My book will be available Sunday, October 15. For a writer, this has to be one of life’s high points. But, to be honest, I am struggling a bit. This feels less like an accomplishment to me than a moment of truth. I’ve suffered from self-esteem deficits and surpluses all my life. My friends take turns hugging me and shaking their fists at me. You’d think by 63, I’d have figured this out.
Today, as I work on my book announcement and author profiles, I stopped for a cup of coffee. Sitting at the bar in my kitchen, I reached for the book I’ve been reading and sharing with you for months now: Preaching the Luminous Word: Biblical Sermons and Homiletical Essays by Ellen F. Davis. I’d stuck a pencil in the book to mark my place weeks ago. When I opened it, and my eye searched for where I’d left off, I read these sentences:
“But in reality, humility is the very opposite of angry self-denial. Humility means full acceptance of your own talents; and the key word is ‘acceptance’: that is, recognizing those talents for what they are, a gift from God, God’s gift to the world through you. Humility demands that we nurture our talents -- slowly, as they grow to fullness; nurture them patiently, not quite knowing what their full growth will look like. Thomas Aquinas taught: “Humility is nothing other than the patient pursuit of your own excellence.”
Providence. Patience. Pursuit..
I’m not the only one frustrated that we are again awash in the all-but-meaningless phrase “our thoughts and prayers” after the mass shooting in Las Vegas. The Washington Post ran a thoughtful piece this morning under the headline, Why ‘thoughts and prayers’ is starting to sound profane.
Theologian Miraslav Volf invokes a familiar Bible story to show how we have so misused this notion, separating our thoughts and prayers from the action entailed in genuine prayer.
“It’s analogous to what is going on in the book of James 2:16,” he says. “If a person says to those who are cold and hungry, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? Or if you look at the story of the good Samaritan, we can easily imagine that the priest, who walked by a person robbed and left half-dead by the road, prayed as he was passing by. Still, he was a bad priest. The Samaritan was good because he did something to help the suffering person.”
Please read the whole piece here.
My thoughts and prayers, along with those of countless others, have gone out to those affected by the Las Vegas shootings.
And I so regret that. Because, along with many others, I’m not following through very well. As my son reminded me this morning, prayer is, among many things, a call to action. This is the time to talk about gun control. This is the time to figure out strategies for limiting access to guns. For anyone lost in this latest mass shooting, it’s already too late.
Ordinarily, I am at odds with writers in The Federalist, but this morning Jennifer Doverspike mused on our tendency to fill the air with thoughts and prayers and little else.
“Regardless of a Christian’s theological view on the power, nature, and validity of intercessory prayer, one thing remains clear,” she wrote. “God does not change his mind. God changes our minds.”
I am the daughter of a proud NRA member who used to tell me there were plenty of members who believed in stronger gun control. We need to hear from them. We need to insist that this is the time to have this conversation. We need to lobby our lawmakers with the same intensity -- if not the same budget -- as the NRA. We need to do more than pray, we need to change our minds.