what if what we believe is wrong?

It’s no secret that I’m a big believer in learning from diverse people groups. This idea that we can only learn from the likeminded or like-something simply doesn’t resonate with me. It seems shortsighted, in fact, causing us to miss out on a whole host of insight and goodness.

A year and a half ago, I began learning from a colleague’s kids; they are 11 and 9 now. Wanting to authentically connect by caring about what they care about, we started talking about books. My friends are avid readers, and so over these past 18 months, we have actively exchanged ideas, insights and encouragements.

One of the aspects in which we’ve been overtly intentional is in the encouragement to read or to not. As many are well aware, it is a bit of a wry pet peeve of mine when a person reads a good book and then immediately exclaims, “You should read this!”

Friends, if I read every book someone encouraged me to read, I would do little to nothing else.

That said, my young friends have become excellent book reviewers. They know how and when to encourage — to hold ‘em, fold ‘em, and tell me when to run, so-to-speak. They have learned when to suggest reading by others — by children and/or adults — and they’ve learned to be both sensitive and intuitive to the desires of others, especially in regard to what they also would enjoy and have time for.

A recent, ringing endorsement, no less, was for “The Wingfeather Saga,” a four book, award-winning fantasy series written by Andrew Peterson, the artsy musician who plays just about everything, now allowing his creativity to shine through far more than song. I found the series to be delightful. While typically not fond of fantasy, there was something simply endearing about the adventures and transformation of the Igiby family and the tales that showcased the virtue that far more than children would be wise to embrace. 

For the purposes of today’s post (and thank you kindly for allowing a bit longer foray into the lives of both my deft reviewers and the animated Igibys), I’d like to focus on a singular insight presented in the series — an insight prompting a question, leading to a virtue relevant even a world that is not fantasy.

Let’s get there by identifying a key character. He’s the primary antagonist in the saga. [Note: for those wishing to read, let me advise you to tread lightly. I will not be giving the story away; however, we will be discussing some detailed information. Feel free to forgo.]

Let me introduce you to Gnag the Nameless. Throughout the books, Gnag the Nameless is the baddest bad guy. The unmistakable villain. He is ruthless, and far more fear than revere. In many ways he is the manifestation of evil in this fantasy version of planet Earth. He is powerful. People cower in his presence. He misses no opportunity to kill and destroy.

His nefarious behavior was birthed by his childhood. Fascinating how such affects us all. Gnag was a twin born in a royal lineage, the rightful heir to the ruling throne. However, Gnag was demonstrably, physically deformed at birth. The story of his birth was shared with him by his caretaker… Gnag was so deformed, so atrociously ugly, that his mother didn’t want him. She was disgusted. Repulsed. She therefore chose to raise only the “healthy” twin. Additionally, Gnag’s existence was to never be known. He was thus exiled as an infant, growing up elsewhere. He was told how unwanted he was. So unwanted, in fact, he wasn’t even given a name. Hence, Gnag the Nameless.

Understandably upset, Gnag’s emotion swelled. Over time, his emotion became a passion. His passion became a conviction. His conviction then drove everything he did. 

There’s but one problem.

What Gnag believed was untrue.

His emotion, passion and evolved conviction were based on an inaccurate starting point. What the caretaker told him was false.

As for the story, let me first clean this up… The scene is absolutely heartbreaking, when both the reader and fictional character learn the truth… Gnag was loved. He was wanted. He indeed had a name. His mother almost died giving birth. She thought he was dead. Gnag never knew.  

Let me humbly attempt to connect all of the above to the point of this post…

Something happens. A story is shared. An angle is seen. An emotion is felt. We believe something strongly. It grows. It grows more over time. It grows increasingly more when we connect with like experience. We become zealous… passionate. We get so passionate in our perspective that we never pause again to consider other angles and possibilities. We know what we believe and why we believe it. And we’re convinced it’s all based on solid reason and accurate stories.

But what if… what if… there’s an aspect of what we believe that’s untrue?

It may not have been intentionally misspoken, but yet, it was inaccurate.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s what’s happening a lot right now. We convince ourselves that everything we’ve based our perspective on is accurate.

But what if something we believe is wrong?

Will we pause long enough to know?

Respectfully…

AR

a letter to the national media

Dear National Media,

Hello. You may not know me personally, but you know who I am. I am one of the unfeigned majority that does not want either of the two most recent presidents to be president again. As you know, I am not alone.

Let me clear. As our blogging community will attest, I mean absolutely no disrespect. Truly. I realize it’s become the all too convenient trend to ridicule or rage over Presidents Biden or Trump, but that’s simply not my jam. No slights nor sneers here. My base belief is that one of them breeds chaos and the other incompetence — for different reasons. There is no question neither is the best our country has to offer. We can do better. 

Still, no less, I have a concern that prompts today’s writing. But since other persons may or may not also be reading this, let me again be clear: I am not a fan of either a Pres. Biden or a Pres. Trump. I have no desire to vote for either, and I am attracted to other options for 2024.

In fact, as I informally survey the increasing others wading in the same proverbial boat, I find multitudes who share a similar yearning, albeit they are resigned to voting for one of the two. Notably, however, the primary motivation is not a pro-Biden or pro-Trump vote; it’s an anti-Biden or anti-Trump vote. Indeed, we can do better.

Neither Biden or Trump are all that popular. You know that already, too. Biden’s latest presidential numbers as surveyed by a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, give him a whopping 33% approval rating, a record low not just for him but for any president in the last 15 years. Asking similar questions about Trump in retrospect, Trump’s approval numbers land at a mere 41%. Neither candidate, therefore, reflects the ability or credibility that should unquestionably accompany the occupier of the highest office in the land. 

They are not popular. For solid reasons.

Herein lies my concern. Remember: with no popular candidate, as noted, there are seemingly more voting vehemently against a candidate rather than enthusiastically for a candidate. And yet, many of you are covering the candidates in such a way that is aiding and abetting Donald Trump.

Allow me a bit of political pondering indulgence…

Your portrayal of Biden is fairly plain to see. When he doesn’t make sense, says he won’t debate, changes his verbiage again (and again) on Hunter, contradicts himself on Taiwan, or wanders off to shake the Easter Bunny’s hand, be honest; we can handle it. But when excuses are made to make him look more lucid than he actually is, we notice. And I’ll speak only for me, but if you’re dishonest about the obvious, it is logical to question where else dishonesty exists. Where are you manipulating his portrayal?

You’ve also taken a seemingly specific tack with Trump… We can’t show him on TV. We can’t let his words be heard. We can’t even air his primary victory speech. Why? Because he lies.

I’ll remind you once more that I am not a fan. But it is clear that there are lies told by far more than Trump… even by some of each network’s chosen pundits. As a watching public, we notice the inconsistency. 

Some would even aver that Trump’s such a bad guy, we must ban him from the ballot.

“Ugh,” said the non-fan.

Again, I am not alone. It is zero rocket science that the clear majority of this country is not a fan of either president. But there seems an increased wondering as to whether those who are anti-Trump are going too far and thereby unintentionally creating a sympathy (or something) where it doesn’t exist. 

Note the observations of former Obama advisor David Axelrod or current California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who even as supporters of Biden (or in Newsom’s case, a purported supporter of self), agree with said sentiment. The blatant effort to silence, shun or remove Trump is creating the appearance — rightly or wrongly — of an attempt to rig the election. It is creating the appearance of unfairness.

And if there’s one thing people rally around in this country, it’s a sense of unfairness.

Hence, as a fan of neither, it’s my desire that your partisanship would take a backseat to your reporting — and that you would aid and abet none of the above.

Sincerely,

AR

the baddest dude & pursuit of personal excellence

Once again this week my colleagues and I had opportunity to partake in the Orlando Mayor’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission. It’s an opportunity to come together with the larger community to promote Dr. King’s legacy; it’s an opportunity to strengthen our community, focusing on what Dr. King focused on: faith, equality and nonviolence. To omit any of the three, would compromise a significant component of Dr. King’s advocacy.

Let’s face it. Many today are passionate about strengthening community, yet are wholeheartedly ok with omitting some of the aforementioned components. I was thus intrigued with the recent interview with Clarence Jones, an attorney and speechwriter for Dr. King, by Francesca Block, a journalist with an Intramuralist fave resource, The Free Press. Block sat down with Jones two weeks ago. 

Jones is 93 now, living in Palo Alto, California. I love it; he says that “Martin Luther King Jr. was the baddest dude I knew in my lifetime.” He also quickly conveys a similar line of thinking in regard to what we too conveniently omit today. “Regrettably, some very important parts of his message are not being remembered.” Jones specifically refers to the radical nonviolence and also to King’s passion in building allies across ethnic lines. 

Block tapped into Jones’s assessment of current racial progress. Writes Block:

When asked if America has made any progress on race, Jones is dumbstruck. “Are you kidding?” he said, with shock in his voice. “Any person who says that to the contrary, any black person who alleges themselves to be a scholar, or any white person who says otherwise, they’re just not telling you the truth.

“Bring back some black person who was alive in 1863, and bring them back today,” he adds. “Have them be a witness.”

But after the death of George Floyd in 2020, 44 percent of black Americans polled said “equality for black people in the U.S. is a little or not at all likely.” And “color blindness”—the once aspirational idea of judging people by their character rather than their skin color, which King famously espoused—has fallen out of fashion. The dominant voices of today’s black rights movement argue that people should be treated differently because of their skin color, to make up for the harms of the past. One of America’s most prominent black thinkers, Ibram X. Kendi, argues that past discrimination can only be remedied by present discrimination.

Jones makes it clear he doesn’t want to live in a society that doesn’t see race. “You don’t want to be blind to color. You want to see color. I want to be very aware of color.” 

But, he emphasizes: “I just don’t want to attach any conditions to equality to color.”

He adds that it’s possible to read Kendi’s prize-winning book, ‘Stamped from the Beginning,’ and “come away believing that America is irredeemably racist, beyond redemption.”

It’s a theory he vehemently disagrees with. “That would violate everything that Martin King and I worked for,” he said. It would mean “it’s not possible for white racist people to change.”

“Well, I am telling you something,” Jones adds. “We have empirical evidence that we changed the country.” 

The interview continues with Jones admission that “there’s no way in hell that he or we would have achieved what we achieved without the coalition support of the American Jewish community.” Such acknowledgement again prompts thought of current day — and the tension we’ve witnessed since Hamas’s terrorist attack against Israel last October. “It pains me today when I hear so-called radical blacks criticizing Israel for getting rid of Hamas. So I say to them, what do you expect them to do? A black person being antisemitic is literally shooting themselves in the foot.”

No doubt learning from the wisdom of an elderly man who had such proximity to Dr. King is full of great value and opportunity. He knows what it means to truly strengthen community. Sharing with Block how he now sees his mission clearly as ever, he didn’t hesitate to share a message for young black Americans — and much of his message, for us all…

“Commit yourself irredeemably to the pursuit of personal excellence. Be the very best that you can be. If you do that… our color becomes more relevant, because we demonstrate ‘black is beautiful’ not as some slogan, but black is beautiful because of its commitment to personal excellence, which has no color.”

So much each of us can learn… always… what an opportunity…

Respectfully…

AR

the art of debate

It’s no secret. Ask my friends. Ask my family.

I love a good debate.

But maybe just maybe we need to clarify what a debate is. It’s basically a formal discussion where questions are asked and opposing arguments are put forward. It’s a forum in which varied opinion and perspective are put forth for consideration and scrutiny. And precisely because that’s what it is, we learn. We gain a deeper understanding. And often we craft solution.

Being the current events nerd that I can sometimes be, this wit-and-wisdom appreciating blogger watches debates from all political angles and aisles. As said, I learn. And I indeed gain a deeper understanding.

But I have to say — with primary season now upon us — they haven’t been all that fun for me as of late. They haven’t been all that good for multiple years. With all due respect to our elect — and I really want to be kind here — Presidents Biden and Trump have kind of ruined this for me.

I don’t think either knows how to debate.

Not only so… way too many others have followed their unfortunate lead. 

Allow me to explain.

There’s a Medium blogger with the pseudo-name “Smart Minds Together.” He/she (not trying to be politically correct — just don’t know actual gender) penned a great piece last November entitled “The Joy of Disagreement: Why the Right Debate Leads to Positive Outcomes.”  [Insert editorial note: let there be no not-so-subtle plagiarism here.]

Writes the “Smart Mind”: “When approached in the right way, debate can be a powerful tool for growth, learning, and positive change.”

Perfect.

He/she goes on to demonstrate how a good debate expands perspective, encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills, strengthens relationships, drives innovation and progress, and promotes personal growth and empathy. 

In fact, the “Smart Mind” poignantly points out how history is filled with examples of how debates have led to groundbreaking breakthroughs:

  • The scientific method was developed through rigorous debates among philosophers and scientists.
  • Civil rights movements gained momentum through passionate debates about equality and justice.
  • Inventions like the telephone and electricity emerged from debates around technological possibilities.

He/she writes: “By embracing disagreement and engaging in healthy debates, we create an environment where ideas clash, leading to transformative change and societal progress.”

Excellent. We need that… transformative change and societal progress. Notice that disagreement is welcome; disrespect is not.

But note — and I am only making observations, observations which are held by far more than me — for our two most recent presidents; one, when participating, seems to most employ interruption and insult on the debate stage. The other seems incapable of consistently, coherently participating. Please, friends, make excuses for neither. They make enough for themselves. They seemingly attempt to give us nice-sounding reasons why they do what they do. But each of their nice-sounding reasons seems untruthful.

I’m not attempting to be disrespectful in any way. The point is simply that the behavior of our two most recent presidents in regard to their debate approach seems to again model poor leadership. We are not well served by their behavior.

We need good debates; we need those groundbreaking breakthroughs. We need progress and expanded perspective and problem solving. 

We need better and more.

Respectfully…

AR

what they don’t want us to know

There’s an old French saying — “prendre la chèvre” — meaning “to take the goat.” Tradition suggests that taking another’s goat was one way people used to get milk. Unsurprisingly, such would oft anger the goat’s owner. The ever-useful A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English says such may be the origin for the contemporary idiom, “that gets my goat!”

As we take stock of the current political state, as an advocate of focusing on what is good and right and true and thus prioritizing respect for all people — whether they think/look/act like us or not — there is one aspect of current day politicians that arguably most makes me want to learn a little more of the aforesaid French.

I’m pretty sure, in fact, this doesn’t rest solely with me. Take note of most opinion polling; our collective dissatisfaction with politicians is abundantly overflowing. On the right. And on the left. I am being kind. Even with those we perceive to be ideologically likeminded, there aren’t many who represent us that we’re all that immensely thrilled about.

Today we’re toying with the why. 

Let me be clear that I, for one, certainly don’t speak for all people; that’s one of the luring social pitfalls even the intelligent have been prone to fall into… like somehow a woman can speak for all women… a man can speak for all men… a straight person can speak for all straight people or a person of color can speak for all people of color. I mean absolutely no disrespect to any. I simply think it’s illogical to think that a singular person has the ability to represent an entire people group. We’re too beautifully diverse for that to qualify as sound reason.

All that to say, what gets my goat is when the Biden’s and Trump’s of the country and all their surrogates (and of course, far more — they’re just the current most prominent) work to divide us. They are intentional — meaning they’re doing it on purpose — in saying things to make us conclude that we have nothing in common with those who think differently; they want us to think if another thinks a little differently, that they think totally differently; they want us to think we are the only ones who actually care. The Biden’s/Trump’s/etal. couldn’t be more wrong.

Allow me to introduce you to the latest feature from AllSides, a current events resource long utilized and encouraged by the Intramuralist. Regular readers will note that AllSides is the outlet from which we receive our updates in regard to media bias. They are excellent. They are truthful. They are fair.

The mission of AllSides is to “free people from filter bubbles so they can better understand the world — and each other.” How do those inconspicuous filter bubbles occur? “A filter bubble occurs when someone is only exposed to news that confirms his or her beliefs, or solely interacts with like-minded peers. The result? A society where people only see one side, leading to a highly polarized political environment.”

Friends, a society where people only see one side, leading to a highly polarized political environment, is not good nor right nor true. 

Yesterday, AllSides announced the “AllSides Bridging Community.” This resource is a news and information hub that does the exact opposite of the goat takers. It instead highlights efforts to bridge divides and actually find that common ground. Yes, common ground exists. 

On their website, you can find the following articles:

  • “Here’s Where Democrats and Republicans Agree on the Supreme Court”
  • “Democrats and Republicans Actually Agree on Many Policing Reforms”
  • “Here’s Where Democrats and Republicans Agree on Abortion”
  • “Here’s Where Democrats and Republicans Agree on Crime”
  • “Unexpected Overlaps: Republican Voters Believe Humans Contribute to Climate Change, Support Limiting Emissions”
  • “Republicans and Democrats Actually Agree on These Gun Restriction Policies”
  • “Democrats and Republicans Actually Agree on These Immigration Views and Policies”
  • “Democrats and Republicans Actually Both Support These Free Speech Positions”

Look at that. Look at all we potentially have in common.

Know what else I see?

A list of things the Biden’s/Trump’s/etal. will never talk about. That is poor leadership.

The reality is, friends, that we have tons in common. Having tons in common means with wise leadership we could solve some of the challenges currently plaguing our country. Our politicians don’t want us to know that.

That actually does a little more than get my goat.

Respectfully…

AR

a new year. let’s start with I’m sorry.

As the new year rolls around, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Intramuralist. I believe intentionality is wise. So I ponder in the year ahead: what do we want to say… what do we want to cover… what is beneficial to pay attention to and what is a wise angle to take?

I pause a bit as I look at the year roaring toward us. I indeed wish it would come “not with a bang but a whimper.” But alas, there is much soon to ring in. Note a brief sampling…

The primary season begins next week. Super Bowl LVIII kicks off on Sunday, February 11th. Then comes the total solar eclipse in early April. The Summer Olympics will begin in Paris on Friday, July 26th. And on Tuesday, November 5th (dare we say it), in rolls Election Day. Ugh, I can hardly wait. Or not.

But as I think of all that’s coming in 2024, I think more so of what I want to say… what posture do I want to assume… and what’s most important… that is… what do we need to say first so that we can respond to both the expected and unexpected wisely and well?

How do we present opinion in a way that is good and right and true — and never compromise being respectful to all?

I think we first need to go here…

I’m sorry.

You heard me correctly.

I’m sorry.

I say that not with a sadness nor any kind of woe-is-me. There’s also no cringey or crumpled-up-face nor wish-you-didn’t-really-read-that. I said it. I mean it. And it’s exactly what I think we need to say first. It’s a bit of an annual accountability check. Allow me to explain.

Increasingly more I see persons absent any accountability. More and more they — I mean, we — justify the unjustifiable… 

We justify the anger; we justify the insult; we justify the canceling — or creatively attempt to call it something else. The bottom line is that we justify the wrongful treatment of someone. We say “we’re mad as hell and not going to take it any more,” and then we find really rude ways of not taking it. We tell someone off. We say we’ve had enough. We justify the fight. And we fight mean. 

We block. We unfriend. We tune totally out for reasons other than establishing healthy boundaries. We justify not listening. We even conclude in our heads and hearts there’s no need to. We then creatively craft some emotionally lofty perch to boldly conclude another is not worth listening to. We thereby justify concluding with total decisiveness we are right; there is no need to even consider another angle opinion or perspective. We justify the unjustifiable.

I get it. The reality is that we have had enough. We’re tired. We’re also hurt and angry, and we’ve been wronged. Maybe it isn’t us who’ve been hurt or angry or wronged, but we saw it done to someone else. We perceive someone treated poorly or oppressively and so the end absolutely justifies the means. And somewhere therein, the disrespectful crazy cycle has begun.

And we get arrogant. Puffed up. Stuck in our own, insulated eco-system. We stop learning; we only pad the opinion of what we already believe.  

As said, I’m sorry. 

Why? 

Because sometimes that’s been me. Sometimes I’ve been stuck in the crazy cycle. Sometimes my opinion has made so much sense to me that there hasn’t existed any reason to research, listen, or be patient any more.  

Sometimes, even, I’ve come to the naive conclusion that because you disagree with me, you must not care as much as I do. Sometimes, friends, I’ve been disrespectful. I’ve been wrong.

The truth is I haven’t always led with humility. And that, my friends, is what I wish to do with all that’s coming in 2024. Whether it be the eclipse or the election, I promise to lead with humility.

I don’t promise to be perfect… an impossibility this side of eternity. But I do promise to react in what I believe is the only wise way forward.

Time to humbly (and wittingly) do this together. Here’s to all that’s ahead. 

Respectfully…

AR

the opportunity of a new year

Ah, yes… it’s that time of year where it’s time to announce our newfound resolve!

And also, yes, we all know the facts. While setting New Year’s resolutions is a fairly common practice, it isn’t necessarily a commonly sustained practice. According to Forbes based on a 2023 fall survey, the average resolution lasts just 3.74 months. In fact, surrendering has become almost as common as setting, that there’s now a slew of (unofficial) dates commemorating such failures — such as “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day” on January 17 or the second Friday in January, known to some as “Quitter’s Day.”

But alas, we will persevere. Or at least we will encourage the perseverance. 🙂

For me, it’s merely an opportunity… a clean slate… a new beginning… a chance to try something new or improve some aspect of my life’s journey.

Over the course of the last 4 years, for example — thanks to that resolve — I’ve started reading significantly more, began learning how to play the guitar, and also how to speak Spanish. Believe me — I am no expert, to which my musical and Latino friends would freely attest! I probably never will be. But there’s something in the learning and growth that has the potential to spur us on to what’s good and right and true.

And so we ask:

Where is an area you wish to grow?

What is a skill you’d like to learn?

What is a pattern you’d like to stop?

And/or what is a relationship you’d like to improve?

When I think of all the brokenness, digression and gunk in this world, I have little doubt there are aspects on each our journey’s worth some intentional improvement. Hence, for added encouragement, according once more to Forbes, the top New Year resolutions for 2024 are expected to be:

  1. Improve fitness (cited by 48%)
  2. Improve finances (38%)
  3. Improve mental health )36%)
  4. Lose weight (34%)
  5. Improve diet (32%)
  6. Make more time for loved ones (25%)
  7. Stop smoking (12%)
  8. Learn a new skill (9%)
  9. Make more time for hobbies (7%)
  10. Improve work-life balance (7%)
  11. Travel more (6%)
  12. Meditate regularly (5%)
  13. Drink less alcohol (3)
  14. Perform better at work (3%)

Again, for all of the above, at the beginning of 2024, this is an opportunity.

One tangent, editorial note: I bought a new song book over the holidays. It was great! And it was especially fun to play “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Away in the Manger.” Maybe next year I’ll even sing along in Spanish.

Maybe in something else.

Respectfully…

AR

questions from 2023

As we come to the close of another year — and knowing the Intramuralist has a tremendous fondness for the question mark, as it’s the only punctuation piece that actually invites a response — what were those questions we most asked in the year now behind us? What did inquiring minds want to know?

Here are a top 50 actually asked in 2023:

  1. A law that cancels cancel culture?
  2. Are Labor Unions Effective?
  3. Can Nikki Haley’s ‘Strategy of Conviction’ Beat Trump?
  4. Do you think Deion Sanders is a role model for his players?
  5. Does Chris Christie have a chance in 2024?
  6. Has Pete Buttigieg’s Dream Job Turned Into a Nightmare?
  7. How Big a Problem Is President Biden’s Age, Really?
  8. How could a baseball player be worth $700 million?
  9. How is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year decided?
  10. How Popular Does Biden Need to Be to Beat Trump?
  11. How popular is Joe Biden?
  12. How unpopular is Joe Biden?
  13. Hunter Biden: What are the charges against him?
  14. Is 2024 the year for a third-party candidate to break through with dissatisfied voters?
  15. Is a 12-Week Abortion Ban a ‘Reasonable Compromise’?
  16. Is a 15-week limit on abortion an acceptable compromise?
  17. Is Biden fit to serve a second term?
  18. Is Biden vs. Trump the ‘Election We Need’?
  19. Is Elon Musk The Greatest Leader On Earth?
  20. Is Gavin Newsom running a ‘shadow campaign’ for US president?
  21. Is Ibram X Kendi’s ‘Anti-Racism’ a Scam?
  22. Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Over?
  23. Is the United Nations still relevant and effective?
  24. Is this the end for Bill Belichick in New England?
  25. Is Vice President Kamala Harris a liability or an asset in 2024?
  26. Nikki Haley: Who is the Republican presidential hopeful?
  27. Pessimistic About Politics?
  28. Should Biden Really Run Again?
  29. Should Trump go to jail?
  30. So what exactly makes Taylor Swift so great?
  31. Was Oppenheimer a good person?
  32. What about Hunter Biden?
  33. What did Biden know about Hunter, and when did he know it?
  34. What does the word ‘woke’ really mean, and where does it come from?
  35. What Happened to Matthew Perry?
  36. What has Kamala Harris done as vice president?
  37. What is going wrong with American higher education?
  38. What is Hamas?
  39. What Is Israel Trying to Accomplish?
  40. What’s Causing the NFL’s QB Injury Crisis?
  41. When Will Gas Prices Go Down?
  42. When will gas prices stop rising?
  43. When will inflation slow down?
  44. Who is new House Speaker Mike Johnson?
  45. Why are Biden and Bidenomics unpopular?
  46. Why did Republicans vote to get rid of George Santos?
  47. Why has Hunter Biden been indicted?
  48. Will Hollywood Learn These 5 Lessons From ‘Barbie’?
  49. Will The Chiefs Repeat?
  50. Will there be any presidential debates in 2024?

Great questions, friends…

I can’t wait to see what we ask in 2024.

Respectfully…

AR

[Sources include but are not limited to: ABC, AP News, The Atlantic, Boston Herald, CBS, CNN, ESPN, Euronews, Financial Times, Forbes, The Guardian, Harvard Gazette, The Indian Express, Investopedia, Marginal Revolution, New York Magazine, New York Post, New York Times, NPR, NY1, Real Clear Politics, Reuters, The Ringer, Roll Call, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Vox, Wall Street Journal, and The Week.]

the hopes and fears of all the years

I know Christmas was 2 days ago, but I’m not ready for it to be over. It actually doesn’t have to be. (Follow me for a brief moment here; and yes, I do mean brief. I have some presents to keep playing with…)

When I think of the greatest gift I bask in over the Christmas season, there’s one thing that rings true over all. Let me first not dismiss the beauty of much…

  • All the tasty treats, sweets and snacks.
  • The family — near or far.
  • The intentionality in letting people near and dear know how much we care.
  • The individual ornaments, so many that tell a story about a person or place.
  • Christmas Eve church.
  • Those old, familiar carols play.
  • “A Christmas Story,” the Darren McGavin-narrated classic, running endlessly on TBS and TNT this week, still making me laugh. Every. Single. Time.
  • Candlelight — wherever it is.
  • The silence by the glow of the tree.
  • The silent night.

All of the above add to the meaning and merry. There’s more no doubt both for you and for me. But there’s still one thing better that Christmas gives, something I don’t think comes any other way…

I think of that star that guided the Magi to the manger.

I think of the shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night.

And whether it be the Magi or the shepherds or you or me, the one thing that was ushered in that night through the life of Jesus was peace. And Lord knows, all of us could use more peace in our lives.

I return to the words of author Sheila Walsh…

“Peace in the midst of all that’s wrong in the world. Peace in the midst of all that’s hard in your family. Peace in the midst of all that’s troubled inside of you. Peace is not the absence of trouble; it’s the presence of Christ.”

In our wondering, therefore, it should not escape us, that every major religion on this planet acknowledges the birth of Jesus Christ. As I sweetly, silently continue then in wonder, I wish that peace to accompany the acknowledgement for all…

  • O little town of Bethlehem
  • How still we see thee lie
  • Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
  • The silent stars go by
  • Yet in thy dark streets shineth
  • The everlasting light
  • The hopes and fears of all the years
  • Are met in thee tonight
  • For Christ is born of Mary
  • And gathered all above
  • While mortals sleep, the angels keep
  • Their watch of wondering love
  • O morning stars together
  • Proclaim thy holy birth
  • And praises sing to God the King
  • And peace to men on earth…

Blessings,

AR

‘I’m just like you’ (at Christmas & more)

During this special season, I find myself craving meaning and purpose. Suffice it to say, the shallow takes a back seat to that which is more.

This year I’ve been reading through a short devotional from Scottish author Sheila Walsh. One page made me think especially lots. 

Here Walsh wrote about a childhood interaction, about a boy in class when each was twelve. The boy was overweight, stuttered, and wore especially thick glasses. Walsh worried about his lack of companions and the unfortunate teasing that came far too generously from the other adolescents.

Writes Walsh:

“I was walking the short distance home from school one day when I heard a commotion behind me. I stopped and turned around to see what was going on. Sam was being harassed by three boys. Their words were cruel enough, but when one picked up a small stone and threw it at him, something inside me snapped. I dropped my schoolbag and pushed the bully so hard that he fell into his friends, and they all ended up in a pile on the sidewalk. Sam and I walked home together that day. We lived only one street apart, and he invited me to come in and have some lemonade. His mum poured us each a glass, gave us a chocolate biscuit, and Sam and I sat down by the fire.

‘Why did you do that?’ he asked.

‘Because I’m just like you,’ I said.

‘No, you’re not,’ he said.

‘I am, Sam. I think we all are.’

We’re all broken in one way or another. We want to belong, to fit in, but life is hard. It’s hard for everyone, but some of us conceal our struggles better than others. Some have no choice but to wear their brokenness in a visible way, while others disguise it behind laughter and smiles, but the pain is the same. We long to be fully known and fully loved, but that’s a terrifying thought. What if being fully known meant that we would not be fully loved?

As we walk through this Advent season, we are invited into that very longed-for embrace by our heavenly Father. The grace of such overwhelming love only became possible when Jesus left the glory of heaven to be born as a fragile baby. He walked where we walk, loved like we long to be loved, all the time showing us in flesh and blood what God our Father is like.

But the truth remains that, unless we are able to grasp hold of that love by the grace of God, to let that love into every little broken corner of our lives, we will remain alone. We were made for so much more.”

 I think what I like about this is a couple of things.

One, we’re all alike. Yep, all of us… black, white, male, female, old, young, gay, straight, conservative, liberal, American, not, brilliant, not, including all other demographic categories. There is no difference. 

But we, way too often, attempt to maximize manufactured differences.

At our own peril.

At Christmas, it’s easier for me to see that.

Jesus was born in a manger — according to both history and scripture — giving us love in human form. His earthly life would show us how incredibly much we are loved…

… and how incredibly much we are to love one another.

Merry Christmas, friends… and always…

Respectfully…

AR