creating me [using words]

Archive for the month “March, 2013”


Is anyone hearing me,
or do I howl at the moon?

Maybe the moon has ears

She’ll send a reply
We will converse
“Tell me more”

Secrets safe
in that wide space
where she dwells

room enough for all of me

light refracted
feels like embrace


Ground Breaking, Stone Bellowing Truth

A Palm Sunday Sermon (audio can be found at

In Genesis chapter four, when Cain kills his brother Abel, God approaches Cain about the coldhearted murder, to which Cain says, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God replies, “Listen!”

your brother’s blood
cries  out
(to me!)
from the ground
the ground which gaped
wide its mouth
to swallow the blood of your brother
which dripped from your hands.[1]

your brother is dead
but his blood still lives
and cries and moans
with the earth as its witness
you thought you were alone
but the dirt and the trees saw
and heard and smelled and tasted
and with blood still on its tongue
the ground whispered your secrets
to my ear and I am here
to call you to account

It was not what Cain expected. He had committed a hidden crime; he wasn’t supposed to get caught. Besides, in his private thoughts he had quite thoroughly justified his deeds—never would he have been provoked to such anger, had it not been for the extreme unfairness that had wounded his pride. He was a good, decent, hard-working man after all.

We do not get to hear Abel’s side of things, for he was dead before a word from his mouth could be recorded or heard, but the very dust of the earth woke up to tell his story in the ear of God, and this is the part Cain did not anticipate or plan for. That Abel’s lifeblood would continue to speak, even after Cain thought he had shut it down.

But apparently, despite the recent curse of the earth, God’s creation was still fundamentally good and operating in league with its Creator, telling God the things it saw, crying loudly on behalf of the wronged, begging God to intervene and set things right.

The vision of a nonhuman voice crying out on behalf of justice—in this case, blood and dirt —is one of the most profoundly moving images for me in all of Scripture. A similar theme shows up in Habakkuk chapter 2. The prophet is exposing the injustices that pervade the lives of the people, and he says,

“Woe to him who builds his house
by unjust gain,
setting his nest on high
to escape the clutches of ruin!
You have plotted the ruin
of many peoples,
shaming your own house,
forfeiting your own life.
The stones of the wall
will cry out,
and the beams of the woodwork
will echo it.”[2]

In this instance, those who build houses by unjust gain will experience the very building materials of their homes turning against them! The stones will cry; the beams will echo it. Inanimate objects will be provoked if the people do not maintain justice. One gets the eerie sense that there is at work in the world an underlying current of truth and justice that works to restore all things, a current that cannot be silenced for this is God’s world. No matter who thwarts the way of truth and justice and kindness, something will rise up in dissent, because God created a world that cannot be mute in the face of injustice. When human beings fall silent, other voices will come out from the woodwork to speak the truth, to decry the cruelty and oppression. Stones, wood, dirt, blood—all around us the earth erupts in protest. We may remain as deaf and oblivious as Cain, but God hears every sound, and when the earth rages, the heavens are moved.

Now in today’s story, Jesus rides in on a donkey (which, by the way, in biblical lore is an animal known to speak up when needed). Anyway, Jesus rides in on a donkey, perhaps to fulfill prophecy or perhaps simply as a way to say to the downtrodden and the oppressed who pressed in around him, “I belong with you.” He rode in on a lowly donkey so the lowly would know, here’s a guy who wants to be with us. These were the people without a voice, the silenced, the shushed, the hungry, and the sick. And for one short day in history, their voices rang out loud and clear and defiant, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was their king, and they were proud to proclaim it.

This made the religious leaders a mite uncomfortable. They liked to control who speaks and when, you see. They definitely didn’t like the rabble picking new leadership on their own accord, and they didn’t want anybody stirring up political trouble when they’d worked so hard to maintain some peace with the powers. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” they tried desperately to regain control, to which Jesus, of course, merely gave a genial wave and a nonsense reply. “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

You see, Jesus heard things that only the gods can hear, that is, the creaking and cracking of the earth under the weight of injustice and violence. If the religious leaders had paid much attention to old Habakkuk, they would have been less perplexed by Jesus’ baffling belief in the rocks, but as it was, they scratched their heads and walked away not knowing what Jesus knew: that the people crying “Hosanna! Our King Comes!” were not singing a new song, but were joining the echo of the woodbeams, entering the chorus of the stones and the ground and Abel’s blood, adding their voices to the choir that has been singing the truth since the beginning of time.

And it is on the wave of this melody that Jesus will dismount his donkey, stride into the temple, and drive out the money-changers—one of the few recorded acts that display Jesus’ righteous anger. I imagine he walked into that place with the sounds of his people and the songs of the stones reverberating in his ears, begging him to set things right and confront every Cain.

There is an infectious energy to the Palm procession and the temple purging that feels like it cannot be stopped. The people have found their voices; their leader has unloosed his fervor. The next thing that happens is Jesus starts teaching in the temple every day, and the chief priests and leaders try to kill him, but “they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.”[3] There’s no stopping him, no shutting down the people who follow him, no silencing of the stones. Only, those of us who know the rest of the story know to feel a little wary of all this raging success . . .

Palm Sunday is that odd celebratory moment that pitches us headlong into passion week. In less than a week, the tables will have turned entirely . .

As soon as Jesus gets captured by the soldiers and stands his trial, the adoring crowd will go back to being who they were before: silenced slaves without a voice. Perhaps they will protest his death in their own subtle ways, like the women who follow Jesus all the way to the hill with tears in their eyes, beating their breasts, or the two Mary’s who will not leave his side, following him even to the tomb. But by and large, the only voices that ring out on that fateful Friday are the ones shouting, “Crucify, crucify!” Imagine the horror of the Hosanna-crying crowd as they watched their dreams slipping away. They did not know how to fight back, how to speak up, and the words that rang out around them, “Crucify, crucify!” dropped like lead in their stomachs and drowned out their hopes and filled them with dread and they wept and they wept until their Savior was dead, salvation no more, with despair in its stead.

It is a gut-wrenching turn of events when the celebrated Savior with the gumption to purge the temple ends up beaten and bruised and silenced, just like the silenced ones he’d come to care for. It must have seemed to the people like the very end of all their hopes, a complete and total loss. He hung from that tree and the world fell silent, the people struck mute in terror and disbelief and loss . . . Yet, not all was quiet.

In the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus breathes his last, the earth shakes and the rocks split. Having been around for ages, the stones could sense that even now, in the darkest hour, Jesus was altering the course of things. He wasn’t giving in or giving up, he was giving himself into the suffering, entering death freely in audacious solidarity with the broken. Was the earth opening that day in order to receive the blood of our Savior as it mixed with the spilt blood of all the Abels before him? It was a dark and terrible hour indeed, but the earth knew it couldn’t possibly be the end, could it? Were the rocks splitting in agony or in protest or in both? Did they emit a terrible sound when they cracked, could God the Father stand to listen or did God’s own voice join the wail?

We hail Jesus as the supreme example to follow, but really, what he did was an act we could never follow. He took on the pain of the world, let them kill them, and then he came back living, and I can’t even make it so far as to handle my pain and forgive my enemies, much less die and come back. Which is why I wave palm branches this day to hail him my king, because here is a man who comes among us, comfortable in the presence of average folks like us, but unafraid to suffer and forgive, die a criminal’s death, then live. I don’t know if I could ever be like him, but praise God he became like us, human and hurting, to share in our suffering and redeem all pain.

Sometimes we are the desperate Hosanna criers, you and I, joining the groan of the earth that waits for the world to be made right and seeing in a poor carpenter boy from Nazareth the making of a king. Sometimes we are more like the religious leaders, a bit put out by Jesus’ strange success and the threat he poses to our security and our way of seeing the world, and without even meaning to, we try to crucify him out of the picture. Some way or another we are part of this story every Lent and every Easter, and only the Spirit of God can discern which crowd defines us this time around.

Though what I really find myself wondering is, what would a choir of rocks sound like, anyway? Would they have a gravelly sound or would they make a smooth, melodious ripple? Did it even matter if they could hit the right notes, or was any noise at all enough to catch the notice of God?

This year, when I read the story, I find myself identifying with the stones. I want to be like a rock who stubbornly sings, however off-key the notes, however bland my stories, however pervasive my lisp, I want to be the one who finds a thousand new ways to speak, to tell the one nugget of truth that’s been entrusted to me, however inadequate I may say it. My part will never sound perfect because it is only a part of the larger whole, but without my part the world will miss something crucial, and so I must find a way to tell it and tell it bold, the part of God’s righteous truth entrusted to me, I must find a way to let it shine. Whether anyone hears me or not, I want to know I joined the chorus with heart and soul. I want to sing for those without a voice, calling out to God on their behalf, joining the great choir of justice that sings on and on and on . . .

“Hosanna! Blessed is the King!”  Amen.


I preached this sermon on March 24, 2013 at Covenant Baptist Church, based on the text Luke 19:28-40. 

[1] My paraphrase of Genesis 4:10, though I followed pretty closely to the text.

[2] Habakkuk 2:9-11

[3] Luke 19:47

An Ineloquent Word

I gave a piece of advice to a friend the other day who is in confusing place and doesn’t yet know what to do or how to understand her situation. I said, “When you don’t know something, you can’t know it until you know it.”

Somehow this is the most important thing I could say to myself, wordy and awkward as it sounds. I cannot know until I know, so quit beating myself up for the not knowing, for knowing will come when it comes.

Often you already know, down deep somewhere, but you have to let it emerge from within gradually if you want it to grow straight and strong.

The Sermon (by Aurelia)

I’d like to share a poem by my friend Aurelia, who blogs here and here

shimmering, sparkling
high in the


it is slippery
tricky even
caught up in the branches

it is mine

to find it takes work
to hold it
shape it

to speak it
gives life


upon the sermon
the word
the very best word.

NAWBO Invocation

Tonight I gave the invocation at the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award Gala for the NAWBO (Nation Association of Women Business Owners) San Antonio chapter. I prayed the following:

In the 12th century there lived a woman of great courage centuries ahead of her time. Her name was Saint Hildegard. She lovingly referred to God as the Living Light, and so it is in her spirit of bravery, freedom, and innovation that I offer this invocation tonight. Let us pray:

Oh Living Light, bless us this night as we celebrate the stories of our persevering sisters. Grant each of us the strength we need to face the unique challenges of being women at work in the world. Grant us both gumption and gentleness, ingenuity and intensity, courage and compassion, both wit and wisdom. Living Light, grant us the rare resolve required for the blossoming of impossible dreams. May we collaborate with men of integrity to forge a new world based on equality, fair play, and a basic reverence for human dignity.

May we be bold, owning our own giftedness, believing in our own voices, trusting that who we are is enough, that who we are is just what is needed. May we fearlessly unleash our own light, that spark of the divine residing within us. Oh what the world might miss if we stifled our truest selves! Grant us the audacity to be fully alive to our own journeys, to act with authenticity, and to take necessary risks for the sake of a better world. When the road is rough and the atmosphere hostile and the future unclear, may we lead the way with our remarkable creativity, our tenacious hope, and our unthwarted kindness. May we stand together with women throughout the world, shining like beacons, leading each other onward toward ever-increasing brilliance.

In the name of our Creator, in the name of infinite love, in the name of God’s own enlivening spirit, we pray, Amen.

The Dragon

This dragon, Angst,
breathes fire
at, in, my belly
churning the waters
where I know things,
ripping my guts
with talons of destruction,
wanting to catch my courage
trying my self-knowing
with the whip of a tail
crashing my nous
from its steady rhythm
attempting to rob
the rare clarity
that guides me.
Smoky breath
impales my heart
with deadly force.
I am overcome,
cannot see through
smoke and tears,
I lunge, blind,
the dragon flies away
and sings me a song
to lull me back
into its lair.
I find a clear green pasture
with trees and water close
to sit and breathe
but it hunts me.
I hear it coming.
I try to run
but the sound of its flight
freezes my ice-blocked legs
while its hot breath
closes in, melting nothing
but the truth,
which trickles now away
dripping off me,
leaving my pores
like sweat.
I try to retract the drops
but they drip on,
draining me of myself
until I am as weary
as a desert-wanderer
slain with thirst.
I’ve nothing to fight the fire
save the pool puddled
pathetic at my feet.
I stare dejectedly down at it
and it shares with me my reflection
and I begin to know myself again,
though dimly, it shall be enough.

Speaking and Knowing

I said some words
and I feel proud
of the saying of them
unlike the loquacious
I stutter at the sacred
truths, they choke
me on the way out
I hold them in
they wrest my grip,
which is tight

I let letters fester
the onset of disease
buried knowledge
eating away at my soul
I think I protect
the world from poison
but once outside me
the words are power
not belonging to me
quite apart from me
bigger than me
simple in effect
so that I will never
know what my knowing
has unleashed

Lazarus, You and I

Oh Lazarus, Lazarus
I am you
I wear your clothes.
Around my head and around my nose
the cloths that reek of death and sweat
But Jesus said, “Be free,
Unwrap, undress, and live,”
and so will we
dance upon wobbling knees
and sing with cracked throats
and spin until we float,
you and I, you and I,
Lazarus, you and I
are alive.

Postscript: This poem arose because I am fascinated by Jesus’ seemingly superfluous comment, “Take off the grave clothes.” If Jesus exerts energy to state something obvious, I assume that means something not-so-obvious is actually at stake. 

A Melody Arises

I’m alive, and you can’t stop me.
I am bright; you can’t outsmart me.
I am light; you cannot blind me.
I am good; you cannot beat me.
I am truth; you can’t trick me.
I am power; you cannot touch me.

Sang the steady voice
of one small girl
from inside her cage
beyond the sun
with a tiny seed
beneath her thumb
she dug down deep
inside her heart
with dreams far-flung
to hide her death
to know in secret
a life begun

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creating me [using words]


creating me [using words]