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.

2018: The year of “Balance”

Earlier this year on Epiphany Sunday, I drew my personal “star word” for 2018. I first heard of this practice from another RevGal, Rev. Marci Glass. (You can read more about it here.) For the last several years, I’ve chosen a word and used it for reflection. Just as God guided the Magi to the Christ Child, so God guides me.

This year, my word was “Balance.” My initial reaction was “very funny, God.” My second thought was, “ooohhhh, OUCH.”

This year has completely been about Balance. Balance about my health. About my family’s changing needs. About my adjustment to the day-to-day professional challenges of being a hospice chaplain. About wanting to be an advocate in the public arena. About leadership in a national non-profit. About choosing when to write and what to write about.

Balance.

You can call it “chance” that I ended up with that word. But I suspect that the Spirit knew what I needed to see hanging over my desk, day in, day out.  Do I have it all figured out? Am I now a truly “balanced” person? Well, no. But I can honestly say that I know now when I am out-of-balance and have to stop and get my equilibrium.

Recently, I made a decision to step back from a leadership role. There were many reasons, but the bottom line was that I recognized how out-of-balance the stress from that role was for me personally and spiritually. I’m not someone who backs down from a challenge! (If you know me at all, you’ve figured that out.) The health challenges of my body got my attention. The emotional stress reinforced it was the right decision. Self-care is sometimes very, very hard and I am too stubborn for my own good. (I write more about this here…)

I returned to the words of a song by Carolyn McDade which reminded me why I was out of balance. I was taking on more than God had called me to do.

“No woman is required to build the world by destroying herself.”

It’s not selfish to make choices for your own growth and self-care. It’s not irresponsible to say “no, I’m sorry, I can’t” to a request for a very good and meaningful cause. It’s not impossible to admit you can’t handle the toxic situation you stumbled into rather blindly. And most of all, it’s not a bad thing to fulfill your obligations – until you simply can’t do it any more.

And, beloved, when you find that “sweet spot” — that place of Balance — it is very, very good. Just the way we are Created to be.

 

Three steps forward, 2 steps… SPLAT!

Kneepain
The stylish but practical ice pack

Go tell my knee,
My achy-breaky-knee,
I really don’t like landing on the floor.
So if you tell my knee,
My achy-breaky-knee,
It might straighten up and walk some more…

(apologies to Billy Ray Cyrus) 

This has been a frustrating week. Frustrating in that aggressive rehab is “on hold” for several more weeks. Yes, the meniscus still has a tear. (No magical healing happening!) The effusion is back. The stiffness is back. The pain (thank the LORD for cortisone shots) is nonexistent, unless I try and do something stupid, like squat or kneel.

But the swelling isn’t “normal.” Not even an older knee that “hit the pavement.” I’m following a new regimen, and using what the orthopedist called “good old common sense.” Conservative, careful, and step by step. Home exercises, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Also regular anti-inflammatory meds, and a delicious mug of Turmeric-Ginger tea!

I’m not particularly happy with my knee at the moment, but trying not to let it color my world. There’s lots worse going on to other people in my life. I’ll be thankful for the healing process, however slow it seems, and for a doctor that listened  to me. I’m hopeful we can push the bionic knee option way way way down the road.

For my own frustration level, well… I’m human. I’m learning what to crank about and what to let flow on and away. And that’s a slow, up and down process, too.

A note to all of you health care folks out there… if you want “buy in” by your patient to a new health care routine, you have to communicate! It’s something that we do in hospice all the time, and we find it makes all the difference. Teaching and re-teaching. Taking the time to answer questions and teach new skills. It’s hard to find the time because of the way that physicians are reimbursed by our current healthcare model (and I know that). But for this doctor, today… I am very thankful.

 

Seek the beautiful

Photo Credit: “Grumpy cat”, © 2013 WXRob, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

I’m so tired of ugly words and mean people. Really ugly words. And really mean people. And I’m using vague and trite-sounding words because I can’t write the string of profanities that would flow from my mouth and melt my keyboard.

I’m not kidding. That ugly. That @#*$!!! is mean.

Here’s reality: hard things come into our lives.
Here’s hope: these hard things don’t have to define you.

I’ve seen it over and over… from my work in hospice and in hospitals, in churches, in schools, in non-profits, and in corporations. Some people define themselves by the worst days of their lives. And others use those experiences to sharpen their goals and trudge on, trying again. It is so easy to be negative and complain. It’s hard to try again when you’ve failed… (Especially with the nay-sayers commenting, “Well you can try, but you know, it’s really not going to work.”)

That’s what I call “concretized thinking.” A mindset that is so determined that nothing will change, and the end result is inescapable. All possible alternatives are dismissed. Admitting you are struggling is a sign that you either “aren’t really trying” or “are a whiner.” Serious questions are ignored.

Enough!

Most of what we bitch about is small potatoes. It’s inconsequential. It is not life-threatening. I confess I get caught up in this… and that I have to reboot now and then… like I did this evening.

Tonight I focused on a piece of music, with its haunting melody and lush harmonies… I listened to it with my headphones on and soaked in the beauty. I invite you to do the same!

There is tension in our world. There are unanswered questions. But… there is a way through the discord, the dissonance, the unresolvable. There is a way to breathe, dream, persevere and join with others on the same path.

And there is… at the very end… peace.

Book Review: We Pray With Her

9781501869709_CVR_FinalLayout.inddI sat down with this book of prayers on a sleeting and windy afternoon. I had a lot on my mind, and turned to the Table of Contents. There was exactly the prayer I needed: Prayer for the Courage to Speak Out Against Misconduct. I was stunned and moved to tears. Who could have known??

As I paged through this small volume, I found several other prayers that touched a chord, either in remembering challenges in ministry or parenting, or in moments of celebration and joy. I was encouraged. I felt bolstered in facing a difficult “dragon” ahead of me that day.

In the Foreword, Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli captured my sentiments:

“…for anyone who has been in a place of pain, grief, stress, or challenge and had a community truly holding you in prayer, you know that the prayers and loving thoughts of others have a mysterious way of buoying your life through the storm.” (p. ix)

This book celebrates the journeys of women: leaders, CEOs, day laborers, moms, politicians, reach and poor. It celebrates her significance and her worth in the eyes of the Divine. There are devotions and heart-felt prayers on each topic, clustered under Call, Struggles, Courage, Resistance and Persistence.

I picked up this volume several times over the last month, and each time there seemed to be a gentle word from the Spirit just for my situation. The compassion and wisdom in these pages were real, down-to-earth and honest. This was not a theological exercise. This is a book for tending your heart and relationship with the Almighty.

I believe there is a word for every woman, regardless of her situation. Words that will affirm, and bless. I am grateful that the editors brought these writers together — for our growth and for God’s kin-dom. They are pastors, chaplains, professors, elders, deacons and some still in-process. I recommend this book to you!

GIVEAWAY!!! If you would like a copy of this book – please make a comment below with your address and why you would like the book. (NOTE: I will not publish the comments! But if you want the book, you’ll need to give me your address!) I’ll have a drawing and some lucky woman (or man who wants to encourage a woman in his life) will win it.


We Pray With Her: Encouragement for All Women Who Lead. Edited by Emily Peck-McClain, Danyelle Trexler, Jen Tyler, J. Paige Boyer and Shannon Sullivan. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2018. Paperback: 242 pages. ISBN-13: 9781501869709.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.