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Did You See That Tiny Golden Spark?

No? Maybe you’ll want a new glasses. Or just time to notice? Noticing is a skill I often speak of. I’ve loved seeing how readily “noticing” and “observing” filled global news and blogs as a side-effect of the COVI-19 lockdown. The practice of being observant, of noticing is a boon to deep, fulfilling life. It waltzes everyman across the span of “here and now”, into the transcendant for healthy exploration of what is just beyond our five senses. But be forewarned:  As you develop the skill of noticing around you and what all the signs are pointing to, you’ll also tune your senses to the more philosophical questions of “Who am I?” “Where am I?” and “Why am I here?”

But isn’t this the season for asking? Asking earnest questions about existence, reality, and our innate hunger for “more”? We want to know what will complete us, fulfill us, make us whole, provide love and make all things right in the end.
It’s a life coach’s dream, getting to mull over these questions with others.

If the late November frost ignites my longing for fire (whether in crackling fireplaces or myriad flickering candles), it also signals Advent, the season of longing and preparing my heart for Christmas. Many of us dread winter, if for darkness-induced depression, the absence of loved ones, or a plethora of other reasons. But in the quiet and the dark are the stuff of real life in all its drama. Avoiding it, covering it up with artifice, leads to a withering soul on a much grander scale.

It makes perfect sense to me that my winter-induced longing for physical warmth comes with a deep reminder to slow down, to notice, so that I don’t altogether miss or lose what is precious to me.  In noticing the things and people around me, in slowing down to celebrate the details and the meaning of my life, is the glittering beauty of  frost and the agony of the refugees and homeless with no shelter. In taking time to be in the moment is the intensity of visiting loved ones and of missiles obliterating homes. Do I dare?

One dreary winter day in Nashville may feel like three days in a pitch-black tomb to me, but I was reminded that was actually the scene of the most powerful life-giving creative force in history.  Slow, quiet action across three dark days meant a profoundly life-giving outcome.

Do we dare slow down? Notice? Ask the questions? The answer is always Yes, and always there, covered and silenced by heaps of cultural trappings and stuff we’re supposed to want. The longing for meaning is unavoidable when we slow the race, ignore the false urgency of holiday commerce. And our longing is met by the unhinderable, unshadowed presence of the loving God who caused our longing and then met it through His Son. He is always here, waiting, longing to be gracious to us, to show us compassion (Isaiah 30:18). But if we don’t notice, if we’re distracted by the race we run through our days, how will we ever know Him? How will we catch the spark, fan it into flame?

That spark is a gift, free to every single one of us. It is the spark that deserves our careful, steady attention so that it won’t snuff out. We must move slowly, having the dry tinder of a needy soul ready to receive it. Allowing the noise of man made clutter to cloud the glistening beauty of winter is like turning the garden hose on a smoldering pile of mulch: it will surely snuff out, and it will do so before we realize it was our one chance, as vital as that single spark that could keep us alive for the night on the snowy mountain.

If we’re too busy to notice the tiny golden spark hidden in the quiet- even of the bleak midwinter– that we’ve been given life that sets all life ablaze with eternity, we’ll altogether miss the most important moment of our lives. That moment is here and now; the Advent of God with us, loving us, and meeting all the longings of our souls once for all.

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