Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best New Year’s Parties Ever

“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve.
Middle age is when you’re forced.”
- Bill Vaughn

I’ve been to a lot of parties in my life. None of them even come close to the New Year’s parties at the FOC. Even though only the teenagers (and adults) were allowed to dance at these overnight parties, it was still the coolest party ever.

The parties got started in the evening on New Year’s Eve. I don’t remember what time, exactly, maybe 6:00 or 7:30. And they went strong until six o’clock the next morning. Our church had really talented bands that played fun, upbeat, and sometimes even popular music. Every two hours a different band took to the stage and played. Some bands were made up brothers, some of older men who’d been playing together for years, and some of younger guys in their late teens and twenties.

There were stands out all night with free hot dogs and all the fixings and unlimited fountain drinks. It was the only time of year we could get our hands on caffeinated drinks. And of course, we went for cup after cup of Graveyards (i.e., a mixture of soft drinks that’s actually quite disgusting).

It was fun for the younger kids, not just for the junk food and all the soda we could imbibe. We brought sleeping bags to camp out in the long dining room (I can’t remember what we called that room) that was next to the dance floor. The week before New Year’s Eve, the teenagers gathered at the church to decorate and blow up balloons. At just before midnight, all the younger kids gathered below one of the three clear, plastic, bulging vessels waiting for the countdown. Everyone chanted along with the band’s lead singer counted down together “10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…HAPPY NEW YEAR!” The pre-appointed men would pull the corners of the plastic to release the balloons, confetti, and candy at the stroke of midnight. The kids grabbed treats and ran off to enjoy them, while the bands changed and the party went on for six more hours.

My two most memorable New Year’s parties were 1980 and 1990. The party in 1980 was memorable because it was the dawn of a new decade (awesome 80s!) and I collected stacks and stacks of wax-coated green paper 7-up cups – which, miraculously, my parents actually allowed me to take home. There had to be a hundred or more cups (I think around a twelve ounce size), and I spent hours the first weeks of January 1980 making cool stacked cup forts and structures in my bedroom.

Nineteen-ninety was a fun New Year’s party for a different reason. I was sixteen and had a boyfriend. The tradition was for the teenagers to go out for breakfast at 6:00 am, when the New Year’s party ended. We either went to Shari’s or Denny’s. My friends and I went to Denny’s with my brother and his friends (driving my parents’ baby blue mini-van – what nerds!). We went home in the late morning and crashed for a few hours at our house. When we got up in the late afternoon, my boyfriend and his friends were there to take us to Multnomah Falls. It was one of the most memorable days from my teenage years.

When I was a child, I looked far into the future to the year 2000 and wondered if I would still be alive then. I did the math and realized that I’d be twenty-six in Y2K. It was such a disappointing feeling to realize I would be alive, but far too old to enjoy myself by then!

I remember celebrating Y2K like some kind of disaster drill – whoohoo, a new millennium. After stocking up on unnecessary emergency supplies, some friends and I went to downtown Portland to ring in the New Year. All these doomsday people were holding “Turn or Burn” and “The End is Here” placards. Thousands (or hundreds – math isn’t exactly my thing) of young adults packed into the downtown park blocks, pressed up against each other. Music blared, people pushed, then a countdown to midnight. Yay – happy New Year! The crowd dispersed almost immediately. The “party” was over.

The FOC parties don’t have alcohol, and they don’t need it. What they have is talented bands and people who get out on the dance floor. 

I invite you to share your best New Year’s memories, but I’ll bet you’ve never been to a better party than at the FOC J.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Garth Young: Don't Forget Whose Birthday You're Celebrating

Today's blog was written by Garth Young, who shared his story on this blog last June. To read Garth's original posts, click here.

* * * * *

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11

I think it was the Christmas of 1987. I was in a terrible mood because of a disagreement with my parents over clothing I had purchased for myself to wear at the Christmas party. At the end of our heated discussion one of my parents said something that has stayed with me until this day: “Don’t forget whose birthday you are celebrating.” They were right.  My desire to be independent and make my own decisions was being influenced by selfishness and pride; my self-reliant attitude was disobedient and was causing me to look away from my most essential need.

I have no intention of dishonoring their memory.  They were very good parents who were morally upright, worked hard, and were doing the things they had been taught. But there is a good reason I still remember that insignificant blip of my life—we had never talked about the “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). I knew that Christmas was supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but what meaning and significance did it have for me? I have no memory of the topic ever being discussed at church or at home during my time at FOC.  But I have learned there is much to celebrate about the birth of Jesus for those who know him as Savior and Lord.

The shepherds were terrified when the angel appeared and the glory of the Lord shone around them, but the angel didn’t come to strike them with terror. The angel came to deliver the good news that had been so long in coming: the long-expected Savior has arrived. After hundreds of years without hearing anything from God the long silence has been broken with an angelic delivery, followed by a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”. The awesomeness of the delivery is only superseded by the message itself— God is here and he is pursuing men.

If accomplishing salvation were up to us we would be lost and without hope, but we are not left on our own. God’s glory was visible on that day, and from his glory came the resounding themes of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. Jesus was born, and it is incredibly good news that produces great joy. The birth of Jesus marks the beginning of God coming in human form to rescue his people.
There is no better news than the gospel! It is a statement of how God has given the gift of eternal life, through the Son— for those who are his (those who put their faith in Christ). This is the only news that can make people happy forever.

The most important thing I have ever come to know is the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Knowing and trusting Jesus is the essential spiritual need of everyone because it is only His sacrifice that atones for sin.  There is no real hope or real joy in anything else.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Let Us Not Forsaking the Assembling of Ourselves Together

Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
1 Timothy 5:5

One of the nicest Follower traditions was the annual Widow's Dinner. There were a number of older ladies who did not remarry after the death of their beloved. There were also a handful of older women who had been abandoned by husbands who rejected the church and left; women who stayed in the flock and remained faithful to the Follower beliefs, and celibate throughout several years. Some women were so strong that they were able to work and raise their children without a husband.

What about widowers? you may be wondering. The truth is, I don't remember any widowers. Men tended to remarry within a year or two after the deaths of their wives, young and old. Maybe my memory is failing me and there were some older widowed men. I also do not remember any men whose wives had left them and the church remaining single because in our interpretation of the Bible, men could be freed from a wife (free to remarry) if a woman left church or was unfaithful to him.

For the most part, women could not be freed to remarry except through widowhood. I knew of only two exceptions to this. One woman had been given permission by Walter White to remarry after she discovered that her husband had gone and married another woman (committing polygamy). The other woman left her husband after a few years of marriage and claimed that they had never consummated their marriage (she claimed he was a eunuch). It was controversial to many, but the woman did find a Follower man willing to marry her.

Back to the Widow's Dinner: every December the unmarried women – young and old gathered together for the Widow's Dinner. The teenaged girls (on up through twenty-somethings who were not married) prepared a nice multi-course dinner. Tables and chairs were set out in the old church building where the dances were then held. Decorations were put up and poinsettias were purchased as Christmas gifts for each of the widows.

The older faithful divorcees were included and treated as widows. They certainly deserved it for sticking it out in a couples' world and raising their children on their own. It was a time of fellowship with older women and honoring the ladies who had lost their husbands.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mr. Yellow is in the Building

Note to regular readers: I apologize for staying off the subject yet again today. I do have a post in the works about the FOC for Sunday.

* * * * *

It was April 1st, and I was walking my seventh grade class out to the bus, when we were met by a large and frantic woman insisting we go back to our classroom, the school was on lockdown. The long corridor leading out to the waiting busses was full of confused kids and teachers and a few very insistent parents trying to convince us all that it wasn’t a prank. It was real. There was a gunman outside and the police had ordered the school on lockdown.

My first thought was my son, a kindergartener at the same school. He attended morning Kindergarten and then went to an afternoon enrichment class while I finished the day with my middle school students. Four days a week, he played with the other teachers’ children after school while I finished my grading and prep work. But one day a week, the teachers had a mandatory meeting and our kids could not be around, so on that day he rode the school bus to a daycare center at the mall in town. Just one day a week for two hours. The rest of the time, he was with me. This April Fool’s Day was the day he was to go to daycare.

But where was he? I walked past the deserted Kindergarten room with my group of twelve- and thirteen-year-old students. I grabbed a parent from the hallway and begged her to stay in my class with my students while I went to find my son. The kids knew the “Mr. Yellow” drill and had to sit silently in the back corner away from the door and windows (if the school needed to go on lockdown, the office was supposed to announce “Mr. Yellow is in the building” over the PA system). The door was locked and the privacy pane in place. I ran down the now-empty hallway and out the front door of the school. There stood three school busses with a few students sitting on each one and the bus drivers with their doors open waiting and wondering where all the other students were.

I didn’t see a gunman, and it wouldn’t have mattered if I had. Nothing was going to keep me from finding my child. I jumped onto his bus and informed the driver what was going on. Nobody had told the drivers and nobody had tried to remove the Kindergartners from the busses. I told all the little ones to sit on the floor in front of their seats, then ran to the next two busses to relay similar messages, including telling the bus drivers to keep their doors closed. I ran back to my son’s bus, removed him, and returned to my classroom to find chaos.

One of my tough guy students had decided he was going to go after the gunman and was threatening the poor lady I’d drafted into watching them. I appreciated the sentiments of this boy – the middle schoolers were the older kids and this one wanted to protect little kids. What a guy.

It turned out to be a false alarm. Not an April Fool’s prank exactly – the “gunman” was a sixteen-year-old carrying an airsoft rifle in the vicinity of the school and some concerned citizen had called 9-1-1. That is exactly what people should do if they suspect a gunman on the loose.

The way the littlest students and bus drivers were handled (or not) was never addressed (to my knowledge). This wasn’t my first experience with threats and violence in and near a school and it wouldn’t be my last. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Teacher’s Perspective: Are Guns a Right or a Privilege?

I have a microphone and you don’t, so you will listen to every … word I have to say
- Adam Sandler, The Wedding Singer

A week (or so) ago, a commenter complained about me getting off the subject of the Followers of Christ, and while I do care about what readers want, there are times when I have something else to say. Like now.

A pro-gun friend of mine posted a link on Facebook about an attack in China that had taken place on the same day as the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. The person basically said, “see, it doesn’t matter if guns are legal, crazy people are everywhere.” I’m sorry for the Chinese children who were attacked, but they are all still ALIVE.

I have been teaching for the past ten years. I have taught in a preschool, elementary schools, junior high schools, a high school, and college.

The safest school I worked at was Glencoe High School in Hillsboro. The school doors are kept locked, except the front door right by the front office. There are hundreds of video cameras throughout (and outside of) the school, including classrooms. The videos are being constantly monitored by a security person. There is a security staff, and the school has an armed police officer onsite.

I have shared on a previous post that I dislike guns. I have good reasons for disliking them, but this is not the time to share those specifics. What I do want to address is what can be done to prevent irrational people from massacring innocent folks. Especially children.

Here are my suggestions. Please add your own suggestions in the comments below:

  1. Increase security, such as that at Glencoe High School.
  2. Arm a few, well-qualified and thoroughly-trained staff members. I hate the thought of guns in a school, but it seems that we’ve gotten to the point that it’s necessary.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Wayne LaPierre

    3. Make assault weapons illegal.
In Australia, gun laws were changed after a public massacre. Guess what? That fixed the situation. There hasn’t been another since.

    4. Increase/tighten gun control laws. A lot. A whole lot. People (gun proponents) will argue that this doesn’t work because criminals don’t obey laws, but I disagree.

Mexico has recently shut down (nearly) private gun ownership. It’s rumored that the government searched homes and businesses to confiscate weapons. This has greatly reduced gun-related deaths.

In Canada, it takes up to 60 days to obtain a gun, after registering, taking a class and going through background checks.

   5. Pay attention to our friends, neighbors, and children. Seriously, these guys were mentally ill and some people knew about it. We need to take mental illness serious and be proactive in getting the people into treatment.

The United States has 5% of the world’s population;
Half of all firearms worldwide,
And 80% of gun deaths in the 23 richest countries.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Old Memories from Oklahoma to Oregon

As I grew up, I often attended gatherings were older folks would sit around and reminisce about how things used to be. Here is an old story from the Church of the First Born in Oklahoma:

* * * *

A Story Told to Brother Jack Robinson
by Brother Hobart Hays

My father, Brother Dave Hays with his family, was travelling from around Mehan going west to Homestead, Oklahoma, when late in the afternoon he stopped at a store in Langston to get a few groceries for he planned to camp down the trail a ways to eat and spend the night.

While he was in the store another wagon pulled up and the people in it was planning on about the same thing as my father. They met in the store and sort of got acquainted and they decided to camp together that night.

The next morning both families headed west. My father and the other man walked along beside the wagon and visited and my dad talked to him about religion. I was just a young lad then and this other man had a son about the same age as I was so we played together along the way. Later we came to the place where we were to go to Homestead so we told them all goodbye for they were going west to Leedy, Oklahoma.

Sometime later the Homestead Brethren received word that a Brother’s house burned down in Leedy. The Homestead Brethren  took up donations, bedding, and furniture, and my dad and I took it by wagon to Leedy. Other Brethren from Vici came and they all decided to stay and help rebuild the Brother’s house.

The man that we met at Langston lived just down the block from where the house had burned down and he came down to work on the house also. When the Brethren decided that they would like to have a meeting, he offered them his house to have the meeting in. Later he was baptized, his son that I played with was later baptized, also, his name was Brother Andrew Myers, who married Sister Mae Moore. They lived for years in Sapulpa, raised their family in the church there.

 * * * * *

And now a walk down memory lane in Oregon. This picture features the elders from the Oregon City Followers of Christ congregation in 1975. The occasion was the sixtieth birthday celebration of Carl Westerburg.

Carl is in the middle wearing a yellow shirt.  The man on the far right is Glenford Lee.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Prayer Meetings

Last summer, I finally got to meet Jerry Patton (the grandson of Oliver Smith), and his awesome wife, Paula. While we were visiting Jerry mentioned the prayer meetings that were held in the Enid, Oklahoma Followers of Christ group when he was young. These meetings did not require a preacher or pastor to be present.

The meetings could be held in the homes of church members, or at church. The meeting began with the singing of two hymns. Next there was a spoken prayer, followed by two more hymns. A man (any man, young or old) read a passage of scripture and commented on what he had read. Next, each person present – all who had been baptized – regardless of age or gender took turn standing to witness. They recited this script:

“I want to stand as a witness for Christ. I know that I am very weak and unworthy but I want to continue on in this way and I pray for you and I ask for your prayers.”

After each person had stood and recited, the group sung one additional hymn and the prayer meeting ended.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Compassionate Christianity

Earlier in the week, a commenter (and former Republican) referred to himself as a “compassionate Christian.” I think this term is a bit softer than my last blog: “Being a Democrat is the Christian Thing to Do.” Boy, did I make some right-wing fundamentalists angry on social media with that post.

I also had a comment here on my blog complaining about my choice of topics. The poster wanted me to only write about the Followers of Christ group in Oregon City. I do understand that expectation since I have written about it for more than a year. The fact is I sometimes feel like branching out and talking about other things that are still faith-related. And writing about politics and religion, on occasion, is close enough.

For today, I will continue and complete my list of reasons that being a Democrat is the Christian thing to do:

Universal Healthcarewhen people complain about universal healthcare and the problem of insuring ten million more people, I am confused about their motives. Just because some people are lucky enough to have health insurance provided through their employer and others are not so lucky, doesn't mean that ten million folks do not need medical care or that the lives of the "privileged" are more important that the lives of people who are really suffering in this economy.

Education – the way out of a generational poverty is through education. Yet, often Republicans will complain about the “high wages” of educators. I vote Democrat because the candidates on this ticket promise and deliver better funding for free and appropriate education for all.

Social Justice –  As I watched the Republican National Convention this year, it was pretty obvious that the audience was 98% white. This was underlined in the fact that the cameras zoomed in on the same black man in the audience several times (perhaps they thought audiences would believe he was several different black men). I don’t know if it’s true, but I do know that many of the Republicans I know and speak to, are afraid of other races taking over “our” country. It is the Republican party who loves to point out that (they believe) Obama is not a true American.

War Policies and Practices – I am a pacifist. I hate war. I do not want to kill anyone or send our young American men and women off to kill and/or be killed in wars. Democrat leaders are less likely to declare war than their Republican counterparts.

The Death Penalty – I am against it because it takes the old law (an eye for an eye) as its basis. I am against it because it forces innocent people to kill (executioners, jury members, judges, etc.).

The Republican Party wants to keep minimum wages low and tax all income equally. The Democratic Party strives to enforce a livable minimum wage and tax people according to their income levels. The Republican Party claims it wants “smaller government” in one sentence, yet in every other sentence attempts to control and regulate the personal choices and behaviors of others.

This will be my last political blog for a while. I will write about the Followers on Sunday’s blog.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Being a Democrat is the Christian Thing To Do

Nearly every evangelical Christian I meet identifies with the Republican Party. I believe that most Christian Republicans are being led into a political party by red herrings such as gay rights and abortion. I want to explain here why I believe the way I do about politics and religion. This topic will continue over the next week as it is far too dense to be covered in one blog entry.

I know that many readers will want to argue with my reasons, but I do ask that you read this with an open mind.

Abortion – the hot topic. I think this is largely the determining factor that many marginally-informed voters choose their political party. The Republican Party is anti-abortion (generally), and I am anti-abortion. Therefore, I must be a Republican.

Consider the facts, though. Abortion became constitutionally legal in the Spring of 1973. I was at that moment, an embryo. My mother could have, legally, aborted me. Clearly, I was not in a position at that historic moment to prevent the law. I had nothing to do with it and nothing I can do, say, or believe will ever change this law. Electing a Republican to power will never make abortion illegal.

Also, the fact that I believe abortion is wrong – and, I do – does not give me the right to legislate what others do. That is sad. And, in theory, we should fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. But it is a fight in vain. There is nothing that will change this sad fact.

Do you want a government that decides what is morally right and wrong? What about religious freedom? What if we elect a Mormon president who decides to make alcohol and coffee illegal? This country was founded on religious liberty.

Gay rights – another hot topic. The Bible says that the gay sex act is a sin. Republicans (in general) are anti-gay rights. So, I must be a Republican. This goes back to separation of church and state.

Your personal religious beliefs cannot legislate what others do. God gave us freedom to choose right or wrong.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
                                                                                           1 Corinthians 10:23

Allowing gay couples to marry does not mean that you have to accept this as a morally correct life choice. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, you are free to not marry someone the same gender as yourself. It doesn’t have to affect you at all. In fact, there are many good things that can come from legalizing gay marriage. One thing is that it creates a path of monogamy for a group that has, historically, been seen as promiscuous. It also creates good will in the gay community toward the Christian community, thus allowing evangelism and outreach into a previously unreachable people.

Gun control is another hot topic between Republicans and Democrats.  I am personally against handguns for the general population. The second amendment of the United States Constitution reads:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

I believe this covers the militia: the police and military, not the everyday citizen. I do not believe the average, fallible human is fit to carry a handgun. It’s just too easy for someone to lose his/her temper and shoot. I do believe citizens should be allowed to purchase hunting rifles.

Despite my dislike of handguns, I realize that (like abortion) there is nothing I can do, say, or believe that will change the fact that handguns are in the hands of the general population - both law-abiding and criminal.

Immigration - when times are tough – as they currently are – folks look for someone to blame. And it’s easy to see the unprecedented growth of Hispanics in all areas of the country. When I was growing up, there were almost no Hispanic people in and around Oregon City. The population has exploded and many white Americans assume that these folks are illegal.

I don’t know what the statistics are, but it’s true that many Hispanic people enter our country illegally and attempt to survive here in the United States. I have worked with many of these folks – I spent a year teaching English to adults – and have come to know many of their stories. The illegal adults I have gotten to know, do not live well here in America. They share homes with other families and work for less than minimum wage. Many have children and spouses back in Mexico. Most send money home to help their relatives.

If the reality of these people does not affect you, then consider the decision they had to make. If you had a family and children you couldn’t feed, would you go to any lengths to change that situation?

Another key point to be made is that Hispanic people are a mixed race of Native American and Spanish. Therefore, their ancestors are Native to this continent. They have more “rights” to this land than any of us legal citizens, in my opinion.

Redistribution of wealth – this is a Republican term, but I will briefly address it here. Democrats do not seek to make all people equal financially. That is against the ideals of a capitalist country. Democrats do want to help those who cannot help themselves – the widows and orphans, women and children who have been abandoned by their providers. Those who, due to disability, cannot work.

Democrats – Bill Clinton specifically – are responsible for creating laws which have made college education attainable for any United States citizen (note: illegal immigrants are not included in these liberties).

Is it a Christian attitude to proclaim survival of the fittest? To whine about paying taxes which help the less fortunate? I don’t think any intelligent person can say that Republican financial policies and platforms lie within the Christian ideals of charity and love.

Well, this is just a start of the reasons I am a Democrat. I will continue to address this issue on Wednesday. In the meantime, I welcome your input on this subject.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

You're Either a Feminist or a Masochist

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Genesis 1:27

According to a feminist is: “a person who advocates equal rights for women.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, feminism is defined as the theory of the political, economic, and the social equality of the sexes.

I am so confused when I meet women who do not consider themselves to be feminists. Here are some things that we, as women, would be denied the access to, had it not be for the feminist movement:
  1. Education
  2. Equality in the workplace = equal pay for equal work
  3. Custody = before the feminist movement, a divorced woman had no legal rights to her children.
  4. Property = any property owned by a woman or inherited, was not hers, but her husband’s once she was married.
  5. Voting
  6. Protection from physical abuse = prior to this movement, men had a legal right to beat their wives.
  7. Walking in public without a male escort
  8. Having a bank account
  9. Driving a car
  10. Wearing pants

I’m sure the list goes on and on. But I will stop and ask any woman who reads this: “Do you personally enjoy any of the freedoms listed above?” If your answer is yes, then you ARE a feminist.

And to any man who reads this, do you believe your mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters should have any/all of these freedoms? If you answer is yes, then you are also a feminist. It’s not a bad word and it’s not a sin.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galations 3:28

For any women out there who do not want to be labeled as a feminist, here’s a great quote from one of my colleagues in education:

If you’re a woman, you’re either a feminist or a masochist. defines masochist as: “an abnormal condition in which pleasure …. is derived from pain or from humiliation, domination, etc., by another person”

In my last blog, I stated that it is ideal for a woman to be a homemaker for her family. And I stand by that statement, in ideal circumstances, which includes a man who values and cares for his family above his own needs. A man who does not need to belittle women or “put them in their place.”

Equal does not mean the same. I do not want to be a man or be the same as a man. But I do want women to be treated equitably and fairly. I want this for myself, my nieces, and my daughter. And, I want it for the millions of women in this world who benefit every day from the feminist movement that came before our time.

My name is Suzi, and I am a feminist.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Woman's Place is in the Home

A man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done.”

I don't know who came up with that catchy quote, but I heard it often throughout my formative years. It made me angry when I understood what it meant. It meant that men had less work than women. It meant that as a future woman, my lot in life was already settled. It meant that a boy could grow up to be a wide variety of things, but I had no options. I hated being female.

When I turned thirteen and was old enough to dance at church parties, I was often disappointed that the boys didn't choose to dance with me. The girls had to stand in our corner and wait for boys to walk over and tap us on the shoulder, signifying that he wanted to dance. We stood in circles so that the boys could tap us from behind. But I was rarely chosen for dances, except with my brothers who chose me out of sympathy.

Mom had a lot of advice for me on the subject of how to attract a boy. “You have to smile a lot,” she advised, “and wear red. Boys like red.” I remember one Sunday night, wearing my red dress and smiling the entire two hours. It didn't work.

Another thing my mom often told me was to act dumb around boys. That men and boys didn't like girls and women who were smarter than them. What a terribly defeating piece of advice. Didn't it matter what the girls and women wanted out of a man? I would be lucky for anyone to dance with me or date me. I didn't have a choice. I had to be dumber than all the boys so I wouldn't intimidate them.

I hated that my brothers worked outside and I was stuck with housework. I wanted to mow the lawn, and help Dad in the garage. But, I had three older brothers, and wasn't needed. I wanted to go on hikes and to go hunting, but I wasn't invited because Dad had his boys.

After school, my mom would tell my brother that he and I had to get the house cleaned up. He always chose to clean the living room. It was his choice. I got stuck with kitchen duty, while my brother was in the other room watching television. He'd wait until the last moment, then rush around and clean up some clutter in the living room.

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Titus 2:4-5

I didn't want to be stuck with no choices. I hated the lack of options when it came to potential dates. That we weren't allowed to date outsiders, so the boys had a monopoly and called all the shots. No competition for them.

I hated the thought of being a subservient woman. Of having to serve a man and, worse than anything, obey him! But, I did want to be married. There just weren't any other choices to be made. If I didn't marry, I was expected to live with my parents. I wanted freedom.

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

Matthew 23:11

When I was a teenager, I got so frustrated at one of the dances that I complained to my friend, “Boys act like they're better than us.”

She looked at me and with a completely straight face said, “They are better.”

What the heck? She really believed that.

But then I found some comfort in the above and below quotes from the book of Matthew. I even brought it up with some of my friends and family members. But they acted horrified that I would suggest that women would someday be rewarded for their lack of status here on Earth. How could I suggest that women would be first in Heaven? Women would never be put before men.

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Matthew 19:30

And that's true. I don't believe either gender will be put before the other in the end. As the below quote from Galatians explains, there will be no gender in heaven. That's something to be thankful for!

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

But as I've matured, I've had a lot of opportunities and options. But one option I never got was to be a keeper of the home. My not working outside the home just wasn't possible, for reasons that I cannot explain here. I had to work. Some would say that since I had to work, I shouldn't have brought children into this world to be raised by others. For the most part, though, my children were watched by my parents when I have had to work.

This school year is the first in my children's lives when, in essence, I am a keeper of the home. I have a teaching schedule that allows me to drop my kids off at school and drive to work, teach my classes, and then leaves time for me to pick the kids up after school. The timing couldn't be any better for my folks; they are ready to be just grandparents.

And something else I've learned by experience and getting to know a variety of people and their lifestyles is that being a homemaker is noble career choice. There are many happy, intelligent, educated women who choose to stay home and create a beautiful home for their families. They put their creative energy into making the best of what they have materially, making good food, and nurturing their children. The care, education, and guidance of my children is the accomplishment I am most proud of. It is the most difficult job I've ever had. It is worth every tear, frustration, worry, stress, and more to be the person God entrusts with such an important vocation.

So, do I think a woman's place is in the home? Ideally, yes. I admire women who do the job and make a beautiful art of their work. And, I admire men who treat their wives as equals, who respect the opinions and desires of their wives. A man who would put the happiness of his wife and family before his own happiness. A good and humble man makes a woman want to be his help-mate.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

There are so many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that I have a roof over my head – unlike so many in this world. Not just the typical homeless, but also victims of hurricanes, wars, and other disasters.

I'm thankful for electricity. For heat and lights. Warmth and dry clothes. Comfort. These are things that not everyone can take for granted and I'm thankful to be blessed with so much.

I'm thankful for food. I'm not a naturally skillful cook, but my family has enough food to be full and satisfied.

I'm thankful that my folks are still alive and that my family is well. I'm thankful for my sweet, loving, children.
I'm thankful that I was born in a free country. That I have the freedom to read any books I want to read, to talk to anyone I want, to go anywhere I want (within my financial means of course). Most of all, I'm so thankful that I'm allowed to worship God freely. That morals and religion are not forced onto me by lawmakers, but something I am allowed to choose of my own free will.

I'm thankful for God and the free gift of salvation through Jesus' sacrifice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mark Shumaker: A Room With Just One Door

My oldest brother, Mark, left  the Followers of Christ in 1998. He wrote this essay two years after leaving, and has given me permission to publish it here.

* * * * *

February 2000

My most powerful experience with a cultural identity started when I was three and my parents joined the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City. To understand the impact this church had on my life, you have to understand the church. Some might say this is a cult and they are an integral part of every facet of your life. The internal culture of the church was so all-encompassing and exclusionary that the best way I can think to relate it is to compare it to a room with just one door. Those within the room share a common worldview, and reject anyone that has a perspective slightly different than the accepted norm. Everyone in the room knows about the door but stays clear of it. To experience another perspective is tantamount to rejecting the church; to accept that a differing opinion has validity is like becoming purple. They are a tight-knit group that takes care of their own. Everything you do is based in the church. The members are your extended family. You are told to associate with the Followers, not worldly people. You are encouraged to work for a Follower whenever possible, you socialize with other Followers, every life changing moment is shared with other Followers. We weren’t allowed to go to doctors because our faith should be strong to see us through. We were only to marry someone from within the church, and everybody came to the wedding. It was its own culture, and it was mine as well. All this sounds wonderful except for the fact that if you were not born into the church, you lacked the status it took to rise to higher levels within the church. Higher education was discouraged due to the exposure to worldly ideas and knowledge. The women mostly stayed at home with the children. The church grounded their teachings on the Bible and at some time, all of the doctrines seemed to make sense. The Followers are a very close group, encouraging each other in times of death or illness. It is a kind of security blanket when growing up because you know that if your parents aren’t available for you and you need adult guidance, a friend’s dad or mom will be there for you.
            I played by the rules and was married in this environment, and I kept things going and held my family together until about two years ago. It was then that I discovered how hard it is to withdraw from this type of environment. My wife at the time did not want to adhere to the teachings of the church, in fact, she made it clear that she was rejecting everything I had ever believed or worked for. She made this clear through her actions; what she also made clear was that the marriage was over. I had to try to keep everything together for our family by myself. I made some conscious decisions about my life and the direction I wanted my children’s lives to take. Having one’s marriage fall apart is hard enough, by the idea of losing the backing of the church and my friends in the church was almost more than I could bear. The Followers of Christ church defined my whole world and they did not believe in divorce. There was no longer any place in the “room” for me, my only choice was to leave it. I chose to do so by opening the door. I did not know at that time that doing so would force me to reexamine everything that I ever held as truth or that I ever thought was important. I had to learn to trust others. I realized higher education was something I not only wanted but also deserved. The opportunity to make the best life for my kids and me was very important to me.
            It has been a long road, and it is not over. I do not know that it ever will be. Everything I do or experience I now see through two lenses. The worldview of my youth will most likely shade my perspectives for the rest of my life, but I am learning to view the world through lenses that are less restricting. I question my reactions to most new things to make sure that it is not left over from my previous indoctrination. Periodically I review my beliefs and I question them striving to be ever vigilant in what I accept as truth and what I let alter the course of my life. Since my divorce, I am better able to accept new things in my life. I have started going to a new church, am involved in the Cub Scouts (which wasn’t allowed for me as a youth) and I have a new relationship with a woman who had never heard of the Followers’ church before she met me. The daily walk can still be a tough one at times but I am happier and more self-assured than ever before.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The True Followers

I have received some church history and will be posting snapshots from this very dense material. Please forgive the somewhat confusing diction. Other than minor details, this is the wording used in the original documentation:

* * * * *

In 1918, when most of the churches changed their names from True Followers of Christ to the name of The General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, the church that is located between Cleo Springs and Ringwood, Oklahoma decided that to change the name of the church would make them heretics. This resulted in them rejecting all of the other churches.

This church has had many splits since that time. One of the groups that split off years ago have a church that was started by Brother Marion Reece at Ringwood and some of his descendants are still attending that church. Three of Marion Reece’s grandsons were elders of that congregation. The had meetings there on the forth Sunday of the month and every Thursday night. Charlie Smith was the brother that moved to Idaho and started that group there. The brethren that lived west of Enid that go by the True Followers use the scripture for a woman to keep silence in church, and forbid women to speak in prophecy in the church.

The following church history was received by Brother Jack Robinson in the early 1980s:

Followers of Christ Church

Minsters through the years from the early days’ history:
Mr. Burton – baptized Mr. Brewer
Mr. Brewer – baptized Mr. McDonald
Mr. McDonald – baptized Mr. Marion Reece
Mr. Marion Reece – Baptized Mr. Tommie Morris
Mr. Marion Reece – Baptized John Morris
Mr. Tommie Morris – baptized W.A. Morris
Mr. Tommie Morris – baptized Marion Morris

Church was built on John Morris’ land in 1946 where he had homesteaded 60x23 feet – later more square feet was added on. John Morris pleased, after long discussion that one day he drove by W.A. Morris and Jon and Duane had hauled the first loads of sand and makings for foundation.

When John Morris was asked what we’d call church after it was built, he replied, “it’s Church in Wildwood for Followers of Christ.

Marion Reece married Lydia Morris.
W.A. Morris and Marion Morris were John Morris’s sons.

Prior to 1940 – George Long and George Oakley were ministers. The elders were Elliott and Reed.

Charlie Smith married Sally Morris and moved away from the church to the northwest. He ordained White and Baldwin.

The split up the Ringwood, Oklahoma church came in 1940 on the third Sunday meeting. George Long and George Oakley didn’t agree about fornication and certain teachings. Therefore, John Morris told them that he would continue to have church on the fourth Sunday meeting at a school near where he lived until 1946 when the building was built on his land.

John Morris and his son Marion Morris ordained Ed Long, John’s nephew. Elders W.A. Morris, his son, Cecil Morris Senior.

After John Morris passed away, Marion Morris and W.A. Morris, and Cecil Morris senior carried on as church elders. After the elder Jack Watkins passed away, they ordained elders Jim Wallace, Ted Nakvinda, and Gary Wallace.

Men who spoke in tongues in the past included: George Oakley, Charlie Smith, Will Nichols, Jim Hayes, Monroe Testamen, and Alva Brown.

This was verified by W.A. Morris and submitted by his niece, Joyce Morris.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Who are the Watchman?

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning he would have saved himself. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.”
Ezekiel 33:1-6

I have an old friend who was raised in Ukraine. In that country, it was against the law to be a Christian, but this young man became a believer and attended an underground church. Being a believer and Christ follower in a place where those beliefs are illegal makes obedience to God difficult. One thing that this young man did not know how to do was to follow the great commission in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. How could he know who to trust with this secret? Who could he tell?

Years later, this man was living in the United States and attending our church in Lake Oswego. A Christian Choir from the Ukraine came to our church to perform and raise money for their efforts back home. One of the young men in the choir had been very good friends with the young man who was now living stateside. Upon their unexpected reunion the second man asked the first, “You were a believer back when we were friends. Why didn’t you tell me about Jesus?”

If you had a hundred friends stuck in a burning building and you knew the only way out, wouldn’t you tell them as soon as possible? If you know Jesus, you know how to keep your friends out of the fiery pit of hell. If you care about them, tell them. Tell them if you care about being obedient to God. Don’t worry about their judgment of you – that’s nothing!

My motives for writing this blog are not always the best. It was a project I undertook as part of my graduate school thesis project. It has certainly taught me a lot. It has prepared me for the negativity that is sure come with my book’s release. But, it has also renewed my compassion for those who do not know the love of Jesus. Those who are afraid to know. Those who think they know, but have gotten off track. And, most of all, for folks who think they’re not allowed to have their own opinions.

I’m not perfect – far from it. But I know that God loves me. And that is amazing.