Naomi’s Story

We are now in our 17th week of storytelling our way through the Bible. There was one week that was just a review so tonight was our 16th story. I wrote a version of the book of Ruth that I called Naomi’s story. It was a fun one to write because the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz is such a rich one, but also a very straightforward story. I have included the story after the jump. There may be a typo or two, but I think you will find it helpful.

THE STORY

During the time of the judges in the town of Bethlehem there lived a man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi, which means pleasant. Because of a Famine in the land Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons moved from Bethlehem into land that was controlled by the Moabites. There in the land of Moab Elimelech died and Naomi was left with her two sons who married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After 10 years the sons of Naomi also died and she was left alone in a foreign country without husband or sons to take care of her.

In this day there weren’t many options for a widow, and a woman without a husband would be dependant on the handouts of others. So when Naomi heard that the famine was over in Israel she made plans to go back to Bethlehem. Orpah and Ruth made to go with her but she stopped them saying, “What good is it for you to come back with me. My sons are dead and I will have no more sons. Stay here with your people and maybe you will find another husband.”

Orpah agreed and stayed in the land of Moab, but Ruth said to Naomi, “Where you go I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”

So Naomi returned to her hometown without husband, sons, or possessions. When people recognized her they exclaimed, “Look! Naomi is back!” but she silenced them and said, “Don’t call me Naomi, for the Lord has made my life bitter. Call me Mara, or bitter, instead” So Naomi returned from Moab with Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law just as the barley harvest was beginning.

Ruth asked Naomi to be allowed to go into the fields and follow behind the men harvesting grain. One of the rules that Moses had left the Israelites was to allow the poor and the widows to walk behind the harvesters and pick up what ever fell out on the ground. Naomi gave her permission and Ruth ended up in the field of a man named Boaz.

When Boaz arrived at the field he noticed Ruth and spoke kindly to her and gave her something to eat. When he returned to the field with his workers he said to them. Let Ruth come up and gather right where you are working and pull a few extra stalks of grain from your sheaves and leave them for her so that she will have plenty.

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening and gathered a large amount of grain. Naomi was surprised to see so much grain and asked Ruth where she had been. When Ruth told Naomi that she had been in the field of Boaz Naomi was excited.

“Boaz is my husband’s relatives.” Naomi said, “He is a man of standing in this community and it is good that he has taken notice of you for he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.”

In Israel at the time it was custom for an unmarried brother or family member to marry the widow of someone from their family. This was so that the family name could be continued and also to provide for the woman that your family had already pledged to support. This person was called a kinsman-redeemer.

Naomi told Ruth to wait until it was dark and all of the men had fallen asleep around the threshing floor. Then she told Ruth exactly what to do in order to convince Boaz to propose to her.

Ruth, following Naomi’s instructions got dressed up in her finest clothes and went to the threshing floor. She pulled his robe up over his feet and lay down. In the middle of the he woke up and was shocked to see a woman lying at his feet.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied, “Spread the corner of your garment over me since you are a kinsman-redeemer to me.” This wasn’t a simple request because she was cold. Ruth was asking Boaz to marry her and to bring her and Naomi back into good standing.

Boaz had heard of Ruth and of her commitment to stay with Naomi. He agreed to pursue her, but since there was someone else who was a closer relative to Elimelech than he was Boaz didn’t have the right to ask her first. Because Boaz was a man of integrity he offered Ruth and all of the land that Naomi had a right to purchase as Elimelech’s widow to nearest relative. This man refused however and gave the rights to redeem both Ruth and the land to Boaz.

So Boaz took Ruth to be his wife and it was long before she conceived and bore him a son. Naomi, no longer denying her name, praised God and rejoiced that he had taken her empty life and made it full.

Boaz and Ruth named their son Obed who later became the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David. David was the father of Solomon. Following the path on down through the generations we find that the descendant of Solomon was Joseph who was the earthly father of Jesus.

A Hunger for Stories

I am a person of stories. I think I always have been. That is part of the reason why I love this storytelling series (yes we are still in the same series) that we are going through right now with the youth. I love these stories and I love learning new stories so I figure that these students would love it too.

Of course that isn’t the case. Some of them love it, some of them don’t, and some of them haven’t heard a word I have said because they are always just paying attention to their girlfriend or boyfriend. But that is a common thing and as a youth pastor just a part of the fabric of our lives.

The problem for me, the problem that has me awake at midnight looking for answer is that every single student that comes through the doors of our church (and the ones who don’t) are hungry for stories. They crave the stories of their friends, they search for stories of celebrities that they want to be like or who they feel connected to. They are hungry for stories because that is how we related to each other. We don’t give a bulleted list of our lives, we share our stories with each other. So these students want stories, so my mission is to find a why to help them see that this God story that we are talking about is the root story, the heart of all that they are searching for. This story is connection like they have never dreamed because it is the story of the creator of connections.

They are hungry for story and it is shameful for me to serve them something that makes them turn up their nose and refuse to eat.

So I have some more praying, some more writing, and some more just plain old thinking to do before I sleep.

Catalyst Update: A good start

After last week’s blank stares when it came to answering questions I went back to the drawing board this week to try to come up with ways to get the group engaged in the story. Everything wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start. Here are some ideas that I used:

1) I prayed and prayed and prayed specifically for better group participation. I have a deep desire for the students to do more than just sit, I want them to engage with the truth so I spent a great deal of time praying about just that.

2) After the singing time we all sat in a circle. 26 people made for a big circle, but it is much better way to facilitate discussion.

3) We played 2 truths and a lie before the story so that the students would get used to talking in front of people

4) I told the story instead of reading the story.

These things helped the night to be one of the more encouraging youth meetings I have had in a while. I have other ideas that I will be adding next week to try to get the students to go even deeper into the text.

The Context of Our Lives

I could seriously write 2 posts a day about my plan to story chronologically through the Bible. I won’t do that because 1) you probably don’t want to hear it and 2) I would be plagiarizing a great deal of Michael Novelli’s book.

But I can’t resist talking about this idea. God’s story is the context for our lives. We often try to figure out how to fit God into our story, but it shouldn’t be that way. Our lives fit inside of God’s greater plan and we can never know what is going on unless we plug in to that greater story. God’s story gives us a purpose and also helps us to make sense of our own lives, but more than that, God’s story is just awe inspiring. God’s story drives us to our knees and to raise our hands in worship. God’s story gives us context, but it also is how we know him how we experience him how we fall in love with him.

With that said sometimes it takes a while for us to see how all of the stories fit. If you don’t read the last Harry Potter book you will never know why Snape kills Dumbledore or why Harry names his son Severius. There was always a bigger story than what you could see.

This is true even more so than with God. Think about Job. There is this grand story happening that he doesn’t get to see, but still he has the faith to believe that it is there.

So we need to embrace the story of God, not just a bunch of facts about God. We need the narrative of God’s action because it reveals more than just information it reveals God’s character and His heart.

Story

Tonight was the first night of our “storying” series. We are working through the stories from MICHAEL NOVELLI over on www.echothestory.com. It was a hard beginning. I knew that we were going to need to be more focused than usual, so I was working that way, but the students were anything but. They were very distracted and I almost scraped the whole process.

But instead I moved towards the story, and it was like they whole group changed. They were asking questions, talking about the story and just generally engaged in the discussion. It was wild.

Everything wasn’t perfect. I ran out of time (something that I think I am going to struggle with during this series) and I couldn’t keep from being “teacher” sometimes, but it was good. I guess my greatest struggle was just shutting up and letting the students find the answers. I wanted to share my thoughts and answer their questions. I wanted to be the “expert”, but a big part of this for me and for them is learning what God shows them through His story.

Anyway, it was a pretty cool first week.