Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why Not Try It?

How many folks in the FOC have never attended a church service that included a sermon? How many have never seen a live baptism (as opposed to seeing one in a movie)?

Legend has it that when Walter White was alive, he invited preachers from other denominations to come to the building on Molalla Avenue and deliver sermons. After the guest preacher was done, they would debate the points of the man’s sermon.

Older ones also say that Walter encouraged members of his flock to visit other churches. He said if they stuck around long enough they would discover the other churches’ faults. He told folks to come to him with questions that came up from visiting these other services.

Walter encouraged it, and any folks who take his advice are guaranteed to learn something from the experience. Why not try it? I'm not saying you should leave permanently - as I'm sure Walter was not - but why not see what church is like in other denominations?

Walter White (standing - right), his three brothers:
Orville (seated - left),
Clarence (standing - left), and Melvine (seated - right)
with their mother, Eva White

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Perfection [not] Required

Recently, a Follower posted this comment on my blog:

“People on this blog paint a nice picture of themselves and their family that is not entirely correct.”

I want to clarify for the entire world that I am far from perfect. I have made many regretful mistakes. My memoir does not sugar coat my life, and I don’t go easy on myself. It’s a testimony of my struggles to overcome the damning thoughts that had been imprinted on my brain throughout my early years, giving up on achieving salvation (thus the title “I’m Going to Hell for This”), and finally discovering and accepting the free gift of grace. I know that sounds too easy to be true, but it is true.

Do you think that God only uses so-called “perfect” people to do his work? There has been only one perfect person – Jesus. The rest of us are guilty sinners.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:17

What is God’s work? The Great Commandment:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Mark 12:30-31

Very closely related to the great commandment is the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Matthew 28:18-20

It is a sign of a changed heart to care about those who despise you. To want them to know the love and peace of Jesus. I am not on a mission to convince anyone to leave the FOC, but if my testimony and the testimonies of others through this blog can help even one person to know that they’re loved and wanted by God, then all the insults and accusations are worth it.

I am not perfect or sinless. I never have been, and unfortunately I never will be. A saved person doesn’t become perfect, but God does work in that person’s life, convicting the person’s heart. The way it feels for me is that I can still make wrong choices, but those choices bring sadness into my heart – I don’t enjoy the things I once enjoyed. An example of this is that my favorite drink before I accepted Jesus’s grace was a Vodka Martini – extra olives. A few months after making my commitment, I was out with some friends and ordered a Martini – it tasted terrible. I couldn’t even take a second sip. I believe that is how God works: he doesn’t stop us from making wrong choices, but as we put our faith in him, he makes saying “no” to those wrong choices easier.

I did not start a blog to criticize anyone. I started it to tell my own story and explore my own history. My history, the first twenty-one years of my life and further back in my folks’ history, began with the FOC. This is not a forum to say bad things about any person or put anyone on the defensive. Some of the comments hurt my feelings, but I know that the comments do not reflect on me, but on the person making the jabs – a person/people who are so insecure and scared that they hide their own identity while hurling insults and accusations. Why don’t I block anonymous comments like most blogs do? Because I don’t want to prevent anyone from joining the conversation – whether anonymous or by name. Whether in agreement or vehement disagreement.

Was the Walter White the only perfect man? No, he wasn’t perfect – he wasn’t God. Are you waiting for a perfect, sinless, man? He has already come – Jesus. You will not find another Walter, but you will find salvation. It’s free and available to you.

I am so glad that Jesus loves me – Jesus loves even me! That is not bragging – or maybe it is. It is my greatest personal, lifelong accomplishment!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Spiritual Warfare

I don’t doubt that there are spirits – angels and demons – among us. I have seen a few spirits. Maybe we all have, unknowingly:

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hebrews 13:2

In two instances I saw the spirits of people I had known – one looked like himself and was sitting where he would be expected to be (if he were still alive), the other I saw come out of her body in the moment of her death. I have also had some interesting experiences with stranger ghosts. One of them happened while I was driving on Highway 99 in Sherwood, a man hit the windshield of my car – I heard the sound and saw his face on my windshield in front of me. I slammed on the brakes to check out the situation only to discover there was no man, no blood, and no damage to my car. But on the side of the road stood a small white cross which, I believe, marks the death place of the spirit I saw hitting my car.

Growing up, I heard stories about people who encountered demons. One young man had been lying on his bed listing to AC/DC – a band that was forbidden due to the belief that it was a devil worship band – he closed his eyes and when he opened them, he saw demons walking over his stomach and all over his bedroom. Another young man revealed a similar story of demons in his bedroom when he had been looking at pornography. I heard many such stories of people who were heading in the wrong direction actually seeing demons and being scared back on to the straight and narrow.

But, I believe there are demons among us that most of us don’t see or sense. Though I once met a woman who said she could see demons attached to people. The demons had different agendas – some lust, some greed, some depression, etc. Please don’t read that list to imply that I think depression is a sin or a sign of demon possession – I’m not asserting that. I do think it’s possible that some forms of depression may be spiritual.

Several years ago, I read Frank Peretti’s books This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. These are novels – fiction – but like the Left Behind series which fleshed out the way one Bible Scholar/Theologian interpreted the Book of Revelation, Peretti’s novels are biblically based fiction – story lines and particulars that are possible – who knows.

Have you read these books? If you are interested in spiritual warfare, I recommend these two books. I would love to hear from any who have had experiences with spirits.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Since I began this blog a year ago, I have received many emails from people both inside the group and outsiders who want to help their friends and acquaintances. The questions I get most often are: “Should I leave?” and “How do I help my friend get out?”

Contrary to what many people may assume about me, I am not on a mission to create a mass exodus. Do I think you should leave? I don’t know. How can you help someone else make that decision? I don’t know. It depends on your age, family situation, and tolerance for rejection.

Although, I am not on a mission to tell people what to do with their lives, since I’ve been asked this question so many times, I have created a decision chart to help individuals consider the variables. If you click the flowchart, you will be able to read it more clearly.

Disclaimer: this chart is intended for examination purposes only and should not be considered personal advice. In the words of Dr. Phil: "do not replace my judgement for your own."

If you are seriously considering leaving, please seek the spiritual counsel of an ordained minister or pastor.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Daniel Mitchell: Calling Me A Bigot Makes You One Too

Today's guest blogger, Daniel Mitchell, is a SNHU MFA student and fiction writer from the backwoods of Oklahoma where he lives with his wife and son. He can be reached at

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A Message to Every Idiot on Facebook, Especially the Ones I Love.
          I have fondness and respect for you all or you wouldn't be on my friends list, but your refusal to see that belittling anyone for having different beliefs than yours doesn't make you enlightened, special, or particularly educated. What saddens me most is that those of you most guilty of this are the ones who see yourself as open-minded, liberal, and accepting.
          No one in the world agrees with or supports your every opinion and self-chosen cause.  If they do, they’re selling something or trying to get you into bed.  The more you lambast people for failing to see social issues through the same eyes you do, the more you proclaim your own ignorance, bigotry, and hate.
          Before you applaud these statements, please understand, I’m talking to you, whether you are redneck, Christian, racist, gay, straight, purple, or obssesively passionate about puppies. 
          Preaching about your support of whatever cause you claim to champion and then calling someone else a hatemonger for having a different opinion is without a doubt the most close-minded, assinine ignorance imaginable. 
          Most importantly, whatever your stance, on whatever issue, stop Googling verses from the Bible to support your babbling fascism.  You missed the point of the Bible or you wouldn’t be defiling it by using it to support your rotting soapbox.
          You want respect and acceptance?  Try showing some.

Daniel Mitchell

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Letter From Walter White

Boise, Idaho
July 19, 1939

Dear Brother Lawrence and Sister Vera,

I hope this shock doesn’t affect your heart. It’s seldom anyone gets to read my handwriting so I hope you are able. And this finds you feeling well and happy and enjoying those things God has provided you. Yet a little while and he that cometh will come and will not tarry. God showed me you and Vera! You was playing sweet music from a harp. Vera raised up, she looked tired and weary and said to me, “Oh, I’m tired!” I said to her, “There remaineth a rest for the people for the people of God.” Then we began to dance out in a green pasture and the spirit guided us as we danced. It just seemed wonderful. It was perfect. You was still playing music on the harp. I hope and pray the time will come when I can see you play that new harp in the kingdom of God. My prayer to God is you brethren never get weary in well doing, but with faith, hope, and charity enter the kingdom. I believe the more we suffer and sacrifice her for Christ, the bigger the reward. As brother George said when he was talking in meeting, he said, I believe in degree in hell and also degrees in heaven. So that gives me hope of one degree. I hope I miss the fire. I wish I was there with you, it would be easier for me to talk. But God knows what is best for us. All things worketh together for good to them that love the lord. Elven and Mary was out last night, had supper with us. They seem to be having trials too.

Lawrence, we must be the people John seen coming up through great tribulations having their garments washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.

Don’t never get tired of your [unreadable] God has given you. Nor slowfull but always fervent in the spirit. Always patient toward all men. Gentle, an example to all the brethren. That you might save yourself and your house. Uncle George told us in meeting he seen Brother Charley Smith and Brother Marion Reece appear to him just like an angel. They were talking together about the church. I hope we will be worthy to be with them soon and see all the brethren rejoicing with our lord. The brethren are pretty well here now. We haven’t had much sickness this summer as yet. I hope the brethren down there are not getting slowful in coming to meeting and are able to receive the food God has for them by them he has chosen to feed them. “If you love me feed my sheep, feed my lambs.” Brother Lawrence I hope we are worthy and able and when the chief shepherd shall appear we shall receive a crown of life. I feel like many times I’m to [sic] home in the body and absent from the lord.

I have been working pretty steady since I came without much wages, but I'm living so I guess I should be contented. I don’t know when I will be able to be with you brethren again. I hope it won’t be too long. I sure have a desire to see you all. May God be with you and your family and kinsmen and all the brethren is my earnest prayer.

Pray for us.
Good bye,
Walter and Family

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sunday Night Parties

Old Church Building
Where the Dances Were Held Until 1999
Our church had dances every Sunday night during the school year that we called the Sunday Night Party. There were several bands, made up of teenage boys and adult men. The bands were good - they played old Rock and Roll and Country music.

Girls had to be thirteen to dance and boys had to be fourteen. At the dances, the girls would stand in one corner, the boys would stand or sit opposite the girls. Boys would come and tap a girl on the shoulder by way of asking her to dance.

Once or twice a year the twelve-year-old girls and thirteen-year-old boys would be invited to dance lessons in the old church building. When I was there, dances were held in the old church - they are now held in the back of the new church sanctuary - an addition was added to the back of the church about the time I left church (late 1999-early 2000) because the fire code did not allow for the amount of people who crowded into the old building for special occasions.

Front of the New Building

Every other Friday night, year round, young virginal couples could marry at church and a dance would follow the wedding. Nearly every special occasion featured a dance as well: Halloween (with full costumes), Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years (all night until 6:00am), Valentine's Day, Easter, and our own version of Prom. The special occasion and weddings were events that often included dates afterward. Boys would also ask girls out for "carloads" after the Sunday night parties - where a group of kids would go down to Shari's and eat snacks or dessert.

For a while I loved the Sunday Night Parties, for the first few years. But as I got older, I came to hate them. I hated waiting around for a boy to ask me to dance. I hated that when the band would call out "Ladies' Choice" the boys would go outside to smoke. I hated getting dressed up only to be rejected. I especially disliked the expectation that I would continue to go to these teenage events after I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty. There was just no place to fit in for a young adult who was not married or engaged.
Back of the New Building
Where the Dances are Now Held
In the Idaho FOC, there are no dances. Couples do not even get married at church. Most of the members do not believe dancing is an appropriate activity - quite the difference considering the Oregon City group originated in Idaho. The young adults in Idaho do socialize with each other, but the church doesn't keep them nearly as organized and scheduled as in Oregon City. I'm told they also associate with people from outside the church and can marry whomever they choose.