There is the story of a father home with his children. Mother had gone out shopping for Christmas. The father was home alone with the kids. He fell asleep in the recliner watching a football game while the kids played quietly in the other room.
The kids came to wake up Dad saying. “Dad, we have a play for you. Do you wanna see it?” He really wanted to continue his nap, but knew he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what his kids had prepared. Pulling his eyes open and sitting up in his chair, he became the one-man audience.
His four children, 4, 6, 8, and 10 were all actors playing the roles of Mary, Joseph, an angel and a wise woman. Joseph had a mop handle as a staff. Mary had a pillow stuffed under her shirt to look like she was carrying a baby. Another child flapped her arms like wings. The last child was wearing all the jewelry she could find in the house. Her arms were full with 3 presents. The wise woman said, “I am all three wise men. I bring the baby three precious gifts: gold, circumstance and muck.” http://day1.org/3361-call_and_response#_ftn1#_ftn1
We’d all laugh about the confusion of gold, circumstance and muck with gold, frankincense and myrrh. After reflection, the child might have been on to something about what we give Jesus. Sometimes, we give Him our best. Sometimes, we give Him our circumstances whatever they may be in prayer. Sometimes, we give Him our muck which is our sin. Throughout our best behavior, throughout all of life’s circumstances, both good and bad, and despite all our mucky sin, Jesus saves us because God loves us.
This morning, I wanted to spend some time talking about how we go to God in prayer, with our gold, circumstances and muck. Especially, I want to ask us to consider some spiritual practices for the year that might help us in our journey of faith to draw near to Christ. Spiritual practices are the things we do in our prayer or devotional life to listen to God, talk to God, grow in our relationship with God and grow in our understanding of ourselves.
Sue and Katie talked about the devotional practice of observing the Advent calendar that we did during Advent. I want to offer us the practices of star words or bags of blessings for this year. You can try either or both.
The star word we tried last year. I’m not sure how successful it was, but I want to try something a little different this year. First, I want to tell you how I was led by my star word. My word was oneness. I prayed all year about my word. I kept it on my bookshelf in my office directly in front of my desk so I saw it often and was reminded to pray about it.
I thought about who I was supposed to draw nearer to and become one with. I thought about my friendships, my family, you guys, the church. I just wasn’t feeling a pull toward working on a specific relationship but tried to remain committed to all my relationships.
Late this Fall, I asked my spiritual director about my star word. I told her I had been praying about it and couldn’t figure out what oneness meant for my faith journey. I told her I had been thinking about all my relationships with people. She said, “maybe you should be thinking about your relationship with God and becoming one with Him.” Well, duh. Didn’t I feel dumb. Of course, oneness would be about oneness with God. After some reflection, I’ve discovered that over the past year I have become more aware of myself and have a greater understanding of myself and my call leading to a greater oneness with the Divine in me.
So, this year, I’d like to offer some help with being guiding by a star word in your journey. If you choose to take a star, I’ll offer a monthly tip in the newsletter about reflecting on your star. Your first tip is to go home and look up your word in the dictionary and meditate about the definition.
The option I’d like to offer is the bag of blessings. You may have seen this idea on Facebook or Pinterest with a mason jar. I didn’t want us to confuse our blessings jars with our change jars for mission so I got us bags. Take a bag. Decorate it. Write Bag of Blessings on it. Every day, write a blessing on a piece of paper. Fold it up and place it in the bag. At the end of the year, you can read through all your blessings. I started my bag this week. I decided to write the date on each of the notes and write a couple sentences about the blessing.
There are stars in a basket on the back pew. There are bags on the back pew. You can take one per household or one per person. You can have a family star word or family bag of blessings or you can individual star words and bags of blessings. I’ve also printed out some reading plans to follow if you want to read through your Bible in one year.
What I’d like for you to take away from today is a renewed commitment to your prayer life through spiritual practices that will help strengthen your relationship with God and help you grow in your understanding of yourself. Please try something new, add something to your practices or re-commit to what you do so that this year you may be transformed. Paul in Romans 12: 1 – 2 talks about the purpose of the spiritual life: “Present yourselves as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God…be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is – what is good and pleasing and mature.”