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.

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Freedom Sunday 2011 | Not For Sale on Vimeo

via Freedom Sunday 2011 | Not For Sale on Vimeo.

This video is fantastic and absolutely sums up the call of the abolitionist from the children of God.

Be a part of it:   Freedom Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Day 3 – Schedules and Expectations

Kelly’s Day 3 was about “To-Do Lists” and mine is about schedules. Plans.  Expectations.  As I reflected on the list of things causing me bitterness and why they do so, I found it was because they don’t fit my schedule.  God and I have fought many times on this before.  Or rather, I’ve fought and He’s patiently waited for me to fall in step with Him. 

I don’t always know it either.  I will feel anxious out of no where and I’m sure that on reflection, “schedule” would be at the heart of it.  There are some areas that I am not anxious about planning for.  I’ve let go of my expectations.  One such area is what field God calls me to work in.  I could really care less WHERE I go or what I’m doing when I get there.  What I am concerned about is WHEN.

Ok, so, as I’m thinking about it, the “WHERE” factor is pretty much the only area that I’m not concerned about.  And even my anxiety right now to get away is not so much because I feel it’s time for God to send me somewhere, but more that I just want to get away. 

But let’s throw all the rest aside.  When I was “picky” about where I would serve, if God called me somewhere else, I would fight Him tooth and nail.  God had to hit me upside the heard…in several ways…to get me to agree to go to one such place.  When Japan came up, thankfully, I learned from that mistake and was willing to go, even though I knew nothing about the country and had never had any, ANY desire to go there.  And it was one of the best experiences of my life.

But that trip brought up something I have struggled with before – my expectations of others.  Especially of other believers.  but I am a work in progress, why shouldn’t others be too?

My expectations of how members of the family should be or friends, or boyfriends…whatever “position” someone holds…it reflects an expectation you have for them. 

God is the only One who we can expect to be just like He is described in Scripture and for Him to be exactly like that.  Anyone else has free license to go against your expectations, whether for good or for bad.

So, I’m asking God (not man…) to help me release my faulty expectations and the schedules I make in my mind.  His ways are not my own and I can never expect Him to keep to my own desires and whims.  I can expect Him to be good, to love me, and to be sovereign over all.  And as the meaning of those things trickle down in to my mind, my expectations will fall into line with who He really is and who I really am.

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.

Lyrics: “Break My Fall” – Lanae’ Hale

I was just listening to this song this morning and thought I’d share the beautiful lyrics with you.  Enjoy!

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Seems simple enough
When everyone is gone
And the halls are empty
And my song remains unsung

Take a second to breathe
Hope for change, a breakthrough
Begin to pray for relief
From lies that silence the truth

chorus
Would You break my fall
Even though I don’t deserve it at all
Would You call my name
And heal the wounds of lonely days
When lost love mocks the heart and stains the soul
Makes it hard
Could you make these pieces into something beautiful?
I wanna be… beautiful

In the midst of it all
Try to regain composure
By first confessing this fall
That proves my need for a savior

Words and Music by Lanae’ Hale
©2009 Centricity Music Publishing/ASCAP

Promo: IKnowHope.com

The wife of a new family in church had one of the coolest bags I had seen lately.  Upon asking her about it, I found out that it was re-purposed from old coffee sacks!  I’m a huge fan of re-purposing and so had to investigate further.  It was made by an organization called “I Know Hope” which was founded by my new friend’s mother-in-law.  Here are some of the details of the history of this group:

iknowhope.com

Know Hope was founded in 2009 by Connie Baker. Connie was born with a heart to help children around the world. Especially the desperate and the suffering ones. In 2005, Connie began taking teams of people into mountain villages around Tijuana, Mexico to build houses, churches, and orphanages. It was through these trips that her eyes were opened to the desperate children in the world.

In 2009, shortly after hearing a message preached on Matthew 25, we launched this non-profit organization called Know Hope. Our mission is to get the message to children around the world, that there is hope in Jesus Christ. The way we send that message is by bringing food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, and aid to the orphans of this world.

So what they do is gather empty burlap coffee sacks and pull the best part of the bag and make sweet hand-bags.  These are on sale throughout the US and Canada at different shops, or you can just go to their online site:  Know Hope Store

Here are some examples of the bags:

I really like this one.  It’s like totally my style, especially with the big “S” on the front. 🙂  It’s a midi bag measuring 8″ high and 12″ wide.  Has matching blue liner with 1″ strap.

I believe this one is $25.

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I like this one as well.  Just the colors are really nice.  Brown and blue go together so well…and teal is a kind of blue!  Measures 12″ high and 14″ wide (medio size) with a 1 1/2″ thick strap.  This one/size costs $35.

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This last one is my favorite!  I love the rhino and the colors!  It’s super-cool.  I would totally buy it for myself, but I’ve placed a moratorium on spending (we’ll see how long that lasts) until the end of summer.  You can get this particular design as either a medio (12″H x 14″W) or a grande (insert big smile here) which can hold a 15″ laptop.  Cool, huh?

And it all goes to a good cause:  feeding hungry children around the world.  That’s something that I can get behind easily.  Enjoy!

http://www.iknowhope.com/

Faith

Today’s sermon was on vigilence in contending for the faith, based on Jude 1-4.  I don’t get through to Jude very often, but it’s a really nice little book.  Here are key points I marked down:

vs 1. – “…kept/preserved for Jesus Christ.”  ~ I love this promise, that no matter what, God holds us in His hands and will preserve us through the end.

vs 3 – “…contend for the faith…” ~ dictionary.com says that to contend is to struggle in opposition.  But I like the other definition for this verse: to assert or maintain earnestly.

What faith is this? – the faith delivered to the saints.

  • It’s a noun, both as substance of something hoped for and faith placed in God.

Faith is not: a verb.

  • not something you build up yourself inside yourself.  That would be courage.
  • not being irrational or believing the unbelievable
  • not something you speak into existence or activate into reality.
  • not something you claim by demanding

How do you contend for the faith?

  • gently if possible
    • Matthew 5:16 – “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” [ESV]

Have any of you ever noticed how you can begin a prayer one way and by the end of it, your whole demeaner, content, and desire has changed?  I’ve often begun a prayer angry and frustrated about something, or depressed and wounded.  It’s a sick feeling when you feel the only thing left to do is to cry out to God.  And you know the words that you utter are filled with hate and despair, and nothing to grace the ears of your King with, but I am so grateful that He still listens to them.  Note that I didn’t say “He still hears them”:  He listens to them, with the attention of a lover listening to his beloved. 

As I am speaking to Him my sorrow, His Spirit is working in me, and comforting me.  He whispers sweet words of love to my heart so that my mind is not wholly aware of a change of atmosphere.  My words filled with guile are now resting on adoration, and express hope and praise to Him.  I was accusing Him and now I am thanking Him.  Ever notice that?  Not only is my attitude changed to Him, but also to the one or ones who filled me with that anger in the first place. 

What kind of a God can do that?!  I am amazed every time at His mercy and His sincere love for me.  With some recent events, I noticed that God changed my prayer from revealing the secret to salvation of the person who has afflicted me.  I despise when someone’s character is assaulted, and this time, when it was mine, I had all sorts of wild and crazy emotions that flew through me.  I was exhausted.  I was overly emotional.  And while it is still fresh, my emotions have since settled into the peace that comes from God. 

I know that He will protect me.  I am His precious child.  I have faith that He will because He has proven to me over and over again.  He has placed that faith into my heart, so that when circumstances arise, and I could easily be knocked down, that faith is already my support and my shelter.  The wind may howl and beat against my faith, but I am protected within.

Our God is greater, stronger, He is higher than any other, healer, and He is awesome in power.  And if our God is for us, then who can ever stop us?  And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?  Nothing and no one…that’s who.  Praise Jesus!