Monday, December 30, 2013

An Unwelcome Christmas Visitor

I have a gun I take with me when I am out in the Alaska backcountry for wildlife protection.  I never thought I would load it to possibly use it against a human being.  Late last Christmas the peace of our home was shattered literally by a man forcing his way into our home.  At the loud sound Kim retreated with the phone and locked herself into the bedroom where our 2 year old granddaughter was sleeping.  I  investigated the sound and was stunned to see a young man climbing into our living room through a broken window.  I did not know if he had a weapon so I ran back to the bedroom to load my revolver.  I'm not a gun enthusiast at all but it appeared that the most feared scenario was unfolding before my eyes.  I would do anything to protect my family.

But I am a person of faith and have had training in alternatives to violence.  So I hid the gun behind my back as I crept down the hall.  When I reached the kitchen I saw the young man laying on the floor in a pool of blood, his head moving back and forth.  Seeing no threat I put the gun away.

The police and ambulance arrived quickly and he was transported to the hospital and then jail.  Kim and I along with our daughter and son-in-law and a helpful officer cleaned up the mess.  We prayed to claim God's peace in our home and tried to sleep.  I took Kim into my arms and we looked into each others' watery eyes.  I said, "We are not immune from the world's brokenness entering our home.  We are going to be okay.  God is our Rock."  It is true.  We are okay and do not appear to suffer any of the effects of this trauma.

So now it is time for some theologizing.  I shudder to think that if I had a loaded gun in my hand when he was entering our home I could have shot and killed him and been justified in the eyes of the law.  What is a Christian response to such an incident?  Where was God in these seconds of terror?  What about the millions of people, especially children who live under a constant threat of danger?  Where is our sense of security?

I suppose the point is that our views on the hot button topics of our day are often argued in a vacuum.  When you are forced out of the vacuum and feel the rush of blowing air slamming into your face it gives you a new perspective.  My perspective is one of gratitude to God that my family is safe.  I pray for families who are subjected to danger.  And I pray that our solutions to violence will have more to do with God than guns.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas and Vulnerability

Christmas is for me always about the vulnerability of God.  God choosing to be bound by the same limitations all humans experience, which begins at birth as fragile, vulnerable babies.

Father Richard Rohr writes about this in one of his daily meditations found at  
For the Christian, spiritual power is always hidden inside of powerlessness, just as God was hidden and yet revealed in a defenseless baby. If God is ever to be loved and shared, God had to risk both human embodiment and human vulnerability. This is the only thing that enchants and evokes the human heart. We do not properly fall in love with concepts or theological ideas (although some do try); persons fall in love with other persons.  In a weak little child, God is both perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed—and fully lovable.

Our Christmas challenge is to push beyond the Christmas card scenes and sentimentalism to this notion that our spiritual power as Christians is found in the powerlessness of the Christ child.  Our spiritual strength begins here, and in our own confession that we cannot control our lives, and that we need God.  This makes Christmas more than a season, but a way of life.

Grace Always,


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mandela's Legacy

I am not a political commentator.  But I am an observer of the natural and human world.  On this day when the world bids farewell to Nelson Mandela and celebrates his legacy I am thinking about the moment when he realized that hating his white oppressors would not be helpful for him or his cause.  I think about that moment of transformation when forgiveness seemed to him a better path.  It makes me wonder about his years at a Methodist boarding school and the ministry of the chaplain at Robben Island prison.  Were these influences part of Mandela's inner transformation?

We United Methodists have a mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  The forgiveness Mandela chose to offer his captors replacing the hate in his heart was truly a God moment.  It was a God moment that changed history and offered real hope of liberation to people enslaved by oppressive regimes.

This was not simply an idea.  It was a very real, personal transformation in the soul of Nelson Mandela.  And this personal transformation led to a political one in South Africa.  Mandela's legacy is certainly about his rise to the presidency of South Africa.  But I like his legacy of forgiveness...his personal salvation...his soul transformation.  As a person of faith this is always the starting point of any revolution, personal or political, where the kingdom of God breaks forth into our world.

Grace and Forgiveness,


To read about Peter Storey's reflection on serving as Mandela's prison chaplain and their friendship click on this link.