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Remembering the Star: Experience a “But God” Moment

Many things in life take our eyes off Jesus, the star. Our situations may lead us to our dreams unfulfilled, and only by remembering the star do we get to erase every doubt in doing the things that God created us to do. 

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy..” – Matthew 2:9 (ESV)

One year in the fall, I had been waking up in physical pain for several nights, but far worse, in deep emotional pain. It had been more than four months since I had a horseback riding accident and broke my collarbone. Although the orthopedic doctor assured me that surgery was unnecessary and I would be back on the horse in November, I couldn’t perform the simplest physical tasks without pain. As a result, I had made no progress on several significant projects, which I thought God had called me to do! At night when I woke up, my mind often fell into progressively more profound despair. Would I be physically able to execute the plans on my December calendar, including our annual family Christmas party for 25 people and an important business trip to California that had been planned for many months?

Our church was preparing to host an outdoor movie called “The Star.” Our next generation pastor asked volunteers to make “star cookies” to pass out during the event. I didn’t have a star cookie cutter, but I grabbed a bag of various cookie cutters in the grocery store at the last minute. (Procrastination? Who, me?!) When I opened the bag, I discovered, “No star!” There was a mitten, a bell, a stocking, a reindeer, a tree (at least that’s what I think it was!), and a snowflake, but no star! How could it be? Just one more indication of how wayward our culture has become. Despite what revisionist history today would have us believe, our nation was founded on Biblical principles, and the one symbol of the gift that God gave us—his Son—was missing!

That night, as I lay awake, fighting the negative thoughts bombarding me, I realized that I, too, had forgotten the star. “But God”—one of my favorite two word phrases in the Bible— showed up! The sermon the following day was “The Star: A Journey of Hope.” The pastor described three steps to help anyone who was struggling during that Advent season:

Acknowledge the darkness.
Embrace the wait.
Commit to the journey.

He recommended three simple Advent prayers:

Each time you recognize some area of darkness: “Jesus, shine your light here.”
Each time you find yourself annoyed by waiting: “Jesus, work on me while I wait.”
Each time you hear a Christmas carol: “Jesus, help me love you more, as you love me.”

After church, a woman with whom I enjoyed working on church projects and whom I had not seen for many years came up to me and asked, “How are you?” Much to my embarrassment, I cried and said, “Not so well.” She asked me for more details, and I shared some of them. I acknowledged that part of my despair was my upcoming 75th birthday and feeling overwhelmed at how many things I had started in my life with great enthusiasm, but how few I had finished.

Her response was once again a “But God” experience. She said, “Well, maybe God created you to start things that other people could finish. I’m not very good at starting things.” I stood there feeling astounded. You see, one of the projects I had started was offering a new coaching service as a “Vision Accelerator” designed to help people identify and begin executing a vision about which they have been dreaming. One woman had been thinking about writing a book for 17 years, another wanted to go to graduate school for decades to become a counselor, and another had entrepreneurial dreams but felt too afraid to leap.

As I pondered my situation, I was comforted by Romans 8:28 (KJV): “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” I also recalled what I often tell my clients and the consultants we train: “It will all turn out in the end. If it doesn’t, it isn’t the end yet.” Thank you, God, that it isn’t the end for me yet—or for you! For years I’ve said that I planned to give a speech on my 100th birthday, but since COVID, I’ve made a change. My new vision is to live each day “remembering the star.” and to encourage those around me to do the same.

Barbara Hemphill

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