a fictional, unconventional, poignant conversation

Man #1: “Excuse me, sir. Is this seat taken?”

Man #2: “No.”

(#1 nods. Sits. Across the table from #2. Neither were expecting to be here together. Not sure if someone planned this meeting or not. It’s a little uncomfortable. Hence, several awkward minutes of silence pass, until the two realize they’re the only ones at the table. #2 initiates the conversation…)

#2: [subtly but warmly] “I haven’t seen you lately. Busy?”

#1: [also subtly] “Yeah, not with the usual, but yeah, busy. You?”

#2: “Yeah, trying a couple new things. Not sure if it will work or not, but trying. How about you? I heard you were looking for work. How’s it going?

#1: “Frustrating, but ok. I quit last spring, but rumor had it they were going to get rid of me anyway. Looking for job isn’t easy. Everyone has all these preconceived notions about you, regardless of resume.”

#2: “So true, man. I thought I did pretty well in my last job. We did some good stuff out in Denver. But people still said I wasn’t good enough — not the right skill set or something.”

#1: “You think they were telling you the truth? … why you got canned?”

#2: “Maybe. I mean, I think everything happens for a reason, so that’s enough for me. I also know that some things are just a game. Life’s more important than that.”

#1: “You can say that again.”

(Another few minutes of a little less awkward silence commence, this time with heads bowed, somber faces, not looking at each other but each pondering, separately but together… #1 initiates conversation this time…)

#1: “Hey… you think all those people — the zillions who call you names, flip you off, judge you, all that other vulgar crud — you think they understand you?”

#2: “No. Not at all. I guess I just figure other people’s behavior is out of my control. My job isn’t to play to the audience, but to instead be who God calls me to be, say what he wants me to say, do what he wants me to do.”

#1: “You always do that?”

#2: “Are you kidding? No way. I am totally, 100% imperfect, you know.”

#1: “Yeah, I heard that.” (…they share a sincere chuckle, looking briefly eye-to-eye…)

#2: “What about you? Do you think you’re doing what you’re called to do?”

#1: “I think so. But it’s hard. It’s hard when people think I want to spit in the faces of our veterans or have no respect for any other race. Heck, my biggest fans don’t always get that.”

#2: “Mine either. Sometimes they praise me, when it’s not praising me that I strive for. I’d really rather they praised God instead of me. I think we too often worship people and things other than God.”

#1: “Agreed. I’ve said before publicly that I believe God guides me through everyday. We’re all equal in God’s eyes, but I feel like my brothers and sisters of color are still sometimes oppressed. I want our country to talk about that — to do something! I’m exhausted by the multiple examples of unfair treatment and disrespect I’ve seen.”

#2: “That’s really hard. I’m sorry, man.”

#1: “Me, too.”

(… silence again ensues, but this time, it’s not so awkward… the two recognize some sort of greater connection…)

#2: “Hey, you mind if I ask you a question?”

#1: “Sure.”

#2: “Why do you kneel?”

#1: (… with a slight smile and affirming nod…) “Good question. I’m just trying to bring attention to what I care about. You?”

#2: “Same.”

#1: “Do you, well, do you ever wish you would have picked a different way to do it?”

#2: “Sometimes. Sometimes it seems way bigger than me. People have agendas and jump on bandwagons. Then the politicians get in the way, usually trying to somehow use my actions for their benefit. Then more join in and get rude and nasty, and for some reason think it’s totally ok to judge people who don’t think like them.”

#1: “Isn’t that the truth! Don’t they realize that we’re fighting for respect for all people?”

#2: “True. [slight pause] How ‘bout another question — although a little more personal, if you’re ok with it?”

#1: “Of course.”

#2: [humbly] “I know you grew up in the church, went to church through college, and often still talk about God and Jesus publicly. You wish to honor him?”

#1: “Absolutely, brother!”

#2: “Would you mind then if we took a knee here together, privately? … recognizing that life is tough on this planet, yet we are each loved by God, regardless of our imperfections?”

#1: “Let’s do it!”

(… and with that the two men reverentially kneel… another few minutes of silence pass, but no awkwardness whatsoever now… the two slowly stand, stretch a bit, grasping the sobriety of the moment. They realize their time together has come to an end…)

#2: “Hey, man. I appreciate this. Even in our differences, I see we have more in common.”

#1: “I wish all people could see that — both those who cheer and jeer. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and respectfully.”

#2: “Amen, bro! Prayer helps us see that — bowing to someone bigger than we.”

#1: “Submission to a God who created and thus loves us is perhaps most unifying. We need to change some things around here!”

#2: “Yes, we do. Hey, what’d you say your name was again?”

#1: “Colin. Colin with a ‘C.’ ”

#2: “Hey, Colin. I’m Tim. Nice to meet you. Thanks for coming to the table today.”

#1: “You, too, Tim. Maybe more will join us.”

Respectfully…
AR

the kneeler

Last week the president of Black Lives Matter New York, Hank Newsome, and his supporters came face-to-face with Pres. Trump supporters at a very vocal rally in Washington, D.C. Newsome’s expectation was “to come down here with my fist in the air in a very militant way, exchange insults, maybe some dirty looks, or who knows what.”

But a funny thing happened after Newsome was spontaneously welcomed onto the stage and invited to speak. He and the audience found places where they agree. If one watches the now-gone-viral, powerful video, agreement was specifically found on the assertions that:

(1) Black lives matter.
(2) All lives matter.
(3) We need justice when a black life is unfairly lost. And…
(4) If we really want America great, we do it together.

In other words, when the approach was altered, agreement was found. Our approach often impedes understanding.

Introducing exhibit #1… the kneeler.

I ask first, no less, that we remember the circle metaphor… If we are all standing in a circle staring at the same object in the middle, there are a minimum of 360° to look at the exact same thing. From 360 angles, it will look and feel differently. And… because we each have an unobstructed view, we will confidently assume we have the absolute, only correct perspective… even when we are looking differently at (I repeat) the exact same thing. Hence, the Intramuralist continues to contend that this is not solely a two-sided issue. I also contend that because of the chosen approach, there is minimal understanding; people are talking past each other.

Note the explanation of a friend of a friend, Martin Carbaugh: “As I see things, the two sides are talking past each other. The kneelers are kneeling to bring attention to racism and unjust police actions against African Americans. Many just want to get a national conversation started. In their hearts, they aren’t protesting our military.

Those so frustrated by this see the American flag and our National Anthem as unifying symbols of our country that should be honored and respected because of the countless lives that have been sacrificed to give us the freedoms we have today. They see the kneeling protests akin to spitting in the faces of returning veterans from war.

Where I come down is that what the kneelers are protesting, I can agree we should have an open honest conversation about, but the way they are protesting is not an effective way to get the nation you want to converse with to listen to you. It is offensive to those who have served our nation in war. It is also offensive to the vast majority of police officers who serve and protect with honor.

The protesters see anyone who doesn’t like their method of protest as not agreeing with what they are protesting when in reality most just disagree with how they are protesting. On the other side, those who don’t like the protests assume the protesters are unpatriotic, military haters when in reality a majority of the protesters just want something done about unjust police shootings.

This is my take. My advice to the protesters is to find a way to get your point across without offending so many folks. I mean, if I really want to get attention and have the country listen, it is best if I don’t offend you in the process. For those offended, try and understand those protesting may not be doing it the right way at all but they may have something we need to chat about and do something about.”

I admit… I still have more questions than answers… did this initially start as a protest or pout, since Colin Kaepernick had just been benched by his team? … why did Pres. Trump feel he needed to get involved?… were the athletes this past weekend standing more for Colin Kaepernick or against Donald Trump? … and why does this all have to happen during the National Anthem? 

But perhaps the best question — and not an easy one, but maybe the one most necessary to answer — is: when will people quit talking past each other?

As Hank Newsome shared after speaking with the seemingly un-likeminded, “When I spoke truths, they agreed. I feel like we made progress. I feel like two sides that never listen to each other actually made progress today…”

Maybe progress starts with changing our approach… maybe it starts by inviting the un-likeminded onto our stage, inviting them to speak, and actually listening to what they have to say.

Respectfully…
AR

a key to racial reconciliation

Let me invite you in today to join a tough but honest conversation, a place where you are safe, honored, and respected. Your opinion is welcome. And it will be listened to in its entirety. Please don’t shout at me, though, because when you shout, you’re hard to hear. I want to have authentic, sincere dialogue. My goal is not to prove any point. My goal is to journey together… learning, growing, and together working to solve some of these tough problems, facing what plagues us head on.

One of the problems that continues to plague us is the seemingly increasing, intense division between black and white… the racial impetus… that so many have fed from so many varied angles… knowingly or unknowingly. There’s a wall that has stood between far too many primarily because of the color of their skin. I shake my head.

I shake my head because we are all created equally, regardless of demographic. Even with that absolute, constitutionally-promoted truth, however, the challenge remains that we still often fuel and feel that division. We feel divided. We too often feel divided due to the color of our skin.

That grieves me.

All men, women, children, etc. deserve to feel loved and respected. But we withhold love. We withhold respect. Many justify withholding love and respect due to racial differences — and — due to how some choose to articulate their opinion about our racial differences.

For months I have pondered why this has intensified. For months I have observed the masses who declare that only one “side” needs to start loving and respecting the other more. People are out there pounding the pavement… protesting… declaring in their indigenous way that they deserve to be loved and respected. Yes, they do. Yet so many in their verbal and nonverbal protests, demanding to be respected, intentionally or not, consequently omit all others who deserve our love and respect. This lack of awareness — that you can’t fight hate with hate, you can’t fight bullying with bullying, and you can’t fight for respect with disrespect — is killing our conversations that have the potential to lead to solution.

Let me go a little deeper…

Here is where — killing us even more — the omission of God from society is hurting us. It’s impairing us and even our intelligence far more than we may know or be willing to admit. Let me give you second sentence.

So many people want to have conversations about what’s happening on the planet with the absence of God’s wisdom and role from the discussion. They won’t or don’t want to talk about God or acknowledge him, recognizing that as the creator of this planet and the creator of us, he may hold the key to figuring some of this big stuff out. How can we continue to have these grandeur conversations about these tough subjects with the full omission of God? It makes so little sense to me… it also continues to advance the idea that self-reliance is often our greatest sin.

God knows more than we do. He created us. We love what we create. And therefore, if God created and therefore loves us, shouldn’t we humbly find a way to make him part of the equation?

Here on Earth we spend all this stinkin’ time railing on one another. We insult. We impede. We intimidate and point all sorts of fingers. Friends, do you realize what we are doing?

We are insulting and pointing fingers at those who are also created and loved by God.

My a-ha these past few months is that I don’t think we see others as loved and created by God, just like we are. After all, why would we justify treating another so poorly? … why would we look down on them so much? … why would we say that only they need to love and respect another more?

It thus begs the question… How would it change our conversation in regard to racial reconciliation if we could see both black and white as equally created and loved by God?

Wouldn’t you treat someone loved and created by God differently? Wouldn’t you treat them with increased honor and respect?

God loves us because he created us, but our omission of him from the conversation is killing us and allowing for all sorts of judgment and disrespect. It’s throwing otherwise intelligent people off track, allowing judgment to seep deeply into their thinking.

Want to instead be part of the solution?

Don’t assume for a moment that the Intramuralist has all the answers — not even close. But I believe we could start by refusing to align with a “side” and stop pointing fingers at another. Recognize first and foremost that each of us is created and loved by God.

Oh, how that would change our conversation…

Respectfully… always…
AR

{Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash}

neighbors, enemies, or what… round 2

Since my strong sense is we focus way too much on who is our enemy, I’ve decided to focus a little bit more on who is our neighbor. Remember: as long as we can curtail the category of who actually is our neighbor, we don’t have to love them, like them, or even try. We don’t have to respect them. We don’t have to invest in relationship. We can instead judge them and ignore their perspective in its entirety. After all, they are the enemy.

Much of the current challenge with this enemy label mindset is that we have begun to attach the enemy label to others because of their social, political standing. We have veered far away from finding the enemy on any Ten Most Wanted list; we have made other people worse based on what they believe.

Harder still is that we’ve had some pretty poor examples in regard to who fits into what category. Very intelligent people have unfortunately offered some very foolish answers regarding both friend and foe. I have found myself guilty, too, at times — even if only silently opined. At various points in my life, I may have given the distinct impression that my “enemy” was either Patriots’ fans or that kid who started on the mound in place of my son. I allowed myself to think less of them. Let me rephrase: I allowed myself to judge them… as… someone less wise than me. I was able to think less of them because I could not see them as my neighbor.

But what if we could change that? What if we could broaden the category, so-to-speak? What if we realized who our neighbors actually are? … and then… wouldn’t that affect how we treated them? Wouldn’t that make the hard conversations possible? And better yet, would that not offer solution in some of the tough areas?

Who is our neighbor?

I’ve been doing much reading on the subject as of late — especially moving hundreds of miles away to a community in which I knew no one. Who is my neighbor? And what is required of me?

Allow me to share one insight that struck me… from Levi Rogers, a writer and coffee roaster from Salt Lake City…

“… Who are my enemies? For me, it’s simple really. My enemies are politicians, Congress, rich people, Wall Street Bankers, rich Christians, and the most hated form of all: ‘rich, white, Christian politicians.’ I jest, but it’s not too far off. If I were to see a member… dying on the side of the road, I would walk by with joy. Congress in my mind — can go to hell.

I can empathize with the drug addicts, the alcoholics, with minorities, with people of differing genders and sexual orientations. But not the rich yuppie who lives on the Hill, who is against immigration reform, and in defense of laws like Florida’s Stand Your Ground. These people I cannot empathize with. The people who, as Kanye says are, ‘Prolly all in the Hamptons, bragging ‘bout what they made.’ These people are my neighbors and the ones Jesus calls me to love. And it bugs the crap out of me.

‘Who is my neighbor?’… The central question here being: how do I love and serve the very people who I abhor the most, especially when I disagree with them? How do I love them even at times when I feel righteous in my hatred…?”

I love the sincerity in the above expression. Feel free to change up the demographics… maybe a person’s righteous hatred isn’t directed toward “rich, white, Christian politicians.” Maybe it’s directed at “rude, in-your-face, Black Lives Matter protestors”… maybe it’s directed at “out-of-touch, outspoken celebrities”… maybe it’s someone else. The point is that we are each capable at minimizing who our neighbor actually is.

All of the above are our neighbors.

Our neighbors are those who are next to us. Our neighbors are those who are in need. Nothing else disqualifies a person, but we keep justifying the disqualifying of a person as a neighbor… maybe because they’re rich and white… rude and in-your-face… or out-of-touch and outspoken. We continue to find reason to disrespect, reason to judge, and reason to reject all empathetic attempts from all of the above. We don’t listen well. We are simply not very good at neighboring.

In my reading I keep coming across this “neighboring” concept. It’s an active verb. It’s full of intentionality. There is something required of me. So what does it mean to “neighbor”?

To near. And to care.

On Sunday, barring no unforeseen events, I’d like to talk somewhat about racial reconciliation. It’s actually a post I’ve been working on for well over a month. It’s hard. It’s a tough topic. Good people disagree. We have different opinions and approaches. So let me set Sunday up with today’s truth: we must realize who our neighbors actually are.

Respectfully…
AR

{Photo by Christian Stahl on Unsplash}

neighbor? enemy? or what?

Recently I was in a situation in which someone who has not known one of my sons very long, identified him in an educational document as somewhat of a “class clown.” While aspects of the description were not without merit, I respectfully requested that we alter the document.

“I don’t disagree with the behaviors you describe,” I asserted. “The challenge is the label. Once we put a label on something, it sticks. And then that’s how we tend to see and treat the person always thereafter.”

Thankfully, in the educational setting, everyone in the room respectfully recognized the potential pitfall… If we identify a person as “_________ ,” they will forever be viewed as “_________.”

Fill in the blank with whatever word you wish — positive or negative…

Friend or foe… genius or jerk. Labels stick.

One label I’ve heard from many as of late — perhaps due to the volatility of the current political climate — is the identification of another as our “enemy.” Socially, relationally, politically, you-name-it. We disagree… someone gets hurt… an initiative is obstructed… and our political leaders unfortunately then encourage the mass labeling.

The potential pitfall is that if we can get the “enemy” label to stick, then we can treat the person differently. We can justify it. We can even think lesser of that person — and then actually get lured into the idea that such is a wise thing to do. At that point it becomes completely acceptable to ignore another’s entire analysis or perspective… They are the enemy, after all. They are not deserving of our respect or consideration.

Who respects their enemy?

If persons are identified as the enemy, then they are certainly not our neighbor, because no way would we live anywhere close to them. And if they are not our neighbor, guess what? We don’t have to love them. We don’t have to like them. We don’t have to even try. It’s only our neighbor we’re universally called to love… right?

…“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself”…

Love your neighbor as yourself… the Intramuralist sees such as a pretty profound concept… I mean, I do love myself, and I’m pretty hip on my family and friends. But my neighbor? That’s more of a reach. I suppose I love most of them.

But notice how we have minimized the profoundness of loving our neighbor as ourselves because we’ve curtailed who can actually be considered in the neighbor category. We have made the imperative easier. Once we identify another as the enemy, we can justify treating them however is easiest and most convenient for us… No need to work through the tough stuff with this one… no need to pursue relationship or reconciliation… no need to give any validity to any of his perspective… nope… he’s the enemy.

For years I’ve led a study encouraging attenders to seek the greatest wisdom. One exercise repeatedly practiced is based on the timeless tale of the Good Samaritan. As has been shared for centuries in all sorts of circles, a traveling man is attacked, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Multiple persons walk by, notice him but intentionally avoid him; obviously, they don’t see the injured man as their “neighbor.” Since they have labeled him as something lesser, there exists no need to help.

Along comes the Good Samaritan — an ethnicity at the time which was despised by pharisaic leaders. The Samaritan gave the injured man first aid, disinfected and bandaged his wounds. He even lifted the man onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. Still, he paid the innkeeper for the injured man’s stay.

The Good Samaritan knew who his neighbor was. He never minimized it. He never allowed any belief, behavior, ethnicity, income, political or social standing to alter his awareness of who his neighbor was. He never confused his neighbor with the enemy.

In our study, we thus asked of one another:
“Who would be the person on the side of the road hardest for you to help?”
“Who have we labeled as our enemy?”
And “who have we justified loving less?”

Fill in the blank with whomever you wish. My suggestion is we first learn better who is our neighbor.

Respectfully…
AR

{Gleren Meneghin on Unsplash}

if they would only realize…

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to write about. I say that not because the Intramuralist has no things to say — more because as I survey the status of current events, some are so tough for understandably many to engage in actual, respectful dialogue. Regardless of the submission of any respectfully-articulated perspective — as is this blog’s promise — the chances of someone screaming back at me or pointing fingers or maybe even throwing something at their computer screen seems to have exponentially risen.

The reality, no less, is that through this online outlet, I can’t hear any screaming nor does any creative projectile damage anything other than what’s in the thrower’s possession. Hence, what I candidly observe is the frequency which with we point fingers. Allow me to rephrase…

We are really good at calling out other people.

Problem after problem… conflict after conflict… so often we strongly suggest the solution rests solely in the change of someone else. So often we promote the only cure as one in which only others must change what they think, say and do. We believe in some grand panacea for all current ills that conveniently absolves self.

“I/me/my/myself,” my husband and I often say. When first married years ago, we began repeating that phrase frequently, reminding one another that it’s our innate, first inkling to articulate a solution or perspective that is “all about me” — that if there’s something wrong, the problem rests not with “me” but with “you.” Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it; maybe we unknowingly mask the challenge to be about someone else.

But in our “I/me/my/myself” mindset, we get lured into believing that the problem rests entirely due to the beliefs or behavior of the other. If that other would only change, then the problem would not exist.

We absolve ourselves of the responsibility to change how we believe or behave.

I have seen this sincere, so-easily-adopted lure creep into so many of our perspectives… and yes, these are hard…

If those others would only realize they are bigots…
If those others would only realize they are privileged…
If those others would only realize they are intolerant…

In other words, if “those others” would only change. Not me, mind you… them. Solely them.

I have absolved myself from any contribution to the unhealthiness. We have absolved the “my” — my people, my party, my behavior, my way of thinking.

Maybe I’m wrong, but my strong sense is that one of the reasons so many topics are so tough to talk about respectfully is because we’re too busy pointing fingers at someone else; we’re so focused pointing out how another has to change how they believe or behave.

What if we instead asked ourselves…

Where have I been rude?
Where have I been mean?
Where have I been unwilling to listen?
Where have I been intolerant or demanding?
And where have I chastised or screamed at another?



Few want to change how they believe or behave when another is chastising or screaming at them. If we want to solve some of these tough topics, perhaps we instead start by stopping this illogical idea that it’s wise to absolve self and only call out the wrongfulness of another. Let us first wrestle with the wrongfulness within ourselves.

Today my husband and I celebrate 23 years of marriage. As most who’ve been married that long will share, there have been moments of both terrific and taxing (some of which I’ve been serendipitously grateful that occurred long before the existence of social media). But we made a commitment to do this… to work through things… to solve problems… and to grow. We committed to doing life together in sickness and in health — in the healthy and unhealthiness. Step one means omitting the emphasis on “I/me/my/myself,” asking not how my spouse must change, but rather, how must I.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash}

climate conversations

One of the things I’ve long appreciated about my parents is their consistent encouragement to sit down at the table, with me, and talk about everything. Let me be clear… as a kid, I didn’t always like it. I wasn’t always fond of it. And often it was either (a) incredibly inconvenient, (b) significantly painful, or (c) just something I’d rather not discuss.

But with sincere prodding, knowing some of the topics were especially not easy, they each encouraged my siblings and me to engage, sharing what we were feeling and thinking. The Intramuralist thus learned the value in processing together. Some of that was good, bad, and ugly. Sometimes some of our thoughts and beliefs didn’t make any sense. But the freedom to process what we were thinking proved to be an invaluable, growth opportunity — for all of us — even when my perspective was illogical or untrue. It would have been far easier for my parents to simply shut the conversation down or invite no more. Yet they were wiser than me; they knew we would grow from the processing.

In recent weeks, I’ve overheard multiple conversations — especially regarding the enormity of calamity…

Hurricane Harvey… the massive storm that meandered over Eastern Texas for no doubt way too long, causing catastrophic, unheard of flooding…

Hurricane Irma… Harvey’s sui generis sister, which wrecked havoc on the Caribbean and much of the State of Florida, reportedly destroying at least 25% of homes in the Florida Keys…

Fires in the Pacific Northwest… multiple cataclysmic blazes in Montana, Oregon, and Washington, shaping up to be what the Associated Press calls “one of the worst in U.S. history in land burned.”

Add to such reports from my sweet friend in the Galápagos Islands, where the unsuspecting La Cumbre volcano erupted on Fernandina Island after a decade of dormancy.

It’s no wonder those concerned about our Earth’s climate have been increasingly vocal. With repeated refrains echoing from Houston to Key West, persons are seriously, genuinely concerned about the state of our planet. I deeply respect, appreciate, and share such concern.

Please note I am no expert. No scientist either. Like many of you, my limited perspective comes from reading and research and talking to those who know more than me. I try to talk to far more than partisans or the likeminded. Such a practice helps me grow.

I am also committed to being a wise steward of all that’s in my possession. That means I believe in treating our Earth well. Because you and I both live here, I want us both to treat it well. We are in this together. Always. The challenge arises, no less, because treating something well inherently includes a variety of approach.

With the recent perceived uptick in calamitous events, I’ve noticed a promoted change in the allowance of varied approach. Allow me to quote a current, promoted school of thought:

There is only one right way to think.

In last week’s The Nation, Mark Hertsgaard, the investigative editor at large, sincerely responded to some of the disasters mentioned above… “The horrors hurled at Houston and the Himalayan lowlands in late August were heartbreaking.” I so agree.

Hertsgaard went further. He concluded Hurricane Harvey, etal. were the result of man’s lack of implementing more protective, climate change measures; he holds “climate change deniers” and “other powerful know-nothings” responsible… “How long before we hold the ultimate authors of such climate catastrophes accountable for the miseries they inflict?… It is past time to call out… all climate deniers for this crime against humanity. No more treating climate denial like an honest difference of opinion… The first step toward justice is to call things by their true names. Murder is murder, whether the murderers admit it or not.”

The Washington Times then followed this week with a report that in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma, the calls to punish skeptics is rising [even though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says attributing hurricanes to warming is premature].

In other words, any who deny climate change is committing a crime. In still other words, no other opinion is allowed. There is only one right way to think.

Friends, I don’t know exactly what is true. I don’t know with certainty the exact causes and proportion of those causes and the exact extent of any future effects. My desire, therefore, is to process wisely, together, so our “one nation under God” can figure it out and be wise stewards of our planet. But right now I am uncomfortable with the self-profiting and contradictions from various perspectives… I am uncomfortable with the insults and intimidation… and I am uncomfortable with any analysis that omits that “under God” part… especially since as the Creator, he would seem to have way more insight than we.

What I also believe, with all passion and respect, is that we have opportunity to learn from the totality of our processing — listening and learning from one another… if we sit down at the table, together, with the freedom to share what may or may not be true. Wisdom is found in the processing — not in shutting the conversation down.

I’m thankful for my parents. They indeed taught me well.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash}

perspective… after Irma…

perspective |pərˈspektiv|
– n.-
— true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion.

One the many things I frequently ponder is whether my perspective is solid or skewed. And if my perspective is skewed, what makes it that way? What has contributed to me being “off”? … especially when perhaps via passion, opinion, or extenuating circumstance, I can’t see it.

While my intent is never to be callous nor cruel, my strong sense is that each of us is capable of possessing either angle. Each of us can possess a solid or skewed perspective, and each of us is capable of not knowing it.

Do we have a true understanding of the relative importance of things? Especially, for example…

When we are shaken…
When we are shocked…
When we are fearful…
When we are wronged…
When we are mad…
When we are hurt…
When life is tough…

When any of those valid emotions becomes most prominent within us, do we understand the importance of what we feel or what we’re going through in relation to all else? … in relation to all others? Or does what we feel rise to the top, so-to-speak? Does what we are going through become the absolute most important and everyone else should so obviously get that, too?

Six weeks ago, my family moved to Florida. Two days ago, we found ourselves in the path of one curvaceous, stormy woman named “Irma.” As a brand new Florida resident, I must say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled that Hurricane Irma would be the one to welcome us with the widest of arms. Sunday night was awful.

The winds howled; the dog barked; and trees and debris went continuously airborne outside. For ten hours, we huddled underneath a dining room table, topped by a mattress, adjacent to two inside walls, which were the two walls that seemingly shook the least. At one point on the constant hurricane TV coverage (and I do mean “constant”), the weatherman said, “Everyone in the viewing area should just assume there’s a tornado near them right now!” It was serious and potentially severe.

And so we huddled. It was a tough experience accompanied by tough emotions.

We were not, however, the only ones to huddle. We were not the only ones going through a hurricane. We were also not the ones to face the worst of Irma’s wrath, and we were certainly not the only ones to ever experience tough circumstances.

One of the many things the Intramuralist increasingly realizes is that we all experience tough things; the tough things come via varied circumstance — things from which we can each learn — but we’d be wiser to glean the available wisdom than to instead spend more time and energy comparing ourselves to others, attempting to discern who has it worst. There will always be someone who has it harder than we… regardless of who actually experiences a hurricane.

Some respected friends in Irma’s path, with solid perspective, chimed in:

“Winds still howling, not sure of outside damage, but we never lost power and we never lost hope.”

“Feeling overwhelmingly grateful for those who stayed in contact with me, assisted me, sheltered me, and most importantly made laugh during these past few days.”

“In times of crisis, we rise and help each other.”

“Our prayers remain stronger than Irma.”

“Made it thru Irma. Made it through cancer. Irma doesn’t come close. Perspective.”

Amen.

It’s amazing how encouraging solid perspective can be.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash}

what I love about disasters

Please read that title again. I want to be fully clear. Note that I did not say, “I love disasters.” “What” is the key word. There is something within disasters, when they unfortunately happen, that I love.

Disasters get our attention. They make us stop, reflect, cry out to God, and reach out to one another…

Disasters make us stop. Years ago I heard someone say that “if satan can’t make us bad, he’ll make us busy.” (Yes, I realize I didn’t capitalize that proper noun; satan doesn’t deserve it.) Sometimes we get so busy with our work, routines, and “to do lists,” that we fail to take time to do what’s most important — listen well, invest in others, build community, etc. Those things take time. While we might not be susceptible to adopt and embrace evil, we are susceptible to not doing good. When we’re too busy, we aren’t doing good.

Disasters make us reflect. Because we are busy, we miss the wisdom that comes with intentional pause and self-reflection. Often we are busy with good things. Yet when we get so wrapped up in even a good thing — an interest, initiative, ambition or activity — we often fail to reflect upon where we are off, where we need to grow, or where we need to be more humble and kind. Reflection has the unique, necessary potential to keep us humbler. Kinder, too.

Disasters make us cry out to God. Often I wonder if our greatest sin is self-reliance. We become so dependent on ourselves and so confident in our own abilities that we fail to acknowledge the great big God of the universe. We fail to acknowledge who he is, what he has done, and his role and presence in each of our lives. I know that’s a huge conversation, and it’s one I am most willing to have. My point, no less, is that often the only way we cry out to God — acknowledging him, asking for help, or even expressing our gratitude — is when what’s happened in our lives is too big for us to control. Disaster makes us realize what we cannot control. We need far more than self.

Disasters make us reach out to one another. One of the things that has most disturbed me in recent years is the number of things we allow to get in the middle of relationship — all the things that we allow to divide us. Let me be clear: we allow it. We justify an incident, offense, or difference to love someone less… to stop talking to them, to think worse of them, to disrespect them. We choose to love them less. We divide. Disasters have the potential to help us realize that those incidents, offenses, and differences that we have put in the way of relationship are not as important as we made them.

The reality is as I write this, I’m standing in the predicted, calamitous path of Hurricane Irma. I’m not certain of the extent of disaster as of yet, but we are prayerfully prepared to face what’s next. It’s tough, especially not knowing how bad this is going to be. We just witnessed Hurricane Harvey, and the recovery there will no doubt be costly, painful, and long.

But Harvey and Irma afford us the opportunity to more fully comprehend community — to respect and value others in spite of perceived differences and to recognize we have all been divinely created equally. As a friend also awaiting Irma said, “Sometimes people only understand ‘we are one’ during a time of extreme humanity needs.”

Note the joint video announcement from all five living former presidents this past week, appearing together to raise money for relief efforts following Harvey. “One America Appeal” is the name of their initiative. As Pres. Bill Clinton said in their video, “Hurricane Harvey brought terrible destruction — but it also brought out the best in humanity.”

True.

Also true is that those five men — Carter, Clinton, Bush 41, 43, and Obama — have lots of differences. They have all sorts of incidents, offenses, and different ways of thinking that if they allow, could impede any good. But the disaster has prompted them to prioritize what’s most important.

That’s “what” I love about disasters. We stop, reflect, cry out to God, and reach out and respect one another.

That’s important.

(Time now to hunker down.)

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by NASA on Unsplash}

[Note: Tuesday’s post will depend on power after Hurricane Irma passes our area. We’ll post on schedule if able.]

bumper sticker diversity

Search for the meaning of “diversity” and one will find multiple answers…

… the variety of characteristics that make people and communities unique…
… a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical differences…
… more than one of something…

As I recently attempted to more fully comprehend the current manifestation of this word, I simultaneously heard the call to appreciate, respect, and understand. The call is not to appreciate, respect, and understand only one or some of something; the call is to appreciate, respect, and understand all.

As recently noted, over the last 6-7 weeks, the Intramuralist has driven approximately 5,914 miles. Recognize that utilizing that same number of miles, I could have driven from Broadway to Beverly Hills and back again to Broadway — and still had 328 miles to spare. Hence, I decided to entertain a most unscientific study. I observed our diverse expressions in arguably the only avenue offering smaller space than Twitter. Yes, I observed the ever-expressive bumper sticker. My sense is if someone feels a saying is worthy of sticking on their automotive derrière, then it must be highly important to them. I found diversity in what’s highly important.

Let me first acknowledge, I did not notate the adhesive identifications that seemed primarily of local value only (i.e. “my kid is an honor student at…”). Instead I wrote down every sticker that publicized or promoted something bigger, so-to-speak.

Some expressed themselves via only a singular letter… “L”, “A”, “T”, and “M”…

Others were succinct through a single word — first, those encouraging exercise… “Skate”, “Swim”, “Run”. But still more chose a word of seemingly increased imperative… “Love”, “Coexist”…

There was a strong contingent of proud students and alumni… “Villanova”, “Virginia” and “Virginia Tech”, “Texas”, “Tennessee”, “Boston College”, “Purdue”, “Penn State”, and many more. Prouder, perhaps, were the parental units… “West Virginia Mom”, “Ohio State Mom”, “Clemson Mom”, and moms from UCF and Florida, too (… question: do dads don stickers?).

I will admit, I was somewhat leery of the plethora of political messaging I would encounter; our messaging as a nation has been pretty poor in the respect category this past decade. The political stickers were less prominent than the collegiate crowd, but still vocal… “Trump”, “Yes We Can”, “Stop Obama”, “She Persisted”, “Not a Liberal”, “I Am a Woman and I Vote”, “Make America Great Again”, and perhaps most poignant, “Don’t Assume I Like Your Politics”.

Granted, there were some who focused instead on the issue… “Abortion Is a Slaughter of the Innocent”, “War Is Not the Answer”, “Our Nation Is Open”, and “Police Lives Matter”. Let me add that the latter was one of the few messages frequently repeated… “Back Blue” or “Back the Blue” were the most popular refrains.

I was struck, no less, by the refrain I saw most — that which displayed pride and support for our veterans, troops, and uniformed services… “Army Vet”, “Vietnam Veteran”, “U.S. Marines”, “United States Navy”, “Coast Guard”, “God Bless Our Troops. Especially Our Snipers”. The following humbled me more… “Army Mom”, “My Son Is in the US Army”, “Pray for My Soldier”, and maybe my favorite, “Heroes Don’t Wear Capes. They Wear Dog Tags.”

“God Bless the USA”… yes, another repeated refrain. There were additional comments here… “In God We Trust”, “Jesus Saves”, “Life. Faith. Freedom”, including multiple calls to pray.

Some stickers were less solemn, such as the declared love for Labradors, Westies, Steelers, Patriots, nurses, Eagle Scouts, and even Dr. Who. Then there was this whole “life” advertisement… “Mom Life”, “Christ Life”, “Salt Life”, “Walt Life”, and “Band Life”. I realized there are some “lifes” I don’t totally understand. (Insert “Marathon Freak” here.)

A few more wise encouragements and notices… “Disconnect & Drive” and “Stay Alive. Don’t Text and Drive”, and “Baby on Board”. Granted, a witty friend sent me a copy of the sticker stating: “Adults on Board. We Want to Live Too.”

More that made me laugh out loud?… “Bach Off”, “Do You Believe in Life After Death? Touch My Truck and We’ll Find Out”, and (sorry ahead of time) “If You Are Riding My (bleep) This Close, You Might as Well Kiss It.”

Obviously, we are a diverse country, a country in which “God blessing us” is far more than a bumper sticker, but rather, a humbling, wise, and potentially powerful prayer. Maybe we start by learning to appreciate, respect, and understand our differences… even through often sticky expression.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Frankie Guarini on Unsplash}