She Who ___

10 At this, [Ruth] bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” 11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2:10-12)

 

I am sure as Ruth stood speaking to Boaz that she wondered what she had done to garner his attention. Perhaps she was worried about having done something to offend him or anger him, which meant she would have to find another field to glean in. She thought she knew the answer when she asked him why she had warranted his attention. She was not asking for or expecting Boaz to compliment her.

 

Because instead of judgment or condemnation, he offered her grace and compassion … and respect. She possibly saw a little astonishment as he recited her reputation in their small community and heard his prayer of blessing over her.

 

For her, it was nothing worthy of such praises. She was a simple woman, taking care of someone who had loved her well during their time together. It was the least she could do for Naomi, who had taken care of her and shown her how big and amazing God’s love was. To her, it was the easy choice to make. It didn’t matter what people thought, though she probably wondered if they would see her as anything more than a foreigner. Maybe she wondered what people were saying about her. Maybe she wasn’t.

 

Maybe you wonder what people are saying about you.

 

How would you hope people think about and talk about you?

How would you hope people finish this sentence about you: she is the one who ___?

 

I recently asked this question, and someone responded with “she is the one who tried.” And as I read the words, my heart broke.

 

Why? Isn’t trying good?

 

Because I read that statement as a testament of defeat.

She tried, believing she would probably fail.

She tried, having little to no faith in a good outcome.

She tried, without hope of God’s goodness and grace toward her.

She tried, believing more in herself than in God.

She tried, limiting herself and the possible outcomes.

 

And a warrior spirit rose up in me against this defeatist attitude, wanting to battle try with something more powerful – trust!

 

She Who ___

 

She is the one who trusted, knowing God would give her strength to keep going.

She is the one who trusted, never giving up hope that God would bring good.

She is the one who trusted, knowing God would provide.

She is the one who trusted, knowing God has always proven Himself trustworthy and good.

She is the one who trusted, knowing the impossible is always possible with God.

 

Don’t you want people to see the faith in you to trust … and keep trusting, no matter what?

 

Here’s how I would want people to finish that sentence about me:

She is the one who trusted God.

She is the one who always went after God’s best.

She is the one who loved her family well.

She is the one who never gave up – on herself, on God, on grace.

She is the one who trusted God more than anything else.

She is the one who was intentional about her relationship with God.

She is the one who refused to be limited to try.

 

Do you want to be limited to trying?

Or do you want to thrive because you trusted?

 

Be a Ruth, whose reputation of faith preceded her into favor and family. Be a person who chooses to trust through all circumstances and situations, knowing God will come through.

 

Marie Fremin.  1/16/20, 3/15/20.

Gethsemane Moment

Adulting is not for the faint of heart.

 

It can often feel like dancing with a partner who is constantly stepping on your toes. You move left or right, and so does life, landing on top of your foot … and smashing your toes. You zig, and life refuses to zag; instead, life zigs right in front of you, forcing you off balance and off your rhythm. You move forward, and life does not move at all, causing you to stumble and fall to avoid crashing into it.

 

Yesterday, I danced with life. Yesterday I faced the possibility of having something – possibly minor, concernedly major – medically named, which would give it the ability to change the cadence of my steps and the direction of my feet as I move through daily life.

 

It was a dance that started with a possibility.

Which became conversations … and the frustration of being unheard.

Then the coordination into scheduling … and trying to get documentation into the right hands.

 

Then the waiting begins for the day of testing to come. The confusion.

Then the testing itself. The questions.

Then the waiting for the results. The unknown.

 

So much time from the beginning of the possibilities until the end of the testing. So many hours and days and weeks to waver between fear and faith, surety and scared, and assurance and anger.

 

And it was a masterful plan by the enemy. Pure genius. Because it was just subtle enough to create disillusionment yet pointed enough to build desperation – one thought at a time. All in an effort to distract me, to disturb me, and to disquiet me so I would become disengaged from my faith, disconnected from God, and disenchanted from hope.

 

In the possibilities of the unknown the enemy works best.

To fill me with fear … and question God’s goodness.

To overwhelm me with anxiety … and tune out God’s comfort.

To sidetrack me with stress … and reject God’s endurance.

To cause me to be concerned … and turn away from prayer.

 

Ultimately, his great hope was to confuse me into believing this one dangerous thought: “If God allows this, then He is not good.” But that is SO NOT true!

 

Because hard things do not disprove God’s love for us. In fact, they show us the exact opposite. It is going through such things – these Gethsemane moments God has purposed for our lives – that we become absolutely convinced of God’s love and care. And even though they usually the hardest things we go through, they will show us the faith we are made of and the grace all around us.

 

What is a Gethsemane moment? Jesus shows us when He goes to the garden of Gethsemane the night of His arrest to spend His last hours as a free man – “37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matthew 26:37-44).

 

Jesus is feeling the human side of Himself. He knows what will happen to Him once the morning approaches, and it is going to be filled with pain and anguish and torture … and eventually death. And the human side of Him wants to abort God’s plan and find another way. It will be too hard.

 

And He is feeling every human emotion you and I would. “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed” (37). He is mentally anguished. He is full of heaviness in His spirit. He is adēmonéō (ad-ay-mon-eh’-o). Because He knew how deeply each of those 39 lashes (if given by Jewish custom) He would receive in the morning would cut, and He knew His skin would be torn to shreds. Because He knew how long and hard that walk from the temple to Golgotha would be, with a broken and bleeding body trying to carry that heavy cross. Because He knew how much more pain would radiate through Him once they pounded the nails into His wrists and feet. Because He knew the torture of trying to breathe while hanging on the cross as a public spectacle of shame. Because He knew how it would feel to His human soul to be completely separated from God’s love, grace, and comfort as He lovingly and willingly took on every one of our sins – from the petty to the perverse – to make us right with God.

 

Gethsemane Moment

 

And in Gethsemane, the human part of Jesus is wrestling hard against the horrors of all this against the divine Spirit with Him, who is reminding Him this is the best plan. God’s hand is on this, and the rewards will be innumerable and eternal. The suffering is a temporary moment or two before He will conquer death and reclaim the world and all man for God.

 

But feeling every ounce of His humanity, Jesus spends the night praying. Notice – not once, not twice, but three times Jesus prayed the same prayer – “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (39, 42, 44). Father, I know this is definitely not going to be easy. This is not going to be remotely pleasant. This is not going to be any sort of beautiful on this side of the cross. Things are not going to go the way anyone expects. People will abandon Me. People will deny they know Me. People will hide to keep from being associated with Me. And the physical pain is going to be excruciating! So, if there is any other way, please Father, now is the time to let Me know. Because in just a few hours, it is going to be too late.

 

But….” Father, if this is the best way, I am in. I am all in. I know You know best, and I know You are working out of Your love for the world You have created. So, I choose to lay down My will to follow You. Completely. I will not follow My human mind, emotions, and will that want Me to end this now by walking away and staying safe. I know today will be the hardest day, and I know I will walk through it unable to defend Myself as I find Myself abandoned by almost everyone who claimed to love Me. So, please help Me. Help Me to keep going. Help Me to hold on to what You are doing. Help Me to remember the ultimate purpose. Give Me the strength I need to walk out each moment of this phase of Your plan.

 

If Jesus, divine and perfect in His own right yet with the help of His brother the Holy Spirit, wrestled this hard … knowing how things would turn out … how much more do we need God?

 

With every breath we breathe! Because unlike Jesus, we are far from divine. We are stuck in our humanity, which means we have a limited perspective and understanding of what God is trying to do and what is at stake for us to fully obey.

 

And what God wants us to come to in our faith is the same point of determination and endurance Jesus did – “not as I will, but as You will” (39).

 

Not what I think the outcome should be … but God, I defer to the outcome that will promote Your purposes.

 

Not how I see the situation in this moment … but God, I adjust my vision to focus on You and You alone, trusting that You see all and will guide me where I need to go.

 

Not how my emotions are leading me … but God, I choose to tune Your whisper up high and all other voices out, so I can hear the truth You need me to hear.

 

Not what I want but what You have planned for me, because it will be better than anything I would have expected anyway.

 

And often we do just as Jesus did and wrestle to get to this point of faith, where we know that no matter what, we are going to do our best to hold onto hope and trust God.

 

And this is where I have been since January 23rd, when my doctor called me to report an abnormality on a test. It could be nothing … but it could be something serious. And it amazed me that a community of medical professionals tried to guilt and shame and scare me into doing the “right” thing without hearing my concerns about the cost coming directly out of my pocket. I should just set up payment terms and not worry about paying the equivalent of two to three car payments to find out if I had a medical issue to navigate or not.

 

And that was when I walked into Gethsemane and started wondering. God, how is this going to turn out? God, what is Your purpose if I have to walk through the unimaginable? God, is this really necessary? God, I trust You but isn’t there another way? God, do You really think I am strong enough to walk through something that big? God, why would You do this to my family?

 

Let me point out that I wondered more than wrestled. No, I did not want to do any additional testing. No, I did not want to find out there was something potentially deadly in my body. No, I did not want to think about the conversations I would have to have with my family and the torment it would put them through.

 

But, even with this big possibility, I did not have to wrestle to the point of faith. Because I have seen God’s goodness over and over and over again in my life that I know it to be true in all circumstances. Because I am absolutely convinced that Romans 8:35-39 is true and nothing can separate me from God’s love and protection. Because I know that if God calls me to it, God will strengthen me to get me through it.

 

And maybe God was positioning me to meet someone who needed to hear that God is good, even in the middle of the treatment. Maybe God needed my family to see that I refuse to give up on God, even when things aren’t easy. Maybe God was intervening to help me before something worse could take over and prematurely take my life.

 

And I wondered what was going to happen and if my life was going to change. Holding tightly to my faith while the enemy subtly … and then not so subtly … came at me with doubt, fear, anxiety, and stress. While he tried to convince me that I could not be strong enough to go through anything bad and did not really deserve anything good.

 

But I chose to use my time in Gethsemane wisely. Every time the enemy came for me, I leaned completely into God. I did just as Jesus did – God, if there is any other way, let’s do it, but otherwise, “not as I will, but as You will.” I won’t promise to like it, and I won’t promise to always have a joyful attitude. But I will promise to trust You, with everything I am. I will promise to know that with You I can get through anything I have to to be healed. I will promise to share my story with and show my faith to whomever You put in my path.

 

And praise God, the testing came back with good news. There was nothing to worry about. Nothing that required additional testing. Nothing to bring radical life change. And Iam humbly thankful that my Gethsemane had a happy ending this time.

 

No, we don’t want Gethsemane. But we need Gethsemane. We need to know that God is OK with our questions and fears and doubts … He will never love us any less. And He encourages our questions, because they help to develop our faith … especially when we have to dig deep down and wrestle for it. We need to be reminded that God is in control and has already purposed everything ahead of us … and the choice to surrender to His plans is entirely and always ours. We need to be assured that even though grace doesn’t always take the easy path there is always something good waiting for us on the other side.

 

And though I never want to repeat this particular Gethsemane moment, I can’t deny its value. Because I was able to see that my heart is secure in faith and the enemy was unable to sway me away. I trust God completely, and I was able to speak this into any doubts and fears that came up.

 

What has your Gethsemane experience taught you?

 

Marie Fremin.  2/25/20, 2/27/20, 2/29/29.

God, What Are You Doing?

I have been thinking a lot about Joseph this week as I consider my current season.

 

I wonder what Joseph was thinking as his brothers grabbed him, stripped him, picked him up, and threw him into the pit (Genesis 37:23-24).

 

I wonder what Joseph was thinking as he gazed up, helpless to help himself and at the complete mercy of his brothers’ anger.

 

God, What Are You Doing

 

I wonder what Joseph was thinking when they lifted him out of the pit … only to sell him to slave traders (Genesis 37:28).

 

And in thinking of this beginning of his story, I think I know what Joseph was thinking, feeling, and wondering.

 

God, what are You doing?

 

Hey God. It’s me, Joseph. You realize that I am Jacob’s son, right? The child You finally blessed his beloved Rachel with. I am the son of Jacob’s heart and the source of Jacob’s pride.

 

So … why am I standing here in this pit?

Defenseless.

Helpless.

Friendless.

 

Am I going to die here, scared and alone? Am I never going to see my father again? How long will I be down here before someone finds me? Will they find me alive … or not?

 

God, why am I here?

God, what are You doing?

 

I know You are there. My father talks about You all the time. How You have been with him through his villainous youth, where he tricked his brother and wound up running for his life. How You helped him learn to trust You and be a man of faith while he was living under his deceitful father-in-law. How You honored his progress by helping him reconcile with his brother. How all of this taught him to be faithful to and always believe in You.

 

Are You trying to teach me something?

Are You trying to change something about me?

Are You mad at me about something?

 

Because I think we could have had a conversation about me without this pit. I (probably) would have listened to You. So, God, why the pit?

 

I get it, Joseph. Totally. I hear your confusion and consternation. I understand your pain and perplexity. I see your betrayal and bullying by those you thought cared about you.

 

I get it, Joseph, because I too am in the pit. Asking the same questions. Facing the same confusion. Wondering what I could have done differently.

 

I recently had a relationship that did not work out. It ended just as well as yours with your brothers. Everyone was content to push me into the pit and walk away. No salvation. No forgiveness. No redemption. No hope.

 

And despite the relationship they all claimed we had, they all threw their hands up and walked away. Blaming me for all the problems they said were all in my vivid – and completely vain – imagination. And I looked up and found myself alone.

 

No “are you OK?”

No “I am sorry.”

No “I am still your friend.”

 

Silence. Shunning. Stranded.

Alone. And wondering – just as you, Joseph – God, what are You doing?

 

Why did it implode?

How did it come to this dramatic end?

Who is ultimately to blame … if we have to assign blame?

When did my heart start to question?

What was the real problem?

Where did things start to fall off the rails?

 

Was I wrong in my perspective that it wasn’t quite right?

 

Or … was I right? Was I right in feeling that what looked good and was convenient was not Your best for us – and we were robbing ourselves of the chance to experience Your best?

 

Joseph, I too keep asking myself questions. Just like I know you were as you stared up from the pit. I believe you were praying, asking what you needed to do to get through this difficult time and desperate moment … to stay calm and hope for the best while preparing yourself for the worst. I believe you were wondering what you could have done differently, even if it wasn’t true to who you were, to have a better outcome (even if it meant you would not be happy). I believe you questioned whether you should have been so vocal about your dreams and your gifts and instead just kept your doubts and ideas to yourself (to keep the peace).

 

I know, Joseph. Because I am asking myself the same questions.

 

And I hope that you did the same thing I am doing – trusting God. Sure, you asked “God, what are You doing?” and so am I. But I hope you trusted the answer was “something good for you”.

 

Something necessary to separate you from bad influences of favoritism and pride.

Something necessary to teach you that you need to trust Me completely.

Something necessary to prepare you for the big future I have planned.

 

And the pit is the beginning of a hard season, where things will not be easy and you will probably question My purposes daily. But there is going to be an amazing climax to your story, and I need the pit and what comes after it to prepare you for it.

 

And Joseph, God had an amazing story – and an incredible miracle – to do through you. Because it seems you never lost faith. Through all the years, which started with the pit, you trusted God to get you through today and into tomorrow. And you hoped with everything in you for a better tomorrow. Eventually, God honored your faith by allowing you to see – and save – your family again. And you were able to forgive them, completely, because you knew I had been with you and had a big purpose for your life.

 

Joseph, I want the same story. I want to look back on this season and say I trusted God so completely that I knew He was going to redeem the bad moments and remind me of the good ones. I want to say that though things seemed dark and dire and distressing I knew God was with me and for me and was setting me up for something amazing in the future. And I want the incredible testimony that comes on the other side of asking “God, what are You doing?” when we refuse to let go of our faith.

 

Loving Father, please help me remember the pit can be the beginning of something incredible that You are doing. Help me to hold onto my faith and keep my focus on You while things feel painful, perplexing, and without purpose. Help me to remember that You are good and You always have a good plan for my life. Thank You for loving me so much that You never give up on me … and for Your faith that I can survive – and eventually thrive – because of the pit. In Jesus’ almighty name. AMEN!

 

Marie Fremin.  2/22/20

Different

There once lived a man named Peter.

Bold.

Brash.

Outspoken.

Outgoing.

Often with foot-in-mouth disease.

 

And one thing I give Peter credit for, he was convinced of the kind of person he was. He knew he was absolutely loyal to Jesus and could never be swayed by political powers or temple guards. And he told Jesus such when Jesus warned him the night of His arrest. He knew with completely certainty that no matter what pressure they faced he would never hesitate to stand with Jesus – “Even if all are made to stumble [caused to take offense] because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33).

 

Different

 

That’s a powerful statement.

Never.

Oudépote (oo-dep’-ot-eh).

Not at any time.

Never at all.

 

No matter what.

Despite the pressure, persecution, and panic.

 

And he was so wrong. As he realized later that night.

 

But until that rooster crowed, Peter was absolutely convinced he was right. And again, I give him credit for that.

 

Because it’s easy to “know” who we are when things are going well. When things are easy. When things are smooth. When things are calm.

 

But what about when things are not going well? When things are hard? When things are choppy and chaotic and confusing?

 

Are you doing the same-old-same-old routine?

Are you running back to the same-old known place of comfort?

Are you repeating the same unchanging rote prayer?

 

Or are you looking for new ways?

To pray.

To think.

To consider.

To see.

 

Jesus is asking us to think outside of our box and consider all the possibilities. He is challenging us to not get stuck where we are … but instead to think differently. Act differently. Pray differently. See differently. Trust differently.

 

Because in the routine …

We rarely find the best Jesus has for us.

We rarely receive the grace Jesus has for us.

We rarely grow into the new season and new revelation Jesus has for us.

 

He’s calling us out of the routine and into the unknown.

He’s calling us to experience more of His grace.

He’s calling us to receive more of His love.

He’s calling us to know more of His power.

He’s calling us to feel more of His hope.

 

More … because we are willing to be different.

 

It’s what He called Peter to on the beach after His resurrection. He gave Peter a chance to repent of his denials and restore his life back to its original purpose. And it started by asking him one life-changing question: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15)

 

Peter, do you love Me …

More than your reputation?

More than your life?

More than what I call your friends to do?

More than your regret?

More than your shame?

More than your fear?

More than the powers of Rome?

More than your fear of the priests?

 

Are you willing to love Me – and therefore follow Me – into the unknown tomorrow…

Doing differently than you have been?

Thinking differently than you have been?

Trusting differently than you have been?

Speaking differently than you have been?

 

Stepping into the role of leader instead of follower.

Being seen instead of being in the shadows.

Putting your life in the spotlight – and disapproval – of the political powers around you.

Giving your fellow man an example of grace and encouragement of hope.

 

Because your life is about to radically change. Peter, it is going to be that great thing I promised you. But it is going to require something from you – the choice to be different. To be bold. To be radical. To be fearless.

 

And now Jesus is asking you the same question – are you willing to love Me enough to be different?

 

Because doing the same things will never produce a new response.

Same produces getting stuck.

Same produces becoming stale.

Same produces being static.

 

When what we want is new. Bold. Outrageous. Different.

 

We want a new response.

We want a new reaction.

We want a new rhythm.

 

We want to offer more of ourselves to Jesus … and receive more of Jesus into our lives.

 

And it all starts by doing things differently.

Thinking different thoughts.

Praying different prayers.

Speaking different words.

Treating people differently.

Responding differently.

Hoping differently.

Believing differently.

 

So, what are you willing to do differently?

How are you willing to believe more?

How are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and be bolder?

What are you willing to let go of?

What are you willing to grab hold of?

 

Peter stepped out of the comforts of fishing and into the new role of pastor of a new movement about to sweep the country. And all it required of him was his everything … and a commitment to “Follow Me” (John 21:19) at all times and in all circumstances.

 

Are you willing to be like Peter and accept the same invitation? To allow different – and the boldness, confidence, and determination that come with it – to change your life forever?

 

Dare to be different.

Today.

 

Peter would tell you don’t hesitate, don’t question, and don’t doubt.

Just do it.

 

Because following God and daring to be different are always worth it.

Your life will never be the same.

Because different with God can change the world.

 

Marie Fremin.  2/4/20, 2/15/20, 2/16/20.

Fine is Not So Fine

26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:26-27 NIV).

 

The man in the verse above was fine. He found a fine spot on the sand to built his fine house and live his fine life. His life was fine, maybe even good, on the surface.

 

Until one day “the rain came down … and the winds blew and beat against that house”. And suddenly everything that was fine “fell” and toppled into indistinguishable rubble.

 

When fine was hit be adversity

When fine was challenged by calamity.

When fine was pounded by trials.

 

Fine was destroyed, “and great was its fall” (NKJV) into ruin.

 

So, why would we want or choose to live a life that is fine?

 

But we do. Most days. When someone asks us how we are, what do we usually say? “I’m fine.”

 

Fine is Not So Fine

 

Even when we are stressed.

Even when we are tired.

Even when we are sick.

Even when we are hurting.

Even when we are mad.

Even when we are sad.

 

We say “I’m fine.” But we’re not.

 

So, why do we pretend?

Why do we try to cover up?

Why do we deny?

Why do we lie?

 

We’re not fine.

Our lives are in chaos.

Our emotions are out of control.

Our thoughts are confused.

 

We’re not fine. And we need to have the wisdom to see it and the courage to admit it.

To ourselves.

To others.

 

To God.

“God, I am not fine.”

“God, this is so not fair.”

“God, I am not going to survive this.”

“God, it is too much.”

“God, it is not enough.”

“God, I just can’t ….”

“God, it hurts beyond words.”

 

And until we can be honest enough to admit we are not fine, it won’t get better.

 

There is good news. We can bring all of our not fine – our pain, our anger, our mistakes, our excuses, our lack of faith – to God. And He promises not only to understand our struggle but also to help us get through it in one piece.

 

15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NKJV).

 

We have a Father who sympathizes with our struggles and has compassion on us in our confusion. We have a Father who sees and gives mercy to us when we are tested and tried. We have a Father who never wonders at our weaknesses or falters at our feebleness of faith.

 

So, why would we choose to merely be fine?

 

It’s a waste of our time.

It’s a waste of our energy.

It’s a waste of our resources.

 

It will never help us.

It will never challenge us.

It will never lead us to our purpose.

 

But God will.

 

God has called us to be parrhesia (par-rhay-see’-ah) – Assured. Bold. Confident. Free. Outspoken.

 

And in letting go of fine, we are able to find cháris (khar’-ece) – Graciousness. Divine influence upon our heart. Acceptance. Benefit. Favor. Liberty. Thankfulness.

 

So, don’t continue to be fine.

Don’t live in the rubble of the collateral damage of the chaos.

Don’t live as merely a survivor who is barely alive and hardly getting by.

Don’t live weighed down with the shame of past choices.

 

You will miss out on God’s best for your life.

 

Because you allow your sin / circumstances to drag you down into hopelessness and sorrow.

Because you allow your sin / circumstances to pull you into disaster and destruction.

Because you allow your sin / circumstances to consume you with pride and self-reliance.

 

Choose to admit you aren’t fine and your circumstances are hard.

It’s the beginning of finding God’s strength to get through and triumph.

It’s the beginning of letting go of control and allowing God to lead (and to bless).

It’s the beginning of new possibilities and new outcomes from One who still works miracles.

 

It’s the way to find the life you want.

Life … more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).

Life … in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]” (John 10:10 AMP).

Life … in its fullest” (John 10:10 CEV, TLB).

Far more life than before” (John 10:10 Phillips).

Real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:10 MSG).

Life … to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

A rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT).

 

So, let today be today that you choose to be more than fine. Let go of your fine and lean into He “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV) with what we willingly give Him.

 

Marie Fremin.  11/8/19, 1/19/20.

Hope of Blessing

20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” 22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest” (Ruth 1:20-22).

 

Naomi has every reason to be discouraged, depressed, and downtrodden.

 

She is far from her home and her family (siblings, parents, cousins, etc.). She has been brought by her husband to live in a foreign land full of pagan gods – because he was fearful of a famine. She has managed to settle down and create a new life, probably still missing her home but making the best of her circumstances.

 

Then her husband dies, and if they had been childless, she would have been desperate. But she has the consolation – and support – of her two sons to make sure she is cared for. So, she again readjusts her expectations and makes the best of things.

 

And then her sons also die. And she is left alone with two unrelated women, her daughters-in-law. They have learned to live together and love each other, evidenced by Naomi’s affection in calling them “my daughters” several times.

 

And when Naomi has to decide how she is going to take care of herself, she realizes her only option is to return home, to her family. Someone there will surely have pity on her and allow her to live out her days with them.

 

Naomi becomes consumed with her grief. Overcome by her anger. Distant in her faith.

Hope of Blessing

And when she finally arrives back in Bethlehem, people attempt to welcome her back. But she rebuffs their consolation because she is so focused on what God has stolen from her. She has allowed herself to be consumed by the bitterness she has allowed to grow within her, allowing it so much power over her that she wants to be called by its name – “Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter].

 

Call me bitter.

Because God has taken everything I cared about.

Because God has left me to die alone and forgotten.

Because God has turned my life into fear of tomorrow.

Because God has “afflicted” me with pain and sorrow too hard to bear.

Because God has emptied my life of blessing and beauty.

 

But did He really?

 

Because if you read the same verses I did and see the same truths, you probably come to the same conclusion I did.

 

So Naomi returned [from Moab].

Naomi was not harmed in any way after her husband died and then her sons died.

Naomi was not harmed in any way on her journey home from Moab to Bethlehem.

Naomi was not harmed in any way when she returned to Bethlehem.

 

What Naomi should have focused on was that God had been protecting her.

God protected Naomi while she lived in the foreign land among foreign (pagan) culture.

God protected Naomi while she buried her husband and then her sons.

God protected Naomi while she traveled and stayed along possibly treacherous roads.

 

God was with Naomi and keeping her safe from all the adversaries and enemies around her. How vulnerable a childless widow would be! Yet, Naomi was not drawn into the pagan culture surrounding her. Naomi was not taken advantage of or even kidnapped as an unprotected widow. Naomi was not a victim of violence on her journey back home.

 

God made sure Naomi stayed safe so she could return home and find her destiny.

 

Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her.

Naomi knew three people when she arrived in Moab – her husband and her two sons. Sure, she probably met plenty of other people and made new friends. And she gained two daughters-in-law who seem to have more of a mother-daughter than in-law relationship with her.

 

What Naomi should have focused on was that she was not alone.

She didn’t have to bury her family alone.

She didn’t have to grieve alone.

She didn’t have to travel alone.

 

God made sure Naomi had good support around her to deal with the circumstances she was living in. God gave Naomi two precious people who embraced her as family and probably looked to her as a role model. Naomi had support to lean on. Naomi had empathy of people experiencing the same pain. Naomi had companionship of wives who also lost their husbands.

 

And when Naomi needed it most, she had Ruth.

Who insisted on staying with her.

Who insisted on taking care of her.

Who insisted on loving her unconditionally.

Who insisted on being her family.

Who insisted on being her sister in her faith.

 

Now they came to Bethlehem.

Naomi found her way back home after over ten years away.

 

And when she arrived …

Naomi found people waiting to welcome her and embrace back into the community.

Naomi found support waiting to help her adjust to yet another life change.

Naomi found a life waiting to be redefined with God’s grace.

 

What Naomi should have focused on was possibility.

Because Naomi had just journeyed from Moab to Bethlehem.

And she arrived with her health and her possessions.

God had guided her safely and securely back home into a warm welcome.

 

And the possibilities for a woman who had already triumphed over so much should have seemed endless. She should have looked back and seen how far she had already come … and she might have realized just how strong, how amazing, and how courageous she truly was. I think that is part of what drew Ruth to her. Ruth wanted the possibility of what Naomi had – determination of spirit and security of faith.

 

At the beginning of barley harvest.

God knew Naomi and Ruth would need provision to sustain them. He had already planned they would return during the early spring, when reapers went out into the fields to chop down the barley for threshing. The pieces that fell from the arms of the gatherers and the baskets of the reapers were left for “the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19) to collect, per God’s law.

 

What Naomi should have focused on was provision. God put Naomi back in Bethlehem at the right time to participate in the harvest. And just as Ruth promised, she took care of Naomi by going out every day to gather whatever fallen barley pieces she could, bringing home provision to get them by.

 

God provided for Naomi’s physical needs. But He also provided for her emotional and mental needs by giving her a companion who fully embraced her faith and supported her as only family would.

 

Looking at the evidence, isn’t it easy to see that Naomi’s life was full of blessings? God gave her so much goodness. How did she miss it?

 

The same way we do.

 

Naomi had the same choice we all do – look at her life through the lens of loss and hopelessness, or look at her life as a product of God’s grace at work.

 

Naomi chose to be bitter, even though there was so much good, so much grace, and so much hope in her life. All right in front of her. But she chose to look at her loss as the end of her life. And she allowed herself to be mad at her husband, her sons, the world around her, and even God.

 

If she had taken a minute, an hour, a day, or even a week to consider and count her blessings, she would have come up full of the pleasant things in her life. And her bitterness would never have had a chance to blossom into her identity.

 

I pray we learn that we don’t have to be bitter. We don’t have to focus on the negative, the bad, the painful, and the shameful. We don’t have to misinterpret the grace of God working to make us stronger as God punishing us for not being good enough. We don’t have to ignore the support God is sending our way to encourage us.

 

I pray we use Naomi as the pivot point that helps us remember to count our blessings. To focus on the good things. To appreciate the people supporting us.

 

And to remember that no matter how badly things seem, God is always for us. God is always with us. And God is always working around us.

 

Just ask Naomi, the once bitter woman who finally allows God to rewrite her story and who becomes the great-grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:13-17).

 

Marie Fremin.  1/11/20.

She Won’t Lose Heart

What does one do when she finds her heart slightly broken … knowing things turned out for the best, yet still sad to see a season end?

 

She refuses to lose heart!

 

She finds peace in this chapter of her story, knowing others paint her as the villain yet knowing it was the right thing to speak up.

 

She trusts God’s wisdom that spiritual forces were at work, weaving discord, and they needed to be addressed … though she stands alone in her belief.

 

She finds peace in knowing there is something better than the status quo and the figure of “fine” that is needed to keep people together.

 

She trusts God’s wisdom is having the awkward conversation to bring light to the darkness, even though resistance is great and denial is loud.

 

And she owns her expectations as being slightly unrealistic, hoping that others would be as passionate as she … though her intentions were honorable and her goal was good.

 

She sheds a few tears, alone, while she stands in the goodness of God.

Knowing He has a purpose.

A good purpose.

 

To confront the enemy.

To challenge the rut.

To confound “fine”.

 

One unspoken stress at a time.

One purpose at a time.

One heart at a time.

 

And though a piece of her heart breaks, she does not falter in knowing this is bigger – and more important – than her feelings.

 

She knows things unspoken and therefore never addressed have the potential to destroy.

Individually.

Corporately.

Spiritually.

 

Slowly.

Silently.

Stealthily.

 

And she wanted so much better than that for them.

 

But it was not to be. What has been will have to suffice as sweet memories, as today continues and tomorrow approaches.

 

And in the process, she does not lose heart.

Choosing to look up to God, just as Jesus does.

(Matthew 14:19; John 11:41, 17:1).

She Won’t Lose Heart

With the hope of possibility … not longing for what was.

Trusting His provision and purpose for the next chapter.

Knowing He has a good plan working.

 

Choosing to see God and lean into Him instead of trying to please and placate people.

 

Though the process has been messy and the outcome sad, she does not regret a moment. And she knows her cursed name is a small price to pay for God’s will to play out.

 

Though no one acknowledges God’s grace in action, she wrestled to put grace ahead of her feelings and move forward.

 

Because truth can cost.

But we must be willing to pay the price.

Without regret.

Knowing God is at work.

 

And she has learned a lot.

About herself.

About her expectation.

About her relationships.

 

And she sees how far she has come.

Yet she also sees where God is calling her to improve.

 

So, the pain becomes part of the testimony that God is writing. And just as He promised, He is the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) by providing His grace and His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

So, she does not lost heart, knowing she is drawing closer to the heart of God.

 

Marie Fremin.  12/29/19 and 1/11/20.