<![CDATA[Social Incites, LLC - BLOG]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 06:22:59 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Nativity]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 14:03:44 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/the-nativityIsn’t it beautiful? A pristine nativity, with intricately sculpted figurines clustered around a perfect baby boy. On this silent night, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the wisemen, the angelic chorus, the softly lowing cattle, and even the snow-white sheep gaze in holy wonder at the promised Messiah.

We join them in giving thanks for this priceless gift, and in response to that (and possibly also to the mania at the mall), give gifts to our loved ones in return. And we celebrate Christmas…

Yet in the flurry of trees, lights, ornaments, Christmas carols, shopping bags, delicious but calorie-laden holiday treats, Advent candles, and the “countdown to Christmas” that seems to speed up every year, we may gaze at the Nativity in another kind of wonder, questioning how this idyllic scene fits in the midst of personal pain, loss, grief, and the darkness, evil, and despair that exist in the world around us, and sometimes, admittedly, even in our own hearts.

Is there room for both? Can beauty, gratitude, hope, and joy co-exist with intense loss, fear, anger, and serious questions about the meaning and purpose of it all?

Let’s look again…Who are these figures clustered around the newborn Son of God?

There’s Mary, a teenage girl, promised to be married to carpenter Joseph. In a beautiful encounter with a heavenly messenger, Mary had been told she would bear a son who would fulfill promises given to her people centuries before.

Her response? She was “confused and disturbed…”

                                 Yet she praised God and stepped out in joyful obedience.
                                                    We’re told she “pondered all these things in her heart…”

​As she sat beside that manger bed, what was she pondering? If she was like us, and I suspect she was, she was likely wondering how the Promised One could possibly co-exist alongside the following:
  • A 400-year silence while God’s people wondered whether the One who created the universe and held all things in His hand still saw, heard, cared, planned, and provided.
  • Shame and condemnation for a mother who was pregnant out of wedlock, a declared sin punishable by public death by stoning. What had people said to her when they saw her bulging belly? What tapes were playing in her head as she remembered the months leading up to this moment? How many of them seemed to “fit” with the singing telegram that had been delivered straight from Heaven just a short time before?
  • A Jewish world under Roman rule and oppression, leading to a 97-mile journey to sign up to pay taxes, on the back of a donkey, while nine months pregnant, accompanied by a fiancé who neglected to make hotel reservations, and ending with the echoing phrase, “No room at the inn…” Was Joseph the only Father who forgot to reserve a room for this long-awaited occasion of the birth of a king?
  • A barn with allergy-inducing hay, nostril-offending manure, eardrum-splitting moos, neighs, baas, clucks, cock-a-doodle-doos, and newborn baby screams…a far cry from the beautiful, clean, quiet, perfect Nativity sitting on a shelf in the comfort of our living room.
  • Her first visitors, a rag-tag team of socially outcast shepherds who have just experienced the most terrifying night of their lives. Like the stable around them, they have not cleaned up their clothing, hair, sandals, or likely their language, as they stomp into the presence of the newborn baby king. Oh, and have you ever actually seen a snow-white sheep? No hand-sanitizer was passed around as the baby’s first company gathered noisily around the animal feeding trough that housed the infant wrapped in rags, loudly talking over each other as they shared news of the company of angels that had filled the dark sky while they were out fending off lions and bandits, tending their flocks that night.
  • The “wise guys with gifts…” Their journey to follow a star whose importance no one else seemed to grasp might have brought them to Mary’s home months or years after Jesus’ birth. The treasure chests they left at her feet would now need to be packed for another uncomfortable donkey ride, this time fleeing in the middle of the night to start a journey hundreds of miles long, taking her and her little family to a foreign land with unfamiliar people, customs, food, and language. Did she ponder why God would send His long-awaited son only to have his life threatened by the king of Israel? Did she know that her extraordinary sacrifice to protect this promised child would only keep him on this planet for a few decades?
As Mary sat with such thoughts racing dizzily through her head, her reality was likely a far cry from the “Silent Night, Holy Night” we sing about each year with violin and harp accompaniment. No doubt that first night, and maybe countless nights that followed, were sleepless nights with tossing, turning, pacing, and crying out to God to explain how a holy infant, angelic messengers, and finally-fulfilled promises could make sense alongside the darkness, fear, shame, and stench of her current reality.

We can make sense of these inconsistencies only by unwrapping the other gifts we have been given. The baby in the manger was the first present to break into the questions of whether God sees, hears, cares, and provides, but it was not the last. We have been given the rest of the Story. That baby, sent on a starry night in Bethlehem, was not destined to stay in a manger on the shelf. His journey to Egypt, his life and ministry throughout the Promised Land, his gruesome death on a gnarly, crude cross, his earth-shattering silence in the cold, hard grave, his glorious resurrection celebrated by more hosts of Heavenly messengers, and his cloud-lifting ascension to our Father in Heaven has made possible the gifts that cannot be purchased or wrapped, but only graciously and thankfully accepted:
  • He has restored our right relationship with the Father, and promised to be our faithful, Good Shepherd
  • He has made possible our conversion from dirty, sin-filled sheep to snow-white lambs continually residing within His loving care and provision
  • He is “with us always, even to the end of the age,” and through the gift/presence of the Spirit, we are “not left as orphans…”
What are you pondering this Christmas season? It is possible for the ugliness of our daily lives to co-exist alongside the beauty of the Nativity? I believe it is, as evidenced in the One who is fully God and fully human.
  • Pain? He felt it.
  • Loneliness? He experienced it.
  • Grief? He endured it.
  • Anger? He expressed it.
  • Rejection? He bore it in silence.
  • Death? He overcame it.
  • Relationship with the Father? He modeled it and made it possible for us.
  • Joy? He restores it.
  • Gratitude? He inspires it.
  • Hope? He gives it freely.
  • A future? He guarantees it.
That beautiful baby in the manger stepped through a not-so-beautiful reality, so that those of us who are grieving the darkness around us, can step into His light, experience His promises, and look forward with eager anticipation to the day when He will make “all things new…” For “now we see though a glass darkly, but then, we shall see face to face!” Beauty will be restored, questions will be answered, evil will be thwarted, and those of us who believe and embrace His promises will all be gathered into the eternal beauty of the nativity as God intended to be.

He still sees, hears, cares, plans, and provides…We can celebrate that this Christmas, regardless of whether our physical surroundings-or the inside of our heart and mind-more closely resemble an inn or a stable. God is good, all the time! What gifts will we give Him in return? Will we respond in joy-filled obedience, as Mary did? Will we give Him our brokenness, trusting Him to sculpt us into figures that more closely resemble His perfection each day? Will we share His gifts with those around us, knowing that what we store up in Heaven is worth far more than anything we can put on a credit card?

“Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!”

The Nativity reminds us that with joyful obedience, we, too, can keep the Savior at the center of our hearts, lives, and homes. In Him, we can experience the reality that even dirt, smells, noise, and difficult emotions can co-exist with the promises given and fulfilled by our loving Heavenly Father.  His presence this season is the gift which keeps on giving, from now through all eternity!

Lamentations 3:20-23 New Living Translation (NLT) “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.
© 2017 Laurel A Falvo
<![CDATA[Frogs on a Log]]>Sun, 11 Dec 2016 22:07:13 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/frogs-on-a-logOnce there were twelve frogs sunning themselves on a log.
                      Five decided to jump off.
                                            How many were left?
If you said seven, congratulations—you are excellent at basic math! However, that answer is not correct. You see, deciding to do something often does not make it happen. For all we know, those five frogs might still be sitting on the log…
How often have you had good intentions, maybe even decided to do something, but it still hasn’t gotten done? Are you still waiting to:

  • Read a particular book
  • Go back to school
  • Spend quality time with your child, spouse, or other family member
  • Take a vacation
  • Re-connect with an old friend (or reach out to a new friend)
  • Make amends for something you have done that hurt someone
  • Get back to church or another place of worship
  • Try a new hobby
  • Learn a new skill
  • Save for retirement
  • Lose a few pounds
  • Write a note to your child’s teacher or someone else who could use a word of encouragement
  • Give a donation to a worthy cause

The number of hours in a day is limited to 24. That’s the same for all of us, every day. What we do with those hours helps to determine whether we make waves, or continue to sit on the sidelines.
I’ll close with a humorous reflection on the need to do more than just “deciding” to do something:

“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold…but so does a hard-boiled egg!”
As we close out the year 2016, I challenge each of you to decide to do something worthwhile…then jump in head-first, out of your comfort zone, into the great adventure of possibility!

Copyright 2011-2016

Check out James 4:17 to see what it has to say about this!

<![CDATA[The Gift of Presence]]>Sun, 04 Dec 2016 23:44:57 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/the-gift-of-presenceA recent survey indicated, “Half of all parents try to get everything on kids’ holiday wish lists, no matter the cost.”  

I hope their kids have more realistic holiday wish lists than I had when I was young. In the days of Sears catalogs (OK, so I’ve been around awhile…), I remember going through page by page and listing everything I thought was even remotely intriguing. Would I like a Barbie, play horse, child-sized guitar, or ballerina outfit? Maybe I could discover “hidden talents” if I received my own ventriloquist “dummy” or professional artist’s paint set? Sure! Put them ALL on the wish list…

My family likely would not have had money for Christmas dinner if my parents had purchased everything on my wish list. (And I am quite certain those particular talents would have remained hidden regardless of the gifts I received…they are, in fact, still in hiding.)

Today, most of my holiday shopping is complete, with packages resting festively under the Christmas tree. Admittedly, I have had “sleigh-loads” of assistance from my personal “elves” (14-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son). And because our kids do NOT get everything on their wish lists, our pile amounts to more of a molehill than a mountain.

But lately, I have been pondering the gift-giving tradition. I love purchasing and wrapping items that I know will bring smiles when they are opened, either because they are needed or appreciated, or because I have done a good job of teaching my kids to express gratitude even for things they may not need or appreciate.

What are the best presents we can give our children? Expensive ones? Those they have wanted forever, or at least for as long as it took to add them to their wish list? The presents everyone else is getting?

If you read my last Social Incites™ article (11/9/16: Upside Down…or Right Side Up?), you know that my little Noah was battling a life-threatening bacterial infection earlier this month. Together, he and I spent ten days in isolation in the hospital, waiting and praying day and night. He received many generous presents which encouraged him and helped pass the time (activity books, PlayDoh™, Lego™ sets, children’s Bibles, etc.). But the most valuable gifts ended up being the gifts of “presence.”
  • God’s presence was evident throughout the entire journey, even when we were “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23).
  • Your presence through prayer, comments on Facebook, or emails, whether or not we have ever met you in person, or where you are located, lifted us, encouraged us, and carried us through.
  • Noah insisted on my daily (and nightly) presence, and I was more than happy to be there to hold him, pray with him, and play with him.
How can we be more “present” with others on a day-to-day basis? It can be difficult, especially during the busy holiday season. But there are people in our families, neighborhoods, and communities (including our online communities) who need someone to be there for them. We can pray for them, encourage them, listen to them, sit with them, do chores for them, laugh with them, cry with them…

The gift of “presence” cannot be purchased or wrapped. But I am learning that it is more valuable, and often more cherished, than anything that will ever require hard-earned cash, a loan, or credit card debt.

I am guessing that even if “the gift of presence” is not yet written on your loved ones’ wish lists, it would be at the top if they saw it in a catalog! I hope you will consider giving it to those on your gift list this year. I know I am looking for ways to be more “present” with others in the days ahead! Please consider writing a comment on our Social Incites Facebook page to share ideas and encouragement with others!

​(UPDATE for all our prayer warriors: God is SO good! Noah came home on November 13, and one week ago, he finally had test results that were close enough to normal that he is back to school full-time! We are so thankful to God for complete healing, and to all of you for your prayers and words of encouragement! You can still follow Noah’s Testimony on Facebook.)

<![CDATA[Upside Down...or Right Side Up?]]>Wed, 09 Nov 2016 08:00:00 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/upside-downor-right-side-upThere's an old saying that refers to a person's life being "turned upside down." It's used when something big, eventful, or traumatic happens, sometimes planned in advance, but usually not. You can likely relate to some degree, if you've faced financial, relationship, or health changes. In those moments, although time marches on, it may seem as though it stands still, or moves in slow motion. While other people race around you at the speed of life, you may not be able to move or feel like moving. I suppose that might be where that phrase comes from...I can imagine it would be hard to do much of anything standing on one's head, or navigating familiar locations and routines that have suddenly been upended.

I, too, can relate...I suppose you might say my life has been turned upside down. For the last week, I have been sitting at the hospital bedside of my precious 5-3/4 year old (he'll get offended if I represent him as only a 5-year-old) while he battles a potentially life-threatening bacteria. His condition continues to deteriorate as bloodwork shows that the shigella/shiga toxin 1 (from a specific form of E Coli) has moved from decimating his intestines, into his bloodstream, and is now attacking his kidneys, spleen, and potentially other organs.

Yet I would argue that the journey I am currently walking is not truly "upside down," but rather, "right-side up!" You see, everything that is happening is causing me to look up and rely on my Heavenly Father to supply all my need...healing for Noah, patience, strength, peace, comfort, joy, etc. In fact, from this vantage point, everything that had become comfortable and familiar and routine, in which I might have been tempted to place my identity, worth, confidence, etc. has been turned upside down, and everything left--those things that really matter--have been turned right-side up!

My little Noah has great faith in an even greater God! I am slowing down and savoring that and God's presence while life swirls around me. If you are willing, I encourage you to follow our journey on Facebook at Noah's Testimony

And I encourage you to seek life from the perspective of "Right-side up," looking up to the Father, who wants to provide all that you need, according to his great mercy. It may seem chaotic at first as other things get turned upside down, but I guarantee you, it's better this way!
Here's where I typically sign a "Social Incites" with my name, title, company, etc. However, when life is viewed right-side up, I'm learning it isn't about title, education, status, or perceived value or worth. Instead, I am...

Child of God
God's masterpiece and precious treasure
A learner...growing in dependence on God
Noah's grateful mom

Isaiah 43:1-3 shares many things that can turn our lives upside down. Yet the assurance is real... If you do not know this assurance personally, please contact me through email or Facebook, as I would love to pray with you or for you!

But now, [insert your name] listen to the Lord who created you.
    ______, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

<![CDATA[Perseverations´╗┐]]>Mon, 11 Apr 2016 19:28:02 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/perseverations​April is Autism Awareness Month, which frequently turns our attention to the people with this diagnosis and the unique traits which typically lead to the diagnosis. One of the “classic” characteristics of autism is the presence of strong areas of interest, sometimes known as “obsessions” or “perseverations.” These may be objects collected or topics about which individuals gather significant amounts of information. People with autism may develop an extensive vocabulary centered around their area of interest, and perhaps be able to deliver impressive monologues about it. Free time is spent playing with it or researching it. And anything else becomes an unwelcome intrusion, whether it’s transitions to other daily activities or interruptions that could possibly bring social gain.
Most people can readily identify a “perseveration” in the life of someone they know with autism. We point to autism as the cause of this person’s inability or lack of desire to focus on anything other than Pokemon, dinosaurs, outer space, Minecraft, John Deere tractors, chickens, particular plastic containers, etc. And frequently, we look for ways to lessen the attraction or limit access to it. Other times we use it as a motivator or reward.
There are valid reasons for identifying a perseveration and finding ways to use it to everyone’s advantage, or to work around it or lessen the effect of it.
But what about the rest of us? Are people with autism the only ones who have perseverations? A peek into anyone’s social media account will readily identify those people, objects, activities, or topics that consume a person’s passions, time, energy, and finances. Sports and entertainment, shopping, traveling, collecting things, pets, children and grandchildren, vehicles, food, restaurants, beverages, fashion, movies, video games, books, Harry Potter, etc. are the things the rest of us tend to list as “likes,” “hobbies,” or “special interests.” Or maybe we haven’t even identified them as such, but our postings and conversations reveal the truth; that even we can be somewhat “obsessed” with some things to the point of ignoring other people, overspending, wasting time, and being annoyed when we have to focus on other responsibilities.
For all of us, it is wise to pursue balance between work and play, comfortable pursuits and novel experiences, familiar friends and new people…Finding ways to balance our current status with opportunities for growth, adventure, additional skills, and new connections with others is a way to avoid perseverations that might otherwise get us “stuck,” stunting our growth or limiting our access to a greater level of success.
As we commemorate Autism Awareness Month, let’s continue to be aware of our own strengths and challenges, too, always inciting one another toward personal and interpersonal growth!
<![CDATA[More Recess!]]>Mon, 07 Mar 2016 15:40:21 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/more-recess​Last weekend I wrote about all that I’ve learned from people with autism. Many of you have shared your personal insights, which I am eager to include in the upcoming weeks. Today, I want to share something I learned from my 5-year-old son yesterday.
Noah is an early riser. So before church, after I put dinner in the crock pot, we were playing a board game while the rest of the family slept. As players advance around the board, they are given opportunities to answer questions about various scenarios and how they feel or how they would respond. Noah got the question, “A child is being very loud in the classroom. What should the teacher do?” Noah grinned and answered in a bold, matter-of-fact manner, “Take him outside for recess so he can make even more noise!”
I wonder how many of us would have initially considered a form of punishment; a way to restrain the student’s noise and movement for the sake of the other students in the room, or even for the teacher’s desire to maintain order.
Yet Noah’s response reminded me that kids are noisy for a reason! Sometimes the best response might be to recognize that their behavior is often communicating a need, and meeting that need should be a top priority.
Thanks to Noah’s insights—and to all of yours—I continue to learn every day. I hope you will join me in being incited toward greater effectiveness in our interactions with others!
<![CDATA[All I Really Need to Know...]]>Fri, 26 Feb 2016 17:44:58 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/all-i-really-need-to-know​Years ago, I wanted to write a book entitled, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned from an Aspie,” in the spirit of a similar book entitled, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” I never wrote the intended book, but have spent the intervening years considering the important lessons that can be learned from living, working, studying, and playing with individuals with autism and Asperger Syndrome. Perhaps you can relate to what I have gleaned:
  • Life is too short to miss the interesting little details! People with autism tend to notice the little things in life. Sometimes it’s because their senses are more in tune with their surroundings. Other times it’s because the rest of us are too busy looking at the big picture, or “forest,” to see individual “trees.” Spending time with a person with autism can raise our awareness of things, people, places, and situations that we might otherwise miss, and enrich our lives in the process!
  • Life is a lot less complicated when “what you see is what you get!” People with autism tend to be very authentic, loyal, and honest. They interpret things literally, and say what they think. They don’t pretend to be someone they’re not, and they’re prepared to accept the rest of us for who we are. The rest of us complicate life, sometimes needlessly, by speaking metaphorically, putting on social airs, using complicated facial expressions and body language, following intricate unspoken social rules, and expecting everyone else to act just like us!
  • Variety really is the spice of life.  We typically say that we value diversity, and want everyone to be an individual. But the reality is that our schools, workplaces, playgrounds, and often even our homes are set up to accommodate mostly those who “fit” into a certain mindset and pattern of behavior. Although people with autism are generally singled out by peers, teachers, employers, and even family members as being “different,” often in a negative way, their unique personalities, preferences, and points of view are truly a gift that we can benefit from when we find ways to celebrate, include, and learn from them!
  • Sometimes we’re not as smart as we think we are! Unexpected behaviors from people with autism often keep us guessing about their needs, desires, feelings, or intent. But because we make guesses based on our own experiences, needs, or preferences, we often get it wrong! Taking time to get to know the person increases our likelihood of getting it right, increasing success for them and for us!
  • “Social” is complicated! A social interaction takes two or more people. Every person on this planet is a unique individual, with changing perspectives, needs, desires, feelings, etc. Every interaction is also unique, which means that we cannot prepare for everything, nor will we always experience success. But a breakdown in communication, “social foible,” or hurt feelings are rarely the fault of only one person. Instead, we all need to keep trying, learning from our mistakes, apologizing readily, and staying positive in order to keep going!
  • Autism is just a label. In our society, labels abound…blonde, smart, lazy, rich, young, teacher, doctor, neighbor, funny, disabled, energetic, successful, etc. Labels are used to describe nationality, birth order, profession, intelligence, physical appearance or ability, financial position, level of education, political leanings, age, and more. Yet no one word could ever begin to describe the complexity of a single person. The word “autism” denotes a subset of behaviors and characteristics that is typical of a certain group of people, but it is just that—a word. These people are human beings, each with unique personalities, dreams, hopes, fears, interests, abilities, experiences, and challenges, just like all the rest of us. We limit ourselves and our opportunities if we attempt to reduce any person to a single label.
There is so much to be learned from the boys and girls, men and women, who have been diagnosed with autism or Asperger Syndrome, that this list is simply scratching the surface. In order to learn from each other and to be able to celebrate the unique characteristics which so often enhance our lives in a variety of ways, I’m hoping YOU will share what YOU have learned from people with autism (or what you have learned as a person with autism or Asperger Syndrome). Please email me, and share your stories and insights. I will compile those (either with your name, or anonymously, whichever you prefer), and share them in April when we celebrate Autism Awareness Month.
I hope our collective insights will incite all of us to be quicker to appreciate, encourage, learn from, and enjoy ourselves and the people with whom we live, study, work, and play!
<![CDATA[The Best Way to Drive (and Shop, Dine, etc.)]]>Tue, 16 Feb 2016 19:31:18 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/the-best-way-to-drive-and-shop-dine-etcRecently, while driving around town, I passed a sign in front of a house that said, “Drive as though YOUR child lives here!” The homeowner obviously is aware that as humans, (aside from the fact that in little things we often are harder on those we love), we have a tendency to protect our own family members with more care and concern than the general public. We likely drive more carefully around our own children than we do around others’ children, mostly because we are that much more aware of our own kids and the need to preserve their well-being.
If the safest way to drive is to drive as though YOUR child lives here, don’t you think the same would apply to countless other areas of life?
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if each of us did these:
  • Dined in a restaurant as though the wait staff, kitchen staff, and maintenance staff was our own family?
  • Shopped as though the cashier—and the irritating shopper in line ahead of us-- was our own teen or sibling?
  • Studied as though our own mom or dad was the teacher (especially the substitute teacher)?
  • Conducted our business as though our own loved ones were the recipients of our services?
  • Used a public restroom as though our mom was (or WE were!) going to be cleaning it?
  • Gave to homeless shelters and other charities as though we were giving to our best friends or favorite family members (and would they even be homeless if we recognized this as an opportunity to share what we have with those in need)?
What might we do differently this week as we consider how we treat others, and how we might treat them more like cherished family members?
Here’s a truly better way:
Matthew 25:35 New Living Translation (NLT)For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.
<![CDATA[Are We Aficionados?]]>Mon, 08 Feb 2016 01:11:55 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/are-we-aficionadosAre you an art aficionado? The dictionary defines “aficionado” as a person who is interested in, knowledgeable about, and appreciative of a particular activity or pursued interest. The root of the word is, “Fond of.”
Admittedly, I am not an art aficionado. I do not know a lot about art, nor am I particularly interested in it. I would not say that I am “fond of art.” However, I would say that I am able to appreciate art. I have been to several art museums, including some in other states and countries. And while only the most famous pieces are familiar to me, I enjoy admiring the artwork that demonstrates the artist’s ability to capture the essence of an individual, situation, place, or thought. As my own artistic ability is incredibly limited, I am especially in awe of those creations that seem as real as a photograph, or even as real as life itself. In this sense, what I am admiring isn’t so much the painting, drawing, or sculpture, but the person who created it.
Yet as I wander through art exhibits, there are other pieces that I do not admire. I am particularly disturbed by those that I judge to be “nothing special”; those that leave me thinking, “I (in my complete lack of artistic ability) could have done that!” Some appear as though the artist simply splattered several colors of paint over the entire canvas, and then somehow walked away with thousands of dollars for their supposed effort. Others may be simply a series of squares, or simplistic line drawings that barely resemble the subject that is being featured. Some look eerily similar to the artwork my five-year-old brings home from preschool, without the benefit of sentimental attachment.
I know that I judge those pieces too harshly, likely because I am not an art aficionado. I do not know the value of such pieces, nor do I know the “back story” of how the artist got to this point. I do not understand the emotions the piece is supposed to evoke, or the commentary it is supposedly making on life in general or a specific person or topic in particular.
Which raises a question…as we interact with other people, are we “social aficionados” or “people aficionados?” Are we interested in, knowledgeable about, and appreciative of each family member, student, co-worker, client, supervisor, neighbor, landlord, bus driver, or service provider that we encounter on a daily basis? Are we fond of the people with whom we live, study, work, and play?
I assume that most of us view the people around us much the same way I approach art. There are likely some whom we esteem for their abilities, physical attributes, personality, dress, or material possessions, or perhaps for the positive emotions they evoke in us. There are likely others whom we view as “nothing special.” We have decided that there is nothing about them for us to admire or respect, and nothing more we need to know about them to change our opinion. We may not like the emotions evoked when we spend time with these people.
Do we then go on to play the role of an “art critic,” proclaiming the attributes of a select few, while noting the deficits of others?
My challenge to all of us this week is to become an aficionado of the people around us; to deliberately appreciate and to become knowledgeable about each one. Rather than separating them into two categories (positive and negative), we can ask ourselves, “What is the value of this person? What am I missing if I think this person has no value? What is this person’s “back-story” which has brought him or her to this point? How can I increase my appreciation for this person? How do my thoughts about and responses to this person either build him/her up, or tear him/her down?”
The process of becoming “social aficionados” will likely enrich our lives and the lives of those around us!

Here is the ultimate challenge…can we approach each person asking ourselves what that person (complete with strengths and challenges, dreams and fears, looks and personality, haves and have-nots, and whether they make us feel good or not so good) can tell us about the character of the Creator?
The Bible tells us that we are each a “masterpiece,” (Ephesians 2:10) created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) Are we looking for that in ourselves? In the people around us? Are we giving thanks to the Creator of each masterpiece (Psalm 139)?
If we are tempted to think that a particular individual might be lacking in the attributes of a masterpiece, I encourage us to remember that the Bible tells us that even Jesus had nothing particularly admirable about him, no cause for people to esteem him. (Isaiah 53:3)
I suppose, in a sense, we have all been given the responsibility of being art critics. But along with the job title comes a specific job description to guide our daily work:

John 13:34-35 New Living Translation (NLT)
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

<![CDATA[The Gift of Alignment]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:13:58 GMThttp://socialincites.com/blog/the-gift-of-alignment​Prior to the holidays, I sent reminders of several gifts that each of us may have or want. The list included the gifts of a solid work ethic, gratitude, generosity, respect, and identity. 
Before moving to other “insights which incite personal and interpersonal growth,” I want to share one more gift: The Gift of Alignment.
Millions of people developed “New Year’s Resolutions” in honor of the start of 2016. Countless others did not, perhaps because they don’t feel they have the time to do it, or because they have come to recognize how quickly they step away from those goals after the start of the New Year. Maybe it’s because they have become accustomed to not achieving their goals, and it becomes easier not to try.
Admittedly, it has been many years since I intentionally created New Year’s Resolutions. This year was different; however, instead of creating “resolutions,” I have spent time reflecting on the concept of “alignment.”
You may be familiar with “alignment” as it relates to a vehicle. Unless the wheels are all aligned properly, the vehicle will not move down the road the way it is supposed to. Chiropractic care focuses on ensuring that the spine and other bones, ligaments, and muscles are all in proper alignment to achieve optimal health and well-being. Orthodontics help achieve maximum alignment of the teeth and jaw so that the mechanics of chewing along with esthetics can be optimized.
Toward the end of 2015, I listed my top four life values. I then began examining my life and asking myself which of my activities, purchases, use of time, relationships, etc. enhanced those values, and which were actually taking away from them or distracting me from them. I then began making the necessary specific changes to bring those things in alignment with my core values.
The result has been surprising for me. Instead of feeling like I have “one more thing to do,” I am finding that I have less stress and a greater ability to manage life. I have increased enjoyment of those things I value. And I am learning to enjoy letting go of the things that do not support or enhance my most treasured resources. I do not expect that I will ever achieve complete alignment, but I hope and pray that throughout the rest of my life I will continue to listen, learn, and hone my ability to make choices that support whatever I viI
Whether or not you made New Year’s Resolutions, I would encourage you to examine your life to ensure that the ways you are spending your time, money, mental energy, and talents—and the relationships you invest in-- are in line with what you profess to value. You may be encouraged to find that you are already enjoying the benefits of having those things aligned. Or you may discover that there are changes—big and small—that you can make to ensure that you are more fully nurturing and enjoying whatever means the most to you.
Blessings as you discover, implement, and enjoy the benefits of the Gift of Alignment!]]>