Monday Musings: Star Gifts
As the new year begins and we enter the season of Epiphany (we celebrated its start during worship yesterday though the Festival of the Epiphany isn’t actually until Wednesday, January 6), I once again invite you to receive a star gift. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to keep up with the slew of emails you have received during the holiday season and who may have decided to catch a few extra winks on Sunday mornings (because we all need to do that every now and again), a “star gift” is simply a brightly-colored piece of paper cut into the shape of a star with a word printed on the center of it. Obviously, due to our congregation’s commitment to keep one another safe, we were not able to pass out these star gifts during Sunday morning worship. Rather, this year, you are invited to a DIY (do-it-yourself) star gift practice in that I’ll provide you the word (randomly from a list of about 150) and you make the star.
As I have learned this practice is likely a new one for many of you, I thought I would share a bit about my first experience with star gifts to offer you some encouragement and support as you explore this new spiritual practice. I learned of star gifts in 2016 and thought it sounded like a wonderful way to bring some added pizzazz to the season of Epiphany and to offer some direction to the congregation I was serving throughout the new year. I carefully prepared all the star gifts for distribution, writing out each word on its orange, green, or blue star home (I was grateful that the local library had a star shape available for use with its X-ACTO cutter or these star gifts may not have made it out until the Epiphany 2017!). After all this preparation, I was excited to see which star I would pull out of the offering plate that Sunday; I was eager to see what word I’d have to reflect upon for the year. I was thinking how great it would be if I were to get “justice” or “truth” or maybe “singing.” Then the time came.
Expectantly I drew my star gift out of the offering plate, and with great anticipation I turned it over to discover the word through which I would be seeking to hear God speaking to me, and I have to say, I was a bit underwhelmed. There on my bright green star was the word “stability.” “Stability?” I thought, “What am I going to hear God saying through that?” But, I took a deep breath and decided I’d give it a try; after all, doing this whole star gifts thing was my idea in the first place. So, when I arrived home from worship that Sunday, I dutifully taped it to the corner of my bathroom mirror.
It really is amazing what God can do when you give her the chance as that star gift spoke to me in ways I never imagined. I came to view and understand stability in a different light as I began working with a family of refugees just a week or two after receiving my star gift. This family of two (a mother and her son) had been in the United States for less than six months and in Iowa for only one. They came into my life as they found themselves homeless and in need of a place to stay for a night before they could get into a shelter in a nearby city. After driving them to the central office for those in need of shelter that next morning, I worked with them throughout the months and years to come as they sought to find a sense of stability in this new country and state. As if being in a new country without friends and family to call upon wasn’t enough, this searching was further complicated by the fact that this woman didn’t speak much English. As I met with her in those early months and discussed (as best we could) possibilities for work and a home for her and her son, she regularly shared that all she wanted was to go to work and come home; that was all she wanted. She desired stability, the stability of that simple routine, that simple assurance that she would be able to provide for her son, that simple knowledge that she would have a space to call her own. (I was blessed to continue in relationship with this family, and they did find some of that stability they were seeking as the woman found reliable work and an apartment for her and her son to call home.)
As I gazed up at the bright green star taped to my mirror each morning and night, I could not help but to see what a great gift stability was in my life. I had a place to live, a home to call my own, a space in which to be at peace after encountering the world all day long. I had a steady job, the security of knowing that I could pay my rent and my bills and that I could buy food and whatever else I might have needed. I came to understand this stability in a different way—to see it as a gift that is not to be taken for granted. And, I heard God calling me to utilize this gift in such a way that it might become a gift to others as well remembering God’s words to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, “I will bless you…and you will be a blessing.” My time and energy spent engaging with this family was one of the ways I believe that sharing, that blessing happened.
So, how about it? Are you open to discovering what gift God might be offering you this year? If you haven’t yet done so, please reach out to me either by email or phone (call or text) to let me know you would like to receive a star gift and I will gladly share one with you. Then, once you have received your word, you are invited to reflect on that word for the duration of Epiphany and, if you are so willing, throughout the entire year. You are invited to ponder what significance your word might have in your life and how God might be speaking to you through that simple message. Note: it helps to place your star gift in a location that you come across regularly (ex. the bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, etc.).
So, what are you waiting for? God’s gifts await you!
Rev. Jessica Petersen-Mutai can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 812-727-4414.