election observations. finally.

Now that we’ve had some time to take a breath and reflect upon the month of November — arguably the climax of this thing we keep calling “2020” — come. Let’s reason together as to what we learned as a nation…

First… Near 150 million persons exercised their right to vote. How encouraging that so many persons cared about the election! The numbers are fascinating… former Vice Pres. Joe Biden won a record low 17% of the nation’s counties but still received more votes than any presidential candidate in history. Pres. Donald Trump significantly increased his share of votes from black and brown communities and received more votes than any incumbent in history, albeit still in an assumed losing effort. 

Second… Love him or hate him or somewhere in the very vast, murky middle, Pres. Trump is a polarizing figure. “Polarizing” equates to two sharply contrasting sides, sides which can be understandably passionate. No doubt sometimes that passion on each side has evolved into a license for dishonor. Dishonor is never virtuous nor attractive.

Next… I struggle with charges of an election not being free and fair. As always, feel free to disagree. But from where I sit (which determines where I stand), it’s 100% clear that my perspective is limited; in fact, I am actually incapable of having a perfected viewpoint. I am also certain, with all due respect, that no 9 p.m. cable opinion host will help me get there.

Were mistakes made? Probably. Were there irregularities? Certainly. Is that enough to overturn the results? Highly doubtful. And one more thing… I’ve noticed in recent years that our individual belief in regard to whether an election was free and fair typically depends on who won.

Next… The pre-election polling was wrong. Now I am no pollster or political scholar. I am merely a current events observer and only a semi-humble one at that. But the closeness of this election was no surprise, as it had become clear in recent years that if a Trump fan shared their adoration publicly, they were subject to shame. Such a backdrop provides minimal motive to be transparent with the inquiry of even a pollster.

Next… While this election seems a repudiation of Pres. Trump, it also seems not an embracement of Democrats. Most presidential victors prompt down ballot support, meaning accompanying their win is the simultaneous victory from persons of the same party in races of lesser prominence. But that didn’t happen this year. Democrats surprisingly lost multiple seats in the House, split the Senate, and no state legislative body changed parties. Opined Nichole Remmert, campaign manager for Emily Skopov, a Democratic hopeful from the Pittsburgh suburbs who lost, “There’s a significant difference between a referendum on a clown show, which is what we had at the top of the ticket, and embracing the values of the Democratic ticket. People bought into Joe Biden to stop the insanity in the White House. They did not suddenly become Democrats.” In other words, while this election was a rebuke of Pres. Trump, it was not a rebuke of Republicans nor evidence of a country wishing to become more politically progressive.

A few added thoughts… This election shed light on the “unholy alliance” — an aspect, in fact, we may soon discuss more in another post, as I’ve toyed with it often. There were radical groups and thinkers who aligned with one party or the other, of whom partisans seemed at least semi-silent because they liked the way they vote. These groups did not speak for either entire party… like anarchists, Marxists, neo-Nazis, socialists, racists, etc… like those who demand to “defund the police” or those who crave endless more years of a President Trump. Friends, tough but sincere question… how is each of our semi-silence supporting the radical? Remember: the middle is vast. The middle is murky. But those in the middle would be wise to quit fueling the fringe.

A word on unity… Two weeks ago we posted a piece entitled “How Do We Heal.” It was a conversation about moving forward, wisely and well together. I would have written that post no matter who won the election. But one observation from the election of 2020 is that many have much riding on who wins. Friends, let me not invalidate your thought. But I will say this… where my peace comes from, where my hope comes from, and how I treat my brother and sister has zero to do with who’s in the White House. I believe we were made for more.

I also think it’s key we remember that however one voted, assuming they voted for one or the other presidential candidate, 70-some million people voted differently. That’s not cause to be puffed up. That’s not validation to go out and now demand the other think like us. That’s more a call to strive harder to understand those 70-some.

Hence, lastly… Just like every year, we took time to pause and give thanks at the end of the month. There’s something sweet about that — something humbling, something that takes the focus off of self, and something that seeks out the greater good. This year, in this thing we keep calling “2020,” may Thanksgiving not be that only day of the year. Let us give thanks, as we continue to learn how to do life well together.

Respectfully…

AR

“grateful”

Several years ago, the New York Times published a rather creative vocabulary quiz — 25 questions, multiple choice, all about word usage and pronunciation. 

Among the questions:

“How do you pronounce the second syllable of pajamas?”

“Do you pronounce cot and caught the same?”

“What do you call the rubber-soled shoes worn in gym class or for athletic activities?”

Based on one’s answers to those 25 Q’s, the quiz projects the probability of where one is from, as different words and dialects are used in different parts of the country.

While certainly not indicative of any one geographical location, when we moved from Cincinnati to Orlando 3½ years ago, there was one word and phrase I found for some reason, far more used in the South…

Grateful…

I am grateful for you.

I found myself soon doing life with a group of wise people who consistently take time out to utter those exact words.

As we contemplate Thanksgiving this week — a day in which our country expresses gratitude for divine provision and protection — my simple desire is to focus on what being grateful actually entails. 

To be grateful means we are thankful. We are aware of our blessing and appreciate what another has done. It’s an affirmation of goodness.

In fact, one of the most beautiful, profound aspects of this virtue is when we are grateful, we can’t be something else… as it’s really hard to be grateful and bitter or bad-tempered or insolent or insulting or hostile or hateful or stingy or selfish or divisive or denigrating at the same time.

But the key with gratitude is that it’s only realized if it’s expressed.

As the influential Andy Stanley poignantly shares, “Unexpressed gratitude is experienced as ingratitude.”

The person on the receiving end of us can’t see our gratitude unless we say it, friends. 

In other words, if we don’t convey our gratitude, if we don’t actually speak it — or if for some reason we even intentionally withhold it, believing another is undeserving, unworthy or un-something — we are communicating ingratitude instead.

And ingratitude is hurtful, unattractive, and has never been confused with being any sort of virtue.

So as we pause during the pandemic for this special, national holiday — noting our feasts and family gatherings have been altered in this thing we keep calling “2020” — the reality is that not even 2020 has the ability to extinguish our gratitude. Gratitude is always an option. Hence…

Who are you grateful for?

Who have you yet to tell?

To whom do you owe a verbal affirmation?

This Thanksgiving, I pray we are each more humbly self aware. Let’s turn up gratitude. Let’s be ridiculously grateful…

… no matter where we are from… no matter the different words and dialects used…

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I am grateful for you!

Joyfully…

AR

(P.S. The second syllable of pajamas rhymes with “jam,” cot and caught are not pronounced the same, and my rubber-soled shoes that I joyfully wear daily are indeed called “tennis shoes.” 🙂 )

sometimes I’m the one

Sometimes I’m the one who says the wrong thing.

Sometimes I’m the one who has refused to give generous grace.

Sometimes I’m the one who has ranted and raved.

Sometimes I’m the one who has ignored the political hypocrisy because I like how that person votes.

Sometimes I’m the one who has acted as if it was ok to shout the dissenter down.

Sometimes I’m the one who has muted or snoozed the other.

Sometimes I’m the one who has acted like I know all the facts and the other clearly does not.

Sometimes I’m the one who has hung up.

Sometimes I’m the one who has justified insult.

Sometimes I’m the one who has watched only CNN, FOX News, or MSNBC and believed myself to have a comprehensive, accurate perspective.

Sometimes I’m the one who has allowed my friends to chastise my other friends on social media.

Sometimes I’m the one who has looked down on another.

Sometimes I’m the one who has responded with a “gotcha/mic drop” retort, thereby essentially refusing to converse wisely.

Sometimes I’m the one who has made excuses for the unscrupulous extremes who have attached themselves to my preferred party.

Sometimes I’m the one who has been unknowingly fooled by the opinion disguised as news.

Sometimes I’m the one who has determined the other isn’t worth listening to.

Sometimes I’m the one who has forgotten that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Sometimes I’m the one who has been pompous and rude. 

Sometimes I’m the one who has rejected giving extended, ongoing thought to the other side.

Sometimes I’m the one who thinks another has way more to learn than me.

And thus…

Sometimes I’m also the one in need of forgiveness.

Sometimes I’m also the one who needs to say I’m sorry.

Sometimes I’m also the one who needs to recognize that loving my neighbor, brother, sister, etc. doesn’t allow for me to be selective.

Sometimes I’m also the one who needs to recognize that respectful dialogue doesn’t depend on the subject.

And sometimes — no, always — I’m also the one who has more to learn…

No doubt each of us are one.

Respectfully…

AR

my identity/your incapability… really?

Allow me to begin with a deeply personal, but profoundly relevant account…

19 years ago I gave birth to one of the most amazing human beings ever. To be clear, every human is amazing — each divinely wired in their own wonderful way. But part of what makes one very talented, young master Joshua amazing is because of what God taught me… what I learned was nothing short of amazing.

When giving birth to a child with a disability — and let me not speak for all parents, but for me — it was a bit of a reality sucker punch. Maybe some handle it better than I. I never planned to be the parent of a child with special needs, and I certainly didn’t pray for it. Something totally unwanted and unexpected, however, became my instant, jarring reality; there was nothing I could do. The situation was totally out of my control. And let’s face it; most of us don’t do very well when the facade that we could actually somehow be in control is completely burst. What in the world was I to do now?

I needed help.

I needed help and encouragement and certainly wise counsel.

I needed people to walk alongside me, encourage God’s best, help my family somehow navigate through this newly unplanned life in a positive way. I still somehow had to raise this kid — not to mention the two who went before him. I needed to be at least a semi-healthy, functioning adult. Hence, I needed wisdom. I needed community. I needed far more than me.

Since only, approximately 1 in every 700 babies in the U.S is born with Down syndrome — which equates to about 6,000 infants annually — suffice it to say that not many in my inner circle shared my specific circumstance.

Undoubtedly, there is something beautifully relational embedded within shared circumstance… for example…

… I can always immediately connect with boy moms… there exist jokes, dirty socks, and creative other foul-smelling aromas in our houses where minimal context is necessary in order for the other to understand…

… It’s always a joy to meet up with another Purdue grad… we are annually eager for March Madness, can relate to any dreary cold thanks to those windy winter days in West Lafayette, and we ached, too, when Drew Brees broke multiple ribs last weekend… we feel so much of the same…

… And I currently have a whole new heart for those who have moved away from home… there’s this “thing” we just know about each other, how you love to go back because you love the people you left, but sometimes it’s hard because you know you will disappoint them with less time available… fellow movers immediately get me

No doubt shared circumstance is a gift. It provides context, similar emotion, and often, perceived close-to-immediate understanding. We thus don’t have to take the time to share any context, tap into varied emotion, or work to “get” another. Makes total sense.

However, I think the challenge in current day culture and why I believe this account to be profoundly relevant, is because we have been lured into believing not just that it takes more time if another does not share our specific circumstances. Rather, we have fallen prey to the fallacy that unless we share those circumstances, the other person is incapable of understanding us. That’s the fragility of finding our worth and forming our life philosophies based on the social groups we belong to. 

I do not dismiss that it can be hard. I also grant great grace and space, recognizing the valid, deep sensitivity necessary in various circumstances… what it’s like to be a single parent… what it’s like to lose a child… what’s it like to have been oppressed because of the color of my skin… or what it’s like to not know where my next meal is coming from.

But I refuse to believe that we are incapable of understanding. I refuse to dismiss that deep empathy can be built… if we are humble enough… patient enough… to invest that time and attention… to sincerely engage with those who are different… to quit drawing lines in the sand because the work is more and the effort is harder.

Friends, my sincere belief is we are too dismissive of too many people.

With the estimate that only approximately 220,000 living persons in this country have Down syndrome — meaning an infinitesimal 0.06% of the country — if young master Josh grows up believing only persons who share his specific circumstance are capable of relating to him, I’m not sure we will have raised a semi-healthy, functioning adult. He will need wisdom. He will need community. He will need such from far more than me.

Respectfully…

AR

how do we heal?

Seriously. After all that — in the middle of an ongoing, uncertain pandemic — how do we heal?

This is not solely some sweet-sounding, gentle Intramuralist encouragement. It’s also not written simply because Nov. 3rd has passed. With Joe Biden looking to have secured the Presidency, Democrats losing significant seats in the House, and the Senate to be fairly evenly split, there is no party mandate; there is only a divided people living together in a nation in need of healing.

Note the recent, combined words of Biden, Bush, and Obama…

“Let’s give each other a chance… We must come together… Reach out beyond our comfort zone… listen to others… lower the temperature and find some common ground from which to move forward, all of us remembering that we are one nation, under God…”

Hence, we ask again: how do we heal? … even in continued uncertainty?

Allow me to respectfully submit it’s by becoming authentic conduits of humility.

(Note that I didn’t say it’s by (a) fighting harder, (b) convincing myself I see all rightly, (c) convincing myself there is nothing good in another person or party, nor (d) all of the above. Just want to be clear.)

So to become an authentic conduit of humility — first some definitions, albeit in reverse order:

humility | (h)yo͞oˈmilədē |  n. – a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.

Humility means we keep life in perspective. Better yet, we keep self in perspective. That means we never fall prey to an inflated sense of self — adopting the lie that we’ve got life, politics, or whatever all figured out and only another has something significant to learn. It means we don’t look down on other people… especially on the 75 million people who voted differently than we.

“What do I not understand? What can the person who thinks differently teach me?” … Humility means we care enough to assertively pursue those questions. And sit still with, soberly pondering the answers.

conduit | ˈkänˌd(y)o͞oət |  n. – a person or organization that acts as a channel for the transmission of something.

A conduit means something flows through us. To be clear, something is always flowing through us; we are active participants in this coming together or not. Will we come together for good? Give others a chance? Reach out to those who experience the world differently daily?

Know that everyone has opportunity to be a vessel through which virtue flows. Unfortunately, no less, many will choose to use their role to encourage vengeance, antipathy, or increased cancel culture. Let us be people through which all blessings flow. To be clear once more, vengeance, antipathy and cancel culture are never confused with any sort of blessing.

authentic | ôˈTHen(t)ik |  adj. – of undisputed origin; genuine.

What a wonderful word is “authenticity”! That means we are who we say we are and we do what we say we do. Our integrity is not in question.

Does “authentic” mean we are perfect? Of course not. Until one of us walks on water this side of eternity, I’d say we each contribute our fair share of error, encouraging disrespect and dishonor of someone. But our authenticity shows we are genuine in our efforts. We are committed to heal.

Humility heals.

What’s the opposite of to heal?

To worsen. Split open. Divide.

What’s the opposite of humility?

Pride.

“Pride divides, but humility heals.”

So how do we heal and not further divide?

By becoming authentic conduits of humility.

Let us each not allow any person, party, or someone who wants our money or our vote lure us imprudently otherwise.

Respectfully…

AR

the assumptions I’ve made

In our most recent post, I found it incredibly hopeful reading through the wise words shared by so many of you. Today I’d like to elaborate on a single one.

In response to “how can you/me be part of the solution,” one person wrote:

“Deconstruct some of your assumptions about how we are different.”

No doubt all of us have been on the receiving end of another’s assumptions. We’ve been assumed to be all sorts of things… to have some outlandish ideas… to be a little crazy… to have succumbed to all the lies… to vote a certain way… to lean drastically one way or another. The root issue is that we make assumptions about another we deeply believe to be true…

When they are not.

Here’s the thing. However we voted, at least approximately 75 million people voted differently than each of us. Picture that for a moment. 75,000,000. What flawed logic it would be for me to exert or even entertain an assumption that I could make about everyone who voted differently than me. Or even the same. Assumptions simply do not make sense.

Wrote career marketer and strategic consultant, Sarah Blick, a few years ago on her namesake’s blog:

“Why assumptions start…

It’s easy to make assumptions. All you need is incomplete information about a situation. And an unwillingness to ask the questions you need to complete the information. In the absence of complete information, you have to fill in the blanks yourself.

You fill in the blanks with YOUR interpretation of what you see or hear. Your interpretation comes from past experiences that seem similar. It comes from your past experiences, and also from those you’ve heard about from others.

Armed with your information, you connect dots that aren’t there. You can’t help doing this because you’re missing relevant information. In trying to make sense of the situation, you make connections between today and the past. Connections that don’t really exist. You jump to conclusions that are wrong.”

Let’s repeat what we hear…

It’s easy to make assumptions.

Our information is incomplete.

My own unwillingness is in play.

My assumption is based on my interpretation from my experience and what I hear.

I connect dots that aren’t there.

I then make connections and conclusions that are wrong.

Continues Blick: “Assumptions are ALWAYS wrong. I have a perfect record with the assumptions I’ve made. 100% of them have been wrong. And it’s hard to believe that I’m unique in this.”

Hence, let’s insert a hard question here: who have I made assumptions about?

… that I know? … and that I don’t? And have I made any about those millions?

Blick urges we “avoid making assumptions like the plague,” believing it’s toxic, divisive behavior — lazy, too — with all due respect — as it’s less effort, less work on our part.

A prudent encouragement is therefore to instead ask questions. Ask questions instead of making assumptions. Ask them instead of discounting another. Ask them instead of even writing another off (… recognizing we’ve utilized incomplete info to do so). Sit longer with the unknown, the inconvenient, and yes, the uncomfortable. Ask questions about what you don’t understand. Adds Blick, “I’ve grown a lot from all the information I’ve gathered through asking questions… I’ve deepened my compassion for others by understanding the fears that lay behind their assumptions. I’m more positive. I’m more fun to be around.”

Time to commit to deconstructing our assumptions. They are not true — no matter how fervently we’ve convinced ourselves otherwise.

Once, in fact, several years ago, a group of curious teens assumed I was a very successful Olympic badminton player. I kid you not…

(Dare I say, that one, I shrewdly allowed to stand.)

Respectfully…

AR 

where’s my hope?

Two days ago I asked a sincere, simple question on social media: “how can you/me be part of the solution?”

Aware of the current moment of cultural tension and uncertainty — which expands way beyond the electoral wrangling — here is a snippet of what others had to say…

Pray. Humbly consider that we may not have all the answers and may not always be right. Look for common ground. Join together to do good. Remember we are all Americans. Engage in constructive dialogue. Don’t attack others with differing opinions. Listen with humility. Be willing to engage in/even initiate uncomfortable conversations. Step into places where you are not the majority. Learn rather than judge or correct. Accept responsibility when wrong. Forgive. Forgive again. Be open to other people’s solutions over insistence of your own. Be ready to change. Communicate. Share Jesus. Love. Have patience with everyone. Resist the lure to adopt solely a Democrat or Republican way of thinking. Be an independent thinker. Recognize the value of people. Look for all the ways we are the same. Make the effort to really listen and learn. Extend grace. Be kind. Do something different. Quit waiting for the other to meet you in the middle first. Commit to asking a lot of questions. Learn another’s story. Deconstruct some of your assumptions about how we are different. Stop dehumanizing the other party, candidate, and voters for the momentary pleasure of a funny meme or release of rage. Summon the courage to open the door of politics around the Thanksgiving table. Don’t allow healthy skepticism to slip into a paranoia that assumes the worst in everyone else. Recognize your perspective can be narrow. Know you have blind spots. Stop justifying social media bullying. Kindly interact. Provide for each other. Smile. Pray for individuals and country officials. Know God. Just love. Be willing to question yourself and assume someone with an opposing position also has a legitimate reason. Remember another’s journey is different from yours; your journey is not more right. Hear others. Care to understand. Know that God is in control, but He doesn’t promise things are going to be roses and sunshine. Have gratitude. Take off your stubborn and self-centered fear guard and see the good that comes from all situations. Fight for what you believe in. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Stop believing everything the media tells us is true. Start seeing that we have more in common than we don’t. Practice compassion. Let go of what we cannot control. Empower, uplift, and encourage each other. Recognize the opportunity before us now. Pray for the President-Elect. Relish reasonable, nonpartisan governance. Recognize that our ideological diversity can be a strength. Stick to our calling. Spread the good news of the gospel. Ask questions of each other to ponder rather than give answers and assert advice. Give smiles, grace, and continue to take care of our families and friends — no matter their politics. Listen more and judge less. Realize that the media (on both sides) is propaganda. Pray for God’s will, repentance, a turning to Him, healing, and reconciliation in our nation. Become active in your community and state. Hold those that are in power accountable, even if they are “your people.” Be intentional in creating and developing relationships. Seek out others that might not be likeminded. Come together as “We the People” and get the politicians out of the way, recognizing they often stir the pot, instill fear and cause division. Love like Jesus; look at others through His Heart. Ask questions. Practice unconditional love in order to create common ground. Recognize that healing will take every single one of us; it will take me. Stop the finger pointing. Do unto others. Lead by example. Show the world your integrity. Remember Joe Biden’s words: “We may be opponents but we are NOT enemies.” Recognize the difference between an opponent and an enemy. Never forget that God created the other person, too.

That’s a lot. I know. But it’s enough.

My hope doesn’t come from a person, party, president or any election result. And allow me to suggest that if it did, it would be a hope that is fleeting. All of the above have changed and will change again.

Hence, what’s not fleeting? What can we put our hope in that won’t be any different 4, 10, 27 years from now? 

I continue to return to my faith, learning to love God and love his people. 

Friends, however you voted, know that at least, approximately 75 million people voted differently than you. Looking down on them and thinking you know best is not loving nor respecting God’s people. Remember in whose image each of us is made.

Where is my hope? 

In not allowing politics to become my religion…

… and in all the wisdom and encouragement found in those above, who wish to do the same.

Respectfully…

AR

now what?

For weeks I’ve averred that I’m not all that concerned about Nov. 3rd. I’ve been more concerned about Nov. 4th.

We knew this day would come. We didn’t know exactly how yesterday would turn out — we still don’t — but earnestly welcoming the wide emotional spectrum amid our collective hearts this day, it’s time for a respectful, blunt, sincere but sobering conversation.

How does a culture — which has chosen to treat each other so poorly — change their insolent activity?

We’ve watched friends shame friends. We’ve seen spouses disparage spouses. We’ve been lured into one of the more destructive impacts of social media by sitting behind our insulating keyboards, feeling now emboldened to say face-to-face to another what we previously knew to be inapt. Insult has become acceptable. Offense has become commonplace. Opinion has become news. And social media has become nothing short of a 21st Century landmine field.

All sorts of dishonoring behavior has been justified… 

All in the name of politics. 

To be clear, politics matter. Politics matter because politics affect people. 

But something matters more…

In a land where the self-evident truth is that all persons are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, we are called to love who our Creator created. 

Such is the same call to love our neighbor well… regardless of who our neighbor actually is. Our “neighbor” is anyone God has allowed in our path. That means the person who lives next to you… sits at the table with you… checks you out at the grocery store… befriends you on social media, etc. Note that the imperative to “love your neighbor well” has nothing to do with how another looks, thinks, or votes. It is also not conditional nor selective, meaning we only have to love some of our neighbors well.

The reason, therefore, the Intramuralist has been more concerned about the 4th than the 3rd is because this season has not been societally healthy. How do we move forward?

Clearly, based on yesterday’s incomplete results, we are an evenly divided, political country — 50/50. Half and half. It is not noble nor plausible to suggest we simply shame or demean the other half for why they think like they do. Yet we have been increasingly lured into thinking that’s ok — into justifying the belief that it’s ok not to love them… that it’s ok to tune them out, disrespect them — that it’s totally acceptable and possibly even necessary to dishonor them, to dishonor those who don’t think like “me.” Friends, we are dishonoring those we do not understand.

Writes author Scott Sauls in his recently released A Gentle Answer: “I’ve grown increasingly perplexed over what feels like a culture of suspicion, mistrust, and us-against them. Whatever the subject may be — politics, sexuality, immigration, income gaps, women’s concerns, race, or any other social concerns over which people have differences — Angst, suspicion, outrage, and outright hate increasingly shape our response to the world around us.”

Us-against them.

Our culture is encouraging dishonor.

Our culture is fueling the fire, encouraging us to individually determine if another is deserving of our attention and esteem. It’s baiting us into believing that the different don’t deserve it. And the minute we decide that another doesn’t deserve to be honored, it says more about us than about them, as we have chosen not to love another well.

I do not dismiss that this is hard. Not at all. I have walked with many who are in some intensely challenging situations. But my encouragement — which is undoubtedly counter-cultural — is to navigate through the hard in order to get to what is better. Our insolent activity is not what’s better. And in my semi-humble opinion, if we do not choose to change the way we respond and interact with one another, life will indeed get worse. If we wish to continue to exist as a country in which God still sheds His grace on thee, crowning thy good with brotherhood, we need to start now to build what yes, is clearly better.

Back to the keen comments of Sauls…

“Building something beautiful together will require participation from all sides. For those who are prone to injure, the call is to repent and to engage in the noble work of renouncing hatred and exercising love.

For those who are vulnerable to becoming injured, the call is to participate in the noble work of resisting bitter and retaliating roots of anger while embracing truth-telling, advocacy, and forgiveness.

For all of us, the universal call is to lay down our swords, listen, learn from our differences, and build something beautiful.”

No doubt such a course change will take humility and gentleness. It will take pause, patience, and intentionality. It means a commitment to what matters most and a resistance to a culture that encourages what’s lesser.

It’s November 4th. Join me. It’s time to begin.

Respectfully…

AR

the cost, platform & a little trick-or-treat

I can’t imagine a more dire time.

So many involved…

So much fighting…

Deaths across the globe…

And even though some say “we won,” the past few years were grueling. Exhausting. Maybe even crippling for our country, earnestly wondering whether it’s even possible to return to civility and serenity.

But we did it.

After over 400,000 American casualties, as the soldiers came home from World War II, we learned how to do life again.

According to the insight of those who lived through the time, families began having babies; jobs were plentiful; the economy was strong; an increased push for equality began; people felt safe, and the nation was collectively hopeful.

Still, there was a residual cost to the tough years prior.

It thus makes me wonder: what will be the current, residual cost?

What have we lost? 

What thing that’s “best” do we need to get back? To seek. And to find.

Fascinatingly, after WWII, one of the “almost costs” was actually trick-or-treating… almost, if not for the help of Disney, a few children’s magazines, and one of the absolute, most influential cartoonists. Ever.

The origin of trick-or-treating is somewhat ambiguous. The Halloween habit came to this country in the late 1920’s; however, in May of 1942, sugar was legally rationed due to the fact that one-third of American sugar imports then came from the Japanese occupied Philippines. As reported by The History Channel, “With deep cuts to sugar allowances (half a pound a week, 50 percent less than pre-war consumption levels), it came as no surprise that children’s Halloween celebrations had to be adjusted.”

The consumer commodity would be rationed for 5 years. “When sugar rationing finally came to an end in June 1947, the commercialization of Halloween took off. Candy companies like Curtiss and Brach wasted no time in launching their Halloween advertising campaigns. But it wasn’t just candy companies that had stock in the reemergence of these festive celebrations. As early as fall 1947, the children’s magazines Jack and Jill and Children’s Activities both featured trick-or-treating in their October issues.”

Still trick-or-treating was an “almost cost” until the talented Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the comic strip Peanuts (and iconic characters Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty and more) used his platform for healthy, appropriate social influence.

In the fall of 1951, Schulz ran three consecutive Halloween-themed strips. Always an encourager what’s best, Schulz’s artistic efforts were considered significant in trick-or-treating becoming an established American tradition just one year later.

Schulz used his time, talents and platform to encourage, unite, and spread joy. Allow me to admirably ascertain, he used his gifts for good.

As this grueling season comes to a close, may we be aware of the residual costs. May we also not be ok with them.

May we recognize that just because something has stopped — or even rationed — it doesn’t have to remain that way. We can do better. We can stop chastising those we don’t understand. We can quit typing words from our keyboards that we would never dare say face-to-face. We can resist making idols out of people or politics. And we can — and should — work to restore civility and serenity. Each of us.

“How?” one asks.

Honestly, sincerely, seriously… how?

By committing to seek what’s best, persevere, and use our gifts for good.

Respectfully…

AR

all good & all bad

One of the classic conundrums that has seemingly long tripped adults up is actually a rather simple question…

How much grace should we give?

Better yet: how much grace should we give in contrast to truth?

It’s as if grace and truth are opposites and can each only be imparted pending how much of the other is in play. Consider the image of the scales of justice, with grace on one plate — truth on the other. If 100% grace has been extended, any ounce of truth is impossible to display. In other words, it’s an “either-or” world.

Yes, we are living in an “either-or” world.

But what if that’s not an accurate application?

What if we’re doing not only a disservice to ourselves but also to one another?

What if, therefore, we are wrong — and both could be applied? What if we could be generous with both grace and truth?

Consider the insight of Dr. Henry Cloud, the leadership expert, clinical psychologist and New York Times bestselling author, whose books have sold more than 20 million copies.

Writes Cloud:

“… It is the tendency for a person to experience themselves, others or the world as either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad.’ It is the hallmark of immature formation. I say immature, as it is a normal developmental stage of thinking and perceiving in which everyone starts out life. If you think about it, you don’t meet a lot of infants or small children who are mature. They’re either happy and smiling, or it’s rage city.

Mature character, however, does not do that. She sees the world in what psychologists refer to as whole representations. In other words, when she looks at a person, even one who has frustrated her, she sees that person as the ‘whole’ of who they are and not just that mistake. She sees someone’s strengths as well.

For mature functioning, we cannot operate well in seeing the world in either-or terms. It is like trying to play tennis with only a forehand and not a backhand. There are a lot of shots you just cannot get to. It is frustrating to work with or be in a relationship with someone who cannot tolerate ‘gray’ or any degree of complexity that challenges their rigid thinking. Resolving conflict is more than difficult, as resolution usually requires an ability to see and work with the truth from the other side and integrate it into yours, finding a solution that transcends either polarity.”

No doubt, my friends, this time is tough. It would be so easy to conclude that whoever the other is in my life — the other person, party or perspective holder — is 100%, totally, completely, wholeheartedly, blindly, idiotically wrong, ignorant, incompetent, etc.

I get it. That would be easier. That is also a byproduct of the either-or world.

My strong sense is we are doing a massive disservice to self when we succumb to a culture which encourages us to decide who we are for and who we are against — as if all who think like us are “good” and all who don’t are “bad.” We have taken the bait of a culture actually encouraging the immature.

So what is it? 

Grace or truth? One or the other?

Allow me to suggest both…

Give grace to the different, even and especially when we don’t understand — recognizing mature processing doesn’t allow one to be all good and one to be all bad. And then, never omit the truth. Know that neither grace nor truth need be sacrificed.

But allow me to also suggest that the order matters in regard to how each is extended, as one sequence is clearly more effective. Let us lead with grace. Never omit the truth, but yes, lead with grace.

It’s both attractive and mature.

Respectfully…

AR