Endangered Species


The sirens whaled

Racing to fire.

By the time help arrived the

Building was engulfed in flames.

 Search and rescue made inquiries,

Was anyone alive?

The was fire an opportunity

For six o’clock

Reporters circled

And spotted on the roof,

Four elephants parting like no tomorrow.

All related—mother, father, two children.

Tenderly, lovingly, and caring.

Together is everything,

Loosing each other a tragedy.

Copyright © 2006 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

Unwanted, Won’t Go


You visit, invited or not.

I welcome you and feed you

Because I know you won’t go.

Ignoring you won’t work.

You are here

And make your presence known.

I’ve tried to deny that you exist

Hoping you’ll get the message.

Pack up and go

Leave me alone.


If you insist on staying

Should mistreat you?

And make it unpleasant

Who would put up with that?


It’s hard on both of us,

The unpleasantness,

The battle, and the tension.

 We inflict wounds on each other,

The tender spots are known.

Calluses are avoided,

Tender flesh more appealing.

 So you decide to retreat,

But not due to my actions.

You simply felt it time to go.

Not really gone though,

Not entirely out of sight.

One day, week, month, or year

You visit again, invited or not.

I welcome you and feed you

Because I know you won’t go.

Copyright © 2006 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

Who We Are


Rachel, Alexis, Cindy, Mark

Daughters, Sisters, Mother, Father

Lovers of each other, our inner desires

Connected, joined.

Happy, sad, confused, fearful, depressed

Closed-in, concealed, disconnected, withdrawn

We need each other,

Love, understanding.

Connection, revealed to ourselves

Blemishes, imperfections ,and all

God’s love.

We give less than our best,

Less than perfect gifts.

Pain, guilt, illness,

Or nothing at all.

We fear ourselves, each other, our illness

Our isolation, our past, our future,

Our fears.

We desire each other,

To love and to be loved.

Happiness, peace, wellness,

Peace in God.

Copyright © 2006 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

Leaders should open up on war

November 20, 2005

Leaders should open up on war

I'm a security mom. Remember us? We used to be soccer moms, but after 9/11 we gained
the attention of politicians and pollsters because they believed we'd vote based on who'd
keep us safer. They thought we were afraid.

My friends and I always took exception to that. We preferred to think of ourselves not as
fear-filled, but as informed, pragmatic and indignant. Sure, we talked about how scary it
would have been on that airplane with the shoe bomber, or whether we'd have rolled with
Todd Beamer on Flight 93. But we also talked about Russia's missing nukes and fostering
democracy in hotbeds like Iraq and Afghanistan, which could give young, radical Muslims an
alternative to terror.

These days, the wavering in Congress has many security moms upset. It's difficult to believe
so many leaders have gotten so far off track since 9/11 and their votes in support of Bush
and the U.N. resolutions. Many threats to our country have been diminished since we were
attacked, but you'd never know it by listening to their posturing.

The party on the left continues to harp that the war is wrong, but I've yet to hear their
solutions to terrorism, unless you count John Kerry's heretofore unknown Plan, which he's
apparently decided to keep secret despite all the troops who're dying.

The media are like my teenage girls, sounding the trumpet dramatically on issues that are
red herrings, distracting us from what we really need to know.

And the party on the right doesn't do much better with their information. They should be
reminding us daily why we fight and what's at stake.

For example, simulations have been done on the effects of a terror attack, and I think
Americans should be informed. One war-game I ran across, a port security study by a private
consultant, was alarming.

It deals with the dilemmas and ripple effects faced by authorities in a mock series of events.
The opening scenario reveals a threat of dirty bombs (radiation detected) entering the
country via shipping containers. The “game” is played out in three different ports and spans
just 12 days, but the threat sequence ultimately costs almost $70 billion in economic loss,
crisis on Wall Street, an explosion in downtown Chicago and major supply chain interruptions
that make Katrina look like a day in the park.

So why aren't we being given this kind of information that puts a face on so-called weapons
of mass destruction? And what happened to all those movies from the Cold War that informed
us about mushroom clouds and fallout? I truly don't want to scare the kids, but how will they
ever understand the threat when it's just a meaningless acronym to them – WMD?

Our leaders should be raising our awareness of potential threats. Not with silly color codes or
pointless accusations, but hard facts.

We deserve information that can help us make informed decisions and be more prepared to
respond if something bad happens.




Copyright © 2005 Marietta Daily Journal. All rights reserved.
All other trademarks and Registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.



Iraq message

December 3, 2005

To: Don McKee

Daily Journal

From: Mark Holmberg

RE: “Perdue returns with Iraq

         Marietta Daily Journal, December 2, 2005


Dear Mr. McKee:

do not share our governor’s opinion that “our troops understand the mission” in
Iraq. The
average age of the American soldier in Iraq is nineteen. Does Mr. Purdue
actually believe that the average nineteen year old really understands the complex
and evolving reasons for this war? After all, their commander in chief has difficulty
defining “the mission” and has no idea when, or if, American troop will leave Iraq.

What exactly is “the mission” in Iraq?
The Bush administration initially justified the invasion of Iraq
because they were certain that
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) existed
there. That proved wrong. In fact, prior to the declaration of war, the
international weapons inspectors told us they found no evidence of WMD, much less that
they existed.

justification the Bush administration used for declaring war on Iraq
was alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Those links never
existed. However, there is likely an al-Qaeda presence in Iraq
today due to our presence there. Therein lies the quagmire that we find
ourselves in today.

During a speech on
November 30th George W. Bush said, “Our tactics are flexible and
dynamic.” Well yeah, when his initial justification for war turned out to be so
wrong, his tactics must change. We find our troops fighting an enemy that the
administration never believed would
be so formidable. Who is defining our tactics and flexibility, the Bush
administration, or our enemy?

Not until November
29th when the Bush administration published a 27 page document
outlining their position (with no exit strategy) did they have a clearly
defined mission. This was done mainly to answer critics. At least the
administration put some thought into writing this document and they may now
understand how they define “the mission.”

Seeing the
administration struggle makes me think that the young soldiers Mr. Purdue and
the other governors “talked with” during Thanksgiving week probably had no more
clue of “the mission” than their Commander in Chief. If past experience is any
indication, careful scripting and 
screening went into the governor’s meetings with troops. I suspect soldiers
with the least bit of doubt or confusion about “the mission” (whatever that may
have been at the time) were not invited. Obviously, it was important to the
Bush administration that the positively framed comments and accounts of the
governor’s be released and printed just days prior to the start of Mr. Bush’s
media campaign and release of the 27 page “strategy for victory in Iraq.” The
word, propaganda comes to mind.

Please don’t get
me wrong, I support our soldiers in Iraq.
Even though “the mission” in Iraq
is a moving target, it’s not their fault. They are doing the vital job cleaning
up the mistakes of George W. Bush. However, I want to see each and every one of
our soldiers safely home as soon as possible.

Copyright © 2006 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

Spiritual Progress

 We claim spiritual progress, not
spiritual perfection.



Progress in my
life seems to be continually evolving. I have admitted personal problems with
addiction that have cleared away obstacles in my life. Central in my addiction
recovery is faith and a relationship with God. This relationship is leading me
to places I never dreamed of, but always longed for. Where I am going seems to
be a journey down a diverging path.

Without a doubt,
spiritual progress took a giant leap when I admitted and “conceded to my
innermost self” that I was powerless over alcohol and drugs, and they were
controlling my life and actions. My daily focus revolved around obtaining drugs
and where and what I would drink. It took enormous energy which detracted from
my usefulness to anyone. Removing these impediments made possible changes I
never imagined possible. Personal relationships with my wife and children were
the first improvement. Work productivity and, most importantly, my interaction
with colleagues and clients are totally changed for the better. In all these
areas I have ceased or, at least minimized, fighting people, places, and things.
These changes are spiritual in nature and are not based on personal fortitude,
but grace form God.

My relationship with
God has changed from one of petition—please do for me and I’ll be good—to being
open to what God is calling me to do. I have always had a sense of right
actions, but choose to ignore them when they conflicted with selfish motives or
when they required personal loss or sacrifice. I put myself above the will of
God. Now feeling a pull to move beyond myself and to live a life useful to
others, to be of service, I am beginning to move in new directions. Only time
will tell if I have the resolve to live on a new path.

With new
opportunities and possibilities available to me, I have become aware of long
ignored pieces of my personality. Focused for so long on technical, black and
white issues from my world as an engineer, I neglected creativity. The arts
were lost to me. Moving toward these attractions leads me in totally new
directions of career and life focus. A glimpse of this was my attraction to
music and renewed interest in playing guitar. This was, perhaps, an indication
of something missing or ignored. Most recently, my application to the Master of
Arts in Professional Writing program at KSU encompasses not only creativity
but, also, a change in life’s direction as well as a challenge—because I
struggled with English and writing an undergraduate. The idea of perusing an arts
degree, something I once discouraged my children from, is a radical change. In
the past, I viewed these courses of study as a waste of time because they do
not train for specific job related tasks—a narrow view that limits potential. This
type of degree provides a broad education only limiting potential by the
student’s imagination and creativity. The opportunity that the MAPW degree
provides will be to teach valuable writing skills to underprivileged and
challenging students. Again, time will tell if I have the resolve to live this.

Spiritual progress
that has begun and with God’s grace will continue. We are human and, as such,
perfection is not possible. I choose only to follow a spiritual journey that
moves in a completely different direction than the path I had previously
followed. The challenge is to have faith where this road leads, even when I
seem to get a wheel in the ditch.

Copyright © 2006 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.



Heart Disease

        Create in me a clean heart, O God, *

renew a right spirit within me.

(The New
Oxford Annotated Bible, Psalm 51, verse 10)

            The heart that
beats in my chest is probably in good physical shape these days. I have quit
smoking (tobacco and other substances), drinking, and drugging. I keep in good
shape, although years of abuse may have taken a toll. I run and work out on a
regular basis. I do as my doctor suggests and take ten milligrams of Lipitor
daily to keep high cholesterol in check. But the heart that this verse of Psalm
51 refers to isn’t the one that beats in my chest. The heart it speaks of supplies
the spiritual lifeblood of my spirit.

This heart feeds
my imagination, and creativity. It is the essence and source of my freedom.
However, the heart of my soul, like the physical heart, is susceptible to
disease. The disease of anxiety, addiction, and fear have affected and broken
my heart. 

All too often voices
that guide my actions remind me of Screwtape and Woodworm, the senior and
apprentice devils that converse in CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. I used to say I did not believe in the devil or
devils. However, I have been aware of competing voices in my head and have come
to believe the negative voices are, for lack of a better word, devils. Their
loud din can drown out all of the positive. When this happens I become
separated, cut-off, from the positive—God. I don’t want to sound trivial or
clichéd when I say “the devil,” but this is the most concise term I can come up
with. Verse 11 of Psalm 51 put words to my cry to silence the negative, invoke
the positive, and turn a deaf ear to Screwtape and Woodworm.

I attended a small
church for the first time recently in town about twenty miles from my home.
Actually, a high school friend is the rector of this church and I had been
meaning to visit for some time. Jim said verse 11 as he was preparing for the
Great Thanksgiving (communion) as he was liturgically washing his hands with
the assistance of an acolyte. The simple direct words that I had heard many
times—Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me—
smacked me right between the eyes. I
suddenly realized my heart was broken and contrite, and I felt the pain that
King David must have felt when he wrote this Psalm. I suppose this was a blues
tune of David’s time. He sang of the despair and depression that I feel that day.
Some things never change—the song remains the same. Screwtape and Woodworm have
been around for quite some time. Pleased
to meet you, hope you guess my name,
in the words of Mick Jagger.

I really have a
lot to be thankful for today and, without wanting to sound self-righteous, I
have made significant progress squelching the negative. As I said above, I
don’t drink alcohol and have been sober six years, by the grace of God. I tried
for so long to control my drinking, with no success whatsoever. Not until I admitted
I had a problem and asked God for help did this negative part of my life turn
positive. I have, however, come to realize that drinking was but a symptom of
deeper heart disease—a disease of the sprit.

The disease of
self-will and selfishness has a pull me toward the negative. I say the Lord’s
Prayer often and familiar words sometimes lose their meaning. I would be well
to remember Thy will be done. I’m not
in control—it’s not my will be done.
However, that’s exactly the thinking I can slip into. And when I do the voices
of Screwtape and Woodworm become louder.

more I carry on this conversation in my head, the harder my heart becomes. When
I lose contact with the positive (God), heart dis-ease becomes chronic. This
disease is insidious. I’m not aware of its onset and I become oblivious to its
consequences. I begin to realize it when find it hard to sleep and when I begin
to lose my patience with those around me, and those around me loose their
patience with me. Something within me screams: “Do not cast me away from your
presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me.” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Psalm 51, verse 11)

Copyright © 2006 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.



Truly I tell you, just as you did
it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me (The
Oxford Annotated Bible, Mat. 25.40).

call came as an intrusion. I was prone on the sofa watching an episode of Law and Order that I had seen at least
twice before—thank goodness for re-runs as I seldom remember how they end. My
friend Ralph was upset because he was at St. James’ Church, the church I
attend, and there was a vagrant upstairs who refused to leave. The meeting he
was attending was beginning soon. He wanted me or someone with the church to
deal with this person. The meeting group could not be bothered with this

I couldn’t be bothered with this inconvenience either. After all I was relaxing
watching a Law and Order re-run. I
was certainly due this time of relaxation—I had been working hard most of the
day on my pool. Why in the world should I be bothered with this situation? I
could hear familiar voices in the background urging Ralph to insist on a
“church person” deal with this guy, it’s not “our” responsibility. What a pain
in the ass this thing was for me. I gave Ralph the clergy pager number and
suggested that he call the police to have this nuisance escorted from the
building—just deal with it Ralph!

I hung up the phone, my “good” voice began telling the other committee members
in my head, particularly the one that had just brushed-off Ralph, that I really
must get off my ass, go see what was going on, and make sure Ralph had called
the cops and that they were doing their job. This voice prevailed. Yes, I was
an important “church person” and I’ve got what it takes to deal swiftly and
effectively with this situation. Off I marched—onward Christian Soldier!

When I arrived at
the church, the meeting had begun and I strode righteously passed the window of
the meeting room. I found John sitting on a pew in a dark upstairs hallway. I
immediately noticed an odor surrounding this ill kept, unshaven man. However,
he was not what I expected. I was ready for a confrontation and perhaps even a
physical struggle removing a faceless vagrant from the church, where he didn’t
belong. Instead, this elderly man was no threat at all. In fact, he said, “I’m
glad you’ve come, I was beginning to think you would not show up.” What the
hell did that mean? This guy’s obviously not all there.

About the time he
was saying those words, I realized the source of the overpowering odor. John
had soiled himself. What in the world was I to do with this man? I cannot call
the police and I cannot throw him out in the rain that had started to fall.

I asked the man
his name. He responded John Garrison. Where do you live John? “I just checked
out of my apartment.” I said, “Checked out of your apartment? So you have no
place to stay the night? John said, “No.” Our conversation continued a few
minutes, confirming for sure that John was not all there mentally. He had no ID
and supposedly just the clothes on his back. He said that he’d recently been in
the hospital being treated for pneumonia and someone had stolen his jacket and
wallet there.

I thought, “Whoa,
where did this guy come from? Had he wandered away from a hospital or nursing

Finally, John said
that he needed to use the restroom and then we should go down stairs and “sit
in the big chairs.” I suggested that I take him to a shelter where he could get
cleaned up, have a meal, and a dry place to spend the night. He agreed that
sounded good and he would be right out. I sincerely hoped that he would clean
himself up while in the restroom; however, this was not to be. While he was in
the restroom I was thinking of the Bible quote above—yes, I should help this
man. I was also thinking what a hassle. How long will it take before I can
deposit him with someone else?

We walked to my
car, past the window where the meeting was continuing—I made sure they saw us.
I put a towel that I had in the car on the front seat and told John to have a

I was successful
getting John checked into the local shelter. The staff was reluctant to take
him with no ID and obvious mental impairments. However, we all realized that
John had no place else to go on this rainy Sunday evening before Memorial Day.

John said he had a
brother on an island in South Carolina,
he was a retired airline pilot, and he received three retirement checks per
month. Again, I thought, “what in the world—is this for real or just this man’s

I returned on
Memorial Day to check on John. He was napping on his bed with a smile on his
face. He was clean and dry. He looked happy. He told me he had not been able to
contact his brother, but he would try again tomorrow.

My encounter with
John had an impact on me. I had been feeling sorry for myself. I had so much to
do, no one understood me, and I’m such an important person—all BS. God put John
in my path to jolt me from my self-pity. I could not forget about him. Where
did he come from and where does he belong? Will I end up homeless and confused?
John delivered God’s wake up call. Forget about my self-centered stuff, care
for others—especially the John’s around us.

Good intentions;
however, I could not help but let everyone I came in contact with in the
following days of my encounter with John. I wanted credit and kudos for helping
John—onward Christian Soldier. Wrong again.

The Bible also
tells us not to advertise our good works for all to see. “Your boasting is not
a good thing” (The New Oxford Annotated
1Cr 5.6).

Copyright © 2006 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

Touch the Mystery: A Conversation with Caroline Westerhoff

Westerhoff is the author of three books: Calling:
A Song for the Baptized (1994), Good Fences: The Boundaries of Hospitality
and Transforming the Ordinary
(2001). She has also co-authored two
books with her husband, The Rev. Dr. John Westerhoff: The Threshold of God’s Future and Living our Baptism. Caroline has served as principal of an
Episcopal Day School, worked as a consultant to the Alban Institute, and was a
visiting lecturer at the School of Theology
at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
She is a licensed lay preacher, and a conference leader for the College
of Preachers
. Caroline is currently
employed as the Canon Educator of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. In the
Forward to Calling, John Westerhoff
uses a quote from Amos Wilder, a New Testament scholar, to describe Caroline’s
mode of communication as “theopoetic.” Her prose and poetry have a theological
basis; however, I find her writing clear, understandable and
entertaining—primarily through the use of ordinary stories about ordinary
people. During my talk with Caroline we discussed how she began writing, her
writing style, her approach to the writing process, her audience, and the
importance of collaboration in her writing process.

When I asked how
she got her start as a writer, Caroline responded, “I’ve always been a good
writer. My English professor at Agnes Scott tried her best to convince me to
pursue writing as a career.” She did not listen, however, and graduated with a
master’s degree in biology. It was not until “the late 1980’s” when Caroline
began to refer to herself as a “writer.” The first time she did so made an
impression on her: “I was at the doctor’s office filling out the health
questionnaire they always want you to complete. When I got to the occupation
question, I filled in Writer—it gave
me goose bumps.” From that point on, she has devoted more and more of her time
to writing and developing her writing style.

Caroline describes
her writing style as “narrative essayist, a writer who preaches and a
storyteller.” Her essays and stories relate familiar, ordinary events through
which she reveals “glimpses of the Mystery [God] and glimpses of [Caroline’s]
story.” In the opening chapter to her book Calling,
Caroline uses her childhood story of summertime visits with her grandmother in
rural South Georgia to relate the mysteries of life in
Christian community. The story “Calling” begins:

            I visited my grandmother in rural South Georgia every summer when I was of grade-school age. My
family lived in
at that time, and my parents saw this respite from
“Yankee influence” as an opportunity for me to know and claim my heritage as a
child of the South, a time for the red
Georgia clay to color my clothes and my heart.

Calling was
what we did in the afternoon […]. More often than not Nanno’s friends came to
call on us. (3)


Calling refers to the “habits” of
the women in this South Georgia community—their ritual
of visiting each other daily. Caroline uses this metaphor to describe God’s
call for us to live in community.

Christians we have heard and accepted the call into the grand and precarious
quest of discipleship, and as disciples we are to become bold callers. The call
has to do with habits—holy habits that direct us out of ourselves toward others
and the Other. Habits that polish away the grit and grime we accumulate so
readily. Habits that smooth the rough places that snag and tear. Habits that
wash the imagination in fresh possibility. Habits that strengthen the spine and
strengthen the heart. Habits that feed us and bring us cheer. (
Calling 5)

Caroline said that
she is often “surprised” where her work leads. She added, “The story “Calling”
actually began as part of a keynote address at a convention in Houston
in the mid 1980’s.”

narrative style includes the use of several personas: the storyteller, the
preacher, and the child. Her roots as a writer began by telling stories, and
the storyteller seems to be her strongest voice. She often uses her own story to
entertain and to give her readers glimpses of her personality.

We returned
again to my grandmother’s porch and the rockers and the good Methodist ladies.
They gathered out of habit. They gathered to rock in each other’s company. They
gathered to tell stories.

I heard of
my great-grandfather, the drummer: he and a driver sold hats from the back of a
motor car in
. I
heard how my grandmother, his daughter, met my grandfather, the doctor, on a
tennis court in the early years of this century. I heard how she walked up to
First Methodist Church and shot her revolver in the air at the end of the
First World War and the return of her husband. I heard about my grandfather’s
medical practice among the poor—black and white—of rural
Georgia, with my mother, the tomboy child, making rounds
with him. I heard of his early death. I heard how Grandmother went back to
school and resumed her calling as a teacher to support herself and her two
young daughters. (
Calling 6-7)

Her lyrical story goes on to tell
of what she learned from the stories told in the chairs on the porch.

Caroline’s persona
changes to the preacher, which, in this passage from Calling also reveals how she feels about telling stories:

It is a
fearsome thing to speak and write words that symbolize one’s life. But if we do
not, we cannot participate in the weaving of God’s designs. It is a fearsome
thing to speak or write words of other lives. But if we do not dare, figures of
the past and present will be lost to the children of the future. And we are to
evoke the stories of those who come to call. If we do not, they will go away,
and the chairs will be empty. We are to listen to the stories being shouted in
the streets and whispered in the corners. If we do not, we will miss the world
of God. (8-9)

 “I have a better opportunity to develop a
story more fully—to see where it takes me—in written form,” she said. “Most of
the essays in the books would be too long for a sermon, but I have used many of
the subjects for sermons.”

Perhaps Caroline’s
favorite persona is that of a child. She frequently uses a child’s voice in her
poetry and writing. Throughout Calling
she uses portions of one of her poems, written with voices of an adult and a
child, as a refrain:

The Children in our midst look around (as those children
always will): “What are we to do if we are followers of Jesus? What habits
do we practice?” (5)

“Can we join the followers of Jesus, or are we to be alone?
Will they let us lean against them when the way becomes hard? Will they lean
against us?” (6)

“Where will we
hear stories—all kinds of stories? You won’t skip any of the pages, will you?
May we sit in your lap and tell stories to you?” (9)


During our discussion of persona, Caroline
opened her book Good Fences to a
passage where she changes from the voice of the adult narrator to the voice of
a child, in mid-paragraph:

The way that
these spoken and written stories take on strength and power is often through
stories. It has been suggested that the ultimate definition of humankind lies
in our ability and longing to tell and listen to stories, which children seen
to know without being told. When they ask again and again to hear the
story—whatever the story and however many times they have heard it—children are
really asking us to tell them who they are, to remind them of the fundamental
definitions that give meaning and shape to their lives and their values.
me the story of how you met […] Tell me about the day I was born […] Tell me
how I got my name […] Tell me about […] (17)


Caroline says her
writing process begins by setting aside blocks of time devoted entirely to
writing down ideas she has researched and developed during her everyday
activities. She noted, “Calling is a
collection of essays, stories and sermons written over several years. I took a
three-month sabbatical from my job at the Diocese to write the first draft of Good Fences. And Transforming the Ordinary is a group of essays written
specifically for the book over a year.” She continued, “During the times I’m
seriously writing, I usually write in the living room on my laptop. I spread my
notes out on the floor—it’s a real mess. It drives my husband a little crazy,
but he tolerates it—actually he’s very supportive. Thank goodness he can cook!”
Her handwritten notes are kept in a small notebook in which she enters brief
notes on anything that catches her imagination. She also keeps quotes, along
with the name of the speaker, so she can attribute quotes to the proper person
when they are used in a story. She said, “Some people wonder why I’m always
writing things down—I think it makes some of them nervous.” At the end of 2003
Caroline will retire from her job at the Episcopal Dioceses to devote all her
time to the job she loves, writing. She said, “I have several books in me and
I’m tired of carrying them—it’s time to give birth to them.”

When I asked
Caroline if she had a specific audience in mind for the books she is “carrying,”
she paused for a moment and thought. She said, “Well I write for groups of
grown-ups—for personal reflection and devotion.” She asks questions of her
audience and has included study questions for this purpose in her books. She
states this attitude in the following paragraph from Calling:

While it is
true that moments of deep and wrenching truth may only come as we, like Jacob,
wrestle with the spirits on a solitary bank of a river in the night, we are to
test those wrestlings around the fire of community. We are created to be
unique, unlike any other who was or will be. Yet we are also created to live with
each other—to eat and drink together, to hold each other when we are afraid, to
laugh together at our antics, to prod each other, and to forgive. It is in
community that we bear the pain of the limp we share with the wrestling Jacob.
It is through the relational that we bear the tension of solitude. (5)

Caroline said she enjoys leading
discussions—“it’s great feedback on my writing.” The questions are, at times,
too effective, she noted, with a story of an angry priest confronting her after
a class about one of her essays—“it’s true, you cannot please everyone.”

Caroline’s writing
begins as a very personal process: however, she relies on collaboration to
refine her “first drafts.” She says that if other people are part of her
stories she lets them read the story prior to it being published and almost
always make the changes they suggest. In addition, Caroline relies on two
friends—Betty Barstow, an English teacher, and Terry Tilly, a journalist—to edit
her writing. She added that her husband, John, is another source of
collaboration—he was an editor prior to becoming a priest. Also, brainstorming
with those around her is helpful. Finally, as noted above, classes that she
conducts using her books and the study material provide valuable feedback. I
get the sense that collaboration is very much a part of Caroline’s writing

Westerhoff takes her writing seriously and works to “get it right” from
research, to getting it down on paper, to gathering feedback through
collaboration both prior to and after publication. She considers the
arts—poetry, prose, music, painting—as “ways to touch the Mystery.” Caroline
has the gift of seeing extraordinary things in ordinary events and uses her
stories to bring light to the Mystery of God in our ordinary lives.

Copyright © 2006 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

Works Cited

Caroline A. Calling: A Song for the
Boston: Crowley
Publications, 1994.

Good Fences: The Boundaries of
Boston: Crowley
Publications, 1996.