Let Nothing Be Done


Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  (Philippians 2:3 NKJV)

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

There are few who would deny that our country is at a crisis point.

The past few years have brought to light a reality many in our country were unaware of, the reality of ongoing, widespread, and at least at times systematic racism.  Personally, I have found this reality to be both shocking and horrifying, especially with the number of times it leads to the death of an unarmed person over trivial matters.

For many, it seems like these events are isolated and random, but there are voices that are calling these symptoms of something the Black community, and all communities of color, have lived with for as long as they can remember.

I don’t want to believe this is true, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

When we don’t value Life, then we cease valuing individual lives.  I believe this is what we’ve seen in the past days, weeks, and years.

As long as we are focused on ourselves, protecting ourselves and solving our own problems, we will not be able to heal our communities.  

Is there hope for our nation?  It seems to me that we are being torn apart at the seams.

The racial tensions that were brought to the surface with the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 have not been properly addressed, and so situations have merely escalated.

  • Many have reacted rather than responded.
  • Some have capitalized on the pain for their own gain.
  • Few have presented any plan for resolving the issues.


The Beginning of a Solution


March 2015

I often talk about the “barriers to connection” described by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen in their book Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In.  The first barrier is “the fight or flight syndrome” – the natural reaction we have when we feel attacked is to either fight back and hurt the other person first OR to avoid the situation altogether.  Both reactions lead to our current status quo and the unacceptable “new normal” of flags at half mast.

How can we break the “fight or flight” cycle?  It starts by taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on others.  Let me be clear:  I am primarily talking to the White community here, of which I am visibly a part.

We need to start with a radical selflessness, focusing on what is best for our communities rather than for a handful of individuals.  It requires sacrificing some of our “rights” and “rewards” to create the change we need.

Think about this: if Jesus could make “Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and [come] in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), can’t we set aside our need to be right, to protect our positions and perspectives?

My life’s work has been dedicated to helping people from different cultural groups become able to understand each other.  This is exactly what needs to happen on a national level.  This is what needs to happen at a personal level.

  1. We have to listen, deeply listen to the heart and not the words alone.
  2. We have to choose our response, not merely react out of anger, fear, or grief.
  3. We must learn to collaborate on solutions; this will require a re-establishment of trust and dialogue.

I have seen promising stories of just such things happening.  Let’s see an epidemic of understanding, unity, and healing!

Of Constitutions and Conventions


When I was in high school (25+ years ago!), I had a history teacher with some pretty intriguing ideas about what would happen in North America.  For one, he predicted that Quebec would secede from Canada, causing the remaining Canadian provinces to seek to join the United States.  My Canadian friends can correct me if I’m wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be a strong possibility at this time.IMG_8755

Another of his predictions was that a new US civil war was coming, this time not based around race but around abortion.  He foresaw that there would be “abortion” and “life” states, just as there had been “slave” and “free” states prior to the US Civil War.

Honestly, at the time I found his predictions to be outlandish.  Another US civil war?  Preposterous!

However, events of the past few years, and particularly of the past few months, have caused me to remember my teacher’s predictions and to wonder if maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t on to something.

An “Article V Convention”

Yesterday, I saw a news story that really surprised me – the governor of Texas is calling for a Constitutional Convention of the States.  (You can find the story here.)  What does this mean?

When the US Constitution was written, the Founders created a system of checks and balances.  This is US Government 101.  Well, part of those checks and balances was investing rights, responsibilities, and powers to the individual states as well as to the Federal government.  I believe these “States Rights” were largely reduced in the aftermath of the Civil War because that was the official platform for the Confederate States.  (We can argue real vs. stated reasons for the Civil War another time.)

Today we have a situation where most of us would identify as US citizens before we identify as citizens of a particular state.  Yes, here in the melting pot of Washington, DC, you hear people declaring their connection to a particular state, but most of us are not often in such a regionally diverse environment.  We are Americans first and New Yorkers, Californians, Nebraskans, etc., second.

Texas has always been different.

Today Texas is taking a stand against “Federal overreach,” against the Federal government infringing upon Texas state-centric interests.

The question I’m left with today is whether this is the start of a new movement by States to curtail Federal power, a rise of the States so to speak, or is it the precursor to my history teacher’s predicted dissolution of the United States as we know it today.

If the convention never materializes or if it results in decisions Texas doesn’t agree with, will Texas seek to leave the US just as Britain has voted to leave the EU?  Will there be a Texit?  And what domino effect with that have? Will Texas stand alone, or will other States follow suit?

I can’t predict what will happen next, but I will be watching in the following weeks, months, and possibly years to see how this situation evolves.

I Stand for Life


Today my heart is heavy.  In the past few days and weeks,  I have been confronted with the reality that we live in a society that does not value human life.

  • A few weeks ago in Orlando (has it already been that long!), nearly 50 people were murdered in cold blood, an act I can’t even comprehend, no matter the shooter’s ideology.  This was a deliberate attack motivated by devaluing LGBTQ and minority lives.
  • Just a couple days ago, five out of eight people decided common sense health regulations didn’t make sense, endangering the lives of countless women and babies.  The Supreme Court ruling on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt established the idea of the “right” to abortion as greater than the value of human lives. IMG_0597

My grief over both incidents stems from the same source – I believe in the sanctity of life, in particular human life.

I do NOT make a distinction between one human life and another, whether progressive or conservative, LGBTQ or Little Sisters of the Poor, an octogenarian Supreme Court Justice or an unborn child.  All life has value, has purpose, has meaning.  All of it.

All human life has value. 

Political posturing 

The past few years have been increasingly turbulent as violent outbursts and domestic terrorist attacks have become more and more common, something unheard of when I was growing up.  However, rather than digging out the root of the issue, because our society as a whole has doesn’t properly value life, all life has become politicized.

  • It’s not about gun control.
  • It’s not about “pro choice” or “pro life” positions.
  • It’s not about welfare or immigration or hate speech.
  • It’s not about insulating ourselves, building barriers to protect ourselves, or blaming others for our condition.

It’s about honoring, respecting, and valuing lives, all lives, every life, even sometimes at the expense of our other “rights.”

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Life comes first!

I don’t have the answers to the problems facing our country, but I do know that our political posturing only makes the situation worse and a solution that much more difficult to find.  Rather, I believe a focus on preserving LIFE should be our guiding principle.

  • Life should take precedence over comfort and convenience.
  • Life should take precedence over ideological differences.
  • Life should take precedence over “an undue burden.”

Have we become so addicted to comfort and so entrenched in our ideologies that we are no longer willing to preserve life at all costs?

How would the news stories of the past few weeks – or the past couple of years – have played out differently if the decision-makers had chosen to value life first and foremost?  What about the stories we are reading today?  What about the stories that will be published tomorrow?  Can we change the outcomes?

I stand for life.  Will you stand with me?

In the Flow


IMG_8789How can you know if something is what you were truly meant to do?

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything – the first gap since I started blogging two years ago.  Quite honestly, the past few months have been trying, but today things are moving forward in a very positive direction.

Last week, I sat down to organize my thoughts on a separate project, and I ended up writing about three pages.  It felt good to be writing again, but that wasn’t my key takeaway.

I have a challenging summer teaching schedule, and I am often quite spent at the end of the day.  However, the day I wrote my thoughts and the day after, I was more energized and was not so tired at the end of the day.

What does this tell me?  I am a writer, and writers write.  When we do the things we are designed and created to do, it is not a drain on our energy but a recharge.  Not just a little recharge but a big one!

Are the activities you are involved in recharging you or draining you?  It may be a good time, with summer just beginning, to take an inventory of how your energy is flowing and to realign your activities to maximize your energy use.

I am happy to be getting back into the flow myself!

Are Your Dreams Dead or Hibernating?


IMG_0792Life isn’t easy.  Very rarely does the universe align itself for your fulfillment, and there are no fairy godmothers whose sole aim in life is to make your wishes come true.

What do you do when life knocks the dreams out of you?

This is what I’m walking through right now.  I’ve caught a vision for where my life and career could go – a dream of international travel, respect in my field, and impacting many lives.  However, it seems that life is not cooperating.

I have slowly been working towards this dream for the past seven years, but I accelerated my efforts last year.  As a result, I’e experienced many disappointments and at times questioned my decision.

Today, it looks like I’m right back where I started, working in a job very similar to the one I had 15 years ago!  Is the dream dead?  Or is it, in fact, hibernating?

The truth is only you can kill your dream!

To Kill a Dream

Dreams are especially easy to kill when they are hibernating, seemingly dead but simply waiting for the springtime, a new season of growth. In his book, John Maxwell lists five reasons people don’t dream, but I would like to present them as “weapons of dream destruction”:

  • lack of imagination – this “weapon” has the power to kill dreams before they are even conceived, this can also kill dreams when you hit a barrier or obstacle.
  • lack of confidence – this “weapon” kills baby dreams, preventing you from taking action, but it can also kill teenaged dreams when you realize you do not yet have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to achieve your dream
  • settling for average – this “weapon” kicks in when things get difficult; depending on the dream, this could be earlier or later in the process, but the power of a “comfort zone” is deadly to dreams
  • disappointment – this “weapon” may be the most powerful; when you’ve experienced enough challenges and (temporary) failures, the pain of disappointment can be acute
  • discouragement – this final “weapon” is particularly insidious when it is used not internally, your own thoughts, but externally, from friends and family who love you and don’t want to see you struggle

In the past several months, I have examined each of these weapons, but each time I have set it back down and given my dream the time it needs to rest, regroup, and come back stronger.  The only way my dream can die is if I myself kill it.  If I don’t, it has a chance to come out of hibernation and finally grow to maturity.

Have you been tempted to kill your dream?  Have you actually murdered it in its sleep?

The purposes of God in our lives and in our generation are not served when we kill our dreams.  But take heart – God is in the business of resurrecting dreams!  “God never changes his mind when he gives gifts or when he calls someone.” (Romans 11:29)

Today can be the day you bring your dreams back to life!

A Modern Parable


Over the past few months, I’ve been learning quite a bit about what it means to live “in the kingdom of God.”

To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? (Luke 13:20)

IMG_8237The kingdom of God is like a very wealthy man who wished for a family.  He prepared a mansion with all the things a family of children would need – a kitchen with a world-class chef, an immense library with every imaginable book for education and enjoyment, a game room for recreation, and bedrooms furnished and fitted with all the clothes and toys needed (and then some!).

When all was prepared, he sent to a local orphanage and adopted five children.

One child ran away the first night, thinking, “You can’t control me!”

One child was convinced there had been a mistake and wouldn’t leave his room.  He never even changed his clothes and wore only the clothes from the orphanage and insisted on eating only bread and water.

One child found the game room and never came back out.  She was determined to enjoy his life to the fullest.

One child was so dazzled by the luxurious abundance that he began asking for more.  And more.  And more.  And more. … He was never satisfied with what he had and always wanted bigger, better, more expensive things.

One child was so grateful that she spent every possible moment with her adoptive father – at the dining table over dinner, in his study while he worked, in the game room having fun.  At times, she would crawl up into the lap of her father while he was working.  As she grew older, the father taught her the business, and when she came of age, the man made her his business partner.


The wealthy man, of course, is our Heavenly Father, Who has adopted us (Romans 8:15) and has “given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

The question is which child are you?  And which would you like to be?

Primary Election Fallout – 3 Steps to Prevent Conflict Before It Starts


Today five more states are voting in primaries.  This has been one of the most contentious primary seasons I can remember.  Even more, at this point in my life, I have friends from around the world representing all points in the political spectrum, people I care deeply about and disagree strongly with.

photo by Tasha M. Troy

photo by Tasha M. Troy

I refuse to believe I must “unfriend” or even simply avoid the people I care about who don’t hold the same views as I do.  Indeed, sometimes those people live under my roof – there is no escape!

Here are three steps that help me live in harmony even if I can’t live in agreement.

Step 1:  Observe Carefully

The foundation of living peacefully with others is awareness of differences between ourselves and others, not just who we assume they are and where we believe they are coming from.  How many times have you stated an opinion, assuming you were with like-minded friends, only to find you’d offended someone?  Even people we have known for years grow and change and are not the same people they were five or ten years ago.

In order to grow in awareness, you much be observant – watch and listen for what their values, goals, and motivations are.  Once you have determined this, apply John Maxwell’s 101% principle – find the 1% you agree on and give it 100%!

Step 2: Listen Attentively

In order to truly connect with someone, you have to understand their perspective, and the only way to do that is to listen “connectively” – listen to understand instead of to defend or respond.

This is, of course, easier said than done, but with practice you can develop the habit of truly hearing a person out.  It really does make listening a bit easier when you’re not constantly thinking about a witty repartee.

Step 3: Speak Wisely

The final step is when words finally come out of your own mouth.  To connect with someone, you must “speak their language” – start with what is important to them before you can explain what is important to you.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 3.05.06 PMFor example, if you want to talk to a Trump supporter, you can’t start with the plight of the underprivileged.  You have to start with addressing the issues of government regulation and immigration reform before you can come around to what is important to you.

Likewise, if you are talking to a Sanders supporter, you can’t start with the challenges facing entrepreneurs.  You have to start with addressing economic inequality and lack of opportunity facing the lower and middle classes before you can talk about other issues.


No matter who wins the primaries today or who ultimately receives the party nominations this year, there will be people who are upset and who disagree with you and others.  In Colossians, Paul said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”  One translations says “gracious and attractive.”  In the end, how we speak impacts our relationships, which are intended to last much longer than an election season.  Speak wisely and avoid election season fallout!