When You Want to be Called Mara, but Your Name is Naomi–Finding Hope When You’re Feeling Empty



I’m  not arguing. Her life was hard. Her husband died, leaving her a widow. Her sons died, leaving her broken. There was famine in the land, leaving her hungry and destitute with two daughter-in-laws to care for.

Her name, Naomi, meant “pleasant,” and I believe at one time she was. The devotion of her daughter-in-laws lends itself to that conclusion. But then, the hard times hit. Then, she returned to Israel holding onto but a trace of hope.

When Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town got excited because of them, and the women asked, “Could this be Naomi?”

Had she changed that much? Did the years of hardship and heartache changes her appearance so that her friends didn’t recognize her? We don’t know. We can only imagine as Naomi responds:

 “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

There’s a lot of speculation that could be made at this point. But this we know. Naomi was not a happy camper. Her life had been flipped upside down, and no doubt, she had felt lonely, alone, and abandoned. She created a new identity, complete with a new name, to represent how she was feeling.

But here’s the thing:

Her feelings weren’t the truth. She may have felt lonely and alone, but God was still there. She may have felt abandoned, but God was by her side. She may have felt like her life wasn’t destined for bitterness. But she was wrong. In God’s eyes, she was still pleasant Naomi, not bitter Mara.

How did I come up with this? Because the only time in the book of Ruth where we see anyone calling her Mara is when she calls herself that.

Immediately after she proclaims her new name to the women of town–Can you imagine their faces at her proclamation? I have to wonder if even Ruth didn’t roll her eyes and think, “Really, mom?” (She called her mom, don’t you think?)

Immediately after her proclamation, the writer of Ruth starts the very next sentence with, “So Naomi. . . ”

“So Naomi. . . “

Those are two powerful words.

Because those two words remind us that even when we may temporarily lose sight of our identity in Christ. He does not.

And throughout the rest of the story we see words like, “So Naomi,” “Now, Naomi,” “Naomi said.”

As the story comes to a close, we see the women of the town speaking to their friend Naomi, not to a bitter woman named Mara.

Their words were filled with celebration and hope, “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. . . ”

Are you facing some hard days? Have you been tempted to let that change who you are and how you see yourself? Take heart and remember that the LORD has not left you. Hold on. Don’t give up. There is hope. The One who filled the empty Naomi with joy can do the same for you.


Ten Truths I Found Watching Old War Movies with My Dad


Due to the circumstances of life and death, I am currently living with my father. We’ve gotten ourselves a little routine going, and part of it includes watching old movies together at night. Thanks to Amazon Prime, we have a veritable plethora of old films to choose from. Our favorites are westerns and war movies from the 1940’s and 50’s. I say they are “our” favorites because although they were his favorites first, they are now becoming some of my favorites, too.

We were a military family. My dad served over twenty years in the U.S. Navy so I know a little about military life. But military life as a military kid in peaceful times is not at all the same as military life in a unit during combat.

I have a new appreciation for actors like John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda and Robert Mitchum–such grown men! They were gallant, chivalrous, tough, strong and loyal, and if you watch enough of their films a few basic themes will quickly make themselves evident.

Here are my top 10 favorites:

Truth #1: You did what you were told even if the commanding officer was wrong.

Truth #2: You held your tongue out of respect for the office, and you spoke only when you had permission to speak.

Truth #3: You gave 100% all of the time even if those around you did not.

Truth #4: You did what you could for the best outcome, yet realized you are not  responsible for the outcome.

Truth #5: You dug the foxhole together and you were in the foxhole together.

Truth #6:You took time to laugh. (And smoke alot of cigarettes!)

Truth #7: You kept your word.

Truth #8: When you fell down, you got back up. When someone else fell down, you helped them back up.

Truth #9: You cared for those you served with even at the expense of your own life.

Truth #10: You never gave up.

My dad was an example of many of these truths. I am thankful for his influence in my life, for the things he has taught me and for our time together.  Being the strong, silent type himself, I doubt he would ever sit me down and tell me these things over his cup of coffee and my Diet Coke. But in nightly choosing movies that have resonated with the traits he has valued in his lifetime, he is, in essence doing that very thing–for which I am grateful and humbled.


My dad and I while stationed in Hawaii in the early 1970’s.

Four Things I Want to Ask God

Four Thing

Lately as I’ve been reading God’s Word, I’ve found myself simplifying Scripture by breaking it down into instructions or commands. Today as I was reading Psalm 139, God stopped me at David’s “instructions” to Him in verses 23-24. Since I’ve never been super comfortable telling God what I want Him to do, (I’m not saying David was wrong there, I’m just sayin’ it’s not some place I’m goin’ at this stage in my life), I figured I would turn them into questions.

So here they are.

Four things I want to ask God every day:

1) Lord, will you search me and show me my heart? I need to know what it’s really like. Don’t let me fool myself or let pride overtake me.

2) Lord, will you test me and show me my anxious thoughts? I need to know where I’m not trusting so my faith can grow.

3) Lord, will you see if there is any offensive way in me? I’m often blind to my own faults, and I need you to open my eyes.

4) Lord, will you lead me in the way that leads to life forever with You? I never want to be without you again.

I love these. Because I know without a doubt that as I stop and ask these questions that He will always answer, “Yes.” Even if the truth may hurt a little.

Because He loves me like that–and as I sit here on my couch writing, that thought gets me smiling.

Here’s another thought that gets me smiling.

He loves you like that, too. Just ask Him!

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Cornelius and the Sweet Smell of Acts

Axe Body Spray. ‘Nuff said. It’s the stuff allergy attacks were made of. I think we would all agree the stuff smells better after a shower than as a shower, and we can only hope that the knowledge of the truth of the saying, “a little bit goes a long way,” will come someday to the boys with the over active spray bottle trigger fingers. At that time they will see that smelling sweet, and smelling sweat are not the same thing.

Transition here . . . . Today as I was reading in the book of Acts, (which is a pretty sweet book, btw) I came across Cornelius. My brain immediately began singing the Apologetix song Cornelius (check it out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBIdmUs2tew) when I started thinking that smelling sweet is not such a new concept after all. Cornelius had just the “acts” God was looking for to keep him, and us, smelling sweet. Let me explain:

Acts Chapter 10, verses 1-4 tells us simply that Cornelius was a centurion, and that he was:
2)God fearing
3)gave generously to those in need and
4)prayed to God regularly.

One day around 3pm, he had a vision and an angel came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

And Cornelius answered, “What is it, Lord?” Dontcha just love that? I sure do. I don’t know if he was answering as a centurion, almost a, “Yes, sir?” or if he was just so used to talking to God that it was simply a natural response. I like it either way.

Then the angel answers Cornelius by saying,

“Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”

Well, needless to say, I didn’t get any farther than that today. Cornelius’s ACTS were pleasing to God. They were an offering. They were a pleasant aroma before the Lord. Leviticus 2:2 talks about offerings making a “pleasing aroma to the LORD.” And Hebrews 15:15-16 tell us,

“. . . Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise,–the fruit of lips that confess His good name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased.”

And at the bottom of my journal page today, I wrote, “It’s really this simple.” Commitment. Respect. Generosity. Relationship. With God. For God.

Simple truths. Pleasing aromas. And although a little Axe can make a guy smell sweet, the Acts of God’s people, coming from the heart as they live for Him are truly sweet smelling, indeed.

Teaching this truth to your kids? Get together several items, or body sprays, with different smells–some good, some not so good. Don’t forget the Axe. With older kids you can even talk about how they sometimes do a smell check!! Let the kids talk about which smell good and which don’t. Then share the story of Cornelius helping kids to see that everything we do is an offering before God challenging them to do a quick check to see how they are smelling spiritually.

I Can Only Imagine

The St. Louis City Museum is simply a rare treasure of a place, and I think it becomes even more so when you are blessed enough to spend the day there with some of your favorite 6th graders in the world. Just last week, my husband and I took some of our Cross Country students (cross country as in Jesus and the cross, not as in running long distances, something I am not prone to do) on a trip from our home church in Iowa to St Louis. It was a toss up between the zoo and the museum to be determined by the Lord’s determination of the day’s weather. We didn’t know until that day exactly what the weather would be, and so we waited with anticipation for what was to come. And when the Lord determined to bring rain, we determined to hit the museum.

It turned out to be a great choice since none of our kids had been there before, but even more so because at the heart of the St. Louis City Museum is the fact that everything in it once resided somewhere else. Most of it in St. Louis (hence the name). Everything had been recycled, reworked, retooled, repainted, etc. and the old became new again. It really is a work to see how they’ve intertwined all this stuff into something incredible, and somehow fitting it together in a glorious harmony–the slides, the caves, the crawling places, the sculpture, the bank vault, the . . .well you get the picture.

I usually like to do a little something “spiritual” on our trips, y’know a devotion, or a talk or something. But this trip, our last one before the kids moved up to jr high student ministry, was just a trip. Nothing spiritual planned, just a day to enjoy ourselves together–or so I thought. Because as we headed home, I couldn’t help but hear the Holy Spirit saying to me,

“You are just like the stuff in the museum. You had an old way of life, an old way of living, but the Father has taken you and restored you. He’s cleaned you up, polished your heart, and set you in place together with others who have surrendered themselves to His workmanship. He’s put you together for a greater purpose, individual yet intertwined and complete again when together with others who have been renewed.”

And I couldn’t help but smile. Because He was right. (Well, of course He was, He’s the Holy Spirit.) But He made it so simple to see. Each piece of the museum if left in its rusted, broken down original condition would have been worth little, but at the touch of the master’s hand, value was restored and something amazing created. And we are just like that, and for that I am thankful.Then I thought about “my” 6th graders. As He takes their lives into His hands, I can’t wait to see what He will do with them–how He will rework them, retool them, and carefully place them within His grand scheme for His glory to do the good works He has planned for them. I can only imagine. . . and wait with anticipation for the things that are to come.

And so it was a spiritual trip after all. Thank you, Jesus!

2 Corinthians 5:17 therefore if anyone is in Christ. He is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. . . Or Can I?????

Almost two years ago I began reading through the Old Testament–in reverse. Somehow or other I meant to start rereading the New Testament, but found myself caught up in Malachi. From there, I moved on to Zechariah and then just got it in my head to start at the end and work my way to the Genesis!!

My method, desribed in a previous post, 20 minutes with Jesus, explains my slow trek. Every day I read a passage from Old Testament, one from the New and a Psalm. However, when I read, I read just until I sense God stopping me for something I need to see, see again, think over, etc. At that point, I write down what it is I believe God wants me to see and work to apply these things to my life, teaching and leadership. It’s a slow ride for sure, but well worth the time.

This May, I’ve found myself in Ecclesiastes. A book I know I have skimmed through before, but have never really settled down and spent any quality time in. So the things that I’m seeing this time are pretty eye opening to me. Hats off to any of you who are Ecclesiastical scholars, because I have to say, this book has some real treasures in it. Which of course, you who are scholars already know!

Pretty much the author, some say it’s Solomon, some say it’s not. . . .can’t get no satisfaction. Everything is a “meaningless” or a “chasing after the wind.” And he’s tried, and he’s tried, and he’s tried. . . .but he can’t get no . . .satisfaction.

Seriously, it’s so fitting for today. How many people do you know who are just never satisfied? We evaluate and evaluate and evaluate. We measure our successes by the guy next store’s successes, by the size of our bank accounts, our jobs, styles of our vehicles, and BMI. But Solomon (or not) brings us back to the truth that we can indeed get satisfaction when God is the center of our lives.

I love chapter 3, verses 12-14 where it says,

“I know that there is nothing etter for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaciton in all his toil–this is a gift from God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him.”

Can’t get no satisfaction? Yes, you can. Look to Jesus. It’s a simple as that. Whatever He does will last. Finding satisfaction is a gift from Him. Whether it’s work, or laundry, or traffic, or finances, or health, or whatever, you can find satisfaction when you begin to acknowledge and understand that we live and move and breathe and have our being because of Christ’s rule and reign, power and control, salvation and deliverance in our lives. To know that we have been given each day as a gift of life, when if fact, we deserve death and that we can live each one for Him so that men will revere Him is satisfaction guaranteed. Anything else is like, well, like a rolling stone.

No Cause for Alarm

The text began with the words, “Hey Mom, no cause for alarm, but I’m in the hospital.” Ohhhh Kayyyyyy. Followed by something like, “I won’t be able to put money on my phone from here, but someone will message you.” Two hours later a following text asks, “Am I immunized for diptheria?” Ohhhh Kayyyyyy. No cause for alarm though, Mom, even though I’m across the world in another country where, by the way, I moved without ever giving you my complete phone number!

He’s still in that hospital, but he’s doing better. He doesn’t have diptheria, and I can’t say that I was ever alarmed–concerned, but not alarmed. During the course of the week, the words of his text kept coming back to my mind. They made me smile. It sounded just like him, and his words were certainly reassuring. I was also working on a new HiSKidZ lesson–a lesson that would take us through the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. A lesson that would be teaching HiSKidZ that “Whatever happens, remember what Jesus promised.”

Jesus’ disciples experienced some pretty awesome stuff: miraculous meals, spit in the mud healings, and waking of the dead, as well as some pretty scarry stuff like the death threats, Jesus’ arrest and the trial and crucifiction that followed. Ultimately, we know Jesus tried to explain all that would happen, but the disciples just weren’t able to grasp it. We also know that Jesus was trying to prepare them that some pretty crazy things were going to be happening and that whatever happened, there would be “no cause for alarm.”

“No cause for alarm” because Jesus’ arrest was part of the plan. “No cause for alarm” because His death was part of the plan, too. “No cause for alarm” because with His plan His body wouldn’t stay in the tomb. “No cause for alarm” because His plan included leaving them the Holy Spirit. “No cause for alarm,” because His plan promises that He’s coming back again. “No cause for alarm” because He’s God and we can trust Him and His ultimate plan–whatever happens.

Looking back and looking forward, because of my son’s text, God reminded me that no matter what happens, the One who came to save us has a great plan for His great glory. So, no matter what it is we are facing, we can have rest, we can be at peace and we can trust Him no matter what with “no cause for alarm.”

Puttin On a Few Extra Pounds

Today is one of those days you just gotta love. You’re just reading along in your Bible, or a Bible, or your tablet or your app, or whatever it is you use and KAPOW! you see something you never saw before! Today that thing had to do with pounds! Now, thankfully they were not pounds as in the kind I tend to put on and take off on a continuous cycle. Nope, these were pounds of spices.

My New Testament readings have me strolling through the book of John, and I absotootinlutely love that I have hit the Easter story section right as we are moving into the Easter season!!! Although it seems as though most days my brain hasn’t really been learning any new facts, my heart has been learning a ton. But today, well, today, that’s all changed. Because today I saw something I had never noticed before. . . . .


Yeah, seventy-five pounds, and some translations say one hundred!!! Either way, that’s a whole lot of spices! Nicodemas and Joseph of Arimathea were hauling them them to to the tomb after Jesus’ death. You might remember that J.O.A had been a secret disciple of Jesus, and ole Nick at Night, well he didn’t really want anyone knowing he had questions about all this born again stuff either. But here they were, the two of them, wth Pilate’s permission, using their own resources to take Jesus’ body, place it in a tomb and begin to prepare it for burial.

Now, no matter how you shake it, 75 pounds is a lot of anything to carry around. And yet, these once secret followers, are headed right out of town carrying the spices and cloths necessary to lay Jesus to rest–but this would be no permanent rest. We all know that He was just going to be resting for a few days before He would, in His mighty power, rise from the dead, folding up His dirty laundry and rollin that rock like it had never been rolled before.

And the interesting question is, “Why in the word did they need so many spices?” Well, they didn’t. Not really. Some experts believe that may have been enough spices to bury up to 200 people. But. . . .and this is a big but. . . .if you were somebody important, somebody special, somebody of royalty, like maybe a king, then you got a lot of spices. Sometimes 75-100 pounds of spices!!!! How cool is that?!

I love that they got it! Nick and Joe got it! They knew He was King. They knew He was the Messiah, and what’s more, they responded accordingly with their hearts, time and resources. Although they didn’t exactly know how, I believe they knew they would be seeing Him again. My prayer today from this 75 pound nugget of Scripture is that I would live my life, and that you would live yours, in the same manner. Like Joseph of Arimathea and the infamous Nicodemus, once we figure out for ourselves who Jesus is, that we would respond to that truth with all of our heart, our time and our resources every day until we see Him again.

That Guy

“That guy.” The very words bring to mind for most of us the “that guy” in our lives. You know–“that guy” who is always doing something inappropriate. “That guy” who says the wrong thing. “That guy” who drives everyone crazy. “That guy” who, when we see him coming, makes us wish we hadn’t rescheduled that root canal appointment.

There was a time when it wasn’t a bad thing to be “that guy.” “That guy” was the most popular guy. “That guy” was the one you could count on to help out. “That guy” was the one with character and honor and valor and all things good. “That guy” was the one you wanted to be doing your root canal for you!

As I read through the Bible I can’t help but think that Jesus was the ultimate “that guy.” In the gospels, He’s both sides of the the “that guy” coin to two very different groups of people, and He knew it. Just this morning I was reading John’s account of Jesus being arrested. Along comes a detachment of soldiers and some officials carrying torches, lanterns and weapons, when Jesus steps up and asks them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazarath,” is their reply.

“I’m that guy,” Jesus replies. OK, so he really said, “I AM He,” but He could have said it another way if He had wanted. There it is. He owns it. He’s “that guy”. He’s the guy. He’s their guy. He says it, and an amazing thing happens. The Bible tells us,

they drew back and feel to the ground

Woah! Definately not the response any average guy would ever get. Jesus doesn’t seem to make a big deal about their response. He just asks them again, “Who is it you want?”

And again they reply, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

And Jesus says, “I told you, I’m “that guy”. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” (The disciples happened to be with him at that time.) Peter does his own “that guy” thing with his, “Hey this is getting out of control, I better grab a sword and attack the high priest’s servant, chopping off his ear” move.

Jesus, of course, tells Peter to put the sword away and puts the ear back on adding to his list of “that guy” stats, ear putter back onner!!!

The soldiers arrested Jesus. They bound Him. They brought Him before the authorities. The same authorities that saw Him as their “that guy.” “That guy” who the people love and are following. That guy” who is hanging out with the “that guys” of their time. “That guy” who is doing miracles. “That guy” who claims to be God. “That guy” who teaches like nobody’s business. “That guy” who is shaking things up. “That guy” who everytime they see Him drives them crazy with anger, jealousy, indignance, frustration, and rage. “That guy” who they decided they needed to get rid of. “That guy” they were willing to frame, lie about, to trump up charges for, and “that guy” they were willing to crucify.

Jesus was “that guy” to the religous leaders of His day. But he was also the other “that guy” to many of the people of His day as well. Because He was “that guy” who turned water into wine, “that guy” who raised a dead man from a tomb, “that guy” who fed thousands, “that guy” who told them things about themselves no one should have known. He was “that guy” who loved them regardless of their past, and “that guy” who was showing them a whole new way to live for their futures. He was “that guy” who although crucified, overcame death, was raised to life, and was found to be unstoppable no matter how hard they tried to stop him, and He is still “that guy” today.

Don’t you just love it when someone asks you how your life was so radically changed from who you once were to who you are today? Don’t you love even more that you can point to Jesus and say with all your heart, “Who me? I’m changed because of “that guy,” and “that guy” can change your life, too.” Because “that guy” is Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Savior, Messiah, Redeemer and Friend. If you don’t know Him yet, you can just ask “this girl,” and I would be honored to introduce you.

Twenty Minutes With Jesus

20 minutes

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. . . since beginning this blog, several people have asked me where the ideas are coming from. Pretty much from the time of my day I call “Twenty Minutes With Jesus.” I understand that to many people twenty minutes with Jesus doesn’t sound very spiritual, I mean, why not thirty minutes? Why not an hour? Really, Dawn, all you’re going to give Jesus is 20 minutes a day? Well, kind of. I mean it’s my goal to give Him every minute, every second, every thought, action, motive and prayer. But I need some time in my day to just sit with Him and listen and learn from Him, and so several years ago I adapted a journaling and personal Bible reading plan from Dean Trune of Intentional Impact Ministries. It has become my “Twenty Minutes with Jesus” journal.

In my last post I talked about the whole being versus doing thing. I certainly battle that (most of us do, I think). I have to be very careful to make time to remember to cling to the sitting at Jesus’ feet Mary, while still embracing the passion and energy of my Martha personality.Yes, I tend to lean a bit towards the Martha side of the scale. (And yes, by a bit I mean try imagining Martha with a giant magnet and me wearing a metal suit!!)

But how does balance happen? How do we really overcome? We all know it needs to happen, but how does the “extreme spiritual home makeover” really happen? As I began to write this post, I wound up chatting with a friend on Facebook about this very topic. In regard to my life, I found myself typing out these words, “I finally figured out that I just wanted to be: to be the woman He wanted me to be, the wife He wanted me to be, the mom He wanted me to be. Once I got that down, the rest started falling into place.”

And I think that really sums it up. I finally saw what I needed, and just wanted it. When I wanted it, then God honored it by providing me this little method which took just twenty minutes. I think He knew that’s all I was ready for! In its simplicity, I still rarely allow myself to spend more than twenty minutes. I found that for my basic time with the Lord, if I didn’t limit it, I became the Martha of Bible study to the point where I wouldn’t or felt I couldn’t continue on. Since getting my twenty minute time down, I’ve added things like blogs, books, podcasts, conferences, my recent date with God, etc. at other times to draw me near and to build and enhance my relationship with the God I love and who loves me in return.

Basically for me, Twenty Minutes with Jesus works something like this.

1–Each day I begin by reading a Psalm. From that Psalm I write down any character qualities of God I see. For example, I may write, “You are faithful, you are king, your love is unfailing. . . .”

2–When I finish that I move on to Prayer Requests Usually these requests are personal, (I keep a separate prayer journal for other needs) based on the character qualities of God I desire to have built into my life or my family and for other specific needs as God leads. I usually limit this to four or five requests.

3–Then, I head into my Bible reading for the day. Currently, I’m in Isaiah. I’ve been here for a while–quite a while!! I’m good with that. I’ve learned spiritual transformation isn’t a race. I never set a particular amount of scripture to read each day, I just read until I feel God stops me by showing me something I’ve never seen before or something I need to consider, something that challenges me, or something I need to repent of.

4–After reading, I jot down what the Scripture is saying and what I need to learn from that. Again, I don’t write a ton, I just write enough so that I don’t forget what God is teaching me.

5–I’m almost done when I consider areas of spiritual warfare and repentance. These are most often in areas of character like impatience, pride, worry or self control.

6–I finish up with a quick reading from the New Testament and some notes on what I need to do as a result of all God has shown me. It may be to make a call, send a note, follow up with someone, work to make something right, or do some extra study.

On Sunday, my biggest working/teaching day at church, I will try to take time to look over the past week to see what God has been saying to me, or teaching me or where He may be leading me. Since the Mary thing isn’t always natural to me, I still have to take care that I don’t allow myself to have been so busy doing for God that I forgot what I learned sitting at His feet.

And as the years are going by, I find these twenty minutes a day to be the moments I crave most, I long for, and I cling to because it’s been during this time that He has shown me, clearly, not only who He is but who He wants me to be. And everyday, as I come to know more and more who I am in Christ, I come to know with confidence what it is He wants me to do. And all that in just Twenty Minutes a Day. . . .with Jesus!!