They nailed him up.

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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

We have two choices. Which will you make today?

Years ago when I was trying to get my first novel published, I met with an editor who pushed my synopsis back across the table towards me and said with a harumph, “It’s way too dark. Our readers don’t want dark. They’ve got enough of that. They want to escape.”

Eventually I did publish that novel, and it’s called How Sweet the Sound.

In fact, Tyndale House is re-releasing it this fall and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Still, that editor had a valid point.

There’s a lot of dark in the world. I’m frankly overwhelmed with how vitriolic our culture is, and I don’t remember a time since I’ve been on the planet where things have been quite this stirred up. Why read a story or see a movie or listen to music that’s dark, when we’re staggering around in pitch blackness all day long?

One reader of How Sweet the Sound commented that the title belies the dark themes of the story, and if you only read the first few chapters, she’s absolutely right. There’s nothing good or light or cheery about a family ravaged by generational sexual abuse. There wasn’t anything good or light or cheery about it either when Tamar, in 2 Samuel 13, suffered the same fate.

But by the end of the story, there is hope.

Loads of it. 

Three novels later, and I admit my writing tends toward some deep and painful themes. That’s because each of my stories begins with something–a news story, an historical event, an injustice–that breaks my heart. (Believe me, there are days when I wonder what it would be like to write cozy mysteries or Hallmark-style romances.)

And each of my stories ends with hope.

Not the sort of hope where everything is tied up with a big, red bow and all the characters ride off in the sunset. But the sort of hope that comes when you learn you’re not alone, and that it’s possible to find joy in the midst of pain and suffering.

Still, I learned something from that editor, and from several editors since.

Darkness and pain must be balanced with light.

In story.

In art.

In life.

The world is dying a little more every day because it is starving for the light and color God has given to us.

As a follower of Jesus, I write stories from a Christian worldview. And while I am often passionate about the need for stories which don’t sugarcoat pain and tragedy, I’m even more passionate about the call to bring hope to a hurting world. 

Even without a Christian worldview, the world needs goodness. The world needs kindness. The world needs hope. The world needs love.

And the world needs that from us, now more than ever.

As confusing as headlines and media can be, at the end of the day we are left with two basic choices:

We can spread darkness.

Or we can spread light.

We can be angry.

Or we can give grace.

We can hate.

Or we can love.

We were made to be light, dear ones.

We were made to be on this earth, here and now, for such a time as this, for a purpose:

To show the world the colors of life and hope.

We have to acknowledge the darkness, yes.

But we have to know that truth and love can obliterate it

if we choose

wisely.

Dear Lord, begin with me. 

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“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (TMV)