Taking Responsibility

February 22, 2011

I am all for justice.

Recently, Luzerne County, PA judge Mark A. Ciavarella, was found guilty for a number of crimes involving the so-called “kids for cash” scandal. He was convicted of a number of the crimes but not others and was allowed to be released until sentencing. This did not sit well with parents of children who had been sent by the judge for minor crimes to detention facilities. And rightly so. It seems like the judge is being treated leniently while the children he sent away received far harsher penalties than they deserved.

Many though are accusing the judge and the detention of their children to be the cause of all their problems. Case-in-point, Sandy Fonzo, who confronted the judge at the press conference following the trial. Her son was convicted of a minor offense by the judge and sent away. She says he changed following that event, becoming angry and depressed, until tragically he killed himself. Similar stories were echoed by other parents and by those who were sent away by the judge. Truly, these things are heart-breaking. Punishment should fit the crime and it sounds as if these children were judged harshly solely over the greed of the judge.

The problem though is that those affected by the kids for cash scandal refuse to take any responsibility for their own actions. While the situation is awful and this judge should do his time for his crime, people are responsible for their own actions. Our society is so filled with blame-shifting that no one can own up and take responsibility for their actions any longer.

As awful as being locked away for a minor offense is, it is not the cause of all of your problems. The responsibility for your problems lies squarely at your door. The reality is, the problems in my life are ultimately my responsibility. Do events influence the way I live my life? Yes. Being jailed for minor offenses will surely affect the way I think and act. Yet, I am still the one responsible. Me, and me alone is responsible for my behavior. Yet, in our society we blame everyone else but ourselves. It’s our parents fault, our teacher’s fault, our government’s fault, etc. You get the idea.

Romans 14:12 reminds us that we will all give an account before God for our actions. The Scriptures teach we are responsible for our thoughts, our speech, our actions, our intents. And unfortunately, left to ourselves we fail to take responsibility. Yet, we will be held accountable for our actions before God. We might get to blame a judge today for our lot in life, but one day, the Judge of heaven and earth will not allow us to shift the blame. It rests square upon our shoulders. Either we will pay for it for eternity, or the One who died on the cross can pay for it for us if we believe.

So, I’m all for justice. The judge should get the book thrown at him. We should all be heart-broken about how these children were affected. But, we all need to be reminded that we are responsible for our problems ultimately. Not someone else. Learn to take responsibility here for your actions. Realize you are to blame and do something about it. Thankfully, we have a fair and impartial Judge in heaven who will acquit you of your crime if you trust in His Son for salvation.

Answering Theological Questions for Children

February 14, 2011

A new book review from my wife Tracy.

God Gave Us So Much (Waterbrook Press, 2010).

This delightful treasury includes three books in one collection. Here, Mama, Papa, Little Cub, and the Twins explore God’s world, love, and heaven. Complex subjects are handled in a format even the youngest child can understand.

In God Gave Us the World, Little Cub and her family visit a museum that features an exhibit on bears around the world. Little Cub learns that while her family lives in the North Pole where it is cold and snowy, other bears live in other climates all over the world. While exploring black bears, panda bears, sloth bears, and grizzly bears, Little Cub and Mama discuss how each species is different. Little Cub learns that other bears eat things and live in places that are completely different from her way of life. Even so, they are all bears and all were made by God. Every bear has a special home and the variety of bears reflects God’s creativity. From the concept of a big, creative, sovereign God, the author helps children understand that the world reflects God’s glory and we are put here to worship and serve him in the special home he gave us. In addition, we are to take care of God’s special world. Little Cub falls asleep at the end of the day happy to be a bear and glad that God has given her a special place in his world.

This story will help children understand their place in the world and why God made the world. It also helps them gain an appreciation for the diversity of God’s creation and their responsibility to take care of it, while avoiding being politically correct. After all, proper stewardship of the earth comes from a proper understanding of the God who made this special planet.

In God Gave us Love, Little Cub is frustrated because the otters are ruining her fishing day by scaring away the fish. Grampa helps her understand that God wants us to show his love to everyone. Little Cub understands that God made us to love others, but she realizes there are different kinds of love such as the love between her parents and love between friends and family and love for God. Little Cub also realizes that while she loves her twin brother and sister, sometimes she thinks they are as pesky as the otters. Grandpa explains that we don’t always feel like loving others, but choosing to love them is the right thing to do. The story then turns to God’s love for us as Little Cub wrestles with questions such as can I do anything that will make God not love me, and how do I know God loves me?

This reassuring book will help young children understand that they are responsible to show love to others even when they don’t feel like it. They will also learn that they can never do anything that will separate them from God’s love. In the end, no one loves us as much as God loves us.

In God Gave Us Heaven, Little Cub learns that heaven is God’s home. She learns that older people die and go to heaven, but sometimes younger people die too. Even though bad things happen here on earth, nothing bad ever happens in heaven. Even though Little Cub is having a good time on her fishing trip with Papa, she learns that heaven will be even better than her best times on earth. She will not need her stuff in heaven, besides, Papa reminds her that our best stuff on earth are family, friends, and faith. Little Cub wonders if she will see her family in heaven. Papa tells her that all our loved ones will be there. When Little Cub asks how to get to heaven, Papa explains that God’s Son, Jesus, came to be our bridge and provide us way to heaven.

This book helps answer many of a child’s most commonly asked questions about heaven. It would be especially comforting for a child who has lost a loved one, or who is asking questions about dying and what comes after death. If there is a weakness in the book’s explanation, it may be that the author does not state clearly that only God’s children go to heaven. This may be a point parents would want to clarify with their child depending on their child’s level of understanding.

All three of these books offer clear, comforting answers to a child’s questions. The subjects are treated seriously, yet in an age-appropriate way. The beautiful illustrations are a pleasure to look at, and the ending page of each book sums up the message of the story beautifully making a child feel safe and secure in her world.

This book was provided free of charge to me by Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of review.