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The pictures featured in my 2023 Advent Reflections are provided by writer/photographer, fellow blogger (and friend), Gary Fultz.

Here I am sliding in under the wire for a second week of Advent reflection. The truth is, this was a hard one to write. Then my son came home for the weekend and reminded me: though there may be a battle in the middle, it begins and ends with love.

It seems whenever I pray for a bigger heart, I’m put to the test…

It arrived so unexpectedly. The shore was in sight when suddenly the bolt hit out of nowhere. It felt like my old theatre days when things went awry at final dress rehearsal.

But a bad final dress was always a good thing, wasn’t it? Opening night would shine, wouldn’t it? Surely, I couldn’t quit now, could I?

Is that the way God works? Just when we think we might be ready, when we think we’ve gone deep enough, He takes us deeper?

Yes. And we can’t lose our focus.

We were one week away from completing our one to one care training. It was intense. We’d come far, worked hard, gone deep, bonded and laughed and broke bread together. We’d been prepared and were ready to begin new journeys, each one of us, uniquely serving someone in crises, a heart in crises.

But the blinding light strikes and reveals our less than adequate human selves and efforts.

Those sneaky triggers that upset the peace—when we say something that manifests emotions in someone or they in us that has little to do with the situation at hand. The boat rocks and threatens to tip.

What do we do with them? Do we bottle them up and ship them off to the closet down the long dark hallway of our hearts that hasn’t been traveled or dusted for who knows how long?

Or can we hold them steady in the palm of our hand like an offering?

“Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword,”* Jesus said. Do not think Jesus will let us off the hook. He would like those bottles emptied.

Here I was, reminded of a challenging situation years ago, when there I sat in a room full of hidden agendas. Feeling beaten up, the impulse hit to get up and walk out when the firm hand of a peer beside me, pressed down on top of my thigh and held me in place.

Days later, I was grateful for that hand but not that day. Had I left at the time, it would have created greater problems. There was still work to do.

And there is still work to do.

This time, it was like that day, except there was no person beside me. It felt like the hand of God holding me firmly in place in spite of my deep emotional unheaval to what had been said.

It’s so much easier to walk away from conflict than step into it. Sometimes you might need to, but not always.

There is something to be said when peace feels elusive and you simply wait.

There is something to be said when you are confused and you simply wait.

There is something to be said when the sword strikes, you sense the hand of God and you simply wait.

In waiting we receive. And sometimes in receiving we learn to wait.

Imagine the waiting involved in wanting a heart like Jesus’s.

When we pray, “Help me to love like you, Lord,” we better also pray for strength to wait because what we are asking for is incomprehensible.

Imagine. We aren’t just asking for the fruits of Christlike characteristics, but a heart that’s large enough to hold the entire universe!

When we become one with the One who holds the universe, can you imagine our capacity?

Jesus’s burden is the whole of broken humanity which includes all the suffering that ever was or ever will be!

What was I thinking?

No wonder I have sorrow in my anxious little heart.

When Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden light, does that mean he lifts us up out of ourselves into his weightless, invisible, glorious Presence and we become one with the all-embracing, unconditional love of God?

Just imagine.

Issues divide and deplete and are secondary to the love God is creating within us, and is at the core of each self and every relationship. Opinions divide, discussions can quickly guide us away from the humility and surrender that yokes us to Jesus.

His Divine light is a refining fire, blazing with God’s love that becomes the Center of new life in us that we can’t help but offer to each other.

It may not make it easy, but it can make it simple.

It may not make it painless, but it can give rest.

It may not remove the conflict, but it can offer stillness in the midst of it.

And the strength to wait.

I felt God’s hand on me that day in the “boat” with my fellow travelers. If I’d have left them, I would have missed the new door where Jesus stood waiting for me to enter.

He never said there wouldn’t be storms, he said to trust him in the storm. We all walk around a little swamped with storms in us, don’t we? Jesus is the one who is capable of calming them, in his care, in his way, in his time.

Silence leads us away from the “chatter” into the heart of God, where we are always discovering new things. Triggers help us identify difficult feelings in others and in ourselves.

Allowing the Spirit to lead us into some silence, we encounter the Presence of God where we can do some holy listening and reflecting. It’s not our job to fix. We learn to wait.

We have to trust that God is at work.

We are not the healers, we are the receivers—broken, vulnerable people like anyone else in need of care.

It’s the Spirit of Christ who heals, not us.

It’s the Spirit who speaks words of grace and truth through us.

The mystery is that God can use any of us with our limited, conditional love as an opening for someone else to receive the unlimited, never conditional love of God that is available. Yet that’s just what God does, so we can realize it’s not about us.

God keeps us on our toes. It was good the triggers came before our training ended. We are even better prepared for facing the storms ahead and living out, uniquely, God’s love for all people, in a world not too willing to wait and resists receiving.

Jesus also said, “My Peace I give to you…I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”* It’s not about what we can do but about who God is.

God doesn’t give us all the answers.

But God does prepare our hearts to receive.

Just imagine our capacity.


Scriptures referenced and to reflect on: Matthew 10:34; John 14:27

Photos: Gary Fultz, provided on Unsplash.

My son, Charlie, and me.

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