  He’s not annoyed like I am with Stewie, but patient and gentle.  

Oh, and God doesn’t try to bribe me with hot dogs.  :o)