Inclusion is a BUZZ word in education these days.  There are plenty of opinions ~ pro and con out there.  While thinking about it, you must admit it certainly looks more like the real world when classrooms have a wide variety of students with varying abilities.  Based upon my experience in the "real work world", I worked with wonderful people with a wide variety of abilities and talents.  The challenge is to learn to work together as a team recognizing the need to operate as a cohesive unit.

NOT what this is about!

We all want to be included and go to great lengths to become accepted.  I am reading a great book, When Helping Hurts, which addresses how we might best help the poor.  When you question the poor concerning, "What is poverty?", their answers include "shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness."  NOT what we would have thought.  One of these, "social isolation", is an indication that all of  our efforts at inclusion are not working.  We all tend to stick to those who look like us, talk like us, think like us, and live like us.  We stay in our little bubbles created primarily by economic circumstances.  

We are working at including those who are different in our world in many places, but in most cases not in our social circles.  One of the worst things in the world is to walk into a room and feel excluded from the group.  We all desire to be "a part".  The question becomes how do we step out of our circle?  How do we expand our white bread world?  How are we going to stop excluding socially those we are working so diligently to include in all other areas of life?

It is going to take me stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the initial step.  Starting a conversation, asking questions, and seeking to know my fellow man has to begin with me.  There are opportunities, there are ways to broaden our friend base, and we are the one who has to take the first step.  When you read the feelings of those who are living in poverty, it is obvious how difficult it would be for them to take this first step.  It is up to us to throw the ball onto the court and get the game going.

When you read of the life of Jesus, He certainly did not hang with only one socio~ economic group.  We are called to model our lives after Him.  That might mean inviting the fishermen to take a walk, the unclean woman to have lunch, or the tax collector to have coffee.  We may need to stretch our worlds and seek out those who feel socially isolated and listen to their story--their voice.

I've not been blogging lately--oh but have I been thinking!

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
Luke 14:13


The annual holiday period has once again rolled around-it seems to take a shorter period of time each year.  This week we will all go into high gear for the next four weeks.  Thanksgiving begins a whirlwind of decorating, shopping, family visits, parties, and seemingly endless round of things to do.  To complicate this, many are facing the long to do list alone.  For many the holidays are a time to just keep your head down and survive.  How in the world can we reclaim the joy this time of the year should hold?

1.  LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS-  It does not all have to be perfect.  Perfection is an elusive shifting target and often dependent upon how the world tells us the holidays should appear.  The table does not have to be a feast fit for royalty; the decorations do not have to come from the latest edition of "House Beautiful"; your outfit does not have to be couture; and the children --well they are children.  Perfect gifts are a moving target; funds are limited; and no one can do it all.  Remind yourself what you can get done is plenty; we all have cooking mishaps; there are only 24 hours in a day; and life will go on tomorrow with no one but you agonizing over what went wrong yesterday.  

2.  BE FLEXIBLE-  Traditions are wonderful, but be willing to bend and change your traditions if necessary.  With grandchildren, the traditional way I celebrated holidays completely changed.  It was necessary to come up with a new plan with the parents of young children in mind.  Your willingness to bend to accommodate the busy lives of young parents is a precious gift of flexibility.  It is important to celebrate, but when and how you celebrate can be altered.  Holidays once again changed after the end of my marriage.  Sharing time with no concrete expectations from your children and grands is a great gift to them.  The holidays are a season, not a day---plan accordingly.  It is not as important to celebrate on a particular day as it is to be together at some point during the season.  

3.  ROLL WITH IT-  One Thanksgiving one of the grands was up in the middle of the night, Thanksgiving Eve,  with the stomach bug.  How can I delicately tell you about the clean up that followed?  Bless Him---it was everywhere.  After we finally got back to bed we slept in to almost 6:00 AM.  I am sleep walking through the morning and worrying about how in the world in my tight quarters we are going to keep the other three healthy.  We are all sleep deprived and cranky.  Somehow I still get the dinner on the table (poor little fellow has crackers and sprite) and make the annual round of the table stating what we are thankful for.  At the moment, I was exasperated and exhausted, but it is a memory we laugh over every year.  The cake falls, you forget to put the rolls on the table, company drops in unexpectedly, you over did the jalapenos in the casserole, you forgot some of the gifts hidden in the closet, the cat climbed the Christmas tree in the middle of the night and knocked it over---(all actual events from my life)--it is not the end of the world~Roll With It.  As you can tell, this is what memories are made from and I still laugh about them.

4.  REMEMBER WHAT MATTERS-  Being together and spending time playing, visiting, and enjoying each other is what is most important.  If you give me the choice of having a simple dinner while enjoying your good company and in attending a lavish Christmas gala, the one on one time with you wins every time. Being with the children, family members, and friends and enjoying quality time in any activity are our keeper memories.  After all these years, the holidays that stand out the most are those spent in the company of those I love in close communion.  God desires us to be in relationships, but those relationships need to be nurtured.  Slow down and spend time together, with no expectations in the good company of those you love.

No where in The Word do we find a list for how we should be celebrating.  These are all man made expectations that have grown over the years to the point of being exhaustive.  Betty Crocker had big time cooking fails before getting that book published, Emily Post occasionally had a bad day and forgot her manners, Lisa Hilderbrand does not have time to decorate her own home for keeping the paying customers happy, and Coco Chanel was guilty of wearing a hideous outfit for Christmas Dinner at time or two.  We are ALL human and none of us are perfect--so DO NOT expect life to be perfect.  

3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3


When you ask me the question, "What brand is that?" or "Who is the manufacturer?" or "Where did you purchase that?".  Most of the time, I do not have a clue.  I rarely have a swoosh, a horse, a name, or an emblem on me.  I am not a shopper, do not keep up with trends, and my fashion sense is stuck in the comfort mode.  Quite frankly, I personally do not think it matters a bit.  

What I am curious about is how these trends of what is cool begin.  Who decides we all must wear North Face, even if we never step a foot on a trail, camp in the wild, or for that matter even watch a documentary on the great outdoors?  And then there are the athletic brands, most of us only dream of being true athletes (some I know have a great disdain for anything involving sweat), BUT have a closet full of swooshes, cats, and all the other emblems seen above.  Could I tell you I have worn the same brand of shoes for almost 30 years.  Who cares what the latest hot brand is if these shoes work, I am not changing.  I have a friend who told me she no longer wears her tried and true brand because she didn't like the colors they now come in.  They could be butt ugly puce, I do not care as long as they treat my feet kindly.

Our society seems to put a huge value on brands, names, and emblems.  We are quick to point out our watch is a Rolex, our car is a BMW, and out clothing all created by some fashion guru who will smirk at this season's designs next season.  We are deeply entrenched in a consumer driven, status seeking, quest to be among those in the know and on the go.  The local thrift store is filled with yesterday's best which flew out the door when tomorrow's newest status symbol hit the shelves of the stores.  

Contrast that to my closet and drawers which have the tried and true clothing, I love to wear.  I LOVE my flannel shirts, worn softened jeans, exercise clothing I have worn for more than 20 years (it's just getting broken in), and that one good black dress which has now been a part of my wardrobe for more than 10 years.  The occasional new number invariably gets pushed to the back and the old favorites are worn over and over.  What I have on is just not that important to me as long as I am decent and above all comfortable.

NOW, if you ask me important questions such as such as what am I reading, great theological mysteries, is the climate changing, what do you think about the state of our country, or anything that is deeper than the latest fashion trend, I am all in for a good conversation.  Frankly I am more interested in what you think than what you have on, drive, or where you live.  People are more important, relationships need to be deepened, and I had rather sit and listen to your story any day of the week.  I do not notice what you have on, but I do notice your expressions and will know what you told me.  I am interested in all of you and would like nothing better than having a deep conversation.  Things don't matter--people do.  

SO--the next time you see me, call me, text me, or email me, heaven only knows what I will have on, BUT want to talk---I'M YOUR GIRL!!  Can't ever get enough!

Everything that belongs to the world~what the sinful self desires,
what people see and want,
and everything in this world that people are so proud of~
none of this comes from the Father,
it all comes from the world.
The world and everything in it that people desire is passing away,
but those who do the will of God live for ever.
I John 2:16-17


I re-watched an old favorite movie recently. In case you have forgotten, let me once again remind you there are God lessons all around us---even in a secular movie.

NO--I am not going to delve into the subject of "Bucket Lists".  I will save that for another day.  The great thing about re-watching or re-reading is that the second time through, I many times find something profound that I missed the first time.  Once again this proved to be the case.

In one of the scenes Freeman says “You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions.  Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not.  ‘Have you found joy in your life?’  ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”   WHAM, it got me right between the eyes!

Most of us have experienced joy in our lives.  While life is not endlessly joyful, there are certainly wonderful moments of joy along the path.  The birth of a child or grandchild come to mind immediately when considering my moments of joy.  The glimpse of breath-taking and soul filling sights has filled me to the brim with joy.  Deep conversation and the company of good friends create a joyful heart in me.  The first glimpse of spring blooms, the change of colors in the fall leaves, and the shear beauty of a carpet of snow have all filled me with joy.  Those special moments of worship when the presence of God was palatable that have left me so joyful I was moved to tears.  Suffice it to say, my life has been filled with joy.

The deep and thought provoking question is "Has your life brought joy to others?"  Joy is defined as a feeling of great happiness and pleasure in the secular world.  The question therefore becomes have you brought pleasure and happiness to others?  Some of us have certainly brought happiness and pleasure to our children and grandchildren.   Unfortunately, the happiness and pleasure can often be short lived.  The question then becomes, "What have you done for me today?"  Doesn't the simple act of loving another bring happiness and pleasure?   We all want to be loved and for others to treat us with love brings us joy.  BUT--this is all fleeting, temporary because it is of this world.

It would seem the answer to both of these questions might be summarized by the temporary state of joy found in most earthly pleasures.  Here today, but gone tomorrow, we are then on a quest to find the next glimpse of joy.  Is there any eternal infinite joy?

Yes, joy is eternal and infinite to the Believer.  Joy is an essential part of the Believer's life.  We are told Believers are "commanded to rejoice and characterized by rejoicing." (Desiring God)  When we experience suffering and loss, our deep reservoir of joy is often that which sustains us.  Though we sometimes feel desolate and drained, completely devoid of joy, we can rest assured that God is committed to our joy in Him.  We will have moments of joy on this terrestrial ball, but our complete and eternal joy is only found in Jesus.  
"It is good news that joy is not optional in the Christian life, because the final weight falls not on our weak backs, but on the almighty shoulders of God himself."  Yes--we know joy--and because of this joy---we share the reason for our joy with others.  We have known joy and we have shared this joy with others, because it is too good to not share with those whom we love.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you,
 and that your joy may be full.
John 15:11