Enter hunger – gleaning

“What does your baby eat?  My baby hasn’t eaten for three days.  Help!”  So said a woman who stood at my door begging in a former famine relief camp in northern Kenya during my early missionary days.  My heart broke.  Her family was caught in the circumstantial crisis of famine but they were also experiencing the resulting physical crisis of hunger. Last week we pondered an ordinary family in chapter one of the book of Ruth.  Famine impacted Bethlehem so the father, caring for his family, moved them (that is his wife and two sons) to the neighboring country Moab, modern day Jordon.  After ten years the father and two sons have died and the wife, Naomi is left with two Moabite daughter-in-laws.  Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem while Orpah returns to her father’s house.  Chapter one ends with Naomi telling her friends, “Do not call me Naomi (pleasant) but Mara (bitter) because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”  As we look over the events of last week some of us are rejoicing at the election results and some feel bitter.  Some rejoice at surviving corona but some feel bitter at their positive results.  Circumstantial crises impact the way we care for ourselves and those we love.

         Chapter 2 enter a new character in our story, Boaz, a relative of the deceased father.  Chapter 2 shifts from circumstantial crisis to physical crisis.  Naomi and Ruth are still widowed women at the mercy of “the system” and going to have to deal with their personal reality – hunger.  In Leviticus 19:9 and 23:22 we read, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.  I am the Lord your God.”  Gleaning “is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.”  While I have never gleaned in this way, I have visited food pantries, used WIC stamps to get food for my children, accepted coats by Salvation Army for poor children at school, and even gone to the theater with other poor families gifted by the school system.  I think we call it “making ends meet.”  How do we “stretch the budget?”

         Perhaps this week you are not “stretched” but if we are honest, most of us are seeking to keep our spiritual, our physical, our emotional, our social, even our vocational lives balanced.  As we start chapter 2, let’s take a moment and ponder areas where we are “gleaning” food for the different arenas of our life.  Care-giving is not only an emotional commitment to another, it is also a process where we become involved in the nitty-gritty physical needs of self and others.  You may need two columns for areas where you are helping and areas where you need help.  Again I remember 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  Blessings.

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