My parents came as a team in ministry. My Dad was the pastor and my mom was the director of Christian education. In all the places we lived as a family, they served the same church together. My parents were quite the partnership. Growing up, when I told folks I was a "Preacher's Kid" or a "P.K." as some people put it, that was really a bit of an understatement. I spent more time in the pews or in the secret corridors of our 250-year-old church than I did at my own house (which was also the Manse across the street from the church). The line between church and home, work and life, family and parents, Father and father was seriously blurred for me growing up. What am I saying? There still is no divide for me in any of these areas thanks to my childhood and I consider that a good thing.
Naturally, the seasons of worship were deeply kept and lived into in our home.It all just intermingled and really became one whole experience for me. There just was no separation between church and anything.
One of these precious experiences was Epiphany. Epiphany is on January 6th and celebrated the first Sunday after it. This is the day we celebrate the Wisemen visiting the infant Jesus and bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The truth of this story is that they probably came to see Jesus when he was two years old and his family was already living in Egypt where they moved to escape the wrath of King Harrod (who had all the firstborn boys killed just in case one was the predicted King of the Jews). Whatever the real timing, it doesn't matter as much as what the story is telling us. This story reveals that men from the East came to worship Jesus and they found him because they followed a star and believed it was part of their live's calling to follow it.
|painting by Sheri Wiseman|
They brought Jesus gifts that would enable him to live into his life's calling. They brought him frankincense which was used to anoint a king, Gold that could fund a ministry, and myrrh to prepare a dead body. In the same way, the Spirit gives us gifts that enable us to live into our live's callings.
Every year for the days post Christmas until Epiphany, my family would venture to Tampa to hang out with more family and cut out stars. My mom would painstakingly draw, trace, copy and label hundreds of paper stars for the coming Epiphany service. Our family would sit around my great-grandmother's table and cut out stars altogether. It became as much of a tradition for our Christmas vacation as it did for our church family in worship.
On each star was a word, a spiritual gift. These gifts went beyond the list that St. Paul provided us in Ephesians. It was a list created from the entire Bible, represented by the lives of the ones in the stories we knew so well. All of these gifts bear good fruit and improve our lives, pointing us always back to the Source.
During worship, baskets of these stars would be passed around as part of the offering and everyone would draw a star and pin it to their dress or lapel. This star was meant to represent a spiritual gift you already use and live into or one that you might need to work on. Most people did not peek and everyone seemed delighted and surprised by how uncanny the application of that star was during that season of life.
I believe that the Holy Spirit works in this offering and that those stars represented something real for each person.
Now that my Dad is gone, this tradition has become something we keep as a family. Mom or I occasionally try to sneak it in with the groups of people we love and serve, but on the whole, it is something that we honor on a much smaller scale at home.
As usual, the stars that we all drew this year have been dead on. My wonderful husband drew "Forbearance" which he encounters the opportunity to use constantly. Working with contractors, a new infant, old automobiles, a wife starting a new business, and all of life's little extras that demand patience and forgiveness, Joel is really learning what God intends from this gift. I drew, for the second year (I might add), "Assurance". I think of this word every single day. Assurance that God is with me in this space and time with a new baby, a new business, and a very old house we are fixing up. With family, friends, time that slips away from me, and the ever present need to live in the space I am called to. God has assured me over and over again of things that I needed to embrace in order to experience his love. Things like prayer works, that I am where I am meant to be, that He is with me, that this business will succeed, and so on.
Spiritual Direction reminds me that you cannot see the stars unless you step into the darkness. Three wise men not only stepped into the darkness 2,000 years ago, but they followed a star all the way to the Christ Child, all the way to Center. Today, and this year, my star helps me practice living with the assurance that I am being led, ever onward, to the light.