Children, Youth, and Family Director’s Blog

Wear Orange: When Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough

Isaiah 2:4 says, “He will settle arguments between nations. They will pound their swords and their spears into rakes and shovels; they will never make war or attack one another.” I read Sandy Hook Promise posts on Instagram and cannot escape thinking of the horror a parent experiences after their child or teen is shot. This is not sensationalism or fake news. On August 27, 2019, I took my middle school daughter to Lincoln High School for a Town Hall on gun sense, directly relating to the shooting of 15-year-old Day’von Hann, a student who lived in the Mission District. Then Speaker Nanci Pelosi, Rep. Jackie Speier, Founder of Moms Demand Action Shannon Watts, CA Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, and 17-year-old Phillip and Sala Burton High School student and member of United Playaz, AJ Santiago led the meeting. After these change-maker women shared personal experiences, data, and gun sense bill proposals, I was sure we would have gun violence reform. I was wrong. The CDC says that firearms are the second-leading cause of death among American children and teens. One out of ten gun deaths involve age 19 or younger. Everytown Research relays that “there were more school shootings in 2022 (46 shootings) than in any other year since Columbine.” One would think that this statistic would be enough to take immediate action to make common gun sense bills into law and enforce them in court. Money talks, so much of the bills continue to be blocked by gun supporter groups. How do we empower our children and teens to use their collective bargaining power to urge legislative, judicial, and executive branches to make change now? I don’t need to explain how this is related to the non-violent civil disobedience of Jesus and many change-makers. Christians are obligated to love their neighbor and care for the vulnerable. If they do not want to prevent gun violence against innocent civilians, their beliefs are not based in Jesus' life-affirming truth.

Life After Foster Care

During a Faith in Action Bay Area meeting yesterday we were working on pin-pointing false narratives about unhoused people. Our goal was to find true stories that dispel those untrue statements. What are the false narratives about what happens after a youth becomes an adult and leaves the foster care system? In general, a youth has aged out of the system at 18 years old, but some states are extending it to 24 years in order to provide more support. People who do not want to pay for the foster care system might say, “The foster care/government system has supported children until they became adults. They should have the tools to become independent. They are on their own at 18.” Unfortunately, according to the group, A Sense of Home, we know that 50% of people experiencing homelessness are former foster youth. ( The foster care system does not have the capacity to fully serve resources to the average of 566 children who enter the foster care system every day in the U.S. According to the June 2022 AFCARS Report (, that's 1 youth every 2.5 minutes. There is a disproportionate amount of houseless teens who identify as LGBTQ2SIA+. True Colors United says that they are 120% more likely to experience homelessness and are at risk for gender dysphoria and suicide. ( The nation-wide worker shortage or rather workers’ unwillingness to work in unsupportive environments has also brought an uptick in workers striking in order to get their demands met. Working in the foster care system takes training, dedication to learning on-the-job, as well as compassion and problem-solving skills. If workers are not properly trained and supported, they get emotional burn-out. How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus to help change this system?

Feeding Our Grief

“Cynecism is ungrieved grief.” I thought about this quote a lot after reading Traci Smith’s free Treasure Box Tuesday email. She, a children’s minister and author, quotes pastor and author, Rob Bell, who probably officiated many memorials and heard countless stories of grief from congregation members. In the past two months, I have attended three memorials for parents of my peers. All of the services were culturally different, but the grief was the same. We got together to breathe in stillness, hear music, observe the grieving family, eat a meal together, and connect with our own mortality. Ashes to ashes. I experienced three Ash Wednesdays after Easter. Civilian and urban folks world-wide have endured multiple brutal and unplanned Ash Wednesdays since Easter. San Francisco, Texas, Ukraine, Sudan.

Yoga is for Everyone.

We are thrilled to have experienced eight Monday night Kundalini Yoga classes at Calvary this spring. Rocky Blumhagen and Laura Paradis taught yoga postures, breathing techniques, all while playing lovely music, a gong or the crystal singing bowls. The spaciousness and light of Calvin Hall added to the calm sensory experience. Over forty people have joined us for one or all classes. We look forward to continuing this class from 6 - 7 pm on Mondays during June and July. Please note that there will be no yoga classes on May 29 - Memorial Day, June 19 – Juneteenth, and July 2 – Holiday weekend. Yoga is a safe and healing practice for children, youth, adults, and senior adults. B.K.S. Iyengar, legendary yogi, practiced yoga up until he died at 96 years of age. He wrote many books, influenced yoga teachers around the world, and taught his family members, so that they would carry on his legacy. Iyengar method yoga is one of the many styles of yoga, but is based in the values outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras written between the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. A sutra is a single verse composed of Sanskrit words strung like beads in one continuous line. Sutras, like mantras, are chanted or sung. The sutra explains the value at hand, such as non-violence or cleanliness. Patanjali explains that asana, yoga postures, are only one part of practicing yoga. The described yogi works over time to embody all of the yogic values by observing austerities, refraining from distraction, and ultimately focusing on the presence of God.

Messages We Tell Ourselves: Social Emotional Learning

It used to take me hours to make a mix tape. Children and youth can now easily curate their songs into playlists and instantly share with family and friends. They receive recommendations for other similar playlists and learn about new artists and songs of the same genre. If only it were that simple to organize our thoughts. Kate Garnes, author of the book Mixtape, says, "I’ll honor your story as I share mine, and I’ll help you become the DJ of your own life. It’s time to change the music. Let’s create your own mixtape.” What if those were Jesus’ words? How would we engage more with the actions and life-giving messages of Jesus? Social emotional learning (SEL) is a common buzzword and method used in churches, schools, and organizations to help children, youth, and adults choose a growth mindset over a fixed one. A growth mindset supports a healthy and restorative model which can offer open-ended answers and solutions. I like using the app “I AM” where I read affirmations daily. I can choose 1 minute or 5 minutes of affirmations. Some are: “I see my struggles as an opportunity to learn.” “I have healthy habits.” A fixed mindset can be binary, limited to judgment, and lead to reward or punishment. With all of the many things to fear in our daily lives, we do not need to live in a cortisol-filled fight or flight state of being. Sometimes we don’t have the space or time to breathe and process, so we need to live our life even if we are afraid. Rev. Joann Lee posted this quote by Elisabeth Elliot, “Sometimes fear does not subside and you must do it afraid.” That takes courage. Cover photo: Alison Faison Messages We Tell Ourselves, cassette tapes, gopher wire, yarn, 3D conceptual art by Alison Faison

Talking with Kids About the Order of Worship in the Bulletin.

If I visited Calvary for the first time and had not been to a Presbyterian church before, I would want someone to help me understand what I was doing throughout the order of worship. This blog provides an example of how some churches annotate their bulletins so children, youth, and adults can learn more about why we choose to read, sing, pray, and listen at certain times during the worship service. Harvey Browne Memorial Presbyterian Church ( in Louisville, Kentucky offers a model of how to explain the order of worship. Being transparent about how we worship together is in line with our reformed tradition. We can read and interpret the bible ourselves, as well as worship and say prayers with our own bodies. Many years ago, a priest would do all of this while the congregation sat or stood. It is important for parents to share with their children that all people have the freedom to contribute to a worship service. By singing, listening, praying, and sharing, we get to know each other and witness each other’s talents and inspiring work. Fellowship and education events are only part of the ways that we form our faith together. Participating in worship is what binds us together each Sunday, so that we can support each other at or outside of church during the week.