conversations

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coverConversation Group #1:

“Which one is Ruth? You’re kidding, right? She’s one who doesn’t look at all like the rest of us.”

“Can you believe that accent—you can’t understand a word she’s saying, and she walks around Bethlehem as if she thinks she belongs here. I don’t like it.”

“Poor Naomi—to have a woman like that marry her son, and then he dies, and she’s stuck with her. Surely Naomi could have found some way to leave Ruth in her own country—she didn’t have to drag her here.”

“You know what Moabites are like…and you know what women like them are after…”

Conversation Group #2:

“It’s a miracle that Naomi made it back to Bethlehem safely—I don’t know if she would have made it here without her daughter-in-law Ruth.”

“Naomi’s so sad now. It’s hard to see her like this—she’s not herself. Sometimes when you talk to her, she doesn’t even know you are there, and her old house is a wreck. How can they live there?

“That young woman Ruth never stops working. If she’s not rebuilding a roof, she’s off in the hills gathering wild herbs and plants to eat, bringing home broom plants for the fire, and toting water from the well. They can’t live that way for long.”

Conversation Group #3:

Knock, knock.
“Who’s there?”
“It’s just me. I’m going over to see Naomi this afternoon and thought I’d see if you had any food you could spare to send along. I’ve gathered a little olive oil, some leaven for bread, and a little barley already.…”

“Ruth, I’m glad I ran into you. I wanted to tell you that I have seen your love for Naomi and how you care for her—it’s wonderful that she has you when she has lost so much.”

“I wasn’t sure if you would be interested, Ruth, but I wanted to tell you about the Hebrew practice of gleaning. It’s hard work and can be a little dangerous, but if you know who the generous field owners are, you can glean enough to feed yourself and Naomi for a while. Are you interested?”

Question:

If you were a Bethlehem resident 2000 years ago, which conversation group would you be in?

 

 

put it in gear

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waverunnerDo you have a decision to make?

  • Should I stay in this dead-end job or risk making a change?
  • Do I admit I was wrong or continue to bluff my way through?
  • Am I supposed to just endure or find a way to get away from this abuse?
  • How can I ever forgive this person?
  • What do you want me to do now, God?

I hear these questions like these all the time. Often, it’s me asking them, and asking them, and asking them. Over and over again, and I wait for something to happen–poof!–problems solved. I don’t want to do the inner work needed to choose one direction or another. I want God to choose for me and show the direction clearly so that everyone–myself included–can see that God provided this path for me.

So, I pray. I wait for an answer. I listen and look for his direction. And I can easily remain there for a long time. The key word here is “easily.” Whatever the situation: victim, poor, righteous, insecure…It’s easier to stay in it than move out of it. Fear of leaving what we know–even if it is hard and unpleasant–keeps us there.

Those of us who are stuck may look for God’s words for us in the text below:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:5-8 (NLT)

But I’m human. Of course I waver, second guess myself, or wonder if I am doing the right thing! We aren’t given any guarantees in life. And wavering, I am tossed this way and that by the wind and waves of life. So, am I stuck here for the rest of my life?

TVW* parable:

You want to ride a wave runner, so you climb aboard. You put on the life jacket and a helmet, familiarize yourself with its mechanisms, and look across the water. Won’t it be grand to ride along on top of the waves? But the waves and currents push you in circles, and you don’t go anywhere. You try to aim the wave runner in a direction that piques your interest, but you can’t. It doesn’t respond.

Then someone explains to you, “You can’t steer the wave runner unless it is moving. You have to put it in gear, put it in motion, and then it is possible to steer.”

Putting it in gear and beginning to move–no matter what direction you are facing–is necessary to steer. If I want to ride the waves, I need start moving first.

  • I have to prepare, pray, and listen.
  • I have to choose faith and then move in it–put it in gear and start moving.
  • I have to look and listen for God’s voice and follow his direction as I ride the waves.
  • When I waver and stop moving, I get blown and tossed every which way.
  • Then I start over, choose to put in in the gear of faith, and start moving again.

*TVW parable: Tom Vander Well used this illustration in a talk on Sunday morning.Visit his blog (tomvanderwell.wordpress.com) to benefit from his wisdowm.

choose what you think and rethink

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Slide 1Have you ever had a thought just “pop” into your head? In reality, thoughts either come in through your five senses and take up residence or they already live there–they own actual real estate in your brain.

The Bad News: Negative thoughts that  run on a track that loops through your mind constantly bathes your brain in caustic, toxic chemicals which are in turn sent throughout your whole body to take up residence in your cells also.

The Good News: You can change your thoughts. You can capture your mind. You can renew your mind to become the person you were designed to be.

Want to know more?

Visit http://www.drleaf.com to find books, videos, conferences, and online tools. Learn the science (or learn it enough to know change is possible). Find practical tools you can use to know yourself better and change your thoughts from toxic to healthy.

No, she doesn’t pay me to advertise or even know that I am doing so–I’m just really pumped about her information and want to share the good news.

anticipatory anxiety

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0019Anticipation.

Hearing that word, many of you in my generation will think of the Carly Simon song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67oN0YQVgdo). I’m humming the chorus right now.

But if I’m honest, for much of my life anticipation was all about worrying–“preparing” as I liked to call it. “What should I wear? What will I say? What will they think? What if he gets angry? Rehearsing alternative scenarios over and over in my mind…”

I called this preparation, but the result didn’t bring the confidence that being prepared is supposed to bring.  I was lying to myself. In reality, I was worrying, rehearsing my anxiety over and over again until I could feel its presence in my head and my body as if it had a life of its own.

And it never did me a bit of good! Quite the opposite, in fact.

With God’s help, I’ve been able to recognize my anticipatory anxiety and exchange it for true preparation: the process of becoming ready for something. It takes practice in the same way that practicing your scales will lay the groundwork, mentally and physically, for your future music-making. I prepare for the future in confidence because I am learning to understand and appreciate my design–God’s design for me. I trust in His help, His timing, and His presence.

Anticipatory anxiety produces thoughts like:

  • My heart is sick, withered like grass, and I have lost my appetite. Psalm 102:4
  • Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. Psalm 107:10
  • I am a joke to people everywhere; when they see me, they shake their heads in scorn. Psalm 110:25

True preparation brings the following:

  • My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart! Psalm 108:1
  • With God’s help we will do mighty things, for he will trample down our foes. Psalm 108:13
  • All you who fear the Lord, trust the LordHe is your helper and your shield. The Lord remembers us and will bless us. Psalm 155:11-12a

 

 

Who was this audacious immigrant?

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Agriculture 0645Philanthropy was practiced in ancient Israel—it was a part of their laws and traditions. Hebrew laws actually provided options to women who had fallen on hard times. Allowing gleaning during harvest is one such law—the corners of fields were to be left for the poor as well as any leavings in the fields after reaping was completed. A great place to explore these laws as they were practiced is in the Book of Ruth (the seventh book in the Old Testament of the Bible),

Ruth championed the law of gleaning by asking Boaz if his practices actually fulfilled the intent of the law in the spirit in which it was given by Yahweh. Traditional practice meant gleaners could gather only enough grain to eke by during harvest times—leaving them just one step away from starvation all the time. Ruth suggested that caring for the poor through this law could only be done by allowing people to glean enough to sustain themselves.

As I read the book of Ruth, I was amazed that a starving immigrant had the audacity to challenge a prince of the land. Was it only her desperation that gave her courage or was there something more? And why did Boaz listen and respond in the way he did?

Ruth’s gleaning challenge was a tremor in Bethlehem that warned of the earthquake to. In the same year she delved deeply into two more laws, disputed the way they were practiced, and made a place for herself in a culture that had cast her out as worthless and a burden.

What a woman! What a story!

If you want to read more about Ruth, look for the publication of Less Than a Widow early in the fall of 2014.

what’s in your heart?

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0057In Christ, an everyday man or woman becomes

someone with the power and authority

to expose the devil’s schemes

to drive him out and away from all things.

The everyday man or woman “in Christ” has the power

to speak truth into lies,

cultivate righteousness into moral confusion,

and inject peace into earthly conflict.

The everyday man or woman “in Christ” has

the power of God’s Word in his heart

and in his hand as a sword

ready to bring

healing,

grace,

purpose,

freedom

to all he engages.

~Dave Huizenga, 2013

Submit? You’ve got to be kidding!

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coupleAs a young independent woman raised in the United States, I had some negative reactions to Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:

“…you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:24b

Submission was not something I was looking for. “Submit? In Everything? You’ve got to be kidding!”

Still, I believed then, as I do now, that the Bible’s words come from God, and as God is front and center in my life, I need to take his words seriously. In the past 43 years of marriage to one man, I have spent a lot of time reading Hebrews 5, but not just verse 24—I’ve read the whole chapter—and I realized that my negativity came from taking this verse out of context.

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us… And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word… As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

As I was researching and writing an historical novel, I tried to imagine putting myself in the patriarchal culture that Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth lived in. It made me realize how radical these words would have been to them:

“Husbands, love your wives as much as you love yourself.”

The commandment to love stated that women were not merely property but valuable as people in and of themselves. That is the fundamental seed of women’s empowerment, and it was a part of Hebrew laws given to the Israelites about 1500 years B.C.

pre-fixed attitude affects behavior

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0001Attitude is a state of mind, and your attitude influences your behavior.

“I can’t do it.”

“I’m dumb at math.”

“I always make a fool of myself.”

“I don’t have any talents.”

“What if I make a mistake?”

Abraham Lincoln Statue

Does the idea of a pre-fixed attitude make sense to you?

Some examples:

Are you trusting or suspicious?

Do you see a half-full glass or half-empty glass?

Do you consider yourself  the “poor me” victiom?

Are you more at ease in a quiet room or a noisy one?

What is your response to the smell of freshly-cut grass?

ENTHUSIASM

What attitude will you choose for today?

empowered or not?

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Shepherd with lamb in Negev riverbed, tb010303618Can an historical novel about women struggling through life in a patriarchal society speak into women empowerment issues?

Perhaps we should start with a definition. A quick perusal of the world-wide web showed that most groups agree on a definition similar to the one below:

Women’s empowerment focuses on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives.

To find empowered women in Less Than a Widow, many readers will need to take themselves out of the Western mode and transplant into another culture. The realities of women in patriarchal or tribal societies—in ancient times and today—may be very different than the way you were raised. I recently watched a video in which Palestinian father and educator Yousafzai Ziauddin speaks about his daughter’s struggle to be educated, how he supported and encouraged her, and the price of her efforts for empowerment. [You can view this at http://www.ted.com/talks/ziauddin_yousafzai_my_daughter_malala. ]  Ziauddin explains the expectations of obedience for women and honor for men—precepts that put women in a prison from which there is little chance for escape.

In Less Than a Widow, Ruth’s rebellion almost led to her death at the hands of her birth father. (His wives aided and abetted him, as do many women in this kind of system.) Without a man, without boy-children, women are considered dead-weights that drag fathers-brothers down. They have no rights, no means of sustenance besides prostitution, and still they are punished severely for engaging in that occupation.

Ruth’s battle for empowerment continued throughout her life, and she made some choices that some readers might consider to be sell-outs. I don’t. I hope that I approach my life with the courage, wisdom, and faith that she displayed.