Recent Poems

Three poems I’ve written this spring.

…………………………………………………………………..

LOUD CRIES

Surely the rocks cried out in Galilee,

Reverberating echoes of Christ,

Mornings, early and dark, prayers freed

Up to heaven from the Son of Man,

Waters of the sea carrying cries,

Did the dawn waken, startling fisherman?

“What sound,what racket comes from shore?”

Early, untimely, “What goes there?”

Retorting, “It’s that odd son of Joseph,

That man of Nazareth, it’s his voice.”

Desperate, tearful, loud and reverent.

Without his prayers, none could enter,

This covenant of joy with tears.

Pray. You pray like this then, loudly,

Could you offer better than our Savior?

…………………………………………………………………..

NOT DEAD YET

Fileted, splayed, frayed, decayed, maimed,
But not dead yet,
My heart, my will, my ways,
Split, cut, crimped, bent, warped,
But not dead yet,
My will, my wants,
Failing, fading, bleeding, barely breathing,
But not dead yet,
My flesh, my big head,
When will come the day,
not yet the resurrection, first,
The death day but not yet
Getting closer, bleeding out, waiting.
……………………………………………………………………
THE HURRICANE
You, that giant wave that took the small white child by surprise at on shore,
Knocked over, unlike the Atlantic to be so strong,
But behind that big wave was a big hurricane,
Brewing and gaining brawn further south, and no one saw it coming, those waves knew though.
And I was just there, salt in my eyes, and sand in my suit, running back on the beach to mom,
“Where’s my towel? My eyes hurt.”
My eyes hurt, not knowing the Eye was the only safe place once the storm would land,
But you can’t find the Eye, it moves, so you get knocked over, blown over, keeled over, lost.
The sandbanks drift and are dragged down
To somewhere else, as we all are when You came through, just a big wave at first,
But then everything You did meant pain and change but You were only You,
When we can’t find Your Eye.
And we didn’t know what to do
But leave.
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Kintsugi: You are the Gold

Kintsugi

Have you heard of kintsugi?

Makoto Fujimura, a 21st century artist who speaks to the integration of our faith into how we visualize our world, introduced this art form to me. He writes about kintsugi (literally: golden joinery) which began in Japan in the 1400s. The artists mends broken pottery, and reforms the piece with all broken pieces rejoined with golden, platinum, or silver plated lacquer. Kintsugi takes what should be cast off, and recasts it into something precious. The art is popular first because it is visually appealing, but also because the metaphor speaks to what we must believe about ourselves. Has God crushed you into a thousand pieces? He has me through failure, traumas, secondary sufferings, constantly moving states, break-ups, disappointments. I’ve been crushed, often not “accidentaly” but I feel like if I’m that Japanese bowl, a human has been taking a small hammer and pummeling my life. But what are the golden glue that will put the pummeled pile back? To mix the metaphor, I house the DNA of a thousand godly influences, the golden threads of my life’s broken bowl are the reconstruction the Master molder is making. It’s becoming so beautiful with the threads.

 

What are we really? Are we the sum of what nature has made us to be with our combination of DNAs and childhoods, are we the people our environments created us to be? Why I am able to perform at the level I can? Why am I able to go seemingly nonstop sometimes? Why do I create the ideas I do? What made me this way?

 

The more I thought about kintsugi, the more I realized my life is a billion molecules of gold wrapped around the broken pieces of my life. The gold and precious metal lines all over my life are the saints. Why am I this way and not that way?

It was you.

I don’t know when it started. Probably before I can remember, maybe that time I was a fearful six-year-old in pre-op about to get tympanostomy tubes and my mom reassured me she would be there when I woke up. She was and she helped me through a summer of not being able to swim in the pool without earplugs and this very noticeable rubbery headband that made a “weirdo” at the pool with the other kids. Or the time in 4th grade I got hit in the face with a pop-fly softball in the middle of a game and my dad hugged out my heaving-cries. It was that moment that my Sunday School teacher Mrs. Snipes complimented me on memorizing scripture when that whole week I felt so inadequate as a 6th grade student, unclear of what puberty would mean for my destiny.

  • It was my friend Emily my senior year in high school who was a friend, inviting me to do things with others.
  • It was Scottie May, professor at Wheaton College who let me come to her office hours and validated that peace in romance was something I could expect from God.
  • It was the Henri Nouwen book
  • It was Cindy at Wheaton College Public Safety Office who graciously put out the fire of me getting in huge trouble for a scrape I caused on a Wheaton-owned van I drove for a tutoring ministry when I flagrantly ignored a policy.
  • It was my friends Katie and Glen who showed me that pro-life activism is sad and desperate but you combat the injustice with quiet prayer.
  • It was PA Nate who let me shadow him week-after-week so I could one day be a big-girl PA.
  • It was that guy on the airplane from Tampa who told me I was smart and should be the next Surgeon General.
  • It was Loran Cunningham, founder of YWAM at Wheaton Chapel reminding me that God is winning.
  • It was the kindness of the Chick-fil-A owner who gave me a job when my summer plans went awry.
  • It was a care package from Debra when I was in the dark hole of PA school studying, with the Bible verse prescriptions from Dr. Kathy
  • It was pastor Mark saying, “unhypocritical love” for the 100th time from the pulpit.
  • It was my PA school program director threatening to kick me out of graduate school when I invited a pro-life speaker and the local church that prayed me through the trauma of watching your dreams be threatened.
  • It was all the listening from all the friends and all the coffee.
  • It was all my aunts and all the birthdays.
  • It was smiling Sean on the sidewalk of the Roanoke Planned Parenthood.
  • It was Elisabeth Eliot and the books that got into my gut.
  • It was Barb at my church who was a constant friend and me and made me feel like I wasn’t invisible as a single woman at a church of all families.
  • It was Mary Jane opening her front door and seeing me cry before I could even say anything after that guy rejecting me.
  • It was mom listening, and listening, and listening with every little crisis.
  • It was Nora and Renee and Melissa and all the PA school crap.
  • It was big hugs from dad no matter how big the dent was in the car that I’d caused.
  • It was Pastor Doug letting me share during Sanctity of Life Sunday.
  • It was another church event at Lucinda’s house.
  • It was Gina who never gave up on a long distance friendship and then became my neighbor.
  • It was Paul Miller’s book “Praying Life” that taught me to ask like a little kid.
  • It was Debbie with Abortion Pill Reversal bailing me out week after week when I didn’t get my paperwork in on time.
  • It was Denise who showed me the way to lead was to pray and that’s how you raise money for a pregnancy center.
  • It was Grace who told me to read Bob Goff.
  • It was Sheryl who taught me to be ever honest about relationships
  • It was Faith and Wesleigh bringing me donuts on a Saturday when that guy didn’t work out.
  • It was Betsy that believes I am a princess because she’s a princess and has a crown to prove it.
  • It was Sarah who reminded me cancer always sucks.
  • It was John and Gail who literally answered my prayer to have “Georgia parents”
  • It was Amy Carmichael’s “If” booklet.
  • It was a thousand text messages, day after day after day after day.
  • It was that timely gift from you, and you, and you.
  • And those hurtful words from you that I learned to turn away from and forgive.
  • It was all that money that was lost there and there and there.

 

It was all the Jesus in all the golden people I’ve known.

 

Kinstugi may just sound like gratitude, but gratitude doesn’t break us. Life itself breaks us. Only others can rebuild us. Gratitude doesn’t rebuild. I look like the person I do because I’m the “Golden DNA” of each of you. I emulate your words, your wisdom, your habits because you took the time to see me, and put your own gold onto my life. I’ve forgotten so much you’ve done for me. I’m sorry. It has made me what I am and I thank you for putting me back together. You’re making me beautiful.

 

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Lent: Try it!

Want to try to Lent? Ash Wednesday is March 6th this year.

I rarely, rarely pressure anyone I know and love into observing Lent, especially people who aren’t really exposed to the unity in diversity of the body.
My Lent buddies are usually my sister Hannah and my friend Sarah Jones who happen to worship in Anglican churches. What made me start observing Lent was honestly Wheaton college and being palpably shown the origins of so many amazing Christian traditions.  Friends came back from Ash Wednesday services and I wondered, “You’re not Catholic? But you have the Ash on your forehead today…”  I’d never seen that. What did it mean? And I saw how great it was to be on a campus with people acting out their faith, some with true motives, some with false as it tends to go.
Fasting does expose our weaknesses, giving up a desire shows us our true heart.
In Fall 2009, I transferred to UF and my roommate Sara who grew up with a Jewish mom, had this happy fascination and excitement, not about Christmas, like your average “Christian,” but about Easter. And it was because it was so different than Judaism, and one of her relatives was Greek Orthodox and in her mostly Jewish tradition, would get to celebrate Easter with her non-Jewish family. And so she loved Easter and would always say it was her favorite. It wasn’t mine. I was never ready. It just came and went. Another Sunday. Maybe some Honeybaked Ham and a new dress or some photos after church in a dress. What’s the big deal? And I realized it was incredibly topsy-turvy because I grew up being ready for Christmas but never ready for Easter.
Maybe for thousands of years the church had a better idea than just showing up for another Sunday, after Palm Sunday. Jesus did fast in the wilderness for 40 days. When can the church learn to fast? How can we emulate Christ?
Then there was the 40 days for life. This woman named Abby Johnson had been a director of a Planned Parenthood but these people in Texas had organized a prayer vigil and prayed for her. They’d sent her flowers. They’d spoken to her. And one day she quit. And she told the people of this “40 days for life” that it was them that changed her heart. And they started at Lent. The 40 days in the Spring was over this Lent thing. They prayed for that Planned Parenthood, in the flesh, every day, during Lent. So in Spring 2010, my friend Katie Cardinale who was the president of our student chapter decided that the college students could organize this 40 days thing. Over Lent. And I signed up for Monday afternoons to stand on the sidewalk and pray. It was so hard to prioritize a 4 hour chunk of time in the middle of college and a few of those weeks I know I didn’t show up etc. But we did it. Those 40 days and I don’t know to this day what eternal impact it had but that Easter meant something.
It was a Resurrection. It was real. Jesus came to raise the dead things. 
Easters are hard. It’s always rainy, I’ve had a few lonely ones, it’s always a different week and it wants to sneak up on us, but it doesn’t have to. It can point us to his return. It can train us to be vigilant, watchful, ready. And the global church at the same exact time each year is doing this as well. It’s such unity in wanting to worship together. God calls us all individually to change, to fast, to humble ourselves, but how great when individually we are changing in community?
Lent is something that each year I look forward to and look back to. Why was 2017 the year I finally woke up to love? Why was it the year I finally never ever thought ending my life would be a viable option? I take it back to Lent where each day was intentionally meditating on Romans 12 and the mandates to one-another. “Don’t just pretend to love people, Caroline, really love them.” As I walked through those mandates, “Seek to show hospitality.” God would let me do just that! I would get to live out my faith according to the Word that Lent. It was uncanny. His Word came alive! And Holy Week was a pause. I took Wednesday off and spent it with art experts at the RZIM Colloquy. I spent Easter with my family in South Carolina, not my church family, but it really was an expectant day and that spirit of expecting and changing and loving and openness continued! Lent trained me to take aside a chunk of time and work on something. After that in May, I walked through the Beatitudes with Brielle because I was in a weight loss competition and it was a type of Fast.
When you fast, as Lent taught me, you focus. Each day of the week we would go through them, I’d text her them. Mondays were the first two, and for 4 weeks we spent time just there. I need prescriptions and routines and I love how Lent has created that in me. It became “normal” to do a 30 day challenge, or 40, or think about Fridays each Friday as a Friday to meditate on the death of Jesus, etc. Lent made fasting “normal.” The forgotten presumption that Jesus gave us, “When you fast…” is rhythmically annually if you observe Lent. You cannot forget how to fast if you let Lent into you life.
If you’re thinking, “Oh, no, Caroline, not one more thing!” I am telling you, it’s one less thing.
I’m free in Christ. I don’t use this freedom as a cover up for evil. And I don’t want you to either. Don’t be burdened by the yoke of slavery. But choose the Isaiah 58 true fasting. Ask God if Lent would be wrong for you? Is this your year to make Easter a bigger deal than Christmas? Is it time to corporately fast and pray and change and be challenged?
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Lent Resources:
1. Daily Lent Devotionals: http://ccca.biola.edu/lent/
2. Tim Keller Lenten Devotionals: https://www.redeemer.com/learn/resources_by_topic/lenten_devotionals
3. Lent Project: https://lentproject.wordpress.com/about-us/

Bold New Years Prayer

1CB9F220-7A0C-4499-A366-BB1DEA7A19AC.jpegPrayer I wrote on an airplane thinking about 2019:

Let me fret not myself because of my evil doing, let me turn every idea into a prayer, every fear into a thanksgiving, every plan into a living sacrifice. As water flows downward and as mountains jut upwards, may my sins wash away as my mind is renewed up to the Hills from whence comes my Help. May the darkness I see in myself and others be illuminated in the city on a hill High lamp that beckons us to our Heavenly city, our new home, our new affection, our hopeful lives, free of despair. Pull us out of our ditches and let us walk confidently on the Highway of Holiness.

Do you want to be a seed?

7AECF467-AB53-4276-B107-ADED45751088.jpeg
A lone orange on a sidewalk in Granada, Spain

What follows the statement: “I am______.”

A mom? A nurse? A chef? A nerd? A homeowner? “I am____” answers what you hope people perceive about you. After all,  it’s America and We love our unique interests and identities. The ways we self-identify can lead us to new friendships and strengthen old ones. “You too?” is the ultimate joy in human friendship. But what happens when we drift and change and life causes us to drift and change away from our “I ams”? When you were a runner and you tear your ACL and you can’t work out for a year? When you were a healthy grandpa and then you’re in chemo every other week and don’t have time or energy to be around those you love? What happens when you just lose interest in the hobby you really thought you’d do forever? What happens when you feel like even your personality has changed because your circumstances have changed you? 

Job lost his whole family except his wife. All of his “I ams” were lost in a day. Completely. His identity as Father, Wealthy Man, Feast-Thrower, were all tossed aside. And he was left lamenting. But would we say that Job was left without an identity? 

We spend so much of our lives wondering who we really are. I think the crux of so much of the Christian faith attempts to answer this. And I think Jesus did in his seed parable.

Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”

But death? What does that look like? Are we the literal hollow men with no core who walk around void of “I ams” because ultimately we throw our “I ams” to the wind like chaff so we can die and find “life”? What if you really love fashion and you’re good at aesthetics? Is your time spent scouting stores and internet stores a waste? How can you thrive in the moment-by-moment “I ams” that engulf you? What if you are that gym rat nut and absolutely embrace your “I am” as a fit person? This is the tension I don’t quite understand. How do all of the small identities we create intersect with the Kingdom? I know one answer is Love. Are you a clanging gong or are you being you best I am in Love? And the Job question is, what questions will you ask if it’s all gone in a day? What will you ask about God when it’s all lost? Will you see the death as a way to life or will you rage?

And more importantly for me, how am I placing people in “I ams” that perhaps aren’t for them? Do I see people as the sum of the identity they are curating or am I open to their changes, dramatic or subtle? You may love coffee this year and the next have to give it up for your GERD and I can’t be upset that a tiny part of your interest was altered. I need to let others drift in their “I ams” and check in with what they are becoming. I need to never assume.

At three, my niece Eden had a tiger birthday cake because tigers captured her imagination at that age and she completely enjoyed her hand-sized plastic tiger toy. This summer I saw some photos of tigers and showed them to her, “Eden, I know how much you love tigers.” She replied, “Well, not as much as I used to.”

Maybe next month, tigers will mean absolutely nothing to Eden and I need to be listening to understand the new Eden that’s coming along and not assume tigers will be her favorite forever. I’m glad she can change and communicate it to me so I can care for her better.

In all our becomings we have the gifts of language and love to allow growth and changes in each other. What relationship in this moment most frustrates you? Perhaps this person is by nature frustrating and perhaps they’re not the person you think they are and it will take a lot of studying on your part to understand the person you thought you understood.

We can all be grateful that God didn’t stop molding His Moses and His David and His Peter. He knows one’s beginning and their end and perhaps we should tap into his vision for people before we get stuck in our myopic views. God died for people. Maybe we can die to talking so much and start studying and listening. Jesus was the most self-actualized and self-fulfilled human to ever live and he saw what was in mankind. We can’t begin scratch the surface but I wanna try this year and like Jesus will probably weep and probably despair. It’s often not too pretty. But like a dead, dark seed in the ground, the dirty moments hidden from view lead to the giant harvests that can take a lifetime or more to occur. Jesus ends his seed-parable sermon like this:

Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came!”

So, to recap, do you want Kingdom Greatness? It will look something like this:

Fall down into dirty ground —>lay in dirty ground cold for a season —> die in dirty ground—-> new identity and fruitful entity emerge maybe years and years later.

Christmas Poem

Thank you, BSF, for helping me delve into Ancient Israelite geography. This place, Ramah, kept coming up in my brain and I have been waiting for God to reveal why. And this poem came to me to show me all places can be places of redemption. No place is hopeless. According to Wikipedia, “Ramah was a city in ancient Israel in the land allocated to the tribe of Benjamin, whose names means “height”. It has been identified with modern Er-Ram, about 8 km north of Jerusalem.”

RAMAH, Christmas POEM 2018

Ramah: city of tears, town of remorse, village of lament
A jealous wife, Hannah, lived in Ramah,
Conceived in Ramah, birthed Samuel in Ramah,
Her son she surrendered sacrificially,
And he returned, year after year to rest in Ramah.

So why must this place of rest becomes the place of another test?
Is God just, is he fair, does he love, does he care?

A voice is heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping: The children, the children are no more!
But the child, the better Samuel escaped.
Mothers’ hearts are torn in Ramah,                                             Mary’s heart is pierced at Golgotha,

And the Mothers’ tears are answered with blood,
Dripping down hands and feet of the priest,
Who returns home to a better Ramah,
A perfect throne, a perfect seat, a perfect rest.5A1BE0EB-E557-4AA0-BA01-50C6C32C664E

How Desperate Are you for Jesus?

(see below for the gospel text from Luke 18)

The new year is coming up and a lot of us will want 2019 to look different. We all want to change. But maybe we are thinking about change in the upside down way and the real change is to see it like Jesus saw it: that life change happens when we start praying like God wants us to pray. This brings me to a year-long lesson I’ve been learning, the story of two beggars whose lives were absolutely changed by encounters through praying. The first beggar is a man Jesus invented, a symbolic tax collector who is compared to the Pharisee. And the second beggar was a real guy, a blind guy with a loud voice.

This summer I started asking myself, “How do you get there, to the tax collector status? To the justified place? How do you pray from the bottom of your soul, “God be merciful to me a sinner?”

Jesus wanted us to aspire to be this tax collector guy so apparently I am supposed to want to be like him!

First, you have to know you have nothing. You have no gifts, no abilities, no stuff, no financial security, to good deeds that will get you what you want. You have to come to God knowing who you are: a nobody. The Pharisee says what he’s not.

The tax collector says what he is: a sinner.

Come to God knowing you’re a sinner.

The Pharisee isn’t an extortioner, unjust, adulteress. Oh please! We know in the heart we are all of those things! We know how Jesus is playing on our storytelling ways and sets up for us to see the grossness of pride. Pride is our ultimate sin. So tell God, “Hey, I’m a prideful sinner.” You’ll end up actually getting what you want. What you want is more of Jesus and he just wants your honesty.

The second beggar also gets what he wants. And he’s real and really said to Jesus, “Have mercy, son of David, on me, a sinner!”

The blind beggar begs the question,

“How desperate are you for Jesus?”

The blind man out-yells the stigma of being blind, of being a beggar, of people telling him to shut up! Maybe he didn’t stop yelling because he couldn’t see the haters, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

And when Jesus asks him what he wants, he knows. He’s doubtless. His faith makes him well.

Come to Jesus knowing who you are (a sinner), and knowing what you want (sight). He’s listening.

My prayer:

Jesus, I don’t know if I have amnesia but it’s like I’ve just met you. Your life and love is just being revealed to me at last. Your friendship and kinship is just starting to awaken me. When Hebrews has told me all these years to “look to Jesus,” I didn’t know I could actually, like the blind man, look to you. I didn’t know I could actually see your face, I didn’t know I could know you. So well. Better.

…That You could make LOVING the adventure, that you could heal me of past bitterness, and even among these rocks—all my rocky sins— there are sprouts of green growth. I have seen your faithfulness, Son of David, root of Jesse, Bright morning star, Lamb of God, Son of man, daughter of Mary, Risen One. I want you, I long for you in a dry and thirsty land. As you’ve taught me this month, you’re found in others. So, I want to find others so I can find you! I want you! Don’t hold back, please, Son of David, have mercy on me. I am on a Jericho road tired of the beggar’s life, wanting to finally see the Jesus in others. Could you restore my sight? Oh how dark it is, how scornful the shame of begging.

From Luke 18:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

…As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening.  They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Waiting
by Simon Gunning