suspicion or trust?

What do you lead with?

If there’s space between you and me, what do you lead with?

I’ve thought of this many times… if there’s space between you and me, something has to fill it…

If there’s space between a father and a son…

… between a husband and wife…

… between a girlfriend and boyfriend…

… between an employer and employee…

… between friends…

… between coworkers…

… between Facebook “friends” or Instagram “followers”…

What fits in the so-called in between?

What do you lead with?

One of my favorite sayings in the healthy community we have become a part of since our recent move, is that: “we will fill the gap with trust.”

That means when there is space between us…

… when I don’t understand…

… when I don’t know what’s going on… 

… when my perspective is limited…

… when their perspective is limited…

when we disagree

When any of those things are between us, I choose not to fight… to offend nor be offended…

I choose not to judge, point fingers, or criticize… even when that’s easiest to do.

Let’s note that it is suspicion that leads to judgment and criticism. So do I fill the gap with suspicion… or with trust? It’s either one or the other.

Say the wise words of Atlanta’s Andy Stanley:

“We have a tendency to put suspicion in the gap. Patrick Lencioni, in the book ‘The Advantage,’ talks about the fundamental attribution error. ‘It is the tendency to attribute the negative or frustrating behaviors of colleagues to their intentions and personalities.’ So if someone does something to create a gap, this error leads us to believe that it is something that is fundamentally wrong with their personality or character. (He was late because he is lazy.) On the other hand, when we do something to create a gap, we attribute it to environmental issues. (I am late because traffic was bad.) You cut yourself slack but not others.

[emphasis mine]

It seems to me we are living in a culture where many are encouraging the placing of suspicion in the gap; many cut slack only for self and the likeminded.

Yet wisdom calls us elsewhere; wisdom calls us to fill the gap with trust.

Granted, as Stanley shares, sooner or later, “Trust runs out. At that point, something has to change. Conversations have to take place sooner rather than later. If you find yourself driving home having imaginary conversations in your head with the other person about these trust gaps, it is time to have a conversation in real life. You need to sit down and tell the person about the existence of the trust gap and understand the cause. Lencioni writes, ‘When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing more than the pursuit of truth in an attempt to find the best possible answer.’”

I thus so desire the conversation.

I so desire finding a better way.

I desire deflating the intensity of the conflict.

And I desire filling the gap with trust.

Respectfully…

AR

a too often used title…

Oh, the games people play…

(Did I not say a too often used title?)

There’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court. I really, really hate to say this, but I tend to think that an open seat evokes the worst in us… especially in the establishment, so-to-speak.

On a February of 2016 morning, sitting Justice Antonin Scalia was found unresponsive. He was at a Texas ranch, and reportedly died in his sleep. His death was considered shocking and tragic.

Then Pres. Obama did what all sitting presidents are called to do; he nominated a successor.

The succeeding nominee was D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland.

The Republicans, who at that time had a majority in the Senate — the confirming body for Supreme Court justices — refused to hold any hearings on the prospect of Garland’s confirmation. Insisting that the next elected president should fill the vacancy (which albeit, seemed a colossal long-shot at the time), they ignored the Garland nomination.

Oh, the games people play…

With the closing of the recent Supreme Court session, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. At age 81, the ending of his tenure was not unexpected, as it had been rumored for months.

Then Pres. Trump did what all sitting presidents are called to do; he nominated a successor.

The current, succeeding nominee is Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who also serves on the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The Democrats, who at this time are a minority in the Senate — rushed to denounce the nomination. In fact, they denounced the nomination before they even knew who it was.

Oh, the games people play…

Friends, I realize this will be one of my more unpopular posts. We are not very fond when a group we identify with or typically support is highlighted as having behaved in an unscrupulous manner. The reality certainly seems as if two men of integrity were/are being opposed by established parties acting with a lack of integrity.

The role of the Supreme Court — the highest federal court in the land — is to determine what is — and is not — constitutional. That’s it. It’s really that simple.

And yet our legislators — on both sides of the aisle — are playing politics with who sits on that court.

Yes, I hear you…

Oh, you don’t understand…

The reason they acted this way is because of ______  [your choice — fill in the blank]…

Yeah, but they did it first…

And the schoolyard retorts remain in full refrain.

Note some of the votes of those before them…

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, confirmed 96-3…
  • John Roberts, confirmed 78-22…
  • Sonia Sotomayor, confirmed 68-31…

Many were confirmed unanimously — Scalia and Kennedy included. Certainly, political differences existed, but integrity was still intact. 

I desire something better, friends. Something purer. I care less about ideological agreement than about integrity in the process.

Currently, I’m not sure I see that in either established party.

Oh, the games people play…

Now whether or not we can identify more than one of the game players…

Respectfully…

AR

I’m offended…

Some sweet, extended family members went out Friday evening for dinner and a quick errand. Dinner was great, but then, after venturing in and out of Pet Smart, one of them started to back up the truck…

… and he hit her.

“Her” was a young gal in her lower-sitting sedan. 

Daily, no doubt, conflict exists. We run into trouble with people who get in our way, who inconvenience us… hit us… hurt us… even cause damage.

Maybe the damage is minimal — just a fender bender, perhaps — but maybe it’s more… it can feel so harsh! Maybe, in fact, it’s simply their existence that we find so damaging to what we are trying to do or where we are attempting to go.

In so many places and pockets these days, we find persons unwilling to tolerate even the existence of another. How many times have we read a social media thread where someone calls someone else out, simply saying, “STOP!”…

I’m offended! … you and your opinion are not welcome here.

I’m offended! … that is not an angle I will allow to be discussed.

I’m offended! … you are ignorant; no need for civility with you.

The sequence starts with offense.

Observe once more our family members and their accident…

The damage was minor, but damage nonetheless; both parties had cause — justified grounds — for offense. But notice what they chose…

As they awaited for the police to arrive, my family members began to converse with the twenty-something female driver of a car that was “pretty blue and fairly new.”

While engaging in interactive, listening-oriented dialogue, they quickly found common ground. The gal works at my family’s doctor’s office.

The common ground brought trust, and so they spoke more. And more. Even though the setting had all the potential for opposition and offense, they chose otherwise, knowing the issue would be mended faster and better if they could see something good or common in the other.

After all information was exchanged and the police had finished making record of the accident, see the reaction of those involved, before they resumed their evenings as planned:

“… she said she felt like us literally running into each other was a ‘God-thing,’ as she loved having the opportunity to talk with us. She said she felt like God allowed that little accident to happen just so we had that time together.

The policeman even told us both how nice it was to deal with people who weren’t all irate and screaming at each other…”

So often we choose to be offended. We have grounds; our offense is justified. 

But what if we chose otherwise?

Said the family:

“Their comments touched my heart, and it just goes to show you how our words and reactions to a situation can make all the difference in the world. This turned out to be a positive experience rather than a negative one, because of their reactions…

An experience I will never forget… it brought tears to my eyes.”

Choosing not to be offended… finding common ground… listening… still dealing with the issue but in an honoring-of-all kind of way…

What a positive experience.

Respectfully…

AR

ethical?

We’ve entered a key stage here, friends. Emotions are heightened. The environment seems to be intensifying, almost by the hour. People are noticing; they’re talking.

Individual observers are reacting in individual ways. Individuals vary in the ways they respond. There is not one sole, correct perspective; the Intramuralist believes in the allowance of varied perspective.

It’s the 2018 World Cup Round of 16!!

Sports journalists have posted their previews; the games have begun; Messi and more, unfortunately, have already been eliminated.

Here, no less — albeit slightly tongue-in-cheek-ly — is what we ‘most’ need to know…

First, as offered by Lewis Krell in yesterday’s Huffington Post [emphasis mine]:

“Anyone who has ever taken an Economics class knows that there is only one universal truth; we all respond to incentives. What it is that motivates us changes from person to person but we are all willing to change our behavior to get whatever it is that we want. In soccer (brace yourself for a shocking statement) what everyone wants is to score a goal. When Americans watch soccer we have a tendency to get angry at the players on the field for embellishing contact, whining and in general following Coach Bombay’s advice perfectly. To remove flopping you need to remove the incentive to flop. Currently, the perverse incentive structure of the sport makes flopping and diving far too rewarding to the elusive pursuit of scoring and therefore diving runs rampant, becoming a distracting side-show to an otherwise beautiful game…”

In other words, “flopping” in soccer is a player’s exaggerated expression — when all eyes are on him (or at least the referee’s eyes) — in order to produce a competitive advantage. The player acts as if he has been significantly/seriously injured/offended by an opponent — only to be fully capable of all amazing athletic acts seemingly less than thirty seconds later. The player thus either lied or amplified what happened to him.

Flopping is faking. The motive is to gain a competitive advantage. The reality of the situation is secondary to the player’s desire to win.

Krell continues:

“The problem lies with the current way that penalty kicks are awarded. In a sport where it is so difficult to score, it is sheer insanity that a penalty in the box is rewarded with such a monumental advantage as the penalty kick. The ease of scoring a penalty kick compared to the difficulty in scoring during regular play leads to these objectionable actions that are far too prevalent in soccer…”

Note: we are speaking of objectionable, exaggerated expressions that are far too prevalent.

So if flopping is deliberate, my question to all centers upon whether or not it’s ethical…

… talented people… maybe truly good people… perhaps even highly intelligent people… but people faking their response…

Is the faking ethical?

The sincere challenge, friends, is that some are floppers and some are not — but the floppers and actually-injured are all mixed up together. It is often impossible to discern the difference.

Speaking candidly, the next layer of the challenge is that often we know a person’s expression is exaggerated, but they’re on our team, so we don’t necessarily refute their expression; we don’t question their exaggerated means because we identify with the cause they are attempting to advance. 

So again we ask: is that ethical?

(… in soccer, of course…)

Respectfully… always…

AR

so what’s actually in the Bible?

Amazing how one of this past week’s most trending topics focused on what’s in the Bible… 

What’s biblical? What’s not?

And how does that apply to me?

Do I know what’s in the Bible?

Have I ever read it myself?

And what things can I — or can’t I — know for sure?

Allow me, no less, to thus share one of my all time favorite passages, a piece of scripture that I find humbling, profound, insightful, challenging, life-giving, and encouraging all rolled into one. And yet it’s a piece with which I think our society currently, significantly struggles. Let me change that… I’m thinking we’ve struggled with this for centuries…

From the book of John…

“… Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came to the temple courts again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The experts in the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They made her stand in front of them and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone to death such women. What then do you say?’ (Now they were asking this in an attempt to trap him, so that they could bring charges against him.) 

Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, ‘Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground.

Now when they heard this, they began to drift away one at a time, starting with the older ones, until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 

Jesus stood up straight and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’

She replied, ‘No one, Lord.’

And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.’”

There is so much in this sequence that mirrors our culture’s current rhythms…

  • First, there was a person who engaged in behavior many thought was wrong.
  • The crowd then moves to harshly condemn her.
  • Jesus then asks the crowd who among them is “guiltless.”
  • With the recognition that none of us are guiltless, no one is capable of administering the consequence.
  • Only then, in the context of the relationship — with no shame nor condemnation — Jesus acknowledges that the behavior is wrong — and calls for the woman to grow and change.

Our struggle seems twofold…

We either are (1) quick to condemn or (2) in effort not to condemn, we deny the existence of any wrongful behavior.

When I read this passage repeatedly, I find myself quietly asking more questions…

  • Where have I been quick to condemn?
  • Where have I felt capable of administering the consequence?
  • Where have I failed to recognize that I am not guiltless — that I screw up, too?
  • Where have I been so harsh in my words to another?
  • Where have I thought, “I’d never do that,” and then justified treating someone with lesser grace?
  • Where have I denied the sin, because it was easier than wrestling with the reality that there’s an area in which I might need to grow?
  • And where am I inconsistent in how I apply scripture?

Indeed, humbling, profound questions…

Respectfully…

AR

living in the land of the mic drop

Becoming prevalent in the ’80’s, primarily employed by rappers and comedians, note Wikipedia’s following definition:

“A mic drop is the gesture of intentionally dropping one’s microphone at the end of a performance or speech to signal triumph. Figuratively, it is an expression of triumph for a successful event and indicates a boastful attitude toward one’s own performance.”

In other words, a person stops speaking and releases whatever tool made his voice possible to hear — believing there is no need to continue the conversation.

My question today, no less, centers around how comfortable we’ve become with dropping the mic. Remember, based on Wikipedia’s definition, the act “indicates a boastful attitude” toward self.

… How many times does a person in social media have to have the last word?

… How many times can they seemingly not allow any opinion other than their own to stand?

Hence, if only their opinion is acceptable — and if they have to always have the last word — I come to two questionable conclusions:

One, they probably are not the most skilled at respectful dialogue.

And two, they’ve gotten way too comfortable with the mic drop.

So how do we proceed?

It would be wonderful if all on social media would band together to dismiss with this dropping, so-to-speak. Sadly, no less, I’m thinking that might be incredibly challenging. Too many too quickly enjoy “amen-ing” the act.

And so we must instead ask ourselves how to wisely respond.

In processing this question for the day, I kept coming to a quote my mother has long repeated:

“You don’t have to attend every argument to which you are invited.”

(Now there’s an “amen”…)

As elaborated upon by author, speaker, and psychiatrist Leandro Herroro:

“This quote is from an unknown author. He or she must have known a thing or two about the futility of engaging in every single discussion that comes your way. The quote is also a proxy for ‘pick your battles’. There are battles worth fighting and battles that are not…  

… a better angle is ‘What will make the difference?’

… [You] don’t have to attend to every argument to which you are invited, you don’t have to get involved in everything, and certainly, you do not have to spend your time fighting every battle.

The magic word is choice. Choices are always in front of you.”

Sometimes on social media, many choose to be silent. That silence should not be used to make assumptions about the non-speakers; such is only a surmise.

That silence may instead most signify a response to a perceived mic drop…

“What can I say that will make a difference?”

“Nothing?”

Then perhaps there’s little wisdom in response.

Respectfully…

AR

to kneel or not to kneel

When the NFL recently announced their new policy that will fine teams if players on the field fail to stand during the Star-Spangled Banner, a rousing chorus again ensued in regard to whether or not kneeling during the National Anthem was appropriate behavior. In case any of us were somehow unaware, there seem some strong opinions on this issue. 

So let’s attempt to extract the emotion for a moment — an exercise that might be wise for our news sources to employ in order to reveal a little less bias. Let us simply ask relevant questions…

First, do players have to be on the field for the anthem?

No, players may protest and not incur a penalty by remaining in the locker room until after the anthem is finished.

How did this protest begin?

Former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, told the media he sat to protest the oppression of people of color in the United States and ongoing issues with police brutality.

Is the reported origin of the protest accurate?

No one can say for sure. Kaepernick had lost his starting job and there were attempts to trade him in the off-season. His behavior also went unnoticed for two games before he mentioned any protest.

Does the questionable origin matter?

Excellent question — and the answer is subjective. The Intramuralist would opine “no,” as the protest has evolved to a point in which multiple players participate — and many others have fervently weighed in.

Why is the protest a problem?

Many feel the act is disrespectful to the United States, its flag, and its military.

What is our right to protest under the First Amendment?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Does the First Amendment apply to employers?

Unless we work for the government, the Constitution provides no protection for keeping our jobs based on what we say. Paraphrasing the words of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “An employee may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be employed.”

Is there inconsistency in what employees are allowed to express?

You bet. (Ok, that was opinion there.) The point is that the deciding factor in maintaining current employment seems to be what rubs an employer the wrong way (i.e. see Barr, Rosanne).

Why might this particular protest rub NFL owners the wrong way?

NFL ratings fell 9.7% during the 2017 regular season, according to Nielsen. A typical game was watched by 1.6 million fewer people.

Can the ratings drop be attributed to the protest?

Not with certainty. Ratings were down 8% the year before.

What do we know in regard then to how the public feels about this issue?

The public is divided, but discernment on what a majority of the public believe depends on how the question is asked. Borrowing from the wisdom of Kathryn Casteel, who writes about economics and policy issues for FiveThirtyEight, the public’s answer depends on whether the question posed focuses on patriotism, free speech, or race. When posing the question in regard to patriotism, “surveys tend to find that more people disapprove of the protests than approve.” When posing the question in regard to free speech, “a majority of Americans think players should be allowed to kneel — whether the respondents like it or not.” And when posing the question in regard to race, “it’s not clear.” Writes Casteel:

“Despite the many conflicting poll results, we can say a few things with confidence:

1. A plurality of Americans don’t like the NFL protests — at least if they aren’t told what the players’ goals are.

2. But Americans generally dislike protests involving the flag or anthem, so it’s not clear how much that might affect public opinion in this case.

3. Most Americans think racism is a problem in the abstract, but people are less likely to support the Black Lives Matters movement, which aims to stop police violence against African-Americans.

4. Americans are broadly supportive of the importance of free speech in general, though opinions are more muddled when people are asked about kneeling during the anthem in particular.

But looking at the overall numbers obscures an important fact: Opinions on these issues are incredibly polarized by party and race.”

So last question: how do we love and respect all people well when such a passionate issue is polarized by party and race?

And that is the most excellent and necessary question.

May we each humbly ask ourselves: how do we love all people well?

Respectfully…

AR

heroes & villains & how we cheer

“I often wonder if sports have become too important to us,” said this diehard Purdue-Reds-Bengals-Colts-DrewBrees-StephCurry-Pacers-Fever-Florida-and-growing-Ohio-State fan.

We seem to have forgotten that sports — at their core — are a game…

… “A form of play… especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”

And yet we look at players on the teams we love and make them heroes…

“He’s such a great guy”…

“Wow… so awesome on and off the court!”…

“Her character… she is such a wonderful person!”

We also look at those on the teams we detest and make them villains…

“Look at him flop — again! Doesn’t everyone see what a terrible person he is!”

“What a jerk!”

“Such dirty players… I can’t stand them!”

And so we make character assessments based on minimal information. Maybe we make assessments based on their off-court public appearances; maybe we make them based on their charitable donations. But the reality is that each is still, always, an incomplete assessment. We cannot determine hero or villain based on such limited assessment.

I was reminded of such watching the current NBA playoffs. It’s been arguably more interesting this year with several quite talented teams (and most deciding to finally play defense). One of those teams — plausibly, primarily due to the presence of all-world all-star, LeBron James — is the Cleveland Cavaliers. With all due respect to my northeast Ohio hardcourt enthusiasts, allow me to humbly admit that I am not a very big fan.

I don’t hate the Cavs (…remember this is just a “game”). I am often impressed with LeBron’s tenacity and his ability to seemingly, sometimes, singlehandedly will his team to win. But I must also admit, when they miss a shot — especially if the Pacers or Steph Curry is playing in opposition —  I am somewhat pleased. When Cleveland’s Kyle Korver misses a three, for example, I am especially pleased…

Well, at least I was. Then I read this, last week, from ESPN…

“… A 15-year veteran, Korver prides himself on his consistency and levelheadedness. These are cornerstones of what has made him one of the greatest 3-point shooters in NBA history. His mother, Laine, who once scored 73 points in a high school game, taught him that you’re not great until you’re consistent. He’d always taken it to heart.

But since a terrible week in March, his balance, that fragile component for all shooters, has been off.

Korver’s youngest brother, Kirk, died on March 20 after a brief illness that caught the family and the doctors by surprise. It was devastating for the close-knit family and for the town of Pella, where Kyle’s father, Kevin, has been the senior pastor of one of the community’s largest churches for 25 years, and the Korver brothers are treated as ambassadors and heroes [emphasis mine].

In Pella, though, in the days and weeks after Kirk’s death, there has been an element beyond grief, an unexpected uplifting. It started at the funeral, attended by more than 1,500 people at the Third Reformed Church of Pella, when Kyle and his parents spoke with such purpose that it left those in attendance in awe. And it has carried on as each Korver 3-pointer splashes through the net in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff run as he plays for more than himself.

‘You know it’s hard to hold death in one hand,’ Kyle said. ‘Your brother passing. Everything you feel about that and you get playoffs. Nothing else gives you different eyes for what’s going on in the world and what’s important and what matters.’”

There is something in Korver that makes me believe he gets that there are more important things than sports… that sports are — at their core — a game…

May we never forget that. May we never forget what’s most important.

And as the NBA Finals begin tomorrow, at least when Korver hits a three, I might even cheer.

Respectfully…

AR

note to the graduate ’18

[Originally penned 3 years ago, when my oldest was graduating from high school. My sense is the wisdom still applies…]

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…

A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

As we pen a final post to those now formally entering adulthood, allow us to address a few more brief truths as you take these next few, albeit humongous steps…

First, there is a time for everything — every activity under heaven, every season under the sun. Hear me now: you will not enjoy nor desire each of these times. Every activity will not be wonderful nor every season incredibly joyous and fun. Don’t let me discourage you; that’s not my intent. My intent is to wrestle with reality.

Remember that enjoying and embracing are not the same thing. As you face life’s next chapters, the truth is that there will be seasons and chapters that stretch you beyond your wildest imagination — beyond where you ever thought you’d go or perhaps ever wanted. You have a choice in how to respond. When the time comes to tear down or turn away, embrace the time; when the time comes to speak, speak — or be quiet, be quiet. Enjoying the season is less important than learning from the experience. The wise man learns and grows from the seasons that are hard.

Second — and don’t let me shock you — but contrary to perhaps your long-held belief (or any fictional, parenting mantra) — you cannot be whatever you want to be. I’m sorry; remember… we are wrestling with reality. Similar to the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and that jolly old St. Nick, there are a few things we’ve told you that aren’t actually true.

It is true that you cannot be whatever or whoever you want to be (… just ask all those who’ve thought they should be President). You can, however, be all that God created you to be. 

Embrace your gifts. Utilize the unique wiring within you — the wiring that makes you distinctly and beautifully, uniquely you! Don’t compare yourself to another, falling prey to society’s hollow teaching that another person’s wiring or set up is somehow better or worse than yours. Simply embrace your own strengths and grow from your own weaknesses. Seek God first; seek his intention for your life. Then be who he created you to be, and do what he created you to do. Don’t compare your calling to any other.

And third (because this proud, reflective parent always has seemingly much to say), let me offer a brief rapid fire of final encouragement…

Love deeply. Offer grace generously. Never view grace and truth as opposites, as each can be applied in full measure. Wash your sheets. Don’t be selfish. Resist being quick to anger. Be fast to forgive. Be humble. Forgive again. And again. Pursue wisdom. Consider coffee. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Separate the reds from the whites. Be charitable. Save some; spend some; and give some away. Don’t be afraid of sorrow. Turn off the XBOX. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t think of equality with God as something to be grasped. Listen to the elderly; invest in the young. Bow and curtsy when appropriate. Show respect — in what you say and how you think. Remember that respect does not mean accepting as equally good and true. Remember that all things are not equally good and true. Know when to say that; know when to not. Open doors for other people. Look another in the eye. Use your napkin. Be discerning. Be aware that just because something feels good, it might not be wise. Be prayerful. Figure the faith thing out. And embrace each and every season shared above… embracing the time to laugh… the time to cry… the time to grieve… and yes, the time to dance.

There is a time for everything. God has made everything beautiful for its own time. Graduates, without a doubt, now is your time to dance. Enjoy… how beautiful…

With a special salute to this year’s grads…

AR

Harry, Meghan & me

Millions awoke in the wee hours, early Saturday morning to watch Meghan Markle marry her Prince. Those millions heard the words of the Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, sharing a message wise for each of us to hear and to heed… sharing wisdom in a world where prayers will always be necessary, even when we can’t see it… 

From Rev. Curry, with emphasis from the Intramuralist:

“And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen. From the Song of Solomon in the Bible, set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is as strong as death, passion, fears as the its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods. Drown it out.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said and I quote, ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.’

Love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. Well, there’s power, power in love, not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love.

There’s a certain sense in which when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right. There’s something right about it. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love and our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here. Ultimately the source of love is God himself — the source of all of our lives.

There’s an old medieval poem that says, ‘where true love is found, God himself is there.’ The New Testament says it this way, ‘Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God and those who love are born of God and know God; those who do not love do not know God; why? For God is love. There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love, to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. Set me as a seal on your heart. A seal on your arm. For love, it is strong.’

But love is not only about a young couple. Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we’re all here. Two young people fell in love and we all showed up. But it’s not just for and about a young couple who we rejoice with. It’s more than that. Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer the sum of the essence of the teachings of Moses and he went back and reached back into the Hebrew scriptures, and Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment.’

And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. And then in Matthews’ version, he added, he said on these two, love of God and love of neighbor, hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world, love God. Love your neighbors. And while you’re at it, love yourself.

Someone once said that Jesus began most revolutionary movement in all of human history, a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. And a movement mandating people to live that love. And in so doing, to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself. I’m talking about some power, real power, power to change the world.

If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s antebellum south who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power, they explained it this way, they sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity, something that can make things right, to make the wounded whole.

‘There is a balm in Gilead to heal the soul. They said if you cannot preach like Peter and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus how he died to save us all. Oh, that’s the balm in Gilead.’

He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t—he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life. He sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world, for us.

That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish sacrificial redemptive love, changes lives and it can change this world…’

If we would realize the redemptive power of love…

If we would follow the call to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength…

If we would learn to love all of our neighbors as opposed to only the easiest to love…

And if we would remember that love is never selfish or self-centered…

Maybe then we’d see what actually would change lives and change the world.

The world will not be changed via legislation. The world will not be changed via government. Changing the world starts with us… by loving and respecting both God and one another. 

Respectfully…

AR