All creatures great and small

The Lord God made them all.

Those two lines were penned by James Herriot, beloved English veterinarian and author of so many books I loved especially in childhood.

Today is Earth Day.

Nature deeply inspires the novels and poetry I write, and with good reason. Creation is full of the inexpressible wonder of the Lord.

Some of my favorite authors are fellow nature lovers…Barbara Kingsolver (a fellow alumni!), Annie Dillard, Wallace Stegner, Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Gene Stratton Porter (a fellow Hoosier author!), Beatrix Potter, Sigurd F. Olson, Thoreau, Whitman, Emerson, and the list goes on and on. 

The current novel I’m working to finish is no different, and it may pull in the most nature to date. Set in southern Indiana, I’ve drawn upon waterfalls and spring time, red tail hawks and box turtles, orphaned rabbits and so much more.

When all the world is chaos, we need only to look at the miracle of spring, the joy of a fawn grazing alongside its mother in a hazy field at dawn, the call of a mourning dove perched on a weathered fence.

Ponder the wonder of the earth today, friends. Take care of it. Not for politics. But for the simple fact that it is a gift from our Creator.

They nailed him up.

***

They nailed him up at nine o’clock in the morning. The charge against him—the king of the Jews—was printed on a poster. Along with him, they crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”

The high priests, along with the religion scholars, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—but he can’t save himself! Messiah, is he? King of Israel? Then let him climb down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then!” Even the men crucified alongside him joined in the mockery.

 At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o’clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

 Some of the bystanders who heard him said, “Listen, he’s calling for Elijah.” Someone ran off, soaked a sponge in sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

 But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath. At that moment the Temple curtain ripped right down the middle. When the Roman captain standing guard in front of him saw that he had quit breathing, he said, “This has to be the Son of God!”

The Gospel of Mark, 15:25-41 (TMV)

You keep using that word…

You know the meme. (If you don’t, go watch The Princess Bride. Immediately.)


The word in question is Hosanna.

Folks all across the world are singing it this Palm Sunday morning, just as the people in Jerusalem were 2000 years ago when Jesus rode in triumphantly to Jerusalem on a donkey.

But back then, what they were shouting wasn’t a praise. 

It was a plea.

In a Palm Sunday message by John Piper, he explains:
“Our English word “hosanna” comes from a Greek word “hosanna” which comes from a Hebrew phrase hoshiya na.

And that Hebrew phrase is found one solitary place in the whole Old Testament, Psalm 118:25, where it means, ‘Save, please!’ It is a cry to God for help…’Help, save me . . . Hoshiya na!'”

If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that the whole world is crying, “Save me!”

The whole world is exhausted and broken and begging…

Save us.

Save me.

Hoshiya na.

Interesting that the remaining verses in Psalm 118 are spent praising the Lord and His name, thanking Him.

Anne Lamont writes,

Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me,’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ 

Two thousand years ago, palm leaves were a war cry, of sorts. Palm branches represented victory, a claiming of triumph, of peace.

Problem was, victory didn’t come in the way the people then expected it to back then.

Victory doesn’t come for us as we expect it to today, either, does it?

The victory, the triumph, of Palm Sunday isn’t that we will be saved from our worldly and temporary troubles. The triumph is that we are saved eternally and in spite of them.

In spite of our brokenness, He heals our hearts.

In spite of our sin, He forgives us.

In spite of our loneliness, He is with us.

In spite of our distrust, He comes through.

In spite of our self-indulgence, He fills us.

In spite of our pain, He comforts us.

In spite of our ugliest, nastiest, darkest places, He makes us new.

Don’t expect horses and chariots, politicians and riches today, either. In this world, we will always have trouble.

In this world, we will always have reason to cry hoshiya na

But oh, the glory when we cry hoshiya na and He comforts and fills and befriends and heals and forgives…oh the glory when we can thank Him and praise Him and wave our palm branches of hope high, because salvation is in who He is and what He did on the cross and the fact that He is alive. Now. And forever. 

Claim that, dear friends.

Hoshiya na, indeed.


“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not…But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:1-6