Stations of the Cross – A sense-bound writing exercise

I’ve given my songwriting class at Truett-McConnell an assignment this week. It’s an exercise I intend on practicing this week personally and want to invite you to join us. We will be doing some timed, “Sense-Bound” creative writing. It’s an idea I first heard about from Berklee professor, Pat Pattison, in his books Writing Better Lyrics and Songwriting Without Boundaries. You can find out more about the unique approach of sense-bound writing from THIS EXCERPT FROM PAT’S BOOK. Taking a moment to read this brief excerpt will help make sense of all this.

Our version of this exercise involves only 5 minutes of writing per exercise (I intend on doing 2 a day). Limiting yourself to the time allotted is valuable because it keeps you from treating this like HOMEWORK. You are not writing a speach, a song, or a sermon (although your writing may inspire one or more of these). At it’s core, Sense-Bound Writing is creative writing where, for the allotted time, you allow your senses to drive the bus. The goal is to draw your reader into a sensory experience of the object, moment, or place you are describing. As a writer it forces you to reach for rich and stirring language. For five minutes at a time you are forced to stretch your lyrical muscles.

For our topic each day we will use one of 15 Stations of the Cross. They are listed below. I will start on the Sunday before Easter doing 2 sense bound writing exercises a day and will finish with The Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning.

You will be surprised how LITTLE ground you can cover in five minutes of focused writing; barely more than a paragraph. The goal is not the Quantity of content you can generate but the Quality of language you can tap into while inviting your readers into an experience of the moment you are describing.

If you decide to join our journey, why not share what you write in the comments section of this post. I WILL NOT be grading your submissions! 😉


  • Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested
  • Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin
  • Jesus is denied by Peter
  • Jesus is judged by Pilate
  • Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns
  • Jesus takes up his cross
  • Jesus is helped by Simon to carry his cross
  • Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  • Jesus is crucified
  • Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief
  • Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other
  • Jesus dies on the cross
  • Jesus is laid in the tomb
  • The Resurrection

35 Responses to “Stations of the Cross – A sense-bound writing exercise”

  1. James Tealy Says:

    Here’s my first entry for this Palm Sunday: Gethsemane

    His tears now mixed with the salty earth beneath him. He could feel the cool prickle of grass and the coarse friction of the dirt on his forehead. He was face down now. Pushed there by the crushing weight of His own grief. He did not yet feel alone, alone like he knew he would be. His closest friends sat murmuring just beyond a hedge that had grown black in the shadowy nighttime. His chest stung with every breath now. Pained and wheezing. He heard his friends drifting into silence and all at once he could no longer bare the…

  2. James Tealy Says:

    Station 2 – Judas

    Judas placed his trembling hands and Jesus’ shoulders. His grip was tentative, unsure. Jesus’ clothes were covered with stains from the ground where he had been prostrate these last few hours of darkness. Jesus’ rough cheek smelled acrid and earthen and Judas whinced just before offering the cursed kiss of greeting, the led-lined yoke of betrayal. Judas couldn’t mask the disgust he felt, at the cheek he must kiss, the humiliation of drawing so close to the one he had come to…

  3. Eva Says:

    Day 1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    Gethsemane. He chose a garden. A garden, of all places. If there’s anywhere something could grow, it would be a garden. Seeds sown there. Seeds of love. A heart of sacrifice. Tension grew. Pain. Watered by tears. Sweatdrops of blood. Prayer – firmly planted. More than words. A Son’s cries. Willfulness. Father, if it be Your will, let this cup pass from me. A seed of surrender. A seed of silence. They say a seed must die before it can grow. He died for me. Gethsemane.

    Thank you for doing this, Tealy. You made me go there. I’m going to go back for more.

    ps I set my timer at 5 min and started writing. After writing a while, I looked at my phone & realized I’d set it for 5 hours! I’ll pay attention to time tomorrow : )

  4. Andrea Says:

    Day 1

    Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

    It was dark, except for the torches, the air was heavy with a smokey smell from the fire. There were few stars out, a crescent moon that came in and out from behind the clouds. The night felt eerie, my heart beat in anticipation – fear, nervousness. Every leaf that rustled, ever owl that “who-ed” made me jump. I could still taste the wine on my lips from supper that we had just had a few hours ago. My stomach churned with fear making me nauseated. That sense that something wasn’t right got stronger, and wouldn’t go away. I could hear Jesus speaking – crying, and my heart broke – listening to his anguish – but not understanding what it was all about. The warm night – became cold, and I longed for sleep – to make this day go away.

    (was thinking from the perspective of a disciple that had gone with Jesus to the garden)

    Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested

    The kiss, it echoes in my ear – as if it was amplified a thousand times when it happened. I heard the angry voices approaching, getting louder, and the light that got brighter – and then I saw Judas. His eyes looked afraid, but his countenance was almost ghostly – vacant – hollow. And when he kissed Jesus on the check, I saw a tear fall. He never looked at any of us – he only stared at the ground. There was no fear in Jesus’ face – not when the angry mob came for him, or Judas betrayed him with the kiss – no fear – just peace. As I looked around I saw anger, bitterness, rage, pain, fear – fighting and chaos – screaming and yelling – but the moment I looked at Jesus – I heard nothing, it all faded away- all I could see was Jesus – as if the peace that radiated from him – had drowned out everything else. He didn’t run, he didn’t move – he was still in the storm that raged around him.

    (again from the perspective of a disciple or someone watching)

  5. Eva Says:

    Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin

    Cold, frigid night air rushes against the fiery faces of angry soldiers. Mission accomplished. Delivering their Prisoner to the Sanhedrin. But where is His accuser? Who has found fault in this Man? No answer. Silence stagnates the room. Then the Christ, the Savior, chooses to let the questioning continue. Footsteps of two men extinguish the silence. Their dark hearts claim that Jesus, the Light of the world, is blasphemous. The High Priest loses his temper. That’s not all he lost…

  6. Eva Says:

    Jesus is denied by Peter

    The fire spits ash into the courtyard, where Peter sits. A servant girl spots him hiding in the shadows, and bashfully says, “You were with Jesus.” What if this was the moment of belief for her? What if she is trusting this Jesus with her very soul, and seeking another believer? He denies knowing what she’s talking about and moves toward the gate. Someone else sees him and says the same. Peter nervously swears he doesn’t know Jesus. What gives it away? The panick-stricken eyes? Can they smell the fear? Was it something he said? What if they are seeking Christ, and not a Christ-follower? A third time, he is recognized. And denies…

  7. James Tealy Says:

    5 minutes goes by so quickly: The Sanhedrin.

    Does rage have a smell? As the crowd of men gathered and pressed in around him so grew the stench of sweat and foul breath; so grew the thirst for blood in the parched throats of the religious leaders now swirling in a loud, pulsing mob around Jesus. His silence was meaningless beneath such a ringing din of insults and outcries. The sticky, warm spit of enraged accusation sprayed across his face…

  8. Andrea Says:

    OK – here’s todays… can’t read anyone else’s first or I get so discouraged… LOL

    Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin

    the floor is cold and hard under my feet. So many words, shouts, and accusations bouncing off the pillar walls. The air has unexpectedly turned chilly and yet sweat drops from those condemning him. The smell of sulfur and blood, death is in the air – it burns my eyes – or maybe those are tears. The living, breathing, Word of God stands before them and they are so blinded by their fear – yes – eyes open – and yet rage burns in them. Jesus stands, strong, peaceful, with compassionate eyes he looks at them all. There’s a sense of anticipation and excitement – something is coming -something

    Jesus is denied by Peter

    fire burns, smoke rises, eyes sting, tears fall. Heart beating, thumping, pounding, scared – so scared. My insides are shaking, a million questions race through my mind, lost in what to do – or not do. Then she points at me, tells the others I am with him – before I can even think – I am denying it all – every word, swearing and stomping – raising my voice louder to be heard – “I’m not with him!!” “I don’t know him” – and then the haunting sound of the rooster crows – and the world goes silent – all goes dark, I cannot stand – I’m on my knees, I’m on my face – dirt surrounds me and yet – it is cleaner than I am at that moment – I dig at the ground – hoping it would swallow me up – I’ve denied him – I’ve done it – so stupid – I want to vomit – but it wouldn’t be enough –

  9. James Tealy Says:

    Peter’s Denial:

    The cypress they were burning had not been cured and the smoke burned his throat when the changing wind blew the fire into his face. His coughing drew the attention he had worked so hard to avoid. Peter had angled his slumping shoulders to keep his hands near the fire but his face in the shadows. He could tell she was straining to confirm her suspicions with another glimpse of his face. “You were with Jesus.” His dismissal and jeering defensiveness only confirmed his identity and so he sunk quickly between two men standing behind him and shuffled into the shadows toward another fire. 

  10. James Tealy Says:

    It’s difficult to let the language and the sensory experience drive the writing. I’m struggling to let go of the instinct to “tell the story.” I am reading through Matthew 26 and trying desperately in 5 minute bursts just to capture snapshots if the sensory experience.

  11. Eva Says:

    James, this is really hard! It’s exhausting to try to walk where Jesus walked. Words aren’t sufficient. His meekness, His humility, His passion…there are no words to describe those days before Pilate, and His scourging. It hurts our hearts to go there.

    Lord, give wisdom and insight as we read Your Word and seek You. And words, Lord Jesus, give us words.

  12. Andrea Says:

    Jesus Judged By Pilate

    scared, loud, crowded, confusing, cold, worried, smell of fear, anger, rage, disappointment, exhaustion, sadness, worried, terrified, disgusted, want to run away, want to hide, hate, goosebumps, chills, sick, nausea, defeated, misunderstood, like in a torrential rain of words, lost, hopeless, dark, so dark, cold inside, destroyed, abandoned, demolished, alone

    Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns

    sick, vile, repulsed, disgusted, sick. Screams, anguish, each blow makes me weak to my knees. I close my eyes and even the darkness is not enough, I put my hands over my ears and can’t make the crackle of the whip go away. I can’t stand, the ground is hard and cold – like the soldiers who scourge and scowl and laugh. Their laughter is maddening. My whole body tremors as they place the crown of thorns – and he screams out again. A nightmare that will not end.

  13. James Tealy Says:


    The glassy finish of the marble floors were unfamiliar to his dirty, calloused feet. Distractingly cold. He could see that the man addressing him bore in his wrinkled face the the anxiety of trying to please everyone. The room Pilate had pulled Jesus into still bore the smell of warm bread and tea, the governors breakfast. A twinge of hunger gripped his side as Jesus drew the faint smell into his nose. He had been awake more than 28 hours now and his eyes were heavy and swollen. He willed himself to stay focussed on the governors words. 

  14. Eva Says:

    (note to self: The sensory part of this assignment is painful. I do want to be a good student…to learn. As I considered what it was like for Jesus as He went before Pilate, the question evolved into: What does humility sound like?)

    A hush rippled through the room. “Not guilty.” That’s right, He’s not guilty. Yet He knew He would not be released. The One who, with just one word, could raise Barrabbas’ victim from the grave, speaks not one word. The One who could set all the prisoners free…became one for me…

  15. James Tealy Says:

    Mocked –

    His world spun, the uneasy sloshing to and fro of vertigo. The soldiers charged with holding Jesus while his death was prepared were in a testosterone induced ecstasy. They mocked and spat. Careless, often ridiculous words hurled back and forth for sport. They spat like angry drunks, slobbering as they swung him about. The warm of the velvet military cloak they wrapped about him was comforting. They meant to ridicule his kingship but the gentle caress of the luxury fabric reminded Jesus of something, a dream-like memory, maybe more of a vision than a memory. He allowed himself to enjoy the feeling for a moment before the crack of a cane whip shocked him back into the…

  16. Eva Says:

    Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns

    A mocking mob wraps Him in royal robes of magenta. Humanity dares to mingle with deity. Pain and sorrow trample the heart of God. And He steps back, allowing agony to crown the Victor. Its twisted, thorny claws pierce His unblemished brow. Love flows…crimson. Scarlet.

  17. Eva Says:

    Jesus takes up His cross

    His Majesty is leaving the palace, but each step is carefully chosen. Intentional. As King Christ reaches to take up His cross, He securely binds death, sin, and Satan to it. He is going down, but He is taking them down with him.

  18. James Tealy Says:

    Take Up the Cross:

    He marveled at the wood grain. Since he was a boy he had been fascinated by the channels of color that streaked through the body of a clean cut piece of wood. This timber had been cut and cured but had not seen the care of a carpenters hand yet. It was a simple utilitarian cut beam yet still he lost himself in the marbling of the grain. He ran his trembling right hand along its course, splintering surface. It’s weight now hoisted to shoulder by two men standing behind him. Not the first beam he had carried. Certainly it would be the last. 

  19. Andrea Says:

    Jesus takes up his cross

    hard, rough, heavy – the cross was thrown across his shoulders. The familiar smell of wood was a comfort – reminders of his endless hours he spent with his father learning the carpenter trade. His thoughts interrupted by the crack of a whip, as he feet gripped the rocky soil on his walk up to the hill. The road was dusty – the smell of dirt, and rocks – the same dust he used to make Adam – his beautiful creation, his heart – his masterpiece – destroyed by sin – the very reason he carries this cross – he suffers this pain – for his creation

    Jesus is helped by Simon to carry the cross

    sweat, blood, fear, the crowd was thunderous as they watched Jesus fall under the weight of the cross. Such hate and anger Simon knew well – “YOU!” The words brought chill bumps – He knew that summons – Master to slave – echoed in in his ears. “Help Him!” – Simon never lifted his eyes, but he quickly obeyed. When he came shoulder to shoulder with Jesus he expected to see a broken spirit, a beaten man inside and out – but when he locked eyes with him – he saw compassion, mercy, love – peace – Simon was almost sure the tears in Jesus’ eyes weren’t for his own pain – but for those around him. The cross didn’t seem so heavy, and when the crowd’s taunts got too loud, all Simon had to do was look at Jesus – and it all went away. He couldn’t walk this road alone – but with him he felt freer than any slave.

    (so this last one I got interrupted a few times (phone, kids, life) and so I def. went over in time – and got lost in the thought. (sorry)

  20. James Tealy Says:

    It feels like I never get into the narrative. Always just a sensory glimpse of a moment. Simon the Cyrenian: He was attracted to energy of the growing crowd. He always had been. On his infrequent trips into the city he would gravitate toward the cacophony of the market. This particular morning, a crowd was gathering but their tense quiet was unsettling and unfamiliar. Simon pushed to the front to see what was happening. Always the eager outsider, his pulse quickened and his breath shallowed as he snaked his way toward a break in herd of Jews and Romans that lined the road. He burst through the front line with more force than he expected and found himself face to face with a roman guard. The soldier whipped around toward Simon, his sword hilt clanging loudly against the breastplate that tightly hugged his torso. 

  21. Eva Says:

    Jesus is helped by Simon to carry his cross

    Gentle. Humble. Hasn’t looked up since leaving the city gates. Doesn’t have to. He knows where He is. Knows every inch of the gray, dusty path. It’s His path, beaten down by His broken heart, paved by sorrow. The guards’ guilt weighs heavy on His shoulders, pressing against the cross He carries. Their haughty rebellion thickens the air. Familiar footsteps stumble toward Him. Their eyes meet. The strong servant bears up under the splintered cross. No longer alone. For now. Take His yoke. Learn…

  22. Eva Says:

    Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

    A following. This time, professional mourners. Dressed to fit the part. Crisp black cotton. The silky veils intended to hide pain, instead reveal more pain. He sees beyond their charades of plastic tears. He listens past their glorious wails. The One who wept over Jerusalem tells the daughters of Jerusalem to weep for themselves, for their children. Not for Him…

  23. Andrea Says:

    Jesus Meets the Women of Jersualem

    So much noise, wailing and cries – but from women who don’t know his pain, mourners paid to show sorrow – their sincerity is empty – the Roman solders with their hateful words and vicious swears are more sincere than that. And yet Jesus doesn’t waste a moment, he doesn’t waste a sorrow – real, imagined, or misunderstood – his words are hoarse, his body weak – but the Word of the Living God echoes in their heart – their eyes fill with tears as he looks into each of their faces – when he is through – they began to cry again – now anguish from deep within their soul – for the emptiness inside has been touched by the Son of God – his compassion for them – over his own suffering – has brought them to a grief for their humanity – their sin – in one brief encounter with the Messiah – and they are overcome with sorrow

    (so I wasn’t going to do this one – cause I really didn’t understand it and couldn’t really wrap my brain around it – why he did this – and what exactly did it mean – but then I was reminded that Jesus wastes nothing – and no one who came in contact with him was ever the same – wow I will never look over that little part again – thank you for this challenge it’s really given me fresh eyes )

  24. James Tealy Says:

    The women of Jerusalem: The wail of mourning woman is a heart-wrenching, ear-piecing sound. It is not the scream of terror but the empathetic pleading of a mother among mothers. The cries move in waves as one dies on the shore of grief and another swells into agony behind it. Cheeks, tracked with tearful streams, take on the flush of passion and the mourners sway to the drunken rhythm of lament.

  25. Eva Says:

    Jesus is crucified

    Golgotha. The Place of the Skull. The life-Giver is prepared to give His life. Holy sacrifice…brutally slain, not even on an altar, but among common criminals. Irony screams. Soldiers hiss. Creation cries out for its creator, as the jaded guards cast lots for His garments. While they should be begging Jesus for forgiveness, He prays, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Keep watch, guards. Keep watch. Just watch.

  26. James Tealy Says:

    None of gospels include any sensory specifics about the moment of crucifixion. The details of soldiers dividing His clothes are include as a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophesy. Even Luke, so careful with chronology and detail, says only “they crucified him.” We know from later references that the process included spikes driven into his hands and feet. The gruesome details of this torturous act have been left out of the gospel leaving those sensory details open for inference. This time I’ve decided to approach the event not as crucified but as crucifier. 

    Crucified: The men held him down but his arms were not tense like the others. I could feel the relaxed forearm of a man at peace. He surely had the strength to resist like the others. I could tell he worked with his hands. Maybe a mason or carpenter. Coarse and calloused hands that were not balled in defiance but open as if to receive the spikes I carried. I make a habit of avoiding eye contact with the criminals.  I don’t want to know their faces. But I could not escape HIS eyes. I glanced for a moment. Just long enough to see neither anger or resolve. But compassion. I felt…known.

  27. Eva Says:

    Jesus promises His kingdom to the repentant thief

    Heads wagging. Tongues wagging. Chief priests mock Jesus our Great High Priest. Scribes taunt the Word of God. Weak passersby laugh at our Strong Joy. Two thieves steal away: Pride to Purgatory; Pure in Heart, to Paradise.

  28. Eva Says:

    Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other

    Life gives life. 33 years. Pours out Love. Grace. Mercy. Healing. Power. Peace. Again and again, He gives. Answers. And questions. Parables. And promises. Facing death, always giving and forgiving. Instructions. Wisdom. Prayer. Sweat drops of blood. But still, there’s more to give. Sacred Sorrow says “Woman, here is your son,” and to…John…”Here is your mother.” Life. Give. Life..

    (I know I’m still not even close to the sense-bound writing…I don’t think my brain let my senses get on the bus, much less let it drive the bus!)

  29. Andrea Says:

    Jesus is crucified

    hate and love, blood and tears, cries and taunts, fear and compassion, purpose and loss, anguish and emptiness, noise and silence, stillness and shaking, defeat and power, unraveled and complete, darkness and illumination, searching and peace, death and glory, gone is the sting

    Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief

    fear, my heart beats so loud it’s all I can hear, The sun beats down brightly – blinding me as it reflects of the white stone below, but I am so cold, my hands and feet feel like they are on fire, I try to breathe but it hurts too much. I look to my right and see the one they call Jesus – he is beaten, like no man I’ve ever seen – the guards are yelling at him – mocking him – and then he looks at me. I am overwhelmed with guilt – shame for crimes – I deserve to be here – but he has done no wrong. I wonder, would he hear me, could he hear me – should I even dare ask – and then I do – I barely recognize my own voice so hoarse and dry –

  30. Andrea Says:

    Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other

    helpless, I have no tears left – I’ve cried them all. I hold her hand tightly – but I know that she wishes it was Jesus’ hand she was holding – not mine. My pain, my grief, my loss so much – I’m sick with anguish – and then I look at Mary – her eyes swollen, her face ashen with pain – and I hurt all over again my body heaves in sorrow – my knees buckle as I look up to see my friend – hardly recognizable – he tries to speak – his voice is so weak – his command to me his last – and nod my head – with a promise to take care of Mary. My head swims with questions, It all feels so surreal – I keep waiting to wake up but there is no relief from this nightmare

    Jesus dies on the cross

    complete, finished – silence – gone – loss – grief – hurt – questions – guilt – denial – anger – tears – sorrow – gut wrenched – confusion – helpless – can’t fix it – loss for words – loss of peace – loss of control – surreal – done -forever changed – nothing will ever be the same

  31. Eva Says:

    Jesus Dies on the Cross

    The sun hides from the dark quakes of the horrified, yet Holy ground. Would the blind even notice that the Light of the World was gone? The Rock splits the rocks wide open. One last cry, one last breath. The Holy One tears the Holy Veil. It is finished. Feasting on unbelief, man has no appetite for this Bread of Life. Most of the parched, dry mankind refuses to drink of the Living Water. But here on the steep, rocky hill, God globally empties Himself out, saying “Come and dine. Come, drink. Come.”

  32. James Tealy Says:

    He is Risen: Even among the tombs in the gardens of Golgatha, the crisp blanket of dawn was alive with anticipation. Mary breathed in the sweet syrup of heather and lily as she shuffled toward the tomb. It was her second sunrise trip to the place Jesus’ body had been laid. The cool mist of morning played tricks with her depth perception and made her question what she was seeing just fifty, now forty feet away. The giant stone that covered the mouth of Jesus’ tomb, still bearing the fresh scars of the chisel, was left of its sentry post leaving the shadowed entrance to the tomb exposed…

  33. Eva Says:

    Jesus is laid in the tomb

    Wise men bear gifts for their King. No gold this time, but yes, a grave, frankincense and myrrh. A rich but generous Joseph musters his courage to ask Pilate for his Messiah’s body. Tax-collector Nicodemus gathers 100 pounds of burial spices and perfumes, to lavishly annoint the Body. Hear God’s bittersweet accompanies them across the garden, gently guiding each step. Savior. Redeemer. Deliverer. Crucified with criminals, exposed, mocked. Buried in a rich man’s tomb, hidden, sealed. Rest in peace, Prince of Peace.

  34. Eva Says:

    The Resurrection

    The root of Jesse pushes His way through! The seed of David springs forth! The True Vine abides! Glory pierces the earth! The Light breaks out, in His time, before dawn! Refining Fire burns His way into the hearts of man. Resurgence. Resurrection. Unstoppable. Victorious!

  35. Andrea Says:

    Jesus is laid in the tomb

    The tomb was cold, our voices echoed as we carried our beloved friend. His body was wrapped and the aroma of incense and oils filled the tomb. We laid his body down, and stood there almost frozen – unsure of what to do next. None of us wanted to leave him, my body ached with grief, my eyes were so heavy from tears that spilled – they would not stop. This was the last time we’d be together – I didn’t want that moment to end – I heard the heavy sighs of the others – we all knew it was time to go. We walked out into the daylight – my whole being begging for darkness – to hide my pain

    The Resurrection

    My feet were tired, my body stiff from standing all night. This ludicrous assignment to guard a tomb must have been punishment for something stupid I had done. Who guards a tomb? Finally the sun was coming up above the hill, my eyes squinted to the light – but wait – there was a lot of light – light not just in front of me but behind – I turned towards the tomb to see a light brighter than the morning sun shooting out from behind the stone. Before I could say a word to the other guard – the stone began to move – I started to shake – fear gripped my heart – I felt a cold sweat all over – as the stone rolled away – all on it’s own

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