On the No-Shower Days

Battle-weary from warring with worry, dazed and confused from the hard fall after the rug got pulled from beneath your planted feet, and insulated in isolation from the human interaction you desperately need, you find yourself staring at that familiar image in the mirror.  If only you could sneak in a 5-minute date with the tub.  A little too familiar?  A few too many no-shower days?

When life is providing challenges, it’s easy to fall into a few of Satan’s well-hidden traps.  If we learn to become vigilant and become skilled at recognizing and disarming them, we stay steady on our journey, and the no-shower days don’t hold as much power as they otherwise would.

Let’s visit a few of the deceiver’s favorite go-to snares otherwise known as lies.

Catastrophizing.

This is where you imagine the worst of outcomes.   Your inner Buzz Lightyear is screaming, “This will last to infinity and beyond!”  This present affliction has to be the absolute biggest and baddest of all big and bad things.   In this place, convincing yourself that this difficult day is destined to be repeated for the next 365 comes easy.  Words like “never” and “forever” and “always” ricochet in your brain space, piercing any positivity you might cling to.  You obsess over the current cause of your hygiene hiatus and believe you will never again shower.  Each of us have our own bait-lines that when swallowed, pull us into the abyss of despondency.  What are yours?

Ruminating. 

In an article titled “Rethinking Rumination” in Perspectives in Social Science, the authors give an excellent definition for rumination…

“rumination is a mode of responding to distress that involves repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress and on the possible causes and consequences
of these symptoms. Rumination does not lead to active problem solving to change circumstances surrounding these symptoms.  Instead, people who are ruminating remain fixated on the problems and on their feelings about them without
taking action.” 1

If your thoughts have become the equivalent of a bad vine on YouTube, identify them now.

Enumerating.

Keeping track of your woes?  Adding up insults?  Tabulating troubles?  Multiplying misery?  How often do we count our burdens when we should be counting our blessings?  Becoming an accountant for the adversary is nothing but nonproductive.   It’s easy on the sans-bath days to start a lengthy list of all you do for the others in your life.  What are you logging into your mind’s ledger?

Generalizing.

Sweeping generalizations, the labeling of all of life.  One terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day does not mean they all will be.  Even if the present circumstance does permeate more time than we would choose, it will get better.  It will get easier.  We become healthy when we accept, adjust, and adapt.  Have you painted over a brilliant fine line of promise with a wide brush stroke of generalization today?

Victimizing.

It is far too easy to adopt a victim mentality on the hard days.  Human nature seeks to place blame on someone or something tangible.  We step right into the snares called “If only” and “why can’t”.  Here’s the deal;  bad things happen, people fail us, not everything comes with a labeled reason.  No matter what the source of your pain is, you get to choose whether you will live as a victim or victor.  Taking control of your thought life is the first step in becoming the latter.  Who do you tend to “blame” for your no-shower days?

The Solution:  Spirit-filled mindfulness. 

Mindfulness, apart from spirituality, is defined by Psychology Today as:  “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

Mindfulness tells Buzz Lightyear that he’s overly dramatic.  When truly mindful, we can be aware that this no-shower day is actually a no-shower hour because we are simply in the moment, hour, day.   It grounds us in this truth:

Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.  Matthew 6:34

See, even the Father instructs us to stay in the present!

With spiritual mindfulness, we can purposely list our blessings,  identify joy in mundane moments, cultivate a garden of gratitude as children of a loving God who holds the future we fear.

Rejoice always!  Pray constantly.  Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (HCSB)

Here’s the best part!  As Christ-followers, we have an abundance of help.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be discerning of our thoughts and motives.  He is waiting to gently and graciously expose those destructive thought patterns which make us so vulnerable to Satan’s lies.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.  Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.    John 14:26 (HCSB)

When we allow The Spirit to control our thought live vs. dialing him up for damage control, our no-shower days aren’t so distressing and the image we see as we pass the mirror is not that of a worried and worn-out woman, but that of a gentle and quiet spirit who just happens to be tired.  Big difference, my friends.

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.  And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27 (HCSB)

So, you there with the greasy hair and the baggy sweats, know first that you are loved fiercely by your Father God.  Become obsessed with that.  Ruminate on that.  Count the ways He loves you.

BE MINDFUL OF HIM WHO LONGS TO FILL YOUR MIND!

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth , or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39 (HCSB)

Make a plan for your next no-shower day.  Right now!!!  Here’s your have-ready list:

  • Scripture verses that hold great meaning to you personally.
  • A positive statement in BIG letters for a prominent place.  i.e. “This too shall pass” or “I am loved by the King” or “He knows”.
  • A dry erase marker for your bathroom mirror.  Draw a happy face every time you visit that room.  Don’t forget to smile back at it.
  • Start a blessings list now and add to it ON your rough days.
  • A play-list of your favorite inspirational music.

Blessings my friends!

 

(1) (http://drsonja.net/wp-content/themes/drsonja/papers/NWL2008.pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

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Refusing Refugees or Refusing Righteousness

My journey of conviction in a year of fear.

Our eyes met briefly before she ducked her head.  She in her hijab, me in my gaudy elf hat.  She, fresh from Syria.  Me, fresh from Fear.  She, needing protective winter coats for her family.  Me, needing to shed the armored cloak I’d wrapped around my heart.  She, fleeing from a war zone.   Me, with a son who served in one.

Our church is very intentional about ministering to the marginalized in our community and we have both the blessing and responsibility of reaching our refugee community.  I’ve served at a couple of events now where I was in direct contact with refugees of other faiths, and I have a hard time finding words to describe the blessings I’ve received each time.

Having said that, I must give full disclosure.  I’m scared.  Each time, I’ve experienced fear.  I’ll even be transparent enough to tell you, I played through the scenario of a radical Islamic terrorist coming in to our serve event and blowing us all away.  And yet, we both found ourselves there.   She, fleeing that.  Me, fearing that.  All we have to do is watch a news segment or read an article flashing across our social media, and we start cultivating the ground in which Satan is ready to seed the thorny thistle, Fear.

Months ago, I engaged in a debate with fellow believers regarding the wisdom in accepting certain refugees or immigrants.  I took a hard stance against it.  As time passed, the Holy Spirit just wouldn’t stop stirring my pot.  He’s been holding up a mirror, and I’m ashamed of what I see.  There is validity to both sides of the argument, and balancing intellectual arguments with spiritual admonitions is difficult at best.

It’s the head verses heart problem.

Or, is it the them verses me problem?

  My comfort.  My safety.  My beliefs.  My opinions.  My politics.

The days immediately following my encounter, we watched Aleppo’s torment continue with unspeakable acts of deadly violence against thousands of men, women and children who were created in the image of God.  They were known to Him from conception regardless of their current spiritual state.   No pagan God created these fragile human beings, MY God spoke them into being just as he did me.   This week, I saw her in my TV screen.  I saw her losing all she had and all she had ever known.  I saw her losing her babies, her husband, her parents, her siblings.  I saw her eyes meet mine and this time, they held the gaze.  I saw her, and I wept.

I have so fortified my heart against fear, pounding in crucifying nails and drilling holes in biblical teaching, that I have not heard the still, small voice of God.  So bound was my heart, it could not appropriately break in sync with my Lord’s surely rent heart.

 This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.  1 John 3:16-17 (The Message)

The question isn’t what have I done.  The question is what have I not done!  The question isn’t what do we need to legislate or how do we screen, I think the question is simply this….what does God’s word mandate?  He makes it so easy!

 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

 He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40 (HCSB)

How do we do this?  Your mandate will look different from mine.   Prayer will show you yours.   Of this I am certain, the pile of Christmas gifts under our tree is an affront to the needs of people fleeing from terror if all I do is watch the suffering on high def under the twinkling lights.  Join me in praying for Peace on Earth.  Join me for praying for how we, in our cozy comfort, can be the hands and feet of Jesus to the survivors of atrocity both collectively and individually.

I wish I had a legitimately vetted list of organizations to add to this blog.  I will suggest Samaritan’s Purse, and please feel free to add suggestions in the comments.

I want to leave you with this.

Let Your Heart Be Broken

 

Standing in the Pig Poop

Jesus drives out demons.  People drive out Jesus.

 Can you make any sense of it?  I can’t and of course, we can easily condemn the actions of our ancestors in scripture given we have the script in our hands.  Really, what was wrong with these people?

Let’s recap the situation.  There is this demon-possessed man who had run naked and lived among the tombs and hills where he didn’t sleep, wailed day and night and cut himself with stones for what the Bible says was a “long time”.  He was so violent, so maniacal that he repeatedly tore off the irons and chains that the people placed on him.  Imagine this uncontrollable savage whose eyes would have revealed the demonic torment raging within.  Obviously, no one was safe to travel the path that ran past these tombs of terror.   No Hollywood special effects needed, this was the real deal.  Demons.  Not one, not two, but thousands. The Legion. You can read the story for yourself in Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8.

So, Jesus, fresh from terrifying the disciples by calming the storm with three words, had just arrived to the region of the Gadarenes when this tortured man starts screaming at Jesus.   Remember, “even the demons believe and tremble in terror”. (James 2:19).  They, the demons, beg Jesus not to send them to the abyss but ask instead to be sent into a herd of pigs grazing on the hillside.  So, with his permission, the evil spirits exited the man and entered the approximately 2,000 pigs who then promptly drown themselves.

At this point, the horrified hog handlers book it and they broadcast to fellow farmers and townsmen alike what they just witnessed with their very own eyes.  There was no choice between the fight or flight response.  Unadulterated, adrenaline-laced fear fueled them as the fled the scene of deliverance.

Out come the people to see for themselves, and there he is!  The crazed man is totally coherent.  He is sane.  He is clothed.  He is sitting at the feet of Jesus hanging on every word.  Here’s where the story takes a twist.   The reaction of the people is not what we would expect.  No praise.  No worship.  No gratitude.  No falling on their knees in the presence of the healer.  Just dead pigs in the lake, leftover excrement, and fear.  Fear.  So much fear that they begged Jesus to leave their region. What?  Send Jesus away?  But, I don’t understand!  He just performed a miracle of gigantic proportion!  The whole community benefited from this.

Oh, the fear factor.  I have an intimate knowledge of fear and the sin that springs from it.  I believe it is one of Satan’s favorite tools.

The translation of this particular “fear” from the Greek ephobethesan, is “to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm” and in this case, “of those startled by strange sites or occurrences”.  (Strongs). Let’s look at a couple other instances where this definition of fear is written about.

  • The disciples were seized by it just prior to this scene when Jesus calmed the storm.  (Mark 4).
  •  In John 6, it overtook them after Jesus walked to them on water and caused their boat to instantly time travel to the shore.
  •  The shepherds were hit hard when the angel appeared announcing Jesus’ birth. (Luke 2)
  •  Peter, James and John were brought to their knees at the transformation of Jesus where our Savior’s face glowed, his clothes became dazzling white, Moses and Elijah appeared, a bright cloud covered them all and God audibly spoke.  (Matthew 17 and Luke 9)

Are there any words to describe the terror which strikes at the frail human heart when brought face to face with the supernatural acts of our sovereign Christ?  No, for it is at that moment that we become engulfed by our finite and frail humanity and yes, the flames of spontaneous, sinful fear send us fleeing or, as in this case, begging the Savior to leave our territory.

There they were, sending away the solution as they stood ankle deep in pig poop, the disgusting waste of Satan’s evil army. No pigs, no demons, just the leftovers.   What is it that made them fear the Sovereign Solution over the remnants of years of torment?   What is it that made them fear the Supreme over the damned?  Why did they not want more of what Jesus had to offer?

It has been suggested that money drove their fear.  Two thousand hogs was a costly loss, and what else was this Jesus going to do; however, I don’t think it was that when we look at the other scriptures where the Greek “ephobethesan” is used.

 I think the pure power that pours from our Lord and Savior frightens us in ways we aren’t always aware of.  Why?  

Maybe because we are always trying to be the ones in control.

 Maybe because we are more comfortable with the status quo than we are with being moved out of our comfort zone.

 Maybe because when we see how unfathomably great our God is, we realize how small we really are.  

Maybe because we don’t believe we are worth delivering.

 Maybe because we are actually afraid of what He may ask of us.  

Maybe, just maybe, its because we don’t truly know the totality of who it is we worship and serve and because of that, faith gives way to fear.

Sit with this question:

 Are you standing ankle-deep in your leftover mess while sending away the solution?  Why?  What are you afraid of?  

Lord, forgive us for sending you, our Sovereign Solution, away.  Forgive us for not falling to our knees in worshipful respect and awe at your power.  Forgive us for not calling on you to exercise it in our daily lives.  In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Venues of Vulnerability.

A little backstory.

I like to write from the promise in my life, from those jagged, rocky places where you come across reminders of God’s goodness, His grace.  Places in the journey where He brings you comfort and peace in His everlasting word.  I write in the hope of encouraging, maybe challenging my reader.  I write to keep myself accountable and tuned in to that which I know is true.

Today, I write from a dark place.  I open a door that common sense says is better left shut.  I let words drip off my fingertips onto the keyboard that are oh, so hard.  It’s time, though.  When the Holy Spirit keeps you up long into the night, and He stirs such a fiery restlessness in your bones, it’s time.  I have chosen to write from an intellectual and experiential place.  Leaving my desire to insert God’s word in all my posts is difficult; however, not all readers will be able to get past their resistance to “religion” to join me in thinking….good old thinking, contemplating, considering.  So, let’s hash out reason.

I am a fully-healed, yet ever-changed victim of childhood sexual abuse.  Not once.  Not twice.  Repeated over the course of my 5th year of life.  I’ve never written or spoken publicly of this because I want to honor my parents who did not know of it at the time.  I waited years to tell them.  So, please allow me to make this very clear, I was blessed with healthy men in my family who loved and nurtured me as God intended .  I was the victim of an UNRELATED male offender.  I’ve even worried about unintentionally implicating all the healthy men I grew up in close contact with.    That’s a victim mentality, I challenge you to look for that in your own life or in the lives of ones you love.  I challenge you because given the statistics,

1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old (NSVRC),

many of you reading this have also been victimized.   Here’s the deal though.  You simply can not debate the gender-neutral bathroom push on only an intellectual level.  There is an experiential component to this that, in the world of an abuse victim, supersedes legal arguments.  That, my friends, is why I bare my soul.

Moving on to the issue at hand…

Venues of Vulnerability is a term I’ve given to a place or places where a predator can hang out to gain easy access to his or her prey.  These avenues of assault are everywhere thanks in big part to social media.  A venue of vulnerability can be a sleepover, a bar, a frat party, a bonfire, a car, a taxi, Facebook, Snap Chat, Twitter, Instagram…..etc.  Now, it seems we want to add public restrooms and locker rooms to the predator’s playgrounds.  Who gets to join me in the bathroom?  Who gets to sit on the toilet next to me with large cracks in stall walls and doors while I am exposed and vulnerable?  Worse yet, who gets to be there with my young ones?

Can we just lay down angry agendas and this crazy need to categorize ourselves so we can blow the stall door off the bathroom bills and expose the danger lurking under the guise of “freedoms”, “rights”, “sexual identity”?  We can’t “vet” every man that walks in a woman’s bathroom.  We can’t “vet” every woman who walks into a men’s room.  No one is  going to hire security guards for bathroom patrol.  More and more innocent victims of sex trafficking are being enticed by other victims in venues of vulnerability.  We have to close this loophole!

  I am not scared of a transgender in my bathroom, but I’m terrified of the pretender! 

All of us should be, no matter what our sexual identity is.

One of the sadly ironic things that we see often in our society is media-fueled, attention-seeking activist’s agendas to “further the cause” of a group who has decided their desires trump other’s rights which in the end, actually bring chaos and destruction to the very groups screaming for equality.  I do not believe the greater LGTBQ community believes these are healthy legislations.  How can they?  Let’s look at how many of them have experiential knowledge of victimization:

46.4% lesbians, 74.9% bisexual women and 43.3%
heterosexual women reported sexual violence other
than rape during their lifetimes, while 40.2% gay
men, 47.4% bisexual men and 20.8% heterosexual
men reported sexual violence other than rape during
their lifetimes. (NSVRC)

Please, LGTBQ citizens, SPEAK against the machine driven to destroy you in the name of advancing you.  Are you all okay with earning the right to use whatever gender-labeled bathroom you feel most comfortable with if that very privilege costs just one precious child their innocence? Many of you are parents.  Are you comfortable with making your daughter available for the sexual predator to gaze upon in a restroom or locker room, perhaps see him performing a sex act on himself while he does so?  Gross?  You bet!  She won’t unsee that, and she won’t unfeel the disgust that the sight of her incited that.  If you feel squirmy reading it, I feel the same writing it. Folks, it is our reality.  Are you really okay standing on the front line of pushy political preference when your freedom to use a certain restroom trumps  religious freedoms of that of a Muslim woman who can’t even uncover her head, let alone share a bathroom with a man?  How does it sync with the greater belief of the LGTB community that everyone is entitled to their rights, be it sexual, reproductive, or religious when I lose mine for you to gain yours?   Private bathrooms?  I’m all for it.  I would prefer that to sharing any day, but we all know how quickly public facilities will be jumping to construct multiple private restrooms.

I truly hear the cry of the bullied.  I just don’t know how a male child dressed in female clothes who insists on using the girl’s restroom or locker room will be any less exposed to suicide-inducing bullying.  Can anyone answer that?  Talk about a Venue of Vulnerability!  Then, to add to the far over-reach of government; here in Michigan, we have a bill that would allow our children to use any name they choose, pick their sexual identity, and the parents will not be entitled to that knowledge.  I was under the impression that our sophisticated society was working to create healthy families where children learned and thrived yet, our schools will help them harbor secrets from their parents encouraging the child to live further underground in their fear and shame.  So, are we assured that suicide rates will drop when the district helps the child hide out?   There is no prescription for how a family deals with finding out their child is gay.  How dare a broken educational system dictate what the one-size fits all fix is and when that occurs.  How dare the system want me involved in homework and academic performance yet my momma hands have to be off my child’s sexuality during formative years.  No!  Can anyone explain that?

One of the things that prompted me to write this now was a “lively” debate with a stranger on social media.  She asked that I read an article titled: Who’s Afraid of Gender-Neutral Bathrooms? by Jeannie Suk for The New Yorker, published January 25, 2016.  I read it.  I laughed.  Let me provide you a quote from the article:

“Perhaps the point is precisely that the public restroom is the only everyday social institution remaining in which separation by gender is the norm, and undoing that separation would f eel like the last shot in the “war on gender” itself.”

Seriously?  She tied this to LGTBQ rights why??  I’m not sure gender-neutral bathroom proponents even know what they are fighting for!  I’m positive they don’t want what they are going to get when these bills pass UNLESS they are just in it because they like a fight, a social cause.  You might win the battle but lose the war at the cost of our innocents.   I can’t even address my opinions on this nonsense because women’s rights and equality should include safety.  The author refers to segregated bathrooms as being a “Victorian phenomenon”.  Not in my 2016 world, so let’s get back to the real issue.

Every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.  Every 107 seconds! (RAINN).

In an article written by Emily Thomas by the Huffington Post in November of 2013, she cited a report from the National Research Council.  Within the pages of stats compiled in the book Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault was this statement.

“Rape and sexual assault are among the most injurious crimes a person can inflict on another. The effects are devastating, extending beyond the initial victimization to consequences such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, sleep and eating disorders, and other emotional and physical problems. Understanding the frequency and context under which rape and sexual assault are committed is vital in directing resources for law enforcement and support for victims. These data can influence public health and mental health policies and help identify interventions that will reduce the risk of future attacks. Sadly, accurate information about the extent of sexual assault and rape is difficult to obtain because most of these crimes go unreported to police.”

Sadly, we will never know the real statistics on rape and assault because it’s estimated that only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities.  Combine that with rape being the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police  (NSVRC), this is not the time to provide Venues of Vulnerability.

How do I end what is an emotionally-charged piece?  Experientially.   Maybe with a request.  At age 5, I did not know how to keep myself safe, and it would not have mattered if I did.   I get we can’t stop all victimization, but all of childhood and some of my adult life was lived under the shadow of fear, mistrust, vulnerability and shame, acutely aware that this world was so unsafe.   It has been through God’s grace and freedom that I am that “fully-healed, yet ever changed” woman.  While I am thankful that my abuse has been redeemed and has provided me with great understanding and insight, I will lift my voice in  a cry of warning and plead with my fellow citizens to shut down this Venue of Vulnerability.  If my words can save just one child, one adolescent, one adult from living under the shadow, then let it be.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center – Info and Stats for Journalists

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

Dance of the Daffodil

FullSizeRender

From brown and barren ground, you make your promised presence known.  Enduring icy frosts and winter storms, your growth’s timing is not your own.

And when it seems cruel winter has spoken its last goodbye, stinging snow falls once again through foreboding, greying skies.

Beautiful, brilliant daffodil, you live not your’s, but HIS good will.  So, bend with grace beneath this season’s unfair weight and kinder times anticipate.

Trust in the One with whom you dance.  None of this is happenstance.

Bow your head and take this rest.  Accept the trials, accept you’re blessed.

One day the sun again will shine.  You’ll lift your head and find it’s time, to raise your weathered petals high and sway in praise to Adonai.

Yes, Adonai (our Lord and Master) provides so many lessons in nature.  We can stand in awe of his might and grand design, or like today, we can identify with the tender plant being assaulted by a heavy, late Spring snow.

Is this you?  Are you a tender daffodil emerging from crisis, trying to heal from pain, redefining your life after loss, facing an unknown future?  Please know that with your full cooperation, God will redeem it, meaning he will purchase your pain, disillusionment, fear, whatever you are holding, and he will present you with His peace in its place.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

We get to choose whether or not we accept what he gives when he purchases our pain.  We can stand there at the cash register of life with our arms folded, shaking our heads no and demanding what we think we should receive; or, we can hold out trembling, empty hands extending from battle-weary bodies that house trusting hearts.  We get to choose to  believe what he places in those hungry hands is what we need to grasp for His glory to be displayed in our weakness!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

daffodil in snow

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So today, see your storm as His power being made perfect in your weakness, and see this weight of your circumstances as a spiritual workout preparing you for an eternal weight of glory!!  Doesn’t that twist the tears of sorrow to Yes, Jesus! tears of joy?!

 

 

Opting out of Halloween. We did, should you?

I watched my almost 20-year-old carve a pumpkin for the first time this weekend, and it was quite humorous. We joked about how he was deprived of any prior experience due to his parent’s opt-out of Halloween and anything related. We giggled and had fun at his expense, but it did take me back to the years of parenting after our initial Halloween-boycott decision. It was actually this particular child of mine who brought me to turn a sensitive ear to the Holy Spirit’s conviction after watching him spend a fearful Halloween night as a toddler.

I’m in quite a comfortable place on this subject. I’ve found that, after somewhere around 18 years of parenting five kids sans Halloween, I have absolutely no regrets. I have absolutely no apologies. I have absolutely no room for arguments on how silly our stance is. What I do have, is the confidence to speak frankly to fellow Christians. I’m passed the years of having to explain to other parents, teachers, and yes…fellow believers why my children will not be in attendance or participating in anything that so much hints at Halloween. They are now all old enough to hear the Holy Spirit speak over them in regards to decisions such as this. But, here’s the thing, some of you are in the midst of that stage of life, and I remember the conflict. I remember the odd looks that spoke, “Woman, you are one paranoid, religious freak”! If you are there, stand firm, do not for one minute compromise on a conviction the Lord has laid upon your heart.

I’ll share with you where we came from. You can choose to agree with me, or you can choose to lean into the “What’s it going to hurt, it’s all just fun” camp. YOU get to choose and YOU also get to answer to God as to why you participate in things that fly in the face of His Word. Whoa! I just said you might be operating contrary to His word. Are you readying your darts, girlfriend? Stop now, take a deep breath, and pray that beyond reading what my possible inflammatory words, you hear the Holy Spirit. Listen very carefully for his direction for you and yours in this matter.

First off, we took a look at the origins of the holiday. How is it there came to be a Halloween? Let’s go back 2,000 years ago. The Celtic people from what is now Ireland, the UK, and Northern France, had a new year which began on November 1st. On that eve, October 31st, they celebrated the Festival of Samhein. This was a full out invitation to participate in and acceptance of pagan (that means satanic) practices. Let me share one of the more concise explanations I’ve found and take note, I’m quoting Encyclpedia Britannica, not a religious source of information. I chose this description so it is void of “religious distortion”. I want you to first look from a history student’s viewpoint.

Samhain, also spelled Samain, (Celtic: “End of Summer”), one of the most important and sinister calendar festivals of the Celtic year. At Samhain, held on November 1, the world of the gods was believed to be made visible to mankind, and the gods played many tricks on their mortal worshipers; it was a time fraught with danger, charged with fear, and full of supernatural episodes. Sacrifices and propitiations of every kind were thought to be vital, for without them the Celts believed they could not prevail over the perils of the season or counteract the activities of the deities. Samhain was an important precursor to Halloween.

It would take me more words, and you more time than we have here so, I challenge you to do some research on your own. Just about everything we see in our present day Halloween observance is taken from the pagan practices of the Celtic people. Masks, bonfires, bobbing for apples, candy, carved pumpkins….it all originated from this. That scary mask or face paint? Yeah, that’s to trick the evil ghosts roaming the earth on the 31st into believing you are also dead. Really, take some time and research this.

People, if it’s not of God, then it’s of Satan. Its black or white. If it incites fear, it is Satan!
Since that time, the church, yes, the church (i.e. All Saints Day), has tweaked the practice, twisted the intent, made it more palatable, and in our day, made it a mega-million dollar business.

Halloween is the 2nd most commercial holiday coming in only after Christmas, the celebration of our Savior’s birth! It is estimated 6 BILLION dollars are spent on costumes and candy here in the United States.

Let me ask you this, what would happen if that 6 billion were spent to further the kingdom of God in missions and outreach? Another question, how is it that a celebration founded in a pagan religion has become endearing to Christian families?

Beyond the money, though, is my deep concern for our want to flow with societal “norms” when God gives us very clear directives in his word about those things we should align ourselves with and those he finds detestable. I’m concerned with the ease at which we become stupid sheep following a cleverly disguised lion wanting to devour us.

In Deuteronomy 18, God is reviewing his laws with the Israelites and reminding them of the covenant of love he has established with them. They are going to be encountering all sorts of pagan neighbors in the promised land. He says this:

Deuteronomy 18:9
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.

This scripture is not intended to be “no longer in effect” after Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that freed us from law. This isn’t a “what meat you can eat kind of scripture”. This is absolutely not in the “freedom to do or not to do” category. When we read this, we should be seeing our Holy, Pure, One True God demanding our total devotion to Him and His ways. We should see his instruction to not defile ourselves by adopting detestable ways. Is endorsement of Halloween imitating such a thing?

Ephesians 5: 6-13
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

And then there is this.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

If you shine the light of the Word over the practice of Halloween, do you still want to partake? Maybe. Maybe not. I can tell you this, I have five kids, some are adults now and none of them are traumatized by not dressing up in costumes and gorging on candy. Two of them were well indoctrinated in Halloween fun when we cut them off. In fact, those of ours who are parenting have made some of these same choices. Together, our kids, my husband, and I learned how to unashamedly explain our decision to be “different”, to leave school on party day, to not do certain art projects, or read certain books leading up to Halloween. We had frank discussions about why we chose this and what God’s word says about these things. That included haunted houses and slasher movies. Often, that meant me being very direct and firm with teachers but that’s okay. I think God is being very direct and firm when he tells us this:

1 Thessalonians 5: 21-22
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

Remember who made the apple and all the power of knowledge that came with the crispy bite so attractive? Satan is a master disguiser. All things look good when we view it through the deceiver’s lens. Has he camouflaged Halloween and draped it in the costume of innocent fun? Has he whispered the originations of the day don’t mean a thing to our generation? Because if you believe that, then why should Easter be relevant?

Look, all of this can apply to so many areas of our lives, so why am I picking on good Ole Halloween? Well, it’s that time of year. Haunted houses popping up everywhere, gruesome decorations, trips through the store setting off all sorts of ghoulish sounds from scary things, and because it is blatant. We may have to seek harder, pray more fervently, and be entirely more transparent to fellow believers to tease out other areas of our lives that are out of line with God’s call to purity but this one….this one is a sell out. It is loud and proud! Satan makes it easy to fall in yet God has made it easy to sort out. Maybe it’s time for you and your’s to get out.

I was once trying to plan an alternative to Halloween at a church we had attended when a woman sharply said, “Your children are only going to have a problem with Halloween because you’ve planted that seed in their heads”. I am proud to say she was right! Dear parent, that is your job! Plant the seeds of nonconformity to worldly standards and societal norms in your kids’ heads! Show them throughout your precious and fleeting time with them that non participation in things the world sees as oh so benign is exactly what world changers do!

By the way, I don’t advocate staying at home in the dark and requiring the kids to clean the basement during Trick or Treat hours. I may have tried that one year. Oops. Plan some amazing family time. I have a feeling the memories from precious time spent together will last far longer than the memory of what costume they wore in 2015.