Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Story of Freedom Hill

We have named our new house Freedom Hill. Our home is located at the top of one of the biggest hills in our town, the views are fabulous, so I knew the name should contain Hill in some form or another. I didn't want to call it Johnson Hill because it didn't seem unique enough.

My youngest son suggested Freedom Hill and gave his reasons. Our house represents freedom to us in many ways. We voted on the name last night at dinner and it was unanimous.

The first reason we love the name Freedom Hill is, we live in the greatest country with the world's greatest freedoms.

Second, it's not a parsonage. We lived in a parsonage for 8 years before buying a house in NY. Fortunately for us, our family outgrew the 4-bedroom parsonage the church in NY had provided, so we were able to buy a gorgeous 6-bedroom house there. We lived in that house for 10 years, but moved to MN where we were, once again, required to live in a parsonage. It was not our choice; we were not given a choice. That proved to be the most difficult of all our parsonage experiences (we'd lived in one for 3 years in PA). Turns out many of the church members stalked the parsonage there and while the house was situated in a quiet neighborhood, we had very little privacy.

Being stalked is difficult, invasive and oppressive. There were times we would return from a vacation and within 5 minutes, people from the church would be on our doorstep, wanting to talk or visit. It felt weird, did they know we were home? One man told us that he drives by the parsonage every day to check and see what was going on. Um....our lives were going on....

In our NY parsonage, people did sometimes walk into the parsonage without knocking, which I found completely unacceptable. That stopped when we bought our house. But, when it also happened in MN, I was nearly undone. I walked into my kitchen one day to find a man from the church standing over our counter, looking through some papers we'd left there! Imagine! He was going through our mail. I very quickly took care of whatever business he had with us and ushered him out the door.

When our ministry at the MN church ended due to severe persecution, we found ourselves homeless. After all, we lived in a parsonage.....leave the church, leave your home. Looking to move back to the east to be near more of our older kids, we finally found temporary housing in MD in the form of a parsonage. We agreed to help the church there in exchange for using the house on a temporary basis, but soon found that we were incompatible with the senior pastor. We are deeply committed to expository preaching, but his preaching (and life practices) were far from proper or acceptable.

We soon found a gorgeous house in the woods and felt a real sense of relief. The house was not a parsonage, but a rental. The owner lived 200 yards away, but trees blocked their house. The owner's husband did like to stalk the house some, but we were overall happy there and settled in. My husband had found a job within 3 days of arriving in MD and we were now searching for a church home.

We lived in that house in the woods for 18 months and had no intention of leaving until we were ready to buy. God does not promise us an easy ride through this life, however, and while we were feeling more and more settled, we got bad news upon bad news. My husband was suddenly hospitalized with severe back pain and subsequently diagnosed with cancer. The day after he got out of the hospital, the landlords called and said they were selling the house and gave us 30 days to move. Shocked, we asked for 60 days and told them about his cancer. They said ok to 60, but sent a letter which said to be out in 30 days.

David was having chemo and all its glorious side effects, so I was basically on my own to find a house. We were able to find another rental that was suitable, but we wanted to buy. There wasn't time; we had just 30 days to move.

After being in the 2nd rental for 9 months, we had 2 electrical fires. Because the electrician was not going to fix the problem (only patch), we didn't feel safe and started an aggressive house hunt to find a house we could buy.

Just as all this was happening, my hubby got a call out of the blue from a recruiter telling him he'd be perfect for a job he was recruiting for. David had not circulated his pastoral resume and had no intention of doing so. (That's another story entirely.) The recruiter had done his homework on David well (through LinkedIn) and he was perfectly suited to the job; he was hired. It's an executive position and provides well, which put us in a position to buy a house. You can read about our harrowing house hunt here.

God is good. We bought this gorgeous 7-bedroom, 3200 square foot house on a hill and have now named it Freedom Hill. It has a few quirks (we have to remodel the kitchen, it needs a new laundry room and the a/c is insufficient since they built an addition so a couple bedrooms have window units for now), but we love it and it's OURS!

No one is stalking us.
No one can call us up and tell us we have to move in 30 days.
We will not be having any electrical fires since #1, the house is properly wired and #2, my hubby knows how to fix all that and would do it right if it needed it.
Biggest perk of all, it's OURS, not a parsonage.

So, maybe, if you read to the end of this, you can understand why the name Freedom Hill is so special and important to us.

I am happy that I will never have to live in a parsonage again. If your pastor lives in a parsonage, encourage them to buy their own home and put that parsonage up for sale.
Churches need to get out of the parsonage business.

From Freedom Hill,

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Book Review (Gotta Be a Boy!)

I just finished reading Jenny Nordburg's The Underground Girls of Kabul: In search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. I found this book to be riveting, educational and astounding.

To think that many Afghan families, the father included, encourage and even insist on bacha posh for some of their daughters is to rethink everything I've ever heard about Afghanistan. Bacha posh is the practice of girls in a family being raised as boys, right down to how they dress and cut their hair. Most who practice bacha posh "turn back into a girl" at puberty......but, curiously, not all do.

In their culture, it's an absolute tragedy for an Afghan family to be made up only of girls. When there are only girls, one of those girls has to become a boy. So, the family either raises her as a boy right at birth, or turns her into a boy at some point in her childhood. One girl went to school her first 2 years as a girl, then returned her 3rd year as boy. One parent explained, "We have no sons," and that was all the explanation the teacher needed. If you have no sons, make your daughter into a son. This is an acceptable solution. Since daughters are so dreaded and every family has to have a son, turning a daughter into a son is a reasonable solution and very widely accepted throughout Afghanistan.

Girls in Afghanistan can't go outside without a male escort, even as children. If a young girl is playing outside with a brother close by, though, it's ok. If she has to walk to school (if she gets to go to school), she can do so with a brother. She cannot walk alone and it's not enough to walk with a sister. For a family of girls to have any chance of a future at all, at least one of those girls has to pass herself off as a boy.

There are many rules for girls and women in Afghanistan. All these rules are made and reinforced by men. However, some women also uphold and enforce the rules. The author points out that a society is not truly oppressed until they oppress one another. Women who have capitulated to the rules, for any reason (even forced), oppress other women in an effort to force them to also capitulate to the rules. There are very few rules for boys and men in Afghanistan. Those who make the rules are rarely held to the rules.

Interestingly, some fathers want their daughters to get an education, have a career and even serve in government offices. These fathers are also beaten down by the culture and, to a large extent, not able to help their daughters accomplish these goals.

This seems like patriarchy in the extreme. This seems like behavior we would never see in the west or in western culture. But, sadly, we do see similar behaviors in the west, of all places, in the church.

I'm not talking about some segments of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which practice polygamy and oppression of women more openly. I'm talking about the average fundamental, evangelical church in America and the places these American churches have sent missionaries. The vast majority of these churches teach and practice oppression of women.

This oppressive culture, mentioned in the Pii Report done on ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelism) after Donn Ketcham's pedophile acts, and subsequent cover ups, were revealed, and continues to be present in churches and evangelical organizations. Women continue to be sidelined. False interpretations of Scripture continue to be prominent and misused in an attempt to intimidate women, often causing them to doubt their own relationship with God.

Do you have any idea how far this oppression goes? Look around you. It's highly likely a woman or girl was assaulted or abused in your church - recently. Those of us who work with these women are aware of how frequent this is. Their pastors generally live in a state of ignorance or denial, thinking it can't happen in his church.

It's happening.
Patriarchy is the crux of the problem.
Rid your church of patriarchy and you will rid yourself of much of the abuse.

What's happening in Afghanistan with bacha posh is not as far-fetched as you might think. Did you know that J.K.Rowling used her initials for her name because she's a woman and her publisher didn't think people would buy such a book from a woman? Yes, look it up; it's true. So, here we have a modern, European woman pretending to be a man, or at least veiling the fact that she's a woman, in order to accomplish something women are not "permitted" to accomplish by cultural standards.

And some people, evangelical pastors especially, think there's no problem at all.
Their ignorance is blinding to me.

Photo courtesy of Imagebase.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Hats Off to These Millennials!

My son goes to the local community college near our town. During the election, he got into a couple discussions with his fellow students. My son is the only one who defended Donald Trump in their discussions.

I was a little nervous for him to go back to class on Wednesday morning this week because, seeing so much hate on the news and internet, I wondered to myself if he would face harsh language or treatment for his defense of President-Elect Trump.

When he got to class, his fellow students, instead of showing hatred and intolerance for him, congratulated him on "his" candidate winning. He, in turn, told them Hillary Clinton had put up a good fight.

They were decent to each other, listened to each other with intent to understand and continue to study together, helping each other further their educations.

Not all millennials are rioting. Not all millennials are whining. Not all millennials are intolerant.

What we see in the news are some spoiled millennials, but they do not represent the millennials I know. They don't represent my kids.....all 8 of whom are tolerant, kind and non-destructive in the face of disappointment. Not all 8 of my kids agree with my political positions, either, nor do they all vote the way I vote.

So, take heart! Hats off to these millennials in my son's class who are mature and have shown respect.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Polls, The Truth and the Shock

I sat in amazement as the media grew more and more shocked at the election last night. The journalists and advisers, the pollsters and commentators were nearly all shocked at the direction the election went last night.

I was not.

My husband and I have had an ongoing discussion about the election. He would cite the polls and tell me how they favored Hillary Clinton; I would cite Facebook live results, which differed greatly from the polls.

He would say that the polls were usually right, were scientifically conducted and had proven themselves over time. I would respond with how Facebook live was made up of real people in real time and they were leaning heavily toward Trump.

My Facebook "polling" was unscientific, but I think the pollsters should take a look at this. Whenever Donald Trump was on Facebook live, there were literally tens of thousands likes and hearts displayed and very few angry faces.

But, when Hillary was live on Facebook, I saw tens of thousands of angry faces and very few likes or hearts.

Facebook represents real people in real time, expressing their feelings on the spot. Seeing Facebook results showed that Donald Trump was going to win.