definitions

Tonight all eyes will be on Gov. Mitt Romney.  Ok, perhaps not all eyes… I read rumors and rants from people who say something along the lines of “I just can’t stand the sight of him” — a reaction many politicians elicit regardless of affiliation.  Truthfully, that reaction bothers me a bit.  How can we know who someone is, what they believe, what they stand for, if we only listen to critical analysis via partisan filters?

 

But lest we digress…

 

Just as then Sen. Barack Obama did 4 years ago, tonight Mitt Romney will attempt to “define” himself to the American people.  As the incumbent, Pres. Obama is already “defined” in regard to what kind of president he would be.

 

And so sometime shortly after 10 p.m. EST, the former Governor of Massachusetts will share with the viewing public who he is and how he intends to govern.

 

Friends, this post is not about Mitt Romney.  It’s not about Barack Obama.  It’s not an endorsement nor favoring of either candidate; in fact, next week at the Democrats’ convention at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, we could reprint much of this post’s same points, simply by changing the order of the names.  Today’s main point, no less, speaks directly to the attempt by the candidates to “define” themselves…  and the game that is played to obstruct the truthfulness of the process…

 

“Oh, the games people play now 

Every night and every day now 

Never meaning what they say now 

Never saying what they mean…”

 

Note the impurity of the American political process, acknowledged by Democrat strategist, Joe Trippi, yesterday morn, saying, “We’re fighting over the definition of Mitt Romney right now.”  The fight?

 

Best this current events observer can discern — noting descriptions actually articulated by Romney and his campaign — Mitt Romney will attempt to “define” himself Thursday night as the following:

 

  • A Cub Scout
  • Family man
  • A husband of “unwavering care and devotion”
  • Not a career politician”
  • Comprehender of the private sector
  • An economic expert
  • “Outstanding public servant”
  • Salvager of the Olympic games
  • Friend of small & new business
  • “A superb manager”
  • “An exceptional man with unique qualifications to lead our country through perilous times”

 

Simultaneously, best this current events observer can discern — noting descriptions actually articulated by Obama and his campaign — Obama will attempt to “define” Romney as the following:

 

  • “Extreme”
  • A candidate who has a “lack of willingness to take responsibility for what this job entails”
  • “Not ready for primetime”
  • A person having a “penchant for secrecy”
  • Possessing a business record that is “not a qualification for president”
  • An “extreme candidate”  (… did I say ‘extreme’ yet?)

 

In other words, Romney will attempt to “define” himself in the best possible light; Obama will attempt to “define” Romney in the worst possible light.  Next week the roles will be reversed, and Obama will remind us of his “definition” as the family man, while Romney’s camp will find some description undoubtedly synonymous with “extreme.”

 

So here’s the zillion dollar question:  what is true?  … what is accurate?  … and wiser yet… does it matter?

 

“… Talkin’ ‘bout you and me 

And the games people play…”

 

Respectfully,

AR

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.

 

Respectfully,

AR

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…

AR

winning the words battle, but losing the idea war

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

 

 

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates, each of which lasted three hours.  Today candidates running for office state their case via 30-second commercials and 140-character tweets.

Whether it’s because of technology or because we just live busier lives today, there is a perception that voters have shorter attention spans than they did 150 years ago.  So just like marketing for other items, political advertising has become more concise and summarized.  That approach may have positive short-term effects in terms of winning elections, but there can be negative long-term impacts.  Over-simplified campaign slogans can foster misperceptions on broader policy issues.

Even though I am an active member of the Republican Party, initially I was not a fan of George W. Bush.  The reason was because as a candidate he referred to himself as a “compassionate conservative.”  I suspect that phrase was the brainchild of Karl Rove meant to maximize electoral success.  From that perspective, the motto was effective.  It appealed to independent voters who wanted fiscal responsibility but believed Democrat claims that Republicans were cold and heartless.

To me, though, conservatism is compassionate.  To put the two words together implied a paradox and reinforced the Democrat talking point.  Two generations of the welfare state has institutionalized dependency for a large segment of our society, something I don’t find to be very compassionate.  It’s too bad that important point got pushed aside in an alliterative pursuit for votes.

This year, given the fact that many Americans are out of work or underemployed, the topic on many voters’ minds is jobs.  Rightfully so, most politicians are emphasizing their intent to improve the employment situation.  Unfortunately, many candidates (Republicans and Democrats alike) are saying that they are going to “create jobs.”

Voters may react positively to such a pledge.  Yet, there’s one problem as I see it:  government can’t create jobs.  It’s a significant difference of opinion, and when Republicans say they will create jobs, they are ceding to the Democrat viewpoint about where jobs come from.

A job will only exist when the time put in by an employee enables value to be added to a product or service.  That’s the true source of jobs (and wealth, by the way)… individuals acting freely to develop things that other people want or need.  All revenue that the government has comes from the private sector, not the other way around.

Government does have the power to prevent jobs from being created, through excessive regulation and high taxes which discourage entrepreneurs from taking risks.  Unfortunately, “I will destroy fewer jobs” doesn’t go well on a bumper sticker.

Political consultants should give voters more credit that they can absorb more information than a sound bite.  They should provide candidates more opportunity to fully explain the ideas behind their positions.

To get elected, candidates need to obtain a majority of votes, so there is a natural tendency to react to public opinion.   However, sometimes what we need instead is changing public opinion.  What we need is leadership.

 

Respectfully,

Pete

 

[Intramuralist Note:  My “little brother” — although he towers approximately a foot overhead — now shares with us as the State Senator from Indiana’s District 24.  Way to go, wise bro… well done.] 



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.

 

Respectfully,

REH

 

 

[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.]


fear itself

[Note:  Today is day 8 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.]

 

“Solar storm barreling towards Earth”

The headline made me stop and click on the link to read the July 14, 2012 AP article by Alicia Chang.

Solar storm. Barreling. Barreling towards Earth.  That can’t be good.

“A solar storm is due to arrive on Saturday morning and last through to Sunday, slamming into Earth’s magnetic field.”  (Emphasis mine).

Instinctively my heart races a little faster after reading the first sentence in the article.  Barreling and slamming definitely have me a little worried.  I just know this solar storm is big and dangerous.

Fear. Invisible, but potent fear enters my body with the air I breathe.

The fact is, reasons to be frightened are everywhere we turn. The radio, TV, and the Internet literally scream fear into our lives: shootings, climate change, social change, you name it. Our political pundits are especially skilled at pushing our panic buttons.

In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Why is that? What are the ramifications of being fearful?

  1. Chaos instead of clarity: When panicking we tend not to think clearly or rationally.
  2. Cowardliness instead of courage: Self preservation trumps caring for others. Our survival instinct kicks in when we are faced with the imminent demise of our existence, livelihood, or even our way of life.
  3. Division instead of unity: Fear makes us trust less, and when we trust people less we are more apprehensive about engaging with them, which in turn, fosters unwarranted prejudice instead of true discernment.
  4. Pointing fingers instead proposing a solution: When busy playing the blame game, we often find ourselves too preoccupied with discovering who’s at fault instead of uncovering answers.

If being fearful causes us to toss out reason, can we choose to overcome our apprehension with something more constructive? Is it time for us to collectively take a giant step back and breathe some non-anxious air into our lungs? Is time for us to be courageous, confident, and informed?

Instead of reacting instantly to problem with deep dismay, ask questions, gather knowledge and find solutions.  And have a little faith; faith in each other, and perhaps faith in something bigger than us.

Oh, and the solar storm…

The next sentence in the article read:

“Scientists say it will be a minor event… We don’t see any ill effects to any systems…”

And so I click on the next article, “Are Farmers Markets Safe?”

Respectfully,

Sharon

 

[Intramuralist Note:  As one who has long been impressed and inspired by friend Sharon’s musings, see more at www.sharonsiepel.com.]



fifty shades of ‘gray’

[Note:  Today is day 7 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.]

 

 

Catchy title – right?

 

With all the hoopla surrounding this book, a taboo to some, a guilty pleasure for others, to find a discussion of it here on this seemingly wholesome, cerebral blog, how controversial!  To some this might be an opportunity to learn about something that normally they wouldn’t give the time of day. Others will simply turn away and deem it beneath them. Still others might welcome it as a chance to learn what all the fuss is about.

 

Well, sorry to disappoint, but this is not about the erotica sweeping the land via lonely housewives. This is about another brand of Gray. The one that dwells between the black and white of our current society, the one that, unfortunately, is also taboo, and the one we really need to be talking about.

 

 

I am, for one, all for having a belief system that a person is invested in – that you care enough about to defend, or at the very least one that carves out a way to live your life that is positive and beneficial to others. Grown out of your own up-bringing, faith and life experiences, however, what I fail to understand in our current society is the need by most to pass judgment on those whose beliefs are not in line with their own. The need to convince those with opposing opinions that they are wrong, for the simple reason that they are not the same as their own; note that I said “not the same” and not different.

 

Different is good; we have been taught to believe this phrase.

Not the same as me; well that’s another story.

 

Different is an obvious thing – it is geographical or educational or color. Different is the homeless man asking for a dollar on the corner, or the special needs teenager who bags groceries, or the girl from the south who says “y’all”. These are all excusable differences born out of circumstance beyond control.

 

Not the same as me is the man who doesn’t believe Global Warming to be the truth, or the mom who believes in spanking her children. Or the homosexual couple who desire to celebrate their relationship and legally commit themselves to one another. Those are choices, and if they are not the same as mine, then quite frankly, they are wrong. Or so goes the current party line on all sides.

 

They are the people who are as educated as I am, come from the same part of the country, might even have the same skin color and who, until they voice an opinion, or post something on their Facebook wall, I think are exactly like me. They should be – from the outside at least we are alike. How is it possible that they don’t believe as I do?

 

They have to be – we are the same. But somehow, we aren’t.

 

In our current society, it seems, that makes them wrong, or bad. If someone doesn’t line up 100% with our beliefs, then I oppose them. Period, end of story. No room for compromise, or discussion or debate. My side is right, yours is wrong. We can talk about it, but not in a way that is going to enlighten the opposition. There is no give and take, no understanding of why a person believes differently than I do. No “live and let live”.

 

There is my way, or the wrong way.

There is black and white.

There is no Gray.

 

What a tragedy.  I really mean that and am not trying to be overly dramatic. That word is thrown around for remarkable events like war, and un-timely death, or the collapse of the Reds in the post season (that one’s for you, AR). But really, even at its smallest level, judgment of others is a tragedy, too.

 

It keeps us from having empathy for others, from understanding a different religion, or point of view. From having compassion for the NRA member who lost a loved one in Aurora, or the Atheist who commits suicide, or the pro-life mother faced with a pregnant teenager.

 

They weren’t the same as me, they got what they deserved. If they had only supported gun control, believed in my God, supported sex education in school, like I DO, if only. 

 

It is a sad state we find ourselves in, my friends. When the only example of debate is shouting matches on cable news networks and belittling arguments on social media outlets. For most of us, our beliefs are so strong, it is hard to understand that anyone could believe as strongly in the opposition. But, they do, we are not all the same, and the things we could learn, about ourselves, our faith, our own morals, if only we’d do a little more listening and a little less shouting. Whether that is verbal shouting or the-oh-so-popular ALL CAPS SHOUTING, we must start listening to each other. Our differences are not as large as our problems in this country.

 

Bring back the compassion and understanding.

Bring back the educated debate and compromise.

Bring back the Gray.

 

Respectfully,

Jules

 

[Intramuralist Note:  3.5 years ago, Jules helped provide the impetus for this blog; she sharpens me still today.  For more on her professional creativity, check out her published, fictional repertoire:  “These Darn Heels”, “Deja Who?” and the newly released “Try, Try Again”.]

the moving process

[Note:  Today is day 6 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.]

 

 

After over 30 years in a home that had seen the rearing of children, the hospitality of neighbors, the hosting of family gatherings, I engaged in the daunting task of MOVING.  Oh, it was time, and I was excited about the new home we had purchased.  Even the term “downsizing” was appealing. Nevertheless, “daunting” was the right word.

 

Closets held too much clothes; shelves held too many books; storage areas contained too many long unopened boxes; furniture was unusable in the new house.  But where to begin?  Sorting, pitching, saving I knew, but what should go into each category?  Goodwill and I became personal acquaintances.  Chin families needed clothes and linens.  Salvation Army picked up furniture.  Records and books went to the Half-priced store (for little in return).  My piano went to grandchildren.  (Notice, no garage sales… that’s not for me.)  High school and college papers and classroom lesson plans I purged… with some reluctance.  At times I did feel as if I were “downsizing” me.

 

But I saved other treasures of sentiment as well… gift books with special notes written in the cover by the giver, my dad’s violin, my mother’s dresser, dishes that were their wedding gifts, the first dress I sewed for a 4-H project at age 12 (white fabric with frisky pink lambs on it), pictures and professional recognitions.  Items likes these are touched with love and memory of events and people dear to me.  I’m not saving just the item, but the warmth therein.

 

However, I have discovered that often a process has many other applications.  I wonder if it would not be wise to evaluate just what intangibles we are hanging on to, that which has no real value and should be  purged as well:

 

— a self-regret based on “woulda-coulda-shoulda”

 

— a resentment that others have achieved what we have not

 

— an ego which prevents us from seeing the good in others

 

— a prejudice that blankets collectively people we don’t even know

 

— an anger that we nurse and rehearse because we won’t admit we might be wrong

 

— an unwillingness to forgive because that might give a gift to one who doesn’t deserve it… when it really is a gift we give ourselves

 

— an excuse to live not as we are called to by serving and loving others

 

Yes, I found the moving process though laborious, yet liberating as well.  Shedding “stuff” simplifies life.  But wouldn’t letting go of negative attitudes and hostilities be even more simplifying?  More freeing?  Wouldn’t each day be more peaceful without carrying around a load of burdensome feelings and inner turmoil?

 

Consider trying it. This is a process that doesn’t require a change of address… only a change of heart.

 

 

P.S. Thanks, Intramuralist… and I don’t miss a thing I left behind.

 

Respectfully,

DL

 

 

[Intramuralist Note:  DL has poured insight into me for decades; most of the time, I listened.  Well done, Madre… well done.]


stepping on the truth box

[Note:  Today is day 5 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 want the truth. But … do I … really? Sometimes I feel just like the recipient of the infamous line from A Few Good Men, who was told, “You can’t handle the truth!”

 

Hearing hard things makes me wilt a bit inside, even when I purposely place myself in a setting where everyone is encouraged to speak the truth. Over five years ago I joined a group of five women who meet every other week to share life stories, encourage one another, and challenge certain bad habit patterns and distorted thinking.

 

I like to call our time together “stepping on the Truth Box.” But we really call it PDP, which stands for Personal Development Plan. The group was formed to teach some assessment tools for life coaching, but as we began to share life stories and get motivating, growth-oriented feedback, our meetings became like dope. By the time the reminder for our next gathering pops up on my calendar, I’m usually emotionally dragging a bit, in need of my PDP fix.

 

Someone always cries. Last time it was me. I was gently challenged to check my victim mentality when it comes to my chronic illness. Initially I found the words tough to hear, but so often I do need another voice spoken into my life to clearly see the truth. That day I needed a leg-up to get on my Truth Box.

 

When communication directed at one of my many vulnerabilities hits the “ouch spot,” I have to examine why the sting. If the words are true, why do they sometimes hurt? Maybe it has to do with a skewed self-image or a false reality. If I maintained a realistic view of myself, knowing I had flaws, dropped stitches, and natural shortcomings, wouldn’t it be easier to hear truth?

 

In order to avoid emotional pain, some might suggest adapting a thicker skin approach to life but perhaps more permeable skin would serve me better. The callousness of thick skin doesn’t allow for the flow of truth and grace. And maybe that’s the missing component, a dose of grace mixed with the truth. I like Webster’s definition, “a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy or clemency.” Truth always tastes better delivered with kindness.

 

The other day when I received truth from my PDP sisters, it came with plenty of grace.  🙂

 

Receiving hard stuff takes practice. The steadier the diet of truth, the easier it is to digest. My self-awareness learning curve keeps climbing thanks to caring people in my life willing to say the tough stuff.

 

I like living in the emotional place where I can unabashedly articulate my strengths AND my weaknesses. If you have a criticism of me, it may bruise my ego a bit to hear it, but if I want to move forward in life then, “bring it on.” Just please don’t forget the measure of grace.

 

Respectfully,

Caroline

 

 

[Intramuralist Note:  Caroline is wise woman.  I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again; I appreciate both her fondness and knowledge of baseball, the bible, and good beer.]

a little kid with some big beliefs

[Note:  Today is day 4 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.]

 

So, I’m pretty much just a kid. I just graduated from high school in May, and now I’m gearing up for college in the fall. I’m buying sheets and a Brita filter and all this grown-up stuff I always took for granted. It’s a weird time. What’s even weirder was when the Intramuralist asked me to be a guest blogger on her blog. She told me she’d had a few thousand hits on her blog, so people would actually be reading it. My first thought was, “oh hey! I’ve had 3,000 views on my blog. That’s not that big of a deal.” Then my second thought: “Oh wait, this week alone you say? Most of mine were probably my mother.” Needless to say, I’m honored to write for the Intramuralist. I’m honored to be included in such an exciting blog with so much discussion (and so many readers… I’m starting to feel stage fright), especially at such a young age. You all have probably had your Brita filters for years.

 

While I may feel like a little kid most of the time, I’ve got passion to make up for it. This passion started 3 years ago while I was writing a research paper my freshman year. My teacher assigned me a paper on a woman named Margaret Sanger. I researched the heck out of that paper. While I did find the topic interesting, I felt drawn to the subject in an unprecedented way. Sanger and her life work, an organization called Planned Parenthood, are interesting. But what caught my attention the most was abortion.

 

Abortion was so much bigger than me. The more I research it, the bigger it seems to get. I started as a 15 year old with no personal connection, and now I’m 18 and starting to understand how abortion has changed my life. Abortion has changed everybody’s life. No matter the side, pro-life or pro-choice, rights are threatened by the opposing side. Either you’re pro-life and you believe abortion is legalized murder, or you’re pro-choice and you believe abortion is a vital step in the emancipation of women. The sides are becoming fierce. You could be called “anti-women,” “anti-women’s health,” or “anti-choice” for opposing abortion. You could be called “pro-death” or “anti-life” for supporting abortion rights. It’s fierce because both sides realize that not only rights, but our very lives are at stake.

 

If what pro-life (or anti-abortion) people say is true, then 1/3 of my generation has been aborted and is thus dead. If what they say about “Post Abortion Syndrome” is true, then 1/3 of my parents’ generation is mourning the death of a child. If what pro-choice people say is true and thousands died obtaining illegal abortions, then reversing abortion laws would kill thousands more. Abortion effects everybody.

 

So here comes the big question: Which side is right? Should abortion be legal and on-demand, or should it be criminalized?

 

There is so much to consider when speaking about abortion. Rights of the woman, rights of the man involved, and rights of the zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus. There are privacy rights, conscience rights, right to life, equality between men and women… the lists go on and on. So what is the heart of the issue? Is there one question that goes deeper than the rest, that would determine the rest of the issue?

 

I believe there is, and that question is simply when life begins. The law largely exists to protect life. That’s why we have laws against murder, mugging, and rape. We have traffic laws to prevent car accidents, hospitals to protect life, and firemen to save lives. We have gym memberships and vitamins to take care of ourselves, doctors to help us stay healthy, and we give special honor to people who have saved lives. I’d even say that’s why we all love superhero movies. All that to say, if we can determine when life begins, then we will protect it from that point on.

 

People have different beliefs as to when life begins. Some say conception. Some say fertilization. Some say when the heart or brain or when vital organs begin working. Some say life begins when the baby could survive outside of the womb. Legally, life begins when the mother chooses to keep the baby (which explains why the murder of a pregnant woman is double manslaughter). One of the most common stances is that the beginning of life can’t be determined, so it doesn’t matter. If a person gets thrown from a car in a car accident, the rescue workers will absolutely check the person to see if they are alive. Even if there is little hope for the person to survive, they will do everything to preserve that life. Why cannot we do the same for potential life?

 

Scientifically, the beginning of life has already been determined. Life begins at fertilization, when the sperm fertilizes the egg and creates a new cell with complete DNA that is unique from every other DNA that has ever or will ever exist. There are some objections to this claim. Some say that even a hair has DNA in it, but that doesn’t give it life. However, the incredible process of implantation disables the woman’s immunities so that her body will nurture the baby. This wouldn’t be necessary if the baby was just another part of the woman’s body.

 

The second common objection is that identical twins share DNA because when the fertilized egg begins to split into multiple cells, it divides completely and becomes two separate organisms. However, saying that life begins at fertilization does not say how many lives begin at fertilization; it may be more than one life.

 

A common way of showing that life begins at fertilization is called the SLED argument —size, level of development, environment, and dependency. It compares the differences between a fetus and a human already born. Beginning with size, every organ in an adult human being is already developed and functioning in the fetus just 8 weeks after fertilization. The level of development — just as an adult is more developed than a teenager — a newborn is more developed than a fetus. As for the environment — going down the birth canal does not transform a potential human into a human, just as moving from one country to another does not give humanity. Lastly, the level of dependency — a fetus depends on his or her mother, just as a baby depends on his or her parents. Since when does dependency determine value?

 

People are beginning to agree that life begins early on in pregnancy, but “personhood” begins later on. When it becomes evident that someone is alive but people do not want to give him or her the same rights as themselves, they decide to make a distinction between life and personhood. This means they are claiming the right to take value from some people. The exact same thing happened in the U.S. in 1857 when the Supreme Court ruled that a slave named Dred Scott could not have the rights of a citizen because of his race. While they admitted he was alive, he was not given the same rights, or personhood, as the whites because of his race. The same thing happened in Germany when Hitler created the “Final Solution,” his attempt to exterminate the Jewish race completely. He convinced a nation that the Jews were less human and needed to be killed.

 

Saying that life may begin during pregnancy but personhood begins later is no different than taking away somebody’s rights in order to legally kill them. Most people are horrified by comparing abortion to the holocaust or slavery, because we are horrified by genocides against humanity. I believe everybody does value life to some extent, but our culture is just losing sight of how much value life deserves. What person would not protect themselves when put in harms way? What person would not attempt to save loved ones in danger?

 

So here I am. A little kid with some big beliefs about some big things. I have my little blog, the book I’m writing about abortion for teenagers, and my passion, all for the sake of defending life. Abortion has been said to be the dividing factor of our nation. While it becomes muddled with politics and slogans and rallies, it effects every one of our lives. I believe that one day the “abortion problem” will be faced head-on and resolved. I believe this day is soon, and we need to be ready. We need to think through these questions, research our answers, and act on our conclusions.

 

Respectfully,

Becca

 

 

[Intramuralist Note:  More thoughts from Becca and the hope-filled, wise perspective she represents can be found at http://beccafrench.blogspot.com/.  Way to go, girl.  I’m proud of you.  You are brave.]