it’s time!

If you have not heard me utter these words previously, know that it is my absolute humble privilege to be the author of the Intramuralist. When we set out on this venture near 12 years ago, never did I imagine the prodigious expanse of our audience nor extent of our reach. My goal was not to profit (and we have not) nor to voice all of my astute opinions because I’m so worthy and right. Truth is, I am neither. In fact — full disclosure here — sometimes I’m actually wrong. Sometimes I’m wrong and I don’t even know it.

But such has never been the aim of this blog.

I wholeheartedly adhere to the Judeo-Christian ethic that all people are created equal. That means we are each created equal whether or not we also adhere to such ethic. Quoting “High School Musical” and other sweet sources of wisdom, “iron sharpens iron” and “we’re all in this together.”

With that said, it is with great joy and excitement that I introduce our annual Guest Writer Series! Each summer we take time to practice a little more of what we so-called preach. We take time to intentionally share the written words from other people. Are the writers all people who think exactly like me?

Of course not.

What fun would that be? 🙂

But each is a person who is committed to expressing their opinion respectfully.

Will I personally agree with all that is articulated?

Also, of course not.

But that’s not the point. 

If we are going to grow and think and truly sharpen one another, we can’t cling to likemindedness, cancelling out the inconvenient. Wisdom calls us to instead actually engage the different. Assume positive intent in others. And seek to understand. Understanding more does not mean our own opinion must change. But if our opinions can’t stand up against diverse viewpoints, then perhaps wisdom also prompts us to alter what we think and say we believe. I have never known a wise person who was unwilling to alter their opinion.

Hence, through most of the month of August you will gleefully hear from a great group of people…

They are younger/older (both of which thrill me!), male/female, lean left/right, black/white, faithful/skeptical, white collar/blue collar, working professionals/stay-at-home workers, you-name-it. They are diverse. They will speak of many things.

Interestingly — and true to our desire to talk about what’s currently happening on the planet — several will reference the current racial tension and how wisely to proceed. But also perhaps even more interestingly, each will offer a different angle. You will hear such from a black man… you will also hear from a parent of two sons — one black… one white.

Still more will share other excellent, insightful perspective… on the accumulation of all our “stuff,” the beauty of learning about varied cultures, and encouragement on the “fights” in our lives and who’s in our “corner.” We’ll kick the conversation off this coming Sunday, in an insightful post about our current cultural state, entitled “I Hate Conflict.”

So sit back, ponder, converse and participate when prompted, and enjoy the varied perspective. It is always wise to hear from someone other than “me.”

Respectfully… with great anticipation and excitement…


a social stand in sports?

At a time when societal institutions are intersecting cultural issues in unprecedented ways, I’m curious as to what we speak of — and what we don’t… what we highlight — and what we won’t. As persons who believe in respectfully discussing all that’s happening on the planet and adhering to the Judeo-Christian ethic that all lives are equal, we strive not to intentionally ignore any issue, especially when any are treated as lesser. So for today, allow us first some basic background info…

Officially called the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China” (HKSAR), Hong Kong is “one of the most densely populated places in the world,” home to over 7.5 million people within only 426 square miles.

A British colony beginning in 1842, Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997. Per the transfer agreement between China and the United Kingdom, as a “special administrative region,” the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China is described as “one country, two systems.” Hong Kong has their own governance and economic systems.

Increasingly more, freedoms for Hong Kongers have been perceived to be in decline. Said by former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice, “There is great concern in the United States about what is going on in Hong Kong. There is great concern first of all as to whether or not the promise from Beijing of one country and two systems is really being honored.” In response, there is increased friction, violence, and protests. (Interestingly, with such increase, there are also claims of police brutality, a lack of democracy, and demands that the protests not be portrayed as “riots”; this is approximately 7,821 miles away). With far more details than a singular post can articulate, upon the escalating tension and China’s recent national security law that cracks down on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, last week the British government suspended the 1997 transfer agreement. 

Back to the point of this post… I’ve been struck by the handling of this issue by the NBA. While taking an active role this summer in highlighting justice for all people and an admirable intolerance for oppression, notice how they’ve handled the oppression in Hong Kong.

When tensions escalated last fall, GM Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets personally tweeted, “Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong,” the Chinese Basketball Association quickly terminated any cooperation with the Rockets; China’s top state broadcaster’s sports channel suspended airing any Rockets games; and multiple Chinese companies also immediately severed ties. The NBA’s fast, first response was regret — regret as to how Morey may “have deeply offended” the people of China.

The NBA focus on China’s disrespect more than Hong Kong’s oppression prompted outrage from Democrats and Republicans alike — sadly, a rare occurrence these days. Sen. Rick Scott called it “shameful” — Beto O’Rourke, “an embarrassment.” The NBA then attempted to awkwardly navigate through their resulting PR predicament, eventually saying they support free speech by all.

So with the protests intensifying in recent months and days, let’s venture back to our original question in regard to what we speak of — and what we don’t… what we highlight — and what we won’t. Why do cultural institutions act the way they do?

Tweeted actor and liberal activist, Bradley Whitford, “Hey @NBA. Do you care about what’s happening in Hong Kong?…  Or do you only take principled stands if they won’t hurt your bottom line?”

While I can’t see a day when I ever advocate for Twitter as a respectable means of communication, my curiosity continues. There seems need for more research.

According to USA Today, “a conservative estimate” puts NBA revenue from China at “$500 million annually based on deals that are publicly known.” Also, “China’s Tencent reached a five-year, $1.5 billion deal to remain the league’s exclusive digital partner in China, and it is the NBA’s largest partnership outside of the U.S… NBA China, a separate business arm of the NBA, was valued at $5 billion by Sports Business Journal last month. Separate from the NBA’s partnerships in China, players are invested in the country, too. Several of them, including stars LeBron James and Steph Curry, make annual visits to sell apparel products from Nike and Under Armour.”

As said by the publication, “The NBA and basketball are entrenched in China.”

Hence, my curiosity continues. So do my questions about our cultural institutions’ social stands.



(Editorial note: the BBC, CNBC, CNN, The Dispatch, Reuters, USA Today, and Wikipedia each served as vitals sources for this post.)

let’s fight!

Do we really have to fight about everything? 

Do we always have to make it political?

“How can you be ok with that? You’re off in your own little world; get up to speed! C’mon… It’s the 21st century — get with the times! Don’t you realize your lack of diversity is offensive to me? Do you not even see us? Are you color blind?!”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. I appreciate diversity; we’re just a homogeneous collection. There’s no need be different. We’re in our own space, hurting no one; hence, my silence equates to zero complicity! We work well together in our own little jar of the world, so-to-speak. You have a right to your own jar, too!”

“I do not understand you! You make no sense! Can’t you see that there’s clearly only one right way to do this? Your opinion is insulting to me! Offensive, in fact! For years we’ve heard people say ‘the best way is up’? How can you not see how that applies here?!”

“Just because people say things doesn’t make it right. If everyone ran off a cliff, would you join them? Geesh. Resist the tribal mentality, dude. The right way is down. Clearly, always down! And if you can’t see that, then there’s no reason for me to spend any more time or energy on you. When you finally come around, let me know. Until then you are unworthy of my attention. Better yet, you are simply unworthy!”

“People say whatever they want to — ‘fake news’! It doesn’t care if it doesn’t make sense. So what? Those other people are lying to you. Cancel them! Cancel, I say! And you are so ignorant, stupid — yikes — even deplorable! There is no way that can taste ok! You are filling yourself up with completely asinine rhetoric!”

“Stop. Just stop. You think I’m wrong? Look what you’re buying into! Look what you’re ignoring! Have you lost your mind? … your sense of reason? You’re all filled up with such shallow slogans — low calories, too. I am so done with you.”

And just like that we fight. 

We make all things political…

… mask, no mask… open, close… standing, kneeling… 

We even determine our own advocacy or rejection based on who else supports or denounces it…


Seems we’re losing the prudence of individual thinking and perspective. Tribal speak has veiled our awareness of the wisdom in compromise. People keep advocating for something lesser… advocating for the fight.

Think I’m not so semi-humble with each of the above?

For the record, I was talking about creamy vs. chunky peanut butter, the latest Charmin roll placed up or down, and of course, whether Miller Lite is actually “less filling” or “tastes great.”



the other side of me

Six weeks ago we popped the question: “what’s it like to be on the receiving end of me?”

It was a singular post, shared under the title of “The Purpose and the Question.”

As the weeks have continued, my strong sense is that it would be prudent of us to ask that more than once…

What’s it like to be on the receiving end of me?

Allow me to rephrase and push the envelope a hair further…

Do I have the guts to actually ask the question?

And do I care about the response?

Truthfully, it’d probably be easier not to ask the question. If I never hear anyone suggest that they sometimes see me as angry, arrogant, bossy, boastful, careless, cruel, defensive, harsh, hypocritical, illogical, inflexible, judgmental, narrow-minded, obstinate, overcritical, patronizing, pompous, selfish, stubborn or untrustworthy, then I never have to deal with the reality that sometimes I can be angry, arrogant, bossy, boastful, careless, cruel, defensive, harsh, hypocritical, illogical, inflexible, judgmental, narrow-minded, obstinate, overcritical, patronizing, pompous, selfish, stubborn or untrustworthy.

(And that’s only the first 20 adjectives I could think of.)

It’s not an easy question; do I have the guts to ask?

Which leads me to what’s next…

Do I care about the response?

On one hand, my sense is we might say “no.” Such follows the logic of the fictional, crazed television anchorman Howard Beale in his iconic “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore” quote. But note who is the subject of his sentence.


I… me… my… myself…

When we become the subject of our own sentences, we forget about the value of other people; we act as if we — me, my thoughts, beliefs and behavior— mean more. We then typically justify the demeaning of someone. And if we are justifying the demeaning of someone, we are not loving our neighbor well, we are not advocating for equality, and we are certainly not honoring the great big God of the universe. 

Living in a such a contentious, fractious time, it seems we become the subject of our sentences more frequently, although tribal insulation can shield us from such self awareness.  We are lured into believing that our thoughts, beliefs, and behavior are fully justified; hence, I don’t have to care about how anyone responds to me… I then think of the awesome words by the great, lyrical giver of truth, Sting: 

“There is no monopoly of common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too.” 

Russians, Americans, Republicans, Democrats, majorities, minorities, faithful, etc., you name it… all people who at some time may be on “the other side of me.”

This week I had to apologize to someone who means a lot to me. To be clear, such isn’t an uncommon event. And since each of us have yet to walk on water — and thus we are wholeheartedly and so obviously imperfect — the process of asking and granting forgiveness should be a frequent and prudent pursuit.

But it starts with a question…

What’s it like to be on the receiving end of me?



“my” truth

It’s a fascinating concept… sounds good, too…

My truth.

But what if it’s not accurate?

Let’s objectively unpack. First, some definitions…

my | mī |  possessive determiner

1 belonging to or associated with the speaker: my name is John | my friend.

2 used in various expressions of surprise: my goodness! | oh my!

truth | tro͞oTH | noun 

the quality or state of being true: he had to accept the truth of her accusation.

that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality: tell me the truth | she found out the truth about him.

a fact or belief that is accepted as true: the emergence of scientific truths.

So then we observe, listening to what people think, say, and believe — such as this prominent news host this week:

“My role as a journalist is to speak from my truth and from my lens and from where I come from, and I don’t think those things are biases. I think those things give me expertise in this particular subject.”

With all due respect, he is not alone. Many believe their truth is the truth.

Herein lies the problem…

By definition,“truth” fits “in accordance with fact or reality.” One person’s experience does not equate to everyone else’s reality.

The “my” modifies what comes after it; “my” modifies “truth.”

But if “truth” is “fact or reality,” it can’t be modified.

Which makes me wonder… 

Is one of the challenges of current day this notion that seemingly well-intentioned, even intelligent people believe contradicting themselves makes sense?

Truth is not relative. Hence, there is no such thing as “my truth,” your truth, or anyone else’s.

So what if instead of “my truth,” we acknowledged…

“Here is my perspective…”

“This is my experience…”

“My perspective and experience are valid…”

With that comes the prudent awareness that individual perspective and experience do not hold for all people.

Why is such a distinction important? Great question. The challenge when we treat truth as relative — suggesting individual truths exist — is that it lures us into believing there’s no validity with any other perspective or experience. 

In other words, “If my truth is fact, why should I pay any attention to you?”

May we honor and learn from varied perspective and experience, recognizing each are still are incapable as qualifying as “truth.”



will the last person on Facebook please turn off the lights?

No worries, friends. The Intramuralist is not abdicating its social media presence. But I must admit: successfully navigating the tenuous waters where online conversation supposedly takes place has become a delicate art form. I’m being kind.

Facebook’s current mission is “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Instagram desires “to allow you to experience moments in your friends’ lives through pictures as they happen.”

Twitter says they want “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers. Our business and revenue will always follow that mission in ways that improve — and do not detract from — a free and global conversation.”

So we ask: is social media really bringing us closer, as things happen, in ways that improve our conversation?

Healthy conversation implies respectful interactiveness. It involves both speaking and listening — specifically, listening well. But in my very non-scientific sense, I contend good people have forgotten how to speak and how to listen; it’s not even close. Radio journalist and former NPR host, Celeste Headlee, and I agree.

“We’re not listening to each other,” says Headlee repeatedly. In her popular TEDx talk and succeeding book, she teaches us “How to Have Conversations That Matter”… how to have healthy conversation… that “art,” I believe — that necessary “art” — which we have forgotten…

  1. “Don’t multi-task.” Be present. Be fully attentive to those with whom you are interacting.
  2. “Don’t pontificate.” She adds, “You need to enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn.” The expression of one’s opinions in a pompous and dogmatic way is not attractive nor effective. As “Bill Nye the Science Guy” said, “Everyone that you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” We would be prudent to remember that.
  3. Use open-ended questions.” Headlee encourages utilization of who, what, where, when, why and how… “what was that like?”… “how did that feel?” Ask another. Think about their response.
  4. “Go with the flow.” Follow the course of the conversation. Let go of the tangent thoughts that come into your mind that aren’t relevant as the dialogue continues.
  5. “If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.” (Brilliant, I contend!) I appreciate Headlee’s urging to error on the side of caution.
  6. “Don’t equate your experience with theirs.” Isn’t that a challenge these days? We think our reality fits for everyone else. We think we always understand. We would do well to remember that conversations are about two, not “you.”
  7. “Try not to repeat yourself.” Typically that’s evidence we aren’t listening well.
  8. “Stay out of the weeds.” People engaged in healthy conversation care most about the person on the other side of the table, so-to-speak. Sharing all the details means less.
  9. “Listen.” This is the most important aspect of healthy conversation. It’s the most important conversational skill that we can work on, develop, and encourage in others. “When I’m talking, I’m in control. I don’t have to hear anything I’m not interested in.”
  10. “Be interested in other people.” I love Headlee’s added final encouragement from her TEDx talk: “be prepared to be amazed by other people.” Wow… how would social media change if our approach changed? … if we were prepared to be amazed by others more than make personal proclamations?

To be a little more comprehensive, let’s acknowledge what is not included in healthy conversation: 

  • Shame of those who disagree.
  • Insult and attack when we don’t like someone else’s outlook.
  • Unwillingness to allow even the expression of diverse opinion.

Hence, if we employ that which is not considered healthy, we’re not listening. And if we’re not listening, we’re not having conversation. We are then not as wise nor self-aware as we think we are, and we certainly are not contributing positively to the stated missions of social media.

Will social media last? Maybe. But if the unhealthy cycle of shaming, blocking, and shut down continues, the mission statements may not be fulfilled…

… which causes me to modify the infamous, original ’71 sign of the times:

“Will the last person on Facebook please turn out the lights?”



the overreaction theory

For years I’ve found myself observing overreactions. As a career Human Resources professional, it goes something like this…

When a person leaves a place of employment (regardless of reason), what that person was perceived to be most lacking is what becomes over-emphasized in the one who replaces him or her.

For example, I saw an institution once who’s president unfortunately found himself caught in a rather ugly moral failure. Upon his voluntary resignation, a “family man” was named his replacement.

I saw another instance in which the head of the organization was believed to have been too controlling — too much power and authority all wrapped up in a singular individual. The response? After leaving, the organization decided not to hire a new person. They instead flattened the top of the organizational hierarchy, making multiple persons co-leaders.

The scenario is not limited to corporate new hires. Note the last four presidential elections…

One aspect that unfortunately marked Pres. Bill Clinton’s tenure was his infidelity. His replacement? Another so-called “family man.”

Pres. George W. Bush was always so colloquial; his rhetoric was perceived as quite simple and unpolished. Who succeeded him? A candidate whose words were often eloquent and awe-inspiring.

Pres. Barack Obama then was perceived as fairly politically correct. Suffice it to say that his successor is nothing of the sort.

None of the above examples are meant as criticism — merely observation. And the reality is that overreactions aren’t necessarily bad. It’s simply that the overreaction over-emphasizes singular aspects, thereby often creating a new set of challenges. This happens in employment, elections, and in culture itself.

As we watch current culture, it gives me great hope that we are willing to look at systems and and individual ideals in which we have not adhered to our declared national conviction that all men/women/children are created equal… that each of us are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. 

Note each aspect of that — men/women/children — equal — our Creator — inalienable rights — each is significant.

But where will we overreact? 

(This is key…)

When we overreact, which of the above aspects will we omit because we are so focused on what was originally most lacking?

Think with me, friends. What’s an overreaction?

… defunding the police?

… acting as if no good came from the 4th of July?

… casting one political party, ethnicity, or other as wholly good and its other as entirely evil?

I’ll be honest. I often judge others a little harder than I judge myself. I know… “But AR, I’m my own worst critic.” Yeah, I hear you. And for those of us who like to claim such, my sense is it’s only true to a point. 

The reality is that we typically judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions — in other words, we judge others on the limited picture of what we actually see. For self, we invoke more of a sliding scale.

Relevant to this post, I’d like to think that I never overreact. My reactions are fully justifiable.

My guess is for none of us is that always true.



summer pondering

I miss summer.

I know. It’s still summer, but it doesn’t feel like summer…

I miss baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet!

(Although in all transparency, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve eaten a hot dog, and I’ve long loved my Honda Pilot…)

2020 has been an odd year. Summer has been totally different. The best laid plans… well, let’s just say, we’re not totally in control. It’s made me wonder what years and seasons past generations have labeled “odd”… World War I, World War II, the depression… 

I think that’s one of the challenges of our current day scenario. Sometimes we look at other generations and simply judge them. Let’s be honest; it’s easy to do…

Those who’ve gone before us were so naive; they didn’t do anything!

The younger generation is out of control!!

And millennials… don’t get me started!

And just like that, from each of our nothing-but-limited perspectives, we judge them. We focus on what’s wrong with others. We negate the value of critical thinking and varied experience, and then we omit the necessary discernment vital to evaluating every season and stage.

I loved reading former ESPN college play-by-play announcer, Chuck Underwood’s The Generation Imperative a year ago. In his insightful work, Underwood dives into the formative years of each generation and “the core values that were molded from the unique times and teachings that each generation absorbed in their youth, their adulthood passages, current lifestage, and, future.” It’s not that one generation is wiser than another. Each has its strengths. And each has its blind spots.

One generation shapes another — albeit often in ways unintentionally so. We, also, if willing and humble enough, have opportunity to learn from another age group — older and younger. To simply be critical — praising one generation but denigrating another — omits significant, available wisdom and discernment.

And so yesterday, on a day that didn’t feel like summer nor a typical Independence Day — even with the aerial pomp and circumstance — I found myself pondering much…

… thankful… for all the generations that have been key to current day… for those whose conviction has been evident in their behavior… some via current peaceful protest… others via former military conflict, willing to put their life on the line… We learn from each.

… grateful… even in trying times—  for the liberty this country affords like no other… Let me be very clear: American liberty is unprecedented. There’s a reason the tired and poor come here. There’s a reason this is where the huddled masses yearn to breathe free. Are we perfect? Of course not. Can we always improve? Of course so. But let us never tire of our declaration of independence. We are a people that for 244 years have professed that each of us — no matter color or creed — are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights. We haven’t always embraced those rights for all people. We still don’t. And that’s not just about race. We can do better in honoring all lives.

… and questioning… Indeed, I still have questions… sincerely, of course…

What’s the difference between the indisputable fact that black lives matter and the political movement? I can’t tell how pure and democratic all aspects of the political movement are.

  • What’s the difference between the indisputable fact that black lives matter and the political movement? I can’t tell how pure and democratic all aspects of the political movement are.
  • How is social media impeding dialogue?
  • Can we — should we — mandate the mask?
  • How are different generations responding? Can we learn from — and respect — them all?
  • What am I missing?

How is social media impeding dialogue?

Can we — should we — mandate the mask?

How are different generations responding? Can we learn from — and respect — them all?

What am I missing?

Just pondering, friends, on a restful but unusual Fourth. May we listen well and be a blessing to one another.



what if we didn’t let them have it?

Our most recent post contained a singular line I’d like to address further today in a little more detail.

I speak not of the need to “assume a humble posture.”

I speak not either of being “lured into believing life is a series of binary choices.”

Today’s post centers around something arguably more practical and blunt…

“You let someone ‘deserving’ finally have it?”

With all due respect to the wisdom shared by brilliant authors Henry Cloud and John Townsend in the NY Times bestseller, Boundaries — recognizing that healthy boundaries are necessary, being aware of our own limitations — what if we chose to never let the “deserving” have it? 

To be clear, the “deserving” are those I have deemed as such. Not me alone, of course. I have an inner circle of likeminded thinkers who will affirm my humble/semi-humble/possibly-humble conclusion that another has warranted my judgment. I typically start like this…

“I’ve had it…”

“I just have to say…”

“I can’t take it anymore…”

“I’m at my breaking point…”

“I refuse to entertain any other opinion…”

And with that, we blow. We let them have it.

So play with me for a moment; what if we didn’t? What if we didn’t let another have it?

Recognizing that passions run high — and our passions are valid, mind you — still, I repeat, what if we chose not to let another have it?

Crazy. I know… “You don’t understand… They are wrong! They are dangerous! They don’t know what they don’t know!”

And just like that, we assume we actually know what we don’t know.

Friends, I keep coming to the conclusion that when we’re shouting at another — no matter the venue — it’s not going to make anyone want to be more like us. It reminds me, in fact, of good ole’ Brother Max…

Each spring and fall on the warmer, sunny mornings, Brother Max used to bless us with his presence on our midwestern college campus. We students would stroll by the worn paths, semi-awake for the day’s slate of classes, and if we were fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to walk toward Stewart Center, we were greeted by Max screaming at us. He was a man in his late 50’s — typically donning a tie, hat, and sunglasses. And God bless him; while I’d like to believe that somewhere in there he had a solid faith, he was trying to influence us to have a solid faith, too — by screaming at us. And while understanding what’s true and not about being a Jesus follower has become the primary devotion of my life, I can remember concluding from Max’s confrontational style that I didn’t want to be like him; I didn’t even want to think like him. The screaming and shaming simply wasn’t effective. He was more the center of our mockery as opposed to any kind of role model.

And so I ask again, what if we intentionally chose not to ever let another have it? 

What would happen? What would be different?

What if, in fact, in place of the screaming and shaming, we offered grace instead?

Grace… favor toward the unworthy… a kindness given to the undeserved…

… the undeserved…

Amazing, isn’t it?