Restored Dreams

Ruth

Sometimes we give up on dreams, and sometimes they are just stolen from us—no matter what we do.

It is often the unfulfilled expectations of this life that weigh us down; things that happen to us in this life can leave us desperately searching for a reprieve, a redo, especially when it involves our families. I mean, it certainly doesn’t seem to be an overreaching expectation to be loved and surrounded by family—right?

It seems such a simple dream to be a part of a healthy whole family.  Then the drama comes, the unforeseen crisis, the pain of losing one we love—or fearing that we will— and we say “Why God?  “Why have you destroyed my dream, left me without hope and no reason to go on?” 

But we serve a God who can restore even the most hopeless and seemingly out of reach dream. Just ask Naomi.

Naomi lived long ago in Israel and she had a dream. A simple dream really, of passing on  the family farm to her sons and grandchildren.  She dreamed of growing old with her husband and watching her family grow, of getting to be grandma and seeing her sons marry women who loved and respected her and in return she would love them and hand down the wisdom of life’s lessons learned.

But this dream was shattered by one tragedy after another.

First a famine hit the land and the farm stopped making money, no rain, no graindust bowl time! So they walked away from the farm and moved west to the country of Moab.  Then, just as their fortunes seemed to be changing Naomi’s husband died. But Naomi found solace in that her two sons had both found nice Moabite women to marry. Then, tragically, both her sons died.  Within a ten year span Naomi had lost the farm, her husband and both her sons.

So here they are, three widows without much cause for hope, when they heard that the famine in Israel had ended.  With no other recourse Naomi decided to return home and hope for the best, but she still held out very little hope.  She told her daughter in laws:

Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, (for you to marry) 13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, (a goodbye kiss) but Ruth clung to her. Ruth 1

Naomi was convinced that the Lord was against her and she was destined to live out her miserable life alone.  But one of her daughter in laws, Ruth, was not about to leave her. Naomi was her family now and she would stay by her no matter what.

Naomi was blessed by the unconditional love of her daughter in Law but still she tried to persuade her to return home to her own mother’s house not wanting her to have to suffer the same hopeless destitute and lonely life she was sure would be her lot.  Ruth responded to her mother in law in no uncertain terms, “You are my family, your people will be my people, your God my God— so stop telling me to leave you, where you die I will die!” Wow, don’t we all need a Ruth in our lives?

Or a better question might be, Who’s Ruth am I? To whom have you said?—  I will never give up on you no matter what.”

Ruth said this to Naomi, so off they went; this tiny family, Ruth and Naomi, back to Naomi’s home town of Bethlehem.  They got there just as the Barley harvest was taking place. So, lacking any way to support or feed themselves, Ruth said she would go to one of the nearby farmers and ask if she could pick up the left over grain from behind the reapers.

ruth-gleaning

She chose a field that happened to belong to Boaz who turned out to be a relative of Naomi. Impressed by her willingness to work from sunup to sundown picking up dropped gleanings behind the paid harvesters to provide for her and her mother in law, Boaz told his workers not to harass her and  in fact to look after her and to make sure they left enough behind so that Ruth would get a good bushel or two to take home.  Boaz even told Ruth not to go to any other farms because he was afraid she would not be safe on another place.

When Naomi heard about all this she was filled with hope for the first time in years and exclaimed— ‘Boaz is a relative of mine, obviously he likes you, maybe this is the Lord’s way of providing you with a husband and restoring our family.’ ‘Uhm, I just had an idea.  There’s a harvest party tonight at his place. Wash yourself up girl, put on some nice clothes and some good smelling perfume and get on down there and make yourself known!’

“Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down!” No wait, that’s Reba’s mother, not Ruth’s.

Long story short, Boaz did take notice of Ruth and impressed by her loyalty and virtuousness, he married her. And because he was a relative of Naomi he was even able to redeem the family farm that had been lost to Naomi’s family when all the male heirs had died off.

It wasn’t long before Naomi had a grandson and her long dead dream of being the grandma, of handing down the family farm, and having a daughter in law to share life’s joys with, was restored.  Her dream, her long dead— ‘never gonna happen now’— dream, was restored, as was Ruth’s.

 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin;  and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.”  Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.  The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:14-18

I love that the Holy Spirit put this story in here, sandwiched between much weightier books,  to remind us that he is a very personal God who cares about the individual. 

He cared about Naomi even though she had given up hope. She had given up hope but she never stopped trying, she just kept pushing on and though she was convinced that for some reason God was against her, she never turned to another God, she never rebelled. God was still her God and he came through for her in spite of her hopelessness and despair.

The Red Tent

Then there’s Ruth, a foreigner who did not even know Ruth’s God. Yet exemplified the purity of simple faith, in her willingness to follow her dead husband’s mother to a land she did not know, and worship the God of that land though she saw no tangible benefits to that worship.  She had a faith and a virtuousness that put to shame many more religious women who never knew the tragedy she had endured.

Because of her astounding character she was restored and blessed, even becoming the great grandmother of King David, the throne of whom the Messiah himself would occupy forever.

Both of these women just kept putting one foot in front of the other and recognized the restoring hand of God when it appeared, and appear it did, when they least expected it in a way they could never have imagined.

What a great reminder of who our God is—the restorer of dreams. 

Never give up, never lose hope, your God loves you and hears you.

 

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Love Completes Us

I realize it’s the middle of a hot summer but please indulge me a bit as I take you back to a cold February night- maybe it’ll cool you off a bit.

Welcome and good morning baby-

It’s just after 11:00 on a cold late February night and I go down to the barn to check on a heifer I had locked in a stall because I saw earlier that she was thinking about calving.  I could tell because she had gone off by herself, as cows do, when they are getting ready to calf. Because she was a heifer I wanted to have her in a place where I could help her should she have trouble.  Well sure enough, she was having trouble.  Her water had broken some time ago and she was up and down- alternating between laying down on her side and walking around in circles mooing for her, as of yet, unborn calf, a sure signMoultonBarnNightClouds1.

Now, this heifer knew me as the one who fed her in the winter and kept her in good pastures in the summer but she was still not totally trusting of me, she was after all a range cow, spending much of her time totally away from all human contact.  I did not have a head-catch at this time so I had to use a lot more finesse in doctoring cows, getting them to trust me enough to help them.

I could see she would be needing help soon so I quietly slipped into the large stall and squatted down with my back against the wall at one end of the stall while she eyed me nervously to see what I was up to.  I just sat there on my haunches and waited, reassuring her now and then, letting her hear my familiar voice, low and calmly saying; “its ok girl, I’ll be here when you’re ready.” 

So I settle in and wait and as I sit there I become acutely aware of the stillness around me.  No sound but the occasional rustling of the heifers’ shuffling feet in the straw I had thrown out in the stall for her. It’s like there’s no one in the world but me and this heifer right now.  I turn off my glaring flashlight and let my eyes adjust to the dim light from the moon that’s filtering in from outside through the unfinished barn walls.  I see that the heifer is starting to worry less about me and getting back to the business of calving.

It’s cold but I’m warm in my insulated Carhartt coveralls and wool Scotch cap.  The cold crisp air mixed with the musty smell of the heifer and the dusty straw gives me a sensation that all is right with the world.  A feeling that really can’t be described but once experienced is never forgotten.

The heifer lies down again as the contractions come hard and heavy, the steam of her breath coming in sharp bursts like a geyser that can’t decide if it’s ready to blow or not.  Then I see a small hoof appear under her tail, she is oblivious to my presence now as she alternates between pushing and just laying her head heavily in the straw to catch her breath.

It’s time- I crawl on my hands and knees through the straw, which is now becoming well mixed with the manure beneath, to the rear of the heifer, I take off my gloves and slowly slip a hand into the heifer to feel a velvety nose lodged firmly in the birth canal.  I work both the front hoofs of the calf out as far as I can while the heifer lifts her head to look at me and then pushes once more.  I reach into the back pocket of my coveralls and pull out a zip-lock bag containing the O.B. chains as the steam rises off my hands now covered with warm amniotic fluid.

I work the chains onto the small hoofs being careful to get them above the fetlocks, I hook the hand held puller to the center of the chains, brace my feet against the rear of the cow and working with the contractions of the heifer I begin to pull.  We are totally in this together now and after several pulls with all my strength timed to coincide with her pushes we suddenly have a head.  I get up off my −back where I landed when the shoulders cleared and quickly get to my feet to easily slide the calf the rest of the way out.  I catch my breath as the heifer−now a cow−relaxes, and the calf, a coal black bull with a bright white face, takes its first gasping breaths.

I wait only moments before I drag the calf around to the front of the cow to make sure she gets a good snoot full of her baby’s scent. She soon gets to her feet and gives the calf another good sniffing before she begins gingerly to clean him while mooing gently with the moo that cows only use for their babies.  Praise God!  She’s accepted the calf and has the mother instinct.  I get out of the stall and hang around only long enough to make sure the calf gets up and stumbles over to where the milk is, amazed once again that a minutes old calf always knows where to find the milk.

“Welcome and goodnight baby, see you in the morning.”

 

Thoughts

Sometimes we just need to be there.

Being the church of Jesus Christ means loving our neighbors and – one another, learning to take care of those who are right in front of us.  Jesus said go and make disciples of all nations… we make disciples by sharing the good news and then by being there to encourage them on. New believers will quickly wither and die if they are not loved into health and seasoned believers will not continue to grow and bear fruit if they are not continuing to be loved−and sharing the love.

As we mature in our relationship with Christ it is sharing the love that really keeps us healthy and fulfilled, that encourages us, no matter the cost, the fulfillment that comes from living a life of love is priceless.

I was sitting in that cold barn in the middle of the night because I cared, sure that calf was worth 500 bucks at weaning time but that’s not what I was thinking about; there isn’t a rancher around worth his salt who doesn’t genuinely care for his animals.  And when I left the barn that night I felt good, real good, even though I was covered with manure and afterbirth and had missed several hours of sleep.  That is not the kind of feeling you get from simply earning a buck, it’s the kind of feeling you get from making an impact on another life. It’s a deep down satisfaction. 

It is the same feeling that comes from doing something good for someone who has entrusted you with their friendship and their heart. It’s the unique deep down soul satisfying feeling of being blessed because you allowed God to use you to be a blessing to someone.  It’s not about conquering the world, it’s about saving and discipling individuals, it’s about being there.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:11

Love completes us.