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I was twenty-three years old, naïve, and ready for my first full-time teaching position. I had just spent twelve weeks in a long-term substitute position for a fifth-grade classroom. It was the end of Spring, and I knew that I might be called in for interviews for the upcoming school year.  I had been a substitute teacher for a year and I was ready for my own classroom.

I decided it might be beneficial to get advice from the principal at the school where I did my long-term substitute position. I scheduled to meet with him after school. I let him know that I was looking for a full-time job and if he could give me some advice about interviewing and what I should expect. I don’t remember him giving me any helpful information. He said a few things, laughed a little and said, “Really, all you need to know is just look pretty.”

Yup, that was it, folks. My four years of college and all my efforts to become a credited teacher were summed up in three words- Just.Look.Pretty.

I remember turning a bit red and embarrassed at his response. I chatted a bit more but I realized he had no advice for me and THAT was his answer.

Now the present-day-forty-something-me would have probably got in my car and drove to the School Board office to kindly let them know Mr. Principal was a misogynist pig— or something to that effect. But my twenty-three-year-old-self lacked self-confidence and boldness. I didn’t know how to respond.  I just wanted a teaching position.

After that, I knew that I didn’t want to work in that school. Mr. Principal’s comments made me uncomfortable, but I really couldn’t pinpoint why. They weren’t harmful, but they were disrespectful. I started to think about all the teachers in that school, and I noticed there was a common theme. Most of them were thin, pretty, and all female.  In fact, I remember the interactions many of those female teachers had with Mr. Principal. They flirted and they stroked his ego. It was an environment that I often felt uncomfortable and out of place in. It was like High School all over again. I wasn’t going to be making out with any football players, so I wasn’t a part of the popular crowd (or some other High School cliche situation).

I tell this whole scenario to say this; we are all responsible for creating an atmosphere of respect. In a society where sexual harassment in the workplace seems to be a disease, let’s acknowledge that sometimes it starts with women to set the standard. Mr. Principal was a jerk. No question about that. But I watched many other female teachers laugh at his crassness and flirt in the most inappropriate way. They helped to create a climate where he was very comfortable in being unprofessional.  Now I don’t know if anything was going on besides flirtation and ignorant behavior, but it was enough to make me feel devalued in my role there as a teacher. I have often wondered, would he have made those comments if the other teachers held him to a higher standard?

I learned a valuable lesson from that experience. Respect begins with me.

Looking back, I wish I would have been able to respond to Mr. Principal and put him in his place. He needed a lecture on respect for women, especially young women.  But I don’t put this story in the context of men verse women or equality. It’s simply about treating everyone with respect.  We (men and women) all have the choice to set our standards high in the workplace. We can enable a disrespectful atmosphere just as much as we can directly show disrespect. Our actions or failure to act have consequences. We can complain and point fingers, or we can set the standard for how we ALL want to be treated.

Now my story did have a happy ending. I taught in another school with an admirable male principal who helped me become a better teacher. He valued me as a young teacher, and I respected him for his leadership and experience. It’s amazing what can happen when respect begets respect.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

November 17, 2017 — 2 Comments

One of the most important parenting lessons I learned as a new mother.

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Adultery is a Big Deal!

October 31, 2017 — 3 Comments

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This is a blog that I don’t know how to write. I don’t feel qualified to write about this topic, and I realize it’s a sensitive issue to many people. So I am going to do my best to just share my heart on a matter that I genuinely care about. I hope in my weak attempt to share my perspective; you read the grace between the lines and not the judgment.

For the last month or so, the title of this blog has been going through my head over and over again. It’s been screaming at me.

Adultery is a big deal!

Over the last couple of years I have watched adultery creep into people’s lives and make a mess of things. Children have been emotionally wounded, marriages have ended in divorce, and people have walked away from God.

Adultery is a big deal!

I have seen how one act of adultery can affect a group of people. What might have seemed like a private act of  attraction between two people then catapulted into a situation that affected many people’s lives.

Adultery is a big deal!

I’ve been told that I don’t understand the situation surrounding the events. I’ve gotten the response, “you can’t judge unless you have been in my situation.” Marriage is hard, and attraction happens.

Marriage is a big deal!

There is a reason why one of the Ten Commandments says, “Do not commit adultery.” God put in place the protection from this grievous sin so that lives would not be destroyed. Jesus went even further to teach about lust in one’s heart. We are all sinners, but we all are faced with the choice to act on sin. Sin destroys and grieves the heart of God.

Sin is a big deal!

But on the flip side of adultery is redemption. I have seen marriages that were wrecked by the sin of adultery completely transformed by the grace of God. I have witnessed families restored and watched a husband and wife devoted to each other in a loving marriage which was once destined for divorce. God is the healer and restorer of broken relationships. There is forgiveness for adultery. There is healing.

God is a big deal!

I hate adultery. I hate divorce. I hate how it destroys families. And I hate that so often people are not willing to fight for their marriages. Sure, maybe I don’t know “your situation.” But I know God. When we allow God to break down the walls of sin and let forgiveness in, He is more than able to do miraculous things. God thinks your marriage is a big deal. He will fight with you to restore it. But He has to be at the center of it. Don’t give in to the lie in our society that adultery or divorce is no big deal. Hold on to Scripture. Walk in the truth of God’s Word. His Commandments are to protect us from sin and the hurt that brings hopelessness. He is the hope for your marriage.

I have witnessed a casualness towards divorce and adultery in the Church. It grieves my heart. But how much more does it grieve the heart of God?

I know every marriage, every situation, every struggle is different. But I just wish we could start screaming out loud with a warning —Adultery is a big deal! And then wrap our loving arms around our friends in their hurting marriages and encourage them that their Marriage is a big deal. Maybe that’s too simplistic and idealistic. But I don’t care because I serve a God who is bigger than all it.

 

 

Dear Hollywood

October 11, 2017 — 1 Comment

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Dear Hollywood,

Wow, things are exploding out there in La La Land. I have been watching and reading all the media frenzy over the breaking story on Harvey Weinstein and what a mess! My female empowerment side wants to congratulate all the women coming forward and commend them on their bravery. Weinstein is a monster clad in designer suits and dripping in Hollywood mogul riches. He’s a sexual abuser, predator, and here’s another word- he’s evil.

As I sit here taking it all in though, I have to tell you that I am not surprised. You are an industry that has increasingly rejected the values that most everyday Americans hold dear. You’re not quite the beacon of morality in this country. In fact, I rarely attend movies anymore unless a trusted friend recommends one. Why? Because you have taken the art of storytelling and have politicized it. You’re not even subtle anymore about your agenda. It’s blatant. I hold different opinions and values than most of Hollywood. That’s fine. I like the diversity of thought and beliefs. But you, Hollywood, don’t!

You have politicized your films, your award shows, and even the platforms of your actors look more like politicians than entertainers. You’re an industry that has used your power and influence to manipulate your viewers. You wield a form of control of thought in your films, and we’re sick of it. Hollywood seems to be this mecca of collective groupthink. Does anyone think apart from the group anymore? Well, let me tell you Hollywood, there’s a whole population of people who have lost respect for you.

There’s no excuse for a man like Weinstein to be able to manipulate women to get what he wants. That’s disgusting behavior. But let’s just call your industry on the “red carpet” about something. Your films objectify and sexualize your actors and actresses to such extremes that I can’t tell the difference between pornography and an R-rated movie. I can’t remember the last time I could go to a movie theater with my children that wasn’t an animated film. Your industry sexualizes everything.

Harvey Weinstein is a symptom of this over-sexualization which also manipulates and controls. We all know sex sells but why do you let it?

So what do average everyday Americans want from the world of Hollywood?

We just want to be entertained. We want to escape into a story that might resonate with who we are as Americans. A film that captures our uniqueness of diversity. A history story that makes us cry over our human frailties but triumphs in our moral indignation to be better people. Maybe, movies that capture people who think differently or have opinions that we might disagree with but can find common ground without bias. The world of storytelling is beautiful. It heals and shapes us as Americans. But when Hollywood loses sight of who their viewers are, they stop telling real stories.

Hollywood, you have gotten off course. You’ve let your politics control your industry.  Meryl Streep once called Harvey Weinstein, “god.” Don’t go worshipping golden idols. That only leads to destruction. You have the potential to unite a politically divided country with your beautiful Technicolor stories. That’s all we want as viewers; to escape our everyday struggles and get lost in a movie.

Get out of your bubble, Hollywood, and look around. Many of us want to support you, but we want you to embrace our stories too. We don’t all live in La La Land nor do we want to.

I am sorry our world has men like Weinstein, but maybe he’s a wake-up call. Write your own redemptive story, Hollywood.

 

 

 

TheWord1214

My children are past the age of getting up in the middle of the night and coming into our bedroom. But I remember one night when one of my children came into our bedroom crying over a terrifying dream. I still remember that dream because it frightened me too.

The dream was my child running in the hallways at school from a man with a gun. It was frightening, and I did my best to comfort and reassure in the middle of the night that it was just a dream and not reality. I prayed for my child, and despite my poor ability for being able to memorize scriptures, I managed to think of the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I explained that God has the power to calm all our fears even our nightmares. We can rest in that comfort.

I went back to bed but with a little check of fear in my own heart. “God, don’t ever let that nightmare become a reality for my children,” I prayed.

This past Monday we awoke to the news of the massacre in Las Vegas. A madman with a gun and people running for their lives, but this was not a dream. This was a reality.

That tragic event put fear in my heart as a parent. Our world’s realities are nightmares come true.

My kids are the generation that has grown up with Lock and Hide drills at school of the possibility of an active shooter. Music concerts that are celebratory events are now potential target audiences for violence. The week before, my daughter attended a country music concert. Fear set in, again. “I can’t let her go to another concert. It’s too dangerous,” I thought.

Jason Aldean was the country music singer who was on stage that night in Las Vegas. He saw the massacre unfold right in front of him. “This world is becoming the kind of place I am afraid to raise my children in,” he wrote after the tragedy.

I get it. I can relate as a parent to his fears. How do we parent in a society where we have to constantly fear for our children’s safety? A place where my child’s frightening dream has been a reality for people around the world.

As I watched the unbelievable tragedy on the news, fear started to take hold of me. And then I was reminded of that one particular night of my own reassuring words and the scripture.

God has not given ME a spirit of fear.

I prayed, and I let that Bible verse seep into my heart and I not only found comfort but joy. Isn’t that just like God to not only comfort us but exchange our fear for joy?

As a follower of Christ, I am a child of God. Just like my child, who came into our bedroom seeking comfort for their fears, I found comfort from God. I do know that fear can be a powerful emotion that can hold people captive. But we are not slaves to fear. In all the uncertainty of this world- in the violence and tragic events that seem to unfold before us every day- there is God. He’s there comforting us and reminding us there is joy and peace in uncertainty. That joy and peace can only be explained because I take refuge in God’s promises. I know without a shadow of a doubt that whatever happens to my children or me, we are safe in His arms.

It’s the reason why I can send my children to school each day. It’s the reason I can let my child go to a concert or experience all life’s celebratory events without fear. It’s God.

It is also important as a parent to model my faith and security in Christ in front of my children, especially when tragic events take place. I cannot let fear take hold of my heart. My reaction to tragedy in front of my children reflects my faith or lack of faith in God. And I know in whom I trust. I am a child of God. If I live that out, so will they.

I want my children to understand that whether it’s a bad dream or a real-life event, that there is hope and peace in living for Christ. They are not slaves to fear. I want them to live in that freedom and find joy amidst all life’s uncertainties.

I read that the Bible quotes “do not fear” 365 times. That’s one for each day of the year. I’ll take it and try to rest in that command each day. I will not be afraid.

God reminded me this week that I have no fear in raising my children because God does not give US a spirit of fear. In a world where we have no control over evil, God is still the giver of peace. He will speak joy into our hearts even in tragedy. We can rest in that comfort.

 

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

 

 

 

 

What kind of society do we want to live in?

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I am a Twitter follower or more like a Twitter watcher. I follow some prominent people of faith, and one of those people is Beth Moore. She recently tweeted out a photo of this t-shirt her husband bought for her, and the message caught my attention.

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“The House (the church) That Built Me.”

Such a simple sentence but can be interpreted differently. She responded to the photo, “And it’s the dang truth. While all hell was breaking loose at home, there was the church. I took out a lot of my aggression on handbells.”

If you don’t know Beth Moore’s story, I recommend you read, Get out of That Pit: Straight Talk about God’s Deliverance. In the book, she touches upon her past sexual abuse as a young girl and her healing journey. She found refuge in the church during the tragic events of her upbringing. Praise God for her healing journey, the church, and how God has used her to speak healing into the lives of other women.

But I read that phrase with a different perspective.

I recently had lunch with a friend, and I had to apologize to her. Several years ago she reached out to me during a very dark point in her life. I directed her situation to the leaders of a church. It was messy, and she needed more than I could offer for help. The summary of her story is that the church did not help her and I wasn’t there for her either. She is now on the road to healing, but the church deeply wounded her. I am sorry to say, that I include myself in being a contributor to her pain and resentment.

Growing up in the church, I know this type of pain all too well. My friend is a part of a group of people who read the message on that t-shirt and interpret it very differently than Beth Moore. For some of us, the church has been a source of pain, and it hasn’t been pretty. Scratch that! For some of us, it’s been downright ugly.

If I could take you down the history of the church in my own life, it would contain sordid details of hurt, abuse, adultery, hypocrisy, pride, legalism, false teaching… And that’s just me as a bystander, not the pain and stings I have felt personally from the church. And by the church, I mean the community of Christ-followers I or others were among; be it an individual church, ministry, or community.

I have seen family members and friends deeply wounded by fellow Christians. I have witnessed blatant sin not addressed in the church. I have felt let down over and over again by the church. Yet, here I am laying that all down to say I am beyond grateful for that “house” that built me.

Every sting, every wound, every misstep by leadership, each painful experience among the community of Christ-followers has brought me closer to Christ. I could have chosen to get bitter and let my heart find those dark places of resentment that Satan uses to pull people away from Christ and His followers. But somewhere along the way, I realized what God was teaching me. I let Him use every painful church experience I felt or witnessed to draw me closer to His Word, His will for my life, and (yes!) to His imperfect, sinful, mess of people He calls His church.

I found freedom in the knowledge of “The House That Built Me.” I found it by embracing my growing up in “the church” and how God has used every experience (good and bad) to continuously shape my faith, my character, my interactions with people, my view of Christ-followers, and my spiritual journey. And let me tell you there is freedom in letting go of the pain and loving God’s people despite the hurt.

Now I am not excusing bad church behavior. God hates sin, and he wants the church to rescue people out of sin. Loving people is loving them out of their sin. I am merely pointing to the fact that eventually, we have to come to terms with our personal relationship with Christ within or outside the walls of the church. That means dealing with our bitterness and forgiving.

I know that not everyone is ready to find that place of letting go of the hurt and pain that the church may have caused you. But I recommend you take the journey to get there- in your own time. God is patient! I guarantee you there’s freedom on this path.

My faith journey will continue with old and new friends, churches, and faith communities along the way. I can also list all the wonderful blessings, experiences, teachings, and people that God has brought into my life through the church community. I am still learning, still growing, and still asking forgiveness when I fail to be “the church” to others God has put in my life. I pray I will continue to grow more in the knowledge of God, follow His Word and the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life, and let the house of God (the church) continue to shape who I am in Christ through the good, the bad, and the ugly. He’s building me day by day, and I am forever grateful.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  (Hebrews 10: 23-25)

 

It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.

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Several years ago I challenged a speaker. I was attending a conservative political event, and this particular person said, “Our public schools are cesspools of liberal indoctrination, and if your child is attending a public school, you are a part of the problem. Pull them out!”

Many people in the audience applauded while my blood pressure started to rise. Pull them out? Really? Aren’t conservatives known to be advocates of school choice? My husband and I made a decision to send our kids to public school. As Christian conservatives, we knew what we were up against. We read the headlines. The anti-religious push, the progressive agenda, the political bias, and even the social agenda that pushed against our values as Christ followers. But this was our choice, and I could see the benefits of educating our children in this “cesspool of liberal indoctrination.”

So I introduced myself after the speech and said, “I want to challenge your words about public education. I am a conservative, and my kids attend public school. I have seen the benefits of my children challenged in their beliefs and challenging others who differ from them. How are we going to make an impact as conservatives if we all pull out of public education and don’t challenge this indoctrination?”

She immediately dismissed my remarks, and I could tell she didn’t want me to question her. She responded kindly, but she didn’t want to get into a discussion with me. I was a fellow conservative with a different opinion.

That’s an excellent example of where we are in our society. We want to stay in our comfortable circles of thought and belief. We don’t want to be challenged. We don’t want to debate and defend our beliefs. It’s uncomfortable to confront people who challenge us and who dare have another opinion that differs from our own.

When Thomas Jefferson chartered the University of Virginia in 1819, he wrote about his vision for what would be a great public institution. He remarked, “This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor tolerate any error as long as reason is left free to combat it.”

Tomorrow my oldest graduates high school- Public High School! I am a firm believer and advocate of school choice. Education is about the freedom to choose what is right for your child. However, education is not conforming our children to thought circles where they are not challenged to reason outside of their beliefs.

I have witnessed public education become a cesspool of groupthink. Many times my kids have shared with us about the political bias of their teachers. Thomas Jefferson’s idea of illimitable freedom of the human mind has gotten way off track when a teacher will not even consider a difference of opinion in his or her classroom. One teacher even had the audacity to say, “Freedom of speech is not limitless because there is the importance of political correctness.”

Say what?

I have witnessed this sociopolitical agenda in our public schools but I am here to say my kid made it. She graduates tomorrow, and she was challenged in her beliefs and has come out stronger because of it. Public education has forced her to see both sides. She’s had to reason and find the truth for herself, and has challenged others as well. I couldn’t be more proud of the person she has become. That testing of truth and reasoning is known as education. Pulling her out of public school was never the answer for us. It was about encouraging her to find her voice in a sea of opposing opinions. That’s not the choice for everyone but it was the choice for us.

My prayer for her is that she will continue to reason and test her opinions in an atmosphere of education where there is no fear of being challenged. Where reason is free to roam and truth –wherever it may lead- will open hearts and minds. That is the beauty of the human mind, and it’s what makes the freedom of education in this country so unique, if we have the courage to challenge and encourage the uncomfortable in our kids!

 

 

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They were four simple words but they somehow triggered a great offense.

“Please bow your heads,” the woman said to the audience before her prayer.

Let me set the scene for you to understand the context.

I was sitting at a table among a group of high school students in an enormous room of nearly 1000 people. I was chaperoning at a service club convention. High school service clubs from all around the Mid-Atlantic States were meeting for a luncheon to honor students who exemplified what it means to give of yourself and serve others. Some of these students raised thousands of dollars and volunteered hours of their time to help people in need in their communities and poverty-stricken areas around the world. Great kids were surrounding me. Virtuous students who seem to understand that serving others is a blessing and brings positive change to the world around them.

So imagine my surprise when these same students reacted to the woman’s motion to bow our heads in prayer before the food was served. As I closed my eyes, I began to hear the gasps and whispers of contempt.

“What? This is ridiculous.”

“How can they do this?”

The prayer was simple and very generic, and as I looked up I could see the students appalled by what just took place. They started a discussion amongst each other.

One student asked, “Is that even legal?”

Another questioned, “Is our service organization affiliated with religion?” (Gasp)

They then looked directly at the only Muslim student at the table. “How do you feel about that?” one student asked.

“It’s not a problem. It’s cool! I am fine with different faiths,” the Muslim student answered dismissing their concerns.

Four simple words, a simple prayer which triggered a great offense.

I sat there as the only adult taking in their reaction. Throughout the day, I let that scene sink in and became more and more discouraged and sad for this future generation of smart, talented, service-orientated students. Many sitting in that room had already received letters of acceptance to some of the best universities in this country. A majority of them are top of their class, and will graduate with honors. But I sat there thinking these are bright kids who know absolutely nothing about the freedoms we have in this country.

American History and Civics are not being properly taught, and our schools are failing our kids!

I must admit, I was sad that the students’ reaction shows the godlessness that comes from their generation, but that’s not entirely what troubled me. We are free to believe or disbelieve in God. We have the choice not to embrace religion, but that choice is the beauty of America and what is now so misunderstood.

Public prayer if not the enemy of freedom. It is the very definition of liberty. Many of America’s schools do not teach this definition. Our smartest students and teachers are ignorant about America’s History and our founding ideals of religious liberty.

The student’s question of whether or not a public prayer is legal should not come from the voice of an American Citizen. It’s something that you would hear in Communist China or North Korea where people are imprisoned for openly expressing their faith.

I’ll shout this from my rooftop. I’ll debate any history teacher or politician. Here are six words that will trigger the masses: You Can’t Have Freedom Without Faith!

What? Do I have to be religious? Must I believe in God for freedom?

No! Absolutely not. You are free to believe just as much as you are free to disbelieve in this country. Choosing to live godless is also freedom of expression. But our Founders knew that freedom does not work without allowing the open expression of faith. Yes, even public prayer.

The fact that we are graduating students from our public schools and universities who do not understand this founding principle in our Constitution is troubling and even dangerous. Our teachers and students are so fixated on Thomas Jefferson’s “separation of Church and State” reference that they don’t even realize how that wrong interpretation is breaking down our liberties.

What if that prayer was illegal? Then there would be no separation of church and state in this country. That would mean our government could dictate when religious expression is appropriate. Our Founders were brilliant for understanding the role of faith when it comes to freedom. They wanted a country free to express faith both in and outside the walls of our churches.

Freedom is about publicly bowing your head to pray for your food or choosing to not engage in that simple unthreatening act of religious freedom. The state or federal government cannot convict someone because they publicly prayed amongst a group of believers or non-believers. That would be persecution and tyranny.

What makes America so amazing is that we are free to live out our faith openly. The government cannot and should not get involved in how we choose to live out our religious beliefs. But America is changing, and our government is now getting into the business of regulating faith expression and our kids are buying into it. This is not America! The fact that the Supreme Court has ruled against prayer in our public schools demonstrates that the First Amendment is not protected.

Our country seems limitless in the “freedom” to express ourselves. Free to love who we want to love. Free to define our gender in the way we want. Free to publicly express our opinions through activism. But public prayer is now the new trigger for offensive speech?

The sad, ironic part of my story is that I was sitting amongst a group of students who are some of the most giving and selfless young people in this country. The fact that they have servants’ hearts is a great reflection of who they are as Americans. But they don’t understand that the very fact that they live in a free society is why they can sit there and be rewarded for their generosity. Freedom is a gift, and it’s a gift from God- whether you choose to believe in God or not. It’s why the Statue of Liberty holds her torch and has offered this freedom to millions around the world. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” as quoted at the base of Miss Liberty.

Teach your kids our country’s history. Don’t depend on your child’s teacher to teach it to them. Study the Founders. Buy books that represent the true American ideal of freedom as it was founded. Celebrate the heroes of this country that believed in and fought for the freedoms we take for granted in America. Teach your children to love America: who we are, why we were founded, our failures and successes, and how our freedoms in this country have helped to serve so many around the world. Most importantly, don’t hide away your religious expression only for the walls of your church. Live out your faith, freely!

One of my favorite authors/liberty preachers, Eric Metaxas, said it best in his book If You Can Keep It. (Which I highly recommend.) He noted, “America, that great and fragile experiment in Liberty, has become cut off from its roots. We need to see this and we need to do all we can to remedy it, and quickly.”

Maybe you think I have been too “triggered” by the offense of prayer by these students. But when discussing with my daughter this sad event that took place she said something that resonated the importance of this blog post. She reacted, “Welcome to my world, Mom.”

I don’t want my daughter to live in a country where she has to keep her faith private for fear of offense or retribution. If we have freedom to come out of the closet (so to speak) with any other self-expression, then faith should be included. In a room filled with people who love to serve others, my hope is that service would be the crux for teaching equality and the “unalienable rights” of “life, LIBERTY and happiness.”

And everyone said, “AMEN!”