Separating Families [at the Border] Within Our Borders

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Separating Families at the Border Within Our Borders

“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’”

—Luke 18:15-17

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, his disciples attempted to separate Jesus from children. Jesus rebuked them. He said, “Let the little children come to me.” Jesus did not want to be separated from children. Who could blame him? Children are innocent. Children are pure. When you want bask in pure joy, pick up a child.

Much ink (and digital space) has been given lately to the discussion of the federal policy of separating children from their parents as they attempt to immigrate to the US. On July 4th, I sat in front of my television and watched a woman stand at the feet of the Statue of Liberty and wave a “Rise and Resist” shirt in protest of the policies of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). How she climbed up the pedestal of Lady Liberty to get to the base of the statue is a mystery to me. But there she was, on the 4th of July, altering the vacation plans of thousands of tourists and capturing the attention of news crews in the media capital of the US.

But what about children within the US borders? Little has been written about children who live within the borders of the US who are separated from their parents and placed in foster care or a juvenile care facility. When I recently read J. D. Vance’s excellent book Hillbilly Elegy, I became aware of the practice of separating children from their parents and other family members for small infractions by the adults.

Vance grew up a self-professed “hillbilly,” meaning he grew up poor. He was part of a poor “white” community in Kentucky and Ohio. He found his way out of poverty by first joining the Marines and then pursing an education at Ohio State and earning a law degree at Yale. I learned much about the systemic problems of poverty within Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley by reading Vance’s book. Toward the end of his excellent book, Vance writes, “In a given year, 640,000 children, most of them poor, will spend at least some time in foster care (p. 244).”

Granted, most of these children are placed in foster care for their protection. Too often they are victims of abuse. But that’s not always the case. There are times when their parents are a little down on their luck, have their back against the wall, or don’t know what to do to get a break. They are people Howard Thurman would identify as the “disinherited.” Instead of helping parents get a leg up in the world, officials step in and take their child away and give them to strangers.

 

Shaila Dewan reports about cases of children being separated from their parents in the June 23, 2018 edition of The New York Times, writing, “Some three-quarters of cases nationwide involve not abuse, but neglect, a ‘really broad umbrella” that ‘often just looks like poverty,’ said Christopher Wildeman, a sociologist at Cornell University.” Dewan provides another quote from Wildeman, “There’s no consistent evidence that removing kids is, on average, beneficial, and there’s substantial evidence that it does harm.”

Children must be protected from harm. That’s a given. But what would happen if more resources were given to help the parents learn to overcome their struggles so that they could provide for their children?

The Children’s Rights website gives these stats on children in the  foster care system. The numbers are staggering.

  • On any given day, there are nearly 438,000 children in foster care in the United States.
  • In 2016, over 687,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.
  • On average, children remain in state care for nearly two years and six percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.
  • Despite the common perception that the majority of children in foster care are very young, the average age of kids entering care is 7.
  • In 2016, more than half of children entering U.S. foster care were young people of color.
  • While most children in foster care live in family settings, a substantial minority—12 percent—live in institutions or group homes.
  • In 2016, more than 65,000 children—whose mothers’ and father’ parental rights had been legally terminated—were waiting to be adopted.
  • In 2016, more than 20,000 young people aged out of foster care without permanent families. Research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults.
  • While states should work rapidly to find safe permanent homes for kids, on any given day children available for adoption have spent an average of nearly two years waiting to be adopted since their parental rights were terminated.

What can we do to help here? Here’s a few suggestions:

First, you can mentor parents who have their backs against the wall and help them learn skills to overcome specific struggles so that they can be excellent parents.

Second, volunteer to help children who are in foster care. Show these children compassion and love.

Third, contact agencies in your county and ask how you can help parents in need and children in need.

Fourth, consider adoption. In 2016, 65,000 children in the US were waiting to be adopted.

References

Vance, J. D.. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (p. 244). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Thurman, Howard. Jesus and the Disinherited. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 1949.

Dewan, Shaila. “Young Children Taken From Their Parents: It Doesn’t Just Happen to Immigrants. The New York Times. June 23, 1018.

http://www.childrensrights.org/newsroom/fact-sheets/foster-care/

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“All to Jesus I Surrender” Part 2

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Today we continue our thoughts on surrender. Certainly one of the most difficult challenges of the Christian life is surrender. It’s even more difficult to internalize the concept when we realize that Jesus only accepts “unconditional” surrender.
However, with surrender comes freedom. Freedom to trust that God’s way is the right way and the best way.
Devotional writer Katherine J. Walden wrote,
“The enemy knows that without surrender, we will never experience the freedom that God offers us. Without surrender, we will remain spiritually malnourished, ill and confused. Without surrender, our foxholes become prisons of the enemy’s making. Our lack of full surrender limits God’s ability to both work in our lives and through our lives.

God’s call to surrender is not an intimidating, angry bark heard from the other side of a battlefield. God’s invitation to surrender is expressed through the example of his Son, Jesus, as described in Philippians 2:5-11.”

Philippians 2:5-11, NIV ‘83. The Apostle Paul wrote, 
 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
Father,
Thank you for the example of Jesus who teaches me to surrender all to you. I pray for the strength to open my clinched fist and surrender all to you. Today and every day.
In Jesus and with the guidance of the Spirit,
Amen

“All to Jesus I Surrender”

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Hello and  Happy Monday,

I hope all of you begin this new week fresh and full of faith.
I’m currently teaching a course with the Rocky Mountain School of Ministry and Theology on Jesus and Spiritual Formation. This week we explore the topics of surrender and worship. These topics go hand in hand. The more we learn surrender, the more we worship God with greater abandon. The more we pour out our hearts in praise and live worship on a daily basis, the more we recognize the greatness and majesty of God and submit our will to his will.
E’yen A. Gardner writes, “Everyday, we have to ask God for our assignment, we must not assume we understand His plan but rather surrender to His will daily.” (From Humbly Summiting to Change-The Wilderness Experience). This is an excellent practice to develop in life. Wake up every morning and ask, “Father, what is your will for me this day?” 
I invite you to spend time this week praying prayers of surrender. “Father, you are the potter and I am the clay. Shape me as you will.”
I invite you this week to see worship as a daily lifestyle. Every day let’s give our lives as daily worship to the Father, Son, and Spirit.
This looks to be an exciting week of spiritual growth.
Grace and peace,
Dr. Kinnard
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God Loves the Foreigner

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Deuteronomy 10:18, “He (Yahweh) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”

It’s been a tough week for children at the US boarder. It’s been a tough week for families at the US border. It’s been a tough week for anyone who loves children and families who have seen the images of children separated from their parents.  It’s been a tough week for anyone with a compassionate heart who has seen the images of children placed into warehouses that were built to hold consumer goods.

At times I found myself filled with anger and confusion at how US immigration policy could be this off kilter. On Thursday, the president signed his name to change the policy of separating children from parents at the border. However, that policy does not cover children that have already been separated (according to The New York Times). So I continue to be filled with anger and confusion. And even if the policy covered the children who have been separated, the hurt and damage has already been done. So as the Psalmist cried, I also lament, “How long? How long to sing this song?”

If you are like me, you sat in anger and confusion this week. Perhaps you turned away from the images of crying children and weeping parents because you felt helpless. At times, I did. Others times I stared at the images because I wanted them to burn into my eyes which are the window to the soul. I wanted to do my best to see and feel the pain of the parents and the children.

When you read about the heart of God toward the foreigner and immigrant in Israel, you see a stark contrast to the US policy that prevailed this week. Deuteronomy 10:18 reads, “He (Yahweh) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” I’m well aware of the fact that there are larger issues here than can be solved by quoting one verse from the Hebrew Bible. However, the consistent image of God in both testaments of the Bible is that God is compassionate and loving, and he is especially compassionate and loving to the most vulnerable in society–like orphans, widows, the poor, the sojourner, and children.

What can we do to change the situation? First, feel. Feel compassion for these families. Second, pray. Prayer makes a difference. Third, make sure that we have hearts for the most vulnerable in our neighborhoods and communities. Fourth, write your representative in congress and let them know your thoughts on this issue.

I must also note the fact that this seperation of children from parents at the US boarder which prompted (and rightly so) a cry of indignation on the part of thousands of US citizens happens on a daily basis in other parts of our world without receieving much attention at all. Think of the girls who are kidnapped by the Boko Harem in Nigeria. Think of the young girls in Nepal who are placed in isolation huts while they are menstrating. Think of children in parts of Africa and the Middle East who are taken from their family by military regimes to be trained as soldiers. We need to widen our outrage to a global proportion.

Abba Father,

Protect children who have been seperated from those who love them. Allow them to be reunited quickly.  I pray for leaders around the world to act on behalf of those who are the most vulnerable, the children. I pray for every disciple to love as Jesus loved.

In Jesus,

Amen

 

The Hub of the Wheel

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           I’d like to share with you a quote from one of my students. His name is David Jung. In thinking about Dallas Willard’s comments on spiritual reality, from his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, David gave an analogy that I think is helpful. It’s an analogy about the hub of wheel.
          Perhaps I find the analogy helpful because I once was an avid cyclist. I spent hours and hours each week on a bike. When you are riding a bike, you want the wheels to work properly. If a brake is dragging on the wheel, then it slows down your ride. Even the air pressure of the tires make a huge difference in the enjoyment of the ride. Now to the analogy.
          David writes:
          “Willard writes, ‘Spirituality is a matter of another reality. It is absolutely indispensible to keep before us the fact that it is not a “commitment” and it is not a “life-style,” even though a commitment and a life-style will come from it.’ (Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines) To illustrate this using a bicycle wheel, the common view of spirituality is that my life is the hub and all the things of my life are spokes connected to the hub including spirituality. ‘Another reality’ implies that my spirituality (defined correctly where God is first above all) becomes the hub that everything else revolves around, including my life. God calls us through the writings of Paul the Apostle to think differently in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NIV) ‘So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!'”
          I appreciate David’s analogy of God as the hub of the wheel. Everything in life, including life itself, flows from God. Too often I put my own desire, my own will, my own self as the hub of the wheel. When that happens, the wheel doesn’t function properly.
          However, when I place God at the center of the wheel, the hub from which all the spokes ascend and descend, then the wheel functions beautifully and the ride is a smoother ride.
          Spiritually speaking–Who/What is the hub of your wheel?
          Have a great Thursday,
          Dr. Kinnard
Steve

Notes on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Part 3 Interpreting Parables

Notes on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Part 3

Interpreting Parables

By Dr. G. Steve Kinnard

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The Bible contains various genre or types of literature. Take a moment and think of the many genres of literature that the Bible has. How many genres can you name?

Here’s a partial list: The Bible contains narrative, poetry, wisdom sayings, legislative/legal statements, apocalyptic literature, prophecy, gospels, letters, and parables, to name a few.

To properly interpret the Bible, we must understand that each literary genre has it’s own rule of interpretation. If you don’t use the proper rules of interpretation for each type of genre, then you will misinterpret the Bible.

For example, narratives are stories. They are written to inform and inspire. They aren’t legal codes. They aren’t filled with imperatives or exhortations. Narratives aren’t meant to be legal codes. It would improper to take a particular detail in a narrative and twist that detail into a command or an exhortation.

The old preacher’s illustration of this is the person who decided that he was going to open his Bible and point at three scriptures. Whatever the scriptures said, the reader would literally obey.

The first scripture: “Judas went out and hanged himself.” That was a discouraging first attempt.

The second scripture: “Go and do likewise.” That’s right here in the parable of the good Samaritan. It didn’t help the anxious Bible student. Certainly the third scripture would solve his dilemma.

It didn’t. The third scripture read, “Whatever you do, do quickly!”

That’s not a great way to interpret the Bible. We have to consider context, and we have to consider genre.

What must we consider in interpreting parables?

  1. Live in the house of the parable.

Parables are stories. When we read a story, we need to get involved in the story. Parables are like a house that invites us to come inside and live there for while. The more we live in the house, the more the story comes to life.

I’ve been living in the house of the good Samaritan for over a week now. I put a face on the injured man. I saw his cuts and bruises. I witnessed the robbery and the beating. I put faces on the priest and the Levites. I watched their eyes as they noticed the injured man, then passed by on the other side of the road.

I put a face on the good Samaritan. I noticed that he was dressed differently from the priest and the Levite. I also saw the way he looked at the injured man, his look of love and compassion. I watched as picked up the injured man and placed the man on his donkey. He didn’t care that the man’s blood stained his own garment. I asked myself: Would I be willing to stain my clothes with the blood of a complete stranger? I watched as his opened his satchel and pulled out two denarii for the innkeeper to cover the cost of nursing the man back to health. Two denarii would have covered the expenses for two weeks. Two denarii is the equivalent of two days pay. I asked myself: Would I be willing to give up two days of pay to cover the expenses of a complete stranger?

(2) Don’t allegorize the parables.

In an allegory, we can find meaning in every detail of the story. But parables are not strict allegories. So we have to be careful not to allegorize every detail in a parable.

For example, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, you might say that the Samaritan’s donkey represents the church because the Samaritan put the injured traveller on the donkey to transport him to the inn. You could then say that because the traveller received aid in the inn, that the inn is heaven.

However, you could just as easily say that since the donkey carried the injured traveler to the inn, that the donkey is baptism and the inn is the church. The problem with an allegory is that you can make it say almost anything you want it to say. You shouldn’t treat a parable in this way.

It’s better to see the donkey and the inn as simple elements in the telling of the bigger story. Jesus didn’t attach any special meaning to these elements, therefore we shouldn’t either.

(3) Look for the “Aha” or “Gotcha” moment.

A parable usually contains an “aha” or “gotcha” moment. That’s the moment when fortunes are changed and tables are turned. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the gotcha moment is when the Good Samaritan sees the injured man and has “compassion.” The priest and Levite see the man, and they cross to the other side of the street. When the audience hears Jesus introduce the Samaritan in the story, they must think, “Here’s a third person who will walk right by the injured man.” However, their thinking was wrong. The Samaritan did stop. He didn’t just stop, he put the injured man on the back of his donkey and took him to an inn for care. He also paid for the injured man’s stay at the end. That’s the “gotcha” moment.

(4) Find the lesson/lessons the parable is teaching.

We shouldn’t leave the house of the parable until we learn a lesson (or lessons) that will carry us through the day or through the week. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, one lesson is compassion. When we see a person in need, we should have a compassionate heart toward the person.

Another lesson is clearly stated by Jesus at the end of the story, “Go and do likewise.” Go and be a Good Samaritan to others.

Find the lesson the parable is teaching and then, “God and do likewise.”

The Teaching and Practice of “Sanctifying the Ordinary” in the Life and Ministry of Jesus — Teaching Ministry of the ICOC

The Teaching and Practice of “Sanctifying the Ordinary” in the Life and Ministry of Jesus — Teaching Ministry of the ICOC
— Read on www.teachicoc.org/teachers-blog/2018/4/2/the-teaching-and-practice-of-sanctifying-the-ordinary-in-the-life-and-ministry-of-jesus

Here is an excellent article on the spiritual discipline—Sanctifying the Ordinary. Renee Uribe wrote it for a class I taught at Lincoln Christian University entitled “Jesus and Spiritual Formation.” The article is well-written and well-researched. It is both informative and inspiring. Thanks to Renee for sharing this article with us. —Dr. G. Steve Kinnard