wrong track?

So on the heels of our most recent discussion, allow me first a brief shout out…

On Sunday we talked about America’s abortion debate. That’s not a subject in which our country consistently dialogues respectfully, and yet, hearing from many of you publicly and privately, I witnessed numerous dialogues laced with significant diversity, courteous communication, with varied conviction. Yes, there is hope (and need) for respectful dialogue.

With such a backdrop, allow me another challenging, but worthwhile subject to ponder. However, for participation in this conversation, I’d like to humbly request one additional ground rule…

One ground rule. Two questions. 

Question #1 comes today. Question #2 comes Sunday. Allow me first to set the backdrop…

For years pollsters have asked respondents where they think we’re heading. Are we going in the “right direction” or are we on the “wrong track”?

Currently (merging the data of the Economist, Harvard-Harris, Investor’s Business Daily, Politico, Rasmussen, and Reuters), only 39% of us believe the country is going in the right direction. 56.3% of us believe we are on the wrong track.

Prior to any “told-you-so’s” or fist bumps in the current, volatile, socio-political climate, let me add some relevant historical data…

At the beginning of January 2016, the differential was somewhat greater. 24% of us believed the country was going in the right direction; 65.7% perceived us on the wrong track.

At the beginning of January 2014, those numbers were 30.1% in the right direction and 63.3% on the wrong track.

At the beginning of January of 2012, the numbers were 24.5% in the right direction — 70% on the wrong track.

And at the beginning of January of 2010, 35.9% of the country believed we were going in the right direction — 56.7% in the wrong. Note: those numbers are almost identical to today.

So here’s my observation…

Noting that the numbers 9 years ago are almost identical to today, the perception that our country is going in the wrong direction is not based on any singular party or personality. In fact, data shows a solid wrong direction perception for well over two decades. Americans get that something is deeply wrong. We know this isn’t working.

Hence, first the ground rule — in addition to being respectful, of course: 

Please name no names and no parties. Make no references to specific people.

Then, the first of two questions…

Why do you believe America is headed on the wrong track? In other words, what’s wrong?

(Or if you don’t believe such, why do you not?)

Be respectful. Be semi-brief. But be sincere; what do you think? Feel free to reach out to me publicly or privately — private message, email, comment or text. Let’s see what one another thinks. 

Next post will pose Question #2. It’s a little more targeted, asking for feedback on specific issues, utilizing similar ground rules.

But this process makes me ponder…

If we adhere to the ground rules, could we actually ease the tension? And if we could actually ease the tension, could we make more progress on the issues?

Ah, more great questions…



America’s abortion debate

So how do we navigate through an issue that’s laced with passion, emotion and conviction? How do we talk about a topic that is nothing short of a rhetorical, ticking time bomb?

The so-called “sides” aren’t talking; they don’t seem to know how to any more. Hence, they only insult and scream. 

But geesh… we can’t even agree on who the “sides” are…

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice

Pro-Choice vs. Anti-Choice

Pro-Abortion vs. Pro-Life

Pro-Women vs. Pro-Birth

We even fight about what to call each other. We then judge the other side, exonerating self in our decision to stop listening to, learn from, and sadly, respect.

Friends, walk with me here for a minute, through the ticking time bomb. I pray my gentleness and respect will be evident to all.

Throughout my life I’ve been in different places on this issue. I have grieved with those who have made the choice — and grieved with those who did not. I have grieved the stoppage of a beating heart — and I have grieved the lack of compassion offered to one who has stopped it.

I am troubled, too, by the extremes. As with most issues, there are extensive middle perspectives. Adherers of these convictions are typically more silent than the rest, as the extremes are always louder. But on abortion, especially, that middle is incredibly messy. 

According to Pew Research, about 20% of America believes abortion should be illegal in every and all circumstances and about 30% of America believes it should be legal in every and all circumstances. That means the 20% would not allow abortion in cases of rape and incest, and the 30% would allow abortion any time in those nine months. That leaves 50% of us somewhere in the messy in-between.

I mentioned that throughout my life I’ve been in different places on this issue. The primary reason I have had trouble discerning what I believe and having peace with my own conviction is because I have been deeply disturbed by the behavior of those 20 and 30 percent.

There are all sorts of angles to consider here… the angle of the mother… the father… the baby, fetus (or whatever name one considers most expedient to support their perspective)… not only those three, but also the angle of the great big God of the universe. What does he require of us?

My sense is the reason for the screaming is the tendency to accentuate solely one of the above angles. So let me humbly ask the obvious: aren’t all angles in play?

What would happen if each of us learned to consider the other three angles?

Would we learn more? Would we grow? Would we come to a solution?

We don’t have to necessarily change our conviction or opinion, but wouldn’t it be wiser if we actually had compassion for all?

I get it. It’s a tough issue; it’s hard to talk about. It’d be far easier to ignore and insult instead of wade through the ticking time bombs.

But I believe in respect and compassion for all. That’s not the same as compromise, as it remains true; we can’t “split the baby in half,” so-to-speak.

But we can learn to listen better.

We can learn to have more compassion.

And we can learn in making our gentleness and respect evident to all.



Harvard. Smart?

So let’s start today with the end in mind. Let’s “reverse engineer” — noting the solid engineering schools across the country — including Harvard — as we start where we typically end… with ten questions already in mind…

  • What are we doing?
  • Can we no longer tolerate moral difference?
  • If one person engages in a legal activity that is perceived as “trauma-inducing” to another, must the first person be stopped?
  • Is what’s trauma-inducing for one therefore trauma-inducing for all?
  • Can you or I decide what’s right for everyone else?
  • Is everyone deserving of due process?
  • Does the “unpopular defendant” deserve legal representation?
  • Are collegiate administrations exuding wisdom on the college campus?
  • Are we teaching twenty-somethings how to grow up?
  • And what’s the right response to a protest?

On Saturday Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana removed spouses Ron Sullivan and Stephanie Robinson from their respective dean positions on campus. They were co-faculty dean of Winthrop House. They were also the first African-Americans to serve in this position.

Sullivan has an extensive, admirable, professional resume — including roles as an advisor to then Sen. Barack Obama on criminal justice issues and representation of Michael Brown’s family in their suit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri. Sullivan’s past clients have included accused murderers and terrorists, consistent with the constitutional right that any accused of a crime deserves legal representation.

In the past year, no less, Sullivan also signed on to serve as part of the legal team representing Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood producer who now stands accused of multiple rape and sexual assault charges. Note that for many, Weinstein is the face behind the commencement of the #MeToo movement. What he is accused of doing is vicious and vile.

Some students then proceeded to launch a protest, demanding Sullivan’s removal from Harvard’s Winthrop House. One called his presence “deeply trauma-inducing.” As the New York Times wrote, “Many students expressed dismay, saying that his decision to represent a person accused of abusing women disqualified Mr. Sullivan from serving in a role of support and mentorship to students.” The point was that Sullivan’s credibility was not only damaged, but he was now deemed incapable of supporting or serving. He should thus not be allowed to oversee the Harvard house since he chose to represent the accused.

Note the following two, editorial responses. First, from Reason, which leans moderately right: 

“… This is a disaster. The administration has endorsed the ridiculous notion that serving as legal counsel for a person accused of sexual misconduct is itself a form of sexual misconduct, or at the very least contributes to sexual harassment on campus. It is no exaggeration to say that Khurana has undermined one of the most important principles of modern, enlightened justice. He should be ashamed of himself.

By caving to the mob, Harvard has shown student-activists that it takes seriously their demands for a kind of broadly-defined safety that includes protection from ideas they don’t like. This outcome will undoubtedly embolden them.”

And second from The Atlantic, which leans moderately left: 

“… Harvard administrators were warned about the unavoidable conflict between upholding an important civic normthat legal representation for even the most reviled is a service to the community, not a transgression against it — and giving in to the demands of the undergraduates most aggrieved by their faculty dean’s choice of clients. And rather than infer a responsibility of the extremely privileged to uphold civic norms for the benefit of those in society who most need them, this institution, which purports to educate future leaders, chose to prioritize transient discomfort felt by its most aggrieved students…

… Protecting the norms around the right to counsel is orders of magnitude more important than the ‘unenlightened or misplaced’ discomfort of some Harvard undergraduatesdiscomfort rooted in difficulty tolerating moral difference…”

The moderate right and left seem to agree. So let’s revisit the question…

What are we doing?



do you really value all people?

No doubt navigating through current cultural conversations is often like tiptoeing through terrains liberally laced with landmines. Use the word “Trump” at any time, and chances are ears will perk up and emotions will be immediately heightened.

Bring up McConnell, Pelosi, and/or Schumer; the odds of respectful dialogue will most likely go downhill quickly. It gets worse; watch for the utilization of words such as “bigot,” “extremist,” or “Socialist.” Maybe even “Hitler.” There has to be a reason the other person is entirely wrong.

Yes, current cultural conversations are really, really difficult. But if we are going to truly value all people — which people on both the left and right say they want to do or claim to do — then that means we have to quit dismissing another as entirely wrong. When we dismiss another as entirely wrong, we are not valuing all people.

Hence, conversation is vital… even when it’s hard.

Let’s return once more to the wise words of Stephen Covey. How can we utilize his seven proclaimed habits in order to have more effective, respectful conversation? And yes… even when it’s hard.

[Utilizing the quoted insights here of Dr. Tammy Lenski, who teaches individuals and groups how to untangle disagreements and build dynamic partnerships by engaging conflict effectively. Note her written words are italicized below. All emphasis is mine.]

Habit 1: Be Proactive

… In conflict, too many people mistakenly assume that they have no real hope of changing the relationship they have with the other person… When you make that assumption, you postpone or avoid the important conversation that could change matters. When you act proactively in a conflict situation, you step up to the difficult conversation rather than avoiding it. Avoidance of important conversation usually allows frustration to fester and the divide to widen…

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

… In difficult conversations, you want to have a “big picture” image of success before you start the conversation. It’s worth advance thought before simply plunging in. The end you want to visualize shouldn’t be one in which the other person “sees the light,” changes their opinion, or does things your way. Worthwhile ends include preserving the relationship, minimizing the debris of ongoing conflict…

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Putting first things first means attending to your priorities before you attend to lesser matters. In difficult conversations, you want to focus on the most important topics and avoid getting side-tracked by less important matters, pet peeves, and minor annoyances…

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

This is basic conflict management 101. If you enter your most important conversations with the intent to win at the other person’s expense, then you risk prolonged and entrenched conflict and greater harm to the relationship. The win/win approach invites you to consider the conversation as a joint exploration into what could work for both of you. While this kind of conversation takes longer to accomplish, you’ll usually save emotional energy and time in the long run.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood  {Yeah, we aren’t too collectively good at this…}

In difficult conversations, you may be tempted to spend your energy telling. Telling the other person what they did wrong, what the impact was on you, what you’d like them to do differently. While some of this may be important for them to hear in order to understand the impact of the situation on you, it is a mistake to begin there. And it’s a costly mistake if both of you try to begin there, since the resulting “telling tug of war” will make the conversation messier than it need be. Instead, try entering your difficult conversations with genuine curiosity.Make it your first priority to understand the other person’s perspective, even if you don’t agree to it. Real attention to understanding is likely to yield new information that can help you resolve the problem.

Habit 6: Synergize

Synergy is the interaction of individuals for greater combined effect than any one person would have on their own. Truly effective conflict management is all about synergy. Different values, opinions, and perspectives, when viewed as opportunity instead of a problem, allow families and organizations to build on their joint strengths and minimize the individual weaknesses…

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

… Sharpening the saw is the act of self-renewal, learning, and personal growth. In dialogue terms, sharpening the saw means practicing your habits in low-stakes situations so that they’re more accessible to you when you need them most. It means learning how to manage yourself well in difficult moments… When you stretch yourself and practice when the stakes are low, you help your mind respond better in those trying moments.

Do we really value all people? 

My sense is how we converse will give some indication.



Note: Please see Dr. Lenski’s full comments at https://tammylenski.com/7-habits-of-highly-effective-conflict-resolution/ . Many thanks to you, Dr. Lenski, for your wisdom and insight!

my generation believes… (part 2)

Reading “The Generational Imperative,” many moments, I stood still… lots to ponder…

“What is this ‘Generations’ Thing?…

The good news about this stuff? It’s really easy to get.

The premise of generational dynamics is simple. It is based upon three well-researched, universally accepted, and easy-to-understand truths:

Truth #1: Between the time we’re born and the time we leave the full-time classroom for adulthood and our career years, usually in our early twenties, we will form most of the core values and beliefs we’ll embrace our entire lives… by sharing the same core values, we will become a generation, or what the intellectuals like to call an ‘age cohort’… 

Truth #2: In the past century, life in America has changed frequently, and often in sharply new directions… for the first time in history, American life expectancy now permits five living generations, each of whose formative years were notably different from the other generations and whose core values, as a result, are also very different.

Truth #3: Our generational core values and attitudes are going to exert astonishing influence over our consumer decisions, career choices, and lifestyle preferences for life. So if marketers want to influence those decisions, and if employers want to maximize their human resources in the workplace, and if Americans want to understand themselves and their families and their fellow Americans, then they must understand each generation’s unique core values.”

Some initial, immediate, key takeaways…

Each generation is unique.

Their core values are unique.

What happened to each generation in their formative years is also unique; it shaped what they believe and how they behave.

Note — and an important one at that — no generation is better nor worse than another; instead, it is unique. Hence, if we are going to be engagers of respectful dialogue, we must learn to communicate with, listen and learn from the unique. 

So let’s highlight that uniqueness…

First, those Silents (born between 1927-1945)… “as consumers, they are richer, freer spending, less brand loyal, and more receptive to advertising and new products than the generations that previously occupied their current age bracket.” As employees, “many Silents are working beyond the traditional recruitment age, at least part-time…”

Next, those Boomers (born between 1946-1964)… “First-Wave Boomer kids (1946-1954) are raised by stay-at-home mothers who consider themselves democratic and tolerant. Their fathers become the rock-solid provider figures in their lives… and… after spending their early childhood in the carefree and innocent Happy Days of the 50’s, that cocktail — that recipe of idealism and a strong sense of right and wrong — goes a long way in explaining one the most tumultuous periods, but also one of the most socially enlightening periods, in our nation’s history…”

“Generation X. It is not a derogatory label… The premise is this: This generation is so individualistic in its thinking and so diverse in its ethnicities and lifestyles that it tends to resist any single label, and it resents attempts by marketers and advertisers to pigeonhole it… GenXers also experience the most psychologically difficult childhood in American history, as one adult institution after another fails to deliver on its promises to them”…

And the Millennials (again, don’t call them “Gen Z”!) — noting that we don’t have enough distinct, decision-making info on the upcoming Gen Y yet — the Millennials are a “dramatic departure from the core values and attitudes of Gen X, because Millennials are experiencing dramatically different formative years. Where Gen X children had been the least adult-supervised generation, Millennials are the most adult-supervised”…

I will say what I said on Sunday: “Generational differences are not about right vs. wrong or better vs. worse. Once more, it’s about learning how to respect and communicate with those who are different than we.” Friends, we need to learn to communicate with those who are different than we. Generations mark a significant difference.

Will you join in the conversation? Will you be intentional in listening and learning from those who are different than we?



my generation believes… (part 1)

From this week’s reading…

“At ‘Cooker Bar & Grille’ in Columbus, Ohio, one evening in the mid-1980’s, ten of us filled a big long booth for dinner. We had all become new acquaintances at a recent party thrown by a bunch of unattached, high-achieving career women who worked obsessively at the corporate headquarters of ‘The Limited.’ For a decade, these workaholic ladies had seldom taken time to socialize but finally declared enough! They threw a Wednesday evening poolside party at a condo complex, telling each other to invite any guy friends they knew on the theory that ‘one woman’s trash might be another woman’s treasure.’ A buddy of mine overheard their party-planning discussion at a T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant and phoned me on their behalf to invite me, adding, ‘They’ll probably even welcome a guy like you.’ Hmmm. I went to the party and promptly befriended a gaggle of dynamic women, as well as a couple of the guys who had come.

Soon after the party came that night at ‘Cooker’ with the ten of us. The restaurant booth seemed too long for a group conversation, so we splintered into mini-chats. I found myself sitting across the booth from one of the guys who had attended the party, a local architect who is about fifteen years my senior. I don’t even remember what we were discussing, but at one point I said to him, ‘You know, Pat, I’ll bet you and I feel differently about this topic because you and I came of age during different times.

As he and I explored that thought, the other talk around the booth gradually came to a halt, as the other members of the group first listened and then wanted to weigh in on our discussion. When they did, the conversation ignited.

What followed were several hours of explosive and riveting discussion, all of it coming from a point of view none of us had ever considered and knew a thing about.

MY generation! YOUR generation! 

My generation believes THIS!  Well, mine believes THAT! 

Well, I think your generation is wrong! Well, I think we’re right!

At the end of the evening, I left the restaurant scratching my head and asking myself, ‘What the heck just happened in there?’”

Friends, it is no secret that the Intramuralist deeply desires to promote and encourage interactive, respectful dialogue. We wish to be a humble part of the solution, encouraging the consideration of those points of view we don’t know a thing about.

That said, I find myself pondering the plethora of communication obstacles that impede respectful dialogue… surely it’s more than Democrats vs. Republicans… Jews vs. anti-Semites… chickens vs. chicken-eaters on Capitol Hill… more than just those perceived cultural pittings which garner the most (and often, too-much) attention.

This past week I finished a great book recommended by a wise friend which offered increased insight in that area: “The Generational Imperative” by Chuck Underwood. Truthfully, it’s an area I have never pondered quite so thoughtfully.

Underwood is an author, speaker, teacher, trainer, and former ESPN college play-by-play announcer. He is also considered an eminent authority in generational study. Sharing nuggets such as… 

The Silent Generation — those born between 1927-1945 — is described as “the generation born too late to be World War II heroes and too soon to immerse themselves in the social activism of the 1960s.”

The Boomers — born between 1946-1964 — they are the generation that, as Silent Frank Kaiser wrote, “squeezes life for all generations.” They like to think that they are always still young.

Gen Xers — born between 1965-1981 — is a smaller generation, very individualistic, and the first generation that grew up with a distrust of previously trusted, societal institutions.

And the Millenials — born between 1982 and into the mid 2000s — (don’t call them “Gen Y”) — is massive. They are also the most adult-supervised generation, pretty pessimistic about the country’s direction, and feel tons of educational/grade pressure. 

[Info on Gen Z is still being formulated.]

Friends, these are mere snippets of info, but the reality is that there is significant variance between generations in regard to what they value, how they work, and how they communicate, and thus, how best to communicate with them. Generational differences are not about right vs. wrong or better vs. worse. Once more, it’s about learning how to respect and communicate with those who are different than we.

Stay tuned for part 2 on Wednesday.



the most complex thing in the universe

It’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere — the sixth tallest in the world… 

I remember seeing One World Trade Center — also known as the Freedom Tower — four months after it opened in November of 2014. So much about its construction and characteristics were so incredibly, intentionally designed [as described by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum,  “Reader’s Digest” and “Just Fun Facts”]:

It has the same name as the North Tower of the original World Trade Center.

The cornerstone was laid on the fourth of July.

The building has a cubic base and its edges form eight isosceles triangles. Near its middle, the tower forms a perfect octagon. 

It stands 1776 feet tall — same as the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.

It occupies a 200-foot square, with an area of 40,000 square feet, nearly identical to the Twin Towers.

It contains 49,000 cubic yards of concrete, enough to pave more than 200 miles of NYC sidewalks. [Note: 200 miles approximates to 4,000 New York City blocks.]

The structure and interior is built from recycled materials, including gypsum boards and ceiling tiles; around 80% of the tower’s waste products are recycled.

It has 103 floors, 71 of which are office space.

There are 71 elevators — with five express elevators having a top speed of more than 23 miles per hour. That means that an elevator can go from the ground floor to the 102nd floor in just 60 seconds!

The observation deck begins at 1,362 feet, and a glass parapet extends to 1,368 feet — the exact height of the South and North Towers.

Adjacent to the building, are two large square pools — each with a waterfall — standing in the exact spots of the twin towers; every one of the victims’ names of 9/11 is inscribed on the sides of the pools.

It took four years to plan and over seven years to actually build. When I think of all the intentionality invested in that design, I stand in awe. It’s impossible not to acknowledge the creativity of those who created it.

And yet… if we’re honest… the Freedom Tower and its constructional peers are not the most intricate nor elaborate creations on the planet. 

Everything has a creator, friends. As a wise friend demonstrated for me recently, you can’t take a box of Legos, shake them together for a while, and have some marvelous creation come out. There is an inherent intentionality that exists.

So why do we believe that the most complex thing in the universe happened by chance?

The most complex thing in the universe is you and me.

I realize that sometimes we have trouble seeing God, his presence, and role. Sometimes we confuse man-made religion with following him. Sometimes people get in the way. Sometimes it’s an emotion or a circumstance that gets in the way for us. Sometimes it’s science — although I love what brilliant, widely-respected NASA scientist Dr. Robert Jastrow once said, “Science doesn’t disprove God; it simply explains how God did what he did”… it explains how he created the most complex thing in the universe.

Friends, let me be sensitive to the struggles each of us have had in our unbelief; no doubt this is a journey. But if we can stand in awe of the creators of a symbolic, beautiful building, let self and individual struggle not keep us from an acknowledgement of the only one actually capable of designing you and me.

Let me say once more, it is a journey. There’s a ton of growth and grace in that journey… intentionality, too.

Respectfully… always…


walking in a woke world

“God bless America, land that I love…”

For decades Kate Smith’s version of Irving Berlin’s beloved classic has proudly played in stadiums and arenas across the country.  But no more.

Even though the New York Yankees have played the song during the seventh inning stretch since 9/11 — and hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers have played the song since 1969 — believing their on-ice-success increased with the musical blessing — both professional sports teams discontinued the practice last week.


After an anonymous tip from a sports fan, the Yankees and Flyers each announced they were stopping Smith’s rendition because of racist lyrics in a few of her other songs, specifically in her 1931 hit, “That’s Why Darkies Are Born.”

The tune originated from a Broadway revue and included the following lyrics:

“Someone had to pick the cotton

Someone had to pick the corn

Someone had to slave and be able to sing

That’s why darkies were born…”

Some have suggested that the song was meant to be a satire of white supremacy, especially since it was also recorded at the time by Paul Robeson, the actor/singer and famous civil-rights activist, as he was black; my limited sense this far away and this many decades later is that such is hard to discern with certainty.

The reality is that the above words are wrong and inappropriate now. We walk in a “woke” world — one which is more alert to societal injustice.

But eight decades ago, we weren’t so “woke.” Hence, how is best for us to handle now?

Is it accurate to conclude Smith was a racist?

Note that Smith raised over $600 million for World War II, and before she passed away, Pres. Reagan awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. As shared by Reagan: 

“The voice of Kate Smith is known and loved by millions of Americans, young and old. In war and peace, it has been an inspiration. Those simple but deeply moving words, ‘God bless America,’ have taken on added meaning for all of us because of the way Kate Smith sang them. Thanks to her they have become a cherished part of all our lives, an undying reminder of the beauty, the courage and the heart of this great land of ours. In giving us a magnificent, selfless talent like Kate Smith, God has truly blessed America.”

But still, does singing those lyrics make her a racist? And if she was a racist, should any acknowledgement of her now be allowed? Should we be giving her any credit or attention?

Please know I do not pen this post thinking I have it figured out nor know the exact right thing to do. I believe in deep respect for all ethnic heritage and wish intentional offense to no one.

Yet I still sit here somewhat puzzled…

Society is different now. What people know now is not what people knew then. What people accept now is not what they accepted decades ago. It’s different. Should history thus be erased? Should we remove any, even reference to another if it contradicts our current values?

I only ask the questions, friends. 

But I do have more…

In a “woke” world, is there forgiveness for previous unawareness?

“From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam,” can we forgive behaviors and beliefs which clash with today’s standards? Should we?

Again, I only ask the questions.



a little more specific… across the globe…

Last Sunday, while billions gathered around the globe to celebrate Easter and Passover, a significant people group was unable to gather… unable to praise in any pew, sing any song, nor break any sacred bread together.

Multiple, coordinated bombs exploded in Sri Lanka Sunday morning, killing more than 300, injuring near 500 more.

Let us be more specific…

Three churches and four hotels were targeted; two of the hotels were 5-star hotels offering an Easter-themed breakfast.

The United Nations is reporting that at least 45 children were killed.

At 8:45 a.m. the first bombs went off at St. Anthony’s Shrine, a large Catholic church, and St. Sebastian’s Church. 

20 minutes later, after some of the hotel explosions, the Zion Evangelical Church in Batticaloa was attacked.

The blasts were each during — or when gathering — for their Easter service.

Let us be more specific still…

These people were targeted because of what they believe.

Please read that sentence again…

These people were targeted because of what they believe.

Australian attender Sudesh Kolonne walked out of St. Sebastian only moments before the blast. He turned around, horrifically finding his 10-year-old daughter Alexendria dead on the floor. Her mother was also killed… “I don’t know what to do… we never expected this”… the shock amidst the horror, no doubt.

Friends, this is awful. Truly, no one blog post says anywhere close to enough — the shock, again, amidst the horror… the absolute horror of terrorism. There is no place for such evil on Earth. And nothing compares to that.

But I do have an underlying concern.

Remember once more that nothing compares to the violence used that espouses the extremist ideologies of foreign terrorist organizations, nations, or of a radical political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.

Where I get concerned, no less, is with the increasing extent of people and people groups who conclude that the conviction of another is not allowed to even exist. My concern rises more when I watch the reverence for Christianity and Judaism dissipate in current culture.

Friends, I have never been one promoting the “war on Christianity” rhetoric. If you are a long time Intramuralist reader, you will know that we advocate for “war” to only describe war, the state of armed conflict. “War” is, therefore, a word believed to be too often, grossly misused.

But I do wonder is if there are people who are becoming increasingly intolerant of the mere existence of Christianity and/or Judaism. Take note of recent observations:

  • 3 black churches burning in one Louisiana parish
  • Increased anti-Semitic statements coming from elected U.S. leadership
  • And the Christian churches targeted on Easter morning

Nothing — again, nothing — compares to terrorism. But I do question whether society is sliding down some dangerous, slippery slope, especially if and when any of us conclude that the conviction of another must be silenced or cease to exist.

To me, that’s a pretty scary reality… long after Easter morning has gone.



experiencing the wonder

So many days something gets in the way…

… a like experience gets in the way of allowing another’s outcome to be different…

… a like emotion gets in the way of our perception being objective…

… independence gets in the way of relying on who may be wiser…

… and intelligence gets in the way of accepting what may seem less logical at times.

Experience, emotion, independence, and intelligence — all great things. But all things, if we’re honest, that we have to admit can sometimes get in the way.

Today is Easter Sunday, a day celebrated by multiple billions across all continents, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Said Charles Colson, the one-time Special Counsel to Pres. Richard Nixon — known as Nixon’s “hatchet man”— who later made a radical life change, recognizing the reality of Jesus:

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world — and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

Yet the reality remains that sometimes something gets in the way. Sometimes we can’t see the “absolutely impossible.” 

Maybe it’s an experience or emotion.

Maybe it’s our independence or intelligence.

Maybe it’s we’ve had conversations with other Christians, but there was such judgment in their listening.

Maybe they forced a conclusion they had pre-determined. 

Maybe they didn’t allow me to draw my own conclusions.

Maybe the church hurt me.

Maybe it just doesn’t seem to meaningfully relate to culture any more.

Understandably, all of the above can get in our way.

Leading up to Easter is Good Friday, the day two days prior, acknowledging the death of Jesus. Without Easter Sunday, to be clear, Good Friday isn’t “good.” In current culture, we know it to be true, because “Sunday is coming,” says the familiar refrain. But 2,000 years ago, society didn’t have that same awareness; the believers thought it was done. Over. And the crazy, amazing hope they had and confidence for the future was pierced by a pain they never imagined. It was truly a time of lament, a time of unparalleled sorrow.

If I’m honest, that’s an emotion I can skip over pretty fast… Ok, I get it. Check. Jesus comes back on Sunday. In other words, I can be somewhat numb to the reality of what happened.

Two days ago, no less, my family attended a Good Friday gathering. It was a time intentionally focused on that lament, saving the celebration for today. It was me, my spouse, and our son, Joshua.

I have spoken about Josh many times here. Why? Because through my 17 year son with Down syndrome, God teaches me more than I could have ever learned elsewhere. Truly, it is nothing short of profound. With him — far more often than with me — all that independence and intelligence doesn’t get in the way.

When we got in the car following the gathering, Josh started to sob.

He got it.

He was wrestling with his own walk and wonder…

Am I experiencing the wonder of a life with Christ?

Is my life marked by his nearness, voice, and presence?

Is something else getting in the way?

Once again, God teaches me through Josh. And that’s my prayer… that we wrestle with the walk and wonder… as each of us, always, has more places to learn and grow.

Happy Easter, friends.