First Chapter

Welcome to Forks

Bella decides to move to Forks, Washington from Phoenix, Arizona to please her parents. However, she is not particularly happy with the consequences of that choice. She misses her mom, her friends and the warmth of the sun. If that wasn’t enough, she has to deal with the curiosity of Forks’ small town residents and the bizarre attentions of a strange and strangely beautiful boy.

All choices have consequences. The consequences of Bella’s decision to live in Forks include dealing with a lot of rain, small school politics and falling in love with a vampire. Your choices have consequences, too, inevitably falling into your life like rain in Seattle. What you do with the results of your choices is another decision. The consequence of each choice affects the next choice you get to make.

* * *

It’s been said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. I would add “choices” to the list—of that I am certain. Well, that and the fact that all our choices have outcomes that we will have to deal with sooner or later.

Bella made an altruistic choice to live with her father while she finished high school. This choice set her on a path she could never have imagined back in sunny Arizona. She never expected to meet a guy she would fall in love with. She seriously never imagined that he would not be human.

You made choices this morning that set the tone for your day. Some choices were intentional. Others you may not have carefully considered, but rather made out of habit. You chose when to get out of bed, whether or not to eat breakfast, to go out or stay home and to pick up this book. Each of those choices influenced, to a certain degree, what happened next.

Some “choices” we make from habit, without even thinking about our actions. One of my friends has eaten Cheerios for breakfast for as long as she can remember. I predict she probably always will. I doubt she expects that tomorrow they will taste any differently. Cheerios taste like Cheerios. You wouldn’t expect one day for them to taste like pineapples. But do you sometimes wish that something would break you out of your routine? Do you ever feel that it is impossible to change—that you have no choice? Do you “play the victim” rather than make changes that could improve your life?

Perhaps now is the time to quote Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Have you been thinking that perhaps it is time for a change?

Not all of us get to literally pack up and move to small, misty, Pacific Northwestern towns (or away from, if you’re already there). But all of us have choices.

In the biblical book of Ruth, a young woman faces an unbearable loss and makes an unbelievable choice—one that makes Bella’s sacrifice for her mother look like a choice between cinnamon and mint toothpaste. By the fifth verse of Ruth, chapter 1, our title character is a young widow. By verse 16 she has decided to travel with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to a foreign land, rather than stay with her family. You see, Naomi was an Israelite, as had been her husband and sons. They had been living in Moab due to a drought in Israel. Now that the drought was over, and with no family left in Moab, Naomi decides to return to Israel.

Naomi thought it was ridiculous for Ruth to follow her to Israel and tried to talk her into staying home, like her sister-in-law. At least in her homeland Ruth would be surrounded with the gods she grew up with and family to take care of her. But Ruth wouldn’t hear it and said, “No. Your family is my family now, and the God you serve is now the God I serve. I want to be buried next to you and no one but God Himself is going to keep me from taking care of you until you die.”

How do you refuse that? So Naomi says, “Eh. Whatever. Let’s go.” They begin the long trudge back to Israel, to Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem.

What an unbelievable, self-sacrificing choice! Is there any way Ruth could have expected anything good from her choice, really? She and her mother-in-law were both penniless widows. Where they were going, Ruth would be a cultural outsider and outcast because she was from Moab, an enemy nation to Israel. Bella may have felt like a freak in her new hometown, but Ruth could truly expect to be ostracized. As a widow she was a societal burden, and she was a foreigner to boot. Naomi could only hope that the tradition of distant relatives caring for widows was still an ongoing practice. She had no other way of supporting herself and her daughter-in-law.

Ruth gave up a likely second marriage and a lifetime of the familiar with her choice. However the old, dead idols with the same old, dead promises just didn’t appeal to her as much as Naomi’s God did, He Who could split oceans with a word and herd a nation through the barren desert. As it turns out, that God of miracles and wonders had a plan for our selfless heroine.

One form of Social Security available to widows such as Ruth and Naomi was the practice of gleaning. Biblical law said farmers should intentionally leave some of their crops in the field for widows and orphans to gather. In Bethlehem, Ruth immediately got to work gathering food to keep herself and her mother-in-law alive. The field she randomly chose just happened to belong to a wealthy man named Boaz, who was related to Naomi’s dead husband.

When Boaz came to the field to supervise his workers, he noticed Ruth on the edges, picking up grain the harvesters had left behind. He inquired about her. His foreman told him all about Ruth and Naomi. He described how Ruth worked hard all day, taking only one short rest in the shade.

Bethlehem back in the day must have been a lot like Forks! Everyone knew Ruth had come with Naomi, and now they were getting a glimpse of who she really was. And who was Ruth? She was a hard worker, committed to making the best of her circumstances.

Can you see where this is heading? (Even with the spoiler alert, you really need to read the whole Book of Ruth. So worth it …) Boaz is impressed with what he hears and goes to speak with Ruth.

“Look,” he says. “Stay in my fields with my servant girls. I’ve told the workers not to harass you in any way, and also that you have my permission to drink from the water jars they have filled.”

Ruth is overwhelmed and bows deeply to express her gratitude. She asks why he would even notice her, since she was a negative balance in the social standing scale.

Boaz replies that he’d heard what she had done for Naomi, and that he could witness what she was doing now. He then pronounced a blessing over her, announcing that the God of Israel would richly reward her.

Wow! For making the tough but correct choice, Ruth has been noticed and recognized by this powerful and generous man. And his blessing on her is that she be honored by the Lord, the God of Israel, under Whose wings she had taken refuge. I love that Boaz recognized that her choice was truly about God. Offering Naomi comfort and companionship was a side benefit to pursuing a closer relationship to the one, true God she’d come to know through her now dead husband.

So after Boaz’s kind words, Ruth went home to Naomi and reported on her day. Naomi was ecstatic with the news and told Ruth to stick close to Boaz’s servant girls until the end of the harvest season.

And, Naomi began to plan …

Turns out Boaz held a unique legal standing in Old Testament law. Land was not permanently negotiable: it could be leased for as long as 70 years, but it belonged forever to the family it was assigned to when the Nation of Israel finally completed the Exodus and settled in Canaan. Because Ruth’s husband and his brother were dead, there was no one to inherit the land—so someone called a kinsman-redeemer had to step in and make sure the land didn’t leave the family by marrying Ruth and giving her a child. Boaz happened to be second in line. But he was first on Naomi’s wish list for her beloved daughter-in-law, Ruth.

In Ruth Chapter 3, Naomi had Ruth subtly declare her preference for the older Boaz, and remind him he had the power to redeem the property and marry her in the process. Boaz, already impressed with her work ethic and dedication to Naomi, was now personally flattered that she would choose him over someone younger. He promises he will become her kinsman redeemer, in spite of the fact that there was someone more eligible in the eyes of the law.

Boaz quickly clears that hurdle, and Naomi’s plan is rewarded. Boaz and Ruth marry and they are blessed with a son, whom they name Obed. Naomi becomes a grandmother and lives a long life in her homeland, surrounded by loved ones.

And, it gets better! Obed became grandfather to King David. David was ultimately an ancestor to Jesus Christ Himself. Ruth’s unlikely choice earned her a mention in Matthew Chapter 1, verse 5, and she is honored forever in the genealogy of Jesus, Whose ultimately self-sacrificing choice makes life not only bearable but richly rewarding as well.

Another one of the most famous Biblical “moving to a new home” stories starts in a desert and includes a couple of amazing events involving water … the story of moving to the Promised Land.

Moses hears God in a burning bush. He takes on the most powerful leader of the not-free world, leads a million people out of Egypt and wanders through the desert for 40 years. Finally he turns over leadership to Joshua, his first in command, just before the Israelites cross into the Promised Land. Moses dies before they enter the Promised Land. (Due to his own obedience issues he didn’t get to go along … but that’s another chapter altogether.)

Joshua takes over and, following Moses’ advice, he successfully conquers Canaan and establishes the Nation of Israel on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. If you read the Book of Joshua, chapter 23, you will find that Joshua calls a family meeting. Joshua is one of two men still living who walked out of Egypt: the rest of that generation died in the desert. Joshua and Caleb lived to see this day because they believed God’s promises. So Joshua causes the assembled people to remember their history—and with that in mind, asks them to make a choice. In chapter 24, beginning with verse 15, is that great challenge to the people: “Choose ye this day whom you will serve … but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

So, yeah, tough choices are challenging. It is difficult to be the new girl when you hate being the center of attention. It is hard to walk away from a particular career for the sake of your small children. Yet the promise of redemption when our choices are influenced by our sense of God’s purpose is an irresistible call to untold adventure, if we will only listen.

We know by the end of Twilight—and especially at the end of Breaking Dawn—that Bella has no regrets about her choice to leave hot, sunny Arizona for the constant rain of Washington. She found a treasure worth more than 360 days of sun a year. The reward we obtain is even greater when we make Godly choices.

Of all the choices you make, can you think of one that has a greater impact than deciding to commit your life to the God Who redeemed Ruth and led the Israelites to the Promised Land? To the God Who, through Ruth, brought about your salvation through Christ? I pray that you will choose to allow Jesus Christ to lead you into the next adventure in your life. Like Bella, know that the decisions you make will change your life! Choose this day whom you will serve.

Suggested Group Activity

The Family Dinner Table

This is a good “ice breaker” for a group whose members don’t know one another very well. It is non-threatening and a great way to introduce folks to one another.

Give each person paper and crayons. Have everyone draw a picture of the family dinner table from sometime in his or her early childhood. (They can choose the year!) Allow about 3-5 minutes to do this. Drawing skills are not required. Ask them to show who sat where, what the table looked like—anything particular they remember.

You can choose to have each person “present” their picture to the group or do this in groups of 2-4, depending on how much time you have. Everyone should give full attention to the presenter; no questions are asked. The presenter chooses how much to share. You, as the leader, might choose to go first to make everyone feel at ease.

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