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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.)


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.


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.

A Veteran

Disclaimer: I’m not trying to detract from those who have served the United States in the military during a war, so please don’t think that I don’t appreciate what they have offered and sacrificed.


I’ve recently been confronted over and over with the knowledge of just how patriotic I am.  It runs deep in me.  I bleed the colors of my allegiance.

I will be the first to admit that I am American, by birth.  I will also be the first to admit that I love traveling the globe and meeting people around the world.  I crave learning and being around other cultures (those within my country and those without).  The summertime is chock-full of holidays in the US to celebrate this great nation.  Festivals, concerts, etc are scattered throughout the season and peppered with the cheese-ball post-9/11 American music and red, white and blue waving from the corners of every tent.

This is not what I mean though.  I went to the Butler County Fair a couple of weeks ago, and it was everywhere.  I went to the remote-control air show at the Butler County Regional Airport this Sunday (I know…feel free to judge my nerdiness, but I had a great time with good company!) and it was everywhere as well.  What gets to me is when they ask for the Veterans to stand up.  I love it.  I may not have served in the US armed forces, but the honor of having gone somewhere and served your country, on the front lines, or even just in small side-skirmishes – it’s inspiring.

Something inside of me wants to stand up too when they make that call.  I’ve not been in battle or brandished arms, but I have been a soldier in the Lord’s army.  My allegiance is with God.  He’s my portion, my captain, my commander.  I have been in the reserves – at home, going about business, waiting for the call to take up and go – and have had to leave everything to go serve Him.  I have been on the frontlines of spiritual battles.  I have been in the small side-skirmishes.  I’ve also been on the relief team and covered others in prayer who were on the field.

But, just because I am home now, does that mean I am retired?  Can I consider myself a veteran just yet?  I’m not sure how the military handles things.  Is it that once you’ve been in active duty then you can be considered a veteran?  Or do you have to serve a full active duty term until you are discharged or are too injured to continue?

The truth of it is that my heart aligns so much more with my God than with my country.  I have a sort of apathy that I’m not fully proud of concerning being an American.  But this is not just national apathy.  It’s also global.  I may not truly feel like this country is my original home, but I neither feel like any other country is my home.  This is my place of residence, and when I am living in a country, I abide by their laws because that is what Jesus said to do.  But it doesn’t make it my home.  It’s where I live.

And I am so thankful for that.  And with this proclamation, I’m asking all you veterans for the kingdom of God to stand up and be acknowledged.  Those of you in active duty (which, I guess, would be all of us!), stand as well and be honored.  We fight in a glorious battle against the evil one, and it’s already won.

(Not sure how much this post makes sense, but it’s what I woke up with on my mind this morning.)


So, I’m on the train I usually take to Ayaragi but this time, I’m staying on it all the way to Kogushi.  I’m glad for this kind of adventure.  It is 10 stops from Shimonoseki.  An elderly couple sat down with me in my little box seating area.  The lady is watching me write in my journal…but I know she doesn’t understand any of it…that’s nice.  The train has just taken off and the couple begin speaking loudly to each other in surprise…it’s going in the wrong direction…uh oh.  I tell them the next few stops and they realize they got on the wrong train.  Now that we’re at Hatabu-eki, they are getting off to catch the train in the other direction. 🙂

  They were sweet.  I think I might be on the wrong side of the train for the great scenery, but hopefully someone will get up on the other side and I can steal their seat before someone else does.  The next station is Ayaragi, then Yasuoka, then 4 stations I don’t know, then Kogushi.  I have no idea what I’ll do when I get there, but it will be a fun adventure.  Last night was the Kameyama Festival.  It was fun, lots of fireworks again…an hour’s worth of them.  I met up with Mika, Ruthia, Ami, and a few others.  Now the train is going beyond Ayaragi, uncharted territory for me.  🙂  Somebody put doll heads on sticks in that farm to serve as scarecrows.  I wish I had a picture of that.  Ok, I think I got the better end of the scenery after all…all the rice fields, farmland, and mountains are on my side…and the other side is, what, ocean!


I just stepped off the train and managed to ask someone for a good restaurant.  I’m comfortable with udon, so that’s what I’m eating.  🙂  It’s really quaint here.  My udon has raw egg in it…but it’s tasty.  There was a lady who sat with me on the train after the elderly couple got off and was telling me how little there was in Kogushi.  She kept telling me that I should stay at the Kawatana-onsen station, or go on to Takibe so that I could take a bus to Tsunoshima.  It was so pretty on the way here, the mountains and rice fields and then suddenly there was the ocean on the left. So beautiful.  The lady I sat with has a friend in Seattle so we discussed how far things are in the US. 🙂  She was super-nice and said my Japanese was great for just being here since April.  Well, I’m done eating, so I’m off to check out that beautiful beach I saw just over yonder.


I’m super-hot and super-sweaty!!  I’m really glad I did this.  I wanted some time out and doing stuff, but by myself.  I walked all along the shoreline for maybe a half a mile.  I tried to catch some crabs, to no avail, and went inside of a temple.  I have some great pictures of the scenery.  I love going to random places that no one else really sees much beauty or purpose in.  Maybe I have a feeling of ownership with it, because not too many other people can claim an affection for it.  I walked the shoreline one way and only saw a handful of people, and then walked back through the town to the station.  The fact that it is a stifling heat might have something to do with it, and my resulting sunburn is a testimony to that truth.  But it’s such a small and quiet country/sea side town.  I love it!

About halfway between Kogushi and Shimo is another bay/beach.  It looks lovely…I’m going to go there too.  And someday…soooooooooomeday, I will climb one of those mountains! 🙂

There’s a Whisper on the Wind…

On Saturday, God decided to bring a very special sister through Shimonoseki.  She came without any warning to me, but eased right into my life for the few short days we would be in the same place.  Her name is Hitomi, and she is a co-pastor of a church in Osaka.  She has studied seminary at Liberty in Virginia, and she is amazing.  She was saved through the ministry of this church, Shimonoseki Christ Bible Church, and was invited to visit by Nakayama-san.  Immediately, we struck a cord with each other.  While our stories are different in detail and our locations dramatically different, we have similar backgrounds.

I didn’t get to spend much time with her on Saturday, but Sunday evening, I went down to play the piano as a sort of therapy.  It’s special too, because I don’t turn on the AC for that big room while I’m playing, so after a good 15 mins, I’m sweating up a storm…but it adds to the feeling of necessity in worshipping God that way.  I just love the piano and I love having a grand piano at my disposal right downstairs.  While I was playing, Hitomi snuck in and I shared with her some of my favorite songs.  She’s much more of a charismatic worshipper than I am.  I don’t know if her manifestations of the Spirit are true or not…but I don’t get the sense that she is faking it at all.  She is one of the most honest persons I have met in a while.  At some point you have to just get over the differences in pratice (so long as actions are not going directly against Scripture) and depend and rest on the knowledge that you are both part of the Family of God.

After that, she asked if I wanted to take a walk with her.  So we walked, and we walked, and we walked, and ended up by Kanmon Strait…a full 45 mins walk from the Center.  We shared our testimonies with each other the whole way to the water’s edge and then talked a little more.  Then we prayed together for encouragement and for resolution in relationships where pain and selfishness have gotten in the way.  Then we walked back.  My feet were dead.  I slept hard.  I didn’t wake up until 12ish.  It was nice.

Monday afternoon, our newly formed Bible Study group planned to meet at Johnna’s apartment.  Hitomi wanted to go check out the college she had graduated from, which just happens to be the college Mark goes to.  So, I went with her and we met up with Mark and he showed us around and we met some people and it was very nice.  I wish more students had been around, though…but it’s exam time and they are all off studying in their little nooks and crannies.

Then we took a bus over to Karato to meet Johnna.  We grabbed some delicious Indian food, and I was able to gab with one of the workers, in Hindi even!  One of the workers is Nepali and I’m dying for a chance to go back and meet him and talk with him about his country.  That little rectangular spot of mountains will always have a special place in my heart.  When we got to Johnna’s apartment, we ate our “gorgeous” Indian food (as Mark calls it) and decided just to share our lives with each other.  It’s a Bible Study, but we spend so much time on testimonies and getting to know each other…we haven’t cracked the Bible open yet.  But I think it’s good all the same.  We all shared our testimonies with Hitomi and she asked us varying parts of our testimonies and then we prayed for each other.  It was amazing.  I haven’t had a prayer session like that since I was in CN.  It was such a beautiful time of fellowship and worshipping God through prayer.  Mark was supposed to leave at 8pm to go tutor some kids…but he got a phone call that they had to cancel.  What a Godcidence!  Mark was able to spend the whole evening with us.  We spent probably a good 45 minutes in prayer with each other and then we took off.  It was so late that we had missed every bus that might have gone out…so we had to take a taxi.

I am so blessed already with the fellowship God has given me here, but what a refreshment to have Hitomi sweep in like a cool northern breeze and deliver messages from God for each of our lives.  She has invited all of us to come out to Osaka…so we’re going to try to make it out there at some point.  I am so in love with my Maker and how much He cares for me and all His children.  I hope that you know and can know His love for you.  It is amazing, breathtaking, deep, personal, and all-encompassing.  Praise God.

How’s YOUR Acidity Level?

Right now, I’m sitting at my laptop eating Ritz crackers (courtesy of Daiei grocery store) and Jif peanut butter (courtesy of my mom’s first care package) and enjoying every minute of it.  Today has been a day of stress and contemplation.  I have recently realized that my body’s acidity level is out of whack…partly because of some headaches, trouble sleeping, but mostly because of these two little friends in my mouth…canker sores.  They hurt, really hurt.  They are contributing to my headaches…so whenever I get a canker sore, I like to analyze why I have one.  Sometimes it’s just from biting my cheek…but the worst one is way down between my cheek and my gum…not a fun location…you can’t even look at it from there.  So, this could be the result of two things, probably both being connected:  my diet has become too acidic and I’m stressed out. 

So the remedy, for the first, is to eat more “basic” foods and drink.  My last beverage adventure was an orange fruit/vegetable drink which, much to my chagrin, included bell pepper…BINGO – acid.  hah, yeah…that was no fun.  So today, I drank some Coke, hoping the carbonation will help out.  I will research some more basic foods…I think broccoli might be among that, but I’m not certain.

The remedy for the first is…well…more difficult.  There are things in my life that I cannot control right now, so I will have to do my best.  But, it got me to thinking about some “grander schemes”.  In my Wednesday night class, only one of my students showed up…one out of four…Maki, who is 19 years old.  She’s pretty fun.  She has her own band, and she plays the drums.  She was teaching me some good Japanese slang…and then the Japanese English teacher I work with afterwards quickly told me not to use any of them.  Heh…the joy of slang.  🙂

  I decided to be bold and ask a daring question…daring both in content, but also daring because it might force a Japanese person to say something bad about me.  I asked Maki if there was still any anger in Japan over what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki about 60 years ago.   Maki, in true overly-polite Japanese form, said that the young people don’t really think about it and so are not angry, and older people might have been angry still several years ago, but they are not angry with America anymore.

  It got me thinking though…thinking about America and the country holding grudges.  I can understand some things and I probably embrace some prejudices against certain nations…but America tends to harbor hatred for other countries who have, in the past, wronged us.  Take France for instance…I’m not altogether sure what France did in the first place, but Americans have not always liked France.  When 9/11 happened and we wanted to go into Iraq, France would not back us up.  Thus the birth of “Freedom Fries.”  C’mon…seriously?  Freedom fries?  What comes next?  Freedom braid, and Freedom kissing?  geez.  But despite that…how many of you still harbor ill-will to the country of love and honey dijon?

  Prior to deciding to come to Japan, whenever I heard about Japan, it was always with reference to four things: cars, nintendo, Karate Kid, and Pearl Harbor.  What a legacy to give our children in America…all you need to know about Japan is that they make great cars, Mario, wax-on wax-off, and suicide bombers.  What about Germany?  They have such a vibrant and beautiful culture as well!  We have a ton of amazing classical composers that have come out of Germany.  Yes, we have a tumultuous past, but get over yourselves…how many terrible things have we done in the past?  I think the only country we’ve ever remotely resolved issues with is England…and even then, when they do something that gets our tails tied in a knot, we call them redcoats.

  Now I will close and prepare myself to be branded a hippy, calling for “free love”.  or better yet, “freedom love.”  That has a great ring to it.