The Silent, Empty, Lonely Easter

Easter is my favorite and it seems like the COVID-19 has stolen even this from us, doesn’t it? It’s ironic that the great billion-people-worldwide holiday is now a day of small, mostly silent, in-home, screen “events.” And if you don’t have a screen like many in the world, what then? Holy week seems so…

Silent.

Empty.

Lonely.

Like the Passion narrative.

SILENT

“But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.” (Mark 14:61)

EMPTY

“Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty tomb.” (Luke 24:12)

LONELY

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I have grown accustomed to walking through Holy Week trying to pray through, imagine, relive the events of my savior in the City of David and when we live in this way, it is actually a grim, dark week. Holy Week is hard: betrayal, mock-trials, floggings, cowardice, abandonment, bloody-sweat… Holy Week is not joyous if we meditate on the events without the endings.

So here we are in the dark, dark days before our collective solo sunrise services Sunday. And will you live now in this present darkness? Will you weep and stress like your own Savior did? Will you ask, “Father, if it is your will, let this cup pass? Not my will, but yours be done?”

Perhaps if we do, and we embrace the victory of the ending, the world can say of us like they said of Jesus’ dear friends, “These men do not stop speaking of the resurrection!”

Caroline’s Quarantine Reading List

I believe God has gifted some of us with dramatic souls, with deep access to emotional valleys of our lives, and enraptured heights of joy. We all respond to personal and corporate crises from an emotional vantage no matter how we try to deny it. I may perceive myself to be rational, but I know I roller-coaster along more than flat line most seasons of my life. Because of the way God has shaped my response to internal and external circumstances, he put good friends around me through the years. He’s prepared me for every job, every service opportunity, and every ministry, and more often than not, that preparation looks like a saint who wrote. We as human beings needs human heroes. We need human heroes who had Jesus. We need human beings who wrote what it felt to be human in hard times. I am putting my short list of books recommendations of authors who have been friends to me, the drama-queen (who felt the recession of 2008 in a personal way, who tears up when I hear anything about 9/11, who takes it personally when another baby gets aborted without anyone mourning).

 

Here are some great books:

  • The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald

Well known children’s author who was quarantined for Tuberculosis in the 1950s.

  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Holocaust survivor whose method of maintaining mental clarity in unspeakable suffering has helped millions develop resilience internally regardless of circumstances.

  • Imprisoned in Iran by Dan Baumann

Feel like you’re in jail? Dan honestly explains how to maintain intimacy with Jesus in hardship

  • Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler

The best cancer memoir in print.

  • How Dante Can Save Your Life by Rod Dreher

Struggling with reconciling who you are in your family dynamics? Dante could save your life.

  • God’s Hostage by Andrew Brunson

Have anxiety and depression and need medications even though you’ve been a “super Christian” your whole life? So does Andrew. Let’s all admit that life throws us curves and our health can collapse because life is hard.

  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Second best cancer memoir in print.

  • Insanity of God by Nik Ripkin

God will use the Covid 19 for his glory and God’s Insanity isn’t anything new.

  • This Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy

Imagine what it’s like to have bipoloar and not get out of bed for days and days. And still love Jesus and yourself. Maybe our weaknesses are for God’s strength.

  • A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

She’s my missionary hero and she knows a little about loss (martyred husband, second husband died of cancer, etc.)

  • A Mother’s Ordeal by Steven Mosher

Want to understand a little about China’s history and propaganda? Nothing like a memoir.

  • Spiritual Depression, Its Causes and Cure by Martin Lloyd Jones

Pastors can be depressed too. Spiritual depression isn’t the end and it’s not a shameful disease.

  • Compassion by Henri Nouwen

Love like Jesus loves and dance through Nouwen’s perfect prose.

  • Season of Waiting by Besty Childs Howard

We are all waiting for something. Really.

  • Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser

It’s never too late to learn to be honest with God. Feelings need to be felt. It’s not the pain Olympics.

mans

Lent 2020

***Ash Wednesday is Wednesday February 26th***

 

What is the most ridiculous thing you’ve heard this political cycle? It can get nauseating. What is real anymore? I think if you’re weary of any sort of chaos, in your life or in your life’s periphery, Lent could become your season of rest. Do something. Give up something. Give something. Focus.

Easter is coming and Easter means a resurrection. I’ve worked for over a year in oncology and people die. I get to know people and they get sick, and stop breathing and I miss them. One patient in particular just died and it leaves a hole in my life. I miss him so much. Some days the sorrow feels normal, but some days it feels awful. The resurrection has always been the main thing for all of us who possess Christ, but it becomes even more so as we get closer to our own deaths, day by day. Acts speaks of the early believers being unable to stop speaking about the resurrection (Acts 4:20). Imagine how insane it was for them: their dead friend who claimed to be God, came alive and didn’t die! Their friend Jesus didn’t ever die. Do you hear what I just said, “A dead guy who claimed to be God, came back to life and never died”???

That’s insane. If your friend came back to life, you would probably want to tell some people. It’s so bizarre; it’s so simple. A dead guy who was God died, and then came back to life. Can you stop speaking about this? Can you stop meditating on the implications? Paul couldn’t and his life was insane!

Do you want an insane life? I can’t say my life is necessarily boring, but it’s not yet insane. I want some more of what Paul got and I think the best place to start is Matthew 5-7. It’s the best sermon on a hill ever taught and if you literally do what it says, you’re well on your way to:

  • Speaking obsessively about a dead guy who didn’t stay dead
  • An insane life

I want those two things leading up to Easter. The sermon on the mount has become more and more personal to me as I’ve actually literally obeyed it. So my Lenten offering up is to just read it. Every day. Forty days of the most insane sermon every preached by the Son of God. What will that do for my outlook? How will that impact my brain? Will I be a little more ready to celebrate the dead guy who didn’t stay dead and ascended into heaven to save me from my own death from my own sins? I think so! Ready, Set, Lent!

How Praying With Men Showed Me Manhood

I’m thirty, never been married, and grew up with no brothers. I have a demanding career in healthcare and my profession leans upwards of 80% female. I see male and female patients and I have had a mix of male and female bosses. I’ve always attended complementation, conservative churches and I’ve dated and though it’s never gone great, I’ve never been abused or raped. Physical boundaries were crossed I regret but I see many instances I was complicit. I receive grace. I have a fantastic relationship with my dad and respect him immensely. Yet despite being a blessed, statistical anomaly, men are hard for me. I have a lot of fear. I read statistics of porn use in men in church, rates of molestation, etc. And when I worked in women’s health I saw the shakedown of the infidelity manifested in sobbing women needing STD testing because they’d been cheated on. And young girls starting sexual activity way to early and calling CPS for statutory rape. As a prolifer, I’d talked to dozens of boyfriends who admitted to pressuring their partners into the abortion. I’d seen church elders completely mishandle male harassment of a friend in my local church. I’ve talked to so many peers with troubled relationships with their fathers. I’ve heard friends’ sexual assault stories. There’s a lot of stereotypes that are there for a reason. And it hurts. I can’t fix any of it. I mourn. Not because it’s anything new under the sun (honestly, before ubiquitous internet porn, we still had rampant global prostitution), but rather because brokenness is old and tiring.

But there are good men I know who pray.

And that changes everything.

Wednesday morning for the past three years, one hour each week, has been a class on what true manhood is. It’s a church context where men outnumber women. The men who come pray are all employed in full-time ministry or retirement (which is busier than work ever was). Brother Paul prepares a text or topic each week. And we just sit in a circle and ask God big things. Week after week. Year after year. It’s honest. I’m honest. I’ve prayed for wisdom in dating in this circle, prayed for a new job in this circle, prayed for miraculous healings in this circle. I only see these men once a week with my eyes shut in prayer but they’re faithful. They’re full of the spirit. And they’re not young. All of them have experienced the knock-downs life throws at us: children straying from Jesus, lost jobs, deaths, financial victories and terrors, marriage highs and low-lows. It’s the wisdom that life experience brings and yet they’re there, week after week, knowing the priority is the Manifest Presence of God. In prayer. I want to know God like each of them know God. We all have seen men be great leaders, and terrible leaders. But I never saw men humble themselves week after week and know by their words and their action shown to show up week after week that God is their Leader. If His Presence doesn’t go with John, Jon, Paul, and Jim, then John, Jon, Paul, and Jim don’t want to go.

I don’t know what kind of community you’re in. But if you’re able, ask God for the big thing of finding men who pray that you can join up with. It will likely heal the broken places you never knew were there.

In this world, Caroline may have trouble with mankind, but take heart, Jesus has overcome the world!

Winter Hay

They bailed the hay, rolls in rows,

The middle of January, work to do between the rains, something to chew instead of grains,

Field empty, muddy, quiet,

Field mice lost their burrow,

and the snakes have been hiding four days from the rain.

And the bales just sit there, waiting

to be dressed in synthetic plastic jackets,

then trucked off to a centralized farm.

Waiting to be made useful.

Waiting to be unrolled.

Waiting to be desiccated,

Hay so green, now so dead.

*** The idea to write this came to me in my own neighborhood where I had seen hay bales on a run. Then, driving through the countryside I just wrote down my thoughts. I prayed, “God, give me some hay bales to take a picture of.” I found just a couple and took a photo, but then came upon the photos you see above. How sweet, God wanted me to see rows and rows of hay bales, something I just imagined for the poem and then found in real life***

Kingdom Questions

“Now having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He replied, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed or with a visible display; nor will people say, ‘Look! Here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For the kingdom of God is among you [because of My presence].”
‭‭LUKE‬ ‭17:20-21‬ ‭

Kingdom Questions
What’s it Like?
Jesus as King
Kingdom of Heaven,
Kingly things
First before last?
Mustard seeds, Blowing
Pearls finding,
Yeast rising.
“Show us the kingdom,” Peter would say,
And Jesus kindly, “Within you, already, not yet,
Not time,
But wait,
Go Therefore,
Stand firm.”
They’ll kill your bodies, plunder your gold,
Create chaos,
Rage, and wrath,
And little flock,
“You, you don’t fear.”
Can’t you see it,
Can’t you feel it,
Can’t you believe it.
The kingdom is here.

A letter to twenty-year-old me

Walking to the best bridge in the world with my best friend forever eternally 9.2019

Turning thirty has got me reflecting. God brings seasons and ages and to think that Jesus began his public ministry at thirty is not lost on me. Also, I can finally run for U.S. Senate and five more years until I can run for president. With the past decade in light, I wondered, what promises of God do I wish I had really believed? Twenty-Caroline knew the promises of God, but what would I tell then-me to really grasp onto, to make head knowledge into heart knowledge? And as I reflect on these “precious and very great promises” and look ahead to another decade of walking with Jesus, can I hold onto these promises as a greater reality than my circumstances into my 30s? That is my hope!

 

Thirty promise I would give to twenty-year-old me:

    1. Isaiah 56:4-5 – “For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,  who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” In the Christian bubble where the paragon is motherhood, there is something better, there is spiritual offspring from your twenties that only heaven will truly manifest. No babies this decade, but believe that your name, your “spiritual DNA” is of greater worth than physical offspring! Don’t waste precious intimacy with the Lord longing for something He doesn’t give to everyone. Being single is his absolute best for you today. Celibacy is his best for his favorites. In fact, being single was the Father’s best for His Son. His inheritance is better than even what the church puts a premium on. Stop listening to human reasoning in the church–they’re wrong–listen to the Bible, and it says that marriage isn’t God’s best. Being a mom isn’t God’s best. Spiritual sons and daughters is God’s best.
    2. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Just confess your sins to God, to other believers stat. Don’t wait around! Being in the light leads to freedom. Don’t ever hide. Vulnerability is the way of the cross.
    3. James 2:13- “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” People will be flaky. People will let you down. But mercy is better. If you can forgive others, you can forgive yourself. The merciful are blessed, aka happy.
    4. Matthew 6:25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life.” Really, don’t worry. Don’t worry about school, jobs, dating, schedules, lawsuits, bad bosses, empty check books. Just don’t worry.
    5. Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”Giving up isn’t an option. Keep on going in doing good, in making that next meal, in cleaning up after that bad roommate. The harvest is coming. Weariness isn’t an option
    6. Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” You are not God. You don’t know the heart. Stop pretending you do and just love people regardless of how you think they should act.
    7. Jude 20 “praying in the Holy Spirit,” You can pray, but praying in the Spirit where prayers are answered! Don’t heap up empty words without first inviting the one who can teach us to pray into the middle of it.
    8. Hebrews 5:7 “He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears,” So much of my twenties, I wasn’t honest with God, but I would urge younger me to be loud, and verbal, and cry out to God when I prayed. God hears our crying.
    9. Hebrews 4:16 “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.” Always come. Satan wants you hiding, far away from the presence of God, but Jesus says, “Come when you’ve messed up, when you’ve hurt someone, when you feel worthless. Just come.
    10. Hebrews 13:5, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.” Money is just a tool. It doesn’t ever make you happy and loving it doesn’t result in more holiness. Most people around you don’t live like this and not loving money is the most anti-world’s system way to live.
    11. Hebrews 12:3 “Don’t grow weary or fainthearted” All around you, people will give up, they’ll quit and just go to sleep. They’ll watch Netflix. They’ll be flaky. But draw on God’s unlimited energy. Just do the next thing.
    12. Hebrews 11:6, “He has prepared for them a cityPlaces won’t last, the places you thought you’d live in, or didn’t think you’d wind up in, they are all passing away and decaying. Places disappoint. All the cities you visit are nothing compared to the great city, the New Jerusalem. Focus on that city, even in traveling, remind others of our true home.
    13. Hebrews 12:15, Kill the “root of bitterness.” Bitterness grows faster than gratitude! It grows fast and it has to be killed. Don’t get bitter against people, against how your life is turning out, against things you can and can’t control.
    14. 1 John 3:1 – “he calls us his children, and that is what we are.” If every day of your 20s, you would realize that you are God’s kid, so many things would fall away. God loves his kids and he doesn’t lead them into destruction. You are God’s child and that means you are so loved regardless of what your anxiety, or fears say.
    15. 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world” Don’t love food too much. Don’t love comfort. Don’t love social media. Don’t love TV shows. Don’t love movies. Don’t love things that will literally never satisfy. Go to sleep with the Bible app on, not a TV show. Stop scrolling. Loving the world doesn’t ever satisfy.
    16. Psalm 42:11, “Hope in God” Keep it simple. Are you hoping you get that next job? Hope it God. Are you hoping that boy online asks you on a real date? Hope in God. Are you hoping that your next vacation fills a void? Hope in God.
    17. Psalm 139, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” The skin God put you in is just right. Your hair, your face, your breast, your legs—all fearfully and wonderfully made. God made your body good. Accept it and use it for his good. Every perceived “flaw” can actually be used to testify to his Greatness.
    18. Mark 2:17, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” Practically, work in jobs as a PA where people are sick. Sick people actually need healthcare. Spiritually, share the gospel with people who know they’re sick in the soul. Pharisees don’t “need” Jesus.
    19. Matthew 12:34, “For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.” When you say unkind things to people you care about, it’s because you think unkind things about people you care about. Out of your prayer life for people, your mouth will speak. Love people in your heart first and it will show in how you speak about them.
    20. Lamentations 3:22, “New mercies every morning” When you wake up anxious, tell Satan to leave and remember this isn’t a trite saying, but it’s real. There is real refreshment each morning.
    21. 1 Peter 5:8, “Devil prowls around like a roaring lion…” Satan really is on the prowl. Most of my 20s I didn’t acknowledge this but if I could go back, I would see so much of what I thought was “my problem” was actually spiritual warfare. The devil is real and he can be defeated.
    22.  Galatians 1:10 “Am I trying to please man?” People pleasing never works. Don’t even try to please people. You’ll let your people down and you’ll let you down. Seek first the kingdom.
    23. 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace….” Flee means run away…from dumb shows, from men that want your body more than your soul, from drinking too much. Literally get your body out of situations where your body and soul can be harmed. It’s never cool to forfeit your soul.
    24. 2 Timothy 4:17, “But the Lord stood by me.” Paul sometimes fought the battle alone. Sometimes it feels like you’ll be abandoned. No one else is fighting for preborns. No one else is believing in the literal Scriptures. No one else is loving that really weird person. But the Lord is standing right next to you. Take heart.
    25. 1 John 5:14, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hear us.” Write down what you are asking of God and then see if he answers it. This way you’ll learn if you’re actually asking according to his will. He can train you to pray so your prayers will be answered because you’re praying in his will.
    26. Acts 4:29, “Grant to your servants to continue to speak the word with all boldness” Nothing else matters but speaking the word. Ask God daily for boldness.
    27. Psalm 119:127, “I love your commandments above gold.” The Word of God is treasure. It is so shiny. Love it first. Never put anything above it. Prioritize it. It will always satisfy.
    28. Psalm 118:17, “Recount the deeds of the Lord.” Tell stories to others that show what Jesus is up to! Don’t talk about yourself; talk about how God is working all around you.
    29. Matthew 10:31 “Don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Stop believing he’s forgotten you when you’re lonely. Stop thinking you’re forgotten when that romantic relationship blew up. Stop believing you’re just a bird. You’re so much more than a bird to Him.
    30. Matthew 9:38, “He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Twenty-year-old Caroline, I know you want to save the world. That’s fine. You can’t. Stop running into the field to try to get all the harvest! Stop. Yes, the fields are ripe, but it’s your job to pray. If you just keep running around and not praying, you get tired and upset because that’s not the instructions. Let’s review, what are the instructions when you see a field?

         PRAY.