Oh, thank God—he’s so good!
His love never runs out.
All of you set free by God, tell the world!
Tell how he freed you from oppression,
Then rounded you up from all over the place,
from the four winds, from the seven seas.
Psalm 107:1-3 (The Message)
From my outpost east of town awaiting dawn this morning, telling my thanks
to God for His inexhaustible love and the blessings of this past year,
in all their crazy shapes and sizes.
And thanking all of you for encouraging me week after week
with your friendship and your presence.
May your heart swell with deepest gratitude and joy today.
I saw the clock, but was still pretending it wasn’t morning when Lane leaned over to say goodbye. I smiled in the dark, partly because I wasn’t the first one up this time, but mostly just because of him.
But I couldn’t linger any more, there was a whole day waiting ahead once the sun would decide to get on board. So I slid out too. And soon enough it was me creeping through the dark to nudge slow heaving shoulders under the warm blankets that held my boys, telling them it was their turn to crawl out.
I smiled in the dark at them, too.
Just knowing, just having these three fellows, I warm.
I went on to turn pages in my office, and there in 66, got to smiling all over again.
Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I know what He’s done for me.
I just told you.
But now, I’ve come to hear. All you who fear God, what has He done for you?
Photo: Old House by Timo Balk
Don’t call me Tonya anymore. My new name is Anus. And I worship Satan now, by the way.
If my husband didn’t already know he was no longer teaching in a rural South Dakota school, this early morning announcement by one of his seventh graders jerked him to reality. You teach in the city now.
The name you get when the doctor holds you upside down by your feet and thwacks your backside to see if you can cry is the name someone else wants to call you. (Do doctors still do that? I was, erm, too preoccupied to notice when my boys tore out into the cold.)
But it may not be the name you’d choose.
So it makes me wonder why, when given the chance to choose her own name, a girl would choose Anus. Even if she was planning to worship Satan. (Which she was not.)
For that matter, why would someone named Pleasant up and decide to change her name to Bitter?
That’s exactly what Naomi, chafed and afflicted, broken into pieces by a God she saw as mischievous at best, chose to do.
Orpah returned to her own people and Naomi, with the friend-like-no-other Ruth at her side, returned home to Bethlehem. Longtime friends recognized her at once, though they hadn’t seen her in years, exclaiming, “Can this be Naomi?“
Rather than receiving their welcome, Naomi snapped at them.
“Don’t call me Naomi, ” she told them. “Call me Mara, 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; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 1:20-21)
Why call me Naomi? Why call her by a name that calls to mind delight and splendor? Why attach to her grace and beauty? Why call her Pleasant?
Naomi saw no need to be called any longer by a pleasant name, not when God had crushed her into dust.
Call me Mara. She would say, along with Westley, “Life is pain, Highness. Anybody who says differently is selling something.”
After the loss of her husband and two sons, she found life bitter, harsh, unrelenting.
Bitterness had so transformed her life that she chose a new name to lock in her new identity.
And in so doing, she asked all those who once thought of beauty and grace when her name left their lips to taste that same bitterness when they spoke to her.
Call me Bitter.
Naomi, Mara, had possessed — and she had lost.
In her bitterness she blamed God, accusing Him of evil in afflicting her. He once gave her a full life. Now He left her empty.
So blinding was her discontent that she seemed unable to see the fullness God began to restore to her in the incomparable gift of Ruth.
Another, in the face of devastating loss, also saw that the Lord had given and allowed to slip away. But rather than shrouding himself in bitterness, Job erupted into worship.
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship, saying:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)
Make no mistake: Naomi’s loss was great.
Holding tight to bitterness, refusing to look back up, made the loss far greater still.
More posts on Ruth