Just Ask

The other day, while waiting on the phone before a live radio interview about my latest book, I prayed from my computer screen the Psalm that I had assigned myself as part of a memorization project a friend and I had embarked on. Our goal was not to memorize all the Psalms—that would be too hard—but just to acquaint ourselves with the gist of each one and memorize a favorite verse. Mine, from Psalm 2, was verse 7, in which the unspecified psalmist says, “I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your father’” (Psalm 2:7 NIV).

Interviews stress me. There’s no predicting what the host will ask. Sometimes they haven’t read the book, so I spend the whole interview trying to untangle what it’s really about from what the host thinks it’s about based on the title or cover material. Other times, they’ve read the book but have specific questions about parts of the book I’ve forgotten. Add to that the time constraints! A typical radio interview lasts only ten or fifteen minutes, including breaks for commercials and station identification. Invariably there’s a final question that begins, “In the thirty seconds before we break, can you explain …”

The worst part of radio interviews is that I’m very picky about how I say what I say—which is why I’m a writer and not a speaker. As a writer, you can revise your thoughts, or delete them entirely. In an interview, you’re committed to whatever crazy business emerges from your mouth in the moment.

Or maybe an even worse part of radio interviews is my general antipathy to self-promotion. Why can’t I just write, I wail inwardly, and leave that part of the publishing process to someone else?

To calm myself, I imagined the Father actually speaking the words of the Psalm to me: “You’re my daughter; today I have become your father.”

Frank Weston Benson--My Daughter Elizabeth

F. W. Benson–My Daughter Elizabeth

What a thrilling thought! The God of all creation as my actual parent.

When I got to God’s invitation in the very next line, though, I faltered: “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”

Whoa, I thought. The Bible notes must be right. The unidentified “I” of the passage must be David or some Davidic king or even Jesus himself. Anyone but me.

“But you write books,” I sensed or imagined the Father saying. “Just ask. I’ll give you nations of readers.”

Asking for that was too awful to imagine—however much I might want it. I couldn’t pray the words, not even in the secrecy of my mind.

Just then, the radio host’s voice intervened. Ten minutes later, I hung up.

I was still thinking, That went okay. I didn’t embarrass myself that badly, when the host called back to thank me personally.

“I’m sure people everywhere have said this,” she said, “but your books really minister to me.”

People everywhere. Answers to my prayers rarely come so immediately or unambiguously. Or maybe they do, but I return so quickly to not expecting God to respond that I don’t notice when he does. Or maybe I don’t really dare to pray with abandon—and thereby reveal to my own Father what’s really in my heart.

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About patty kirk

Patty Kirk is the author of The Easy Burden of Pleasing God (IVP 2013), two spiritual memoirs, a food memoir, and a collection of essays entitled The Gospel of Christmas. Raised in California and Connecticut, she lives on a farm in Oklahoma and teaches writing just across the Arkansas state-line at John Brown University, where she is Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of English. She and her husband, Kris, have two college-aged daughters, Charlotte and Lulu. In addition to writing and teaching writing, Patty's passions are cooking, gardening, watching birds, and running on the back roads.

9 thoughts on “Just Ask

  1. Patty! I was smiling and nodding all the way through this. So true—that the interviewer probably has not read the book, and invariably he/she will ask about the portions you’ve forgotten. And—as writers we prize the economy and precision of every written word, but does that mean we can speak as well as we write?? Oh goodness, no!! I’ve felt your chagrin so many times …. and thank you for the lift of the Psalms and the remembrance to return all this to Him, beginning and end. He WILL accomplish all He desires, even through our faltering words. (And your book is VERY VERY good!! I bought it immediately upon hearing just the title: “The Easy Burden of Pleasing God.”) With much appreciation, Leslie

  2. Patty, thank you for this post. I haven’t done a radio interview yet but I have received e-mails or talked with readers. When they tell me my story ministered to them, it chokes me up. My prayer when I write is that my words minister to readers and draw them closer to God. And when someone tells me it did, I can only thank God and say, “Yeah, that’s what it’s all about. That’s why I’m called to write–for His glory, not mine.”
    Thank you for reminding us of this.
    Blessings.

    • Why is it so easy to lose track of why I really do what I do, I often wonder. To think whatever it is is about me and my purposes, not God and God’s. Even in pursuing humility I seek my own aims. I wish–this is my prayer today–I could keep God in my sights. Anyway, thanks, Henry.

  3. “Nations of readers” – oooh, that’s overwhelming. I want to ask for that, but am afraid to since it seems selfish. You say “Asking for that was too awful to imagine—however much I might want it. I couldn’t pray the words, not even in the secrecy of my mind.” I understand that completely. Lucky for us God’s plan is perfect. If I get all those readers or if I don’t I will be content in the fact that either way I am in His will.
    Thanks for the great post. It really spoke to me.

    • Thanks, Debbie. I so like Paul’s idea that the Holy Spirit groans out our groaned prayers for us and that God–whom Paul refers to as “he who searches our hearts”–“knows the mind of the Spirit” and “works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.26-28). Such a comforting reassurance!

  4. Patty, what a beautiful word for this Sunday morning–or anytime for that matter. Reading and pondering what you have to share, along with the verse in Psalm 2, brings a smile to my heart and encouragement to the spirit. Thank you!

  5. Patty, as I read your post, I thought of the words that I read the other day on Facebook, under MY picture, quoting ME after a speaking engagement. I thought, “Did I REALLY say THAT? Aargh!!!” So, I responded with a comment, expressing my regrets. The person admitted using her “creative license” to quote the spirit of my remarks. But I still cringed. I also prefer writing over speaking for just that reason – I can edit myself until I get it right – except maybe on a blog comment. ;)

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