|The Atsma family "Star Gifts" from 2016 and 2017. Boogaloo also received stars, but we never know where they end up. |
These are "Star Gifts." They are an Epiphany tradition at my church.
Every year, between Christmas and Epiphany, the pastor and several volunteers prayerfully write different spiritual gifts and attributes on over 200 little paper stars. Then, as the offering is collected on the Sunday of Epiphany, the members of the committee will follow behind the deacons and pass out the stars randomly. The words are all facing down, and the congregation is instructed to just take the one on top.
Now, some of you might be thinking, "What a cute way to commemorate the Wise men." And I grant you, there is something fun about colorful little paper stars. But the stars are always accurate. They are exactly what people need to receive. I've even heard people say, "I didn't know why I received the word I got last year, but by the end of the year, I knew exactly why God had given that to me."
Two years ago, I drew "Pardon," and anyone who knows me well knows that I have difficulty letting go of my past sins. As I looked at that star, I understood that God wanted me to understand that I was clean. What I was given that year was the delicate ability to pardon others (particularly political opponents on Facebook), and by the end of the year, I had a whole new appreciation for all being in this together.
Last year, the year of the Great Michigan Decision, Seth got "Encouragement" and I got "Guidance." I thought that we should switch stars because he, as the head of the family, was obviously going to be needing the guidance. But throughout the year, I found that comparing my gut feeling to the decisions we reached, I knew what we were going to do, especially when we had spent significant time in prayer.
So this year, when I pulled "Discipline" out of the basket, I laughed, right up in front of church with a microphone in my hand. How appropriate. Discipline is something that I have been asking about for a couple of months now. It applies in so many places: discipline in writing more often, discipline in physical exercise, in time management, in accomplishing tasks instead of worrying about them, in choosing my priorities, in getting up earlier in the morning, in prayer and Bible Reading, in speaking my mind instead of willing people to guess what's bothering me and in limiting my time on social media (read Facebook).
One thing our pastor said this year brought the poignancy of the gift home to me. He said, "This is not an assignment; this is a gift. This is not something you need to achieve. This is God's gift to you over the coming year, and over the coming year, we pray that you will see this trait manifest and grow as you mature in Christ and give your best back to God, as the Wise Men did." Being a good Calvinist, I am much inclined to try to achieve what has been given to me. But receiving discipline this year was more like that verse when Jesus said, "When you ask for something, believe that you have already received it."
In the few weeks following Epiphany, I have seen a growth of discipline. I'm not saying that I'm a cross between Maria Kang and Elizabeth Elliot all of a sudden. But two out of five school days, I manage to get up and read and pray, and I got in some yoga and a little aerobics. I also had two days subbing for a P.E. teacher, which helps. As for writing, well, this is my second blog post this year. That's something.
On the other hand, this past weekend, the family devotional covered the parable of the Talents. The one indisputable lesson to take away from that parable is that God expects a return on His investments. This may not be an assignment (for which I am honestly grateful. The last thing I need is another "to do."), and the gift was certainly free, and I asked for it and He was pleased to give it to me. But now that I have discipline (and it's growing), I have to do something with it.