God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. (Gen 1:31-2:1 NRSV)
A sign I have lived in Texas for a long time: Yesterday my husband came home from work and found me relaxing on the back patio. “My car says it’s 95 degrees! Aren’t you hot?” I was sure he was wrong. It felt lovely! I checked the temperature on a weather app. 96 degrees. Well, he was wrong…
Being around creation recharges my batteries. I simply have to get outside and enjoy the beauty of what God made. A perfect respite for me is time with my cat Coco, my furry and feathered friends who come to my backyard feeder, and a splashing fountain to provide just the right background music. Bliss!
God made it all and called it good.
We have a highly inclusive bird feeder, which doubles as a squirrel feeder. I keep it on the ground for more convenience to me and the squirrel. We take everybody who comes and everybody gets what they want. I think about their needs. Blue Jays? More peanuts! Cardinals? More safflower and sunflower seeds! Mockingbirds? Sliced apples and fresh berries hit the pan. Our garden is planted to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Water, food, shade. My yard is haven for all and I make sure it is inviting and inclusive to everyone.
Years ago I watched a man feeding doves. He only liked a certain variety. When ones showed up he didn’t like he shooed them away, kicking sand toward them. I wonder to this day what he had against those particular birds. Why weren’t welcome? Granted, they were not as cute, not as agile, not as delicate as the ones he favored, but they were special in their own way. Besides, God made them all and called them good.
Inclusion means making a place for everyone, welcoming whoever comes. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” He didn’t kick sand at the ones who weren’t “cute and agile.” He made space for them. All of them. It’s no coincidence that many of the stories of Jesus were about people with special needs. Those were his people. Jesus was inclusive.
All means all.
This past June I met a pastor who leads a worship service where truly “all means all.” Leslie Neugent at Wayzata Community Church in Wayzata, Minnesota thinks outside the box about how to do inclusive worship. Her service, Parables, is led by and for families with special needs, attracting over 100 worshipers on a typical Sunday. How do they attract so many? The key is the right invitation. I don’t mean one they print and hand out, though they likely do that too. I mean Leslie and her team are intentional about thinking about what families need. A safe place where noises are allowed? Not a problem! A child who wants to be in the center of the action? Fantastic! The more volunteers the better! Pattern and predictability work best for your family? You got it! Familiar songs, short sermons, lots of activity for all levels. Check out more Parables worship here for ideas to share with your church: http://www.wayzatacommunitychurch.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=229208
Attraction and inclusion come through thinking about who we care to welcome and then providing a welcoming environment, whether it is a backyard or a church. God made us all and calls us good, too. I am so grateful to serve our God of inclusion.
Photo: Backyard Friends by Lorna Bradley