SHORTLY BEFORE Irish poet Seamus Heaney died in 2013, he texted these last words to his wife, Marie: Noli timere. Be not afraid.
I’m not sure if Heaney, who was described by Robert Lowell as “the most important Irish poet since Yeats,” knew this was his last text and final words, but I suspect he did.
It’s a sad commentary that when the Twitterverse got hold of Heaney’s message, no one could figure out what it meant or where it was from. Many did not recognize the angels’ message to Zechariah (Luke 1:13) or Mary (Luke 1:30) or the shepherds (Luke 2:10) or Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:20): Be not afraid.
Heaney understood words as “bearers of history and mystery.” As a distinguished translator of poetry from Greek, Latin, Italian, Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and Middle Scots, he had plenty of languages to choose from. But he chose St. Jerome’s fourth century vulgate version of the Bible. He chose the language of the angels.
One of my favorite stories is about the interview I wanted most, but didn’t get.
It was 2005 and I had just signed a contract to write what would be my first book — a collection of profiles of mostly well-known people about their spiritual lives. Artists. Writers. Thinkers. Scientists. The odd rock star.
Sitting in my publisher’s office, she asked me to dream out loud: If I could interview anyone for the project, who was No. 1 on my wish list?
I answered without hesitation: Seamus Heaney.
1. Watch Martin Luther King, Jr. Go on 'Meet the Press' in 1963
As part of NBC News' look back ''Remembering the Dream,'' David Gregory takes us back to 1963, when Martin Luther King, Jr., was preparing for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
2. The Ethics of Syrian Military Intervention: The Experts Respond
Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility?
3. The Women Who Sang Out for Civil Rights
"In our day and age, when young women make the news for singing and performing in vulgar, suggestive, and less than life-giving ways, the anniversary of the march is—among many things—a much needed reminder of the transforming power and legacy that women can have with their voices and with song," Enuma Okoro writes for Christianity Today's Her.Meneutics blog.
4. When Miley Cyrus and I Were at Church
"There is no place for finger-pointing by people who hide their sins in privacy at those that broadcast their mistakes to the world." David Moore at Fuller Theological Seminary's The Burner Blog puts judgey Christian bloggers in their place with this piece on Miley Cyrus' VMA performance heard 'round the world.
5. How Poverty Taxes the Brain
Emily Badger at The Atlantic Cities points to an interesting new study on brain capacity and poverty. One chilling statistic: "the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults."
6. Seeking Nonviolent Solutions in Syria
Writing in the July issue of Sojourners magazine, David Cortright outlined reasons why the U.S. should avoid military intervention in Syria.
8. Hurricane Michele Bachmann? Groups Hope to Name Storms After Climate Change Deniers
From Alex Brown at National Journal: a new petition from Project Name Change and 350+ Action Fund is asking the World Meteorological Organization to change naming conventions to shame Congress members, like Sen. James Inhofe, who deny climate change — hoping for future weather reports like: "Marco Rubio is expected to pound the Eastern Seaboard."
9. The Winners in Immigration Control: Private Prisons
Aubrey Pringle at The Atlantic shines light on one big force behind anti-immigration reform efforts: the private prison lobby, which, according to the article, has shelled out $1 million on lobbying so far this year.
10. Kid President Explains It All.
The latest installment from everyone's favorite child president shows more ways to make the world awesome. "EVERYONE DESERVES A PARADE."
When Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis departed on his three-month sabbatical at the beginning of January, I sent him a list of books, films and music that I thought would nourish his mind and spirit in, perhaps, different ways than the media he normally consumes do.
Jim's sabbatical — a true Sabbath in the literal sense — is designed to be a time of rest and, more importantly, rejuvenation. It will also be a creative time when he will be working on a new book.
Jim is a creative. A writer. A visionary. He regularly digs deep into his heart and soul, breaks himself open and pours out his passion, hope and faith for the edification of others. If creatives aren't diligent, though, we can work ourselves into the ground. Our wells can run dry.
In sending Jim this list of what I like to think of as "soul food," I hoped to inspire his imagination and give him new fuel for the fire, if you will.