Showing posts with label 10 Reasons Why Ruth Is For Widows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 10 Reasons Why Ruth Is For Widows. Show all posts

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Opening Our Arms

We conclude our series on 10 Reasons Why The Book of Ruth Is for Widows with, of course, reason #10: It shows redemption and hope for widows!

Widows are living miracles and stories of God's glory. Their influence and legacy can far outlive them, reaching generations hundreds of years from now. What story will you leave for your church, friends, career or family? What words will come to mind at the mention of your name? Courageous? Godly? Loving? Or words like heartbroken, depressed and lonely...? There is still time to live and love, and it starts N-O-W. Let's read what happened to Naomi in an excerpt from my book, page 213.

Naomi held a newborn baby in her arms and as he looked into her eyes, this is what she learned—good things could still happen. Her girlfriends assured her that this grandson would renew her life and care for her as she aged. Naomi accepted this baby, drew him to herself and became his primary caretaker.

God has the uncanny ability to distill goodness out of the worst disasters when we open our arms and hearts to receive them as Naomi did. He’s comfortable with paradigms—with grandmothers serving as mothers, with widows finding new love, with faith as an action rather than a feeling. He’s the Man of Sorrows, yet is always rejoicing.

How can God contain and engineer what we consider such irreconcilable differences—joy and sorrow, life and death, faith and despair? Is it because He takes each life and makes it a story, because He’s the author and He knows the ending?

We get caught up in wanting our story to be that of the princess and Prince Charming, living happily-ever-after with perfect children. We would all choose a cookie-cutter life that looks just like everyone else’s: safe, predictable, indulgent . . . 

But God, the literary artist, would rather burst into our life and turn it into something amazing and full of miracles. Miracles aren’t always as we’d like—that we are healthy, strong, beautiful, rich and happy-ever-after. God’s miracles are of a much higher order. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard . . .

Sometimes He writes chapters into our lives in which the biggest miracle is that we still trust Him. That, like Naomi, we pick up our broken hearts and shattered dreams and determine to put one foot in front of the other until we find God and His place of blessing and redemption. The true miracle is that we go to Him when we feel He has abandoned and attacked us or knocked us off our swing. It’s a miracle that we turn to Him, and return to Him, just as we are, full of complaints and bitterness. It’s a miracle that we wait and watch for our redemption, no matter how long it takes.

With God all things are possible, even with you. May your miracle begin today as the Lord patiently waits for us to ask to know Him better. ferree

Dear Lord,
I lift my arms to receive your grace. Open my eyes to gaze upon my future and help me fulfill the purpose and legacy you have left me here to accomplish. Good things still happen, Lord, and I thank you that I am part of your plan.

Amen

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Permission Granted!

We're nearing the end of this series on
 10 Reasons Why Ruth Is For Widows
Today we're on this reason...
9. The Book of Ruth shows that not all widows want to or will get remarried and that’s OK!

permission-granted.png

I felt like someone had given me a permission slip when I discovered this truth--I don't have to get remarried to be happy--It's OK to be single! Previously it seemed like my future as a widow was a big black hole of nothingness if I didn't get married. But Naomi's life changed all that for me. And then, ironically, I did get married.

Gleaning from Naomi's life relieved me to be free from the pressure to marry and the discontent of singleness before I met Tom. I was permitted to be happy again! To be free! To be OK! To be on my own with God and step out of my husband's shadow. All that came to me from Naomi's example.

Here's a snippet of insight --(a tidbit of food for thought in this small post)-- from chapter 16 of Postcards from the Widows' Path----
I have a feeling Naomi could have married Boaz—she had “first rights.” Maybe she just didn’t want to remarry. As I talk to widows I find some like Naomi. It’s not that they can’t remarry, they just don’t want to; they are God’s individual creation, content with their identity, accepting of their lot, even preferring it to remarriage. It reminds me that when God created Adam He created Eve to help Adam; but He didn’t create anyone to help Eve! We women were designed by God to be the helpmate, not to necessarily need a helpmate. I think we’re far better equipped to handle solo living than men are.
What about you? Are you ready to fly solo? Do you honestly prefer marriage? Why not check your current state of thoughts and feelings about remarriage. No one is going to judge your answer, this is simply a gauge for your heart. Check it again in 6 months to see if you've changed:
___Never. Re-marriage is not for me. I don’t want it.
___Probably not. I think it’s a statistical impossibility. 
___Maybe, if I met the right man.
___I’d do anything to get married again.
___I’m not ready to risk losing another husband.
Use the following verse as a prayer for your journey as a widow. The Lord truly will show you the way He's chosen for you as you lift your soul to Him. Whether you remarry or not, His love never fails and that's what matters most.  ferree
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Remarriage? What to Look For

For widows who want to remarry, the Book of Ruth illustrates the character traits to look for in a new husband, and it shows the virtues to build while single. Virtues like patience, trust, gratitude, humility, respect, abstinence, perserverance and prayer...things that every Christian should strive for but widows get to exercise them all in this particular trial called bereavement.

But what about remarriage? Are there especially good traits to look for in a man?

Let me list the qualities I saw in Boaz, the man who married Ruth. These might not be all the qualities of a great husband but they helped me know that Tom was right for me when I met him. I'm glad Tom decided I was right for him too!

The following list is from chapter 15 of my book. This chapter also tells about the weirdest week of my life and further explains the character qualities, but I think you can benefit from this brief list too. 
  • Boaz put God first
  • He appreciated and understood Ruth's actions and character
  • He was sensitive to her possible fears
  • He didn't make promises he couldn't keep
  • He was concerned for Ruth's safety and reputation
  • He was generous and well-mannered
  • He was comfortable and accepting of Ruth's strength
  • He didn't procrastinate
  • He was financially secure
However, it's not all about the man! Ruth equalled Boaz in virtue (Ruth 3:11); they were a match! So, ladies, please don't imagine Ruth was a helpless princess waiting around for her knight in shining armor to come to her rescue.
 
It's not all about the two lovers either! Ruth never would have met and married Boaz without working in the barley field and listening to the promptings of her friend and mother-in-law Naomi. I myself would have never met and married Tom without some effort and the promptings of my friend Laura. God's plans come to fruition in the community of God's people, not in isolation.
Ask yourself these questions:
  • Ruth worked in a barley field----where do I work, volunteer, worship, learn and fellowship? Where can I venture today to meet new people and enrich my life?
  • Ruth listened to Naomi---who is my Naomi? Who's wise? Who knows me and wants what's best for me? To whom can I be a friend like Naomi?
If you want your life to change, then start changing your life today according to God's Word. Take the first small step today.  ferree

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2 Keys for Transforming Loss

With reason #7 today in our series about why Ruth is for widows, I could write two more books!

The Book of Ruth shows
 
two keys for transforming loss:
 
finding favor and exercising gratitude.
 
But instead of more books let's take some quick thoughts on each of these keys.
FINDING FAVOR
Here's what I mean by "finding favor" and it comes from Ruth 2:2 (NIV)--
And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
Like Ruth, a widow needs to be willing to work and earn respect as a good worker, but she should pray that she may work for someone with a favorable and positive attitude about her. I don't mean that they'll discriminate in her favor. Employers must provide a good and fair work atmosphere for everyone and not show favoritism. But on the other hand, they should not greedily take advantage of a widow's plight, and they should value her experience and wisdom.
Realize that many people will sympathize with a widow but they remain afraid of her. Afraid of her grief, her femininity, her circumstances. I know many widows who've felt that. So just as Ruth asked Naomi to grant her authority to seek employment and favor, so too should widows ask the Lord to find favorable work. It might be full-time, part-time, volunteer, or with a temp agency, but where ever a widow seeks to contribute her time, finding favor can be the key sign of what the Lord has opened up for her.  

EXERCISING GRATITUDE
Many books have already been written about gratitude and the key it plays in helping us through grief and life in general. But did you know we also see it in the Book of Ruth? It's rather amazing that the wisdom of gratitude is over 3000 years old!
When Ruth came home from her first day on the job and showed Naomi all the "favor" Boaz granted her, Naomi's burst with exclamations of praise and gratitude. (Ruth 2:19-20) Verse 19 states
Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”
These words are opposite the cries of despair and God's mistreatment that Naomi vented in Ruth 1:20-22. And what's amazing to me is that they are the turning point in this book! Instead of bitterness, Naomi is blessing!
She didn't have to do that. Instead, she could have leaned into her grief and turned her face to the wall when Ruth got home that evening. She could have compared Ruth's work to what her late husband would have brought home. She could have regretted it was Ruth coming through that door instead of her husband. Do you see what I mean?
Naomi opened her eyes to see the answer to prayer. She saw grace and favor and she was thankful. Do you remember the blessing jar I've encouraged you to fill this year? I've been lax in recognizing my blessings so far. If you have too, why not join me in determining to be more like the Naomi we read about today? Let's trade our bitterness for blessing, OK?
Although we must be realistic about our losses and we've got to work through them, every time we catch a regret or comparison we can also catch something good that's happened too. Watch for it, jot it down, and put it in your jar. Try for one a day with me. Some days you might not see one, but on other days you'll find many. Being thankful and praising God for His work in your personal life can change everything!  ferree

(Wondering about how to make a blessing jar? Just type "blessing jar" in the Search for Keywords on This Blog box at the right side of this post and see the Dec. 16, 2014 post. As always, if this post arrives in your email inbox simply click on the title line at the top of this page to get to the WCP blog itself so you can view it. Thanks!)

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Many Layers of Loss

This week we'll continue this series and look at 5 more reasons why Ruth is for widows. Today is #6:

The Book of Ruth shows
the many layers of loss
a widow may experience.

Three little words sum up what happened to Naomi: "...she was left..." (Ruth 1:3) Their clinical starkness startles me with the shock, despair and helplessness she must have felt. Three little words shouldn’t be the end result of her investment of nurture and love for her husband and sons.

Worse yet, Naomi was left in a foreign country. Today Moab would be in the country of Jordan, approximately fifty miles from Bethlehem, about an hour-long drive by car. But in Naomi’s time it was a four or five-day journey by foot. They could not communicate by mail, telephone or e-mail with the people back home. Naomi was virtually cut off. She had left her house, her mother, her friends, neighbors and everything familiar back in Bethlehem. She submissively followed her husband to a foreign place she had probably never even seen before— and then she was left.

She lost her husband who, according to cultural norms of the day was at the very least her personal security, financial support and structure of her time. Her life circled around him like the moon around the earth.

In a sweeping and final devastation, her sons’ deaths stripped her of all hope and her personal identity for the future. The original Hebrew denotes this by deleting her name in verse three. She’s simply referred to as the woman.* Naomi’s life was blown apart.

A year after my husband died I began to realize losing my husband wasn’t a straight and easy street through mourning and then it was over and done. The street had potholes the size of elephants and I stumbled and fell into them time after time! I broke in many places as I realized all my losses! I had lost my dear friend, my parenting partner, my spiritual leader, and my lover. I’d lost my daily routine of prioritizing around his schedule. And the church’s schedule!—I’d lost my calling as a pastor’s wife, too. I’d lost my dreams of grand-parenting and growing old with him.

I identified with Naomi. As scripture stated she was left, so, too, was I. I was left to raise our children and make important decisions alone. I was left without the comfort, security and daily routine of marriage. I was left to face a future I did not want. I understood why the original Hebrew deleted Naomi’s name, reducing her to “the woman.” I felt like half a person and secretly pondered my value and purpose. 
 
Admitting my multiple losses was painful. But if I not listed my losses and brokenness, I never would have known that the pain was cutting deep places for joy. ferree


* Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1988), p. 96.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Makes A Good Friend During A Crisis?

Today we're on the 4th reason why the Book of Ruth is for widows and I want to share some excerpts from my book about the great friendship between Ruth and Naomi. You'll see Ruth's side of the friendship so please remember this was not a one-sided relationship. Naomi, too, gave everything she had for Ruth.

(Postcards from the Widows' Path, pages 82-84)

"Although Naomi didn’t want to admit it, she needed Ruth. Neither woman was in an ideal circumstance, neither was there by an easy choice. Thrown together in Moab, Ruth’s example shows us what it takes to be a good friend when our friendships are in crisis.

Ruth was available. She was the sort of friend who sticks closer than a brother. When Naomi mentioned going back to Bethlehem, there was no hesitation, no second-guessing. Ruth was the sort of friend who, if you called her, would be on the next flight. She wouldn’t screen her phone calls, or be text messaging someone else while listening to you. If you needed her, she’d clear her schedule.          

Ruth was committed to Naomi. In the stages of grief, committed friends are very important. They are proactive. They don’t just say, “Call me if there’s anything I can do.” They give you something to look forward to. They invite you to lunch, they go on a walk with you, they phone. They might not be able to drop everything every time you need to talk, but they do arrange intentional times with you.

When people ask what the best thing anyone did for me, I tell them about my sister-in-law, Kathy Bowman. For the first month or two after Bruce died, she called me every weekday morning. She didn’t promise me she would, didn’t ask me if I wanted her to, she just did. Once I realized what she was doing, I looked forward to her calls. They were chatty and cheerful, just ordinary, and helped me remember what normal life was like. Committed companionship, someone you can depend on when life is undependable is a sign of a true friend.

A quick Facebook survey of widows I know showed that the sheer numbers of people attending the funeral of calling hours was very meaningful to them. Also, personal and thoughtful gifts and tangible help were very significant, like visits to the cemetery, invitations to go out to eat, and offering to stay to eat that casserole instead of just dropping it off. Attempts to maintain the friendship are very important to a widow.

Ruth was acquainted with grief. She was a survivor, too, and Naomi respected her for that. We don’t see her shocked, worried or angered about Naomi and the things she said and did. She didn’t get offended when Naomi told the village she came back empty. (Ruth 1:21) Perhaps they talked through some of the weirdness of grief, the ups and downs, the unexpected joys, the sudden cloudbursts of sorrow. It’s wonderful to have a friend who has grieved well, to whom you can freely discuss mysteries and the afterlife.

Most importantly, Ruth wanted to have the true God in her life, and she was following after Him. She had a higher priority than her own feelings. This enabled her to treat Naomi with grace, and not be easily offended when overlooked. She didn’t see herself as Naomi’s savior, aide or supporter. Only God could do that. Ruth came alongside Naomi to accompany her on the journey to God’s promised land.

Friends who are acquainted with grief, who will be available and committed to walk beside you on your journey to God, are gifts from above. And, like Ruth, young and foreign, they might be whom we would least expect."

Have you, too, found some unexpected friends in your life? ferree

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2 Essential Needs of Widows.

Today we continue our series on 10 Reasons Why The Book of Ruth Is for Widows
 
On Thursday and Friday of last week we saw the first two reasons--
1. It’s all about widows! When we look at Ruth through the eyes of a widow we can learn all about grief and God and the journey!
2. It shows the 3 paths a widow could choose from after the funeral. Would you like to see your choices spelled out? Take a look at Friday's post.
 
Today we'll see reason #3. It tells the 2 essential needs of widows.
 
Every widow has a unique set of needs, but when I was widowed and found two particular needs mentioned in Ruth I was amazed at how Naomi brilliantly tagged the essential needs of all widows.

Take a look at Ruth 1:8,9a (NIV)
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.
Fill in the blanks to what needs Naomi prayed the Lord would fulfill for her daughters-in-law.
May the Lord show you _______________
May the Lord grant that each of you will find _____________

Naomi prays for Kindness and Rest for her young widowed daughters- in- law. Can I get a show of hand for how many widows would like some kindness and rest in their own lives?  Whatever her circumstance---whether she's left well off, or bereft I believe each widow needs the kindness of her friends, family, clergy and strangers. She needs to find the rest that the companionship and security of another husband can provide AND/OR the rest of a close relationship in knowing the Lord as her husband/protector/redeemer.

I'm not sure I would have embraced or even accepted that I personally had these needs in the early shock of widowhood. Do you? But as I've matured through the experience, trusted God and his Word more, and have seen and heard the cries of the hundreds of widows I come in contact with, I hold true to kindness and rest as essential helps along the widows' path.

May the Lord grant YOU kindness and rest today!
ferree

To save 20% on my book Postcards from the Widows' Path during my once-a-year sale (only in February) click here:

BOOK SALE


(As always, if this post arrives in your email inbox and the link isn't showing up, simply click on the title line at the top of this page to get to the WCP blog itself so you can view it. Thanks!)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why Ruth Is For Widows #2

Reason #2.
It shows the 3 paths a widow could choose after the funeral.
When we look at the three widows in the Book of Ruth, we see that they each chose distinct paths. Understanding these paths can help widows today realize and define the choices they also might have. 
 
Orpah REMAINED in her homeland, with her familiar surroundings.
 
Naomi RETURNED to her roots not knowing if she had any life left but stepping out in faith.
 
Ruth RISKED everything to follow Naomi and find God.
 
Remain
Return
Risk
 
Let me clarify that Orpah's “remaining” is not a sinful choice. People like to judge Orpah, but it’s based on Naomi’s assumption that she will return to "her gods.” (Ruth 1:15). Of course returning to idolatry is wrong, but remaining with the familiar is often a wise choice for the early days of widowhood and grief if at all possible.
 
Which path are you on?
 
As we consider Naomi's example we can see that at first she remained where she was for at least 10 years after her husband died, (Ruth 1:3-5), but after her sons died is when she decided to return to what was left of her family home in Bethlehem. There's a clue about her decision to return in Ruth 1:6 which sets a good guideline for our own decision making and it's this: God was on the move in Israel; He'd come to their aid and was providing food for them after the famine. Are we willing to relocate by faith to a place where God is blessing?
 
Are you beginning to see why I say "Ruth is for widows?" The details of Ruth bring our issues and challenges out in the open! I'll continue to briefly touch on more reasons throughout the rest of February and I hope you'll be encouraged, enriched and amazed at God's providence, grace and deep love for widows.  
ferree
 
To save 20% on my book Postcards from the Widows' Path during my once-a-year sale (only in February) click here:

BOOK SALE

(As always, if this post arrives in your email inbox and the link isn't showing up, simply click on the title line at the top of this page to get to the WCP blog itself so you can view it. Thanks!)
 
 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

10 Reasons Why The Book of Ruth Is For Widows

If you’ve been in church world for a while no doubt you’ve heard sermons on the Book of Ruth and what a wonderful picture of redemption it presents. Boaz is likened to our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and Ruth is likened to we who are in need of redemption and unable to save ourselves. Boaz shows Ruth unmerited favor, just as Christ does for his chosen ones.

But as true and sweet an allegory as that is, let’s not overlook the fact that first and foremost Ruth is about widows! It's all about widows! The main characters—Ruth and Naomi are widows! Ruth is a young widow, Naomi is a middle-aged or older widow.  A secondary character, Orpah, is also a young widow. Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer might have also been widowed since mention of his first wife is never made.  Hmm… I love the story of Christ our Redeemer, but should we not acknowledge the obvious and wonder what could be of interest to widows in this book?
There are only two books in the Bible featuring a woman—the Book of Ruth and the Book of Esther. (Ruth was a widow, and Esther was an orphan! James 1:27!) It’s very significant to realize that God inspired Scripture to devote an entire book to a widow’s plight. God cares about widows!  He knows the risks they’ll face, the courage they’ll need and the deep and gutsy faith they will display, and He is pleased to provide and care for them.
Join me for the rest of February as we look into these ten reasons why Ruth is for widows. I've touched on the first reason today. When we look at Ruth through our widow eyes we'll come away knowing that just as certain as God had a plan for Ruth and Naomi, He has a purpose for widows  today.  

ferree

10 Reasons Why Ruth Is For Widows

 1. It’s all about widows!
 2. It shows the 3 paths a widow could choose after the funeral.
 3. It gives the 2 essential needs of widows.
 4. It provides an example of the sort of friend a grieving widow needs.
 5. It shows the extraordinary courage and faith of two widows.
 6. It shows the many layers of loss a widow can experience, even down to the core of her identity.
 7. It gives the two keys to transforming loss—finding favor and exercising gratitude.
 8. For widows who want to remarry it illustrates the character traits to look for in a new husband,      shows the virtues that they can build while single.
 9. It shows that not all widows want to or will get remarried and that’s OK!
10. It shows redemption and hope for widows!  

To save 20% on my book Postcards from the Widows' Path during my once-a-year sale (only in February) click here: 

 BOOK SALE 

(As always, if this post arrives in your email inbox and the link isn't showing up, simply click on the title line at the top of this page to get to the WCP blog itself so you can view it. Thanks!)