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In Our Thoughts and Prayers

Just a week ago… the children of Robb Elementary School woke up, got dressed, ate their Cheerios, kissed their moms and dads, and boarded buses for what was to be one of their last days of school before summer break.  The school day began with an awards assembly, celebrating the achievements of the students to the applause of parents and teachers.  Then the students returned to their classes to enjoy a few simple learning moments before vacation would begin.  Tuesday, May 24th was to be a wonderful day at Robb Elementary… until tragedy struck.  An 18-year-old, carrying an assault rifle entered the school and targeted a classroom of 4th graders.  An hour later, 19 students, 2 teachers, and the 18-year-old shooter were all dead… the community of Uvalde, TX forever changed.

They say: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” but, in the wake of every mass shooting the flood light has shinned on the gun used and the gun company that made that weapon.  The Uvalde shooter used a Daniel Defense DDM4 assault rifle, so Tuesday all eyes turned to that gun company for response.  Immediately following the shooting, Daniel Defense deleted their online advertising photo of a toddler holding one of their SR15 assault rifles in his lap with the caption: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Then the company released this statement: “We will keep the families of the victims and the entire Uvalde community in our thoughts and prayers.”  In our thoughts and prayers… Ted Cruz, junior Senator for Texas, tweeted: “I am fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families of Uvalde.”  In our thoughts and prayers… That same sentiment has been used again and again, by law makers and community leaders.  In our thoughts and prayers…

In my thoughts and prayers… How many times have those words been on my lips or written by my pen?  Today, I am wondering what we really mean.  What does it mean to keep people in our thoughts and prayers?  What are we praying for?  What do we expect God to do with those prayers?  Are we praying to somehow get God’s attention, as if God does not notice the cries of terrified children and grieving families?  Are we hoping to change God’s mind… to get God to care… to motivate God to perform some kind of cosmic action?  Many of us have known the grace of God’s comfort that can heal a broken heart, so we pray for that grace in the lives of the grieving families.  But do we really see God as just the clean-up crew in the wake of the brokenness of this world?  When we pray, aren’t we also hoping that this kind of tragedy will never happen again… that God will somehow work in this world to prevent such senseless tragedy?  Yet, in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, there were more… Already in 2022 there have been 213 mass shootings in the United States, averaging more than 1 mass shooting per day.  Are we waiting for God to do something about all this violence?  Should God jam the guns before they can fire, or paralyze the shooter before he can act?  What do we expect God to do with all our thoughts and prayers?

CS Lewis once wrote: “I pray because I can’t help myself.  I pray because I’m helpless.  It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”  Is it possible that God wants us to pray to change our hearts and minds?  Are we willing to pray for God to change us… as a people… as a nation… as individuals… to change our minds and hearts?  Are we willing to let God move and shape our conversation about guns in this country?  Are we willing to let God change our conversation from “my rights” to “our responsibility” to protect the most vulnerable in our communities?  On average, a child is shot every hour of every day in America.  What are we praying for if not to change that horror?  I know that as I write, I am poking the bear… how dare I challenge what we hold as sacred- those precious 2nd amendment rights?  As a pastor, I am not supposed to stray into the political arena.  But this is not about politics and “my rights”, this is about the lives of our children.  I do not claim to know the right next steps to find a healing path for our nation, but I am praying for us to have a change of heart to allow for the hard, realistic thinking and respectful dialogue it will take to change our nation.

Years ago, I found an anonymous quote:
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty,  suffering and injustice when He could do something about it.”  
“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”  
“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”
Matthew West, a contemporary Christian musician, wrote the song, Do Something.  His lyrics demand, “God, why don’t you do something?”  The demand comes again and again in the song, just as our prayers are offered tragedy after tragedy.  Matthew West’s song reaches the climax with God’s response: “God said, “I did… I created you.”  Rick Warren wrote, “The most dangerous prayer is Use Me.”  Perhaps it is time for our thoughts and prayers to ask God to use us to change our nation… our hands… our voices… our stewardship… our vote.  May God change us into His able instruments to heal our hurting land.

With you praying a dangerous prayer today,  
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