my ignorance

My Hispanic neighbors across the street are consistently engaged in managing their business and chasing after their adorable, young children.

My gay friends on the corner take some glorious, fantastic vacations.

The married professionals next door are gone a lot; we don’t talk as much as any of us would like.

And the single, black mom down the block has an incredibly full plate.

Each of us experience the world differently. And that’s just on my small street.

What would happen if we actually took the time to listen to people who don’t experience the world the way we do? I mean, their experience is their reality, which means their passions, convictions, and opinions will also be different… no doubt based upon the authentic lens through which each sees life.

What if we listened to…

Adolescents and elderly…

Christians and non-Christians…

College-educated and GED grads…

White collar and blue collar…

Gay and straight…

Black and white…

Married and single…

English and French…

Citizens and immigrants…

Iowans and New Yorkers…

Buckeyes and Wolverines…

Abled and disabled…

And so many more?

And what if we not only listened, but learned? What if we were more curious?

Well-known atheist, Sam Harris, once profoundly stated, “Pay attention to the frontiers of your ignorance,” which means we all (he, too) possess areas of ignorance. Maybe we are aware of them; maybe we aren’t.

Hence, what if we were students and not just critics of one another?

What if we were students of the different?

How many times have we overheard one say or even say it ourselves, “I can’t believe it! How in the world can someone actually think like that?!”

The reality is that when we don’t understand how another person can believe or behave the way they do, it is we who don’t understand. We don’t understand the realities of another and how they experience the world.

So if we are going to love our neighbor well, we need to listen and learn from others. If we are going to minimize the ignorance in our own lives, we need to ask good questions and seek to understand. We need to seek out and engage with those who are different than us… the citizens and immigrants, black and white, Democrats and Republicans, etc. Otherwise we are going to be guilty of discounting every bit of information that doesn’t fit perfectly in our current, narrow world view. We will only add to our own ignorance.

Let me be gently but boldly more clear: each of our world views are narrow. Each are incomplete. In fact, our world views are incapable of being completely complete on this planet.

As I overheard last weekend, “Everybody’s behavior makes perfect sense to them. Everybody’s politics makes perfect sense to them.”

Again, when we don’t understand another, that says more about us than about them. 

Let’s listen and learn from all of the above.

Respectfully…

AR

the content of our character

Earlier this week was MLK Day. I want to ensure we continue to be intentional in remembering the message and motives of Dr. King for far more than one day. I want to be intentional in pausing to remember now.

I also wish to pause long enough not to tell someone else what they need to remember. I want to pause and revisit what “I” need… where “I” need to be reminded… where “I” need to grow.

Martin Luther King Jr. stood for faith, equality, and nonviolence. To omit any of the three, would be to omit what he stood for.

He stood for faith… he was a Christian man, believing that Jesus Christ lived and died for each of us. Our greatest calling is two-fold: one, to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, and two, to love our neighbor as ourself. Dr. King consistently advocated for both — not just one or the other. He advocated for unconditional love in each of the above.

He stood for equality… knowing God loves each of us unconditionally like crazy, Dr. King dreamed of a day where no one would “be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” He dreamed of a day where no one would be judged by their race or their wealth. He stood for human dignity. He encouraged us to be mindful as to how policy affects the poor. That means no one, ever, is treated lesser. 

He stood for nonviolence… knowing God loves each of us unconditionally like crazy and wanting us to judge others by the content of their character, our culture needs change. To change that culture, he advocated for doing so nonviolently. In fact, in his notorious letter written in a Birmingham cell, before he advocated for action, he first advocated for self-purification. He knew he had to be right with God first.

And so as we pause to remember on one day more than the marked holiday, I must ask myself…

Where have “I” not really looked to God, recognizing his unconditional, crazy love?

Where have “I” not loved my neighbor as myself? Where have “I” allowed something else to get in the way?

When have “I” judged a person by the color of their skin — black, brown, white or other?

When have “I” looked down upon someone else and treated them lesser?

When have “I” refused to be charitable?

When have “I” ignored the poor?

When have “I” been insensitive or refused to look at an issue from the perspective of another, especially from a minority perspective?

Where, too, have “I” pursued change but done so rudely, vulgarly, or with no respect for others?

Where have “I” advocated for change but failed to first engage in self-purification, not ensuring I was right with the great big God of the universe first?


And two more questions, as I crave the honoring of all humankind on this planet…

Where have “I” pointed the finger at someone else — thinking they need to pause, they need to be reminded, and only they need to grow?

When have “I” forgotten that wisdom heeds each of us to examine self and grow?

I so appreciate the message and motives of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

As a man who encouraged each of us to live our lives a little bit more like Jesus, I find myself pausing more, knowing there is much growth necessary within me.

Respectfully…

AR

permanent outrage & political ignorance

Allow me to humbly share with you the best I’ve read this week, in my earnest desire to bring people together — as opposed to joining a hidden tribe and thus instead contribute more to pulling us apart… From David French, an American attorney, author, and now senior editor of “The Dispatch”… [Note: all emphasis mine.]

“I speak and write quite a bit about American political polarization. I’m alarmed by the extent of mutual partisan loathing and enmity. It’s terrible, it’s getting worse, and I’m convinced that—unchecked—it’s a threat to our national existence. There is no law of nature that says that a diverse, continent-sized, multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy will always remain united…

The devoted conservatives and progressive activists in particular are people with a disproportionate amount of wealth and who spend a disproportionate amount of time on politics as a hobby. They have resources, they’re engaged, and they’re angry. They’re a minority, but they tend to dominate public discourse — even as an ‘exhausted majority’ retreats from political engagement and longs for an alternative. 

The rage of the ‘wings’ is well-known. We can see it every day on social media. We can see and hear the fury at many political rallies and events. The reasons for that rage are complex, but let me advance an under-appreciated reason why red-pilled Uncle Karl and his woke niece Alice hate each other so darn much. The story starts with public apathy.

I haven’t been a writer all my life. I spent most of my professional career (21 years!) as a litigator, and for most of that time I worked for public-interest law firms. My practice focused on the First Amendment, and it required that I focus not just on the court of law, but also on the court of public opinion. I wasn’t just a lawyer, I was a legal activist, and I saw firsthand how hard it was to motivate the public to actually care about important constitutional concerns. 

If you try to raise awareness (much less money) from people with busy lives and multiple family responsibilities, the first thing you learn is that it is extraordinarily difficult to break through to the public with a proportionate, measured message.  If your message implies, ‘I’m working on something important, but there is no true emergency.’ Or, ‘I’m concerned, but there’s no crisis,’ then prepare to face indifference.

No, the tried and true activist message is simple — ‘The threat is dire, and we’re the last line of defense.’

None of this is new. ‘Scare grandma with direct mail’ has funded much of the conservative movement for a generation (or more). But technology has made the experience much, much more intense. Sign one online petition, and you magically find yourself on a dozen new mailing lists. Start clicking on alarmist social media posts, and you start to tell the algorithm that’s what you want to see. It’s hard to merely put your toe in the water politically. Test the temperature with a small donation, and within days, five scam PACs, nine breathless email messages, and four Facebook ads are deluging you with some variation of the same message, ‘They hate you! They want to destroy you! Only I can save you!’

There are Americans who recoil from this like they’ve touched a boiling cauldron. ‘Just stop,’ they say, and they furiously unsubscribe, ignore political posts, and go back to talking about the Tennessee Titans, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the utter dominance of SEC football (ideally, anyway). But there are millions of other Americans who have a very different reaction.

‘I had no idea things were so terrible!’ 

As the messages flood your inbox, and the posts flood your feeds, concern grows to alarm, and alarm turns into rage. And if you’re looking for things to be angry about, there’s always a fresh outrage, somewhere. The immediate nationalization of every volatile local event means that a politically engaged American can know within hours (sometimes minutes) after someone punches a kid wearing a MAGA hat in Des Moines, or if a busybody white woman calls the cops on black kids who are innocently grilling in a Sacramento park.  

Instantly, each incident becomes emblematic of the other side’s perfidy. It’s as if the scales fall from the eyes, and you see the world anew. You’re ‘woke.’ You’re ‘red-pilled.’ You’re not simply ‘Jane’ anymore. You’re ‘Deplorable Jane,’ and it’s your mission in life to own the libs.

But the strange thing is that this new life doesn’t actually awaken you to  reality, it deceives you. It distorts the truth. One of the most fascinating aspects of the hidden tribes research is its finding that Americans on the ‘wings’ have the most twisted views of the other side. The wings are far more likely to believe that political opponents are more extreme than they really are. In crucial ways their political engagement is increasing not just their political extremism, but also their political ignorance. They consistently accept opposing extremism as the norm, when it is not. 

There’s no simple solution to this problem. I routinely tell people that the two types of pieces I write that cause the most dramatic negative reaction either 1) criticize Donald Trump; or 2) argue that a particular problem is a concern and not a crisis. It’s as if an argument that a problem isn’t an emergency is viewed as detrimental to the cause of public mobilization and public activism. And they’re probably right. When was the last time 10,000 people flooded the streets of a state capital chanting, ‘We’re concerned! We’re concerned!’? 

Leadership does matter, however. And partisans respond to winning politicians. If someone can turn down the temperature and win while doing it, perhaps we can chip away at the culture of permanent outrage.”

Respectfully…

AR

war powers

In light of the ongoing conflict in Iran and the questions of what is and is not appropriate decision-making by the Executive Branch, we have heard renewed echos of the need to enforce The War Powers Act.

Allow me to first provide a concise background summary as provided by “The History Channel”:

“The War Powers Act is a congressional resolution designed to limit the U.S. president’s ability to initiate or escalate military actions abroad. Among other restrictions, the law requires that presidents notify Congress after deploying the armed forces and limits how long units can remain engaged without congressional approval. Enacted in 1973 with the goal of avoiding another lengthy conflict such as the Vietnam War, its effectiveness has been repeatedly questioned throughout its history, and several presidents have been accused of failing to comply with its regulations.

What is The War Powers Act?

The War Powers Act — officially called the War Powers Resolution — was enacted in November 1973 over an executive veto by President Richard M. Nixon.

The law’s text frames it as a means of guaranteeing that ‘the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply’ whenever the American armed forces are deployed overseas. To that end, it requires the President to consult with the legislature ‘in every possible instance’ before committing troops to war.

The resolution also sets down reporting requirements for the chief executive, including the responsibility to notify Congress within 48 hours whenever military forces are introduced ‘into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.’

Additionally, the law stipulates that Presidents are required to end foreign military actions after 60 days unless Congress provides a declaration of war or an authorization for the operation to continue.”

Hence, after the Trump administration executed the targeting killing of Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, who directed the killing of hundreds of Americans, the House of Representatives passed a war powers resolution last week hoping to restrict Pres. Trump’s authority to strike Iran without congressional approval.

Let me offer a semi-clear opinion…

I like it and I don’t.

As expressed again by “The History Channel,” a president’s authority should be limited when military actions are considered. My strong sense is we need considerable, accountable, bipartisan input and agreement before we ever intentionally, potentially escalate military conflict. Any armed forces action should be substantially, soberly, and prudently weighed.

However, recognizing the veiled impurity in both parties, my sense is once more, politics get in the way.

In my opinion, the desire to curb the Executive Branch’s authority seems to increase or decrease pending who sits on the Executive Branch.

Back to “The History Channel”:

“President Ronald Reagan deployed military personnel to El Salvador without consulting or submitting a report to Congress. In 1999, President Bill Clinton continued a bombing campaign in Kosovo beyond the 60-day time limit cited in the law. A more recent War Powers Act dispute arose in 2011, when President Barack Obama initiated a military action in Libya without congressional authorization.”

Question: who rose to write a resolution then?

Friends, I wholeheartedly support enforcement of the War Powers Act in every administration. I find it reasonable and wise.

I do not, however, support the politics that too often drive the resolution.

Respectfully…

AR

Donald Trump, impeachment, the dentist & more

The familiar refrain has oft went like this: we’ll talk about all things via the Intramuralist — albeit always, we will do so respectfully.

Sometimes we learn from the silliest places. Sometimes life’s most poignant lessons arise from the totally unexpected. We learn from both the big and the seemingly small.

Today I’d like to learn from my trip to the dentist.

I had to return last week.

You know the drill… good dental care… biannual check ups… low sugar… lots of brushing… and floss — yes, floss! (Insert sigh here — with all due respect to drs. Baron, Fennell, Y and Y.) It’s not that we don’t like the dentist; in fact, to go now is nothing like it used to be 25 years ago. (Note: the sigh comes from 25 years ago; those needles were really big.)

As with each of my medical professionals, I have a solid, positive relationship with my dentist. It’s a new relationship, though, having relocated in recent years. But I like him. A lot. In addition to providing his excellent, professional care, we typically talk college football and the combo joys and frustrations of raising kids wisely. I respect him much.

The visit before last, Dr. M shared with me his professional recommendations for continued care. Understood. Got the plan. Check.

Two weeks later I received a more generic email, generated by his office, which encouraged me to follow up with the plan. I picked up upon a sense of ardent urgency that I did not perceive in the actual office. I felt as if the office visit and the subsequent generic email did not correlate well together.

Seeing Dr. M soon thereafter while accompanying one of my kids (with those joys and frustrations), I asked Dr. M if it was ok to share some feedback. Fully welcoming my insight, I shared with him my discomfort with the perceived uncorrelated communication. Dr. M stayed present, asked multiple questions in order to understand, said he’d look into it, and thanked me for sharing respectful feedback. [Note: respectful does not equate to negative or positive.]

On return to Dr. M this past week — multiple months after the feedback interaction — this visit he asked to speak to me. He said, “I want to let you know what I did with the feedback you provided.”

At that time he shared that he looked into the issue, considered our office visit conversation, and he reviewed the generic email. His staff team then spent time discussing the issue. What was their perspective?

He then shared with me totally politely, respectfully, and appropriately that after taking time to thoroughly review, investigate, discuss, and consider, they did not agree with my perspective. 

Allow me to be clear: there was nothing said rudely nor wrongly. His words were in depth and respectful. The only thing significantly marking this conversation was disagreement.

It was excellent.

I looked at him and thanked him. And then I said, with a small smile on my face:

“It’s ok. I may be wrong.”

Friends, the beauty of my dentist visit — and what I believe would be wise to employ in all of our conversations, be them about Donald Trump, impeachment, the presidential candidates, and more — is that the dentist respected me enough to sincerely consider my opinion.

Respect isn’t dependent upon agreement.

After all, we may wrong.

Respectfully…

AR

inside the thinking of a Trump supporter

The last national election was notable. Controversial. Emotionally-charged. Divisive. And no doubt it was full of diverse, strong opinion. The strong opinions continue via the impeachment debate. What’s become increasingly clear to me is that we don’t all think alike. The Intramuralist is actually thankful we don’t all think alike. Yet a current, significant, societal struggle is the obvious distrust and even dislike for that diverse, strong opinion. There is denigration. Insult. Judgment. And cutting off. What if we could instead pause long enough to listen and understand? And to actually dialogue? Wouldn’t it be wiser to comprehend why another thinks the way they do? Wouldn’t it be helpful in the path toward authentic solution?

The following is a submission respectfully sent by Z; the Intramuralist welcomes the review of respectful submissions. Note that Z is an intelligent, humankind-loving, charitable adult. He is not racist, sexist, nor any other perceived, negative “ist.” Z also believes he represents the perspective of the average Trump voter. Here are his words…

“Now that the dust has settled from the House impeachment debates, I have had the chance to reflect. After listening to the disputes in the chambers that December night — and listening to continued weeks of politicians and pundits chiming in — the arguments have become cyclical and redundant from both sides. Polls demonstrate that American adults are split down the middle on impeachment. A recent, liberal-slanted media poll shared that 48% support it and 48% oppose; unsurprisingly, 89.8% of Republicans oppose the efforts and 82.7% of Democrats are in support. Meanwhile, Trump’s overall approval rating has risen by at least six points, and support among independent voters has increased by eight points since the proceedings began, which would seem a conundrum if the President was indisputably guilty of a criminal offense or high crime and misdemeanor.  

The Democrats’ hopes to build increased public support for Trump’s impeachment have been unsuccessful, and as one of the President’s supporters, allow me to be a sincere, honest tour guide through the mind of the post-impeachment Trump voter and to articulate why the President continues to receive unwavering, increasing support from his base despite the charges imposed against him. It begins with the fact that the average Trump voter has become disenfranchised.

I guest-wrote on this blog two years ago, a forum that so wisely promotes productive dialogue in a civilized manner, but had my Christian faith questioned by people who have never met me, don’t know me or my name, all because I admitted to voting for Trump in the 2016 election. I cannot recall how many times that my character as a human being has been questioned because Trump has made sexually inappropriate comments toward women. Am I excusing it? No. Did I base my vote on it? Of course not. Why? If I did, the system would not work. Are each of us aware that both parties of Congress utilize a multi-million dollar fund, subsidized by taxpayer dollars, that pays off congressional staff members who accuse members of Congress of improper sexual advances or harassment? If our prerequisite for a candidate is that they must have a skeleton-free closet, then we best stop voting, as the chances we have voted for someone who has made inappropriate sexual remarks during their political career are high. Another’s opposition to Trump, therefore, does not authorize nor allow judgment of my personal character.

Please read what follows with sincerity and care, for this is insight into the root of our country’s divide from the perspective of what I believe is the average Trump voter.  For three years, they have been judged, had their identities excoriated, called ‘deplorable’ (and worse), primarily because of their support for Donald Trump as an elected official. Through social media, public protests, and cable news networks, his supporters are routinely labeled as hate-filled bigots whose thoughts and opinions are unwelcome because they do not wholly represent mainstream American values. When a fringe white supremacist organization, for example, expresses support for the President, his entire voter base is often labeled as racist. They’ve been repeatedly, physically beaten simply for wearing a hat that contains his campaign slogan. As a result of such personal — and frankly, painfully dehumanizing attacks on their character and person, inspired solely by a difference in political philosophy — his voter base has become increasingly, unforgivingly defensive. Here is what Trump’s voter base sees: an attack on him is an attack on them.  

Are we surprised, then, in this volatile atmosphere, that there is no bipartisan support for impeachment? One would think a charge that accuses the President of using public American finances to solicit assistance from a foreign leader for personal, political gain would strike anger in our hearts. However, to many voters, this notion cannot be proven based on the presented evidence. Two things did happen: 1) Trump asked Ukraine’s president for a favor, and 2) Trump withheld military assistance. The problem is that the only link between these two is a ‘presumption’ by America’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, that the aid was tied to the request. That’s it. Additionally, nearly all, perceived substantiative testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was based on opinion and hearsay, which by rule, the Senate would not allow. Constitutional expert and admitted Trump detester, Clinton donor, and far-left judge (as quoted by the NY Times in 2009), Pamela Karlan sat before Congress and, literally put words in Pres. Trump’s mouth when she analyzed what he meant by ‘do us a favor.’ The second impeachment charge of obstruction of Congress can be arguably negated by Trump’s assertion of executive privilege, but congressional Democrats intentionally chose not to challenge in court. Here is what Trump’s voter base sees: impeachment charges based on bias and hearsay by a party that has a documented hatred for Pres. Trump’s administration and his voters.   

Were this not frustrating enough for Trump’s supporters, congressional Democrat’s political duplicity has been farcical. Since the commencement of the impeachment process, many Democrat leaders have publicly expressed utter sadness at the need to conduct these proceedings. This claim seems wholly untrue. Paul Begala, a CNN political commentator and former Clinton advisor, recently boasted about meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the days immediately following the 2018 election, about the most beneficial time to pursue impeaching Trump. The House has also offered previous, failed articles for impeachment multiple times, and Democrat Representatives Al Green, Rashida Tlaib, and Maxine Waters have each made impeachment a promise to their constituents long before the Ukraine activity. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, conducted closed-door interrogations for approximately four weeks after the start of the official inquiry, releasing only snippets of politically-advantageous testimony. A bipartisan process has also been hindered by refusing and restricting numerous Republican inquiries and witnesses. Here is what Trump’s voter base sees: Congressional Democrats’ display of extreme political disingenuousness by masking their contempt for Trump behind the façade of constitutional responsibility.

As for me, I am a Libertarian who does not particularly care for Donald Trump, yet voted for him in 2016. But I find myself being swallowed up by the widening chasm, and now, with all due respect — I am angry. I have tried to sincerely and graciously engage those in opposition, and yet, so many demonstrate no regard for a dialogue that accepts how others perceive something; so many instead personally attack my character, values, and faith for casting a vote in favor of a candidate that I thought would help Americans prosper. I have been pushed too far. We are not divided because of our inability to talk about things, but because one side has vilified the other. When we corner an animal, it will do two things: fight back and remember who cornered it.

I will be voting again for Trump in 2020 — no matter what. If, by some wonder, the Senate votes to remove him from office, I will write his name in on the ballot so that the very American democratic process that has been unjustly weaponized against its President, and his voters, can record my vote but not have it.  

This is what Trump’s base is feeling.”

From Z…

Respectfully…

AR

how we’ll approach the new year

And here we are, ushering in 2020, somewhere in between a rhetorical bang and a whimper.

We certainly don’t know all that will happen in the year ahead, all the current events that will occur, which we may or may not discuss here. Consider a mere ten events we expect to unfold in the twelve months ahead…

  • Determination of the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee
  • The Grand Egyptian Museum’s completion, considered the largest archaeological museum in the world
  • Major League Baseball’s World Series, already set to begin on Oct. 20th
  • NASA’s Mars 2020 mission studying the habitability of Mars
  • The return of “Top Gun” (and Tom Cruise!) in “Top Gun: Maverick”
  • The Senate impeachment trial of Pres. Trump
  • The Summer Olympics — featuring 339 events in 33 sports held in Toyko, Japan
  • Super Bowl LIV — deciding the NFL champion — to be played on Feb. 2nd in Miami
  • The United States presidential election — the 59th quadrennial event
  • United Kingdom and Gibraltar’s exit from the European Union

All this and more is expected in the year ahead. All sorts of issues will evolve. Some we will discuss on the Intramuralist. Some we will not. Some items will be controversial. Some will not. 

But in each of these resulting issues — and in the unexpected scenarios and circumstances, problems and proceedings, miracles and tragedies that arise — I will promise you this…

We will ardently aim and advocate for:

  • Respectful dialogue
  • Welcoming of diverse opinion
  • Love of all humankind
  • Generous grace
  • And the constant pursuit of truth

To be blunt, sometimes I will fail in one or more of the above. My apologies — tis not my intent. However, this side of walking on water, all of us will fail sometime in perfect adherence to what we believe. Failure, my friends, is one of life’s greatest teachers.

And so today’s post is really more of a reminder — a referencing of our mantra, so-to-speak, in what the Intramuralist is set up to do. We are here to encourage, inspire, discuss, debate, and learn from one another. All opinion is welcomed as long as it is said in a way respectful of the one who thinks differently than you.

I was reminded of the great value in this as I recently finished Chip and Dan Heath’s “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.” The brothers referenced what social psychology terms the “fundamental attribution error,” something each of us — arguably too often — do. We tend to blame a conflict with another squarely on that person, under-emphasizing the situation at hand. Let’s be honest; blaming another is easier.

If we instead engage, therefore, in respectful dialogue, welcoming diverse opinion — especially from those who think differently than us — committed to loving all, offering generous grace while pursuing the truth — we will grow. And growth for each of us is necessary and good.

So here’s to 2020. Here’s to the events and issues we will discuss.

Some will be hard. For you. For me. For each of us. 

(Just wait for Wednesday.) 

May we learn from one another.

Respectfully…

AR

the big idea of the new year

Happy New Year, friends! Welcome to 2020!

There’s something about a new year that always excites me. It’s not about the football or all the jovial festivities. It’s not even about the feasting, as the seasonal merriment soon comes to an end.

And truthfully, it’s not even about the resolutions — for as much as I like them, any new habit is good however long it lasts — although resolutions do have something to do with my glee; they’re just not the big idea.

As a kid, my mother, a gifted educator, often pointed me to one of the sweetest, quietly-profound, metaphorical learnings in her classroom.

As the final bell rang, extracurricular activities ended, and both students and educators went home for the day, a loyal school staff member was tasked with entering the now unpopulated room and cleaning the dusty chalkboard.

Each day that board was covered… with statements and numbers and quotes and experiments… with conflicts and problems and ways-to-work-things out. It was a place that prompted trial and error… a place that even welcomed failure, as failure is often one of life’s best teachers; failure and conflict and error were not known negatives.

The next day — a new day — all students start with a clean slate.

A clean slate for each of us is the beauty of a new year.

There is no record in 2020 of any offense, omission, or fault. The “debris-like” stuff is gone. There are no “wish-I-wouldn’t-have-done-that’s.” It’s an opportunity to start anew. To start over. What a beautiful thing.

Now show me the person who says there’s never a need to start over or has zero regrets, and I’ll show you a person who has most likely never learned the wisdom in apology and forgiveness. Apology and forgiveness are also some of life’s best teachers.

What would make you healthier in 2020 with a chance to start over?

What habit would be wiser?

What relationship could be healed?

Where could you grow?

I read a book years ago entitled “If You Want To Walk On Water You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat.” I still chuckle, as granted, none of us are near capable of messianic comparison, but the reality is that growth is good for each of us. Developing healthier habits and relationships fosters increased opportunity to thrive.

And in the year ahead, what a gift it can be to thrive.

Whatever physical and emotional debris cluttered your calendar, heart and mind in 2019, now is a new opportunity. We can mentally wipe off what we don’t like about ourselves or others or what happened in the year behind. We don’t have to ignore it or act like it didn’t happen, but today is a new day. Each day is a new day. We just have to “get out of the boat” and start. That is what excites me.

The dusty chalkboard is now clean, friends.

I thus look forward to the year ahead, encouraging, learning, dialoguing, debating, and inspiring via the Intramuralist. We do this together, and it is both a joy and a privilege to do this with you.

Respectfully, always…

AR

2019 in 100 words

The week between Christmas and New Years always feels unique to me. Just after society beautifully, seemingly stands still for a day, there is an intentional remembering of the past followed by a hopeful recognition of what lies ahead.

Today, we think of 2019…

What happened? Who/what was significant or got our attention? For deserving or arguably undeserving reasons?

In 100 words, exactly…

al-Baghdadi

Anniston

Aunt Becky

Baby Yoda

Barr

Becoming

Bieber

Big Bang Theory

Biles

Blackface

Black Panther

Boeing 737 MAX

Brandt Jean

Brexit

Burrow

Cardi B

Carter

Clemson

Coach O

Coco

Derby Disqualification

Dorian

El Paso

Endgame

Epstein

Frank Robinson

Galaxy’s Edge

GOT

Holzhauer

Hong Kong

Ichiro

Immigration

Impeachment

Impossible Burger

James Corden

Jenna Bush Hager

Kanye

Kawhi

Keto

Kim Jong Un

LeBron

Liverpool

Lizzo

Luke Perry

Marvel

Meghan

Mueller

Nationals

Netflix

New Zealand

Notre Dame

Old Town Road

Patriots

Prime

Puerto Rico

Rami Malek

Shallow

Skywalker

Smollett

Spelling Bee

Thunberg

Tiger

Trebek

Trump

Ukraine

Virginia

World Cup

Yang

Zion

100 words. That was it. But who/what will get our attention in the year ahead? 

For deserving or arguably undeserving reasons?

Respectfully…

AR

I wonder…

Merry Christmas, friends!

Wherever you are at this time, whatever you believe, the Intramuralist wishes you the great joy and peace that comes with this season. We are thankful for you!

Preparing for this day, I began to wonder. I wondered about each of those involved in the account of this historic event…

The shepherds… Out in their fields nearby — geesh — I can’t imagine the shock of actually seeing, hearing, or interacting with an angel. But I love the angel’s first words: “Don’t be afraid.” I think of that now, as I humbly attempt to grow in my faith… no need to fear.

The Magi, wise men, or three kings… These men traveled most likely thousands of miles — from perhaps Persia (modern day Iran/Iraq) in the original star trek. What would motivate a man to travel so far? What were they expecting to find? I wonder about their walk.

Jesus… We celebrate the babe born in the manger, although few attest to December 25th being the actual day. What is attested to is the number of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus — a number somewhere in the hundreds. That blows me away. Makes me wonder more.

Mary… Ah, yes, Mary… Much about Mary makes me wonder… how she’s thought to have only been a teen… how other organized religions, such as Islam, also acknowledge her as the mother of Jesus… how one would wrestle with both a virgin birth and then carrying the supposed savior of the world — at approximately only 15! Amazing… so much to dwell on here.

And finally, Joseph… truth told, until recently I spent little time thinking of Joseph’s role… LOL — Mary had most of the work to do. We also sing a bunch of songs about all of the above, but few to none center on the man considered the Earthly father of Jesus. A wise teacher in my life encouraged me to camp here a little more this year…

Imagine… betrothed to the woman you love, and she then comes to you and says she’s pregnant… and not by you. Not only does she tell you she’s pregnant, but she shares with you this seemingly crazy claim that the father is the great big God of the universe.

Scripture tells us that Joseph struggled — shocking — with Mary’s claim. Legally, since the pregnancy was of no physical result connected to him, he had the right to stone her. But he had no desire to publicly shame the woman he loved; he planned to divorce her quietly.

Pause with me for a moment… he had to be emotionally unhinged inside. Yes, he could have Mary stoned — and get revenge for what she did. He could also divorce her quietly, as he planned — apathetic to what just happened. And let’s be honest with one another; in today’s culture, when we feel wronged by another, extracting revenge is expected and apathy is understandable.

But Joseph chose neither.

An angel appeared to him in a dream, also telling him not be afraid (love that!). The angel confirmed the words of Mary.

So Joseph chose to believe.

And he chose to offer grace.

Back to today’s culture for a minute — especially on Christmas day — few things are more contagious than grace. When generous grace is extended in scenarios where something lesser would have been either expected or understandable, we are prompted to wonder… how beautiful, indeed.

Merry Christmas, friends!

May your hearts be filled with wonder… all throughout the year.

With great joy and respect…

AR

[Header graphic courtesy of www.nonachurch.com in Orlando, FL.]