Podcast: AMDG

I absolutely loved my conversation with Eric Clayton. On the AMDG podcast, Jesuits and friends come together to look at the world through Ignatian eyes, always striving to live Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam: For the Greater Glory of God. I’m delighted to share it with you on the eve of the publication of Finding God Abiding.

The Deputy Director of Communications for the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Eric is the author of a wonderful new book called Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith. In addition to guest hosting the AMDG podcast, Eric sends weekly email with stories and reflections on finding God in everyday life. It is consistently good; consider subscribing!

We had such fun talking about our approach to Ignatian storytelling: how to identify the stories in our lives that point to the presence of God and then share those stories for others’ benefit. We also compared notes on our beloved grandmothers and explored the notion of service immersion experiences as “working pilgrimages.”

Click the image below to listen and enjoy!

Click on the image (by VIJAYBBN MACWAN from Pixabay) to listen to the AMDG Podcast.

Podcast: Betterism

Host Glen Binger’s motto is “Docendo discimus,” a Latin proverb that means “By teaching, we learn.” In this interview, we discuss the inner work behind writing/editing, the value of solitude, and how to embrace mindful moments in our day-to-day lives.

Click the image below to listen on Anchor, or search for Betterism wherever you get your podcats.


Listen to Glen Binger’s interview with Christine Eberle interview on “Betterism.”

A Very Unusual Request

Many of you have heard the story of how this shy English major got involved in Campus Ministry. At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, my advisor introduced me to Jim Karustis, the editor of the literary magazine, who also happened to be on the SEARCH retreat team. Boom. Life changed.

I tell the story of that pivotal encounter in Chapter Nine of Finding God Abiding, entitled “Finding God for All the Wrong Reasons.” I’ll share the chapter below as a little sneak peek in advance of Tuesday’s publication, but first, an unexpected addendum and a very unusual request.

My favorite bit in the chapter is this: “No, if you’re wondering: girl met boy, but girl didn’t even come close to getting boy. Jim was already dating the love of his life and is married to her still.”

This week, I learned that Jim’s beloved wife is in kidney failure. Cindy (Lucinda)–a vibrant, cheerful soul, adored by her husband and their two daughters, Anjali and Simone–needs a kidney transplant if she is to live to become the feisty Italian grandmother she was born to be. The Karustis family is searching for a living donor to save Cindy’s life.

When Jim reached out to ask if I would consider being that living donor, my reluctance and slate of excuses saddened me, in a way I’ll probably be praying about for some time. But I know that there are many good and generous people out there who might have a different initial reaction. If you would consider this life-saving gift, visit Penn Medicine’s Living Donor Program to learn more. (For example, did you know that donating a kidney through the Penn transplant service guarantees a top-of-the-waiting-list slot if you OR one of the five people closest to you should need a kidney one day?) You can also go straight to their donor screening site to see if you might be a match. Key info: the woman in need is Lucinda Karustis, DOB 2/25/63, YES on dialysis and YES in the Penn Transplant system. Kindly share this info widely; you never know who will prove to be an angel in disguise.

SEARCH Retreat, Christine & Cindy, Fall 1984
Cindy & Jim’s First Dance, July 16, 1988
Karustis Family, Easter 2022

Finding God for All the Wrong Reasons

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. — Jeremiah 29:11

            Despite wondering about a religious vocation at the end of eighth grade, nothing about my teenage years suggested a career in ministry. In high school, I didn’t join the community service corps, sing in the choir, or serve as a chapel aide like some of my friends. All I ever wanted to do was read and write. I chose English as my college major, hoping that editing books by day and crafting them by night could leverage my two loves into one modest income—at least until I published my first bestselling novel.

            Unfortunately, my freshman year was fairly miserable. I was an introverted commuter, working part-time at a bakery and driving my little brother to nursery school each day so I could have the car. I didn’t join any activities or make a single friend.

            At the beginning of sophomore year, however, I was chatting with my advisor outside his office when the editor of the literary magazine walked by. “You two should know each other,” Dr. Gilman said, so I exchanged pleasantries with a dreamy-looking senior named Jim. A few days later, I spotted Jim outside the cafeteria, working the sign-up table for a weekend getaway in beautiful Cape May, New Jersey. He was dashing. I loved the shore. And oh, by the way, it was a religious retreat. Motivated by those three things—in that order—I registered on the spot.

            No, if you’re wondering: girl met boy, but girl didn’t even come close to getting boy. Jim was already dating the love of his life and is married to her still. Cheesy as it sounds, however, that retreat changed my life. It introduced me to campus ministry, plunged me into a community of like-minded friends, and began to transform my understanding of faith. As a junior, I began double-majoring in theology. By senior year, I was researching graduate schools and re-imagining my career trajectory, eventually spending twenty-six years as a campus minister. Writing continued to be an essential component of my work, but in a context more satisfying than I’d ever envisioned.

            In the movie Sliding Doors, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character experiences two dramatically different futures based on the simple happenstance of catching or missing one train. What would my future have held, had a random hallway encounter not drawn me through the doorway to ministry? When I think of that passing crush now, I picture God delightedly plotting how to capture my attention. I’m not suggesting that I was tricked into pursuing a path I never would have chosen, like a striped bass chasing a nice minnow and winding up in a nice lemon garlic sauce instead. It’s just that I’d been following the only road I knew, until an attractive stranger (sent by God, I believe) turned my head and set me off in a in a new direction.

            If we believe that God created us, it makes sense that God would know how best to lead us toward our true vocation—a full and fulfilling life. In order to get us to bite, however, God may have to lure us with a tasty morsel or two. This is not trickery and deceit, but simply a manifestation of love from the One who knows us far better than we know ourselves.

            Did you get where you are today by any curious twists or turns? What first lured you in that direction? Smile at the loving cleverness of our God, whose handiwork is most often visible in retrospect.

Which is Your Favorite?

I’m a big fan of a strong first sentence. Most people (or at least most English majors) can quote the opening of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” From college, I still recall Dr. Gilman’s comparison of one of Henry James’ ponderous opening sentences with that of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, which reads simply: “Selden paused in surprise.” In this century, we have the incomparable Ann Patchett, whose Commonwealth begins: “The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin.” Draws you right in, doesn’t it?

In my books, I try to start each chapter with something short and punchy. (With a word-count target of 600, I don’t have time to ease into the topic!) So, with one week to go until Finding God Abiding comes into the world, I thought we’d have a little fun. Here are the twenty-eight opening lines. Which is your favorite? What piques your interest? If you were to read a chapter on the basis of the first sentence alone, which would it be?

I’d love to hear your responses! Leave a reply below. (And, you know, get yourself a copy so you can see how it ends.)

May Love Abide,

  1. Reading was not Christopher’s thing.
  2. I’ve been a dogged journal-keeper for most of my adult life.
  3. “How can I feel so miserably poor and embarrassingly rich at the same time?”
  4. “There’s no reason for them to blow that siren anymore,” my neighbor insisted.
  5. I recall almost nothing about the conference.
  6. “It’s Teeny-Weeny String Beanie!”
  7. The summer I turned five, I went on my first extended-family vacation to Wildwood.
  8. “Oh, rats! I think I’m supposed to be a nun.”
  9. Despite wondering about a religious vocation at the end of eighth grade, nothing about my teenage years suggested a career in ministry.
  10. A graduate student with a wedding ring was hit by a car on the sidewalk, rushed to the emergency room, and whisked into surgery.
  11. The tantalizing aroma arrested our steps in front of a Greek restaurant on South Street.
  12. When I finally landed the job of my dreams in campus ministry, my joy was quickly tempered.
  13. When I was thirty, after several years of increasing strife between us, my husband took a job on the other side of the globe.
  14. The biggest problem with having unauthorized cats is that you can’t call the landlord.
  15. The dress caught my eye as it waved in the breeze of a summer garage sale.
  16. It was peach season at the Jersey shore.
  17. I had never cut class before.
  18. Liz had no idea how she was going to pay for college.
  19. I was in the car with my brother Stephen’s new boyfriend, John.
  20. The dog I love most in the world just turned seven.
  21. When I was little, my grandmother taught me how to eat a strawberry.
  22. Hannah could not stop crying.
  23. Mary Ellen had raised six children on her own.
  24. The present that had thrilled my little brother the day before was making him miserable already.
  25. After nearly ten years in my first campus ministry position, I reached a heart-wrenching insight during my summer retreat.
  26. I stood at the water’s edge with my back to the beach, tears streaming down my face.
  27. I flipped on the bathroom light in dismay.
  28. The text from our cousin caught my brother and me completely by surprise.

Steady Your Hearts

The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7-8)

Spring takes its time here in Maine.  Back home in Philly, the temperature is headed over 90 for the second day in a row, but in Boothbay Harbor we still are sweatered-up, basking in a 57-degree Sunday afternoon on our deck, enjoying this weekend’s first peek of sunshine and the foggy breeze off the water.

Since Porter inherited his mother’s summer cottage a few years ago, we’ve been trying to establish perennial garden beds, filling them with hearty, low-maintenance items that can survive both the assault of winter storms and the neglect of summer renters.  When we return each spring, we race to inspect the beds, assessing what survived and what needs replacing.  But we are not yet accustomed to the pace of a Maine spring.

In late April, I was sorry to see no sign of the liatris (“blazing star”) I’d planted out front, but consoled myself with the purchase of a bleeding heart instead—another favorite, and a proven winner.  As I knelt to dig the hole, however, I discovered the barest green shoots emerging where the blazing star used to be; two weeks later, my beloved plant is indeed blazing back to life!  The other thing we were watching was a tuft of brown stuff, formerly a decorative grass intended to camouflage an unattractive foundation wall.  Taking a lesson from the liatris, we waited a couple weeks before buying something to replace it.  Sure enough, just as I went to pull the dried clump from the ground, Porter spotted a hint of green; apparently, the grass is on its way as well.

Scripture would have us look to nature for a lesson in patience, an abundance of which is called for these days. How we struggle to be patient with ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones; with our church, school, and civic communities; with our government, our electorate, and our world.  We know that forces for good are at work—sometimes through our efforts, but usually from beyond our imagining. We would do well to “steady our hearts,” as a musical rendition of James 5:8 encourages.

I do know this.  But what spring in Maine is reminding me is that my sense of how long is reasonable to wait may be flawed, shaped as it is by my limited experience of nature.  In human nature, the “precious crop” arrives on its own schedule, watered by the early and late rains of our tears and our prayers.

What are you waiting for?  Whatever it is, may you have the perseverance to wait, and the attentiveness to spot the presence of hope, even in its tiniest and most vulnerable forms.

Podcast: Finding Favorites

It’s podcast season! I’ve been interviewed for several, and will post them as they drop. Each one is different; click the image below to listen to Leah Jones’ “Finding Favorites” podcast, in which we learn why fire sirens are among my favorite things.

You’ll also get to hear two women of faith–one Catholic, one Jewish–discuss worship in pandemic, the importance of blessing the heck out of everything, and learning to speak Ignatian.

Bonus: an audio chapter from Finding God Abiding.


Click the image to listen to my interview on Finding Favorites with Leah Jones.

Remembering Jim Primosch

One year ago today, the world lost an amazing man: as kind as he was talented, which is a rare combination. Knowing that the mosaic of memory is made one tile at a time, I’m re-sharing a blog post that I wrote after an interaction with Jim in December of 2019. Perhaps those of you blessed to know him can respond with a “tile” (AKA memory) of your own.

The heavenly chorus got a serious upgrade when you changed venues, Jim. Rest in jubilation.

Blessed are the Single-Hearted, for they shall not Multitask.

We’re in the homestretch of Lent, a time when most people’s Lenten resolutions lie in tatters. Many of you have heard me say this before: In Lent, as in the rest of the spiritual life, the goal is not victory, but responsiveness. Success teaches us almost nothing. We learn precious little from perfectly-executed three-point Lenten plans. The most “effective” resolution is one that drives us back into the merciful arms of God, over and over again.

Nevertheless, in case you are feeling some kind of way about how your Lent is going, I thought I’d share a spectacular resolution-fail of my own from this weekend. (You’re welcome.)

Continue reading

A Litany for Lent

I wrote the following litany for this year’s Lent retreats, and offer it now for your personal prayer; feel free to share. For a delightful musical rendition of the Scripture passage below, check out this video by The Porter’s Gate.

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
– Matthew 22:37-39

Lord Jesus, as we notice your invitation to prayer this Lent . . .
Response: May we love you with all our soul.

As we ponder the Scriptures of the day or a chosen daily devotional . . .
As we carve out moments of solitude to ponder things in our hearts . . .
As a line of a favorite hymn jogs through our mind . . .
As news of war, violence, racism, or hatred drives us to our knees . . .
As the realization of our good fortune turns our thoughts to those with less . . .
As the coo of a mourning dove reminds us of someone who is grieving . . .
As the glimpse of a rainbow signals your promise of hope . . .

Lord Jesus, as we notice your invitation to sacrifice this Lent . . .
Response: May we love you with all our mind.

As we forgo customary pleasures to focus on your desires for us . . .
As we consume less . . .
As we reduce our carbon footprint . . .
As we limit our distractions . . .
As we hold our tongues . . .
As we suspend judgement . . .
As we let someone else be right, go first, or get the credit . . .

Lord Jesus, as we notice your invitations to generosity this Lent . . .
Response: May we love you with all our heart.

As we support the charities we love and the causes we value . . .
As we respond to unexpected demands on our time, talent, or treasure . . .
As we meet the needs of someone too embarrassed to express them . . .
As we do a kindness for someone who can never repay us . . .
As we give the best possible interpretation to another’s words . . .
As we open our imagination to new forms of giving . . .
As we resolve to do what we can, with what we have, from where we are . . .

As we give and forgive,
as we turn and return,
hold us in Your mercy, now and forever. 

On Fire, but Not Consumed

There the angel of the LORD appeared to Moses as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed. (Exodus 3:2)

What a remarkable sight: a bush on fire, but not consumed. “I must turn aside to look,” Moses thinks, asking “Why does the bush not burn up?”

On fire, but not consumed. Have you ever experienced this?

Continue reading