sutherland springs

Sunday mornings are a reprieve for me. I walk in, typically greeting a few friends along the way — some greetings shorter than others, recognizing we each pushed the time to the max hoping not to be late. But I sit, relax, and intentionally attempt to throw off all the thoughts, troubles, and to-do lists on my brain and submit them to someone bigger than me. I try to center myself and be still, preparing for the rest of the week.

That’s really the bottom line for me. Going to church — and not like there’s any rule somewhere that we all have to go to the same church every Sunday at 9:30 or whatever a.m. — but going to church and intentionally resting and refocusing is the recognition that there actually is someone bigger than me. I don’t always get it. I don’t understand everything there is to know. But recognizing the reality of God is the start to wisdom and growth. I need that. Without that recognition — or, in other words, with the ulterior assumption that any of us could possibly be on par with God’s wisdom, omniscience, or goodness — what’s right and moral in this world becomes ambiguous; what’s right and moral evolves based on individual experience.

While I’ve never been a “rule follower” (yes, just ask my parents), there is no “rule” that says we have to be in church on Sunday mornings. I go not because I follow a rule; I go because it centers me. It helps me refocus. It helps me not put “me” in the center of my world and thinking.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to go attempt to refocus — and then have the epitome of evil show up.

On Sunday, a man armed most with evil walked into a church building that held about 50 people in a Texas town of only a few hundred. Most churchgoers were injured; 26 died. One survivor, gut-wrenchingly, lost his pregnant wife, three of his children, and his parents, with two more of his children in critical condition at the time of this writing.

At this time it’s too early to know all the details. In fact, with the shooter’s death, we may never know all… what was in the head of the gunman? … how long was this planned? … why here? … why now? … what set him off? … was he ill? All are questions we will attempt to find an answer to in the days ahead; all are also questions we may never answer with certainty.

But I can’t get past that here in a weekend gathering, a setting that occurs in all-sized towns across the country in which people come to rest and refocus — where the people recognize that “we” are not all there is — that someone would come blow up the deep sincerity and serenity of that moment. In essence, evil pierced the peace.

That grieves me.

Regardless of the unknown answers, regardless of the shooter’s potential mental illness, this killing of the innocent is the manifestation of some form of evil. I don’t say that angrily. I say it soberly… with tears in my eyes and a pit in my stomach. Murder is evil. That grieves me.

This is a moment, friends, in which we could come together. We could each bow down, refocus, and recognize that there must be something or someone bigger than us.

We are heartbroken about the evil. We are heartbroken about the gruesome deaths. We gasp at the pics of the children whose lives were tragically ended. “Why?! Why did this happen??”

And in those heart-wrenching questions, we have the potential to together submit ourselves to the only one or thing that has the answers — because friends, the reality is that sometimes life on this planet simply doesn’t make sense.

What do we do when it doesn’t make sense? For me, it serves as an intentional return to submitting to someone wiser than me. When we fail to recognize that we have often mixed up the positioning — meaning we put any of us on par with the wisdom and righteousness of God — conflict ensues.

And then — as if on some sort of enemy’s cue — we fight.

We fight. We don’t solve. We don’t grieve. We don’t seek to understand. We don’t say, “Lord, help me. Help us all. Help those so hurt by this horrific tragedy.” We instead fight.

And with all due respect to each of us — as sometimes we are part of the problem — myself included — that fighting grieves me even more.

God be with the victims and families in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Be in small town America. Be in our big towns. Be with each of us, too.


is Facebook good?

There aren’t too many times in life when I knowingly continue on in something that isn’t a good idea. Ok, granted, there are a few fast food drive-throughs in which I would be better served to suppress an every-now-and-then craving; routinely, however, I find myself re-examining a habit: is it good? … is it healthy? … or do I need to change some aspect of my behavior?

For years, I’ve enjoyed the contact and communication that comes via social media. I’ve been able to catch up and keep in touch with friends in a fairly fast and convenient way — from my school day besties, peers in Russia and Thailand, to old friends far and new friends near.

Facebook’s “friendaversaries” prompt thanksgiving for our enduring connections. Twitter’s tweets keep us current on the high school sports teams back home. And Snapchat and Instagram each make us smile, offering a real-time glimpse in what’s going on in the life of another. Some even add some rather unique and unusual facial features.

Yet I find myself again examining a somewhat simple idea: is social media good?

Is it good?

Assuming we have reasonable boundaries and the outlet becomes not a time-waster, keeping us from tending to all else that needs to get done in our day, are these websites and apps healthy for us to participate in?

The pictures of peonies and pups certainly brighten my day. The sports team shout outs also make me smile. Truthfully, I even find the daily deluge of pickle posts quite encouraging; while never a fan of the tiny, briny, and (in my semi-humble opinion) still slimy cucumber, at least my friends are thinking of me!

But the question of goodness arises beyond the pickles and puppies. It’s when we substitute a thread or a post for authentic conversation — especially when we’re talking about serious stuff. As one who was exposed to significant conflict growing up, it’s not that I love conflict; it’s more that I believe strongly in handling it well. If we could learn to communicate more respectfully and listen more selflessly in the existence of conflict, I believe we could damper the intensity and avoid much of the relational, collateral damage.

The challenge is that Facebook and Twitter do not do the above; stereotypical participation does not promote respectful communication nor selfless listening. When I utilize my 140 character allowance to opine, for example, that is not dialogue; that is not authentic conversation. It is simply instead a rephrasing of “I just have to say”… “let me tell you how I feel”… or “this is how I think.” How I feel or think does not require me to respect the feeling or thinking of any other. If there is no need to respect the feeling or thinking of another, it seems a foolish trap that even the intelligent fall into.

Remember the wise words an articulate guest writer shared here two and a half years ago, a friend who decided to make a behavioral change on social media:

“… So without even knowing it, I learned that I didn’t have to attend every argument I was invited to. I stopped posting political pieces. Stopped commenting for the sake of starting up a fight. I weighed in here and there but I chose my words carefully and bracketed it with things like ‘respectfully’ and ‘we don’t all have to agree.’ I became mindful that, for most of my Facebook friends, what I posted was the only definition they would have of me. I don’t speak to many of them face to face. They don’t know how I live my life, that there is more to me than my posts and replies. And I didn’t want that to be their truth about me. I am more than just my political beliefs or my religion or my alma mater (though that one I still have a hard time not defending). I am a sum of all of those things and more…”

Authentic conversation helps us know one another deeply and more. And yes, there is more to each of us than our opinions, “sides,” and alma maters (Boiler up). But when we omit the respectful give-and-take and selfless listening vital to authentic communication, we aren’t getting to know another any more than we already do. We are only hearing ourselves think. That doesn’t seem wise.

So is social media good?

Maybe. Those pickle pics make me laugh.

But my sense is, for most of us, it’s more our behavior that may need to change.



So over the weekend, after months of planning and putting multiple things in place, the Intramuralist & Co. moved into a new home. In other words if you could see me now and take note of my current, domestic surroundings, you would see a box to my left, a box to my right, and a creative selection of odds and ends all in between. Things are a bit more messy at the moment. There’s a ton to untangle and much to unpack, but… all things are “new.”

What is it about “all things new” that attracts us?

A fresh start?
Clean backdrop?
New relationships?
A do over?

An opportunity to change things up?
Do them better?
Learn from past mistakes?

An opportunity, for instance, not to plaster that one last pic or divisive opinion on social media?

There is simply something within the “all things new” idea that is empowering and attractive… that opportunity to start anew.

I’m wondering if we sometimes get into behavioral and ideological ruts — like “this is what I do” or “this is how I think” — and therefore because, “this is how I think, I’m always going to think this way”… as if it what we do and think could never be new.

The challenge, it seems is when we cast those ruts onto another — when we put another into a so-called, stereotypical box. For example… “This is what they do, so they’re always going to do it that way”… “this is how they think”… and the ultimate, “this is who they are.”

In other words, we judge them.
(Granted… it’s pretty easy and convenient to judge…)

But what if our assessment of “them” isn’t accurate?

What if we’re (God forbid) wrong in what we think of them?

What if they’ve grown? … they’ve changed? … and they have found the freedom and freshness of “all things new”?

Hence (in today’s zillion dollar question), what if we could see “them” differently?

My sense is that judgment is clouding our assessment. It’s impeding us from seeing the growth and the good in another. It’s blocking us from fording another the same opportunity we crave — to “do and think” differently — to make “all things new.”

And if it’s blocking us from seeing the good in another, it’s blocking, also, the wisdom in us.

As said by the Chernoffs in “1,000+ Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently,” “When you choose to see the good in others, you end up finding the good in yourself.”

It seems like we’re missing a lot of good…

… in ourselves.