who I am for

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that current social media conversations are frequently too harsh and uninviting of actual, respectful dialogue. I’ve actually been somewhat perplexed as to why way too many of even the typically are so willing to forgo respectful dialogue.

I’ve also had to raggle and wrestle with my own role — my contributions to the current state of less than encouraging vitriol. I wish to be part of the solution — not fueling the fire of a hot-tempered state.

Recently, a wise friend hit the nail on the head for me. He made a comment that highlighted my sense of what’s happening in social media. That is…

Too many times we are known most for what we are against.

In other words, we are so busy shouting and pointing fingers at what we’re against, that who we are actually for is completely drowned out. People can no longer hear who and what we are for.

I want to be known for who I am for — not for what I am against.

Let me repeat that…

I want to be known for who I am for — not for what I am against.

Let that sit in for a moment.

What you are for?

Can people tell?


Have you yelled so loudly that we only know what you are against?

Shouting about what we are against rarely invites increased dialogue. It also typically is not marked by any broad, consistent respect.

I want to be known for who I am for…

… for my family… friends…
… for the least of these…
… for all…

I want to be known for who I am for…

Notably, this may be my shortest post ever.

But when we speak of what we are for, it removes the ranting and raving, and leads to clearer, more concise, respectful conversation.


they are dumb

Rarely do we simply post another’s editorial, but the truth is we learn from each other — never solely from one and never wisely, solely from the likeminded. Hear the wise words of New York City writer, Sean Blanda, written well over a year and a half ago, in a piece entitled “The ‘Other Side’ Is Not Dumb”… [Note: all emphasis is mine.]

“There’s a fun game I like to play in a group of trusted friends called ‘Controversial Opinion.’ The rules are simple: Don’t talk about what was shared during Controversial Opinion afterward and you aren’t allowed to ‘argue’  —  only to ask questions about why that person feels that way. Opinions can range from ‘I think James Bond movies are overrated’ to ‘I think Donald Trump would make a excellent president.’

Usually, someone responds to an opinion with, ‘Oh my god! I had no idea you were one of those people!’ Which is really another way of saying ‘I thought you were on my team!’
In psychology, the idea that everyone is like us is called the ‘false-consensus bias.’ This bias often manifests itself when we see TV ratings… or in politics… or polls…

Online it means we can be blindsided by the opinions of our friends or, more broadly, America. Over time, this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy ‘Other Side’ that must be laughed at  —  an Other Side that just doesn’t ‘get it,’ and is clearly not as intelligent as ‘us.’ But this holier-than-thou social media behavior is counterproductive, it’s self-aggrandizement at the cost of actual nuanced discourse and if we want to consider online discourse productive, we need to move past this.

What is emerging is the worst kind of echo chamber, one where those inside are increasingly convinced that everyone shares their world view, that their ranks are growing when they aren’t. It’s like clockwork: an event happens and then your social media circle is shocked when a non-social media peer group public reacts to news in an unexpected way. They then mock the Other Side for being ‘out of touch’ or ‘dumb’…

When someone communicates that they are not ‘on our side’ our first reaction is to run away or dismiss them as stupid. To be sure, there are hateful, racist, people not worthy of the small amount of electricity it takes just one of your synapses to fire. I’m instead referencing those who actually believe in an opposing viewpoint of a complicated issue, and do so for genuine, considered reasons. Or at least, for reasons just as good as yours.

This is not a ‘political correctness’ issue. It’s a fundamental rejection of the possibility to consider that the people who don’t feel the same way you do might be right. It’s a preference to see the Other Side as a cardboard cut out, and not the complicated individual human beings that they actually are.

What happens instead of genuine intellectual curiosity is the sharing of Slate or Daily Kos or Fox News or Red State links. Sites that exist almost solely to produce content to be shared so friends can pat each other on the back and mock the Other Side. Look at the Other Side! So dumb and unable to see this the way I do!

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug a$$holes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

It’s impossible to consider yourself a curious person and participate in social media in this way. We cannot consider ourselves ‘empathetic’ only to turn around and belittle those who don’t agree with us.
On Twitter and Facebook this means we prioritize by sharing stuff that will garner approval of our peers over stuff that’s actually, you know, true. We share stuff that ignores wider realities, selectively shares information, or is just an outright falsehood. The misinformation is so rampant that the Washington Post stopped publishing its internet fact-checking column because people didn’t seem to care if stuff was true…

Institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views  —  even when it’s demonstrably fake.
The solution, as [author Fredrik] deBoer says, ‘You have to be willing to sacrifice your carefully curated social performance and be willing to work with people who are not like you.’ In other words you have to recognize that the Other Side is made of actual people.

But I’d like to go a step further. We should all enter every issue with the very real possibility that we might be wrong this time.

Isn’t it possible that you… like me, suffer from this from time to time? Isn’t it possible that we’re not right about everything? That those who live in places not where you live, watch shows that you don’t watch, and read books that you don’t read, have opinions and belief systems just as valid as yours? That maybe you don’t see the entire picture?

Think political correctness has gotten out of control? Follow the many great social activists on Twitter. Think America’s stance on guns is puzzling? Read the stories of the 31% of Americans that own a firearm. This is not to say the Other Side is ‘right’ but that they likely have real reasons to feel that way. And only after understanding those reasons can a real discussion take place.

As any debate club veteran knows, if you can’t make your opponent’s point for them, you don’t truly grasp the issue. We can bemoan political gridlock and a divisive media all we want. But we won’t truly progress as individuals until we make an honest effort to understand those that are not like us. And you won’t convince anyone to feel the way you do if you don’t respect their position and opinions.

A dare for the next time you’re in discussion with someone you disagree with: Don’t try to ‘win.’ Don’t try to ‘convince’ anyone of your viewpoint. Don’t score points by mocking them to your peers. Instead try to ‘lose.’ Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it. No one is going to tell your environmentalist friends that you merely asked follow up questions after your brother made his pro-fracking case.

Or, the next time you feel compelled to share a link on social media about current events, ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it because that link brings to light information you hadn’t considered? Or does it confirm your world view, reminding your circle of intellectual teammates that you’re not on the Other Side?

I implore you to seek out your opposite. When you hear someone cite ‘facts’ that don’t support your viewpoint don’t think ‘that can’t be true!’ Instead consider, ‘Hm, maybe that person is right? I should look into this.’

Because refusing to truly understand those who disagree with you is intellectual laziness and worse, is usually worse than what you’re accusing the Other Side of doing.”

Respectfully… of all sides…

the mysterious effect

It’s been referenced in multiple publications… The New York Times, Huffington Post, People Magazine, “Next Door as It Is in Heaven”…

It’s been called an “effect” — even a “mystery.” It’s been talked about, written about, and studied for decades.

“It” is Roseto… Roseto, Pennsylvania… a small borough in eastern Pennsylvania, not far from the Jersey state line. It is named for the village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, as the small town was largely settled by German, Dutch and Italian Americans. The mysterious effect of what happened in Roseto fits right within a current theme discussed here. This, my friends, is fascinating. Something within is good and right and true.

As said by authors Brad Brisco and Lance Ford…

“In the early 1960s a happenstance conversation over beers one evening between two doctors was the precursor to what has come to be know as ‘the Roseto effect.’ A local physician casually mentioned to the head of medicine at the University of Oklahoma that it seemed as if heart disease was rarer in his town of Roseto, a small village nestled in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania named for the Italian city that are the roots of its founders, in comparison to nearby cities. Researchers began an extensive study of Roseto, discovering a near-zero cardiac mortality rate for men aged fifty-five to sixty-four. For men above sixty-five, the local death rate was half the national average.

Why did this diminutive Italian-immigrant settlement boast such extraordinary heart health? Researchers assumed the answer lay in diet, exercise, and labor habits. But the investigators were stunned to discover this was not the case at all. The citizens drank plenty of wine and subsisted on classic Italian foods rich with cholesterol-laden pastas and sausages deep-fried in animal fat. Smoking was a daily habit for the men, who worked in back-breaking and toxic conditions in the local quarry.

None of this made sense to the researchers. The medical field was stumped. Microscopes would not be able to solve the mystery. So they brought in clipboard-carrying sociologists, who visited with town officials and went door to door to interview the Roseto citizens. Several unusual elements caught the eye of the researchers. For starters, the crime rate was zero, and there were no applications for public assistance. Yes, you read that right: no crime and no social services requested. Nada. Zilch. A rich community-wide social life was practiced, not divided along economic or educational lines. The haves and have-nots played, partied, and prayed together. The wealthy did not flaunt there affluence and seemed to make a conscious effort to avoid doing so. Local businesses received virtually all patronage of the townsfolk, despite larger stores nearby in surrounding towns. And though families were close-knit and took special care of their own, researchers discovered a spirit of assistance, friendly concern, and a tangible regard for neighbors and non-family as well.

It seemed to the examiners that no one was alone. The elderly were not placed into institutions and were actually ‘installed as informal judges and arbitrators in everyday life and commerce.’

The medical community was left to conclude that the secret of such astonishingly high cardiac health in individuals in Roseto was because of the community heart that beat for one another. The people in the community had healthy hearts because the community had a heart for one another.

Sadly, the Roseto effect would not last. In 1963 researchers keenly predicted that ‘as Rosetans became more Americanized (meaning less close, less modest and less interdependent), they would also become less healthy.’ The American Journal of Public Health revisited Roseto in 1992 and found Rosetans suffering the same statistical rate of heart disease as neighboring cities. What happened? Single-family homes had become the new norm, fences appeared, and churches moved to the outskirts of town. Community fabric wore thin, and with it the sheltering warmth it had provided.

The lessons from Roseto are remarkable. Roseto had been a competent community. While its inhabitants were no wealthier than the average American town, their quality of life was improved by their interconnectedness. Abundant communities have the capacity to take care of one another. They are convinced the basic everyday needs, along with many unexpected bumps in the road of life, can be met by the collective talent, skill, wisdom, and durable goods already present in the home and garages in their neighborhood.”

In other words, the secret to health wasn’t wealth, social status, or the size of their homes. It was not about diet or exercise, nor was there anything forced upon these residents. They simply chose to do life together. They chose to live in and promote community.


a special community

A friend pegged me recently, noticing a theme in recent posts… “Start small… Let’s get back to the basics of community!” Exactly. Community is vital to ongoing peace and healthy living. Hence, let’s define it once more.

Multiple definitions are easily found… “a group of people living in the same place”… “having a particular characteristic in common”… “a feeling of fellowship with others”…

All valid and good.

But after a sweet few months of very poignant learning and application, I’ve been wrestling with my own definition. Allow me a humble stab…

Community… a group of people doing life together… a genuine connectivity marked by contagious, unlimited empathy and grace. No judgment. It’s a bunch of small moments strung together, noticing the people around you. Self is always secondary. Community is practical, authentic, and good.

One of the things I have been incredibly thankful for is the blessing of experiencing community. Having moved from a community that was beautifully thriving, one logically questions what will be next. Will we experience this again? Can we experience this again?

The answer is “yes” — especially if we recognize our own role. Thus allow an example from this past weekend…

Our youngest is involved in Special Olympics. Special Olympics are the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with special needs, offering year-round training and competitions to 5.7 million athletes in 172 countries each year. This organization ministers to many in a unique, affirming way.

For us, this past Saturday was the district bowling competition. Our son and his high school team qualified after a strong score in last month’s county competition. But Saturday was initially pretty tiring.

It came on the heels of Friday night, an evening which saw Josh’s high school best their arch rival on the gridiron, capturing the district football championship. Josh was at that game, on the side lines, a student manager for the team. With all the fanfare, celebration, and overflowing adrenaline, it was a late night for all, especially the coaches and players.

Needing to be at the bowling competition by 8:30 a.m., it was a little tougher to roll out of bed. But once there, we would compete against some 350 plus other Special Olympians — a sweet, beautiful sight!

Allow me a brief tangent, as the camaraderie was incredibly contagious… all shapes, sizes, disabilities, and ethnicities… persons in competition with one another, sincerely rooting one another on — celebrating one another.

Osvaldo may have been my favorite. He would approach each roll the same way… sauntering up to line, deliberately dropping his ball, slowly, very slowly. And then he would wait. He would stand at the foul line waiting for that really, really slow-moving ball to make its way to the pins. Most often he watched it roll into the gutter, but any gutter caused no dismay. He would turn around smiling, such joy in his step, thankful for the opportunity to bowl.

The sweetest moment occurred after Osvaldo had thrown multiple, consecutive gutter balls. On the second roll of a final frame, he rolled a one. Yes, one; he hit one pin. Osvaldo turned around, jumping up and down, high-fiving everyone in the adjacent vicinity! He was thrilled with his accomplishment.

Additionally thrilling for us — and back to the point of today’s post — was the manifestation of community…

First, Josh’s Special Olympics coach arrived. He is also the head coach of the football team.

And second, three young men strolled up to Josh as he was about to roll. Each played in last night’s football game. Two of the three, in fact, are highly sought after Division I athletes. Yet each came up to Josh, high-fived him, hugged him, and wished him well. They hung around, letting him know “we are in this together” (… whatever “this” is).

Community, my friends, is sincere. It’s sincere, empowering, and contagious. It’s genuine connectivity — from star to special athletes. There is unlimited empathy and grace, which is powerful indeed. There is no judgment. There is celebration simply in doing life together, whatever that is.


something is always bigger

As is typical in our family, my spouse and I sat down the other evening to catch the day’s sporting events — bouncing between baseball’s league championship series and the start of the professional basketball season. Truth told, pro basketball doesn’t always keep my attention; it sometimes seems like defense is only played the last ten minutes of the game. But in solely the first six minutes of the season, our eyes were glued to the television. I wish they had not been so glued.

The Celtics were playing the Cavaliers in Cleveland, and not halfway through the first quarter, star free agent pickup, Boston’s Gordon Hayward, went up for a routine alley-oop — a play he’s probably made hundreds of times — and in one of the most grisly injuries to watch unfold, Hayward landed awkwardly, his ankle contorted underneath him, fracturing both his ankle and left tibia.

Happening in front of the opposing team, the Cavaliers’ bench responded in immediate, unprecedented queasiness, scrambling to look away. It was grisly and gruesome indeed… an injury that should be wished upon no one.

Note the immediate wishes from all over the sports spectrum…

For @gordonhayward. Come back stronger!
     — from Steph Curry

God bless you bro @gordonhayward ! help him thru this god!
 — from Paul George

Never like to see that. Best wishes to @gordonhayward
 — from soccer’s Jody Altidore

Praying for my guy @gordonhayward!!! NEVER want to see any of the guys go through anything like that.
 — from DeAndre Jordan

NBA | Heartbreak for #GordonHayward but beautiful to see the NBA Community come together for him. Our thoughts and prayers are with you
— from award-winning broadcaster Benny Bonsu

Lord , Carry Him Now @gordonhayward
— from Dwight Howard

No no no no no no………. praying everything is okay…
— from Jared Sullinger

Gordon and Robyn, our thoughts are with you and your family. All of Jazz Nation sending best wishes for a speedy recovery.
 — from the Utah Jazz, Hayward’s former team

Never want to see that man!#thoughtsandprayers
 — from Zach LaVine

@gordonhayward. Only God has ALL the answers.
— from Shaun Livingston

@gordonhayward prayin for u my brother.
 — from Odell Beckham, Jr.

Prayers to @gordonhayward @celtics hope people will understand better that NOTHINGS guaranteed in the game we love
 — from Bruce Bowen

Wow… that’s horrific… feel awful for Hayward
   — from Jeremy Lin

Can’t even put into words.
Gordon Hayward.
Feeling for you man.
Absolutely gut wrenching.
 — from JJ Watt

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gordon Hayward. #BiggerThanBasketball
 — from the Cleveland Cavaliers

Absolutely gut wrenching. Never like to see that. Feel awful…
Injury should be wished upon no one. I hope we get that. I pray, too, we can always be graceful, wishing another well, even in opposition, realizing something is always “bigger” — in far more than basketball. I thus also pray our emotion and opposition wouldn’t keep us from extending the wisdom and warmth embedded within such beautiful (and beautifully contagious) grace.


offended? free speech?

My oldest son is a junior at the University of Florida.

Today, there will be a man speaking on campus who is incredibly controversial. He has repeatedly articulated some shockingly divisive rhetoric. Meet Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, who promotes white superiority and thus identity politics.

What should the university do?

Spencer tends to attract supporters and protestors who have a perceived increased propensity for violence. Most of the supporters and protestors reportedly will not be associated with the university in any way.

Again, my son is there.

(When we are directly affected — when our friends or family are affected — we tend to be more passionate… less objective… and maybe even less tolerant of different opinion or approach. Which leads to today’s clunkiest sentence: who we love most, who is affected the most, most affects our perspective and response.)

To be clear, Spencer was not invited by the university; his organization rented space on campus, and because UF is a public and not private university, any denial of Spencer speaking would raise a First Amendment issue.

Isn’t that the crux of much of the current conflict?

There is a battle going on in regard to how much free speech we should allow.

Remember that protest, too, is a form of speech.

So… how much free speech should we allow?

… especially when it offends us. To offend is to wholeheartedly disrespect.

The challenge is that “to offend” is also an incredibly vague verb. It’s totally subjective. What’s offensive to some is not necessarily offensive to another. We get to pick and choose what we’re offended by, and we typically don’t have as much patience with another person’s offense, as it’s simply easier to dismiss another’s rationale rather than attempt to sincerely understand why they feel differently.

While it would have been easier for the University of Florida to deny Spencer’s speaking — especially since university president W. Kent Fuchs has soundly denounced Spencer’s rhetoric — the school has instead decided to “lead the way.”

Said Fuchs two days ago: “I urge our campus community to join together, respect one another and promote positive speech, while allowing for differing opinions… It is up to every student, faculty member, staff member, and myself to demonstrate our university values of respect and inclusion in all that we do. We have an opportunity to lead the way.”

I will share that such has not been a popular opinion with a vocal contingent of parents. Several from their understandable bent — no doubt because their sons and daughters are affected — want the university to do more… from shutting Spencer down to calling off class for the day. Note that the school is incurring $500,000 in security costs and bringing in significantly more law enforcement, attempting to be as prepared as possible for any violence.

What I also see is that the University of Florida believes in the totality of education. They want their students to learn to think on their own, preparing them for the world that awaits after these four some years; some of what awaits is not pretty and seems to be getting worse. The school seems clear, no less — as much as they disagree with this divisive antagonist — that they do not need to become an echo chamber, a place where students are only exposed to ideas with which they agree.

Ok, deep breath. Time to allow this to unfold. Time for this parent to say a prayer or two…

For the safety of the students in Gainesville…

For each of us… to join together, respect one another and promote positive speech… while allowing for differing opinions…


change your questions

“Every change — big or small — typically begins with a new question.”

— Dr. Marilee Adams, Author of “Change Your Questions Change Your Life” (a longtime Intramuralist favorite)

Most of us seem to crave some sort of change, especially in regard to the seemingly surfeit of increasing societal schisms today.

Hence, today… only questions…

25 to be exact.

  1. Do I really respect all people?
  2. If my opinion supports one people group but disrespects another, is there anything about my opinion or its expression that I need to change?
  3. Am I living in an echo chamber? If so, why won’t I exit?
  4. Am I committed to dialogue?
  5. Where am I stuck?
  6. Where am I wrong?
  7. Where have I refused to acknowledge that I have more to learn?
  8. How can I love my “neighbor” more?
  9. Where am I destroying community as opposed to fostering it?
  10. What bias is within me?
  11. What agenda-driven news sources are impeding my objectivity?
  12. Is social media helping?
  13. How does my behavior need to change?
  14. Who do I have trouble giving grace to? Why?
  15. Where do I point fingers only at others and avoid examination of self?
  16. Have I forgotten that even a stopped clock is right twice a day?
  17. Who have I justified loving less?
  18. Where I have I allowed ethnicity, political standing, or anything to get in the way?
  19. Where am I refusing to listen?
  20. Am I a “learner” or a “judger”?
  21. Do I ask “what assumptions am I making” or “whose fault is it”?
  22. Do I ask “what are they thinking, feeling and wanting” or “why are they always so dumb and irritating”?
  23. Who is holding me accountable? Am I submissive to anyone?
  24. Have I translated my individual experience into truth for all others? And…
  25. What unintentional consequences is my behavior, opinion, or the current expression of my opinion having?

Want solution?

Want to navigate wisely through some of the tough issues currently set before us?

“Every change — big or small — typically begins with a new question.”

Maybe we should consider changing our questions.


ideology’s corruption

First, two definitions…

(1) echo chamber (n.) – An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.

And (2) dialogue (n.) – An exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, especially a political or religious issue, with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.

Question: do we actually want to solve our existing societal issues? … the political strife, the racial tension, the ever-increasing list of socio-economic debates? Note that only one of the above pursues solution. The echo chambers — the social media circles, chat rooms, and Facebook threads that are only gracious and inviting to likeminded ideology — do not solve the problems plaguing us today. They only reverberate the sound of our own opinions, which encourages ideology adherence. From The Witherspoon Institute’s Randall Smith in his poignant discussion of “Ideology and the Corruption of Language”.

“… How do we recognize the language of ‘ideology’ and distinguish it from a ‘principled position’? One common clue is that those who hold a principled position welcome arguments; they welcome having their position tested and possibly corrected. A principled position always has room for increased subtlety and greater complexity. Holders of an ‘ideology,’ on the other hand, will tend to eschew argument or any examination of the ideology’s underlying presuppositions or premises, often refusing to concede that greater subtlety may be required to apply the principles to real-life situations. Ideology disdains argument; people with principled positions embrace it warmly and engage in it gladly.

Note, however, that ‘engaging in argument’ is not the same as a dual monologue or sharing complaints about opponents. If you’re unsure what a dialogue is supposed to sound like, read one of Plato’s. Socrates is as good a teacher of dialogue as anyone who ever lived. Personally, I suggest beginning with the ‘Gorgias.’

In the ‘Gorgias,’ Socrates defends ‘dialectic’ (the question-and-answer method he engages in with interlocutors) and distinguishes it from ‘sophistry.’ What Plato especially disliked about sophistry was its corruption of language: the belief that language was not primarily for the expression of truth but for the acquisition of power. Sophists bragged that they could convince the ignorant masses of anything, even better than people who were experts on a subject. How did they do this? By twisting words and using language to inflame the passions rather than to engage the logic of the mind. Appeal to fear and play on people’s anxiety, never asking them to think about the evidence for your claims or reflect on the possible unintended consequences of a course of action.

This corruption of language is a characteristic sign of ideology. Throughout the Platonic dialogues, Socrates spends a great deal of time trying to clarify words, attempting to get clear on what people mean when they use terms such as ‘good’ or ‘just’ or ‘great.’ Ideologies want to skip over all that hard work. Asking what someone means by ‘good’ or ‘just’ or ‘fair’ is, to the devoted ideologue, like the greengrocer refusing to put the sign in his window. It suggests you’re not a party member.

Watch out for this. Refusing to discuss one’s terms because the point is ‘obvious,’ insisting on using euphemisms rather than plain speech, relying on a very specialized vocabulary and being unable to express one’s thoughts without it, using speech to vilify persons rather than to clarify positions: these are all clues that you’re dealing with ideology, not principle.”

Ideology’s corruption of language does not pursue solution. In fact, while justifying loving treatment toward some, it is accompanied by the unintended consequence of unloving treatment toward some others.

How many times have we heard or said, “I cannot have one more conversation in which they don’t realize the point is obvious!… I cannot have political debates with these people! Our disagreement is not merely political; it’s a fundamental divide on what it means to be good!” And with that we label the other person as either arrogant, ignorant or compassionless. We justify no more dialogue, assuming only we are good.

As an advocate of respectful dialogue, allow me to encourage the hard work. Allow me to encourage the investment in dialogue, the sincere wrestling with unlike opinion, and the exit from echo chambers. Echo chambers are easy, as the reverberation of like opinion never challenges us to consider the wisdom of another approach. Think about the evidence for our own claims and reflect upon the possible unintended consequences of a course of action. Encounter others sincerely, selflessly. Clarify. Don’t vilify. Listen well. And do nothing that justifies loving another less — such as refusing to have “one more conversation.”


for all this

As a follow up to Tuesday’s acknowledgment that “Something’s Wrong,” it doesn’t take long to get lured into focusing upon all that is wrong; it’s too heavy and too much. Hence, I am thankful when something shocks me out of it. For example…

This past weekend we celebrated my youngest’s 16th birthday. It was sweet and celebratory, affirming and fun. But after three days of celebrating, this typically enthusiastic parent added “exhausted” to the list.

The reason we celebrate for three days, no less, is because of who Josh is… because of how God made him… because we remember when he was born… and because of how incredible much we have learned both from him and through him. Two years ago, I wrote about Josh’s birthday. It is wise to read again…


A long standing premise of the Intramuralist is to consistently advocate for a focus on all that is good and true and right. In fact, one of our cultural challenges it seems, is that both individually and corporately, we spend so much energy and attention on that which is not good and true and right… division… strife… evil… impurity… a lack of loyalty and/or faithfulness, etc. Such takes up way too much of our time, minds, and airwaves.

“… whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things…”

My now 14 year old son, Josh — that child born years ago with an extra special need, chromosome, and a wall missing in is heart — is one of the best, most effective ways God teaches me now in regard to all that is good and true and right.

As expected, no less, this joy-filled teen’s birthday included music and dancing, cake and cookies, and multiple friends and family. He received many day-brightening gifts, calls, texts, and visits that made his heart so obviously overflow with thanks. (It made this parent even need a nap.)

Yet the moment that seemed most “blog-worthy” was seemingly small in comparison. It was just a singular sentence — a comment Josh made before the festivities were in full swing; yet it was a moment that is still making me think…

Standing outside briefly before the sunrise, in between our daily repertoire of song and dance preceding the much anticipated school bus arrival, Josh stopped his singing, pausing for a moment of thanks. He wanted to give God thanks for the celebration of the day — and more.

And in the middle of that moment — in this conversation I felt deeply privileged to overhear — Josh stopped, leaned somewhat backwards, grinning from ear to ear, and pointing meekly to himself said:

“And God, thanks for all this.”

Thanks for all this.

There was no focus on what some may see as missing.
There was no ignoring of current circumstances.
There was no dismissal of having Down syndrome.
There was no wishing he was someone or something else.
There was no desire to be any different.
There was only a joy-laced expression of gratitude for who he is…

Thanks for all this.

Whatever is true… whatever is lovely… think about these things…


something’s wrong

“He said it all the time… when we left the car, heading to school… arriving home from something — anything… both a greeting and a goodbye… it was a signal, a statement, an awareness of peace…”

Some words are difficult to fully define, be that because the application is so vast, the history so rich, or the concept so huge.

I speak of something that affects us all. Regardless of where we come from, what we believe, what we have in common or what we don’t, we can’t deny that this affects us.


It’s a word that transcends both generation and geography… religion and relationship…


In English, shalom refers to peace between two entities or the peace, well-being or welfare of a person, group or circumstance. The Hebrew definition adds in the concepts of harmony, tranquility, wholeness and prosperity. In Arabic, it’s called “salaam,” and the Maltese say “sliem.” Shalom affects us all.

Take note, for example, at some of the more significant, current issues, events and developments…

  • A man murders the innocent masses from his luxury hotel room…
  • People argue about the right to life, debating gun control — or abortion…
  • People argue about the right to protest when America’s anthem is played…
  • An “A-list” film producer stands accused of decades of harassment…
  • North Korea festers…
  • Politicians fight…
  • Others join in, justifying insults in the fight…
  • There are tumultuous hurricanes — sometimes even in the weather…
  • There is tension…
  • Poverty… hunger, too…

Something is wrong.

In a phrase coined not by me, it seems we are witnessing “the vandalism of shalom” right before our very eyes, played out daily in the mass and social media. Something has pierced our peace. Something has disturbed our overall welfare and well-being. This is clearly not the way it is supposed to be.

And you know what strikes me most profoundly here?

You don’t have to know God or even believe in him to feel the vandalism of shalom. In other words, it takes zero faith to realize there’s something wrong. Shalom seems nonexistent.

Let’s be clear then that with the hugeness of its meaning, its vast application and history so rich, shalom is far more than the absence of conflict.

If not, we could simply silence all dissenters. We could arrest all who disagree. We could embrace the principles of dictatorship or despotism, where a single entity holds absolute power and authority, and we could demand everyone act and think like we do so we never, ever must wrestle with alternate perspective or unlike behavior again. But the squelching and thus complete disrespect of others has never proven to be an effective pathway for peace. Likemindedness — obtained via demandingness and disrespect — is not fruitful, effective nor wise.

As often stated here, friends, the Intramuralist is an advocate for community. I believe wholeheartedly in the value of community. I believe we are to grow up in it, invest in it, and sharpen one another. Note that I didn’t say a “likeminded, look/feel/think/act alike community.” There is so much we can learn from those who are “unlike me.”

That said, grieved by the current state of community around us, I have been profoundly challenged in recent days to seek shalom in my community. How do we do that? How do we contribute positively to the peace, wholeness, and harmony of where we live? … in our nation? … in our neighborhood? … in our homes? … in our hobbies?

And… humbly… in a post that offers more questions than answers…

How are we contributing to the vandalism of shalom?

“…He said it all the time… both a greeting and a goodbye… it is a signal, a statement, an awareness of peace… so vast, so rich, so huge…”

So necessary, too.