Let me invite you in with my favorite story…
More than three decades ago, I was the guest preacher in the chapel of a Pennsylvania college just before Christmas. After the service, the chaplain’s five-year-old son, Kyle, was eager to recite the biblical account of Jesus’ birth from memory. He was flawless until he came to the part when the angels announced to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace!” Forgetting the last phrase, Kyle concentrated. Then he proudly launched in again, attributing these words to the hovering heavenly host: “Glory to God in the highest…and I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!”
In the years since, I have shared that story more than any other. Though I’m an author and editor, pastor and teacher, activist and retreat leader, I think of myself in all these roles primarily as a storyteller. I’ve spent a lifetime collecting stories—in Hershey and Harlem; in prisons, at peace protests, and on picket lines; from the frenetic streets of inner-city Washington, DC, to the quiet mountain hollers of Western North Carolina, in ravaged war zones in Nicaragua and amid erupting pockets of hope in South Africa and Palestine; from survivors of domestic violence and children with cancer, grieving mothers and striking miners; among people of faith all over the world devoting their lives to ending violence, injustice, and intolerance.
Kyle’s story points to the difference between God’s hope and our reality. The world is overrun by huffing and puffing: by gale-force winds of war that destroy everything in their path; by tornadoes of terrorism that strike and spin off in perpetual cycles of vengeance; by hurricanes of hatred that divide person from person and nation from nation; by the untamed tempests unleashed by our grasping abuse of the earth.
What force is stronger than these dividing gusts? I’m convinced that only a bold and grace-filled wind like the one that rushed in at the birth of the church on Pentecost—the kind that stirs people of good will of all faiths and nations to lavish compassion, extravagant mercy, and just sharing of the common wealth—contains the power to tame the hateful blasts. Such a wind draws us together, inviting us into the dramatic healing and transformation that can occur when we listen to one another’s stories.
We each possess a piece of the narrative waiting to be told, and I encourage you to share yours. In offering here my tiny sliver of the great human story that connects us all, I join my enduring hope to the ageless promise of the angels: “On earth, peace!”
May the headwinds be gentle and the tailwinds strong,
With enormous thanks to a few generous friends: Erinn Fahey for her inspired expertise; Said Osio for his exquisite artistry; Marc Mullinax for his fine photography; and Kaki Roberts and Bill Ramsey for their patient design assistance.