walking in a woke world

“God bless America, land that I love…”

For decades Kate Smith’s version of Irving Berlin’s beloved classic has proudly played in stadiums and arenas across the country.  But no more.

Even though the New York Yankees have played the song during the seventh inning stretch since 9/11 — and hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers have played the song since 1969 — believing their on-ice-success increased with the musical blessing — both professional sports teams discontinued the practice last week.


After an anonymous tip from a sports fan, the Yankees and Flyers each announced they were stopping Smith’s rendition because of racist lyrics in a few of her other songs, specifically in her 1931 hit, “That’s Why Darkies Are Born.”

The tune originated from a Broadway revue and included the following lyrics:

“Someone had to pick the cotton

Someone had to pick the corn

Someone had to slave and be able to sing

That’s why darkies were born…”

Some have suggested that the song was meant to be a satire of white supremacy, especially since it was also recorded at the time by Paul Robeson, the actor/singer and famous civil-rights activist, as he was black; my limited sense this far away and this many decades later is that such is hard to discern with certainty.

The reality is that the above words are wrong and inappropriate now. We walk in a “woke” world — one which is more alert to societal injustice.

But eight decades ago, we weren’t so “woke.” Hence, how is best for us to handle now?

Is it accurate to conclude Smith was a racist?

Note that Smith raised over $600 million for World War II, and before she passed away, Pres. Reagan awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. As shared by Reagan: 

“The voice of Kate Smith is known and loved by millions of Americans, young and old. In war and peace, it has been an inspiration. Those simple but deeply moving words, ‘God bless America,’ have taken on added meaning for all of us because of the way Kate Smith sang them. Thanks to her they have become a cherished part of all our lives, an undying reminder of the beauty, the courage and the heart of this great land of ours. In giving us a magnificent, selfless talent like Kate Smith, God has truly blessed America.”

But still, does singing those lyrics make her a racist? And if she was a racist, should any acknowledgement of her now be allowed? Should we be giving her any credit or attention?

Please know I do not pen this post thinking I have it figured out nor know the exact right thing to do. I believe in deep respect for all ethnic heritage and wish intentional offense to no one.

Yet I still sit here somewhat puzzled…

Society is different now. What people know now is not what people knew then. What people accept now is not what they accepted decades ago. It’s different. Should history thus be erased? Should we remove any, even reference to another if it contradicts our current values?

I only ask the questions, friends. 

But I do have more…

In a “woke” world, is there forgiveness for previous unawareness?

“From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam,” can we forgive behaviors and beliefs which clash with today’s standards? Should we?

Again, I only ask the questions.



a little more specific… across the globe…

Last Sunday, while billions gathered around the globe to celebrate Easter and Passover, a significant people group was unable to gather… unable to praise in any pew, sing any song, nor break any sacred bread together.

Multiple, coordinated bombs exploded in Sri Lanka Sunday morning, killing more than 300, injuring near 500 more.

Let us be more specific…

Three churches and four hotels were targeted; two of the hotels were 5-star hotels offering an Easter-themed breakfast.

The United Nations is reporting that at least 45 children were killed.

At 8:45 a.m. the first bombs went off at St. Anthony’s Shrine, a large Catholic church, and St. Sebastian’s Church. 

20 minutes later, after some of the hotel explosions, the Zion Evangelical Church in Batticaloa was attacked.

The blasts were each during — or when gathering — for their Easter service.

Let us be more specific still…

These people were targeted because of what they believe.

Please read that sentence again…

These people were targeted because of what they believe.

Australian attender Sudesh Kolonne walked out of St. Sebastian only moments before the blast. He turned around, horrifically finding his 10-year-old daughter Alexendria dead on the floor. Her mother was also killed… “I don’t know what to do… we never expected this”… the shock amidst the horror, no doubt.

Friends, this is awful. Truly, no one blog post says anywhere close to enough — the shock, again, amidst the horror… the absolute horror of terrorism. There is no place for such evil on Earth. And nothing compares to that.

But I do have an underlying concern.

Remember once more that nothing compares to the violence used that espouses the extremist ideologies of foreign terrorist organizations, nations, or of a radical political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.

Where I get concerned, no less, is with the increasing extent of people and people groups who conclude that the conviction of another is not allowed to even exist. My concern rises more when I watch the reverence for Christianity and Judaism dissipate in current culture.

Friends, I have never been one promoting the “war on Christianity” rhetoric. If you are a long time Intramuralist reader, you will know that we advocate for “war” to only describe war, the state of armed conflict. “War” is, therefore, a word believed to be too often, grossly misused.

But I do wonder is if there are people who are becoming increasingly intolerant of the mere existence of Christianity and/or Judaism. Take note of recent observations:

  • 3 black churches burning in one Louisiana parish
  • Increased anti-Semitic statements coming from elected U.S. leadership
  • And the Christian churches targeted on Easter morning

Nothing — again, nothing — compares to terrorism. But I do question whether society is sliding down some dangerous, slippery slope, especially if and when any of us conclude that the conviction of another must be silenced or cease to exist.

To me, that’s a pretty scary reality… long after Easter morning has gone.



experiencing the wonder

So many days something gets in the way…

… a like experience gets in the way of allowing another’s outcome to be different…

… a like emotion gets in the way of our perception being objective…

… independence gets in the way of relying on who may be wiser…

… and intelligence gets in the way of accepting what may seem less logical at times.

Experience, emotion, independence, and intelligence — all great things. But all things, if we’re honest, that we have to admit can sometimes get in the way.

Today is Easter Sunday, a day celebrated by multiple billions across all continents, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Said Charles Colson, the one-time Special Counsel to Pres. Richard Nixon — known as Nixon’s “hatchet man”— who later made a radical life change, recognizing the reality of Jesus:

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world — and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

Yet the reality remains that sometimes something gets in the way. Sometimes we can’t see the “absolutely impossible.” 

Maybe it’s an experience or emotion.

Maybe it’s our independence or intelligence.

Maybe it’s we’ve had conversations with other Christians, but there was such judgment in their listening.

Maybe they forced a conclusion they had pre-determined. 

Maybe they didn’t allow me to draw my own conclusions.

Maybe the church hurt me.

Maybe it just doesn’t seem to meaningfully relate to culture any more.

Understandably, all of the above can get in our way.

Leading up to Easter is Good Friday, the day two days prior, acknowledging the death of Jesus. Without Easter Sunday, to be clear, Good Friday isn’t “good.” In current culture, we know it to be true, because “Sunday is coming,” says the familiar refrain. But 2,000 years ago, society didn’t have that same awareness; the believers thought it was done. Over. And the crazy, amazing hope they had and confidence for the future was pierced by a pain they never imagined. It was truly a time of lament, a time of unparalleled sorrow.

If I’m honest, that’s an emotion I can skip over pretty fast… Ok, I get it. Check. Jesus comes back on Sunday. In other words, I can be somewhat numb to the reality of what happened.

Two days ago, no less, my family attended a Good Friday gathering. It was a time intentionally focused on that lament, saving the celebration for today. It was me, my spouse, and our son, Joshua.

I have spoken about Josh many times here. Why? Because through my 17 year son with Down syndrome, God teaches me more than I could have ever learned elsewhere. Truly, it is nothing short of profound. With him — far more often than with me — all that independence and intelligence doesn’t get in the way.

When we got in the car following the gathering, Josh started to sob.

He got it.

He was wrestling with his own walk and wonder…

Am I experiencing the wonder of a life with Christ?

Is my life marked by his nearness, voice, and presence?

Is something else getting in the way?

Once again, God teaches me through Josh. And that’s my prayer… that we wrestle with the walk and wonder… as each of us, always, has more places to learn and grow.

Happy Easter, friends.



what’s it going to take?

What’s it going to take to get our attention?

We have Democrats and Republicans, continually casting the whole other side as evil.

We have genders and ethnicities and all sorts of demographics who continually boost self and the identity in their politics by means of denigrating and denouncing the different.

We loudly declare our wisdom and rightness, acting as if only the other has an area where they need to be humble, kind, and grow up.

Don’t tell me only one side, one group, one something is solely guilty of denouncing. The slams… the vulgarity… the awful tweets… the derogatory memes… from the left… the right… you are tearing us apart.

Two days ago I sat by my TV and cried. I watched the Notre Dame cathedral burn. I remember walking those halls years ago and the deep, deep sense of serenity… I remember the worship… the wisdom… the wonder that was so awe-inspiringly displayed.

What’s it going to take?

The cathedral of Notre Dame stands for unparalleled wisdom… for wise teaching…

Believe in God; he’s the Creator of the universe.

He created you and me.

Find a way to follow him.

Love him back.

Don’t equate yourself and your finite mind/heart with him… as if the potter were thought to be like the clay.

Love your fellow man, woman, child, whatever. No matter what. (Did I say “no matter what”? Does that fit with arguing, not listening, unfriending, un-something? Where am I, personally, doing that? Where are each of us doing that?)

Treat others better than yourselves. Agreement is not a prerequisite.

Embrace humility.

Recognize it as good. Always.

Don’t walk away from another.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. (No doubt I can be incredibly selfish sometimes. Each of us can.)

Acknowledge God. 

Why do we have so many obstacles in acknowledging the great big God of the universe? We don’t have to have life all figured out. We don’t have to be perfect or have everything so together. He only asks us to acknowledge him. Get to know him. Turn in his direction.

What’s it going to take?

What else needs to burn to the ground before we realize we are pretty messed up as a culture?

Don’t tell me the Democrats have it all figured out. Don’t tell me the Republicans have it all figured out. I see two parties who are too inflated about self. I see a Tea Party-right and an Ocasio-Cortez-left alongside two Trump-loving/Trump-hating blocs who are often blinded to the wisdom in reasonableness and the virtue in offering abundant compassion to all… people who are blinded to the wisdom in treating all people right. It grieves me. You are hurting the rest of us.

What’s it going to take?

What’s it going to take for us to quit adhering to any partisan or other kind of side, realizing we are hurting and disrespecting others in the process? What’s it going to take for us to realize any allowed, intentional disrespect is foolish? What’s it going to take for us to realize we are allowing wise principles and institutions to be burnt to the ground?

What’s it going to take?

Respectfully… always…  


pop culture prayers

So many good lines… all from the same movie…

Perhaps you remember. Perhaps you do not. 

Bruce Nolan, a fed-up reporter, cries out to God, demonstrably sharing that God isn’t doing his job; in fact, if God is somehow doing it, he certainly isn’t doing a very good job.

Hence, the One and Only Divine decides to bestow all such powers onto this one man. He graciously lets Bruce take a turn. Hence, come the following poignant (and often witty) interactions — including Bruce, his girlfriend Grace, and the great big God of the universe…


GOD: “You have the ability to make people laugh. I know. I created you.”


GOD: “You can’t kneel in the middle of the highway and live to tell the tale.”


BRUCE: “Where are you going?”

GOD: “Vacation.”

BRUCE: “God doesn’t go on vacation. Does He? …do Ye?”

GOD: “Ever hear of the Dark Ages?”


GOD: “Parting soup is not a miracle, Bruce… Now a single mom who works two full-time jobs and still finds time to pick up her kid at soccer practice, that’s a miracle. A teenager that says ‘no’ to drugs and ‘yes’ to education, that’s a miracle. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.”


BRUCE: “Feed the hungry, and give peace on all mankind. Is that good?”

GOD: “Yes, if you’re Miss America.”


But perhaps my favorite quote — and one that speaks volumes to the rest of us — comes near the movie’s climax, after Bruce finds abundant success and is humbled and awed by both compassionate and ostentatious uses of power — but remains deeply torn up by the conflict within him; he is unable to change the heart of the one he loves. He can’t make Grace love him…

BRUCE: “How can you make someone love you without changing free will?”

GOD: “Welcome to my world.”


I find myself sitting with that this week… a week known ‘round the world as Holy Week, the week before Easter, celebrated by a few billion across all continents, acknowledging the life of Jesus Christ and applying the meaning of his death and resurrection. God doesn’t make us love him; he doesn’t make us believe. He provides such timeless freedom. He lets us look around; look at how he’s at work — look at his marvelous creation. He lets us observe and marvel at all he has done — in us and through us and in the world and people around us. He then gives us free will, allowing us to actually choose to move nearer to him. And when we are nearer… wow… the peace, love… the hope and the confidence… available amidst this so often baffling, bitter, and challenging world…


GOD: “Grace. You want her back?”

BRUCE: “No. I want her to be happy no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who will see her always as I do now, through your eyes.”

GOD: “Now that’s a prayer.”


Pondering my prayers for the week ahead… recognizing that faith has the potential to grow and change us all… 



one more ‘gift’ from the hardwood

The madness of March has once again ceded itself to the serenity of spring. While multiple games on the hardwood were highly entertaining (insert major shout out to the Elite 8 here), there were (as always) greater lessons to be learned… both on and off the court.

Allow me to foreshadow today’s discussion with a reference to the 2018 tournament, repeating a few words written here a little more than one year ago…

“No [upset] was as unlikely or historic as the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s win over Virginia. Virginia was considered the strongest team in the tournament; UMBC was considered the weakest. With the upset being the first time a #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament, history was made; it was an iconic moment in sports.

Let that sink in for a mere moment. An iconic moment in sports occurred at the hands of a small group of 18-22 year old, most likely not-totally-emotionally-mature-yet, young men. So as the clock wound down and the upset evolved from the impossible to the unlikely to the seriously-are-you-kidding-me, jubilation was everywhere… except in the hearts of the players and fans from the University of Virginia. As fun as it was to watch the unprecedented glee from UMBC’s Retrievers… it was hard to watch the poignant pain of those who cheered on the Cavaliers…” 

Through each round of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament — with game after game suggesting Virginia’s ouster could again come earlier than expected — commentators continued to reference Virginia’s  “painful” loss a year ago.

When that pain was posed as a question to Tony Bennett, the articulate Cavaliers’ coach, Bennett corrected the question.

It wasn’t solely “painful.” It was a “painful gift.”

Said Bennett:

“I’m so thankful. I don’t deserve the credit. I don’t care about the critics. I don’t even pay attention to that. I really don’t.

I just know it was really hard to lose in the first round. It stung. It was, as I said, a ‘painful gift.’

It was so humbling. It drew me and drew our team closer in a way that we couldn’t have gone. 

Again, the quote we use — and I guess I’m full of quotes — is from that ‘Ted Talk’ I showed them at the beginning of the year. And I said, the quote is this, ‘If you learn to use it right — the adversity — it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.’ 

And I didn’t know if that meant we’d get to a Final Four or do that. I just knew it would deepen us in ways on the court, off the court, in what we believe, and mark us for the right stuff. And that is what I think took place.”


Here in a game — a game played by those not-totally-emotionally-mature-yet, young men — the rest of us witnessed a bigger lesson… 

It’s not about winning and losing. 

It’s about reacting to winning and losing in wise ways… 

It’s about reacting to life in wise ways…

… learning to use adversity right.

Well done, Coach Bennett and your young, accomplished Cavaliers.

Thanks for teaching the rest of us so well.



what? creepy uncles?

Last week we watched multiple women speak out in regard to their discomfort with former VP Joe Biden’s touching. Eight women in total, I believe, spoke up — nine, if you count his wife, Jill, who in excerpts released from her upcoming memoir shares that when marrying into the family, she sometimes found all the affection “strange,” “uncomfortable,” and  “draining.”

Note that Biden has not been accused of any assault or harassment. He has been accused of touching people in an “awkward,” “creepy,” “demeaning,” “disrespectful,” “embarrassing,” “inappropriate,” “strange,” “unnerving,” and “weird” ways and making them feel “angry,” “resentful,” and “uncomfortable.” 

And so, since the Intramuralist typically finds it wiser to utilize question marks instead of exclamation points, allow me to pose a few challenging but respectful and reflective queries that wrestle with more than Biden’s behavior… 

How much does our own, individual experience affect what we believe from an accuser?

When we say “we believe” an accuser, what’s that based upon? Does it matter if it’s based on evidence or emotion?

How much does likemindedness play into our perception of truth?

If someone’s actions make us uncomfortable, with all sincerity and respect, does that always make them wrong?

Particular to Biden, since the accusations are multiple years old, why did we not hear of this complaint when he was the sitting Vice President of the United States?

In reference to Lucy Flores — the Democrat from Nevada, who wrote the initial, uncomfortable account this week — who is she supporting for President? 

What’s the motivation behind the continued publicizing of Biden’s behavior? Is anyone intentionally promoting it?

Are we turning a blind eye if we don’t believe the focus is politically motivated?

And does Biden’s touchy-feely-ness disqualify him from holding higher office?

Again, since reports suggest Biden has long been very affectionate, why was it previously not a factor?

Does this have more to do with Biden’s record — which hasn’t always toed the far left, liberal line? … recognizing, for example, that he believes life begins at conception, is personally against abortion, and supports voluntary prayer in schools? 

Speaking to the bigger picture, is this an extension of the #MeToo movement? Since the #MeToo movement focuses on sexual harassment and assault, especially in the workplace, does this still fit?

With all due respect, is it possible for a movement to ever go too far? … even unintentionally?

Is there any double-standard in the way we handle the extent of accusations, depending who they are against?

Do we agree with both parts of actress/activist Alyssa Milano’s recent statement that “just as we must believe women that decide to come forward, we cannot assume all women’s experiences are the same”? Has she/
we been consistent in those assumptions?

Does gender dictate truth?

And, as former ESPN VP Roxanne Jones wrote in a CNN op-ed this week: “Attitudes of race, gender and power have shifted since the Obama White House — we are more suspicious and less forgiving when it comes to accepting excuses and soft apologies for past racial biases and sexual misconduct…” Question: is that good?

Allow me a few final thoughts… I have a lot of respect for Joe Biden. That’s not saying I’d vote for or against him nor that I always agree or disagree. But my sense is he appeals more to the moderate middle than to the partisan fringe. No doubt, the fringe in both parties desire to divide us more, which means they possess significant motive to ensure Joe doesn’t succeed, as each party seems challenged to maneuver through their individual “Tea Party moments.”

More so, though, I find myself wondering if we are erring as a culture by intentionally, increasingly pitting men and women against one another. Friends, neither gender is better; each is uniquely and wonderfully made! Can we not celebrate that?

Let’s be sure to deal with truth. Let’s be sure victims are heard, honored, and respected. But let’s also remember that there are good men and women on all sides of these issues and incidents. I tend to think Joe is one of them.



what I love about this game

One of the many things I deeply admire is when all eyes are upon a person, they are still able to maintain a wise perspective.

Too many times when the cameras, mics, etc. are rolling, what a person says/how a person behaves changes, seemingly due to an awareness of the cameras and mics. Perhaps it’s why a person’s proverbial “15 minutes of fame” is only 15 minutes; we don’t always handle the moment well.

Last weekend we witnessed a little more than 15 minutes in the midst of the madness of March…

The scene was the wildly popular, single-elimination, men’s NCAA basketball championship. The scenario was Purdue vs. Virginia — two large, D1 universities, each with an excellent academic reputation and athletic tradition. They faced one another in the round of the “Elite 8,” with a “Final 4” placement at stake.

To be clear, the Final 4 is a prestigious position. It’s a status teams covet — to be recognized as one of the best in the land, knowing it takes toughness, perseverance, and more than a few lucky bounces to get there. It is not easy to get there; prognosticators typically plot odds at little more than 15% for the top seeds, 3% for second and third seeds, and less than 1% for everyone else. Making the Final 4 is rare.

So then comes the battle between the Boilermakers and Cavaliers. It was fierce. It was tight. It was back and forth. It was actually (admitting my beloved Boiler bias) an absolutely fantastic game. So much so, forty minutes was not long enough to dictate the outcome. Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite hit an improbable shot at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

This was tense. This, though, was the time.

Leaving their respective huddles after regulation, the teams took the floor, prepared for the ensuing five minutes more. They had been coached and encouraged, prepped and poured into, with each bench no doubt sharing the best means for their team to eke out a win. They each wanted their team to win.

The young men lined up once more, ready to tip off, when Diakite and Purdue superstar Carsen Edwards made direct eye contact with one another. They did a double take… Edwards shaking his head… Diakite tapping Edwards on the chest… each breaking into a bold, wide, spontaneous smile.


Even though only one team could win… even though something so rare each desperately wanted was finally within their reach — those incredibly low odds… even though they recognized that each stood in the way of the other… that did not change their ability to discern what was happening in the moment…

They knew it was a great game… they knew they were blessed to be a part of it… and they knew, regardless of outcome, a wise perspective meant still respecting all those around them.

That night — and for most of the season — Carsen Edwards had a few select, motivational reminders written on the tape around his wrist:

“Thank God.”

“Help Mama Out.”

“The Man in the Arena.”

“The Man in the Arena” is attributed to a Theodore Roosevelt quote which speaks to the beauty of competition. Greater context of the quote reveals the following:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…” 

Daring greatly…

What I love about this game was that the formidableness of the opponent did not provide cause for disrespect.

What I love about this game was that the disappointment of the outcome did not provide cause for a total absence of joy.

And what I love about this game was that the strength of the competition did not provide cause for a loss of wise perspective.