Pleased to announce: it’s a book!

You can’t see me, but I am jumping up and down and grinning from ear to ear.  A dream has just come true right in time for my 55th birthday!available now

Yes, I’ve always wanted to do something like publishing a book.  No, I never really expected to see it actually happen.  Of course, it didn’t just happen.  It was a lot of work.  A labor of love born out of my real life journey with Jesus.

31 Days of Gleaning with Ruth – questioning my way through a famine season is here.

I’m sitting here in my prayer/writing room trying to wrap my brain around the extraordinary goodness of our Father God.  I’m pondering today.  What I’m feeling is the JOY of pressing my face up toward refreshing rain falling on dry cracked famine land.

Do these feelings come close to those of Naomi as she heard the breaking news out of Bethlehem in Judah – harvest has returned to God’s people!  Do these feelings come close to the peace Ruth felt when Boaz expressed his desire for her to glean in his fields and commanded she be kept safe among the harvesters?   How about the surprised delight which surely overwhelmed Ruth at hearing she, a foreigner, had found favor with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

God’s ways are not our ways.  Those words are not just memorized scripture from Sunday School.  I know it experientially.  He is faithful, whether I am or I am not.  And I have definitely had my wandering moments.

If you join me on this 31-day journey through the book of Ruth, you’ll learn about some of the ways I’ve empathized with Naomi.  We’re both mother of two sons.  Our hearts have been torn open by the painful joy of mothering.  Day 1 – I shared about worship through tears and heartache.  Two sons.  Two wandering paths.  Two Scriptures offered often in prayer.  A sacrifice of praise.Day1 worship

Soon after signing a contract to publish 31 Days of Gleaning with Ruth, I learned from our oldest son that he has returned to his faith roots.  He’s come back home to His Father’s open arms of delight embracing this precious son.  Additionally, within another week, my husband found a Bible belonging to our youngest son.  Within the pages, we found a hand-written covenant commitment of faith to his Lord God and Savior.

Bitterly at times, I’ve wept over these two precious seeds.  And yet I know faith is not inherited.  Young men must go and find truth and faith for themselves.  So many times I’ve begged the Lord to let me know the greater JOY of knowing our children walk in TRUTH.  Suddenly bitter tears are turning sweet.  God is truly a promise keeper.  And His words to me have not returned void.

And then there’s Ruth.  In so many ways I have felt a kindred spirit with Ruth, the foreigner, seeking to be accepted into God’s family.  I’ve pondered long the truth of trying to fit in and learn the ways, the culture and the language of people belonging to God.

If it’s true for me, my friend it is true for you.  Are you feeling dry?  Have you been walking through a famine season?  Have you wept bitter tears?  Is it hard to imagine refreshing rain could ever fall upon your parched and cracked heart?

Will you come join me for 31 Days of Gleaning with Ruth?  Come and bring all your questions.  I’ll walk with you to the Throne of Grace where we can lay all our fears, doubts and bitter tears in the pierced hands of Jesus.  He’ll take them all because He already bore them all within Himself on the cross.  Jesus’ grace is sufficient, and He will give you rest.Day 22 light

Here’s a snippet of what to expect if you join me on this 31-day journey:

Let’s start with the most important ingredient for getting the most out of this book – Holy Spirit.  Please take time each day to ask Holy Spirit to be your teacher as you read and study through this devotional and God’s Word in Ruth.

Next, let’s take a look at the definition of gleaning.  Perhaps this is a word not commonly used in our modern day, however, my hope is that it will become as significant to you as it has to me in recent days.

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’”  Leviticus 23:22

Gleaning:  to pick up after a reaper; to strip of the leavings of reapers; to gather (something, such as information) bit by bit; to pick over in search of relevant material; find out

The Lord God has commanded that those who are poor and foreigners to His Kingdom should be fed by gleanings left behind.  The workers, the people of God, are to do this in obedience the field Owner.

Very simply, the Lord, my Kinsman Redeemer, has been good to me as I’ve come to His field seeking to be fed.  Workers of the field who have gone before me have left gleanings.  I’ve been fed on the richness of God’s Living Word.

As I now belong to Him, I too am a harvester of His field.  It is the desire of my heart to leave gleanings behind for others who are coming behind.  Yet I am not finished.  I am still hungry, and often take my seat at the feasting table with my fellow harvesters, foreigners, and best of all our Kinsman Redeemer.

Wherever you are on your faith journey, I know you will find a place for gleaning the truth of God’s Word.  His desire is for you to be fed from His field and at His table.  He longs for you to know Him intimately as Kinsman Redeemer.  And His desire is for you to become a joyful worker in His harvest field leaving gleanings behind for those who will come after you.harvest table.png

One-word:  Let me leave you with one other helpful note.  In each of the devotions, you will see one-word highlighted.  Each daily devotional is focused through the lens of one-word.  The one-word is used to zoom into a particular aspect of the scripture for the day, and to highlight the applicability of God’s word to our daily lives.

Credit for each of the 31 words goes to Kate Motaung, blogger, and coordinator of the Five Minute Friday community of faith bloggers.  You can find out more about Kate and the Five Minute Friday community by visiting these websites.  www.katemotaung.com and www.fiveminutefriday.com

Ponders:  At the close of each day’s devotional you will find a section titled ‘Ponders’.  This section is intended to be a time and place for reflection.  You’ll find several questions along with Scripture highlights meant to lead you into a time of prayer and journaling.  I hope you will find the Ponder section an encouragement for your walk with Jesus, and possibly a helpful discipleship tool.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.  May God bless you richly with a desire to be tucked under His great Wing and covered by His Feathers.  He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:4)

May you experience His tangible presence and an overwhelming sense of security no matter where you are or what tasks He’s placed in your hands.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

May you find yourself, in the example of Ruth, often lying at your Kinsman Redeemer’s feet.  May you listen intently as you have learned to recognize His loving Shepherd voice calling you by name.  He says to you, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)psalm 19.14.png

Finally, I bless you dear one with this prayer…

“… that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.  (I) pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Amen!

 

Day 31: What if {rest} is a place to be rather than something to do?

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May 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 of you in the house of her husband!”  Ruth 1:8-9 esv

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?  Ruth 3:1 esv

On this last of 31 days gleaning with Ruth, I’ve been asking the Lord why Naomi chose prioritized rest for her daughters in law.  On their way out of Moab, Naomi stopped and blessed the young women to go home and find rest – each in the house of a husband.  And later for Ruth, after the harvest season was completed, back in Bethlehem of Judah, Naomi’s desire and priority was to find her a place of rest.

Looking at the Hebrew words used in each of the two verses I realize Naomi’s idea of rest is far different than our American Merriam Webster definition of rest, which is – repose, sleep… a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities.

{rest}

Ruth 1:9 – in this scripture reference the Hebrew word for rest is mĕnuwchah according to blueletterbible.com meaning – figuratively, consolation (specifically, matrimony); hence (concretely) an abode:—comfortable, ease, quiet, rest(-ing place), still.

And then in Ruth 3:1 the Hebrew word for rest is mânôwach, maw-no’-akh; quiet, i.e. (concretely) a settled spot, or (figuratively) a home:—(place of) rest.  This word for rest in the Hebrew carries with it the idea of security.

As we’ve journeyed along through the book of Ruth, we’ve witnessed this desire of Naomi come to fruition.  Ruth obediently followed Naomi’s instructions to wash, dress and lay at the feet of her near kinsman, Boaz.  As strange as that might seem to our modern western cultural norms, and especially inside the church – Boaz was the man Naomi hoped would step up to the role of Ruth’s kinsman redeemer, and Naomi knew how to get his attention without crossing a morality line.  To be covered, taken in, sheltered – to become the wife of the kinsman redeemer would mean rest, home, peaceful security and hope for her future.

Nowhere at all do we find an indication of Naomi desiring for Ruth the idea of rest in the sense of doing nothing, sitting around her tent, being still – not working – a cessation of being active.  Certainly, as a young woman, the expectation would have been for her to care for her husband and hopefully children as time went by.

In the days of Ruth and Naomi, women worked hard with great physical labor just to gather water and prepare a meal.  Their daily tasks were far beyond my view of keeping up a household – driving to the grocery store, buying and unpacking food already prepared for me, and gathering water through my indoor plumbing!

And so, while it is important to set aside time to rest from work – to stop the busy routine, the constant motion of going and doing and exhaustion, today the concept of rest Holy Spirit is highlighting is more in the realm of security under His wing.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.  Psalm 91:1-2

 

31 days gleaning into the nightSo, if anyone were to ask me:  “What is your one big take away from 31 days of gleaning with Ruth?” – it would be the concept of rest as relates to being sheltered under God’s wing.

I’m a busy lady, just as most of you are busy with your daily life activities.  As I look back on the last 31 days of writing every day, maintaining my full-time employment, caring for family (which includes 3 dogs) and home, and checking in on neighbors, it’s been an overly full month.  And yet, the fact that I am now crossing the finish line (with you) on this project is proof enough – this was God’s idea.  Truly because Holy Spirit has been leading the way, and I have simply followed under His direction, this adventure has been anything but burdensome.  Rather, it is has been a JOY feast for my soul.

I’m reminded this morning of Jesus’ definition of rest –

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:29-30 ESV

Yes, do you see it too?  Jesus teaches when we join Him in His work, under His gentle supervision, we will find rest for our souls.  It’s true!  I’ve experienced this truth in every one of the last 31 days.  I pray today you too are taking Jesus at His word, to join Him – yoked with Him – in His work for today.  As you choose today to submit to His gentle training, I am confident you WILL find rest for your soul.  I can’t wait to hear the testimonies…

Father, thank You for sheltering me under Your Wing and for covering me with Your Feathers as I’ve met with You in Your Word daily.  Holy Spirit thank You for teaching me in the peacefulness of the first fruits of the day.  Thank You, Jesus, for giving me rest in my work because this is the work You called me to do.  May I remember always and come often to sit at Your feet, my Lord, to rest with You and work with You under the security of Your habitation with me.  I give thanks to You God for You are good and Your steadfast love endures forever.  Amen.

Ponders:

  • What is your definition of rest?  Do you see rest as a state of being?  Or do you see rest as something to do?  Do you have room in your life for both forms of rest?
    • Is Holy Spirit highlighting a particular form of rest for you to prioritize today?
    • Would you like to make my prayer your own prayer today?  How might your prayer be different regarding rest?  In what areas of your life are you seeking rest?
      • Let’s pray together to be taught by Holy Spirit and to glean His truth for our good and for His glory.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.  May God bless you richly with a desire to be tucked under His great Wing – covered by His Feathers as described in Psalm 91, and may you experience His tangible presence and an overwhelming sense of security no matter where you are or what tasks you are performing.  May you find yourself lying at Jesus’ feet and listening to His loving Shepherd voice calling you by name.

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

Day 30: I yield & You {refine}

Refine: to bring to a fine or a pure state; free from impurities (dictionary.com)

In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy  1 Peter 1:6-8 NIVrefine

On this 30th of 31 days of gleaning with Ruth – questioning my way through my own personal famine season, I ponder the word {refine} with a hopeful heart and a refreshed spirit.  Yes, without a doubt, I am – we, my husband and I are – in a season of refinement and it’s a painful process, yet clearly, throughout God’s word, He assures us it is for our good and His glory!

To Peter, Holy Spirit inspired an illustration of refinement by fire, which we can read also in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the Psalms just for starters.  I’m also reminded of the words in Hebrews 12:29, which harken back to Deuteronomy – for our God is a consuming fire.

Those are the illustrations to which I’ve grown accustomed.  They speak mightily to me because of growing up near the Everglades in Florida.  I’m well aware of the devastation a fire will cause over acres upon acres of land, and yet there’s something miraculous that happens as a result of all the extraneous foilage being burned away.  The seeds hidden down under the ground’s surface are broken open by the heat of the fire and soon green shoots of new life spring up out of the ashes.  New life – cleansed and purified.

Through my gleaning up and down and around again through the scriptures in Ruth I’ve been challenged with a different illustration of refinement.  God, by way of His Holy Spirit living in us and teaching us, has the best ideas for expanding our understanding in the various seasons of our lives.  His goodness is evident in that He really wants us to understand we are never alone.  Never will He leave us…never will He forsake us.

refine wheat - square

So, gleanings of refinement from the book of Ruth:

Famine – we begin with a time of trial.  The people of Israel were living out cycles of disobedience, consequences, crying out to God, turning back to Him in repentance and peace.

Similarly, the agriculture, all of God’s creation, experienced cycles of drought, famine, rain, refreshed soil, seed, and harvest.  It’s a natural process because we live in a broken, sin-soaked world.

And so, even though at times we are tempted to believe God is doing something terrible to us and the enemy takes his best shot in our weakness to try to convince us God is not good, we need to go back to what we know is true.

We have to remember the truth of Who God is, and who we are redeemed in Him.  We need to remember the seed of His word sewn deep in the soil of our hearts.  We choose to resist the devil and draw near to God.  We yield our dry hearts to receive His Living water and in time the harvest will come again.

God refines us through the cycles of famine and harvest.

Harvest – this is the time of refreshing, returning for Naomi and adoption for Ruth.  This is the time of plenty.  Food is gathered and shared with the poor, the widows and foreigners inhabiting the land.

And part of the harvesting process is threshing.

to thresh – to separate the grain or seeds from (a cereal plant or the like) as in wheat – to separate the edible part (the grain) from the stalk – as with wheat or barley (dictionary.com)

I’m going to need to chew on these truths awhile longer because I’m fascinated with these few details Holy Spirit is unveiling for me in the idea of threshing coming with the harvest.31 days gleaning bushel of wheat

Who was responsible for the threshing of the wheat and barley harvest?

The Kinsman Redeemer – Boaz

Why was threshing necessary?

To refine the wheat/barley for making bread with which to feed the people.

In this we are able to see Jesus – our Kinsman-Redeemer – who allowed Himself to be threshed, broken open in our place.  He didn’t need the refining and yet He took it in our place.  Jesus told us – and tells us still through His living and active word – He is the Bread of Life.

Every table is an altar – please enjoy this worship of Jesus, the Bread of Life broken for us that we might be revived and live free – yielded to His refinement.  Receive the Glory Lord.

 

Ponders:

One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.  Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.  Ruth 3:1-2 

Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”  Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”  Ruth 3:16-18

  • Will you ask Holy Spirit what He wants you to know about your current season of refinement?  Possibly past seasons of refinement are still a mystery and painful.  What healing do You want to bring to us, Jesus?
  • Will you?  And will I yield to our good God and Kinsman Redeemer so He might refine us for our good and His glory?

Eyes on Jesus…you’re Shining!

~Lisa

Day 29: {Follow} Jesus and bring some friends with you

It’s late on Day 29 with two days remaining to complete the 31-day writing challenge.  It feels a bit like I’ve hit a wall and yet I know the finish line is in sight.  I have no intention of quitting, however, I will admit I might be walking somewhat bent over with my hand on my side rather than jogging right about now.

As I ponder today’s word prompt {follow} and the two remaining word prompts – {refine} and {rest} – I’m reminded these are the three major truths I’ve gleaned from Holy Spirit through the book of Ruth.  What an amazing journey it’s been!  Lord, I am counting on You to help me finish strong…

followFollow – Jesus called His disciples with an invitation, “Come, follow Me.”  And they did literally drop what they were doing and they did literally follow after Jesus.  They left work, family, homes and everything secure and familiar for the great unknown adventure of accepting Jesus’ invitation.

After Jesus’ resurrection, He met with His disciples and commissioned them to go.  Jesus sent them out with all they had learned in their three-year training at His side with the mandate to bring others along by continually sharing the invitation to follow Jesus.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

For a number of years, I’ve described my journey through life with eyes on Jesus by way of an illustration:

I’ve got one arm extended out in front of me holding onto the belt loop of a dear sister in Christ who has traveled the road just ahead of me, and I’ve got the other arm extended back to grasp the hand of a dear sister coming along behind.

We’re all following Jesus, wanting to know Him more intimately, and keeping our ears tuned to the sound of His Shepherd-voice giving direction to our path.  While at the same time, we’re grabbing the hands of our sisters to come along with us.  We want to introduce others to Him – to live free and experience abundant life – and join us on the adventure journey.  Who wants to travel alone anyway!

I’m not sure I know of a more beautiful portrait of relational discipleship than the one God painted for us in the book of Ruth.  No matter the reason, Naomi found herself living in Moab with a people, not her own, who worshipped idols rather than Yahweh, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

Rather than isolating herself or bending her beliefs in order to fit in, Naomi lived her faith in front of her daughters in law.  I think they understood Naomi’s heart was still attached to Yahweh and her people back in Bethlehem of Judah.  For as soon as Naomi heard the good news of God’s favor to break the famine and restore the harvest, she packed her bags and headed toward home leading her daughters in law along the way.

girl in wheat 31 days

The women came to an inevitable fork in the road.  Naomi would follow her heart back home.  However, Naomi was returning wounded, possibly wearing a cloak of shame and fearing she might be rejected by her people… and possibly God.  So, she offered the young women the opportunity to leave her and go back to their families.  It was completely their choice.

And this is where the radiant beauty of relational discipleship shines most bright.  The younger one who had been following along hand extended forward to Naomi’s hand reaching back, became the one to take the lead for awhile.  When Naomi chose to change her name to bitter because of her pain, loss, and disappointment, Ruth stepped forward to remind Naomi of Yahweh – Almighty God to whom Naomi had been introducing Ruth.

Each of us faces these inevitable forks in the road – the moments of choice.  Truly, the point is not for anyone to follow me while I follow Jesus.  Rather it is my responsibility to point to Jesus and insist we each keep our eyes focused on Him.

And really there’s just not many events in life more disappointing and sad than to watch someone turn back to their former life of idols.  At the same time, there’s almost nothing better than to be reminded of truth and directed toward Jesus by a precious one you’ve previously discipled.  What a JOY feast!

At this, they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” 

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.  So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem.  Ruth 1:14-16, 18-19 niv

I’m refreshed in this dry famine season as I realize God in the book of Ruth purposely foreshadowed Jesus’ call to His disciples to follow Him and to bring others along.  I’m encouraged once again to keep walking with one hand holding onto the belt loop of a sister ahead of me.  I’m emboldened to reach a hand back to one or ones coming along behind. go make disciples.png

And I look forward with great anticipation to the moments when the discipled becomes the discipler – iron sharpens iron – each one encouraged, strengthened and pointed toward Jesus.  We all have our eyes on Jesus.  We’ve accepted His invitation and heed His command, “Come, follow Me.  Therefore go and make disciples…”

Ponders:

  • Do you see a picture of discipleship in the book of Ruth?  What specifically about the relationship between Ruth and Naomi is highlighted for your understanding in a fresh way today?
  • Do you have those ahead of you on the faith journey who will reach a hand back to help you along?  I wonder if you might want to write their names in your journal and write a special prayer of thanksgiving to the Father for bringing those precious people along your path.
  • Are you reaching back with a hand held out to at least one other who is coming along behind you on the faith journey?  Will you also write their name in your journal and stop now to pray God’s blessing and favor on him or her today?
  • If you’ve received Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, have you also made a conscious effort to bring others along with you?
    • If not, would you make this a matter of conversation with God?
    • Will you ask Him to change your heart or open doors of opportunity to bring others along in discipleship?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

Day 28: {Connect} some of the dots for me, won’t You, Lord?

“This is what the Lord says—the Lord who made the earth, who formed and established it, whose name is the Lord: ‘Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.'”  Jeremiah 33:2-3

connect – as in ‘connect the dots’ or connect the puzzle pieces.

As I ponder the word connect I’m reminded of individual pixels connected together to form a whole image on a computer screen.  The individual pixel by itself or random pixels spread out on a screen and disconnected would be confusing – unrecognizable.  And yet, connected we see the full picture – the whole and not the many individual pixels.{connect}

Another metaphor comes to mind, my parents’ dining room table covered with individual pieces of a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle with just the beginnings of connected pieces.  It will be a recognizable and beautiful picture when all the pieces are connected, however, in the process, it can be frustrating and difficult to grasp.  Individual pieces can be fun and pretty to look at, but where and with what does this piece connect?  How does this piece relate to all these other pieces to form the whole?  And finally, what is the big picture?

Right now, you might be asking, what does any of that have to do with gleaning truth from the book of Ruth?  Well, I purposely didn’t start out with the genealogy scriptures because I was afraid I might lose some folks.  Though clearly when we read the end of this true story of Ruth, we see God connecting the dots.

 The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed.  He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.  This is the genealogical record of their ancestor Perez:

Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz.
Boaz was the father of Obed.
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of David.  Ruth 4:17-22 NLT

And if the dots stopped there with David who became king we would have an amazing picture of the American dream.  We could, as westerners – Americans, put our pioneer spin on the story and declare (in a John Wayne cowboy kind of accent):

See, if you just use some elbow grease, put your nose to the grindstone and dream big every day even a shepherd boy can work his way up to being king!cowboy

But that’s not God’s idea of me being a pixel in His Grand Design.  He is God and He does as He pleases.  God is Creator and I am the created.  He has had the Masterpiece in mind from before the foundation of the earth was spoken into being by Him!  And so, I am reminded today by the word connect that God is the One and the Only who is able to see the whole of His design.

Therefore it is in my best interest to place my trust in Him when I have more questions than answers.  When I cannot fathom how my small pixel of a life could possibly count for anything amazing, I have to stop and ask:

“Lord, will You connect some dots for me?”

So then I read on from Jeremiah 33:3 and run into these words, which help to connect the dots from the end of Ruth.

 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

“For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel,    Jeremiah 33:14-17 ESV

So what about this righteous Branch springing up from the lineage of David?  God breathed these words to further connect more dots and help our understanding of His bigger picture of redemption – the plan He’s always had in mind.

The first book of the New Testament, the first gospel, the book of Matthew – chapter 1 – begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ beginning with Abraham and then we read these familiar words only look how God connects the foreign women grafted in:31 days of gleaning

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.  Matthew 1:5-6

He doesn’t stop there though as He did in Ruth.  The generations are recorded one by one all the way to the birth of Christ.  And we read the individual dots coming together to form a bigger picture of God’s good plan…

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.  Matthew 1:16

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about:  His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.  Matthew 1:18

I still have so many questions.  Grateful, I am, my Father created me with a curious mind.  He is the One who gave me the idea to spend 31 days gleaning through His true story of these ancient people – Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz.

The harvest of understanding has been abundant for me as little by little more of the pixel dots have been coming together.  I pray I’m not the only one who has gained a clearer vision of the way my one little pixel of life fits in with God’s Grand Masterpiece.

For now, we see in a mirror dimly but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

Ponders:

  • Do you have more questions about your life – life in general – than you have answers?  Do you feel privileged to be able to take all your questions to the Living God to find out His perspective?  What do these words from Jeremiah 33:2-3 mean to you?
    • “This is what the Lord says—the Lord who made the earth, who formed and established it, whose name is the Lord: ‘Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.'”
  • Is it confusing to you – or difficult, as it is for me – to see your one little pixel of a life as an important piece of God’s grand masterpiece?
    • If so, will you ask Holy Spirit to meet you in your questions and help your understanding of your true value and worth and true identity as God’s creation and His adopted child?
    • Perhaps read through Ephesians 1 placing your name over every pronoun so you are able to read what God says about you in His word.
    • If you don’t see yourself as a part of God’s plan, could it be that you’ve not accepted His offer of adoption into His family made available to you by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross?  Will you reach out to a friend who is following Jesus (or me through this blog) and allow someone to introduce you to the Living Jesus who is the Son of God and has defeated death, who intercedes for you and desires all will accept His free gift of salvation?
  • Are there pixel dots which have been connected in this study resulting in your better understanding of the Scriptures today?  OH, I hope so!  Will you share a truth you’ve gleaned today?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

 

Day 27: Who is it that {overcome}s the world?

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he (and she) who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:5 niv

{overcome} it’s a promise for the one who perseveres through, over and around – for the one who puts their eyes on Jesus and never stops following the sound of His voice.

Looking this morning at the question in 1 John 5:5 my first response would be the automatic Sunday School answer – “JESUS!” However, as I finish reading the scripture, the answer is plain as day…

It’s me! Hopefully, it is you!
Only those of us who believe Jesus is the Son of God. We are the ones who are given the privilege, the opportunity and the guaranteethe promise of overcoming the world.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve not really set out to overcome the world. I just want to overcome the obstacles which seem to be impeding my current progress. The slammed shut and locked doors… the tightly shuttered windows… the physical resources which seem to be leaking out without enough flowing back in.

I doubt Naomi set out to overcome the world. Nor Ruth. Probably not even Boaz. Though certainly, the book of Ruth is an overcomer’s true story. There’s much for me to glean from this small book of Ruth as pertains to my own life and circumstances I face. These obstacles aren’t any more impossible for me than they were for Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz.

Clearly, we see a familiar pattern in Ruth – as we see all throughout the Bible. It’s an easily recognizable pattern in my own life as well:

  • there’s a problem – an obstacle to {overcome}
  • what can I do to gut it out, fix it, endure it, resolve it
  • I can’t do it… it’s too hard… I need help
  • Cry out to God for help, mercy, rescue
  • Turn back toward home, head down, overwhelmed with shame – disillusioned and hopeless.

31 days gleaning into the night

Before we get all the way home, He’s there – open arms, welcoming, glad to see us. Father is ready to provide everything we need and Jesus is ready to hold our hand and persevere with us every step while Holy Spirit teaches us to listen and follow Shepherd’s voice. The next thing we know – we’ve {overcome}… because Jesus came to overcome the world!

Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 niv

Ponders:

I feel absolutely sure we each have something in our lives to {overcome}. Perhaps the real questions are deeper than what appears on the surface. Jesus usually wants to take us deeper, right?

  • I wonder if you will ask Holy Spirit for His perspective on what it is He has for you to overcome? I’m asking too.
    • Perhaps it looks like famine, but is it really fear of lack – feelings of abandonment? Perhaps the obstacle looks like your spouse or your children or career or…, but maybe it’s really fear or doubt or pride or….?
  • Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
    • What do these words mean for you? Will you ask Jesus – honestly – pouring out the well of emotion, which is undoubtedly tied to this thing that looks impossible to our human eyes?
    • Will you turn towards Jesus, sit at His feet and allow Him to cup your chin and turn your eyes toward Him? Will I?
    • Will we place our hands in His, trusting and persevering because He has overcome the world?

We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Persevere friend all the way through. There’s no guarantee your story will end the way you always thought it would. It is a promise, if you yield to God writing His story in your life, the end result will yield a harvest beyond your wildest imagination. Mark 4:20 in The Message

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

31 days fmf overcome

It’s Friday and the surprise word Kate Motaung has for us today is {overcome}. Thanks, Kate, for listening to Holy Spirit for word prompts and sharing them with the rest of us.

So come along and join in the fun. Set your timer for 5. Pray, ask Holy Spirit for His words, type and publish.

{Overcome} the temptation to sit this one out, {overcome} the lie that you have nothing to contribute to the body. We need to edify one another…. {overcome} for the edification of the body of Christ and for God’s glory! Click here to read and or join in the link up for today’s Five Minute Friday

Day 26: Ready for a {change} of heart?

For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.  Hebrews 4:12-13 nivchange

How do you feel about a change of heart?  What does that mean?  Are you in a season in which you feel something needs to change?

I’m there.  And I was there before these 31 days began on October 1st.  My feeling has been for a number of years – our circumstances need to change.  We’ll be alright if we can just hold on until my suntanned feet man feels better… and he finds another opportunity in the next chapter of his career… and on and on…

Then one day when our circumstances will come back into alignment when the famine season is over, everything will be good again.  Then I’ll have the opportunity to leave my 9 to 5 and write and speak to women and minister and disciple.  When God changes our circumstances.  God, when are You going to change our circumstances?

{Change} be made different, transform, alter – take a different position or course or direction.

Is it just me or is there anyone else out there who might be reading along who feels sure all will be well in their lives if God would just hurry up and change their circumstances?  I’m confident I’m not the only one.  Most every heart conversation lately seems to follow a similar trail.  Women at work, discipleship knitted hearts, couples in our home group and neighbors – followers of Christ Jesus – wondering, “God, what are You doing?”

Interestingly, our circumstances haven’t changed.  As I’ve learned, more than once in my life, there’s really not much over which I have control, except myself.  If nothing else around me is changing and I want to live the abundant life and produce a harvest bushel of the fruits of the Spirit of God, the only other choice is to cry out, “Father, change me.”revise

As I pondered the idea of 31 days – gleaning in the book of Ruth I already knew I would be changed.  I’ve walked this journey with the Word became flesh long enough to know that I know if I spend 31 days soaking in His truth and open myself up to be taught by His Spirit, I will be changed – transformed – my thinking renewed – perspective changed.

God’s Word is Living.  He is Jesus, Conqueror of death.  God’s Word is Active.  Jesus is present in our circumstances.  God’s Word is Sharp.  Jesus, wielding a scalpel, removes what He sees in us which doesn’t belong as we yield to elective surgery.

I started out this journey thinking the reason for Naomi’s suffering, the loss of life and utter despair had to be the result of their wrong choice.  If only they had stayed in Bethlehem…  If only they had turned around and gone home…  If only – a thousand different “if only” wonderings for my own life.  I needed to know in this 31 days what Holy Spirit desired to teach me through my questions.

He is changing my perspective on my need to always get it right.  If God’s goodness and grace for Naomi was completely dependent on her making all the right choices then there would be no way to explain the marriage of Ruth (a foreigner coming under the protective wing of the Almighty God) to Boaz (a near kinsman redeemer) and the resultant lineage of generations leading to the birth of our Savior, Jesus, the Christ.

God is bigger than our twists and turns.  He is bigger than our wanderings.  God is greater than our circumstances.  He knows where we are and how long the impossible will last.  He sees the end from the beginning and He knows the way through and out.

And I wonder if my Father might be thinking the steps of my journey are making an interesting pattern as He weaves my story into the grand fabric of His creation.

What do you think?

Ponders:

The aim:  we are changed by the Word of God to be transformed daily into the image of Christ regardless of our circumstances.

The truth:  our circumstances expose the stuff in us which does not resemble our Lord.  It is the circumstances of life, the seemingly impossible, not budging no matter the force of my will, which causes me to surrender to the change my Lord wants to do in me.

  • Is there a change of heart you are needing today?  Will you ask Holy Spirit to teach you through His living and active word?
  • Will you write out the scriptures to which He leads you?  Will you make them your prayer for change – a transformed heart?
  • Are you willing to choose elective surgery under the precision of Jesus’ scalpel today?  Let’s do this together.

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

 

 

 

Day 25: {because} You love me?

He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”  Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.  And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.”  They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.  Ruth 4:15-17 esv

{because}  –  Because God… I am not hopeless… redemption is available…

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow…  I’m thinking of the song we sang in the church I sometimes attended in Perrine, Florida, and where my husband and I later married.  Remembering this gospel message in a simple song still brings tears to my eyes.  The truth, so simple and yet the difference between eternal life or death – a life of hope or a life of defeat and despair.

Because I love you… Max LucadoBecause I love you...

As I ponder again, the true story in God’s word of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz along with the people of Bethlehem in Judah, I am reminded of this dear children’s book.  Though many years ago I bought it for our youngest, adventure-seeking son, I am the one who frequently goes back to be reminded of the truth contained within.

Just a quick summary to whet your appetite and then maybe you will go and read Because I love you for yourself.  Shaddai, the fatherly carpenter built a beautiful village for all his children and around his village, he built a stone wall.  Within the walls of his village was everything his children would ever need – including safety.

However, the curious child Paladin found a hole in the stone wall.  Paladin questioned Shaddai about the hole.  It was troubling to the curious child that Shaddai had purposely placed the hole in the wall, and though it was Shaddai’s desire the children remain within the stone wall, Paladin did what I would do.  He chose to investigate the world on the other side of the hole in the wall.

I’ll go no further, but leave the rest to your imagination and hope you will find the book one day…

However, I see in the book of Ruth a similar story… my interpretation of course, as I read God’s word in prayer and through the filter of my own life experience, my personality traits, and my life choices to this point.

I see a village in which God’s people safely resided together.  Yes, the land was given over to a famine and yet God allowed it so that His people would see Him as their provider and not the land.

A family – Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons – left the village to go to Moab.  They dwelt together in a foreign land outside God’s safe boundary.  It was a land where people did not know the One True God and worshipped idols of their own handcrafting.because

Naomi, the only one of her family remaining alive, heard the good news of God’s grace and provision on His people back home in the village.  It was to her heart, I think, the sound of her good Shepherd calling her name, “Naomi, come home…”

She packed up and returned home with her daughter in law Ruth by her side.  The women were welcomed back to God’s village where they were cared for and where the favor of God rested upon them by way of the near kinsman, Boaz.

Because God provided a kinsman redeemer Ruth gave birth to Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David – King David… and through the lineage of King David, by the grace of God, our Savior, King Jesus, was born of the virgin, Mary.

 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14 niv

Ponders:

Because He lives, I can face today… and tomorrow.

  • In His presence, I will always safely be as long as I choose to remain in the safe pasture my good and loving Father has created for me.  He has boundaries for me, and within His boundaries of love, I live in complete freedom.
    • Do you agree?
    • Reading God’s Word in Ruth and Psalm 23 what do you glean regarding God
      • as our good Father?
      • safe pasture?
      • our responsibility and our freedom to choose to stay close to our Shepherd?
      • what about the way back to Him?  Is it time to turn around at the sound of His voice?
    • Our good Father, our Shepherd comes to look for us when we wander off.  He is calling our name, and He will find us.  Will we turn to put our eyes on Him and follow Him home?  Maybe we are so broken we will need Him to carry us home…  He will surely do it if we fall into His arms.
    • What other scriptures is Holy Spirit bringing to mind as you ponder?  Will you write His words to you in your journal?  Would you be willing to share some insights with us for our edification?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining.

~ Lisa

 

 

 

Day 24: Do you ever wish you could {revise} a chapter from your life?

“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:18-19 esv

{Revise} – make corrections, change, or edit.  A do-over.

Who, if offered, wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to revise a particular moment in their life story?  Don’t we all have regrets?  Isn’t it so much easier to look back with hindsight and edit our choices?  At some point in the game, don’t we all wish to call for a time-out to review the previous play hoping for an opportunity to replay the down?revise Ruth 4

I have plenty of scenarios to which my mind races when the “what if” monster comes to play with my emotions.  If God were to give me the opportunity to go back and make edits in my life script, I feel sure I would be tempted to say yes.  However, when regret threatens to hold me hostage over a past course of action, I remember a conversation I had with my paternal grandfather.

I was a youngster of 9 years or so and the conversation revolved around my parents’ choice to elope.  It was the summer of 1961, they were young – 17 & 19 – in love and wanted to marry.  Permission from my mom’s parents was granted, but not so for my dad’s parents – and so they made a life choice.  It was a choice over which my grandfather was expressing his desire for them to wait – “Just two years”, he said.

My response to my grandfather was this, “But grandpa if they had waited two more years, you wouldn’t have us as your grandchildren.”  His instant response was that we would simply be two years younger with a pat on my head.  The conversation ending response came from my mouth, though I’ve often wondered if it was Holy Spirit teaching us both a lesson,  “Grandpa, I don’t think it works like that.”

Today pondering “the rest of the story” of Ruth, Boaz and Naomi I wonder if anywhere in the ten plus years through the famine and back home to the return of the harvest season if Naomi wished she had made different choices.  Did she hold regrets over leaving Bethlehem – she and her men?  Was there a time along the way she wished her sons had not married Moabite women?  I just wonder… did she ever wish for a do-over.  “What if” God had placed an editor’s pen in her hand.

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.  And he went into her, and 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 redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!  He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”  Ruth 4:13-15revise

Simple, right?  If Naomi were given the opportunity to go back and {revise} her story, this would not be the well-known redemptive love story in which so many of us delight, and from which much truth is gleaned.

God gave us the opportunity to live in perfection without regret in His beautiful garden called Eden.  Because of a choice made by God’s created man and woman, we all now live with the temptation to regret, a desire to {revise} our own stories – to make our stories the one we wished we had.

Thankfully, our redemption doesn’t come through our own re-writes for who among us is able to know the mind of God or to see how the messy of our story magnifies His greatness and majesty.  Grateful Lord, I am this morning, grateful, You know when and where and how we will walk out of the famine season and into the return of the harvest You have already planted for us.

Ponders:

  • I wonder – do you also have a story you are tempted to wish you could revise?
    • Would you talk out the scenario with Jesus today?  Will you honestly pour out your desire to revise your story?
    • And will you listen for His response?  Take note of Holy Spirit’s ideas about your story, how He sees you in the middle of your story and let Him teach you His way of redemption.
  • I am reminded this morning of Jesus’ words in Mark 2:22:  “…And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
    • This word reminds me God’s redemptive work in me is to fashion me as a new creation ready for Holy Spirit to take up residence in me.  God is not so much about revising us as He is about creating new.
    • Is there a need in your life to surrender your old wineskin and allow God to create you new?  Would you like to cry out with King David, and me too, the life-giving words of Psalm 51?
      • “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…  Restore to me the JOY of Your salvation…”

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

 

Day 23: Is my life’s {work} defined by what I do or whom I serve?

Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.  May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”  Ruth 4:11-12

{work}

Work is a hard word at our house these days.  Every time my husband and I meet someone for the first time, he is asked, “So, what do you do?”  It’s a question which produces more angst, frustration, and sadness than I can bear to watch.  work

My husband struggles with how best to answer the question.  Should he say he’s retired or should he say he’s in between opportunities?  Should he open up the vulnerable place of stating his desire for another opportunity to work in his career field?  All the answers lead to more questions and ultimately reveal the length of time we’ve waited in this particular famine season.

We’re not farmers, but reading through the book of Ruth in this dry season on our journey, we have a new perspective on work – or the lack of it.  We have a new appreciation for the man or woman who desires to produce for their family, has the knowledge and skill, but at every turn finds the doors are closed.

The current work drought for my man feels much like the farmers’ in the time of the Judges who had land, seed, skill, and knowledge to grow crops in their fields, and yet they could not control the weather.  For all their effort, working hard to bring a harvest, the stuff of life beyond their control overwhelmed and a famine season was the result.

What {work} do you do?  It’s a question through which the core of our identity is revealed.  The question and the feelings it provokes for the positive or the negative can be a false sense of identity unless we are securely rooted in Whom we serve.

May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give

I love this blessing on Boaz from his neighbors, friends, and family in Bethlehem.  Though Boaz most certainly was a landowner, a farmer and it seems clearly a man of good reputation and high status in the community, he was blessed to build a home and to bear offspring to bring glory and honor to the Lord God Almighty.  31 days gleaning bushel of wheat

I wonder when I am able to ask Boaz, “So what did you do for work back in Bethlehem?” what his answer will be.  Somehow I believe knowing he acted honorably as a kinsman redeemer, married Ruth and became the father of Obed and eventually the great-grandfather of King David all greatly overwhelmed the satisfaction received from working his job.  Maybe?  I look forward to asking Boaz this question.

 

Ponders:

  • This is my ponder today…  Is my life’s {work} defined by what I do or whom I serve?
  • Chewing on this Scripture from Colossians, I’m asking…
    • Lord Jesus, what do You want me to know about my life’s work?
    • How do You see me in my life’s work?
    • Will You teach me how to best honor You and serve You in my life’s work?
    • How do You want to shape my identity as a Christ follower through the work I do?  Would it change my perspective if I recognized my true calling is an Ambassador for You no matter the daily grind of my day to day activities?
  • How might I pray this prayer for my husband and others who are in a famine season of their life’s work?

we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;  Colossians 1:9-11 esv