Month: February 2017

Time is Short / Teens and Connection

It’s February.

 
In June my second son will be moving the tassel, graduating from high school.

 
It’s a little different this time. My first son finished high school as a home school student, with minimal fanfare. The school my kids are attending now has all the pomp and circumstance they can muster up for a high school graduation.
 

Not only is our time before he leaves limited, but even our time together now is scarce.

 
My son is waiting to hear whether he was accepted by his dream schools — and whether they offer a financial aid package to make those dreams a reality. But my reality is that very soon he’ll be going off to college and our family dynamics will be changing again.

 
Our time with him under our roof is short.

 
How many Sundays do we have left, our family filling a whole pew as we worship together?

 
How many family dinners? How many more Taco Tuesdays?

 

Not only is our time before he leaves limited, but even our time together now is scarce. School demands a lot from him. College and scholarship applications demand the energy he isn’t giving to school.

 

Time is scarce, and it is also precious.

And the logistics of life are demanding a lot from me — especially with other kids at home, including a precocious preschooler and toddler who never sits still! Living overseas seems to double the time routine errands take. Time is scarce.

 
Time is scarce, and it is also precious. This is a unique season in our son’s life. He’s making decisions. He’s seeking our guidance. Our relationship has been shifting over the years, and we are his trusted advisers. Yes, we are his parents — but he is also growing in his independence.

 
For our family, the pace of change seems to be snowballing.

Nobody mentioned when I was having babies in quick succession is that they would be flying the nest in quick succession.

 
One thing nobody mentioned when I was having babies in quick succession is that they would be flying the nest in quick succession as well. People always reminded me, “Oh, the time when they are little goes so fast.” But they never told me that just as much as my hands were full with toddlers and preschoolers, my heart would be full but my nest emptying as they became adults.

 
We have sons graduating this year, next year, and the following. Soon we’ll have four kids in college and graduate school.

 
So many of you are in the same season of life — but perhaps not multiplied by as many teens as we have. Whether you have one teen at home or several, we are in this together. This is our one and only chance at these years.

 

Whether you have one teen at home or several, we are in this together. This is our one and only chance at these years.

Your other children may have already flown the nest — or maybe the next ones are barely verging on the tween years. Are feeling the same tension I am feeling? Are you feeling that urge to connect/reconnect with your teen during this time of transition?

 
We can’t turn back the clock. As much as I treasure my memories of when the teens were younger, I really don’t want to return to those years. Yet I feel the intensity of the time now — how am I going to find the energy, how am I going to make the time to really connect with my teen?

 
Toddlers and preschoolers are easy. Well, maybe not easy — but I know how to mother and nurture that age. I’m on a new journey now, really focusing on being connected with my teens.

 
The time is short, and connection is vital. I believe we can make these the best years of parenting yet. We can resolve connect as we journey towards letting go.

We Remember: Sean

Sean Paddock, 2001 – 2006

Sean Paddock was just four years old when he died.

 

My youngest son is four. As I write this, he’s dressed in his Spiderman costume, showing me how he can climb over the fencing on the porch. He’s jumping from couch to floor. He’s hiding in the Amazon grocery box. His energy never stops.

 

His energy never stops, but mine does.

 

A part of me has sympathy for Lynn Paddock, Sean’s adoptive mom who is responsible for his death. Maybe she was exhausted? She was looking for help from a trusted source, and found deadly advice. She wrapped him tightly in blankets to “discipline” him so he couldn’t get out of bed. He couldn’t breathe. He died. “Disciplined” to death.

 

Let me be clear — Lynn Paddock was not just a tired mother who “made a mistake.” She was found guilty of felony child abuse and first degree murder.

 

And while they have not been found to have legal responsibity, moral responsibility for Sean’s death (and that of Lydia and Hana) also lies in the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl.

 

When Sean died, we had been back in the U.S. for just under a year. God had worked on my heart in ways that changed my attitude and actions towards my children. By that time I understood that the Christian conventional wisdom about spanking was more a cultural value than mandated in the Bible.

 

And then Sean Paddock died.

 

Sean died of child abuse in a Christian home. Died at the hands of a mother who others described as always wanting to do the “right” thing. Died a young four-year-old boy, acting simply as four-year-old boys act.

 

Why?

 

Why did his mother, who may have been well-intentioned at least at the start, abuse her child to death?

 

Part of the legal defense points to her own abuse as a child. Another part of the legal defense and the broader investigation point to the influence of Michael and Debi Pearl and their book, “To Train Up A Child.”

 

Within many churches and home school circles, copies of this self-published book was handed out to every new parent. Fans of the book would buy it discounted by the case. Well-meaning pastors’ wives would hand it out to new members.

 

I read it in the early ’90s while babysitting for a lovely family, a family I still admire. Just enough sounded good or Biblical to bypass my defenses. Build relationships, “tie heart-strings,” nurture your children. Just enough Bible references are scattered throughout for Christians to lower their guard and buy in to its harmful teachings.

 

Michael and Debi Perl promise fewer spankings and instant obedience. These promises can lure in loving parents, who are charmed by the Pearls folksy common-sense stories, and deceived by their shiny website with faces of happy families. Some are not only sucked into their false teachings, but promote them actively to others.

 

But then Sean Paddock died. Slowly the few voices that had warned about the extremism of the Pearls’ teachings grew. I thought it would shock enough Christians that the Church as a whole would stop promoting these teachings. But not everyone was listening. . .

 

Sean Paddock died.

Then Lydia Schatz died.

Then Hana Williams died.

 

Stop a moment. Digest that.

 

Three children died of abuse at the hands of their Christian, adoptive parents.

 

Perhaps others have also died, but the connection has not been made to TTUAC by the media.

 

How many hundreds or thousands more children have been abused at the hands of their well-intentioned, loving and Christian parents? I know many of them.

 

Did you catch that? Physical abuse can happen, even when you love your child and intend to discipline and not abuse.

 

God have mercy.

 

February will always be a hard month for me, a month to remember.  Writing about Sean, Lydia, and Hana at the anniversary of their deaths is both a ritual of mourning, and a issuance of warning.

 

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” – Mark 10:14-16

 

*****

More about Sean and the Pearls:
Challies.com
ThatMom.Com
Her.Meneutics
WhyNotTrain.Com
Christianity Today
WorldMag.Com
State vs. Paddock
Salon.Com
WRAL

 

Restoring Gently and Bearing Burdens

At this stage in my life, so much of my reading and studying is filtered through the perspective of mothering. This includes my study of the Bible and theology. I find the deeper I dig into God’s Word, the more light it shines on my life–and how I ought to mother.

 

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:1-2

 

“Brothers. . .” This passage is written to Believers. As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.

As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.

 

My friend Kristen shared,  “We went to Ash Wednesday services at the beginning of Lent with Kate at the Episcopal church around the corner (we missed liturgy) and when the priest put ashes on her little forehead, it really made an impact on me. As much as I am her mother, I am also her sister in Christ. This has been really helpful to me in thinking through parenting issues. Most Christians wouldn’t serve wine to a fellow Christian who was a recovering alcoholic. Why do they discipline their children and then set them up to do the same things again?”

 

In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther clarifies that “caught in sin” is not speaking about doctrinal errors, “but about far lesser sins into which people fall not deliberately, but through weakness.”

 

As our children are learning right from wrong, they will sin. As they are growing through various stages of development, they will have greater or lesser control over their impulses.

 

Luther goes on to say, “is caught in imply being tricked by the devil or sinful nature.”  Sinful nature, temptation, weakness, developmental stages–remembering these sins of our children are part of their weakness helps me respond to them with compassion.

 

Luther states, “Paul therefore teaches how those who have fallen should be dealt with–namely those who are strong should raise them up and restore them gently.”

 

I don’t always feel “strong” or “spiritual.” Often I feel weak and struggling myself. But it is my responsibility to raise my children and be strong for them. We have no trouble with the idea of parents being a “mama bear” protecting her young child. I also want to be strong spiritually to correct them gently, to be the “mama bear” to help my children when they are struggling with sin.

 

It’s interesting to note that this passage is immediately proceeded by the admonitions to walk in the Spirit and the list of the fruit of the Spirit– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These should be on my mind as I restore my children gently.

 

Luther reinforces the idea of this passage reminding us of “the fatherly and motherly affection that Paul requires of those who have charge over souls.”

 

What does “restoring gently” look like?

 

Luther explains, “when they see that those persons are sorrowful for their offenses, they should begin to raise them up again, to comfort them, and to mitigate their faults as much as they can—yet through mercy only, which they must set against sin, lest those who have fallen are swallowed up with depression.” And “. . .gently, and not in the zeal of severe justice.”

 

To be honest, at times I’ve had Christian mothers advocate some child-training approaches that seemed to have more of the “zeal of severe justice” than how Luther describes the Holy Spirit’s correction, “mild and pitiful in forbearing.”

we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.

 

After restoring gently, we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.

 

One of my preschool sons was insecure around lots of guests–and he responded in the past by getting very loud, climbing on furniture, and even hitting a guest. I’ve found that to carry his burden means I prepare him beforehand for our guests, and I hold his hand when they arrive, until he is comfortable and calm. Another son was prone to lash out at his brothers when he was angry. Bearing his burden has meant praying with him and for him, helping him recognize when he feels anger rising, and giving him strategies to deal with that anger without hitting. And it has meant letting him know it’s good to come to me and say, “Mommy, I’m angry” so I can help him not sin in his anger.

 

Also in this encouragement to carry one another’s burdens, it strikes me how wrong it is to follow the child-training technique of placing a child in a situation of temptation–to test him and see whether he can withstand it (or be punished.) This method is encouraged by some for training toddlers and preschoolers, and seems to be very contrary to bearing the burdens of temptation.

 

Luther also comments on this passage that sometimes in bearing with one another, things need to just be let go–“These people are the ones who are overtaken by sin and have the burdens that Paul commands us to carry. In this case, let us not be rigorous and merciless, but follow the example of Christ, who bears and forbears these burdens. If he does not punish them, though He might do so with justice, much less ought we to do so.”

 

“And watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. . .” For parents, I see this as a two-fold warning. First, to be gentle, not be angry—the caution here illustrates how very easy it is to slip into being harsh.

 

And also I see the warning not to be tempted to pride. When we become concerned about appearing to be “good parents” it is easy to slip into correcting harshly, minutely. This is one of the areas in which I struggled a lot, especially when my children were smaller. And especially when we were guests in churches and people’s homes. I felt pressure (from myself even more than others) for my kids to be perfect and “prove” we were worthy to be missionaries. That pressure tempted me both into pride in my children’s good behaviour, as well being overly picky and correcting unnecessarily.

 

“Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . .” — Martin Luther

The end of these verses is “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

As Martin Luther said, “After Christ had redeemed us, renewed us, and made us his church, he gave us no other law but that of mutual love. To love is not to wish one another well, but to carry one another’s burdens–that is, things that are grievous to us, and that we would not willingly bear. Therefore, Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . . Love, therefore, is mild, courteous, and patient, not in receiving, but in giving, for it is constrained to wink at many things and to bear them.”

 

Footnote: Quotations are from the Crossway Commentary series,

Martin Luther on Galatians. Luther’s commentary is also available free online, in a variant translation.

 

*****

 
It’s funny how some of the lessons the Lord leads us through circle back again for us. I continue to pray that the Lord will show me how to “restore gently” as I’m once again in the toddler/preschool years and as we navigate the new road of our children being adults. Originally posted May 2005 and January 2010.

 

Arrows, Soaring

When the boys were younger, they had plastic toy bows and arrows. I remember playing with the boys, and shooting arrows with them.

I draw back the arrow, the bow bends — and I’m worried that I’m going to break the plastic bow if I pull too hard. The string is taut and tense and for a moment before I release the arrow.

I’m living in that moment now, feeling the pulling tension between the bow and string.

We’re on the verge of great action, energy, loosening, flying, soaring, aiming towards a goal. . . Pulling back and taking aim. Drawing firmly, but not too hard with this plastic toy bow. The bow is stressed.

In this analogy, it only seems proper that the young adults are the arrows getting ready to soar.

But where does that leave me? Am I the bow? The string? The archer? I’m not sure.

Things are taut. There is tension. Everyone in our family feels it. We are all living through this time of stretching and expectation.

I want to be in this together. Connected. Not working at odds with one another, but pulling together. Aimed at the same target. On the same team.

We’re working on that.

Being connected, while preparing to release.

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 3

Digital publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the distribution of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.

In previous posts we looked at the rapid expansion of opportunity — an estimated 4 billion first-time internet users coming online due to expanded wifi coverage and low cost smart phones. We also considered the great impact books have both in personal spiritual growth as well as for leaders in the church.

E-publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the dissemination of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.

The Church is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the e-publishing boom.

With its historic emphasis on literacy and education, as well as groundbreaking work in linguistics and translation, the Church already has books and written materials in many languages around the world.  Wycliffe is known for its pioneering work in Bible translation, but even smaller organizations translate and write materials to be used by the local church in many languages.

Amazon continues to expand the languages that can be published on its e-readers and apps. Currently, Amazon distributes e-books in over 35 languages, and my understanding is that they support dialects related to those languages as well. Kobo claims e-books in 60+ languages in 190 countries, and is really focusing on the Asian market. While iBooks and Google Play are smaller players at this point, once a book is formatted for e-publishing, it takes just a few more clicks to get it on those platforms as well.

The strategic key here is that the hard work of writing or translating has already been done.  Churches, affiliated schools, and mission organizations already have the creative capital of written books and materials. In the past, the production and distribution of physical books has been an expensive and logistical barrier to getting them in the hands of people. But with e-publishing, those barriers are coming down.

 

Case Study: India

India provides a great case study for considering how the Church can use digital publishing to distribute sound Biblical materials to many people.  It is especially relevant because a great many of new internet users will be coming from Asia, Africa, and the sub-continent of India.

English is one of the official languages of India, and a significant number of new internet users worldwide will be either native English speakers or know it as the language of business and education.  However, e-book distributors are also targeting markets in other languages.  Amazon recently announced that it now is offering e-books in five of the regional languages of India — Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayalam, Both the Kindle and mobile platform Kindle apps are able to support these languages.

Amazon says it has “thousands” of books in its India store in these regional languages. Thousands?  While that is great — it sounds as if Amazon still has a rather small pool of books for these languages.  When we consider the materials in these regional languages already written and translated by churches, schools and seminaries, it could easily add many more thousands of titles to Amazon’s regional language stores.

An inquisitive reader looking for e-book deals in his own language does an Amazon search — and what could they find?  Not just the Bible, but study materials and Christian living resources in their own language available at low cost.  If Christian organizations are are early adopters of widespread e-distribution, the likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.

 

Early Adopters — Big Fish in a Small Pond?

Since mission organizations already have materials in multiple languages, they are poised to be early adopters of e-publishing.  Consider the 60+ languages available for publishing through Kobo —  how many of these languages have limited number of books available?  If Christian organizations can work towards digital publishing of their materials, they will represent a great percentage of the books in some of the smaller language groups.  The likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.

I’ve heard (but can’t confirm) that Amazon is the world’s second most powerful search engine — second to Google. The more theologically solid materials that are available on Amazon, the more people who are curious will find them.  This is where people are looking for materials — let’s be where people are looking.

Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — the church needs to take advantage of that.

Use the Existing Distribution Infrastructures

Amazon and the like are building amazing international distribution infrastructures for commercial use.  Barriers are continuing to fall to the spread of information.  Christian organizations can use the international distribution infrastructures which are being developed for commercial use.

In my initial research, I’ve been unable to find out which organizations are utilizing worldwide e-publishing to disseminate sound theological resources.  (Note: If you know which organizations are pursing this, please let me know!)

Some organizations offer materials free or low cost — but only from their website. This is true of one of my favorite publishers, Banner of Truth. They have some really excellent materials, but aren’t leveraging the existing distribution networks.

Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — we need to take advantage of that.

 

Digital Publishing isn’t Complicated

My husband’s first book, Knox’s Irregulars, was initially self-published.  This was in the early days of Amazon working with indie authors, and we didn’t quite know what we were doing.  But you know what?  The formatting and uploading process was straightforward, and  it was low cost to get a book on Amazon. The learning curve to use other distribution sites such as Kobo is pretty small.  (This is a great how-to for getting e-books to the major distributors.)  While John’s book is now with a traditional publisher, it is still available worldwide — I just saw it on Amazon India the other day. The barrier to worldwide publishing is lower than it has ever been.

Perhaps a mission organization may need to designate a person to develop the skills of e-formatting and navigating the uploading process to e-book distributors. Mission organizations can charge the lowest sale price allowed to cover the download fees. Some books may be able to be put on sale for “free,” and others may require a nominal fee. It’s easy to imagine a pastor in  India finding a commentary on Romans and downloading it to his smart phone for 99 cents.

One caveat on it isn’t complicated. . . When publishing rights have been acquired for translated materials, it is important to double check that those include digital distribution.

The barriers to distribution are low, and the potential impact is so great.

 

I know there must be some organizations working on getting solid Biblical materials more widely accessed via mobile devices worldwide, but I’m not hearing about it. I’d love to know who is working on this sort of project even now.

 

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 1

Digital Publishing, the Church, and Reformation: Part 2

Digital Publishing, the Church and Reformation: Part 3

We Remember: Lydia

We remember Lydia Schatz today, February 6, 2017.

Seven years ago today, 7-year-old Lydia Schatz died after her adoptive parents disciplined her to the point of death.

Lydia was a vivacious little girl, adopted from Liberia.  In the photo below, her smile shows a missing upper tooth — in the same place where my 5-year-old-son is missing a tooth.

Lydia Schatz

Lydia Schatz

 

February tends to be a hard month for me.  I don’t know why it is, but it seems some of the biggest emotional challenges come around in February. A big part of it is remembering and mourning Lydia Schatz and Sean Paddock, and facing the reality of abuse within the church and Christian families.

Lydia’s adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were convicted by the courts. Kevin was sentenced to two life terms for second-degree murder and torture and will serve a minimum of 22 years. Elizabeth Schatz sentence is for over 13 years for voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment. These sentences were the result of a plea bargin — originally they were charged with murder related to Lydia’s death, torture related to her sister (also adopted) who was hospitalized but recovered, and cruelty related to a biological son’s injuries.

O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Psalm 10:18-19

Lydia’s autopsy revealed that she died from rhabdomyolsis, a condition related to kidney and heart failure from toxins released when muscle tissue breaks down. Lydia’s muscles broke down as a result of repeated beatings over time, though her death was proceeded by an especially long “discipline” session.

Lydia’s parents used a plumbing supply line, which is recommended by Michael and Debi Pearl in their book “To Train Up A Child.” Both plumbing supply line and TTUAC were found in the Schatz home and the older children have attested to those methods being used in their home.

While death is not a common result from the implementation of TTUAC, this is not the first time that a child has died when parents have carefully and consistently applied the so-called “child training methods” espoused by the Pearls. In February 2006, 4-year-old Sean Paddock was killed. How many other unreported cases of quiet abuse are happening under the influenced of these harmful, unBiblical teachings?

Compounding the tragedy is the professed love of these parents for their children, the desire to nurture their children through homeschooling, the commitment to seek out help in parenting.

Further compounding the tragedy is that Lydia and her sister Zaraiah were adopted. Her parents needed to provide love, security, attachment. . . and instead beat them with a plumbing supply line. Sean was a foster son in the process of being adopted.

We need to remember Lydia. We need to remember Sean. We need to remember Hana Williams.

We need to remember the children who need families, who are in families.

We need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

We need to open our eyes to the abuse within our own communities.

May God have mercy on us all.

 

Lydia Schatz Memorial