Monthly Archives: July 2018

Foster Parenting Lesson 301: Vegans and Chicken Nuggets

Something I was reminded of during foster parenting training at Methodist Home for Children was about food insecurity. Food insecurity is something you and I probably have not actually experienced, aside from a delayed meal because of a meeting that went too long or the preacher preached too long on Sunday. Food insecurity derives from a constant exposure to an environment that lacks substantial nourishing food. A child, who hasn’t the means necessary to meet its needs, experiences food insecurity in a profound way. As a result, when a child comes to stay with a foster family the child may be prone to gorging themselves, not realizing that there will be another meal in the near future or even squirreling away food in their bedroom as a way to ensure that there will be something to eat. Such habits are hard to fathom, for how full are your cupboards with food?  

One foster parent shared how they will have freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for the child when he or she arrives. The aroma alone communicates welcome, warmth, and security.  Unfortunately, neither my wife or I bake. But we could offer Oreos. Which leads me to the place of creative problem solving. To meet children where they are at, and the most pressing needs, takes problem solving, something I’m any of you parents or grandparents knows about.  

Frist, the problem.  My wife and I are vegans (meaning we do not eat any meat or dairy). Shocker, I know.  Even more shocking, Oreos are vegan. I digress. Knowing that the child or children we may be placed with come from such food scarce environments, how should we address their needs for food?  Will we offer them our vegan delicacies? Or will we relearn how to cook meat? How will that work? Though not having all the answers to each particular case, I know that the primary need of the child is to feel secure. I cannot speak into that child’s life in a positive way if he or she is terrified of not having food or shelter or clothing. Meeting those needs are utmost important.  So the food I offer must be something he or she will eat. So if they will only eat chicken nuggets with ketchup and a side of Mac & Cheese, that’s what she will get. But you and I know that such a diet will not sustain a growing human body well or for long. So in addition to such a meal an alternate meal will also be offered too, such as a good salad with fake chicken OR black bean tacos OR fruit salad OR I could go on and on (frankly I’m getting hungry just thinking about all the delicious option so I’ll stop.)  

And now the solution. So the answer is..drum roll… both/and. We’ll provide what she will eat now and something we hope she will eat in time. Given time, and modeled well, children learn healthier habits as they see them firsthand in our lives.  Remember, Foster Parenting 101? Behavior is learned and therefore can be changed. Just as I hope the child will learn healthier eating habits, I hope, given time, and observed in our (this is the big “our” which includes you) lives the children will come to know Christ’s love and accept God’s love for them.  

Meeting children where they are at determines the kind of care each one will receive.  In a similar but not exact way, God meets us where we are at in our lives to provide for each of us the kind of love and care we need. God’s grace, God’s prevenient, grace meets us where we are at.  God doesn’t wait for us to stumble into the pastor’s office or the church sanctuary to meet us and our needs for love and acceptance but in our homes, our kitchens, our work, our cars. Prevenient grace is the grace often referred to as “fortunate” or “good luck” or “coincidence” by those outside the Faith. As such occasions, little does the person know that it’s God saying I love you. It’s God meeting the person where they are at. God doesn’t want the person to stay in that place, sustained by “coincidence” but to be lead on to a sustaining relationship with Christ.  

Unlike food insecurity, God’s grace is never in short supply. It’s never scarce, never running short. The cupboard is always full and overflowing, the refrigerator stuffed. It’s always more than enough, always. You may feel like you’ve missed the boat. That God has given up on you or a family member who has yet to come to faith in Jesus. Yet, that’s the good news, God never gives up on us, never. God’s grace is always secure.God’s prevenient grace provides for us enough nourishment to carry on until we’re ready to accept the wholesome, life giving, nourishment of justifying grace. It’s the grace that sets us upon the path to becoming whole and holy, that is the sanctifying grace.  

So friend, in what ways has God met you on your own terms, in what ways have you been surprised by God’s grace? Such answers are the stuff that make for a good witness to a world which has yet to know God’s nourishing grace. So share the stories of God’s grace knowing that you are filling the souls of those around you with the nourishment of God’s grace.

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Foster Parenting 101; Behavior is Learned and Therefore can be Changed

As many of you know, my wife and I have gone through training to become foster parents through the Methodist Home for Children.  We hope to be eligible for foster children come July. Once we’re eligible, then much in the way like Jesus’ second coming, no one knows the day nor the hour when the phone call will come and we welcome into our home children in need of foster care.  I thought I’d share with you over the next couple of articles a few bits of wisdom I learned during the training. The number one principle I learned is that behavior is learned and therefore can be changed

The first, behavior is learned and therefore can be changed, derives from behavioral studies that have shown that we are formed into habits.  That is to say, children (and adults!) learn how to interact with the world through our parents, our teachers, our friends, and our society in general.  If behavior is learned, then it means that it can change. That’s hopeful, not just for children who have learned bad behavior but also for us adults who have also learned bad behavior.  

Artists and musicians will tell you the same. Someone desiring to become a musician will learn to play by imitating his or her teacher or some other master of that instrument.  For me, when i first began to learn how to play guitar, it was Dave Matthews. I studied how he played, learned the chords he used, played his songs in the same way. Over time, I found that had become in general a better guitar player capable of playing a variety of music.  If I had copied someone who knew little of the guitar or didn’t know how to play the guitar well, my ability to play well would substantially different.

The great apostle Paul also knew something about behavior and how it can be changed.  He repeatedly writes to faith communities to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Our behavior changes as we learn to imitate others good behavior.  What Behaviorists won’t tell you. but the Apostle Paul will, is that true transformation comes by and through the Spirit of God (See Romans, especially chapters 8 & 12). Jesus offers us the picture of one who completely and utterly follows God’s will.  Jesus offers us a pattern of behavior to follow but it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to be transformed.

Lacey and I are excited for this great opportunity to be foster parents.  We look forward to opening up our home to help care for children. Thank you for your prayers during this time of waiting and watching.  I’m excited for the changes and transformations that are to come. Pray that we will be open to the transforming work of the Spirit. I pray that you too will be open to God’s transforming work.  

 

Peace,

 

Rev. Matt Seaton

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Foster Parenting Lesson 201; Reconcilers not Rescuers

What’s the goal? Ever asked yourself that question? What’s the goal or point of this project or job? Or an even deeper question, what’s the point of life? What is it that you hope to achieve when the clock on your life has finally stopped ticking? (Wow! These questions escalated quickly!) As serious as that question might be, it’s an altogether important one to ask yourself, from time to time. It keeps you on the path towards the end. I was reminded of the importance of this question during foster parenting class training.

In our second class, the facilitators asked this very question in relation to foster parenting. What’s the goal of foster parenting? Is it to keep children safe by rescuing them from toxic situations? Or is it reunification with their biological parents? The goal, most agreed upon, was a little of both, to provide a safe, stable environment for children and reunification, if at all possible, with their biological parents. Though having agreed upon this goal, the way in which foster parenting happens the biological parent and the foster parent end up viewing each other as opposed to one another. The biological parent has his or her child taken from them by the state, without much notification, and then placed with strangers. The social worker is then viewed as aligned with the foster parents, though facilitating monthly visits, the social worker seems to be keeping a long list of ways in which the biological parent has failed to meet the standard of parenting. The foster parents, along with their friends and family, on the other hand, can easily come to view the biological parent as a threat to the child’s wellbeing and easily rationalize ways in which to prevent the child from reviving a healthy relationship with the biological parent. The social worker, here again, can be viewed as having sided with the biological parent as the social worker appears to be working towards returning the child to the originating parent. Hostility, anger, bitterness, resentment, and pain have quickly rushed in and made any sort of peace seemingly impossible.

At this moment, it’s good to take a deep breath.

In such a scenario, you’re probably asking yourself, what about the child?! What’s best for the child? Ah, ha! That’s the question. What’s the end goal of this entire process? It’s what’s best for the child. Rather than envisioning the above scenario, with it’s us versus them complexities, envision not a line in the sand separating one from the other but envision a circle of people surrounding the child, working towards providing the best for that child. Ideally, the child should live with her biological parents, because what child wouldn’t want to be with momma or daddy? Foster parents, friends, extended family members, and social workers aim to make this possible. No one should be estranged from their parents. But sometimes children cannot live with their parents because the situation is just too toxic. In these cases, adoption works best. That said, when you picture the goal as reunification, then the way in which you approach foster parenting changes. Foster parents are reconcilers not rescuers.

Our aim as Christians is reconciliation with God and one another. The finality of this world is the great reconciliation, when all things on heaven and on earth shall be fully restored and reconciled. Heaven is shorthand for this vision that Christians journey towards. Our work here and now, as we await Christ’s second coming, is towards reconciliation with one another, creation, and God. Just as children may not return to their orginiting families for some time, perhaps for a lifetime, so we may not be able to fully reconcile with some people now. It may not happen on this side of heaven. In such cases, forgiveness is emailed, texted, snail mailed, to the other until in the end heaven arrives. And here’s the point, God, in Jesus Christ, reconciles us to one another but does not finally rescue us from each other. Let’s learn to live with one another in love and reconciliation, refusing to imagine a world with a line in the sand, but a circle of all people surrounding in worship and adoration, the one who made peace for us through his death on a cross.

 

Peace,

 

Rev. Matt Seaton

 

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