Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween and Christianity, Part Five: Let's Have Some More Fun!

Since reading part four, you have had a chance to consider how you can make those ideas your own. Today, I will end the series with thoughts on heroes, music, party planning, and family unity.
One of the best things you can do as you anticipate All Saints Day is: Get to know your heroes. The days are shorter and the weather cooler – it's a perfect time to read and watch movies that build and inspire faith.
My children loved reading together as a family every October. We chose a new biography each year and watched movies highlighting faith and courage. There are even more books available now and movies galore. Some of my favorite movies are: Luther, Amazing Grace, The Hiding Place, Gifted Hands, Something the Lord Made, Chariots of Fire, Shadowlands, Soul Surfer, Home Run, and China Cry.

A few people whose stories have deeply affected me are: Amy Carmichael, George Washington Carver, Joni Erickson Tada, Corrie ten Boom, Granny Brand, Dr. Paul Brand, C.S. Lewis, John Wycliffe, Jim Elliott, Joanne Shetler, Florence Nightingale, and Peter Marshall.

They overcame doubt, poverty, prejudice, disability, lack of education, fear, and financial ruin. Each story is an inspiring piece of our heritage and encourage us to keep fighting the good fight. This year I'm reading about Brother Andrew and vignettes of other tenacious believers.
Music is another important tool for good in this season. There are some terrific contemporary songs about faith and courage as well as in the hymnbook under the heading of All Saints Day. And listen to your local Christian radio station, it’s inspiring stuff! Play a game with your family this month as you travel to and fro. See who can identify lyrics that challenge us to carry our faith to the next generation. Keep score and award the winner!
And speaking of games. Throw an All Saints Day party on November 1 and have some fun. This can be an exciting climax to the season. Our family played a game called: “Who’s Who in Christian History.” We told our guests to come prepared to share a sentence or two describing a Christian from the Bible or more recent history.
Here's how to play: Each player gives a short description of the person's life; write the name of their person on a strip of masking tape. Stick a name on the back of each player and let them try to discover who they are by asking other players yes or no questions about the name on their back. (For example: Am I in the Bible? Am I a woman? Did I invent a lot of stuff made from peanuts? Did I get put in jail because I was translating the Bible into the people’s own language?) Then you can award prizes for the first ones to discover their identity!
There are lots of other games to play that spotlight faith and courage. And of course, no party is complete without food. Your feast can be as fancy or casual as you like. We always offered to make the main dish, drinks, and dessert, and had our guests bring side dishes. You might even choose a dish you only have at All Saints, like turkey for Thanksgiving or ham for Easter.
Finally, if you are married, I encourage you to make sure your husband or wife is on board with your decision about All Saints Day. If you want to celebrate All Saints Day, but they are not ready yet, it can sabotage your kids' enthusiasm and divide your home. The best way to win him or her over is to respect their feelings and not push your ideas on them.
Pray for God’s Spirit to speak to them, and do what you can to celebrate our fabulous Christian heritage:
  • learn about those who have gone before us
  • talk it up with your kids
  • be an example of courage and faith

Celebrate All Saints with friends at a time that doesn’t conflict with your mate’s plans. Hopefully, as they see your excitement, you will convince your partner into rejoicing in the holiday with you.
Many blessings on you and your household as you lift up the name of Christ this exciting fall season.  Whatever you decide to do, stand boldly for Christ and, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

#allsaintsforgottenholiday #betterthanhalloween #allsaintsdaytoday #christianfamilyfun #halloweenandchristianity 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Halloween and Christianity, Part Four: Let's Have Fun!

Here is the part many of you have been waiting for. I hope you have been challenged by these blogs to rethink Halloween. Or, maybe you have already chosen not to celebrate Halloween and want ideas on how to make the season FUN for you and your family.
In our country, there seem to be no viable options. Some churches have Harvest or Bible themed parties, where everyone shows up wearing their bathrobe and a towel tied to their head. But what do you do the rest of the month while everyone gears up for Halloween? When my husband and I decided to celebrate All Saints Day, there was no pattern to follow, so we made up our own.

I hope some  of these ideas work for your family. Let’s reclaim the season for Holy Partying!

First of all, decorate for fall with accents of red and white. These are the official colors of All Saints Day and they stand for courage and faith. Whoever comes into your home will find the happy, peaceful décor a refreshing change from garish black and orange decorations, cobwebs, and skeletons. I also hang red and white All Saints banners during the month of October that have scripture painted in gold puff paint. They add a beautiful touch and are a great discussion starter.

my girls and their friends did a play in full costume
Don’t forget to talk UP your chosen holiday. If we focus on the positive, our children are more likely to see the delight of God's ways. One year in early October, a cashier asked my daughter if she was ready for Halloween. Tara answered with six-year-old exuberance, “Oh, we don’t celebrate Halloween; we celebrate All Saints Day. We decorate the house and have a party. We play games and have a feast. And we read stories about brave people all month long!”
We immediately had the attention of the cashier, the bagger, and the lady in the next checkout line. For a few minutes, they pummeled us with questions, which we gladly answered.

one of many characters 
Another opportunity to share appeared when I asked Tara’s first grade teacher if she was planning a Halloween party at school. I explained that we celebrated All Saints Day instead. She asked me a little about it and not only listened, but asked if I could write up a short description for the kids. I did, and she read it in class and put up a “Be a Saint” poster. All month long, the children could earn stickers by their name when they got caught doing nice things for others.
Egyptian princess

Johnny Appleseed
Finally, don’t scrap dress up fun. Create dress up occasions NOT connected with Halloween. Tara, Launa, and their friends loved dress up parties. My girls became Skittles for the Candy Party we had for Tara's birthday. Their friends came as everything from a pack of gum to the candy fairy. We had awards, played games, and of course, ate candy. We also had a Princess Party, a Circus Party, as well as putting on plays complete with costumes.

My girls and their cousins also started a yearly tradition during family vacation. They dressed Launa as a different character every night using whatever was already in the house. Some of our favorite times were awaiting the "unveiling" and the many laughs and pictures.

When we studied mime in homeschool, Launa and I both dressed in full makeup and performed for her grandparents.

Only One?

Granddaughter Jolieanna and Kelly
Now that my children are grown, I still love dress up fun. For his birthday party one year, the theme was, “There’s Only One Kelly Vice.” I gave everyone in the family a picture of him to make into a mask or mount on a stick. They all arrived in "disguise." When he turned 50, we threw a surprise Hawaii 5-0 party for Kelly, complete with Hawaiian music, décor, and luau attire.

And for you married women, you can have fun putting together costumes for your husband’s eyes only. He will enjoy being your secret audience.

me and Tara

#dressupfun #allsaintsforgottenholiday #betterthanhalloween #allsaintsdaytoday #christianfamilyfun 
Tune in for one more entry of ideas in Part Five. The final blog in this series, will be about heroes, music, party planning, and family unity. I hope you will join me.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Halloween & Christianity, Part Three: The Writing on the Wall

Mixed messages can be confusing, exasperating, and very dangerous. My husband has been bit more than once by dogs who greeted him with enthusiasm, tails wagging, just before they lunged to take a bite out of his behind. I've been invited to people’s homes who were more interested in interacting with their television than their company. And I've had people smile pleasantly, look me in the eye, and lie to my face. Sending a mixed message is not something I want to do.

We have a plaque above our door that says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Many of you have one too. Years ago, our neighbor paraphrased it in his own words. “I get it," he said. "That means God's boss here, doesn’t it?”

Exactly. That's what it's supposed to mean anyway.

This famous phrase is from Joshua’s speech to the Israelites when they reached the Promised Land. For forty years they'd been wavering between the true God and the gods they had worshiped in Egypt. But Joshua said it was time to make a choice:

Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14-15). You can’t have it both ways. You either worship the true God or the gods of this world.

It seems like Halloween poses the question to us once again. Jesus said, “I have come that [my sheep] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV). Why then, would I celebrate a holiday that glorifies death?

Halloween tells us it's fun to be scared. As a Christian, I don’t have to fear anything or anyone except God himself. He tells us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:10 &13). So why would I celebrate a holiday that makes fear attractive?

Thirdly, Halloween revels in darkness. As a tweenager, I was fascinated by dark, scary stories. But when I became a Christian, I realized they were not compatible with my walk of faith. God’s Word makes it pretty plain. “What fellowship can light have with darkness” (2 Corinthians 6:14). “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).

When Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cover of night, because he was afraid what his peers might think, Jesus told him, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:19-21).

Last of all, Halloween glorifies witchcraft and demonic power. Its imagery comes from the occult:
  • witches practice magic and call on demonic spirits to gain personal power
  • broomsticks are a phallic symbol (representing the male organ) believed to transfer orgasmic energy into spiritual power
  • black cats are familiar spirits or magic helpers; evil souls with supposed powers
  • carved pumpkins represent damned souls; the candle inside, the fire of Hell
I know demons have no power over God or His children, but as a Christian, I want nothing to do with them. Paul told the believers at the Corinthian church, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons...‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:21-23).
So, even though I have the freedom to participate in this holiday, I choose not to because:
  • It opposes the message of the gospel
  • I do not want to glorify the enemy or provide a cover for his activities
  • It is not beneficial or constructive

I encourage you to do some research for yourself. Read the Bible and pray about what God would have you do. Then do it with all your heart!

In part four, I will share some stories and ideas on how you and your family can celebrate the season with good, clean fun.

Casting Crowns has written a fabulous song for the movie Courageous, entitled, “We Were Made to be Courageous.” I have included the link to the video below, because I think this song so powerfully describes what God has called us each to as Christians.

#mixedmessages #christianityandhalloween #leavinghalloweenbehind #iloveGodmorethancandy 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Halloween and Christianity Part Two: How Halloween Began

I bought some leopard jammies at Target the other day for the upcoming women’s retreat (with which I hope to win a prize). The cashier assumed I was buying them for Halloween. When I told her no, they were for a Chocolate Retreat at church, she said it sounded like much more fun. We agreed it was too bad she lived so far away, otherwise she could have come too.
The next day, I walked into our bank and it was like entering an ancient crypt. Thick cobwebs swathed the fireplace, spiders hung from the ceiling,  fiends lurked in dark corners. The counter was festooned with skull and cross bone caution tape at a child’s eye level. A lot of effort had gone into the décor. We all want to have fun and get silly from time to time. But it makes a difference what we celebrate.

I grew up considering Halloween harmless fun. But in 1992 my church showed the movie Halloween: Trick or Treat? and I began to wonder what I had been celebrating all those years. Jeremiah Films interviewed a number of church leaders, law officials, former occult members, and practicing witches. They also showed actual footage of cult worship that chilled me to the bone.

Those saved from the occult, feel pretty strongly when asked what they think about believers celebrating Halloween. Former Satanist Glenn Hobbs said:

“It makes me sick...Christians should be the ones who are standing up against this. There are people out there who don't just celebrate Halloween with Trick or Treat candy. This is a religious holiday to them. This is something holy and sacred, and they are taking innocent human life. I can't say, ‘go ahead and have Halloween fun’...because Satanists are using this as a smokescreen.”

After seeing the movie, I did some research of my own. Among many other things, I found out that Halloween is the High Holy Day for Satan worshipers. I didn’t want to participate in a cover up for evil, but I knew it would be hard to give up the fun associated with Halloween.

That’s exactly why, centuries ago, Church leaders started filling the calendar with Christian holidays – so people could put energy into festivals that glorified God. One of these holidays has been completely forgotten by Christendom. 

 In the seventh century, Pop Boniface IV declared an All Saints celebration in May - to remember Christian martyrs. Less than two centuries later - orgies, animal and human sacrifices, and nature worship were still practiced every fall. So Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day from May to November first. Instead of worshiping demons, he hoped people would choose to celebrate life and light and faith. 

However, new superstitions sprang up. People surmised if Saints were honored on All Saints Day, then evil spirits must roam the earth in All Hallows’ Eve. So if they had to go out on October 31, they would dress like demons. If the spirits thought they were one of them perhaps they would leave them alone. Others put out food to appease them and ward off bad luck.

Soon dressing in costume, fortune telling, collecting treats, and Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) parties gained popularity. When people from the British Isles immigrated to the United States, they brought Halloween with them.

Today, the church has virtually forgotten All Saints Day. I had never even heard of it until I began researching Halloween. But I love the idea of focusing on a Christian holiday. I’m not advocating somber marches to the cemetery and death masks. No, I think it should be a day to party and give thanks for all saints (which the Bible tells us is just another word for a believers), whether they were martyred or not. Christians throughout history have made it possible for us to have a personal relationship with Christ, because they kept the faith. That’s worth celebrating!

When I tell people I observe All Saints Day, not Halloween, they often say, “Well ,that’s different.” Yes indeed, I think that’s the point. God tells us to, “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2). Refusing to conform is different and delightfully full of freedom.

I hope you will join me for part three of this series: “The Writing on the Wall.” It will cover the themes of Halloween and how they compare to the life of faith.

#historyofhalloween #allsaintsreplaceshalloween #allsaintsfortoday #reclaimOctoberforGod

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Halloween and Christianity Part One: Our Party Loving God

I love this time of year. The weather is cooler, kids are back to school, and we turn our thoughts to indoor pursuits. I mourn the loss of long summer days, so there are a lot of candles at our house. Their fragrance mingles with the aroma of muffins, cookies, and other treats, especially as we enter the holiday season.

You might wonder why we have so many holidays during the winter months. In ancient times, the druids believed the sun and resulting harvest would not return unless they appeased their god with bonfires (originally called bone fires from their animal and human offerings) and rituals. Although rooted in superstition, these parties that included drinking, dancing, orgies, and revelry were hard for Christians to resist.

So early Church leaders strategically placed Christian Holy Days on top of pagan celebration days to encourage people to celebrate God’s freedom and forgiveness instead of the powers of darkness. Unfortunately, holy partying has been on the decline.

Contrary to what the world would have us think, God loves parties. In fact, He invented the whole idea. The Old Testament is full of information on how to have the best party. God said: take a break from work, get together with friends, play music, dance, eat, and give.

God created us with a need to rejoice so He introduced nine feasts for the Jews to celebrate. Most of our holidays In America, are faith based too, or celebrate things God values, such as honoring our parents and freedom. We have: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Mother and Father’s Day, and Fourth of July.

But what does God think about Christians celebrating Halloween? Raised in a Christian home, I not only celebrated Halloween, but went to church sponsored parties and haunted houses. I created my own costumes from what I could scrounge from closets or make myself. In high school, I wore heavy makeup and a dramatic cape to school dressed as Dracula. I enjoyed the attention as I swooshed down the hall.

As soon as our daughter was old enough, I dressed her up as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, complete with glittery red shoes. The next year, I designed a cardboard cutout with the words of “I’m a little teapot” printed on the front. The cardboard “lid” was secured to a beanie. She practiced the song with gusto, “pouring” from her spout at the end.  

However, in 1992 I began to learn more about Halloween - what masquerades behind the costumes and candy. God began to steer me toward a Christian holiday rich with meaning and purpose that somehow got lost in the darkness. Since then, I've worked to educate other Christians about the option we have available, so they too can make an informed decision about what and how to celebrate in the month of October. I hope you’ll join me for part two and learn How Halloween Began.

#halloweenforchristians #aGodkindoffall #christianpartyideas #holidayfun

Friday, October 7, 2011

Five Part Series: Halloween and Christianity

Tomorrow I am beginning a short series on Halloween and how it relates to Christianity. I hope you will read each one and respond with comments of your own. The four parts will be: 

*  Our Party-Loving God
* How Halloween Began
* The Writing On the Wall
* Let’s Have Fun!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important

In the movie The Help, Aibileen woke her young charge with these three phrases each day (based on the book by Kathryn Stockett). White people had treated this black maid like a dog all her life and caused her incredible misery. Yet Aibileen chose to bless the daughter of her employer. She woke her with smiles and tickles, held her in her lap and looked her in the eye, saying, “You is Kind (now repeat back to me). You is Smart. You is Important.”
The mother barely acknowledged her little girl because she thought her overweight and unattractive. But Aibileen knew that true character is developed by feeding the soul within. Her own strength of character and faith in God empowered her to be kind, and eventually helped her break free from her own bondage.

In Celebrate Recovery, a faith-based 12 step program, we often say “hurting people, hurt people.” In other words, people pass pain onto others because they themselves are wounded. And the cycle continues until someone looks to God for healing.

Aibileen refused to dispense the poison forced on her. She could have seen this child as her enemy. Instead, she gave this innocent one, life-giving encouragement. Aibileen chose to bless and not curse. Even as she left, Aibileen turned to the child, to infuse hope one last time through this loving exchange.

We live in a world of hurting people. Parents scream at their children and handle them roughly. Children bully other students to the point of despair and suicide. Husbands and wives inflict mortal wounds on each other in a daily battle of words. People curse one another in traffic for trivial infractions. Daily proof that hurting people hurt people.

I don’t know about you, but I need encouraging words from others. We can choose to bless those around us instead of taking out our frustrations on them. We can look past the unattractive exterior and see the potential of the soul inside, who just like us, hungers to be loved. And, we can expose evil by speaking courageously against it.

Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome to, “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, NIV). God gave Aibileen the will and the courage to respond to her situation with good. I want to live like that. And just in case no one has told you today: You are important - a cherished creation of the Almighty God, worthy of love.

Beth Vice