There's a tiara on my dining room table. I got it at a yard sale for a dollar and couldn't believe my good fortune. It sparkles when the sun comes through the window, and occasionally I put it on. Several of my daughter's friends have placed it on their head to look in the mirror and catch a glimpse of their royal-ness.
Queen Elizabeth was a young woman when she first wore her father's elaborate diamond-encrusted crown and accepted the tremendous amount of responsibility that accompanied it. In a TV interview she described how to wear the heavy headpiece without breaking one's neck and declared “So there are some disadvantages to crowns, but otherwise they're quite important.”
According to my talented hair dresser who is too honest for her own good, I've been working on my own crown of sorts every since I turned 45. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory...” (Proverbs 16:31) Another verse that makes me smile is Proverbs 12:4 “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband...” I do try to make my beloved Jeff feel like the king of our castle. (Our house has two throne rooms I clean regularly.)
Another favorite scripture about crowns is James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under the trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” If you're going through a trial right now, please remain steadfast in your love for Him. He knows your struggle and will meet you in it...and great is your reward!
This summer, while others merely traveled to hot sandy islands or old Europe full of ruins, we were blessed with the good fortune to vacation in NJ with my in-laws. At my sister-in-law's house I commented on an old photo of two little girls wearing crowns with trophies at their feet. My brother-in-law explained the girls were his mom and his aunt winning a baby contest in Staten Island at the 1926 South Beach Carnival. He opened a cabinet door and produced the actual handmade brass crown and engraved trophies, now tarnished with age. He called the trophies something I'd never heard before—“loving cups”.
Research revealed loving cups are two-handled vessels usually made of silver which were used at weddings or given as awards at competitions (possibly holding prized olive oil in ancient times). Interestingly, the United Methodist website recounts church history utilizing loving cups. Founder John Wesley instituted “Love Feasts” after a German Moravian tradition that incorporated testimonies, praise, and food. It was a good way to build community as parishioners shared their lives and faith with each other. A loving cup was used to pass water easily from one person to another along with the conversation.
Jesus talks about a different cup, albeit one full of love, in the Garden of Gethsemane on Mount of Olives when He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:39) His cup had our names engraved on it. Another perspective is to suggest we are God's trophies with His name written on us, and each life submitted to Christ is another victory showcasing His grace.
Trophies come in all shapes: the car, the high-achieving kids, the degree, the title, the 12 point buck, the first place ribbon, the gym body, or even a garage sale tiara...But there's an old hymn that can keep us grounded “So I'll cherish the old rugged cross, Til my trophies at last I lay down, And I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.” It's a little reminder to lay down our trophies and focus on the crown. Queen Elizabeth was right—“crowns are quite important things”... especially the one made of thorns.
Here is the photo at my brother-in-laws that inspired the article. His mother and aunt are pictured with their "loving cups" which are engraved with South Beach Carnival 1925 Baby Parade and South Beach Carnival 1926. The crown is handmade from a sheet of brass, and the little notes inside the frame lovingly read "A Budding Flower" and Future Miss America".
The stars were especially bright twinkling through the leaves of our big Chinese Chestnut tree in our back yard as I took the dogs out one last time before bed. It made me homesick for the farm where there is no light interference and nights like this one are the norm, not the rare occasion. I was jolted back to reality, however, when I saw a couple “stars” fall to the ground and then realized they were fireflies!
Back home in WV some nights are so dark you can’t see your hand three inches in front of your face and the stars light up the sky in a way difficult to fully comprehend. Lying in the back of Dad’s pick-up truck bouncing down Balli Mountain on a warm summer starry night, one of us girls would start singing and we’d all join in belting a song from the 60’s: “In the stars His handiwork I see, On the wind He speaks with majesty, Though He ruleth over land and sea, What is that to me? (He’s Everything to Me by Ralph Carmichael) While we didn’t sing especially well, we did sing loud. That old dirt road was bumpy with pot holes making our voices irregularly change pitch like sadly untrained vibrato but we kept singing.
Accepting my vocal limitations, I memorized a scripture verse with which to better respond to those marvelous night skies. “…The heavens declare the glory of God. And the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
There are many nights not clear enough for us to see God’s handiwork. In the literal sense there is cloud cover. In the figurative sense our ideas of self-worth, our vices, our past, our ambitions, and lies the world tells us about our identity can all be barriers that cloud our vision of God’s hand at work in our lives, obscuring the gifts He has for us.
There was a special star the wise men in the bible followed to find a savior fulfilling God’s prophecy. And while we might use star signs like they did before calendars to direct us about best planting times, God cautions us about using horoscopes. They are not a healthy way to guide our destiny. Jesus has become the only “star” we need to rely on for personal guidance. He says in Revelation 22:16 that He is the Root and the Offspring of David, The Bright and Morning Star.This metaphor parallels the physical world as the morning star (Venus) rises and signals the sun will soon be out—likewise breaking the darkness.
Astrology and the science of Astronomy are two different things. One of the coolest places on earth is in the National Quiet Zone nestled in the WV mountains—Green Bank Observatory, which is home to astronomy research that is literally out of this world! Amazingly, one of the eight telescopes is 2.4 acres in surface area and can identify a quarter from three miles away. And in Cincinnati, OH there’s a smaller, yet impressive telescope slated to be the world’s oldest telescope still in use by the general public. We clearly remain intrigued and in awe of His handiwork.
Some of us naturally have stars in our eyes and allow ourselves to be transported by a tree full of fireflies. Some see stars when we get a bump on the head or stand up too quickly. Some worship the fleeting stars in Hollywood. And thankfully some wise men still follow a bright and Morning Star.
It’s ironic that while we have telescopes pointed at the heavens appreciating the complexity and searching for signs of intelligent life, God is looking down doing the same thing. “Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the havens and the earth?” (Psalm 113: 5-6) I sure hope He finds what He’s looking for;)
Janet Cowger- Fliegel