Erasing History

Comments on Charlottesville and beyond…

 

The past few days have brought, yet again, disturbing images of hatred, violence, destruction and death as our country appears to fall even more divided along racial lines.  There is a culture of rage fueling the dark souls who are all too willing to unleash the chaos within on any fellow human being different from themselves.

We can look at these “groups” and dissect their “missions” under a microscope, but it seems as if racism is this magnetic particle which draws the extremists together and incites violence.  Extremists (anyone who advocates extreme views or actions) are excellent recruiters…disenfranchised?  We’ve got the answer, belong to us.  We will nurture your hate.  We will feed your frenzy.  We will activate your aggression.  We will help you hate.

Last night, I watched a video of a confederate statue being torn down by a mob.  It brought to mind the day I watched the statue of Saddam Hussein toppled.  Perhaps, at that moment, there was elation in the victory, but it doesn’t change a thing.  The dead are still dead.  The war rages on.

Slavery still happened.

Racism still exists.

Erasing history is an exercise in ignorance.

I feel as though I need to give some reference to the fact that I am the matriarch of a transracial family.  Our experiences would require another post or two but please know, I write from a place of knowing.  Initially, I would have been on the burn-it-all side of the argument, but is that just me wanting to be a “good” white woman?  Wanting to stomp out racism is a good thing, I just don’t believe this will help.

I would love to eradicate what happened, but I can’t.  I can’t give my children the richness of their heritage without teaching them what their ancestors faced in this country.   I also can not understand my black brothers and sisters without visiting not only history, but the present,  through their experiences. We need to ask ourselves:

  • Does removing the Confederate flag or statues make a difference?
  • Does it make us a less-racist society or does it whitewash our evils?
  • Is it an act of political correctness or true repentance?
  • Does removing the past protect our future?
  • Does it change the heart of a man?

The sad truth is, nothing about banning the Confederate flag or tearing down statues makes the United States of America any more united.

Erasing history is an exercise in futility.

As a heartbroken and burdened Christ-follower, I’m instructed to bring it all into the light of the gospel.  Jesus.  Our perfect and innocent God, executed on a symbol of shame.  A cross where criminals met their end.  A cross designed to prolong suffering and death.  And yet, we hold on to that symbol of shame over 2,000 years later.  Why?  Because HIS story is our story.

So it is with confederate symbols.  For my daughter, that history is her story.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you would have told the disciples that future Christ-followers would be hanging crosses on their necks and walls, tattooing them on their bodies and placing them on their alters, they would have never believed it.  Yet, here we are.

Erasing history in an exercise in dishonor

What are we to do?

Whether you live in Charlottesville or a place far from it, you are responsible.  Responsible for starting hard conversations.  Responsible for building bridges with those different from you.  Responsible for speaking out whenever you hear or see injustice.  Responsible for educating yourself.  Responsible for uncovering personal biases. Responsible for tearing down our own symbols of racism.

In 100 years:

  • What symbols will we have erected or made holy that future generations will be at war over?
  • What are we elevating now that will serve to divide or disgrace those who come behind?
  • Which of our words will reverberate in the minds of our children?

A love-laced legacy is lasting.

 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up :1-3 ESV

No Man’s Land

The World of White Parents with Black Children

At that moment, when nothing I’ve done or will do matters more than the fact I’m White, I stand completely unable to defend that which they can’t see beyond, my color and my privilege.

Those were my words  after a painful encounter where as the only white in a group of black women, I was given a firm admonition (I’m being tactful) regarding my perceived inability to understand my Black child.   A well-meaning Black sister told my daughter she wished she could take her in, as if MY child I’ve had since infancy needed to be taken from my whiteness.  As I recalled the previous day’s conversation and the raw emotions it produced,  the tears were as willing and hot as they had been the day before.

I am white.  I have children who share my skin color, and I have children who do not. Some were born of my womb, some of my heart.  If you were to line us up, we create a landscape  from the palest of creams to the richest of browns.  Eyes from bright sky blue to a dark chocolate so bottomless you can lose yourself.

A black woman recently asked me why we decided to adopt Black kids.  My answer is 21 years old now…because I didn’t specify my first babies outward appearances  and I’m not placing an order this time either.  We simply wanted to  grow our family by His divine intent and by His good will.

A white woman has poured praises over me for taking in children who were not our own and “giving them a good life”.  On the contrary, they were blessings we received not the other way around.  From the moment we first laid eyes on each of them, they were entirely ours for always and in all ways.


There is so much beauty in our story, so much of the Master’s redemptive plan for each and every human is revealed through adoption.  The ability to sit back and watch God  work out a vast array of details and seemingly insurmountable circumstances to place a specific child into a specific family is just one way He has of fulfilling His plan and purpose in our lives.  The ability of a man and woman to accept and fully embrace a child not conceived by them as their own is the same as God accepting and fully embracing us as His own despite our birth into sin.  I believe every Christ-follower has the capacity to love another in this way through the power of the Holy  Spirit living within us.  What would seem unnatural to the world is innate to believers; a no-brainer, so to speak.

Beautiful and ordained, yes…simple, no.  And so, I drift between the world I know of White privilege and the world my children know.  I’ll call their world Skin First.  I have the privilege of being known for many things before my descriptive race while they most often, are known first by the color of their skin.  What’s worse is when that is all they are known by.  I live in a zone between a White world unwilling to admit there is such a thing as privilege and a Black world unwilling to see their own racial prejudices.  I row my little boat between these two land masses on a sea of angst while bitter voices scream at each other from the shores.  I want my children to be a part of both worlds but neither land has a friendly port for our interracial crew.  We sail on, to No Man’s Land.

Back to my experience as the minority.  I sobbed on the way home.  My daughter, upon seeing and hearing how the encounter had made me feel,  grieved with me.  She was able to tell me that hearing me share how vulnerable I felt solely by the color of my skin made her think I was truly understanding her struggles as a black child in a white community and school for the first time. Over and over she assured me, I am HER mom, the only one she knows, the only one she wants.

This isn’t the first such encounter and it won’t be the last, so what’s the goal in this writing?   I guess I hope to reach my sisters and brothers from both races with this message:

  • Adopted children are God’s children first.  He defines them, not their race. Only when we teach them the value of who they are in Christ, will they be able to withstand the icy winds of racial divides.
  • Adoption happens once.  Do we call ourselves children of God or adopted children of God?  I AM a child of God, its a done deal.  Let us live that way.  We are aware our color differences point out that an adoption took place but we really like to forgo the intrusive questions.
  • Transracial families are both Black and White.  Do not make them choose.
  • Skin color does not a mother (or father) make.  We can all agree Southern White children who were raised by Black “help” were well, well loved and cared for.  Can we be tolerant when that scenario is flipped in our present times?
  • Society is bound by the chains of our History.  Racism as well as reverse racism is alive and well and both our our cultures feed it.  This is a burden each race owns and must first recognize; second, reveal; and third, revolt against.
  • Children do need healthy relationships with people of their own race, but those relationships must always honor the parents’ place in that child’s life.  If you are mentoring, never assume the white momma doesn’t get it.  She may not have personally lived it, but it is her beloved child….believe me, she gets it.
  • I find certain cultural trends in both races unhealthy and denigrating.  Rejecting some form of cultural expression from the Black culture does not equate with me rejecting a Black brother or sister.  Unwrap it.
  • There is a disproportionate number of Black foster and adoptive homes compared to White homes.  Step it up Black friends!
  • White friends, you ARE privileged.  Until you have spent quality time with a Black man or woman and listened to their experiences, do not even pretend to think you can speak to this.
  • We have to lay the fear down.  It is my belief that we have become so fearful of each other, we build fences instead of bridges.  Emotionally, physically, socially, etc.
  • I touched on it earlier but want to reiterate.  As White parents we oppose our Black children being viewed as mission projects or attention-getting tokens.  This devalues them as it suggests they were obtained for our psychological gain vs. them being truly desired by parents who were creating a family.

It is time for the church to take the lead on this.  These relationships need to be born and nurtured within the safety of a community of believers.  This is a call-out.  What can you do in your corner of the world?   Have a discussion with your church leaders about creating a safe place for Transracial families to connect with fellow believers of other races who would be willing to embrace them as a family.  Mentoring relationships will naturally spring from this.  If you’ve been part of such a community, please share with the rest of us what has made your experience successful!

This Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday.  A date  which is poignantly special since it would have been so “convenient” for three birth mothers to end our children’s lives.  I would like to end by honoring the bravery and sacrifice of these women and the countless others like them.  For them, I am so grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

When God says No

What is your no?

Maybe a dream job?  A relationship?  A desired goal?  Maybe it’s that negative pregnancy test.  Maybe it’s the confirmation of disease  delivered in the hard words on a pathology report or bottom line of the MRI?   The slow shake of a doctor’s head?

No is never easy.  No angers us.  No disappoints us.  No devastates us.

Sometimes the reason for the No will show itself in time, and we are blessed by the insight and wisdom we gain through being able to capture the whole process in our minds.  We can see exactly why God said no and we are all about praising Him for working it out on our behalf.  Much of the time; however, the bigger plan for the greater good is cloaked and in this life, goes unrevealed.   Unrevealed because the beauty in the No would be lost on us.  It’s infinite, extraordinary, eternal and we are finite, ordinary, and so temporal.   Yes, it would be lost on us.

I would be amiss to not address what I will call the Consequential No.  We are sinful, “stiff-necked” people. We come from the original “don’t tell me no” folks.  Some of the No’s we get are a direct result of our poor choices and/or the sin of others. While God wants to lavish us with all things amazing, we continue to exercise our free will and that gets in the way.  Natural consequences in this natural world result in a hard, cold No!

This is not heaven and there will be injustice and heartache and plenty of No.  This is just our temporary home.

It’s the No that comes after prayer, seeking, searching….. The No that comes after we have been obedient to resign our desire to God’s will.  That’s the No that we mourn over.  The one we long to find understanding in.  We think if we can just find God’s reason, it will somehow be an easier pill to swallow.  That is the No we have to resolve before it dissolves our spiritual and emotional well-being.  So what do we do with this heavy-weighted No?

First, know this:

You’re not at war with No, you are at war with Acceptance.

Secondly:

The burden isn’t on God to provide you with detailed, palatable explanations. The burden is on you to eventually, after appropriately grieving the No, acquiesce.  Please hear my heart – There is a time for grief, for honest conversations with the Lord,  for torrents of tears, even for anger, but only a time.  Eventually, living in that state will destroy you.  

We have some options.  We can throw ourselves on the ground kicking and hitting like a 2 year old.  We can scream until our voices fail.  We can even bang our heads on the floor, but none of that changes the No.  What it does do is further hurt us and drag those in close proximity into the scalding heat of our rage.    After the ashes from the volcanic eruption settle, No is still No.

We can beg God.  Moses did.  He got one of those consequential No’s.  A devastating blow.  In an incident during his 40 years of leading the whiny, stubborn, demanding Israelites through war after war, hardship after hardship,  He disobeyed God, bringing glory to himself instead of the Almighty.  God right then and there said No seeing the Promised Land for you and your brother.  Nope.  The time came when Moses begged God to change his mind.  “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to my any more about this matter”.  (Deuteronomy 3:26)  No was still No.  Moses died only seeing the Promised Land from a mountain top miles and miles away.

We can run from God.  Jonah did.  He ended up in the belly of a whale before doing exactly what God had asked him to do in the first place.  In his case, Go was still Go.  Jonah’s No was an answer to the old do I have a choice question.

We can test God.  Gideon did.  If you are really going to do what you say you will Lord, I need a sign, and then another.   We can do that.  Intellectually, we can find every reason why blind trust is for the stupid when really, a simple mind is exactly what we need. Choose trusting not testing.

We can imitate our Lord.  Knowing all that was bearing down upon him, Jesus went into prayer.  Let his words settle into the corners of your mind and the hurting parts of your heart…”My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”……. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:38,39).  No begging for a different outcome.  No running away from his purpose.  No testing the trustworthiness of the Father’s plan.  Acceptance.

Acceptance is your burden, not the answer No.  Pick it up, carry it, embrace it.  Offer it to others.  Show them how to do the same.

Acceptance must be invited.  It is the beginning of God being glorified through your No.

Acceptance is letting go of control, even when there are no answers.

Acceptance is an offering of praise.  When I am at the end of my angst over the No, when I’m exhausted from the search for answers that cannot be found,  it is then I can rest in Him.  It is there where I find my peace.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters,  I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through  the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah43:1b, 2