neighbors, enemies, or what… round 2

Since my strong sense is we focus way too much on who is our enemy, I’ve decided to focus a little bit more on who is our neighbor. Remember: as long as we can curtail the category of who actually is our neighbor, we don’t have to love them, like them, or even try. We don’t have to respect them. We don’t have to invest in relationship. We can instead judge them and ignore their perspective in its entirety. After all, they are the enemy.

Much of the current challenge with this enemy label mindset is that we have begun to attach the enemy label to others because of their social, political standing. We have veered far away from finding the enemy on any Ten Most Wanted list; we have made other people worse based on what they believe.

Harder still is that we’ve had some pretty poor examples in regard to who fits into what category. Very intelligent people have unfortunately offered some very foolish answers regarding both friend and foe. I have found myself guilty, too, at times — even if only silently opined. At various points in my life, I may have given the distinct impression that my “enemy” was either Patriots’ fans or that kid who started on the mound in place of my son. I allowed myself to think less of them. Let me rephrase: I allowed myself to judge them… as… someone less wise than me. I was able to think less of them because I could not see them as my neighbor.

But what if we could change that? What if we could broaden the category, so-to-speak? What if we realized who our neighbors actually are? … and then… wouldn’t that affect how we treated them? Wouldn’t that make the hard conversations possible? And better yet, would that not offer solution in some of the tough areas?

Who is our neighbor?

I’ve been doing much reading on the subject as of late — especially moving hundreds of miles away to a community in which I knew no one. Who is my neighbor? And what is required of me?

Allow me to share one insight that struck me… from Levi Rogers, a writer and coffee roaster from Salt Lake City…

“… Who are my enemies? For me, it’s simple really. My enemies are politicians, Congress, rich people, Wall Street Bankers, rich Christians, and the most hated form of all: ‘rich, white, Christian politicians.’ I jest, but it’s not too far off. If I were to see a member… dying on the side of the road, I would walk by with joy. Congress in my mind — can go to hell.

I can empathize with the drug addicts, the alcoholics, with minorities, with people of differing genders and sexual orientations. But not the rich yuppie who lives on the Hill, who is against immigration reform, and in defense of laws like Florida’s Stand Your Ground. These people I cannot empathize with. The people who, as Kanye says are, ‘Prolly all in the Hamptons, bragging ‘bout what they made.’ These people are my neighbors and the ones Jesus calls me to love. And it bugs the crap out of me.

‘Who is my neighbor?’… The central question here being: how do I love and serve the very people who I abhor the most, especially when I disagree with them? How do I love them even at times when I feel righteous in my hatred…?”

I love the sincerity in the above expression. Feel free to change up the demographics… maybe a person’s righteous hatred isn’t directed toward “rich, white, Christian politicians.” Maybe it’s directed at “rude, in-your-face, Black Lives Matter protestors”… maybe it’s directed at “out-of-touch, outspoken celebrities”… maybe it’s someone else. The point is that we are each capable at minimizing who our neighbor actually is.

All of the above are our neighbors.

Our neighbors are those who are next to us. Our neighbors are those who are in need. Nothing else disqualifies a person, but we keep justifying the disqualifying of a person as a neighbor… maybe because they’re rich and white… rude and in-your-face… or out-of-touch and outspoken. We continue to find reason to disrespect, reason to judge, and reason to reject all empathetic attempts from all of the above. We don’t listen well. We are simply not very good at neighboring.

In my reading I keep coming across this “neighboring” concept. It’s an active verb. It’s full of intentionality. There is something required of me. So what does it mean to “neighbor”?

To near. And to care.

On Sunday, barring no unforeseen events, I’d like to talk somewhat about racial reconciliation. It’s actually a post I’ve been working on for well over a month. It’s hard. It’s a tough topic. Good people disagree. We have different opinions and approaches. So let me set Sunday up with today’s truth: we must realize who our neighbors actually are.

Respectfully…
AR

{Photo by Christian Stahl on Unsplash}

neighbor? enemy? or what?

Recently I was in a situation in which someone who has not known one of my sons very long, identified him in an educational document as somewhat of a “class clown.” While aspects of the description were not without merit, I respectfully requested that we alter the document.

“I don’t disagree with the behaviors you describe,” I asserted. “The challenge is the label. Once we put a label on something, it sticks. And then that’s how we tend to see and treat the person always thereafter.”

Thankfully, in the educational setting, everyone in the room respectfully recognized the potential pitfall… If we identify a person as “_________ ,” they will forever be viewed as “_________.”

Fill in the blank with whatever word you wish — positive or negative…

Friend or foe… genius or jerk. Labels stick.

One label I’ve heard from many as of late — perhaps due to the volatility of the current political climate — is the identification of another as our “enemy.” Socially, relationally, politically, you-name-it. We disagree… someone gets hurt… an initiative is obstructed… and our political leaders unfortunately then encourage the mass labeling.

The potential pitfall is that if we can get the “enemy” label to stick, then we can treat the person differently. We can justify it. We can even think lesser of that person — and then actually get lured into the idea that such is a wise thing to do. At that point it becomes completely acceptable to ignore another’s entire analysis or perspective… They are the enemy, after all. They are not deserving of our respect or consideration.

Who respects their enemy?

If persons are identified as the enemy, then they are certainly not our neighbor, because no way would we live anywhere close to them. And if they are not our neighbor, guess what? We don’t have to love them. We don’t have to like them. We don’t have to even try. It’s only our neighbor we’re universally called to love… right?

…“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself”…

Love your neighbor as yourself… the Intramuralist sees such as a pretty profound concept… I mean, I do love myself, and I’m pretty hip on my family and friends. But my neighbor? That’s more of a reach. I suppose I love most of them.

But notice how we have minimized the profoundness of loving our neighbor as ourselves because we’ve curtailed who can actually be considered in the neighbor category. We have made the imperative easier. Once we identify another as the enemy, we can justify treating them however is easiest and most convenient for us… No need to work through the tough stuff with this one… no need to pursue relationship or reconciliation… no need to give any validity to any of his perspective… nope… he’s the enemy.

For years I’ve led a study encouraging attenders to seek the greatest wisdom. One exercise repeatedly practiced is based on the timeless tale of the Good Samaritan. As has been shared for centuries in all sorts of circles, a traveling man is attacked, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Multiple persons walk by, notice him but intentionally avoid him; obviously, they don’t see the injured man as their “neighbor.” Since they have labeled him as something lesser, there exists no need to help.

Along comes the Good Samaritan — an ethnicity at the time which was despised by pharisaic leaders. The Samaritan gave the injured man first aid, disinfected and bandaged his wounds. He even lifted the man onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. Still, he paid the innkeeper for the injured man’s stay.

The Good Samaritan knew who his neighbor was. He never minimized it. He never allowed any belief, behavior, ethnicity, income, political or social standing to alter his awareness of who his neighbor was. He never confused his neighbor with the enemy.

In our study, we thus asked of one another:
“Who would be the person on the side of the road hardest for you to help?”
“Who have we labeled as our enemy?”
And “who have we justified loving less?”

Fill in the blank with whomever you wish. My suggestion is we first learn better who is our neighbor.

Respectfully…
AR

{Gleren Meneghin on Unsplash}

if they would only realize…

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to write about. I say that not because the Intramuralist has no things to say — more because as I survey the status of current events, some are so tough for understandably many to engage in actual, respectful dialogue. Regardless of the submission of any respectfully-articulated perspective — as is this blog’s promise — the chances of someone screaming back at me or pointing fingers or maybe even throwing something at their computer screen seems to have exponentially risen.

The reality, no less, is that through this online outlet, I can’t hear any screaming nor does any creative projectile damage anything other than what’s in the thrower’s possession. Hence, what I candidly observe is the frequency which with we point fingers. Allow me to rephrase…

We are really good at calling out other people.

Problem after problem… conflict after conflict… so often we strongly suggest the solution rests solely in the change of someone else. So often we promote the only cure as one in which only others must change what they think, say and do. We believe in some grand panacea for all current ills that conveniently absolves self.

“I/me/my/myself,” my husband and I often say. When first married years ago, we began repeating that phrase frequently, reminding one another that it’s our innate, first inkling to articulate a solution or perspective that is “all about me” — that if there’s something wrong, the problem rests not with “me” but with “you.” Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it; maybe we unknowingly mask the challenge to be about someone else.

But in our “I/me/my/myself” mindset, we get lured into believing that the problem rests entirely due to the beliefs or behavior of the other. If that other would only change, then the problem would not exist.

We absolve ourselves of the responsibility to change how we believe or behave.

I have seen this sincere, so-easily-adopted lure creep into so many of our perspectives… and yes, these are hard…

If those others would only realize they are bigots…
If those others would only realize they are privileged…
If those others would only realize they are intolerant…

In other words, if “those others” would only change. Not me, mind you… them. Solely them.

I have absolved myself from any contribution to the unhealthiness. We have absolved the “my” — my people, my party, my behavior, my way of thinking.

Maybe I’m wrong, but my strong sense is that one of the reasons so many topics are so tough to talk about respectfully is because we’re too busy pointing fingers at someone else; we’re so focused pointing out how another has to change how they believe or behave.

What if we instead asked ourselves…

Where have I been rude?
Where have I been mean?
Where have I been unwilling to listen?
Where have I been intolerant or demanding?
And where have I chastised or screamed at another?



Few want to change how they believe or behave when another is chastising or screaming at them. If we want to solve some of these tough topics, perhaps we instead start by stopping this illogical idea that it’s wise to absolve self and only call out the wrongfulness of another. Let us first wrestle with the wrongfulness within ourselves.

Today my husband and I celebrate 23 years of marriage. As most who’ve been married that long will share, there have been moments of both terrific and taxing (some of which I’ve been serendipitously grateful that occurred long before the existence of social media). But we made a commitment to do this… to work through things… to solve problems… and to grow. We committed to doing life together in sickness and in health — in the healthy and unhealthiness. Step one means omitting the emphasis on “I/me/my/myself,” asking not how my spouse must change, but rather, how must I.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash}

climate conversations

One of the things I’ve long appreciated about my parents is their consistent encouragement to sit down at the table, with me, and talk about everything. Let me be clear… as a kid, I didn’t always like it. I wasn’t always fond of it. And often it was either (a) incredibly inconvenient, (b) significantly painful, or (c) just something I’d rather not discuss.

But with sincere prodding, knowing some of the topics were especially not easy, they each encouraged my siblings and me to engage, sharing what we were feeling and thinking. The Intramuralist thus learned the value in processing together. Some of that was good, bad, and ugly. Sometimes some of our thoughts and beliefs didn’t make any sense. But the freedom to process what we were thinking proved to be an invaluable, growth opportunity — for all of us — even when my perspective was illogical or untrue. It would have been far easier for my parents to simply shut the conversation down or invite no more. Yet they were wiser than me; they knew we would grow from the processing.

In recent weeks, I’ve overheard multiple conversations — especially regarding the enormity of calamity…

Hurricane Harvey… the massive storm that meandered over Eastern Texas for no doubt way too long, causing catastrophic, unheard of flooding…

Hurricane Irma… Harvey’s sui generis sister, which wrecked havoc on the Caribbean and much of the State of Florida, reportedly destroying at least 25% of homes in the Florida Keys…

Fires in the Pacific Northwest… multiple cataclysmic blazes in Montana, Oregon, and Washington, shaping up to be what the Associated Press calls “one of the worst in U.S. history in land burned.”

Add to such reports from my sweet friend in the Galápagos Islands, where the unsuspecting La Cumbre volcano erupted on Fernandina Island after a decade of dormancy.

It’s no wonder those concerned about our Earth’s climate have been increasingly vocal. With repeated refrains echoing from Houston to Key West, persons are seriously, genuinely concerned about the state of our planet. I deeply respect, appreciate, and share such concern.

Please note I am no expert. No scientist either. Like many of you, my limited perspective comes from reading and research and talking to those who know more than me. I try to talk to far more than partisans or the likeminded. Such a practice helps me grow.

I am also committed to being a wise steward of all that’s in my possession. That means I believe in treating our Earth well. Because you and I both live here, I want us both to treat it well. We are in this together. Always. The challenge arises, no less, because treating something well inherently includes a variety of approach.

With the recent perceived uptick in calamitous events, I’ve noticed a promoted change in the allowance of varied approach. Allow me to quote a current, promoted school of thought:

There is only one right way to think.

In last week’s The Nation, Mark Hertsgaard, the investigative editor at large, sincerely responded to some of the disasters mentioned above… “The horrors hurled at Houston and the Himalayan lowlands in late August were heartbreaking.” I so agree.

Hertsgaard went further. He concluded Hurricane Harvey, etal. were the result of man’s lack of implementing more protective, climate change measures; he holds “climate change deniers” and “other powerful know-nothings” responsible… “How long before we hold the ultimate authors of such climate catastrophes accountable for the miseries they inflict?… It is past time to call out… all climate deniers for this crime against humanity. No more treating climate denial like an honest difference of opinion… The first step toward justice is to call things by their true names. Murder is murder, whether the murderers admit it or not.”

The Washington Times then followed this week with a report that in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma, the calls to punish skeptics is rising [even though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says attributing hurricanes to warming is premature].

In other words, any who deny climate change is committing a crime. In still other words, no other opinion is allowed. There is only one right way to think.

Friends, I don’t know exactly what is true. I don’t know with certainty the exact causes and proportion of those causes and the exact extent of any future effects. My desire, therefore, is to process wisely, together, so our “one nation under God” can figure it out and be wise stewards of our planet. But right now I am uncomfortable with the self-profiting and contradictions from various perspectives… I am uncomfortable with the insults and intimidation… and I am uncomfortable with any analysis that omits that “under God” part… especially since as the Creator, he would seem to have way more insight than we.

What I also believe, with all passion and respect, is that we have opportunity to learn from the totality of our processing — listening and learning from one another… if we sit down at the table, together, with the freedom to share what may or may not be true. Wisdom is found in the processing — not in shutting the conversation down.

I’m thankful for my parents. They indeed taught me well.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash}

perspective… after Irma…

perspective |pərˈspektiv|
– n.-
— true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion.

One the many things I frequently ponder is whether my perspective is solid or skewed. And if my perspective is skewed, what makes it that way? What has contributed to me being “off”? … especially when perhaps via passion, opinion, or extenuating circumstance, I can’t see it.

While my intent is never to be callous nor cruel, my strong sense is that each of us is capable of possessing either angle. Each of us can possess a solid or skewed perspective, and each of us is capable of not knowing it.

Do we have a true understanding of the relative importance of things? Especially, for example…

When we are shaken…
When we are shocked…
When we are fearful…
When we are wronged…
When we are mad…
When we are hurt…
When life is tough…

When any of those valid emotions becomes most prominent within us, do we understand the importance of what we feel or what we’re going through in relation to all else? … in relation to all others? Or does what we feel rise to the top, so-to-speak? Does what we are going through become the absolute most important and everyone else should so obviously get that, too?

Six weeks ago, my family moved to Florida. Two days ago, we found ourselves in the path of one curvaceous, stormy woman named “Irma.” As a brand new Florida resident, I must say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled that Hurricane Irma would be the one to welcome us with the widest of arms. Sunday night was awful.

The winds howled; the dog barked; and trees and debris went continuously airborne outside. For ten hours, we huddled underneath a dining room table, topped by a mattress, adjacent to two inside walls, which were the two walls that seemingly shook the least. At one point on the constant hurricane TV coverage (and I do mean “constant”), the weatherman said, “Everyone in the viewing area should just assume there’s a tornado near them right now!” It was serious and potentially severe.

And so we huddled. It was a tough experience accompanied by tough emotions.

We were not, however, the only ones to huddle. We were not the only ones going through a hurricane. We were also not the ones to face the worst of Irma’s wrath, and we were certainly not the only ones to ever experience tough circumstances.

One of the many things the Intramuralist increasingly realizes is that we all experience tough things; the tough things come via varied circumstance — things from which we can each learn — but we’d be wiser to glean the available wisdom than to instead spend more time and energy comparing ourselves to others, attempting to discern who has it worst. There will always be someone who has it harder than we… regardless of who actually experiences a hurricane.

Some respected friends in Irma’s path, with solid perspective, chimed in:

“Winds still howling, not sure of outside damage, but we never lost power and we never lost hope.”

“Feeling overwhelmingly grateful for those who stayed in contact with me, assisted me, sheltered me, and most importantly made laugh during these past few days.”

“In times of crisis, we rise and help each other.”

“Our prayers remain stronger than Irma.”

“Made it thru Irma. Made it through cancer. Irma doesn’t come close. Perspective.”

Amen.

It’s amazing how encouraging solid perspective can be.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash}

what I love about disasters

Please read that title again. I want to be fully clear. Note that I did not say, “I love disasters.” “What” is the key word. There is something within disasters, when they unfortunately happen, that I love.

Disasters get our attention. They make us stop, reflect, cry out to God, and reach out to one another…

Disasters make us stop. Years ago I heard someone say that “if satan can’t make us bad, he’ll make us busy.” (Yes, I realize I didn’t capitalize that proper noun; satan doesn’t deserve it.) Sometimes we get so busy with our work, routines, and “to do lists,” that we fail to take time to do what’s most important — listen well, invest in others, build community, etc. Those things take time. While we might not be susceptible to adopt and embrace evil, we are susceptible to not doing good. When we’re too busy, we aren’t doing good.

Disasters make us reflect. Because we are busy, we miss the wisdom that comes with intentional pause and self-reflection. Often we are busy with good things. Yet when we get so wrapped up in even a good thing — an interest, initiative, ambition or activity — we often fail to reflect upon where we are off, where we need to grow, or where we need to be more humble and kind. Reflection has the unique, necessary potential to keep us humbler. Kinder, too.

Disasters make us cry out to God. Often I wonder if our greatest sin is self-reliance. We become so dependent on ourselves and so confident in our own abilities that we fail to acknowledge the great big God of the universe. We fail to acknowledge who he is, what he has done, and his role and presence in each of our lives. I know that’s a huge conversation, and it’s one I am most willing to have. My point, no less, is that often the only way we cry out to God — acknowledging him, asking for help, or even expressing our gratitude — is when what’s happened in our lives is too big for us to control. Disaster makes us realize what we cannot control. We need far more than self.

Disasters make us reach out to one another. One of the things that has most disturbed me in recent years is the number of things we allow to get in the middle of relationship — all the things that we allow to divide us. Let me be clear: we allow it. We justify an incident, offense, or difference to love someone less… to stop talking to them, to think worse of them, to disrespect them. We choose to love them less. We divide. Disasters have the potential to help us realize that those incidents, offenses, and differences that we have put in the way of relationship are not as important as we made them.

The reality is as I write this, I’m standing in the predicted, calamitous path of Hurricane Irma. I’m not certain of the extent of disaster as of yet, but we are prayerfully prepared to face what’s next. It’s tough, especially not knowing how bad this is going to be. We just witnessed Hurricane Harvey, and the recovery there will no doubt be costly, painful, and long.

But Harvey and Irma afford us the opportunity to more fully comprehend community — to respect and value others in spite of perceived differences and to recognize we have all been divinely created equally. As a friend also awaiting Irma said, “Sometimes people only understand ‘we are one’ during a time of extreme humanity needs.”

Note the joint video announcement from all five living former presidents this past week, appearing together to raise money for relief efforts following Harvey. “One America Appeal” is the name of their initiative. As Pres. Bill Clinton said in their video, “Hurricane Harvey brought terrible destruction — but it also brought out the best in humanity.”

True.

Also true is that those five men — Carter, Clinton, Bush 41, 43, and Obama — have lots of differences. They have all sorts of incidents, offenses, and different ways of thinking that if they allow, could impede any good. But the disaster has prompted them to prioritize what’s most important.

That’s “what” I love about disasters. We stop, reflect, cry out to God, and reach out and respect one another.

That’s important.

(Time now to hunker down.)

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by NASA on Unsplash}

[Note: Tuesday’s post will depend on power after Hurricane Irma passes our area. We’ll post on schedule if able.]

bumper sticker diversity

Search for the meaning of “diversity” and one will find multiple answers…

… the variety of characteristics that make people and communities unique…
… a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences…
… more than one of something…

As I recently attempted to more fully comprehend the current manifestation of this word, I simultaneously heard the call to appreciate, respect, and understand. The call is not to appreciate, respect, and understand only one or some of something; the call is to appreciate, respect, and understand all.

As recently noted, over the last 6-7 weeks, the Intramuralist has driven approximately 5,914 miles. Recognize that utilizing that same number of miles, I could have driven from Broadway to Beverly Hills and back again to Broadway — and still had 328 miles to spare. Hence, I decided to entertain a most unscientific study. I observed our diverse expressions in arguably the only avenue offering smaller space than Twitter. Yes, I observed the ever-expressive bumper sticker. My sense is if someone feels a saying is worthy of sticking on their automotive derrière, then it must be highly important to them. I found diversity in what’s highly important.

Let me first acknowledge, I did not notate the adhesive identifications that seemed primarily of local value only (i.e. “my kid is an honor student at…”). Instead I wrote down every sticker that publicized or promoted something bigger, so-to-speak.

Some expressed themselves via only a singular letter… “L”, “A”, “T”, and “M”…

Others were succinct through a single word — first, those encouraging exercise… “Skate”, “Swim”, “Run”. But still more chose a word of seemingly increased imperative… “Love”, “Coexist”…

There was a strong contingent of proud students and alumni… “Villanova”, “Virginia” and “Virginia Tech”, “Texas”, “Tennessee”, “Boston College”, “Purdue”, “Penn State”, and many more. Prouder, perhaps, were the parental units… “West Virginia Mom”, “Ohio State Mom”, “Clemson Mom”, and moms from UCF and Florida, too (… question: do dads don stickers?).

I will admit, I was somewhat leery of the plethora of political messaging I would encounter; our messaging as a nation has been pretty poor in the respect category this past decade. The political stickers were less prominent than the collegiate crowd, but still vocal… “Trump”, “Yes We Can”, “Stop Obama”, “She Persisted”, “Not a Liberal”, “I Am a Woman and I Vote”, “Make America Great Again”, and perhaps most poignant, “Don’t Assume I Like Your Politics”.

Granted, there were some who focused instead on the issue… “Abortion Is a Slaughter of the Innocent”, “War Is Not the Answer”, “Our Nation Is Open”, and “Police Lives Matter”. Let me add that the latter was one of the few messages frequently repeated… “Back Blue” or “Back the Blue” were the most popular refrains.

I was struck, no less, by the refrain I saw most — that which displayed pride and support for our veterans, troops, and uniformed services… “Army Vet”, “Vietnam Veteran”, “U.S. Marines”, “United States Navy”, “Coast Guard”, “God Bless Our Troops. Especially Our Snipers”. The following humbled me more… “Army Mom”, “My Son Is in the US Army”, “Pray for My Soldier”, and maybe my favorite, “Heroes Don’t Wear Capes. They Wear Dog Tags.”

“God Bless the USA”… yes, another repeated refrain. There were additional comments here… “In God We Trust”, “Jesus Saves”, “Life. Faith. Freedom”, including multiple calls to pray.

Some stickers were less solemn, such as the declared love for Labradors, Westies, Steelers, Patriots, nurses, Eagle Scouts, and even Dr. Who. Then there was this whole “life” advertisement… “Mom Life”, “Christ Life”, “Salt Life”, “Walt Life”, and “Band Life”. I realized there are some “lifes” I don’t totally understand. (Insert “Marathon Freak” here.)

A few more wise encouragements and notices… “Disconnect & Drive” and “Stay Alive. Don’t Text and Drive”, and “Baby on Board”. Granted, a witty friend sent me a copy of the sticker stating: “Adults on Board. We Want to Live Too.”

More that made me laugh out loud?… “Bach Off”, “Do You Believe in Life After Death? Touch My Truck and We’ll Find Out”, and (sorry ahead of time) “If You Are Riding My (bleep) This Close, You Might as Well Kiss It.”

Obviously, we are a diverse country, a country in which “God blessing us” is far more than a bumper sticker, but rather, a humbling, wise, and potentially powerful prayer. Maybe we start by learning to appreciate, respect, and understand our differences… even through often sticky expression.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Frankie Guarini on Unsplash}

back!

Greetings, readers, friends, peers, and participants! I have missed you! But prior to sharing some insight into the past few weeks and foreshadowing a bit of what’s next, allow me to extract some wisdom from current, current events…

Roger Federer, one of most talented persons to ever play the sport of tennis, celebrated his 36th birthday during my recent respite. Currently contending in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, in July, Federer was crowned the oldest open era winner of Wimbledon (the “open era” began in 1968). If Federer wins this weekend’s championship, he will also become the oldest winner at Flushing Meadows.

To win at 36 in professional tennis is highly unusual. Also seemingly unusual, is the discernment Federer has so keenly displayed — a discernment available (to us all, if we take it) via age. In an excellent editorial by contributor Bruce Y. Lee in Forbes this summer, Lee noted what was unique about Federer’s success. Unlike the professionals who enroll in each and every tournament, Federer decided much of last year to rest. He wasn’t hurt; he took time off — despite being ostensibly healthy.

Lee continued with the following:

“Rest and recovery are an important and often overlooked part of sports. Of course, if you are resting all the time, you aren’t really playing the sport… But constant practice, training and competition are not good either. Anything in excess, including sushi and baby animals, is bad. Always being on the go doesn’t give your body time to replenish its glycogen stores, repair damage such as small muscle tears and rebuild into a stronger and more flexible version. Injuries tend to occur when you are fatigued not only because of wear and tear, but also because you tend to lose focus, concentration and good form.”

Something in Lee’s words struck me this summer (… no, not that I believe Roger and I have so much in common in our obvious, mutual athletic prowess). Rather, I am learning that rest is good. Rest is necessary. And intentional rest is wise. In fact, if we are not intentional in employing individual rest, then the good Lord seems to allow for some creative way — like it or not — of slowing us down. Yes, it is wise to be intentional in our rest so that we don’t lose our focus, concentration and good form.

I suppose some from afar would look at my last few weeks and ponder where the rest was. True. My best estimates are that in the past 6-7 weeks, I drove approximately 5,914 miles, sold a house, moved four states away, dropped two kids off at college, ensured one medium-sized dog survived, and witnessed one son eat both frog legs and escargot. (Ok, so that last one isn’t so relevant… just kind of fun to say.)

To say the least, my season was busy; the above was on top of the other commitments already a part of my day. I needed rest. I needed not just a time for crashing on the couch. I needed time to slow down… rest and reflect… be refreshed… both feast and fast… get a sense of divine direction… be still… quiet… gently ask where are those pockets where I still need to grow. The intentional rest thus allowed for such a time.

And so let me first offer a humble thank you… to our once again excellent Guest Writers in our annual series. Thank you for covering so much so well! Whether I shared your opinion or not was secondary to the respect lavished upon the expression of your perspective; that is something we all could get so better at — and dare I say, should get so better at. I thoroughly enjoyed processing each of your perspectives.

Thank you, also, to you, my respected readers, friends, peers, and participants. I appreciate that you have embraced others who prioritize respectful communication. That is a gift you give to me. That is a gift we give to one another.

And so now ’tis time to get started. I mean it… I have so much to say!! I want to talk about Charlottesville, Harvey, ESPN, and CBS News. I want to talk about controlling the historical narrative, racial reconciliation, and how disaster can be an opportunity. I want to talk about finger pointing and healing… authentic healing. I also want to talk about virtue and who has it and the penetration of pluralism in our culture. Yes, so much to say. So many things we need to talk about.

So let’s start on Thursday. Topic?

Bumper stickers.

I drove approximately 5,914 miles; remember?

(Looks like we’re back in good form.)

Respectfully…
AR

 

[Photo by anja. on Unsplash]

principle or power

Over the last decade I have seen the priorities of discourse trend away from arguments based on principle to those fed by the desire for power. Persuasive speech driven by facts has given way to forceful tactics where anything goes as long as you persuade or shut up your opponent. Honesty has lost its value while influence is the goal we all seem to be grabbing for.

A few years ago a friend shared an article on Facebook regarding an author she had issues with. The article was full of fabricated untruths that vilified the author. I pointed this out to my friend.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, “I don’t think people should read her books.”

She was using the article to frighten people from reading rather than putting out her own thoughtful opinion based on facts and reason.

In this world of instant results, it seems we have lost the willpower to take the time to actually engage over our differences. We would rather convince people of something in a matter of seconds. Our world of pictures, where we can with a snap show the universe a fabulous meal at a restaurant — “You need to go here!” or of a disastrous vacation spot, “Avoid this place at all costs!” — has turned us into toddlers who use only short sentences and a lot of jumping up and down to get our opinion heard.

To my point, I received a phone call from a polling firm earlier this summer. They asked a series of questions regarding political issues. For most questions, I was given 4-5 responses to choose from, except one question where I was given only two possible answers, neither of which reflected my opinion and both were very one-sided.

“Are those the only answers to choose from?” I asked the surveyor.

“Umm, no,“ she replied. “There are three more listed, but we were told to only read the first two unless asked.”

The polling firm was obviously looking for a particular answer, not caring about the integrity of the survey.

When we use false, exaggerated or manipulated information, not only does the argument fall flat, but the source loses respect and credibility. Which is why, according to recent Gallop polls, less than a third of Americans trust the media. But it is not just the media that are using these tactics.

There is a current court case in Canada where a scientist has been accused of manipulating data in order to show certain results… celebrities being sued for posting complete falsehoods on Twitter… and the thousands who reposted a picture of President Obama not having his hand over his heart during the national anthem while military members saluted around him, not bothering to check the source. Turns out it was “Hail to the Chief” that was playing and he wasn’t supposed to have his hand anywhere near his heart. We have become just as quick to put something out there because it reinforces our opinion whether there is validity to it or not.

If we want to maintain our integrity as individuals or as a society, I propose that we need to all take stock in how we try to persuade others…

Are we totally honest with our approach?

Are we open to hearing rebuttals?

Are we willing to take the time to have open and civil conversations over our differences?

Are we willing to be principled rather than powerful?

Respectfully…
SS

your health is in your hands

With chronic illness on the rise and many of us facing our own health-related challenges these days, I want to take a moment to look at how we respond to these difficult circumstances. So often, when faced with illness, we are looking for a quick fix, an easy answer. We go to the doctor expecting him/her to fix it, to give us a prescription or recommend a procedure that will make it all go away.

But what would happen if we stopped looking for a magic pill, for a simple fix, for a doctor to give us the answer? What if we, instead, turned to our own bodies for the answer to healing? What if illness is our bodies way of communicating with us and telling us we need to make a change? What if healing is possible, but the answer isn’t just a simple fix?

Truth is, we are extremely capable of healing ourselves. Our immune system was designed to heal our body and it’s inherently great and efficient at doing so. Think about it… if you get a cut on your arm, you don’t need a prescription or a procedure to heal. Your body knows what to do and immediately goes to work healing the wound. So, if we know that our body is inherently capable of healing itself then why do we look outside the body for a cure when things get tough?

We often turn to the advice of doctors because they are the experts in their field. They “know more than us.” While they surely have depth in their field of knowledge, it is often a very narrow scope, when illness is usually caused by a wide range of conditions. Doctors don’t always take the time to get to know their patients and the lifestyle habits that can influence the patient’s health. All of these variables need to be considered when deciding the best path to healing. Who is more of an expert on what’s going on in your body than you? Who better to decide what’s right for your body than the person who knows it best? If we trust in our body and our own personal ability to heal, we could have a great impact on our own health.

This is not just ideology, I speak from my own experience. I dealt with HPV and severe cervical dysplasia for over 7 years before finally finding my way to health and healing. HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus) is an extremely common sexually transmitted virus that can potentially cause cervical cancer. I had severe cervical dysplasia or mutated cells on the inner lining of my cervix. Had it progressed any worse, it would have been cancer. I spent years trying the traditional methods, following the doctor’s orders. They recommended a LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure), which could possibly reduce my ability to bear children, only to have the mutated cells return, worse than before.

After a doctor told me my options were getting a second LEEP, or waiting until it turns to cancer and she would give me a hysterectomy, I choose a different option. Instead of relying only on what a doctor had to say, I started listening to myself, something we often forget to do when dealing with our health. I decided to take my health into my own hands. I started to listen to my body. I trusted my own intuition. And it told me that another LEEP was not the answer. I knew that my body was capable of healing itself. just had to have faith in it and find ways to help my body heal.

If I was going to heal, I was going to have to heal myself. After years of trying different methods, I was finally able to clear the virus and reverse the cervical dysplasia. Many people asked me how I did it. I noticed they were looking for one simple answer — a diet, a pill, a vitamin, a supplement, a doctor. But my path to healing wasn’t that simple.

In fact, I knew in order to fully heal, it wouldn’t be a simple answer or a quick fix at all. I knew it would be a complete overhaul of the way I lived my life. I looked at my life from every angle. I started doing my own research and implementing changes that made sense to me. I improved my diet, adding in more fruits and vegetables including lots of dark, leafy greens. I ate more organic foods, less meat and dairy and more nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I cut out a lot of junk food, fast food, and highly-processed food (think anything in a box/bag). I stayed thoroughly hydrated with clean, filtered water. I got rid of personal care products with toxic ingredients, such as parabens and phthalates, which are known cancer-causing agents and replaced them with natural soaps and homemade deodorants and lotions.

But I didn’t stop there. I added more yoga and meditation into my daily life to help reduce stress and anxiety. I changed my daily habits, working less, sleeping more and waking up with the sun. I spent more time outside in nature and less time behind a computer screen. I focused more on self-care and self-love. I spent more time honoring the people and relationships in my life. I was more mindful about the way I reacted to stress, letting the little things go more easily and keeping my body out of unnecessary fight or flight mode, which can wreak havoc on your immune system. I used a variety of immune boosting supplements, changing it up as I learned more about each supplement and how my body responded to them. I found a doctor whose principles were in line with mine and would help support me in my own healing journey.

Basically, I renovated my entire life to be in line with healing. It wasn’t just one thing in the end that did it. There wasn’t a magic pill. It took hard work and determination to really look at my life, analyze what got me to this point and how I wanted to shape the future of my health from here. Sometimes, I wish there was a magic pill, an easy way out, but, the truth is, I have learned so much along the way, I honestly wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I have changed my daily habits and diet for the better. I feel healthier, stronger and have more energy. HPV truly was a blessing in disguise, designed to help me clean up my diet and lifestyle to ensure a healthy and happy future.

When faced with a medical challenge, keep in mind, YOU are the most important part of the healing process. Sunshine, fresh air, exercise and a healthy diet are the best medicines. Of course, this should not take the place of professional medical advice. But if that advice doesn’t resonate with you, listen to yourself, seek out other opinions and do your own research. Knowledge is power and power is healing.

Empowering yourself and putting your health into your own hands is a huge part of the healing process. Align yourself with a healing path that works for you. If we eat well, take care of ourselves, put the right things in our body and take the wrong things out, our bodies can and will heal themselves.

Healing takes hard work, dedication and self-discipline. It’s not just one little change that will do it, but redesigning your life as a whole. It may not always be easy to find your own path to healing, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

Respectfully…
CBM