One of my favorite books of the Bible is Ruth. I first got pulled into reading it because, well, it was short. Back when I struggled with the 'begats' and 'heretofores', I was just looking at something I could get through and feel like I actually had been able to read some of the Bible.
But then I read it...and it made sense. It was like a 'real' story and one I could understand. As I've grown in my Christian walk, I've gravitated back to that story...especially when I need a boost on God's provision or reassurance that it's never too late for love or a reminder that doing the right thing is, well, the right thing.
It's a short book (only four chapters), but it has so many great nuggets in it I personally believe that it's overall message is that if we do what we are supposed to be doing, then God will do the rest. And we can reap great things. I've broken this down into 4 posts - one for each chapter - to expand on the gems this book has for us.
1. Die to yourself and love those around you. When we are in the middle of our own mess and pain, our instinct is to turn inward and nurse our wounds. Most of us don't think of helping someone else when we feel we are the ones needing help. Ruth and Orpah both stayed with their husband's families until the husbands died. Even THEN, they both chose to stay with their mother-in-law, Naomi, and travel back to Naomi's homeland (Ruth 1:7). That says a lot about their character...even in the midst of their own pain, they recognized Naomi's was greater (having lost two sons and a husband) and chose to meet her where she was. They chose to not focus as much on their own pain, but to serve Naomi during hers. Naomi did the same for them... she encouraged them to go back to their own mothers' homes and start over with new families. (Ruth 1:8-9) The pain is palpable as they all weep together and hug/kiss on each other.
2. Stay true to what you believe in and stand steadfast. There's something to be said for having a backbone. And by backbone...there's a difference between running over people or being a bully versus standing quietly, solidly in your belief that you are on the right path and doing the right thing. It's especially tough to do it when others don't have faith in you and the odds are stacked against you (such as David and Goliath); or when people, even people who are supposed to know more than you or be wiser than you, are urging you to take a different path. Ruth believed she was on the right path, that she was doing the right thing and she chose to stand steadfast in that belief. She told Naomi that she was sticking by her no matter what. Naomi recognized that determination in Ruth and conceded. (Ruth 1:16-18).
3. Let people meet you where you are. Naomi is pretty upset when she returns home. She doesn't hide her pain. Her hometown recognizes her when she arrives and she tells them to no longer call her Naomi which means pleasant but to call her Mara, which means bitter (Ruth 1:19-21). She tells them God's afflicted her and she feels empty. She's ticked off and hurt, but she feels safe enough with her people to let them know. Isn't that amazing that she wasn't worried about being rejected in her honesty? She just laid it out there and trusted that she was in a safe place. We need a safe place among people like us (fellow believers) where we can share our burden.
4. Know that there is always a harvest just ahead. Even in the middle of pain, we can give thanks that harvest and bounty is just around the corner. I think that's why we can have the ability to give thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18) - because we know there's good ahead. Thomas Fuller's thought that the 'darkest hour is just before dawn' is reinforced here. As Naomi expounds on her sorrow and bitterness, we find that she and Ruth have arrived at the beginning of the harvest (Ruth 1:22). If that doesn't build some excitement and expectation, I don't know what does! Isn't that something to know in the middle of our pain, we can wait expectantly for God's harvest in the situation?
Come back for part 2 in the series - Reap like Ruth.
I graduated today. Again. This time it was my Master's degree (MAIS in Creative Writing, English and Psychology, if you must know.) Yay me, clap clap, hurrah.
I'm not belittling the accomplishment (I'm extremely proud of myself) and I'm not here to garner your praise or jealousy or criticism or awe or whatever (to each their own.)
The bigger picture is I did something for myself. This accomplishment speaks to the nights I stayed up late, squeezing in homework during lunch at the office, balancing the life of a single parent, work, home, friends. All those things were done to gain something for me.
It sounds incredibly selfish. It is on some levels. This degree serves no one but myself and my interests. And I am so excited for myself for doing something for me. Society doesn't really put a premium on self-care. We are expected and driven to serve others. I love serving others...but I can't do that unless I am at my best. I'm not at my best if I don't take care of me.
For those self-flagellating Christians.. consider the verse found in Mark: 'love your neighbor as yourself'. Take care of yourself first and then you can care effectively for others.
So yes, this season of thanks and giving, I think you'll find yourself more thankful and more giving when you take care of yourself. Try it and see.
I am all about having some peace! As a person who has struggled with anxiety, I am keenly interested in learning how to get and maintain peace and calm.
There are lots of little things I do that help me not aggravate or provoke anxious feelings (both mentally and physically). I'm a person who likes to take action so having something 'to do' about it is motivating. For me, certain things increase my anxiety so I don't participate in them: I don't watch the news everyday. I find nothing edifying about it. I watch my sugar intake. I am reducing my caffeine intake (work in progress!)
I do things to help foster peace, such as listen to relaxation tapes. (Here are two of my favorite free ones):
Excel at Life
Meditation Oasis - this one has free podcasts so you can take it with you
One of my newest favorite activities is to put on a relaxation recording and sit down with a notebook to write out the things I am thankful for - the amazing things God has done in my life. Paul encourages this activity:
8 Finally, [b]believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. 9 The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
Think on all the good things in your life - events, people, items - and reflect how God took the time to bless you. I like writing mine down - on a note card, in a journal, on a napkin. Look at what He has done and receive the peace that comes with knowing He has you.
Asking is hard. It implies we are deferring control, respect, and power to someone else. It says that either we can't do something for ourselves or we are trusting someone else to do it for us. It means we acknowledge we want or need help.
Yet... that's what we are called to do. It is complex - just asking, trusting, relinquishing, bowing down to, giving way to, bending, accepting, waiting. And yet it is so simple - just ask.
Try it. Just ask.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7 see this verse and alternate translations @ Biblehub (free!)
I'm a writer... so that means I write a bunch. Blogs are just the pieces that never make it into the final cut.