Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Harder Than I Ever Knew

Someone recently asked me what fostering was like. I immediately said, "Foster care is harder than I ever knew. And the blessings are bigger than I ever guessed!"

Even just writing those words, I am almost in tears.

I am friends with many foster care parents around the nation, and in order to protect the privacy of my personal fostering situation, I am going to share my thoughts and feelings while using illustrations from many families' circumstances. Please do not take any illustration from this post and apply it to my personal situation or the personal situation of my foster sons' family! However, each of these illustrations is genuine and recent, from a fostering family whom I personally know.

Fostering children is an emotionally excruciating experience.

On the one hand, in order to care well for the children, a person must care about them. Love them, even. Especially with young children, they can't wait for love. They can't wait for someone to treasure them. They've already been through trauma, or they wouldn't be in foster care. Healing from trauma begins when they start to trust someone again. It takes time. It's not an easy, straight, or simple path.

On the other hand, you can't get "too attached." I'm not sure how a foster parent would avoid getting attached to their foster children, but the reality is (and the hope is) that the child(ren) will be leaving the foster home to return to their parents. I know of many foster parents who walk the tightrope of loving their foster children with the hope of adopting them and praying that the child(ren)'s family is successful in reuniting their family. What a difficult situation!

Sometimes a foster parent will sit, rocking a baby to sleep, and wonder at the love that flows through him/her for this child. And sometimes that same foster parent will leave a courtroom, crying at the knowledge that the same child will never again sleep under his/her roof. It's a roller coaster that is controlled by everyone except you!

I have found that foster parents almost always love their foster children's parents. Foster parents root for birth parents! They cheer them on. They talk about them positively with their foster children. They want the biological parents to succeed in their case plan, in their sobriety, in their quest to reunite their family. Obviously, there are cases of abuse so heinous that the foster family cannot be positive about birth family, but even in those cases, I know foster families find positives to say to their child about their birth families. I know one adoptive family who speaks of an unknown birth father, saying that "If he hadn't stepped up to claim you, you wouldn't have been enrolled in the tribe. And if you hadn't been enrolled in the tribe, we never would've met you!"

And because foster parents cheer on birth parents, it is extremely painful for the foster parents when the birth parents fail to show up for visits, get arrested for their fourth or fifth DUI, say hurtful things to the child(ren) during a visit, or disappear for weeks (or months) on end. It's painful because they care about the parents, and it's painful because the foster families deal with the fallout from the parents' failures. The questions from small children, "Where is my mom?" (The answer: "I don't know. I wish I did, but I don't. I do know that I am here, and I will stay here, and I will take care of you."). The tougher questions from older children, "Why doesn't my dad care enough to call me?" (The answer: "I don't know. I wish I could control his choices, but I can't. I do know that we love you and will take care of you for as long as you are here.") And the toughest questions, "Why does my dad drink so much?" or "Why is meth more important than we are?" (The tougher answer: "Addiction stinks, Sweetheart. It's very hard to make good choices when a person is addicted. I'm sorry addiction has taken your mom/dad.")

Foster parents deal with the aftermath of a visit where the child is told that the foster parents "are not your real family! You don't have to do what they say!" Foster parents deal with the aftermath of a planned visit where a parent does not show up. Sometimes, this is the fault of the parent. Sometimes, this is the fault of the system, which should be protecting children from these situations. Foster children come home confused, angry, and scared. They throw temper tantrums, steal, smear feces on walls, run away, and refuse to comply.

Being a foster parent is emotionally excruciating.

But the blessings! Oh, the blessings!

The foster family sometimes gets to see the child(ren)'s family remake itself into a healthy whole. And even if that doesn't happen, the foster family sometimes gets to transition into an adoptive family. And sometimes the adoptive family gets to maintain relationships with the birth family... in fact, sometimes the adoptive family and the birth family become one big family, which is such a blessing to the child!

Not to mention the day-to-day blessings of rocking a baby to sleep, of soothing an aching toddler, of watching foster children experience their first real Christmas, their first trip to the ocean, their first entirely new outfit...

Foster parenting is one of the toughest things I've ever done.

Foster parenting is one of the best things I've ever done.

It is a wild ride, with wide swings of emotion and expectation. I thank God for the opportunity to do this task, to fill this role, to be this foster mom. And I ask Him for the strength to hang on through the wild swings!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Both Sides Now

I have been involved in the adoption world for more than thirty years, having completed my first adoption in early 1987. All three of my adopted children came to me through the foster care system. Each state's system is different, as is the child welfare system here on the reservation. But I think my experiences would translate for most adoptions in most places.

There are two "kinds" of adoption: open and closed. And of course, there is a continuum between those two choices. One of my older children has had no information about and no contact with their birth family. That child is now an adult and knows almost nothing: no medical history, no information about the situation of their birth, nothing.

 My other older child came to me with little information, but it was enough to locate their birth mother when the child was eight years old. The child and I each wrote a letter to the birth mother, and she wrote back, sending precious newborn photos and copies of pages from a journal she kept while pregnant. She wasn't interested in meeting at that time, but we exchanged letters and photos from then on. When our child was about 14, the birth mother wanted to meet, but at that point the child wasn't interested so we continued to communicate via the mail.

At 19, our child and their birth mother were both ready. We met at a neutral place, with the birth mother's husband and two young children. Immediately, we were family. My child had little siblings, a stepdad, and most-importantly, another mother. At one point, we two moms turned to each other and said in unison, "She's so much like you!"

My now-grown child still has a wonderful relationship with both of these families: birth and adoptive. This grown child can turn to both families for support and advice. We do not compete or get jealous; we're just all family.

Our younger child came to us as our granddaughter. I have the blessing of having a picture of her in my arms the day she was born. We knew her before she came to us as a kinship foster child, and we knew her birth family, at least somewhat. Her birth family has become family to us. Think of it like a marriage: When we marry, we gain our spouse's family-of-origin as our family. The same happened when we adopted our granddaughter: We gained her family-of-origin as family! It's nine years later, and we all identify as family, as far as I can tell.

And oh, the joy of this completeness for our daughter! She knows who her nose comes from. She knows her siblings on both her birth mom's and her birth dad's sides. She knows her birth parents love her, and our daughter loves her birth parents. She sees her birth parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. as often as we return to the Midwest. It's just as important to all of us for her to see her birth family as it is for me to see my family or my husband to see his!

I heartily support open adoption like this, unless there is a grave safety concern for the child. I'm sure there are activities that our daughter's birth parents participate in that I would rather not have as influences for her, but they want the best for her, too, so they don't bring those influences into their visits with her. No one is perfect, and we all want what's best for this child.

There are certainly particular situations where contact with birth family is unsafe for a child, but in most situations I've seen/heard about/been involved with, healthy boundaries can be established and contact can be maintained at some level.

I have experienced adoption from the adoptive family side for over 30 years, and I have experienced much joy in this. In the past year, though, I have begun to experience adoption from the birth family perspective. The joy is much less here, and the conflict much greater. I've known this, theoretically, but lately I experienced it more personally. Two sets of our daughter's siblings, one on her birth mom's side and one on her birth dad's side, have entered the foster care system in the past year. In one case, we requested to have the children placed here with their sister and were denied; the children were placed in a non-family foster home. In the other case, a nearby family member took the children into their home.

In both of these cases, the system gave the birth parents a case plan and asked them to comply with certain expectations. In one case, the court has already found that the birth parents did not comply with the case plan and the parental rights were terminated. In the other case, the birth parents still have a certain amount of time to show significant compliance or the parental rights will be terminated.

From the perspective of the birth family, this time... We have watched as beloved siblings were taken away from known loved-ones and given to strangers. We have nervously asked if we could possibly maintain a relationship with our daughter's siblings/our grandchildren, aware that the adoptive family had the power to completely sever that relationship. We have anxiously awaited a court's determination of who these much-loved children would call family. We have visited our daughter's siblings in a new home, where they call a different woman "mother" and have tried to explain to our 10-year-old why they couldn't live with their previous mother, whom she loves. We have watched as our daughter processed the possibility that her siblings' names would change and how confusing that is for her.

And in the midst of all this, we were asked to take in our foster boys. To love them with the uncertainty of how long they will stay. To support their parents in their journey to reunite with their children. For our daughter to adjust to having siblings in the house, knowing that she will grieve their leaving, when that day comes.

Through all of this, I have come to believe deeply that children belong to themselves. When we act like only a portion of their story (that we like or that we are a part of) matters, we rob them of part of themselves. As either party in an adoption, we need to treasure the whole child, all of their story, even the parts that do not include us.

The joy of becoming a parent through adoption is accompanied by the grief of losing a child for the birth family, of losing a family for the child. Even in open adoption, that loss is genuine. Surely we want the child to share the joy, but it's also essential for the adoptive family to validate the loss for the birth family and for the child him/herself.

As we Christians move toward foster care and adoption as a way to care for "the least of these," (Matthew 25:40), we must be deliberate in our acceptance of the child's whole story. We must include as many of the players in our children's previous lives as is safe. We must not act like these children belong to us. They are God's, and He has orchestrated each day of their lives, including those days which do not include us. Their birth story is just as much theirs as their adoption story is.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

His Rest

I need my sleep. Ask anyone in my family. My mother will tell you of the toddler who would fall asleep in her soup. My brother will tell you stories about how crabby I got if I didn't get enough sleep. I remember going home at night in high school, long before the cool kids gave up. My older children would tell you of nights that they told me to go to bed because I was losing my cool. I just seem to need a lot of sleep to function well.

And, as you might guess, sleep has been a scarce commodity here at the Kautz House in the past couple of months! Having three children, teaching full-time in our home, leading AWANA, and teaching Sunday School makes for one busy mama! I find myself getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 AM to catch some quiet time for a bath and Bible-reading, or to prepare for my students.  Instead of taking a quick nap in the afternoon, I am supervising trampoline time or reading dinosaur books. I have more laundry, more sweeping, more cooking, and more care-taking of children with the wee boys in our home.

Sometimes, at bedtime, I'm cleaning one more toilet, scrubbing one more floor, or folding one more load of laundry. And I'm tired.

Really tired.

But, in the middle of reading Hebrews 4 one morning, I found these words: So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9-10).  And the words "God's rest" resonated in my soul. God's Rest sounded so peaceful and renewing. I needed that!

So I began to pray for God's rest. I prayed that I would have the energy to take on the next task, through God's rest. That God's rest would flood my soul and body and mind. That instead of getting whiny and crabby when tired, I would seek His rest. 

It works! 

Truly! I have found reserves of peace and energy that I've never had before. I have been able to manage my exhaustion and have reserves to continue on. Not that I'm not tired, I am. But I'm not overwhelmed by it. Praise God!

He will provide whatever it is that we need to do His work. You can trust that. So can I.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Teaching Prayer

One regret I have (among many) in raising my older children is that I never taught them to pray. My own life was far from faith during the time they were little, and teaching them to pray was not on my agenda.

It was a totally different story almost 9 years ago when our now-10-year-old came to live with us. My husband was in seminary, and my faith life was active and growing. On our very first date, my husband had said, "Could we pray together before we go?" Our prayer life was/is essential to our marriage; we have been very blessed!

So our daughter was taught from Day One to pray. We talked to her about prayer being "talking to God," and a person could pray anytime. God would listen. God cared. And she has developed a faith that is deep and real; it shows in her life. We pray with her each night, and I listen as she prays for her birth parents, her siblings, her friends, the child we sponsor through Compassion International, and for herself. It is good.

When we were asked to foster the two boys, we asked about faith instruction. It was fine, the social worker said. Because they are foster children, we haven't sat down to instruct them about our faith and prayer, but because they are living in our family, they have heard a lot of prayer. They go to church and to Sunday School with us. We do not disrespect their culture (they are Native) or their parents, but simply by living as part of our family, they are experiencing our faith and prayer life.

And oh! Is it sweet! The preschooler began to ask to say the prayer before meals or at bedtime after only a couple of weeks. He prays, "Thank you, God," and then he lists everything he is thankful for. Like this: "Thank you, God: potatoes, Mom, books, school, brothers' visit, Sister (their name for our daughter), bed." It gives us such insight into what he values! And I know God is listening to him with love and grace.

The toddler has recently begun chime in with a list of things he likes: "Doweeya (dinosaurs). Brother's name. Doweeya. Doweeya. Sister." But his favorite prayer word is "Amen." He will say "Amen" through the entire prayer! I've noticed he says "Amen!" with special enthusiasm if the prayer is going longer than he would like. And especially at mealtime (He likes to eat).

The long-haired dude in the middle is my husband... lol!
Today, the toddler stayed in church with me while the other two went to Sunday School. About two-thirds of the way through the sermon, he started saying, "Amen. Amen. Amen!" He finally said, fairly loudly, "Amen, Papa!" There were a few chuckles, and then he settled in for the rest of the sermon, eating blueberries as slowly as I could provide them peacefully.

God is blessing us so greatly through this fostering experience. One of the sweetest blessings is the growth of faith in each of us. It is precious to see our daughter including the foster boys in her idea of family. It is amazing how God provides for us, as parents: insight, patience, love, acceptance, energy, and everything we need. The support we've received from our congregation and from our friends is delightful. And of course, seeing God at work to grow faith in the little guys is a blessing. Pray on!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Village It Takes

I have never been so mindful of the adage, "It takes a village to raise a child," as I have been this month. We said "yes" to fostering two preschool boys without having anything in place to make room for them in our home, our day-to-day lives, or even in our car!

We moved the "spare bedroom" into what used to be my glass shop and more recently the reading nook for my older school kids. Now it is our spare bedroom. There is enough room for the bed and that's about it! But we still have a spare bedroom, and we'd love for you to visit us.

The upstairs bedroom (that used to be the spare) now has two toddler beds, a dresser (anchored to the wall!), a rocking chair, and a bunch of toys. The dresser is full, as the boys came with lots of clothing, and our ten-year-old shared her entire collection (which was quite extensive) of Ninja Turtle toys.

And two car seats have been installed in the Chile Bus. The Chile Bus is a 7-passenger van that my stepdad gave us for the students I teach, so that I can take them all skiing and on field trips. It is now in much more common use because our Subaru is small for five.

Those are just the changes made in the first 12 hours! Then our friends heard that we were fostering. Near and far, they asked what we needed. At first, I didn't even know! Then I realized that we were lacking warmer clothing for the boys, and I suggested winter clothing. I mentioned healthy snacks to another friend because it's hard to avoid packaged, processed junk food.

Over a thousand miles away, a friend with twin sons mailed an enormous box of winter boots, coats, hats, shirts, and even some toys (and a special gift for our 10-year-old). Another friend met me with a huge bag of long-sleeved shirts and sweatshirts. I can't even begin to know how many apples we received, along with many other healthy snacks! We are all so blessed.

A dear Christian friend, the mother of one of our daughter's pals, very deliberately offered to take all three of our children for several hours every Sunday afternoon to give us time to be a couple and time to do the chores that are almost impossible with three underfoot. Another sweet Christian sister handed me a couple of folded-up bills and whispered, "Use it for whatever you or the boys need."

Our village. I am so thankful to God for our village! And it has really opened my eyes to ways I can be of service to those around me in the future.

If you are not in a place to become a foster family, find a foster family and offer something. Offer time by running an errand. Offer grace by holding a screaming child in the back of the church (or by sitting with the one(s) who are not screaming!). Offer a gallon of milk or a box of homemade granola. Offer a gift card to a kid-friendly restaurant. Or babysitting so the parents can go to a non-kid-friendly restaurant! Give a pat on the back to an older sibling in the family.

And if even those offerings are beyond your ability right now, offer prayer support to the family (and let them know you're praying for them!). Fostering can be difficult for the new children... and for the existing family. It can also be a delight! Lend an ear for joys and frustrations.

So, thank you to our village. Thank you to those who pray for our ministry here on the Jicarilla Apache Nation. And thank you to all the foster families out there taking in children in need!

Monday, October 16, 2017

An Unlikely Anniversary


When Brad and I got married ten years ago (October 16, 2007), we never in a million years would have dreamed that we would celebrate our tenth anniversary on the Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico, with three children under our roof! We intended to serve God in a church in the MidWest, near our parents and grown children. It was a prudent plan: Me teaching and Brad preaching in a small town.

But as God often does, He had different plans. Better plans. Infinitely, eternally, better plans. A year and a half after we married, we adopted our 2-year-old granddaughter. I stopped teaching to be home with our new daughter, and we adjusted to living on one income and to parenting together. We thought differently about our future, no longer being "empty nesters." Instead of pursuing my career goals, I tried to provide the best experiences for our daughter.

When God called us to serve among the Jicarilla Apache, we were surprised. As we went through the interview and visitation process, we became more and more certain that this was God's call. We moved our daughter and ourselves here more than four years ago. It has been a delightful place to serve! God, of course, knew what He was doing. Brad is a terrific pastor for this place, these people. My skills as a teacher have been put to use well as I homeschool our daughter and five Jicarilla children.  I am leading a very successful AWANA youth ministry program. We have all grown in our faith and our faithful service.

Even a month ago, we anticipated our 10th anniversary being much like the past nine anniversaries: The three of us going out to eat somewhere nice, stopping somewhere to take some family photographs. One difference was going to be "our party," as our now-ten-year-old called it. She loves to celebrate! We decided a while back to celebrate with our friends at church, inviting our friends in the community, as well. I've been making table decorations and buying supplies over the past few weeks.

But yesterday morning, we were juggling three children as I tried to finish the salad and get the hot food warming up safely. While we talked to the gathered group briefly, thanking people for coming to celebrate, I was holding a wiggly two-year-old who wanted to EAT. As Brad prayed over the food and our marriage, our ten-year-old was hanging onto the hand of an unhappy four-year-old wailing to be "set free." Instead of sitting and visiting through the afternoon, I changed small soiled clothes, chased down children, and said, "No more sweets!" to three.

This is a most unlikely anniversary for us. We are too old for preschoolers; we are even too old for elementary schoolers! We are far, far away from our families, when we had wanted to stay close as our parents age. But we are not disappointed or dissatisfied. Several times today, one of us looked at the other and said, "Who would've thought...?!" But not wishing for it to be different.

We are serving God as He calls. We are here in New Mexico, happily. We are permanently parenting a ten-year-old, delightedly. We are foster parenting four and two year olds for an uncertain amount of time, willingly and joyfully. Life is not simple and clear-cut. God's call is often messy and sometimes unexpected. But His call is always good.

Always.

Good.

So jump right in! Follow His call. Trust that He will provide all that is needed.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Dozen Dinosaurs

A couple of weeks ago, I said to my mother in a phone call, "There's not really anything exciting going on here. Kind of boring, I guess, but we don't mind." She agreed that "boring" was a good thing...

And then life happened. We were asked to consider being foster parents for two boys, ages 2 and 4, for an undetermined amount of time. We prayed. We talked. We included our 10 year old. We prayed some more. Then we said, "Yes."

That "yes" was based on Scripture:

Jeremiah 22:3 says, "This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place."

Matthew 25:40 says, "And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."

That "yes" was based on prayer. On knowledge of what happens to children when they don't have a stable, consistent home. On trust that God would provide... energy, finances, security...

No longer is life "boring!" Our house is filled with loudness, laughter, tears, and prayer. We would ask for your prayers as we parent these two, in addition to our 10-year-old. That God's grace would cover us all as we adjust to life as a bigger family and the boys adjust to life with us. That God would provide all that we all need to follow Him.

On the day after the boys arrived, I wrote this:

Tiny socks
And little jeans
A moment to reflect
On what this laundry means...
It means that God has worked in us
To want to spend a life in service
To put our time, energy, and more 
Into what God has in store
Instead of what we want to buy
Or have or do
The reason why
is God has loved us
Beyond all measure
And has made us His earthly treasure
And we, instead of hoarding here
Are to bring heaven's love near
With our humble feet and hands
To be where this laundry lands


Today I took a dozen dinosaurs, six ninja turtles, and two horses to church... along with two little boys and a half-grown girl. It was a joy and a blessing!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Joy We Share

Due to a short power outage, we had to "punt" this morning on our praise song in worship. Instead of Steven Curtis Chapman, Pastor Brad asked if anyone had a hymn they wanted to sing. Our wee one immediately said, "In the Garden!" (I didn't even know she knew the song!)

So we all turned to the hymnal and sang..."I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses..." I had the scene to the right in my head, from a recent family hike. We belted out the chorus, "And He walks with me, and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there... none other has ever known."

I was struck by those words: "And He tells me I am His own." Wow. Me, sinful, meager, small and selfish me. I am His. I belong to God, the Father Almighty. To Jesus Christ, His One and Only Son. To the Holy Spirit.

Me.

His.

I smiled. I know I did because our daughter said, "What's funny?" I replied, "Nothing. I'm just happy." I should've said more. I should've said, "I'm just happy I'm HIS."

I should have explained because this is what I want for her. I want her to know the happiness of belonging to God. I want her to come to church to worship with joy in her heart. I want us to share this joy!

I will speak up. I will tell her how I felt in worship this morning. And not with just her, I will share this joy with anyone who will listen! We should feel joyful in our redemption in Jesus Christ, and we should share it with the world.

May God help me to do this each and every day.

Amen.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sweet Hour of Prayer

This morning, like most Sunday mornings of much of my life, I attended church. It was a remarkable Sunday in that it was the first Sunday of our fifth year of service here at the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church, but otherwise, it was a regular Sunday. We sang praise to our Lord; we greeted one another, taking joy in seeing people we hadn't seen in a while. We prayed.

We prayed.

We, God's people here on the Jicarilla Apache Nation, prayed for our families, our friends, strangers in Texas and Louisiana, for housing, for sobriety, for safe travel.

Prayer is a vital and living part of worship at the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church. My understanding of prayer has grown during our time here. We pray deeply and strongly and powerfully.

We prepare for prayer by singing "Sweet Hour of Prayer" each Sunday. Today, the song was sweet and strong and loud.

The words "In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief; and oft escaped the tempter's snare, by thy return, sweet hour of prayer" rang through the sanctuary this morning. I knew individual voices reaching up to God for comfort:

A woman who has lost both daughter and granddaughter since we've been here.

A man grieving for his addicted son.

Children whose mother was taken by alcohol, gone too soon.

A grandmother raising her grandchildren from two different families.

And then we prayed our repentance. We prayed for healing. We prayed for our concerns. We prayed for teachers and bus drivers. We prayed for hurricane victims. We prayed The Lord's Prayer. And we prayed for the Holy Spirit to be present in the Scripture reading and preaching.

Hope was preached. Hope was felt. Hope was known in that place. Hope is known in this place. We Christians know hope amidst the distress and grief of life. May we bring this hope to those who surround us in this world.

Amen. And amen.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Finishing Four

Today, we finish our fourth year in Dulce. Tomorrow starts our fifth year... hard to believe. After four years, some things are exactly as I expected them to be... and some things are very different from my expectations!

Sunday Services: Pretty much as I expected. My husband is turning out to be an excellent preacher! I help with Sunday school for a couple of months a year. Kathleen (10) is antsy during services and requires an occasional reminder to engage.

Day-to-Day Ministry: I fully expected to feed the random stranger, living next door to the church. We do do that, but we also give rides, send uncooked food home, and invite complete strangers to join us at the table. We have occasionally hosted an unknown overnight guest in our home... but just recently, a work group transformed one of the church classrooms into an emergency shelter! This will prove very worthwhile, I'm positive. We have also recently become involved in the informal distribution of surplus food from Farmington, NM.

Special Events: Being far from our families, I anticipated that we would spend Thanksgivings, Christmases, and other special events with our small family of three. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We have been graciously included in family celebrations of every holiday, and also of weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries. We have camped with church families, eaten scrumptious holiday meals with 50 friends, enjoyed football rivalries, attended musicals with Christian sisters, and so much more! I do not hesitate to say that if I ever felt lonely in any way, I could easily reach out and find a supportive friend here.

And All Those Kids: I have been involved with children since I was one myself. My mom always called me "The Pied Piper" because of the number of children I had in my life. I knew that I would continue homeschooling our wee one, at least for a while, but I had no idea how many children would come into my life in Dulce!

First, there are the AWANA kids. We've had an AWANA children's ministry for three full years now. It has grown and developed, and I am one of the co-leaders. It is a joy to meet with those 5-18 year olds weekly and explore the Bible with them. It's such a blessing that the adult volunteers and the kids come from many different churches here in Dulce and beyond. We are incredibly blessed by the support of people here in Dulce and in far-flung parts of the United States! We are able to give every single child a brand new Bible and an AWANA shirt. The kids feel so supported and loved!

Second, there are the "science kids." From the beginning, I invited other homeschooled children we knew to attend a twice-weekly science class at our house. It grew from 2 children... to over a dozen!!! On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, from 1:30-3:00, our house and yard are overtaken by kids learning about science and having fun. Some wonderful friendships have been built with these families, and the kids have many terrific memories of our fun together.

And thirdly, there is the homeschooling crowd. I am now homeschooling six children full-time and another one part-time. These include children who have been expelled from one of the local schools, who have been bullied to the point of hating school in one of the local schools, who have never attended school at all, who have special needs that were absolutely overlooked in one of the local schools, and who are talented and gifted and under-served at one of the local schools. It has recently become very clear to me that this too is a ministry. 

I've always looked at the homeschooling as something I do for our daughter, but the need for a quality education is desperate here in Dulce. The local schools have difficulty hiring and retaining quality staff, and the committed long-term staff members cannot do it all. I know I could make an income teaching at the public school, and I have considered it for this reason, but God has made it clear to me that homeschooling is where my teaching talents need to be utilized. I am equipped to reach each of the children in my home, and each one needs me (sometimes for very different reasons!).

So, tomorrow is another day. I'm taking six kiddos in the "Chile Bus" to explore New Mexico history first-hand at the ruins of a pueblo and a 16th century Spanish church. We will study geography and math on the way, read some poetry, and generally have a great time. I'll take some more pictures to share with their families, and on Monday we will write an essay about what we learned on the trip.

May God work in your life just as powerfully. We are blessed. Four years blessed. And we pray that God would grant us many more years of service here in Dulce, whatever it looks like!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

#1680

I have tried to write about Charlottesville, VA, and the racial protests and violence there. I despise the hatred displayed by the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I hate the violence that stems from that hatred. I hate the fact that our president did not immediately, completely, or honestly condemn these groups.

I think of the world in which my biracial and multiracial grandchildren are growing up, and I dread seeing them face the racism so clearly displayed in Charlottesville and elsewhere. The faces I love come in all colors and shapes.

I have watched on social media as my loved ones shared their fear, their outrage, their worry, and their interpretation of events. I've also talked with my Native friends here locally. Many feel entirely unrepresented by the current government. They are angry that President Trump has not taken a firm stand against all forms of racism.

I'm heartened by the #resistance. Following the alt* accounts on Twitter has shown me an entire network of resistance workers fighting against the demands of Trump to be silent, to fall into line.

I take hope in much of the church's response, standing firmly with the oppressed. I pray that those who claim Christianity and hold that whites are supreme would wake up to Jesus' true message.

And tonight I saw a new hashtag on one of my Native friends' posts: #1680. If you do not know Southwest US history well, you probably won't recognize this, but it is a signal of strength. Strength of the Native peoples. A refusal to buckle under.

Educate yourself. On today's racism. On the year 1680 in New Mexico. On the lives of Americans of color in 2017.

This viral photo shows the moment a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Many have commented about the shoes in the road. Instead of looking at those shoes in the road, I am urging all of us who stand against racism to get our boots on the ground. Stand up and refuse to be silent! Do not sit back and wait for justice; get up and work for it!

When you hear a racist comment, call it out. When you see a person of color being unfairly treated, step forward and stand with them. When a policy targets a minority group, fight it. In Zechariah 7, the Bible tells us to resist oppression. Those using "faith" and the Bible to justify their hatred and violence have great need of actually reading the Bible!

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  Edmund Burke.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pow Wow Lullaby

photo from internet
Not too long ago, I fell asleep to a pow wow lullaby. It really struck me as I drifted off to sleep that nowhere else I've ever lived has had pow wow lullabies. Jamaica (where I served in the Peace Corps) had a constant reggae rhythm as background noise. The college dorm was just plain noisy, but that pow wow beat was unique and special. It reminds me that I live as a guest on the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

Our family moved here four years ago this month. Our wee one was 6. We had lived in the Midwest for most of our lives when God called us to be faithful strangers on the Jicarilla Apache Nation. Leaving our families and friends far behind, we drove a loaded Penske truck through the plains and over the mountains to Dulce, NM.

Sometimes it's difficult to remember what it was like to be a new arrival in Dulce among the Jicarilla Apache people. But when some friends arrived from the Midwest, their comments and questions brought back some of the wonder present at our arrival here. Things that seem normal now brought inquiries, and our attempts at explanations. It was great fun, and it has reminded me to treasure various traditions and experiences here.

For example, when people visit we usually have a bonfire and invite our Jicarilla friends. As we settled in to enjoy the fire, just chatting, our friends asked when people would arrive. I looked at my phone clock for the first time that evening and realized that our "starting time" (on the church calendar and Facebook announcements) had passed 30 minutes before. It brought a chuckle to me, remembering how we had had to adjust our sense of time when we joined this community. "Whenever," I said. "Time is different here."

Earlier this summer, we heard there was a keesta (coming of age feast for a young woman). We've been to many of these over the years, but always with some Jicarilla friends. The keesta is never advertised or the directions given... you just hear about it and go. This time, with no hesitation, Brad and I just went. We headed in the general direction we knew it was taking place, then spotted the small flags and freshly-graded road. When we arrived, we sat down to eat and chat among people we had never met. We were made very welcome, and it felt like we belonged.

Just yesterday, I was on my morning walk, and I heard a lot of barking and yipping. When I turned the corner, there was a high school aged student threatening three dogs with a stick. I  know these three dogs. They have chased me down several times in that area. I started carrying a pepper spray and have gotten them good a time or two. Three years ago, I would've been upset that the kid was threatening the dogs. Now I knew he was simply defending himself. I yelled at the dogs, "Hey! Go home!" They know my voice. They know my pepper spray. They all slunk back to their yard, and the kid looked up gratefully.

I said to the student, "They're bullies. They know my spray. Have a great day!" The kid never answered, but simply continued on to school. A couple of years ago, I would've wondered what I did to cause trouble. Now, I know that strangers just don't acknowledge each other here as they do in the Midwest.

One of the Midwestern visitors said to me yesterday, "Wow! You're really laid-back about this, aren't you?"

Yep. We are. Laid-back and happy. We love it here. The people and the place fit us well. We've changed a bit over the years, but God has prepared us well to fit in. We are blessed. Please join us in praying for the ministry of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church here on the Nation. Amen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

An AWANA Camp Miracle

We just finished our first ever AWANA Camp in Dulce! AWANA is our children/youth ministry; it focuses on memorization of God's Word. We've had a Monday night AWANA program for three years, and this year we expanded to include a week-long VBS-style day camp. It was amazing! 
We served 62 children and youth from the community. We closed registration after Monday, unfortunately turning away another 20 or so kids because we didn't have the staff or supplies for so many. The students studied the Bible, using the theme "Grace." We had powerful teachers and preachers. The praise and worship time was filled with songs and antics. The children recited their memory verses and performed skits to illustrate God's Grace. Truly amazing!

But my biggest joy came during drop-off time, about mid-week. And it came so unexpectedly, it almost bowled me over. I have to back up a bit to explain...

When we arrived, almost four years ago, we took our then-six-year-old skating every Friday night. The church has had skating on Friday nights for decades, maybe almost a century! We have church members in their 70s and 80s who remember skating at church as kids.

Our daughter made friends at skating with a little girl (We'll call her Debbie). Debbie and our daughter played and skated together every Friday for a couple of years, at least. Debbie's family was hard to get to know. Her grandmother brought her and her siblings each week, and despite my attempts at friendliness, was not interested in interacting with me. At first, the adults even turned their heads away from me when I greeted them. After about a year, they would just look at me. We never progressed to nods or smiles. 

I understand this unfriendliness. It is steeped in generations of abuse of the Jicarilla Apache people by outsiders. It is grounded in the fact that the White Americans slaughtered many of the Jicarilla in attempts to "civilize" the Natives. It is present due to the forced sterilization of many Jicarilla women through the 1970s. (Yes, the 1970s!) I never took it personally, and I believe it would've been a mistake to do so. 

But...

BUT...

Debbie and her siblings came to AWANA Camp! They were there every single day. They were happy to be there. And every day at drop-off, I was there in the parking lot to welcome them to AWANA Camp. Every day, I greeted them with a smile and a wave to Grandma's vehicle.
And one morning, mid-week-ish, the driver's window rolled down and a hand stuck out to return my wave.  Read that again; it's exciting! Grandma waved at me! At White, outsider, me. 

That is God's work. That is what ministry on the rez looks like. Four years of smiling, waving, quiet relationship work. And it is worth every second.

Thank you for your support of the ministry here.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Slippery Slope


 Our family just returned from an adventure in the Grand Canyon. 42 years ago, my stepdad took me on my first vacation... to the Grand Canyon. I'd never been much of anywhere, and this trip opened the world to me!

So when we had the opportunity to hike to the bottom of the Canyon with my stepdad, stay two nights at Phantom Ranch, and climb back out of the Canyon, I jumped on it. Our 10-year-old hikes a lot with me, and my husband runs marathons, so I wasn't too worried about our ability to make the hike. My stepdad had just done it in March, so we knew he was able to make it. I thought we were golden...

We got up very early on the day of our trek down, grabbed an expensive McDonald's breakfast, and got to the trailhead. We were "all optimism" at this point, looking forward to the 7-mile hike to Phantom Ranch. The beginning of the trip was cool, quick, and fun.

It got hotter, of course, as the sun rose in the sky. It also gets hotter as you descend the canyon. In some places, the rock walls are darker in color and radiate heat in addition to the sun's. We got a bit tired, rested regularly, and continued down. About 4.5 miles down, I began to feel exhausted. I slowed everyone down. Finally, my stepdad took off to drop his backpack at the bottom, planning to return to carry my backpack for me.

The footing was very rough along the South Kaibab trail. I began to have difficulty staying steady. I was drinking regularly and eating as much as I could. I didn't feel sick or cold, both signs of heat exhaustion. I was just exhausted, I thought. My husband lagged behind a bit because of the unsteady footing, as my daughter and I struggled down the canyon. We were getting low on water and were trying to conserve.

About 5.5 miles down the trail, I was suddenly and completely unable to breathe. I gasped in, trying to get air, and made a whistling squeak. My daughter laughed and said, "Who's making that funny sound?" I collapsed on the trail, grabbing for my inhaler as I realized I was in the midst of the worst asthma attack I'd ever had. I couldn't even breathe in enough air to breathe in the medicine. It was terrifying for both of us!

I continued to try to inhale the medicine, getting a little improvement each time. I was able to avoid totally blacking out, but only barely. By this time, I had crawled into a small piece of shade, and my husband had caught up with us. He told me to stay in the shade while he took our daughter to Grandpa, dropped his pack, and came back for me. I had to promise that I wouldn't try to stand up, not that I felt capable of such a thing.

I crawled a little farther down the trail to some deeper shade, leaving my pack behind. There were three people in the small circle of shade, but they welcomed me. In fact, they brought my pack down and arranged it so I could put my feet up on it. I immediately fell asleep or passed out; I honestly don't know which. The people were still there when I woke up. They said they were staying with me until my husband arrived. I thanked them and we prayed together. We all rested for another stretch of time, with time being so distorted for me that I don't have any idea of how long.

Eventually, they saw my husband down the trail, running our way. They took off, saying they would give three whistles when they met him so I would know how long it would be. Hearing those three whistles was awesome! My husband had brought water with him, which I drank thirstily. He had left our daughter with Grandpa, who had also gotten exhausted.

It took me two hours, ten doses of medicine, and a lot of assistance to reach the bottom of the canyon. I wheezed the entire way and collapsed into the creek to cool off. The trip, which was supposed to have taken 4-6 hours, had taken a total of more than 10 hours for me.

I had learned a lot: First, I did have exercise-induced asthma, even though I'd always thought I only had allergy-induced asthma. Second, the first symptom of my exercise-induced asthma seemed to be a feeling of complete exhaustion. If I used my rescue inhaler at that point, I could probably avoid the extreme asthma attack. Third, this was my first and last hiking trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I had spent a lot of time praying during that hike. I had spent a lot of time thinking while I sat in the shady space with my helpers. It seemed to me like this hike was a lot like the slippery slope of being captured by sin. The place I had found myself, completely at the mercy of my asthma, had seemed like such a surprise. I had no idea why my body was struggling so, just like we often have no idea why our lives are becoming increasingly difficult as we slip into sin. It's only when our whole lives collapse that we recognize the signs that marked our sin problem.

There are signs, both of asthma and of being overtaken by sin. We have to watch for them! We must stay awake and be ready! (Luke 12:35) For me, knowing the signs of my exercise-induced asthma opened my eyes to many times when I had been experiencing asthma symptoms without realizing it (over the course of several years). As Christians, we must pray that God will open our eyes to the signs of  our slippery slide into sinfulness. We must be diligent in our examination of our lives. And we must act when we see signs of sin.

Because I was aware of the asthma signs, I was able to hike out of the Canyon after a day of planned rest. It took a long time, 14 doses of medication, and some help with my pack, but I made it without any collapses or acute asthma symptoms. Even though it rained for about 3 miles, making us really cold, and the trail was almost twice as long (but mostly less steep and more shaded), we all did it!

God is good.

PS I will be seeing my doctor in about a week to discuss managing my asthma better.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Rez Reality

Image result for silhouettes of sad childrenIn the past 48 hours, at least nine children (two sibling groups) here on the Jicarilla Apache Nation have lost a parent. We know and love many of these children, and listening to them sob at their devastating loss is heartbreaking.

The saddest thing is that this isn't anything unusual, really. The number of children here who have lost a parent is staggering. Most of these deaths involve alcohol. That's a grim reality here. Suicide is another main cause of death among young adults. We know a number of children who have been with their parent when s/he died or have found their parent dead.

The pain is cumulative. I know I've said this before, but it's so deeply true. There is a family we know who has lost 4 close relatives in less than 2 years, not all to substance abuse. We know children who have lost both parents to alcohol abuse. We know grandparents who are raising grandchildren from 2 or 3 of their incapacitated or deceased adult children. A young-thirties mom recently told me that 12 of her graduating class from high school had passed away. 12 out of 52! More than 20% of those graduates have already passed away, many with young children.

There comes a point when these children and youth give up hope of anything better. They become resigned to grief and loss. Their prayers reflect their fears: "Please, God, watch over my mom because she's gone away, and I know she's drinking." "Heavenly Father, keep my dad from doing something bad and going to jail again."

We try to teach them that God will always be with them. That they are never alone. That Jesus loves them, and so do we. I've hugged kids who were sobbing about the death of their beloved uncle. I've comforted kids because their intoxicated father had kept them up all night. I've watched kids carry around a big backpack of stuff because someone at home might sell it to get money for alcohol.

These are the kids in AWANA and Sunday School and who play at the parsonage with our daughter. These are the kids to whom we try to show the hope of Jesus Christ and the love of God. These are the kids who receive the Bibles that are donated to AWANA. These are the kids you support when you pray, donate, or volunteer to serve.

If you would like to understand more of what happens on the reservation, read Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues. It fits with our experiences in many ways.

If you would like to help us serve these children and youth, contact me on email at robinlynnekautz@gmail.com

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A New Season

You may have  noticed that I have written less in the past few months. You may also have noticed that I have written almost nothing about stained glass in the past couple of years. Life has changed quite a bit; I think of it as a new season of my life.

This season has little time for glass. I've been homeschooling our 10 yr old since she was four. As she has gotten older, it takes more and more time to get through all the subjects she needs to get learn. In addition, I'm helping with the ministry here in Dulce. Each week, I mow for about 6 hours, spend 2-4 hours in our children's ministry, and teach 11 students science for 4 hours.

This coming summer, we are hosting at least four mission groups for about a week each. We love mission groups and are deeply grateful for the work they accomplish; it's just busy! And it seems the longer we're here in Dulce, the more groups we host. This is awesome and positive, but busy.

In addition, I am now full-time homeschooling four Jicarilla children in addition to our own daughter. It's good. It's meaningful. It's important, and I love it. And it's busy.

A few months back, our family was preparing to adopt three of our daughter's birth siblings. It looked like they were in need of a permanent home, and we were adjusting our lives to include a 4 1/2 year old, a 3 1/2 year old, and a 10 month old. It turned out that they were able to return home safely, and we are delighted about that. But while we were in the process of preparing for them, I decided that my glass studio, which wasn't being used much at all, could be given to someone to make room for extra children.

I asked some friends if they knew of anyone who wanted to do stained glass, especially someone who would honor God in their work, and I met a man who wanted to expand his wood-working to include glass-work. He is a Christian, and he was ecstatic to have a ready-made glass studio. So, when we realized we weren't going to expand our family, I prayed about it and decided to go ahead with the bequeathing of the studio. My new friend insisted on paying me, and it turned out that my daughter and I needed to make an emergency trip to Minnesota to help my parents after surgeries. Without that money, we couldn't have afforded to make the trip. God provides.

So, the bottom line is: I am no longer a glass artist. And that's more than okay with me. I have many, many other interests and pulls on my time. I loved being a glass artist in its season, but I am very excited to have the space for a reading nook. My students and I need a little more space for our daily silent reading!

I have already legally closed my glass business and taken down my website. I will be closing my Facebook page for A Glimpse of Grace within the week. If you want to follow my life as a missionary, teacher, kayaker, Christian, mom... Please "Follow" me on my blog if you're not my FB friend. I will continue to blog!

I thank you for your loving support and interest in this blog and my glass work. I look forward to this season of my life, too. May God bless you in every way.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ministry on the Rez

Did you ever wonder what ministry looks like in Dulce, NM?

I can guarantee that it often doesn't look much like ministry in many places I've attended church. Sure, some things are the same: Sunday services, children's programs, the occasional wedding, hospital visitations, and funerals. My role, as pastor's wife, includes parts in some of those events. I help lead the children's programs and sometimes read Scripture or greet on Sundays.

However, much of what happens in Dulce is quite different from how I've seen ministry in other places. A good example of this kind of ministry happened a few weeks ago. It started with a knock on the back door while my husband was away...

I stopped my lesson plan preparations and went to the door. Seeing a man who occasionally stops by for some food, often while intoxicated, I grabbed my house keys and told my 10 year old, "I'm going out to talk to someone. I'm locking the door." I didn't lock the door because I'm afraid of this man; I locked the door because I am protective of our daughter. Alcohol affects decision-making, and I never want her to pay the price for my choices.

The man did want something to eat, so I left him on our comfortable patio with shade and a bench and came back inside to make some sandwiches. I told my daughter that I was making a lunch for this man, and she pitched in to peel some carrots. I left her back inside while I took a plate out to our visitor.

I pulled out a lawn chair and sat opposite the man after I handed him the plate. He said, "You're going to sit here with me? You don't have to." After reassuring him that I indeed wanted to sit with him, he made comments about how nice I was. I tried turned his thoughts to why I chose to sit with him: This is what Jesus tells us to do in the Bible. Feed the hungry. Visit the prisoner. Touch the untouchable. I sat with him because it is what Jesus wants me to do, and I am being changed by Jesus every day. It was not a burden to sit with the man and talk to him while he ate.

And that is the biggest experience I've had with ministry on the Rez:  I  am being changed. I didn't begrudge the two hours I spent talking with this man. I don't sit with my lonely elderly friend wishing I were somewhere else or that I could extract myself quickly. I don't bemoan my commitment to the time our children's program fills.  Jesus is changing my heart, opening my life to service that I never expected.

During those two hours on the back patio with this intoxicated man, we spoke of the Bible (He knows a lot about Scripture!), his life choices (He knows that he could do so much more.), and death (He was grieving the loss of a friend.). I don't know if those two hours made any difference to his eternal state, but I know they made a difference to mine. Christ used my humble sandwiches and time to serve the needs of another, and blessed me in the process. I pray that He will continue to work in my life to serve others here in Dulce.

Praise God!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fear Not.

I haven't written much in the past 6 weeks. I have thought very much, but I haven't written much. That's because I haven't had a clue of what to say. What do you say about a government that invents "alternative facts"? What do you say to a populace in which many believe those facts? What do you say when you're a Christian, one of the categories of people counted upon as supporters of this crazy, press-blocking, twittering government?

It's mucky out there these days!
I realize one of the problems I have in responding is that I have two lenses to look through that affect what I think and want to say: I am a proud American citizen, and I am a Bible-believing Christian. Sometimes, the two lenses are in alignment; sometimes they're not. In this particular case, there is no conflict for me: Donald Trump's America offends me as an American and as a Christian.

As an American, I agree with Rep. Darrell Issa in calling for an independent special prosecutor to investigate the Trump Administration's ties to, and vulnerability to, Russia. I cry out, as an American, about the blocking of certain credentialed reporters' access to a presidential news conference, seemingly because of their criticism of President Trump.

America has long been a land of immigrants. In light of the humanitarian crises in several Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, my American roots demand the acceptance and succor of refugees. Certainly, we want security vetting of those we accept, but accept them we should.

I believe that President Trump must account for his potential conflicts of interest. Nothing in his past or his present ethics makes me trust that he will act for the benefit of the American people instead of his own economic gain, and there are clearly perceived conflicts of interest to account for. He should be transparent and open, releasing his tax returns, creating a blind trust, and purposefully distancing himself from his business empire.

And as a Christian? How do I speak as a Christian?

In favor of the refugee and the oppressed, because Christ calls us to care for "the least of these."

In favor of praying for our government, even if it was not our preference at the election, because we are called to pray for our leaders in 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

And, as I was reminded of this morning by a lifelong Christian friend, I need to remember to "Fear Not."

All is in God's hands. Even Trump and his twisted presidency. Over 360 times in the Bible, God reassures us that we need not fear. No matter what the circumstances of our lives. In good times and bad. In security and insecurity.

Fear Not, America. Resist, yes. But don't be afraid. This is in God's hands. Fight for truth. Fight for the refugee and the oppressed. Stand up for Right. But do not be afraid.



P.S. On a totally different piece of this puzzle, I urge you to inform yourself regarding the current events in our country. Read from the Right. Read from the Left. Don't believe the veracity of anything until you have confirmed the facts. Go to the primary sources, as I have told my students for 3 decades. Read what the people involved are saying, on both sides. Try to find objective news sources, which is extremely difficult right now. But inform yourself.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Representative Sean Duffy

On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Representative Sean Duffy (R-Wis) was interviewed by CNN's Alisyn Camerota. The subject of the interview was the White House's claim that the media were intentionally refusing to cover terrorist attacks. The interview can be watched in part here. I watched the video because I was interested in hearing the Republican view on this topic. I'd already read an article from the Left. I am intentionally trying to listen to "both sides" of issues, and I'm finding it very interesting.

This interview, though, took a turn that horrified me. Representative Duffy insisted that Islamic Extremist Terrorism was more valid, more important, more real than any other threat we Americans face. He argued this despite the interviewer's attempts to bring his attention to White Supremacist Terrorism, like the attack on a mosque in Quebec City last week.

Rep Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin) actually said (at 1:44 on the video, about the attack on the Charleston church that left 6 Black men and women dead), “Look at the good things that came from it! Nikki Haley took down the Confederate flag; that was great!”

Seriously, Rep Duffy? You can look at the taking down of the Confederate flag like the attack and the 9 deaths were worth it?  I can’t begin to fathom the depth of callous disregard for the life of African Americans that it takes to think that.


“There’s no constant threat that goes through these attacks (attacks from White Extremists)," Rep. Duffy insisted.

Um… no constant threat if you’re White. I am appalled at the White Privilege Duffy enjoys and ignores to be able to say there is no constant threat from White Supremacists’ attacks. Ask my African American daughter if she feels a constant threat. Ask her friend Phil Castillo… Oh, but you can’t because he’s dead. Ask his girlfriend. Ask his children. Ask any parent of a Black teenage male. Ask the congregation of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Mississippi. Ask the families of the nine victims in Charleston, WV.

It is nearly impossible to find unbiased news right now, so I am trying to read and listen to and watch primary sources. This is what I encourage my students to do in order to discern what is true; take the filters away and try to interpret the events themselves. So I watched the interview myself. I urge you to do the same. 

For me, the bottom line in this interview was that Representative Sean Duffy (R) from Wisconsin, clearly established that he has no understanding of the threat of White Supremacy, that he holds no affinity for his African American neighbors, and that he does not recognize his own White Privilege.

Wake up, Rep. Duffy. We, the People, are watching. Listening. Evaluating. And we will be voting. 


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Where Does A Christian Stand?

Wow. What a couple of days in our country! We saw the end of one presidency, the beginning of another, and a day filled with protests around the world. There were also riots, big changes to whitehouse.gov, and lots of insults hurled on social media.

Where does a Christian stand in these times? I imagine that's a question that has been asked by many Christians of themselves in many times of history and in many places around the world. I see some on the Left accusing all Christians of being short-sighted, mean-hearted, and narrow-minded. I see some on the Right accusing the protesters of betraying their faith. And I've seen many faithful Christians unhappy about being excluded from the Women's March due to not being "pro-life."

Where does a Christian stand?

I know without a doubt that I am to pray for our leaders. The Bible states in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." At this moment in history, the elected leaders of America are distasteful to me, But the kings of New Testament times were actively hostile to the Jews and Christians, and Timothy told people to pray for them. So, I will pray for Donald Trump and Michael Pence. I urge you to do so, as well.

I also know that Jesus expects Christians to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick/imprisoned. (Matthew 25:31-46) Therefore, I will continue to work for the oppressed, the poor, the downtrodden. Jesus says to do this. He doesn't ask whether the woman at the well (John 4:4-26) is open to His teaching or is in good standing with her local synagogue; He simply talks to her. She doesn't have to meet some standard before He will reach out to her.

I will not pre-select those who are worthy of my help, my attention, or my compassion. Jesus refers to "the least of these," meaning the most unimportant, the least powerful, those rejected by the establishment. Our family resides on the Jicarilla Apache Nation, one of the many Native Nations in this country who struggle to be heard. My friends here have myriad sorrows, corporately and individually. I will continue to bring the hope of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, to them. I will continue to teach my students with equality, fairness, and excellence.

As for the politics of gender, orientation, marriage, protecting the unborn, my religious beliefs do not affect what should be true in a secular democracy: Each person should be able to make a choice to sin or not to sin. My religion should not be forced upon a secular nation. And as I have said before, I do not want to live in a theocracy because my beliefs will not necessarily align with the leaders' beliefs. I believe we should each be free to worship (or not) as we see fit.

Even though I am clearly a Christian, I do not see that my beliefs (or anyone else's) should be the law of the land. If you or I believe that abortion is a sin, you or I can fight to provide alternatives to abortion, to support families unready to raise a child, and to protect children from abuse. If I (or you) believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, I (or you) can participate in a church that shares that belief. We can educate our children with our own values. We can even choose to influence them more by homeschooling or by having our children attend a private school. If we are not in a position to accomplish that, we can reach out for scholarships or assistance.

Where does a Christian stand in these days?

Against violence. For the unheard.

That's my answer today. I will remain vigilant, watching for abuses. I will remain hopeful, expecting good. I will remain prayerful, praying for wisdom and peace. I will remain active, working for those things in which I believe. I pray you will do the same.