Waiting

I don’t think there’s anyone who enjoys waiting. Some people may not mind it, others may be good at it, but no one has ever said, “You know what I really want to do today? I’d love to wait.”

I do think a small part of our issue with waiting these days is that we hardly ever have to be patient. Regardless, the phrase “waiting room” makes me exhausted. When I think of standing in line, I can almost hear the sighs and complaints, my own voice among them. I say, “I can’t wait!” a lot when I’m excited about something, not because I can’t but because I really hate that I have to.

But this is what Jesus wanted the apostles to do after His resurrection. He came to them multiple times and ways over 40 days to prove to them that He was, in fact, alive. “Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit'” (Acts 1:4-5, NLT).

The apostles are told to wait. They know the Holy Spirit is coming, but they don’t really know what that means, and they don’t exactly know when it’ll happen. All they know is that they have to wait.

In Psalm 27, David is rejoicing in his salvation, declaring God’s power and love, and he ends with saying in verse 14 (NLT), “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” In a Psalm that is ultimately about trusting in God, David advises to wait.

This is similar to Isaiah 40:31. The KJV translation of this verse says “they that wait upon the Lord” will have renewed strength, rise, not tire. The NRSV says “those who wait for the Lord….” The NIV reads “those who hope in the Lord….” And the NLT reads “those who trust in the Lord….” This demonstrates that waiting on God is interchangeable with hoping in Him and trusting in Him.

So that is what we must do. God wants us to be ready for our blessings or our next steps, so until we are, we have to wait. Our hope for our lives and futures are not misplaced if they are in Him, who renews who our hope and makes it a gift and a reality.

We are to trust in Him because there is none more worthy of our trust. No one loves us more, and in loving us the most, God gives us the best. We may not be ready for it when we want it, but if we continue to grow in Him and pursue what He wants of us and for us, we will be waiting actively, and the best that He wants for us will eventually be ours.

The next step for the apostles and the Church was the Holy Spirit. But the time for it was not while Jesus was here on Earth with them.

I’ve always felt bad for the apostles because they’re the only ones who had the truest pleasure of knowing Jesus and had to live without Him between His ascension and the Holy Spirit’s arrival. But those few days of waiting prepared them for the Holy Spirit. The waiting made them ready.

I don’t know what your next step is. I don’t know what blessing you’re looking for. I do know, though, that waiting is both difficult and worthwhile. Your better days are coming. Your rescue is coming. New mercies are coming. A new season is coming. Deeper faith is coming. You’ll be ready when it comes if you continue to strengthen your relationship with God in the meantime. His love will see to it. You just have to wait.

By Carrie Prevette

Searching

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?'” (Luke 24:1-5, ESV).

What an excellent question. Why do we look for life among death?

It wasn’t just these ladies who went to the tomb. We all do it. We look for answers, for meaning, for life, and we always look first in places that only bring death.

We look to money. Maybe we think, in a roundabout way, that we can buy our way into heaven by giving a lot of money in tithes or to charities. At the very least, we think it’ll provide us with enough happiness and opportunities down here that we’ll be considered blessed, that others will envy us. Maybe that’s true, but those blessings pale in the light of God’s love and blessings.

Success won’t earn us a place in heaven either. It’s not like there’s an all-star team that God selects only the best for. We all want to be successful in our own ways, by our own definitions, at our own things, and we think that will afford us a lot. Contentment, inner peace, the affection of others. But success doesn’t fulfill us. Only God does.

We turn to other people. We put friends, spouses, celebrities, other humans on pedistals and expect that sort of love to give us what we’re looking for. We long for their attention and strive to make them happy, often hoping they’ll have this same love for us. That is a kind of love, but not a redeeming love. It’ll provide no enduring sense of salvation for us, let alone actual salvation. For that we need the love of God.

We try all these things and so many more, but they’ll always end in death. None of them provide us with life or life everlasting. We’re all searching, but unless we’re searching within God, we’re looking for life among the dead.

The gateway to God, this ability to search Him for whatever we’re looking for is possible because Jesus wasn’t there when the women came to His tomb that day. “‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen…'” (Luke 24:5-6, ESV).

He had risen, and He still is risen. He’s alive to give us life, to give us all the things we search this world over for. If we’re looking for life, we should look where there is life, and as the empty tomb tells us, that is Jesus.

By Carrie Prevette

Redemption and Reward

My dad taught me how to play Crazy Eights when I was a kid (think early double digits, not child prodigy). I learned later that the version I know, which my dad learned when he was out in California, is vastly different than the version North Carolinians know and play.

Anyway, I’m actually pretty good at it. I could even beat my dad about half the time. I can’t beat my brother at a lot of things, but I beat him pretty consistently at Crazy Eights. And at the risk of him reading this post and using this information to somehow remove me from my Crazy Eights throne, I’ll tell you my secret.

My secret is that I play crazy. I keep the game twisting and turning as often as my hand will allow me. For example, let’s say we’ve been playing spades and a competitor lays down a three of spades. Let’s also say I have a seven of spades in my hand and a three of hearts. I’ll play the three and change the suit. (Note: this may also depend on whether I have any special spade cards that could skip the next person or make the person draw cards. It also depends on whether someone’s getting ready to run out of cards.)

Relatively seldom does this affect me negatively. I can usually manage to keep manipulating the game in my favor. There’s a lot of other variables – I could play into my competitor’s hand or have to draw several cards, both of which have happened plenty of times – but it mostly helps me control the game by making it seem like I have very little control.

I like to think it was a mentality similar to this that Boaz had when he met with Ruth’s kinsman redeemer at the beginning of chapter four.

The two met at the town gates amongst the town leaders. Boaz mentions the land of Elimelech’s that Naomi is selling first and asks if the man is interested in buying it.

Of course he would be, and Boaz knew that. Who would turn down land when it could earn them money? Not a very helpful card in Boaz’s hand. Boaz was an honest man, so he would’ve played this awful card even if he didn’t have to. However, he did have to since he had to be completely transparent in front of the town leaders. He had to be rid of all his cards at the end of the game and wouldn’t want to get caught cheating.

Boaz played his bad cards first so that when he played his best card, the game would be over.

“Then Boaz told him, ‘Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family'” (Ruth 4:5, NLT).

This is so brilliant and coy of Boaz because all he’s doing is stating facts, but he’s doing it in a way that will deter the potential redeemer. First, he includes the fact that Ruth is a Moabite. Boaz isn’t holding this against her nor is he using it against her. But the fact remains that we don’t know how the other relative felt about foreigners, and we don’t know if Boaz knows either. It’s possible he includes this detail simply in the spirit of honesty, but it’s also possible that he included it to make the man not want to marry Ruth so that Boaz could.

The second reason is one that I had never realized until Sunday. Boaz gives the scenario of Ruth having kids with this man, kids who would inherit Elimelech’s land, taking land from this guy’s other kids. In doing this, Boaz plays on the man’s desire for the land. However, this scenario seems unlikely as Ruth was barren. She’d been married for ten years and not had a single child. Now, this guy didn’t know this, otherwise he would’ve called Boaz’s bluff. He would’ve countered his card and could’ve married Ruth and won.

But he didn’t know. “Then I can’t redeem it,’ the family redeemer replied, ‘because this might endanger my own estate. You redeem the land; I cannot do it'” (Ruth 4:6, NLT).

Boaz married Ruth and redeems the land. The story could end there, and we could talk about how blessed Ruth was. She went from being a foreign widow gathering grain to the wife of the man who owns the land. She endured.

God didn’t want Ruth’s story to end there, though. Ruth had a child, Obed, who was David’s grandfather and part of Jesus’ lineage. God redeemed Ruth and through her was a path to our own redemption.

We do not earn our redemption with God. It does not come to us in degrees and levels. It’s something God offers to all of us, and all we have to do is tell Him we want it. Because through redemption, we receive God’s grace, mercy, peace, joy, and hope. We are benefitted by Him, but He is our grand reward.

By Carrie Prevette

Great Risk

I had a writing professor who told my class that when she started getting rejection letters from publishing companies for her writing, she used the letters to decorate her bathroom walls.

Because being rejected isn’t fun. Being vulnerable isn’t fun.

Being vulnerable is a part of being a writer. We spend time with the words and characters and images, and when we present the stories they make, we present part of ourselves. Criticism isn’t fun either, but it’s welcomed because it lets us know there’s potential, that there’s at least a good start. Rejection, however, just makes us feel like what we’ve done isn’t good enough.

Even if you’re not a writer, you know what I’m talking about. We’ve all been vulnerable before. We all dread rejection.

This is the position Ruth finds herself in when we meet up with her in chapter three. Naomi tells her to wash up and put on perfume and her finest clothes. Then she tells Ruth to go to Boaz when he’s asleep, pull the covers off of his feet, and lay there at his feet until he wakes up.

In Ruth’s position, I would’ve remained single because there’s no way I would’ve done this. This sounds creepy and risky and unlikely to woo anyone.

Thankfully, Ruth’s not like me. She does exactly as Naomi tells her. And when Boaz wakes up surprised and asks who she is, Ruth replies, “I am your servant Ruth. Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer” (Ruth 3:9, NLT). As our guest speaker, Alicia, explained on Sunday, this is a reference to the blessing Boaz prayed/spoke over Ruth in chapter two and sort of a proposal, not an allusion to sexual activities.

This is it. This is the intense moment we’ve been building up to. Imagine what Ruth’s heart rate was probably like as she laid there. She is probably the most vulnerable she ever was or would be. Depending on how Boaz responds, she could be embarrassed, have her reputation ruined, lose her job, maybe even be blacklisted from surrounding fields as well. In addition, a woman proposing to a man would’ve been abnormal. Boaz could’ve felt emasculated and gotten mad at her. Ruth put it all on the line.

Boaz responds with, “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” (Ruth 3:10, NLT). This is not the response I would give (plus, I’d probably kick the person at my feet when I woke up), and I don’t think it’s the response most would give then or now. But Boaz is touched by Ruth’s loyalty to her family, and he knows how virtuous she is. He said there was one man of closer relation to her, that he would talk to him to see if he was interested in marrying Ruth. When Ruth went home in the morning, he sent her home with six scoops of barley.

I’ve yet to meet someone who’s won every risk they’ve taken. Failure and rejection happen. It can keep us from taking more risks.

Risks taken in faith seldom yield no reward or benefit. And if you’re led by God to your risk – seeing as how God knows everything – it’s almost a guarantee. Just as Naomi knew what to do and directed Ruth, our all-knowing, omnipotent God directs us.

Being unsure isn’t fun. Taking steps when you don’t know where your foot will land isn’t easy. The good thing is that we don’t face it alone. If our step misses, if we’re rejected, if there’s no reward, we’ll still fall in the love and grace of God. He’ll never leave us, especially at our most vulnerable or confused, especially when we need Him most.

By Carrie Prevette

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