Clean the Inside First

2015 Reading Challenge: The fourth section of the 2015 Reading Challenge is: a book that was published in 2014/2015. I have just finished reading John Grisham’s book Sycamore Row. This book was published in 2014. It continues the story of Jake Brigance, a young attorney in Ford County, Mississippi, who was the main character in Grisham’s first novel A Time to Kill which also is a great book.

A Book Published in 2014/2015: Here are a few thought suggestions: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan. Go to the bottom of this article, click on Comment, and let me what you are reading.

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“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”        Matthew 23: 25-26

This morning I read Matthew 23: 25-26 and was reminded of a story I once heard. The story was about an old woman who had lived in her house a very long time. Over the years she never noticed how cluttered and dirty the house was getting. Then one day she decided she would clean the little teacup that was on the kitchen table.

She carried the little teacup to the sink careful not to drop it. This cup was very special to her. She did not use the cup often, but when she did there came a peace over her and she would think of the beautiful days she had as a young girl.

After washing the little teacup, she placed it back in its special spot on the table. “Oh my” she exclaimed “the table is cluttered and dirty.” She was amazed that over the years she had let things go. First it was little things like washing the table under the toaster or picking up the old newspapers after she read them. Little things — things that might go a day or two or three and not get done at all. After a while the crumbs under the toaster and the pile of newspapers just became part of the table. The old woman picked up the newspapers and threw them away; then she picked up the toaster and cleaned underneath it and wiped the toaster itself. Wow, what a difference! She picked up the other things that had collected over the years and put them in their right place and wiped the table down. Now the little teacup looked shiny and clean in its special spot.

The old woman stepped back to admire her work. But then she notice something — every where she looked was dirty and dusty and cluttered. She set to work cleaning the kitchen until the whole kitchen was clean.

I had not thought of this story in years. Then this morning I read Matthew 23: 25-26. Each time we read Scripture we come to it from a different place. It may be the first time we have read it. The stories are cute. We read about sheep and shepherds, crowds of people sitting and listening to Jesus, or stories like the cup and the plate. But then you read it again and again and again. With each reading comes a different understanding of what we are being told.

The Pharisees were the teachers and religious leaders in Jesus’ time. They interpreted (what we call) the Old Testament to the people. But not all the Pharisees followed the teachings and lost sight of what God was telling them.

Jesus begins this story with “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” Jesus knows that the Pharisees taught the people to clean up their lives and follow God, but many of the Pharisees did not see the dirt in their own lives. We are just like the Pharisees. We are ready to help another get their lives in order, but we do not see the dirt that is in our lives.

The story makes me think of times I have had a wonderful shower. I am wet and clean on the outside, but as I dry off I begin to see the places in my life where I have been impatient or critical of someone else.  I see the hypocrite in myself when I encourage folks to read their Bible everyday, and then I don’t. Or I tell someone I will do something then not do it.

However, this story about the little teacup can remind us of important issues in our lives that need to be looked at and fixed. Once you start cleaning things up, other things will become clear that need to be cleaned up as well.

Jesus’ stories are not just cute, little stories. They teach us how to live with ourselves and others. First, we have to start at home before we go out to conquer the world around us. Start small, then see what else the Lord has placed before us to clean up. Pick up the broom and start sweeping, this can be an amazing journey.

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda


There Are No Secrets to Success

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” Colin Powell 

2015 Reading Challenge

We are now a little more than three weeks into the 2015 Reading Challenge. How are you doing? At the moment I am reading Sycamore Row by John Grisham as my “Book Published This Year” category. In this category I am looking at 2014 as “this year,” because I don’t think anything has come out yet in 2015. That means you can read a new book from 2014 or 2015 for this category.

The Third Section is: A Book that Became a Movie. Here are some ideas: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The De Vinci Code by Dan Brown, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Again, these are just a few suggestions that might begin the thinking process. Remember you can start anywhere in the list of categories and read what you want. The whole idea is that you read more than last year – even one book more is a success! So if you read ten books last year, this year read eleven. Don’t let the number of categories scare you. They are just numbers. And don’t let the over whelming number of books on the book shelves intimidate you. There are 10’s of thousands out there. Even though we may want to read them all (like crazy me), it is impossible. Let me know what you are reading, or share a book that you have read that you think we would enjoy. Read and enjoy!


A couple of blogs ago, I wrote about “Getting Organized in 2015.” I am still thinking about and working on this “little project.” I am following a couple more blogs from “personal” to “writing” organization. I am beginning to see that all the advice is good and may work for somebody, but not every piece of advice is going to work for all of us. For example: one blog has all the charts, graphs and forms that help you organize every minute of every day from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. For those of you who know me, this organizational style is like putting a noose around my neck. It might work for a day, but within 48 hours I will have abandon it and wonder what’s wrong with me — I am more of a free spirit than an organized perfectionist.

We all want to produce something that is tangible. We all want to make a difference in our own lives as well as others. We all want to look back with a sigh of relief that today I completed my To-D0 List! But why organize yourself to the point that you can’t move.  However, I was reading yesterday a blog from Eben Pagan ( He has a new course (which I am not going to take at this time) called “Wake Up Productive.” One of the organizational tips he gives is “Blocking Time.” I have read about this before but never put it into action.

“Blocking Time” is when you take a specific time each day to do one thing. For example: I am writing a blog twice a week. I often have to do research to get a better understanding or information about a topic – like reading blogs about organization or last week’s Martin Luther King, Jr. blog. I know that my best time to write, study, research is in the morning between 10 AM and 12:30 PM when I stop for lunch.

I also know that I cannot write, study, research for 2 1/2 hours in a row. My brain goes dead; my eyes blur; and I have a headache. But here is the deal: 60-60-30 by Eben Pagan. You break down the time (for me 2 1/2 hours) into smaller pieces. He recommends 55 focus minutes (when you concentrate only on the project that is before you), break for 5 minutes (don’t even think about the project, get up and stretch, stand by the widow and watch traffic go by, etc.); 55 focus minutes (on the same project or change to a different project); then 30 minutes get away from your project(s) and do something else like throw the laundry into the washer, do some dishes, or read a book (Hey, there’s time for the 2015 Reading Challenge).

I know right now some of you  are saying “Yeah, right! I am going to take my very busy life and put it into a 60-60-30 format.”  I know most of you have “jobs” that may not fit this formula.  So how about making it smaller: let’s say 30-30-15. That would  be 25 minutes on a project (reports that need to go out that day, or the boss just gave you a new project – 25 minutes to begin and decide what you have to do). Then take 5 minutes to get up away from your desk; then 25 minutes to continue on the same project or a new project; and 15 minutes to get a cup of coffee, water a plant in the office, use the restroom, pick up the mess someone else left in the office, or whatever your little heart desires — no you cannot go home!

For the next month I am going to try the 60-60-30 format and see if I am able to accomplish more than I do now. Then I will report back to you in a month to let you know how I am doing. Go ahead and try it for yourself, or some form of the 60-60-30. Make it your own. There are no hard and fast rules. Let me know how you are doing. Just click on “Comment.”

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda


“This Is Our Hope.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)

Most people never met Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but they have seen his legacy at work. From the marches during the Civil Rights Movement – 1950s until his death in April 1968 – fighting to end segregation of African Americans in our nation’s school system, to creating the Civil Rights Act in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and much more!

As a nation we have been blessed by the vision of men and women like Martin Luther King, Jr. They have showed us that people of different races, cultures, and traditions have enriched our lives. We live in a beautiful tapestry of rich colors – black, white, red, yellow, green, purples and the list goes on forever. The colors show us a picture that we would not see if they were not there. That’s the way it is in America; our colors, diversity and visions make us stronger and hopeful as we look to the future.

I did not grow up in a diverse environment. Everyone was white. But even in that community there were

whispers about the Jews and Catholics, whispers about the poor and disenfranchised. I thought this is what the world looked liked – white. Then my family moved to Eastern Tennessee; a state in the south where reality looked very different. Cultures, traditions, even language was different. The school system had children from so many different backgrounds. It’s impossible to have a class of middle school students over 1,000 per class and not have diversity.

When I went to college there was great diversity in both my undergraduate and graduate work. So many new ideas, thoughts, struggles, and view points. I really feel enriched and blessed for those days.

The following is a part of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech “I Have A Dream” that resonates with my soul. Read, then ask yourself what is my dream for this nation of great power and wealth?

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963, “I Have A Dream:”

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream … I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

“I have a dream today … I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope.” (If you are interested in reading the whole speech, search Martin Luther King, Jr. on the internet.)

I have a Dream also. I have hope that one day my grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and future great-greats will live in a country rich in diversity, color, cultures and traditions. Thank you, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for your wisdom and hope for the country we both love.

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

Immigration: Support or Not Support

“Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious.” ˜ Bill Meyer

2015 Reading Challenge:

How are you doing with the 2015 Reading Challenge? Have you pick a book you would like to read for fun? I just finished the “Trilogy” section. I read Robyn Carr’s, A Virgin River Novel series. This series has several books, but I read the first three books: Second Chance Pass, Temptation Ridge and Paradise Valley. Each book can stand on its own or flow from one book to the next. It’s a good easy read. Good story and a fun read.

The second section is Classic Romance. The following are suggests not required reading. Enjoy! Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell; Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare; and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.


Immigration: Support or Not Support

For the past two years I have been on the Board of Directors of Justice for Our Neighbors Dallas Fort Worth (JFONDFW). I am the vice chair this year, and next year I will be chair. JFON is a non-profit organization established by the United Methodist Church in the late 1990’s ( We provide legal services for free or low-cost to help immigrants work through the immigration system. With the immigration system being fluid and constantly changing, it is very difficult for our immigrant neighbors to make headway to become residents or citizens of the United States.

On  the other hand, it is also confusing to all those who are concerned with the welfare of our immigrant neighbors and our communities.  We are very fortunate to have a wonderful attorney, Maria Macias, with the best possible care and legal assistance for our clients. Maria believes that 2015 is going to be a pivotal year for immigration reform. She states, “the Migration Policy Institute estimates people living in Texas potentially eligible could range from 700,000 to one million. Of this estimate, approximately 25% or 175,000 could be living in North Texas.”

There also has been some confusion about President Obama’s Executive Action that was enacted November 20, 2014. Adrienne Kittos, Tennessee JFON attorney, attended the speech by President Obama. She stated, “Overall, my takeaway is that he (President Obama) recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done, and my impression is that he does intend to continue pushing for reform while he is in office, rather than resting on the Executive Action” (Posted December 23, 2014 in Featured by Laura Sonnenmark, NJFON office).

The President’s Executive Action is only a temporary fix and does not change one’s immigration status. There has been a lot of negative and wrong information floating around on the internet and the news stations. President Obama has not taken power out of the hands of Congress with this Executive Action. Only Congress can change things with the Immigration Reform package. The following will be helpful to clarify some of the points of the Executive Action:

Fact Sheet: (Search President Obama’s Executive Action for more details)

  • President Obama’s Executive Action will protect up to five million people from being deported from the United States as well as allow many to work lawfully;

  • Expand VISA opportunities for immigrants with high-tech skills;

  • Scrap the controversial Secure Communities policy for “who is being picked up and what is expected of law enforcement partners” (NOTE: on November 20, 2014, the Secure Communities program was discontinued by the Department of Homeland Security). The Secure Communities program was not staying with its original goal of “deporting criminals and using (program) as a general deporation facilitation too!” (Search Secure Communities for more information);

  • Expand the provision waiver program (;

  • Increase resources for enforcement along the Mexican border;

  • Deferred Action for parents of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents who have been in the United States at least five years and meet other eligibility requirements;

  • Expansion of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

We are working hard at JFONDFW to provide services to those who need help in moving through the immigration system. This looks like an exciting year ahead of us with much work and growing success for our neighbors who love the United States and want to live here.

In the months ahead, I will be sharing some of the problems and successes JFONDFW clients face each day.

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

Start Right Now Today


—- Japanese Proverb

Happy New Year to you all! In central Texas we started the new year with rain and 35 degree temperatures. It was a great day to stay in and work on my NEW organizational format. Oh, yeah, isn’t that what we are supposed to do on New Year’s day?!

Last week I presented the 2015 Reading Challenge on my blog. Several folks have agreed to take the challenge on with me. And several friends have said “No way! This is too overwhelming. I don’t have time to do all that reading!!” Yes, it is a lot of reading, but you don’t have to read everything; you don’t have to check all the boxes. Just expand the number of books from what you read last year — one will do it. So start right now today! Make a choice and start reading!!

I thought that each week I would give you some suggestions for books in that category. That does not mean you have to read those books; it’s just to jump start your brain to think of books you have been wanting too read but had little time. Here’s number one: (You can start anywhere you want. It does not have to be #1.)

# 1    Books 500 pages or more: East of Eden by John Steinbeck (I just finished East of Eden, so my 500 pages or more is done!); The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Just thoughts; happy book hunting!


Get Organized in 2015!! Yeah right!!!!! How many years have we woken up on New Year’s Day and said, “This year I am going to get organized!!!” Guilty — Then we find ourselves a few months later in the same unorganized, piles upon piles of paper every where, projects sitting in the tote bag by the sofa waiting for their time in the light. You think I exaggerate?

When I was working outside the home, the week before New Year’s Day I would remove all my “papers” from my desk and the built-in desk in my office. (I never opened the drawers. That was tooooooo much and would overwhelm even Martha Stewart.) Before I go any further, I have to tell you that I am “an all-out-in-front of me, girl.” Meaning everything I am working on has to be in front of me at all times, or I forget where I am and what I am doing. I always worked on several projects at the same time. Don’t ask me how to do that, because I don’t know. I just did it!

I would make two or three piles of paper on the floor hoping that no one would come in and knock the pile of papers over. Actually most folks didn’t come into my office. They thought they would get lost in the avalanche of paper. (Whoever said we live in a paperless world lied!) One person said they thought a bomb had gone off in my office. But I have to defend myself — a lot of work came out of that room — great ideas, new programs, research, etc. I just do thinks my way not someone else’s.

I would use a cleaner and wipe down both desk tops, wipe down my computer and printer, fill the printer up with paper, get a red folder and mark on it “WORKING FILE.” Man, I am on a roll!! Everything I was working on went into that file as priority #1. Then I would gather my two or three piles (sometimes more) into ONE very large pile and put it on the corner of my main desk. By this time some folks would throw up their hands and leave the office for a strong cup of coffee. Not me, I was energized. I WAS GETTING ORGANIZED!!

Before long my “WORKING FILE” was full. Surely some where there is another red folder I can make into “WORKING FILE #2.” I remembered the folders were always in the bottom drawer of my desk — I also recycled stuff as I went along. With that said, we all know what happens. Folder #2 is full onto Folder #3 and so on!!

By this time I have three or four red file folders of “WORKING FILE(s)” and still a huge pile of paper sitting on the corner of my desk. Hmmmmmmmmm, maybe I should shred some of this stuff. Off to Wal-Mart I go looking for a shredder. By the end of the week all I have is a major mess. If someone needs some information it is going to be in that file, or maybe that file. Not there??!! Maybe it’s in the big pile of papers on the corner of my desk. (I could find everything until I started organizing!)

I have taken a couple of organizing workshops always coming out with great ideas. Time to go to Office Depot to stock up on file folders and binders. About two weeks ago I took another organizing workshop that looked at planning, organizing, and setting goals for the whole year of 2015 called “2015 Best Year Ever!” by Michael Hyatt.  Great title. I didn’t run off to Office Depot, but I did download all his worksheets, listened to the audio sessions three times. This time I started organizing on January 2nd instead of the 1st hoping that change would make a difference.

Here’s my strategy: I am not going to pick up that large pile of papers sitting on the floor by my desk. They have been there for months and can continue to rest in peace with no interference from me. (But I am curious as to what is in that pile.) I have started my organizing “Best Year Ever” by planning my whole year of blog titles. Does that mean I am going to stay on my list? Probably not, who knows when I will get in my next rant. SMILES But I am going to use my plan to help me focus on what’s next. I already have my orange (couldn’t find a red one) “WORKING FILE,” and it is filling up nicely. Think about something you would like to change this year; then start small. Who says that we have to take on huge projects to get anything finished.  Write down what you are going to do, and then put the note/list somewhere you will see it every day. And finally, send me a comment about what you are going to do differently. So get started right now today, and you can make 2015 the “Best Year Ever” also.

Happy New Year, my friends!

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda