taking notes on the 4th

Declared in Congress, July 4th, 242 years ago today:

“… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

Taking notes…

Truths… we don’t question these… this is reality… always accurate and in play…

Self-evident... it’s obvious… it doesn’t have to be nor should have to be explained… to any…

All… all people… men and women, it would now say…

Are created equal… regardless of who you are, what you look like, color or creed, gender, generation, ethnicity, intellect, or faith… whether you’re a Democrat or Republican… voted for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or none of the above… equal, it says… not better… not worse… no superiority… 

Endowed by their Creator… acknowledging God and him having an active role in our existence… he is an active God, giving us something… endowing… shows we recognize that not only do we not have life all figured out, but we aren’t even capable… it’s a “God thing” — not a ‘me’ or ‘we’ thing… we leave God out sometimes… often, maybe… seems we’re missing something… really important…

Unalienable Rights… what are those?… something that can’t be sold or transferred or taken away, I’m told… something permanent — with us/for us always here on Earth… and God is declared the giver of those… not man… not government… man and government are not to be equated with God… they can’t… they aren’t the same…

Among these are Life… Ah, I see now why we squabble… so many issues with so many angles in regard to what this looks like… what does the unalienable right to Life look like, especially when considering an infant, a criminal, or one at war… not arguing… just asking… desiring dialogue, always… wish we all asked and listened more than ranted and raved… we could learn so much if we listened better — tolerated, even considered varied perspective…

Liberty… Oh, let freedom ring!… maybe this is what’s hardest for us… Liberty is an unalienable Right… and it feels so good!! … but what happens when your freedom encroaches upon my freedom?… but what if it doesn’t… what if it really doesn’t… what if someone else’s Liberty doesn’t really obstruct or impede… what if the real issue is that I want you to think like me… I want the rights of others to align with me being the one who thinks rightly…

And the pursuit of Happiness… isn’t this an individual thing? … do I need everyone to think like me and embrace what I believe and accept how I behave in order for me to be happy?… seems like we can be pretty blindly selfish at times… yes, me included…

Thinking maybe there is something we can still learn here, even though it was 242 years ago…

“The Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled,” concluded that day…

“… support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

A recognition of the divine, Providence, a commitment to one another, our fortunes, and honor…

… learning how to honor one another…

Still taking notes….

Respectfully on the 4th of July…


an imperfect reflection

[Intramuralist Note: Beginning the week of April 1st, new posts will appear on Sundays and Wednesdays. We want you to be able to depend on what day posts will appear. So thank you. We so appreciate you joining in the conversation!]


It’s Easter.

For Christians across the globe, it’s one of the holiest, most meaningful days of the year. It’s one of the few days, the stores close, families gather, and we reflect upon what’s most important.

The focus is Jesus — a man recognized by most all major religions as truly walking this planet some 2,000 years ago… the only central leader of a faith whose body isn’t dead, decaying in a tomb somewhere… and how all but one of his inner circle is said to have died a martyr’s dead; people don’t willingly die for something they believe to be untrue.

Jesus is a person.

Jesus is not a doctrine or a theology. He is a person.

And that’s what makes him different.

A Christian’s faith is not in any well-defined dogma — in some magic “fix-it” or “fix-me” formula. Our faith is instead in a person. Jesus asks us to look at him, who he is, and become more like him.

I look at the extent of his character, all those traits that make him stand out more than any of the rest of us… he is kind, compassionate, patient, prayerful, loving, forgiving, gentle, humble, selfless, strong, servant-hearted, self-controlled, wise, and accepting. He accepts people where they are at. It’s not that he doesn’t care how we live, but he doesn’t get hung up on where we’re at. He accepts us where we are, as we are, and encourages each of us to grow.

But here’s the thing…

As one who desires to love Jesus back, I am not all of the above. I am not always kind, compassionate, servant-hearted and certainly not accepting. Sometimes I’m unloving. Sometimes I’m arrogant. Sometimes, too, in fact, I’m a total, broken mess.

All that brokenness makes me an imperfect reflection of who Jesus really is.

Thank God that we each have opportunity to be the recipient of his amazing, unending, extravagant grace. As a mess, I need that. Daily.

And I think that’s part of the problem in the world today; we make assumptions about each other and the imperfect messes that we each are.

For those who are believers, we sometimes forget that we are imperfect. We sometimes allow ourselves to think we are somehow different than those around us — like any of us need a savior less than another. Sometimes we get puffed up or uncaring or treat others in a way that can be so harsh and seemingly judgmental.

For those who are skeptics, we sometimes forget that Christians are not Christ. We sometimes allow ourselves to base our faith on people other than Jesus — like if his followers are like that, “no way do I want to be.” Sometimes we get puffed up or critical or treat believers in a way that can be so harsh and seemingly judgmental.

The reality is that we — me —we are imperfect reflections of Jesus.

In my desire to love Jesus back for who he is and all he has done — walking this planet, exemplifying a wisdom and perfection that I humanly cannot — I deeply wish for each of us is to be more kind, compassionate, patient, prayerful, loving, forgiving, gentle, humble, selfless, strong, servant-hearted, self-controlled, wise, and accepting.

Such a pursuit is life-changing.

Such is what I’m so thankful for at Easter.

Blessings, friends… always… to all…

a miracle in disguise

One of the things I don’t think this world does very well is consistently honor those who think differently than we do. Even though technically after the season, the Intramuralist wishes not to miss the messages of peace on Earth and “goodwill to men” that are visible when we do honor and respect one another. Thus, as told by Morris M in “TopTenz” and Rheana Murray in the New York Daily News some 5 years ago, note just one of the practical ways we can love on one another, starting with this special season of the year…


“If you’re a single mom struggling to make ends meet, getting into a car crash the week before Christmas is probably the last thing you want to do. So when Kim Kerswell rear-ended Sherene Borr on her way to get some last-minute presents, she had plenty reason to curse life out, big time. Only it turned out life was dealing her an unexpected favor…”


Single mom Kim Kerswell thought getting into a pricey fender-bender was the worst thing that could have happened to her weeks before Christmas.

It turned out to be the best.

Not only did the woman she hit forgive any damages to her car, she volunteered to save Christmas for Kerswell and her family.

“You could tell she was stressed,” Sherene Borr told the Daily News on Tuesday.

Kerswell rear-ended Borr in a Milford, Mass. parking lot last week, outside the Panera Bread where Kerswell works. As the women exchanged information, Kerswell divulged she was struggling to make ends meet, and raising two kids on her own.

An accident was the last thing the 30-year-old mom needed.

“She wasn’t sure if they could even afford Christmas,” Borr said.

“I explained to her that I grew up in a single mom family, and know how difficult it is.”

Borr, 37, offered to adopt Kerswell’s family for the holiday season and make sure her children had presents under the tree.

“For me, she’s like an angel,” Kerswell told WBZ-TV.

Borr, who also has two children, enlisted friends to help purchase all the gifts — including One Direction memorabilia for Kerswell’s 12-year-old daughter and a toy truck for her 3-year-old son.

“I have a good sense of when people are really in need,” Borr said. “I could just tell. We both ended up in tears.”

Borr, who is Jewish, adopts families every Christmas season with help from her synagogue. She’s making sure Kerswell is stocked with groceries, gift cards, and toys and clothes for her kids.

Kerswell vows to pay Borr’s kindness forward when she can.

“I know things are going to get better and when they do, my daughter and I, and my son, we’re going to help another family,” Kerswell told WBZ-TV.

The moms say they’ll “absolutely” be friends well after the holidays are over.


“Think about that for a second. Some people freak out if you so much as look at them the wrong way. Go smashing into their car and there’s no telling what might happen. But Borr not only didn’t get mad, she went out of her way to help this clearly stressed-out woman provide a Christmas for her kids that would have been unthinkable under normal circumstances. It just goes to show that, even in our rough-and-tumble world, people are still capable of the most heart-warming actions.”

Oh, how I love the practical ways we can show love and respect to one another. May we always be challenged to grow in this area… to value all…


one word in a new year

So there are certain things the Intramuralist will always advocate for…

… respect…
… humility…
… growth…
… intentionality…

… each near the top of the list.

A year ago, we introduced the new year concept of picking a word — a single word.

As blogged by the self-described “regular guy,” Mike Ashcraft, on his “MyOneWord” site (with a few select edits by moi):

“I love the time between Christmas and New Year’s. Just a couple days after one holiday and a couple of days before the next, the week between gives me a chance to think about the year that was, and the year that is lies ahead.

The wonderful chaos of Christmas is behind me and there’s the proverbial ‘calm after the storm.’

What will you do with the relative calm of the next few days before work and routine begins again?

Once the presents have all been unwrapped and company has gone home, we’re great at looking ahead to next year and all the ways we want it to be different. We’re ready for a fresh start. A new wall calendar. Maybe a gym membership. Perhaps a January cleaning or organizing spree.

But what about bringing this year to a great close?

How can you finish the journey of 2017 well?

Think about this like a journey on an airplane. You take off, reach cruising altitude a few months into the year, then you can feel free to move about the cabin a while.

Soon after Christmas you hear the captain say: ‘Flight Attendants, please prepare the cabin for final approach.’ This means your trip is almost done. The journey is about to end. You are getting ready to land. But have you prepared for landing?

If you don’t intentionally land in a plane, what do you do?

You crash.

I suspect most of us just crash at the end of the year. We’re exhausted from the speed in which the year ended, and slightly dazed from the Christmas celebrations. Engines off. No preparations made for a final approach. We just shut down and crash until the new year appears.

And in our exhaustion, we fail to make time to intentionally land the year we’ve just lived.

I want to invite you to use this week a little more intentionally — not just to prepare yourself for 2018, but to bring 2017 to a close — to finish well.

For many of us, the end of one year and the beginning of the next happen in the same moment. There is a ten second count down. There are kisses and confetti, party horns and people all around us. Fun, but not a real conducive environment for reflection and stillness.

Can I suggest you schedule time in these days between the holidays to finish well in 2017?

Make an appointment with yourself.  Carve some space over the next few days. Don’t just wait for the new year to begin — but rather land the plane before you take off again.

This time of year provides an incredible opportunity to look at the past and the future — without regret or fear. We just need to prepare to land.

You can find a great resource to guide you through a personal retreat here.

Finishing well is a critical part of starting strong. Maybe, this will become your favorite week as well!”

The days until the end of the year are nearly done. But let us start 2018 well… with respect for all… humbly, always… being intentional… and committed to individual growth.

Cheers, friends. And happy new year!


victors in the midst of strife

Still desiring to intentionally focus on what’s most important and the joys of the season, I’ve repeatedly had one song running in my head (… and thank God it was neither about Grandma getting run over or whatever marshmallows have to do with Christmas).

I can’t shake the words shared in “The Hymn of Joy.”

More commonly called “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” after the hymn’s first line, Henry van Dyke penned the poem in 1907 with the intention of musically setting it to the infamous “Ode to Joy,” the final movement of Beethoven’s final symphony.

Van Dyke felt he shared “simple expressions,” expressions of feeling and “desires in this present time.” As I keep singing along with the ongoing tune, I can help but believe the “present time” extends to now.

He starts first with praise, recognizing someone, something bigger than he…

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love…”

He then shares a vulnerability, transparency, and submission — a submission that is nothing short of beautiful…

“Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.”

And then the power that submission has, with a clear awareness that sin is real for each of us, although it doesn’t have to be damning…

“Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away…”

The great big God of the universe is acknowledged as the source of gladness and light — no doubt a gladness that extends to peace, hope, and a true, unshakable inner joy…

“Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!”

And while the rest of the joy-filled song of trust and hope goes on to acknowledge more of the characteristics and creation that can only be attributed to God, there is one line in the song that seems the reason it resonates so loudly in my head — the reason it’s evident of the feelings and desires of this present time.

It’s an area where each of us seems challenged… and where each of us could indeed grow… no matter our age, stage, or any ethnic, religious or other demographic category…

Right after acknowledging the works of the Almighty — both on this Earth and in each of us — Van Dyke writes:

“Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine…”

Look at the unparalleled joy when we learn to love one another!

And yet, too often, for too many self-justifying reasons, we — yes, we — intentionally withhold love from another. We act as if another doesn’t deserve our love and respect. They are less worthy, we have somehow concluded.

Oh, how we fail some days amidst the strife. Oh, how so often intelligence seems to get in the way. Intelligence and wisdom are so not the same thing.

Lord, teach us how to love each other.

Let us “join the happy chorus…”
Let us recognize you “reigning o’er us…”
Let us be “victors in the midst of strife…”

In this present time.


hope (still after Christmas)

[Borrowed once more — and slightly edited — from a blog by Justin Taylor, Crossway Sr. VP & publisher, in a historical account giving each of us hope amidst our pain — putting life into perspective… still relevant when Christmas is done for the year… as first posted in 2016…]

In March of 1863, 18-year-old Charles Appleton Longfellow walked out of his family’s home on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and—unbeknownst to his family—boarded a train bound for Washington, DC., over 400 miles away, in order to join President Lincoln’s Union army to fight in the Civil War. Charles was the oldest of six children born to Fannie Elizabeth Appleton and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the celebrated literary critic and poet. Charles had five younger siblings: a brother (aged 17) and three sisters (ages 13, 10, 8—another one had died as an infant).

Less than two years earlier, Charles’s mother Fannie had died from a tragic accident when her dress caught on fire. Her husband, awoken from a nap, tried to extinguish the flames as best he could, first with a rug and then his own body, but she had already suffered severe burns. She died the next morning, and Henry Longfellow’s facial burns were severe enough that he was unable even to attend his own wife’s funeral. He would grow a beard to hide his burned face and at times feared that he would be sent to an asylum on account of his grief.

When Charley (as he was called) arrived in Washington D.C. he sought to enlist as a private with the 1st Massachusetts Artillery. Captain W. H. McCartney, commander of Battery A, wrote to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for written permission for Charley to become a solider. HWL (as his son referred to him) granted the permission.

Longfellow later wrote to his friends [Sen.] Charles Sumner, [Gov.] John Andrew, and Edward Dalton (medical inspector of the Sixth Army Corps) to lobby for his son to become an officer. But Charley had already impressed his fellow soldiers and superiors with his skills, and on March 27, 1863, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, assigned to Company “G.”

After participating on the fringe of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia (April 30-May 6, 1863), Charley fell ill with typhoid fever and was sent home to recover. He rejoined his unit on August 15, 1863, having missed the Battle of Gettysburg.

While dining at home on December 1, 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement. The theme of listening recurs throughout the poem, leading to a settledness of confident hope even in the midst of bleak despair…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
, their old familiar carols play,
 and wild and sweet the words repeat, 
of peace on earth, good will to men.

 I thought how, as the day had come,
 the belfries of all Christendom
, had rolled along the unbroken song
, of peace on earth, good will to men.

 And in despair I bowed my head:
 “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
”For hate is strong and mocks the song
 of peace on earth, good will to men.”

 Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
 “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; 
the wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
 with peace on earth, good will to men.” 

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
 the world revolved from night to day,
 a voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
 of peace on earth, good will to men!

Respectfully… with hope… always…

Christmas greetings

We tend to go, go, go…

And when we go, go, go, we may miss it when we step on someone else’s toes.

We may care not if we hurt or unfriend another.

We may not make the time that it takes to wholeheartedly listen to another, especially to the different.

We may not work whatever it is out.

And we may act as if the respect and love that all deserve isn’t all that necessary, when in reality, that decision may be more made because we go, go, go; we withhold love and respect because it’s easier, more convenient, or more something. It thus seems that such a decision is way more about us than it is about them.

We don’t have the time, take the time, nor give the time.

But at Christmas, we intentionally pause…

Even the Walmarts of the world close down.

We pause and take time for what’s most important…

… peace on Earth…
… goodwill to men…
… an o’ so holy night…
… and a star chased after for years, noting the miraculous hope it holds.

I continue to marvel about all that babe in a manger some 2000 ago means to us today… if we only take the time to pause and reflect… to consider its impact… what it means… and not to simply go, go, go.

Merry Christmas, friends. Today, Happy Christmas Eve!

Whether near or far, solemn or celebratory, may we reflect upon what’s most important… never sacrificing peace on Earth nor goodwill to any. May we be generous with our love and respect…

… to all.

Best wishes and blessings to you…

maximizing the meaning

This Christmas season, let us slow down somewhat. Let us pause long enough to reflect, grasp the meaning, and ask even the tough questions.

But let’s not wait until the 24th or 25th or even for any annual new year resolve. Let’s pause now. Let’s ask the questions now. Let’s maximize the meaning of the season….

Proclamations resound, calling for peace on Earth, goodwill to men…

What does peace on Earth take?
What does it look like?
Do I have a role in this?
What gets in the way?
And how am I contributing to it?

What about goodwill?
Do I really believe in it?
Do I believe instead in goodwill only toward some?
And is that dependent on if another has wronged me?
If they think like me?
Have I limited who I am and who God is by withholding goodwill?

They say the season is miraculous…

Do I believe in miracles?
Do I think they only happened long ago?
Do they happen only in the big stuff or in the practical, too?
What would it change in me if I saw miracles daily? … in my routine?
What keeps me from seeing miracles?

It’s a season of faith, hope, and joy…

Is there an area of my faith in which I know I need to grow?
If I’m refusing to look at that, why?
Where have I assumed I have all the answers?
And hope — pausing this moment to acknowledge what grieves me — am I recognizing the great hope shared this season?
Is it enough for me?

It also is a season of giving — although I don’t think it’s so much about stuff…

Am I focusing more on presents or presence?
Am I spending too much?
Am I focused on stuff?
What about consumerism?
Have I bought into the lie that more is better?
Am I worshipping the so-called god of more?

This season, friends, let’s pause before the actual holidays. Let’s pause long enough to ask the tough questions, maybe refocus a bit, and maximize the meaning of the season.

Respectfully… with a few added Ho-Ho-Ho’s…

the intentional giving of thanks

What I love about Thanksgiving is the intentional giving of thanks.

What I love about the intentional giving of thanks is the removal of focus on self and the sincere acknowledgement of someone else.

Allow me to thus acknowledge someone else…

Thank you to each of you — for joining us here and participating in the Intramuralist.

Thank you to my family and friends — for your awesome encouragement and consistent support.

And thank you to the great big God of the universe — for making all things possible. I could not do this without you.

Allow me one more brief thought on this day of great purpose, as sweetly and succinctly articulated by Joe Fazio in his poem of “A Thousand Thanks”…

* * * * *

“To He who is all powerful, thanks for the many
blessings you have bestowed on me.

To those I love, thanks for all you do.

To my friends, thanks, for teaching me the
meaning of friendship.

To those I have angered, thanks for your patience
and your understanding.

To those I have disappointed, thanks for your
forgiveness. I’ll try to do better.

Thanks, to the strangers along life’s path, for
their kindness.

Thanks, to those who do for others and remain
without acknowledgement.

Thanks, for the charity of others, extended to
those who are less fortunate.

Thanks, to those of differences, who arrive
at the point of compromise.

Thanks, to all in their journey of life, who
attempt to make this, a better world.”

* * * * *

Many thanks, my friends.

Many blessings, too… this day and always…


Respect, Cheers, and Happy 4th…

241 years ago, the Declaration of Independence — a brilliant document written by Mr. Thomas Jefferson — was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. At war with Great Britain, the 56 signers announced the independence of the 13 sovereign states and that the American colonies would no longer be under British rule. The colonies seemingly operated independently for decades; this, no less, was the official decree…

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

The Intramuralist is no historian. I come from a layman’s perspective at best. But even sifting through the historical papers and accounts depicting the times, I still can’t completely grasp all that led up to such a decree. Learning much regarding those key political events from grade school on (… thank you, Mr. C… thank you still, Miss Jane…), after Britain neglected their American children for so long, when they finally did step in and attempt to actually focus on those across the Atlantic, Americans must have felt as if government was so out of touch… the rulers had been too distant and did not have Americans’ best interests in mind.

So what does one do? What does one do when our sense is that government is so out of touch?

I don’t believe we’re going out on too much of an editorial limb here to assert that a significant number of Americans — all over the partisan map — has felt government has been out of touch for years… decades, for some. Our self-evident truths have been distorted… “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

The truths have not changed, but perceived distortion has been prominent.

Noting first that according to the declaration,“Governments are instituted among Men” in order “to secure these rights” — and also, that government’s power comes only from “the consent of the governed” — it seems we are struggling as a society for multiple reasons — reasons far bigger than the ego and efforts of any of the recent elect.

Distortion of the self-evident truths comes when we are judgmental… We sometimes look at ethnicities, ages, genders, and the religious faithful, etc. as something less than equal. We, for example, at times feel emboldened to judge both the LGBTQ and evangelical community. My sense is that we are not to aver nor render consequence upon either.

Distortion comes when we are demanding… We sometimes declare that in order for “me” to pursue “my” happiness, “you” need to accept what “I” do as good… “you” need to believe what “I” do… for “you” need to realize that “I” speak truth and therefore “you” do not. Friends, I wholeheartedly believe there is a respectful way to embrace “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” without demanding that everyone else thinks like “me.”

And finally, distortion of these truths comes when we no longer thank nor acknowledge who our unalienable rights have been endowed by. Government is not the giver of every good and perfect gift. Government is not omniscient nor omnipotent — especially in a government that only has power because the people governed have consented to such.

While the rhetorical, political climate seems to continuously digress — with each so-called “side” believing they are somehow justified in their denigration and denouncement — I am increasingly concerned that more will advocate for a separation from “the political bands which have connected them.” Granted, there’s a key difference between now and 241 years ago…

The persons who were out of touch in 1776 lived approximately 3,539 miles away. Today, the persons we may perceive to be out of touch might live right next door. Hence, a separation is not helpful, healthy, nor effective. Also not helpful is judgment. Demandingness. Nor a lacking in true thanksgiving.

This 4th of July, may we follow the founders’ final written words… together… with our neighbor… who may or may not think differently than we… “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

A brilliant declaration indeed.

May we mutually pledge our respect and support to one another.

Cheers. And happy 4th.