Monday, May 31, 2010

A Happy Ending (Ruth 4:16-22)

Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; 19 Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.
(Ruth 4:16-22, NKJV)

Let’s recap for a moment. We started with a journey. Elimelech and Naomi left their homeland, along with their sons, Chilion and Mahlon, because of a famine. They landed in Moab. Elimelech died, but Naomi was cared for by her sons, who each married a Moabitess. All seemed well—until both sons died.

In her grief, Naomi returned to her homeland, expecting, well, we’re not really sure other than she called herself Mara or "bitter." It appears Naomi thought she’d be all alone. But one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, pledged her devotion to Naomi, and the two of them—together—started a new life. At first, it seems they struggled a bit as their only food came from Ruth’s picking up the reapers’ leftovers.

At first blush, this isn’t a “happily ever after” story. In fact, it often is quite grim. However, as we’ve talked about all along, God had an amazing plan for these two women. And for us as well. Because Boaz did become their kinsman-redeemer. Naomi retained her land and Ruth became the mother of Obed. Who was the father of Jesse. Who was the father of “a man after God’s own heart” David.

And our Savior, Jesus Christ, was from the line of David. Jesus was a descendant of Boaz and Ruth. What a wonderful plan God had all along!

I often speak of how we may not see God’s plan until we reach the other side of a valley, and when we’re able to look back, we see how even the most painful times were crucial for the blessing. Naomi had no idea that her heartbreaking losses would turn out the way they did: She’d be the great-great-great (and so on) grandmother of the Messiah!

This is the lesson we can all take away from this short, fascinating book: God is faithful. He will redeem our pain. He will bless us beyond what we can even imagine. And His plan is always best.


Join me tomorrow as we start digging into a new scripture.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Naomi's Redemption (Ruth 4:13-15)

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
(Ruth 4:13-15 NKJV)

At the beginning of our story, Naomi had lost everything: homeland, husband, sons. Any chance for grandchildren. She was alone and bitter—even changing her name to “Mara.”

She thought God had forgotten her. If only she’d remembered the history of her people and how God had always been faithful and had always provided. Even when things looked the darkest, her people could always trust Jehovah.

She could as well. Ruth had chosen to leave her own homeland and be a true daughter to Naomi. And in doing so, her selflessness opened up the door for redemption for herself—and for Naomi. Boaz’s redemption of Naomi’s property and marriage to Ruth were the beginning of tremendous blessing for Naomi—a true redemption.

And the women to whom she’d cried out in bitterness are the very same women who now reminded Naomi of how blessed she was—and would be. And yes, nothing could truly make up for the loss of her husband and sons, but God had a plan to fill those empty places in her heart.

I hope you come back tomorrow for the finale!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

God's Future Blessings (Ruth 4:11-12)

And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.”
(Ruth 4:11-12, NKJV)

Little did the people at the gate and elders know how their amazingly wonderful their blessing would be.

They prayed that the Lord would prosper Boaz and that his name would be famous in Bethlehem (as we’ll learn in the next couple of days, this is quite prophetic). They also prayed for his house to grow through the children he’d have with Ruth. (again, we’ll see how true this is).

God is so good to the faithful. If we give our lives and our plans to Him, He will always work things out beyond our expectations … and certainly beyond what we deserve.

I’m excited to be reaching the end of this great story. The next two days are going to bless us all!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kinsman-Redeemer (Ruth 4:8-10)

Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal. And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.”
(Ruth 4:8-10, NKJV)

God’s plan continues. The “close relative” gave up his rights to Elimelech’s legacy. And so Boaz redeemed Naomi’s land and was then able to take Ruth as his wife.

If you think about it, Boaz has really done a pretty amazing thing. By redeeming Elimelech’s legacy, he in some way jeopardized his own. I don’t know enough about ancient tradition to understand exactly how, but since the “close relative” didn’t buy Naomi’s land because he didn’t want to “ruin [his] inheritance” (see yesterday’s blog), one can only assume Boaz would face the same possibility.

But he did it anyway. He cared enough for Naomi and Ruth to take the risk.

And so, with an exchange of sandals (another rather odd tradition) and in the presence of witnesses, Boaz was now able to provide, protect, and care for Ruth and Naomi.

Isn’t this a beautiful story? And there’s still more to come!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

God's Best Plan (Ruth 4:5-7)

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.” And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel.
(Ruth 4:5-7, NKJV)

Ancient customs do seem strange to us. For example, family lines could be continued through the wives of the deceased. So if this “close relative” chose to redeem Naomi’s land, he’d also have to marry and have a child with Ruth … and that child would inherit the land.

The close relative chose not to redeem the land because of that stipulation. Somehow taking on Elimelech’s inheritance would jeopardize his own. Perhaps it might interfere with children who already lived. We don’t know for sure, but he gave up his right to the inheritance to Boaz.

Again we see a little more of God’s plan. Ruth and Naomi probably would have been well taken care of by this close relative, but he wasn’t the right one for Ruth. He wasn’t the better choice for her.

And we can remember that He does the same for us. We may think one direction is better than another, and then God closes the door. Instead of fretting when our plans don’t come to fruition, we can rejoice. Because God’s way is always the best way. Always.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Close Relative's Redemption (Ruth 4:1-4)

Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’”And he said, “I will redeem it.”
(Ruth 4:1-4, NKJV)

Sometimes ancient customs don’t make much sense to our modern minds. However, as my husband and I are currently going through the settlement of his mom’s estate, this idea of redeeming a relative’s property seems pretty straight-forward.

As next of kin, this “close relative” had the right to “redeem” Elimelech’s land and other property. He could buy the land and property, one would assume at a discount. And in the presence of ten elders of the city, the close relative agreed to redeem anything that belonged to Elimelech.

At first blush, it seems like Naomi and Ruth’s future was set. They’d receive monetary compensation that would likely give them funds to support themselves for the foreseeable future. Everything was working out well. Great plan.

Oh, but wait. As always, God’s plan was so much better! It’s getting exciting, folks!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sit Still (Ruth 3:14-18)

So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city. When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “Is that you, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her. And she said, “These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”
(Ruth 3:14-18, NKJV)

Patience. Something many of us struggle with.

It appears that perhaps sweet, loving Ruth may have struggled with it as well. After following Naomi’s strange instructions and spending the night at Boaz’s feet, she had to wait. She still didn’t know what her future held. Would Boaz, who had shown her such kindness, be her kinsman redeemer? Or would a stranger play a key role?

Naomi must have seen Ruth’s agitation. And she told her to relax. “Sit still,” she said. Be patient. Wait.

Not an easy thing to do, especially when your future is at stake. Are you waiting right now? For a child? For a job? For a spouse? For a move? Are you uncertain about what’s next on your life’s journey.

I’m right with you. Since taking part in a layoff from my job in February, I’ve enjoyed a time of both relaxation and productivity. It’s been great to get some important tasks done. But now I’m looking forward to the next leg of my own journey. And I have no idea where God is taking me.

So I wait. I “sit still.” This is where trust comes in. Trust that God is in loving control. Trust that His plan is best and will be fulfilled in His timing.

It’s times like these when we need to remember to just “Be still, and know that [He] is God.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Blessed Woman (Ruth 3:10-13)

Then he said, “Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman. Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning.”
(Ruth 3:10-13, NKJV)

Stop and think a moment. Poor Ruth left friends and family and home. She followed Naomi to a foreign land. She chose to follow what was, to her, a foreign God. She obeyed Naomi’s odd instructions. And now that she did what her mother-in-law asked, she had to wait again to see if Boaz would be her kinsman redeemer.

Boaz’s description of Ruth is spot-on. She was blessed. She was kind. She was virtuous. Even more, she was loving and compassionate, caring and trusting, faithful and loyal.

If someone were to describe me, would they use the same adjectives? What about you?

I have to ask myself: Do I exhibit kindness and compassion? Would my friends and family call me virtuous and faithful? I hope so … but it does make me want to truly radiate these attributes. Not so others will describe me well, but that my Lord God will shine through me. Just as He shone through Ruth.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Seeking a Redeemer (Ruth 3:6-9)

So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, “Who are you?” So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.”
(Ruth 3:6-9, NKJV)

Back to Ruth …

Tradition in this time was for women to be cared for by relatives. First their fathers. Then their husbands. And, if necessary, their sons. Naomi had none of the above, and since Ruth chose to leave her homeland to be with Naomi, the younger woman didn’t have anyone to support her either. They were able to make due, but it wasn’t under the care of a kinsman.

When Ruth followed Naomi’s instructions to uncover Boaz’s feet and lay down, she was adopting the custom of claiming Boaz as a close relative, one who would take them in and provide for them. He would be, in fact, a "kinsman redeemer."

If you read commentaries on the book of Ruth, you’ll see a parallel drawn between Boaz as kinsman redeemer and our Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all mankind. We too can come to the feet of Jesus and seek redemption.

Just as Ruth sought Boaz as protector and provider, we can seek our Lord. Just as she came in confidence, so can we. The difference? She was uncertain of the reception she might receive. We are assured that our Redeemer is waiting for us to seek Him He’ll never turn us away.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Morning Cry

I’m taking a quick break from Ruth today. I feel the need to meditate on different verses, and I sense I’m not the only one.

It’s another rough morning after some rough days. Seems I just don’t bounce back as quickly as I used to. I could easily fall into depression or a pity party. Day after day of pain does begin to take its toll—in more ways than one.

So this morning, I just need to cry out to my God. Are you feeling the same way? Then join me as I meditate on these three verses from Psalm 5:

Give ear to my words, O LORD,
Consider my meditation.

Oh, Lord, please listen to me. Please let me know you hear my voice.

Give heed to the voice of my cry,
My King and my God,

Hear my cry. Hear my pain. You and only You can help me through these valley days.

For to You I will pray.

I know you listen, Lord. I know You’re just a prayer away. I trust that You’re here right now and that You hear my prayer.

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD;

This morning, I pray for an extra measure of grace, of strength, of peace. I know You really do hear my voice, this and every morning.

In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.

As I direct my prayer to You, as I cry out in my pain, I look up to the heavens. I raise my eyes to see You.

Thank You, Lord, for the assurance that You do listen to me. You do hear my prayers. And You’ll carry me through—as You always do.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Strange Instructions (Ruth 3:1-5)

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.” And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.”
(Ruth 3:1-5, NKJV)

Strange instructions from Naomi. They must not have made much sense to Ruth. “Get all clean and pretty in your best dress, and head out to the threshing floor. Keep quiet, but watch where Boaz lies down, and after he falls asleep, go and uncover his feet and then lie down. When he wakes, he’ll tell you what to do.”

Strange indeed.

Yet, Ruth, with trust and respect for her mother-in-law, didn’t argue. Didn’t question. Didn’t say, “Are you nuts?”

She quietly and humbly said, “All that you say to me I will do.”

Ruth had left her homeland and family to follow Naomi. She went out each day to collect the leftovers from the reapers. She worked hard to provide for Naomi. And now she was asked to do something quite odd—for a Moabitess, that is.

Didn’t I tell you Ruth was a fascinating book? More to come!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

God's Plan (Ruth 2:18-20)

Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.” So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.
(Ruth 2:18-20, NKJV)

The hand of God hovers throughout the book of Ruth. It’s no coincidence that Ruth returned with Naomi. It’s not chance that Ruth ended up in Boaz’ fields.

God already had a plan to redeem both women. He planned protection. He planned provision.

And just as He had a plan for Ruth and Naomi, He has a plan for you and me. I just came back from speaking at a couple of events in the Santa Barbara area, and the topic “just happened” to be on God’s plans for our lives. My theme verse is Jeremiah 29:11, which assures us that God knows the plans He has for us. His plans are for peace, not evil, to bring us a future filled with hope.

Even when things look dark as they did for Naomi in Moab, we who trust in God and are part of His family can be confident He really will work out all things for good (Romans 8:28).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

God is Faithful (Ruth 2:18-20)

Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.”
(Ruth 2:18-20, NKJV)

Naomi finally recognized what she should have known all along. God is faithful. Through dark times of sorrow, He is faithful. Through joyful celebrations, He is faithful.

He does not and will not forsake His children. Never.

Naomi allowed circumstances to pull her from faith in Jehovah God. I totally understand because I did exactly the same thing. I allowed the pain of abuse to take me away from God for years and years. But, praise God, I too remembered His faithfulness to me. His provision. His protection. His kindness.

Have you allowed circumstances to distance you from God? Have you allowed others to take your focus off of God’s faithfulness? Believe me when I tell you God hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t left you without hope.

If you feel forsaken, run to your Father God, your Abba, your Daddy. Climb up onto His lap and allow His love and grace to flow over you.

He’s waiting.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Compassion for Those In Need (Ruth 2:15-17)

And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.” So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
(Ruth 2:15-17, NKJV)

We’ve focused mostly on Naomi and Ruth, but today, let’s take a closer look at Boaz. As we’ve learned, he was a wealthy landowner and a relative of Naomi’s late husband. Those are facts. But as we read of his care for Ruth, we learn even more.

Boaz was a man of compassion. Yes, he was kin to Naomi, but only through marriage. And if you think about it, Ruth wasn’t really much of a relative at all—only by a technicality. But he saw this young woman in his fields doing her best to provide food for herself and Naomi. He appreciated her commitment to Naomi, and so he chose to help her.

He told his workers to treat her with respect (“do not reproach her” and “do not rebuke her”) and to intentionally drop pieces of choice grain for her to glean. In this way, he was able to protect her from ill treatment and provide better quality food.

I’d like to be more like Boaz. I’d like to think if I saw a need, I’d immediately work to provide for it. But I’m not nearly as observant as he was.

Lord, help me to see people in need. Help me to do something, give something to help provide for their needs. Let me have the compassion of Boaz. Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Humble and Grateful (Ruth 2:13-14)

Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.” Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back.
(Ruth 2:13-14, NKJV)

Ruth is such a great example of humility and gratitude. Because of her kind and gentle spirit, she received favor from a wealthy landowner. She didn’t demand or come with any expectations. She didn’t feel she was entitled to anything.

She just humbly did as Naomi instructed, and she humbly walked behind the reapers to glean what food she could for Naomi and herself. And her humility and dedication to Naomi was recognized. She was able to eat until satisfied and still keep some aside for Naomi.

Ruth’s words to Boaz also show her deep gratitude for his favor. His kindly-spoken words brought her comfort. She knew she wasn’t really supposed to glean Boaz’ fields, but he chose to bless her anyway.

How do we approach God? With humility, knowing we don’t deserve any grace or mercy? Or with a sense of entitlement that He owes us something?

And when we receive His grace, are we deep-in-the-heart grateful?

Something to think about …

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Shelter of His Wings (Ruth 2:11-12)

And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
(Ruth 2:11-12, NKJV)

Yesterday, Ruth asked Boaz why she had “found favor” with him. The answer? Because she was faithful to Naomi. Because she was willing to give up everything to care for her mother-in-law.

Then Boaz said something that we should take to heart today. Read that last sentence again. And again. What do these words say to you? I read a couple of really wonderful promises I believe we can embrace.

First, the Lord God of Israel will one day “repay” our work here on earth. We will one day receive rewards for how we served and what we did for His kingdom.

Then, some really beautiful, really comforting, really wonderful words: “… under whose wings you have come for refuge.” We find a refuge under the wings of our Lord God. I’ve written before of two of my favorite verses, Psalm 46:1-2a where I’m assured that God is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we shall not fear.”

Have you seen a mother bird gather her babies under her wing, offering them comfort and protection? That’s how our Father gathers us to Him.

Take shelter under His wings. No matter what’s happening. No matter your storm. No matter what you face. He’s there to cover you with His strength.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Who Am I? (Ruth 2:8-10)

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”
(Ruth 2:8-10, NKJV)

Boaz invited Ruth to glean in his fields and offered her protection by commanding the “young men not to touch” her. All because she was part of his extended family.

But I want to focus on Ruth’s words: “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me …?”

Just as I love Ruth’s words to Naomi in verses 15-17 that speak so eloquently of devotion and faithfulness, I love these in verse 10. To me, these are the same words I often speak to the Lord. So often, I’m overwhelmed as I think of how richly God has blessed me. I live in freedom, to worship as I choose, to enjoy relative peace. I have a wonderfully-supportive husband who, after 22 years of marriage, is still my best friend. I reside in a lovely home. I enjoy an amazing ministry speaking to and encouraging women to grow in their faith.

And then I say in wonder, “Why have I found favor in Your eyes, that you should take notice of me?” Or I resonate with the psalmist in chapter 8, verse 4: “Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?” (The Message)

Just as Ruth didn’t understand how Boaz would provide and protect her, I don’t understand the immense love and grace God showers on me.

But I’m oh-so-grateful He does!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Lord Be With You (Ruth 2:4-7)

Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered him, “The LORD bless you!” Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”
(Ruth 2:4-7, NKJV)

Boaz was clearly a godly man. The first words we hear from him are, “The LORD be with you!” I imagine this was a common greeting from Boaz.

What if our regular greeting to each other was “The Lord be with you!”? What if our first thought when we woke in the morning was about our Lord? What if our last waking breath each night was a prayer?

What if God really was first and foremost in our hearts and minds?

The Bible tells us we’re to meditate on God’s word “day and night” (Psalm 1:2). We’re to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). We’re to “rejoice always” (Phil. 4:4).

Constancy. Consistency. Steadfastness. Single-mindedness.

Do these words describe your relationship with God? As much as I’d like to say they do mine, I still have too much of “me” in me, certainly not nearly enough of God. But since I’m that work in progress Paul described (Phil. 1:6), I know I can strive each day to keep more and more focused on God. I can strive to let Him increase while I decrease (John 3:30).

That’s my prayer. What about you?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gleaning the Fields (Ruth 2:1-3)

There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.”And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
(Ruth 2:1-3, NKJV)

A new character enters our story. Boaz is described as a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, and he plays a key role in Ruth and Naomi’s story.

Not having any idea of what the future would bring for her, Ruth decided to “glean heads of grain” in nearby fields. It was an accepted practice for the poor to follow the reapers and gather up what was left behind.

When I read these verses, it seems clear to me that Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem to nothing. As I wrote in previous blogs, women in that time were dependent on relatives. Husbands, sons, nephews. That Ruth needed to glean the fields is a strong indication she and Naomi were destitute. Perhaps a friend gave them a corner of a room for shelter, but they had to get their own food.

And so Ruth went to the fields … and just “happened” on a field belonging to Boaz.

As Sherlock Holmes would say, “Something’s afoot.”

Stay tuned as the intrigue continues …

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bitter Against God (Ruth 1:19-22)

Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
(Ruth 1:19-22, NKJV)

It’s okay to be upset with God. Does that shock you?

A lot of people seem to think it’s somehow wrong to tell God everything on their hearts—even when that “everything” includes anger or fear or frustration.

Have you read Job lately? Or the Psalms? Or what about Moses? Or Abraham—the father of the nation of Israel lied about his wife twice because of fear. Many, many times, people cried out to God in their fear, their pain, their confusion … and yes, their anger. Naomi joined other devoted followers of God in when she complained about God’s “affliction” as she told the women in her hometown that she wanted to be called “Mara.”


Have you felt bitter about what’s happening to your life? Have you felt that God has afflicted you? Have you felt empty?

It’s okay to cry out to Him. It’s okay to tell Him you’re upset or angry or confused. He knows your heart anyway. Just make sure you do as Naomi did: Even in her pain, she never denied her God.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Who's Your Burden-Sharer (Ruth 1:14-18)

Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said:
“ Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The LORD do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.

(Ruth 1:14-18, NKJV)

These verses contain some of the most beautiful words in the Bible—and that says a lot!

Naomi insisted her daughters-in-law return to their families. Orpah sadly did so, but Ruth refused, with those beautiful, overwhelmingly-loving words. The Message’s paraphrase:

"Don't force me to leave you; don't make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I'll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I'll die, and that's where I'll be buried, so help me GOD—not even death itself is going to come between us!"

Can you imagine how Naomi’s heartache was soothed by Ruth’s words? Her dearly-loved daughter-in-law—really her daughter by now—wouldn’t leave her. Naomi would return to her homeland with someone by her side. Although she still grieved her losses, she wouldn’t be alone.

Whom do you have to stay by your side when you grieve? Who will be with you when you face loss? I pray you have a friend or family member no further than a phone call, one who will be your burden-sharer.

Monday, May 10, 2010

When God's Hand Seems Distant (Ruth 1:11b-13)

“Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!”
(Ruth 1:11b-13, NKJV)

Naomi’s grief continued. She lost everything important to her. She knew she was destined to be alone. No husband. No children. No grandchildren.

And she—for a while at least—lost her faith. “… the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!” she cried.

Have you ever felt that way? That the hand of the Lord has gone out against you? That you’ve lost everything that had any meaning?

My heart aches for those of you who’ve lost spouses, parents, children. Or maybe you’ve lost your home or have had to travel far to find work. Or maybe you’ve lost your health.

Sometimes we too wonder whether God is really with us when we face overwhelming pain or loss. I know I wondered where God was when I experienced sexual abuse as a child and young teen. When Russ and I first began trying to have children—and month after month went by—I cried out to God, asking “Why?”

And yes, even now on those days when the pain is unrelenting, I sometimes don’t feel God’s presence. But even when I don’t feel Him, I know He’s there, right beside me. I also know that nothing will happen to me—to any of His children—without His arms ready to embrace me.

I spoke this weekend about how rainbows only come after the storm, but we have to go through the storm to see them. Naomi went through her own devastating storm and didn’t know a rainbow was just around the corner.

If you’re in a storm right now, I pray you’ll cling to your Father’s hand. And know the rainbow is coming.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother and Daughter Love (Ruth 1:9b-11b)

So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? …”
(Ruth 1:9b-11a, NKJV)

Today’s verses are so poignant. They’re why I think these three women loved each other deeply. After Naomi sadly instructed her daughters-in-law to return to their people, they both wept and stated they’d rather go with Naomi.

Then I love how Naomi calls them “daughters.” Not “in-laws,” but daughters. This reminds me so much of my own Ruth. She used to call me her “daughter-in-love.” Having had only sons, she saw me as her daughter, not merely the wife of her son.

On this day that’s been set aside to honor mothers, I’d like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to each and every mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, aunt, and mentor—really anyone who’s had a child or has been an influence in a child’s life. May you enjoy all the younger people around you. May you be uniquely blessed this day. May you know great love, especially from your Father.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

More Loss ... (Ruth 1:6-9a)

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had visited His people by giving them bread. Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”
(Ruth 1:6-9a, NKJV)

Naomi, still grieving the loss of her sons, decided to return to her homeland. We can’t know exactly what she was feeling, but I think it’s safe to say she wanted to get as far away from the place that had caused her such sorrow. At least at home, she’d be with friends and family … or would she?

It just struck me that it had been well over ten years since she’d left the land of Judah. Years with no contact whatsoever. No mail. No phone. No telegram. Just as she’d followed her husband to the unknown land of Moab, she’d be heading back to a familiar land, yes, but to a completely unknown situation. Who would be there to care for her? What family member or friend might take her in?

I’d never thought about the kind of strength and courage Naomi must have had.

And as she prepared to leave Moab, she faced another loss. Her daughters-in-law of ten years. Again, we don’t know exactly how she felt about them, but I believe there was tremendous love between the three women. Naomi knew, however, the younger women’s best chance to live well would be to remarry, and who better than to men from their own culture?

So she blessed them, “The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”

Then she packed her bags.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Total Loss (Ruth 1:3-5)

Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.
(Ruth 1:3-5, NKJV)

If you’re like me, you’ve read at least part of the book of Ruth several times. Yet, it never ceases to touch my heart when I read of all Naomi suffered.

She’d left her home and extended family to go to a foreign land, and sometime thereafter, her husband died. How hard would that have been? Losing your spouse so far from your homeland. Knowing, if you were fortunate enough to return home, you’d do so without your husband?

Then things picked up again. Her sons married Moabite women, and based on what we’ll read in the next few days, Naomi seemed to have good relationships with them. For ten years, her life was likely relatively carefree.

Although an interesting fact just struck me: Her sons were married for ten years, yet apparently there were no grandchildren. We can only assume God had “closed the wombs” of her daughters-in-law, just as He had Sarai, Hannah, and Rachel in previous generations.

Naomi would have grieved over this just as she’d grieved over the loss of her husband.

And then the unthinkable … both of her sons die. In those days, women were dependent upon the men in their lives. First their fathers. Then their husbands. And if their husbands died, they’d live with and be supported by their sons.

Suddenly, Naomi had no one. And she lived far from any extended family that might have taken her in.

Imagine. Imagine how devastated she must have been, how alone, how frightened.

Have you ever been in a place where you seemed to lose everything? Are you in that place now? Stick with me, my friends. As we continued through the book of Ruth, we’ll see how God can and will work in what appear to be the direst, darkest moments.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

A New Journey Begins (Ruth 1:1-2)

Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there.
(Ruth 1:1-2, NKJV)

A year ago, my husband and I were loving his mom during her final weeks on earth. The cancer she’d fought five years previously had come back, and this time she was losing this earthly battle.

She’s been on my mind a lot lately. Not only are we nearing the first anniversary of her death, we’ve been spending a lot of time getting her home of 50 years ready to sell. We’ve uncovered countless treasures, and I’ve wished more than once we’d had more time to ask her questions. But I’m confident she’s with her Lord now—pain and sorrow free.

As I was praying about the next chapter or book I wanted to focus on, it seemed fitting that I spend some time in one of my favorite books, one that speaks of loyalty, love, faith, and redemption. And just so happens shares my mother-in-law’s name—Ruth.

I dedicate the next several blogs to my Ruth.

Today, we begin our journey through this short but powerful book. We meet one of the leading characters, Naomi. Her story starts as many did in her time. To avoid the famine, she and her husband took their two sons to Moab. Nothing terribly exciting in these first two verses.

Oh, but wait, my friends. We have so much to learn. Travel with me.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Search Me and Know My Heart (Ps. 139-23-24)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

(Psalm 139:23-24, NASB)

I’ve read these verses countless times. I’ve memorized them. I’ve quoted them. And yet I forget how profound these two short verses are.

Search me, O God, and know my heart …

I want to be intimately connected to my Abba Father. I want Him to be the focus of my thoughts, of my heart. I want every part of me to be open to Him.

Try me and know my anxious thoughts …

He knows the trials I face. He knows my struggles. He uses those to refine and mold me. But He also knows I can be anxious and worried at times—I’m only human, after all.

And see if there be any hurtful way in me …

God knows the deepest parts of my heart, those areas I hide from the world. He knows my weaknesses. I want to be free from any thought or action that would hurt others—or myself.

And lead me in the everlasting way.

As a daughter of the King, as a follower of Christ, I know—beyond doubt—where I’ll spend eternity. I’m going to be with my God—Father, Son, and Spirit—forever.

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Loving Our Enemies (Ps. 139:19-22)

O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.

(Psalm 139:19-22, NASB)

Solomon wrote, “… there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9). Isn’t that the truth? Centuries ago, David wrote about those who spoke against God and took His name in vain. God’s enemies rose up against Him, and David considered God’s enemies his own.

And what’s happening today? A new generation of atheists is inviting people to actually denounce God—Father, Son, and Spirit—on an on-line forum. It seems that the only acceptable swear words are “Jesus Christ” or “Oh my God.” You don’t hear anyone saying “Buddha” or “Oh my Mohammed.” It’s only the name of the one true God that’s taken in vain.

One thing has changed, however, since David wrote this psalm. God Himself came to earth in human form, and Jesus spoke of loving our enemies and loving others as ourselves. David hated his enemies and wanted to see them destroyed. We, one the other hand, should love them.

And we must stand firm in our own faith, continually filling our minds with God’s word. We must ask God to fill our hearts with love for those who speak against Him. We must let our hearts be broken when we think of how the enemy has brainwashed so many. And we must do all we can do to help them see truth.

Monday, May 03, 2010

God's Higher Thoughts (Ps. 139:17-18)

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand
When I awake, I am still with You.

(Psalm 139:17-18, NASB)

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, reminding him—and us—that He is God. All-knowing. All-powerful. All-loving.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Honestly? I find this very comforting. I wouldn’t want to serve a God whom I could fully understand. I love the mystery of a God who is so great and so vast. He is the Creator; I am the created. As it should be.

The really great thing? He is so much greater and higher than I, but He still reveals so much of Himself. Through His word. Through His creation.

I may not know everything. I may not understand everything. But I do know this: My God loves me more than I can truly comprehend. And He holds my life in His gracious and merciful hands. I can have confidence in His plan for me.

So can you.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Awesome and Wonderful You! (Ps. 139:13-16)

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

(Psalm 139:13-16, NASB)

Fearfully and wonderfully made. I often joke when I speak that many of us would agree with “fearfully.” I’m downright scary! you say. But that’s not what “fearfully” means. It means “awesomely.”

Awesomely. Wonderfully.

You are awesomely and wonderfully made. If you have a relationship with Jesus, you are God’s beloved daughter or son. God looks at you and sees such beauty. Have you stopped to think about that?

So often, all we see are the scars, the flaws, the wrinkles. We see the many mistakes. The times we strayed.

But God doesn’t see all of that. Those of us who are cleansed by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial blood are as white as snow in the eyes of our Abba Father (see Psalm 51). He sees purity where we see sin. He sees beauty where we see ugliness. He sees awesome where we see a big ol’ mess.

Try and see yourself the way your Lord God does. Look through His eyes. Know that you’re awesome and wonderful. And you are.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

God Through the Darkness (Ps. 139:11-12)

If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day
Darkness and light are alike to You.

(Psalm 139:11-12, NASB)

Today’s verses are especially appropriate for me today. I feel overwhelmed by darkness. I’ve mentioned in other blogs that I deal with several chronic health issues, and this morning (it’s 3:30 a.m., by the way) I’m feeling the effects of each and every one of them … It’s literally and figuratively dark.

It would be really, really easy to wallow in self-pity. I have so much to do, so many things on my plate. But today? Not much is going to get done.

When I woke up a half hour ago and knew today was going to be a “pull the covers and hibernate” day, my immediate thought was—let’s be frank here—why? I don’t have time. Places to go. People to see. Definitely not a good day to do what I must do—give my body time to heal.

Then I read verse 11 and yes, I felt the darkness. Oh, but then I read verse 12. There is no darkness in my Lord God. As the apostle John wrote, “…God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). It may seem very dark, but I’m not alone. I can bask in the light of my Lord and know He has a purpose, even today.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by darkness? If so, I pray for God’s light to shine over and through you. I pray you’ll feel the warmth of His brightness cut through whatever darkness you’re experiencing.

And if you feel in the depths of night, remember: Day is coming.