what it’s not

Much of what we say actually means something else.  Hear me out on this, friends.


We utilize multiple words and phrases that are either inaccurate or utterly fallacious.  It’s seemingly most often unintentional; however, today I’m wondering about the colloquial error of our ways.  I speak not about the grammatical misuse of “lie” vs. “lay” or “who,” “which,” and “that.”  I’m thinking more about the phrasing that has subtly sneaked into our dialogue that simply is untrue.  For example…


“It is what is is.”


Egad.  Perhaps one of my pet peeves.  “It is what it is.”  What exactly does that mean?  Does it all go back to Pres. Clinton’s legal questioning surrounding the definition of “is”?  Surely not.


We hear that phrasing frequently…


From business mogul, Ted Turner:  “I regret that I wasn’t more successful with my marriages, but it is what it is.”


Or from my fave NFL QB, Drew Brees:  “The Madden Curse has really taken on a life of its own.  People just love talking about it, and it is what it is, but I look at it as a challenge.”


Are you kidding?  It is what it “is”?!  No.  “It is what it is” is what we say when we don’t know what to say anymore.  It’s the clear ender of conversation, meaning there’s little else to say or I really don’t want to speak of it anymore (see Turner, Ted).


We also hear…


“You’ve got the patience of Job.”


Sometimes, as the parent of a special needs child, I receive that frequent retort.  Newsflash, friends:  it’s not true.  I don’t have the patience of Job.  But the reality is, in my semi-humble opinion, that Job wasn’t patient!  Shocking.  (Another “hear me out” here…)


In my continuous pursuit of wisdom, I routinely invest in writings that are historically noted for their accuracy and truth.  Once again, I just completed reading through the book of Job.


Here was a man who was blameless — a man of complete integrity.  He was wealthy and wise yet seemingly humble and giving.  And over the course of a few stunning days, the man lost his family, possessions, and good health.  Such is a set of circumstances that undoubtedly would cause each of us to cry out, arguably inserting a bit of “why me.”


But Job went further.  While at first seemingly attempting to persevere and maintain his humility — a component contemporary society often negates from its integrity definition — Job’s countenance and composure changed.  Granted, he had a few friends around him who were certainly not helpful, yet Job became demanding.  He cursed the day of his birth.  He questioned the wisdom of God.  He questioned not only God’s wisdom but his power and all of creation.  He condemned God to justify himself.  (Fascinating concept… condemning God to justify self… my thinking… my behavior…)


Who knows how any of us would act under such a tragic, unthinkable set of circumstances?  Truthfully, most of us would probably act much like Job.  The reality is that such is not considered patient.


More false phrases exist…


“head over heels”… aren’t heads already over heels?

“could care less” … then why are we speaking to begin with?  Isn’t it “couldn’t”??


Or one of my funny favorites…


“the whole 9 yards”… wait… all NFL enthusiasts know that 9 yards are not “whole”; a team has to go 10 yards to actually continue down the field.


Sorry, friends.  I’m not very patient today.  Have I shared that I do not have the patience of Job?





Even after the transparent admission last week that Christmas is “my favorite time of the year,” I must also acknowledge a strong fondness for New Year’s Day.  Not the festive and frolicking New Year’s “rockin’” Eve — although toasting to friends and family both near and far is certainly sweet — but the actual initial day of another year.  Why?  Because I love resolutions!


Yes, yes… I realize that last line prompted many a sigh or perhaps even a “so long” for this post this day.  My apologies.  I do not desire to evoke such a lack of energy or entertainment value.  Note, however, that my relishing of resolutions evolves not from the actual, annual intentions…


… I want to be healthy… exercise consistently… pray more… love others better… be less judgmental… be respectful… eat better… figure this “God stuff” out… work harder… listen more… talk less… be more giving, selfless — less selfish… read a new book… ask for recommendations… ask for directions… read the Bible… be teachable… save more… spend less… go to the spa… hug my kids… teach my children well… get on the scale less… focus more on people instead of things… write a letter… spend less time on Facebook… take more walks… get more sleep… focus on the important things in life… get more organized… take a daily vitamin… work on my abs… quit smoking… get a better job… be nicer… take a vacation… volunteer… read a classic… fast… get out of debt… spend more time with my family… drink less… count my calories… make a new ‘to-do’ list… throw away my old ‘to-do’ list… do away with ‘to-do’ lists… seize the day… be less busy… read the Intramuralist more… stop and smell the roses… appreciate the beauty of the sky… apologize… forgive… forgive again… and again… commit to living wisely… be more humble… be healthy…


Now the reason the sighs and “so long’s” are so often prompted lies within the reality that for most of us, the above are only intentions — as opposed to permanent changes in our behavior.  Our intentions are too often temporary.  Hence, if they are temporary, what’s the benefit of making the resolutions to begin with?


Ah, and therein lies the fondness for the Intramuralist.


What would life be like if we encouraged the above, positive behavior change, but yet, we also allowed ourselves the freedom (for lack of better words) to “screw up”?


In other words, what if we recognized that much of the above is hard? …too hard, in fact.  Much of the above — even with earnest intent and commitment — may be or appear too difficult to do.  With that honest recognition, how would our resolutions be altered?  Would we then simply refrain from ever making them?  Would we give up on the process, noting that while the behavior would certainly be a positive change, that the degree of difficulty makes our pursuit fruitless?  … that with desired consequences unlikely, resolutions are futile and therefore unnecessary?


Friends, as realistic as such sounds, my greater sense is that such logic misses the beauty forded on New Year’s Day.


It is not the actual resolution that possesses greatest value.  True, eating healthy is a good idea; it has great value.  So does taking a daily vitamin, being humble, and appreciating the beauty of the sky.  Those are good things!  But the benefit of the resolution is the growth that comes via the process.  The more we focus on being humble — whether or not we actually, ever, totally and truly get there — the more we focus on being less judgmental and exercising more consistently, the wiser we will be.  The healthier we will be.  And while we may not actually “get there,” the pursuit moves us closer to where we want to be.  The pursuit — and thus the intent — is good.


The reason the Intramuralist so appreciates New Year’s Day is because it’s a clean slate.  Once again, we are given the abstract opportunity to focus on what’s most important.  Yes, we need to give ourselves great grace in the process; know now that we will most likely “screw up” somewhere.  But thanks to the freshness and attractiveness of a clean slate, we are more willing to make the resolutions that we know would be wise to embrace.


Happy New Year, friends!  Time for this semi-humble blogger to hit the elliptical.





Writing from the midwest this day, a funny development occurred.  It snowed.


It wasn’t just a little snow.  It was big…  perhaps not “big” to those living in the mountainous East or West, but here in the heart of America, it was big.  “Big” equates to enough to make life stop (… and to impose upon many the dreaded fear of running out of a gallon of 2% milk).  Yet contrary to popular belief, life stopping is good.


I know, I know.  I hear you…


Do you not realize the plans this all messed up?


I have things to do — important things!


I’m frustrated… bored.  I can’t do what I need to do!


Exactly.  Important things.  Stuff we need to do.


I wonder sometimes, no less, if what we claim to be important is really, truly, somehow lesser…  if we prioritize items and issues and activities that are lesser in value and wisdom than reality — than things of greater value — than things, so-to-speak, of a more enduring “bottom line.”  An insightful friend of mine, who has bravely initiated a ministry designed to generously pour respect into the lives of men and women, often says, “We have to keep what’s most important most important.”  But yet we don’t.  Society doesn’t.  We often get off track…


… in our homes… in our hearts… in Washington… and in the world.


In Washington many of those who contributed to the decades-old pattern of financial fragility are currently seeking to solve it.  But to solve it, they would have to collectively, fairly-permanently agree to spend less money than they take in.  In other words, with a national debt of over $16 trillion, reducing the debt by $2 trillion over 10 years — one of the current options on the table — will make little dent in the debt.  It doesn’t solve the problem.  Solving the problem is what’s most important — not adhering to lobbyist groups that simply attempt to shout loudest for their special, special interest.


Friends, hear me on this, please.  With all due respect, congressmen from both parties and the President each have those special interests in the back of their minds; they have issues and entitlements which they have individually — and often partisanly — prioritized.  As long as those interests maintain an entitled grip on a politician’s motivation, the politicians collectively will not solve the fiscal problem.  If they do not solve the problem, they are not keeping what’s most important most important.  And dare I suggest… if they are not keeping what’s most important most important, they are not serving — at least the entire country — well.


It’s hard, however, to cast stones upon Washington when we maintain similar struggles in our own homes.  In fact, at Christmas, especially, many of us also have prioritized things of lesser importance… like…


… presents over people…

… things over relationships…

… materialism over the meaning of the day…


We all do it.  We all struggle with keeping what’s most important most important.  And it matters not how brilliant nor intelligent nor worldly or wealthy we are; the struggle remains real.


And so sometimes, perhaps, in order to make us slow down — to make us pause and reflect upon what means most — we are given opportunity — if we are humble enough to actually “get it” — to re-prioritize what’s most important.  Hence, sometimes, life stops.


Sometimes it even snows.




generous love

As I was once again tempted to count the shopping days left until the retail world’s biggest annual holiday, I was prompted to pause, challenged anew to focus on the actual meaning of this season.  I’m not sure I always get it.  Yes, I get that Christmas is far more than Santa and sleigh bells and egg nog and elves.  I get that it’s more than cookies and carols and those pied pipers and presents under our tree.  I get that.  I’m just not always certain I get or we get or even society gets the depth of what the day denotes.


Then I remembered the words of a contemporary wise man who suggested that this season is about generous love.  Not just love.  Not just generosity.  The meaning of the season centers around a love that is generous.  A love that is authentic and real.


As my pause prompted reflection, I couldn’t help but wonder where now on this planet we see evidence of that love… a love that is so big, unparalleled, sometimes overwhelming, often sacrificial.  A love that leaves a mark.  Yes, generous love leaves a mark.  That’s what I think neither we nor society gets.  I think we miss the mark.


So I interacted with multiple persons for whom that mark is obvious and deep.  This is what I found… this is what they said…


“Growing up I always told my mom, ‘I want to adopt children; there are too many that don’t have anyone to love them”… “Bottom line: we wanted to be parents and to raise a family.  We chose Ethiopia because we knew there was a need”… “I always thought people were crazy to adopt internationally, and now I’m one of them.  I was always amazed by the leap of faith I saw in those families, never expecting one day that was what God had in store for our family.”


Yes, I interacted with families who have chosen to adopt.  When reflecting on generous love, what other example comes closer to the concept than persons who have made the intentional choice to share all of their emotional and material resources with another?  … to forever alter their family?


“There was nothing about our situation that made this ‘make sense”… “$23,000 and almost 3 years into an Indian adoption, we got news that India had instated a Family Limit Law that we exceeded by far!  We had no recourse and no additional avenue to take.  We were even financially tanked”… “We once had plenty of things and money.  We once never worried about making a house payment or how much gas was.”


The giving of that love — that generous love — isn’t necessarily easy…


“There is so much loss and grief associated with adoption. My children grieve that loss at a very primal level”… “She has no medical history, no cute stories of her birth, no memories that we can relay of her earliest months”… “He longs to know his birth mom, and it is a great loss to him, a part of him that he finds as ‘unknown’… “Her very first experience was of loss and rejection”… “Her sadness often comes out as rage”… “People wonder if I am her mother — assume she is with someone else. Throughout her life, I have cringed when this has happened.  She is ours through and through, but there is this constant reminder that she is different.”


And somehow this tangible process leaves a mark…  on both the kids and parents…


“People tell me all the time how lucky my children are to have me.  I tell them that I am the lucky one”… “Adoption has helped me understand the depth of the love of God”… “My love for her is fierce!”… “I learned that God’s plan was way bigger than the little box I thought my life was going to be in”… “What I know now is that this family of mine fills my soul in ways that I can’t even articulate or understand.  I am blessed.”


There is something authentic in that blessing — something that speaks to the depth of the generosity and the vastness of the love.  Something that has more to do with the meaning of Christmas than any Santa, sleigh bell, egg nog, elf or present under the tree.  Those who have chosen to adopt — as seen above in families who adopted from Africa, Asia, the inner city, and more — typical kids, foster kids, kids with cognitive and/or physical disability — infants and teens — they have a powerful message, especially this time of year…


“We have embraced the sweetness of every color, every hair type, every body shape, every language, accent, and claimed it as our family.  We’ve learned to pick and choose our battles.  We know the Lord will only give us what we can handle. We are truly blessed.  This is family!!!  This is our family!  It has grown us immensely.  These kids have humbled us, sobered us, and taught us more about our faith than we ever could have realized.”


Yes, the blessing is real.  The mark is deep.  Generous love leaves a mark.


Respectfully… and today, also, humbly blown away…



As perhaps you have by now surmised, the Intramuralist believes thanks can be given in all scenarios and circumstance.  Don’t let me suggest that it’s always easy nor that we always feel like being intentional with our gratitude.  I would never diminish the days that are hard for each of us.  Nonetheless, I do believe reasons for thanksgiving are always plentiful.


Today, I am thankful for…


Life.  Liberty.  The pursuit of far more than happiness.  Democracy.  Elections.  Voting.  The absence of dictatorship.  The freedom to agree or disagree.  The right to free speech — even when we actually disagree.  The Constitution.  The Bill of Rights.  Freedoms endowed by our Creator.  The wisdom foreseen by our founders.


Communication.  Listening.  The encouragement to listen.  Authentic dialogue.  The art of dialogue.  Respectful dialogue.  Dialogue where opinions aren’t all pre-determined (see again, listening).  Community.  Other people.  People to remind us that self is not as important as we think it is.  Humility.  Being grounded.  Accountability.  Wise persons bold enough and compassionate enough to help us in the grounding.


Faith.  Freedom within faith.  Freedom of faith — not freedom from it.  Free will.  The opportunity to see God and love him back.  His creation and the challenge and responsibility to love his children well.  Forgiveness — especially when we’ve needed it most but had somehow had no idea.


Ice cream.  Sundaes.  Coffee.  Playing cards.  More coffee.  Jokers wild.  Walking on sunshine, water, or just plain walking.  Game shows.  Knowing the Daily Double.  The Oak Ridge Boys.  Computers.  Christmas.  iPods, Pads, etc.  Diet Coke.  Mountain Dew.  Caffeine-free Mountain Dew.  Garland.  (Not tinsel, though… too messy on Dec. 26th.)


Chocolate.  Hot chocolate.  Whipped cream.  Starbucks.  Lattes.  Nonfat.  Foam.  (Did I mention coffee?)  More foam.  Sunrise.  Sunset.  “Fiddler on the Roof.”  Old musicals.  Old books.  Classics.  Julie Andrews.  New movies.  Star Wars.  Han Solo.  The princess.  That Darth is not my father.


Music.  More music.  Mariah Carey.  Martina McBride.  Miranda Lambert.  Bruno Mars.  The Beatles.  London.  Those big Beefeater hats.  Prince William and Princess Kate.  Monarchies.  Monarchies not here.  Broadway.  Elphaba.  Empathy.  Compassion.  Selflessness.  Teachability.  Tenderness.  Truth.  Growth.  More growth.  Recognizing both the need for growth and progress.


Respect.  Submission.  Honor.  The elderly.  Youth.  The privilege of learning.  The responsibility of teaching.  Taking them seriously.  Being intentional.  Sometimes being silly, too.


Old dogs.  New tricks.  Recognizing none of us have life all figured out.  College football.  College basketball.  Good games.  The NFL.  Positive attitudes.  Knowledgeable fans.  Cheering for a good play by the other team.  The other team.  Cool uniforms.  Nike.  Adidas.  Sweats on a Saturday morn.  Swag.  (Sometimes no swag.)


Falling leaves.  Brilliant colors.  No more to pick up.  Winter snows.  The beach.  Dreaming of the beach as winter arrives.  The mountains.  Water by the beach and the water by the mountains.  Friends there.  Friends here.  Friends who love you no matter what.  Thick or thin.


Foreign countries.  Home.  Coming home.  Clean laundry.  Sheets just out of the dryer.  Picked up toys.  Puzzles.  Getting the toys out.  Throwing them everywhere.  Children.  Babies.  Special kids.  Mature adults.  Even teenagers… well, most of the time.

Sitcoms.  Sundays.  “Cheers.”  A good toast.  Baking.  Alma maters.  Work.  Days off.  Vacation.  Christmas music.  Creativity.  Brainstorming.  Donuts.  (P.S. brainstorming while eating donuts is extra good.)  Wine.  The first miracle.  All miracles.  Being aware of them.  Vision.  Seeing rightly.  Acting wisely.  Loving those around us.  The opportunity.  The challenge.  The joy…


Yes, these things make me thankful…  today…




what’s it about?

The headlines are messy.  Actually, it’s more than the headlines that are so messy.


David Petraeus, who up until 2 weeks ago, was considered perhaps one of the nation’s few, contemporary, national “heroes,” unfortunately instantly had his heroic status removed.  Petraeus, the then current head of the Central Intelligence Agency — and former 4 star general — resigned his directorship of the CIA, citing an extramarital affair that was reportedly discovered via an FBI investigation.


Yes, the headlines are messy.  The details are murky.  There are questions and more questions as to the timeline of Petraeus’s infidelity, additional military personnel involved, potential breach of classified information, disclosure to the White House and Congress, timing surrounding the election, and any impact on Petraeus’s testimony regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.  Friends, this blog will address none of the above.  The reality is that none of the ‘questions and more questions’ are issues that at this time we can affirm or deny with certainty; hence, we will resist any temptation.  Today I wish to instead focus on one reaction… actually a common reaction… a reaction we especially employ when we’re fairly fond of the hero…


… such as Bill Clinton.  Julia Roberts.  Jerry Seinfeld.


All people at the “top of their game,” so-to-speak.  People who were at pinnacle points in their careers, and yet…


… they engaged in extramarital affairs.


The common reaction when we’re fond of our “hero”?


“It’s just about sex.”


The reality is it’s not “just about” sex; that’s what we tend to say in order to minimize the extent of what it’s actually all about.  It’s about a complete lapse of judgment.  It’s about emotion trumping commitment.  It’s about an ethical standard that is lesser or potentially nonexistent.  It’s often also about self.


Now please hear no piling of shame upon any person.  The truth is that each of us are capable of lapses of judgment and emotion trumping all; in fact, dare I suggest that I am not climbing out on any limb by disclosing that each of us have most likely fallen prey to some poor decision-making.  I also suggest — wholeheartedly — that each of us, also, is not fully defined by that poor decision-making; each of us is capable of redemption and forgiveness…


… which is equally available to Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, and Jerry Seinfeld.  It is available to David Petraeus.


True, it still makes no sense.


How could a person so admired and decorated stoop so seemingly, unscrupulously low?  Petraeus has a Ph.D.  He was an assistant professor.  He was confirmed unanimously at the CIA.  In 2007, Time magazine named him as one of their 4 runners up for “Person of the Year.”  He was named the second most influential American conservative by The Daily Telegraph as well as their Man of the Year.  In 2005, Petraeus was identified as one of America’s top leaders by U.S. News & World Report.  In 2008, Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines selected Petraeus as one of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals.  The Static Line Association named him its 2008 Airborne Man of the Year.  Der Spiegel named him “America’s most respected soldier.”  Newsweek named him the 16th most powerful person in the world.  He was also named as one of the “75 Best People in the World” in the October 2009 issue of Esquire.


Why would one man risk so much?  … put so much on the line?


Because it’s not about sex.  It’s about a lapse in judgment.  If we compromise our ethical standards in one area, where else are we willing to compromise?


Recognizing that we are each in need of redemption and forgiveness…




the petraeus’s & sandusky’s

I had a tough evening with my youngest son the other night.  He’s 11.  He disobeyed.  And the reality is that he disobeyed disrespectfully and defiantly.  He announced that he would not do what he was asked — and he would not do what he knew was right.


“I don’t care!  You can’t make me!!”


And since I’ve been slightly maturing in my parenting (thank God!), I employed what has arguably evolved into one of my more effective techniques.  With disappointment in my eyes and thus no affirming glance, I closed the door and quietly walked away.


My son began to sob.


Actually, he sobbed for quite some time that night.  Those tears were hard to hear, always seemingly piercing my own heart and soul.  Yet I knew at least for an initial while, I needed to allow his tears to flow.


Why was he crying?

Because I walked away?  Because I was disappointed?  Because of no affirming glance?


While each of the above certainly had both impact and merit, none served as the cause of the cry.  My 11 year old bawled because he chose wrongly.


Josh was so grieved by his defiant-but-intentional choice of wrongful behavior, that he grieved his own iniquity.


“Why?!  Why did I do this?” he cried uncontrollably.  I kid you not; it was uncontrollably for quite some time.  Josh was bothered by his lack of virtue; he was dismayed by his willful wrongdoing.


After allowing the tears to flow for several minutes, I re-entered his room and held him tight.  At first I said very little, as the tears continued, but so did the outwardly, now cavernous contrition.  He was unnerved by the obvious fact that his wrongful choice came so intentionally and easily.  Part of me of wondered if he was shocked that he was actually capable.


As I finally tucked him that night, watching my budding adolescent fall asleep with swollen eyes and still with tears, I sat and wondered what I could learn… what each of us could learn…  When we make wrongful choices — so intentionally and easily — are we shocked that we, too, are actually capable?  Do we wrestle with our own wrongdoing?  Are we bothered by our own, manifest lack of virtue?  And are we dismayed?


Too often I think we miss that — we miss the growth that comes from individual, reflective wrestling because we instead surround ourselves with people who simply “amen” our experience and thus numb our negatives — as opposed to hold us accountable for both the wise and poor choices of our lives.  We are quick to shame the Petraeus’s and Sandusky’s, but far slower in examining any wrongful actions, motives, or thinking that takes root in our own hearts.


We live for the moment, allow emotion to trump truth, and often allow moral behavior to be relative with each evolving circumstance.  The challenge is that circumstances will always change; such is a perilous pattern.


As is no secret amidst these pages, my young son has Down syndrome.  Please — no sympathy necessary.  Josh has taught me more in life than I ever could have known without him.  He has taught me and stretched me in ways previously impossible.  There is nothing lesser about his life; there is only more blessing in mine and in so many others’ lives because of the joy and wisdom he so freely brings.


One of Josh’s many marvelous traits is that he doesn’t allow all the “crud of life” to get in the way — circumstances and emotions never interfere nor trump reality.  And the other night, when it was obvious he had made a wrongful choice, there were no excuses or exaggerations.  There was only the honest grief that he failed to choose wisely.


We continue to learn, as it is often the child that leads the adult well.




teach your children well

As has become our annual ritual, yesterday once more was the first day of school… the day I bundle up my boys and watch them march off on that big yellow bus.  Actually, my youngest guy’s bus truly isn’t all that big — but he feels like it’s huge; sometimes feelings make all the difference in the world.


I was thinking about sending them off, what they will learn this year, how they will grow.  I was thinking of the friends they would make that would last throughout the years, just like those dear to me who have been close for seemingly forever.  I was thinking of who would teach them…  and then I realized… we are their primary teachers…


While teachers make a vital contribution to the maturing of our children, it is we — their families — who are responsible for growing up our kids…


It is we…


… who must teach them that Facebook rants and Twitter tweets will never usurp the goodness and benefit of authentic conversation.


It is we…


… who must teach them that authentic conversation is a privilege and opportunity for wisdom and growth.


It is we…


… who must teach them that intentional attempts to divide us — based on income, race, demographics, and even NFL sports teams — are grounded in foolishness and self-focus.


It is we…


… who must teach that self-focus is foolish.


It is we…


… who must teach that pride and humility do not have to cancel out one another; we can be proud of our accomplishments without falling prey to thinking we are bigger or greater than we truly are.


It is we…


… who must teach our children that no political party is ordained by God.


It is we…


… who must teach our children about God.


It is we…


… who must teach our children to be responsible with their gifts, abilities, and finances.


It is we…


… who must teach our children to be generous with their gifts, finances, and commitment to service.


It is we…


… who must teach our children how to talk — how to build others up instead of allowing cursing and praise to attempt to come out of the same mouth.


It is we…


… who must model what a loving, self-sacrificing family looks like.


It is we…


… who must practice what we preach — perhaps the greatest teacher — in responsibility, accountability, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.


It is we.


No education — regardless of school format — public school, parochial school, homeschool, or some kind of vouchers — is more important than “we.”


We… must teach them well.




big “if’s”

In the words of one famous (for, uh, not necessarily always good reasons) ex-California governor/actor, “I’m back!”  It’s been a special 3 weeks.


First and foremost, many thanks to our guest bloggers, who over recent weeks have creatively encouraged, inspired, informed and made us think; they were vocal about the shooting in Colorado, the heartache at Penn State, the partaking of fiction, moving, accountability, abortion, respectful dialogue, faith, fear, and the inability of government to create jobs.  We heard from men and women, liberal and conservative, of various faith and demographic backgrounds.  We even heard from one self-identified “little kid with some big beliefs.”  (Way to go, Becca… way to go…)


So question:  why do we do it?


Why on the Intramuralist do we even entertain the concept of a Guest Blogger Series?


Great question.  Granted, the series always provides this semi-humble blogger an opportunity to refresh, renew, and “recharge my batteries,” so-to-speak, thinking of what next we should discuss.  I am thankful for the time to intentionally reflect, attempting to discern whether or not the Intramuralist is staying consistent with our purpose in both content and expression.


What is our purpose?

To model respectful dialogue.  We do not have to each possess the same opinions; in fact, as a society, we are fairly incapable of that.  But if we are to be a mature, wise people group, we must grow.  I believe we grow through respectful dialogue.


Respectful dialogue, however, is not something to be assumed.  Some may argue, no less, that it is even rare…


While away, for example, as several of you noticed, a bit of a societal stir took place when one congressman suggested there existed a difference between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” rape.  Last this current events observer knew, rape is rape, as articulated by both current presidential candidates.  However, in one discussion I witnessed, a gentleman used the controversy to verbally attack VP candidate, Paul Ryan; the gentleman (although the “gentle” is debatable) referred to Ryan and his Republican colleagues as persons who “keep trying to make it legal for husbands to rape their wives.”


Excuse me, friends, but that is not respectful dialogue.  That does nothing to advance healthy conversation.  It is also not a helpful articulation that encourages us to discern truth, develop solution, and individually grow.


The primary reason we host our annual Guest Blogger Series is because it gives you, the reader, an opportunity to hear from someone different than me.  While I appreciate your sincere interest and commitment to the Intramuralist, I also wish to uphold our blog’s primary principles:


1.  We value humility.

2.  None of us have life all figured out.  And,

3.  We each need to listen better, often, and more.


The Guest Blogger Series allows us to model each of the above.  Agree or disagree with the perspectives expressed, the varied opinions by others have the potential to prompt growth…


if we listen…  if we intentionally humble ourselves.


True, those can be big “if’s,” but they are necessary indeed.


And so I return to you, refreshed, recharged, and ready to go.  Friends, we have things to discuss!  So join with me in the dialogue.  Contemplate.  Consider.  Comment.  Agree or disagree.  Add perspective.  Add an ‘amen.’  You may even add a ‘what-were-you-thinking?’  But most of all, let us humble ourselves and listen to one another.  Let’s discuss.  Let’s grow.


A special thanks to our special bloggers… can’t wait until next year!  You spur us on.


Respectfully… always…


the trail

[Note:  Today is day 9 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]



I’ve started hiking a nearby trail, running some with my daughter (the things we’ll do for our offspring like no one else!) increasing distance & endurance daily, decreasing our time per mile.  The trail we use has become familiar ~ the same stones to traverse the creek, the same logs across the trail to hurdle… but inevitably, daily there are the fallen sticks that somehow newly appear in my path.  As I speed along the route, I kick some aside.  For others I must slow and bend to grab and toss them aside.  Once in awhile they’re large enough that two of us have to work together to move, and occasionally there’s something new fallen, big enough that we just decide to climb over or step around, creating an alternate route in the trail.  I think of the significance of these as I hike… when do we choose to clear the existing trail… and when we create an alternate route, while clearing the path for the younger ones behind… letting them see that process, while enlisting my child’s help.  Eventually they may go before me and make my path level, as I have begun with parents having a less steady gait, now into their eighties, as well as for the generation to come.


At the same time, I’ve been reading philosophy.  Plato envisioned all we see as shadows of some real patterns being cast by a fire outside a cave where we are bound.  I see some truth in what he imagined.  There must be a plan, a pattern, an ideal intended for us to recognize and rise to embrace something higher, more solid, more eternal, and real yet than this world.


As I kick branches from the trail, gaining agility and grace, making it almost like a dance step while trying to keep up my speed, I maintain the path worn here by others before me, sometimes making detours, trying my best to secure it for those that will follow.  I ponder the bigger picture:  who cleared this trail in the beginning?  Who is it that I trust, who decided this route best?  Am I sure this turn is the best choice…?


I’ve made missteps.  I’ve slipped on wet ground and prayed a thankful landing without injury.  I’ve lost my balance trying not to slow while hurdling a series of fallen logs and tumbled brush, losing some skin and blood (and having to return for gear that flew off unnoticed while I focused on examining my injury.)  In all, I trust an unseen (but real) presence there to thank and call out for help, to one who knows and sees and cares and has a plan that works it all for my good.  Without that, continuing this trail would be rather pointless.


I meditate on the choices and conflicts in the world today.  The differing paths that have woven through history and now shape our current perspectives, traditions, and decision-making — personal and political.  As I heard Eric Metaxas, at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, “Thank God that we now argue over how to help the poor, not whether to.”  Progress over the centuries?  Yes!  Now what?  Among all the questions for our world and nation, how do we cease the arguing and progress in peace?


I consider the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the USA, as it relates to my belief in God who loves all nations, tribes and tongues of people equally, and exists in holiness beyond what can be attained by a human nation, whether or not we claim or agree to be “one nation under God”.  As much as we may want to offer “liberty & justice for all,” we know that only God will ever be able to fully do it.  I feel compelled to maintain my allegiance alone for him, and thus, to serve the world he’s put me in out of that undivided allegiance.


I am grieved by the political/spiritual battle around the issue of marriage.  As I heard one admit recently, haven’t we already allowed the biblical definition of marriage in our country to go by the wayside years ago? … by legalizing “no fault divorce,” among other impurities?  When we talk of the parameters of biblical marriage, I fear most of us have missed what it is — and could yet be a most beautiful reflection of the faithful, relational nature of God.  Am I — are we — willing to confront the “plank in our own eye” before humbly reaching out to others with the authority of God’s love?


Only one thing I know for sure.  There is one who said, “I am the way…”  What authority did he have to claim that?  How can we know he is trustworthy to believe?  Big questions, for sure.  Brief answers?  His life claims were recorded hundreds of years before he appeared.  He lived a life of complete integrity.  Instead of dying off quietly, his followers were themselves willing to die while continuing to proclaim his truth, assured there was more beyond their death here.  They said this was the Creator of the world and that he had come to exhibit the very definition of love.


How do I know what words to speak that will last?  …what decisions to make in the myriad of choices in life?  …which route to take and who to call when I see I’ve mis-stepped?  How do I come to peace in my relationships and in the world at large?  I have to believe that the one who made me, beginning with the mathematically amazing, statistically unbelievable universe we live in, knows.  The one who was willing to die for me, I believe I can trust to work all things for my good.


The trail starts and ends with him. And in between, He continues to be the way…
… If my people will humble themselves and pray… and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways… then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.






[Intramuralist Note:  REH and I became friends as kids at camp a couple decades ago; she has since earned an MA in counseling… and continues to spur me — and many — on.]