It’s Star Words time!

The Three Wise Men - Matthew 2:1-12
Artist: Jesus Mafa from Cameroon.
No. Not Star Wars time. (I see you out there.)

Star Words is a concept I first learned about from Marci Glass, one of the RevGalBlogPals. She credits Reformed Worship for the seed idea.

The concept is simple: One selects (or is given) a word for the purpose of reflection and meditation for the New Year. It is based off of the story of the Magi coming to see the Christ Child. In most Christian communities, this story is part of Epiphany celebration (or the twelfth day of Christmas.) However, I think it can be part of one’s spiritual practice, regardless of your personal spirituality or religion (or lack thereof.)

Here is the text as found in Matthew 2:1-12 (CEB).

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

6 “You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel.”*

7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

* Matthew 2:6 Mic 5:2; 2 Sam 5:2

In choosing/giving a star word, there is an opportunity for reflection and even re-direction. After all, the Magi thought a new King would be born in a palace. Instead, the scholars in Herod’s court told them to go to Bethlehem. They also listened to the warnings of the Divine (even through dreams!) to not return and tell Herod where the Child was living with his family. How might the Divine give you re-direction or insight with your Star Word?

The gifts of the Magi were costly. Their intentions were pure. What would a poor workman and his wife do with all of these treasures? Perhaps initially, to pay their way to Egypt as refugees, and then later, to re-establish the family in Nazareth. What gift will you receive from learning about yourself and your Star Word?

I invite you to receive your own Star Word!

bagofwordsI’ll pick one at random from my bag of stars. It will be yours to contemplate in the New Year. You might not like the word you get… but eventually, there will be some sort of spiritual insight or affirmation from it. As I like to tell people, “the word chooses YOU!” Every year I have engaged in this practice, I have learned something about myself and have been encouraged in my personal spiritual practice. You can read about my reflections on my 2018 Star Word here!

To get your own star word:

  • leave me a comment (and I’ll reply with your word)
  • message me or respond to my posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr
  • just ask when you see me!

Here’s to the journey of wonder, contemplation and Light!


The Magi
by Godfrey Rust

Will you study these signs
as carefully
as you study the prices
in the Christmas catalogues?

Will you seek out the manger
as diligently
as you search for the right scarf
or this year’s toy?

Will you examine
your heart’s pilgrimage
and be sure towards what stable
it carries its precious gifts?

Will you be a wise fool
to find and follow
the strange star of truth
in a sky full of glittering lies?

© Godfrey Rust, godfrey@wordsout.co.uk. Used by permission.

VITALITY: What has to go? Bug ugly snow!

CatnEReaderThis morning, I had time to sit on the couch, spoil a cat and read. It was a toasty, comfy, wonderful way to have my last cup of coffee before venturing out into the icy cold rain. (Literally “ice” and rain. UGH.)

I was grateful for those few extra minutes of reflection. As I finished up, I ended my prayer time with a quick phrase, just off the top of my head. Nothing profound; something like, “Lord, get my attention today.”

Well. You know God doesn’t let a prayer like that go unanswered.

I had a day of errands and meetings. Nothing earth-shattering but they were things I had postponed to the end of the week because it has been so blinking cold. And as I walked out to get in the car, I saw this:

ugh1The rest of the shovelled piles of half-melted snow, neatly draining away…

I was glad they were melting, particularly since the driveway and steps were covered with little frozen “beads” of raindrops. It is January after all. Winter weather is kind of expected. (I’ll permit all of you who live where it really snows to growl and gnash your teeth at me. As you were…)

I noted as I drove to my appointment that the only place I could see snow on the ground was on untreated surfaces and in places where where it had been allowed to pile up.

“…where it had been allowed to pile up…”

That phrase came back to me as I thought about places where I’ve let issues get “piled up” in my life. How losing weight is harder since I’ve let it sit on my body for so long. How changing habits related to studying and writing requires a crazy amount of effort to get over the inertia of just starting, for Pete’s sake!  How “the sin that trips us up” (Hebrew 12:1b) takes so much diligence!!

But progress is being made and I’m grateful. Eensy-teensy steps forward…

My star word for the year is VITALITY. And so I’ve been thinking about what that means for me in every area of my life. I’ve been filling out a “SMARTER” goal chart and doing some self-evaluation. All good stuff. And necessary.

EXCEPT… I was allowing myself to feel pretty good about “how I’m doing.” You know, thoughts like “well, I’m not as bad as I was!” Or… “At least I don’t struggle with ________ like s/he does!”

And then I saw this:

Ugh2

Well, now.

I asked God to get my attention. And this did.

I have been reading about the process of sanctification, perseverance and spiritual growth. Pondering how it all ‘works’ and digging through my own goals for 2014. And, truth be told, maybe feeling a little too comfortable with “how I’m doing.”

A big, ugly, discolored, stubborn pile of snow. That’s what sin really looks like. Not neatly shoveled snow piles on one side of the driveway, but big old, stained, discolored mounds of ugly. It’s not the kind of “snow” you think of when you think of being “pure as the driven snow.” It’s ironic that this was the picture God showed me, because I know all too well the verse from Isaiah 1:18:

“Come now, and let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be white as snow.
If they are red as crimson,
they will become like wool.”

In my self-righteous or perhaps (if I want to be kind to myself) self-deluded way, I had pegged myself as “not doing that badly.” When really, ugly is ugly. Sin is sin. There’s quite a list of “what has to go” towards truly having VITALITY in my life.

The glorious truth though, about faith, confession, repentance and forgiveness is that God really and truly does wash it all away. Because I am pristine, loved and lifted out of that mucky, mushy, icy mess that I think “isn’t so bad.”

2014-01-03 08.16.52

Thanks be to God.

What gives me VITALITY

My Star Word for 2014 is “Vitality.” (You can read more about Star Words and how to get one here…). I have been thinking about what helps me maintain my vitality, particularly in terms of my emotional and and mental energy.

One of the things I realized is that I have more personal energy when I am more organized. This translates into not procrastinating!! I can find five hundred ways to NOT do the things I know need to be done. It can be a case of the “I don’t wanna’s” or just not wanting to spend the energy to start something new.

So I started a little experiment on some little tasks for cleaning up the house after Christmas, (which is something that I find very depressing.) Normally, I wait until after Epiphany to put things away and it drags out all month. I have fewer work hours this month, so I couldn’t even use that as an excuse. So with both girls gone for their job/school responsibilities, I decided to punt and GIT-ER-DONE.

In the process of packing things up, I realized that I didn’t have to keep the tangled, impossible-to-use Christmas ornament hooks.  One of our biggest frustrations when we decorate the tree is this mess of hooks that we have to painstakingly take apart. It’s not even worth the time to untangle them. So I was radical. I threw them away! Nope. Didn’t even recycle them.

What a mess!
What a mess!
Maybe there’s things in your life that are not worth exerting energy on any more. (Not people, mind you. People are deserving of our best efforts and intentions.) No, I’m talking about STUFF or ACTIVITIES or CHOICES which sap your strength and deplete your love of living.

What brings me VITALITY is knowing that I can make changes that bring life and energy in my life and the lives of others. And maybe there’s other simple things that I will learn I can release and devote my time and attention to better things. Things that are for God’s purposes and God’s people.

Words to guide me: My 2014 Star Word

A basket of Star Words. Want one? Just ask!
A basket of Star Words. Want one? Just ask!

This year I have added two intentional spiritual practices that I’m really excited about:
choosing a “Star Word” and
meditating on a “watch word.”

I’m really excited about this “Star Word” concept and wanted to share about it. (I’ll be receiving my “watch word” later on this week and will share more when I receive it.)

My “Star Word” is from a list compiled by RevGal Marci (and others). They are, simply, words printed on stars. There are over 300 words on the list. The Star Words are used by some churches on Epiphany, the celebration of the arrival of the Magi to see the Christ Child. I sat and cut out these stars, thinking about what kind of impact they could have on one’s life.

1  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel.

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

 (Matthew 2, CEB)

 

Some times it takes a while to find your way. Some times you ask the wrong people, or perhaps have made the wrong assumptions. The magi went to Jerusalem because they were looking for a king. And where else would a king be but in the palace? In Bethlehem… hmmm…

The Star Words are an opportunity to allow God to guide you — not by what you can see, but by what God shows you. Your Star Word is just a word — consider how it might apply to your journey with God over the next year.

How do I live it out? Where is it lacking in my life? How does it relate to my life in general, as well as my spiritual life? These are the kinds of questions that I am considering as I pray about this word and what God would say to me about it.

My Star Word for the year is:  VITALITY

VITALITY – noun \vī-ˈta-lə-tē\
: a lively or energetic quality
: the power or ability of something to continue to live, be successful, etc.

There’s a lot to ponder about this… I am someone of high energy and focus. I like to be busy working, writing, engaging in tasks and plans. So that first part of the definition, I think I’ve got it down OK. The second part — what is it that I do that helps me be successful? What abilities do I have that would contribute to this for others having more vitality?

I’m looking forward to journeying through the year with this word..

WOULD YOU LIKE A STAR WORD? Leave me a comment and I’ll draw one for you! 🙂