In the messy middle of the story

At the beginning of the book of Ruth, Naomi was bitter. No doubt about it. She said she was bitter. She changed her name to “Bitter.” (That’s what “Mara” means.) Preachers and writers often point to her as an example of sinful bitterness.

When many preachers and writers talk about Naomi they say that she—and you—should instead be like Joseph in the book of Genesis. After he was betrayed by his brothers, he said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

But there are a couple of problems with this way of thinking. For one thing, when we look at the word bitter elsewhere in the Bible, we can see that the majority of the time, it’s talking about grief.  Naomi was grieving. (Untwisting Scriptures talks about what grief really is and how a lot of people don’t understand it and don’t want to acknowledge it.)
naomi-in-the-middle

And there’s another important point we should observe about Naomi in contrast to Joseph. Continue reading

Free from sin

“How can I pray for you?” I asked my friend.

She mentioned a few things. Then she hesitated. “I have so much trouble with sin,” she said. “I keep sinning. I feel suspicious of people, that they don’t like me. I’m so jealous—-I see other people doing well, and I feel full of jealousy. Just sin, all the time.”

 I could have laughed and said, “Welcome to the club of humanity.” But I didn’t. Continue reading

We are not able

That’s what the Israelites said after they got the report from the spies about those giants in the land of Canaan. Eight or nine feet tall. Made the spies feel like grasshoppers.

“Who is God trying to kid? There’s no way we can go in there and take the land of Canaan from people like that. We are not able.”
Continue reading

The Thick Darkness Where God Was

Margaret Powers wrote a poem. It was about a man, but when I remembered it, I saw a woman. She was walking with God, so there were two sets of footprints. But sometimes there was just one, and she didn’t know why. She found out that they were when the Lord had carried her.

Why, I wondered, why didn’t she know the Lord had carried her? Why couldn’t she feel Him? Why couldn’t she see Him? Why couldn’t she hear His voice whispering to her?

But then . . .

. . . it happened to me. Continue reading

A New Year Filled with Hope

I hope things will be different. . . . I hope he’ll start being kinder. . . . I hope she’ll come back to her husband and children. . . . I hope the economy won’t collapse. . . . I hope Jesus will return this year. . . . I hope my abuser will be brought to justice. . . . I hope they’ll repent and acknowledge their sin. . . .

Have you ever noticed that the way we talk about hope in ordinary conversation is very different from the way the Bible describes “hope”? Continue reading