October 23, 2013

Favor and Ruth

God’s favor follows genuine sacrifice. The kind of sacrifice where you’re willing to give up something precious...something that you’ve counted on for a very long time. Something that you feel very certain you will never get back, at least not in any way as well as you’d had it before. Suppose the ice cream truck came and went and you saw that your kid had their cone in hand and was ready to take the first bite. But then, your kid noticed that a new kid beside them had just run out of their house and was too late. If your kid handed over that much-desired and freshly acquired ice cream cone to the new kid, without even being aware that you saw it all happen, what would you be willing to do for your kid? I personally would load my kid up into my Jeep, drive fast to her favorite Haagen Dazs shop at the mall and buy her whatever scoop she wanted. Then, we’d probably head over to the Disney store and leave with a new toy too. I would favor my child because I recognize that she made what was, for her, a genuine sacrifice. So goes the Bible story of Ruth. Let’s hit the high notes with a focus on genuine sacrifices and the favor that followed. First, Naomi was willing to sacrifice Ruth, in order to see that Ruth had a hopeful future. Ruth genuinely sacrificed any hopes of a future husband and children when she literally begged to stay with Naomi. God caused Boaz to notice Ruth in the fields and ordered his workers to sacrifice some grain in handfuls for her. Boaz did not have first choice on owning the land and taking Ruth for a wife, so he had to offer a genuine sacrifice, approaching the more closely related relative and offer him first choice. Boaz did this honorably, in the presence of the town elders, at the gate of the town. When the man declined the offer, Boaz bought the land, and married Ruth, honoring the family she was widowed from. We can see that in each instance, God’s favor caused the sacrifice to seem completely insignificant, as his blessings overtook His faithful children. Their sacrifices required releasing hopes and dreams, giving away property, adhering to a high standard of integrity and not reveling in self-pity. These things can all be viewed as a genuine sacrifice because no one would willingly do it. We know we have a God who loves us, but how many of us will trust Him to the extent of releasing the most precious treasures in our lives? He was willing to make the most unimaginable, genuine sacrifice when He offered Jesus’ very life. God always manages to “one-up” us on things...you see. His most extreme and genuine sacrificial offering was also His most extreme offering of favor.

Your Name is Mud

Gen. 2:7- And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Dust. Soil. Dirt. Clay. Mud. Do we truly understand this? Adam was formed from the ground. I began pondering what it means that my original ancestor was literally made of dirt. I come from a family who understands farming, gardening, and lots of hard work to yield a harvest. I’ve ridden horses through my grandfather’s corn fields and shucked the harvest for that night’s dinner. When I was at a personal, devastating low in my life, I stood barefoot in the soil of those same fields and felt the warm, dry, cracked ground beneath my feet and met God there. I’ve seen how, during certain seasons, the soil was allowed to rest, waiting to be turned over, infused, filled, fertilized. I know how that feels as a weary Christ-follower when my life feels dry and untended. I understand the potential of soil to nourish, to hold roots steady, to allow the waters to flow through it and yet to absorb those waters at the same time...until it’s saturated and begins to release to those around it who desperately need it. I have to be so intentional about filling myself with the Word and with relationships that build me, so that I can release to those around me who are feeling dry and lifeless. How often has it felt that a stinky, sticky, nasty situation has been dumped on your head, but that caused you to grow...in much the same way that manure settles in soil and actually acts as a fertilizer? Use those times to dig in and grow! One of the most beautiful things about the people of this earth we inhabit is the colors of our skin, and how they each reflect a natural hue of the dirt, dust, soil, and mud that we walk on. Some of us have skin as fair as white sand, and I’m reminded that sand flows effortlessly through an hourglass, but when heated, becomes the actual glass itself. Some of us have a warm, peachy tone like that of clay...the very clay that can be pliable enough to form into a vessel, or baked strong enough to form the very bricks we trust to build our homes with. Some of us have skin in shades of dark brown and black, like the soil that grows the plants we use for clothing and food, but which, left alone, and under much pressure, hardens into stone that must be chiseled to find purpose again. Which one are you? Do you see that every type of soil has dual purposes? We’re not all the same. We weren’t meant to be. We were formed by a multi-faceted God. He has a different plan for every. single. one. of us. Maybe you are free-flowing sand; maybe you’re transparent glass. Maybe you are flexible clay, maybe you are a strong foundation. Maybe you are a field of growth, resting for a season, or hard at work nourishing those around you. Maybe you’ve been under such pressure that you’ve become hard like stone, but you’re willing to be chiseled so that a statue of beauty can be formed from you. The incredible thing about God is that, if you are in a time where none of those seem to be you, a time where you feel much more like you’re just down to “bare bones” there’s still hope for you. You see, God created soil in such a way that it actually preserves bones...for thousands of years. Ezekiel 37 tells us that God can take those dry bones and breathe in them once again, to create new life. The great thing about realizing that your name is Mud...is that there’s nowhere to go, but up.