Saturday, October 25, 2008


During the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Laura Wilkinson won the gold medal in platform diving a few months after she had broken her foot in a training accident. She went on to become the only woman in history to win Platform Diving Gold at the Olympics, the World Cup, and the World Championship. Laura credits her success, not just to hard work and dedication, but also to the guidance she’s gotten from her Christian faith – a faith she had drifted away from for a while. Laura recently joined me on “Christopher Closeup” (full podcast here) to discuss her spiritual journey and how she wants to help the next generation of athletes. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

TR: I know you lost a couple of people close to you (in 1997) and that put you back on the path to finding God…When (those deaths) shook you, how did that affect your approach to diving?

Laura Wilkinson: I was kind of lost after losing them. I withdrew from a lot of people. I was just afraid of losing someone else. My grades started slipping in school and I thought diving is all I’ve got left at this point. I thought it was the only thing I had control of so I wrapped my life in it. Then I started getting disoriented in the air…The one thing that I thought made my life stable was totally slipping away…That’s when I realized what I was missing. I didn’t know what God wanted to do with my life but I knew I needed Him to fix it and…to be the center of it and to put my pieces back together…I actually rededicated my life to Him in the middle of a diving meet. The way it’s intertwined has really made me love the sport because God used it to bring me to my knees and bring me back to Him. He also lifted me back up through it so it’s just made diving that much more special to me.

TR: When you look back on that period now, what difference did not having that focus on God have on you mentally, emotionally or just on your life in general?

Laura Wilkinson: It’s shown me what life is like when the decisions I make (are based) on what I think is best and then it doesn’t turn out that way. But then when I trust God – and sometimes he takes me on a totally different path than what I think I should be doing - but yet things always seem to turn out so well. He just is able to make a beauty out of the messes that I make.

TR: When you won the Olympic gold in 2000 in Sydney, do you have one memory that stands out above all the others?

Laura Wilkinson: The moment that I love the most was before my last dive, I was up on the 10 meter and – I knew that I was diving really well, and I knew because of the crowd that I was in the medal hunt. But I had no idea that I was in first place…I couldn’t see the scoreboard…I just realized in that moment ‘I am standing up here on top of the world living out my dream. Whether I win or lose, I’m in the middle of it.’ The realization that I was getting the opportunity to live that dream out was just the coolest feeling.

TR: I’ve seen people comment that you smile during even the most tense situations. Where does that ability come from?

Laura Wilkinson: Happiness involves our happenings and our circumstances around us, but joy you can have any time because your strength relies on God…He’s given me a passion for the sport and allowed me to do it – and that gives me joy because I’m doing it for Him.

TR: You mentioned that you appreciate God when you’re winning or losing. I imagine when you’re winning the gold, it’s probably easy to thank God. But when the medals don’t come and when disappointment follows, do you have to work harder to remember that God is with you during those times?

Laura Wilkinson: It’s easy to be thankful when things go well and it’s hard to be thankful when things don’t. One of the things I’ve learned in the last 10 years is how to thank God even when things aren’t going well…When things aren’t going my way, I can still find things to thank God for – for my life, for my family, for how big He is and how awesome He is, and for creating this place and all the people in it. There’s always reasons to find thankfulness for God…When you’re able to do that, it melts away all the stuff going on, and your problems seem really small compared to how awesome He is.

TR: On the other side of that coin – when things are going well, do you ever have the temptation to fall back into the old pattern of focusing mainly on yourself?

Laura Wilkinson: Yeah, I think that’s really easy to do. I don’t even think it’s always conscious. When things are going well you don’t talk to God as much because you don’t need Him. I think God does His most powerful work a lot of times when we’re on our knees, when we’re broken. That’s when He molds us the most. But hopefully when you learn how to thank Him when times are rough, you’ll also thank Him when it’s great. I’m learning both, I’m still learning.

TR: I know one of your goals in retirement is to work through The Laura Wilkinson Foundation. What do you want to accomplish with your foundation:

Laura Wilkinson: They’re tearing our pool down on January 4, 2009 so my big goal is to raise money through the foundation to build a new facility for my team and my community because they’ll have nowhere to go. We had eleven divers qualify for the Olympic trials this year; two made the Olympic team. We had two girls win Junior World silver medals last month. We’ve just got this huge legacy of a team and they’re not going to have a pool to train in…I just don’t want o see their dreams die. I want to help them live those out.

(To lownload the free podcast of the full interview with Laura Wilkinson, visit

Monday, October 13, 2008


This is a great story from Saturday's Dallas Morning News I felt I had to share. Written by Michael E. Young, it tells about a teen with Down Syndrome who was voted homecoming queen. File this under "the better angels of our nature." (And h/t to Lisa Schiffren at National Review.)

Kristin Pass, an 18-year-old senior with Down syndrome, became Aledo High School's homecoming queen Friday to a joyous standing ovation and the flutter of a thousand tissues on a remarkable night for an amazing young woman.

Her grandfather, Dr. David Campbell of Corsicana, escorted her onto the field and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek as Kristin joined eight other young women in the Homecoming Court to await the results of the vote, cast by the 360-plus members of Aledo High's senior class.

"Oh my gosh! I was sitting in the student section and everyone stood up, crying and cheering for Kristin," said longtime friend and fellow senior Meaghan Geary, 17, who first met Kristin in the third grade. "It was great!"

Carolyn Pass stood at the edge of the football field, taking pictures of her daughter and friends' daughters in the court, when the stadium erupted.

"It's just something you can't even imagine," she said. "And afterward, everyone was just running down to her, congratulating her. And the other girls in the court, they're all just beautiful girls, inside and out."


Kristin pronounced the evening "exciting" and "awesome."

She was so thrilled, her mother said, that she took her crown to bed with her.

"She's real proud of it," her friend Meaghan added.

Kristin and her family, including sister Kendall, now a freshman, moved to Aledo when Kristin was in the third grade. She was embraced by the people in town through good times and bad, including the death of her dad, J.T., two years ago.

"We've always had great experiences here," her mom said. "We've been blessed, and I think Kristin brings a lot of blessings to the people she knows."

Her selection as homecoming queen was a wonderful surprise. But Meaghan seemed to have an inkling that it could happen.

"Everyone loves Kristin," she said, "and I didn't know for sure, but in class everyone was like, 'Who are you voting for?' and everybody was like, 'Vote for Kristin, she's so good.' "

Kristin doesn't care what's on the outside, Meaghan said. She's friends with everyone, and everyone admires that.

"She's the person we all want to be," Meaghan said.


Monday, October 6, 2008


During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Dolores Hart enjoyed a successful acting career during which she co-starred in movies with Robert Wagner, Anthony Quinn, and Elvis Presley. She even became the first actress to kiss Elvis in a movie. But Hart left that life behind - and even broke off her engagement to the man she loved – in order to follow a higher calling.

She chose to become “Mother” Dolores Hart, a cloistered Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT where she has dedicated her life to serving God for more than 40 years.

You might think that after all that time, there is nothing new Mother Dolores could learn about her faith or relationship with God. But hardship and pain have a way of being great educators.

Ten years ago, shortly after a three hour dental operation, Mother Dolores got up from bed and discovered her feet were tingling so badly, she could hardly put any weight on the floor. She traveled from doctor to doctor seeking an explanation but no one could adequately diagnose her ever-worsening condition. The 120 pound nun eventually lost twenty pounds, grew increasingly weaker, and was confined to a wheelchair.

Even then, the doctors didn’t help. They suggested she receive psychoanalysis because they theorized the whole illness was in her head.

Finally, Mother Dolores found neurologist Dr. Norman Latov. As she recalled on the radio program “Christopher Closeup,” he told her, “Mother, pain is not in your head unless it’s something that is a serious disorder in your head…We’re going to find out what this is about.”

The doctor diagnosed her with peripheral neuropathy. Mother Dolores explained, “It’s one of the most common diseases that most people have never heard of. It’s a neurological disorder that disrupts and damages the body’s ability to communicate with itself. It’s a deterioration of what are called the peripheral nerves, ones that send signals to our feet, our hands, muscles, organs and tissues.”

The neuropathy didn’t just produce a physical challenge but a spiritual one as well. Mother Dolores admitted, “No matter how much you think that you have come to a capacity of understanding your faith and believing in your faith, when a person is struck with a serious disease where you can’t do what you want to do, you can’t go where you want to go, where you can’t feed yourself, you can’t apply your own medical needs…you begin to say, “Where is God?”

This complete reliance on other people taught Mother Dolores a new view of the way God works in our lives – “All of a sudden you find out that God relates to you through persons. Persons do, in the final analysis, become the incarnation. You have to become dependent on the gift of human beings, and you discover that God is an incarnate reality. In the beginning, God was always a pie-in-the-sky reality. Now I had to realize that Jesus was there through the people who were assisting me, caring for me and doing the things that were bringing me through. That metanoia had to take place in me to submit to the gift of others.”

Happily, Dr. Latov has gotten Mother Dolores back on track to the point where she now leads a normal life. Her spiritual transformation, however, may be the most important gift of all.

(To hear more from Mother Dolores Hart - including stories about working with Elvis and the nature of her continuing friendship with her former fiancĂ©e – download the free podcast at