Street Cred

Letter writing has become a thing of the past. We have lost this art to emails, texts, PMs, DMs, and communicating through social media. I needed to write a letter to my uncle, and I procrastinated for weeks. Why? Because my handwriting has become almost illegible from years of neglect. Think about it: other than your signature, do you do much long handwriting anymore?

 Reading Paul’s carefully crafted letters is like stepping back in time. There is a letter writing etiquette that is foreign to us, especially in the greetings. Today’s reading is no exception, as we see Paul working hard in the beginning sentences to establish his “street credentials” with the churches in Galatia. We can feel his passion for his churches and his desire even in the greeting to establish the fact that he has a God-appointed mission that was not the work of any human council or board. By establishing himself as approved by God, he hoped to engender the trust and respect of the Christians who would read this letter.

Galatians 5:1-5 (Common English Bible)

From Paul, an apostle who is not sent from human authority or commissioned through human agency, but sent through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead; and from all the brothers and sisters with me.

To the churches in Galatia.

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. 

To God be the glory forever and always! Amen.

This is a marvelous reminder to us when we take a stand and proclaim the good news of Christ. We are also divinely appointed to this task and that appointment comes with God’s strength and power. Whether it is volunteering to hold a baby in the church nursery, preaching from a pulpit, or leading an international mission trip, the credentials we bring as people who have been tasked by God help people to trust and receive our ministry. When we proclaim Christ, we are not alone.

Note the beautiful language in verse 3 where Paul gives his apostolic greeting with the words “grace and peace to you.” He used this phrase five times in the New Testament, and one could argue that “grace and peace” describe Christianity in a nutshell. Grace, from the Greek, and peace, from the Hebrew, consolidate everything we know and want to share about the life Christians lead. We are the blessed recipients of Christ’s grace, an undeserved favor that is bestowed upon us in the form of unconditional, forgiving love. And peace is what Christ came to give us, confirmed in the fourteenth chapter of John: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you” (John 14:27, Common English Bible). Could we find any better credentials than this?

Paul ends his greeting by outlining Christ’s credentials. His letters always focused on the centrality of the cross, and he clearly explains that Christ gave himself for our sins. It is by this authority and the authority of the will of God that we go out into the world in Jesus’ name, and for Jesus’ sake. Is God calling you to use your own street cred in your witness? Take the authority and go.

Greetings by Michelle Robertson

Hope Wins

Today is Wednesday.

I type that with the certainty of a person who thought it was Wednesday all day yesterday. I got up, edited and published my Wednesday devotional and then suddenly remembered it was Tuesday. I went to my Tuesday staff meeting (thank God for that brief moment of clarity!) and then went to pick up my dog from the vet in the afternoon. Then at 5:00 I told my husband that it was time for our Wednesday night family ZOOM call. But it was still Tuesday.

Lest you think I was having a day-long senior moment, (a reasonable guess) I need to explain my lack of focus. On Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church, my 13 -year-old Labrador Retriever collapsed. I called some friends to help me get her in the car. I was able to check her in to an Animal Hospital, and with the very kind and knowledgeable help of Dr. Grossman, she was diagnosed with Vestibular Disease, and we brought her home late Tuesday afternoon. She is wobbly but well.

Those three days were a nightmare for me. I got a harsh reminder of what grief and anxiety feel like. From Sunday morning until she wobbled through the door yesterday, I was in physical and emotional pain. My chest and stomach actually hurt, and I could not keep my mind from going to all of the worst situations. I could not sleep, nor could I eat. Driving up the driveway knowing she would not be running to greet me at the door rendered me paralyzed to the point that I could not get out of the car for fifteen minutes that first day.

Yesterday morning, on my Wednesday/your Tuesday, I woke up to a much too quiet house and proceeded to upload my Wednesday devotional. My mind was spinning, but luckily, I had written it last week. As I worked on it, a large robin red breast perched on the railing right outside my window and sang his beautiful song to me. I stopped and watched him, thanking God for this gift of rare beauty in the midst of my emotional tsunami fog.I felt my heart lift just a tiny bit and I allowed my mind to envision bringing Georgia home and things returning to normal.

In other words, I began to feel hope.

We finally got the call that she had recovered enough to be brought home and I began to feel the deep knot unknot itself. Hope was then affirmed by spotting another red-breasted robin sitting on a hedge outside the vet’s office. God had been with me all along and these two bird sightings were like a sweet tap on the shoulder as he reminded me that he had never left me in those long hours of uncertainty.

Hope is the antidote to grief. Hope stands in the boxing ring with anxiety with its gloved fists raised and yells, “Give me your best shot.” Hope wipes out the fear of the worst thing happening. In the end, hope wins. Even if the worst thing had happened and we lost Georgia, I was reminded that thanks to the hope we have in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, I could look forward to that day of seeing her again, whole and restored. And ornery. Always ornery.

When we first got Georgia as a thirteen-week-old puppy, a vet told us that large pure bred dogs like her had a life expectancy of 8 to 12 years. She is thirteen and I know we are living on bonus time. The last three days were just a dress rehearsal for her inevitable curtain call. But somehow, I know that when it happens, peace will come at some point as I anticipate the reality of being reunited again.

Isaiah wrote a lot about hope, and this Scripture describes how I felt … except instead of eagles, I got robins:

Isaiah 40:31 (New Revised Standard Version)

But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

I don’t know what battles of hopelessness you are facing today, but I pray you will take this Scripture to heart. It is hard to wait when you don’t know the outcome, but Jesus reminded us that he is with us wherever we go, even to the land of hopelessness. So hang on! Your Redeemer comes.

Happier Days

A New Song

     My husband likened it to playing “Whack A Mole.” As his father was in the hospital struggling with medical issues after hip surgery, the issues started changing by the hour. Nausea and lack of appetite became hiccups that wouldn’t stop, which became a recurring throat spasm, which became a possible stroke … every time the doctors addressed one problem, another one popped up. 

     And then on the sixth day, as my husband was getting ready to return to the hospital for another day of “what now?” the house phone rang. His father , who couldn’t speak night before, was calling with very explicit instructions on how to check the exterior oil tank to measure and calculate the amount of oil left to run the furnace. And just like that, new mercies began to pop up and we were reminded once again that “all we have needed, God’s hand hath provided.” (Great is Thy Faithfulness, United Methodist Hymnal p. 140).

     Our family’s joy from God’s saving help was palpable. Have you ever gone to bed thinking all was lost only to wake up in the morning to see God’s new mercies suddenly in place? When God steps in and rescues us, it is cause for great joy and celebration. Because God’s faithfulness is great, we can always rest assured that our troubles are not unnoticed or unimportant to our Maker.

     In our psalm today, we find words of thanksgiving and praise that enable us express the joy we feel when we have been helped. We are invited to sing to the Lord a new song. God is pleased by our praise and celebrates among us with the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Psalm 149:1-4

Praise the Lord!

Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing God’s praise in the assembly of the faithful!
Let Israel celebrate its maker;
    let Zion’s children rejoice in their king!
Let them praise God’s name with dance;
    let them sing God’s praise with the drum and lyre!
Because the Lord is pleased with his people,
    God will beautify the poor with saving help.

     Our United Methodist communion liturgy includes this phrase: “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” I love the emphasis on “always and everywhere.” It is always right to give praise to God.

     What would your new song be today? Is there anything in your life for which you have not properly given God thanks? Sometimes we overlook the small things, thinking that such triviality does not warrant attention. But God works in the small things, like the measure of oil in the tank that awakens a man in his hospital bed with urgency of purpose and new clarity of mind. There is nothing we can’t thank God for, as everything belongs to God and comes from heaven above.

     So today, take a moment to share your joy in a new song of praise for the small things. Did you wake up? Praise God. Do your shoelaces work? Thank you, Jesus! Was there toothpaste in the tube? Hallelujah!

New Mercies I See by Michelle Robertson

But is it Fair?

Our lectionary psalm today is one of three psalms that begin with a proclamation that “the Lord reigns.” (See Psalm 93 and 97.) This one takes it a little farther by stating that not only does he reign, but he is present both “between the winged heavenly creatures” and in Zion as a king who loves justice. With our New Testament eyes, we can leap forward and see Christ as the embodiment of a king who brings equity, justice, and inclusion to his reign on earth. Thus, in some ways, this psalm could be viewed as a prophecy of the reign of Jesus, especially in the last verses that speak of his forgiveness.

Psalm 99 (Common English Bible)

The Lord reigns—
    the nations shake!
    He sits enthroned on the winged heavenly creatures—
    the earth quakes!
The Lord is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them thank your great and awesome name.
    He is holy!

The word “holy” means separate or set apart. It implies a sacredness that stands in contrast with the mundane. By proclaiming that God is holy, the psalmist reminds us that there is a distance between God and humanity, not just morally (as one who is pure would be from the sinful) but also in regard to his eternal nature compared to our earthly existence. He is divine.

Strong king who loves justice,
    you are the one who established what is fair.
    You worked justice and righteousness in Jacob.

My denomination has been focused on justice issues from the beginning of its inception. John Wesley spoke out against poverty, forced child labor, and the system of “poor houses” that kept people trapped in a life of despair. He spoke out for the fair treatment of widows, orphans, and prisoners. Wesley was one of the first churchmen of his time to address the issue of slavery:

The United Methodist Church, has a long history of concern for social justice, including speaking out against racial injustice, advocating for and working toward equality.

Methodism founder John Wesley was well known for his opposition to slavery. In 1773 he printed a pamphlet titled “Thoughts Upon Slavery,” in which he decried the evils of slavery and called for slave traders and owners to repent and free their slaves.

“Nothing is more certain in itself, and apparent to all, than that the infamous traffic for slaves directly infringes both divine and human law,” he wrote.

Wesley’s writings influenced political leaders of his day — including William Wilberforce, a British Parliament member who led a movement to abolish the slave trade. The last letter Wesley wrote, six days before his death, was addressed to Wilberforce, urging him to continue his work. In that letter, he lamented that “a man who has a black skin being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress.” (From

The most powerful thing about Wesley’s work here is that he was just an ordinary Anglican priest. He wasn’t a king, he wasn’t a politician, he was just a preacher. But he used his influence to fight for justice. Being a “man of one book,” i.e., the Bible, he knew God’s position on justice and fairness, and he obediently used his voice to fight for what God loves.

I say to you today that if God loves justice, so should we.

Magnify the Lord, our God!
    Bow low at his footstool!
    He is holy!

Part of our job here on earth is to aspire to emulate all that is holy and to love what God loves. Perhaps one of our greatest challenges comes in the fact that God loves all his children, each and every one. Do you struggle with that? Do you find some people or even some groups of people hard to love? Are there members of your own family who are unlovable? Remember that God loves them just as they are.

6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel too among those who called on his name.
They cried out to the Lord, and he himself answered them—
    he spoke to them from a pillar of cloud.
They kept the laws and the rules God gave to them.
Lord our God, you answered them.
    To them you were a God who forgives
    but also the one who avenged their wrong deeds.

The psalmist reminds us that there is great wisdom to be gleaned from the writings of the Old Testament priests. When we study Moses, Aaron, Samuel, and the others, we see God’s activity and learn the history of our “desert forefathers” in a way that helps us understand God’s activity here on earth. We are comforted by the fact that God answered their cries, God led them through a wilderness, God forgave them, and God protected them.

Magnify the Lord our God!
    Bow low at his holy mountain
    because the Lord our God is holy!

We are invited to bow low before our holy God and do all we can to learn about him and care about the things he cares about. It is not only a call to study, but a call to action, as Wesley understood. Where is God calling you to promote justice and fairness in your community?

The Lord our God is holy, and he will guide your steps when you follow him.

The Lord Reigns by Michelle Robertson

In the Day of Trouble

Once upon a time there was a ginormous pig who escaped her yard and went on an escapade all over Kitty Hawk Village. Over the hills, through the woods, and onto the very curvy road she went. She startled me as I came around a bend on my way to my office, and I saw a pickup truck going too fast that almost hit her. In his defense, nobody would have expected a 300+ pound pig to be smack in the middle of the road. I quickly parked at the police station and jumped out of my van. From there I proceeded on foot in what we cops call “hot pursuit.” She seemed intrigued by my efforts and slowed down as I followed her in and out of people’s yards,. To be honest, she wasn’t moving very fast. So, I started to call, “Suuuu-EEE! Suuuu-EEE.” I don’t even know what that means. I might have thrown a little “here Piggy, Piggy” in for good measure.

Surprisingly, this lovely gentle giant turned and sauntered over to me, so I walked her back to the police station, stopping traffic on the busy road as we crossed it. What else was I going to do with a lost pig?

I opened the door and called into the receptionist that I was here to report a rogue pig. She probably thought I had just come from the Black Pelican bar and had been over-served. But when the pig snorted loudly behind me, she came out for a look. This pig was obviously well loved at home because she nuzzled us like a dog and enjoyed a good ear rub. As you can see, she even posed for pictures. What a ham!

An officer came out and said, “Caroline, what are you doing here? Did you take yourself for a walk again?” It turns out that Caroline lives in the big yard behind the police station and he was able to walk her home.

Not to sound like a hero or anything, but I did save her bacon that day.

Do you know that God wants to save you, too? In the day of trouble, God will pursue you as you are wandering away from him. He won’t let you out of his sight until you come home safely into the house of the Lord:

Psalm 27 (New International Version)

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple

For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

Are you running away? Are you feeling unsafe and untethered? No matter what the reason is, whether the situation you are facing is a result of your bad choices or your enemies pursuing you, God offers the safety of his tent:

Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Caroline was wise enough to come when she heard the voice of her rescuer. I pray that in your day of trouble, you will seek God’s face and listen to his voice. He will come, and he will be merciful.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
    be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
    you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
    God my Savior.

God is your Savior, and you will be saved. Thanks be to God!

I told you she was big!


This weekend I was blessed to be invited to a nearby church to do a talk about on my book Psalms by the Sea. The organizer had done a terrific job planning the entire thing and had ordered my books from Amazon for the women who wanted to purchase them. Thinking that they would have the books in front of them, I prepared my presentation in a way that I could use volunteer readers and have some of the psalms read out loud together. When I got there, she told me that the books had not come yet, so I quickly shifted to a more “author book reading style,” which turned out just fine.

We joked about why the books failed to arrive on time. Our little island’s single curvy road is under construction. Perhaps the books are stuck at the first portable stop light waiting for the little flag to go up and the light to turn from red to yellow. Or perhaps Amazon sent them by boat and our recent high winds and strong waves were too much for the poor guy rowing them across the sound. Or maybe they had been delivered and were sitting outside the organizer’s house in an odd place. This has happened to all of us, as our beachy houses on stilts don’t have a discernible front door and we often find packages left days earlier in weird places.

So, when I read the assigned scripture today about Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to follow him, the word “immediately” jumped out at me:

Matthew 4 (Common English Bible)

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishers. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 

Wouldn’t it be lovely if things happened immediately?

“Georgia, stop barking.” And Georgia stopped immediately

“Kids, go get ready for school.” And the kids got ready immediately.

“Honey, it’s time to leave for the movie.” And honey got up from the couch, turned off the football game, and immediately got into the car.

“Immediately” would be such a blessing at the DMV, when you’re on the phone holding for a “representative,” or in the overcrowded Urgent Care waiting room. Peter and Andrew had been preveniently moved by the Holy Spirit to respond to Jesus’ invitation to drop everything and become a disciple.

21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus surely had the power to move people immediately in a way that we don’t. I also think this scripture points out that we don’t respond to God’s calling quite as quickly as those early disciples, and perhaps we should learn from their example. It took me two years of discernment to decide to go into the ministry. These things must be thought out carefully but there are also times when God tells us to speak a kind word to someone who is hurting or stop what we are doing to attend to a need right in front of us and we ignore those prompts and continue to do our own thing.

Jesus Ministers to Crowds of People

23 Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

This may be a stretch, but I wonder if the fact that his posse responded immediately to his call propelled Jesus into his teaching and healing ministries. He didn’t have to continue to go around Galilee looking for a team: they were in place, and he could turn his attention to his own calling.

Where is God calling you to do something immediately? It may be as small as a phone call you’ve been putting off, or as big as starting to plan a mission trip.

Whatever it is, do it.


Follow Me by Michelle Robertson

Strength to the End

Two of my friends lost their mothers in December, and it always brings back memories of my own mother’s passing when that happens. If you have lost your Mom, you understand the special kind of painful hole that her death creates in your soul. Your mother, whether she was good or not, whether she was supportive and encouraging or judgmental and harsh, was the very first person to know you from the inside-out. There is a blood bond or an adoptive bond that can’t be denied. And if your mother was good, the hole is cavernous and hard to navigate, especially in the first weeks and months. Her lack of presence in this world is disorienting and foreign.

I had a good mother, so I know this pain.

Our lectionary passage today has a beautiful phrase that made me think of my friends’ new grief and my own well-worn sadness over losing our mothers. The blessing of my mother’s passing came in the way she died, as we had spent the evening together and I made her tea and helped her get ready for bed. A few hours later she died in her sleep. We didn’t know it was coming. What a tremendous gift of grace that was!

God gave both of us strength for the end.

Paul assures the church of Corinth that God will also strengthen them to the end. This is a powerful promise that we can all grab ahold of when a loved one dies or as we face our own mortality. I think this can also apply to the end of a relationship, losing a job, graduating from college, moving away from your home, adult children going off on their own … all those things that at some point must come to an end.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the partnership of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until it’s season, something God alone can see.
(Hymn of Promise, Natalie Sleeth, UMH #707)

God is faithful indeed.

The End and the Beginning by Michelle Robertson

Come and See

The images still haunt us. A healthy, young, 24-year-old athlete lay dead on the football field. Players who surrounded him were weeping. An ambulance drove across the grass as an athletic trainer performed CPR for nearly 10 minutes. An AED was used to shock the young man’s heart back into life. Oxygen was administered. When he was finally stabilized enough for transport, he was taken to the ICU of the nearest hospital, which happened to be only two miles away. Today, Damar Hamlin is recovering and making tremendous strides. He is breathing on his own and talking. Thanks be to God!

This morning I read a thread on Twitter from a hospital chaplain asking that people not label this as a “miracle.” His reasoning is that by labeling everyday medical procedures as miracles “we end up with people who deny its legitimacy.” A doctor retweeted it and gave a lengthy explanation of all the step-by-step medical science that was the reason for Hamlin’s recovery, calling each step a miracle. I have to say I’m with the doc on this one. The doctor saw what the chaplain couldn’t. God was with Hamlin every step of the way. Life after death is a miracle. I don’t care what avenues of medical science God uses … he is still the author of all life who performs miracles every day. Who’s with me on this?

Today’s lectionary passage is all about people seeing for themselves. Jesus invites us all to “come and see.”

John 1 (The Message)

29-31 The very next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I’ve been talking about, ‘the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.’ I knew nothing about who he was—only this: that my task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God.”

32-34 John clinched his witness with this: “I watched the Spirit, like a dove flying down out of the sky, making himself at home in him. I repeat, I know nothing about him except this: The One who authorized me to baptize with water told me, ‘The One on whom you see the Spirit come down and stay, this One will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ That’s exactly what I saw happen, and I’m telling you, there’s no question about it: This is the Son of God.”

Come, See for Yourself

35-36 The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.”

37-38 The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.”

I believe miracles are happening all around us every day. From the profound to the ordinary, God is present. Here is an example from the mundane: my husband and I drove 12 hours on I-95 through four states a few days ago and never once slowed down. If you’ve ever driven that route, you know that was a miracle!

They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened.

40-42 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.

Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).

Finding the Messiah in the ordinary is miraculous. Receiving grace and compassion from a stranger is a miracle. God sending his son to forgive the sins of the world was the best miracle of all. You have the opportunity to come and see this Passover Lamb for yourself and then invite others.

Come and see!

The Power of Prayer photo by the New York Times via Facebook


“Whatever it was, it is significant that God met them in their own medium.”

This powerful quote from David Guzik’s “Enduring Word” commentary on Matthew 2 caught my breath away. I do a fair amount of commentary reading on each scripture that I am studying and sometimes a single beautiful sentence will take my thinking into a different place.

So, let’s back up and unpack this.

We are in that familiar place in the post-nativity drama where King Herod had just discovered that Jesus was born. In his anxious paranoia, he immediately set out to destroy anyone who might challenge his fragile grip on his throne. The scriptures record that he was frightened, and his fear of this usurper baby spread throughout his minions and his city.

Enter the magi, which is translated to astronomer or philosopher. These men studied the skies, the stars, the planets, and the ancient astrological predictions. They realized that a king had been born to the Jews. Not kings themselves, these curious scientists traveled many miles following Christ’s star to Bethlehem:

Matthew 2 (Common English Bible)

2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star in the east 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. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah,
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

The Jewish scholars confirmed what the Eastern astronomers knew: something astronomical had happened and it needed to be seen. When the magi reached the place where the Epiphany star rested over Bethlehem they were overwhelmed with joy.

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out, and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen in the east, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,  they were overwhelmed with joy. 

Let us stop here for a moment as well.

The magi were gentiles. They were not Jews who had anticipated the Messiah’s arrival for generations. They were stargazers, and planet-watchers … in other words, men of learning and science. Religion paid no part in their quest; they were drawn by the appearance of a spectacular vision in the heavens and their curiosity drove them to find answers. Or, as Guzik states, “Whatever it was, it is significant that God met them in their own medium.” Planets, stars, imploding new universes, supernovas … whatever that “star”was, God chose their medium to communicate the birth of his son to them. He spoke to them from the star, knowing that they were looking at the skies.

God always speaks to us in our own medium. He uses people, situations, events, callings, tragedies, blessings, joy, etc. to speak his language of love and hope into our lives.

Are you listening?

11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

God also speaks words of warning into our lives when we are headed in the wrong direction. How hard he works to keep us going in the right direction! How disappointed he must be when we continue to go our own way, despite his warnings.

God invites us to look around today and discover where he is speaking to us. And then we are invited to follow.

That’s what wise people do.

This image is dominated by NGC 7469, a luminous, face-on spiral galaxy approximately 90 000 light-years in diameter that lies roughly 220 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. Its companion galaxy IC 5283 is partly visible in the lower left portion of this image. This spiral galaxy has recently been studied as part of the Great Observatories All-sky LIRGs Survey (GOALS) Early Release Science program with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, which aims to study the physics of space. Photo credit to the James Webb Space Facebook page.


Navel-gazing is the habit of excessive contemplation on a single issue at the expense of being able to see the wider view of the bigger picture. The image that comes to mind with this phrase is a person with their head bent low, not looking up and not engaging in the world around them. Focusing on their own navel, they never see what God is doing in the midst of their crisis.

Today’s beautiful psalm begins with an antidote to navel-gazing. The psalmist reminds us to look up. It is an instruction to lift up our eyes and look heavenward. This is what he did, and he saw God’s presence.

Psalm 121 (New International Version)

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Whatever you are dealing with right now, ask yourself this: where does your help come from? Too often we look the wrong direction for direction. We look to social media to confirm our bias. We look to alcohol and drugs to numb our distress. We look to gossip and over-sharing to assuage our anxiety. We look to movies and television to help us ignore reality. We look in all the wrong places because they are easy to obtain. But our only real help comes from the Lord. Lift up your eyes!

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

This is a powerful reminder of what happens when we look to God to help us and completely yield our situation to him. He won’t let your foot slip. In all of those moments when you awaken at 4:00 in the morning and can’t get back to sleep because your problems keep running through your mind, God is already on watch.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

Psalm 121 is a pilgrimage song that was sung as the people journeyed to Jerusalem. They had to walk over hills and through valleys that were surrounded by mountains. There was danger on the road. Robbers would hide in the hills and attack them. The sun beat down on them by day and the moon exposed their position by night. But God provided a protection of shade for them, as he will for you.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Knowing that God watches over us is a blessing of comfort and assurance. The promise that God will keep you from harm is something you can count on now, and forevermore. When we entirely yield our lives to his safe keeping, we walk in his peace. When that happens, the only kind of navel-gazing you will need is to bow your head in a prayer of submission and thanksgiving and let it all go to him.

The Lord is your keeper! Thanks be to God.

I Lift Up My Eyes by David Bevel Jones