A Kinsman-Redeemer

As Pastor Tim and I were planning out our path of study for The Story at FRC, we quickly came to realize that we would be covering the book of Ruth just two days before Christmas. I can remember the response of some of those we talked to: “What? How can you talk about Ruth when we’ll be in the middle of Advent? That doesn’t make any sense.”

There is some truth to their response; no, it doesn’t make sense to study the book of Ruth when a congregation is so accustomed to hearing the traditional Christmas story. But was does make sense are the overwhelming comparisons between the story of Ruth and the fact that Christ came down to earth as a baby nearly two thousand years ago.

For those who are not all that familiar with the story of Ruth, let me give you a brief recap. An Israelite family finds themselves in Moab for about ten years due to a famine in their homeland. While there, Naomi, the matriarch of the family, witnesses the deaths of her husband and two sons. All that remains in her household are her two Moabite daughters-in-law. For Naomi, life is looking pretty bleak and hopeless.

When Naomi hears that the situation has improved back in her homeland, she and her daughters-in-law make plans to return to Israel. But as they are leaving Moab, Naomi turns to the two women with her and encourages them to stay, telling them that their life and future are no longer with her. Orpah, one of her daughters-in-law returns back to her family as Naomi has asked, but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi’s side.

As Pastor Tim preached on this particular aspect of the passage, he pointed out just how little Ruth’s response actually made sense. She chooses death over life in committing to a future without hope of a husband or family of her own; she is resigning herself to a future of depending on others in her widowhood; she chooses her mother-in-law instead of a husband and children from her own culture; she chooses to become an outsider in a foreign land; she leaves her family.

As Pastor Tim listed off these factors, he made numerous comparisons to the life of Jesus. For those who thought studying the book of Ruth during Advent made no sense— well, here’s where we read of Another’s decisions which also do not make sense:

Jesus is ultimately born to die; Jesus leaves His throne in heaven to have relationship with humans; Jesus chooses to live in a foreign body in a foreign place instead of in a Heavenly dwelling; the Son departs from His heavenly Father to be born as an infant; He sets Himself apart from His earthly family; He comes as a baby instead of a powerful King.

Just as Ruth demonstrates faithfulness to her mother-in-law, God mirrors this same love and faithfulness toward us. Ultimately, the story of Ruth foreshadows the redeeming love of Christ and how He came to earth to redeem each one of us. The actual term “kinsman-redeemer” means to “be set free,” and that’s exactly what Christ did for us when He was born to die for you and me.

The concept of the kinsman-redeemer was an active practice in Israel for many centuries. In order to present oneself as a kinsman-redeemer, a person must be a close relative of the one needing to be redeemed; he must be free to redeem; he must be willing to redeem; and the redemption is completed when the price is paid. The point of the kinsman-redeemer is for a person to be delivered from poverty and despair.

In the book of Ruth, Boaz delivers Ruth and Naomi from a life that seemingly had no hope; in fact, Naomi had already insisted on changing her name to take on an identity of bitterness. But with the birth of the child given to Boaz and Ruth, Naomi is redeemed and her joy is restored.

Last week, I published a rather hard-hitting post about choosing Christ and making a commitment to serve Him above all else. Perhaps knowing of Christ’s redeeming love and the role He seeks to play in each one of our lives is a better picture and far more convincing. Perhaps last week’s post was not the way to present the Gospel. I will let the story of Ruth speak for itself, and perhaps you can find the true meaning of Christmas wrapped up in the far-from-simple Old Testament story. Christmas may have passed on the calendar for this year, but its still Christmas in my heart. I am so grateful that Christ is a part of my Christmas and that He has redeemed me and continues to do so day after day.

Have you any Room?

“Oh, yes, I go to church; I believe in God.” I can’t count how many times I have heard this string of words from acquaintances and friends over the years. These words have never sat comfortably with me, and today I would like to tell you why.

You might be thinking, what’s the big deal? So your friends believe in God and go to church; what’s the problem? Well, for me, the problem is this sense of apathy. Its all fine and good for a person to go to church and proclaim their belief in God, but will both aspects result in salvation? No. To me, believing in God and attending church are only the beginning. A person has to know in his or her heart that Jesus Christ is the Savior and that a person must have a personal relationship with Him in order to enter into eternity in Heaven.

For some of you, my words may be coming too hard and too fast; I apologize for my bold approach. But this very topic has been on my heart for so long that I just needed to put words to the burden I have been carrying for so long. My heart hurts for those who say they believe but yet have not come to the Truth. I cry for those who claim to follow Him but make a relationship with Christ a lesser priority. Work, material possessions, or even family comes before God, and it is a dismal cycle over and over again.

Now, I’m not saying that my relationship with Jesus is perfect; in fact, it’s far from perfection. But I am seeking Him and doing my best to honor Him in everything I do. I have dedicated so much of my life to Christian service and the things of the church that it pains me to see the apathy and lack of commitment in the lives of others. I am so grateful that I was raised in a Christian home and trained in the ways of the Lord. My parents instilled in all four of us girls to set priorities and make God first in our lives.

Just last week, I found a renewed commitment to put Him first in my life. I had arrived home late on a Saturday night and I wasn’t feeling well; as a result, I neglected to set my alarm clock so I could make it to worship the next morning. Well, you can probably guess what happened next. 45 minutes before the service was scheduled to start, I rolled over in bed and looked at the clock. I couldn’t move, and I immediately assumed I was either ill or tired. Needless to say, I slipped back into dreamland, neglecting the fact that I probably should be at church.

My mother has trained me well; I can only skip church if I have a fever or the stomach flu—
otherwise, I am expected to be at services. So that morning, when I woke up for the second time and realized what I had done, I felt incredible guilt. I was perfectly capable of getting out of bed and going to church, but I let it slide, and I felt terrible. I assuaged my guilt by watching a service on the Internet, but it wasn’t the same as attending worship with my church family.

I am one who needs to be at Sunday morning worship— either leading music or simply worshiping and savoring the Word of God. It is more than just a good habit to attend church on a weekly basis; it is a lifestyle and a faith commitment. Much is true in my relationship with Christ; He is real and true and my Savior. I cannot help but serve Him and give Him all that is within me.

But that is where I stand; what about you? Have you welcomed Jesus into your life as more than a simple belief or weekly commitment? Have you found true relationship with Him? I promise you, if you let Him into your life, you will never be the same. Please, feel free to message me if you have any questions or want to begin a life with Him; I would be honored to introduce you to my Best Friend and tell you about our relationship and how the same can be true for you.

Christmas will be upon us in just two days; wouldn’t it be an incredible celebration to welcome Him in this Christmas? Remember, He is the reason for the season, and although the phrase is often trite and overused, it has never been more true. Do you have room for the Savior this Christmas? I pray you will make room for Him now and in the weeks and months ahead, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


There is a wall hanging that adorns the wall above my desk at home that quotes a portion of Joshua 24:15: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” For most of my life, I have equated this verse with my father as I think about the way in which he raised me and my sisters to serve the Lord in the way we live our lives. I find it fitting that this was the very verse that was used within my sister’s wedding ceremony recently.

As we talked about Joshua in my church’s journey through The Story, I was reminded of this verse once again. Although this verse wasn’t mentioned directly in our study, I considered Joshua’s courageous actions and how his leadership brought the Israelites into the Promised Land.

As Pastor Tim preached from the book of Joshua, he asked those in the congregation if we could remember a time when we had stepped out in faith and chosen to be courageous. I thought about this for a moment, but I couldn’t seem to recall a specific time in my own life when I had exemplified that kind of courage, but I immediately thought of someone else who had been faithful to God’s call over his life and that was my father.

Normally, I don’t write about the intimate details of my family life without permission from those involved, but I am hoping I can make an exception here. For a long time, I have wanted to express just how proud I am of my father and all he has accomplished in recent years. No one could have dreamed that just over fifteen years ago, our lives would have turned completely upside down, but now I can’t imagine not going down that road and making that change.

I was a teenager when Mom and Dad left their longtime jobs to pursue a new calling on their lives. Dad, who had worked in sales most of his adult life now considered what it would look like to become a pastor. He began to take classes and gain the necessary experience, while my mom took on part-time work in a nearby community. I know things were tight financially during that time, but I never heard Mom or Dad complain. Dad worked long, hard hours, holding down part-time work, his school schedule, and eventually summer internships. I can remember waking up in the middle of the night to see the light on in the den; I knew that he was studying hard and never settling for second best.

There were a few times when I knew he must have been struggling. I am so much like my father in that I often let stress and others’ expectations take hold, and this took place a few times over the years when my dad was in school and doing his best to put food on the table. More than once, I am sure he wanted to give up, and one time, I even heard him express those words. But I, and the rest of my family, loved him too much to let him throw in the towel. We were in this with him until the end— the result being a Masters of Divinity and the promise of a church where he could minister.

Like I said earlier, this was not the plan Mom and Dad had for us as a family. They had built their dream home on the hill, and I believe they fully intended to retire there when the time was right. But my father recounts that one day he was walking from the shed up to the house, and he distinctly heard God’s voice. In that moment, it seemed that God was telling him to leave the house that he had built and follow God’s lead into the ministry. I’m sure that my dad’s first reaction was to respond in disbelief. From childhood, he had told his mother that he was not going to be a pastor. But it looked like God was going to lead him down that path whether he felt qualified to do so or not.

So in the summer of 2004, Mom, Dad, my sisters, and I left our dream home and set off down the road to southern Minnesota. We knew where we were going but were unaware of what would be on the horizon. Eight years have passed since that day, and a lot has changed. But I look back now and marvel at God’s faithfulness. He has blessed my dad’s church and his ministry, and I know the members of his congregation have opened their arms to him with the most incredible loving welcome.

My father was courageous and stepped out in faith as He pursued God’s calling on his life, and I know he continues to seek God in all he does today. He is a great example of what it means to embrace what God has in store for each of us and not let our own selfish goals and dreams stand in the way. My father’s household will be one that will always be in service to Him.

The Journey

A few weeks ago, as we continued through The Story, my church family and I were presented with the Israelites’ continued wandering through the wilderness. Pastor Tim began his sermon by asking each of us to talk with our neighbor for just a few moments. He asked us to consider three questions: Where are you on your journey? What is God teaching you? What is God saying to you?

I talked with the woman next to me, sharing the bare minimum answers required to have my response make sense. But now as I write this, given more time to contemplate, I think I have come to a more solid response.

Where am I on my journey? At this time in my life, I finally feel settled. Most of my life has been spent working toward first one goal and then another. I am a type-A personality who never stops working hard for whatever is coming up on the horizon. My journey toward becoming the Worship and Music Director at FRC was an unexpected end to this particular phase in my life, and I never dreamed that each step along the journey would lead me to this point.

I grew up in the church and was introduced to faith in Jesus Christ at a very early age. This eventually led me to pursue a degree at a private Christian College. I was immersed in Christian community, student-lead praise and worship, and numerous talent competitions. I found myself in Nashville a few years later, trying to find my place in the music industry. Less than a year later, I thought I had found the next path for my life: obtaining a record deal and promoting my music. But God had other plans. The deal fell through, and I found myself continuing along in my Masters’ degree program with the hopes of becoming a praise and worship leader in the local church.

Now as I lead in music each Sunday morning, I marvel at how my life’s journey has brought me to this place. I have learned what it means to be a praise and worship director by the way in which God has prepared me and brought me into contact with the people and elements that would shape me into who I am today. Where am I on my journey today? I would have to say that my only goal for the future is to keep learning and growing in faith and serving Him in everything I do.

What is God teaching me? Right now, I think God is teaching me to be patient and understand others with a different perspective. As I explained earlier, I am a type-A personality, and nothing frustrates me more than having to pick up the slack when someone doesn’t come through on what they have promised to do. I find that not only am I striving for perfection that can never be attained, but I am also becoming frustrated by the fact that I sometimes feel like everyone’s mother. I guess being a camp director will do this to a person, but sometimes I am just plain tired of taking on the responsibility. Quite often, I am lacking in patience and perspective, so it has been my prayer recently to seek out a deeper love for others that will result in a greater level of patience and understanding. It hasn’t been easy for me, but I am praying that God will work through me as I seek to work in harmony with those around me.

Finally, what is God saying to me? I believe He is telling me to take the time to listen to others. For someone who is in leadership, I always feel like I have to have the answers. But that isn’t always true. Sometimes, a person just needs someone to listen to their story and give silent support. Sometimes, words can be damaging and the best thing a person can do is just hear someone out before jumping forward into the next thought or idea. This is something that I have been struggling with for some time, and I am continually seeking out ways to put my listening skills into action.

We are drawing near to the end of 2012, so already I am thinking about my goals for next year. This past year, I gave myself the challenge to be a mirror and to reflect Christ in my service to Him. In 2013, I think I will reflect further on these three questions. I will consider my journey, what He is teaching me, and what He is saying to me. Perhaps I will find that I will become a worship leader after His own heart with a greater sense of compassion for others. But until then, I will take the necessary steps day-by-day and follow wherever He leads.

Leaving Egypt

In our continued journey through The Story, my fellow church members and I have often found ourselves in the midst of a Biblical story, discovering that application truly abounds for our individuals lives. This was true in our recent reading about the Israelites as they wandered in the desert.

There was a great deal of discontent and complaining going on in that desert wilderness, and the Israelites began to consider what they had left behind in Egypt. On several occasions, they expressed their desire to just go back to Egypt; for even though they had come out of slavery and great oppression, there was food aplenty and all of their needs were met.

At first, it was hard for me to understand why the Israelites would want to go back into bondage rather than continue on their quest to the Promised Land. But Pastor Tim’s explanation helped me conceptualize what was taking place in their minds and hearts. You see, the Israelites were thinking of a time when their bellies were full and their families had everything they needed at their fingertips. Yes, they were slaves, but in many ways, life was predictable, and dare I say it— comfortable.

Pastor Tim made the connection to our lives today. Sometimes, we find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation in which we are wandering in the proverbial wilderness. God might be taking us down a road we don’t expect and our surroundings are unfamiliar. Nothing makes sense and we can’t see the promise that awaits us at the end of the journey. This period of waiting and uncertainty can often be dark and lonely as we try to understand how God is working in our lives. Although we might comprehend that God has better things in store for us on the horizon, we almost wish we could just return to the way things were instead of wallowing in the uncomfortable and in-between.

Such a time for me occurred between 2009 and 2011. I was working through my courses in graduate school while battling illness, and I just couldn’t understand how God could possibly be working in my life. I was tired, my voice was weak, and often I couldn’t find the energy to do the very thing I had thought God had called me to do. I knew God had given me a voice to sing, but when breathlessness stole my vocal control and each job interview concluded without an offer for a position, I began to give up on the dream.

It was just too hard! Was it even worth the effort to keep trying when nothing seemed to come to fruition? On a few occasions, I thought about quitting school to just go back to the familiar. Writing books and performing my music didn’t make much money, but it was fun and fulfilling; I longed to just go back to those days where life was simple and I knew where to go and what to do next. This period of illness and uncertainty was difficult to understand, for I couldn’t see the end result of God’s plan for my life.

It wasn’t until late in 2011 that I began to comprehend my next steps in the journey. I truly believe He had been setting aside FRC as my place of service, and everything fell into place faster than I could have ever hoped to dream. For the first time, I found a sense of purpose in the work I completed. Instead of performing my own music, I was leading God’s people in worship, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The future glittered with promise, and to this day, I am excited for everything that is on the horizon.

It saddens me to think where I would have been today if I would have given up on graduate school and God’s greater plan for my life. I wouldn’t have the honor and privilege of working with the wonderful people at FRC and learning from them each and every week. My time in the proverbial wilderness was different from that of the Israelites, but as Pastor Tim pointed out, perhaps God has a similar purpose for bringing His people through a time of wandering. There are certain things that we have to relinquish before we can truly take hold of the Promised Land. For me, I had to let go of my own goals and dreams; perfectionism and self-motivation had a hold on me, and it wasn’t until I placed these idols in His hands that I could finally move forward.

I still struggle with perfectionism and somehow thinking I can accomplish anything if I put my mind and heart into it. It is a good trait to have if you are on deadline and need that extra push to get something done, but in many ways, it’s a harmful mindset to have in place. Often when I’m planning the music for a worship service, I struggle to “let go.” There are many musicians in our church who would be perfectly capable to provide special music or lead in praise and worship, but when I look at the song selections I find myself just wanting to play or sing them myself. I know I can depend on myself and my ability to come through when needed; I can’t always say the same for others’ dependability, and I don’t want to relinquish control over the situation.

But the truth is, I need to let others in— to let others do the work and find the sweetness of participating in worship through community. It’s been a long journey for me just trying to set aside these idols of self-motivated expectation and give the control back to God where it belongs. Perhaps this is the Egypt that God is seeking to drain out of me, much like He was seeking to accomplish with the Israelites as they wandered in the desert thousands of years ago.

Perhaps there is an “Egypt” or an idol for you that must be relinquished before you can reach the Promised Land. Ask God for the help and strength to let it go and cling to Him in the time of wilderness wandering. I promise you that the journey is well worth it!