returning to a great era

And then there was this on Tuesday on the Senate floor, as calmly spoken by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)…

“So with that, I’m going to sign the pledge. It says here:

‘Pledge to Return to Era of Bipartisan Cooperation and Agreement

In order to restore civility to the United States Senate and our political discourse, we must pledge to return to an era of bipartisan cooperation and agreement.

I, Joe Manchin (signing his name), pledge to the people of West Virginia (the state Manchin has been elected to represent) and to the American people that I will:

Not campaign against a sitting colleague.

2) Not directly fundraise against them.

3) Not distribute direct mail against them.

4) Not appear or endorse any advertisements directed at them.

5) Not use or endorse social media campaign that attacks them.

I would hope that each one of you all would consider this.

I think we have to take this into our own hands right now, and make sure that we look at each other — we look at each other with sincerity.

You’re my friend.

We might disagree but we can work through this.

We can work through this, Mr. President.

We can definitely work through this — and remember our purpose in being here.

The people want us to succeed. They depend on us to succeed. And that’s the policies that they need… whether it be in Indiana, South Dakota, West Virginia, they all want the same. They want America to be the hope of the world.’”

How many of us would encourage our representatives to follow the lead of Sen. Manchin?

How many of us would not?

Let me also ask:

How many of us want to be part of the solution?

… or the problem?

Thank you, Joe Manchin III.

Please keep talking; please do not be silent.

Respectfully…
AR

if we were united…

As we await yet another Super Bowl, we await yet another appearance by none other than the New England Patriots. This is the tenth time the Patriots have played in the NFL’s annual championship game — the most of any NFL team. It is also the eighth appearance under the tenure of head coach Bill Belichick. Led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, the Patriots’ dominance on the gridiron has been unprecedented.

Much of that dominance seems evident in the decades-long unity both on and off the field; in order to be consistently victorious, the coaches, players, and all those associated need to be on the same page…

What’s the game plan? … where do we need to be when?… let’s do this together!

Successful sports teams are “together” teams; they are unified. Unity — combined with talent, hard work, and giftedness — equates to strength.

So as we live amidst a culture that seems to crave unity yet struggles to find what is lasting, I find myself pondering what exactly allows for the potential of permanence… what unity has the potential to never be undone? Where does true unity lie?

Like ambition and uniforms are simply not big enough to cover us all. Like life stories and demographics can also fade in time. Like gender only covers half of us.

Hence, we must ask: what’s big enough? What’s big enough to never go away?

“Isn’t there one father for all of us, one God who created us?”

Unifying under anything other than that profound yet oh-so humbling realization that there is solely “one God who created us” will at some point glean a few cracks, as in anything lesser, individual differences and thus competing desires will eventually come into play.

Note the Patriots’ challenge as they move forward after Super Bowl LII…

Brady will turn 41 in 2018 — Belichick, 66. Each wants to win, but also… totally understandably…

… Belichick wants to keep his job.

… Brady wants to play as long as he can.

… and owner Bob Kraft wants to keep winning after Belichick and Brady are gone.

Competing motivations would thus seem to serve as potential for cracks in the unity — whether in football, politics, you-name-it. Recognizing we are each created by God, however, is the only aspect big enough in which there exists no individual difference wherein a competing motivation could lie.

Interestingly, a senior writer for ESPN questioned New England’s unity at the onset of this year’s playoff season. Said Seth Wickersham:

“Brady, Belichick and Kraft have raised expectations and possibilities so high that virtually no other team in the Super Bowl era could truly comprehend what it’s like to be them. Brady and Belichick weren’t only pushing the boundaries of what a team could accomplish. They also were challenging basic understandings of how a group of high achievers escape the usual pulls of ego and pride. For 17 years, the Patriots have withstood everything the NFL and opponents could throw their way, knowing that if they were united, nobody could touch them. Now they’re threatening to come undone the only way possible: from within.”

While the team disputed much of ESPN’s perspective of coming “undone,” the question remains how they best move forward, knowing preparations must be in play, without allowing for cracks in their unity… “if they were united, nobody could touch them.”

… if we were united, what could we do together?

Can we simply speak unity into existence?

Can we ignore our individual limitations and thus eventual, competing desires?

Or… could we pursue something more authentic… recognizing that the only lasting unity rests in a truth that is bigger? … that there is one father for us all and God who created us?

Respectfully…
AR

state of the government ’18

For the last several years, the Intramuralist has published our annual “State of the Government” analysis in conjunction with the President’s annual State of the Union Address. While the themes remain the same, this is a tougher blog to write this year, aware of the seemingly increasing challenge to specifically discuss the government’s role respectfully.

It’s been a tough year.  It’s been a tough several years. Some believe respect is no longer necessary. Sometimes that even, unfortunately, includes the current president. We then each take turns being disrespectful in response.

And so with my heartfelt desire is to communicate respectfully, regardless of topic, I acknowledge that I can’t control anyone’s Twitter feed. I can’t stop the flurry of social media memes that mock another whole party or people group. I can only encourage each of us individually to be aware of how we contribute to the division. This is about no one else, friends. This is us.

In recent years, we’ve opined here that the state of our government is “too partisan, too influenced by money, too big, too financially imbalanced, and too far removed from the Constitution.” My limited perspective also senses that the respect level has deteriorated so far — fueled by partisans on both sides of the equation — that we can no longer see the actual state of our government.

Partisans on both sides consistently blame someone else. We then blame someone else… if only they would _______.. The focus is typically on “they.”

I get it. It’s easier. We are far more comfortable pointing the finger elsewhere and demanding someone else change their thinking or behavior than examining our own negative contribution. We are far more willing to point the finger at someone else’s errors in thinking than to examine what aspects we are currently unable to see due to our bents, bias, emotion, and experience. We are far more wanting to point the finger at someone else’s…

Arrogance.
Insults.
Obstruction.
Blindspots. Unwillingness to listen.
And their lack of loving all people well.

We fail to look at our own…

Arrogance.
Insults.
Obstruction.
Blindspots.
Unwillingness to listen.
And our lack of loving all people well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… if we’re only loving and respecting the person who thinks like we do, then we are only loving and respecting some people well.

When we fail to love and respect all people — regardless of whether we are a public citizen or elected official — we are fueling the division.

I once shared my earnest, impractical desire to wave some sort of unifying magic wand that could somehow end this growing, disturbing digression; that would no doubt be easiest. But perhaps the best place to start is not with any magic nor fictional tool that relies on something other than me.

The best place to start is with self — putting away our pointing fingers and looking instead internally…

How have I fueled the division?

Tough question. Tougher answer… albeit necessary.

Respectfully…
AR

the testimony of rachael denhollander

Last week’s victim impact statements in one of the nation’s most prolific sexual assault cases prompted a wide range of emotion in many… grief, shock, sorrow, horror, anger, etc. To see a seemingly intelligent adult take advantage of so many children for so many years with so many people simply looking the other way or even telling the teens to be quiet, seems nothing short of unfathomable.

Rachael Denhollander was the first survivor to file a police report against Larry Nassar, the now convicted, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor. Denhollander was the last to testify. Note this poignant portion of her words…

“… I want you to understand why I made this choice, knowing full well what it was going to cost to get here, and with very little hope of ever succeeding. I did it because it was right. No matter the cost. It was right.

And the farthest I can run from what you have become is to daily choose what is right, instead of what I want.

You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires. A man defined by his daily choices over and over again to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others. And the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially. No matter what it costs me.

In our early hearings you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness, and so it is on that basis that I appeal to you:

If you have read the Bible you carry, you know that the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that He gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit.

By His grace I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness, but Larry if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance. Which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of it’s utter depravity and horror, without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen in this courtroom today.

The Bible you carry says it is better for a millstone to be thrown around your neck, and you thrown into a lake, then for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds. The Bible you speak of carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and his eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing.

And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet, because it extends grace, and hope, and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so that you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well.

Throughout this process I have clung to a quote by CS Lewis where he says, ‘My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of unjust and just? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?’

Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was, and I know it was evil, and wicked, because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means, I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation and I can call it evil because I know what goodness is.

And this is why I pity you, because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good. When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love.

Larry, you have shut yourself off from every truly beautiful and good thing in this world, that could have, and should have brought you joy and fulfillment. And I pity you for it. You could have had everything you pretended to be. Every woman who stood up here truly loved you as an innocent child. Real genuine love for you and it did not satisfy.

I have experienced the soul satisfying joy of a marriage built on sacrificial love, and safety, and tenderness, and care. I have experienced true intimacy in its deepest joy’s and it is beautiful and sacred and glorious and that is a joy you have cut yourself off from ever experiencing and I pity you for it.”

Too often, it seems, when we wrestle with evil on this planet, we omit God from the equation. We attempt to have all sorts of conversations without acknowledging God’s presence and character. And yet, it is the comparison of acts to God’s unprecedented, holy character that shed light on exactly what evil is; it is the comparison of the crooked line to the straight.

What does that straight line include? … grace, forgiveness, sacrificial love… as Rachael Denhollander so beautifully, poignantly stated… a testimony for us all.

Respectfully…
AR

the devastating impact of sexual assault

“At 15, I believed that the adults at MSU surrounding Larry would do the right thing if they were aware of what Larry was doing. And I was terribly wrong. And discovering that not only could I not trust my abuser, but I could not trust the people surrounding him, has been devastating,” said gymnast Rachael Denhollander.

In September of 2016, public allegations were first reported against Dr. Larry Nassar, then the sports-medicine doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State. Since that September, over 140 women have come forth with reports of abuse — women that include athletes such as Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and Denhollander.

Allow that number to sit for a moment… over 140 women. Most were between 13 and 20 years old. Multiple girls were under the age of 13; one said she was six. They were children.

One more number is arguably unfathomable; the first reports of abuse surfaced over 23 years ago. The victims — now “survivors” (as eloquently said by former Olympians Jamie Dantzscher and Raisman) — were asked to keep quiet… by other adult men and women.

With Nassar finally on trial — and struck by the sobering extent of this atrocity — I reached out to a few highly-respected and well-educated friends… friends for whom gymnastics was, well, “my sport”… “my first love,” said one…

… My emotions are a mixture of sadness, anger, and relief. I cannot say I’m happy… gymnastics was a huge part of my life… working through the pain… the discipline… I got to fly through the air and land on my feet! … those years gave me my best, longest friends… but the sport now has a black mark… those people ignored it…

He’s a predator…

He is still blaming the victims. Does he know he did wrong?

After agreeing to plead guilty to ten counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Nassar wrote a letter to the judge two months before his sentencing. In his six-page assertion, Nassar shared he was unsure if he was mentally able to handle facing comments from those he abused; he also accused the judge of of grandstanding and conducting a “media circus” during the hearing that started a week ago Tuesday. He said, too, “I’ve tried to avoid a trial to save the stress to this community, my family, the victims, yet look what it is happening. It is wrong.” [Insert far more than a “yikes” here.]

Yesterday Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison. Said Aquilina, first referencing his letter: “This letter tells me you have not yet owned what you did. You still think somehow you are right, you’re a doctor, that you’re entitled so you don’t have to listen.”

And more…

“… 40 years, just so you know and you can count it off your calendar, is 480 months. The tail end — because I need to send a message to the parole board in the event somehow God is gracious and I know he is — and you survive the 60 years in federal court first and then you start on my 40 years. You’ve gone off the page here as to what I’m doing. My page only goes to 100 years. Sir, I’m giving you 175 years, which is 2100 months. I’ve just signed your death warrant.”

While my trusted friends don’t believe any is beyond redemption — and granted, some situations are far harder than others — neither places human judgment over the miraculous works of the God of the universe; this situation is grievous…

This just breaks my heart.

Too many knew. Too many looked the other way… they covered up.

He used a situation in which girls trust the people in the room. He could not be trusted… but they didn’t know… they were children.



I pray this sentencing leaves a loud message to any other predator out there; your time is up… the consequences are huge.

Do I feel criminal justice was served? Yes. Full justice? Not sure. I try to leave that in God’s hands. He is wiser than I.

I pray the voice given to these young women, as well, as the sentencing… may they learn to trust again… may this be the beginning of healing… may they fly through the air again one day, knowing they will land on their feet.

May the flying and healing begin…

Respectfully…
AR

fighting words

“Dem’s fighting words!”

… said everywhere from Bug Bunny to the New York Times’ crossword puzzle. Note the following iconic exchange between Bugs and Yosemite Sam:

Yosemite Sam: “Now, you dog-blasted, ornery, no-account, long-eared varmint!”

Bugs: “Hey, just a minute, you! Dem’s fightin’ woids!”

Yosemite Sam: “Yeah, dem’s fightin’ words!”

Bugs: “I dash ya to step across dis line.”
[traces line along edge of diving board] 

Yosemite Sam: “I’m a-stepping.”
[Sam steps across line and falls off board; rises up] 

Yosemite Sam: “I hate you.”
[falls back down] 

Witness the clear progression from fighting words to hate. One person offers an emotionally -charged insult. The next labels the insult as “fighting words.” There are then back-and-forth threats, having justified the fight. And all of a sudden persons who have more in common than they wish to realize, declare their hatred for one another.

Dare I humbly suggest, the fighting quickly runs out of control.

The current cultural fighting seems to be out of control in areas where previously there was none.

Note even the NBA game Monday night between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. The game featured the return of longtime Clippers’ star, Chris Paul, yet this time, he was an identified member of the opposition.

It was a game — a competition, if you will. Only one team could win. Things got heated. All sorts of emotions were flying. Insults accompanied the emotion.

As ESPN reported, “The final minutes of the game were filled with technical fouls, ejections, swearing, bumping — and that was just the beginning.”

After the game was over, four Rockets’ players — including former Clipper, Paul — took a back hallway that Paul knew connected with the visiting locker room with that of the home team. In an incident investigated for multiple days by league officials, the Clippers were then stunned when these professionals burst into their locker room. They were stunned, too, that the men had “come calling for them.”

Said more by the entertainment sports network, “For a few fleeting moments, several Clippers dared the Rockets to come farther into the room, sources said. Security and team officials soon converged on the Rockets, pushing them out the door and back toward the visiting locker room.”

Hence, “On a night that the Clippers organization played a video montage to honor Paul’s six seasons here, the fractured relationships that led to his departure in June percolated in the raucous fallout of the night.”

And thus, with all the emotions resulting from two teams with similar goals in perceived competition with one another, someone, somewhere concluded, “Dem’s fighting words!”

Once we conclude that the other has utilized “fighting words,” we are lured into justifying hatred. Once we justify hatred, we fail to see the more we have in common with another…

… regardless of the court.

Respectfully…
AR

vivian, michelet, immigration & more…

One of the challenges in today’s seemingly react-first culture is that we sometimes find ourselves reacting to a symptom instead of wrestling with the root. We deal with related branches of an issue, as opposed to dealing with the issue at its core.

Such seemed true again last week in regard to Pres. Trump’s disputed crass comments in regard to the countries of origin of American immigrants. While his reported words created an understandable stir, the reality is that we need to find a way to deal with the deeper issues embedded inside immigration. Those issues are part of why the immigration issue has been so challenging for administrations and legislators of both parties to fix for years.

Note that in what has been none other than a sweet blessing to me, I have long had many Haitian friends. In fact, working alongside so many as my professional career began was incredibly insightful and growth-producing. I felt God gently but firmly stretching me, learning to deeply love those seemingly different than me. I learned more about what we had in common than what we did not.

Haiti is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people with some amazing stories… without a doubt, Vivian, Michelet, Lamar, etc… They shaped and sharpened me in so many ways. Their compassion… their so obvious humility and grace… they spurred me on in my early professional years. I thank God that my relationship with them impacted far more than my profession.

I heard, too, their stories of hardness, the hard life many chose to leave. Now almost eight years exactly after the catastrophic earthquake of 2010, I will never forget my friends’ poignant testimonies in regard to their struggles of everyday life… to make a living, to feed their family, to have a healthy child or a safe home. They came here to build a future. And as a wise man said in response last week, “Yes, life is hard. Though the President put it in a crass way, we can pause to ensure we haven’t become numb to suffering of our brothers and sisters.”

Let us never become numb… to any.

The existent poverty and lack of development in Haiti is accompanied by a complex history — one on which even with my friends’ insight, I have a limited perspective. Unfortunately, however, I know that much of the country’s history has been marked by corruption. That was evident in my friends’ sadness, as Haiti is has been known as one of the significantly more corrupt countries in the world.

So as I look at those who are still struggling, my question as one who loves Jesus back and thus looks to love all people well: what’s the best way to love all people well in the immigration debate?

Not being numb… but not forgetting the concerns both at home and afar…

How do we best love all people well?

Said Kent Annan, a senior fellow at the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, “Our framework for immigration starts and ends with love. In between, there are hard policy questions to debate honestly and rigorously. Yes, it’s wise to consider security issues. And yes, our resources to help can be limited. In some cases, the best way to help refugees is to support them closer to their homes.”

We must be honest about constraints but motivated in our choice by love for our neighbor.”

We have to find a way to do this well, friends.

Let’s wrestle with all the angles, complex as they may be.

Let’s be honest about all the angles — and stop politicizing them, possibly in lieu of future voters.

And in the meantime, let’s stop pointing fingers at one another.

Let’s stop seeing any other as idiotic or unenlightened or something worse than we. And mostly, let’s stop fooling ourselves by thinking we are loving all people well when any of our time is spent casting stones at someone here.

Vivian, Michelet, and Lamar taught me many things. Most of all, they helped teach me how to love other people well.

Respectfully…
AR

the great American hero

Some words are used so often their meaning is diminished — words like “unimaginable,” “war,” or “amazing.” Each is used with such a frequency, that it seems to water down what the word was originally intended to describe.

A “hero” is one of those words to me. A hero is a noble man or woman admired for their courage and outstanding achievement. Combine that with the coming close of another year, a time when many name their “person,” “sportsperson,” etc. of 2017. For CNN, they name a “Hero of the Year.”

Instead of selecting the person most in the news or making any statement with their selection, CNN annually honors a person who has made extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and/or has made a huge, marked difference in their community. Meet this year’s winner, Amy Wright.

Amy’s two youngest children have Down syndrome. In January of 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Amy opened “Bitty & Beau’s Coffee,” named for the two. The coffee shop employs 40 disabled workers.

“My children are not broken,” Wright insists. “When you become a parent of a child with special needs, you are instantly thrust into becoming an advocate — trying to make people see the beauty in their lives that we see.”

That’s it; is it not?

When we look at a person with special needs, we often look at their life as something worse. We conclude in our heads somewhere that their quality of life is somehow lesser. We don’t see beauty first.

Look at Iceland. CBS actually ran a report last August (addressed by the Intramuralist) boasting how Iceland is close to “eradicating Down syndrome.” The “eradication” was due to prenatal testing and abortion.

No, we don’t see beauty first.

As CNN said yesterday in their announcement, Wright “reframes how we view disability.”

In CNN’s tribute show, in fact, Wright spoke directly to Bitty and Beau, saying, “I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you.”

Wright sees the beauty in her children first. She sees what they can do — not what they cannot She doesn’t view their life as any lesser.

Wright elaborated with CNN host Alisyn Camerota:

“‘It is a very personal story for me,’ Wright told Camerota. ‘When Beau was born 13 years ago, my husband Ben and I didn’t know anything about Down syndrome, and I reflect on that and the fear we felt and the grief we felt and how we transformed that into some of the greatest joy we’ve known in our lives.’

Wright and her husband were inspired to act on behalf of people with disabilities when they learned about the lack of opportunities within the population.

‘You use a statistic: 70 percent of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, like cerebral palsy, like autism are not employed, and so what kind of life is that?’ Camerota asked.

‘It’s not that the jobs aren’t there, it’s that people don’t value people with intellectual and developmental disabilities [IDD],’ Wright said. ‘And so, if we can reframe the way people think about people with IDD, then opportunities are organically going to follow.’”

Reframing how we think…

Reframing how we view quality of life…

Reframing how we see beauty…

And…

Reframing who actually is a hero.

Well deserved, Amy Wright. Well deserved.

Respectfully…
AR

“the healthiest debate I’ve ever seen”

So follow me here.

I witnessed the most wonderful thing.

This past week I saw a social media discussion (if such actually qualifies as discussion) play out something like this:

Person #1 shared a sincere concern. His words were non-inflammatory, affirming of the audience, but expressive of a strong opinion. He was neither vain nor vulgar in his expression, but make no mistake: his opinion was strong. At the end of his comment, he apologized for his “rant,” adding that the motive for his sharing was due to how much he and his wife were sincerely bothered.

Almost immediately, Person #2 chimes in, solely sharing, “Yeah, completely disagree.”

Person #1 asks #2 to clarify. When #2 clarifies, he simply says to #1 that “you’re judging” other people.

(Meanwhile all sorts of silent social media participants are inconspicuously hitting the “like” button for one or the other above. Not sure that’s helping.)

People chime in, adding all sorts of info and perspective that were not shared in the initial comments by #1 and #2. (Of course, all info and perspective were not shared; this is social media, a limited, non-comprehensive form of communication.)

Then come a few insults — pretty minor, but insults, nonetheless. Something about somebody’s grammar.

Then comes a little defensiveness. Makes sense; insults and sarcasm typically don’t go over very well in the middle of conflict, regardless of intensity.

#1 and #2 keep talking, with others feeling a need to chime in, supporting but also sometimes egging on the opinion with which they most concur.

But then comes the something wonderful…

#1 and #2 stay engaged. Each resists the temptation to allow their defensiveness or passion to alter their communication style. You then saw phrases such as “that’s true,” “I understand,” and “I see your point”… but the key was that there was an allowance for varied opinion without disrespect. What then happened was a recalibration of the opinion by Person #1, who said some 49 comments later, “You are right. My assessment of the situation is way off base.” He then added that we each are entitled to how best we see to handle this incident; there was not one right way. He sincerely and humbly acknowledged the conversation’s participants.

The conversation continued for a while, with late-comers making their points known, but at this point, all intensity was seemingly diffused. Varied opinion and further perspective was offered with full respect of all in the audience.

That then proceeded to this wise comment from a chimer-in-er: “This is the healthiest debate I’ve ever seen; hats off to both of you.”

And from another, this: “Seeking to understand — and not just to respond — is key to having a meaningful, civil, discussion on most any topic. Kudos!”

You know what made this work?

This group of people were all part of our wonderful, thriving neighborhood. We are a diverse group… multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-everything. We are a community.

Recognizing community is key. A community recognizes what they have in common. They focus more on what they have in common than on what they don’t — and they never let something smaller become more magnified. Magnification results in division.

The reason the above conversation worked with onlookers applauding them both was because the conversation happened within the context of community.

If we would each recognize community, how would we individually change? How would it change how we expressed ourselves and the actual conversations that ensued?

The reality is we have more in common than what we don’t, friends.

Respectfully… always…
AR

error in the court

I love the below early judicial system. I love it because it makes sense. (Note: it’s typically good when life makes sense.)

Moses was struggling with all that was on his plate. He had boldly stood up to rulers of the day, sharing their awaited fate should they refuse to release those in captivity. Moses saw swarms of locusts and frogs and flies from afar, and he even witnessed the total separation of the Red Sea, a miracle so massive we sometimes forget it was real.

Moses was then involved when his community totally changed up their nutritional needs. He followed the clouds, so-to-speak. He also led his soldiers into battle when he seemed at the very least physically drained and exhausted, with his brother and friend actually having to hold up his arms. Moses was indeed a busy man.

And so knowing his plate was full and he thus had great potential for distraction, Moses’s father-in-law came to see him and gently speak truth. When we are so busy — so filled up with either emotion or task — sometimes it’s hard for us to see what’s true.

Moses bowed and welcomed his father-in-law; each asked the other how things had been with him. Jethro was delighted in all the good that God had done in the community. He first paused intentionally, just to thank God — noting that we often get so busy, we forget to thank he who makes the world go round. Sometimes we think we deserve the credit for all we do.

So the next day Moses took his place to judge the people — to execute the legal system — as was his practice and responsibility at the time, as the people knew they needed something organized, compassionate, and fair put in place.. Yet the people would stand before Moses all day long. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself, letting everybody line up before you from morning to night?”

Moses told his father-in-law this was his job. “The people come to me,” so he answered their questions about what was good and who is God, and he also settled all of their judicial disputes.

Quickly, his wise father-in-law said, “That is not good.” It was too much, and one person can’t do this alone. “You need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men — men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible — and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”

I love a couple of things here. First, I love how Moses listened to the counsel of his father-in-law and did what he said.

I then love how Moses picked competent people — people with unquestionable integrity. Integrity is so important. There is some correlation between integrity and flourishing.

It reminds me what a fair judicial system is…

… and is not.

A fair judicial system is governed by one or some who listen to all relevant accounts…

It is one which has the goal of justice for all… not only for some… and allows for appropriate consequence, absent revenge.

The reason Moses could not do it all on his own is because he was stretched too far; he couldn’t listen to all relevant accounts. And thus his potential for error would have been higher.

Sometimes I see current culture also making errors in what counts as our courts…

We sometimes don’t listen to all relevant accounts. We sometimes are biased to particular bents, because of how we feel about a person or based on our own experience, which we can’t seem to separate.

Sadly, sometimes our judicial system plays on a different court.

We have allowed social media to often decide innocence or guilt, forgetting that social media is not exclusive to competent persons — persons who respect God, are of solid integrity, and who are incorruptible. We listen to what we want, discounting perspective that could be deemed as far more than inconvenient truth.

When we allow social media then to be the decider of justice, we should be the ones to say, “this is not good.”

Respectfully…
AR