Subscribe in a reader or enter your address to get posts via email: 
Like this blog on Facebook!

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Epiphany 2024, part 2

Most years I start with my youngest and work my way up through her big brother and finally to my wife. This year I decided to reverse that and start with my wife and work my way backward. Her gift and word were a little heavy, and I didn't want to end on that note!

This year I also get some help from a friend and got some cards printed up. Each card has as a background an image I found of The Magi, then printed over that, their name, their "word", and a related Scripture. I'm no graphic designer, but I'm really happy with how they came out! I think I'm going to keep doing it in future years!

This year my wife has been in a battle with breast cancer. At the stage we caught it, it is a winnable fight, and we're in a good place now, but the treatments are no fun. They are time-consuming, and uncomfortable to the point of sometimes being painful. She had a surgery which left her flat on her back on the couch for several weeks, doctor's orders not to move unless she absolutely had to. Her word was "Second Chance". I reminded her that if we hadn't gotten treatment from some amazing doctors and medical technicians using tools that didn't even exist 5, 10, 15 years ago, she would be dead right now. I told her to consider this her reset button. This is the "turn it off and back on again" reboot. This is her video game "extra life". Now is her chance to do things she never did before, because "before" is over with and "second chance" is now. The gift I gave her was a beautiful pewter "ticket" like you see in the picture (it's actually a photo of two of them so you can see the front and the back) by an Etsy artist named Cynthia Webb. I left a message with my order telling her that this was for a gift and I was hoping the USPS would be quick about it, and in the package she included a sweet reply telling me she hoped it made it on time! (It did!) Click on the picture and take a look at her work! It's pretty fantastic stuff!

The Scripture I included for my wife is from Psalm 40:1-3 (I had to leave out part of it to fit it on the card, but the missing part applies too): “I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry... He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.”

By the way... my daughter protested " 'Second Chance' is two words!" Of course it is, but a "word" can also mean more than one word. "I will take care of this problem, you have my word" - "I'm angry with that guy, I'm going to have a word with him!" ...or how about this one: we call the Bible the "Word of God". The sense I'm using it in, though, is in the "word of prophecy" sense. I do not have the ministry of a prophet of God, but I believe that as the father I have a similar ministry to my own family. So that's why I use the word "word" even when it's multiple words.

My son spent the last part of this year working at a pretty great job he got in order to pay off some school bills and get back on track for college. The word I had for him was "Focus". I wanted him to remember that even though he had a pretty decent job that he's working at right now, his college is to prep him for something even more amazing to come later! I actually gave him two Scriptures, Proverbs 16:9 and Hebrews 12:1-2: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” and “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down... and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” I gave him the cool nautical-style telescope at left (it's mostly for show and not as much to use, although it does actually work). The inscription on the telescope says “Go Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams/Live the Life You Have Imagined.” I told him not to ignore the people God puts right next to him in this season, but also do not lose sight on the longer-term vision for his future.

Things were a little different for my daughter. For my wife and my son, the "word" almost felt obvious. For my daughter, it took a little more prayer this year. As a dad it would be easy enough to just make up something, but I deeply feel that it is important that whatever I give and say to them for Epiphany every year is inspired by God for that year. Finally something dropped into my heart for her: "Friends". Honestly, I don't even know exactly what that means to her, but I told her that what I felt in my heart was that she seems to have an easy time at making friends - people at school seem to know who she is and think favorably about her. Maybe there are kids who don't like her, but so far I haven't met anyone who seems to be uncomfortable talking to me, like a teenager is when they have to talk to the dad of someone they don't care for. I told her that I think she needs to not be apprehensive about making friends with people. Open up and be a friend when someone needs a friend. I gave her John 15:12-13: “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I don't think, though, that the application of that Scripture ends with literally giving up your life for someone, as in getting hit by a train while you're pushing someone else off the tracks. I think that "laying down your life for your friends" might mean just laying down your cell phone when someone needs to talk, or laying down a book you're enjoying to enjoy the human being right next to you. When she was opening up the twin necklaces you see above, I made sure she understood that I wasn't trying to call her names - I just knew that she would think it was hilarious (she did). I told her she was welcome to keep both necklaces if she wanted to, but I was hoping she would actually give one of them to a friend!

I hope reading this has inspired you to do something like this for your own family. You don't have to be the dad... you can be the mom, or a grandparent, or you can even be a brother or sister and seek the Lord for a word for someone. You might just be a friend, and the Holy Spirit might inspire you to share with someone. A small gift, a physical object, can hold meaning in the way that just words might not... it's why prophets in the Old Testament (and even the New Testament) used physical objects to communicate a message. It's also why we send greeting cards at Christmas and birthdays, and why we give flowers and candy on Valentine's Day. I always try to link to the things I pick out in case you want to share them as well, but please, her from the Lord on your own! The word He gives you is the Word that is needed by exactly that person at exactly that moment!

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Epiphany 2024, part 1

Something felt special about our Epiphany celebration this year. I felt like God was giving me something extra special to share with my family, and I was actually pretty excited about it!

I don't remember if I've mentioned this before, but typically I'll briefly share something with them from the Word that has to do with the Christmas season. This year I had been thinking about sheep. It turns out there are a lot of stories about the Christmas sheep - that the shepherds were special sacrificial sheep shepherds, that they actually would swaddle the baby sheep and put them in mangers to keep them spotless at birth, that the place where Mary and Joseph and Jesus were was the place where the sacrificial sheep were born, that sort of stuff. It's pretty fascinating, and it turns out that most of it is fictional with no credible evidence, Biblical or historical, to back it up. There is nothing significant that we know about the shepherds other than that they were shepherds - guys with jobs, maybe families, just regular Joes.

There is also little or no evidence for another thing I've heard - that shepherds were some kind of reviled lower class. King David was a shepherd, which would likely have elevated the profession already, and Jesus had no problem calling Himself a "good shepherd" - which, if there were negative connotations to the profession, would have changed the whole spin of that declaration.

But isn't it interesting that Jesus saw the people, who were being led poorly by the religious establishment, as "sheep without a shepherd", and extending the metaphor of the people as sheep and the leaders as shepherds, He called Himself "the good shepherd". Which sounds pretty pastoral to us, but keep in mind that for the very best of the actual sheep in that culture, being the best was essentially a death sentence! The spotless and perfect of sheep were to be sacrificed.

The crazy amazing thing is that the "good shepherd" in this case loved the sheep, but He did not halt the sacrifices. Instead, he became a sheep, and allowed Himself to be sacrificed instead! The "Lamb of God" was given up for us, took away our sins, and freed us from the sentence of death. What a plot twist!

Well, I was going to tell you all about the gifts I gave the family this year, but this post is already long enough. Stay tuned for part 2!