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Down through the years people had some interesting reasons for changing their names. For example, in 2015 a young man named Adam Armstrong legally changed his name to Adam West because it was cheaper to change his name than to change his flight booking which had been made under the wrong name by his girlfriend’s stepfather.

Fashion designer, Ralph Lauren, was born with the name Ralph Lifshitz, but he changed it because kids used to make fun of him.

A man named Tim Price legally changed his name to Tim Pppppppppprice in order to confound telemarketers by making it harder to pronounce.

In 2011 a 33 year old man named Simon Smith legally changed his name to Bacon Double Cheeseburger because he liked Bacon Double Cheeseburgers (of course).

And (my personal favorite) a man named Dan Miller legally changed his name to “The Dan Miller Experience” for no other reason than he found it amusing.

There are a lot of name changes in the Bible. Some of the more famous are Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Simon to Peter and Jacob to Israel. Usually the change of name signifies that the person has been set apart by God in a special way, and the name itself is chosen to better align with God’s purposes for that person’s life.

However, this Sunday we’ll be studying a time when a woman changed her name from “Pleasant” (Naomi) to “Bitter” (Mara). Of course, Naomi, or Mara as she then wanted to be called, was the Mother-in-Law of Ruth, and we find her story in the first chapter of Ruth. Her life did not work out the way she had hoped. All of her dreams slipped away. All that she had been working to build fell to ruin. Years before, she and her husband had left their hometown of Bethlehem with money in their pouch, a growing family, and hopes that they would prosper in another land, but now she was returning a used-up, destitute, childless, widow. The years had been hard and those who had known her as a young woman did not, at first, recognize her. They asked “Are you…Naomi?” and she answered them “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara.” She “went away full,” she said, but now she has “returned empty.”

Her past was a sad wasteland of disappointment and tragedy, and it was seemingly too late in the game for her to start over. Her present was full of anxiety, bitterness and humiliation. Her future was a big, scary question mark. And maybe, fellow Christian, that is how you feel today. I don’t mean to be melodramatic. I know that is certainly not true for all of us, and maybe for others it is only true to an extent, but for many their lives have not worked out the way they had hoped. If that’s you I hope you will come and be encouraged this Sunday as we embark on a study through the book of Ruth. When we’re down to nothing, God is up to something.