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.