but I know them!

I had a great discussion with one of my life-sharpeners the other day. You know those people. They are the ones with whom time spent is always fruitful… always producing of something better… in me. Granted, I have to be humble enough and discerning enough to recognize that something better is necessary and possible.

We were talking about the WNBA and how they are reacting wisely (and poorly) to their unprecedented popularity and the reaction to rookie VIP Caitlin Clark. (If not a women’s basketball fan, sports fan, etc., hang with me, friends. The point of this post is not about Caitlin nor women’s basketball nor about any perceived transgression within a potential gender pay gap.)

As our conversation continued, we spoke of the reactions of some of the league veterans. One name came up, where my sharpener praised the former player, saying he really liked her. I paused.

When the league marked their 25th anniversary a few years ago, they celebrated the significance by releasing “The W25,” designating the top 25 players in WNBA history. The player my sharpener mentioned was a name near the top of that list. 

I met her once.

I met her in the middle of her storied career. Oh, indeed… she was an excellent player. Unquestionably gifted, talented and she clearly made the people around her better. Suffice it to say that she possessed most everything we’d say we want in a star player; she deserved that top 25 status. Except for one thing…

She wasn’t kind to me.

Not only was she not kind, I found her to be rude, arrogant and a little snarky, too. Don’t get me wrong. I can definitely appreciate some timely, witty snark here and there. But this was different.I perceived this as an unattractive cockiness that seemed to come with celebrity status. I was grateful to meet her, but it was not an enjoyable experience. She didn’t seem like any kind of life-sharpener. And now, I am the one being kind.

Here, no less, is the point of our thinking this day…

There’s no question that my experience with this star athlete was real. It is equally true that my reaction to our interaction was valid. It doesn’t make me “right” or “wrong” (way too binary of a response choice), but as said, my emotions were valid — meaning well founded and having a sound basis in logic.

But here’s what’s also true…

My one time experience with the celebrity does not define who she is, even though my experience was real.

In fact, it would be unfair of me to think I could determine who she is via a single incident.

Hence, I wonder…

How often do we convince ourselves we are capable of discerning the character of someone after a sole interaction?

… as if that interaction represents all another is?

Thank God I am not defined by a singular interaction … like the time I was openly judgmental of a dear friend… the time I flatly refused forgiveness (she didn’t deserve it)… or the time I yelled another timely snark (or maybe expletive) on the baseball field… at a 12 year old.

“But I know them!” We justify. Thinking one interaction means we know them.

No. We don’t.

Single interactions don’t define us. Thank God. But single interactions don’t define others either.

Respectfully…

AR

misusing superlatives

Next week I have a really fun event prepared for my staff. We love team building. We work hard. We enjoy play. We have multiple, extremely talented individuals on our team. We also encourage emotional, physical and spiritual healthiness. In that health, we value, too, the importance of relational connection amidst professional execution. 

Thing is, this event is a surprise. So at this stage of the planning, I can’t give them all the details. In fact, I don’t really want to give them any of the details. I want them to save the date, save the time, and then trust me with the process.

I also, though, want to ratchet up the excitement. I want them to be greatly looking forward to this thing they don’t know that they’re actually going to do.

And so as I was writing the email designed to hype what’s happening — without really giving them any information other than time, date and “trust me” —  I found myself using a surfeit of superlatives…

Excellent… deeply valuable… epic…

My desire is to utilize words that make my team believe this is going to be good… even though they can’t see what I see or know what I know.

The embedded question of integrity, no less, rests on whether I believe it. And for our event next week, I’m pleased to share that indeed I do.

But herein lies the problem in our words.

Too often the integrity isn’t there. Too often the person who speaks the words doesn’t believe the words. The words are still intentionally chosen, but instead of them being an attempt to help another see what the sharer sees, the words are an attempt to make the hearer believe something that contradicts what they actually see. The words are an attempt to manipulate the perception of the person on the other side of them.

No doubt, unfortunately, that’s one of the reasons we’ve lost significant trust in so many of our leaders. On all sides. They often employ words we know are not true; they say what they want us to hear — not what is true. In my head, I’m trying to be respectful, but usually I want to retort with something along the lines of, “Do they think we’re stupid?”

We see it blatantly in Presidents 45 and 46. With all due respect, 45 seems to speak in an entire language of superlatives, routinely invoking the words “greatest” or “best.” Kurt Andersen wrote a playful piece in The Atlantic a few years ago, cleverly educating us all in “How to Talk Like Trump.” Utilizing superlatives, just to discuss Trump’s play on the word “positive,” for example, Andersen points to his use of “amazing / beautiful / best / big league / brilliant / elegant / fabulous / fantastic / fine / good / great / happy / honest / incredible / nice / outstanding / phenomenal / powerful / sophisticated / special / strong / successful / top / tremendous / unbelievable.” The chosen words often seem an attempt to make something better than it is.

We saw it again this week with the Wall Street Journal’s research. The WSJ published a report on Pres. 46’s performance in private meetings headlined “Behind Closed Doors, Biden Shows Signs of Slipping.” Understandably, some did not appreciate the acknowledgement of decline, especially feeling it was an unbalanced, partisan piece. But some in defense prompted that question of integrity, suggesting no mental slippage exists. They want us not to believe what we actually see, as centrist Joe Klein detailed: “I feel a sharp stab of concern every time I see Biden in public—his eyes slits (too much plastic surgery), his words mumbled and slurred, his gait unsteady. I’ve known this man for nearly forty years and he does seem different now.” The chosen words here, too, seem an attempt to make something better than it is.

My point this day is not to offer any advocacy or opposition to any of the above. The point is that we often use words to create an impression that doesn’t actually exist.

Next week, by the way, I have something really fun planned for my staff.

Did I mention it was epic?

Respectfully…

AR

missing the opportunity

Ugh. It was approximately 2:36. Did I mention “a.m.”? 

We had each fallen into bed just 3 hours prior, having driven 7 some hours after a long day and even longer weekend. We were spent. It had been a great time, but the hours of traveling with still more to go left us each feeling a wee bit exhausted, although grateful for a clean, comfortable, fairly nice place to rest our heads for the evening, prior to resuming our drive the next day.

And then at a hair more than half past 2, the alarms sounded loud. Everywhere.

It’s a little disorienting when the fire alarms flare when sound asleep in a strange hotel in an unknown city… Where am I? … What’s going on? … What should we do?

And without much coherence of thought, trying to look semi-presentable (emphasis on “semi”), we threw on a bit more clothes, maybe a ball cap, flip flops, and got out the door, to the stairwell, and moved awkwardly but swiftly down the steps exiting the building, joining the now jolted, herded crowd of others wondering what to our sleepy eyes should appear.

We saw nothing. No smoke. No fire. Not even a flicker.

Not a fire engine either, for at least 10 minutes. 

The crowd grew slightly, although the consistency of ball caps and especially flip flops was indeed sporadic.

Unfortunately, however, as we attempted to do our best undercover work with zero announcement or hotel staff communication combined with the ebony in the evening clouds, one of our investigative trails — noting the time of year and recent weather trends — was to probe local storm activity. Sure enough, one of those sometimes helpful/sometimes terrifying national weather apps let us know that at the moment, there were 6 active severe alerts across the country… 1 of which was a tornado coming straight toward us, only 20 miles to our west. 

Yikes. Inside or outside? Fire or tornado? 

Let me also now acknowledge the magnified level of difficulty in our collective decision making on so few hours of sleep.

Semi-futilely one could say, we chose inside. What a night.

We sat in the sullen lobby another 20/30 minutes, waiting for which firestorm would first erupt. The half dozen firefighters meticulously searched the areas of greatest suspicion. The clouds outside got darker. But alas, there was no explosion inside or out. The firefighters said the scene was clear; we could go back to bed.

But here was the thing — and here is where we hang today…

What happened was bad. Concerning and confusing. You name it. It was uncomfortable. Undesirable. And it only multiplied our exhaustion. The hotel staff was not responsible for what happened, but they were charged with leading in the moment — figuring out next best steps and directing all those of us (with or without shoes). Yet it was clear they didn’t know what to do. So what did they say to us?

What did they say that night or even the succeeding morning? How did they address the negativity we all so obviously went through? What did they actually say?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

No one on staff said a word to any of us. No one addressed the situation. No one handled the hard. There were no voicemails on our room phones nor any notes slid under our door. There was zero communication.

This, of course, got me thinking…

Sometimes we face challenges that are immense or intense and we don’t know what to do; we don’t know where to start. Sometimes, too, we’re afraid; we’re fearful we’ll fail and then be held responsible; we’re afraid it will then equate to the loss of agency or influence. And so sometimes, we miss the opportunity. We miss the opportunity to problem solve and build the relationship via the hard.

We didn’t need anything from that hotel. We didn’t need a comp room or free coffee or even lunch on them upon return. But had the staff of the hotel simply had any conversation with us, they would have secured a future stay. Acknowledging the issue — respectfully discussing the difficulty and discomfort — builds relationship. Relationship can handle the hard.

I went to bed still thinking the other night. Everyone else quickly crashed back to sleep. It was then that I heard the thunder begin to roll in…

Respectfully…

AR

guilty?

So let’s begin with a quick caveat, followed by a minimum of one, two or potentially more deep, hopefully calming breaths.

The Intramuralist is not a fan of Donald Trump. The Intramuralist is also not a fan of Joe Biden. We are not attempting to invoke any “bothism,” so to speak. It’s simply that each man, in my opinion, lacks significant core competencies necessary to lead our country consistently, effectively. I’ve heard the raucous crowds, seemingly fewer in number and louder in voice, demonstratively vocalizing why one is clearly better than the other. The rise in volume, however, fails to nix the substantiality of the individual, glaring, lacking competency.

For those who are fans of one — haters, too, I suppose — it would be easier; we could then converse about “The Trial of the Century of the Week”1 with a less objective retort along either the lines of “finally!” Or “take that!” Or “woe is he.” But something about that feels incomplete. It omits — in Harvey-esque fashion — the rest of the story. Here we ask: what relevant questions do the simple retorts omit?

Deep breath time. Truly. One of the complicating factors of this discussion is what I respectfully refer to as “Trump’s Law,” meaning when Donald J. Trump’s name is invoked, negatively or positively, it becomes inevitable that someone will lose all objectivity within less than 3 minutes, shutting the conversation down, regardless of the original topic.

I understand. It gets emotional. And with a massive segment of our media furtively focused more on rage2 than on understanding, it makes sense that our emotions would be fully fueled.

(Hence, one more deep breath…)

In last week’s verdict in New York State Unified Court, the former president was found guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels. Two objective questions linger: 

(1) Was the trial fair?

And (2) was any part of it politically motivated?

If the first answer is a resounding “yes” and the second, an equally resounding “no,” then I am all for finding a just way to assign appropriate consequence. If either of those answers are the contrary, what I wish or want doesn’t matter. I can’t defend a lack of due process.

The challenge is that there are many on all sides who adamantly aver that the trial wasn’t fair and that it was politically motivated. 

One seemingly objective voice came from CNN legal analyst Elie Honig in the New York Magazine: “the charges against Trump aren’t just unusual. They’re bespoke, seemingly crafted individually for the former president and nobody else.” Not a conservative, Honig called the charges “inventive” and “inflated.” “Here,” Honig wrote, “prosecutors got their man, for now at least — but they also contorted the law in an unprecedented manner in their quest to snare their prey.”

Liberal Nellie Bowles in the Free Press wrote more: “Now, I’m all for jailing politicians. But the idea that counting hush-money payments as a business expense should lead to 34 felonies? This is the big crime? Of all the various legal efforts that might lock Trump up or bankrupt him before the election, the New York endeavors always seemed like the weirdest and most obviously political. Even cable news analysts are baffled when it comes to the specifics…”

And from NewsNation host Chris Cuomo, one who has openly spoken about his disgust for the former president, talks about the legitimacy of this trial: “It’s certainly not justice. That would be shame; that would be vengeance. That’s not what our system’s supposed to be about. And that’s what has bothered me about this case from jump…”

Friends, I have no definitive answers on guilt or innocence. I wasn’t in the courtroom, and I am not here to defend any candidate or party. But I do believe wisdom dictates we ask appropriate, objective questions… and to not allow fandom, hatred, or emotion to get in the way.

Respectfully… always…

AR

1The Free Press, Nellie Bowles, “TGIF: The Trial of the Century of the Week,” May 31, 2024.

2Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal, Ben Sasse, October 2018.

this is the day

[So one more grad note this special time of year. This one, no less, may be my favorite. I wrote it 4 years ago, when my youngest was graduating from high school. While gifted in many areas, a college degree is not expected to be a part of his forte at this time. Hence, allow me one of my favorite rewrites for one of my favorite kids, presenting a message not quickly forgotten… AR]

* * * * *

A little over 18 years ago, I felt like I got burned.

Here I was, our third son had just been born, and within an hour, the very intelligent, but awful-beside-mannered geneticist was in our room, suggesting this must be “the saddest day of your whole life.”

There’s something within me, hearing those words once more, that makes me want to fight…

No, I give no man the power to declare for bad or sad what God has allowed to play out for good.

It wasn’t that the day wasn’t hard or sad or other perhaps well-intentioned adjectives. I just knew that such wasn’t the way it had to be.

There’s something about having a child born with a disability that’s humbling from the onset. There’s this big pit in the stomach and gulp in the throat that parents who share this experience can immediately recognize in one another, just looking them the eye. It’s a little of this, “Lord, how in the *&$%#! am I going to do this! You trained me for something else! I have all these plans… all these expectations…”

And just like that, you have to throw the plans and expectations right out the nearest window.

For Josh, it was trisomy 21 — Down syndrome — or a third copy of that twenty-first chromosome. Additionally, he had an atrioventricular (AV) canal defect, meaning there was a hole between his heart’s chambers and the valves that allow the blood to flow — an unsurvivable condition unless fixed in the early months of life.

Also for Josh, he got sick before then with a nasty respiratory virus (aka RSV). As documented here, we spent most of the month of March of 2002 in the cardiac ICU wing at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Joshua was on a respirator most of that time, unable to breathe on his own, with many moments terrifyingly touch and go.

But once the shock wears off and the medical issues are for the most part dealt with, then comes real life. Real life for the parents of children with special needs means changing your expectations, loving them just like any other kid, preparing them for adulthood, focusing more on what they will teach you as opposed to what you will teach them.

I can remember thinking at some point in those early years… “Yeah, fine… this is all well and good and true. He’s kind of cute right now. And everyone always talks about how loving kids with Down’s are. But what about when he’s not so little any more? What about when he’s not so cute? What about when puberty’s past, and he has man hair and everything? What will we do then?!”

And if I’m honest, I admit. That day scared me.

Friends, today is that day.

Today, Josh finishes his last day of high school.

And it’s a little crazy. I mean, with the spring of 2020 being nothing like how we thought the spring was going to be, the reality is that the story of my life is nothing like I thought it was going to be.

But what’s crazy? 

It’s better.

I have learned more. Grown more. Been tugged and stretched and maybe cried more. Learning more about who God is and who I am in relation to him. But it has never been anywhere close to the so-called saddest day.

Four days ago, I was standing in my kitchen, so proud of myself for being again really creative, making a homemade, pretty gourmet-ish, spicy sauce. As the container I was holding slipped out of my hand, I instinctively brought my non-oven-mitt-covered hand over to catch the falling container. I then quite painfully burned a good two-and-a-half by four inch section of my left wrist. Friends, it was nothing short of awful. 

Just yesterday, no less, I looked down at my still sore, probably-now-scarred arm and noticed something…

Right in the middle of the charred skin, there is a well defined, small shape. Clearly, there is a heart, smack dab in the middle of my wound. Yes, I was wearing a thin bracelet with a small heart charm. With burning hot sauce caught on the charm but the bracelet not immediately removed, the charm essentially served as a branding device on my wrist. But what was crazy, was that it was only when I was willing to look a bit past the burn and the pain — which still sometimes exists — could I finally see the beautiful. And now, that is all I see.

Congratulations to our Joshua. What a glorious day today is… what a special celebration!

It is beautiful indeed.

Joyfully…

AR

awesome — or awful — grad speech?

Grad speeches are an interesting thing; are they not? And let’s be honest; some are awesome; some are awful. And sometimes we disagree which is which.

To be clear, the audience matters. The speech one gives at West Point wouldn’t be the same one gives at Barnard, Benedictine, nor at Morehouse or Mississippi State. The size, the students, the academic focus, and the private, public or parochial nature — all of that matters. It didn’t matter enough at a recent graduation we attended when they welcomed a notably divisive congressperson giving a grossly partisan speech. For a large, DI public university, that indeed seemed negligent, likely appealing to no more than 33% of the audience, regardless of the partisan angle.

Yes, some are awesome; some are awful. It reminds me of the once always witty satirist, P.J. O’Rourke, in May of 2008. As Forbes once said, O’Rourke “never minces words or pulls his punches, whatever the subject.” I wonder if any attempted to shut down the excerpt below…

Well, here you are at your college graduation. And I know what you’re thinking: “Gimme the sheepskin and get me outta here!” Not so fast. First you have to listen to a commencement speech. Don’t moan. I’m not going to “pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next.” I’m a member of the 1960s generation. We didn’t have any wisdom… We were the generation who believed we could stop the war in Vietnam by growing our hair long and dressing like circus clowns. We believed drugs would change everything — which they did, for John Belushi… My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of youth to look and act weird and shock the grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the earth’s resources of weird. Weird clothes — we wore them. Weird beards — we grew them. Weird words and phrases — we said them. So, when it came your turn to look and act weird, you had to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize… It’s my job to give you advice. But all the rest of the advice I’m going to give you is bad advice. I figure it this way: You’re finishing 16 years of education, and you’ve had all the good advice you can stand. Let me offer some relief.

1. Go out and make a bunch of money! Here we are in the most prosperous country in the world, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences, and security that money can provide, yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to American young people, “Go out and make a bunch of money.” They say money can’t buy happiness. But it can rent it. There’s nothing the matter with honest money-making. Wealth is not a pizza where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino’s box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.

2. Don’t be an idealist! Don’t chain yourself to a redwood tree. Go be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. If you make $500,000 a year, no matter how much you try to cheat the IRS, you’ll end up paying $100,000 in taxes—property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes. That’s $100,000 worth of schools and sewers, fire fighters and police. You’ll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?…

3. Get politically uninvolved! Politics stink—and not just bad politics. All politics stink… But let me make a distinction between politics and politicians… Politicians are chefs, some good, some bad. The problem isn’t the cook. The problem is the food. Or let me restate that: The problem isn’t the cook. The problem is the cookbook. The key ingredient of politics is the belief that all of society’s ills can be cured politically. This is like a cookbook where the recipe for everything is to fry it. The fruit cocktail is fried. The soup is fried. The salad is fried. So is the ice cream and cake. The pinot noir is rolled in bread crumbs and dunked in the deep-fat fryer. This is no way to cook up public policy. Politics is greasy. Politics is slippery. Politics can’t tell the truth. But we can’t blame the politicians for that. Because just think what the truth would sound like on the campaign stump, even a little bitty bit of truth: “No, I can’t fix public education. The problem isn’t funding or teachers’ unions or a lack of vouchers or an absence of computer equipment in the classrooms. The problem is your kids!”

4. Forget about fairness! We all get confused about what role politics should play in life. This is because politics and life send contradictory messages. Life sends us the message, “I’d better not be poor. I’d better get rich. I’d better make more money than other people.” Meanwhile politics sends us the message, “Some people make more money than other people. Some people are rich and others are poor. We’d better close that ‘income disparity gap.’ It’s so unfair!”

Well, I’m here to speak in favor of unfairness. I’ve got a ten-year-old at home. And she’s always saying, “That’s not fair.” When she says that, I say, “Honey, you’re cute. That’s not fair. Your family is pretty well off. That’s not fair. You were born in America. That’s not fair. Darling, you had better pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you…”

5. Be a religious extremist! So don’t get involved with politics if you can help it, but if you can’t help it, read the Bible for political advice—even if you’re a Buddhist or an atheist or whatever. Using politics to create fairness is a sin. The Bible is very clear about this. “Oh, gosh,” you’re thinking, “this is the worst advice yet. We get federal funding here. And the commencement speaker has just violated Constitutional law about separation of church and state.” But hear me out. I am not, in fact, one of those people who believes that God is involved in politics. My attitude is: Observe politics in this country. Observe politics around the world. Observe politics down through history. Does it look like God’s involved? No, that would be (the) Other Fellow who’s the political activist.

However, in one sense I do get my politics from the Bible, specifically from the 10th Commandment. The first nine Commandments concern theological principles and social law: Thou shalt not make graven images, steal, kill, et cetera. Fair enough. But then there’s the 10th: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”

Here are God’s basic rules about how we should live, a brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts. And right at the end of it is “Don’t envy your buddy’s cow.” How did that make the top ten? Why would God, with just ten things to tell Moses, choose as one of them jealousy about livestock?

And yet think about how important this Commandment is to a community, to a nation, to a democracy. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don’t whine about what the people across the street have. Go get your own. So do get rich. Don’t be an idealist. Stay out of politics. Forget about fairness. And I have another piece of advice: … Don’t listen to your elders! After all, if the old person standing up here actually knew anything worth telling, he’d be charging you for it.

May the celebrations continue… with one more to come…

Respectfully…

AR

how dare he say that!

And so the calls came to fire one not because of anything to do with how good he is at his job; the calls to terminate employment came solely because of an opinion one holds. He should not be allowed to possess that opinion and remain employed in a prominent place. So was the reaction directed this past week toward Harrison Butker, NFL kicker.

From the Kansas City Star: “The KC Chiefs should fire Harrison Butker and hire someone who kicks like a girl.”

From the Daily News: “Chiefs’ Harrison Butker under fire for trying to kick women back into the last century.”

And from the demanding Change.org petition: “The harmful remarks made by Harrison Butker, kicker of the Kansas City Chiefs, during his commencement address at Benedictine College were unacceptable.” His words were “dehumanizing.”

So what did he actually say?

In a speech lasting approximately 20 minutes, let us begin by acknowledging the wisdom in listening to such in its entirety as opposed to falling prey to the pitfall of picking and choosing sentences, therefore unknowingly omitting context. 

Butker begins by congratulating and greeting the students, acknowledging the uniqueness of this class having wrestled “through all the adversity thrown your way from COVID.” He joked a little. He spoke immediately, too, of his Catholic faith. Butker is speaking to a small, conservative, Catholic, liberal arts school. 

Notably, he said: “… Being Catholic alone doesn’t cut it. These are the sorts of things we are told in polite society to not bring up. You know, the difficult and unpleasant things. But if we are going to be men and women for this time in history, we need to stop pretending that the ‘Church of Nice’ is a winning proposition. We must always speak and act in charity, but never mistake charity for cowardice.”

He continued, questioning the inconsistencies he perceives in those who believe they are accurately living out the Catholic faith but don’t embrace, apply nor advocate for the specific teachings of the Catholic Church. He gets personal, speaking about himself, being a better father and husband, praying, too, for our leaders. 

And then comes the part that prompted the masses to call for his firing as an NFL kicker. He separately addresses the men and the women. To the men, he encourages them to be “unapologetic” in their masculinity. “Do hard things. Never settle for what is easy.” And to the women, upon congratulating them once more, he adds: “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world. I can tell you that my beautiful wife, Isabelle, would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother. I’m on the stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation. I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker. She is a primary educator to our children. She is the one who ensures I never let football or my business become a distraction from that of a husband and father. She is the person that knows me best at my core, and it is through our marriage that, Lord willing, we will both attain salvation. I say all of this to you because I have seen it firsthand how much happier someone can be when they disregard the outside noise and move closer and closer to God’s will in their life. Isabelle’s dream of having a career might not have come true, but if you asked her today if she has any regrets on her decision, she would laugh out loud, without hesitation, and say, ‘Heck, No.’”

Butker stated an opinion. His opinion. He did not call for all women to be homemakers. To a conservative, Catholic audience, he shared the joy his wife has found in her chosen vocation. That’s not wrong. But there’s a bigger societal pitfall that Butker tapped into. Many are unwilling to allow another to even hold an opinion that is different than theirs. There’s this foolish line of thinking that — and I admit, I question if this is a behavior of more the left or the right — but there’s this foolish line of thinking that suggests we have to squelch those opinions immediately, not allowing any traction or public expression. But it’s so inconsistent… so hypocritical. I mean… Did the same persons call to fire the other Chiefs?

Former star Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill was accused of punching his 3-year-old son in the chest; he’s had multiple domestic violence, child abuse, and paternity suits against him. Current Chiefs receiver Rashee Rice is right now being sued for $10 million for a 6-vehicle hit-and-run crash; he fled from the scene. These are clear indiscretions. So it’s only logical to ask: have those who expressed outrage at Butker also called for the dismissal of Hill and Rice? Are they consistent?

Or not?

Friends, one of the most damaging aspects of current day society is the arrogance we hold that allows us to think we can cancel the holder of an opinion we don’t agree with — that they shouldn’t be allowed to even think the way they do.

It is completely ok to disagree with Harrison Butker. It’s also ok to agree. Additionally, whether we like it or not, it is ok for Butker to feel the way he does… whether the same or different than me and you. 

Have the conversation. Talk about the hard. Learn from the different. But the wise among us know that to lambast, mock or attempt to cancel says more about the maturity of the canceler than the actual holder of the opinion. 

Respectfully…

AR

a brief discussion about economics, inflation & stupidity

One of the things that gets my goat is when I sense other people thinking I’m stupid. Sorry. “Stupid” is strong language for me; it’s just that it feels so disrespectful. I’m not suggesting that a person can’t disagree nor even think I’m wrong. I’m addressing when a person thinks I’m stupid for thinking differently than they. Case in point…

Over the course of recent months, we’ve been told the following:

“Our economy is the envy of the world!”

“The US economy is humming along.”

“The U.S. economy is the world’s best.”

“The economy is thriving.”

“We can feel great about our economy!”

And yet we don’t. We don’t feel great; it doesn’t feel envious. It doesn’t feel humming or best either. Despite those who wish it so, repeated business resources share a consumer pulse that is deeply frustrated with our economy and not better off than we were four years ago. With such a disconnect, the question is why.

Those who wish us to believe the economic picture is one of strength refer most frequently to a healthy labor market, low unemployment and a continued bull market. Some may refer to the arguable slowing of inflation, but therein lies the misnomer. Allow us to explain.

According to the US Inflation Calculator the annual inflation rate was as follows:

YEAR20172018201920202021202220232024
RATE2.1%1.9%2.3%1.4%7%6.5%3.4%3.5%

Inflation soared after Covid. It soared to a monthly high of 9.1% in June of 2022. It began to decrease 2 years ago, although it remains notably above 2%, which the Federal Reserve identifies as a sign of a healthy economy.

So when we people attempt to convince us how wonderful our economy is, they are omitting relevant data; they are not acknowledging the impact of inflation upon price levels. For after inflation’s spike in March of 2021, the price of goods and services has remained high. For example…

In May of 2020, the average price for an unleaded regular gallon of gasoline was $1.88. Currently in 2024, the most updated average price of gasoline is $3.58 per gallon. 

In 2020 the average price for a pound of ground chuck, 100% beef was $4.79. Today that price is $5.42.

Four years ago, eggs cost $1.45 per dozen. The average price is down from 2023 — when the average cost jumped to $4.82 — but it remains over $3 per dozen today, more than 100% higher.

Milk cost $2.96 in 2020. Today it averages $3.85 per gallon — an increase of 30%.

And let’s not forget about stamps. Four years ago, stamps were 55¢. Today it takes 68¢ to mail a US domestic letter — a 23.6% increase. Prices are significantly higher.

The reality is that even if the labor market is healthy, unemployment is low, and the market remains bullish, the inflated price levels of standard goods and service — from energy to eggs and houses to healthcare — have reduced consumers collective purchasing power. 

So… “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”

When nominee Ronald Reagan posed the question in the final week of the campaign in 1980, little did the watching public know the inquiry would become such a rhetorical, presidential benchmark. There is indeed much to consider. Granted, there is more to consider than economics.

We’re not stupid. 

Respectfully…

AR

to the class of ’24

[This is our annual graduation post. I questioned running it on Mothers Day. And then I realized that one of the things in life I’m humbly most proud of is my adult children, how they’ve grown, and how they’ve embraced so much of the below. Seems, therefore, a perfect time to celebrate this special class…]

* * * * *

Congratulations! Well done! Regardless of your individual path, you have completed something significant. You have persevered. No worries about figuring all of life immediately now out; your goal is simply to take the next step. It’s a big one. It’s beautiful, too. There are also a few things to remember.

Remember, grad… 

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…

A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance… 

As you enter adulthood — even in these current crazy, uncertain times — allow us to address some brief truths as you focus on these few, albeit noteworthy, next steps…

First, there really is a time for everything — every activity under heaven, every season under the sun. To be clear, you will not desire each of these times. Every activity will not be awesome nor every season incredibly joyous nor fun. Don’t let me discourage you; that’s not my intent. My intent is for you to be prepared to wisely wrestle with reality.

Remember that to enjoy and to embrace are not the same thing. As you face life’s next chapters, the truth is that there will be seasons and chapters that stretch you beyond your wildest imagination — beyond where you ever thought you’d go or perhaps ever even wanted. You have a choice in how to respond. Remember that. When the time comes to tear down or turn away, embrace the time; when the time comes to speak, speak — laugh, laugh — and certainly grieve, grieve. Enjoying the season is less important than learning from the experience. The wise one learns and grows from every experience… from the seasons that are hard. Even yes, from now.

Second — and don’t let me shock you — but contrary to any long-held belief or fictional, rhetorical chant, you cannot be whatever you want to be. Sorry. Remember we are wrestling with reality. (Note: I apologize now on behalf of parents everywhere for not always promoting reality either; see Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and/or that jolly old St. Nick).

The reality is you (we) cannot be whatever/whoever you want to be (ie. see the many who’ve thought they should be President). You can, though, be all that God created you to be. How?

Embrace your gifts. Utilize the unique wiring within you — the wiring that makes you distinctly, uniquely you. Don’t compare yourself to another, falling prey to society’s hollow teaching that another person’s wiring or set up is somehow better or worse than yours. Simply embrace your own strengths and grow from your weaknesses. Seek God first; seek his intention for your life; find your greatest identity in being his kid. Then be who he created you to be, and do what he created you to do. Don’t compare your calling to any other. It will never be lesser. Whatever you do, do it well. 

And third — perhaps because I’m more verbose than I wish to admit — allow me to humbly offer our traditional, brief, rapid fire of final encouragement — those final things we parents wish to say once more as we pass the blessed baton into adulthood…

Love deeply. Extend grace generously. Never view grace and truth as opposites, as each should be applied in full measure. Wash your sheets. More than twice a year. Don’t be selfish. Resist any quickness to anger. Be fast to forgive. Be humble. Forgive again. Pursue wisdom. Don’t judge any by the color of their skin. Don’t judge period. Know the difference between judgment and discerning right from wrong. Learn from others. Learn from the different. Don’t be torn down by lesser things. Don’t think that the different means wrong. Nor offensive. Expand your mind. Stay in the conversation. Be slow to find offense. Stay put. Stay put when it’s hard. Consider coffee. Limit sugars. Find the wisdom and joy in both fasting and feasting. Be intentional in enjoying a good donut. Be intentional with more. Take an interest in others. Be sincere. Separate the reds from the whites. Including the wine. Be charitable. Save some. Spend some. Give some away. Don’t be afraid of sorrow. Put down the device. Watch your screen time. Be cautious with social media. Talk to people. Don’t quicken to offense. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t think of equality with God as something to be grasped. Listen to the elderly; touch them. Invest in the young. Bow. Curtsy. Open doors for other people. Be unselfish. Do it again. Don’t keep count. Don’t make it about you. Show respect — in what you say and how you think. Remember that respect does not mean accepting as equally good and true. Remember that all things are not equally good and true. Know when to say that; know when to not. Look another in the eye. Use your napkin. Be discerning. Be aware that just because something feels good, it might not be wise. Be prayerful. Figure the faith thing out. And embrace each and every season shared above. Embrace the time to laugh. Again and again. Cry. Grieve. And yes, dance. Always dance.

There is a time for everything. Still and especially now. Don’t let any current circumstance make you doubt the hope and the future God has planned for you. He has a plan. And it is good.

Congrats, grads! It’s your time to dance. Enjoy as we so celebrate you.

To the Class of 2024…

AR

aging well

Joe Biden is the oldest American president at 81 years of age. He is the ninth oldest national leader in the world. Donald Trump is “only” 77, still placing him in the top 20 should he return to the Oval Office. Third party and presidential wannabe RFK Jr. is seemingly just a babe at age 70. Regardless, it is no secret; the plethora of Americans want someone not only different but also younger. We are skeptical about the octogenarian or near-octogenarian’s fitness for the job.

And so we ask: is age just a number?

Let’s examine the numbers a little further, quoting Pew Research in an updated account, examining key facts about the ages of current national leaders…

  1. National leaders range in age from their mid-30s to 91. The youngest leader is Burkina Faso’s Ibrahim Traoré, who is 36. He only slightly edges out two fellow 36-year-olds, Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa and Montenegrin Prime Minister Milojko Spajić. Only two other world leaders are in their 30s: Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris and Chilean President Gabriel Boric. The oldest national leader is President Paul Biya of Cameroon, who was born in 1933 and took office more than 40 years ago. Biya is the only current national leader in his 90s.
  1. The median age of current national leaders is 62, as of May 1, 2024. The largest share of global leaders today (34%) are in their 60s. Roughly a quarter (22%) are in their 50s; 19% are in their 70s; and 16% are in their 40s. Biden is among the 5% of leaders who are in their 80s.
  1. Countries that are less free tend to have older leaders. In countries that Freedom House classifies as “not free,” the median age of the national leader is 68. That compares with 62 in countries that are classified as “partly free” and 60 in countries classified as “free.” The United States is one of only three countries that are classified as free and have a leader age 80 or older; the other two are Ghana and Namibia. In Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo recently turned 80 in office. And in Namibia, 82-year-old Nangolo Mbumba took over as president earlier this year following the previous leader’s death in office at age 82.
  1. The median age for women leaders and men leaders is the same. Among men who are world leaders, 3% are in their 30s, while no women leaders are in this age group. Yet, of the 14 women leaders currently in power, 29% are in their 40s, compared with 14% of leaders who are men. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark is the youngest female leader at 46, followed closely by fellow 46-year-old Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh is the oldest female leader at 76.
  1. In most countries, the leader is significantly older than the median member of the population. For example, the median American is 38, according to UN population projections for 2024, while Biden is more than twice as old. In fact, the only countries that have a leader who is younger than the median resident of the country are Montenegro, Ireland and Italy. Andorran Prime Minister Xavier Espot Zamora, at 44, is the same age as the median Andorran resident. In general, countries that Freedom House classifies as free are more likely than those classified as partly free or not free to have leaders who are closer in age to the median resident of the country.”

With only 180 days until the election (insert an exasperating sigh here), I thought an age examination might make us feel better.

But then I realize, it’s not just the number; it’s not just the sum of 8 distinct decades. It’s the combination of these candidates.

Praying for wisdom. Praying for discernment. With absolutely all due respect, praying, also, for how this election impacts our country when our choice is sincerely, unfortunately so disappointing and poor. Hopefully this will jumpstart us into better candidates in the future.

Yes, indeed, age is more than a number.

Respectfully…

AR