Native Americans and Racism

I’m part native American, part a bunch of other stuff. I wasn’t raised on a reservation. Neither would I ever want to have been. I don’t want to be supported by someone else. That’s not a gift. Society has advanced, there’s no reason a group of people should be given incentives to live like they lived 1,000 years ago.

Anyway, I heard a quote from a native American leader awhile ago that got me thinking. It was by a guy a couple hundred years ago, and talked nasty about how American Indians wouldn’t be around in the next century. The guy who quoted it was making a point about Native American culture disappearing.

But here’s my objection to that. Native Americans haven’t disappeared. They’ve permeated the culture. A big percentage of people we call “American” today can claim some sort of Native American heritage. Yes, the culture isn’t like it was 1,000 years ago, but since when did humanity try NOT to advance?

We’re all people, plain and simple. And sometimes, with white people guilt, the government tries to give back what some of our ancestors took from Native Americans, or even black people. But that’s all in the past. And pampering a people group, giving them everything free, is not necessarily a gift.

The fact that Europeans killed Native Americans is a sad historical fact. But Indians killed white people, too. Thankfully, a lot of our ancestors got over that. My great-great-great-great-grandfather (or something like that) was a Frenchman who married an American Indian lady. They encountered racism. But that ancestry stayed, and strains of her blood have mingled with all the other races that make up me.

So the people who said American Indians would disappear were wrong. They haven’t. Instead, we find them everywhere in our culture. Not necessarily on the reservations. In the dark hair of your mother, the heavy eyes of your best friend, the dreams of your daughter who wants to befriend wild horses.

America is a mixing pot of races. And mixing requires everyone to give up aspects of their previous identity, and contribute others to the collage. This isn’t a bad thing. God made all of us. He didn’t tell us to stay in our various cultures. He told us to forgive. And racism will never leave if we just keep bringing up old hurts and not forgiving.

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Oh, that’s why we suck…

When I was a teenager, my youth group went door to door to pass out fliers for the upcoming VBS. I remember vividly one woman who, hesitating through her screen door, almost took the flier, but then asked where we were from.

When we told her, she stopped. Her voice turned cold. “Oh, I wouldn’t come.” She said. “I go to (Insert small-town church name). You’re welcome to come to OUR VBS, though.”

When did churches start competing with each other for members? When did it become about what church you go to instead of about all of us serving God and this dying world, TOGETHER? What’s wrong with the church?

Now, obviously, this isn’t every church, or even the majority. But a large fraction of usually dead, traditional churches seem to think that church is a club, where members are coveted from other clubs and loyalties are jealously guarded.

Divide and conquer devil, divide and conquer.

Why I Loved Being Homeschooled

Homeschooling let me do what I really wanted to do. I was a very independent, quick learner. Homeschooling allowed me to learn at my own pace, then, when I was finished, I could learn about stuff that interested me. I wrote my first book and query letters to publishers, for example, when I was 15, simply because I had the time to go to the library and check out a stack of books on publishing and how to get published.

My mom was really good with all of us. She was sensitive to how each of us learned and was able to teach us how we learned best. So, for example, I was independent, but motivated by a finishing line and competition. So she let me do my school by myself, except when I needed help, and she let me advance through grades as fast as I could go through the lessons. My sister, on the other hand, loved sitting by my mom, having her right there for questions. She liked talking through problems. That was how she learned best. In a public school, we probably both would have struggled. I would have gotten bored because I couldn’t advance as fast as I wanted to. I’d be a trouble maker because school wasn’t challenging enough. My sister would have been diagnosed with ADHD because she usually can’t sit still and had to talk out problems. As it was, we both learned what we needed to learn and graduated college with honors.

Now, one thing I was so scared of when I entered college was that I would have missed out on some vital bits of schooling or cultural references, and I’d be left behind. But I was perfectly competent and even a step ahead of most of my public-schooled peers in academics. As far as cultural references, yeah, there were a lot of jokes or references I missed, but it didn’t bother me. And my real friends thought it was cool that I didn’t get a lot of the crude stuff and made me a schedule of movies I’d missed that were actually worth seeing. I eventually learned the big things, mostly how not to flip people off accidentally. But there wasn’t anything important that I missed by being homeschooled.

This isn’t everyone’s experience. And there are thousands of kids who go through public school and are more talented and developed than I was. Pretty much all of my great college friends were public schooled, to the best of my knowledge. And every home-schooler’s experience is a little different, based on their parents’ income and priorities. But this was just my really positive experience.

Genesis! Mobile RPG

WE JUST LAUNCHED OUR KICKSTARTER FOR THE GAME!!! The Genesis! game is a brand-new RPG where you can build cities, explore new lands, and learn all about the newly-formed planet called Earth! If you’re a parent who cares about what your child plays, as far as video games, this is a great investment for you!! Not only is it clean and incorporates moral standards, it also helps kids learn about life after Noah’s flood, around the time Abram was alive.

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For more information, here’s the Kickstarter page. Here’s the basic information page on our website, and below is the video! Please consider helping fund the game so we can get it launched!

A Russian Orphan Testimony

Note: Kostia wrote this just after high school, a few months after we became friends. We were sharing our stories, and I cherish his young, rough grammar. 🙂 

On October 22, 1988, I was born in Russia, about a train ride away from Moscow (probably 200 miles away).

My first memories were in an orphanage. I remember we had one meal a day (lunch) and it was packed with food. The food I remembered the most there was tomato products. The food was like the stuff you would find in a church pot luck. No hamburgers (sniff) or hotdogs. Mostly food like mashed potatoes, bread, corn, you know, old people food!!

429915_122278191235373_1959725180_nI remember while I was in Russia that there used to be a person who used to visit me almost every week. She was a tall, dark haired lady who took me to her house sometimes over the weekend. This was considered special treatment because nobody there did that. I think maybe that it was my mom. I don’t know, though. (NOTE: we have since found out that this wasn’t his mom, but an orphanage worker who had taken a special liking to him. They are now friends on FaceBook). 

The things that happened in Russia were not so good. If you were bad, they would put this weird plant on you that would make you itch all over. I remember that clearly. Of course, they would spank you mercilessly. Sometimes they would strap you in bed so you couldn’t move. That is why when I was little, I always rocked. I rocked in the van, when I was sitting down, and sleeping. I don’t do that anymore, but sometimes to help me sleep, I still do.

I remember at the orphanage that I had one set of clothes. It was a button up collared T-shirt, slacks and I don’t remember if I had shoes. I remember my best friend. He had a green parka and was a little chunky. I don’t know how I remembered him, but he and I always hanged out.

But one day, while I was in the sandbox, I heard a big loud noise. After that, life went from bad to worse. I was sent to a weird hospital where they would put shots in me.

I remember the hospital quite well. We used to sleep in this big room and people would come play with us. Every once in awhile I would get a lot of shots for some reason. I think the reason for was because of my ear and my blood.

My special person who I think was my mom would still come but only to visit me. I couldn’t go home with her.

One day though, that was the last time I would see her. I cried and cried because even though I probably didn’t know exactly what she was saying, I got the point.

After what to me seemed like an awful long time at the hospital, I remember going on a train. I later found out that I was getting adopted. Julia and I were the first ones in that orphanage to get adopted. Before then, kids were not allowed to get adopted. I only remember the train ride. I remember that room that we slept in. There was a bed that I would sleep with my head on one side and Julia would have her head on the other. My feet would be by her head and her’s by mine. My caretaker would sleep on her chair.

I don’t remember much after that but people tell me that when I got off the plane, I cried. Then a person who knew Russian held me and started to talk to me in Russian and I felt a lot better. I do remember going to a family reunion at Minnesota and then heading off to California. My new family was planning on moving to Portland, Oregon, from California.

Again, I don’t remember much in this time period. I remember that we moved to an apartment in Oregon before we moved to Lake Oswego. Things were not going so well in the family. About this time I felt left out because I was new in the family and I could not relate to anybody. I was very shy and had no friends. I was treated, if you want to say, more like a pet and less as a human. I was just there to look at.

Also, I guess I was something my family wasn’t expecting.

matstuff 004There is a long blank spot now. The next memory is when I started to go to school. I loved school. I loved school so much, too much. I didn’t make many friends and I would spend my time in the library reading. When I got home I would make models with legos and build things. I was a very quiet person and this was something my family worried about. I started to see doctors to try and find out “what was wrong with me.” About my third grade year I got into computers. At the library I would work on the computers, mostly typing and working with random programs.

At home things weren’t good. My mom and I didn’t have the best relationship. She wanted me to be more “outgoing” and she did things that would not be the best for a 8-10 year old boy.

My dad was gone a lot and he was my stronghold. Things were a little crazy now because my sister was going through a phase in her life and wasn’t always there for me. She started to act, can I say teenageish?

I felt abandoned and hopeless.

I didn’t really have a foundation on God, and when you don’t have that, you tend to act how people think about you and how they feel about you. That’s how I acted.

I always knew about God but didn’t fully understand who He was until this next part. One trip, my family took me to Hope House to visit and I wanted to go so bad that I wanted to go now instead of for a summer school. One big reason was because there were horses there. I really liked horses back then.

matt_bicycleI went to Hope House and life started to take an interesting turn. I started to be more social just because I lived with a whole bunch of people and that’s kind of how you survive there. I was still very non-social and it was hard to talk to people. I had an awesome counselor named Jan. I was turning into a “man” now, and I had to switch counselors, which wasn’t the best for me. Jan soon left and worked somewhere else. She was the only person I could tell what was going on.

Things were doing okay. I was starting to have a “normal” life. Do normal boy things and get into a little trouble. I was the kind of person that really never got into trouble. The only truly real trouble I would get into I would accidentally get into. It would be with other people or something that I really didn’t fully understand. I was always used for examples for the older boys of how they should act. GULP!

Well, this is the scary part of my life. I started to hear audible voices that weren’t there and see things. It was very scary. I don’t remember really how it all started but I think it was because I was lonely and longed for something to fill in that area. It started off slow, and nice. I would “see” this guy and we would talk. I would hear him and he would “comfort” me. Then one night it all changed. I was still a quiet person at this point and I was sleeping on my top bunk. I saw this figure with a weird head, horned and small peeking at me from the bed. I screamed, jumped off the bunk bed and started to run, and run and run. I don’t remember much, but people said that I would not stop screaming and shaking uncontrollably. This was only the first of a long time of torment.

The so-called “friend” was now a person that took control of me. Sometimes he would threaten me or my family to not tell what was happening and keep it to myself. I didn’t understand what really was going on but now I think it was evil. Strange things started to happen often and finally I got sent to a hospital to “treat” it. I didn’t really like that place. It was horrible, I would get these shots because the meds that they were putting me on were making my body do weird things. Little did they know that this was more than a physical or mental issue but a spiritual issue. I finally lied my way out of the hospital saying that I was fine and I didn’t hear the voices. That was the time where I started to keep things in. I didn’t have too much problems with the voices and seeing things because to an extent I was doing what they wanted me to do. I was going farther from God and ruining my life by being “secret.”

1098332_10200444433462426_186796677_nFinally though, it happened. I couldn’t take it anymore. By this time I would be having horrible dreams. I would not be able to walk alone, etc. I finally told Christ Coury, who is the only person who I could really trust at that time. If I didn’t have that way out, I probably would not be here today. I was asked to go back to the hospital for them to “try” to fix the problem.

There, they “diagnosed” the problem as schizophrenia, which a lot of people get confused by. Most people think schizo is when a person has two personalities. This is schizo but it’s the rarest kind. Schizophrenia is an illness in your brain that messes with your visual, seeing, etc. part. People would see things that aren’t there, hear things, and random things like thinking somebody talking about them to thinking somebody’s going to kill them.

This seemed strange to me because my only symptoms were seeing things and hearing things. Also, in a schizophrenia person, it would be very random, something from the past or just brief clips of things like a dream or such. Not in my situation. I had full conversations, it answered back, and most if it had nothing to do with the past. When I found out all of this, I realized this might just be a spiritual battle. I heard that you could cast out demons but never really tried it.

That night about five years okay, I tried it. I didn’t just say it and didn’t believe it, I really wanted them out. I asked Jesus to help me because we don’t have any power unless through Him. That night, sitting on that bed, it happened.

When the things came back, it was worse, almost the worst it had ever been. But then I rebuked them with all I had and with Jesus’ help. All of a sudden, it was quiet. It felt like the quiet when a long war had ended. All was peace when I said, “Jesus, help me!!!!!!” I felt this strange peace and that was the point where I truly became a follower of Christ. I got released from the hospital and went back to Hope House.

People at once began to see a change in me. I was afraid of people’s reactions, though, and didn’t really express my faith out loud. I didn’t pray out loud or sing out loud. I started my career as a “Lone Christian.” Did the voices ever go away? No, not really. They would come back and I would rebuke and rebuke until they felt like they weren’t welcome. But from time to time, I still experience them, and it still scares me, but I got Christ whose got POWER!

About my freshman year (high school) I started to program. I made some games and programs. I also loved to draw during my middle school years. When I was a sophomore, I started doing animation. I wanted to make Christian games. I wanted to spread the Word through games. In my Junior year, I started to do movie editing, special effects, and things I’m doing today. My dream job was movie editing because you don’t have to wake up early, you get paid a whole lot, and it’s not as stressful.

But then I realized that it would be harder to witness about Christ as an editor. I am now wanting to become a Director. This was not my first choice because it’s stressful! Believe me! But I feel led to do this and I want to, sort of, and you know that feeling when you’re walking on the right path? That’s how I feel. I started to write Christmas plays my sophomore year because we were going to do this really lame play. My first play was Christmas in the Bahamas. It was pretty good! I was Bad Santa! Then I wrote Have A Madagascar Christmas, which was a major hit! And this last year, The Christmas Rap! Mrs. Dario and I have been having a competition to see whose was the best plays and I’m sorry to say the last three years, I destroyed the middle school class! I say that with all humility! HA HA HA! Nah, it’s a thing we joke around about. 🙂

Let’s see here! I’ve really changed I think in the last 3 years and 5 years of my life. Through Christ I have been a social person, likeable, (to an extent, Mercy? Have I?!?!), and able to share about my life and accept help. God has done amazing things in my life! Wow!! Then it happened. I started to go to VCC. Normally this should be a good thing, but some people at Hope House didn’t like it. At VCC, I started growing very quickly, being challenged and able to open up to people more and more. I became really more social and started seeing the person God wants me to be.

Mercy is a person I have found I can trust and “spill the beans” to. She has helped me out in ways nobody else can. I’ve started to see trust as a two-sided thing. All of my life I was being helped by other people, yet they weren’t sharing things with me. In Mercy’s case, we help each other out. It’s awesome and I’ve seen how brothers and sisters in Christ really do help in our everyday struggles. Yup, she is awesome!

Also, my relationship with my family is awesome! My mom and I are doing great, we’re getting less and less intimidated by each other. We talk about our beliefs and what God has done and also back each other up. She is awesome and my whole family is awesome! God is SWEET!!!!

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The Submissive Wife: a tale of two women

In response to Sheila over at “To Love, Honor, and Vacuum.” 

Once, there was a girl who fell in love and married a passionate revolutionary, a strong man with huge ideals but a secret despair to ever reach them. She was a gentle girl, infused with a strong desire to make others happy, especially this man she loved so much.

And he also loved her very much. But his passion for the ideal and his independent spirit quickly turned into a bus that constantly ran over his new bride’s sensitive heart. She cried many tears, but loved him all the same, and committed to staying with him, no matter what. And as the years flowed by, they had their good times as well as their bad times.

But the only way it worked was if the gentle bride laid down and let her husband do whatever he wanted. And serve him as well as she could, regardless of if she thought he was doing right or wrong. For whenever she disagreed with him, it turned into a fight that shook the Earth.

But she was crushed under his heavy expectations. Things never got better, and her husband never realized what he was doing most of the time. He didn’t realize he was yelling. He didn’t realize he was shooting arrows through his wife’s heart. He never realized when he hurt or pushed away his children. He was on the verge of abusive, and his wife’s eyes were full of fear most of the day. But, short of divorce, there was nothing she could do. Standing up just brought constant fighting, and that hurt her worse than just taking his anger and trying unsuccessfully to please him.

On the other side of the world, another girl fell in love with an idealistic leader, a strong man who had a burning drive to change the world for the better. She was also a gentle person, a servant and a healer whose heart broke over and over for the suffering she saw in the world.

And they loved each other very much. Their goals combined and they were able to help each other. But again, she had to bow under the prow of his ship, because when he wanted to do something, nothing should stop him, especially the person who was supposed to help him and make him happy. She cried many tears when she saw her man falling into darkness, and triumphed with him when he came back up, but if she got involved and tried to pull him from going a bad direction, a huge fight broke out. So she didn’t.

But one day, that changed. She got tired of being run over. She knew better. He needed someone to tell him when he was being dumb. And nobody else could see it but her. He was unreasonable too much. He needed so much control over the lives in his family. And she was tired of it. So she stood up.

And forever after, they clashed and lived on the verge of divorce.

I always wished the sensitive princess from the first story would stand up for herself. She cried too much. And he cried to little. But then I saw the second story, and the unhappiness that standing up brought to their marriage.

So what can we do? If a woman is married to a man who runs her over, is she condemned to cry silent tears? How can you make things better without fighting all the time? Because most people don’t change. I’ve never had the answer to that question, until today.

Some people, especially passionate leader types, need mentors, people close enough to see when they’re doing something stupid, people who are able to tell them when they’re right and when they’re wrong. Usually, it falls to the wife, because a wife sees everything. But when the wife is the constant critic, it’s not effective. Especially if the person is used to getting what he wants.

In the Bible, God paired the most passionate leaders with a sidekick, usually not their wife. Moses had Aaron. David had Jonathan. Paul had Barnabas. Jesus even sent the disciples out to preach two by two. And then they would come together and talk and write letters to correct each other and smack each other when they weren’t doing what was right.

This is essential. Anybody who has a strong influence over other lives needs to have someone who can tell them when they’re wrong. Someone they listen to. Every poor leader I’ve seen has one overwhelming fault: nobody can tell them they’re wrong. And it leads to so much hurt. Because even the best of us is wrong a good portion of the time! We all have faults! And some faults can tear a family apart at the seams. So if you’re the husband in the story, get somebody to help hold you accountable! Let them into your life, let them tell you when you’re wrong, or at least listen and try to do better when your wife says something.

What’s Sexy?

Hollywood and Victoria’s Secret told me what’s sexy. Lacy underwear and big boobs. My husband had to switch my thinking about that.

He explained it to me this way. “I want to be able to touch you and hug you. And lace is so scabby, like a sore. I don’t want to touch that.”

He thinks I’m so beautiful when, in the morning, I still have sleep in my eyes and messy hair. He says it’s because I look so vulnerable and soft. And he finds that amazingly attractive. When I’m in a t-shirt or tank top, I can’t get him to leave me alone.

Society tries to teach us that “THIS” is what is universally attractive or sexy. But that’s not true. My husband likes it when I wear t-shirts or tank tops because it was what I wore, most of the time, when we were dating. It’s the style of clothing he associates with me. And he loves me. No model with big boobs ever stepped out of a poster and held him when he was discouraged. Or prayed for him through storms. Or heard his deepest darkest secrets and loved him anyway. Or made him a sandwich at midnight. Or any of the other thousands of reasons he loves me.

I did. And I’m the same way. I love seeing his face, because it reminds me of years of encouragement and selfless giving. It reminds me of the man who, when we were dating, told me to chase God, regardless of if it meant time away from us. It reminds me of all the dreams he helped me realize. It reminds me of the man who stood strong and saved himself for marriage, who dreamed about his wedding and honeymoon. It reminds me of the compassion I’ve seen in his eyes for the helpless, for hurting children, for the homeless.

He is Matt. And I find that INCREDIBLY attractive.

Don’t Lie to God!

The story of Ananias and Sapphira always scared and confused me when I was a kid because, subconsciously, you wouldn’t think the God who sent His Son to die for us would ever strike somebody dead, right?

Wrong.

If you don’t know the story, it happens in the time after Jesus ascended into heaven, when people are converting, disciples are preaching boldly, and everybody is selling all they have and living with all things in common. What a cool time. So this one couple says they’re going to sell their property and give the money to the common fund. But when it actually comes down to it, they decide to keep some of it back for themselves, but still tell everyone that they’re giving all the money. So when Ananias goes to give it to the disciples, Peter (?) confronts him about it and he just dies on the spot. His wife comes in a few hours later, wondering what happened to her husband, and Peter asks her how much they sold the property for. She lies to him and God strikes her dead as well.

When I was younger, this story troubled me a lot. Why would God kill a man and his wife over some money? That seems very cruel and slightly communist. But when you really think about the story, this is what comes to light:

1. It’s not about the money. God didn’t kill them because of the money. Nobody was forcing them to sell their property. God didn’t command them to give the money up. As Peter says, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?” It was about the fact they were lying about it. They wanted to look devoted and be part of the group, giving up everything for the Church and the Gospel. But they also just wanted the money. So they figured they could look devoted and still keep part of the money.

Lesson: don’t lie to others, especially in the Church about your devotion to God!

2. Sapphira was held accountable for the lie, as well. She wanted the money, as well, but it’s also possible she did it just to help and please her husband.

Lesson: don’t lie to others, even if it’s to protect your husband! Don’t love your husband more than God and truth.

Have you ever lied about your devotion to God? Tried to make an appearance of piety when your heart was elsewhere? I need to work on this one.

Have you ever lied for or with your husband or wife? How did it turn out?

Unintentional Parenting

A little boy once told me he was afraid to go to the bathroom at night because his mom didn’t allow it. Later I found out she had never banned it, she had simply spoken harshly to him after he had woken her one night going to the bathroom. But he was so scared of making her unhappy that, instead of padding down the hall quietly to the bathroom, he was peeing in his Lego container in his room and emptying it whenever he could sneak it out. I don’t think she ever realized how much she hurt her little boy, just by those few angry words. The problem was, he lived to please authority, it was just a part of his personality. But that was also crushed easily. And she crushed it. She hurt him over and over again and, instead of living in harmony, she ended up sending him away to a boarding school. They only saw each other once a year, if that. They were never the mother and son they were meant to be.

Simply because of a misunderstanding, because their personalities never learned to listen to each other.

This is a true story. 

My parents did an amazing job at watching us, learning who we were, and acting accordingly. My and my sister’s punishments were different, because we were different. She was extremely sensitive to what people thought of her. Consequently, simply the threat of displeasure would drive her to doing what my parents’ asked. On the other hand, I was really independent. I didn’t care what my parents thought. I’d rather do what I wanted or what I thought was right.

As a result, strong punishments like taking toys away or spanking or even strongly worded lectures would drive my sister to hysterical tears. So she got very mild punishments and they were enough to get her to change her ways without throwing her into hysterics. On the other hand, I didn’t care if my parents talked their mouths off. They could take away almost everything and it didn’t have much effect on me. It took a lot more work for my parents to find things to make me do what they wanted.

(Neither personality is right or wrong, I would add. Even though my sister was a lot easier to parent, she is also more easily influenced by peer pressure. On the other hand, I have a really strong inner compass. Independent children can be a pain in the butt, but once they know what’s right, they’re also hard to dissuade).

Some parents think they need to treat every child exactly equally. This is totally wrong, in my opinion. Now you should try to be fair, of course. But everybody is different, and treating children exactly the same is a lot less effective then figuring out what makes them tick and using it in your training. Punishment should fit both the child and the crime.

So here is my challenge: find out who your kids are. Are they strong? Sensitive? Independent? Remember what your own parents did well or badly. Put yourself in your child’s shoes. Remember what it was like. Observe how you deal with them. Watch how they react. It may make a HUGE difference in the long run.

P.S. In the news recently, there was an article about a 15 year old girl who, along with her 11 year old sister, shot their abusive older brother and ran away. Their 3 year old sister was also in the house. Their parents were away, driving truck. They apparently started the solution of locking the 15-year-old in her room for weeks at a time when she would misbehave. She had also attempted suicide several times.

Usually, with murder, I like to punish the murderer. But this case, to me, is a little gray. Obviously, there was a lot going on in this girl’s head. And her parents weren’t paying attention or didn’t care enough to address the issue or at least look into why their daughter was trying to kill herself. This makes me blame the parents more than the girl for the murder. She had obviously cried for help thousands of times. And nobody pulled their heads out of the sand long enough to look around and see that something was wrong. 

I could have been that girl, if my family had been different. There was even a period in my own childhood that I thought about suicide, and if abuse had been added to the situation… my story probably would have gone the way hers has… And that makes me really sad. Take away God, the morals He gave me, and a great family, and instead of a promising young charity worker and author, you would have a wild, depressed, reckless young runaway.