Christian Living, Finding Peace, Grieving, Healing Season, Surrender, Uncategorized

You’re Not That Strong (and why that’s good)

“You’re gonna be so strong after this thing, honey,” her eyes were locked on mine. Her heavy hands giving my shoulder an affirming shake.

“How strong does someone need to be?” I asked. I don’t think I want…sob…I don’t think I want to be…sob…that…sob…strong.

I was young.

I was wise!

You should not be as strong as I am.


I’m not talking about gains in the gym, I’m talking about lifting the crushing weight of hopelessness.

20 years ago today my parents, Lee and Jacque Cook were killed by an F7 tornado in Montgomery, Ohio.

emt workers carry out mom or dad

I know. Ouch. So ouch.

At the time I received a LOT of help, so help people with their “ouches” now.

My friend was right, I became “so strong through this” but I’m still no convinced that is a good thing. It’s been suggested that my strength is often detrimental and creates imbalances in life. I bet that’s true.

Guess why?

It’s fake news.

I’m not strong. I am carried by the King and He strengthens me.

If all of a sudden you’re like…ope…I’m out.


And speaking of peace…Jesus…He gets a crummy wrap sometimes, but He is actually known as the Prince of Peace. 20 years ago today, I became a witness. I know that heaven fell on me like honey from a comb and once I get a taste, I was like freaking Pooh Bear.

20 years ago, I was walking around the wreckage where my family and house used to be.

And I was looking to two things a)treasures-anything that proved we existed and b)answers-like why?

At the time, I believed in reincarnation. I thought that in each life we had a lesson to learn in order to progress forward and eventually attain Nirvana. I don’t really know what combination the “all you can eat buffet of faith”, I’d stacked on my plate to think that way. But…there it is. I wandered the ground asking “why, God” and “what are you trying to teach me” as my born-again brother was on the t.v. news saying stuff like “God is so faithful. He’s so good. He took them together. They would not have wanted it any other way.”

I was entirely carried by friends, civic and church people who I didn’t know. You can read the whole story in my book The Healing Season: How a Deadly Tornado Wrecked and Reshaped My Faith. It’s everywhere books are sold (and there’s a small group DVD and audio book, too)


I was not strong. I was carried. I was weak. The community was strong and carried me.

I “have  some “strength”. I may even be strong.Or, maybe I’m weak and trying to keep you at arms length by flexing mine. I’m in therapy for my “strong ” because like I said, it’s fake news. I am needy. I need my friends, family, church, counselor. I need my workouts (but to burn off the crazy as much as build muscle).

For at least 20 years I wore I black pleather jacket. It was bad to the bone and looked killer on me.

But but God is doing a new thing. Think about it: do the words “bad to the bone and killer” best describe who I am and who I want to be?

I threw the jacket away. It does not make anyone think I’m tough. It’s not going to stop someone from mugging me (or worse).

I am covered by the King and clothed in His mercy and grace.

I know…so much Christianeese.

But, dude, it’s Him. He’s my strength. He carried me then and now and always. And that’s enough for me. My God strength is my good strength. Not my real strength. Not my black pleather jacket. My Jesus.

So, 20 years now.

20-years with a yucky title, I didn’t pick “orphan”or want “tornado girl.”

We all have those, right? “Divorced guy” “Cancer mom” “Unemployed boy”.

Is there anyone in your life saying, “this is going to make you so strong”…sure.

It is.

But I really hope it also makes you weak. Weak enough that you need someone and reach out and feel them clutch your hand.

We can’t do it alone.

We are not made to.


Plus those titles, “orphan” “looser” “failure” are also lies. I’m calling them out.

You are not those names. You are a God-breathed and divinely inspired movement of heaven on earth. Put that on your next job application! Right next to “emergency contact: Christ”.  Like the t-shirt says, we need a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus. But we also need people. Not just our tribes either.

Part of my “so strong problem” is this lie: I don’t need anyone. I can do it myself.

Again, so much fake news.

We need each other and we are needed.

Taken to it’s natural extreme for this tornado girl looks like isolation that is justified by introversion, which is probably instigated by a scary freaking world where tornadoes kill parents and kids get shot at schools, and planes fly into buildings sometimes. Not always. Not usually. But sometimes. At the mall. Or movies. So maybe I’ll stay home.

But there’s a problem there.

It was not ME who held me up back then, it was YOU. It was them.

It was God (of course) and the community. I worry about the unity in commUNITY.

Today, 20 years later that worry is wasted energy.

I was not worried a tornado would come. And most of the “tornado” we worry about only swirl in our minds. But there is one who calms the storm and in our weakness, He is very strong.

Plus…biggest bonus prize ever, because of Him I know I for sure get to see Mom and Dad again. It’s a done deal and it’s makes me so bold in the soul I could trash talk a tornado: what you got windbag? It only LOOKS like you won.

But there I go, being strong again. Today, I’m being gentle with myself.

I’ll sit with a coffee, and blanket and dog. I choose the little way to remember: plant a flower, read devotions.

Maybe I’ll bake a cake (angel food, of course.) and share it with someone.


Shannyn Caldwell is a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor and Founder of The Healing Season: Holistic Wellness Community.




Christian Living, Prayer, Social Justice, Surrender, Uncategorized

My God is Stronger Than Your Gun

Excepted from my  book Raised Catholic: A Healing Season Book


Chapter 8: Last Rites


In 1994, I was 24 and finally had my first apartment without a roommate. The place was an upper, and my friend (a lighting guy from a local theatre) rented the place below. Bob Smith (not his real name…and no he’s not a Catholic nun who asked me to change it) was doing lighting for a play I was producing.

I was down at his apartment going over the staging needs, as we would be opening the show in days. We were sitting on his couch…the kind of couch you pull off a curb if you’re a kid and put on the curb when you’ve grown up, when a knock came at the door.

It was a solid wrap. Firm.

“Who is it?” Bob shouted above the sounds of the Bob Marley Live in Concert video which played in the background.

“It’s Jim,” said the voice through the closed wooden door.

Bob, seeming to know this Jim, reached over me (this was a tiny studio apartment) to pull the door open. I was the first to see who was in the hall. It was not just Jim (I doubt his name was Jim. I know he was no nun) but Jim and five to eight of his friends, lined up down the hall. All wearing ski masks, with guns drawn. “Jim” was the first in the room. He covered my eyes with his hand. Why was his hand so soft, I thought? His eyes were so blue. What was going on?

“Put your head in the couch,” Jim ordered me. I did.

As the gang proceeded to turn the apartment upside down, Bob begged, pleaded.

“Oh, my God! Please don’t kill me! I’m so sorry! Take it! It’s all yours! I’m so sorry! Please don’t kill me.” He was screaming.

I looked up for a moment to get an idea of what was happening. Could I run? Could I hide?


As I took the tiniest peek, I saw Bob, with a pillow case over his head. Two men in ski masks pointing guns at Bob. One man in a ski mask, beating Bob. Some number of men in the only other room, flipping everything over. Two men in ski masks, guns trained on me.

“Put your head down! Don’t make me shoot you, woman!” one of the men barked. He meant it.

Oh my God, I thought. They were going to kill Bob! Why would they put a pillow case over his head if they were not going to kill him?

That’s when the panic set in. This was real. They were going to kill him. For some reason—I, to this day, have no idea why, and I never want to know—they were there to settle something big. Bob knew. He must have known, or what was “I’m so sorry!” about, right?

Then it hit me. If they killed Bob, they would have to kill me next. I’d seen them! I could ID them. Oh, my God. I was going to die tonight. I hoped they didn’t rape me before they killed me. But I mentally prepared, (as much as one can) to be raped…literally gang-raped. I started to pray in the way that I knew.

“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Try will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This didn’t seem to be working. My heart was not ready to die. I tried a different prayer, “Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee…”

When Jim stopped the assault of Bob to quiet me,
his “SHUT UP!” was a cannon.

I fell silent. This was the hour of my death, I thought. What do I believe in? I thought. It’s time to decide, Shannyn. What do I believe in? Decide now. The best truth I could craft was this: I believe “in the light.”

(God from God. Light from Light. True God from true God.)

And so, I visualized the light, a tiny pin point of light, and I held it in my heart. Then, as quietly as I could, I visualized that light softly filling my chest, then my torso. Next, I sneaked a bit of the light down my arms, then legs and held it there until it felt steady. Next, I let that light ease its way into my hands and fingers, feet and toes.

Once my body was entirely filled with the light, I sent it quietly, as not to attract attention, out of the edges of my skin, till it was a glow around me, and held it there for a bit. Next, further…a bubble of light around the couch and held it there. Finally, I imagined the light spreading into the entire room…every corner, ceiling to floor, then around the corner to the only other room, where the gangsters were still busy digging through drawers and emptying cupboards.

I could hear the impact of Jim’s blows to Bob’s body. I could hear Bob breaking, flesh and bone. I thought he might skip the gun and beat him to death. At the very instant that I could see the entire room filled with light, Jim stopped.


“Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s GO!” he shouted to the men in masks.

“But the…” one objected.

“Go! Go!” Jim shouted.

“Do you want us to grab the…” another shouted back.

“I said GO!”

Jim was heard and his orders were matched with the obedient sound of tennis shoes on dusty floors moving to the door by my still-buried head, and then out the door and down the hall.

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience, lady,” said Jim.

Then the click of the door.

They were gone.

This is the reason I will never feel the need to carry a gun.

This is one reason I feel the need to carry the light.



You can find Raised Catholic and Shannyn’s other books at, Amazon, Kindle and where fine books are sold.

Christian Living, Surrender

Rock Salt & Light

It was only 9 am. I was already overwhelmed by the wave of yuck that is my Facebook feed.

I saw a fire in Cali, a flood in Louisiana, an abandoned boy in Syria. I saw Donald. I saw Hilly.  I went to shut…it…down. When I saw THIS:

“Local friends. This is hidden art. The picture has the clues to help you find it. #finderskeepers”

It’s a post from my friend Kristie (who is an amazing super hero of a woman).

It looked to me, from the picture that this was near my local health food store.

Challenge accepted!

On my lunch break, I headed out to grab something from the Health Hut and keep my eyes peeled for awesome rocks while I was in the neighborhood. OK…to grab a komucha and Find. That. ROCK!

I looked like a kid with the Pokemon Go App…wandering downtown…looking at the screen, then the sky. Looking at the screen, then the flower box. Looking…where are there hanging baskets? Go there. Where is the sidewalk  concrete? Where does it come to a corner? Where is there mulch with hasta?

The sunshine on my face, all by itself was enough to burn off the cloud on my shoulders. The idea that someone in the world still cared to create art and give it away, burned off the cloud in my heart. Yes…the is BAD…lots of it. But there is also beauty. Seek the beauty.


hidden art 3

Thanks, Kristi.

You are salt and light and you…just…ROCK!

As a gal who’s putting the finishing touches on a book call Raised Catholic, I bonus love where the rock was hidden! Look at the sign at the church.

Yes, Lord. Let us be good disciples: People who look for your signs and follow hard after signs and wonders and stand on the rock!

This weekend, I think I will paint a rock, and hide it. #finderskeepers

Matthew 5:13-16

Salt and Light

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

hidden art 4

Christian Living, Social Justice, Surrender

#1000speak for Compassion

“We want you to go to Africa.” That’s what my boss said, and he was talking to me.

If my boss would have called a meeting of the entire staff of my Christian radio station and said, “Who wants to go to Africa with Compassion?”

There would have been and instant long line and kindhearted co-workers making their best case. And me… hiding behind them and praying to be unnoticed. But that’s not how the meeting went. It was just me and the boss-man and a sentence that chilled me to the bone. “We want YOU to go to Africa.”

Friends…here’s what I knew about Africa when he made the request:

The kids are starving and sick and dying. The parents are often dead…AIDS. It’s hot. It’s dangerous. The bugs can kill you. It’s stark and if you go, we will not come back the same.

“Let me ask my husband,” I said.

“What do they want you to do,” my man asked me over our meat and potatoes dinner that night.

“I don’t know. Love on kids. Pray with them. Feed them.”

“You should go,” my husband encouraged.

“I don’t want to. I don’t think I can take it.”

“Don’t think you can take what?” “I just don’t want to cry the whole time,” I confessed.

“That’s what compassion IS, Shan.” my hubs reminded me.

Compassion: To suffer with.

See it’s one thing, isn’t it, to say, “Oh dear…they are starving, as you pass the homeless in…say…your neighborhood. It’s another to grab them a bean burrito and still another to get our and share a meal together, right there on a milk-crate chair. It’s another to learn about that persons heart. To love them.

When you feed them…that’s goodness. That’s mercy. When you know them and love them, that’s compassion, because it hurts.

They say a problem shared is a problem cut in half. Sometimes the most compassionate thing you can do is just listen and pray.

Sometimes the most compassionate thing you can do…is GO!


This is Becky. We sponsor her through Compassion

This photo was taken moments AFTER I “Got it together”.

When we arrived in Becky’s village, her school social worker explained to me that Becky was falling behind in school because she was often sick with Malaria. When I met her…she was shuttled pushed toward me by a crowd of her family and teachers. Becky did not want to hug me. I don’t blame her. She didn’t know this weird white lady at all. I did not WANT her to hug me if she didn’t want, and so (feeling her pain and respecting her) I whispered, “It’s ok. You don’t have to hug me, Rebecca.” That’s when she hugged me.

That’s when this picture was taken.


So was so so thin. Thinner than anyone I’d ever touched. She was a heap of scared and angry skin and bones when we met.


and I was mush. I’m still mush. That’s what happens when God heals your heart. He wrecks you in the most beautiful way. He wrecks you do deeply that you cannot be still or silent.

So, we spent the day together, as I read her Bible stories about the loves and fishes and instilled, as best I could, the truth that God does not change. That he SAY’S he’ll provide for the needs of His children and that means He will. We went, by bus to the Compassion office, where Becky saw her first toilet. Remind me to tell you that story one day. Saying good-bye to her that night was the first and only time in my life I’ve wept inconsolably. And that same still small voice said, “You can’t let her down, Shannyn.” and I pray that I’m not.


That night, back at my hotel, with wall and a roof and running water and a dinning room with while table cloths, I prayed “God, why don’t you make FOOD GROW HERE? You made the Garden of Eden!  Why don’t you give them WATER? Why do you LET THIS HAPPEN?” and in the still small voice that marks the king, He replied.

“Why do YOU let this happen, Shannyn? I live in you.”

You know, there ARE problems…lots and lots of them. But there are also solutions to the problems. For Becky and her family, a simple mosquito net was a game changer. That’s one of the things that my tiny little $38/month was able to accomplish. Now Becky and her family and thriving!  She’s doing really well in school. She has a dream for her future. Remind me to tell you about that sometime, too!

Sometimes the answers are simple. Rarely are they easy. If they were, it wouldn’t be compassion.

Go to to Give Hope for 2 and release a child from poverty in Jesus name.