Hands Free Mama on school tragedies in a family context.
Each year, Gerber, the baby food manufacturer, holds a “cute baby” photo contest, the winner of which receives a $50,000 cash prize and may appear as a “spokesbaby” to advertise the company’s products. Media coverage of the contest is usually limited to sweet human-interest pieces. Not this year. The contest made huge news when Lucas Warren, a child with Down syndrome, was named the Gerber Baby of 2018.
Notably, the news about Lucas was received with virtually unanimous praise. With a few exceptions—such as the Special Olympics and Tim Tebow’s “Night to Shine” prom dance celebrating people with developmental disabilities—positive depictions of people with Down are all too rare. Those with Down syndrome are more often the victims of what can fairly be described as a “cleansing”—a concerted international effort to see them wiped off the face of the earth through eugenic abortion.
If that seems harsh, consider these facts. Iceland brags—yes, that is the proper verb—that no babies with Down are born there because of prenatal testing and subsequent termination. Denmark has been accused of establishing a zero Down syndrome birthrate as a national public policy goal, though this is denied by its government; but what can’t be denied is that only four such babies were born there in 2016. Here in the United States, about 90 percent of fetuses diagnosed with Down are aborted. Parents of these unborn babies have reported that genetic counselors often push the abortion option. The problem was so pronounced that back in 2008, politically opposed senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS, now the State Department’s ambassador for religious freedom) joined together to push a law through Congress requiring neutrality in genetic counseling.
Good dog parents might think they’re doing their part by using biodegradable baggies to pick up after their pooches. But after Fido’s feces go in the trash can and to a landfill, they release methane gas, a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect. A dog park in Cambridge, Mass., has a solution: Add in a methane digester, and let your dog waste power the streetlights, tea cart and popcorn machine.
The Park Spark methane digester, unveiled this week, only powers a streetlight for now — no poop-powered popcorn yet. But it’s a neat concept: Replace trash cans with a public methane digester, and you demonstrate how simple it can be to turn waste into fuel.
“As long as people own pets in the city and throw away dog waste, the production of energy will be continuous and unlimited,” the project’s Web site says.
The project involves three basic steps: Throw your dog’s waste into the digester, where anaerobic bacteria are ready to break it down. Stir the mixture to help methane rise to the top, and burn the methane to generate light or electricity.
There’s no shortage of Olympic-athletes-and-their-faith stories coming out these days and for the most part, they’re decent stories.
There’s Gina Dalfonzo’s wrap-up of Christian athletes at the event for Christianity Today; a piece on Jewish athletes from the Jewish News of Northern California; Al Jazeera’s article on the lack of an Islamic prayer room for Olympians and so on.
But USA Today’spiece on the former speed skater who became a nun isn’t one of those well-written stories. Although datelined South Korea, the locale is in northern England, which throws off most readers at the start.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – At a community ice rink in the northern English city of Bradford, the security attendant had a bit of a dilemma. She had already remonstrated with a group of teenage boys for larking about, skating too quickly and endangering other visitors, and now there was another speedster hurtling around the rink, even faster.
Except that this time the customer powering around the ice, executing gliding turns and weaving in and out of human traffic wasn’t joking around and carried a focused look of remembrance.
And she was wearing a nun’s habit.
Eventually Kirstin Holum, or Sr. Catherine of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, was stopped by the guard and asked to slow down, which she did without complaint.
The story doesn’t say any more about this New York-based order, founded 30 years ago this year, that has attracted quite a youthful following and is growing while many other religious orders are not. That might be worth a sentence.
In 1998 at Nagano, American long track speedskating was excited about the emergence of a potential new star. Holum, whose mother Dianne won Olympic gold in 1972 and coached Eric Heiden to five golds in 1980, not only came from skating royalty but, at 17, had already shown remarkable prowess in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter events, disciplines that typically favor older performers who are fully matured. She would place an impressive sixth in the 3,000 and seventh in the 5,000, but would never lace up another Olympic skate.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t go into much detail after that, only saying that many people didn’t realize she was a former speed skater and that she hasn’t watched much in the way of speed skating in many years. One learns that the reporter gathered the facts of the story during a phone interview while the nun was recently in the United States. The two didn’t even meet face to face.
If you wish to learn more about this nun, turn to instead this ABC-TV feature or this blog post. And this story, which says a trip to the Catholic shrine of Fatima in Portugal is what made Holum decided to take the veil. And a story in Free Republic that says it was meeting women from the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal at a World Youth Day in Toronto that drew her to that order.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A local 21-year-old wanting to provide for his young daughter would walk 11 miles a day for work.
The UPS employee’s co-workers came together to surprise him with his first car.
The employee says nearly everyday he would get up in the middle of the night and walk about five and a half miles to work. He would have to be there at 4 a.m.
Sometimes he would get rides, but most of the time he would walk. That was until his co-workers gave him four wheels.
On his two feet, Trenton Lewis walks to the UPS center in Little Rock.
“I don’t want to miss work at all,” Trenton said.
While he didn’t have a car, he had a new job.
“I wanted to be with my daughter, to be able to support her. I wanted to be a father,” Trenton said .
For about the last seven months, he would wake up at midnight and walk.
He would leave his house on Ringo, walk down Roosevelt Rd. to get to the UPS center. That’s about five and a half miles away. All this, to clock in on time.
“I made it to work. I was never late,” Trenton said. “Doing this for my daughter, that’s all.”
“If someone has that type of determination, I’d be willing to help them,” UPS clerk Kenneth Bryant said. “We just wanted to lend somebody a helping hand.”
Trenton didn’t tell many people how he got to the office, but Kenneth Bryant found out.
“That’s a young man that wants to work and will do what ever it takes to be successful,” Kenneth said.
Kenneth started asking around to see if coworkers would pitch in and buy Trenton a car.
The myth of modern romantic love, from First Things [HT: JS]:
A collection of Einstein’s letters auctioned off in 1996 contains afor his wife, Maliva Maric. The list includes daily laundry “kept in good order,” “three meals regularly in my room,” a desk maintained neatly “for my use only,” and the demand that she quit talking or leave the room “if I request it.” The marriage ended in divorce, but the list lives on as an illustration not only of Einstein’s darker domestic side, but also of assumptions commonly held about marriage in 1914.
Compared with Einstein’s requirements, modern marital expectations have surely evolved for the better. Or have they? Anby Sarah K. Balstrup theorizes that as people abandon religious institutions, they start expecting romantic relationships to satisfy a host of needs that formerly were satisfied through religion. If you think clean laundry and regular meals require effort, try meeting the demands of relationship-worship circa 2018 by providing transcendence, unconditional love, wholeness, meaning, worth, and communion.
The Western fixation on romantic love creates a crushing burden for mere mortals. It engenders a powerful myth regarding love, courtship, and marriage: that a fallible human partner can not only share our passions but sate our existential yearnings. Contemporary couples expect much more from marriage than it can realistically deliver, a phenomenon noted by social psychologists. As Eli Finkel of Northwestern University, “most of us will be kind of shocked by how many expectations and needs we’ve piled on top of this one relationship.”
A method of handling discipline issues that one middle school started experimenting with four years ago has been so successful that all Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools are adopting the system.
McDougle Middle School saw major discipline referrals drop nearly 75 percent the year it started Restorative Practices techniques, which focus on repairing relationships. And the method quickly proved useful not just for discipline but for academics and dealing with disruptions to the school day.
“I think we do talk about the discipline portion of it and how it changes school culture in that regard,” said Stephen Rayfield, a language arts teacher and part of the two-person team that brought restorative practices to the school.
“But I would encourage everyone who knows anything about restorative practices not to discount the academic qualities,” he continued. “Because it has changed my practice as an educator, as a leader and as a human.”
Restorative Practices draws from Native American and African traditions, Rayfield said. A big part is restorative circles, where the wronged and accused come together to discuss how to deal with an offense, or where a whole class can get together to discuss something.
McDougle held circles in every class the day after the Nov. 8 presidential election, a move that the school had planned no matter who won.
In a circle, said Wendy York, McDougle behavior and academic support specialist who also helped bring Restorative Practices to the school, the focus becomes relationships, not just punishment or who’s right or wrong.
“You can express your opinion,” McDougle sixth-grader Julia DePinto said. “I think it makes it much more friendly and open. If people have problems they know they can talk about them.”
We who serve as pastors often think about ministering to adults, but we don’t spend enough time thinking about how we can minister to the children in our congregation. Pastors, consider these possibilities:
- Learn their names. Calling them “brother” and “sister” when we don’t know their names simply won’t work with children. Respect them enough to call them by name, and you’ll gain some friends.
- Get to eye level when talking with them. If we want them to look up to us, let it be because they respect us—not because they literally have to look up to get our attention. Get down on one knee, and look children in the eye.
- Spend time with them outside the pulpit. Stop by their children’s church or Sunday school classes. Walk the children’s department hallway prior to the service (paying attention to security rules, of course). Hang out with the kids during a churchwide fellowship. Go to the annual children’s camp. These children will listen better to your preaching if they know you personally.
- Pray for them by name. Some children in your church probably have no one consistently praying for them, including their parents. So, you might be the only adult interceding for some children in your church.
- Invite them into your sermons by using illustrations that capture their attention.Intentionally draw them in first with simple statements like, “Kids, I really want you to listen to this story.” To be honest, an illustration that grabs the children will grab the adults as well.
- Hang out at their sporting events. I know that’s a time commitment, but kids and parents alike are excited when their pastor comes to watch a game. Plus, few things are as fun as watching a t-ball game….
- Train their parents well. Too often, our parental training is reactive as we try to help parents who are facing tough issues – rather than proactive as we help train them to love and lead their children. If we’re only responding to concerns, though, we’re not leading well.
Pastors and parents, what would you add to this list?