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“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’” (Luke 22:39-46).

On the eve before His crucifixion, Jesus knew each detail of the unprecedented suffering awaiting Him. Jeering pagans would scourge him until near death. The priests who claimed His Father as God would insist they strip and kill Him. He would drag a beam through the dusty streets, as those He suffered to rescue spat upon His battered body. His raw flesh nailed to rough wood, He would hang to suffocate in the blistering sun. And that wasn’t the worst of it. He would also bear the immeasurable weight of every sin from the advent of time until the distant end of all days. Incomparable physical, emotional, and spiritual agony.

Jesus foresaw all this as He poured the Passover wine. Three years of cherished moments with these men culminated in this final message.He ripped the bread and explained its secret meaning to blank stares. In conclusion, He handed the elements to the dear friends who would soon abandon Him.

The scent of roast lamb floated through the streets. Jesus led them beyond the hard-packed roads until the murmurings faded and lush grasses eased their steps. With the steep incline, His legs strained under the added weight of His coming journey. They settled under a favorite cluster of trees in the garden. Gentle breezes lulled His full-bellied companions into repose. Jesus offered a vital exhortation to his too-comfortable students.

“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

He surrendered Himself in a crucial prayer. Angels responded to strengthen Him. Christ continued His fervent interaction with the Father. Until—

Every nerve and hair prickled as He recognized this moment. The time had come.

Jesus returned to wake his dozing supporters. Yes, He realized their frailty. But He must impress the concept of crucial prayer. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Christ’s insistence upon prayer at this moment renders it a crucial matter. The word ‘crucial’ derives its significance from its parent term, crucifixion. Though comprehension eluded the disciples until after the resurrection, we now benefit from Christ’s magnificent teaching delivered on Maundy Thursday. He

  • Forgiveness. He fulfilled the secret meaning of Passover as the Messiah Lamb Who redeems us from the consequences of sin. Despite impending betrayals and our continued undeserving nature, He demonstrated ultimate grace.
  • Service. He modeled the nature of a servant, explaining an additional impact of His coming sacrifice as providing inspiration for selfless living.
  • Submission. He surrendered Himself in prayer to the Father, Who strengthened Him to face unimaginable agony. During His crucial prayer, the Lord sent angelic support.
  • Crucial Prayer. He exhorted His followers to pray against temptation. He knew the trials awaiting them in the coming season. He knows prayer is our essential resource to fortify and equip us foll all that lies ahead.

This Maundy Thursday, as you reflect upon Jesus’ message to the disciples at the Last Supper and Gethsemane, will you join me in committing to a discipline of crucial prayer?

Snowflakes dove from high clouds, mimicking their northern sisters who had successfully decorated the landscape for Christmas. Tropical breezes dissolved the flurry into tiny droplets. The parched earth embraced the saturated air. Glimmering mist kissed tree trunks, leaves, and noses of all who turned out to receive it. Heaven’s dew returned to bless the pleading world with an affectionate, I mist you…

While setting up Christmas lights today, I squinted to see a silvered version of neighboring homes. Though too fine for my eyes to see, the water’s effect remained undeniable. No matter how I might try to ignore the moisture, it enveloped me. I walked across the glistening lawn to get an extension cord. The yellowed grass squeaked a chorus of praise beneath my soles. Ah, how water revives and transforms our perspective when we feel the need for its quenching power.

The fine mist thickened within an hour. We could no longer ignore the rain’s presence. I prayed over my husband’s footsteps on the slick rooftop and ladder. And marveled at the promises spoken through our tropical flurry. The message of Christmas reigns over the world, despite its attempts to deny the true presence of Living Water.

We could look for Christmas at the mall, on Hollywood screens, or in the platitudes of cheery cards and carols. The marketplace attempts to whet our appetites for celebration, but fails to quench our thirst for life. Many feel estranged and disenchanted from this plasti-perfect requiem to build happy facades with our good fortune. Misfortune seems out of place among ‘the holidays,’ but the Lord crafted Christmas for those with no hope left in the world.

Christ laid aside his royal splendor to take the helpless form of a human infant. Born in a barn. To a homeless and outcast couple. Among people so oppressed and heavily taxed by foreign government that they could barely afford to eat. In a world starved of good news or any word from God. Despair, crippling diseases, and chronic illness ravaged the nation. Corruption infiltrated governments and worship leaders. The parched earth cried out for God’s presence. Jesus poured Himself into the midst of the horror. He starved, endured betrayal, and suffered unfathomable pain. He walked hundreds of country and back-alley miles to offer the quenching presence of God to remain with us forever. He didn’t spare a single drop of His life.

As the world’s thirsty plea for hope rings on today, Jesus still offers the fullness of Himself to slake our deficiencies. He refreshes our dusty flesh-state and revives our souls. Christ descends on us like gentle, yet saturating mist. Even when we fail to notice, His presence envelops us and all our circumstances. Hardships lighten in the silvery mist of eternal hope. Our strength renews, and we no longer feel as if we bear our burdens alone. Unlimited joy seasons the breezes from beyond the horizon, where our destined home holds an eternity free from problems. Heaven awaits as our next step, and the Author of Life promises to walk alongside us on the way there. We can stretch out our arms and sing in the glimmering rain.

As Living Water transforms our vision, we recognize those withering neighbors who need to hear the songs of heaven’s dew. This Christmas, will you join me in reaching out to offer a sip of refreshing hope to those who thirst? Be part of of the flurry. May Christmas pour Christ’s blessings through you until the world shimmers.

 

“The poor and needy search for water,
    but there is none;
    their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17).

 

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
    and in the day of salvation I will help you. . .They will neither hunger nor thirst. . .Then you will know that I am the Lord;
    those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:8-23).

“Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:15-17).

“He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today. . . a Savior has been born to you. . . This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:5-12).

“whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

 

“Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty'” (John 6:35).

view from Chimney Rock

On one of THOSE days, the alarm clock fails to rouse me. After the third slap at the snooze button, I’ll roll off the bed to press my forehead on the carpet in prayer. In my fogginess, I misjudge the distance and crash a bit harder into the floor than I intend.

Please, God, spare my vanity and let there be no rug burn on my head.

The tweeting “sound spa” clock reminds me I didn’t quite turn it off. Red digits glare at me.

“I’m late.”

Protein bar and zip fizz have to make do for breakfast. I glance at my Bible with a pang of regret and grab for my purse. The phone charger cord yanks my arm back. After fumbling to untangle straps, elbow, and cord, its a race to the car.

Traffic slows to a crawl. What’s this? My road is closed. I clench my jaw while probing narrow streets for a new route. A German luxury car cuts me off. The protein bar crumbles onto my lap. I roll down the window to flick out the mess. A swig of carbonated B-vitamins coincides with a ragweed sneeze. Fizz burns into both nostrils. I slap my nose to stop the flow. Pink snot drops adorn my quaking palm. Another luxury car honks me away from the desperate search for a napkin. I return my slimy grip to the steering wheel, shouting the most popular query to heaven.

“Why?”

In this throng of dust-creatures, we bump into one another and grate our flesh on the brokenness of this world. Annoying days fade in comparison to the rampant tragedy filling the earth. None of the chaos, frustration, or pain makes sense. Suffering and loneliness seem to have no end or meaning. We often cry to the Lord in despair, wondering how a loving God can forsake us.

Jesus met us in our experience when He cried out to His Father on the cross,  “’My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” But He didn’t leave the question to hang out there without response. He gave His life with a final declaration, “It is finished.”

Christ resolved our loneliness and met our need for meaning. He stamped an expiration date on the broken world and its suffering. In that sacrificial moment, earth’s curse broke with the gift of wings.

When I use His wings to rise from the dustiness of life, I see things from a broader perspective. Above the smog of pain and sin, a clear sky brings fresh breath and new focus. I hear Truth and see beyond my present darkness. He is with each of us and all of us. Christ appears throughout every crowd and alongside those in solitude. Love gleams onto each rug-burned forehead below, even those too downcast to notice. A sweet breeze shifts my gaze to the horizon. Beyond the gloom, hope peeks from the coming Day with brilliance to outshine the dawn.

There’s more to today than our earth-view reveals. There’s more to life than this day’s gloom.

Instead of getting distracted by my discontent, I can zoom out with the wings I’ve been given. Acknowledging God’s supportive presence allows me to shift the day’s burdens to His shoulders. The weight of my momentary troubles set into His hands, I can direct my energy toward life’s true meaning–blessing.

Let me use this day, no matter how dusty or tragic, to lift the chins of the downcast. Lord, let my life draw attention upward so others see Your love.

 

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. ” (Romans 8:18).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 38-39).

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7).

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)

 

Silas twisted on the uneven stone floor and squinted through the cell’s dank shadows.The rough hewn stocks chafed at his swollen ankles. Pain raked across the raw flesh of his back as his shoulders rolled into a sticky puddle–his blood mingled with Paul’s, no doubt. Sour and metallic odors weighted the air between their bodies.

With trembling hands, Silas pressed the grimy floor to sit himself upright. His wrist shackles clattered as he pressed the throbbing lumps on his skull. Scurrying noises echoed around a grate near the corner. Furry creatures as long as his thigh squeezed through the bars. Tails whipped like scourge cords behind them. Crimson dots flashed near the wall. He blinked. An army of rats crept toward them, sniffing.

His heartbeat clinched his throat and pounded into his ears. Silas squeaked a whisper to his friend. “Do you see them?”

Paul’s wrist chain jangled as he clutched onto Silas’ hand. “It’s time to pray and sing. We praise and worship You, Lord…”

Silas closed his eyes. The nibble at his toes faded out of his thoughts as they sang in praise. Light filled his mind. He sang in harmony with Paul’s rattling voice, but another melody chimed in. From the back of his mind, he pictured a thousand gleaming soldiers who joined their song. The angelic voices lilted like the sounds of ethereal birds floating on island breezes.

A deep rhythm stirred beneath them. The ground shook the floor, walls. Silas opened his eyes to a brilliant flash. The stocks and chains exploded from his limbs. A roar of voices swept through the room, blasting the bars from the cell.

He and Paul stood, legs quivering. They strode out of the shadows toward a wailing man. Now, to set the jailer free…

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always…Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

-Philippians 4:4-8

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).

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