my struggle with politics

I have to be honest. As a Christian, sometimes I really struggle with the current political state. I see friends of shared and unshared belief throw many of the morals they typically live by right out the nearest window.

I get it. As writer, Christian, and avid Texas Rangers fan, Bryan Roberts, wrote: “Political discourse is the Las Vegas of Christianity — the environment in which our sin is excused. Hate is winked at, fear is perpetuated and strife is applauded. Go wild, Christ-follower. Your words have no consequences here. Jesus doesn’t live in Vegas.”

Sadly, for Christians and non-Christians alike — for those sincerely attempting to honor both their Creator and all of mankind — many of us seem to have concluded that some morals matter less. But we forget that the political process is dirty and broken.

Think one party is always honest?

Think one party is more moral?

Allow me to humbly ask the pervasive elephant in the room: what are you overlooking in that party in order to conclude such?

I am thus attracted to more words Roberts wrote. Let me gently caution you now, as they will be hard to hear based on what each of us may currently be overlooking. Seven years ago Roberts suggested seven things to remember about politics:

  1. Both political parties go to church. There’s a Christian Left and, perhaps even less well-known, there’s a secular Right…
  2. Political talk radio and cable “news” only want ratings.
    When media personalities tell you they are on a moral crusade, they are lying to you. These personalities get rich by instilling fear and paranoia in their listeners…
  3. Those who argue over politics don’t love their country more than others.
    They just love to argue more than others. Strife and quarreling are symptoms of weak faith and are among the things the Lord “detests.” We need to rise above the vitriol and learn to love our neighbors the way God commanded us. We need to love our atheist neighbor who wants to keep creationism out of schools; our Democrat neighbor who wants to keep gay marriage and abortion legal; our Republican neighbor who celebrates death penalty statistics and gun ownership; and yes, even the presidential candidate from the other side.
  4. Thinking your party’s platform is unflawed is a mistake.
    The social policies of your party were constructed by imperfect politicians fueled by ambition. It’s nearsighted to canonize them…
  5. Scripture tells us to pray for our governing leaders and to respect those in authority.
    Translation: if you’re mocking your governing leaders on Facebook, the Holy Spirit is grieved. We should spend more time honoring our leaders and less time vilifying them. This doesn’t mean praying the President will be impeached; it doesn’t mean praying your candidate will win. God commands us to pray for our leaders — for their wisdom, for their hearts and for them to be led by Him.
  6. Don’t be paranoid.
    The country is not going to be destroyed if your candidate loses… America has functioned—albeit, at varying levels of success — for years under the direction of alternating Democrat and Republican control, and at every flip, the other side thought it was the end of the world. It’s not. And if we’re a Church that believes God is in control, we have to believe that He is the one in control of the end times — not whoever’s in office now, and not whoever succeeds them.
  7. Stop saying, “This is the most important election in the history of our nation.”
    It’s not. The most important election in the history of our nation was when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Before that, we thought it was OK to own people. Every generation thinks it’s living in the most important moment in history. We’re not, our parents were not and our children probably won’t be. And that’s OK.

Again, I get it… this is hard to hear for Christians and non-Christians alike. So as one who sincerely struggles with today’s political state, I humbly ask again what I must ask myself: what are we currently overlooking?

Respectfully…
AR

let’s talk impeachment… maybe more.

We talk about all things here — albeit, always respectfully.

Yesterday Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal inquiry of Pres. Donald Trump. Understand that it was not a vote nor an initiation of official impeachment proceedings. It is an investigation, with many commentators divided whether grounds for an impeachable offense exist.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter went wild… and not in a good way in the opinion of this craver of respectful conversation. I believe one could safely say that Twitter fosters very little healthy dialogue, consistent with most of social media. When I then searched what was trending with the anticipated inquiry, I found social media accompanied by multiple unfortunate calls that denigrated (and far worse) any who disagreed, any who didn’t believe it should have been done sooner, and actual calls for civil war. Hear that. Civil war.

I thus found myself not pleased nor displeased, neither thrilled or upset. My heart simply broke a little more for our fractured state of the Union.

As the Libertarian Party tweeted…

“News headlines will be dominated tonight about impeachment proceedings pertaining to Donald Trump. Some will accuse the President of being a criminal, undermining the Oval Office, and defying the rule of law. Others will say that the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi have gone off the deep end, and are setting a dangerous precedent with little evidence moving forward. 

One thing is certain: we’re all losing either way. The reality is that this should never have gotten to the point where it mattered so much to so many Americans. Presidential activity should be remembered as footnotes in American history, not as grandiose epics. The Oval Office should be respected as a place for bill signing and vetoing, of implementation of checks and balances, not constant controversy. This isn’t limited to Donald Trump. It extends back dozens of Presidencies, from Obama to Nixon, Reagan to FDR.

The Government should never have gotten so large, and so powerful, that the actions of one person in one role could dominate the news day-in-day-out for years. It’s time we started reeling the monster of big government back in. It’s time we took back our rights. It’s time we started electing leaders that want to make these offices function how they were intended, not how they are run…”

I suppose that’s it in a nutshell. From a civilian’s stone throw away, government feels way too big, and politics feels way too important. It concerns me when politicians on all sides of these issues make themselves or their singular party most important, arguably forgetting the humility of their elected oath and the book on which they swore.

I’m reminded of the words widely-respected columnist Peggy Noonan penned on the 20th anniversary of the impeachment of Pres. Bill Clinton — an occurrence of which I was also not pleased nor displeased, thrilled or upset.

Noonan wrote: “I see it all now more as a tragedy than a scandal.”

Why a tragedy?

Had Pres. Clinton told the truth, Noonan opines that: “even accompanied by a moving public apology, the toll would have been enormous. He would have taken a hellacious political beating, with a steep slide in public approval and in stature. He would have been an object of loathing and ridicule — the goat in the White House, a laughingstock. Members of his party would have come down on him like a ton of bricks. Newt Gingrich and the Republicans would have gleefully rubbed his face in it every day. There would have been calls for impeachment.

It would have lasted many months. And he would have survived and his presidency continued.”

But she profoundly proceeds…

“Much more important — here is why it is a tragedy — it wouldn’t have dragged America through the mud.”

And that is why my heart breaks a little more, friends…

Regardless of any outcome of the current inquiry, when the truth becomes secondary to the politics — in the actual investigation or in defense of the investigated — the reality is that way too many are willing and wanting to drag the rest of us through the mud.

God help us. You surely know better than we.

Respectfully…

AR

do you know last week’s news?

As a blog which attempts to identify the difference between news and opinion — which are not the same — allow us to present last week’s news from three different perspectives: the left, the right, and somewhere in between the two.

From the left:

“Lamar Jackson and the NFL’s Quarterback Double Standard”  

“Opioid-maker Purdue Pharma Is Allowed Bonus Payout in Bankruptcy Case”

“Rudy Giuliani Melts Down On Live TV In Bizarre Chris Cuomo Interview” 

“‘Urgent Concern’ About the President”

“New Allegations Against Brett Kavanaugh Mean Congress Must Finish What the FBI Started”

From the right:

“A California Court Dealt a Blow to Religious Liberty. It’s Time for SCOTUS to Act.”

“Meghan McCain Leaves ‘View’ Stage after Clashing with Ana Navarro over Whistleblower Reports”

“Betsy DeVos Busts Colleges Misusing Federal Dollars for Anti-Semitic Social Justice Curriculum”

“Ilhan Omar Deletes 2013 Tweet About Her Father”

“Awkward: Colbert Corners Warren on Middle Tax Class Increases, Calls Her Out When She Dodges”

And now from somewhere in between:

“GM Workers On Strike”

“Attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Sites”

“Colt to End Production of AR-15 Rifles for Personal Use”

“Three Questions: Antonio Brown, the Latest NFL Morality Test”

“For Clues about 2020 Campaign, Look Back to 2004”

[Note: the above headlines are taken from multiple sites, including CNN, FOX News, and NBC — albeit none of the three are quoted in the “somewhere in between.”]

No doubt precisely because of the above glaring disparity, many of us have stopped tuning into the news. The bottom line is that much of what is advertised as news is not. It’s opinion. Opinion and news are not the same. And opinion is not reliable.

What’s the potential motive for the intentional slant? I think it may be misidentified; it may be deeper than a partisan agenda.

Allow me to quote Senator and bestselling author Ben Sasse in Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal (an excellent read, by the way). While openly sharing that he is a Christian, conservative man, Sasse is also not a fan of division and partisanship. [Noting all emphasis is mine] Sasse writes:

“Sean Hannity is good at what he does. So good, in fact, that his daily cable news show is number one nationally, and his daily talk radio show is number two. TV and radio are very different media, but Hannity has mastered both. There’s a reason he reportedly earns a ballpark $40 million annually. You might not like what he’s doing, but it’s definitely on purpose.

So what’s he doing?

He explained the core objective of his two different programs to the New York Times. It’s not to promote a particular conservative agenda, or to encourage American patriotism, or even to offer coherent arguments against liberalism. His core cause is to rage…

Most cable news and talk radio shows today — on both the right and the left — operate this way. The leading programs are orchestrated by executives and personalities who understand well that there’s real money to be made in helping people keep their fears and hatreds aligned.”

So understand what the above headlines are doing. Understand what Sean Hannity, Don Lemon, and Rachel Maddow are doing. Understand what the Drudge Report, Palmer Report, and other biased reports are doing. Their goal is to make you rage — to make you mad and keep your fears and hatreds aligned.

So do you think you know the news?

Each of the above headlines is linked from www.allsides.com. They clearly identify the left, right, and in between. I like www.realclearpolitics.com, too.

Respectfully…

AR

look where it starts…

  • It starts with language.
  • We create categories to distinguish people into “us and them.”
  • We then give names or other symbols to the classifications.
  • We attempt to use law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups — perhaps maybe silence them.
  • Then we dehumanize. One group denies the humanity of the other group, by equating its members to something lesser — often with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Maybe we suggest they are evil, incapable, or simply not of sound mind.
  • Social media is used to vilify the other group. 
  • Hate on television, in print, and radio is utilized.
  • The majority group is taught to regard the other group as less than human and even alien to their society. They are indoctrinated to believe that “we are better off without them.”  
  • The other group is often equated with filth, impurity, and immorality. Something is wrong with them. 
  • We hear speeches decrying the other group as lesser. As worse. Their leaders, supporters — all of them — worse. Amoral. Immoral.

So, friends, let’s ask a couple of key questions before our one big, brave one today…

Are we hearing the above in our culture today?

Are we reading about such classifications? … seeing such content?

Is this happening on television, in print, on radio and social media?

And… hard to ask this… but are we being encouraged to think of another group as lesser? … less enlightened? … or less something?

Allow me to humbly reference Prof. Gregory Stanton, a former law professor at Yale, George Mason, and multiple other established institutions of higher education. In the late 90’s, when serving in the U.S. State Dept., Stanton drafted the U.N. Security Council resolutions responsible for creating the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and more. He is best known for his work on genocide studies — the intentional destroying of people.

In 1999, Staton left academia to establish Genocide Watch, an organization which exists to predict and prevent genocide. We would know genocide when we see it — right? 

… the Holocaust… the Holodomor… the Armenian Genocide… the Assyrian genocide… the Cambodian genocide… the Kurdish genocide… the Rwandan genocide… the Guatemalan genocide… the Bangladesh genocide… and so heartbreakingly more…

So in regard to what’s relevant today, remember our first sentence: “It starts with language.”

The 10 bulleted statements above are taken from Stanton’s well known The Ten Stages of Genocide. “The process is not linear. Stages may occur simultaneously.” Here are the stages:

  1. Classification
  2. Symbolization
  3. Discrimination
  4. Dehumanization
  5. Organization
  6. Polarization
  7. Preparation
  8. Persecution
  9. Extermination
  10. Denial

Let us not overreact. Let us not confuse now with Nazi Germany; this is not.

But let us be brave enough to ask one big question:

Where are we unknowingly supporting one of the above?

The reality is that if we can “dehumanize” another group  —  because of how they look, where they live, what they believe, or even who they vote for  —  then we can justify all sorts of arrogance, judgment and otherwise known-to-be-awful behavior.

Remember: it starts with language.

Respectfully…

AR

shooting each other

Each known for their frequent fervor, the two surprised me this past week. In a good way.

The conversation began on Twitter — and consistent with said venue, that was neither the surprise nor the good. (Twitter is also not a “conversation.”)

Unsurprisingly, it began with a passionate topic. And isn’t that the reality? The more passionate we are about an issue — the deeper our conviction — the more likely we are to succumb to the societal lure that respect is not only no longer necessary, but not even wise to employ. This conversation, friends, began with gun control.

Let’s face it. It’s a tough topic. Proponents of more gun control legislation believe the 2nd Amendment was intended for militias and that gun violence would be reduced. Opponents believe the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns and that gun ownership deters crime rather than causes more.*

The interaction began when actress/activist/active-tweeter Alyssa Milano posed a question regarding the existence of any Biblical passage stating that gun ownership is a “God-given right.”

Attorney/Senator/equally-active-tweeter Ted Cruz responded with a lengthy series of tweets.

After Cruz’s response, Milano challenged him specifically: “I’d love to come in and meet with you on the gun issue and many other issues that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, @tedcruz and also, 1 Peter 4:8. I’ll be in DC next week. We can live-stream the meeting so the American people can hear your bullshit 1st hand.”

Fascinatingly, Cruz then welcomed the idea. The two sat down on Tuesday.

Afterward, Milano shared about her experience through a CNN op-ed [Note: all emphasis mine]:

“… Cruz and I agree on very little. He is a stalwart conservative; I am a committed progressive… On issue after issue we have fundamentally different views on freedom and humanity and our government. 

So why did I agree to meet with him? What could we possibly accomplish when we have such diametrically opposed views on, well, everything?

… I met with the senator because we can’t fix the problems that face this nation unless we talk with people who disagree with us. The truth is that no matter what happens in the 2020 election, there will always be two parties in the Senate which will be close to evenly divided. If we keep living solely in our echo chambers, we will only hear what we ourselves say. And our nation will continue to suffer.

I know we didn’t change his mind on how we fix gun violence in America. And he didn’t change ours. But maybe we understand one another a little better. Here’s what I came away with that I wasn’t so sure of before the meeting: Ted Cruz is a human being. He is a real person. He isn’t a villain in a movie. He cares when these shootings happen. When people on my side of this fight say he doesn’t, they’re wrong.

I hope he came away with the fact that we are caring people, and supporters of the Second Amendment, just not unlimited gun rights. I hope he recognizes a little bit more the fear parents have throughout the country…

Ninety percent of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, agree that we need a fix to the problem of gun violence in this country. Maybe by talking to each other as humans, with open hearts and listening to each other with open ears, we can inspire our leaders to do the same.

Isn’t it worth a try? For your children. For my children. For us all.”

Here are two people who truthfully, have not been known for their consistent expressions of respect. Here are two people who could have remained hidden behind their keyboards, where — let’s face it — disrespect is always easier. And here are two people — representative of most of the rest of us — who probably felt like the other person was worse, lesser, bad, evil, amoral, you-name-it primarily because they disagree.

Then they met face-to-face; they listened to one another; and things changed.

Want to make progress on this issue and more?

Perhaps we surprise ourselves by stopping the judgment, stopping the disrespect, and quit hiding behind our keyboards. As Milano said, “We can’t fix the problems that face this nation unless we talk with people who disagree with us.” They are real people, too.

Respectfully…

AR

[* For a non-partisan perspective on the gun control debate, check HERE.]

18 years later…

I wonder what they woke up thinking…

When they grabbed their cup of coffee, threw last minute items in their briefcase or purse, headed out the door… I wonder if they felt any different…

I wonder if they said the same words parting with their families that morning… kissed their spouse or their kids once more before they arose…

I wonder if they knew anything different… if they felt anything different… if they had any sense somehow that this day would be different…

I wonder…

As survivor Michael Wright wrote, one year after, “UP TO THAT DAY, I’d had a Brady Bunch, cookie-cutter, beautiful life. I now know what it’s like to have a 110-story building that’s been hit by a 767 come down on my head. For better or for worse, it’s part of my life. There are things I never thought I’d know that I now know.

It was as mundane a morning as you can imagine. Tuesdays are usually the days I go out to see clients and make sales calls. I get to my office at a quarter to eight, eat a bran muffin, drink a cup of coffee, and get my head straight for the day.

I was actually in a good mood. A couple of us were yukking it up in the men’s room. We’d just started sharing the eighty-first floor of 1 World Trade Center with Bank of America, and they’d put up a sign telling everyone to keep the bathroom clean. ‘Look at this,’ one of us said. ‘They move in and now they’re giving us sh*t.’ It was about quarter to nine…”

Then… “All of a sudden, there was the shift of an earthquake…”

The first plane — American Airlines Flight 11 — hit the northern facade of the North Tower of the World Trade Center at precisely 8:46 a.m… 81 passengers… 11 crew members… Captain John Ogonowski… First Officer Thomas McGuinness…

As we soberly pause to remember, it strikes me that all those people — from on the planes to in the buildings to the brave, brave first responders — that when the day began, they didn’t know it would be any different. There were no warning signs that their earthly life was coming to an abrupt end.

And so 18 years later, as I think about how maybe to honor the 2,996 persons who died that day, a few varied thoughts run through my head and heart…

… to simply remember… to pause long enough to acknowledge that the September 11th attacks are not just some distant memory… this isn’t just any other day…

… to pray for their families… no matter the 18 passing years, their emotion may be less prominent, but the grief remains. Indeed, one of life’s most prudent practices as we grow older is learning how to cope with grief and joy, often felt at the exact same time… 

… to never take evil lightly or to act as if it doesn’t exist on this planet… men motivated by evil is who/what killed the near 3,000 that day. An awareness of such seems wise…

… to teach our children well… let me add that I laid in bed with my youngest son last night, attempting to concisely explain the tragedy, trying to share the account in a way appropriate for his level of comprehension. Interestingly, I found the retelling and remembering to be moving for me, too…

… and lastly, to live our days with contagious delight but also to live with an awareness that any day could be different… any day could be our last… any day our lives could change.

Then, going one step further, let us ask… if we truly realized that any day could be our last, what would we do differently today? What would we change?

What would we be sure to say? What would we be sure to not?

What relationship would we finally work out?

What would instantly become unimportant?

I wonder… 

Respectfully…

AR

we are back!

And just like that, we are back!!

Greetings, friends! What a treat it’s been to sit back, read and digest the opinions of our excellent Guest Writers! It is always insightful to sincerely listen to someone other than self. (Did I mention it is wise, too??)

But thank you, too, for the respite. I find myself returning to the pen and the post with a renewed energy and commitment to do this well. By “this” I mean to discuss all things respectfully… to recognize that none of us have life all figured out… and to articulate with a raw humility, well aware that there is always more to learn.

I was affirming one of my bright young nephews recently — one who shared that he was approaching a select topic with an open mind, knowing that the great big God of the universe could always teach him more — and I said, “How wonderful! If only we adults could be more like that.” 

Yes… to realize that we can always learn more… that we don’t have life all figured out…

I’m struck by the inherent humility such a realization would bring to our every conversation.

So on that note, what should we converse about?

Much has happened in my absence…

… Andrew Luck left the NFL… Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been invited back… A hurricane kind of came and went; granted, it decided to be really, really slow… oh, the Bahamas… my heart breaks for the Bahamas… what can we do?

… the Pan Am games concluded; they were held in Lima, Peru this year with 41 nations included… U.S. led the medal count, with Brazil and Mexico following… bodybuilding made its debut (with El Salvadoran athletes dominating), and also, the daughter of Apple’s Steve Jobs came in fifth in an individual equestrian competition…

… cable news maintained its not-so-quiet deference to a lack of objectivity. As has become my routine, in my multiple weekly trips to the gym, while on one of the machines equipped with TV capabilities (oh, the beauty of technology), I devoted 10-15 minutes circling back-to-back-to-back-to-back between Bloomberg, CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC. Allow me a quite crude (but accurate) analysis… CNN and MSNBC hate the President… FOX likes the President… and Bloomberg tries to focus less on the President… Once again on respite, my concerns were renewed that so many actually think this is “news”… just imagine… if every story is influenced by said angle…

… Pres. Trump did something with a marker — or maybe not… Joe made something else up — or maybe not… is it a gaffe? Is it a lie? Is it misspeak? Does it matter who says it?…

… more presidential promises were made, some spending billions and trillions, especially on climate change… climate conversations brought talk of bans, too — from straws to meat to even people, thanks to Bernie… Beto also seemed to decide utilization of the “F bomb” may infuse new life into his campaign…

… gun control… ah, yes, call me naive; call me an optimist… I believe our leaders (and us) are capable of crafting a sensible approach. It seems Democrats and Republicans are actually — at least somewhat — meeting together on this… what can be done… what can’t… what’s actually effective… and what’s more emotional speak… I pray they can make some progress — and resist, too, the temptation to denigrate the other — or — to fall prey to the (in my opinion) arrogant ideology that they are the ones that have it all figured out (see above recognition, please)

… the squad came back… trying to decide do they play overseas, not play overseas, and/or whether they will wear the appropriate attire. What? Ah, yes, I’m speaking football, friends… New/now-ex/Oakland/LA/Las Vegas/whatever-for-now Raider Antonio Brown was arguing about his helmet (and more) as both the Saturday and Sunday squads are back on the college and profession gridiron… how exciting!… are you ready for some football?!

And just like that, we are back… ready to converse, ready to play, ready to learn, talk, and even embrace a little tongue-in-cheek.

What a joy and privilege to share this journey with you. As our country too often divides and conquers, we will not. We will always converse… always respectfully so.

Respectfully…

AR

the easy way of anger

[Concluding our annual Guest Writer Series is none other than PH, aka Guest Writer #12 (of 12). I have not known PH long, but I have quickly gotten to know him well. He is deep. He is thoughtful. He makes people think and makes them laugh… typically at the exact same time … ]

* * * * *

Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

I’m no stranger to being surprised at my own age and stage in life. Seems like just yesterday I was in college, feeling good, engaged, looking sexy as ever and was on top of the world. And by on top of the world I mean I was graduating then going on to grad school with zero US dollars and no job… but on top of the discovered world nonetheless. I had hopes and dreams and I was taking my first steps to accomplish them with excitement and confidence! I was about to start living my dream! Now I’m in sales in an industry I never thought I would be in. I’m older, still in shape (round being that shape), have a mortgage, home-improvement projects and regular maintenance, three kids, regular back pain, headaches, sinus problems, work stress, utility bills, and since my kids refuse to stop growing I’m constantly buying clothes for little humans that like to ruin them on the first day. By day two my son’s new shoes look like a homeless man has been wearing them for 35 years.

It’s not uncommon to get to a midpoint in life and look back wondering where the time went. On top of that, you’re not where you thought you’d be at this point. Perhaps you’re in a job you don’t like or on a career path heading somewhere you don’t want! Maybe you’re in a relationship that has been less than satisfying. That dream of a six-figure paycheck has come true… but you have to include the figures after the decimal point. Maybe your health has taken a turn that you didn’t anticipate and you’re now getting used to your “new normal.”  Family, bills, mortgage, kids, life, can all be overwhelming. I love and appreciate my life, but it certainly doesn’t look like I thought it would at this point.

It’s easy to get angry and stay angry. It’s easy to settle for mediocrity. It really takes little effort. It’s the easiest thing to do and yet it’s the hardest thing to live with. To filter our experiences, learn from them, stay positive, and grow as a better person is difficult. It is, however, a better path. It’s healthy. It’s happy. It’s fulfilling and rewarding. The alternative is just misery.

We’ve all met miserable people or been miserable. To constantly feel angry and bitter at life is miserable. Miserable people attract other miserable people. You’ve heard it before, “Misery loves company.” It can be exhausting to be around miserable people and it’s exhausting to be the miserable person. It’s miserable reading the word “miserable” that many times in this miserable paragraph! Seems like there’s no relief. No peace. No end to the grief in sight.

So young…and only one chin!! (2001)

One thing I have learned is that the fight is worth it. To put the effort in to renew your mind is never regrettable. I have never heard of a person saying, “I was miserable and frustrated and I changed my outlook and focus on life, getting myself to a better place, and now I wish I hadn’t. I’m happy and fulfilled, and it wasn’t worth the effort.” No one would say that.

The hardest part is taking the first step. Choosing to no longer have the chip on your shoulder. To choose to not look over the fence at what someone else has and become envious. To choose to leave the bitterness and anger behind and look forward. To stop playing the comparison game.  To choose to forgive. To choose to let go. To choose to begin being the person you’ve always wanted to be.

You know what’s funny? Many times this doesn’t require a major life change. I won’t be angry anymore if I get that new job. I won’t be angry anymore if I find a new spouse. I won’t be angry anymore if I can get my finances in better shape and live in a nicer home. I won’t be angry anymore if justice is served to those who have wronged me!

When we believe that simply changing our situation or surroundings will make us happier, then we have unfortunately chosen to believe a lie. It’s amazing how many times I’ve said to myself, “Once I get that new TV in the basement, then I won’t have to look at the old broken one and I’ll feel more satisfied and content.” Guess what? I was watching my 60-inch HDTV last night and I still wanted new rear speakers for the theater system. “Die Hard” never looked better, but there were still things I wanted. I wasn’t completely satisfied with my experience. Such is life. If you think that your anger and frustration will go away or that you will find contentment by simply changing your situation, then you’ll be on a lifelong journey in search of something that you’ll never attain.

The hard thing about choosing to move forward from anger and bitterness is that it starts in the mirror. It requires you to change, not your situation. It requires you to choose to move on without a guarantee that things will change. Peace, happiness, and contentment all come from inside, not outside. Joy can be found in the worst of situations because the source of joy is found within.  It’s a choice and a mindset.

Being angry is easy but it’s in no way worth it. Find the joy within. Seek it from something greater than your situation. Then you’ll see your situation completely differently.  Perhaps your life isn’t so bad. Perhaps you’re right where you need to be. Perhaps this is precisely the part of the journey you’re supposed to be on right now. This part won’t last forever. Make the most of it. Learn, grow, and enjoy it. Maybe this is the launching point for the next big thing that you’ve been dreaming of. 

Perhaps you have everything you want… you were just focusing on all the wrong things.

Enjoy the Journey…
PH


questions, 4 year olds & fastballs

[Nearing the conclusion of our annual Guest Writer Series, allow me to introduce LJ, aka Guest Writer #11 (of 12). LJ has been a sweet friend for so many years… being silly… being serious… but also, always being authentic … ]

* * * * *

Did you know that the average 4-year old could ask at least 300 questions a day? The first time I heard this stat I could hardly believe it!   remember thinking to myself: “Hmmm… whoever did that study apparently did not have a 4-year old named Aden in their test group.” Because if they did, they, too, would be keenly aware that my three very over-achieving man children could put that number to shame… rather quickly and easily.

During their early years, with their gears constantly turning, you could always see when the firestorm of questions was going to hit. At first the questions were rather easy to answer, and I felt pretty good that maybe this parenting thing wasn’t a hard as everyone said it was. There were questions like: 

“Can I have a drink?”  

“Are we having peanut butter and jelly for lunch today?” 

“Can you read me this book?”    

Or… maybe it was just that whole concrete thinking phase that children go through.  Either way, the mastery of answering those questions of the early years did wonders for my ego and confidence.

As they got a little older, the number of questions did not become fewer; it was just the depth of the questions asked that changed. The questions have gotten trickier to answer.  

“Mom, what does it mean when the weather man says the clouds have rotation?”

“Mom, did you know that a snowflake is a frozen fractal?” 

“What happens when you die?”

“Why is Thomas Jefferson only considered the 3rd president when he was actually the 3rd and the 4th president?”  

I’ve come to realize rather quickly that this whole child-asks-a-question/mom-answers-that-question thing is a bit over my head, and I may need to call in the reserves.  Thank the Good Lord for dads and that amazing one-liner: “I think you better go ask your father.”

Now as I stand on the doorstep of the teenage years, you can well imagine just how grossly ill-prepared I feel to field the questions that are yet to come. It also makes perfect sense in my mind that it would be my almost 13 year old who should be preparing me for these life questions — right? He does his share of asking. However, from time-to-time, it is my 8-year old who will throw me the zinger.  

“Mom, what does it mean — that saying on your cup — ‘Life’s too short to take FASTBALLS down the middle?’ ”

I am silent as my old-soled man-child sits waiting for my response the whole time repeating his question over in his mind. I am not silent because I do not know what to say. I am silent because I am trying to decide the best way to communicate the heart of the message in the best possible way for his 8-year old heart and mind can grasp. 

After much thought, this is what this baseball loving, boy mom has come to…

We are given one shot in this life we are blessed with. There are no dress rehearsals, but sometimes, we are given second chances. In all the hugeness of this world around us, it would very easy to let the “hugeness” swallow us whole. We could so very easily stand there at the home plate of life watching the pitches whiz right on by. 

I don’t want to let that happen!! I want my life to be a statement of going down swinging, making the most of every second, of every minute, of every day.

Batter UP!!!

Respectfully…

LJ

myth busters

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet DG, Guest Writer #10 (of 12). DG is a conscientious, articulate father and professional who I’ve known to be a good listener and communicator. He is respectful and always makes me think … ]

Ever since my younger days, I observed our neighbors having to prove to their youngest daughter, who was 5 years-old, that there was nothing under the bed or in the closet spaces that resembled a boogeyman before bed. As we all have heard, you can’t prove a negative. However, in this child’s mind, Mom and Dad had just emphatically proven there were no boogeymen in the house. At least not for that night. Because the next night the hunt would restart. I could understand why a child’s mind would need to be reassured continuously, but it seems our modern adult minds are doing just such a game. 

It seems there is a never-ending quest to seek out and exaggerate all things we consider negative. These things are either real or imagined. It seems facts really do not matter for us. Recently my wife and I picked up her sisters from the airport. My wife’s license plate on her car is a specialized Nevada plate that identifies her as an Organ Donor. One of her sisters noticed it and insisted that she needed to replace the plate. Her premise was that by having an organ donor plate in an accident, someone would accelerate her demise so they could harvest her organs. My question to her was, “Do you mean to tell me that all 50 DMVs across the US and all emergency room staff and ambulance drivers met to put this all together?” Her response was, “Well, that’s what I heard.” She further said that since my wife is black, it was even more dangerous for her. I knew then it would be an interesting weekend with this particular sister-in-law. I love all my wife’s family as I do my own, but sometimes even they try my patience. 

The conversation later that evening at my home moved to what was for dinner. I had bought some tilapia, thawed it out, and was then going to grill them. Just then Boogeyman #2 for the day raised its head when my daughter who is a chef said, “You know tilapia is bad for you, right?” So now I’m both curious and furious. She started to tell me how harmful tilapia is, being farmed and the toxic things that are done to it. Meanwhile, the day before she ate some Gulf Shrimp –  caught from the Gulf of Mexico, the site of several oil spills in the past few years. She continued, saying it all comes from China (implying that it must be bad). I went and retrieved the package from the smelly garbage and looked on the package of the fish; it was, in fact, from Indonesia. So the “it all comes from China” myth was busted. I also looked at their website, which it made me feel better.  After reading through the site, no boogeyman was there for me to see. We all enjoyed the grilled tilapia, and none of us were glowing afterward except with the glow from a satisfying meal.  

The social media sites while informative are the some of the worst myth purveyors. They attempt to find boogeymen where none exist. Back in 2012 when the world was supposed to end on December 12th because it did not appear on the ancient Mayan calendar, I had the greatest time teasing my many colleagues who believed this latest horse pokey. Somehow having ancient Mayans as guides for our future seemed more logical than believing established science. There was even a movie “2012” that grossed approximately $770 million. So nearly a billion dollars was spent by consumers to reinforce their fears. To be clear, my psychological training is zero. But I am intelligent enough to know that this is the same mentality that makes us go through haunted houses and roller coasters. The only difference is our modern day adult often gets lost in the myth of these boogeymen and gets so caught up that they can’t wake up from the bad dream they are having. 

The continuous myth I want to finally uncover is Global Warning/Climate Change. I wrote about this in last year’s Guest Writer Series, sharing some facts and opinions with which not everyone agreed with me. The conversation has now reached a crescendo with some of the new politicians and entertainers. According to them, we have about 12 years until the next doomsday unless we make some drastic changes now. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Al Gore told us we had 10 years until Climate Change doomsday. The timeline continues to move so that it fits any timeline such advocates seek. Again, I believe we should do everything to keep our Earth clean and conserve energy and resources. We have been given stewardship of this 3rd rock from the Sun; this is truly Mother Earth. But some of these measures such as zero carbon emissions, no fossil or nuclear energy are not only ridiculous but almost impossible to achieve. The impracticality of having 7 billion people redo the way they live is a myth because we will always be chasing and hunting for something that is not there.  

Respectfully…

DG

One more thing…

Recently, after the death of the infamous criminal, Michael Epstein, his suicide evoked a lot of myths. Many Clinton supporters were implying if not outright saying that Trump and his people had something to do with Epstein’s death. Many Trump supporters were saying that surely the Clintons had something to do with it. Are we in a place where everything has a conspiratorial aspect to it? Can some things be just what they are at face value? 

We are better than this. Epstein was obviously an evil person. Could this not just be his final act of evil? I recently posted this on Facebook and some couldn’t help themselves, still continuing with the myths. So it has become clear to me that myths are here to stay. We just have to learn to take more deep breaths… WOOSAH…