Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Here's January's Post for the CWG Blog

Pick up the Orange

By Janice Lane Palko

Some people receive profound promptings from the Holy Spirit. Me? I get messages like “pick up the orange.”

A few weeks ago, I walked into my local grocery store and saw a woman select some oranges and put them in a plastic bag. As she walked away out of the corner of my eye, I saw an orange fall from the display and roll across the floor.

You should pick up the orange, said that still small voice.

Instantly, I began rationalizing. I didn’t dislodge the orange. Why should I pick it up? They have stock boys to do that. I’ll look stupid, like I have OCD or something, if I pick it up and put it back where it belongs. Let somebody else do it.

Then my better nature joined the debate. Will it kill you to pick up an orange? Geez, Mother Teresa picked up dying people from the streets, and you’re freaking out over an orange. How shallow are you? Who cares what people think? Someone may trip over it. You will be doing a good deed, no matter how insignificant.

So, I pushed my grocery cart over, picked up the orange, and put it back in the display. But then something else happened.

As I was about to press on with my grocery shopping, I caught a glimpse of a woman to my side bend and pick up another orange, one that I hadn’t even noticed had escaped with the other orange, and replace it in the display.

I was astounded. This woman was following my example.

That little interlude set me to thinking about life, and for those of us who write, about what our toils to turn a phrase may mean in the big scheme of things.

Several months ago, fellow CWG member Cathy Gilmore posted an article from the Catholic News Agency titled The Catholic Church Desperately Needs Artists by Mary Rezac. It detailed how the world so sorely needs creative people who can bring beauty and truth to the culture.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been writing for more than twenty years, and the monetary return on my artistic endeavors has yet to land me a summer home at the beach, a six-figure deal, or a stint on Oprah.

I attend a weekly Bible study, and shortly after the orange incident, our leader asked us to share our all-time favorite inspirational books. One woman recommended He and I by Gabrielle Bossis, a French, Catholic woman who lived from 1874-1950. He and I chronicles the interior conversation she and God shared. When she was putting these conversations on paper, Bossis didn’t know that after her death, they would be published, translated into many languages, and cherished by so many readers.

At times, it may be frustrating when we think of how much time and effort we put into our literary endeavors compared to the remuneration we receive in turn. However, I don’t, and I’m sure many of you don’t, write solely for financial gain. Then, take heart, fellow creatives. Though we may never know the extent of our influence, like Bossis, our work may do good long after we are gone.
I don’t know if God intends for me to be a best-selling author or not. But what I do know is that I’ll be fine with whatever magnitude of success I achieve. I’ll continue to write and strive to bring beauty and truth to the world through my work with the hope of glorifying God.

I may be only a stepping stone for someone who comes after me, a toehold for another writer on their climb to achieving loftier success in reviving what has been a hallmark of the Catholic Church throughout its existence: excellence in artistic expression for the glory of God.
Therefore, as this new year begins, I’m going to pick up that orange and keep on writing. I urge you to do the same. You never know who is watching us or reading works or being inspired by our example. We don’t know who may decide to follow us, who may bend down to pick up that orange we didn’t even realize had also rolled away.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Here's My Latest Post from the Catholic Writers Guild Blog

Advent is upon us – a season of waiting. I hate to admit it, but I’m a bad “waiter.” I’m not too deficient with the day-to-day waiting of standing in line at the grocery store, or cooling my heels at the post office, or idling in traffic, or even pressing “1 for English,” pressing “2 for customer service,” and then pressing “7 to leave a message.”

No, it’s waiting on a larger scale that exasperates me. The last few years have been unusually stressful for my husband, three grown children, and me. Cumulatively, we’ve suffered illnesses, job losses, and heartache. Others have suffered through far worse than we, and thankfully through God’s grace, we’ve persevered and in most ways are much better today.

Looking back on those three years and what we experienced, there was one thing that all our difficulties had in common: each involved a period of waiting. Throughout our travails, a Greek chorus of questions sang in my head: When will the medicine kick in? When will they figure out what’s wrong? When will he get better? When will he get a job? When will they ever have a baby? When will this be over? When will life ever go back to normal?

Greater minds than mine have explored why God makes us wait. Some say it may be because we need a period of this sort to develop character, or that we need to learn to depend on God, or that we need to wait because the timing is off and God is working behind the scenes. The idea that there was a greater purpose to our waiting brought some comfort, but there were several other things that I learned that helped me, and I hope may help you if you find yourself living in limbo.

When I’m troubled, distressed, or need help, I often turn to the Bible. While exploring the scriptures, I realized that waiting is part of the human condition. Whether it is waiting to grow up, graduate, get married, have children, find the right job, be successful, be healed, etc., all humans experience periods of prolonged waiting.

The Bible is full of people who have had to wait. Joseph waited to be released from prison. David waited to take the throne of Israel. Sarah and Hannah waited to become mothers. Job waited for the black cloud to be lifted from his life. Mary waited for the birth of Jesus. Jesus waited three decades before beginning His ministry. The apostles waited to receive the Holy Spirit. We continue to wait for the return of Jesus.

However, the most astonishing thing I learned about waiting gave me the greatest reassurance of all. It is said that misery loves company. Surely then, the greatest company of all is the company of God, and I was heartened to learn that we are not alone in our waiting, not alone in our misery. I learned that God also waits.

In numerous passage throughout the Bible, we hear His people, annoyed with waiting, pose this question of God, “How long, O Lord?” But we tend to overlook that there are numerous passages where God often posed (and still poses) that same “How long?” question to His people. For what is God waiting? Since God is perfect and nothing can be added to Him, out of the abundance of His love, He tells us in the scriptures that He is waiting for us–for us to repent of sin, to keep his commandments, to seek His face, to trust Him, to love Him, to make him Lord of our lives.

As we embark on this season of waiting, this season of Advent, may we look forward to the time when all our “How Longs?” will be answered with “Now, my beloved,” when the waiting will be over for both God and us, when we will be united with Him for all eternity in glory. Now that’s something worth waiting for!
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