Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Doing Justice and Walking Humbly with Kids: Part I

What does God require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8

Growing up, did you feel called to bring about some sort of social change and better the world? Were there social causes that you had a heart for and felt called to offer yourself? High school and college seem to be a fertile time for offering acts of service such as those you may have felt called to. Do you remember upon your graduation feeling the exhilaration of freedom, the heaviness of responsibility and the hopeful determination of going out into the world to make it a better place? You may have felt on top of the world and ready to change it so you went out and sought out the many opportunities to act on these “callings.” And then “first came love, then came marriage, then came baby in the baby carriage.” Now your acts of service consist of packing a shoebox for Angel Tree every Christmas and sending your donation to the ministry of your choice each month. You sigh because you want to do more, but your life is already so full of acts of service, you wonder how you could ever again make a difference in the world outside of your nuclear family. And then your children start to grow and you wonder how you’ll teach your children to go out and make a difference in the world.

Yet so often talk about spirituality in family life today ignores justice. We fail to recognize the family as the heart and soul of doing justice. It is the place where justice is first learned and practiced, and the place where we might begin to turn the world upside down. This is one of the most spiritually challenging and formative arenas for those who care for children.

How to be peacemakers both at home and in the larger world is quite a challenge. For almost twenty years we have wrestled with the challenge of integrating our family life and social ministry…. We have wanted…to be able to act for justice without sacrificing our children and to build family community without isolating ourselves from the world.1

Care for our own children and care for others is not mutually exclusive. The author argues that by caring for our own children, we are essentially creating justice in the world. Caring well for one’s own children for the sake of the wider society, including raising them to love justice, can itself be an act of faith and public service. Contrary to modern assumptions, raising children is not merely a private matter of personal gratification far removed from the larger world. Children are in fact our closest, most vulnerable, and most valuable neighbors. Their neglect is a grave transgression. Their welfare is a rich benefit for all the other people they will deal with in their lives, and for society as a whole. This includes basic provision for children economically, materially, and beyond. No family stands alone in meeting this obligation, and families without sufficient means need our social and economic support. There are even times in a family’s normal life cycle that make outreach to other children difficult, but this need not negate the family as an arena of public service.

A “whole and healthy family is a service to this world,” says Presbyterian minister Marjorie Thompson. “The pastoral care that family members provide one another is the principle ministry of family life, preceding and undergirding all other forms of ministry.” Martin Luther even calls siblings our “first neighbors.” Sometimes they seem to be the very hardest neighbors to love well; perhaps for just this reason they are good ones to practice our loving on.”

The adult who engages in the Christian nurture of children is carrying out, as historian William H. Lazareth puts it, “a far better work in God’s sight than all the current pilgrimages, sacrifices, and cultic ceremonies combined.”

This by no means downplays the acts of service you may feel called to besides caring for your family – it simply highlights the amazing ministry each of us have just by being parents! On the flip side, Catholic ethicist Julie Hanlon Rubio states, “ Those who would serve God must resist the temptation to make caring for kin their only mission in life.” We have so isolated care of children as an almost exhaustively private concern of individual parents rather than an obligation shared by a wider circle of friends and community. Rather we should see our home with its family life as our mission base from which to work. Next week we will further explore how the lessons of justice can be integrated into our own homes.


1. Quote by James and Kathleen McGinnis in Parenting for Peace and Justice

All green text comes from Chapter 6 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Who Cares for the Caregiver?

I would venture to guess that every single day, just by virtue of our role as parents, we accomplish many small, and at other times big, acts of self-sacrifice. Some days we may feel the sting of it, and other days we may feel the joys of it. But what happens when the sting of self-sacrifice becomes an everyday occurrence and we feel ourselves bogged down by feelings of self-disregard and neglect?

Not surprisingly, many parents, men and women alike, feel pushed out of their own lives. It’s not just about space either. Adults who care for children have a need for care themselves. They also have desires, loves and interests beyond their children. They must learn to live with relentless interruption (call teacher, buy soccer shoes, defrost meat, take kids to dentist). Figuring out just how to care for others yet still sustain oneself – in all the detail and broader ethical and spiritual consequences- has important faith-forming implications for adults and for the children for whom we care.

Maybe the airlines have caught the flavor of the Jewish and Christian mandate to love the other as oneself better than religious traditions have.

Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the bag over your own mouth and nose before assisting children or others near you.

Sacrifice does not rule out self-love. In fact, parents should not be ashamed of the self-interest that accompanies their love. They do better to admit and even affirm the needs they harbor for pleasure and gratification. To acknowledge that we need to give love to our children and to receive their love as well is healthier for all concerned than disguising an offer of love as a “sacrifice” for which they should be grateful. Ultimately, any moment of self-disregard must rest on a bedrock of self-regard, respect, and mutual reliance.

So I would ask you as the author does, do you commit your daily sacrifices, whether for your children or spouse or others, willingly and by choice or is it by force? What’s your motivation – is it “by fear, or genuine love and faithfulness?” Does the sacrificial loss actually count as a gain in some deeper way and enrich life rather than destroy it? Does sacrifice, in essence, remain in service of a greater mutuality and abundant life? Does it lead to more just and loving relationships? Ultimately, do your sacrifices benefit the family as a whole including yourself? This does not mean that all sacrificial acts are joyful and rewarding for the one doing the sacrificing, however one must take into account the consequence of the sacrifice and see if it is beneficial in the long run. Do your sacrificial actions give life to your family unit or drain life from it? It is essential that your sacrifices in parenting (as well as all aspects of life) are shared by others such as your spouse, and that prayer remains your most well-used tool.


P.S. This topic reminds me of a blog entry posted on 11/01/06 titled “J-O-Y”. Feel free to go back and read it to discover one vital way of sustaining ourselves. Also see “How to Avoid Mother Burn-Out” posted by Erin on 02/13/07.

All green script comes from Chapter 5 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Introducing Landon...

I feel bad because after all these weeks with no new blog entries, I'm sure there are many visitors who are wondering what's going on with this blog! And though most of our family and friends know, I wanted to fill you all in on the happenings of our family over the holidays. It is pretty common knowledge that I was pregnant and expecting on Christmas with the assumption that I would be late as every baby I've ever had is late, and they keep getting later and later - so we were really expecting a January baby! Anyway, I'll include an email here from my husband explaining what happened:

Season’s Greetings Everyone!

As most of you know, Crystal and I were expecting our fourth child on Christmas Day (well, Crystal usually delivers two weeks late, so we were actually expecting it around Jan 7). We had a home birth planned with a midwife Crystal felt very comfortable with. However, on Friday, December 14, we received some alarming test results showing problems with Crystal’s liver function and platelets. She was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, which carries an infant and maternal mortality rate of up to 40%. The only cure for HELLP Syndrome is delivery of the baby. With a combination of fear and prayer, I rushed Crystal to the hospital and she was delivered by emergency C-section.

On December 14, at 5:03 pm, Landon Michael joined our family. HELLP Syndrome usually resolves itself with no further treatment after the delivery. Crystal’s most recent test results indicate that this is holding true in her case, and it appears she will make a full recovery.

Landon weighed in at 7 lbs. 1 oz. and 20 inches, making him our smallest child by far (the other boys were about 10 lbs.). We can’t decide who he looks like yet, but you can decide for yourself by checking out the attached photos. Either way, we think he’s beautiful, and we are just happy to have mom and baby home safely. We hope you all enjoy your holiday as much as we are enjoying our early Christmas gift.

So there is the short version of our very exciting, and at times traumatic, Christmas story. The doctors are still scratching their heads in wonder as to what went wrong and why I did not show all of the typical symptoms of such a serious illness (I only had a couple of mild symptoms and felt perfectly fine otherwise). I sincerely believe it was only by God's grace that baby and I stayed so healthy despite such an alarming diagnosis. At this point I have made a full recovery according to my latest tests, and Landon is healthy and thriving. It is only through your prayers and support that everything went as smoothly as it did. So thank you, thank you, thank you!! It is so wonderful having a community of sisters-in-Christ who are there for me and really came through. God has blessed us abundantly!

With all told now, I hope to get back to the blog postings on In the Midst of Chaos starting again next week. Until then have a great week and God bless!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...