Of Books, Children, and Parents


Few activities create a warmer relationship between child and grown-up than reading aloud. A child finds it very pleasing to be read to and to have the undivided attention of an adult. When an adult reads aloud to a child, he soon understands what delight and joy it gives the child. And if the adult is completely honest, he will admit he enjoys it just as much himself. Perhaps this is the first reason why parents should be concerned about their child’s reading experiences.

Reading is not an antidote for thwarting social illness. It is not a tool with which to conquer space. It is not a thing we do to children. A child needs to be plunged into the world of literature in order to experience sound, emotion, and self. There is a certain urgency in young parents cuddling their children in the first year of life and sharing with them the cadence of Mother Goose rhymes, the rhythm of simple poetry, and the vigor of prose. To what end? Surely not to give them instruction.

It is true that the experience of hearing good literature, of seeing one’s parents read, of participating in family-in-the-round creative dramatic activities based on “Henny-Penny” or “Jack Be Nimble” will go a long way toward giving children a head start in learning to read.

But the primary purpose of reading to your child early in his life is not to provide quantities of anything for his future learning; rather, it is to insure a quality experience in your earliest parent-child relationships. The fact that he will be preparing himself for the later discipline of having to read is secondary. Reading experiences for children in the first three years of their lives must not be for instructive purposes; they should be for the opportunity of mother, father, and child’s sharing time, sound, and delight with one another.


Congressman Labrador Calls for Saeed Abedini to Be Freed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho First District Congressman Raúl Labrador, along with 45 of his House colleagues, recently introduced a bipartisan House resolution (H.Res. 147) calling for the release of Boise Pastor Saeed Abedini from an Iranian prison. The Congressman released the following statement:

“Iran’s decision to sentence Pastor Saeed Abedini to eight years in prison for simply practicing his faith is a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights. The United States must dedicate the necessary resources to secure the release and freedom of this American citizen. My prayers continue to be with Pastor Abedini and his family in this difficult time.”

Pastor Abedini visited Iran last year to continue his work on an orphanage he started. While visiting, he was arrested and imprisoned for his previous work on starting Christian churches in Iran. He was sentenced to eight years in Evin Prison earlier this year.

Last month, Congressman Labrador and four House colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department to act on behalf of Pastor Abedini by calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Read the letter online here.

Teen’s religious commitment springs from relationships, study shows

For the 12,000 teens who participate each year, EFY is a time for game nights, dances, and cheer-offs, and now a study at BYU illustrates the program’s secrets to success.

In a new study, Brigham Young University professor David Dollahite and graduate student Emily Layton identified seven anchors of religious commitment for teens. Through in-depth interviews of 80 adolescents and their families belonging to different faiths, they recognized an overarching theme of teens building relationships.

“Relationships matter to youth,” Layton said.  “Relationships are critical to how youth are experiencing their religion—relationships within the family, church leaders and members of the faith community.”

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, draws upon interviews Dollahite conducted with teens in New England and the San Francisco Bay area. They asked a variety of religious leaders to recommend families of their faith that showed an engaged level of activity. The entire family was interviewed and recorded, but the researchers focused on the adolescents. Layton then analyzed the information for her master’s thesis.

After reviewing the recordings, Dollahite and Layton coded each interview to identify seven anchors of religious commitment:

  • Traditions
  • God
  • Faith denominations
  • Faith community members
  • Parents
  • Scriptures
  • Religious leaders

“The good news for parents and religious leaders is there are many avenues to religious commitment, or we use the word anchors,” Dollahite said.  “We use the metaphor of a tent held down by seven different stakes.”

From their interview with a 16-year-old Presbyterian boy mentioned in the study, the reason his faith was more than just a crutch was the friendship he felt at church.

“Religion has sort of taken on a new role in my life from being something just to turn to in a time of need to something that I really care about and I participate in just for the joy of connecting to the people I’m worshipping with,” he said.

It’s that “joy of connecting” that is critical, and it happens through these various anchors.

“Teens feel connected to their faith communities in a variety of ways,” Dollahite said, “and those connections make a difference.”

Maybe it’s the boys escorting the girls to dinner, or the nightly devotionals in small groups.  It could be the teamwork games or testimony meetings.

Either way, EFY programs give youth a number of social and spiritual ways to build friendships in the faith. Those friendships become anchors that support a personal reason to stay religious.

“Just like a tent is held down by many stakes, likewise our commitments in our religion are anchored by relationships, beliefs and behaviors that may seem different but all serve to give life to our religion,” Layton said. “The ‘small and simple things’ that foster relationships and make religion fun are important to our youth.”

Pocatello Grapples with Gay Clergy Issue

Small towns can be remarkably resistant to change. New ideas that rock the foundation of long established cues, values, morays, and perceptions are not easily tolerated.

Pocatello is no exception.

Some have said that the gate City has never progressed past the 1950s, which is the reason for the area’s lack of economic growth when compared to cities of similar size.

Others hail Pocatello’s warm and friendly social climate (after all it is the smile capital of Idaho). They say that its Normal Rockwell traditional American flavor, low crime, beautiful countryside, and lack of urban sprawl and crass-commercialism are what makes the town great.

But change is inevitable, even in a land seemingly suitable for a Leave it to Beaver episode.

In August, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America announced it would open the ministry to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in committed relationships, the Idaho State Journal reports.

The topic has been a hot-button issue during the past decade. Among Pocatello’s faith-based communities, opinions also vary. While the ELCA represents 4.9 million Lutherans in the U.S., it does not reflect the sentiments of all Lutherans in the Gate City, said Jonathan Dinger, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church on Baldy Avenue .

According to Journal reporter Debbie Bryce, Grace Lutheran, part of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, maintains that homosexuality is still a sin. “In this area, I think it’s fair to say most of us are opposed to this,” he told the Journal. “For us the question is what is sin and what isn’t.”

“Anyone with a repentive spirit is welcome,” Dinger said. “We don’t claim that we are without sin, but the Bible is pretty clear on this issue. Homosexuality activity is outside of the word of God.”

Dinger clarified the church’s position during a recent sermon that was well received by the congregation. “You need to strike a balance between being faithful to the Bible and gracious to the community,” Dinger said. “Christ’s message was I forgive you, now stop sinning.”

Pocatello has strong numbers of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A quote from late President Gordon B. Hinckley says the church’s opposition to same sex unions should not be interpreted as hatred or intolerance of homosexuals:

“As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians,” Hinckley said. “We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.”

On the flip side, the story also quotes Pastor Janie Gebhardt at the First United Congregational Church of Christ as saying their church is an “open and affirming” denomination, which has been welcoming gay and lesbians to the ministry for the past 25 years.

“To me, you receive the whole person,” Gebhardt said, adding that the church has also been ordaining women since the late 1800s. In response, on the Idaho State Journal website, “Biblical Lutheran” wrote:

“Notice how Janie Gebhardt and Michael Blaess (pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran, who said in the Journal story that opinions among his members vary) don’t want to deal with what the Bible says on this issue. Both of them are out of God’s will and have no place preaching the Bible to other people. They put their opinions above the Word of God, thus they are false shepherds who only tell the people what they want to hear. God does offer forgiveness to all sinners, no matter what sin they are practicing. God’s love extends farther than Michael and Janie want to believe. Their ministry is only hurting homosexuals. They preach tolerance in the name of ‘love,’ but really they are intolerant of what God says about the issue. ”

What do you think?

See: Locals and gay pastor issue