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Kurt Senske Archives • Upbring

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Op-Ed: Austinites, here’s what you can do to help break the cycle of child abuse and neglect

By Kurt Senske, special to the Austin-American Statesman

The narrative around foster care in Texas usually centers on overloaded caseworkers, traumatized children and a flawed, underfunded state system. However, few of us look in the mirror and wonder what we ourselves can do to improve the lives of Texas children in foster care. I challenge you to think and act differently, starting now.

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Op-Ed: How You Can Help Texas' Foster Kids
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Op-Ed: Breaking the Cycle of Child Abuse Requires Effort from Us All

The narrative around foster care in Texas usually centers on overloaded caseworkers, traumatized children and a flawed, underfunded state system. However, few of us look in the mirror and wonder what we ourselves can do to improve the lives of Texas children in foster care. I challenge you to think and act differently, starting now.

This Opinion piece originally appeared in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

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Op-Ed: How You Can Help Texas’ Foster Kids

Breaking the cycle of child abuse requires effort from each of us, non-profit’s leader says.

This Opinion piece originally appeared in the Dallas Morning News.

The narrative around foster care in Texas usually centers on overloaded case workers, traumatized children, and a flawed, underfunded state system. However, few of us look in the mirror and wonder what we ourselves can do to improve the lives of children in the Texas foster care system.

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Op-ed - April 07, 2015
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Raising standards, raising Texas’ children

By Kurt Senske – Special to the American-Statesman

Read online (subscription required)

In 2014, Jimesha turned 18 and was struggling with anxiety. After eight tough years and seven placements in Texas’ foster care system, she was “aging out,” and her future was uncertain.

“Where am I going to live? How do I get a job? How will I pay for everything?” she worried.
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A Bold New Vision for Texas Children
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A Bold New Vision for Texas Children Begins April 2

NewLSS card front (3)Thursday, April 2 will be an extraordinary day for our organization as we unveil our bold new vision for Texas children, to be carried out through a multi-faceted package of initiatives and approaches, all wrapped in our new brand.

With the possible exception of the Alamo, there is no more special place in Texas than the State Capitol, where on that morning our leader, Dr. Kurt Senske, will make the big announcement – but he will not be alone at the podium.

We gave a great deal of thought as to whom should stand alongside him that morning to speak to our new vision, and identified three major leaders in our state – one from each branch of government – who we felt were the perfect combination for the occasion. To our good fortune, all three have accepted our invitation, and I’d like to identify them and the reasons we selected them.

Representing the Executive Branch will be State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, a long-time friend, supporter and volunteer with our agency. Glenn and his family are examples of what makes Texas great – combining the spirit of entrepreneurship with the stewardship of servant leadership. He knows us very well and can best articulate why faith-based organizations and initiatives are so important to the fabric of our state and the future of generations to come.

Senator Kirk Watson of our headquarters district in Austin will represent the Legislative Branch, and has a long track record both in the Senate and as Mayor of Austin in being part of a number of significant transformational initiatives in this community. As we will first roll out our new continuum approach in the Austin area, seeking to build significant impact that we will carry to other parts of Texas, Senator Watson can best speak to the powerful nature of our new vision and plan.

The judicial branch plays a central role in the lives of children and youth, and we are thrilled that Justice Eva Guzman of the Texas Supreme Court will also join us in heralding this new day. In addition to her court duties, Justice Guzman chairs the Supreme Court Permanent Commission on Children, Youth and Families, which is engaged in numerous endeavors to make the judicial process better serve the interests of impacted children. She can voice those interests as well as anyone.

That is an outstanding lineup …  but wait, there’s more. Our big day would not be complete if we did not include an opportunity for the voice of those we serve to be heard. Joining Dr. Senske, Comptroller Hegar, Senator Watson and Justice Guzman on the program will be a participant in our Austin BeREAL Program for youth aging out of foster care We can say more about her after April 2 – for today, join us in the exciting days of anticipation, and if you have not already done so, please sign up for communications at www.TheNewLSS.org. Thank you!

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6 Lessons the Vineyard Teaches About a Christian Life

KS W&WIn his book, Wine and the Word, Savor & Serve, LSS CEO Dr. Kurt Senske couples the art and miracle of wine with vivid imagery from the vineyard. Following is a recent article he wrote for Beliefnet.

Lessons from the Vineyard:

1) Patience: Wine isn’t made overnight

Like growing a successful vineyard, the path to “becoming family” is often a crooked one. Years, even decades, may pass before we can be sure that we have had a hand in creating something God-pleasing. And so we strive to lay the building blocks for a legacy that reflects our Christian faith, knowing that our decisions and acts of service today will impact future generations.

2) Enhance Your Varietal Character

The question before us – staying with wine as a metaphor for faith and discipleship is “What is our varietal character?” There are aspects of all our lives which are, since we are sinners, in need of work …What actions might we incorporate in order to enhance our varietal character, to present ourselves to others for a more favorable review?

3) Integration is Key

There are times our lives, like an improperly poured glass of wine, lack integration and balance. Integration requires that we pay equal attention to both the doing and being aspects of our lives. It is as important to take time for spiritual renewal and personal revitalization as it is to reach out and serve others.

4) Be Expressive

As a fine wine distinguishes itself from the not-so-fine bottles, we are called on to declare by our words and deeds that we are distinct among the crowd. Yet, it is often difficult for us to express our faith with clarity. Before we know it, we discover that we have allowed the distinctive nature of our Christian faith to become sullied and we quietly ask, “What happened?”

5) Stay Grounded

Sometimes vineyard owners are seduced by their own success. In a culture of consumerism, we are constantly driven to accumulate. But understanding both the mortal and futility and eternal significance of our lives, we can be intentional about developing practices that remind us of what is truly important.

6) What’s in Your Wine Cellar?

I am not referring to the one that houses your favorite beverage, but to something far more personal; it is the cellar that lies immediately beneath our public persona where we hide our traits and weaknesses. To live out Christ’s calling means in part to confront and acknowledge all of these

Wine and the Word can be purchased on Amazon or through www.KurtSenske.com.

 

Wine and the Word: A Father/Daughter Interview

kurt&sydney3Dr. Kurt Senske, CEO of Lutheran Social Services for almost 20 years, is the author of four books, including his latest, Wine and the Word: Savor & Serve, available June 1, 2014. In recent months, Dr. Senske has traveled to numerous speaking engagements to promote his new book – [important note: all profits go to LSS*] – and audiences seem to raise the same questions wherever he goes. “Why are you writing about wine?” and, because his other books are about what it means to live a Christian life, “Is this a book about wine or religion?” For answers to these and other relevant questions, an interview with Dr. Senske is in order.

Dr. Senske is the proud father of Sydney Senske, a student at Concordia University Texas. Sydney interviewed her father earlier this year for the student news site, the Austin Concorde, and she agreed to conduct a follow-up interview about his new book.

Sydney Senske (SS):  First things first … why are you writing about wine?

Kurt Senske (KS):  For the past decade I have been consumed – maybe obsessively so – with three topics and how they relate to each other: wine, the Bible, and what it means to live a well-lived life.  For me, the complexity and artistic challenge of tending the vineyard, the miracle of the cycles of the seasons, the craft of the winemaker in fulfilling her sacred vocation, provides each of us with clues to rediscover and invigorate our own lives.

SS: What is the main message of Wine and the Word?

KS: The main message is to remind us how to fully savor God’s blessings and serve others with great joy.  The art of making wine, as well as the imagery of wine and the vineyard as portrayed in the Bible, provides us with a road map to live such a life.

SS: How often do wine references appear in the Bible?

KS: Amazingly, vine, the vineyard or wine is mentioned 521 times in the Bible.  It is used as imagery, symbolism, metaphor to describe the entire gamut of life – birth, health, vocation, romance, hope, despair, Heaven, damnation, and the resurrection.

SS: Which is your favorite scripture about wine?

KS: I love how the preacher man in Song of Solomon links wine and vineyards to courtship and marriage, “Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded, there I will give you my love.”

SS: You talk a lot about “varietal character.” How does that apply to living a Christian life?

KS: One way to judge a wine is by its distinct varietal character.  When a wine that has been made from a single variety of grape – a cabernet for example – presents its inherent grape aromas in a straightforward, clear and focused way – it is said to have varietal character.

I love how wine enthusiasts describe a wine’s varietal character.  For example, a cabernet might be described as licorice, coconut, chocolate, leather, a cigar box, or a dash of espresso.  Not all wine is good, right?   Bad wines have been described as having the nose of a wet dog, or old running shoes.

As we live out our own lives I think it is important to ask, “What is our varietal character?  How might our spouse, child, co-worker or neighbor describe us using such terminology? Would our descriptors include a whiff of self-centeredness or the unpleasant aroma of a short temper?  Or perhaps, there is an overwhelming smell of material pursuit, while only a faint detection of concern for others.

The question becomes, what actions can we incorporate in order to enhance our varietal character?  Will our neighbors note the pleasing aroma of faith in action as we deliver dinner down the street to a family who recently suffered a loss?  Does a co-worker notice anything different about our words or our behavior because we call ourselves Christian?

Because of sin we will never enjoy a perfect varietal character. However, because we are forgiven, every day is an opportunity to improve and be of service to others. Because we are forgiven, our varietal character can be clothed with the fruits of the Spirit – love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

SS: What is your favorite wine and why?

KS: That’s like asking who is my favorite child!  If I would have to pick, I would say maybe a Bordeaux or a wine from the Piedmont region of Italy.  I am an “Old World” wine guy at heart. When I taste a wine from France or Italy, I literally feel like I become part of its history, geography, and culture. As the French would say, I can experience its “terrior.”

SS: Are you encouraging everyone to drink more wine?

KS: Absolutely not. Wine is only healthy in moderation. I have high expectations of both the reader and myself. However, I am encouraging the reader to view their own lives through the artistic and Biblical lens of the vineyard as it may encourage them in ways to live their lives more fully.  It is my experience however, that we derive health benefits from slowing the pace of our hectic lives as we enjoy a glass of wine.

*All profits from the sale Wine and the Word and/or speaking engagements will be used to support the programs of Lutheran Social Services of the South. Wine and the Word is now available on Amazon. For more information or if you would like to donate, go to www.lsss.org.

 

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