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.”