Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Sometimes I think about what I have done in life. I haven’t really accomplished much - but this I have done: I have made friends.

My friends are my treasures. I am really grateful for them.  I know that with a friend I am just me: i don’t have to try to be smarter or more competent than I am, or have things figured out.  I know that they like me. They get me. I liken it to sending off sparks: I send out these sparks - ideas, thoughts, intuitive leaps … and my friends catch them and send them back instead of extinguishing them. One of my friends even made me a sweatshirt with sparks embroidered on it …. That’s how much she got me.

And I don’t have to put on the right face for my friends. Through some really dark, despairing times, my friends stayed in it with me, even when I was inconsolable.  It’s a hard place to be, staying with someone when there is absolutely nothing you can do or say. When I couldn’t see God at all - I saw them, there with me.  

Today a friend (oh, such a treasured friend!) shared something about Moses and Abraham being friends of God “The Lord used to speak to Abraham face to face as a man speaks to his friend.” And one of my favorite verses, John 15:  “I have called you friends, because everything the Father has made known to me, I have made known to you.”  I like that!  Jesus sending out sparks. Telling us what is really important to him. Inviting us to be in it with him.

I want to envision God more like a friend.  Sometimes I get so messed up with expectations (you are GOD, so FIX this!) or being afraid of disapproval (still!) or looking for “intimacy”.  (OK, I admit it right now, I don’t think I get what “intimacy” with God even means!)  But friends… I do get that. I can be friends.  

Saturday, August 6, 2016

More of the Backstory...

While the Pope was at Auschwitz, he visited the cell of Maximillian Kolbe. Father Kolbe  had a vision for using the mass media to reach Poland with the message of Jesus.  He built a friary just west of Warsaw, which eventually housed 762 Franciscans and printed eleven periodicals, one with a circulation of over a million, including a daily newspaper. Here is more of his story...and the link between Kolbe and why we were at World Youth Day...*

Maximillian Kolbe
In 1930 he went to Asia, where he founded friaries in Nagasaki and in India. In 1936 he was recalled to supervise the original friary near Warsaw. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, he knew that the friary would be seized, and sent most of the friars home. He was imprisoned briefly and then released, and returned to the friary, where he and the other friars began to organize a shelter for 3,000 Polish refugees, among whom were 2,000 Jews.

The friars shared everything they had with the refugees. They housed, fed and clothed them, and brought all their machinery into use in their service. Inevitably, the community came under suspicion and was watched closely. Then in May 1941 the friary was closed down and Maximilian and four companions were taken to the death camp Auschwitz, where they worked with the other prisoners.

“n the harshness of the slaughterhouse Father Kolbe maintained the gentleness of Christ. At night he seldom would lie down to rest. He moved from bunk to bunk, saying: "I am a Catholic priest. Can I do anything for you?" A prisoner later recalled how he and several others often crawled across the floor at night to be near the bed of Father Kolbe, to make their confessions and ask for consolation. Father Kolbe pleaded with his fellow prisoners to forgive their persecutors and to overcome evil with good. When he was beaten by the guards, he never cried out. Instead, he prayed for his tormentors.

“In order to discourage escapes, Auschwitz had a rule that if a man escaped, ten men would be killed in retaliation. In July 1941 a man from Kolbe's bunker escaped. The ten were selected, including Franciszek Gajowniczek, imprisoned for helping the Polish Resistance. He couldn't help a cry of anguish. 'My poor wife!' he sobbed. 'My poor children! What will they do?' When he uttered this cry of dismay, Maximilian stepped silently forward, took off his cap, and stood before the commandant and said, 'I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.

Astounded, the icy-faced Nazi commandant asked, 'What does this Polish pig want?'

Father kolbe pointed with his hand to the condemned Franciszek Gajowniczek and repeated 'I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.' Amazingly,  he acceded to the request. Franciszek Gajowniczek was returned to the ranks, and the priest took his place …

Father Kolbe was thrown down the stairs of Building 13 along with the other victims and simply left there to starve.  Maximilian Kolbe encouraged the others with prayers, psalms, and meditations on the Passion of Christ. After two weeks, only four were alive. The cell was needed for more victims, and the camp executioner, a common criminal called Bock, came in and injected a lethal dose of carbolic acid into the left arm of each of the four dying men. Kolbe was the only one still fully conscious and with a prayer on his lips, the last prisoner raised his arm for the executioner. His wait was over …

Franciszek Blachnicki
One witness of this was a young resistance fighter named Franciszek Blachnicki. When he saw what Kolbe did, he wondered “why would a man give his life for someone he doesn’t even know? That question led him to put his faith in Jesus. He survived Auschwitz and became a Catholic priest. Like Father Kolbe, Father B was a visionary. He started a movement among young people which by 1980 had about 80,000 young people coming to camps every summer.  Like Father Kolbe,  Father B had a vision for what he called “The Great Evangelization” - “to reach out with the gospel to every person in Poland.”

When he met Joe, an American student who had been a leader in Campus Crusade, he asked if Campus Crusade would send people and materials. When he saw the Jesus film, he determined to have it shown in every parish in Poland through his network of priests and volunteers. Films, projectors and a complete printing press were smuggled into Poland. It is estimated that 7 million people saw the film, shown in parishes, on university campuses, and even in the Gdansk shipyards during the Solidarity strikes. The vitality and personal faith we witnessed in the Polish church is largely due to Father B and to his friend, Pope John Paul II. **

Father B. was in on a trip to Germany when martial law was declared and he was not allowed to return to Poland. He died in Germany in 1987.

When Father Kolbe offered to give his life in exchange for another, he had no idea that watching him was a man who would take up his vision. He simply followed his Master in laying down his life. That is how the gospel works. When we follow Jesus, we have no idea of the implications, no idea of how God may use our obedience, large of small to fulfill his dream - and ours.

Teams from Russia and the Northwest at World Youth Day, Krakow2016

** See also The Pope We Never Knew: The unknown story of how John Paul II ushered Campus Crusade into Catholic Poland. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/may/13.34.html

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

World Youth Day!

I have a crazy plan to tell you about  … but it needs some backstory!

IMG_0788 - Edited.jpg

Terry and I went to work in Eastern Europe in 1980 (Weren’t we cute? And that hair!) . Our first assignment (one week after we landed in Vienna!) was to travel to Communist Poland to meet with a priest named Franciszek Blachnicki.

“Father B” had come to faith while imprisoned  in Auschwitz for his role in the Polish resistance.
He  survived Auschwitz  and became a Catholic priest with a vision for reaching all of Poland with a renewal of faith in Christ.He started a movement of young people called Oaza (Oasis).  In 1974, he
met Joe, a Cru student studying in Poland, who showed him  the “Four Spiritual Laws.”  “ We need this!” said Father B. “Can you send people to help us?” That was the beginning of a cooperation that resulted in thousands coming to Christ.  

By the time we met Father B in the summer of 1980 there were about 80,000 students coming to camps, hearing the gospel and being trained with our Bible study and evangelism materials - all under the noses of the Communist government! One summer team brought a copy of the film “Jesus” with them,  got caught by the police with the film  and expelled from the country. They went instead to Rome to show the film to Father B’s good friend from seminary, Karl Wojtyla … otherwise known as Pope John Paul II! He gave it his approval, which opened the way for the film’s use in Catholic countries.

Our job was to help Father B to show  “Jesus”  (which had been translated into Polish) in every parish in Poland.  He needed films, projectors … and 20 million copies of the gospel of Luke!  Terry devised some clever ways to get those into Poland … including having an entire printing press smuggled in. His skills went to good use as he put it back together and set up a secret printing operation in the attic of a rectory.

It is 40 years this summer since the first Cru  team went to Poland… and because of that connection, I have a unique opportunity this summer!

The 2016 World Youth Day, a massive rally of youth  with Pope Francis , will take place this summer in Kracow, Poland. The archbishop of Kracow has asked Cru to come as official volunteers to do evangelism among the 3 million spiritually interested youth from 187 countries who will gather in Kracow.   And I was asked to lead a team from the Northwest to join with Cru students from a number of countries to volunteer.  

It really is a crazy plan … but I have sensed that this is something that God is inviting me into.  I am always talking to students, telling them not to be afraid (fear seems to be a big problem with this generation of students) but to follow Jesus! And I felt that this is a time when I need to go - in spite of my fears.  I told the Lord that I would go if 10 people would go with me …

We have a group of  17 … including two students who were refugees from Iraq … a couple of Polish speakers, a seminary professor, a digital media maven, and some younger staff. And … our son Dan is bring a team of Russians as well!  

please pray!  This is all daunting to me - and I need prayer!
  1. The dates are July 22-August 1. Please pray that all will go well at home with my mom and Laura. I find that often when I am about to go on a ministry trip - things happen.
  2. Pray that we would all encounter Jesus as we follow him in this, and that He will lead us to the people who need to hear the gospel personally in that vast crowd.  He knows them…

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ten Commandments for Mature Living #7

Live in a more radical sobriety.
“Maturity does not mean that we are perfect or faultless, but that we are honest.”

As I have had occasion to talk to people who go to AA meetings, this is what is striking: the emphasis on honesty.  Admitting to the truth about yourself. Being desperate enough to stop trying to cover it up.

I don’t know of any practice more necessary for human maturity than confession: radical honesty. Instead of admitting to the truth about ourselves we tend to blame someone else, make excuses, lower our standards, or feel guilty and try to do better. None of those are confession; simply admitting what is true of us, standing there in the light of God.

I wonder what would happen if we began our church small groups with “Hi, my name is Carolyn, and I am a sinner.”

“If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. “

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ten Commandments for Mature Living #6
Bless more and curse less!
The mark of a deeply mature man or woman, the mark of a very mature disciple of Jesus, and the mark of someone truly giving their life away is this: he or she is a person who blesses others and blesses the world, just as God does and just as Jesus did.

...to bless someone is to see and admire that person, to speak well of him or her, and give away some of your life so that he or she might have more life.

Blessing by seeing is one of the deep archetypal functions of all royalty, all parents, and all who lead others in any way: God blessed the world by seeing it… Normally blessings work from the top down, from those who have more power to those who have less… Young people may not overtly want the blessing of their elders -but they desperately need it.

I just finished JK Rowlings first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy.  (Warning: it has graphic and disturbing parts, and therefore I do not recommend it for everyone.) I liked it a lot - (I finished it Sunday afternoon instead of taking my usual nap and walk in Washington Park! ) and I think this is why:  It is a novel that sees people. It takes you beyond the surface to see people as they are.

One of the characters, Krystal,  is a foul mouthed, promiscuous, angry 16 year old girl. Krystal has grown up with an addicted mother in “The Fields” - a drug and crime ridden housing estate. Her life is portrayed in unvarnished realism.   The novel opens with the death of the one person who ever really who blessed her - who saw her, saw something admirable in her, who spoke well of her and gave away his life so that she might have more life.

Barry Fairbrother came to the high school to put together a girls rowing team. He brought a rowing machine and asked for volunteers.

“Krystal Weedon”, said Barry, pointing at her. “I’ve seen you dangling off the monkey bars down the park; that’s proper upper body strength you've got there. Come and give it a go.”

Krystal ...swaggered up to the machine and sat down … heaved on the handle, making a stupid face… “Look at that!” Barry had said. “She’s a natural. Straighten your back. Thats it. Pull … pull… have you done this before?” Then Krystal really had straightened her back, and she really had done it properly….She hit a rhythm.

“Excellent!” said Barry. “Look at that, excellent! That’s how you do it!”

What was it that Barry had? He was always so present, so natural, so entirely without self-consciousness. Teenagers …. were riven with the fear of ridicule. Those who were without it, and God knows there were few enough of them in the adult world, had natural authority among the young…

But at the end of the exhibition, when Barry asked those who were interested in trying out for the team to raise their hands, Krystal kept her arms folded. Barry carefully noted down the names of the interested girls, then looked up.

“And you, Krystal Weedon,’” he said pointing at her. “You're coming too. Don’t you shake your head at me. I’ll be very annoyed if I don’t see you. That’s natural talent I see there. I don’t like to see natural talent wasted.”

Had Krystal thought about her natural talent as she showered at the end of the lesson? Had she carried the thought of her new aptitude around with her that day, like an unexpected Valentine? … to the amazement of all, except perhaps Barry, Krystal had turned up at tryouts… Barry had liked Krystal. He had seen in her things that were invisible to other people’s eyes.

In Sacred Fire Rolheiser writes:

In summary,we bless others when we see them, delight in their energy rather than feel threatened by it, and give away some of our own life to help resource their lives. Sadly, the reverse is also true: we curse others when we demand that they see and admire us, when we demand that they speak well of us, and when we use their lives to build up our own. A gesture of blessing feeds others; a cursing gesture feeds off of them.

Krystal, who had only ever been cursed, was, for once, blessed.

“Bless more and curse less!”

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ten Commandments for Mature Living #5

“Forgive: those who hurt you, your own sins, the unfairness of your life, and God for not rescuing you.”

“...and God for not rescuing you…”

I have had a lot of crises in the past 5 years - and I have been pretty mad at God. OK, real mad at God. For not keeping my friend Laurie’s cancer from coming back and killing her. For my daughter being in terrible pain and not being able to help her. For giving me all these people to take care of - when, as everyone knows, I’D RATHER BE READING A BOOK!!

I always tend to rescue people if I can. Seeing people in distress makes me uncomfortable, and sometimes rescuing them is more about my discomfort than about them. If I were God, I would be rescuing people even when they needed to not be rescued. (I am not a good leader for that very reason. Not a good god either, btw.)

One thing I have discovered is that I am a lot stronger than I thought. I never liked to quote the verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” because I mentally thought, “No, really, I don’t think I can…”  But  these last years I have fought and persevered more than I ever thought I could. So I am beginning (just beginning, mind you, and maybe a little reluctantly) to forgive God for not rescuing me.

I so, so don’t want to be a bitter, unforgiving old person.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ten Commandments for Mature Living  … #4

“Let suffering soften your heart rather than harden your soul.”

‘Suffering and humiliation will find us all, and in full measure, but how we respond to them will determine both the level of our maturity and what kind of person we are going to be. Suffering and humiliation will either soften our hearts or harden our souls.”

“There is no depth without suffering”,  writes Rolheiser. “It can make us deep in understanding, empathy, and forgiveness, or it can make us deep in resentment, bitterness and vengeance…. And we have to make that choice daily: every time we find ourselves shamed, ignored, taken for granted, belittled, unjustly attacked, abused,or slandered we stand between resentment and forgiveness, bitterness and love. Which of these we choose will determine both our maturity and our happiness.”

I don’t think I can add anything to that … except to pray that the Spirit of God in us will give us this grace to choose well.