what if hospitality made all better? and what if we knew what it was?

Fresh out of college — knowing lots — but also true, not knowing what I didn’t know — I had the distinct privilege of establishing my HR career in the hospitality industry in southeast Florida. It was an excellent, stretching, life-changing experience, learning to do life with truly diverse people groups. I learned to manage, to motivate, to live with and learn from. That’s with people of varied ethnicity, education, income, intelligence, sexuality, nationality, you-name-it. No doubt the hotel is a diverse place. It was here that I only began to learn what hospitality really was. 

Years later now I continue to gain insight. And I’m thinking that hospitality might be the one thing that would make all things better. Let’s face it… take even a tiny glance at those right track/wrong track polls; it doesn’t take anywhere near a rocket scientist to discern that the clear majority of us wish for society/culture/etc. to be far better. 

What if hospitality held the key… if it made all better… and if we really knew what it was…

When defining hospitality, we speak of something a little bit other than the quickest meaning we conjure up, that being the business of providing food, drink, and accommodations for one’s paying clientele. The included idea of provision resonates, though. And true, we did that quite well in our numerous, luxury-oriented hotel properties.

We also speak of something a little bit other than the idea of “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Granted, the word “friendly” seems relevant. “Generous,” too. And while we’re at it, let’s not miss the noteworthy inclusion of strangers. Strangers are people we don’t really know… even if we think we do.

So let’s put all of the above together…

Hospitality is the consistent kindness toward friends and strangers alike. 

Let me rephrase: hospitality means treating all people — known or unknown — with generous kindness and warmth.

But there’s a problem. We each oft justify omitting singular words and then fool ourselves into thinking we’re still somehow hospitable.

Maybe we omit “generous.” Maybe it’s the “kindness” or “warmth.” Maybe “unknown” — after all, if we don’t really know them. Or maybe, too, “consistent”… maybe even “all.”

… consistent treatment… to all people…

I get it. Some people are harder for us to be kind to than others. And sometimes we really just don’t understand how another thinks. But that makes sense; the more we get close to people, the more we’ll see things — behaviors and beliefs — that just don’t makes sense to us. Our story is different. Our experience is different.

But not making sense is not license for forgoing hospitality.

To be consistent, to be consistently kind, to all, what if we changed the way we responded when we don’t understand the story and experience that’s different?

Instead of responding to what we don’t understand with all those unhealthy, voluntary reactions — ie. anger, judgment, and offense — what if we first learned to pause? To be still? To buy us a bit of time to be who and what’s wisest?

“Time for what?” one logically asks.

Time to be curious.

Follow me here for a brief moment.

I heard a wise man speak on hospitality — the idea being bigger than that food and drink and frolicking business sector. He talked about how hospitality diffuses hostility. And one of the ways that happens so simply yet profoundly, powerfully and effectively, occurs when we’re confronted with a behavior or belief that we don’t understand.

Instead of reacting, be curious. Be curious — not furious. 

Ask about what we don’t understand. Ask some more.

Yes, let’s be better. Let’s be a truly hospitable people.



feminism or freedom? are we confused?

One of the places my pondering lands me is that I think we keep encouraging collective cases of mistaken identity. We take all these good things in life — our appearance, gifting, gender, ethnicity, you-name-it — and instead of seeing them as beautiful ways we’ve been wired, we see that as our actual identity. While beautifully diverse, it’s not the same as who we are. Our identity comes from something more.

There’s a ton on this topic — more than a singular, standard day’s post. But I witnessed an insightful expression this week by Mary Harrington, an articulate author and researcher who’s spent avid years not fitting into some culturally-crafted, binary box. She shares this book excerpt in The Free Press, how feminism became her identity… and how she mistook freedom for feminism. This is fascinating, friends…

* * * * *

I was born the year Margaret Thatcher came to power. My first political memory is the fall of the Berlin Wall. The reverberations, followed by glasnost and perestroika, marked the decade of my teens. For an average middle-class girl in 1990s Home Counties Britain, the big battles seemed to have been won, and the great disagreements of history settled. Progress was the backdrop to all we did; relative material comfort and safety could be taken for granted. And I firmly believed in feminism’s capacity to bring about continued progress: after all, over the period between my grandmother’s birth in 1914, and my own in 1979, women’s lives had changed immeasurably for the better. 

Studying critical and queer theory as an English Literature undergraduate at Oxford both confirmed and radically scrambled my faith in progress. At Oxford I was taught that language itself helps to shape meaning—and, worse, that every “sign” can only be defined in relation to other signs. In other words, we have no way of experiencing truth directly or objectively. How this related to the material world—the pressures of survival or the demands of physical life—was unclear.

This mental shift sent me (to say the least) a bit loopy. Overnight, the hallowed buildings of Oxford University stopped looking like an expression of ancient traditions where I could find my place. Suddenly they were hostile incursions by something phallic, domineering, and authoritarian. I told a friend that I experienced the “dreaming spires” as “barbed penises straining to fuck the sky.”

I wish I could say this paranoid state passed swiftly. After I graduated, I carried a visceral aversion to hierarchies, a fierce defensiveness against anything that felt like someone trying to wield power over me, and a determination to make the world a better place. All this made me a less than ideal employee. I drifted through low-paying jobs, wrote unreadable novels, and tried my hand at anti-capitalism. This extended to my views on women. I’d read Judith Butler’s 1990 book, Gender Trouble, in which she argues that neither sex nor “gender” exist pre-politically, but instead are social constructs that we “perform” in a system that’s imposed on us, and that we reimpose on ourselves and others by participating in it.

Disrupting this system seemed possible, perhaps for the first time, thanks to technology. In the heady early years of social media, it suddenly was easy to find others with similar interests. I experimented with drugs, kink, and nonmonogamous relationships. It felt possible to reimagine our genders and create supportive communities to realize our inner lives. I changed my name to Sebastian for a while. I pondered whether I really was female. It felt liberating, revolutionary, and unambiguously like the “progress” I’d always dreamed of.

With friends, I founded a web start-up that aimed to disrupt education the way eBay had disrupted auctions. We hoped to make the world a better place and make ourselves a whole lot richer. And we somehow made it to first-round funding in East London’s febrile “Silicon Roundabout” community.

Yet every egalitarian commune I drifted through turned out to be full of interpersonal power games. One likely common factor was me. Real egalitarian utopias may have been possible, just without me and my issues. But I don’t think it was just me. Increasingly, too, I found the shifting constellations of romantic entanglements unsatisfying, and longed for a more enduring partnership. But I was skeptical of the political ramifications of doing so with a man. Would that not represent selling out?

In 2008 our start-up imploded (much as in the communes, I was a major contributing factor in the implosion), and so did the global economy, puncturing my fantasy of social challenges being solved through the creativity and dynamism of markets. I lost my social circle, my career, most of my convictions, and the majority of my identity. It took years to reassemble something like a workable worldview from the smoking ruins of my anti-hierarchical idealism. By the time I emerged in my mid-thirties, I was married to a man, no longer lived in London, and had qualified as a psychotherapist.

And: I had a baby. Up to the point where I got pregnant, I’d taken for granted that men and women are substantially the same apart from our biology, and “progress” meant broadly the same thing for both sexes: the equal right to self-realization, shorn of culturally imposed obligations, expectations, stereotypes, or constraints.

The experience of being pregnant, and then a new mother, blew this out of the water. …

* * * * *

I find myself sitting here with more questions than answers. But it’s clear Harrington is a work in progress who sees something different now. Still beautiful, still diverse, but something more…



leaving nothing on the table

I watched a mom bury her son this week. He was 13. The cause of death — or at least motivation for death — remains unclear. But it made me think. It made me think of the adolescent that ends all intentionally… the one who has concluded at such an incredibly young age — an age with so much, much more to know, grow and explore — that life simply isn’t worth living. What makes them think that?

The IndyStar, my original hometown paper, recently chronicled the life of one such 13 year old. Let none of my words stand for theirs…

“On the afternoon of the worst day of Terry Badger II’s life, the text message from his son never came. ‘Hey dad, I’m home. Going to do my homework. I’ll see you here in a little bit.’ Thirteen-year-old Terry Badger III sent those words, or some variation of them, every single afternoon to his dad at work, just like the morning messages Terry sent without fail that said, ‘I’m up. Getting ready for school. Love you.’

His dad got the morning message from Terry on March 6. But not the afternoon one. That was odd. Terry was home from school. His mom, Robyn, had dropped him off just after 3 p.m. then left for a quick run to the gas station. She had no reason to think she shouldn’t leave Terry alone. There were no signs. On the car ride home, Terry had acted like he always acted, smiling, happy, nothing out of the ordinary, Robyn said. He talked like he always talked, about his plans to get his homework done so he could go to the baseball field at 4:30 p.m. to practice batting with his dad and some friends. But Terry wasn’t really thinking about batting practice or homework on that car ride home, his parents later found out. He wasn’t thinking about texting his dad after school. His parents found that out when they watched the video Terry recorded just after 3 p.m. on March 6. Their son was in a very dark place. Terry believed, in those moments, his life wasn’t worth living.”

That leads us to a simple search of Wikipedia which yields the following insight: “Youth suicide attempts are more common among girls, but adolescent males are the ones who usually carry out suicide. Suicide rates in youths have nearly tripled between the 1960s and 1980s… In the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the suicide rate is the 2nd leading cause of death for adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14, and the third leading cause of death for those between 15-19.”

In other words, this is a problem.

Let’s go a few places quickly, attempting to get at least some grip as to the why — why the intentional end?… what was the adolescent’s family life like? Was it healthy? Were there solid both male and female role models? Was there any abuse? Was the core hope provided in their family something that lasts beyond the now?

We then look at social media… oh my; let me try to be kind — this instant, insulated environment that serves as the younger generation’s number one source of comparison. Comparison isn’t good, friends. Comparison lures us into making concrete  conclusions about what’s good and right and true based on the hollow and incomplete. And what about the insulated world of bullying that ensues? Note Terry Badger’s words from that heartbreaking video: “I get picked on every (single) day and I hate my life. You can thank (Terry listed his bullies’ names) for this.” … I can only imagine.

Which leads us to one more place…

For the adolescent who intentionally ends his life… are we modeling for them an adulthood they’d actually want to be part of? Are we showing them what responsible and respectful behavior looks like?

Or… do we justify the bullying? Do we create better, nicer, adult-sounding words for how we torment or tyrannize? Words like the need to silence, shout another down, or God-forbid, invoke cancel culture?

Let me then ask the zillion dollar question, that any teenage death has the profound potential to prompt… are we being kind to one another?

Or… are we justifying being unkind to any? Are we acting as if adulthood is a place that justifies unkindness… or perhaps, therefore, an adult world that’s not really all that fun to be a part of.

So one more Q, as this is where my head went today… what’s it going to take? What’s it going to take to ask for forgiveness? … to grant forgiveness? To repair relationships? At the end of this earthly life, that’s really all we have: relationships. So what’s it going to take? We don’t have to minimize any wrongdoing, but we also don’t have to let the awkward get in the way. Have that conversation.

Let’s be an adulthood that the younger generation respects and actually wants to grow into.

Let’s not allow any unkindness to linger.

Bottom line: let’s do what’s better. Let’s model more to the younger generations. Let there be no kindness left on our table.



America’s no doubt short supply

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while now. Sometimes my brain needs to sit and stew a bit. In fact, I’m thinking that’s a behavior that’s wise for all to periodically examine… am I sitting and stewing, pausing and reflecting, considering what I say before I just blurt it out? Or do I let my emotion run wild, come hell or high water, and just say what I think when I think it… Still processing, friends.

My stewing sense is we have a deep shortage. There is something lacking among us. Something we desperately crave…

According to various food, farmer and supplier associations, for example, the following (unlucky 13) food shortages are expected in 2023:

  1. Beef
  2. Lettuce
  3. Beer (… which interestingly, may now be creatively averted by the current Bud Light controversy…)
  4. Champagne
  5. Oranges
  6. Cooking oil
  7. Butter
  8. Corn
  9. Eggs
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Bread
  12. Olive oil
  13. Infant formula

In addition to food, multiple other products are in short supply… lithium/other EV components, pharmaceuticals, and semiconductors among them…

But I’m thinking there’s something bigger… something, yes, true, intangible, but also, far more valuable. We crave authenticity.

authenticity – the quality of being authentic; genuineness.

So what does it mean to be authentic?

authentic – 

  • not false or copied; genuine; real.
  • having an origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified.
  • representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified.
  • entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy.

In other words, to be authentic means to be real. No question. No PR. No propaganda nor saying what you think we want to hear or what simply sounds best. It’s saying what’s true, trustworthy… while also having an honest opinion about self and sharing that appropriately. We crave what’s genuine and real.

It’s why we grimace when some speak — the leaders who claim a demonstrative moral high ground one day but the day before justified total denigration. It’s why we cringe when former Pres. Trump belts out his latest boastful bravado or current Pres. Biden attempts to act as if he was responsible for no errors in Afghanistan. It’s why we shake our heads when NBA star Draymond Green stomps on an opponent’s rib cage in the middle of a playoff game this week and responds with “I gotta land my foot somewhere.”

My point is this. It takes zero rocket science to discern if what those persons are telling us is reliable, genuine, supported by unquestionable evidence, trustworthy or true.

And sadly, because those in the limelight do it, many of us follow in response. A little lie here. A little lie there. It may be partially true. But partially true, is not true…

Didn’t feel like going to work today? I’ll just say I wasn’t feeling great.

Didn’t want to have that hard conversation? I’ll just tell them I’m busy.

Didn’t want to admit my mistake? Oh, easy. I can point to what they did.

And just like that, the trickle down theory of inauthenticity is accepted and spreads. And spreads some more.

That’s hard. Especially when what we crave — and desperately need — is so much better and more.



a reasonable, factual conversation on gun violence

Suffice it to say we’re not good at all conversations. In fact, it continues to amaze me how frequently I hear the refrain from otherwise, fairly intelligent people that they are actually unwilling to engage in dialogue. Their tune goes something like this: “I know how I feel. It’s what I believe. And nothing you can do or say will change how I think!” (Insert %^&#$!! at said refrain’s exclamatory end.) And just like that, hopes for higher ed are grossly halted.

One of the collective harder conversations is the question of gun control, gun violence, or gun homicide. Our tendency is typically to remain quiet until there’s a mass killing, and then pending the demographics of the shooter and/or victims dictating who/what we focus on and who we feel free to condemn, the situation simultaneously prompts the politicians’ blame game and social media’s plethora of memes pleading basically to “do something.” This may be going out on a bit of a fictitious limb here, but it would seem exceedingly challenging to find any effective solution when blame and memes are our primary communication tools.

What I’d like to do today is wrestle a bit with what’s true, what’s not, not with any sense of advocacy or opposition, but more to help us communicate better when we have these conversations. What are the issues? What’s true? What’s not? Where are both parties actually playing games with us? 

Let me forewarn you now; there won’t be any nice neat, metaphorical bow at the end of this post. I am simply making observations the blame and memes tend to omit. Not everything fits with their desired narratives. Hence…

  • Mass shootings are defined differently. The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group (which supplies much of today’s statistics), defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter. The FBI, on the other hand, has not set a minimum number of casualties to qualify an event as a mass shooting, and defines a mass shooting — also called an “active shooter incident” — as an event in which one or more individuals are “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. Implicit in this definition is the shooter’s use of a firearm.”
  • The estimated number of firearm deaths, excluding suicides, in 2022 was 20,138. When suicides are included, that number more than doubles, as nearly 6 out of every 10 gun deaths are suicides. Suicides are increasing in 2023. The increase in firearm suicide among black teenagers has increased 120% over the last decade.
  • Thus far in 2023, at time of this writing, there have been 12,147 gun deaths. Homicide or unintentional use equates to 5,217 of those deaths. The majority of these deaths have occurred in Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois and Louisiana.
  • Mass shootings account for only a small fraction of these deaths, with 209 thus far in this calendar year. Such equates to 1.7%.
  • According to Britannica’s mass shooting statistics from 2022, a handgun was the weapon of choice in 57% of the incidents. A semi-automatic rifle was used in 32% of the shootings.
  • In regard to where the mass shootings took place, the two most frequent locations where in in the workplace (42%) and then in a school (17%).
  • Gun homicides are concentrated in cities—half of all gun homicides took place in just 127 cities.
  • Cities with the most homicides in 2023 are: (1) St. Louis, MO, (2) Baltimore, MD, (3) New Orleans, LA, (4) Detroit, MI, (5) Cleveland, OH, (6) Las Vegas, NV, (7) Kansas City, MO, (8) Memphis, TN, (9) Newark, NJ, and (10) Chicago, IL.
  • According to Pew Research Center, “Americans in rural areas typically favor more expansive gun access, while Americans in urban places prefer more restrictive policies.”
  • There is broad partisan agreement on preventing those with mental illness to purchase guns and also for subjecting private gun sales and gun show sales to background checks. Majorities in both parties also oppose allowing people to carry concealed firearms without a permit. On other gun control efforts, both parties have also blocked reasonable-to-at-least-consider, publicly popular measures that were proposed by the other side, possibly (and this next phrase is clearly opinion) simply because it did not fit their party’s prioritized narrative.

Just wanting to understand what’s happening and what’s not. I also don’t want to be lured by any partisan hyperbole or hypocrisy. The blame and the memes don’t help.



my dog, my neighborhood & solving our country’s biggest problems

It was a scary Saturday to say the least. But let’s not start there. While it may be a simple story, as is typical with life’s inherent teachings, the point is so much bigger… that is, if we’re willing to pause, reflect and actually see it.

We are new to this pet owner thing. Well, new as of 7 years ago to being semi-responsible dog owners. I’m not really comfortable with the word “owners” there. The fact is that Yogi, our 53 lb. British Labrador Retriever, is no doubt a full-fledged family member. She eats, sleeps, plays, exercises and so much more right alongside of the rest of us. She also is the family’s most humble, loyal member.

As for temperament, our golden brown gal is kind and gentle, never anxious, and always eager to be playful. She would never be classified as ferocious… but try not to say that too loudly; we enjoy her bark as an extra home security measure… although with a touch or a treat, any would-be thief would quickly discern her feeble safeguarding ability. All that to say, our family loves her so.

We also have never had any significant issues with Yogi. Thank God she’s been healthy and also quite obedient. Our challenges have been few. That is, until Saturday.

As is my weekend practice, I went on one of my longer, multi-mile walks, stopping to see a dear friend along the way, when my youngest calls and says, “Mom, we’ve got a big problem,” words no parent is 100% certain as to what will come next. “Yogi is gone. We can’t find her anywhere!” 

We’re in the midst of a construction project on the back of our house. When Yogi went out back as usual this morn, she uncovered a new, quite creative egress. Note that had any of us been with her, she would most likely have never ventured off; she loves to be with us and stays continuously near. But with none of us in sight, it was a little like the wardrobe suddenly opening up in the iconic “Chronicles of Narnia” series, just daring young Edmund Pevensie to explore. Edmund was curious. So was Yogi. Yes, time to explore an exciting, newfound world.

I raced home to aid in the search. Two of my sons were out separately wandering. I picked up the youngest by car, and off we went, slowly, deliberately, street by street, rotating rhythms of calling her name aloud and silently saying our prayers.

We live in a wonderful, contemporary wellness community. It is growing and vibrant and full of activity. It also has many streets, many back-of-house alleys, and multiple thoroughfares where the average speed is a little faster. Cars are always coming through. Hence, not only was I actively searching for Yogi, I was preparing my head and my heart for what I would say to my youngest son should we find Yogi, but not in an ok state.

I pulled off to the side of the road and texted my neighbors. They called, sharing the concern. One put Yogi’s pic on our neighborhood social media page. We continued to search. Worry increased.

Soon we had a sighting. A young boy, maybe 7 or so — who also has a dog as a full-fledged family member — took a picture and shared it with his dad. His dad would later tell me his son said he did what he would want others to do if his dog had gotten away. 

They would try to grab Yogi, but she’s fast, you know. She ran again; she likes to play. But they put that pic on our Facebook page. Soon, then, there was another sighting. And then another.

Our neighborhood is wonderful but big; we don’t all know each other. “Does anyone know whose dog this is?” Many would ask. And then, a friend here, a co-worker there… they each chimed in. Finally, after a search that lasted a good 90 minutes, someone posted they had Yogi.

Apparently, a dad and his kids were walking down one of our many sidewalks, and noticed a dog swimming in an adjacent lake. We have lots of lakes in our community. We also have lots of gators. Dangerous, lunch-searching gators. The dad, knowing this wasn’t ok, called our pup over, to which Yogi, being as social as she is, pleasantly obliged. That dad walked the rest of the way home, holding Yogi’s collar, putting her in their backyard, as they awaited our visit.

My point today isn’t simply to share an emotional Saturday. It’s also not any advocacy of owning a dog. Rather, as we recovered our furriest family member and my heart was slowly put back into my chest, it dawned on me how the problem was solved… how a real difference was made.

There are lot of people here. We’re diverse. We don’t all think alike. We don’t all act alike. And we don’t all look alike. We have different beliefs, different creeds and different colors. But when there was a significant problem, one that needed to be urgently solved, instead of pointing any fingers, instead of casting any blame, instead of demanding groupthink and denouncing all that’s otherwise, we kept what was most important, most important. We worked together, respecting all, with the priority of solving the problem.

One of the reasons our country struggles so much is because we let other things get in the way. We prioritize things other than working together, respecting all, and solving the problem.

Yogi, for one, is grateful our sweet community isn’t like that.



is the resurrection true?

I understand that not everyone believes in Jesus. Also true is that most every world religion acknowledges Jesus lived, breathed and walked this planet. Most also revere him as at the very least, a wise man; it’s primarily his declaration as the Son of God some deny.

The reality is we each have a right to believe what we want.

The reality is also that just because we believe something doesn’t make it true.

I’ve heard the denials. I’ve heard the slams. Some are indeed fairly harsh. And in some ways I get it. Just like everyone else, Christians have done some stupid things. To be equally clear, many stupid things have also been done not in the name of Jesus. We’re all imperfect people, friends. That’s an additional reality.

One of the reasons I’m a Jesus follower is because of the resurrection— the meaning of this Easter day, Jesus coming back to life after dying on the cross two days prior. Suffice it to say, if true, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most significant event in history.

It thus begs the question: is the resurrection true? 

I’m no scholar. I’m no fool nor Kool-aid drinker either. Here’s what we know…

Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus was a well-known figure in Israel. He was gruesomely crucified, died, and then buried. His burial site was known by many people. 

Jewish and Roman sources both testify to an empty tomb. The body of Jesus was not there. All the Jewish authorities needed to do to put an end to Christianity was to produce the body of Jesus. But they didn’t. They couldn’t. In fact, not one historical record from the first or second century is written attacking the factuality of the empty tomb or claiming discovery of the corpse.

Here’s where Tom Anderson, former president of the California Trial Lawyers Association, gets my attention: “Let’s assume that the written accounts of His appearances to hundreds of people are false. I want to pose a question. With an event so well publicized, don’t you think that it’s reasonable that one historian, one eye witness, one antagonist would record for all time that he had seen Christ’s body? … The silence of history is deafening when it comes to the testimony against the resurrection.”

What gets me next is the changed lives of the people around him. It is recorded that while Jesus was on trial, his best friends deserted him in fear. I get that. This was against all cultural norms; we struggle with cultural norms still today. Sometimes our eyes are more on culture than on truth.

And yet 10 out of his 11 BFF’S died as martyrs believing Jesus rose from the dead. They were willing to die… to give up their futures and entire lives because of what they witnessed. It doesn’t take any ounce of rocket science to conclude only a very compelling event could account for such a convicted response.

I don’t claim being a Jesus follower never comes with any challenges. I don’t claim all things always make sense. I also don’t claim all Jesus followers reflect Jesus with perfection at all times. We don’t. We can’t. No one (other than Jesus) can claim any impeccable, moral high ground.

But I refuse to let the people around me dictate what I think. In other words, who I believe Jesus to be isn’t based on someone other than Jesus. It makes little sense to base it upon imperfect people, no matter how hard some of our experiences have notably been. Hence, when a Jesus follower acts in a way that doesn’t seem kind, doesn’t seem humble, doesn’t feel full of generous mercy and grace, I don’t allow such to cloud my thinking of the aforementioned historical reality. 

I thus can’t shake that resurrection. I can’t shake the changed lives. And I can’t dismiss that no one ever has done what Jesus has done. The bodies of all other religious leaders remain decaying in a tomb somewhere.

I don’t write this, friends, with any arrogance or judgment. I also will repeatedly say that I am no scholar. I believe God gives us each a ton of grace to move toward him at our own pace, in our own time, in the ways that individually speak loudest and best — in the ways that most get our attention. Way too many of us — Christian or not — are way too judgmental, not respecting the differences in our lives, all those things God uses to get our attention. I wish we were better at that. I also believe our differences are purposeful and good.

On this Easter, I’m humbly overwhelmed with the recognition that we’re in this together. There are no disqualifiers. No matter who we are, what we’ve done, or how our faith or lack of it has played out thus far. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter the adamancy of denial nor the vociferousness of the slams. Nothing changes that we’re on this planet, figuring life and God out together.



it’s rarely so black and white…

Every now and then as I attempt to discern a wise angle of a current event, I come across someone who says it better. That’s a fact, friends; sometimes someone else says it better. Today I was playing with college basketball — women’s college basketball, in fact. But in all reality, let me suggest this has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with how some of our more messy cultural narratives are polluting far more than politics. Hence, in the words of popular IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel, with all bolded emphasis mine, here’s what happened in this year’s final, female college game. I’ll even let Doyel have today’s last word. It’s just that good…

* * * * *

This thing has grown out of control, the culture wars coming to women’s college basketball, where you’ve got a side and they’ve got a side and Caitlin Clark is wrong – no, Angel Reese is wrong. No, you’re just saying that because you’re racist.

We’ve been here before, so many times. Remember that word game we played as kids, called Mad Libs – seriously – where you started with a sentence and replaced various words to see what hilarity the new sentence would produce? Let’s try it here:

This thing has grown out of control, the culture wars coming to politics, where you’ve got a side and they’ve got a side and Matt Gaetz is wrong – no, Kamala Harris is wrong. No, you’re just saying that because you’re racist.

Again: This thing has grown out of control, the culture wars coming to the criminal justice system, where you’ve got a side and they’ve got a side and indicted former President Donald Trump is wrong – no, New York City district attorney Alvin Bragg is wrong. No, you’re just saying that because you’re racist.

Exhausting, all of it. Everybody’s talking and nobody’s listening, but everyone has a role to play so the cycle continues. We’re racing to the bottom, and we’re getting there in a hurry. Apparently this is me playing my role, the idiot who thinks he can calm the situation by explaining the truth: Your side over there, the one seeing black, and their side over there, the one seeing white? Maybe you’re both wrong.

For those who don’t know the topic – congratulations to you, seriously – here’s Caitlin Clark v. Angel Reese in a nutshell. Clark plays for Iowa, Reese for LSU. They played for the national championship on Sunday. In the final seconds of LSU’s 102-85 win, Reese taunted Clark by waving her hand in front of her face, pro wrestler John Cena’s trademark gesture that apparently means “you can’t see me” because “I’m a superhero.” Something like that.

Anyway, Reese then followed Clark for several steps, pointing to one of her fingers, where the championship ring will fit nicely. People flipped out. However. Two games ago, in the Elite Eight, Clark taunted Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith with the same gesture. Yes, Clark did the “you can’t see me” gesture at Van Lith, not at the Iowa bench as many on her side want to believe. The video is clear… This isn’t hard, people.

Well, maybe this is hard. Because people are so determined to see what they want to see, they miss what’s really there. Seriously, folks on Clark’s side – I don’t want to say it’s just Iowa fans, because it’s not, and in fact I’ve seen many criticizing her taunting of Van Lith – are convinced she was doing the gesture to her own bench. It’s not true, but it feels better to say that, right?

Other people, meanwhile, are determined to see Reese’s taunting in a vacuum, everything else be damned. Wait, everything else? What am I talking about? There isn’t anything else, because anything else would suggest gray, and we’re not here for gray. We’re here for black and white. Not sure if that’s an analogy or not.

The easiest thing is to point a crooked finger and use an explosive word. People defending Angel Reese are “woke.” People defending Caitlin Clark are “racist.” Understanding what has really happened here, and why, requires some work. Most folks, no, they’re not willing to put in the work. So much easier to make our determination by checking one single box. You know the box. Don’t make me say it out loud.

But here’s some background. Louisville’s Van Lith, like Clark a high-volume shooter and talker of trash, was giving Clark the business late in their Elite Eight game, a 97-83 blowout for Iowa. Video catches Clark telling Van Lith (who is white, if it matters): “You’re down by 15 points. Shut up.” Point for Clark.

Here’s some more background. In Iowa’s next game, the Final Four against South Carolina, Clark is defending Gamecocks guard Raven Johnson on the perimeter. Johnson is open for a 3-pointer – she was 14-for-58 from distance this season (24.1%) – and Clark savagely dismisses her with a wave of the hand. Johnson is Black, if it matters. Did it matter, in that moment? No. Clark wasn’t being racist. She wasn’t exactly exuding class, but that was merely one basketball player disrespecting another, color be damned. That’s what I believe anyway.

Still, point against Clark for a lack of class.

Now then, Angel Reese – like Clark, like Van Lith, like Johnson – has a backstory of her own. Earlier this season, after Reese blocked a shot against Arkansas while holding her shoe and then celebrated passionately, a sequence that had “Angel Reese” trending on Twitter that night, she responded with a tweet of her own: “I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. I don’t fit the narrative and I’m OK with that. I’m from Baltimore where you hoop outside and talk trash. … Let’s normalize women showing passion for the game instead of it being ‘embarrassing.’”

More backstory: For years Reese has attended USA Basketball tryouts with Hailey Van Lith and Raven Johnson. Did they strike up friendships during such a bonding process? Wouldn’t be a surprise. Also, and more importantly, the All-American Reese sees herself – and correctly so – as a voice for the relatively voiceless among women’s college basketball players in general, and Black women’s college basketball players in particular. After the Iowa game, asked about her taunting of Clark, Reese said the following: “I don’t fit the narrative. I don’t fit the box that y’all want me to be in. ‘I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto.’ Y’all told me that all year. When other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing. This was for the people that look like me.”

When other people do it…

Other people making the “you can’t see me” gesture, like Caitlin Clark.

The people that look like me…

People like Raven Johnson.

Those are the facts. That’s the gray amid the black and white. Bottom line, here’s what I think: Caitlin Clark, the most talented player in every game she ever has and ever will play, could learn how to win with grace. Angel Reese, who decided to give Clark a taste of her own medicine, served up a larger dose than necessary.

Who’s right? Nobody. Who’s wrong? Everybody. And this paragraph is referring to a lot more than two people.



fascinating narratives from last week

Two incidents from last week deserve a bit of extended commentary. They are a mixture of current events, but they were serious. And sobering. I want to ensure we discuss them wisely and well. Yet before we dive in, allow me to extract one sentence from our most recent post, as it is eye-openingly relevant to today’s content mixture: “When we craft a desired narrative in our head, we reject any objective data or inconvenient question that competes with said narrative.”

In other words, when we have come to believe we know the why as to how aspects, events and information are connected — and every detail is then used as further supporting evidence — we dismiss any fact or opinion that either contradicts or broadens the narrative. It’s the root of why so many justify the silencing of dissent. While it would be presumptuous of any to suggest the justifier “can’t handle dissent,” it is reasonable to discern the justifier doesn’t want his or her narrative to be challenged.

We saw that in two sobering incidents. On Monday, a transgendered male (biological female), 28 year old intentionally shot and killed 6 persons at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee. All the facts are not known at this point (note: we aren’t always good at waiting for them), but we do know from what law enforcement has shared, that while no person was a specific target of the shooter, the church building was a fixed target. The shooter intended to kill Christians. 

Back to unflinching from the desired narrative idea, it’s been fascinating in the days since to watch how people position the story — what they emphasize, what they omit, how much empathy they offer, who they offer empathy for, how they speak of the victims, who they identify as victims, what political connections they make, and how different they discuss this incident in comparison with other school shootings or violent events. Clearly, even in the most horrific incidents, our desired narratives are in play.

Then on Thursday, former Pres. Donald Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury. It is the first time in American history that a former president has been charged with a crime. The charges are not public as of yet, but are expected to be unsealed when Trump is arraigned next week. The charges are believed to surround the former President’s alleged role in falsifying business records regarding hush money payments to a porn actress so that the actress would remain silent about their affair prior to him running for President.

Again we use the word “fascinating.” Remember that “fascinating” doesn’t imply a positive nor negative account. “Fascinating” simply means to be extremely interesting.

It’s therefore been fascinating in the days since how people position the story — what they emphasize, what they omit, etc. We hear the spectrum of response… from Trump who called it “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history” to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi who said Trump will have the right “to prove innocence.” I am not a fan nor hater of either, but let me suggest that both are articulating desired narratives. My respectful sense is that Trump doesn’t really know what persecution is and Pelosi doesn’t understand the responsibility for judicial burden of proof. But alas, desired narratives are in play.

My desire is for our judicial system to be accurate, effective and fair. For all people. I don’t want any person inaccurately found responsible. I want the punishment to correlate logically with the crime. And I don’t want any creed, color nor political persuasion to serve as the underlying purpose. 

Is Trump guilty of the charges? Excellent question. And as we’ve seen in recent days, many on all sides think they know. I don’t. Maybe others have a closer seat than I do. Do I want Trump to be charged? That’s a different question. But again, what any of us want isn’t relevant. We should want our judicial system to be accurate, effective and fair.

“Want” is the key word no doubt…

To want… to feel a need for… to wish, crave, demand, or desire.

That’s the challenge with desired narratives. We want them to be true. But wishing, needing, and craving… demanding and desiring, too… they are not the same as what is true.

Here’s to allowing our narratives to be respectfully challenged… and to broadening our perspective along the way.