Posts Tagged ‘Mother’s Day’

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Here is most of the message I preached at Resonate Church on Mother’s Day, 2013: 

Before my mom was born, she had the RH factor. The RH factor meant that your blood type was incompatible with your mother’s blood. These days we have treatment for it, but in those days treatment was risky. So there was a good chance that my mom would have been born with serious brain damage as she was being born. The doctors encouraged my grandmother to have an abortion. Not only was her daughter’s life in danger, her own health was also at risk. My grandmother (Marlene) flatly refused the abortion. She bravely said, “I will never kill my baby.” There was a doctor who had been experimenting with blood transfusions at birth and he performed the procedure on my mother and she was born a healthy little baby girl. However, my grandmother had many other health issues and remained in the hospital for two years after my mother was born. See, my grandmother was a woman of courage and a believer, but she was a woman who had experienced many setbacks in her life. She was a little like the mother in this story, the story of Naomi and her daughter in law, Ruth. 

So we’re going to be exploring the story of Ruth and Naomi. It would be hard to find a more depressing start to a story. It goes like this: A Jewish lady Naomi has two sons and then they marry two wonderful women. Naomi is a blessed woman. Something you need to understand about this culture is that a woman who has sons is considered more blessed than a woman who has daughters. Basically, the mother in law rules over her daughters in-law until she dies and then the daughter gets to do the same thing to her daughter in law if her son happens to marry. Naomi is the matriarch of the family and she has earned this honor by having sons. So Naomi enjoys this honor and security for 10 solid years. Two sons afforded her the ability to live a long life because they would provide for her needs as she aged. There was no social security or retirement plans. Naomi had to depend on the men in her family to provide. Tragically, in two little verses, Naomi’s world is turned upside down. 

Chapter 1, vs 3-5

Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion (her sons) also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. 

So, Naomi has lost everything dearest to her. And verse one tells us that there is a famine in the land, so this is not a good situation for Naomi. The only hope for orphans and widows in those days was to go out into the fields and after the harvesters had picked off all the grain, they could come behind them and pick up the scraps. It would be almost like if our bussers in our restaurants could get paid only by eating the scraps left over from people’s dinners. That was how people survived and didn’t starve. 

Well, in a famine, as you can image, people are starving and things could get ugly in those fields, especially for a poor defenseless old woman. Naomi knew her fate and she is kind enough not to wish that fate on her young daughters in law. She encourages them to do the sensible thing and go on without her. Their best bet would be to find new husbands so that they could be provided for and so that they could hopefully have sons who would take care of them in their old age. 

She encourages them to go back to their own people. So Orpah does leave for her homeland, even though her goodbye is tearful. She goes back to her hometown to try to find a husband and we never hear from her again. She returns to her people and her gods, her old way of life. She sees no other way and neither does Naomi. The Jewish God and the Jewish way of life will only be a distant memory for her. 

But Ruth is different. See, when she married into this family, she made a vow, but it was not just to her husband. She made a vow to serve this Jewish God, to be loyal to all the members of her household, even unto death. This Ruth was hard core! She was a Jew in her heart and nothing could change that. She would not allow it.

Do you ever feel like life has afforded you no choices? That you cannot afford to life the way God wants you to live? Maybe you tell yourself, I know I’m not supposed to, but God knows I can’t afford to live by myself, so I’ve got to live with my boyfriend. I don’t have a choice. Or maybe you make morally questionable choices to get ahead at work, thinking you have no choice. Many people have done crazy stupid things in life because they felt that they were out of options. One thing we see from this story, you always have a choice. 

Orpah felt that she had no choice. She left Israel with tears. She didn’t want to do it, but felt she had no choice but to go back to her old life and her old gods. And Naomi agreed with her. Naomi was in such a state of despair that she could not believe that there was a better way. 

Check out what she said to her daughters in law in the second part of vs. 13

“It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me.” 

Then, after Naomi goes back to where she grew up, her friends see her and they think, can this be you? She says this to them, down in vs. 20,

“Don’t call me Naomi (which means pleasant), call me Mara (which means bitter) because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me (or testified against me); the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the climate in Naomi’s life. It was bitterness and utter hopelessness. Remember how I said that Moms set the tone for the family? Naomi and Ruth were now a two person family and it must have been hard for Ruth not to sink into the depths of despair right along with her. 

I think if I were Ruth, I might have taken offense at my mother in law telling everyone she came back empty. I would think, “Hey, Mom, you still got me! What am I? Chopped liver? Don’t I bring any joy into your life? Don’t I count for something?” 

 Have you ever tried to comfort someone who won’t be comforted? It is one of the most powerless feelings, isn’t it?

I want to continue the story of my grandmother Marlene and my mom, Cathy. So, I told you that Marlene was in the hospital for two years after my mom was born. This did not create the greatest bonding experience for my mom with her mother. She called the nanny “Mama” and when Marlene finally did come home, she remembers thinking, “Who is this woman that my dad is kissing?” This mother and daughter were going to have a hard road ahead. The stresses of life overwhelmed my grandmother. She became addicted to pain killers and spent most of her time in bed. She never taught my mom how to dress or wear makeup or how to drive. Marlene’s marriage didn’t last and my mom found herself sort of parenting her own mother because she had no choice. Marlene was no longer seeing things from a clear perspective. She was depressed and she didn’t have any hope. Like Ruth’s climate with Naomi, the climate around my mom was a stormy one. 

One day when my mom was 16, she found her mom had been drunk. Out of anger and resentment, she said, “This is your fault!” At that moment my mom had some choices. She could have believed that it was her fault and wallowed in self loathing, or she could have rejected her mother’s words but lived a life of resentment and bitterness. 

I want to show you the first thing that my mom and Ruth were able to do that is so important when we experience stormy weather: 

1. Assess the Climate

We are all affected by life situations. We need to be able to quickly assess the spiritual temperature of our environments. So, if you go to work and you sense something in the air you can say, “A thermometer says, the temperature is 50 degrees.” A spiritual thermometer can say, “It feels like depression in here.”

We need to remember that the information a thermometer supplies is very valuable. It tells us what kind of clothing we need and prepares us to face the elements. Well, knowing the spiritual climate around us causes us to be prepared and handle each situation more wisely. 

Notice that Ruth does not chastise her mother for being bitter and feeling pain, even though it may have hurt her. She knows that would not be a wise course of action in a climate of misery. Just like it’s not wise to wear bald tires on the ice, it’s not wise to chastise an already embittered and hopeless person.

We also need different types of protection in different climates, don’t we? Just like we wear clothing to discourage the biting wind from giving us frostbite, so we can protect ourselves from a toxic environment. When we leave ourselves open to the elements, we can get seriously wounded. 

So, what is Ruth’s response? Does she allow her mother in law to take her down into the pit of despair? Does she believe what Naomi says, that the Lord has abandoned them, the the Lord must have rejected them? No, she doesn’t dwell on Naomi’s words. Instead she protects herself from them.

Not only does she protect herself, but she choses to change her environment.

2. Impact the Climate 

 Some of us are great thermometers. We can easily read a room and know how to protect ourselves. But so few of us go to the next level. Instead of merely being spiritual thermometers, we can become spiritual thermostats. You see, a thermostat can also read a room accurately, but a thermostat has the power to change the temperature in a room. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you have been given the power to begin to change your spiritual environment. 

Ruth 2:2

And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 

Ruth took a small step toward hope. And it was a brave one at that. She could have been abused or even killed, but she took the chance.  

The first thing Ruth decided to do instead of naval gazing, was that she looked around her and found something to do. When you make a choice to get moving and doing something proactive in your life, even if it is nothing more than getting dressed when you are feeling like staying in bed all day, you are making a choice to change the climate in your life.

Do you have areas in your life that need a climate change? If you’ve felt powerless to effect that change, take the power of the Holy Spirit and begin releasing life into your environment. Change your thinking. Change your words. Change your actions. Instead of merely protecting yourself from the weather, begin to make your own weather. Even if you don’t feel like doing it, you will notice that the climate around you will begin to change.

Inevitably, it will begin to affect others. 

When we move toward hope we also do this, our third point. 

3. Forecast Hope for Others

When Ruth steps onto that harvest field she finds a climate of hope. 

Look at verse 4 in Chapter 2: 

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they answered.

What would you think if your boss gave you a greeting like this when you came to work in the morning? And can you imagine everyone repeating blessing back to the boss at your workplace? 

This was a radical climate of blessing and hope that Boaz had created in his fields. Blessing was going back and forth everywhere. They were like spiritual rainbows of promise. This is the kind of company I’d want to work for! So, when Ruth encountered this gracious man and his workers, she immediately receives a verbal blessing, a forecast of hope. 

She goes back and simply reports the forecast of hope to her mother, Naomi. Naomi responds by radically changing her climate. Instantly, she goes from seeing God as a source of bitterness, she now begins to see God’s hand of kindness in her life.

But it never would have happened if Ruth hadn’t taken that forecast of hope and brought it to Naomi’s ears.

What kinds of messages are reaching your ears? Are you putting yourself in a position to hear a forecast of hope? This is a good place to get it right here at Resonate Church. And what are you doing with the forecast? Are you keeping it to yourself, or are you forecasting hope in the lives of others?When Ruth takes the tiniest steps towards changing her climate, she immediately runs into favor. Immediately Boaz notices her and is drawn to her. When you make a choice to change your climate, you will immediately attract other climate changers. You will stand out in a crowd. (Read the rest of the story. It is incredible.) From this point on she is thrust her into the destiny God had for her. Not only is she well taken care of, but she is honored to be Jesus’s great, great, ….. Grandmother. 

Now the story doesn’t end with the evil stepmother cast into the night, no, God is bigger than that. Naomi isn’t evil: she is hurt and depressed. Just like my grandmother was. She could not find her way, she could not see the light.

When we are able to choose hope, all the people who are connected to us get to bask in the sun of that hope. You may have people in your family or close friends who are bitter and disillusioned. You have a choice. You can become bitter and disillusioned right along with them. Or you can choose to reach for hope. You can choose to be a thermostat for change instead of merely a thermometer who accepts things as they are. You can choose to start with one small act of faith. There are people whose only connection to any sort of hope is you. You may not think what you do matters to them, but it does.

At one time Naomi was Ruth’s only link to the God of Israel. Now Ruth is Naomi’s only link to hope and to a future. In the same way, my grandmother’s courage was the only way my mom would have been born. Later in life, my mom had to be the strong one. My mom had to choose a different climate.

Your attitude toward your life circumstances can mean the difference between life or death for someone else. I know that’s a lot of pressure, but I can’t help it. It’s true. Your life will either lift others up or bring others down. There is no getting around it. Without Ruth, Naomi would have probably died in her bitterness. How many will die in their mess without your simple act of faith? We will probably never know. But we can look out into the fields around us and simply move toward something.

One more interesting tidbit that will give you insight into this story. Do you know who Boaz’ mother was? Matthew 1:5 tells us it was Rehab, the prostitute, back in Joshua’s day. Rehab was the one who was in Canaan before Joshua and his army took the land. She was on the wrong side of the war, but at the last minute, she risked it all to be on the right side of the war, on the side of Israel’s God. Not only was she saved from death, but she was adopted into the family of God. 

Boaz must have seen the unusual fire of faith in the eyes of Ruth that he saw in his own mother, Rehab. Both Ruth and Rehab were foreign women without a shred of social standing in the Jewish community. Both were women who said essentially, “I’d rather be a slave in the house of the true God than be an honored woman in the house of all my foreign gods. I’d rather let go of all that I have if I can just be a part of this family and serve this God.” It proves that even if you have no connection, no possible way of having a good life, all it takes is one step, one choice to change your climate forever.

Ok, so one more story about my mom. You’re gonna like this one. So my mom is living with Marlene at the time she was dating my dad. They had just come home from a date and Marlene was knocked out from her usual dose of prescription drugs, passed out in the other room. When a man came into their room and began to threaten my mom and dad. My mom thought she saw a knife flash in his pocket. My dad tried to defend them, but the man had managed to get ahold of my dad by his shirt and had him pinned against the wall. He reared back and was about to punch. My mom, who had spent time getting to know God, time learning about him in church, and time exposing herself to a different climate, all of a sudden spoke up with boldness and authority she had never before experienced. She said, “In the name of Jesus, you can’t hurt this man.” Just then the man swung his fist at my day’s face. His hand stopped just in front of my dad’s face and he shook his hand as though he was hurt. He tried it a second time and he shook his hand. Then my dad punched him in the jaw and he ran away. 

My mom, who was living in a depressing environment, void of power, was able to overcome her climate. She was able to be a thermostat instead of just a thermometer. She was able to speak into the spiritual realm and make an impact. And in so doing, she was able to profoundly impact those she loved most.

After I told my mom I’d be sharing this story today, she realized that it was on Mother’s Day during a time of worship in church, that they Lord miraculously healed her from all the emotional scars from her mom. Today it will be 14 years from this Mother’s Day that my mom was healed. Today, God can do the same thing for you. He is available for you to heal you and make you whole so that he can graduate you to the next season of your life. You will no longer be merely a thermometer, but a thermostat to change your environment. 

 

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