I took the books that had been recommended here recently and created a couple Amazon lists that I added to our Resources section. The lists are -

Recommended Reading

Recommended Children's Books

These of course can be expanded as more people suggest resources, but I hope this can be a helpful start. Since this is a group blog that presents a variety of perspectives, these books represent that diversity. Some of them might present contradictory opinions on parenting and spiritual formation. That's okay and I hope we can learn from the variety of perspectives out there.

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posted by Julie at 9:26:00 AM | 4 comments
Yesterday around the blogworld a SynchroBlog was held that focused on the the topic of "a Christian response to Halloween." A SynchroBlog (synchronized blogging as it were) is where a bunch of people post on the same topic on the same day. It's fun to read the variety of responses one gets in these things. If you are interested in reading any of these posts, you can find my post here which included links to all the other posts.

But speaking of a Christian response to Halloween (whatever that means for you), I'd love to hear stories. What do you do with Halloween? Do you avoid it? Do you make it missional? If you participate - How do you celebrate? What are your favorite traditions? What costumes are you doing this year? etc...

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posted by Julie at 7:05:00 PM | 6 comments
I had originally posted this on my blog last summer, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss here. It's a rant, a bit extreme, but focused on a very real issue.

Okay serious rant to follow. What is with our country moving towards more and more discrimination. Entire groups of people are being banned from restaurants and public places. Reminiscent of the days of segregation, signs are being put up banning a certain demographic from eating or swimming in certain places. But instead of signs proclaiming "Whites Only" or "No Colored People Allowed" these signs state "No Children Allowed."

Apparently as the baby boomers kick their kids out of the house and more and more people are choosing to not have kids, they don't want to be bothered by other people's kids. They would rather not have to interact with that segment of the population and so are pushing for mandates and rules to protect themselves from children. I understand laws that prevent children from entering strip clubs or R rated movies, but this is going too far. It started in restaurants, private establishments that could discriminate as they choose. Then there were subdivisions (gated usually) that barred anyone under 18 from living there (and often even visiting). But now apparently public beaches in Illinois are banning children to meet the baby boomers' demands for comfort. If this PUBLIC beach had put up signs banning women, or Mexicans, or Muslims there would be huge public outcry and an avalanche of lawsuits. But the ban on children is being met with praise and thanks for the opportunity for the self-center to not have to deal with that pesky and annoying minority - children.

And that is what children are - a voiceless minority that is generally despised because they are not adults. I've become increasingly annoyed by the death glares I get if I bring my toddler into certain stores or restaurants. I'm sick of always being seated in the far back corner by the kitchen in restaurants. But to be denied access because baby boomers are living up to their label of being the "me generation" is just too much. And this isn't happening behind closed doors either. I've heard earfuls from empty nesters and the childless (usually bitchy bitter women at craft fairs) about how much they hate children. Stories of how they would spank strangers' children because the mom obviously wasn't going to give the kid the walloping they deserve for crying in a store. Or telling me that all restaurants should ban children or at least parents refrain from exposing other people to their children by eating out. As one lady put it, places like McDonald's exist if parents insist on eating out with kids. So abuse of children and encouraging childhood obesity are better options that making a self-centered adult spend time in the presence of a child.

My response - GET OVER YOURSELVES! Stop being self-centered jerks. Life is not all about you. Stop discriminating against children because you are too lazy to understand them or too selfish to care. Just FYI - I'll will continue to take my child out to eat and to play at the beach and no I won't hit them if they get too loud. I will not give into segregation and will do my best to be an advocate for the voiceless.

(amazingly enough I agree with Al Mohler on this one. Age segregated communities, churches, or societies are not healthy)

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posted by Julie at 8:00:00 AM | 19 comments
To OfferOne of the things I remember most fondly about my dad was his inclusion of the children in the church he pastored. He believed they should minister to the body of Christ in all the ways the grown-ups did. When Jesus said not to hinder the little children from coming to him, and that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these, my dad took him totally seriously. He was part of the Vineyard, so a big part of church was "ministry time," when folks who wanted prayer could receive it from one another. He always encouraged the kids to take part and pray for anyone, including the adults. I think he always felt honored if a child wanted to pray for him. He made time for even the littlest kid, getting low to the ground to their level, and he really, really listened, as if he believed that what they had to say was direct from Jesus himself.

When my dad died of pancreatic cancer, I'll never forget the number of children, teenagers and young adults at his funeral who were openly weeping. I realized that day how much it had meant to them that an adult, especially an authority figure like a pastor, had treasured them—-not in a doting, condescending manner, but in a respectful and genuine way. Witnessing this has had a life-long impact on the way I view children and my thoughts on what they have to offer to us.

Our church is currently seeking direction on what to do with the 10 or so children (all under the age of 5) who come regularly to our Sunday services. We've been separating them for the majority of the service from the adults so that they can do developmentally appropriate activities in Children's Church, while we adults do our grown-up things in corporate worship. But some of the parents, including myself, and our pastor are not comfortable with this arrangement. For one thing, I'm not sure that we know what's developmentally appropriate when it comes to spiritual matters. And I'm not sure that the grown-up things we do in our Sunday service are the best ways to worship God as a body.

I'm part of a small United Methodist congregation where only a few of us are even aware of the emerging church conversation or the different ways people are worshipping instead of the usual Sunday Service model. We all want our children to experience a community of faith without the baggage many of us associate it with from our own childhoods. Another mom and I and our pastor have been reading Postmodern Children's Ministry by Ivy Beckwith and are very much interested in intergenerational worship. We're also exploring Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as "curriculum" options.

I know that we're officially talking about Children in Church during January, but this topic is so much on my mind right now that I wanted to get some feedback. Maybe it's something that merits talking about in October as well as January, after we've had some time to ponder, research, etc?

What are other folks doing regarding children and worship? What are your experiences with intergenerational worship? What do we need to do or change the way we think (as a church, as families/parents, as a society, as human beings) about children and what they have to offer, if we just take the time and make the effort to listen and see and encourage and believe and respect?

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posted by Unknown at 10:59:00 AM | 6 comments
Some may be interested to read this review of a delightful book by Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson and his granddaughter Solveig. It certainly offers one model whereby we can engage in conversation about 'theology-stuff' with kids. And let's be honest, who doesn't want to do that. Some of them are our best theologians!


posted by Anonymous at 2:51:00 PM | 0 comments
After hearing from a few of the members and seeing the wide variety of people represented here, I'm thinking that setting up a more structured posting schedule might be the best thing for conversations at this blog. More structure would allow us to focus our discussions and provide space for various viewpoints to be fully expressed. It will also help us dig deep into various topics instead of just skimming over them again and again.

So for now we are going to experiment with having themed months on this blog. Each month the main, but not only, conversation on this blog will be structured around a particular theme. The idea is that at least twice a week one of the blog members will put up a post on that month's topic. Posters would sign up in advance for the day(s) they want to post. This will allow us to (hopefully) get a variety of perspectives on the theme and allow for various facets of that theme to be explored in depth. Other topics, questions, resource recommendations, and fun stories are of course still welcomed to be posted at any time, but this structure will help guide our conversations. I will keep a list of the upcoming month's topics as well as posting calenders linked on the sidebar so we can easily keep track of what will be posted when.

So to outline where we will be going over the next few months -

November - let's jump right into the tough stuff (and get conversations going) and talk about discipline. So if you have some thoughts on discipline please sign up for a post this month. These could include funny anecdotes, your personal history with discipline, a theology of discipline, advice on techniques, or a historical look at how Christians have approached discipline. It's up to you to contribute what you think will benefit the conversation.

December - this month we will focus on the holidays (and I didn't say just Christmas...). Tell family stories or talk about favorite traditions. What do you celebrate, why do you celebrate? What about commercialism? What do you do about gifts? How do you tell the stories? Do the Pagan roots of Christmas bother you? This is a wide open topic to help get us all thinking outside the box during a generally hectic month.

January - Children in church. What do you do with the kiddos? Do you integrate the kids, send them to do their own thing, or some combination? How do we be the church with kids? What programs (if any) work for you? What is your theology of children's ministry? What is the purpose of children's ministry?

February - Education. Public school, private school, homeschooling, unschooling? Why do you do what you do? What has work, what has failed? What are your thoughts on homework, or tests, or grades, or competition? Prayer in schools? Creationism? This is an open time for us to gather a variety of perspectives on this topic.

I know these are all big topics, but I hope we can learn from each other and start seeing new ways to live holistically as parents. I'm sure we will return to various aspects of these topics, and there are numerous others we can address. These I hope will be a good start.

So what I need from you all is first feedback. Does this structure make sense? Do you think it will work? And then assuming we go ahead with this, I need people to volunteer to post during these months. Just reply here or email me at julieclawson (at) gmail (dot) com to let me know what day(s) you want to post on. I hope to have at least two posts per week on the theme, but more would be great. And remember all sorts of posts from stories, to advice, to theologies are welcome. Let's see what happens!


posted by Julie at 9:03:00 PM | 9 comments
Hi all. I will be posting later today or tomorrow on ways we can structure this blog to help focus the conversations and help differing viewpoints be heard. More on that later.

But I would first like to start compiling some resource lists for us as Emerging Parents. I know that often we find ourselves wishing we could find books or websites that echo our holistic approach to parenting, but don't know where to look. So I would love it if we could compile a list here of resources. These would be books or websites you have found to be helpful as a parent. Parenting books, spiritual formation books, education books, kid's books... whatever has helped you along the way. Please give us the title and author and link if you have it and if you can a very brief reason why you found it helpful. Hopefully this can be a way we can support each other in this adventure.


posted by Julie at 10:07:00 AM | 7 comments
This reflection comes from my wife, Ricci.

Since the birth of our daughter, maybe even before, I've been thinking about homeschooling.

A little background to give you perspective is that I'm a trained public school teacher. And having worked with some extremely educated, creative, and indefatigable people, I have nothing but respect for the profession. At first I wasn't sure why I wanted to homeschool, or what it was that I felt had to change. It was just something at the back of my mind that felt "off". So, I started reading, regurgitating what I read to my husband, and then reading some more. At first I didn't even know what I was looking for. I picked up everything that had homeschooling in the subject. I read about Maria Montessori, the Waldorf method, Unschooling, Charlotte Mason, and Classical education. Trying to sift and filter what I thought was valuable, what I agreed with, what I disagreed with and trying to come up with my own philosophy of education.

And the question kept coming up in my mind, why? Why with so many choices out there now (i.e. charter schools, magnet schools, etc...) was I doing this. Why was I committing our family to a lot of work and hassle when there are highly trained professional out there who we're already paying with our taxes to do this important job?

To answer this for myself I had to look at our life and the changes we'd been progressively making since our marriage in 2000. Seven years ago, my spirituality manifested itself in reading my Bible, praying (when I could figure out what to say), going to church, and treating others nice. Now obviously that was all good, but there was a void a big void. If that was all that my faith called me to, then Christ's sacrifice wasn't worth much. There had to be more, and more in a big way! We had to be alternative beings, we had to live alternative lives, lives that when against the flow, not a 'niceified' version of mainstream culture. It said so right there in the Bible I'd been reading. So as a couple we read and talked. We talked about simplicity, about community, about solidarity with the poor, about spiritual consequences of ecological practices and made decisions based on what we came to believe. And the point of all this is we are still searching and refining, tossing and tweaking and our children are an integral part of this process.

So, to get back to education, if our family believes in living alternatively, and being alternative beings in this current consumer, me-driven culture, and passing that on to our children, then these years of our children's initial formation are important. If we chose to send our children to public school at the age of five, for six to seven hours a day 180 days a year the struggle, I feel, would be an uphill one.

Now, I'm reading this and realizing that it's sounding a bit holier-than-thou, and that's not how I feel at all. So let me say just a bit more. I wrote this to share our story, our path, one that we think meets the unique needs our daughter. This is not our call to abandon the world at large, isolate ourselves in our home, and 'fill' our children with what we believe. It's one way of giving them a chance to see that there is another way to live. We want to teach our daughter, and later our son, to think for themselves. To be an active participant in their own education, not passive receptacles for society to 'fill up'. Part of the process may be to later send them to public school, I honestly don't know and I'm not worried about it. We're making this up as we go along.

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posted by Eliacin at 2:11:00 PM | 15 comments
Soundtrack: Starship "Sara"/Journey "Any Way You Want It"

Ask any three parents about discipline and you get six opinions. And certainly there's diversity in our nascent community on all the facets of the discipline deal. And that's good, because my sense is most of us are detoxing from prescriptive church.

In company with some fellow parents in my congregation, I've been living with Hebrews 12 a lot lately, and a harmonic in it got through the noise in my neurons. This should happen to me more often.

Here's the resonance: hardship = discipline = God making me like Jesus.

So, two questions: what are the connections between how you discipline your children and what you're doing to disciple them ?

Parenting is the hardest thing I've ever set my hand to: How is God using your engagement with the sheer difficulty of shaping immature humans into whole adults to shape you in the image of Christ?



posted by Michael Howes at 11:02:00 PM | 5 comments
Soundtrack: Beastie Boys "Brass Monkey"/Christopher Cross "Sailing" - gotta love the shuffle...

There's this great story in Joshua 4 where, in the midst of crossing the Jordan into the Land of Promise, Joshua has some guys pick up 12 stones to pile up later on. The rock pile has two functions - it's a visual trigger for a communal memory. Every time they see the rocks, the generation that passed through the Jordan will flash on that day. But it's also a faith transmission tool. Joshua intends it to provoke questions in a generation then unborn. And then the Jordan generation can tell their story/God's story to their kids. And how surpassingly cool that the rock pile's a dialogue initiator, not a lesson/sermon provoker?

So, what are your rock piles? What are the places, objects, rituals that prompt your kids to ask spiritual why questions? And - I am so bad about this - how do you dialogue with rather than monologue to your kids about God?



posted by Michael Howes at 10:46:00 PM | 3 comments
Many of us have mentioned that we struggle to find our way as "emerging" parents. We encounter friends and family who think we are crazy or who aren't remotely interested in talking about alternative ways of parenting. We can't find resources that support the life we want to lead. We are surrounded by cultural messages we don't agree with. It is hard to figure this stuff out and live consistently.

So as we get to know each other here, I want to throw out the question - what is your hardest struggle? What aspect of holistic parenting has been the most difficult so far?


posted by Julie at 9:46:00 PM | 9 comments
To start the conversation here, I just want to throw out a very basic question - What is it that we want this blog to be? What sort of topics do you want to discuss? What resources are you looking for? What would you find helpful for this community to offer you? Hopefully this will help set the direction for where this blog heads over the next few weeks. So jump in, add your thoughts, and let's get this conversation rolling!

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posted by Julie at 8:08:00 PM | 46 comments
At the Emergent Gathering we decided that we need a space to interact on emerging parenting ideas - hence, this blog. So there's not much here at the moment, but it will get developed soon. We hope this can be a safe place to discuss how we can follow Christ as parents, integrating our emerging faith and practices in with how we raise our kids. This is a place to explore, to suggest, to share, to question, and to support. All are welcome (non-parents included!) to join the conversation here.
posted by Julie at 3:58:00 PM | 2 comments