A moment of piracy

white and black selling boat on bed of water during daytime

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened…, and all Jerusalem with him…; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. Matthew 2:1-4

Last week as I was reflecting on the Epiphany, I was intrigued by King Herod as the villain in the story.  The wise men were given unlimited access to the Christ Child, and Herod was denied access.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.  Matthew 2:12

King Herod was created by God just like everybody else in the story.  So what went wrong? Most of us know King Herod is the ultimate biblical villain, a baby killer. However, there is more to the story.

Herod was born in Palestine.  His father was a soldier who ousted the king and took the throne for himself. His father appointed Herod Governor of Galilee.  When civil war broke out in Rome, Herod first sided with Mark Antony who made him a tetrarch (which is governor of a quadrant of Rome).  When Octavian defeated Mark Antony, and Cleopatra Herod switched his loyalties.  Herod was loyal to Rome and having proven this under Octavian-now Caesar Augustus-, he secured his position as King of the Jews.  Being a distrustful, paranoid, jealous, and brutal man.  He eliminated any opposition or threat to his place of power.  This included killing his wife and two of his sons.

But Herod wasn’t all bad.

There was economic prosperity during his reign of 33 years.  Herod presented himself as the protector of Judaism and hoped to win the favor of the Jews. He encouraged synagogue community development, and in difficult times he suspended taxes and supplied free grain to the people.  He earned his title Herod the Great because of all the building he was responsible for including the rebuilding and beautification of the temple in Jerusalem.

But he was a fearful and paranoid man, and he made a choice to let his fears guide his decisions.

There have been times in my life when I too have made a choice to follow my fears and insecurities.  Recently, as I was listening to a song in my car, a vivid recollection of such a time came flooding back.  The song was “A Pirates look at 40” by Jimmy Buffett.  A friend of mine, a Buffett fan, listened to his music often and so that time in my life is marked by his music.

It was a sad moment as I heard this song and remembered being 18 and how insecure and afraid I was.  I didn’t trust the friendships I had because I didn’t believe I was worthy of such good people.  As a result, I hurt those who were actually in my corner.  By thinking that they had something I didn’t, and not understanding that I had an abundance of my own to offer the relationship, I tried to take what they had for myself.

As I listened to the song, I didn’t stay in the sad moment long.  There has been a great deal of change for me as I grew in confidence and strength of character.  And looking back I am grateful for the time and the memory that had such an impact on my life.  Losing the friendships of those I hurt was a valuable consequence.  In the future, I made better choices.  I began looking at people of strong character and instead of attempting to take what they had I sought to emulate their integrity and fortitude.  In time my desire to read scripture grew.  I studied and learned about love and the genuine character of Christ.  He might have been a threat to Herod, but he also could have healed him.

In the song, Buffett claims to be a victim of fate, but I believe we make choices daily that impact the present and the future as well as how we will remember the past.

Will you recognize the value of past choices as moments of growth?

Will you recognize your value and that you are right now exactly where you should be?

Will you offer that to this day?

 

 

A moment of unlimited access

silhouette of trees and mountain under blue starry sky
Photo by Sindre Strøm on Pexels.com

For me, this week is the best part of Christmas.  The advertisements are slowing down, the need to shop has all but stopped, and most of the returns and exchanges have been made.  And with a deep and glorious sigh, I now have time, time to rest in the Christmas season which will not officially end until January 6th.  Growing up in New Orleans I think I took Epiphany traditions for granted.  January 6 was an important day! It was, sadly,  time to take down the Christmas decorations, but it also marked the beginning of Carnival season and my favorite treat the King Cake.  Over time, as with many traditions, the significance of Epiphany has developed into something much more precious.

It is during this time that we reflect on the Magi, also known as the Wise Men, and the Star of Bethlehem.   The wise men, traveling across the desert, saw a star.   Knowing the Old Testament prophecies, understanding the stars, and recognizing that this one was new and in motion, they would have been compelled to investigate.  Faithful to the promises made in history they would seek the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior.

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.   Matthew 2:10 (NRSV)

As they entered the house and saw the child with his mother Mary, their reverence and adoration brought them to their knees.  So much hope led them to this place, and in this moment they were given a miraculous gift.

The gift of unlimited access to the love of God was given.

In my mind, it is as if time stood still.  King Herod, the wily and efficient ruler and a cruel tyrant, is forgotten and all the love that is God radiates in the room where the Christ child rests in his mother’s arms.

If we are wise, faithful to the promises and follow the light, we too are given unlimited access to the love of God.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path.   Psalm 119:105 (NLT) 

January 5th “Twelfth Night” by tradition I will add the “Three Kings” to my nativity in preparation for Epiphany.  I will pause and contemplate the power in the moment when they saw the star, in the moment when they first laid eyes on the child, the Messiah, who was promised to the people of God, and in the moment when they fell to their knees and worshiped him.   I will take out my Bible, and I will remember that we to have been given a guiding light.   I will recognize that we too have been given unlimited access to the Love of God.  I will let time stand still for a moment, and I will offer my reverence, adoration, and gratitude to, Christ, Emanuel, God with us.

A moment of longing

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 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:15-16

I recently had a conversation with my thirteen-year-old son that given his permission I want to share with you.  As we were driving home one evening, he was feeling nostalgic about his cousin’s former home and all his good memories there.   It was a sad moment with longing for the way things were and wishing they had not changed.  I mentioned to him that it seemed he liked the sadness of the memory and that often it seems he enjoys melancholy thoughts.  He agreed with me and said, “I don’t know why.”  I was about to move into a lesson moment of how that is not healthy, and he should focus on the good things, but I stopped myself.  Instead, I told him the story of when at four-years-old he told me he didn’t want to turn five.  “I like being four,” he said.   I then told him of the time when he was eight and while watching a father and son play together looked up at me and said, “I can’t wait to be a dad.”

It was a wonder-full discussion.  Longing for the cherished moments in our lives is a good thing that we should not cast aside too quickly.   It is an expression of gratitude for the people and places, for the moment and the memory.  It is okay to be pensive at times.  But we should not stay there.   We must also remember that the past was not perfect, there is always a blending of joys and sorrows.  We can use the joy and love in those moments to carry us through difficult times to come.  Those moments enable us to anticipate the future with hope.

Those moments that we long to return to were leading us to new adventures, in new places, with new people.  We cannot go back in time, but we can take the joy and love of those moments into the future with us. Our future will be richer than the past for the experiences of love and connection we bring into it.  If we remember each day to connect and build relationships with each other and with our Creator, we will continually be led toward something better.

The following day on our drive home he asked me, “Is it weird that I am a little excited about dying?  I kinda can’t wait to see what heaven is like.”  A moment of melancholy transformed into a moment of hope for a future in the city that is prepared for him.

I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  Philippians 3:13-14

Can you recall a moment from the past that was so cherished you would like to return to it?  Can you move past that into a thought of anticipation for a moment that is yet to come?

A moment for tending

TEND–care for or look after; give one’s attention to

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The Kiss Painting by Gustav Klimt

My daughter decided a couple of years ago to learn bartending skills.  She spent a good deal of time in our liquor cabinet reading and mixing recipes.  While discovering her talent as a mixologist, she came across ” The Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch.” The book was a gift to my husband our first Christmas together, with of course a nice bottle of single malt scotch. Inside she found the inscription, “Clay,  May all our years together be as they are now.  Alana”.  Touched by the words I had written, she shared her discovery with me.  A book that had long since been forgotten warmed my daughter’s heart as she encountered a moment from the past.

Last weekend my husband and I celebrated 22 years of marriage.  There have been awesome moments, terrible moments and everything in between. When I am asked about marriage and what makes it last there is no simple answer.  However, there are a few things I have learned along the way, from personal experience and the insights of others.

Have faith.  When moments were painful, my faith had a great deal to do with how I handled things.  Maybe not in the heat of the moment but in the moments after I would recall my belief that we were called together for a reason.  All that scripture taught me about love needed to be lived out in my home first.

Take joy in the little things.  Love isn’t always shown in grand gestures, often it is the simple things that happen every day.  Stop and take notice.  When my shoes make it back into my closet from wherever I threw them off, I used to get frustrated that I couldn’t find them.  Now those little things remind me of how our lives are woven together.

Tending to each other and to the relationship matters.  When a couple is committed to attending to each other, it is not always simultaneously happening, and it may often seem like one, is giving in to the other.  I have found that it is important to recognize who has the most sensitivity to the situation and attend to that.  This creates an element of safety and allows for honesty.   The most important truths, in my discovery, are “I need…” and “It hurts when…”.  The environment that allows these truths to be spoken and attended to will be vulnerable and scary but also safe and binding.

Forgive.  We will have moments of selfishness and frustration.  That makes forgiveness a crucial key to marriages that last.  Ask and offer forgiveness often.  Giving and accepting forgiveness will have a much more significant impact on marriage than any other negotiations.

When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

And when all else fails, laugh!  One of the best ways of coping with the difficulties of negotiating in a marriage is understanding the humor in it all.  Sometimes we are fighting for the most trivial of reasons or in the silliest ways.  Recognize those moments and laugh.  Laughing together is a beautiful thing.

Some time ago I attended a church service where anyone celebrating a birthday or anniversary was invited to the altar for prayer.  A couple who had been married 60 years stood at the altar, and after the prayer, the priest asked them to share something about their years together.  The husband with a happy smile said something like, “Everyday has been wonderful!”  The wife with a surprised look and a chuckle replied, “Well not every day.”  Then they chuckled together.  This moment made quite an impression on me.  60 years and they were still not on the same page and yet, they were.  I think both statements were equally honest and sincere.

Our lives are made up of moments and our moments all together make up our lives.  My hope expressed in the statement, “May all our years together be as they are now.” is being realized.  Those early years filled with challenges were rich in laughter and love, And the years gone by have been richer still.

and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”Mark 10:7-9  (NRSV)