This flowering tree was just outside my hotel room this evening. Gorgeous.
One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you— Ruth 3:1-3a (NLT)
As I read through the story of Ruth, there is no doubt that something was clearly happening between Ruth and Boaz. Ruth chooses to gather from Boaz’ fields. Boaz shows Ruth kindness and Ruth finds herself returning to join Boaz’ harvest each day. I find it fascinating that Naomi saw what was happening. Perhaps it was simply an old Jewish lady seeing that Boaz had the hots for Ruth and taking a chance to play matchmaker, but I believe that Naomi was a wise woman. She was aware, and she discerned that this was a specific moment in which God’s hand was moving in their lives.
Over the past several years Wendy and I have experienced the pain and frustration of striving to make things happen in life only to be disappointed time and time again. We have also, even in recent weeks, experienced being aware that God’s hand is moving and discerning that things are happening as a part of God’s great story.
This morning I am contemplating the places of life in which I am striving, and the places in life in which I am aware things are happening. God, grant me the wisdom to know when to strive, and when to stop striving. Grant me the awareness to sense when you are moving – to discern my role and to play my part well.
Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”
And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”
Ruth 2:5-6 (NLT)
Part of the story behind the story in today’s chapter is an ancient practice of charity. In the days before a central government and welfare, the society itself had to find a way to provide for the poor. In keeping with God’s laws, Farmers would leave part of their crop unharvested, or would allow the poor to follow behind the harvesters and pick up grain that was missed. Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, both being widows, had no choice but to depend on this charity. Ruth followed behind the harvesters Boaz sent into the fields and gathered the scraps they left behind.
I am largely of Dutch heritage, and I sometimes think that “the Protestant work ethic” is knit into my DNA. There is honor in working hard. If you work hard as though God is your employer, you will be blessed. That’s what I’ve been taught since I was young along with being reminded of another simple teaching from God’s Message: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”
I find it interesting at how this simple principle was put into practice in ancient days. There was no entitlement. Ruth and Naomi had a recourse to get food, but it required labor and Ruth was working hard to provide for herself and her mother-in-law not realizing that she was about to be blessed in unexpected ways.
But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” Ruth 1:16-17 (NLT)
I am reminded this morning of Wendy’s and my wedding. These sentiments of Ruth were part of Wendy’s wedding vows to me. They are framed and hang on the wall of our bedroom. I don’t know if Wendy realizes how often I look at them hanging in our bedroom and think about our vows to one another. I know for a fact that marrying a recently divorced man with two teenage daughters was not her plan or desire. It was not at all what she had envisioned waiting for all those years. In taking up Ruth’s vow, she pushed all of her chips to the center of the table. She was all in.
Looking back at the journey since that wonderful New Year’s Eve wedding I can see just how Wendy has made good on her vow in countless tangible ways. She has been all in with Taylor and Madison, all in with my parents and my siblings, all in with our nephews and nieces, with friends, with work, with the Cubs and the Vikings, with everything. Her love and commitment has made it easy for me to reciprocate and choose to be all in with her, her family, and her friends.
I have come to appreciate that choosing to go all in when it comes to life relationship is not as easy or as comfortable as it appears. All of the pithy Pinterest quips and quotes in the world cannot inspire away the tragedies and messes of daily life together. When we are young and naïve we can scarcely understand the weight of it. Now as I am older and look back on the tragedies which lie in the wake of my own naïveté, I am all the more grateful and impressed with those like Ruth and Wendy who have the wisdom and experience to understand the gravity of their gamble and still choose to go all in.
This, from a long conversation over cold beer (and cigars) on a hot summers evening with my friend Kevin McQuade, here is the authoritative list of the top Chicago Cubs of all time by position:
- Pitcher: (tie) Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown/Fegie Jenkins
- Catcher: Gabby Harnett
- 1st Base: Cap Anson
- 2nd Base: Ryne Sandberg
- 3rd Base: Ron Santo
- Shortstop: Ernie Banks
- Left Field: Billy Williams
- Center Field: Hack Wilson
- Right Field: Andre Dawson
Extra bases: After long consideration, Kevin and I also concluded that the number one reason for the Cubs’ 106 year World Series drought is: historically weak pitching.
- Cubs hotline: Anthony Rizzo (wgnradio.com)
- A Brief History of the Chicago Cubs (local.answers.com)
- Matt Garza rumors: Chicago Cubs may keep RHP, sign long-term, per report – SBNation.com (coralvillecourier.typepad.com)
The elders no longer sit in the city gates;
the young men no longer dance and sing.
Joy has left our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.
Lamentations 5:14-15 (NLT)
I had a great evening with my friend, Kevin, last night. It was guys night, and after wonderful meal out we drank cold beer in the hot evening and smoked cigars while sharing great conversation. One of the things I most appreciate about my friend is that he can not only talk about sports (last night we talked through and decided who we thought the best Chicago Cub of all time at each position on the field…more on that in a minute), but we can also talk about theatre and the stage with equal passion.
Last night I made the comment that I personally don’t enjoy musical theatre as well as non-musical theatre because, well, in everyday real life we don’t break out in song. Kevin pounced on my snooty declaration as if I had just suggested that Carlos Marmol was the best Cubs pitcher of all time. “I think we DO break out in song all the time,” Kevin argued (and I paraphrase). “We think about music, situations bring songs to our heads, and we regularly break out in song in the shower, in the car, and when I’m talking with my wife!” I hesitated and conceded the point, thinking to myself that I should have clarified: we don’t break out in large scale production numbers.
I get to the end of the prophet Jeremiah’s poem of Lamentation this morning and stumbled on the verse I pasted at the top of this post. How fascinating that after describing scenes of societal breakdown, starvation, cannibalism, torture, and rape the prophet sums it up by saying: our young men no longer break out in singing and dancing, the joy has left our hearts.
For the record, Kevin was right and I stand corrected by the ancient prophet. God forbid that this life should ever become an endless and tragic Long Days Journey Into Night without All That Jazz to keep us breaking out in joyful song.
I love photographing theatre. Sometimes it is because I want to capture and remember a moment that, when you’re dealing with live theatre, is gone in an instant. This photo from the 2006 production of The Dominie’s Wife has always been a favorite of mine. Not because I think it’s a particularly great photograph. It’s not. I loved this moment in the show, and I loved watching it from backstage. The photo always takes me back to that moment.
I took this photo from where I was waiting in the wings stage left. Wendy was playing Mareah Scholte, and in this scene she walks silently across stage with a lace mourning veil over her head as the death bell chimes. She is lit in blues as the audience sees her in an almost haunting silhouette. To the left in the photo you can see the shadows of the narrators downstage. It’s a wonderfully poignant moment and I loved how Wendy physically captured the movement of this 19th century woman walking behind her husband’s casket in mourning.