Brass skies. Angry heavens. Floodgates of blessing slammed in our faces.
The sun's rays whip us to a pulp. Blinding. Pushing. Crushing. Squeezing every drop of life from our bodies.
It won't be long before...
"Hey, everyone! We're saved! Here's water!"
Crack! The herald's words are lightning in our ears.
Pad, pad, pad! Thousands of furious feet pound trenches in the sand, zealous to obliterate that heartless tyrant called Thirst.
Tromping. Squashing. Trampling. Each one desperate to be first.
Frenzied fists slam boldly into each other. Pushing. Pulling. Hitting. Slapping.
Withered Fingers grasp at straws. Touch them to parched lips. And suck.
"Blech! We can't drink this!"
A murmur works its way throughout the crowd. We've been thwarted. The whole lot of us. Again. Every prayer hindered. Every petition denied. Every cry to God deflected by that cruel bronze ceiling known as "the veil."
Disappointment splashes us like acid, a curse-provoking crisis causing bitter lips to question both God's goodness and His love.
"That swamp was a mirage," moan some, resigned to death by quicksand. While lustful rakes guzzle gallons full of "liquid gold," looking for salvation in the oil.
But us remnant "buds" taste the LIME inside that bracken. In the M we see a mirror of what LIES inside our hearts: the cancer of our own self-absorption. Iron magnet for bitter waters.
Our curses turn to cries for mercy. "Balancing the good and bad was supposed to be a piece of cake. But knowledge of the evil overwhelms us. Cracking our pride. Breaking our hearts. Crushing our spirits. Squeezing us like lemons! Oh for a drop of grace to quench the sickly fire of our sin!"
The pressure increases. Squeezing harder. Tighter.
Stinging pain, concentrated on our eyeballs.
"Lord, have mercy!" we cry.
Then watch. And wait. And wait. And watch.
Here it comes now. Welling up from the earth. A heavy, deep, agonizing groan.
Followed by the sound of a man's tortured screams.
"My God... where are you? This... is... killing... me!"
Shocked. Petrified. Frozen in my tracks. I watch this battered mess of mangled flesh stagger toward the swamp. Bearing on his back a twisted tree full of splintered bark. Knotted branches. Violent thorns.
Eyes brimming with tears.
His breath comes in short spurts.
"Can't... make it... any further... Life draining... from my body. My God, have you forsaken me? Oh, how I thirst. For your will... To be done."
A cry of thunder splits the sky.
Droplets will soon follow.
Bloody sweat pours from his brow. Exhaustion racks his limbs. His ribcage rattles as he walks. Blunt nails imbedded in the wood have torn his clothes to shreds.
Sorrowful eyes. A silent plea. "Help me... throw this... in the water."
The water in my eyes mixes with salt.
A callous drunkard sloshed with bog wine sees dumbfounded Aaron scratch his head. Gives him a push.
"Lend the crazy dude a hand, would ya?"
Throwing off his garment, Aaron rushes to the man's side, lifts a corner of the gnarled olive tree, and helps him toss it in the bitter lake.
Uh-oh. Watch out!
The weight is too much for Moses. Crushed beneath the heavy trunk, he sinks into the depths.
The wood hits the water, and the heavens answer with thunder.
The crowd is stunned. Aaron lies panting at the water's edge. But I'm afraid poor Moses has drowned.
Crazy nut! Risking his life for what - to throw a tree into quicksand?
Drip, drip, drip. See them fall into the cup. Droplets of pure sorrow. Holy mourning. Hope for forgiveness. Turning to a trickle. Overflowing to a fountain. Surging to a waterfall upon dry ground. Magnificent drink offering, poured out before the Lord.
Wait a minute! Aaron is rising. Signaling for our attention. So go ahead, fella. Explain that reckless stunt.
"He did it for you."
"For all of you. To purify the water. So you can drink it."
You've got to be kidding me! I've tasted that water. Is this guy for real?
The crowd goes wild. Some of them are actually mad enough believe this yarn!
Hey, what do you think you're doing? Stop pushing me! If you think I'm going anywhere near that..."
Mmmm. Not bad. Sweet. Refreshing. Who would have thought?
And there's Moses, alive and well! Good thirty minutes under water, and none the worse for wear.