Wednesday, June 7, 2023

"My Name Is Naomi" 



"Hello, my name is Naomi.  You have found me  in the pages of your Bible, though I am not the main character in the story - my daughter-in-law Ruth is. But I have some thoughts I so desire to share with you, if you have the heart and time to hear them. 
  
 Hindsight is very wise, but it comes a little late - we have already reaped the 'fruit' of our choices, actions and decisions.  They say the best way to learn is through others' mistakes, so you don't have to make them yourself !  So let me share what I learned and I pray that my experiences might be of help to you. 
 
I, like every other young woman, had my dreams and expectations..  I would marry and have children and live my life, happy and content to run my happy household.  My name , Naomi ,means 'pleasant' and that is how I expected my life to be. 
And that is how ,at first, it began to unfold.  I married and was excited to find I was soon pregnant with my first child.  It was a son - but he was not strong.  I feared for his well-being and afraid I was going to lose him so I named him "Mahlon"  (meaning sickly) maybe to remind myself that he might not live to adulthood.  Shortly after, I became pregnant again - another son, but to my sorrow he too was born sickly, so I named him Chilion (meaning pining or wasting away) 
But, I was so thankful that as I cared lovingly for my boys they did become stronger and to my relief and joy grew to be  men. 
But then a famine swept our land and it became difficult to get enough food.  Not that anyone was starving 'yet' , but we did not know for how long this famine would go on. We knew God had always cared for His people, and I believed that He would see us through this famine.  
Then one day, my husband, Elimelech came to me and said he had decided that we would move to Moab, where there was plenty of food .  I couldn't believe my ears!  Moab was cursed by God because the Moabites refused to give food to the Israelites, and these were the very people Elimelech was choosing to trust?   The very thought of leaving my home, my family, my friends - everything I had ever known was heart wrenching and filled me with anxiety.  But what could I do ?  My husband was determined and I had no choice but to obey him. 

Lesson  1 --  Sometimes life throws the unexpected in our life-path, upsetting our security, our comfort, wrecking havoc with the very things we thought were solid in our life. 
Or someone makes a major decision that affects us, yet we are not considered or given any voice or control.  Because we feel the rug is pulled out from under us,  we  cry out to God  but feel left adrift,  because surely He could have prevented this life-changing, devastating circumstance.  
  But God does not abandon us in the wilderness or when we are forced to go to Moab . He  quietly guides and watches over us, even when we do not see Him, and are unaware of His Presence!  He is never troubled or at a loss, He knows the way we will go, knows what we will encounter, and all He asks is that we trust Him to guide us through, because He knows the way! 
******
So we moved to Moab where everything was new and strange. Yes, we had food, but at what price ?   
And then, my husband died, leaving me grief-stricken!   Now, I was really alone, responsible for my two sons.  And I worried about them.  They were young enough that they embraced their new country and felt quite at home.  My heart plummeted when I realized that they were interested in the Moab girls, thinking of taking them as wives.  I had never considered that I would have pagan grandchildren !   I had already lost everything. Was I to lose my family line of descendants  as well?
 But when my sons brought the girls home  that they had chosen to marry, I had to admit that they had chosen well.  I grew to love both girls, Ruth especially bonded to me and was eager to hear about my God, so different from the gods of Moab.  Orpha clung to her own gods, but we did have a good relationship and loved each other. 
It was another sorrow and hardship when we realized that my sons could not father children .  Ten years went by but I have to credit my daughters-in-law for their faithfulness.  They could have left but they didn't, and I did not experience any blame or resentment from them. 

Lesson 2 -  Sometimes what seems to be a 'blessing withheld' is really God withholding what would hinder Him from giving us His best!  And in hindsight, I am grateful that my sons were not able to father children, because the beautiful story you all know would not have happened !  
*****
But again,  my life was shattered  - this time completely , when both of my sons died.  I was overcome  with grief and anxiety and also a very real fear!   Now what was I going to do?   My daughters-in-law were still young - they would surely remarry and join their husbands' families - leaving me completely alone with no one to care for me, and certainly no means of support.   
Where was God?  
How could He have dealt so harshly with me?  It was not my fault that we moved to Moab.  It was not my fault my husband died and it was not my fault that my sons were born sickly, never strong even as men, and it was not my fault they were unable to have children.  My bitterness overshadowed even my grief , and life became unbearable.  The pleasure in life was gone, 'Naomi' was no more - henceforth I would be called "Mara" , meaning bitter, and how bitter I was!  

Lesson 3 -  Nothing is so dark as when there is no light.  I could not see any possible way out of the deep pit I found myself in. There was nothing I could cling to, no possible way to rebuild my life.  But oh... how wrong I was.   God always has a way.  There is no night so dark that God cannot bring light in the morning.  Our despair comes when we no longer believe that 'light' will come and the night seems endless.  Ohh..  dear friend, the night will pass, because God is waiting in the morning light and will reveal what He could see all along, even when you felt only despair. 
*****
Then one day I heard the famine back home was over and I made a decision. I would return  to Bethlehem - at least then I would be with my own people, even though I dreaded facing them. How would they react when they heard my story? When they heard how harshly God had dwelt with me.  Would they blame me for having left to dwell in Moab?  Would they say, I deserved all of God's punishment? I wouldn't blame them, since I knew God so clearly had turned against me and punished me severely.  If they looked at me with scorn and disgust, it was nothing new. It was what I accused myself of every day. 
So, you know the story - how I encouraged Ruth and Orpha to return to their homes, their mothers, and their gods, and how Orpah reluctantly returned, but Ruth insisted on coming with me.  She had more faith than I had, the dear girl !  What a God-gift she was to me, but I didn't even realize that at the time !   All I could focus on was myself and the reasons for my bitterness. 

Lesson 4 - No matter how dark and hopeless a place we find ourselves in, no matter how alone we believe we are, if we are willing to open our eyes to see beyond our own pain, we will see the  hand of God reaching out to give us hope. Whether it is through another person, or some written word, or an unexpected blessing, God will find a way to encourage us, to stir up our  trust in Him and cling to the hope that we have in Him.  And even when there is no relief in sight, no answers, no way of escape,  God has a way. 
Why do we lose our trust in Him so quickly?  Why do we judge by what we see rather than in what we know God has promised?   There is nothing that can upset God's gentle and wise planning of our life -- ALL things working out for good  because He is Good! 
*****
On that long journey home, I indulged my bitterness,  falling deeper and deeper into despair.  My life was over , and now not only was I coming home with empty hands and a bitter heart, but I had with me, a heathen daughter-in-law. - a cursed Moabite.   I could not think of any way I was going to provide for myself, let alone a young woman who would surely not be accepted by my people!   
With each step I felt the pain of despair, of hopelessness, of fear and worry. The darkness of my soul made every breath an exercise in futility.  Why was I even alive? Just so God could watch me suffer? 
Ohhh ... if only I had known what God had planned !  I thought my life was over, full of dark despair, but God was planning the most beautiful story about to unfold. 
*****
Lesson 5 - Ohh.. my friends, NEVER despair, NEVER give up !  When it is darkest, God's light is about to shine on His unfolding story!  God will never take you along a lonely path or bring you into a desperate situation to leave you there !  No, no, He is planning to take you through because sometimes the only way to get to the 'joy' is to go through the 'sorrow'.  
I praised God for the rest of my life - how He so gloriously provided for me in ways beyond my comprehension. Even doing what I thought was impossible - laying a grandson into my arms.  A grandson that would be the grandfather of Israel's beloved King David.  Oh... my ...  my heart could hardly hold my joy  and my face wore a 24/7 smile!  
  If you are going through a dark season of life, please know that as God did for me, He will do for you !  The best is yet to come - wait for it !! " 
"Ascribe greatness to our God, He is the Rock, 
His work is perfect for all His ways are justice, 
A God of truth and without injustice, 
Righteous and upright is He !!":  
Deut. 32:3b,4

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

                                          Our God-Space 



Recently, I discovered something interesting  that  I did not know before. 
Did you know that you have a body part called  Reinke's Space?
My mother's maiden name is Reinke, which is not a common surname.  My grandfather once had a letter sent from Europe that was delivered to his door with no address on the envelope other than his name and British Columbia. 

 The Reinke's Space is close to the vocal cords.  There is a condition called Reinke's Edema, which mostly affects smokers.  When Reinke's Space is inflamed it presses on the vocal cords and causes a hoarseness in the voice.  
It was discovered by a man in Germany named Fredrich Reinke in 1895 and hence the body part was named after him.  My great great grandfather moved from Germany to the Ukraine so ... I'm thinking we could well be related !!  . My claim to fame!  😊
 
I find it strange that we have a body part that most people are unaware of. There is another 'space' in our bodies that people are not 'naturally' aware of, and that is the God-space that God placed in every human being. 
Just like he gave us 'hunger' so we would know that we need to eat, so also He gave us an urge to find Him. Even though people may not be aware of their God-space they are aware of an emptiness that needs to be filled. 
Just as only food will satisfy our 'stomachs', so also only God will satisfy the longing of our God's space. 

Wealth, love, success, status, possessions, fame,  - whatever people choose as their pursuit in life to fill their 'God-Space'   will not satisfy, and the longing drives them to strive even more after the things that promise to give them what they desire.  Or, they create a God-space  -  as in the photo above -  outside of themselves - a futile effort to create a 'space' that will please or satisfy God. 
It is interesting that the Reinke Space is close to the vocal cords and when it becomes inflamed it affects the vocal cords, changing the voice. 
When you listen to people talk, you soon find out what they have filled their God-space with. The 'voice' of people who have filled their God-space with the fruit of the Spirit, will speak words that are loving and encouraging.  If they have filled it with 'things' other than God , their words will be angry, accusing, complaining, or prideful and selfish. What we fill the God-space with will be revealed in our 'voice'. 
Even as Christians , if we don't guard what we put into our God-space,  we will be guilty of an angry word we wish we could take back, or that unloving response to someone who annoyed us, or that unforgiving thought. 
This last week I had a troubling conversation with a friend, who calls herself a Christian but her words were so accusing against  God, because He had not done what she wanted Him to do, and because He 'failed' her, she angerly declared that He did not exist.  That is a bit extreme , I know, but it made me think about how when I focus on something - even something small like being annoyed at something (like being stuck in traffic, or waiting for someone who is late) it does not take long for it to be revealed in my 'voice'.   

Pastor Matt encouraged us last Sunday,  to give out 'invitations' to people who do not yet know God and I think there are many ways we  do that, perhaps even BEFORE we invite them to church.  
Our 'voice' speaks our heart, and if our God-space is filled with the thoughts and words  of God,  then our 'voice' will 'invite' people to be willing to listen when we share our faith with them.

Colossians 1 is a wonderful chapter - read it today -   I will quote one verse .
Verse 10 - "that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."
God desires that we show good fruit in our life - and we can only do that if we fill our God-space with thoughts of Him. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

A Mother's Love

 I am wishing each of you a

VERY BLESSED HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!  
Many of us no longer have a mother, and for some I know, children live far away. And sadly for some, they have experienced the loss of a child or children and I express my sympathy for your pain.  
But there is still reason to celebrate you because there is someone to whom you have shown a 'mother's love' and changed, if not their life,  their day!  
Here is my prayer for you today, and days to come! 
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THE MOTHER'S HEART - A REFLECTION OF GOD'S HEART

I watched the coronation ceremonies on Saturday.  An amazing display of pomp and glory.  It reminded me to consider that if this is what man can do, then what is God's throne room like in majesty and wondrous glorious display?

One of the traditions that were part of the  crowning / anointing ceremony of the King was very significant and meaningful to me. 
King Charles had the crown on his head, the orb and sceptres in his hand, and then the Archbishop brought the beautiful Bible to present before him, with these words... “We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.”
The crown, orb and scepters  King Charles held in his  hands are worth 1.3 BILLION dollars ...  and yet - for all the world to hear - it was truthfully declared  that God's Word exceeds the value of any earthly thing!  It is the Word of God - it is LIFE.
 
What would we do without the written word of God -- it is in His Word that God presents HIMSELF so that we can get to know Him.  He reveals who He is, what He thinks, and how He relates to us and how we are to relate to Him.

Sunday is Mother's Day, a day that is set aside to honor mothers. Why? because there is no love on this earth that outshines the love of a mother.  

Every woman has in her DNA a desire, yes, a NEED to mother... it is an instinctive drive given by God.  Why ?  Because everything we feel, everything that motivates us to do good comes from the heart of God - a reflection of who HE is.  He has put within us all we need to become in a very mini way His voice and hands and feet and heart in this dark world. 
We don't often think about God as 'mother', nor does He ever speak of Himself other than Father and we respect and honor Him as that. 
BUT .. He does show us that His love for us reflects that of a 'mother' as well as a Father. 

There is a heart wrenching passage in Ezekiel 16:4-14 where God speaks of us as an abandoned baby, uncared for, unloved', left to die....and He was filled with compassion for us, and  He gathered us into His loving care, doing for us what our 'mother' should have done ... he dressed and adorned us and fed us with royal food. He declared us beautiful and our status - royalty!  He covered us with His splendor so all who looked upon us were amazed!  

In Isaiah 49:15 God speaks of the love of a mother, and then declares His love is even higher!  He says.. "Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the child of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget !!"  

Then we have Jesus reveal His heart in Luke 13:34 where He cries out .."Jerusalem, Jerusalem, ......  How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings... but you were not willing."   
If you have had a hen with chicks , you know how devoted she is to them and her insistent clucking sees the chicks dive for safety under her winds. There are reports  where, after a fire ,  a dead mother hen was found, with her little chicks alive and well under her wings.  

We may no longer physically have the love of our mother, but we have an even better love in God's love, that surpasses any love we could imagine!  And so we can celebrate Mother's Day -- remembering that the love God put in a mother's heart was taken from His very own heart. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

 To day my thoughts focus on GENTLE 

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                                                            (source - Pinterest Karen Gritton)


On Sunday my husband and I went out for lunch.  A young couple and their baby were given a table very close to ours.  They put their baby in a high chair and it wasn't long before I was engaging with them in conversation. 
Their little girl was almost 10 months old, named Isla (eye-la). A very sweet little girl who sat calmly in the chair, her eyes brightly observing her surroundings. Her parents were so gentle in their interaction with her, their love for her so obvious.  
They spoke of her walking soon and the need for them to cushion off the fireplace so she would not stumble into it and hurt herself.  They also wanted the house to be safe so that she would not trip or get into things that could cause her harm.  
What a delight it was to me to watch this little loving family -- the child so clearly reflecting her confidence in  being secure and loved.  
Later in the day, I was reading in the Psalms and the following passage halted my attention. I saw in the words of this passage the 'picture' of the little family I met in the restaurant. 

Psalm 18:25,26  records David's words about how the Lord has loved him... It reads... 
"You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, your right hand has held me up, your gentleness has made me great and you enlarged my path under me so that my feet did not slip." 
The Hebrew word translated gentleness is the feminine form of the word translated 'humble' in Num. 12:3 where it says that Moses was the most 'humble' person who ever lived.  
Why is the feminine form used in our Psalm 18?  I think because it adds the depth only understood  when observing  the gentleness seen in a mother caring for her beloved child. 
In this we see the tender heart of God - His 'motherly' gentle care over His children.  

The salvation we have in Jesus is the shield He has given us --  a shield - a barrier between us and incoming danger.. He hovers like a watchful parent over a toddler just learning to walk, shielding them from danger and harm. . 

His right hand holds us up.  How quickly a child reaches out to grasp the hand of their parent.  In church, on Sunday, a young mom arrived late with 2 sweet little girls.  They slipped into the pew in front of us and immediately both girls wanted to hold their mother's hand.  She took both girls' hands as they exchanged gentle smiles!   There is strength and security in holding the hand of a parent - the comfort of knowing we are not alone. 
So God reaches out to hold our hand,  ensuring that we will feel neither vulnerable nor afraid. 

His gentleness has made us great!  What a delightful, encouraging environment 'gentleness' provides.  It gives room to grow, to ponder , to learn to understand.  There is no judgment or harsh criticism in gentleness -  only a  patient coming-alongside  that provides a safe  environment.   

"You enlarged my steps so my feet did not slip".   God doesn't make us walk our earthly journey on a tightrope.  Not even an adequate path.  No, He makes sure it is wide enough so that there is no way that we can slip off the edge..  He provides a 'paved highway' without uneven ridges or cracks and obstacles that could cause us to slip and fall. 

We too are encouraged to be 'gentle' in our relationships. 
Philippians 4:5 reminds us to be 'GENTLE' to all men .. because the Lord is watching!  
Colossians 3:12 encourages us to 'put on' tender mercies -- gentleness mixed with compassion toward each other .. and never forgetting that 'love' is the perfect bond! (vs.,14) 
Galatians 5:22,23 lists 'gentleness' as being part of the fruit of the Spirit.  God Himself, indwelling His children moves us to respond to others with His gentleness.  

I hope your heart is warmed by this reminder of how much and how tenderly God loves us - Too often we stumble because we fear we have caused Him to frown upon us when all the while His hand is outstretched to invite us to become 'great' in His tenderness and when we need it, His ready forgiveness! . And as we live 'in Him' we too learn to be gentle one to another living in the bond of love.