web analytics

Student Papers

[3] Marriage and Family: Christian Strategies for Healthy Families

by Carly Lounsbery

Inevitably, families go through cycles out of which emerge issues and varied responsibilities.  Clearly, no person has the ability to react perfectly to all trying familial situations.  The struggles and unavoidable trials of life do bring additional difficulty, challenging us to find positive responses to real life situations.  We can manage life’s changes by implementing strategies for developing positive relationships amid adversity.  Steps can be taken to address problems effectively within the household and encourage spiritual, emotional, relational, and psychological growth.  Strategies for building up and maintaining the marital relationship between spouses, determining levels of authority for parents, properly disciplining and loving children, and using resources for maximum efficiency are important components for families in the ever changing cycles of family life.

Spouses can expect to deal with change within their marriage.  Cycles of marital life are inevitable, and as uncomfortable as change may be to some people, married couples must anticipate the changes that will come.  Starting out in the “spring” season of marriage, in full-blown honeymoon mode, excited for the future, and still gooey in romance for one another will soon turn into a different time, especially when babies demand all the emotional and financial attention.  These cycles of family life signal constant change.  The journey involved in pregnancy, birth, toddlerhood, early childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood for children raises difficult issues.  Chapman uses the metaphor of changing marital seasons in describing these parts of the family life cycle.  Even deeper than that, however, there are emotional seasons that determine the nature and quality of marriage, irrespective of the decisions the two make concerning their children (Chapman, 2005).

As the seasons change and the “husband and wife” roles turn into “father and mother” roles, couples must remember to nurture their marital relationship as well as the familial relationship as a whole.  To do this, Dr. Gary Chapman, well-known Christian family expert, suggests the importance of seven different strategies.  One very important strategy to improve the value of a marriage, and consequently head to a warmer season of marriage, is the ability to learn and speak your spouse’s love language.  Every person feels love differently, and needs to be loved in one of five specific ways.  If a husband and wife take the time to learn what makes their spouse feel loved and appreciated more than anything else, they will be able to devote their efforts to fill their specific “love tanks” (Chapman, 2005).  Another important strategy is the practice of empathetic listening.  Learning to close one’s mouth, open one’s ears, and humbly sit and learn from a spouse during a difficult time is an extremely challenging lesson to learn.  For one spouse to show the other that she (or he) is willing to listen wholeheartedly—without interruption—can be exactly what a marriage needs when facing potential crises. This strategy will greatly empower healthy communication habits (Chapman, 2005).

Other strategies advocated by Chapman are just as vital.  Dealing with past failures is a difficult process, one that makes many married couples cringe.  The thought of digging up past unresolved issues does not sound very appealing to most married people.  The Biblical directives to let love cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8) and that genuine love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5) can sometimes lull us into assuming that marriage partners should simply glide over issues of the past.  Unfortunately, our sinful natures do not always make this possible.  To uproot and heal deep resentments, may often necessitate confronting individual failures of the past, acknowledging the pain those failures have caused, and identifying the toxic attitudes that have slowly developed as a result (Chapman, 2005).  After acknowledging issues of the past, whether the failures took place before or after the wedding day, couples must begin the process of confession and repentance before God and one another.  Carefully following this step brings immense healing and restoration, because it removes pride and brings on attitudes of sorrow and humility.  That final step—forgiveness—is what allows a couple truly to leave the past behind permanently.  That contrition and humility allows the now reunited couple to be hopeful again about their renewed future.  This process is not easy, but if attempted with sincerity, it will generate great marital gain.

Beyond, insuring a marriage is being properly nurtured, is the challenge of implementing positive yet consistent parenting practices.  Parents often deal with issues such as finding consistency in the types of discipline exercised toward the children, and integrating love into the various forms of discipline as they endeavor to raise respectful, intelligent, and well-behaved children.  Of course, children will rebel.  Hence, parents must maintain a consistent action plan aimed at retaining their authority as they socialize their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesian 6:4).  The level of rebellion and the amount of discipline required shifts continuously throughout the growing years of the children.  Nonetheless, it is a daunting task Christian parents must engage as they raise a godly, healthy family.  Parents must teach their children the rights and wrongs, the morality of a Christian lifestyle, and the importance of choosing to live and fight God’s way, along with all the humbling life lessons that Christianity advocates.

As in all areas of life, Biblical examples and strategies are the ones to embrace in learning and teaching important life lessons.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 stresses an important truth:  That two are better than one.  It underlines the reliability inherent in such a team—that it is much harder to bring down two than one who is standing alone.  This concept of “team” can be implemented in a family setting, where children can learn the value of working as a familial unit. Matthew 12:25 describes the consequences of disunity, stating that every “household divided against itself will not stand.”  If a family chooses to find ways to work together, that family will benefit from the Word of God in a way that many broken families in today’s society couldn’t possibly imagine.  Having common goals and acknowledging each family member’s unique strengths are beneficial ways to build such a team structure.  Selflessness—putting others’ needs before one’s own—will also greatly benefit a family.  Most important, uniting under primary Biblical principles brings clarity and focus.  It becomes a mission statement in action, one that will strengthen every member of the family.

Families can benefit from outside resources as well.  Humans were created to be social beings.  The strength acquired by learning from others in similar situations is undeniably effective.  Children should connect with others that share the same religious beliefs and understanding.  Christian schools and youth groups, and fundraising events for church and charitable causes, are great opportunities for children to connect with others with similar values.  Similarly, married couples need outside social activity as well.  Iron sharpens iron.  Marital events at church, or an occasional double date with another Christian couple can have a powerfully positive effect.  Connecting with other people experiencing the same “seasons” is extremely helpful.  Moreover, simply learning from others who may have more experience will bring humility and strength.

Again, change is inevitable as life cycles progress and fold into one another.  How these changes are managed will either nurture or starve a marriage.  It can bring the warmness of spring or summer or the coldness of fall or winter to the hearts of a couple.  The seasons are determined by the choices a couple makes—either honoring or dishonoring one another and their marriage.  For couples who become parents, change also comes as children are born and grow older, encountering each lesson that life has to offer.  Every step of the way, decisions are made by parents as to which strategies to take to in guiding their children on their own life journey.  These often seemingly small decisions become either positive or negative influences in the lifecycle of the family.  No matter how much preparation has gone into the plans of a family, changes and challenges are inevitable, but a common Christian worldview can help families stay strong and maintain focus on the things that are most important in making them a healthy unit.

References

Chapman, G. D. (2005). The four seasons of marriage. Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers.

Carly Lounsbery is a 22 year old recent graduate of Grand Canyon University, finishing her Bachelor’s degree this year in Justice Studies, and was recognized with the highest honor of Summa Cum Laude for her maintained 4.0 GPA throughout college.  Carly lives with her husband, Jeremiah, in Arizona.

[2] Faith and Justice: God’s Command to Protect our Children vs. the Court System

by Mary Pals

This is a paper about justice and faith.

I have experienced so many trying things throughout my life: Verbal and emotional abuse by my parents, sexual abuse, alcohol addiction of family members, divorce, single parent difficulties, as well as struggles with co-dependency.  None have been as trying and heartbreaking as this 18-month court case inArizona.

From a psychological standpoint, Freud would have luxuriated in the available research in our courtrooms today.  I however, find it maddening as a current student in the field of Psychology, because there seems to be very little accountability for the professionals who claim to be doing the work of protecting children, something which for Christians is a justice or shalom issue.

Each child has the same mother, but each has a different father.  The father of the older child has been absent in her life and is currently facing criminal charges for an unrelated case.  The father of the younger child is the mother’s current boyfriend and resides in the home.  The children have had very strong relationships with the maternal grandmother, and brothers of the mother.  Prior to this case the children spent time with their grandmother on average 2-3 times every week, with many weekend overnights.  That grandmother is me.

These children do not know that their parents are using illegal substances, abusing prescription medications, and neglecting many of their basic daily needs.  There was an intervention done on the mother who went to rehab, but she walked out the same day, and was told that if she did not go to rehab that the process of trying to remove her children from her home would begin.  The actual case begins with the juvenile court and the filing of a dependency petition on behalf of these two children, ages 6 and 15 months at the time.

Once the petition was filed it started a firestorm of legal activity followed.  The court involved Child Protective Services, assigned a Guardian Ad Litum, (GAL), for the children, as well as an attorney for each parent.  These services were all paid for by the taxpaying citizens of the city, state, and federal governments.  Each of these assigned people had a job to do, their top priority,  “…to protect the children”.

The initial hearing was set within one week of the petition filing, and did not include a judge.  At this time, I attended alone, as I felt the evidence spoke for itself.  CPS found my petition to be unsubstantiated.  The GAL disagreed and felt further investigation was warranted.  Of course, the parents’ attorneys were speaking on behalf of their clients and argued the case should be dropped.

The majority of the professionals in the room treated me as if I was a defendant.  Their tone to me was harsh and condescending, and the fact that I was not an attorney came across clearly.  The caseworker who had done the initial intake with the parents never acknowledged me in any way.

This case continued for nine months, culminating in a trial and the final ruling by a judge of dependency of the children due to substance abuse.  You may be thinking justice was served and, how great it is that I won.  While that fact is true, the psychological aspects and gross injustice to the children by the professionals in this case is the real justice issue here.

The attorneys for the parents were employed by the public defenders’ office of the State ofArizona.  While their overall responsibility is to the children, their individual job is to ensure the rights of the parents, after all “everyone has the right to be a parent”.  This was their position and they did not falter in that.  Even though the parents had been drug tested multiple times, and shown to have “dirty UA’s”, their defense was to attack me.  They showed little concern that the family had been residentially evicted multiple times during these nine months, nor did they seem to care that these children were being neglected.

There is also the department of Child Protective Services (CPS).  During this case, there were three different caseworkers assigned.  Caseworker #1, an intake investigator, or first caseworker, was a young girl the same age bracket as the parents, who visited the families’ current home, at the time.  She did not find the home unsafe for the children, and considered the petition unsubstantiated.  The daycare providers whose letters were submitted with the petition were never contacted.  (Their letters were submitted with the original petition, and she had copies.)  These letters stated the youngest child had been arriving at daycare recently in the same diaper he was sent home in the night before, they had provided shoes for him to protect his feet, and the parents had not provided the necessary supplies for the child, (diapers, wipes, etc.).  The first caseworker never contacted the daycare workers, so her original decision was made ignoring this information.  Multiple hearings were held in which this caseworker arrived at court without the case file and was unable to comment when questioned.

Caseworker #2, or In Home Caseworker, was held out because the original caseworker had been the first to appear in court, and hence required to continue with subsequent hearings.  Finally appearing and testifying in court for the trial, caseworker #2 felt the children were dependent, and due to the parents’ reluctance to accept any services offered, she felt the parents were hiding something.

Caseworker #3 was contradictory on the facts throughout, yet adamant that there was not a problem.  Her actions to me presented the most negligence in this case.  She had no problem with the maternal grandfather, my ex-husband, living in the home, regardless of his outstanding felony warrants from another state.  Amazingly, he could live in the home, but could not babysit.

Caseworker #3 testified she would visit the home once a month for approximately 40 minutes each time, and would usually call first.  She testified that she had asked for specific items from the couple but that they were never provided.  When asked if this would be considered as compliant or non-compliant, she struggled with her answer but stated “non-compliant”.  On other issues, she continued to contradict her reports under oath.  The older child had admitted to multiple people that she had been pulling her hair out.  The caseworker stated she did not find any bald spots, but no witnesses were contacted to discuss this.  Testimony was also provided by witnesses, that the boyfriend had caused rug burns, and other injuries to the older child during disciplining, per the caseworker this was never substantiated because there were no visible signs of injury on the child at that time,

The judge ordered CPS to have psychological evaluations completed on both of the parents, myself, along with a non-psychological examination of the older child.  Because the parents were refusing to let me see my grandchildren, these evaluations were to determine if visitation with me would be in their best interest.  He expected this to be completed by the time we returned to court two months later.  Instead of following the courts’ orders, the caseworker took herself to a child psychologist, and discussed the case with regard to my visitation.   Once we returned to court, she stated that my evaluation had been denied by CPS because I was not a primary care giver to the children, and proceeded to inform the judge of her visit to the psychologist.  After letting her know this was not what he had ordered, the judge then ordered all four, including the child, to have full psychological evaluations, done by a certain date, with reports to him within ten days of that deadline.  Caseworker #1’s position continued to the end–“whatever problems existed before, no longer exist”, and felt the case should be dismissed.

The social worker employed by the Guardian Ad Litum, attempted multiple times to meet with the parents and children in their home.   After many cancellations by the parents she finally was able to make a visit to the home, the mother was not available.  The social worker expressed great concern after speaking with the older child that too much information regarding this case had been shared with the child which was not healthy.  (Among other things, the child had been told by the parents that I had kidnapped her so this was why she could not see me.)  This social worker also noted there was little to no food in the house.

As the case proceeded to trial, the children were not removed from the home, despite the parents’ positive drug test results, the lack of food in the home, and the recent multiple evictions that had occurred.  Attorneys for the parents set out to discredit any testimony, trying to attack me through all of the testimonies.  At this point, it had been nine months since the original filing of my petition, and I still had not been allowed visitation.

How does a blatant case of neglect get this far?  CPS does not like these cases brought to court by anyone but themselves.  Two reason exist for this; first, there is limited state funding prompting them to keep what funds exist for their own cases;  and secondly, CPS is afraid that someone will point out there was something missed during investigation.  This last statement is actually on record, words spoken from the judge himself.

In a society that values justice, questions arise.  Are we either ignoring this, or is the truth hidden from us?  Psychologically, most people know that dysfunction grows rampant when it is kept silent or hidden.  Once brought to the light, change can happen, and people can be helped.  The confidentiality rule of the juvenile court system certainly seems to breeding dysfunction at every turn.  It is eerily correlated with the rule ofLas Vegas, “what happens in the juvenile courtroom stays in the courtroom”.  Are the lawyers only concerned with winning the case for their client?  When a judge explains to the parents, “even though your attorneys are advising you professionally, these are not their children, and at the end of the day, they go home to their own families”, I am hearing that the best interest of the children is not being served by these professionals.

Ninety-five percent of the cases entering the CPS system today involve substance abuse of some kind.  Many of the personnel used by CPS to assist families simply do not have enough training in addiction behaviors or treatments.  This leaves our most vulnerable citizens—children–at risk.

I chose the field of psychology to help people who are struggling to get through their life in this fallen world.  This poignant personal experience has tested my Christian faith to a degree I naively never thought possible.  How could my God allow this to happen to my grandchildren?  How could this be His plan, because it stinks?  What is He trying to show me?  From a professional standpoint, how could someone who was educated in any field that involves children, especially social work, not be more objective and thorough in their decisions?  Was I going to learn in my studies that there are times when this sort of thing happens, and there is nothing I can do about it?

Much prayer went in to this process.  I heard the voice of God outside the courtroom when I cried out to Him that I needed Him there.  He said, “I am right here, and I am proud of you.  It’s almost over”.  I felt His presence there and even saw a vision of Him directly behind the judge, the day he ruled the dependency of my grandchildren.  From the very beginning God told me to “Stay the course”.  While this has been difficult, I have continued to follow His leading.

My grandchildren were left in their home and their parents finally agreed to comply with services.  Not because they were accepting any wrongdoing, but because the caseworker assured them if they participated in these services, the case would go away after 90 days when the services ended.  Three months later we returned to court for an update, and a new judge had been assigned.  Rotation of judges happens every two years.  After objections from my attorney and the GAL that the family was still not stable, the judge dismissed the case on CPS’s recommendation, “the parents are willing and able to provide minimally adequate care for the children”.  I was in shock.  How low is the bar on minimally adequate care?

The judge and CPS succeeded in reducing a year of trying to get help for this family to nothing.  The family had been evicted again, and with CPS’s support, were unwilling to allow me to know their current address.  Again, is this what my future profession in psychology was showing me it would be like?   My motives and actions were pure.   I had the best interest of these children in mind.  I had done an intervention with a licensed counselor, and was following through with the plan.  How could the court system, especially the social workers, not do the right thing?  Are they not obligated to use the facts to make their decisions?  How could they justify not protecting those who cannot speak for themselves?

I should tell you that the parents and child had their psychological evaluations completed by the deadline.  The boyfriend, not mom, was in the room with the little girl the entire time.  Was that appropriate?  My evaluation was scheduled for the afternoon following the final hearing.  Do you see anything amiss there?  If the judge dismissed the case, my evaluation was off the table.  I left the courtroom with little hope of ever seeing my grandchildren again.

Our court system and court professionals seem to be breeding dysfunction and not making decisions that are “in the best interest of the children”.  For documentation of a lack of justice for our children, I recommend you visit a family court case involving children and see what, or who is the top priority.  I would recommend that you try a juvenile court case but, alas, those are confidential and you will not be permitted inside.  I am not even allowed copies of the records from my case, and I was the petitioner.

My faith has in no way has been destroyed, but actually has been strengthened.  God does have a plan, and He will never let my experience go unused, because what is at stake is too valuable to Him.  Moreover, there are over 70 verses in the Bible affirming God’s concern for justice—over 400 about the poor and helpless.  My hope is that I never allow any system to determine my decisions when innocent and helpless people are at risk for abuse of any kind, physical or emotional.  God’s hope is that I will listen to His call and allow myself to work in the field where my gift and skills will do the most good for hurting people, regardless of their age.  The call for me and for other Christians is that of faithful service rather than inevitable successful outcomes.  We are to be Christians in the process (the means) and must trust God for the ends.  Part of faithfulness is professional expertise and intense action, but from there we leave it on the altar in faith.

Currently, I have an ongoing case in Family Court to obtain Grand Parenting Rights.  If I can prove it is in the best interest of the children to spend time with me, then I will be allowed visitation on a regular, court-ordered basis.  After 18 months of not seeing them, I know my pain and sorrow well.  Throughout this journey God has carried me when I had no strength, and given hope where there seemed to be none.  I have no doubt that hope and strength will continue regardless of the court’s decisions because I am on the right side of God’s professed concern for justice and the protection of the vulnerable.

Mary Pals is an outstanding psychology student in her junior year at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.  She has her sights set on a Master’s program upon completion of her degree.

[1] A Christian’s Challenge in the World of Communications

by Colleen Dunbar

A Communications major in academia focuses on just that: Communicating.  The issues involve how to reach different audiences; how to develop reciprocal relationships with customers, clients, or just every day people; how to properly convey your desired message; and how to do all of these through different media. The question then becomes–especially while attending a Christian university–does religion have a place in the Communications major, and more importantly, does it have a place in the industry?

While participating in an internship program for school credit, I encountered this dilemma a few times.  My organization is in the health care industry, and tasks that I am given range from putting together newsletters to finding new ways to promote our company. Mainly, however, I focus on social media–a tool that is becoming more and more pervasive in the business world to the extent that it is evolving into the most effective means of communication between an organization and the outside world.

I spend a lot of my time on Twitter, where one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions are limited to a miniscule 140 characters per post (and if one posts too often, followers may fall away). It is an instant interactive tool that allows people and organizations to update their followers on a regular basis, link to outside sources, and create relationships. Being in the not-for-profit health care industry, I often see posts of people that I follow expressing a health-related hardship.  Raised in a Christian tradition, my first instinct is to Tweet back “our prayers are with you” – but I sadly, cannot. I see a post about a person who has done something generous, and I want to Tweet “God bless,” but alas, that is not allowed either.  This is not because my organization has taken a stand against Christianity, or any religion for that matter, but because of the increasing secularity of our society, one in which we are often not allowed to say “Merry Christmas.” but are instead limited to a hollow “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays”.

Obviously, I understand that not everyone is a Christian, nor is everyone religious. I also understand that much of my organization’s target market–as well as a number of our employees–may be of another faith and may possibly view us as limiting our attention to Christians had I posted what I wanted to. I also understand that this phenomenon is not limited to Communications.

What is interesting, however, is that I had to learn this at my internship.  Never in my three years at this Christian university was I told to look out for religious biases in my writing. I enjoy going to a Christian school where all students are encouraged to be open and embrace their faith, but I also needed to learn about the rest of society, and not just Christians. As important as it is to integrate faith and learning in a Christian educational context, it is also important for Christian institution to alert students to the taboos of religion in the secular world as they are prepared to make an impact in Western society.

In the public arena, not every person is of the same nationality, and so one has to be respectful of that. Not everyone will have the same educational background, and one must be respectful of that. Of course, not everyone will be of the same religion, so one must be respectful of that, as well.

The Christian faces a difficult and often unpleasant challenge: To—on one hand–embrace one’s Christian faith, and share the love of God with others, while on the other, having to restrict religious expression in one’s writing when dealing with the public at large.

 Colleen Dunbar is from Vancouver, British Columbia.  She is currently studying Communications, Public Relations, and Marketing at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.  Her interests include health & fitness, literature, photography, and design.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to this site
Get new Faith and Learning posts sent to you by email: