Friday, November 15, 2013

That Famous Quote by Schindler & the Words of Jesus that Haunt Me

Oskar Schindler’s quote in the 1993 film Schindler’s List haunts me.

I didn’t do enough.

It haunts me, like the story of the rich man who wanted to know what he must do to be saved, and Jesus put it simply. Sell what you have and give it to the poor.

It haunts me, like the words of Jesus when He said, depart from me for I did not know you.

It haunts me, because I am an American. Comfortably middle class, though not always so. I have plenty. A custom house on four acres. Two vehicles that are over five years old, but paid for. A Dooney & Bourke purse my husband gave me one Christmas. A laptop – my third, or is it my fourth? I have a really warm Eddie Bauer winter coat. It would keep me warm anywhere, except the Arctic Circle. I have clothes in three sizes – just because I have the luxury of eating too much, and I do it far too often. I have a pair of J.Jill boots that I love – with these neat buckles that run up the back of the leg. I have books – so many books – and I can order more any time I want. A Kindle and an Amazon membership make it crazy-easy to keep a constant flow of books coming into my life.

Then, there is a tragedy like the one in the Philippines. Our Archbishop and priest ask us to be generous. I’m not even sure what that would look like. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean I should drop a five in the offering plate.

Not when I have been given so much. Not when I am fully capable of giving more. Yes, it haunts me.

At the end of this life, I wonder if I will be mumbling Schindler’s line. I didn’t do enough.

I wonder even more what the Lord will say.

Here’s the thing. What He says is not set in stone – yet. Today is the day for me to go and reach into my treasure chest – which is really His anyway – and pull up a gift worthy of a King.

It is about the people in the Philippines.

But it is also about Jesus Christ.

It haunts me, because I do not want to hear Him say, depart from me.

I long to hear Him say the words that are full of life and love. What you did, you did for me. Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.

Yes. That is what I long to hear.

And today is the day of decision.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Book Contract, Author Status, and Life as a Catholic Writer

I have wanted to be a writer since I was in 9th grade. That’s when Mr. Canterbury made us write short stories and read them to the class. I shook. I found it hard to swallow. But I fell in love with writing and sharing my words with others. I realized not everyone feels that way about writing when Val asked me to be her ghost writer the next time Mr. Canterbury gave us a short story assignment. I declined the offer, but Val affirmed something that needed some affirmation. I was born to write, and I was pretty good at it.

I was fourteen.

Now, I’m forty-nine.

It was a long time coming, but I have a book contract. I can finally say I’m an author, although it feels a lot like saying I’m a columnist – a title that was far easier to obtain. The sky doesn't turn to rainbows when I say it. I don't hear music swell. There is no drumroll. I am a columnist. And now, I am an author.

You think everything will change when you have a contract. Literary agent Rachel Gardner sums it up well here.

Perhaps the greatest change is that there is a sense of justification when I sit at the computer. I always felt like I should be cleaning or running errands. I still feel those things calling, but it’s easier to keep writing. I am an author after all. We authors sit at the computer. It's what we do.

But the house still needs to be cleaned. The errands must still be run. So, I’m still me.

The best part about being a Catholic author is that I have friends in high places, and like the writer to the Hebrews says, they are a great cloud of witness. They cheer me on. They pull me through days of writer’s block and hold my hand when I feel the rush of adrenaline that comes with radio spots.

And Mary has become my greatest advocate as a writer. She keeps me little. She wraps me in her mantle. She shares her story. And I listen.

This is what I was born to do. When everything falls away and it’s just Mary talking to my soul, I know that I know that I know – this is what I was born to do.

The road to publication is long. Books don’t pop up on Amazon the second you sign a contract. But even then, Mary yields grace. This is the best part. The waiting. Waiting with her.

It’s like being in Advent for a year. Not a bad place to be.

Pray for me.

Pray that I will glorify Jesus Christ.

Pray that the Blessed Mother will become vivid – profoundly real and accessible – to readers.

Pray that I will let Jesus and Mary take center stage. All for Jesus through Mary.

Yes, that is the correct posture. And it feels amazing – as it always does when one knows this is what I was born to do. And this is how I was meant to do it.




Thursday, November 7, 2013

Life on Crane Creek

Crane Creek was the rambling stream that ran behind our house in the heat of summer. It was the swelling water that rushed mightily in the spring and flooded the basements in Saratoga, except ours – thanks to the sump pump the board of trustees included in the building plan of the new parsonage (think Protestant rectory).

Crane Creek was the frozen play land where I first learned to keep my ankles firm when they wanted to twist and buckle in my new white ice skates. The creek where some guy veered off the road one night and drove down the embankment and right out on the ice. And we all marveled that he didn’t fall through and drown.

That creek ran beside the park where I slid down a splintery slide and tore an eight-inch hole in my favorite jeans – back when I was still young enough to climb the slide but old enough to care about favorite jeans.

It’s where my sister, brother and I cut grass and made pocket change so that we could pay for pool admission at the local KOA.

Crane Creek. It’s where my brother caught blue gill too small to eat, and I became an Iowa girl always and forever.

It’s where I took a walk with my prom date one night and realized how much I didn’t want to move to my father’s new pastorate. I wanted to stay there, by the creek, and near friends, and marry and have babies who grew up to skate and slide and fish right there.

Place matters.

It forms us. Never leaves us. Like the Church, where our fingers dip, where we were washed and freed from every stain. Where we return every Lent and remember. Reclaim. Renew.

It stays with us, not only as long as the brain cells function and synapses work without fail.

It’s there always. If we will it.

A water that captures us and captivates us. And never lets go.

Water strong enough to hold us, even when we crash into it like the driver on a cold January night. Yes, even then it saves us. Protects us. Bears us up.

It’s always there, even if we travel miles, take up residence in another state, stop skating, stop remembering.

It doesn’t forget, but waits for us to remember.

And we make the long drive home again and claim our heritage.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

G-Shocks, Storybooks, Mrs. Beasley, and Evel Knievel

New post at on what makes us feel nostalgic - and why that underscores the passage from Proverbs exhorting us to raise up children in the faith -

Monday, November 4, 2013

November 2013 Catholic by Grace Column

We are called to witness. Every baptized Catholic must share the Gospel message with others. Yes, even those who are afraid of public speaking are called to bear witness to the joy of living a life for Christ.

Before you dismiss the Great Commission, before you tell yourself that the mandate to give witness to the faith is only for those who like to stand up in public and hold a microphone, you need to know something.

We are all afraid of public speaking.

Some mornings, I am a lector at daily Mass. As I step up to the ambo, I feel the fear once again. It always comes. It has a voice. It tells me that I am going to lose my place or trip or get a frog in my throat that won't go away or have a clothing malfunction. I'll sit down in a few minutes and realize that the tag is sticking out of my shirt or I forgot to zip up my pants or my shirt is tucked in on one side and not the other or...

You get the idea.

I am afraid.

Every time I get up to speak, I bow before the altar, and I give it all to Jesus. My weakness. My horrible insecurities. My mind games.

I hesitated to admit that I have these fears, but then I changed my mind. Here's why:

If there is any chance that you have exempted yourself from sharing the Good News because you don't feel comfortable speaking up in a crowd or talking about the faith with others, then you need to know that you are exactly like the ones who do it. The only difference is that you don't do it, and they do.

The fear is exactly the same. It doesn’t mean you have to be a lector. It does mean that you have to be a public witness. The Church is full of wall flowers. Too many of us find a comfortable corner, and that’s where we sit.

St. Paul was no wall flower. His motto was: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Wait, you say. He was an apostle. That message is for the clergy, not for regular people like me.

In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi Pope Paul VI clearly states that it is “the whole Church that receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important for the whole. . .” (7) He continues: “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize . . . (14)

The Synod of Bishops underscores the words of Pope Paul VI when they assert:  “Loving one's faith implies bearing witness to it, bringing it to others and allowing others to participate in it. The lack of missionary zeal is a lack of zeal for the faith.” (XIII Ordinary General Assembly, The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith 10).

If you love the faith you have received, you must bear witness to it.

So let your knees wobble. Let your words get all jumbled up. Fumble for your glasses. Trip on the first step. But offer all of it to the Lamb Who Was Slain. This is where grace shows up. This is where conversion begins. It is where conversion has always begun—through the word of one who is willing to open his mouth and proclaim the Good News to anyone who will listen.

Do it for love of Christ; do it for love of Mother Church. After all, Perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18).



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ender's Game: Reading the book, watching the movie, and imagining eternity

A movie is never as good as the book.


We saw the movie Ender’s Game today. We had all read the book – which was phenomenal. So we were pretty sure the movie would stink. It wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.
Ender was good. Bean was adorable. The adults were the weakest part, but the kids carried the roles well. And that’s not easy to do. The film adaptation of a book almost never holds up to one’s imagination. You go into a movie with a character in your head, and you walk out of the movie with your own perfect image obliterated. Never again will you be able to drum up the image in your mind, no matter how hard you try.

Poof. Gone. From now on Colonel Graff will be Hans Solo. Bonzo Madrid will be that little cheeky kid from Hannah Montana. And Mazer Rackham will be Gandhi.

Not so with God. You read the Bible. You go to Mass. You pray. But you have only begun to imagine what eternity will be like.

Our eyes have not seen. . .

Our ears have not heard. . .

Our imaginations cannot conceive. . .

. . .  what God has waiting for those who love Him (I Corinthians 2:9).

The finite cannot grasp the infinite. It cannot even come close. The faithful will not be disappointed because the human mind can never ascend to such divine heights - no matter how brilliant we are - no matter how creative. Our only hope and safeguard against really getting it wrong (and having our finite minds totally fall into heresy) is to stick close to Mother Church. The Holy Spirit leads her into truth. Always has. Always will. (John 16:13 & Matthew 16:18).

The Church is – and always will be – the pillar and bulwark of truth (I Timothy 3:15).

She possesses the author – or rather, the Author of life possesses her. She alone has the fullness of faith, for Christ has given His Body to her.

So, go ahead and imagine eternity. If you remain grounded in the faith that has been passed down to you (2 Thessalonians 2:15), you will live to see what God has waiting for those who love Him.

And you will not be disappointed.