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Doing the Unexpected this Christmas

Posted: December 20, 2011 by Rob Voyle

We live in a violent world where the response to violence is to be more
violent and overwhelm by force that which frightens us. Sometimes the
violence is physical, but in many cases, especially in the church, we
commit intellectual, emotional, and spiritual violence on one another
often with great theological justification. But that is not the way of
love that we get to celebrate at this time of the year.

Just when humanity would expect God to do something more violent and rid
the earth of each one of us God does the unexpected and comes and lives as
one of us. Every element of the incarnation and Jesus' story is one of
doing the unexpected. Born of humble and questionable parentage. And then
he hangs out with the poor, lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, and any
other marginalized group. It's just not what we expected.

Yesterday I received in the mail a copy of "Sweet Fruit from the Bitter
Tree: 61 Stories of Creative and Compassionate Ways out of Conflict." Its
a wonderful collection of short stories of people who have done the
unexpected in the midst of conflict to create an opportunity for peace and

The stories were gathered by Mark Andreas from a variety of sources around
the world. One of the commonalities Mark notes is that in each story the
person maintains their connection with the person they are in conflict
with, but with a twist - the connection is at a place of a shared value
and not the place of conflict.

For example a women is walking home at night and is being followed by a
man that makes her very uncomfortable. She turns and says to her pursuer,
" I am feeling very nervous, would you walk me home." At which point the
man takes her by the arm and walks her home. Sadly later that night the
man raped another woman.

For the woman in the story her doing the radically unexpected called forth
the "gentlemanly" nature of the man something they both could value. If
she had done the expected thing of trying to run or escape it would most
likely have called forth the rapist nature of the man.

When God and humankind are in conflict, God does the unexpected. By living
as one of us Jesus is expressing God's deepest valuing of humanity and
desire to stay connected with us. When this radically unexpected thing is
experienced in our hearts it calls forth the best from us - something that
both we and God can value.

From my experience, people don't change because I hate them, at least
change in the direction I desire. If you find yourself in conflict ask
Is my fear and anger getting me what I want?
If it isn't, ask what would be the radically unexpected thing to do. What
is something that we both could share and value?

I pray that in the midst of doing the unexpected you experience the joy of

If you would like to read a complete story from "Sweet fruit from the
Bitter Tree" or find information on how to purchase it please go to
http://realpeoplepress.com/blog/ . For people who love stories and like to
"see" processes in action rather than read books of theory this is an
incredible resource and very much in keeping with this season of peace.

With Christmas Blessing
Rob Voyle

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