how I get in the way

I’m sorry.

I’ve got to confess.

Sometimes I’ve been judgmental.

Sometimes I’ve been indignant.

Sometimes I’ve convinced myself that I am totally right, forgetting how limited my perspective may be.

Sometimes I’ve forgotten that of course, my perspective is limited; I am incapable of seeing absolutely all things.

Many times I have allowed my emotion to dictate my truth. And because I feel this way, I knowI know — my gut is right on. And then I allow the fact that I think I know to justify my entire behavior.

How do I actually behave?

Ah, yes… there comes the judgment… the indignation… the “yes, we can talk about it, but inside, I am right, and you will be the only one of us that needs to change. I know that…”

Wow… what a conversation killer.

What a mind block.

What an obstacle for even the most intelligent.

I pause here. Sighing. Thinking about how I get in the way. 


Because there is a realization that too many times we suggest all-of-the-above only applies to someone other than self. Someone other than “me.”

And just like that once more we miss the point.

Once more we play God.

We play God by acting as if we don’t have more to learn… that we do have life all figured out… that we really can see all sides of something… all 360° of perspective… 

We play God by thinking we are so wise… we are so good… we have so much to teach the world around us…

We play God when we fail to be humble. That’s it.

We play God when we treat any one person or people group as lesser. Any one.

Hence, as God advocates for treating no one lesser, we play God when we forget about Him.

Let it never be said of us that we have forgotten God.

Let it never be said of us that we have failed to remember the great big, awesomely creative, Creator of the universe.

That realization should profoundly affect the way we treat all people… and not just those that agree with us or we consider likeminded. 

That realization should profoundly affect how we funnel the information we hear and consider what is true.

That realization should profoundly affect you and me.

Respectfully… still thinking, too…


do you know the news?

We talk about what people are talking about — albeit always respectfully. And so… 

There will be no current charges.

Before speaking — or semi-civilly sharing “there’s still time!” — note that I have not identified of whom we speak…

If in regard to Pres. Trump, we know the special investigation under Robert Mueller has concluded that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The report has been given to the U.S. Attorney General, who will decide what is legal for the public to know.

If in regard to actor Jussie Smollett, we know the charges were dropped yesterday in an unscheduled hearing. Smollett then declared he has been “been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.” Note that a judge has granted a motion to seal all details of the cases, meaning the public will not know more.


Do we wish what happened was different?

Do we wish for more consequences for each?

Do we wish for more consequences for only one?

Why would we treat the situations differently?

And why do we sit here thinking we know better and we know what really happened and we know what exact consequences should be administered? 

With all due respect, I find myself a bit uncomfortable with all we claim to know.

Let me not suggest that one must react the same; my question is more as to why — and if we are aware of what other motivations — our own and the media’s — have been in play. Unfortunately, we have accepted a developing societal ambiguity that strongly influences our reaction, as we seem to have muddied the middle between politics and the rule of law; we no longer consistently recognize — and sometimes not even value — the distinct difference.

Take a glance at the media’s reaction less than 24 hours after the announced completion of Robert Mueller’s investigation. Look solely at the headlines from two of New York’s most popular papers…

From the NY Post: “The Collapse of the Democrats’ Big Lie”

From the NY Times: “Trump’s Shamelessness Was Outside Mueller’s Jurisdiction”

Here are two of the most subscribed-to newspapers in the country; each headline is evident of a more politically-motivated mantra than of a factual account of the rule of law. 

Friends, no doubt this is a frequent, Intramuralist refrain; it is also a sincere refrain. If your news is coming solely or primarily from left or right leaning sites, you are not getting an accurate representation of the news. That means CNN, HuffPo, WaPo, Palmer Report, MSNBC and more are manipulating your emotion from the left; Breibart, The Blaze, Drudge Report, FOX News, the Washington Examiner and more are manipulating your emotion from the right. 

Want a more trusted news source? Try the Associated Press, C-SPAN, The Economist, Reuters, and USA Today. None are perfect, but each is believed to be far less biased than those listed above. The bias of the others is blurring the distinction between politics and the rule of law.

Also amidst those above headlines, the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal (CJ) ran the following editorial, entitled “Journalism Dies When Reporters Choose Sides.” They shared the insight of one of journalism’s most recognized, twentieth-century voices, Ted Koppel. Koppel spoke of what the news has now become: “We are not the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were.” 

CJ continues… 

“… The Left always cites Fox News in this regard. He [Koppel] singled out the Washington Post and the New York Times, saying that they have gone overboard in their bias, transforming themselves into anti-Trump advocates. ‘We are not talking about the Washington Post [or New York Times] of 50 years ago,’ Koppel said. ‘We’re talking about organizations that… have decided, as organizations, that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States’…

When journalists don’t consider themselves bound to old norms of objectivity, there comes an absence of restraint that is inherently corrupting…

Koppel made clear that he does not disagree with the verdict that Trump is ‘bad for the United States.’ He means only that the Post and Times abandon their journalistic responsibility when they take sides so blatantly…”

Hence, the quandary and the questions for each of us: 

Are we recognizing the difference between politics and rule of law?

And do both we and the media even care?



keyboard cowardice

Four years ago, we introduced the concept of the “keystroke mentality.” I was reminded, watching a plethora of college sports the past 48 hours…


“I fear we might be close to teetering on total, civility failure. The idiots are getting far too big a voice nowadays,” said Joe Tessitore of ESPN… Yes, of ESPN.

Tessitore spoke this weekend in regard to the college gridiron. He was speaking of how fans reacted to a student on the University of Michigan football team, whose error led directly to a win by the opponent in the closing seconds of the game. I wonder… where else are his words applicable?

“Fueled by irrational hate, and numb by a far too easy to kill by keystroke mentality,” continued Tessitore.

So many of us sit behind the cowardice of our keyboards — as opposed to meeting and dealing with people face-to-face, and we make all sorts of bold statements… except… the statements are not always factual and true — and while they may be factual, they may also be pointedly disrespectful of other people.

Our society continues to too often assert opinion in such a bold way, believing that what we say is good and true and right — and then justify insult if they feel differently. Friends, if our opinion evolves into the justification for insult, there is no such thing as equating to, at least the “good” or “right” part. We must quit using our perspective as a weapon. Such is the harm of keystroke mentality.

Just because… I can type it… say it… post it on a placard… doesn’t make it true nor necessarily wise to post or say. Ah, yes… the cowardice of our keyboards. I’m reminded of the insight from one of our summer guest writers a few years back…

“… Turns out Facebook confrontation are the same thing as real confrontations-go figure? Those arguments I was typing with the distant relatives of my best friend from nursery school? Turns out they were actual people and not just dialog boxes and the ‘discussions’ we were having were being read and judged by all of our friends. And you know what else? The only opinions any of that critical closed-minded dialog changed were of me and the others who participated in it. No one suddenly changed their entire belief system based on a Facebook argument. Shocker right?”

Shocker. Joe Tessitore made his statements this past weekend in regard to a college player who is only 22 years old. It matters not; the young man has been verbally eviscerated on Facebook and elsewhere…   

“I fear we might be close to teetering on total, civility failure. The idiots are getting far too big a voice nowadays.”

The reality is that the words said about the youthful player are the same words being said about those in office or lining up to run for office. With the 2020 Presidential election still over a year away, the thought of this keyboard cowardice continuing is exhausting!

Said again by my trusted friend… “Another Presidential election is upon us… Editorials are being printed in our newspapers and opinions, lots and lots of opinions. And slowly but surely, those one sided political posts are starting to make their way into my newsfeed. I shudder to think how this one will go. After all, we’ve had years to sharpen our blades and our social media skills. How many of us will let our passion trump our reason?”

I share in the shuddering — allowing our passion to trump our reason. When did we become a country that justifies such disrespect? When did we become a country where so many of us began either intentionally or unintentionally fueling this culture of irrational hate? When did we become a country where we couldn’t see the big picture? … where we couldn’t recognize that a game is just a game? … that political opponents are not enemies? … that we are called to love our neighbor? … and when we justify such disrespect?

I close with the recognition that the Intramuralist, for one, is thankful for the many fancy-dancy techno gadgets of this information age; I love my iPad, MacBook, and all things Apple. But when any of these impersonal keyboards provide the place for us to hide behind and the impetus for disrespect, something is wrong not with the gadgets — but with us.



diversity training

One of the best parts of the annual NCAA basketball tournament is its clear manifestation of diversity. Too often too many inaccurately boast of their all-accepting, diverse nature; then they reject the one who does not embrace diversity, meaning the original boaster isn’t as diverse as he or she might believe.

Not true in the madness of March. Each of the 351 Division I men’s basketball teams has an opportunity to make the tournament. It’s a striking, sui generis field…

68 teams fill the benches and brackets. As is typical, we see our share of birds, bears and more.

From the Cardinals of Louisville to a soaring pair of Eagles — with even Golden ones flying from Marquette… not to mention the Hawkeyes and Jayhawks and that team from Temple (although I’m sensing that an Owl doesn’t exactly intimidate one’s opponent all that much). 

Speaking of intimidation, I like Maryland, but few seem fearful of a team named after a turtle.

Bears seem to instill a little more fear in one’s adversary, as I assume Baylor can attest to. Just as formidable, however, are the Bruins and Grizzlies.

The Belmont Bruins are actually represented by “Bruiser the Bruin” — who is not to be outdone by the prowess of VCU’s “Rodney the Ram.” Still more of the furry and fictional will grace the sidelines, noting especially “Kaboom” (the gargoyle), “Pounce” (the blue panther), and “Peter the Anteater” (… yes, I did say “anteater”…). Pete is a popular name, no doubt, also represented via “Pistol Pete” from the state of New Mexico and the muscular “Purdue Pete” from my absolute favorite college in the country.

The “Pistol” is really an Aggie — of which there are two. (What’s an “Aggie,” by the way?)

That pales, I suppose, to the Billikens, another ambiguous name, whose moniker — crazily — is said to have originated from the football coach’s uncanny resemblance to a charm doll 108 years ago.

Let’s not forget, though, man’s best friend and its feline counterpart; the numbers included are impressive. There are four sets of Bulldogs (although only Gardner-Webb’s are Runnin’), a pair of Huskies, and one Wofford Terrier. Then there’s the Queen City’s Bearcats, the resurgence of Phi Slamma Jamma’s Cougars, a pair each of Tigers and Panthers, and four more of the always well-represented Wildcat.

Let’s give a brief shoutout to Abilene Christian’s “Willie the Wildcat.” I love the creativity! Granted, it would be even more fascinating to see a face-off between Buffalo and NKU. We would then witness the sweet, semantic duel between “Victor E. Bull” and “Victor E. Viking.” (Does the “E” in each stand for “epic”?)

There is more of course — the homologous mammals found in the Wolf Pack and Wolverines. Forget not also the Catamounts, Golden Gophers, Badgers, and Bison. 

Then come the Ducks. (Right. Another intimidating sports team.) Please don’t let a Gator near a Duck. 🙂

As with any diverse group, no less, the royal fighters and tough-sounding teams abound. This year we find Spartans, Monarchs, and Cavaliers included, in addition to two sets each of Knights and Gaels. 

The tough-sounding teams always sound tougher when opposed by perceived bad guys. We have two sets of Raiders (only one which is Red), one organized group of Rebels, and one band of Pirates. With all due respect, don’t even get me started on the worthiness of a Devil, regardless of whether it’s Sun(ny) or Blue. No worries. The nice guys still show up, Volunteering from the southeast state of Tennessee. 

Still more teams are a little ambiguous, i.e. the weather-representing Cyclones, the actual color Orange, and then the combination of weather and color found in the men from St. John’s. 

Virginia Tech shares its pride on the hardcourt by depicting what most of their buildings are made from — the Hokie Stone, a limestone common in Southwest Virginia — while Florida State and Oklahoma duly honor their Native American heritage. 

To be truthful, as much as I desire to be inclusive and diverse — I greatly respect them — but I struggle with the athletic nuts from Ohio and the tar, pitch, and turpentine created from the pine forests in North Carolina. There the freedom Flames, too… and the Racers… ah, yes, the Racers. Now there’s a basketball name.

What a great representation of diversity. What a great tournament, too.

May the madness now begin.



the current, drama triangle

“Too much drama!”

And as I once more reiterate the familiar refrain in our family to my budding young son, he knows exactly what I mean. There is too much drama. Too many theatrics. Too many times a circumstance becomes a spectacle. And too many willing players on the scene. 

Allow me to briefly introduce the “drama triangle.” The roles of the 3 players are clear…


The victim… the one to whom something has happened to — maybe bad — but maybe not… yet when bad things happen, we far prefer to see ourselves as the innocent one… we struggle with how we may have contributed…  

The rescuer… the classic enabler… the hero, if you will… they feel guilty if they don’t help… the challenge with the rescuer is that their involvement keeps the victim dependent and gives the victim continued permission to fail — sometimes so much — often so much — that the victim never has to evaluate how they have contributed to the conflict…  

And the villain… the perceived bad guy… they can be mean-spirited… insistent… maybe even evil.


When we see ourselves as the victims or heroes/rescuers (because none of us ever see ourselves as the bad guy), we actually create villains; we manufacture the miscreants.

I’ve been wrestling with this for a while — wrestling with the realities and fallacies of victimhood — as not everyone who claims to be a victim actuallyis a victim. Something is clouding the picture. So allow me to respectfully ponder further…

is there a relationship between being a victim and identity politics?

I pause, struck by the preposterous, real life example of actor Jussie Smollett, who appeared in court again last week, as one alleged to have intentionally utilized identity politics to concoct a well-defined victim status.

Why actually invent your very own victim status?

Remember that the rescuer comes to the immediate aid of the victim; the rescuer must help. The extent of the facts matters less than the potential depth of offense; the whole truth matters less. The rescuer heroically sweeps into the situation, saying, “Victim, let me help you.”

Together then, the victim and the rescuer create the villain.

Look again at Smollett — a victim in search of a rescuer. Smollett attempted to create a Trump-loving, gay-hating, possibly white villain. Said author Eboo Patel in his diversity blog: “He [Smollett] knew that there would be enough prominent people out there in politics, pop culture, activism, thought leadership, the media and liberal twitter to create a blizzard of support that might just snow over the facts of the case.”

Those prominent people played the role of rescuer. They snowed over the facts. There was zero accountability. When the rescuer and victim align, they forget the need for accountability.

Accountability means a person, institution, etc. must justify their actions or decisions; the facts must back up the feelings. But what’s happening in our current, reactive culture is that the rescuer runs in, aligns with the perceived victim, and creates the villain before all the facts are analyzed. 

That’s what’s happening in our politics…

That’s what’s happening in our media…

That’s what’s happening in us.

They/we are creating some pretty big villains. As comedic genius Billy Crystal once said, “The size of the villain determines the size of the hero. Without Goliath, David is just some punk throwing rocks.”

So I ask more questions than provide answers this day… what big villains are we creating? … where are we forgoing the prudent need for accountability? Where have we allowed the agreement of the victim and rescuer to serve in place of accountability? What role has identity politics played? And where have prominent people in the media played an unhealthy role?

More and more, people are tuning out politics and turning off the media.

“Too much drama,” they say…



the week in questions

Want a concise, respectful (albeit incomplete) summary as to what the country’s talking about — and not solely reports from singular, slanted sources? 

Time, once more, to summarize recent current events in question form. All answers and opinions are welcome. We simply repeat what we read, as questions prompt listening; listening prompts dialogue; and dialogue leads to solution. Also — and perhaps most important — and consistent with our mantra — respectful dialogue never forgets relationship. Relationship is always important.

Hence, here’s 35 questions — what we’ve seen asked on the news recently…

“Sunrise early enough for you?”

“Why is Luke Perry’s death so personal for many Gen-Xers?”

“Smollett drama to bring down ‘EMPIRE’?”

“What do feds say Huffman, Loughlin, spouses did?”

“Aunt Becky paid $500,000 to bribe her daughters’ way into USC?”

“What’s next for the World Wide Web?”

“Where is the balance between freedom of speech and hate speech?”

“What happens after Robert Mueller delivers his report?”

“Should Trump be impeached?”

“Why doesn’t Nancy Pelosi want to impeach Trump?”

“Do British voters still want a Brexit?”

“Do Americans care about Britain’s next royal birth?”

“Is it a good idea to break up big tech companies?”

“Is Joe Biden Running for President in 2020?”

“Is Beto O’Rourke in or out?”

“What’s up with Biden and Warren?”

“If he runs, would Mark Cuban have a shot at the Presidency?”

“Will woke progressives allow celebrities to be Christian?”

“Do vaccines cause autism?”

“Why didn’t she vaccinate her youngest child?”

“What’s happening in Venezuela?”

“Why are we still debating the merits of socialism?”

“Three decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse, what does socialism even mean?”

“What’s in Trump’s 2020 budget proposal?”

“Does President Trump feel as passionate about debt as candidate Trump was?”

“How do you celebrate International Women’s Day?”

“Who’s a lock?”

“Who’s on the bubble?”

“Can Tim Tebow actually be a hit in the majors?”

“What is anti-Semitism?”

“Who’s afraid of Ilhan Omar?”

“Sorry, not sorry?”

“Is it time to worry about the Boeing 737 Max 8?”

“Why did Colton Underwood jump the fence?”  … and…

“Who decides what is fake news?”

Remember: the question mark is the only punctuation piece that invites a response. What would it change in our conversations if no matter the topic, we always invited a response?



represent us (please)

Something in their messaging attracts me.

Something in their logic draws me in.

And something in their approach seems atypical of current culture.

With current culture seemingly spiraling divisively out of control, I am curious to learn more… 

Hear the initial words of actress Jennifer Lawrence…

“We are witnessing a total political system failure in America. 

If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself constantly overwhelmed by everything that’s wrong with politics. And when I say politics, I’m not talking about Democrats or Republicans. I’m talking about the flaws that exist in our political system regardless of which party is in power. And I know, it’s hard to talk about politics these days, but look: the government is ours; we pay for it, so it needs to work for us. And right now it doesn’t. And I mean it really doesn’t.

So what’s going on here? Is it Russian meddling and social media? Is it him? [Insert picture of Pres. Trump.] Is it her? [Insert picture of Hillary Clinton.] No. Those two were the least popular presidential candidates since they began keeping track of such things. 

Only 4% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in Congress now. Just 4%. America is no longer even considered a full democracy. We are witnessing total political system failure in America. Which is the complete opposite of what our nation’s fathers had in mind…”

Lawrence is a board member and spokesperson for “Represent Us” — a growing group of people, politicians, business persons, and celebrities who no longer believe government represents us.

That means that they don’t believe if they could simply eliminate one of the current parties, branches, or elected individuals, they would then be wisely represented. That means that they don’t believe there exists one party which is all good, all ethical, or that only the other party has lost its so-called way. They have resisted the societal lure to believe that the lesser of two evils, so-to-speak, can somehow translate into one which is good and one which is evil; evil is still evil. Bad is still bad, regardless of what it’s compared to. 

Note some of what Lawrence points out in their now-viral, introductory video…

“Consider this: politicians are spending up to 70% of their time raising funds for re-election after they get into office. Why? Because in order to win a seat in the Senate in some races, you would have to raise $45,000 every single day, 365 days a year for 6 years to raise enough money to win…

Meanwhile, you’ve got lobbyists writing our laws and donating to the politicians who pass them, we have a two-party duopoly of Democrats and Republicans that makes it so that independents can’t win, while the American people are leaving the major parties in droves…”

There’s a reason people are leaving — especially the younger generations. They can see that our system isn’t working; our government isn’t working for us. That’s with or without Donald Trump… and with or without one of the 316 Democrats who think they should replace him.

“Represent Us” recognizes that. Noting that Americans currently self-identify as 25% liberal, 34% moderate, and 36% conservative, we have to find a way for us to work. “This isn’t party identification,” says Lawrence. “This is how you feel, politically.”

We have to stop beating the other party down… acting as if they are stupid… refusing to talk to them. We have to stop refusing to have any likeminded friends… and resisting the veiled hubris that only they are in need of change. 

Liberals speaking to liberals, keeping their lists, and using liberal language is not going to effectively impact the other 61% and make government work again. Conservatives speaking to conservatives, tweeting incessantly, and using conservative language is not going to effectively impact the other 59% and make government represent us once more. We have to learn to speak and respect the language of the other.

“Represent Us” believes that fixing our current broken government is possible. They are bringing conservatives and progressives together to pass anti-corruption laws all across America. They are assembling right-left coalitions, calling out corruption, and building a movement that starts at the municipal and state level. They are listening to the left and the right, wanting to be sure that we are truly represented.

Did I mention that something in their messaging, logic, and approach attracts me?

That something seems atypical of current culture?



what’s my role?

Rarely do I simply repeat the words of another. CNN news analyst and USA TODAY contributor Kirsten Powers, published a recent piece, however, that deserves to be shared. And shared again. The Intramuralist may or may not agree with every opinion within, but Powers’ approach and main points are acutely admirable. Her post is entitled “I’m not proud of role I’ve played in toxic public debate. I plan to change.” An excerpt is published below, with all emphasis mine. It’s lengthy, but it’s worth reading… if willing to ponder how it personally and potentially powerfully applies…

“Whether it is the Covington controversy or the abortion debate, it’s critical to remember that people are not the sum of their worst moments in life.

I recently took a hiatus from social media to reflect on what role I might be playing in our increasingly toxic public square. I was not proud of what I found.

During this time, I reflected not just on my behavior on social media, but also in my public expressions both on TV and in my columns. I looked back over the past decade of my work with a clear eye to assess whether I was shedding light on issues or just creating heat. I cringed at many of the things I had written and said. Many I would not say or write today, sometimes because my view has changed on the issue and sometimes just because I was too much of a crusader, too judgmental and condemning. What’s interesting is that at the time, I was convinced that I was righteous and ‘speaking truth’ and therefore justified behaving as I did, and that anyone who didn’t like it just ‘couldn’t handle the truth.’ ‘The truth hurts’ was practically my motto.

When I took to Twitter Monday to apologize for my lack of grace in the public square, many people expressed concern that I would stop speaking with moral clarity on important issues. This is not my goal. I will continue to stand on the side of equality and justice, but also mercy and grace. My goal is to speak in a way that remembers the humanity of everyone involved.

That includes the Covington teenagers, who I believe behaved disrespectfully, but who don’t deserve to have their entire lives defined by one day. It includes Trump supporters whom I, in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue of white privilege, not too long ago regrettably characterized as uniformly racist for voting for him. Not exactly a conversation starter.

It also applies to Al Franken, whom I called on to resign from the U.S. Senate but now believe he should have been giving an investigation even if it resulted in cries of ‘hypocrisy’ from the right. It includes Planned Parenthood, which I have excoriated in years past in ways I would never do today. It includes those on the left who were the targets of my 2015 book on free speech, in which I was too dismissive of real concerns by traumatized people and groups who feel marginalized and ignored.

As I surveyed my work, the thing that struck me is how much I have changed. I’m not the same person I was a year ago, let alone 25 years ago. Yet our media routinely dig up information from decades ago and demands judgment be deliveredwith no regard to whether the person has evolved. We need to be more interested in who people are today, not who they were decades ago.

Don’t we want people to change and grow? We should. Yet even if they have, demands for heads to roll abound when their ancient sins are unearthed. When old homophobic tweets by MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid were discovered, there was a clamor for her firing. But did even a single person believe that in her current life she’s a homophobic person?

This is not an argument against accountability. It’s an argument for us to think about whether the punishment fits the crime. Al Franken shouldn’t get the same punishment that Les Moonves did because they didn’t do the same things. As a baseline rule, a person losing his job should not be the default punishment for noncriminal behavior or behavior where there hasn’t been an impartial investigation.

We need to have humility and realize that there but for the grace of God go I. It’s easy to delude yourself that you would never do whatever today’s designated bad person is accused of doing. But don’t be so sure. Given the wrong circumstances, people would be surprised at what they are capable of doing.

We also need to recognize what we are doing: It’s called scapegoating.

In the Bible, a scapegoat was an animal burdened with the sins of others through a ritual, then driven away. This is in effect what our society does when we designate certain people to bear our collective sins. Once it’s discovered that a person behaved in a racist, homophobic or misogynist way — often in the distant past — she is banished from society, creating a sense that something has been accomplished. That somehow there has been atoning because someone was punished.

This creates two problems: First, the systemic problem still exists. Second, one person is not responsible for the sins of everyone. People should not be treated as disposable and banished in perpetuity with no path to restoration with society. Would you want that to happen to you?

It’s critical to remember that people simply are not the sum of their worst moments in life. Go back through your life and write down every terrible thing you have done or said, and now imagine a video of it is on the internet. Would you want that to be the record of your life? Don’t underestimate the power of denial. I frequently hear people who I knew to be homophobic 20 years ago express indignance over anyone who doesn’t support same-sex marriage today with no sense of self-awareness.

I know there is a double standard when it comes to the benefit of the doubt in our culture. People of color, especially young black men, rarely receive the benefit of the doubt or context for their failings and can receive a literal death sentence as a result. I just don’t believe that refusing to provide white people the benefit of the doubt will right that wrong. The way to right it is to have one standard for all people and to actively work to reform a system that is fundamentally discriminatory.

It’s often noted by people on the left that conservatives don’t understand systemic oppression because they think of everything as an individual case. They fail to accept the larger picture that all of those cases create. I agree with this. But the corollary is that sometimes people who are left of center can fall prey to only seeing the systemic and missing the individual. I’m certainly guilty of that.

We need to develop a way to address the systemic problems in society without throwing sacrifices to the gods in the hope of a quick fix. We need to reform a culture that is fundamentally punitive and willing to throw away people’s lives for making a mistake. Our prisons are filled with such people.

We also need to create a culture of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation that is based on those who have made mistakes taking responsibility for those errors — however grievous — and working toward righting the wrong in which they participated.

This would be a radical shift, but one I am determined to make.

I hope you will join me.”

Thank you, Kirsten Powers. I’m in.




[Originally published March 3, 2016. Deserving of an edited “reboot” for so many reasons…]

When contemplating today’s post, I knew it would be challenging for me to write. It was a year ago yesterday my 34 year old sister lost her courageous battle with cancer. FYI: I don’t like the word “lost” in that sentence. Nicole has always been beautiful and brave. Now, though, I fully trust that she has a far better eternal perspective than any of us here. That doesn’t equate to “losing” to me.

That said, knowing the emotional hurdle necessary to pen any post about anything lesser (which includes all that small stuff we still seem to sweat and the mole hills we make into mountains), I pulled out last year’s post, entitled “That’s My Sister” — a heartfelt tribute to Nicole in how she sharpened me and many… encouraging us to focus on what’s most important… on powerfully showing by example how deeply our faith matters… and on how we can hold onto hope regardless of circumstance.

I get that such is easier said than done. It also would have been easier for me to run with the previously penned post.

Yesterday morning, however, I noticed something. Alone in my quietness — wrestling with the weight and awareness accompanying this sobering anniversary — I heard a single sound…

I heard a bird outside, singing.

Then it donned on me… I know it takes time to grieve — lots of time. And I’m not certain my heart will ever fully be the same; it’s not. But I never want the pain on this planet to keep me from hearing the bird outside, singing.

I believe that those who’ve faithfully gone before us — those who now have that unprecedented, unspeakable, unparalleled, eternal perspective — would encourage us to quit sweating the small stuff… to quit getting bogged down in the daily crud of life that causes us to be so demanding and self-focused… to quit dividing us… to quit encouraging the shouting and the hating and the looking down on someone… to quit being so awful to one another. I believe they would instead encourage us to…

Keep the focus on what’s most important…
Grapple with your faith…
Come near to God…
Hold onto hope…
And never be so bogged down with the messiness of life that we miss the bird outside, singing.

Nicole, too, had a blog in which she sometimes chronicled her experience. In one of her final posts, she shared the following:

“As this journey may be tough for me, I know that many others are struggling with something in their life and I just ask that you take a moment and say a prayer for them. This weighs heavy on my heart, feeling like I have it pretty easy compared to so many others out there…”

Crazy, that from her vantage point, she was still so focused on others. Not self.

She continued…

“That being said, I would like to share

‘… I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun…’ ”

I hear her voice. I hear her hope. I also believe with all the wisdom Nicole has now she would encourage us to not get lost in the current events, emotions, and circumstances that threaten to pierce our peace; she would encourage us to trust God… and to always hear those birds…

…outside, singing.

With truth in my tears…