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She brushed past us in the school hallway. Her shoulders sagged beneath the weight of brimming tears. Flushed cheeks and nose betrayed her struggle to withhold sobs. She avoided eye contact.  The girl continued down the hall in silence, as if she hoped to take cover before the cry burst forth.

Did she know I prayed for her? As a complete stranger to her, I didn’t dare stop her or say anything that might add embarrassment to her morning. Of the dozen sorrow triggers I can imagine for high school orientation, I had no idea which one crushed her heart. I cannot say whether she whisked home without a single friend to ask what was wrong. I don’t know where she broke open to release that imminent flood of tears.

Perhaps the girl believed her stifled cries went unnoticed. If so, I pray she learns the truth. Though she’ll never know I cared, may her heart come to know One Who loves her without limit. If she sobs in a subterranean cave or weeps at the bottom of the sea, His heart will feel each stab of her pain. No cry is hidden from His ear.

I plead with the Holy Spirit to bring her a friend who will impart Christ’s love to her. She should not continue to feel unheard, unseen, or alone in her suffering. In more ways than one, she is not alone. Far too many people struggle in silent isolation from others, unaware of how precious they are to God. Christ reaches toward the lost and broken with compassion-scarred hands. I wish more people knew that He hears every moan and cherishes each tear as part of His own heart’s pain.

We can become the flesh of His embrace, reaching out to share love with the outcasts and the crushed souls. Whether today’s call is to prayer, an intimate conversation, or a blog post, the Spirit will prompt us. Offer hope. Show them Who cares. Though culture insists on qualifications like intelligence, vigor, or status, God seeks heartfelt obedience. Those who listen to the Spirit can brighten the world. One shivering soul at a time. In these chilling times, a throng of suffering hearts depends on us.

 

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

“When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate” (Exodus 22:27).

“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed” (Psalm 10:17-18)

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4).

“You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your records?” (Psalm 56:7-8)

 

It improves cocoa and makes chocolate more interesting. Nutritionists claim it boosts metabolism and immunity. While a little goes a long way, Mexican food isn’t the same without some form of this spice. Cayenne powder takes the chili seasoning to another level.

Life could go on without cayenne peppers, of course. We’d eat our dull food and survive. Some might even thank heaven for less heartburn. Bland routines avoid pain.

I recognize the comfort of routines. It’s easier not to think about adventure or passion. A day like yesterday risks nothing. If I raise my hands halfway in worship, no one will think me over-zealous. If I only offer blessings when someone sneezes, I can avoid offending someone who doesn’t believe.

Living in Christ means I no longer feel comfortable in my comfort zone. I’ve tasted the zest of grace, enjoyed the boost of God’s love, and dwell in the shelter of a glorious Father. My Lord offers more than a ho-hum, routine love for me. God’s love always rises to another level, one with intense passion.How can I settle for anything less than grabbing Jesus’ arm each day and setting out with Him on an adventure?

So, I’m endeavoring to add my spirit’s zeal to each day, like a dash of cayenne. Whether there’s a risk of pain or rejection, I know from my Savior’s example that passionate living is worth every kind of risk it takes.

 

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” (Psalm 63:3).
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:7-9).
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2).

Balmy breezes tickle the green lawns across my Florida neighborhood. Doughy cumulus clouds yawn and stretch until their shapes break. Puffs drift west across the iris-blue sky to visit their reflections in the bay. We could drive to meet them at the shoreline and fashion sugary sand into boulders. Sandmen wear shell buttons and wave palm branches to welcome tourists to paradise.

I needn’t ask my sons about such an outing. I know the beach offers little to appease their wintry longings. While ice threatens to sling our northern kin into misery, my children complain about the unseasonable warmth outside. To hands which never fashioned snowballs and eyes unfamiliar with frosted landscapes, no holiday wish outshines the dream of a white Christmas. 

Sunshine cannot melt carols. No barrier prohibits scripture or kindness from dwelling in the tropics. With purpose and meaning intact, eighty degree weather still seems strange. Whether in Florida or other unfrosted areas, we long for those winter wonderlands. The comfortable weather seems at odds with Christmas somehow, as if we are missing out on a vital part of the season.

What does snow have to do with Christmas? Perhaps the connection never rose to consciousness, but it remains a niggle at the heart. When winter stings our flesh with its icy grip, we swaddle our children and gather indoors at fires to share cocoa. One must be uncomfortable to appreciate comfort at its fullest. Those chilled by despair can experience hope as a precious blessing.

Despite its cold surface, however, snow cleanses and nourishes the land upon which it falls. While freezing the spread of pestilence, the blanket also incubates life. Glorious white reminds us of Christ’s impact upon a world deadened by its depravity. The dark and withered earth transforms as a fresh covering falls from heaven to cover its barrenness. 

That might be why I wish for snow at Christmas. My dream heralds the descent of the Lord’s radiant covering over our world. He makes all things new.

“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned…

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

— Isaiah 2:2,6

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