Magi. The ancient word conjures intrigue. Who were these men? And most of all, what drove them to travel so far to pay homage to the newborn King?

Mosaic of the magi in Sant' Apollinare Nuovo in Raveena, Italy, 526 AD. Magi depicted in Persian clothing saved the church from being destroyed by the Persians in early 7th century.  Photo credit license: Nina Aldin Thune via Creative Commons
Mosaic of the magi in Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo in Raveena, Italy, 526 AD. Magi depicted in Persian clothing saved the church from being destroyed by the Persians in the early 7th century.
Photo credit license: Nina Aldin Thune via Creative Commons

The word magi, plural form of magos, is believed by many scholars to be Babylonian in origin. According to Strong’s Concordance, magi means “wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augurs, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.” Hence, it’s easy to see where the modern word magician comes from. The first time magi or magus was used was in the 6th century BC, in the Old Testament book of Daniel, when said wise men were called upon by King Nebuchadnezzar to interpret his dream. Recall that prior to this, King Nebuchadnezzar had seized Jerusalem and carried off the young educated men of Israel. Daniel and his three companions were cast among the magi. When no one could interpret his dream, Nebuchadnezzar ordered all the wise men be put to death. God provided Daniel the interpretation of the dream, not only saving him and his fellow Jewish companions, but the lives of all the wise men. Subsequently, the king placed Daniel in charge of the wise men, as well as over the entire province of Babylon (Daniel, chapter 2). Later we see Daniel continue to distinguish himself when King Darius set him up as a satrap (governor). This was typical of the additional duties magi performed, such as confirming the divine nature of the kingship, supervising the collection of land-taxes, and acting as judges.

 
Meanwhile, as these events with Daniel took place, there was a religious reformer named Zoroaster and his followers were called Zoroastrians. This group remained active throughout Babylonia for hundreds of years including during and after the time of Christ’s birth. In fact the King Vologeses I (51-80 AD) reinstated these magi at his court, and it was common practice for magi to visit and be accepted at court by other kings.

 
But could there be a deeper reason for their desire to pay homage? It turns out King Vologeses had family ties leading back to King Darius. Traditions and the passing on of knowledge is tantamount in keeping a religion alive. It is doubtful that the tales of Daniel and his God missed the magi’s notice. Whether they loved or hated him is not the point. The prophecy and dream interpretation made by Daniel (Chapters 2 through 7) was recorded not in Hebrew like the rest of the book, but switched to Aramaic, the language of the world. So at any time afterward, anyone could read how God granted that gift to Daniel, and that his prophecy of the Gentile world had all come true. The part in Aramaic also covers Daniel’s vision of the coming of the Son of man (Chapter 7). Couple this with the fact that the magi were trained to watch the skies for signs, as stars and comets were regarded as heralding the birth of kings.

 
Could it be that Daniel’s faithfulness in foreign captivity began a traditional teaching among the Zoroastrians and passed down through the generations of magi?

St Thaddeus Armenian Church, Iran. Constructed as Qara Kelissa in 68 AD in memory of St. Jude (Thaddeus)
St Thaddeus Armenian Church, Iran. Constructed as Qara Kelissa in 68 AD in memory of St. Jude (Thaddeus)

 
One more thing to note: After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostle Jude (also known as Thaddeus) went into Armenia and parts of Persia and in his mission work there ended up converting 3000 Zoroastrians to Christianity. Did he reference their homage to the newborn Jewish Messiah as the bridge to their salvation?

 

Whoever the magi were, they were certainly the first Gentiles with authority to recognize Christ as King.

 

Joy to the World!

 
Matthew 2:9b-11

and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

 

 

 

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rollercoaster
Instead of fear, throw up your hands and shout, “Wheee!”

I read something striking in my Beth Moore Bible study. It wasn’t related to the lesson, just something she said as encouragement: “Nothing about this adventure is accidental to your life.”

Now, I know she meant reading and studying this particular book of God’s Word, but it got me thinking: what if everything in life is not an accident? I am not only talking about the things that we know for certain further God’s kingdom in the world or in our hearts. But what if all of it is just one big adventure for our own benefit to lead us to Christ or to serve Him?  In other words, everything that happens to us has meaning and purpose to God, including the things that we fear or wish never happened.

It’s hard to get my head around, mainly because I’ve had a rough ride. If there are no accidents then that means God knew all of it would happen. And He let it. Yes of course it sculpted my character, but it also marked me in ways I wish I could forget, in ways I still struggle to overcome.  Even at the age I am, I am still discovering myself. Knowing I am a work-in-progress is comforting, and since I am not done in God’s eyes, I’m allowed to make mistakes. Knowing it’s okay to mess up brings freedom.

One of the benefits of being older is that it’s easy for me to look back over the years and see the obvious truth – like stepping-stones, God guided me on a course leading to something better: a God-directed path to better understanding who I am and who He is. All of my experiences in life are toward His purpose, all come into play to be used in some way or another, even the tough stuff. And perhaps that even more so than the rest.

So, what if I approached each day as if on a mission to discover “What am I to learn today?”

Nothing is accidental. It’s all an adventure. And He’s right there, not beside me, but just a step ahead leading the way.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

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I know you. I know everything about you. You try to hide but I see it all. I nag and poke. I creep into your mind as the darkness descends; the world sleeps but you I provoke to restlessness. And in the stillness your mind rages, screaming “what if?” and better yet “why me?” It makes me laugh. I breed in your isolation, I feast on your doubt until I choke you in my icy grip.

My name is Fear.

 

In your despair, I wait. My heart breaks with each step you slip, further and further, spiraling, until you succumb. Broken. I am here, little one. Do you not see me? Do you not know who I am? I am the one who hears your cries, who keeps watchcare over you in your darkest hours. I whisper peace, be still. I dwell in the gentle touches of friends, in the soothing arms of your beloveds, and innocent laughter. I shimmer upon you until I break forth into a warming beacon. Bask in the fury of my love.

320px-Celtic_cross_Knock_Ireland
Celtic Cross, Knock, Ireland

I am Hope.

 

For: Kathy, Angela, and Jane.

 

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

 

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cave_Iona_Scotland
Cave: Iona, Scotland

Well, it’s been a rough week in the writing trench. I waited with baited breath for the phone to ring with news of my making the semifinals of a writing contest – nope. Didn’t happen. Didn’t make the list. The next day I heard from an editor that “our team decided to pass” on my book. He’d had my proposal for 7 months. Ok, maybe I should have followed up sooner…blah blah whatever. All my leads have dried up. There is no wind in my sails. I’m dead in the water.

And while I await my scores and critiques from the contest (oh joy), I have to ponder my expensive trip to a writer’s conference last Fall to meet said editor and agents (who also turned me down). Was it worth it? At this point I want to say no. The hardest part is knowing that God wanted me there. I gathered up all my courage, pulled out all my professionalism from my former career, and went in there with my guns blazing. I did the best I could. And in retrospect, I did get an agent and an editor to request my stuff. Not bad I suppose for a first try. But really, what was the point?

And where do I go from here?

I feel kind of like Tim Tebow. Cut loose from the NY Jets, he doesn’t have a clue where he will be playing football next year. And he’s gotta play football. But here’s what he said: “I don’t know what the future holds, but at the end of the day I know who holds my future.”

I feel for you, Tim. I’m right there too. And thanks. I needed to hear that today.

From Psalm 34:

18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

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In the Dead Zone - My Life on Hold Right NowEver have to make a dreaded phone call to get something straightened out or news you’re not even sure you want to hear? You’re already anxious, keyed-up, and then it happens…they put you on hold: that silent limbo where time slows to a crawl, where you can feel the ticking of the clock with each heartbeat.

I find my life on hold right now. I’m in a kind of writer’s limbo which I’ve termed “The Dead Zone” – this is because people in the publishing biz are currently reviewing my book proposal…for weeks…months…and not a peep yet. There is no sign of life on the other end, just like that interminable dead air.

Finishing my first book, after 7 years of writing, has been an exhilarating experience, but also one of deep sorrow, or perhaps loss. Honestly, I haven’t sorted it out. I just know I didn’t want to write for awhile.

Meanwhile, I rode the rollercoaster of emotions as I began to seek publication: from fear – they’ve completely forgotten about me or worse they gather every Friday around the water cooler and laugh at my dialogue; rejection – any day now they will wise up; vulnerability – what was I thinking, terrible, awful, no good; and joy – well, they haven’t said no yet.

My poor brain. My poor ego.

Here is what I’ve learned during my stint in The Dead Zone:

  • Declutter. It’s amazing how papers pile up, and mere minutes at sorting can make a huge difference.
  • Exercise. Start new habits to benefit body, mind, and spirit.
  • Take time to ponder: life, God’s word, art, nature.
  • Read a good book, but not your own.
  • Get personal. Spend alittle quality time on yourself, doing things that are meaningful and perhaps pampering, the kind of things that get put off in the daily rush.

So, I did these things, and I discovered one major flaw – I missed writing. It is afterall my therapy. So next time, I will direct myself to keep writing something. Anything.

And so, I started the next book in the series. And the beginning…may just be the best thing I’ve ever written.

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Psalm 27:14

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