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Thursday, June 5, 2008

This beautiful farmhouse is along our favorite walking trail about 1/2 mile from our home.
(Click here for a larger version of the photo.)

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"Lessons From A Barley Harvest"

"So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning" (Ruth 1:22).

Yesterday I shared concerning our friends, Jesse and Anna Ruth, and their new baby they named Naomi Grace.  It is common to hear the Amish call their children by both their first and middle names so the combination of the names Naomi and Grace is lovely to the ears, but the names are also packed with great Biblical meaning.  Naomi, from the Hebrew language means "beautiful, pleasant, delightful."  Grace, from the Latin, means "favor, blessing."  This beautiful name prompted a message about the new baby's namesake, the Naomi of Scripture.

BarleyThose who regularly read this series know that I enjoy using illustrations from the farming area in which I live. I have learned that there is a predictability regarding the times of each harvest from year to year with the next major harvest in our area being barley.  I noticed yesterday that the barley is turning a beautiful yellow indicating harvest is near.  In the next several weeks we will see the combines working the fields all throughout our region.  It's a beautiful sight to see and hear the machine slowly working back and forth across the fields.

I want to learn today from the occasion of another barley harvest which took place about 3,200 years ago. I spoke to my farming friend Darrel this morning and shared what I intended to write. We briefly discussed the vast difference in harvesting methods from that age to our own.

It's interesting to note how many times the Bible reminds us to consider our roots.  History was very important in the life of the Jewish people.  Great New Testament sermons like Peter's (Acts 2) and Stephen's (Acts 7) are rooted in history; the record of God's providential work in space and time.

The simple, easily overlooked, detail in the daily text places the lives of two ordinary women, Naomi and Ruth, beset by heartache squarely in history, in the context of a specific place "Bethlehem" and a specific time "when the barley was harvested".  Naomi's husband had died along with her two sons in Moab, a distant land devoted to other gods.  Her heart was broken as she returned to Bethlehem with Ruth her daughter-in-law who had decided to join her.  When they arrived and she was recognized by the women of Bethlehem she plainly told them, "Call me Mara" (which means "bitter").  Thankfully the name didn't stick and in a wonderful way God worked things out for both Naomi and Ruth.

Grief (identity unknown)Some of you have lingering heartache which has resulted in bitterness today.  We all have experiences where it seems life has just not been fair, some far more than others.  Our experience is not at all unique to our lifetime and surely, all through the ages, people have dealt with this. Brooksyne received a meaningful Get Well card from one of our faithful Australian readers who wrote the following thought she had read in "Our Daily Bread" devotional, "One of God's purposes in pain is to brand the image of Jesus in our hearts."

Let us learn from history and rejoice as we see how the unchangeable God worked His plan out in these two ordinary women.  A wonderful New Testament verse that many of us have memorized expresses this truth:  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  Rest in deep assurance today that this is absolutely true!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, You have great purpose for our lives and for the legacy we leave for those who follow.  In our journey there are  bitter waters from which we drink and there are sweet fragrances that fill our nostrils.  Through it all You work to bring the good out of bad circumstances, all the while reminding us of our calling to live according to Your purpose.  May we be trusting in the hard times and faithful all the time.  Amen.

Brooksyne's Note: When I consider a more contemporary Christian woman who could easily call herself Mara (bitter) the name Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) comes to mind.  She penned one of my favorite hymns "He Giveth More Grace" and wrote many other inspirational poems.  She was orphaned while just a todder, then adopted by a couple who died while she was in her youth.  Painful, debilitating arthritis was the next painful cross she carried all the way to the end of her life.  Her story is amazing and I just came across an attractive site that is a condensation of her life. It's a fascinating read that will inspire all who might be undergoing physical pain in their lives.   If you open the page of her poems please read "God's Shut-Ins" and consider an individual you know who is a shut-in.  It starts out, "Ferns are the shut-ins in God's flower kingdom…"  I believe this message could easily have been written today.  Perhaps you could pass it on to one who might relate to Johnson's writing or post it in a nursing home facility or senior setting (with permission, of course). I believe we can all seek to better understand what might go through the minds of the shut-ins but which they rarely speak of since no one really wants to listen.  Here's a nice video version of "He Giveth More Grace" with Larry Ford.

Today's Suggested Music  and Supplemental Resources

"Trust His Heart"  Video   Babbie Mason  About fifteen years we were going through a difficult point of transition in life and this song came to be very meaningful to us.

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness" Brooksyne will often say this is her very favorite hymn and today I want to share several versions.
Audio  Kristian Walker, a musician from our area
Video  Fernando Ortega arrangement
Video  Traditional style at a Gaither homecoming with a tremendous solo by Wes Hampton.
Video A beautiful instrumental version which includes a very skilled saxophone instrumentalist

"Tears Are A Language God Understands"  Video  Amy Lambert

"God Is In Control"  Audio  Kristian Walker

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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