Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sunday Afternoon at the Park

This little neighborhood park, just a few minutes' walk from our apartment, has recently become a favorite place to get some fresh air and burn off some energy on the weekends.

Then again...who needs a playground when you have a perfectly good dresser at home?! :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Comfort Food: GF Apple Pie

On the day my family left Taiwan, I felt pretty blue.

"It's okay," Kalan told me. "I have a day of surprises planned to cheer you up."

The first surprise was making gluten-free apple pie! Micah helped...

...and the mess was worth the smiles and giggles.

MMMmmm. Comfort on a plate.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Family Visit

Last week, my parents and siblings came to Taiwan! We had not seen each other for almost two being together again at last was wonderful. We gave them the full Taiwanese experience: visiting temples, Taipei 101, hot springs, KTV, my school, the coast, the night market, C.K.S. Memorial Hall, the open-air market, and of course, eating lots of Chinese food!

We're so thankful we got to share our Taiwan life with my family. Now they don't feel quite so far away, though we still miss them greatly.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Berenstain Bears and Biblical Parenting

For my Theology and Secular Psychology class, I recently wrote a paper on The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies, by Jan and Stan Berenstain. Our assignment was to identify points of contact with their behavioral therapy model and then reinterpret their cares and concerns through a Biblical lens. Here's part of my paper. Feedback is welcomed, especially from parents who have tried to live this out. :)

I found that while The Berenstain Bears share my concern for healthy family relationships, addressing common parenting dilemmas, and giving parenting solution that work, their parenting model ultimately fails. It does not provide an accurate diagnosis of their children’s problem, a sustainable cure for their children’s souls, or a desirable outcome for their children’s lives.

First of all, The Berenstain Bears books appeal to the value of healthy family relationships. “The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies” starts off with an affirmation of the family members’ love for one another. Mama Bear rightfully affirms that parents are responsible “to help [children] understand why it’s important not to be greedy.” Later in the book, experienced grandparents kindly share their wisdom, and encourage the parents to humbly identify with their kids. This aligns with the Christian truth that parents are responsible to “train up their children in the way they should go.”

Secondly, the Berenstain Bears honestly deal with practical parenting problems. They correctly identify the harmful materialistic images that bombard our children and tempt them to greed (such as television commercials). Furthermore, they paint a vivid, specific picture of childish misbehavior (the tantrum in the grocery store). The Christian can relate to such parenting dilemmas and affirm that the voices of the world are indeed tempting.

Thirdly, the Berenstains present parenting solutions that work. When the parents offer the cubs a reward in exchange for not throwing a tantrum, it works. The cubs feel happy and the parents feel happy. Christians also hope to raise children who practice self-control and proper social behavior.

However, while the Berenstains affirm many Christian values, their parenting model is completely unchristian. The Berenstains’ view of reality is totally devoid of sin, Christ, and redemption! As a result, their parenting model is inherently flawed and fails to see the problem, solution, and outcome clearly.

First, the Berenstains’ diagnosis of the problem is only partially correct. The parents’ indulgence and tempting TV commercials enable the children’s greed, but they are not its source. The truth is that we humans (big or small) fight and throw tantrums when we want things too much (James 4:1). The problem is sin in the children. Because the Berenstains define greed devoid of sin and personal responsibility, there is no need for a Savior.

Second, the Berenstains’ solution to the problem creates behavior management, but neglects real personal change. When Papa talks to the cubs, he shares truisms like, “Selfish, greedy cubs can never by happy” and talks about the importance of counting their blessings, but he fails to teach the cubs how to become content with what they have. Instead, the parents teach the children how to manipulate to get things they want. The children become self-righteous and greedy, as is exemplified by the sister’s judgmental comment at the end of the story. Additionally, the Berenstains only focus on the cubs and fail to address Papa’s problems of self-righteousness and lack of love toward his children that results in empty threats and angry outbursts. The Berenstains seem to be satisfied with well-behaved cubs who won’t embarrass them in public instead of hoping for real transformation in their cubs leading to contentment and generosity.

Finally, this parental model of manipulation through rewards is only sustainable if the parents are increasingly able to provide a more desirable reward in exchange for their children’s’ good behavior. Furthermore, it does nothing to prepare the children to handle greedy desires after they live outside the realm of parental control.

Christians must recognize these above deficiencies and address them if we wish to ‘set the story straight.’ First, Papa and Mama Bear need to examine themselves honestly and repent of their self-righteousness, love of comfort, love of control, and desire for others’ approval. These sins are the root of their indulgent, inconsistent parenting. As they recognize their need for Christ’s redemption, they will be able to lovingly confront their children’s’ sins with courage and humility.

Second, Papa Bear needs to explain the true nature of “The Gimmies” (using the James 4:1 idea above). “The Gimmies” are sent from the enemy to control us; we need to fight back! Papa must explain contentment, and what it means to enjoy things properly. Most importantly, Papa must explain that Jesus died for the cubs so that they could be set free from “The Gimmies.” God will help you fight! Papa can guide them to pray, tell God they are sorry, and ask the Holy Spirit for help.

Finally, Papa and Mama need to hope in the promise of glorious redemption for their children. Instead of settling for well-behaved, self-righteous cubs, they ought to aim for joyfully content, radically generous cubs who genuinely love others. Perhaps they could encourage this by starting a family budgeting project so that they can buy winter coats for a neighbor family whose father just lost his job.

Biblical parenting takes much more effort and creativity than the Berenstains’ model. But it addresses our children’s’ real need for a Redeemer to save them from sin, and helps them move toward transformation into His glorious image.