Thursday, February 28, 2013

Brother Dave Hays

This winter has been a season of reflection for me. I find that, as I close in on my fortieth birthday, I am seeking wisdom, clarity, and perspective. A small decision I've made - in light of my family's schedule - is to make a small change to my weekly blogging schedule. I will now be posting new blogs on Thursdays and Sundays; Wednesdays are my busiest day and this is just one small change to help relieve a bit of pressure.

As I think about what to post on my blog, I have a few considerations. The first one is that I cannot post a lot of material because I've already written about those events in my book and I'm committed to keeping the two projects separate. The other question I ask myself is: "What can I add that is new and interesting?"

I was given a few books of informal historical records by some members of the Church of the First Born (COFB). The COFB and the FOC were once the same organization, but later separated due to leadership decisions and theological differences. I have found the members of the COFB to be open to my questions, kind to outsiders, and willing to help when asked.

Here is a short blurb from one of the COFB histories. I will post more if the response is positive.

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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.

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Please let me know what you think of the story...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Push Your Way In

I was mopping the floor and had locked my dog in the bathroom so she wouldn’t lick the chemicals off the floor. She’s a three pound teacup Chihuahua and she will NOT be ignored. So I mopped the floor to the sounds of scratching and whining. That poor baby – ten minutes of neglect! But as I was working, I kept hearing the words “push your way in” in my memories.

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“Walter always said to ‘push your way in’.” My folks would tell me and my siblings when we were discouraged by being left out of the church cliques. Do you know how much it sucks to be told that you must select all of your friends and potential mates from just a few dozen people?
Most of my peers told me at some point (or several points) that they were told by their mothers to exclude me. I know of only one person (she was two years older than I) who acted on her own to turn people against me – and her case was driven by a misunderstanding.  Maybe she’ll read my book and finally understand what really happened. Maybe she carries no guilt over what she did and doesn’t care.
But it doesn’t matter to me at this point – I am actually glad for what she did, because it was the final kick in the butt pushing me outta there (although it took me three years from that incident to get the courage to leave).
I think of that group (the FOC) as a group of people who are stuck inside a big glass ball. The air holes are small and it’s hard to get out – but those tiny holes are conical to make it nearly impossible to get back in once you’re out. And that’s a good thing. There aren’t a lot of reasons for wanting to be there once you’ve gotten a little perspective. In fact, I can think of only one: being able to see and talk with your family members.
If you leave, you’ll be shunned. I’m so glad you’re staying because you WANT to be there or because you believe it’s the right thing to do. Push your way in? Into those gossipy little cliques whose parents were against you from the time you were born into the “wrong” family? No thanks. You can have your cliques.
I’ll take my freedom.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Terrified of Storms

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
2 Peter 3:10

“The family doesn’t want this told.” The tagline came with most gossip. I won’t repeat the gossip here. But it’s a strange thing. First, why and how did it spread so far and wide if the family was determined to keep it quiet? Sometimes the things the family didn’t want told were things that should be told – to warn people to keep their children away. Sometimes they were private and shouldn’t be told. One thing is for certain, they would’ve been discussed from the pulpit when Walter was alive.

Walter called people out. I’ve spoken to folks who were rebuked by Walter for things that seem minor to me – and some not so minor. Your sins will be shouted from the mountain tops. And it seems like that could have some positive aspects. Maybe deter people from temptations (the fear of being publicly called out). Maybe it was a way to seek forgiveness and repent publicly and be cleansed here and now rather than wait for eternal consequences.

I believe in confession. It was so strongly ingrained in me that, as a child from my first conscious lie in the second grade, I believed that unconfessed sin would send me to hell. I was scared and conflicted. On the one hand, if I confessed I would have immediate consequences from my parents; on the other hand, if I didn’t confess and Jesus came back, I would have eternal consequences. I kept track of my lies: I had lied to a teacher at school about picking on some first graders; I lied to my brothers about peeing in the swimming pool. And I had some other sins that seemed huge to a seven-year-old: saying bad words (the ones I remember were “butt” and “fart”). What a serious dilemma it was to try to predict the end of time and the right time for a confession!

Storms terrified me. I lay in bed thinking thunder was the sound of the trumpet of the Lord. I would creep out of bed and peek down the stairs to where my parents sat watching television. Should I go down and confess now while I still had time? Those two lies and “bad” words cost me a lot of sleep in those days. I was nine before I finally broke down and confessed.

When I was nineteen, and still living at home, our area had an earthquake (the Spring Break Quake of 1993 whose epicenter was in Woodburn, Oregon). I had never experienced anything like it. I was awakened in my little white daybed with the entire room shaking. I thought my brother was shaking my bed to wake me up and I woke up yelling, “Stop! I’m awake!” but I opened my eyes and nobody was there. The floor (littered with clothing and books) was shaking, pictures were being knocked off the walls, and I knew it was the end.

I’ve been waiting and watching and expecting the end of time since I was old enough to comprehend the meaning of such a concept. When will it happen? Will Jesus find me waiting?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Child's Prayer vs. Pope Benedict's Blessing

On July 4, 1999, I was staying in a campground near Rome. There were a lot of foreigners around, most of them Aussies (Australian) and Kiwis (New Zealanders). I was bummed about spending the American holiday among people who, like the two Canadian women who kept making anti-American jokes, just didn’t appreciate the significance of the day. So, I opted out of going into Vatican City that Sunday morning, instead sleeping in until 1:00 pm in the tiny wooden cabin I was renting for the week.
Later, when some of my fellow campers came back from their excursion, I greatly regretted my decision to stay behind. They had been standing in the courtyard at Saint Peter’s Square, when the Pope had come to his window and given them a blessing. Wow – I had missed out on getting a special blessing from the Pope. I am not Catholic, but I thought it would be amazing to have experienced such a special event.
This morning, February 17, 2013, Pope Benedict gave his first Sunday blessing since announcing his resignation. When I read the story it brought back that old regret of fourteen years ago. Why did I skip that excursion? It’s not like me to turn down a new experience.
I did tour the Vatican the next day. It was beautiful and surreal to be in such an historic place. But, I was bothered by the money changers. Remember Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple? Well, that’s what I thought about when I experienced all the things for sale there at the Vatican.
Today’s news also brought to mind others who practice the blessing ritual – special, influential religious leaders (Benny Hinn comes to mind) whose prayers are coveted. I thought about something that happened with my daughter a year or so ago. She was very sick with the flu and was vomiting repeatedly and refusing liquids. I was worried. Her older brother didn’t get my worry and was being a kid – hyper, etc. I said to him, “Your sister is sick. This is serious.” His demeanor completely changed and he fell to his knees and started praying, begging God to heal his sister.
Now, I don’t know about all the special religious leaders and their lines to God, but personally I’d rather have the prayers of an innocent child! I never prayed aloud growing up. I never heard a woman pray aloud, either. It just wasn’t done and it took me a long time and a lot of training and exposure to others to become comfortable with it. To see my children pray for each other (and their friends, family, bullies at school, etc.) brings tears to my eyes.

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:14

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Should Leave Them Alone, Right?

I've recently seen dozens of pictures of FOC members. It is amazing to see how things have stayed the same – the inside of the church building, the full-coverage homemade formal dresses, the perfectly coiffed young ladies. I saw some pictures of people I knew twenty years ago – hey, you have aged pretty well (clean living)! It made me feel bad and sad. I’ve spent a lot of time writing about this group of people who really just want to be left alone. I should leave them alone, right?

I was thinking they look happy – man, some of them look so much like their parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins whom I grew up with! But, are you happy? It’s none of my business if you’re fine with what you’re settling for.

But, you are settling. You are settling for an unbiblical life. You are settling for legalism. And do you know who the legalists of the Bible were? The Pharisees – those guys were always trying to trap Jesus with their laws. And, Jesus didn’t like them.

I was told by my parents and other adults in the group that we were the only people who followed everything in the Bible. We did everything the New Testament said to do: greeting with a holy kiss, laying on hands, praying for the sick, faith healing, preachers who are called by God. But wait – hold the music. What preachers? None.

What teaching? None. You are paralyzed.

Do you know the great commission? Go and spread the good news among the Earth! How can you do that if you’ve already decided the entire world outside your closed off little sect is damned? You can’t. It’s not right; it’s not a biblical life.

I don’t want to hurt anyone or invade anyone’s privacy (I'm not mentioning any names or showing anyone's pictures or personal information). But, I do want to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with you.

Please make a decision, take action, before it’s too late.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I didn’t learn about the theory of evolution in high school. Mr. Lee, our High School biology teacher, must’ve just decided to leave that unit out. I heard about evolution from another Follower when I was in my late teens.
She told me and a few others that there was this man named Charles Darwin who came up with a theory that humans had evolved over the centuries from apes. She said that there was a young Follower couple who had become interested in Darwin’s theory and had studied it. The couple had a baby, and as God’s punishment, their baby had been covered in hair and looked like a monkey. The baby died. Now, it’s been more than twenty years since I heard this story (hearsay) and I don’t remember their names – she said that they had left church after this incident. I don’t know the details, and that’s not the point of my blog. The point is just that I first heard of this in my late teens and it sounded awful.
In college, I had to take a year of biology, and the teacher – who was a practicing Christian – taught us about the theory of evolution and the Big Bang Theory. That was the first I’d heard of the Big Bang, and I’m not a quiet person who just takes whatever teachers tell me as fact – so, I raised my hand and asked, “Who made the big ball of matter that exploded in the ‘Big Bang’?” She just smiled.
So here’s what I think about evolution and the Big Bang. I believe that God created the heavens and the Earth. I believe that humans have evolved over the years into being taller, on average, due to better nutrition and health. I think we’re less hairy due to wearing more clothing and the advent of razors, And I think that Charles Darwin came to regret his original theory.
Why explain the universe away? It’s already been explained. People who say the Bible is just a made up story have (for the most part) not read the entire Bible. I want to issue a challenge to the doubters, the agnostics, and the atheists: read it. All of it. Yes, I do realize that some of the laws and history in the Old Testament seem barbaric to our modern eyes – it’s not something I can explain or fully understand. But read it. And then read the New Testament – which is not barbaric at all. The New Testament is a love story of how much God loves us and the lengths He has gone to in order to save us.
So that’s my challenge. Before you say it’s not true – read it. It won’t take long. You could read it in a month if you tried. I read the New Testament in a few days when I was in high school and I’m certain most of my readers are smarter than a high school student.

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” – C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pride and the Power Trip

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
Mark 9:35

I recently received an email from a student which read: “I need you to gather together all of my missing assignments and get back to me on what is outstanding.”

I had a number of issues with this message. My first response was, “Excuse me?” The email just rubbed me wrong. Like I was the student’s secretary. Um, no. That’s not my job (number one). What makes you think I’ll accept late work (number two). And, keep track of your own self (number three)…I think you get the point. I didn’t reply for several days.

I wanted to respond. Well, sort of. I want to be helpful and I want my students to succeed. But, golly gee. Can you not show some respect?

I thought about my own undergraduate professors from Portland State University. What would their responses have been? I could imagine certain profs laughing and slamming the door (this was before we used email) in my face for such a bald-faced demand. But then I thought of my favorite professor and I believe she would’ve looked past the (unintentional) slight and tried to help the student – a first semester freshman. So I compromised and sent a short reply which parroted my syllabus – only less helpful.

Then I went to church and listened as the pastor preached about the attitude of serving. And certain bible verses came to mind – convicting me of my own attitude. Let the leader become like one who serves. If you want to be great, be a servant of all.

And I am a servant. It is my job to teach, not to sit (stand) on a pedestal. Not to be revered as the source of knowledge – but to help my students learn to become better writers, grammarians, and learners. When I taught high school, my students called me by my last name – out of respect (maybe), but also because I would’ve flipped out at them if they had tried calling me by my first name. As a college instructor, I want my students to use my first name. They are adults and “respect” does not need to be demanded of them (it is either there, or it isn’t).

So, I was convicted of my sin – the big one: pride. The devil’s sin: wanting to be superior. It is wrong. I humbled myself (I need to do that often) and approached the student from her perspective – she needed help from me. She also needed me to help her learn to communicate, and that’s my job.

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Do you see what I’m suggesting here? Do you get the implications? If you use your position (this includes your gender) to try and prove that you are “superior” to others, you don’t get it. If you are the leader, you must be willing to serve.

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” – Margaret Thatcher

Sunday, February 3, 2013

VLOG: Most Embarassing Memory

Last week I published my first VLOG about my NBA pipe dreams. It was too long and repetitive (according to my mom) and had some shaking and lighting issues (thank you to the pros who left constructive feedback). So, in publishing a second attempt, I hope to show some improvement. This one is under three minutes, so it's a quick view. Please leave me feedback so I can continue to improve.

I told you mine; please tell me yours (by commenting below)...