four days after Parkland

Let’s talk honestly, rawly about what happened last Wednesday. Let’s talk about the students. Let’s talk about solution.

First, take a moment to say each of these names out loud. Take note, too, of their ages…

Alyssa Alhadeff (14), Martin Duque Anguiano (14), Scott Beigel (35), Nicholas Dworet (17), Aaron Feis (37), Jaime Guttenberg (14), Christopher Hixon (49), Luke Hoyer (15), Cara Loughran (14), Gina Montalto (14), Joaquin Oliver (17), Alaina Petty (14), Meadow Pollack (18), Helena Ramsay (17), Alex Schachter (14), Carmen Schentrup (16), and Peter Wang (15).

We need to know their names, see their faces. We need to make sure we humanize the process and allow ourselves to feel. We cannot simply stand back behind a policy; we need to stand most behind our people.

17 people died Wednesday afternoon. No doubt none expected to lose their life that day. And that could have been any our kids or any of us or any of our loved ones, too; we expect school to be safe. It was not. It’s seemingly, increasingly not.

So what do we do? What’s the solution?

Let me first say I have tremendous respect for those who shout and shame on social media. They are motivated by a deep desire to solve this problem.

I also have tremendous respect for those who cry out and pray, acknowledging we need help in this area. They are motivated by a deep desire to solve this problem.

What concerns me are those who see only one of the above as right, and therefore denigrate all others. “The ‘my way or the high way’ approach is rendering all of us incapable of rising up to a challenge that will continue to consume the most innocent and best of us,” says one wise friend. We need to address the challenge without attacking or dismissing the approach of another.

I do find comfort that even among the most passionate, shameful expressers, each of us is still motivated by a desire to solve this heartbreaking challenge in our country.

Friends, we can — and should, I believe — look at policy changes. So let’s do something that works. Let’s take the politics out of it and find what’s effective and works. There is no such thing as “there is nothing we can do.”

Do we need to limit access to semi-automatic weapons? Then let’s do it. But let’s limit more than just the scary looking ones.

Do we need to limit the lobbyist groups that are influencing policy and our legislators’ votes?

Then let’s do it. But let’s limit far more than the NRA. Let’s limit the AARP, AFL-CIO, and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, too. Each of those (and more) is affecting the way our legislators vote. As said here previously, the Intramuralist strongly believes that the eased restrictions on lobbyists and special interest groups — which occurred in the late 1970’s — is a primary origin of the divisive governance we sadly witness today.

But  remembering that we are talking honestly and rawly, is there more we need to do? After acknowledging the students and advocating for solution, let’s not ignore the also true realities…

  • What happened in Parkland was evil. We cannot legislate evil out of the human heart…
  • We are a society which is at best inconsistent and at worst arrogant regarding the sanctity of life. We care more about some lives than others… and…
  • We have become increasingly less compassionate and accepting of violence.

Let me make the last point a little more poignant. We have become increasingly more accepting of selective compassion, meaning we are not compassionate toward all — and we justify it.

Follow the perspective of one Florida middle school Teacher of the Year [with the emphasis being mine], “Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behavior at school (oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it – violent video games that take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives – as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school.”

So yes, we need to review policy change. Yes, we need to keep praying. And yes, we need to respect one another in their different approach. Let’s work together toward solution.

That’s love, friends. Let’s make love toward all lives — toward the victims, especially — be our loudest, collective voice…. for far more than four days after Parkland.

Respectfully…
AR

more than a game(s)

What are they saying about these Olympics?

Two great stories… first, from Dylan Hernandez, a sports columnist with the Los Angeles Times, including his editorial commentary:

“A more appropriate nickname for these so-called Peace Games would be the Geopolitical Public Relations Olympics, as North Korea has claimed gold in media manipulation with a contingent that has included Kim Jong Un’s sister, red-clad cheering sections and low-caliber athletes that have become the subjects of widespread fascination.

In the background of the cynical spectacle, however, the ideals of the Olympics remain very much alive, embodied by anonymous men and women competing in obscure sports, athletes such as Chris Mazdzer, who on Sunday became America’s first-ever male medalist in the luge.

You had probably never heard of Mazdzer, but that’s the point. His silver medal won’t make him an overnight millionaire and, at some point, the 29-year-old will have to find work that doesn’t involve him sliding down his back on ice-covered tracks.

If anything, the absence of money and fame have made the 29-year-old’s journey to the podium all the more meaningful.

‘It’s all about passion, it’s about heart,’ Mazdzer said. ‘That’s what luge is.’”

And second, in the words of newly-donned Pyeongchang gold medalist, Shaun White, reflecting on one, experiencing a serious crash/injury on the slopes, as he prepared for these games:

“… By saying I want to continue on in the sport means that I’m looking at myself in the mirror and saying, ‘if I’m out on the snow again, that means that I’m willing to have that happen again. I’m ready to take that risk.’ And it was a big decision.

From that moment in the hospital in New Zealand ’til like winning the competition, making the [Olympic] team, and a perfect 100 score — I mean, that was truly the comeback story for me, and it just felt so amazing — and so incredible to make that jump back and overcoming the fears and get that score. And now I’m still fired up for this Olympics. This is really icing on the cake, if things go the way I hope they go…”

And two, on disappointedly, not medaling four years ago, and later deciding to train and compete once more:

“People ask, ‘When are you going to get over it?’ You know, the loss or whatever. You don’t, you don’t really ever get over it. It’s kind of like you have a scar from falling off a bike; it’s just with you forever. But you learn from it. So it’s a part of me now, which is great. As hard as it was, I’m thankful that it happened because it taught me a lot.”

Passion.
Dedication.
Thanksgiving.
Redemption.

Being taught a lot… learning from it… even in heartache and loss.

There is certainly something about these games that is beautiful…

And far more than just a game.

Respectfully…
AR

coin flips & comparisons

Every two years — in winter and then summer — one athlete is honored with the privilege of carrying the American flag, leading his or her peers in the opening Olympic ceremonies.

Last week, in a process “fully driven by the athletes,” America’s eight winter sports federations voted to determine who would receive the prestigious honor. When coming to a 4-4 tie between speedskater Shani Davis and luge athlete Erin Hamlin, to break the tie, the predetermined procedure called for a coin flip, which was won by Hamlin.

Davis was mad.

Tweeted Davis in the immediate aftermath:

“I am an American and when I won the 1000m in 2010 I became the first American to 2-peat in that event. @TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer. No problem. I can wait until 2022. #BlackHistoryMonth2018 #PyeongChang2018”

Davis is black. Hamlin is white.

So allow me to share with you now, that this post will have zero answers. It will, however, raise multiple questions. The older I get, in fact, the more I profoundly realize how I don’t have all the answers — nowhere close. And sometimes — no, often — I realize asking instead of opining leads to greater wisdom.

Was it wrong to flip a coin?

Davis is quite the accomplished athlete; he’s a five-time Olympian with two golds and two silver medals in his collection.

Hamlin is a four-time Olympian, winner of one bronze, a two-time world champion and winner of 23 World Cup medals.

In other words, both are accomplished athletes and each seen as deserving of the flag bearer honor in the eyes of their peers. Also true is that Olympic success is not the only factor in the consideration of their peers.

So was it wrong to flip the coin?

Hamlin indeed felt honored by the selection. ESPN said she “beamed about the opportunity.” She told the story about how her parents always wrestle with the money necessary to attend the opening ceremonies. She said, “I think they’re going to be really glad that they made that decision. They’re really pumped. I’m sure my brothers will be. We’ve grown up watching the Olympics and we’re always like, ‘Who’s going to be carrying the flag?’ And to actually be that person is insane.”

Her luge mates were also reportedly thrilled — both for the honor of Hamlin and the attention given to their sport.

And so again, I ask: was it wrong to flip the coin?

The oft-outspoken Davis has a great story. Hamlin, too, has a story.

How often in life do we compare our stories — and then decide who has the one that’s better? … who is most deserving?

How often do we compare?

Is it wrong to advocate for self?

And what happens when our self-advocacy is disrespectful to other people?

Ah, what an excellent, most complicated question…

Respectfully…
AR

returning to a great era

And then there was this on Tuesday on the Senate floor, as calmly spoken by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)…

“So with that, I’m going to sign the pledge. It says here:

‘Pledge to Return to Era of Bipartisan Cooperation and Agreement

In order to restore civility to the United States Senate and our political discourse, we must pledge to return to an era of bipartisan cooperation and agreement.

I, Joe Manchin (signing his name), pledge to the people of West Virginia (the state Manchin has been elected to represent) and to the American people that I will:

Not campaign against a sitting colleague.

2) Not directly fundraise against them.

3) Not distribute direct mail against them.

4) Not appear or endorse any advertisements directed at them.

5) Not use or endorse social media campaign that attacks them.

I would hope that each one of you all would consider this.

I think we have to take this into our own hands right now, and make sure that we look at each other — we look at each other with sincerity.

You’re my friend.

We might disagree but we can work through this.

We can work through this, Mr. President.

We can definitely work through this — and remember our purpose in being here.

The people want us to succeed. They depend on us to succeed. And that’s the policies that they need… whether it be in Indiana, South Dakota, West Virginia, they all want the same. They want America to be the hope of the world.’”

How many of us would encourage our representatives to follow the lead of Sen. Manchin?

How many of us would not?

Let me also ask:

How many of us want to be part of the solution?

… or the problem?

Thank you, Joe Manchin III.

Please keep talking; please do not be silent.

Respectfully…
AR

learning from the Super Bowl…

So first, ten things we learned from Super Bowl LII…

  1. Minnesota is cold.
  2. Justin Timberlake rocks.
  3. Eagles really do fly.
  4. Sometimes a backup player makes all the difference in the world.
  5. Marketers determined they would make more of a difference by omitting the political statements during commercial timeouts this year.
  6. Tom Brady may be a “goat,” but he’s still very human.
  7. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. do an excellent Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey routine.
  8. #BleepDon’tStink.
  9. The NFL really needs to clear up the “what is a catch” rule. And…
  10. A 29 year old quarterback catches a pass better than a 40 year old one.

But better than all of the above, in my semi-humble opinion, was the poignant lesson in leadership so sweetly articulated by Philadelphia QB Nick Foles. The backup — a man who was never expected to play in this year’s Super Bowl, much less be named the MVP — said it better than most leaders, with a mic in front of them, than most people ever do…

Said Foles in the post-game press conference:

“I think the big thing that helped me was knowing that I didn’t have to be Superman. I have amazing teammates, amazing coaches around me. And all I had to do was just go play as hard as I could, and play for one another, and play for those guys.”

Heed that briefly once more…

No need to be Superman…
Just play hard…
Play for one another.

That humility is demonstrative of effective, contagious leadership.

As written yesterday by Justin Bariso, author and encourager of emotional intelligence, on Inc.com:

“… As Foles so beautifully demonstrated over the past several weeks, true leadership isn’t about position, or trying to get others to follow you.

Rather, true leadership is about action: It’s putting your head down, going to work, and trying to lift up those around you. That’s what inspires others to follow because they want to, not because they have to.

Despite putting on a performance for the ages, Foles recognized that football is a team game.
There is no Super Bowl win without the protection of his front line.

There is no Super Bowl win without the amazing play-calling of Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

There is no Super Bowl win without the defense that forced Tom Brady to fumble in crunch time, those final minutes when New England’s favorite footballer typically plays with the laser focus of a machine, programmed to dash the dreams of hopeful opponents, much as he did last year.

Foles recognized all of this. He knew that great teams aren’t only about who’s on your team, but about how the team works together. By showing humility, setting the example, and praising his teammates, Foles demonstrated emotional intelligence. In doing so, he inspired trust — the deep, long-lasting trust that requires connecting with others on an emotional level.

That’s the lesson Nick Foles taught us over the past several weeks, and the lesson he reminded us of last night, as he stood before the podium reserved for the newest Super Bowl MVP — a place no one ever predicted he would be, perhaps not even he himself.

But that’s exactly where Foles deserved to be. A reward for putting his head down, going to work, and trying his best to lift up those around him.

Now, that’s what I call leadership.”

What a wonderful thing for us to learn.

Respectfully…
AR

criticism, questions & the ending of life

Some situations just make me pause. The circumstances are hard. There is no criticism, no judgment… just hard. But I admit, from afar, it’s often easier to criticize one or more of the key players rather than standing back, asking more questions, recognizing that our judgment is secondary to our prayers.

In a story covered last week by a wide array of media— from CBS to People Magazine — note the following circumstance regarding an especially fluid situation, as reported by Great Britain’s “The Guardian”:

“Doctors can withdraw life support for an 11-month-old boy against the wishes of his parents, a judge has ruled.

Specialists at King’s College hospital in London had argued that giving further intensive care treatment to Isaiah Haastrup was “futile” and not in his best interests. They say he is profoundly disabled but believe he might be able to feel pain.

Isaiah’s mother, Takesha Thomas, and father, Lanre Haastrup, both 36 and from London, wanted treatment to continue. Neither were in court for the handing down of the judgment.

In his judgment, Mr. Justice MacDonald said: ‘Examining Isaiah’s best interests from a broad perspective… I am satisfied that it is not in his best interests for life-sustaining medical treatment to be continued. That, with profound sadness, is my judgment.’

The judge said it was a ‘grave and difficult case’ and discontinuing the treatment would, on the evidence before him, ‘lead to Isaiah’s death.’ There was ‘a stark difference’ between the views of the medical professionals and parents regarding Isaiah’s medical condition and prognosis, he said.

He said the parents’ evidence on Isaiah’s level of responsiveness was ‘both understandably and sadly heavily influenced by the flattering voice of hope’ and was not reliable evidence. ‘I am satisfied on the evidence before the court that Isaiah has no prospect of recovery or improvement given the severe nature of the cerebral atrophy in his brain.’

He was satisfied Isaiah would remain ‘ventilator dependent and without meaningful awareness of his surroundings,’ adding: ‘Having as I must Isaiah’s best interests as my paramount consideration, I am entirely satisfied that it is no longer in Isaiah’s best interest to receive life-sustaining treatment.’

The judge paid tribute to the devotion of Isaiah’s parents. ‘It is trite but true to observe that the court cannot imagine the emotional pain that the conclusion of the court will cause to the parents. It is my hope that, in due course, the parents will be able to derive some small measure of comfort from the knowledge that they have done all that they can for their much-loved and cherished son to seek an alternative outcome for Isaiah’…

The specialists and Isaiah’s parents disagreed over his level of responsiveness. His parents said they believe he responded to his mother’s face and touch…”

And so in my desire to ask more questions than assert any claims of knowing best, I wonder:

Who does know best?
Is hope a valid enough defense?
Can hope be reliable?
What is the meaning of “in his best interests”?
Who gets to decide those best interests?
Who would pay for the infant’s continued care?
Does money matter?
Should it matter?
Can we trust the giver and taker-away of life?

And…

Am I more prone to criticism of any involved than asking good questions from afar?

Respectfully…
AR

if we were united…

As we await yet another Super Bowl, we await yet another appearance by none other than the New England Patriots. This is the tenth time the Patriots have played in the NFL’s annual championship game — the most of any NFL team. It is also the eighth appearance under the tenure of head coach Bill Belichick. Led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, the Patriots’ dominance on the gridiron has been unprecedented.

Much of that dominance seems evident in the decades-long unity both on and off the field; in order to be consistently victorious, the coaches, players, and all those associated need to be on the same page…

What’s the game plan? … where do we need to be when?… let’s do this together!

Successful sports teams are “together” teams; they are unified. Unity — combined with talent, hard work, and giftedness — equates to strength.

So as we live amidst a culture that seems to crave unity yet struggles to find what is lasting, I find myself pondering what exactly allows for the potential of permanence… what unity has the potential to never be undone? Where does true unity lie?

Like ambition and uniforms are simply not big enough to cover us all. Like life stories and demographics can also fade in time. Like gender only covers half of us.

Hence, we must ask: what’s big enough? What’s big enough to never go away?

“Isn’t there one father for all of us, one God who created us?”

Unifying under anything other than that profound yet oh-so humbling realization that there is solely “one God who created us” will at some point glean a few cracks, as in anything lesser, individual differences and thus competing desires will eventually come into play.

Note the Patriots’ challenge as they move forward after Super Bowl LII…

Brady will turn 41 in 2018 — Belichick, 66. Each wants to win, but also… totally understandably…

… Belichick wants to keep his job.

… Brady wants to play as long as he can.

… and owner Bob Kraft wants to keep winning after Belichick and Brady are gone.

Competing motivations would thus seem to serve as potential for cracks in the unity — whether in football, politics, you-name-it. Recognizing we are each created by God, however, is the only aspect big enough in which there exists no individual difference wherein a competing motivation could lie.

Interestingly, a senior writer for ESPN questioned New England’s unity at the onset of this year’s playoff season. Said Seth Wickersham:

“Brady, Belichick and Kraft have raised expectations and possibilities so high that virtually no other team in the Super Bowl era could truly comprehend what it’s like to be them. Brady and Belichick weren’t only pushing the boundaries of what a team could accomplish. They also were challenging basic understandings of how a group of high achievers escape the usual pulls of ego and pride. For 17 years, the Patriots have withstood everything the NFL and opponents could throw their way, knowing that if they were united, nobody could touch them. Now they’re threatening to come undone the only way possible: from within.”

While the team disputed much of ESPN’s perspective of coming “undone,” the question remains how they best move forward, knowing preparations must be in play, without allowing for cracks in their unity… “if they were united, nobody could touch them.”

… if we were united, what could we do together?

Can we simply speak unity into existence?

Can we ignore our individual limitations and thus eventual, competing desires?

Or… could we pursue something more authentic… recognizing that the only lasting unity rests in a truth that is bigger? … that there is one father for us all and God who created us?

Respectfully…
AR

the testimony of rachael denhollander

Last week’s victim impact statements in one of the nation’s most prolific sexual assault cases prompted a wide range of emotion in many… grief, shock, sorrow, horror, anger, etc. To see a seemingly intelligent adult take advantage of so many children for so many years with so many people simply looking the other way or even telling the teens to be quiet, seems nothing short of unfathomable.

Rachael Denhollander was the first survivor to file a police report against Larry Nassar, the now convicted, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor. Denhollander was the last to testify. Note this poignant portion of her words…

“… I want you to understand why I made this choice, knowing full well what it was going to cost to get here, and with very little hope of ever succeeding. I did it because it was right. No matter the cost. It was right.

And the farthest I can run from what you have become is to daily choose what is right, instead of what I want.

You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires. A man defined by his daily choices over and over again to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others. And the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially. No matter what it costs me.

In our early hearings you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness, and so it is on that basis that I appeal to you:

If you have read the Bible you carry, you know that the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that He gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit.

By His grace I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness, but Larry if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance. Which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of it’s utter depravity and horror, without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen in this courtroom today.

The Bible you carry says it is better for a millstone to be thrown around your neck, and you thrown into a lake, then for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds. The Bible you speak of carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and his eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing.

And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet, because it extends grace, and hope, and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so that you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well.

Throughout this process I have clung to a quote by CS Lewis where he says, ‘My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of unjust and just? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?’

Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was, and I know it was evil, and wicked, because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means, I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation and I can call it evil because I know what goodness is.

And this is why I pity you, because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good. When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love.

Larry, you have shut yourself off from every truly beautiful and good thing in this world, that could have, and should have brought you joy and fulfillment. And I pity you for it. You could have had everything you pretended to be. Every woman who stood up here truly loved you as an innocent child. Real genuine love for you and it did not satisfy.

I have experienced the soul satisfying joy of a marriage built on sacrificial love, and safety, and tenderness, and care. I have experienced true intimacy in its deepest joy’s and it is beautiful and sacred and glorious and that is a joy you have cut yourself off from ever experiencing and I pity you for it.”

Too often, it seems, when we wrestle with evil on this planet, we omit God from the equation. We attempt to have all sorts of conversations without acknowledging God’s presence and character. And yet, it is the comparison of acts to God’s unprecedented, holy character that shed light on exactly what evil is; it is the comparison of the crooked line to the straight.

What does that straight line include? … grace, forgiveness, sacrificial love… as Rachael Denhollander so beautifully, poignantly stated… a testimony for us all.

Respectfully…
AR

the devastating impact of sexual assault

“At 15, I believed that the adults at MSU surrounding Larry would do the right thing if they were aware of what Larry was doing. And I was terribly wrong. And discovering that not only could I not trust my abuser, but I could not trust the people surrounding him, has been devastating,” said gymnast Rachael Denhollander.

In September of 2016, public allegations were first reported against Dr. Larry Nassar, then the sports-medicine doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State. Since that September, over 140 women have come forth with reports of abuse — women that include athletes such as Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and Denhollander.

Allow that number to sit for a moment… over 140 women. Most were between 13 and 20 years old. Multiple girls were under the age of 13; one said she was six. They were children.

One more number is arguably unfathomable; the first reports of abuse surfaced over 23 years ago. The victims — now “survivors” (as eloquently said by former Olympians Jamie Dantzscher and Raisman) — were asked to keep quiet… by other adult men and women.

With Nassar finally on trial — and struck by the sobering extent of this atrocity — I reached out to a few highly-respected and well-educated friends… friends for whom gymnastics was, well, “my sport”… “my first love,” said one…

… My emotions are a mixture of sadness, anger, and relief. I cannot say I’m happy… gymnastics was a huge part of my life… working through the pain… the discipline… I got to fly through the air and land on my feet! … those years gave me my best, longest friends… but the sport now has a black mark… those people ignored it…

He’s a predator…

He is still blaming the victims. Does he know he did wrong?

After agreeing to plead guilty to ten counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Nassar wrote a letter to the judge two months before his sentencing. In his six-page assertion, Nassar shared he was unsure if he was mentally able to handle facing comments from those he abused; he also accused the judge of of grandstanding and conducting a “media circus” during the hearing that started a week ago Tuesday. He said, too, “I’ve tried to avoid a trial to save the stress to this community, my family, the victims, yet look what it is happening. It is wrong.” [Insert far more than a “yikes” here.]

Yesterday Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison. Said Aquilina, first referencing his letter: “This letter tells me you have not yet owned what you did. You still think somehow you are right, you’re a doctor, that you’re entitled so you don’t have to listen.”

And more…

“… 40 years, just so you know and you can count it off your calendar, is 480 months. The tail end — because I need to send a message to the parole board in the event somehow God is gracious and I know he is — and you survive the 60 years in federal court first and then you start on my 40 years. You’ve gone off the page here as to what I’m doing. My page only goes to 100 years. Sir, I’m giving you 175 years, which is 2100 months. I’ve just signed your death warrant.”

While my trusted friends don’t believe any is beyond redemption — and granted, some situations are far harder than others — neither places human judgment over the miraculous works of the God of the universe; this situation is grievous…

This just breaks my heart.

Too many knew. Too many looked the other way… they covered up.

He used a situation in which girls trust the people in the room. He could not be trusted… but they didn’t know… they were children.



I pray this sentencing leaves a loud message to any other predator out there; your time is up… the consequences are huge.

Do I feel criminal justice was served? Yes. Full justice? Not sure. I try to leave that in God’s hands. He is wiser than I.

I pray the voice given to these young women, as well, as the sentencing… may they learn to trust again… may this be the beginning of healing… may they fly through the air again one day, knowing they will land on their feet.

May the flying and healing begin…

Respectfully…
AR

intent, mercy & meat sticks

For years my parents have offered me excellent advice. As my mother has long quoted…

First, in the notoriously obvious:

“Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”

Second, in those parental, covert operations:

“Eat your meat sticks; they are so good for you!”

(Note: unbeknownst to this then semi-picky, pre-adolescent eater, “meat sticks” were nothing short of the surreptitious code word for a dreaded serving of liver.)

No doubt the quote I’ve wrestled with most in recent weeks, as we watch a world that too often justifies finding fault in the differences in another — whether it’s shouting at the refs at a divisional NFL playoff game or at the party loyalists as they argue who’s most responsible for a government shutdown (even though many made opposite arguments only five years ago) — is one that centers around the act of mercy. We aren’t very good at generously offering mercy.

Mercy seems a bit of a foreign concept. There’s a compassion aspect — and a forgiveness aspect. Mercy is that unprecedented, contagious compassion or forgiveness shown to another — or to self — when criticism and judgment are so much easier to offer. Fault does exist; but mercy is given in place of finding fault.

My sense is, however, we are selective in our offering of mercy.

For example, we forgive far faster if the erroneous flag thrown on the field benefits our team… and we have great compassion for the cringe-worthy hypocrisy when ideologically aligned with a political party.

We are inconsistent.

So back to my mother’s wisdom…

“We judge other people by their behavior; we judge ourselves by our intentions.”

In other words, we judge others — or those we have a predisposition to find fault in — by what they actually do.

We judge ourselves — or those with whom we align somehow — by what we intend.

We juxtapose our intent with another’s behavior; we don’t judge intent vs. intent nor behavior vs. behavior.

I struggle with that.

Why?

Because one of my desires in loving all others well is being consistent and generous in both giving and receiving mercy. I want to take advantage of the promise that God’s mercies are new every morning; think how freeing and fulfilling that would be if we lived that way daily? … if each morning we awoke with that sense of freedom not to be perfect knowing compassion and forgiveness are available each and every day?

I wish, too, no less, to be generous in giving mercy away… on the field, in relationship, on the political or any-for-that-matter spectrum.

“But they don’t deserve it!” is the familiar refrain.

Exactly. None of us do.

“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”

“Sweet mercy is nobility’s true badge.”

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Being merciful means offering compassion and forgiveness in place of criticism and judgment… even when we can’t see it… even when it’s undeserving.

That’s the point.

Respectfully…
AR