Debunking Boaz

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

If you’re familiar with the Bible then I’m guessing you’ve heard of the story of Ruth.  If not, let me give you a quick summary.  Ruth was a woman who married a man from a foreign land and tied herself to his family.  Her father-in-law, her husband and her brother-in-law all die (not simultaneously) and her mother-in-law (Naomi) decides to return to her homeland.  Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to stay with their own families.  Ruth’s sister-in-law Orpah stays.  But Ruth clings to Naomi and ends up returning to Naomi’s homeland with her.  Ruth then goes to work in a barley field as a means to provide for herself and Naomi.  There she meets Boaz who just so happens to to own the barley field Ruth is working in.  Long story short, Naomi finds out who Ruth is working for, realizes it’s a relative who can “redeem” Ruth as wife and mother and plays matchmaker between the two.  Her instructions and Ruth’s obedience pay off as Boaz marries Ruth and Ruth gives birth to Obed who was King David’s grandfather.

The book of Ruth is one of redeeming love and used as an example of how God can take tragedy and turn it into glory.  However, if misinterpreted, it can easily be romanticized and fill people, especially single women longing for marriage, with false hope.   For a woman longing for marriage, especially one has endured much rejection and/or abuse, the story of Boaz redeeming Ruth can fill her with the idea that God will use a man to redeem her circumstances also.  I want to be clear-Boaz was a kinsman redeemer but he did not redeem Ruth.

In Ruth’s cultural times, a kinsman-redeemer was a relative who carried out an act for a near relative who could not carry it out for themselves. In Ruth’s case, she was left a childless widow.  Boaz acted as a kinsman-redeemer by marrying and impregnating her in order to carry on her husband’s name (Ruth 4:10.) Boaz was a man of noble character but he was not a knight in shining armor who rescued Ruth.  He was a man who was impressed with Ruth’s beauty and work ethic.  He saws Ruth’s approach toward him as an act of kindness.  He also admitted there was another relative closer in relation to be Ruth’s redeemer. He protected Ruth’s reputation but was willing to step aside if the other relative chose to redeem Ruth himself (all found in Ruth chapters 3 and 4.)

Ruth was not a damsel in distress either.  She suffered great loss.  She made hard choices.  She worked on her own accord.  Ruth doesn’t bring up the idea of remarriage or children.  Her mother-in-law does.  Ruth only obeys the directives Naomi gives her.  Ruth was not wallowing in sorrow or waiting for a man to come along and rescue her.  She was in survival mode focused on taking care of herself and Naomi.  God stepped in and redeemed Ruth’s circumstances by connecting her to Boaz but God is Ruth’s ultimate rescuer.

No where in the book of Ruth does it mention that the desires of her heart was remarriage or to have a child.  In fact, when Naomi tells her to stay in her homeland, it’s because Naomi had no other sons for her to marry in order to bare a child.  Naomi tells her to stay with her own family and find another husband there.  But Ruth tells her this; “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)  Ruth does not choose to go with Naomi hoping to meet Boaz or any kinsman-redeemer.  She goes with Naomi because that’s who she identifies as her family and she has a loyalty to staying with that family.  The Bible doesn’t say it, but I believe Ruth either had no intentions to ever remarry or simply trusted God to take care of the matter.  Either way, remarriage was not Ruth’s priority.

Please don’t misinterpret today’s post.  I am not against marriage or remarriage.  The point of this post is to empower the woman who believe a man, a relationship and/or marriage is her saving grace to let go of that ideology.  To the woman who thinks her life will begin when God finally sends her the man of her dreams, you’re missing out on life that’s happening right now! God is our true redeemer.  He was Israel’s redeemer in the old testament and He sent Jesus to be our redeemer from sin in the New Testament.  He saves our circumstances and He redeems us from sinful mistakes.  No human being has the power to do that.  Expecting someone to redeem us puts unnecessary pressure on the person we identify as our savior.  It also is a form of worship and violates the Ten Commandments (Thou shall have no other gods before Me…)

If you are a single woman and your heart’s desire is marriage, please don’t pray for a Boaz.  Boaz was Ruth’s husband.  He can’t be yours.  Pray for the man God has designed for you.  While you’re waiting, be diligent in your work, recognize where you can rescue yourself and trust God to rescue you when you cannot.  Be the provider for the family God has gifted you, even if that family is just you and a pet or two. Trust Him to be your leader and partner.  See God as the husband you wish you had because we are all His bride. He is ultimately the One for each and everyone of us.

God will always be our Mr. Right.  If we misinterpret Boaz and especially if we get caught up in romance or Hallmark movies, we can easily become impatient and fall for a Mr. Right Now.  Wait on God.  Trust His ways.  Celebrate your singleness (it’s just as precious gift as marriage) and work hard at being the woman God made you to be.  If being a wife is part of His design, it will come to pass, just like it did for Ruth, in God’s time and His way!  We don’t need to manufacture our own love stories.  Ruth didn’t and God gave her Boaz.  Trust Him to write your love story too!

 

Better than Mr. Clean

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

For several summers I have cleaned a 5 bedroom lake house that is rented by the week for families to vacation together.  Each Saturday I’m scheduled, the owners and myself have five hours to launder linens, change bedding, dust furniture, wash windows, clean bathrooms, maintain the lawncare and so much more.  Each Saturday we take a well vacationed home and turn it into a brand new adventure for the next arrival.  It’s amazing what we can do in the limited time when we roll up our sleeves and determine to make it shine for the new renters.

Yesterday was no exception.  As I headed upstairs preparing to clean four out of the five bedrooms,  I turned on Pandora.  Music always helps me work more diligently.  Perhaps I learned that from the Seven Dwarfs-they did love to “whistle while they worked” didn’t they? Francesca Battistelli’s “Beautiful Beautiful” was just starting.  The song opens with these lyrics:

“Don’t know how it is you looked at me

“and saw the person that I could be…”

After the first verse, she bellows these lyrics in the chorus:

“Like sunlight burning at midnight,

“making my life something so beautiful, beautiful…”

This is one of my favorite songs that depict a beautiful image of redemption.  As I listened I couldn’t help but compare the work I do as a cleaning lady (job number 3 that I work) to how Jesus cleans up our lives.  I spend my Saturdays cleaning up somebody else’s mess in preparation for someone else to come in and mess it up again.  Jesus gave up His very life to clean up our messes knowing we would mess up again.

As a cleaning lady, I’ve faced my share of dirt and stains that were difficult to remove.  Some in fact I couldn’t get out at all.  I’ve seen bedding and walls colored on, stoves covered in thick grease, etc.  In fact, the kitchen counter of the house I clean had a stain on it that seemed impossible to remove and had been there for a few years.  One day I bought a new organic cleaner and asked the owners if I could try it out on that stain.  With their approval, I sprayed the cleaner on the stain and let it sit for a few seconds.  Scrubbed a little and wiped it away.  It wasn’t removed but it had become a little lighter.  So, I sprayed again and let the cleaning solution sit longer.  Scrubbed and wiped again to find it was almost completely gone.  The third time was the charm and the stain was completely gone.

Like the organic cleaner’s ability to remove that impossible countertop stain, Jesus can remove every single sin stain our lives display.  Did you not save your virtue for marriage?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Were you unfaithful to your marriage?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Did you lie and cheat your way to success?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Did you catfish someone or many others?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Are you addicted to sex, drugs and/or alcohol?  Jesus can wipe those sins away too.  Do you struggle with anger, rage and unforgiveness?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Are you a womanizer or a man-hater? Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Have you attempted to fill voids with toxic relationships, loveless sex or other self destructive behaviors?  Are you addicted to pornography?  Jesus can wipe it all away.  No matter the mistakes you’ve made, the mistakes you continue to make or the mistakes you will make, Jesus’ death wiped every sin away.

You are not the stains of your mistakes. Our enemy uses our mistakes to keep us locked up in sin, despair and drudgery.  We beat ourselves up for repeating the past.  We continue to chase after dead end relationships, we argue with the toxic person in our lives and we harbor unforgiveness toward those who’ve hurt us.  We can even fall into the trap of not praying for our enemies.  We can’t enjoy the life Jesus wants for us because we can’t see past our stains.  We buy into the lies of our enemy and choose to remain stained.  We live rejected and therefore reject the love of others because we believe we are too damaged to ever be loved again.  We live like a garment so muddied it’s not even worth donating to Goodwill and ultimately ends up in the trash.

Just like cleaning that seasonal summer home takes time to clean so it goes with Jesus’ cleansing for us.  There’s no magic wand waved, there are no fingers snapped and poof we are magically cleaned.  It took three times of spraying cleaner on that countertop to completely remove the stain.  Jesus’ cleansing is a similar three-step process and it begins with confession.  1 John 1:9 states it perfectly: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  If we want to stop living like stained rejects and damaged goods, we have to be honest with Jesus and ourselves.  We have to admit our mistakes, confess how we’ve been living and confess the mindset we’ve been living in.  Very similar to an alcoholic beginning their road to sobriety by admitting they are addicted to alcohol.

The second step is forgiveness.  We have to seek His forgiveness, possibly seek others’ forgiveness, forgive ourselves and forgive those who have hurt us.  That too is not something that happens overnight or instantaneously.  Forgiveness is a lifetime practice of choosing to acknowledge the wound, let go of it and allow Jesus to heal it. Forgiveness is also about trusting Jesus to vindicate us rather than seeking out our own revenge.  I have always been one who is quick to defend myself.  One of the hardest verses I’ve had to learn to stand on is Exodus 14:14-trusting God to fight for me and choosing instead to just be still.  Forgiveness is like being on the battlefield with arrows pointed at you and choosing to stand still, unarmed, trusting that God is avenging you. No matter how badly you want to throw an arrow back, you instead, choose to lay it down.

The final step in Jesus’ cleansing process is healing.  If we want to be made clean, we have to let Jesus heal us.  That can be the most painful part of the process.  If you’re like me, you’ve let your mistakes define you to the point that it’s become your identity.  When you look in the mirror all you can see is brokenness looking back at you.  People continue to build you up but you just throw their building blocks back at them.  Being broken has become your comfort zone and being healed just feels like an open door to get hurt all over again.  But God did not make us to be a broken people.  We are His light to the world.  A broken light bulb cannot shine into others’ darkness.  It can only exude more darkness.  If you’re living in brokenness, you know too well how dark and lonely that kind of living truly is.  We attract what we are.  If we are living as damaged goods, we will attract the same mind set which only seeks us deeper into despair.  When we walk in His healing, instead of attracting more brokenness, we can become His tool in healing others.

To become His light, we have to open the wounds and allow Jesus to scrub away the stains.  Depending on how stubbornly we hold on to any specific stain will determine how uncomfortable and lengthy the process can be.  If you’ve made brokenness your comfort zone it’s going to feel like jumping off a high platform into an unknown abyss when you finally choose to let Jesus heal you.  But when you do, your light will shine again, you will be a lighthouse to someone else’s darkness and you will see Jesus as the Mr. Clean who washed you white as snow! Confess your sins, forgive yourself and others.  Close your eyes and metaphorically jump into His healing.  When you open your eyes and look into the mirror again, you will see the man or woman Jesus truly made you to be!

Love Actually

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

Do you see the man Jesus made you to be?

Or do you see who the enemy has fooled you to believe?

How do you not know that you were made for love actually?

 

When you greet an old friend what are you thinking?

Are you happy to see them or do you fear they may judge you?

When meet a new face you keep many things hidden-

Afraid of letting most see the real you.

 

When you look into the mirror what do you see?

Do you see an aging face and life enslaven?

Or do you see yourself as Jesus sees you-

A royal heir to His Kingdom of Heaven?

 

When someone shows you love, how do you feel?

Do you open your heart and receive it?

Or do you reject what doesn’t seem possible?

How do you not accept that Jesus’ love is unconditional?

 

You let your mistakes define you.

Jesus longs to let His love refine you.

You hide behind jokes and forced smiles.

You embrace a false positivity instead of a healed lifestyle.

 

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

You see a monster living with pain, regret and infidelity.

This view overrides what Jesus is showing you.

You are forgiven, accepted and loved actually.

 

When  I look at you  I see eyes that glisten

with a hope that you will be healed from this brokenness.

But your smile tells me you feel empty and lonely.

Your embrace says you fear you will never know wholeness.

 

My heart wishes I could change your view

Of yourself, your life and who you are meant to be.

But all of my efforts just get rejected

because you aren’t ready to accept love actually.

 

We love because He first loved us.

This piece of scripture means you were made for love.

The enemy longs to keep you thinking you’re a monster.

As God keeps showing you you’re worth fighting for.

 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

A man of God fully redeemed-

That is my prayer for you for 2019.

When you look in the mirror  I pray you will see

That you are a man filled with His love actually.

 

 

 

 

Rotten Bananas and Caterpillar Cocoons

I love to bake.  I’m not a great cook (I’ve even burned hard boiled eggs and that has to take a real talent to accomplish) but I love to bake.  I especially love to listen to reggae music while baking dozens of cookies at Christmas time.  I know reggae is not traditional Christmas music but listening to it in the middle of winter makes me feel like I’m on a tropical island somewhere and beaches and sunshine bring me joy and peace.

One of my favorite things to bake lately is banana bread.  I found a delightful recipe online and I enjoy adding different things from time to time to embellish it (like peanut butter chips, chocolate chips and once I drizzled it with caramel.)  Recently I added carob chips to the mix which is a great chocolate replacement.  I have to say, (and I know this sounds prideful but if you ever ate my regular cooking you would understand) adding the carob chips was hands down the best version of banana bread I have ever made.  I’m actually going to make a batch tonight for a work meeting tomorrow.

This week as I had bananas on my counter that I was awaiting to be ready to make some bread.  Anyone who has ever baked banana bread knows that bananas are “ready” for use when they’re blackened (or as I like to say, rotten.)  Banana bread is made with rotten bananas.  That doesn’t sound very appetizing and some may prefer to use the word, “ripened” but in reality, blackened bananas are rotting bananas.  Looking at those black bananas on my counter I started thinking about how something that is decaying can be transformed into something so delightfully tasty?  And the more I thought about it I thought about how God does a similar thing to all of us.  But I’ll get to that in a moment.

A few days ago I felt God speak to me about caterpillars (I actually dreamt about caterpillars transforming into butterflies.)  God spoke the words “belly crawler” to me regarding caterpillars.  In a sense, caterpillars are little belly crawlers are they not?  Most people don’t find caterpillars appealing-some are even grossed out by them.  But what happens to a caterpillar?  It forms a cocoon and eventually hatches into a delicate and spectacular butterfly. Interesting to think that God created a belly crawling creature that can morph into a majestic winged display of His beauty that soars with grace and elegance.   But you see God is a God of transformation and that’s what He put on my heart to share with you all today.

The word transformation means “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.”  Some synonyms for transformation include; “about-face”, “changeover” “radical change”, “renewal” and “transfiguration.”  A few of these words you will find in scripture also.  The most common verse on transformation is Romans 12:2 where Paul tells us to “not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Another scripture, this time using the word “renew” comes from Psalm 51:10 where David prays asking God to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Even Jesus Himself transfigured before the disciples, and “His face shone like the sun…His garments became as white as light.”  (Mathew 17:2.)

The Bible is full of stories of how God transformed lives also.  In the old testament Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely imprisoned and God transformed him into the 2nd highest leader of his country in order to save the lives of many people.  He transformed David, an underrated shepherd boy into not only the King of Judah but also a man after God’s own heart.  God transformed Job from a wealthy man to a broken man to a man who was doubly restored.  In the New Testament He transformed a tax collector into a follower of Christ (Zacchaeus-Luke chapter 19.)  Jesus also transformed Lazarus from a dead guy into a walking, talking, living, breathing miracle (John chapter 11.)  But the greatest example of transformation would be when God did an about-face in Paul, originally Saul, a man who hated Christians and was a key player in even the stoning of one of Jesus’ disciples.

Acts chapter 9 recounts the story of what happened when God moved in Saul’s life and transformed him into Paul a man who was imprisoned repeatedly for fiercely preaching God’s word.  In verse 1 Paul (actually Saul at the time) is described as “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”  That’s a man that could be described as one seriously rotten banana or evil belly crawler.  Yet God saw the potential for transformation.  Even though it took temporary blindness to get his attention, Saul converted and was transformed into Paul.  The books of Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians are just a few of the books that depict Paul’s ministry-his bold passion for serving God, the trials and tribulations he endured and his tenacity to press on even more to win souls to Christ.  The best part of Paul’s transformation when you read about him in later books of the NT you if you hadn’t known his history you would’ve never guessed he was actually an enemy of God before he converted.  That’s major transformation when God turns you into someone your past could never recognize isn’t it?

Do you believe God can do that you?  He most definitely can.  If God cares enough to use rotten bananas to make a deliciously sweet and fluffy bread, if He cares enough to transform a slimy belly crawling bug into something that is so beautiful that you want to chase after it, and if He can change a murdering Christian hater into one of His own Apostles, than He can most definitely, undoubtedly transform you.  Are you willing to let go and let Him transform you?  Are you ready to let go of your past and see yourself the way God sees you?  No matter what you’ve done or what consequences you’re facing, no matter the hardships you are dealing with right now if you look to Jesus, He will transform you, in His time and in His way.  And the you He made you to be will be unrecognizable to the old you.  He proves it in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when Paul writes, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  Don’t forget-Paul wrote this because he lived it and so can you!

Still need more evidence of God’s transformation?  Check out this testimony by Todd White:  https://youtu.be/IN7Xkl1JFZ4  My favorite part of Todd’s testimony is the fact that his daughter has no memory of the life he lived in addiction.  Only God has the power to do that!