I may be wrong

Every four years, at this time of year, we seem to get visions of sugar plums or ice skaters (or something) dancing in our heads, and I’m reminded of how enjoyable the Olympics can be… athletes coming together for fierce but friendly competition, regardless of nation, ethnicity, etc.

I think of so many who’ve gone before… Apolo Ohno, Franz Klammer, and Kristi Yamaguchi, to name a few…

… and to those we have our eyes on this February… Nathan Chen, Chloe Kim, and the “Shib Sibs,” Alex and Maia Shibutani.

I think, too, of Tonya Harding.

With the new movie “I, Tonya” undoubtedly, intentionally timed for its recent cinematic release, we are reminded of the disturbing 1994 event…

Prior to Olympic hopefuls Harding and Nancy Kerrigan descending upon Lillehammer, Norway for the XVII Olympic Winter Games, Kerrigan was intentionally clubbed an inch above the knee during practice by a man associated with Harding. The man was attempting to break Kerrigan’s leg in order to prevent her from competing in the games.

Harding was then hounded by the media during all public events at and leading up to the Olympics. CBS, in fact, notoriously assigned Connie Chung to follow the skater’s every move in Lillehammer. There, Kerrigan would physically recover and go on to finish second — Harding eighth. Two and a half weeks later, Harding pled guilty to conspiring to hinder the prosecution of the attackers; she also received a lifetime ban from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

Tonya Harding became one of the most hated sports figures in America.

“I, Tonya” chronicles this account. It also shares more — about the abuse she says she received from both her mother and first husband… about her “white trash” reputation… and about her fluid vulgar mouth, for example (a representation Harding denies). Harding — now Mrs. Tonya Price — is said to be pleased with the film.

As I read reviews and subsequent interviews with Harding, I was reminded of a few details.

First, the FBI found that the attacker had been hired by Shawn Eckardt, a friend of Jeff Gillooly’s. Jeff Gillooly was Ms. Harding’s ex-husband at the time.

Second, Harding’s guilty plea acknowledged that she knew who was responsible for the attack but only after it occurred. She then did not report it immediately.

In other words, even though the prosecution believed Harding was guilty of far more than her plea encompassed, Harding became hated for both what she did and didn’t do. The media mocked her — again, for what she did and didn’t do. The media encouraged us to hate her, even though the courts did not find her guilty of encouraging, planning, nor executing the attack.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner recently did an excellent interview with Harding for the New York Times Magazine. Harding claimed that no one had ever sat down with her before and listened to her side of the story. She believes the media in particular had only lied, tricked, and attacked her previously. In response to Harding discussing the media’s abuse, Brodesser-Akner writes:

“I told her about the essays I’d read about how we should have been kinder and protected her back then. She doesn’t want to hear it. What do we know about her? We never asked…

She doesn’t need our protection now, thank you very much. She needed it back then. Where were our think pieces then? ‘You all disrespected me and it hurt. I’m a human being and it hurt my heart.’”

And so it made me wonder…

According to Brodesser-Akner’s perspective, there are all sorts of contradictions in Harding’s account. But sitting with Harding, asking good questions, listening to her, trying to understand what influenced Harding’s behavior, and being willing to acknowledge that so much of what the public believes is inaccurate, Brodesser-Akner found herself having compassion instead of hate for the former Olympian; she had compassion on Harding, even though there is no denial that Harding did do something bad.

Where have we allowed that to happen to us? … where have we justified hatred because we are no longer willing to listen to another’s perspective? … where have we justified hatred, not realizing some details of our perspective may be wrong?

Respectfully… always…
AR

the precious peace of marcus lattimore

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Every now and then I come across a story that speaks loudly to me. Here’s one today from ESPN… about one man who used to be a star, but now has something better…

“Hours before he’s set to walk across the stage for a college degree he was never sure he’d get, Marcus Lattimore sits in his living room, watching a post-NFL draft show.

As highlights of former Ohio State standout running back Ezekiel Elliott appear, Lattimore isn’t sold. He likes Elliott’s power and play away from the ball, but his overall speed needs work, Lattimore says, and he doesn’t see him as ‘the complete back’ yet.

‘Not like Fournette,’ Lattimore says, speaking of LSU junior star Leonard Fournette, who will no doubt be a Heisman favorite again in 2016.

Lattimore should know. Just five years ago, he was Fournette, a record-setting freshman of the year tailback and Heisman contender for the Gamecocks with a bright NFL future ahead of him. Then came a torn left ACL as a sophomore and a catastrophic right knee injury as a junior — dislocated kneecap, torn ligaments, nerve damage — that effectively ended his career. He’s arguably the most talented player of his generation never to play a down in the NFL.

‘I think there’s always those players that get put in a category like Cam Newton or Deshaun Watson who dominate the game,’ Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ‘Marcus Lattimore was one of those guys in that category.’

And yet he now looks upon those injuries as a blessing.

‘Life is a little bit more enjoyable now because of what I’ve been through,’ Lattimore said. ‘… I wouldn’t change a thing that happened — put those knee injuries back in my life. I’m such a better person, overall. I’m wiser and I’m grateful for every single day that I get out of bed and I can walk, and I can run if I want to. The little things, they matter a little bit more than they did in the past.’

… As he says that, his right hand drifts toward his right knee, rubbing over a long, vertical front scar and then a horizontal one on the outside… these are permanent reminders of what Lattimore used to be and what he has become…

Through all that darkness, Lattimore found light in his reinvention. His decision to give up football allowed him to start his foundation and run football camps, while affording him time to speak to those in need. It also allowed him to go back to school — something he doesn’t think would have happened if he had made it in the NFL — to earn the degree he promised his mom he’d get.

‘I’m thankful for those knee injuries,’ he said. ‘They really saved me and now I feel like I can do anything. Every time I go speak, every time I’m able to stand in front of a crowd, I heal personally.’

…The Marcus Lattimore Foundation, started in August 2013 with $15,000 of Lattimore’s money from his NFL signing bonus, was created with the goal of helping high school athletes who might have trouble paying for treatment and rehabilitation for major injuries. It also provides college and life preparation.

Lattimore and various speakers meet with high school students to discuss topics such as NCAA rules, preparation for the ACT and SAT, how to work with school guidance counselors, how to conduct job interviews, résumé building and the importance of credit, debt and loans.

‘It’s fun being able to go to a city and see your work and feel the pride in what you do,’ he said. ‘I can tell you I’ve never had that feeling on the football field.’ “

Marcus Lattimore went from projected stardom to personal solace and strength through a series of unexpected and undesired circumstances. According to the more detailed, worth-the-read account on ESPN, Lattimore “went from bemoaning his injuries to thanking God for them.” He sees life differently now. He has something better; he has peace.

When we begin to thank God for what we have, as opposed to what we don’t — when we count our blessings regardless of what they are — when we quit all the comparison — when we recognize the beauty in the little things — we find peace.

Great story, ESPN. And Marcus Lattimore, well done.

Respectfully…
AR

excellent communication

thEvery now and then my youngest son says something that blows me away; in fact, in a world where healthy communication and intelligence aren’t always linked together, I am often impressed by the wisdom in Josh’s words.

(Note: let us never allow the labeling of “special needs” to cause us to conclude that there exists an inability — or a lesser ability — to communicate well with others.)

Today’s post, no less, is not long. I simply wish to share with you my gifted teen’s profound, transparent thinking; he teaches me much, even in the normal routines of daily life. Sometimes we just have to ensure our eyes and ears are open… such as earlier this week…

On Tuesday, Josh had an eye doctor appointment. It’s a somewhat rare occurrence for him, as we had not been to this particular physician for three years. The surroundings were thus somewhat foreign.

We immediately walked into the waiting room, which while rather large, still only hosted less than a handful of other patients at the time. There was a toddler waiting, who sat quietly off in a corner playing with a few toys. There was also an elderly gentlemen in need of care. Before we both joined them, I went to the window to check in, while Josh ventured off to select two seats for us in the room.

After a few minutes and even more in-need-of-filling forms, I finished registering and turned to find Josh. I saw him nowhere. I scanned the room, wondering if he had for some reason wandered off.

And then what to my wondering eyes should merrily appear, but in the back of the room, there was a miniature plastic house — one of those Little Tikes playhouses — with doors, windows, shutters and shades — that stood no more than four feet tall. I narrowed my focus, and sure enough, through the plastic window slats, I saw Josh’s big, blue eyes peek out at me. His smile was radiant and contagious.

So I strolled across the room taking a seat near an adjacent, outside window, eager to greet Josh in his newfound, gleeful discovery. He sat on the floor — this 8th grader taking up most all the space inside the house. I quickly realized, however, that his glee was gone. He sat there, stationary… and silent.

So I waited, giving him time to think and reflect. Then all of a sudden, he offered a single, serious, but not unhappy phrase:

“I miss being little.”

How profound… how honest… what an excellent communicator..

I miss being little…

May my eyes, ears, and heart always be open to what this young man has to say. He teaches many of us daily.

Respectfully…
AR

sharing a different story

ShuttlecockOne of my more fun (and shareable) college habits was to enroll in a Phys. Ed. class each semester, giving me at least one class where the load was light but I still received academic credit — also a class I would knowingly, thoroughly enjoy. Hence, if one would ever pull out that dusty old transcript, they would find among others, each of the following, highly-esteemed classes on my resume:

  • Racquetball
  • Basketball
  • Ballroom Dancing
  • Bowling; and… (wait for it…)
  • Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Golf

It was great! Each was co-ed, adding to the fun — even though I was one of only two females in my male-dominated basketball class; in fact, it was obvious that our talented male classmates — several who starred on their high school teams — weren’t especially thrilled with me and my female cohort. Yet one day when I was playing the shooting guard spot, I was able to block a notably stronger competitor — one of the undisputed, most athletic men in class. My male teammate was then able to slide around him, finishing with an eye-catching, monstrous dunk. My teammate, who had not spoken to me all semester, then finally made eye contact; he offered his sole words to me that spring: “Nice pick.” It’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.

Arguably, however, my favorite P.E. class was none other than Badminton. For whatever reason, there was just something endearing about this sport that I previously, primarily only associated with backyards and barbecues. I learned so much there. And it was there I learned that this casual summer sport meant so much more in other parts of the world; there is an entire World Federation, highlighting athletes graced with phenomenal fitness, agility, strength, speed, and precision… so much more than a mere light-hearted focus on that feathered, little shuttlecock in the summer.

I was befriended that semester by a young man who grew up playing competitively in Thailand. He played on the equivalent of an American AAU team. Erwin and I were fast friends, and so we often played badminton outside of class. Without a doubt, he sharpened me and my skills. I improved immensely — and came to love the game.

In the final weeks of that semester, the teaching assistant set up a round-robin tournament, in which we would play each class member one-on-one. I did fairly well, finding myself in a much-anticipated match against the #2 men’s singles tennis player at a Big Ten university. Obviously, while badminton was not his number one sport, he was very good. I was just an athletic competitor, loving intramurals, who had picked up the light racquet for the first time that semester.

The match was interactive and intense from the start… back and forth… back and forth. We were playing the best of 3 games, playing to 15, having to win by 2, with a person only able to score while serving. The match was intense; my time with Erwin had obviously paid off. Much to the surprise of the teacher, me, everyone in the auxiliary gym that day, and, that #2 men’s tennis player, this became an especially tight match. It went on and on, play after play — each strategically placing that shuttlecock in precise areas of the rectangular court. He won game one; I won game two. Next came game three.

By this time most other match-ups quietly paused to watch what was seemingly surprisingly evolving. I saw Erwin smiling often, cheering his precious protege on. And sure enough, as I felt the sweat increase on my brow — and actually saw it on my opponent’s — in addition to his altered facial expressions, realizing that this scholarshipped athlete (in tennis, no less!) was about to be beaten by a un-scholarshipped girl — my confidence increased exponentially. The match was over in less than an hour. Erwin and I embraced at game’s end. It was an awesome day.

For years I have proudly shared that story including the most memorable outcome, how this semi-humble Intramuralist beat a collegiately ranked, men’s singles tennis player in badminton. It was one of my favorite highlights. But in all reality, odd as this may seem, while I remember how I felt — and I remember the looks on the faces of the people in the room — I honestly cannot remember if I won or lost. I don’t know.

I have often wondered if that tennis player and I were in the same room again today, how he would tell the story. We were in the same place, same time, sharing the same experience, but sensing different emotions. He might say it differently. He might even say he won.

Remembering such — and remembering that one time badminton prowess — helps me give great grace to people whose perspective is different than mine… even when experiencing the exact same thing.

Respectfully…
AR

ask the pope

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For the first time, Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, is walking on American soil. And so I asked you, if you could ask him a single question — concisely and respectfully — with great wit always welcome — what would your question be? Here are your top 50…

  1. What is love?
  2. How can I pray for you?
  3. Do you pray for world peace?
  4. Can you explain free will?
  5. Which came first — the chicken or the egg?
  6. What’s your most embarrassing moment?
  7. Who do you think will be the religious leader in the end times?
  8. Do you ever get depressed or feel overwhelmed by the sadness and violence in the world?
  9. Who’s your favorite NFL team? Do you ever pay attention?
  10. What makes you so forward thinking and accepting?
  11. How do you feel when the Ten Commandments or a Nativity scene is ordered to be removed?
  12. When the Bible speaks of “the great prostitute,” to whom do you think it is referring?
  13. What is the ideal role between church and state?
  14. If you could be a rockstar, who would you be and why?
  15. What’s more important to you personally: the Bible or tradition?
  16. How would you diffuse the racial tensions in this country?
  17. Do you know how to use an iPhone?
  18. What are the absolutes in life?
  19. How have the political left and right marginalized God’s Word?
  20. Why does the Catholic Church believe that Mary was immaculately conceived when there is no supporting Biblical passage?
  21. What do you do when it all gets too much?
  22. How do you respond to the person who says “I was born this way”?
  23. “Tastes great” or “less filling”?
  24. Do you believe Islam is a peaceful religion?
  25. What are you doing here?
  26. What’s your favorite book in the Bible?
  27. What do you really think of Pres. Obama?
  28. Do you believe Christianity is “under attack”?
  29. Is world peace possible this side of heaven?
  30. Is it ok not to be Catholic?
  31. What would you say those at a #BlackLivesMatter protest?
  32. Do you think our police have a problem — or some have a problem with police?
  33. Why are you talking about climate change instead of The Gospel?
  34. Do you enjoy wearing what looks like a dress all the time?
  35. What’s the biggest problem in the American church today?
  36. Can you explain why so many use religion as a justification for war, violence, judgment, and other forms of hatred throughout the world?
  37. Coke or Pepsi?
  38. What do we not realize about abortion?
  39. Have you considered changing tradition to allow priests to marry?
  40. Why does the Catholic Church prohibit women from the priesthood? …do you see this ever changing?
  41. How serious do you believe the threats to religious liberty are in this country?
  42. Which candidate for President do you like best?
  43. What do you think about Donald Trump?
  44. If you had a tattoo, where would it be, what would it say, and why?
  45. Do you believe our country is spiraling morally out of control?
  46. Do you wear pants?
  47. What do you struggle with?
  48. What do you want your legacy to be? …what do you believe God wants your legacy to be?
  49. What is the number one thing we can do to honor God?

And… last but not least…

50. Do you think Pope jokes are funny??

Respectfully…
AR

mom a

pinwheelYears ago, as a young mom with three little kids in tow, I remember visiting my mother-in-law’s home for the weekend — a too infrequent delight for our entire family. After we sat down for breakfast and the always abundant spread of eggs, bacon, toast, muffins, and more, Mom A excused herself from the table, went to the pantry, and promptly placed a fresh box of Nabisco Pinwheels smack-dab in the middle of our meal. Yes, Pinwheels. Yes, breakfast. You know the ones: those old fashioned, marshmallow cream, mini-Bundt cake looking cookies, totally doused in sugar, covered in oh-so-unhealthy chocolate.

As a young mom committed to raising my kids in the way they should go, I couldn’t believe it. Pinwheels… really?! How could my mother-in-law, who’s supposedly older and wiser and attempting to help us in this prudent, persevering, raising-of-kids process, even think of putting such a sugar fest right in front of my boys? But having one of those indignant, self-righteous moments that every unknowingly immature, growing parent must confront now and then, I remained silent, said nothing, while quietly steaming inside that my kids were about to be ruined for life.

Funny. I’d like that moment back right now.

I stand amazed — and humbled — at how much we sometimes don’t know… and don’t know we don’t know…

My righteous indignation was undoubtedly well-founded, as of course, each of us wants to contribute positively to the lives of others; of course, we want to be healthy; and of course, as young parents we’re often feel we’re doing the very best we can. But what I couldn’t grasp at the time was how the offering of an unexpected, sincere treat did not impede any progress. In fact, eating those sweet Pinwheels may have been healthier in an emotional sense — noting how we were pausing to enjoy something we typically don’t… how we were intentionally enjoying something good.

My mother-in-law modeled many things well for our family. Among them…

… how to eat a blueberry bagel…

… how to semi-subtly tap in a puzzle piece, so that everyone would know you found exactly the right piece…

… how going to church every Sunday is less important than an authentic relationship with Jesus…

… how to be intentional with boys…

… how to discern really good barbecue…

… how to be consistent in honoring your spouse…

… how to be generous…

… how to be faithful…

… how to love a child other than your own…

… and how and when to intentionally enjoy a treat — how to savor something good.

After only a short stay in the hospital, Mom A passed away somewhat suddenly this past week. She had lived a good life, and valiantly modeling her faith for us once more, she was ready to go — embracing both what’s beautiful and next. I will miss her dearly. I will also be serving Pinwheels soon for breakfast.

Respectfully… lovingly… with both a wink and a tear…

AR

what’s bigger

1610794_10204629505367041_8243156950910377348_nThis past weekend I had the privilege to gather with several members of my family. There were 27 of us.

It was full of feasting and joy and precious both one-on-one and large group time. We laughed and cried and were both silly and serious. There were ample antics and fun and adult conversation. There was insightful conversation with those teens and ‘tweens and twenty-somethings, each who seems growing up far too fast. It was a wonderful weekend.

I haven’t always thought every weekend was so wonderful. I will admit to taking some days for granted. I will admit to sometimes taking life for granted. I will admit to often having fallen prey to focusing on the minute as opposed to what’s bigger. I will admit to sometimes allowing the proverbial “elephant in the room” to gain a life of its own. Sometimes I have focused on the less important.

I think as a culture we do that frequently; we focus on the less important. We seem to justify the focus, giving it life, supplementing its energy, allowing emotion and passion and anger and empathy to fuel what once was small, thus seemingly snowballing issues and irritants in size to then appear — yes, appear — as something they are not… something other than the less important.

Look around the world…

Look in Ferguson, Missouri.

Look on the streets of Jerusalem.

Look in Washington, D.C. (… ok… try not to look too hard…).

Look on Facebook.

Maybe even look around your living room.

Look at all the places we justify irritation and offense — where we justify the withholding of love, truth, and respect. Look at all the places where we’re so zeroed in on the plank in another’s eye… often so ignorant of our own.

This past year my sister was surprisingly, shockingly diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer (… sorry… if that’s a proper noun, I refuse to capitalize it; it doesn’t deserve it). It came as news out of nowhere. She is 34.

For years we have all gathered over Labor Day weekend. And while we’re always thankful to be together, let me just say that this year, we were thankful a little more.

When you’re focused on the big picture, it’s a whole lot easier to let bygones be bygones… to let the little things remain little things… to not let petty, earthly irritants seduce any more attention than they deserve… and to not feed nor fuel that which is so obviously less important.

It’s easier to thank God for the sunset and appreciate the rain.  It’s easier to care for the crying babe and withhold all judgment.  It’s easier to be generous in our love, mercy, and grace.

While I would wish my sister’s circumstances on no one, I am thankful for how because of her situation — and because of her amazing, humbling, faithful, positive attitude — we are learning how to love our family. I am thankful for the focus on what’s most important.

This past weekend I had the privilege to gather with several members of my family. There were 27 of us. It was a wonderful weekend.

Respectfully…

AR

49

Route 49After celebrating another joyous birthday this week, I’ve decided maybe I should make a few notes of what I’ve learned before I’m 50.  I could publish such a post next year, but then everyone might find out I’m actually turning 50.  So with minimal tongue, cheek, and added rhetorical fodder, I humbly submit a few life lessons, learned by age 49.

  1. We complain about seasons a lot… in the summer, it’s too hot — in winter, too cold; maybe we should do a better job of enjoying what we have when we have it.
  2. We aren’t good at admitting weakness… for some reason we think it makes us look bad, when maybe the admission is the first real sign of strength.
  3. As we get older, some temptations don’t go away… except for that sticking your tongue on a cold fence thing.  (Granted, parents to-the-rescue in their pajamas look pretty funny.)
  4. Wisdom and intelligence aren’t the same thing… they just aren’t.  Wisdom is far better; sometimes, though, I think society teaches exactly the opposite..
  5. There truly is a time for everything… everything; the reality is just that we like some things better than others; there’s a time to sing… time to dance… time to be silent and still; there’s a time for war and a time for peace.  I don’t believe anyone really “likes” war, though.
  6. Social media has completely altered the meaning of “like”… it’s changed the meaning of “friend” and “privacy,” too; there are some excellent things which have resulted from the constant of social media in our lives… some not so great things, too.
  7. People are finicky about soccer… it’s not just all the faking and the flopping.  There are some incredibly talented athletes out there; there just isn’t a lot of scoring; and at least in this country, we like to score.
  8. People crave a savior… always… for all time.  The challenge is that no human — even if named “LeBron” — is so capable; salvation is not a human ability… makes me wonder why we crave.
  9. Some of us cling to faith; some of us avoid it; but everyone has a religion…  as no belief in an ultimate, loving Father is still a belief; it just prompts varied behavior.
  10. Politicians can be so silly sometimes (I’m being nice with the word “silly”).  We then fall prey into thinking all Democrats or Republicans are good because an ideology resonates deeply within us.  But some put ideology before treating others well.  I’m thinking the establishment is a huge part of problem.
  11. People have a hard time refraining from spending… especially if they really want something.
  12. Discipline goes with wisdom… not punishment.
  13. We idolize so many of the wrong things.
  14. We forget about God… worse yet, we think we have no need of him; that can’t be good.
  15. Respect is vital… always… but remember — I know we say this often — but respect does not mean accepting as equally good and right; it means listening, seeking to understand, and resisting the temptation to become the convictor of truth in another’s life.  Yes, yes… far too often we justify disrespect.  Some may even avoid this blog.

Still learning.  Can’t wait for 50.

Respectfully…

AR

mandela

Isn’t it interesting, when someone passes away, how so many seem to rush to claim him as “one of our own”?

 

When we observed even the anniversary of JFK’s death 2 and a half weeks ago, politicians and pundits and authors and activists again averred how Kennedy would undoubtedly be a staunch liberal leader or would have converted to strict conservatism if still alive today.  As initially addressed here, JFK advocated for a variety of positions, none wholly consistent with either contemporary party’s platform.

 

When respected “Fast & Furious” actor, Paul Walker, passed away in a tragic accident 2 weeks ago, fans rushed to express their adoration in their grief.  The massive outpouring made me wonder if Walker felt that strong connection with so many fans when still alive.

 

Once more, no less, in the death of former South African leader, Nelson Mandela, we see the inherent claims of Mandela being “one of our own.”

 

Mandela was unique…  an educated man… originally embracing non-violent protests… for a time associated with communism… serving 27 years in prison… working to extinguish apartheid, South Africa’s intentional system of racial segregation… becoming president… inviting other parties to help him govern… promoting forgiveness… mediating between other nations — such as between Libya and the United Kingdom in regard to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103… developing a full and free democracy in his country… advocating for charity… respected by many… inspiring even more…

 

On par with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Mandela was one of the great moral leaders of the past century.  His significant, perceived positive, global influence is considered comparable to Churchill, Reagan, and FDR.  His consistent message of unity and forgiveness in a racially-charged world spoke volumes.

 

After passing away at 95 last Thursday, many have seemed quick to identify with Mandela, claiming him as their so-called own.  The challenge is that to identify with him, one must not only weigh — but also practice — the wisdom within the complete spectrum of his teaching.  In other words, his message of racial reconciliation is hollow without the accompanying forgiveness and humility.  To identify with the man means to believe and practice his actual words…

 

I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people.

 

Money won’t create success; the freedom to make it will.

 

A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.

 

I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.

 

Does anybody really think that they didn’t get what they had because they didn’t have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment?

 

I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.

 

Unlike some politicians, I can admit to a mistake.

 

With the wide number who claim to either identify with or revere Nelson Mandela mightily, we should perhaps first take stock of his words, humbly recognizing that some of his words may subtly — or sharply — rebuke us instead.

 

Respectfully,

AR

could you keep an open mind?

Rarely do I simply repost the words of another, but there are aspects of the below piece that strike me as profound.  It’s written by Kirsten Powers, a liberal Democrat I’ve admired for years.  Powers is a nationally known contributor to USA Today, Newsweek, FOX News, and The Daily Beast.  Here is an edited version of her story, sharing how of all the people surprised by her decision to become a Christian, it was she who was most surprised…

 

Just seven years ago, if someone had told me that I’d be writing for Christianity Today magazine about how I came to believe in God, I would have laughed out loud. If there was one thing in which I was completely secure, it was that I would never adhere to any religion—especially to evangelical Christianity, which I held in particular contempt…

From my early 20s on, I would waver between atheism and agnosticism, never coming close to considering that God could be real. After college I worked as an appointee in the Clinton administration from 1992 to 1998. The White House surrounded me with intellectual people who, if they had any deep faith in God, never expressed it. Later, when I moved to New York, where I worked in Democratic politics, my world became aggressively secular. Everyone I knew was politically left-leaning, and my group of friends was overwhelmingly atheist.

 

I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don’t know what you don’t know. How could I have missed something I didn’t think existed?

To the extent that I encountered Christians, it was in the news cycle. And inevitably they were saying something about gay people or feminists. I didn’t feel I was missing much. So when I began dating a man who was into Jesus, I was not looking for God. In fact, the week before I met him, a friend had asked me if I had any deal breakers in dating. My response: “Just nobody who is religious.”

 

A few months into our relationship, my boyfriend called to say he had something important to talk to me about. I remember exactly where I was sitting in my West Village apartment when he said, “Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?” My stomach sank. I started to panic. Oh no, was my first thought. He’s crazy.

When I answered no, he asked, “Do you think you could ever believe it?” He explained that he was at a point in life when he wanted to get married and felt that I could be that person, but he couldn’t marry a non-Christian. I said I didn’t want to mislead him—that I would never believe in Jesus.

 

Then he said the magic words for a liberal: “Do you think you could keep an open mind about it?” Well, of course. “I’m very open-minded!” Even though I wasn’t at all. I derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world. I had found this man’s church attendance an oddity to overlook, not a point in his favor.

As he talked, I grew conflicted. On the one hand, I was creeped out. On the other hand, I had enormous respect for him. He is smart, educated, and intellectually curious. I remember thinking, What if this is true, and I’m not even willing to consider it? 

 

A few weeks later I went to church with him… [when] the pastor preached. I was fascinated… Each week, [Pastor Tim] Keller made the case for Christianity. He also made the case against atheism and agnosticism. He expertly exposed the intellectual weaknesses of a purely secular worldview. I came to realize that even if Christianity wasn’t the real thing, neither was atheism.

 

I began to read the Bible… After about eight months of going to hear Keller, I concluded that the weight of evidence was on the side of Christianity. But I didn’t feel any connection to God, and frankly, I was fine with that. I continued to think that people who talked of hearing from God or experiencing God were either delusional or lying. In my most generous moments, I allowed that they were just imagining things that made them feel good.

Then one night in 2006, on a trip to Taiwan, I woke up in what felt like a strange cross between a dream and reality. Jesus came to me and said, “Here I am.” It felt so real. I didn’t know what to make of it. I called my boyfriend, but before I had time to tell him about it, he told me he had been praying the night before and felt we were supposed to break up. So we did. Honestly, while I was upset, I was more traumatized by Jesus visiting me.

 

I tried to write off the experience as misfiring synapses, but I couldn’t shake it. When I returned to New York a few days later, I was lost. I suddenly felt God everywhere and it was terrifying. More important, it was unwelcome. It felt like an invasion. I started to fear I was going crazy.

 

I didn’t know what to do… I was desperate. My whole world was imploding. How was I going to tell my family or friends about what had happened? Nobody would understand. I didn’t understand. (It says a lot about the family in which I grew up that one of my most pressing concerns was that Christians would try to turn me into a Republican.)

I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdoes and zealots went to Bible studies. I don’t remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I’ll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, “It’s true. It’s completely true.” The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy.

 

The horror of the prospect of being a devout Christian crept back in almost immediately. I spent the next few months doing my best to wrestle away from God. It was pointless. Everywhere I turned, there he was. Slowly there was less fear and more joy. The Hound of Heaven had pursued me and caught me—whether I liked it or not.

 

Respectfully…

AR