mom guilt

I struggled this year. I struggled with what I needed to write. What would help someone along their way? …and I struggled. I even considered that the Lord had closed the door on my guest blog time, and yet here I am. I hope this meets you or someone you know along the road when you need it most. Thanks to AR for the invite again; it’s always such an honor.

I was walking with a fellow mom (who I will call P) along a beach path recently in Myrtle Beach. I am just getting to know her, as our sons played baseball together this year.

The husbands were taking a large group of the boys from the team to a local water park and most of the moms were spending the day on the beach. She looked at me like I had 3 heads when I said I was looking forward to a day of relaxing. She asked why I didn’t feel guilty for not going nor felt guilty for planning a day of relaxing at the beach.

I said, “No, I don’t feel guilty.”

I told her P we’re a better mom when we take time for ourselves, read a book, get a pedicure, sit on the beach or have lunch with a friend… doing these things all help us, not hurt us — in being a better mom. P told me she has a lot of guilt being a mom, and that her husband really feeds into the guilt. This conversation has been plaguing me for weeks and got me wondering how many moms feel this same way.

When I googled “mom guilt,” 493,000 pages came up! WOW! WOW! WOW!

I had no idea this was crippling so many moms. I then saw this quote from author Fay Weldon: “guilt to motherhood is like grapes to wine.”

Webster’s defines “mom guilt” as tendencies a mom has to berate herself and to be judged by others for our child rearing decisions. A poll by Glamour Magazine asked men and women how guilty they felt about working after having kids. I was dumbfounded by the results: 87% of women and 0% of men feel guilty.

Let’s go back to my earlier time I was sharing while at the beach…

A group of us were having fun, enjoying the waves, the sun… some were napping, some were chatting… it was a great day. Throughout the day P kept asking if anyone had heard from our spouses and sons… “Do you think they’re ok?… Should I be worried that I haven’t heard from them?” I reassured her several times that it would be more concerning if we had heard from them.

I could see the struggle inside her on her face. It was sad; she’s believed the mom guilt lie. It’s the lie that says good moms don’t need a break — good moms are fulfilled solely by the time with their kids; “good moms _____________ (fill in the blank).” Friends, it’s a lie.

Focus on the Family describes taking time for yourself in this way…

Imagine running your car on low gas; it’s always a gamble, right? If you run out then someone has to come rescue you, fill up your car, and that takes away from two people — where if you had just stopped and filled up, you could’ve kept going. We are just like that car. If we are running our emotional and/or physical tank on empty, we can’t be the best for our family. We run the risk of running on low gas and that’s when tempers flare, feelings get hurt and meltdowns happen. If we had stopped and taken an hour, an evening, a whole day or even a weekend, we could’ve kept going at our best.

I’ll promise you this: the longer we let our tank run empty, the longer it takes to refill. Small stops of refilling when we’re a little low is much easier than if we let ourselves run bone dry.

I think I’ve become the strange lady in the grocery. When a kid is screaming and the mom is trying to regain control or maybe she’s not and just letting the kid scream, I’ve begun offering encouraging words. Sometimes my words are well received — sometimes they’re not — but I’ll keep saying them.

Let me end by saying parenthood is hard, and we’re all in the same kind of boat whether we see it or not.

So be kind; sometimes the sea of parenthood is temporarily smooth and sometimes it’s rowdy and the water is sloshing into the boat. So offer a smile, say a kind word, load a busy mom’s groceries into her cart, be kind to each other, and mostly be kind to yourself.

Respectfully…
AW

 

[Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash]

an american millennial… overseas…

Change has never been an unfamiliar thing for me. In fact, 18 years and eight life-altering moves later, change is something I welcome into my life.

As a little bit of a background, my mother works for General Electric (GE) as a Human Resources manager. In the past we have gladly followed her across the country. It was no surprise when she came home and told us that she was wanted for a job in Cheltenham, England; we jumped on the chance to live overseas.

Following my high school graduation we packed up and left our house in Loveland, Ohio. My sister and dad were getting ready to start a new life, once again, this time “across the pond”. On the other hand, I was only staying for the summer before attending Penn State in the fall.

I’d like to think that with every move I learn something new and this move is no exception. Despite the fact that I have only been here for about a month, I have already noticed so many differences between America and the United Kingdom. Prior to immersing myself into this place I was under the impression that because we spoke the same language we would be the same; I was greatly mistaken. I have not only learned how difficult it is to assimilate to a culture completely different from my own — and that while this move is an amazing experience for me and my family — I am so blessed to be an American.

Before we left Loveland, I pictured this move like it was just another family vacation; like every day would be activity filled and all my Instagram followers would be jealous of my amazing summer. The truth is, after my mom and dad go to work, it is just my sister and I left to explore this fabulous new city we are in; we have covered just about every inch of it and slowly we are settling into our routines. However, even as we go about our daily lives the way we would at home, the world around us moves differently. Everyday I sit at the same table in the same bookstore cafe dressed the same as everyone else, but when I walk in, it feels as if I’m back in the high school cafeteria looking for a place to sit.

Living in Cheltenham is like living in the Hamptons of New York. Everyone there went to an expensive prep school and buys expensive clothes and drinks fancy coffee with their circle of friends they’ve known all their lives. A friend of mine that grew up in London and is now living here says that because she’s black she feels that people stare at her more here, where it is less common and for the first time in my life I knew exactly what she meant.

I never realized how proud I was of my beautiful country until I, so badly, wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July and here it was just a normal day. Whereas Americans wear their patriotism loud and proud, the Brits do not. They also don’t like when people look them directly in the eye or raise their voice. In America it is considered friendly to compliment strangers… I told a girl I liked her skirt and she looked completely shocked I was even speaking to her.

However, not all Brits are this reserved; in fact, one of the biggest things I learned upon interacting with them is that they are not all the same. Due to the fact that they were different from me, I wanted to put them all in one large category, but just like Americans, how they interact with you mostly depends on where they are from. Cheltenham feels more like a social circle that I am slowly trying to find a way into; it feels almost as if they don’t know how to talk to me rather than they don’t want to. On the other hand, people from Wales more willing to talk to anyone, and unlike the most Brits, they hug as a greeting. Generally speaking they are far more reserved than Americans, but each new one I interact with, I learn something new and I can’t wait to meet more.

As different and weird as it feels, this place is becoming our home. No, they don’t have any good Mexican food, but I think when I go to college (or “uni” as they call it here), I know my family will do well. The main reason we came here still stands; it is an amazing opportunity to see Europe. Already I have seen and experienced so many things. My goals and aspirations to travel have grown so much because of this move. I have also learned the importance of family and I am amazed at how much closer we have grown since this move.

I once had a teacher who, after telling her about how often I’ve moved, she asked where I called home. At the time I told her I didn’t know and she responded that it was sad I didn’t call any particular place home. But what I know now is that home is where you make a life for yourself and you have people that love and accept you no matter what. Overall, this move has taught me that I will always be an American (and proud of it), but if you surround yourself with people that love and care about you, then you have found home.

Respectfully…
HB

 

[Photo by Hugo Sousa on Unsplash]

in search of common ground

As The Intramuralist guest writers continue through the month of August, today we wrap up a 4-part series exploring the reasons for the partisan gridlock in Washington and why each side talks about the other as evil, in search of mutual respect and a bipartisan path forward. If you’re just catching this entry, reviewing the previous installments – The Great Divide, Why One Would Choose to be Liberal, and Why One Would Choose to be Conservative – would be a helpful foundation. We are now In Search of Common Ground.

I began this escapade not knowing if I could complete it – certainly with no predetermined conclusions – but this exercise has provided a number of observations that have influenced my political worldview:

First of all, we itemized lists of extremist groups that choose to associate themselves with each side, socialists, militant atheists, moral relativists, and race baiters for the liberals, racists, anarchists, religious zealots, and materialists for the conservatives.

This brought my first observation: neither side describes themselves in those terms. You don’t hear liberals talking about abolishing capitalism or morality, just as you don’t hear conservatives promoting discrimination or theocracy. Each side tries to define the other as extremist. Why? Because if you believe your core values are threatened by the other side, you’re more inclined to write a check and get involved.

What should we do? Whenever one side talks about the other in extreme terms, stop listening.

Secondly, we explored a number of single issues that motivate some to vote one way or the other. In every case, the right answer is somewhere in between:

Environment vs. Business – Which do we need, a productive economy or to take care of the environment? The obvious answer is both.

Abortion – This is a tough one for those who believe any abortion is taking a life. But there is also no excuse for the abhorrent practice of partial-birth abortion. I’m comfortable with Bill Clinton’s declaration, “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.”

Guns – The right to own a gun is clearly in The Constitution. And there is absolutely no need for people to arm themselves with weapons whose only purpose is mass murder.

The right answers? In the middle, in the middle, and in the middle.

Then we examined the reasons one might choose to be liberal or conservative. The goal was not to prove ourselves right, but to understand the other. These analyses made clear that each persuasion has legitimate motivations for seeing the world as they do. So again, the right answer very well may be to combine the best of both rather than striving for one side to defeat the other.

But another observation bubbled to the top: liberals want the government to control economic outcomes, but stay out of our private lives, while conservatives want the government to stay out of the economy, but are far more comfortable legislating morality.

Are those even consistent philosophies? One begins to wonder if there truly are sets of core principles guiding each side, or are both simply cabbaging together collections of special interest positions in hopes that they add up to 51% of the electorate? For the left, democratic socialism, a progressive tax structure, gay rights, pro-choice, gun control, affirmative action, and social welfare. For the right, capitalism, tax incentives, evangelicals, pro-life, gun rights, reverse discrimination, and business. What do those positions even have in common? Who represents the common good?

And what would that common ground look like?

First of all, our government is out of control. We are $19 trillion in debt. It doubled under W., and it doubled again under Obama. Which means it’s growing not at a steady pace, but at a geometric rate. Like a virus.

We’re not going to fix that on the backs of poor people. Nor would we fix it if we took every dollar from “The 1%.” We’re not going to fix it by cutting all social programs, nor by not touching them. Nor can we fix it by continuing to write blank checks to the military.

Congress is sticking their heads in the sand pretending Medicare and Social Security have any hope of surviving the tsunami of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age. Rather than fix them, they keep playing politics, pointing fingers at the other side, saying they’re out to get you.

The same games are played with taxes. The politicians keep arguing about tax rates, arguing over who is favoring the rich or engaging in class warfare. But what matters is tax revenue, how many dollars are collected. It’s possible that lowering tax rates – with the appropriate closing of tax loopholes – would increase tax revenue, which would be good for everyone.

It is a fact, the rich and the poor are getting farther apart. There are those who could afford to pay more. But we can’t turn around and spend it, otherwise we just dig ourselves into a deeper hole. And entitlements need to be reformed so they don’t incentivize not working. Right now there are flat dollar amounts that once you exceed them by a single dollar, you lose your entire benefit. You simply can’t afford to do that. We’ve got to make it so it is always in your best interest to work and earn more.

On social issues, it is completely understandable why a homosexual wants equal rights. It is also completely understandable why a person who believes that homosexual acts are sinful would be reluctant to grant them. This country is a beacon to the entire world that all men and women were created equal, both the homosexual and the evangelical. We’ve got to find a way to give the homosexual equal rights without making the evangelical’s sincere viewpoint illegal.

So all of this begs the question, why can’t our elected officials find these compromises? I think the answer is clear: Politicians care more about being re-elected than about accomplishing anything in office.

Ubiquitous gerrymandering has institutionalized this phenomenon. Gerrymandering doesn’t only create safe districts for the majority, but also the minority. The way you get a whole bunch of districts with 60% favoring your side is by creating a few districts with 80% favoring the other.

The result is that in many cases, general elections don’t matter, only the primaries. So primary voters no longer have incentive to elect a bipartisan moderate who has a better chance in the general. Activist primary voters are more likely to elect an extremist who will “go fight for you.” Translation: talk about the other side as evil.

We’ve got to find our way out of this. I find myself debating systemic fixes such as requiring bills to have a majority vote of each party, or if you don’t vote for enough bills that pass, you’re ineligible for re-election. Create incentives to work together and get stuff done. Nonpartisan redistricting commissions are certainly a step in the right direction.

But politicians aren’t going to oust themselves. The answer has to start with you and me. We have to hold politicians from both sides accountable for actually accomplishing things.

There are legitimate reasons one would choose to be liberal. There are legitimate reasons one would choose to be conservative.

Let’s quit talking about the other as if they were evil. Let’s combine the best of both sides. Let’s find common ground.

Respectfully,

MPM

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

why one would choose to be conservative

Today we continue our guest series on the legitimate reasons one would hold a particular political view. I again ask readers not to focus on their view, but the other, in search of common ground. Today we explore Why One Would Choose to be Conservative.

As with liberalism, we start with conservative extremists, not as representative, but for reasons that will become clear in the series conclusion:

Racists – There are no two ways about it, just as no Democratic presidential candidate since 1960 has received less than 82% of the African-American vote, those who are prejudiced vote in the other direction.

Anarchists – And those who would overthrow the government, for whatever reason, vote with the party who would at least limit it.

Religious Zealots – Those who would hold a literal interpretation of the Bible over our Constitution align with the party that wraps itself in religion.

Materialists – Greedy, filthy-rich people who want to keep as much as possible for themselves.

And just as with liberals, there are those who vote conservative because of their passion for a single issue:

Business – Attributing this country’s success to the strength of our free-enterprise system, some object to any restriction upon business whatsoever.

Abortion – Those who equate ending a pregnancy within the womb to murder.

Guns – It’s in the Constitution, so don’t you restrict my right to own any gun one iota.

And just as with liberalism, there are legitimate reasons one would choose to be conservative.

We again need to recognize that the labels have flipped over the years. European “conservatives” sought to preserve the monarchy the Americans (“classical liberals”) revolted against.

But today, generalizing, while liberals are by and large idealistic, conservatives tend to be more pragmatic.

They don’t necessarily disagree with the problems liberals identify, but they don’t think passing laws to fix them works very well.

And they definitely don’t see government as a very effective means of solving society’s problems.

At the core of conservatism is a belief in a free-market economy as clearly the most prosperous economic engine the world has ever seen, so much so that many equate the free market with freedom itself.

They believe that any government interference in that economy creates inefficiency. Less efficiency means less prosperity. Too much inefficiency, and we are no longer the economic powerhouse we could be.

Conservatives are far more comfortable with the disparate outcomes of the free market. They like to say that everyone is guaranteed equal opportunity, but not equal results.

As one conservative writer put it, “Man is flawed. This world is imperfect. Youth is fleeting. Life isn’t fair. Conservatives are comfortable acknowledging all of these things.”

But conservatives are afraid that the more we “rob from the rich and give to the poor,” the less incentive there is to drive economic activity, which means a lower standard of living.

Just as with liberals, there are a myriad of reasons one could be conservative. Socially, philosophers have debated for thousands of years whether standards of right and wrong stay the same forever or change over time. Social conservatives are more likely to believe in moral absolutes.

I again don’t want to be too cursory or over-generalize, but that pretty much captures it for me – let the free market do its thing, and interfere with it as little as possible.

So conservatives, is there anything important I left out? Or liberals, anything I glossed over? Remember, the goal is to understand each other, not insult the other.

Because next comes the hard part, In Search of Common Ground….

Respectfully,

MPM

Photo by Mitch Nielsen on Unsplash

why one would choose to be liberal

We’re embarking this week on a guest-written series exploring why people hold the political views they do. The goals are not to think maliciously of others, speak respectfully to each other, and hopefully find enough areas of agreement that could serve as the basis of an agenda the vast majority of us could support. See Sunday’s The Great Divide for the series introduction.

Each side has their extremists, and each side has their single-issue voters. Though unflattering, we will include them for both sides, as our conclusion will discuss how each poisons the tone of our political discourse. But the focus of our analyses are the very legitimate reasons one would choose to hold that political worldview. Today we explore Why One Would Choose to be Liberal.

I ask for your patience in discussing extremists. I am not saying they are representative of liberals, nor that the conservative extremists will be representative of conservatives. Why I include them will become clear by the end of the series:

Socialists – People who believe that the government should own the means of production, so business decisions could be made altruistically, rather than by greedy profiteers.

Militant Atheists – Those who want any reference to God completely removed from the public square.

Moral Relativists – Those who believe there should be no standards of right and wrong.

Race Baiters – If the African-American vote split 50/50 instead of 80/20, that would be the end of the Democratic party as we know it. So some politicians focus on keeping that voting bloc in line.

Similar to the extremists, each party has those who align with it for a single issue that is their passion:

Environmentalists – Some are extreme, believing that nature is more important than human beings, but most simply advocate protection of our environment, because this is the only earth we have.

Abortion – For some, this has become an all-consuming issue, preserving a woman’s right to choose.

Guns – Concerned about the high rates of gun-related crime and death in America, some seek to restrict the use of some or all guns or to make private ownership of firearms unlawful.

These are far from exhaustive lists. They are exemplary and will be used to make a point about how they affect our political discourse in the conclusion of this series.

But the primary point is that there are very legitimate reasons why someone would choose to be liberal.

To be clear, we must differentiate between classic liberalism and what it has come to be known as today. Classic liberalism focused on enhancing individual freedom and therefore limiting government. But modern liberalism, which has re-branded itself first to being “moderate” and now “progressive,” considers government to be a crucial instrument in protecting against social inequities.

In general, liberals sincerely care about people. That’s not to say that conservatives don’t, but when liberals see the injustices of discrimination or the inequalities between the have and have nots, they say to themselves, “That needs to be fixed.”

They tend to be a bit idealist. When they see one of these problems, they not only believe it should be fixed, but that it can be.

This idealistic care for people leads to a generally positive view of government.

Since real freedom can only exist when people are healthy, educated, and free from poverty, liberals believe the government should guarantee the right to an education, health care, and a living wage, while outlawing discrimination and pollution.

Then there needs to be a provision for taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves.

And they pay for all this by taking from those who can.

As one progressive website puts it, “Everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.”

There are, of course, many other possible motivations. I wish to be neither cursory nor exhaustive. Some are liberal more for social reasons than economic. In those cases, it is typically sticking up for the rights of a minority group of any sort – racial or otherwise – against being overrun by the majority.

And liberalism, which originally sought to limit government to protect the individual, has evolved to favor a strong central government to mandate the equality it so desires.

Fair enough? Any liberals out there who think I’ve left something out? Any conservatives who think I’ve used rose-colored glasses?

Just remember, the goal isn’t to convince me that liberals are evil, but to discover the legitimate reasons one would hold that view.

Next we will explore Why One Would Choose to be Conservative.

Respectfully,

MPM

Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

the great divide

I can’t think of any other way to say it. Our government simply isn’t accomplishing very much right now.

Before the Trump-haters start cheering or his apologists take offense, I’m not talking about The President. This dynamic has continued to evolve in the last two administrations, Republicans making it their stated goal to obstruct Barack Obama at every turn, and now Democrats so unwilling to work with the Trump administration that they are calling themselves “The Resistance.”

It didn’t used to be this way. Politicians from both parties used to go after each other pretty hard during their campaigns, but even in the most contentious contests, once they were elected, they put the campaigns behind them and got on with the vital work of governing. The consideration of various issues did not involve who won or lost, only what was best for the American people. In fact, some of the best examples of legislative achievement have been partnerships that reached across the aisle:

  • Democrat George McGovern introducing food stamps with Republican Bob Dole to control costs and help the truly needy
  • Bob Dole again with Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan in an attempt to save Social Security
  • Bill Clinton working with a bitterly divided Congress to pass welfare reform
  • Conservative Orrin Hatch providing children’s health insurance with ultra-liberal Edward Kennedy
  • Socialist Russ Feingold creating campaign finance reform with maverick John McCain so neither side would view it as the other’s solution
  • Indiana Republican Richard Lugar collaborating with Georgia Democrat Sam Nunn on nuclear disarmament, and later with Illinois Democrat Barack Obama

That’s not the way things work today. I don’t know if it’s the Internet, Twitter, or 24-hour cable news, but we are now in constant campaign mode. Every issue is seen as an opportunity to win points against one’s opponents for the next campaign. We never get around to governing! I don’t know which side wins, but it’s the American people who lose.

We saw it in the last administration, when Mitch McConnell stated, “My number one priority is making sure President Obama is a one-term president.” And we saw it again during the recent health care debates, when every Democrat voted “No” on everything, and Republicans couldn’t find a solution to which 50 of 52 Senators could agree.

We’ve lost a number of elements critical to public service in this transformation into constant-campaign mode: no one is governing anymore, we aren’t making any progress on anything, and civility is completely out the window.

It’s this last point where I think the discussion needs to begin. Because politicians are in constant-campaign mode, they have to keep their bases energized, engaged, and most importantly, sending money. So they speak about those on the other side in the vilest terms, be it the Democrats who want to kill children through abortion or the Republicans who want to kill children by taking away their healthcare.

I’m pretty sure no one want to kill children. But how can the two parties be expected to work together when they talk about each other as if they were evil?

That’s where we’re going this week. With The Intramuralist away getting some much-deserved R&R, we’re going to do a 4-part series on how to quit talking about people who have different political views than we do as if they were mal-intentioned or misinformed. There are legitimate reasons one may choose to be liberal. There are legitimate reasons one may choose to be conservative. Following this introduction, we’ll explore each of these viewpoints.

One of these will come more easily to me. But I’m hoping you can’t tell which.

And I’m asking each reader not to focus on their own viewpoint and say, “Yeah, that’s right!” but on the other viewpoint and say, “Ok, I can understand why one might feel that way.”

Then in conclusion – and I don’t even know yet whether I can do this – we will seek common ground. Is it possible to focus on the things upon which we can agree rather than where we differ? Can we combine the best of each into solutions that would be better for all?

I don’t know. But we’re not making any progress the way things are. Let the journey begin….

Respectfully,

MPM

 

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

accepted the way we are?

Early in our relationship, my wife and I debated the proposition that people have the ability to change who they are — the attributes and characteristics that are most deeply ingrained in their being — personalities and orientations, so to speak. The way we respond to situations, the way we compose ourselves in different circumstances, the lifestyle choices we make that bring definition to our lives; all originate in the roots of our natural dispositions. Earthly wisdom tells us that we are who we are and we should learn to accept that, because once we do there is no greater freedom. And why? Enjoy this life, find total carnal happiness for yourself — live your life according to you. The notion of American distinctiveness has been culturally entrenched since Hoover, but because of an increased desire for uniqueness and personal happiness, this country has seen an unprecedented rise in individualism on the social landscape. People, now more than ever, not only believe that they wield total autonomy over their lives (as opposed to the sovereignty of a higher power), but they desire such control for others, which, in turn, has contributed to the development of a sweeping trend of increased tolerance of unorthodox lifestyles, behaviors, and viewpoints. This might lead us to assume that religious belief would see a gradual decline in society, but ironically, nine out if ten Americans still believe in God.

Though the self-esteem movement of the 1980’s gained some traction, there is an even more popular movement of self-love and acceptance that has swept American society in recent years, driven by one defining factor — we do not like to be judged. We believe that we are who we are and for others to criticize our ingrained attributes is offensive and hypocritical. And the influence is suffocating. Pop culture icons write songs about it; secular and Christian authors write books about it; and our favorite movies and shows formulate storylines that embrace it. Lady Gaga seemingly incorporates her beliefs in a universalist God in her chart-topper “Born This Way”; Joel Osteen reminds his readers of their unlimited potential in his best-selling The Power of I Am; and as arguably the most influential person on TV, Oprah promotes 10 day plans on “how self-acceptance can crack open your life.” While these examples might seem harmless to most, this constant stream of vanity stimulation has helped to create an over-developed sense of narcissism. We need to feel important, valued, accepted, affirmed. This movement teaches us that we are the priority; that we should put our own happiness and well-being first (the mission statement from the “self-love movement” website). Even the widely valued Five Love Languages takes one of our deepest human-based egotistical insecurities, the need for affirmation, and promotes it as an inherently endearing quality that should be not only accepted, but nurtured. This mindset naturally leads us away from religion because the onus is no longer on any deity to preserve us; we are responsible for ourselves. But, since 89% of Americans still believe that God exists (Gallup, 2016), there is clearly a philosophical conflict waging in us about how much control we have over our own lives. We want what we want, but in the back of our minds we are uncertain about the end. But, since the percentage of people who still believe that God exists is so surprisingly high, let’s assume, then, that there is a God and quickly indulge a putatively uncomfortable question: Does God accept us the way we are?

As this movement has gained steam, people have departed from the traditional, uncompromising legalism of the Christian religion (found in both the Old and New Testaments) that permeated much of American culture for centuries and flocked to the more groovy, “progressive” teachings of Jesus, who even modern secular scholars believe was a great moral philosopher. This forward-looking perspective focuses almost exclusively on God’s boundless love, while omitting the reminder that God is still capable of great wrath. But because of their increased levels of tolerance for unorthodox social behaviors that derive from “who people are,” the potential for wrath doesn’t make sense to millennial Christians. If there is a God, why would he have programmed someone in such a manner to innately defy his edicts? If we believe that we are were simply born a specific way — that God made us this way — there is nothing to change. We are who we are.

First of all, God wove an intricate web of elements together to make you who you are – and for a purpose. But, unless one believes strictly in moral relativism, Christians and non-Christians can agree that people do bad things, making them inherently imperfect. Let me be clear; this is not a piece on the concept of “original sin,” but if God is perfect and we are imperfect, and perfection is the absence of imperfection, then prior to a relationship with God, “the way you are” is separated from him. Logically, then, it is not possible for us to be in the presence of God while covered in our iniquities, so how could God accept us the way we are prior to entering into a relationship with him? Because of our innate imperfection, then, something has to change for us to engage in communion with God. This is not meant to be dismal or condemning; this is the reality of God’s holiness against our deficiencies.

The most significant flaw in the movement for limitless acceptance is that it equates tolerance with love. Why do we think that just because God loves us, he accepts lifestyles, actions, and decisions that are contrary to his teachings and nature? If God had simply established an underlying, universal acceptance of human beings, there would have been no need for Jesus, the man who even secularists invoke when justifying their choices to Christians. My wife loves me, but she would confidently affirm that there are things about me that need to change. Consider, for example, that, sometimes, I can be driven by pride. Scripture consistently and frequently speaks against pride. So, if I know that God would rather me not rest in my pride, why wouldn’t I strive for humility? Because he made me the way I am?

People like to think that since God created them, they must be perfect in his eyes —  otherwise, why would he have created them only to reject them because of something that is out of their control (personality, orientation, etc.)? In this confidence, we convince ourselves that we are fashioned with a natural righteousness that provides us with an ultimate, unconditional acceptance as long as we not only maintain, but even cultivate that outward righteousness toward others. But Jesus offers a different outlook on this and because 71% of Americans still believe the Bible to be a holy document and God-inspired, it would seem worth the look. In his parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, which was given specifically for people who think highly of their own righteousness while looking down on others, the Pharisee thanked God, through prayer, that he was not like “robbers, evildoers, and adulterers,” — sinners — and reminded God of his own righteousness in regularly fasting and tithing, which the Pharisee would have considered part of God’s law. The tax collector, meanwhile, stood further back, in shame, unable even to lift his head, because he knew that he was a sinner. Instead, his prayer was simple: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus told the people that the tax collector went home justified before the Lord because of his humility, prompting that “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” To the world, this self-love movement is exactly what we need to help us achieve true happiness for ourselves. To God, we have made ourselves the idol.

Respected author N.T. Wright notes an important point in his biblical commentary regarding the half-truth that God simply accepts us the way we are: “will ‘God’s acceptance’ do as a complete grounding of Christian ethics? Emphatically not. Grace reaches where humans are and accepts them as they are, because anything less would result in nobody’s being saved… but grace is always transformative. God accepts us where we are, but God does not intend to leave us where we are…” If you are prepared to justify questionable actions, lifestyle decisions, or personality quirks based on the premise that because God is full of love, he unconditionally accepts you — guess again. Thankfully, we have pop icon Alessia Cara to remind us everyday on the radio: “you should know you’re beautiful just the way you are; and you don’t have to change a thing; the world could change its heart….”

We are not a God.

Respectfully…
Z

introducing our annual guest writer series

Since the inception of the Intramuralist nine years ago, we have enjoyed a spirited discussion covering hundreds of — actually, well over a thousand — topics. It’s been thought-provoking, encouraging, and often challenging… sometimes all at the same time.

As stated here frequently, the goal of this blog is not that we persuade one another into all thinking the exact same thing. We don’t. We can’t. And I don’t believe such clonal thinking is wise nor necessary.

The goal of the Intramuralist is to learn to communicate in such a respectful manner that others can actually hear what you have to say. The reality is that if a person isn’t willing to communicate respectfully, the chances of them being heard readily diminishes.

The Intramuralist desires to be heard. I desire to hear you. I desire for each of us to actively listen to one another. And if we listen well, ask good questions, and interact respectfully, each of us can and will be sharpened.

I desire to be sharpened. And yes, I desire to grow.

Exemplifying that desire to listen to others, for nine years, we have offered our infamous Guest Writer Series at the end of summer. The series is a collection of insight, opinion, and offerings from someone other than me, published in late July/August of each year. If we are going to be sharpened, we need to listen to persons other than one — or rather, other than only the insulating likeminded.

I believe this year’s writers to be excellent. They are intuitive, thoughtful, and diverse. They hail from various professions all over the country… from a business executive to a stay-at-home mom… from a writer to a nurse… from a student to a salesman…

They speak with different styles, using varied tones.

Collectively, no less, they have chosen a wide variety of subjects — subjects in which each of the respective writers is individually passionate. For example, beginning Tuesday, in the next few weeks, you will hear opinions on evolution, climate change, adoption, etc. You’ll hear from one about the importance of our individual, physical health — encouraging each of us to take sincere stock in such. You’ll hear from some articulate millennials — one on what it’s like to live in a foreign land this summer — and another talking to parents about what it’s like to grow up with depression.

We learn from the varied angles… angles different than our own.

You’ll also hear several commentaries on current challenges affecting our society, culture, and government. I appreciate the varied approaches to how we navigate through the seemingly increasing incivility. That is a theme mentioned by many.

Also planned is a multi-part series on why a person would choose to be a Democrat or a Republican. It is logical and well thought out and not inflammatory in any way. Remember that each perspective is sincere and respectful; hence, we can be sharpened and grow.

Let me also be clear to state that the perspectives shared may or may not be opinions I agree with. But again, agreement has never been my goal. My goal is for respectful dialogue. I am committed to respectful dialogue. Always.

Additionally, during this time, I will be taking a bit of an intentional respite, resting and reflecting and being recharged. Rest is good, my friends. It helps us do what we’re called to do; it’s important to rest intentionally. I thus look forward to the break, but I look equally forward to being back and penning multiple (exceptionally witty) posts upon my return.

So sit back. Enjoy. Learn. Be sharpened. 

Let the author know what you think.

But do so respectfully. Always.

Here’s to the 2017 Guest Writer Series, introducing 15 expressive guest writers, starting Tuesday. I can’t wait. The broad diversity, the sincere articulation, and the mutual respect…

This, my friends, is good.

Respectfully…
AR

 

[Photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash]

the “together”

Seasons are good because they don’t last forever. With eternity being the only thing that lasts, wisdom is gleaned by maximizing the seasons… recognizing what’s present while it is there — not immobilized by pining for the past nor reaching only for the future. Seasons give life value.

I’ve been struck by the seasons shared in my current community, seasons that surpass our individual differences, differences we too often choose to use as a divisional source or force.

Together, we have experienced the tenures of presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump.

Together, we have watched seven summer Olympics — in Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, and Athens… in Beijing, London, and most recently in Rio.

Together, we cried the day Diana died… maybe, also, for Michael or Pres. Reagan. At least then our heads were bowed, our voices softened, and our hearts were full of respect.

Together, still, on 9/11, we stared at the television in shock but no awe. That remains one thing seemingly still so huge to attempt to wrap our heads around.

But the experiences within these seasons shared have not always been so “big”…

Together, we have celebrated the birth of our children, their noted growth and accomplishments — ours, too — both personal and professional. We have huddled, too, in some heartbreaking moments of mourning. I will never forget, for example, our “Best Friends for a Day” post, where a series of planes, trains, and automobiles in the middle of a blizzard in the wake of my sister’s death on the eve of one of my son’s greatest successes led to a precious, shared experience. Again, it was together.

The beauty of shared experience is the “together.” The value is that it comes and goes in seasons.

Are you maximizing where you are while that you are there?

The moving vans soon come to pack up my stuff and haul it away. No worries; the Intramuralist will continue… just from a new home base. We are moving to a new community.

While there is excitement in all the newness that accompanies a move, this isn’t, obviously, totally easy. It’s hard, in fact, for we have maximized our seasons. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This thought keeps swirling in my head, such seemingly simple words…

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”

“Where the Sidewalk Ends” is one of those iconic Shel Silverstein poems written to children but yet so poignantly also written to us. We often miss the joy that children inherently have; we let obstacles and other stuff get in the way. We thus miss the beauty of the seasons. Silverstein encourages us to go to the place that children know… stepping back, sensing the joy, seeing what our kids see.

What do they see?

Seasons.

And they see the value of sharing them together.

Respectfully…
AR

 

[Photo by Joseph Young on Unsplash]

motive

mo·tive
ˈmōdiv/
noun
1. a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.

_____

No doubt the Intramuralist is fascinated with much — from the big to the small, serious to silly. I am fascinated with much. For example … how the media has morphed into a generous giver of editorials as opposed to an unbiased sharer of news… how even the intelligent seem to utilize extensive hyperbole and exaggerated rhetoric… and how my very friendly dog continues to ferociously bark at any under the grand height of three feet tall… (watch out, Yogi…).

But one aspect that fascinates me time and time again — recognizing that fascination is not necessarily good or bad —   is the all too frequent assumption of motive.

We assume we know why someone does what they do or says what they say. We assume we know the why. In other words: we assume we know — and… we know with certainty the motive of another.

Excuse me, but may I be so bold to repeat the above definition?

A “motive” is a reason for doing something, especially, one that is hidden or not obvious.

Hence, if it’s hidden, that means we — you, me, Yogi, etc. — can’t actually see it. And if we can’t see it, we can’t confirm it to be true.

What is true is that sometimes we can make an educated guess. But educated as it is, a guess remains still at its root, only a guess; it will never qualify as fact. Because a person’s motive is hidden, we cannot confirm a guess as fact without the other’s verification.

Oh, yes, I’ve heard the convenient, clever logic, posing a thoroughly thought through motive for another and then attempting to reinforce our, uh, guess with the logically porous, “well, what else could it possibly be?”

It could be lots.

In fact, it could be something that we don’t know or are incapable of knowing.

On last week’s edition of “The Rubin Report,” a YouTube political commentary created by Dave Rubin, the self-identified classical liberal interviewed author Andrew Klavan, who shared that he’ll often opine about the current President, assessing what he feels  the President has done either right or wrong; he sees some of both.

Klavan and Rubin then discuss the many who can see only right or only wrong. And then they address the assumptions we make about the motives of others — supporters, detractors, or none of the above. Here’s the part of their conversation that yes, fascinated me [emphasis is mine]:

KLAVAN: “… People think that if they disagree with you, their reasons are rational and your reasons are personal — that’s what they think…”

RUBIN: “… that concept of impugning your intellectual opponent’s motives is such a sad thing that has seeped into everything.”

Yes. We tend to think there is only one right perspective.

We tend to think we can accurately identify the motives of another.
And when we find others who don’t hold our same perspective, we are often tempted to impugn their motives.

We then also tend to forget that motives are hidden and not obvious.

That, my friends, is, well, fascinating.

Respectfully…
AR