Christian Halloween Thoughts

I came across a bunch of my newsletters from when I was in Japan. Considering Halloween is fast approaching, I thought it timely to repost this – my thoughts on Halloween as a Christian. This was originally dated 10/29/08. Take it as you will.

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Some of you might not agree with what I am going to say in the following paragraphs, but I hope that you will at least read it with an open mind.  This Friday is Halloween.  People everywhere will be celebrating it, and Japan is as well (although they embrace it because it’s something American, and they don’t really do the trick-or-treating but they do have a lot of parties).  On Sunday, I helped out with a Halloween workshop for some kids near Yamaguchi City.  It was a lot of fun!  I really enjoyed helping them carve the pumpkins and playing the games.  We always celebrated Halloween when I was a kid, and I would even dress up when I was up to high school.  There’s just a fun atmosphere around the holiday.

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Now, I know a lot of people do not like to celebrate it because of its origins.  I completely understand, and if that was what Halloween was in these days as well, then I would not want anything to do with it.  But the truth is that it has changed.  For the majority of people who enjoy it, it is not about worshipping spirits and divination or kidnapping little children and boiling them in stew (although that makes a really good scary story).  It’s the one night of the year that people all over are willing to put down their guard a bit and actually meet their neighbors with their children.

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Some might say, “Well, it’s just not an important holiday for a Christian.  We have Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving…Those days are so much more important for us to celebrate, we can forget about Halloween and no one will hold to our discredit.”  But I want to ask you…do you know your neighbors?  You might know their last names from their mailbox, you know how many cars and kids they have, how late they keep their dog out at night, but do you know how their parents’ health is doing?  Are they struggling to keep their marriage together?  Did they just move here and have no connections with anyone except at their workplace?

I think God has given us a great opportunity.  Most people who are not Christians think that Christians are stodgy and cannot have any fun.  They see a Christian’s closed and darkened house on Halloween and think that they have no interest in the community.  I am sad that I can’t be home this year to hand out candy, to show my neighbors my face so that they can know that I am not some religious freak incapable of real human interaction.  Yes, we know that we are very social creatures, within the safety and protection of our church community, but are you willing to step outside of that and invite some less than savory (or so you think) people into your life…people who are not already following Christ?  There is a special blessing for someone who leads another to Christ.

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Oh, and by the way…I looooove how some churches do the “Trunk or Treat”.  It provides a nice, safe, environment for kids to get candy and play games.  Last year, Mom’s church did that, but we still sat at our home and handed out candy.  As the kids came by, we let them know that they should go over to the church to get a lot of candy.  It was a great way to get people over to the church and see Christians actually enjoying life and in a non-threatening setting.  Just throwing some ideas out there for you…and again, if you don’t agree with this, please don’t hate me.  We have different ideas of evangelism and different people are gifted for different things.  Some of you, I know, do not celebrate Halloween, but you also make it a point to know your neighbors and be involved in your community.  If that’s the case, then good for you!  But if you are a regular “church hermit” and don’t know anything about the people down the street from you, I would just suggest that you should find a way of doing so.  It is a command that Christ gave us – to love your neighbor as yourself.  Can you say you do that?  I know I sure don’t…but it’s something I am working on.

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The Huz and I will be passing out candy this year at The House. I’m super pumped for it! He said that we don’t get many kids down this street, but I am looking forward to it. We never had many kids at my mom’s, but it was worth seeing the kids and neighbors for a little bit. We are all so isolated in America! Ugh, it drives me nuts and yet I perpetuate it all the time.

Halloween costumes last year...Goldilocks and a bear.

Halloween costumes last year…Goldilocks and a bear.

What are you doing for the holiday? Handing out candy? Taking kids around? Doing something with your church for the community? I’d love to hear how you use the holiday to reach out to others.

Book Promo: Hidden in My Heart

A little diversion from the current blog series. When I was in Japan, I met a family serving in Hiroshima. They hadn’t been in the country for all that long, I think no longer than I had at that moment, but we had some good discussions and I gave them some tips on ESL ministry. They are a super sweet family.

I won’t give their family history here, but they are a mom and dad, twin daughters, and three adopted sisters. They are precious. Every month, they send out updates on their family and work. I believe they are planning to head back to Japan soon, with the whole family. Wow!

Taylor, one of the twins, recently had a book published! There’s a term that’s fairly common with missionary kids or kids that are born into one culture, but raised in another. The term is Third Culture Kids, or TCK’s. They don’t really feel they belong to either culture, so they have a third culture that’s a mix and in between of the other two. This can result in a whole bunch of emotions and they are hard to process. I don’t know what it’s like to be a TCK, that’s not part of my life story. But here’s an excerpt from the email update Taylor gave.

A few months after we arrived in America, my mom and I were walking on the causeway. We were talking about Japan, and she had begun to notice my anger. We drove to a coffee shop afterwards, and when she asked me what was truly wrong, I started crying. She asked me why, but I didn’t know. I was asking myself the same question.

We talked two hours. Toward the end of our conversation, she asked me to write down a list of emotions that I had felt during our time in Japan. Then she told me to write prayers to God about each one.

I quickly wrote the list. As I sat on the floor with my laptop next to a bright, sunny window, I began writing prayers to God. I cried some more. I asked God to show me what I had missed. I took a few steps back and examined my anger. I opened my ears and truly listened for the first time in four years.

Who is your anger directed toward?  I heard God gently ask. I stopped typing, stunned. Was my anger directed toward someone?

Yes. He responded.  Think about it.

I read through the prayers I had written and thought about it some more. The truth slowly surfaced. And it horrified me.

God… I felt more ashamed than ever, but unlike the last few years I was ready to accept it. My anger is directed toward You, God, isn’t it?

I kept writing. I uncovered my self-centered nature, and I revealed stories that I would much rather keep hidden. I asked forgiveness for the anger, bitterness, and discontentment that had taken root in my heart.

What a reflective young woman she is. I’m glad that I had a chance to meet this family in person, even for just a short time. But I wanted to help promote her book. It is a gathering of the prayers and thoughts she had written down about not having a set physical home. I haven’t read it yet, but Taylor is very articulate and descriptive. I’m sure it will be a great read.

Here is the link.

Hidden in my Heart

If you can’t see the picture above, please click here.

Culture Shock Notes

I have gone one a few trips overseas and been to a variety of countries with varying levels of similarity to American culture. With that said, I am not an expert on culture shock, and I tend to have more shock when I come home than when I go to another country…but I have found some things to be true when dealing with the possibility of culture shock. I’ve compared notes with other vagabonds and we seem to agree in the basics.

Also, most of my trips have been for religious/missionary reasons, so the notes that follow have that bend as well. Some would be universal for anyone traveling from home, but some are specifically for those who are Christians. If you are not a Christian, I ask you not to run away and hide, or lash out irrationally. We each can find a way to live together, but I would say that having my faith with me and knowing that God is right there with me wherever I go has been key to getting over any culture shock I have had myself. (Psalm 139:9-10)

These points are great for groups who are going on a mission trip together, but can have application for other trips as well. I hope it is helpful!

(Also, I did mention that I tend to get reverse culture shock, which is culture shock when you’re returning to your own culture from being in another for an extended period of time. I’ve found these points helpful for the return as well.)

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Culture Shock 

What to watch for: 

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping for extended periods
  • Headaches
  • Nausea Diarrhea
  • Anger
  • Apathy or irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling highly critical of everything

Keeping a Journal 

In this, you should include your daily experiences, recaps, expectations for the day, reflections on your devotion, etc.  Your journal will be your best friend and the place for you to express your joys, vent your frustrations, and anything in between!

Listen to familiar music 

Do this sparingly.  I would suggest only for about 15 minutes or so.  If you have some music in the local style, listen to that as well!  It’s a good way to help you acclimate to the new culture a bit more.

Prepare yourself to experience a different culture 

Things are going to be different.  Get that into your head now!  The food will taste different (even if you looooooove Mexican food here).  Customs will be different.  Personal space is something that is handled very differently too.  There are going to be smells that you are not used to.  Dirtiness and cleanliness will be something you just have to deal with on your own.  You can be grossed out all you want, but try not to let it show to the locals – they will be offended.  Hand sanitizer can be your best friend, but again, don’t use it every 5 minutes in front of the kids – they will be offended.

Keep healthy! 

This is very, very, very important.  First priority is water.  You must stay hydrated. Carry around your water bottle with you at all times.  Bring a nice durable one that you can set on the ground anywhere (preferably with a belt clip).  If you think you may have trouble, then take individual powdered Gatorade packs with you.  Electrolytes are your friend.

Also, do not be afraid to eat the food.  You need to stay healthy and strong.  Try new things, but if you’re having a hard time stomaching something, take some snacks/comfort food in your suitcase to munch on.

Lastly, PRAY! 

God’s grace covers all things.  He will give you strength to get through whatever is troubling you.  Pray for teammates.  Have times where you pray for each other in a group or by yourself.  You will be amazed how much better you will feel after you have blanketed yourselves with prayer.  And don’t forget that you have people at home who are praying for you diligently.  You are loved and cared for, especially by God.

Newsletters

Shimonoseki Port

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve decided to post some of the newsletters I wrote while I was in Japan.  I’m doing this for a two-fold reason.  One, I have been asked by several people recently about my experiences in Japan and, frankly, my memory has become rather rose-colored and hazy.  I want to give a true account and what better way than to share what I wrote, often, the very week of things happening.  Two, I’m afraid that I may, at some point, lose those emails in my inbox.  I don’t want to lose that at all, so this will be a great way for me to keep the memories written down.  And, I guess, there’s a third reason:  I’ve been feeling stagnant and ungrateful to God.  I don’t want to feel this way…I need to be energized and sometimes the best way to do that is to go over what God has done in your past.  So, here you go…I’m not sure if they will come over on Facebook/Twitter much, but I will be posting them for the dates when they were sent out an under their own category, I believe I’ll use “Shimonoseki ’08” (since God may send me back at some point.  Always thinking ahead! lol)

I don’t have many who subscribe to this blog to their emails, so hopefully it won’t overwhelm anyone.  Enjoy!

Japanese Earthquake Mar ’11

It’s unreal to think of what has happened in the northeast Japan.  I never got that far north when I lived there, but I did go through Tokyo for a few days around Christmas/New Year’s.  The earthquake has devastated the northeast.  I spent most of my time in the west, so the areas I lived in and became familiar with didn’t even feel the tremors.  I can’t really even express what I’ve been feeling and thinking for the people of Japan.  It’s strange to think of their clean and organized cities being in disarray and disaster.

In church, we sang “Draw Me Close to You” by the Katinas.  I loved that song before going to Japan, but we also sang it there in Shimonoseki Christ Bible Church – in Japanese, of course.  Whenever I hear it, I feel a swell in my heart for the people in that congregation.  (I have the same thing happen with “Amazing Love” and some friends in CN.)

I can just imagine God, in heaven, drawing close to the people of Japan and waiting for them to come the rest of the way.  Less than 1% of the Japanese are Christians and many of them live in the East.  Please be in prayer for the people of Japan – that God would use this tragedy as an opportunity to draw them close to Him, to make them aware of who He is and what He can be for their life.  Before it’s too late.

Short Story – Gladys Aylward

I found this in the book I’m reading, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood compiled and largely written by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  As you can expect with those two authors, I’m still wading my way through the Foreward…and what a trove of treasure in those few pages. 

I have, for a long time, enjoyed reading about some of my favorite women of the faith, especially missionary women, and especially those who have worked in the field while single.  These are primarily Amy Carmichael (India), Lottie Moon (China), Elisabeth Elliot (single for a time after her husband Jim died and missionary in Ecuador, to the people who murdered him), but I keep forgetting about Gladys Aylward, missionary to China.  I haven’t read too much of/by her, but this little story makes me want to raid my personal library for her bio that I know is in there somewhere.  The story is related by Elisabeth Elliot in the Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter:

She had been a missionary in China for six or seven years before she ever thought of wanting a husband.  When a British couple came to work near her, she began to watch the wonderful thing they had in marriage, and to desire it for herself.  Being a woman of prayer she prayed – a straightforward request that God would call a man from England, send him straight out to China, and have him propose.  She leaned toward me on the sofa on which we were sitting, her black eyes snapping, her bony little forefinger jabbing at my face.  “Elisabeth,” she said, “I believe God answers prayer!  He called him.”  Then, in a whisper of keen intensity, “but he never came.”

I will not close a door that God may be keeping open, but I am no longer trying to force it to remain open.  It can do as it wishes and I will be content to stay on this side of the wall until God gives me a reason to go through it.  And the peace of that is amazing.