Last Monday morning, we woke up to news of a violent attack at a country music concert in Las Vegas.
Five days earlier, a loose pit bull attacked my dog and me on our morning walk.
I may use the same word, "attack," to describe these incidents, but they were obviously different from each other. My dog and I suffered only superficial cuts and bruises. The death toll in Las Vegas reached 59 with over 500 injured. One pit bull pursued us. Hundreds of bullets pursued the concert-goers in Vegas. The dog attack in West Point lasted maybe two minutes before a policeman came to our rescue. The attack in Las Vegas dragged on for fifteen minutes as the gunman reloaded his weapons. One attack was very private, and the other widely publicized.
Yet both are stories of events that left those affected fearful and shaken. Both are stories that leave us asking, "Will we ever feel safe again?" Both are stories that may cause you to remember a time of attack in your own life, a time where you felt your life threatened or peace shattered.
When we experience attacks, we remember the truth of Scripture that there is a devil who is an adversary to the body of Christ. When we see senseless acts of violence with no visible motive like the massacre in Las Vegas, we remember that unexplainable evil exists in the world. We also must remember that through Jesus Christ, we have courage and victory to rise above the fear.
My bishop, James E. Swanson, Sr., released a powerful message last week that calls us to respond instead of to react to troubling news. In the aftermath of hurricanes and gunfire and so many attacks that go unseen in the public eye, how do we respond?
The Church has an opportunity to respond by teaching our children how to pray in a crisis. In the middle of the pit bull attack, when I realized I could not physically save myself or my dog, I resorted to the one thing I knew to do: I prayed in the name of Jesus. I cried out to Jesus. I called on the name of Jesus because that was how I learned to pray as a child. I had learned long ago that there was power in his name, a power I did not have on my own. The prayers we learn as children, even if it's simply the song, "Jesus Loves Me," come back to us in troubling times.
Of course, one of the best ways to start teaching our children the power in Jesus' name is through the Scriptures. Another is to teach them songs that address Jesus directly. Whatever our teaching method, what matters is that we give them an anchor in the Word of God to which they can cling when they are under attack.
When Rich Mullins died in a car accident 20 years ago, he was working on an album simply titled, The Jesus Record. His band and friends recorded a studio album of those songs, and after the attack I have heard the power of Ashley Cleveland's version of the song, "Jesus," for the first time:
Let us respond to life's attacks not only with "thoughts and prayers" but also with thought given to prayer. May we learn, and teach our children, how to reach out our withered hands to the One who has the power to save us, to restore us, and to make us whole.
all good things to each of you,