Friday, August 28, 2015

What Should I Tell My Kids About Halloween? - Stories from Today’s Parents, part 1



Halloween will be here before we know it. The stores are already selling costumes, candy, and decorations. Do you plan to celebrate this year? Are you wondering if it’s something you should participate in as a Christian? Is it an opportunity to show your children what it means to be a sold out lover of Jesus Christ?
 If you’re asking these questions, this is an excellent place to get some answers. Today you will hear from some young parents who have done their research and made an informed decision about Halloween – whether or not they will celebrate, why, and what they will teach their kids about this popular holiday. Since they had so many great comments, I’m going to break it up into two posts so you can read the entire conversation.


Family background
Tara and Grae: "We've had a gradual adaptation away from Halloween. I grew up not celebrating it with my family but I didn't want to do that just because it's what I grew up doing. My husband and I love dressing up, going to parties and doing fun things with friends. Since that's what most Halloween celebrations look like, we went with the flow the first couple years of our marriage.”
Kayla: “My family never celebrated Halloween (though we also never really learned why - just that we don't because it doesn't make God happy).  On the other hand, my husband’s family are not Christians, and Halloween is one of their favorite holidays.  Even though he grew up celebrating it, he was not at all hesitant to suggest we shouldn't be celebrating with our newly created family.”
Nathan and Sommer: “Nathan and I have always had mixed feelings about Halloween ever since we had our own children. However, because it was the thing to do and seemed harmless, we continued to celebrate it as well as let our children dress up and trick or treat.”
Each couple came to a place when they began to question whether or not they wanted to celebrate Halloween in their new family, and why. They began to ask, “How can we love God and walk in the world’s ways, join in its activities, and espouse its philosophies when they go against all for which God and His kingdom stands?” (from Kay Arthur’s God, How Can I Live?) Here are their conclusions.


Our new family group
Tara and Grae: “When we got pregnant with our first son I figured it was time to actually talk about it. It's surprising how much more aware we became of the darkness of the holiday when he came into our lives. As we read more into it, we grew to hate all of the lies that the world has put on us and decided we didn't want that for our children.”
Kayla and Skyler: “We felt challenged to do Halloween differently when our firstborn arrived in the world. We were taking a critical look at all realms of parenting that we do ‘just because everyone does.’ Halloween was a big one.  
“The first couple years, not celebrating Halloween wasn't a big deal or difficult at all.  Our oldest was still so little he didn't know what was going on and didn't notice it from one day to the next.  When he was three, my in-laws suggested we at least come over for their annual chili feed and let our son pass out candy to the kids. We watched how terrified our son was to answer the door and see all of the scary characters on the other side.  Despite my mother in laws efforts to brush it off and tell him they were pretend, he was still scared and didn't want to partake in the candy giving.  
“That was when we really became serious about discovering what Halloween was about and learning why we didn't want to celebrate it. Once we learned the origins of the holiday and what goes on that day for many people in the occult, there was just no going back or ignoring it.  We just flat out were not going to do anything that celebrated Halloween or attempted to make it ‘good.’” 
Britney: “As a family, we feel strongly the desire to celebrate holidays based on their deep meaning and purpose. Christmas, Easter, Saint Patrick’s Day, and others have rich roots. We want to raise our children to look deeply into the meaning behind the things they are celebrating. Halloween may be disguised as a fun dress up party, but the roots there are not worth celebrating.
“While Halloween puts on a fa├žade of dressing in fun costumes, we want to clothe ourselves in righteousness. Where Halloween magnifies fright, darkness, and death, we want to want to magnify our Lord who is peace, light, and life! We know through the scriptures that God hates it when his people partake in unholy festivals, and while his grace covers a multitude of sins, we want to be obedient to what He desires from His people.”
Brian: “The factors that my wife and I tend to consider most are these:
1.      In the Old Testament scriptures, we see God caring a great deal for how and what his people, the Israelites, celebrated together. In today’s world we could easily say, ‘They aren’t worshipping Baal, they’re just going to a fun party.’ or, “It used to be worship of some pagan fertility god, but now it’s just a fun thing that everybody does, what’s the harm?” - The fact is we don’t know what the Israelites were thinking, we don’t know their hearts. All we do know is that the one true God was not pleased. 
2.      Does that have any bearing on feasts, festivals, and holidays today? I don’t know, but that’s a question my family has considered. 
“The deeper meaning: We expect our children to grow up knowing the real Christmas, the real Easter, and the real meaning behind the holidays. It’s our mission to make sure our kids know that Christmas isn’t about materialism, and plastic-stuff, it’s not even about family and warm memories. It’s about Jesus. That God saw fit to give his one and only son to come and live among us in the flesh. To love, heal, teach, live, instruct, and ultimately suffer and die for his people.
“We want our kids to know that Easter isn’t about bunny-rabbits laying eggs, or pastel sweaters and honey-cooked ham. It’s about that same Jesus, dying on a cross for the payment of OUR sins, being buried, and validating ALL his claims, rising again on the third day, proving himself to be victorious over sin and death. We want our kids to know that by believing in this Jesus that we celebrate we can be saved from our sin, and live forever in heaven with Him. 
“We want our kids to know the rich meaning behind these wonderful days. We want them to be a reminder year after year of what God has done for us. Even non-Christian holidays like the 4th of July and September 11th serve as reminders, with great meaning and significance that we want our kids, and their kid’s kids to know and remember.
“But when it comes to Halloween, there is nothing in the history or meaning of that holiday that I care for my kids to commemorate year after year. No deep meaning to look into and cherish. At best, it’s a costume party, at worst it’s terrifying.” 
Nathan and Sommer: “After reading Taking Back October last fall it brought it back to the front of our minds that it is not a harmless holiday. We learned so much from reading this book. We learned the truth about Halloween. We then asked ourselves how can we claim to be Christians but celebrate a holiday based on something so evil? A holiday where evil events are still taking place every year? We decided that although it was cute to watch our children pick out a costume and parade around the neighborhood collecting candy, it was not worth what it represented.”
In part 2, these parents will tell you what new traditions they have begun instead of Halloween, and how God is using their stand to share the knowledge of Christ - both in their homes and the world around them.

#teachingkidsabouthalloween #halloweenandchristianity #raisingkidsGodsway  #takingastand

Friday, August 21, 2015

What Should I Tell My Kids About Halloween? – My Story



First day of school

Christmas
I grew up in a loving, conservative Christian home. We had family devotions, prayer times, and went to church several times a week. My parents lived the faith they taught us; believing God came as naturally as breathing. However, we never questioned Halloween. Like most churches, ours hosted Halloween parties. We dressed in creepy costumes and watched movies like “Drink the Blood of Dracula,” and played scary games.  
I attended a Christian college that sponsored a haunted house. Bloody victims lurked behind doors; ghosts and vampires jumped out to the screaming delight of all. And even though they were not for me, many of my friends watched thriller movies as part of the fun.
My favorite part of Halloween was dressing in costume. When our first daughter got old enough for trick or treating, I dressed her like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, complete with glittery red shoes. I created a teapot costume for her the next year, with the lyrics of “I’m a little teapot” printed on the front. We showed her how to “pour” from her spout and she was adorable. It seemed like innocent fun.
            However, my appreciation for Halloween came to a screeching halt in 1992 when our church showed the movie Halloween: Trick or Treat? I learned the history behind Halloween and present day practices of occult followers. I realized our purchase of candy and costumes for this “innocent” celebration actually supports the evil it fronts. For the first time, I asked myself “why” we participated in this.
            “Because it’s fun” wasn’t a satisfying answer. There are a lot of “fun” things followers of Christ choose not to do, because they dishonor God and harm our spirits. It’s fun to have sex before marriage. It’s fun to get drunk and party. It’s fun to make lots of money and spend it on whatever you want. It’s fun to sleep in on Sunday instead of going to church. But there are consequences.
            I started doing research and realized every theme of Halloween directly opposes what I believe. The glorification of death, fear, darkness, witchcraft, and greed were not what I want to teach my children. So we turned away from Halloween and created our own modern version of All Saints’ Day. We filled the month of October with songs, books, and movies about faith and courage. And we hosted an All Saints’ Day party every November first – on the Christian holiday that actually came before Halloween took over.*
At last year's All Saints' Party
            Generations of believers failed to ask “Why are we celebrating Halloween?” So the darkness grew increasingly bold. The children who believe it’s all harmless fun, grow up devouring books and games about magic. They idolize werewolves and vampires as romantic heroes. Occult practices in our society – witchcraft, Ouija boards, tarot cards, palm reading, crystals - are now openly promoted as normal and harmless - even beneficial.  
            Maybe it’s time for more Christians to ask “Why?” Why do churches and individuals who strive to know Christ, and live lives set apart and holy for Him, celebrate a holiday that promotes darkness and evil powers in the name of “fun?”I applaud the parents who choose to leave a greater legacy than the status quo for their children – a freshly examined faith that makes every day count.
            In my next post, you can read their stories, what their children have to say about Halloween,
The competition is fierce!
and what their families are doing for fun this fall instead.

*For ideas on how you and your family can have a fun-filled, God-honoring season, I invite you to read my book Taking Back October. It’s full of ideas for decorating, parties, music, movies, books, and games. Available at: http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Back-October-Believers-Pursuit/dp/1502516292/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440009808&sr=8-1&keywords=Taking+Back+October

#thenarrowroad #halloweenandchristianity #christianholidays #newgenerationofchristians #christianfamiliestoday 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What Should I Tell My Kids About Halloween? – Questioning the Status Quo



            Why do dogs chase cats? Why is that lady so fat? Why are you humming? Why do I have to eat that? Children nearly drive us crazy with all their questions, especially the “why” question.

            As they get older, their questions begin to turn to spiritual things. Why do I have to go to church? Why do we need to read the Bible every day? Why do we pray if God already knows everything? If God loves everybody, why are some people starving? Why are we Christians, not Buddhists or Muslims?

            Children are insatiably curious. That’s how they learn. In turn, their questions help us solidify our own beliefs. They provide us with opportunities to examine ourselves and why we believe as we do. We may even begin to question some things that were part of our lives growing up.

            I’m impressed with parents of this generation who are raising their children to, not just accept, but explore their beliefs. Many of them refused to adopt their parents’ faith until working through their own doubts. They take this proven faith and purposefully pass it on to their children.

           



           My daughter’s conversation with another young mom last year, just before Halloween, is a case in point. She shared why she and her husband have decided not to celebrate this popular holiday. My daughter quoted some thoughts from my book, Taking Back October.* When she did, her friend lit up.

            “That’s exactly what we’ve been talking about!” she said. “My husband and I grew up celebrating Halloween, but now we’re realizing we need to rethink this. We’ve started talking with our kids about the origin of each holiday as they come.

            “At Christmas, we fill stockings and enjoy Santa Claus. But we also tell them how the real St. Nicholas gave to people because he loved Jesus, and that Jesus is the reason for the season. We focus on His resurrection at Easter. And even Valentines and St. Patrick’s Day have godly roots.

            So this year I thought we should start telling our kids why we celebrate Halloween. But then I thought, Why do we celebrate Halloween? We’ve decided this isn’t a tradition we want to pass on to our children.”

            What a great example she and her husband are, of actively teaching their children about God in daily life! The Message paraphrase says it this way: “Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night” (Deut. 6: 5-9).

            In my next post of this series, I’d like to share my story with you – what prompted me to give up one of my favorite holidays, and start new, God-honoring traditions with my children. In part three, you’ll hear from today’s young parents, who are teaching their kids what it means to put God first every day of the year.


*Taking Back October is available at: http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Back-October-Believers-Pursuit/dp/1502516292/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440009808&sr=8-1&keywords=Taking+Back+October

#teachingkidsGodsway #passingonthefaith #shouldwecelebratehalloween #whatdoesGodwant #halloweenandchristianity  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Joy Breaks



“Learn to enjoy life more. Relax, remembering that I am God with you.” Good words from August 13 of Jesus Calling. Author Sarah Young refers to our lives as “action addicted” in the entry for August 2, and I admit it’s true. My name is Beth and I struggle with action addiction. That’s why I am making the effort to take at least one Joy Break every day.
My sister Kathy coined the phrase. We want to live joyfully for our Savior, but the daily pressures of life sometimes overwhelm us. We want to learn how “to live freely and lightly” as Jesus invites us to in the Message paraphrase of Matthew 11:28-30.
Kathy even made me a “coupon” to remind it’s okay to have a little fun in life. To let God refresh and renew me for the journey. It has become a delightful assignment.
          
  So, the other day, after working in the yard all morning, I sat on our back deck and bundled lavender to dry. The sun was warm on my back. I turned off my music and listened. Birds twittered, an owl whoo whooed, doves cooed to each other, and an occasional puff of wind rustled the trees and gave me cool relief. I breathed in the heady scent of lavender, careful of the bees who came to share it with me. It had been a busy, exhausting week and consciously savoring the moment refreshed my spirit immensely.
            When I asked others on face book about their Joy Breaks, the response was immediate:
 “Oh man, I could use one of those!” Sally
“I call it my "Magic Carpet Time." Today, water coloring a flower in my travel sketch book.So relaxing!” - Dalia
Sat in the sunshine singing hymns. Thanking God for allowing me to live in such a beautiful place. Took two of my sister’s grandchildren to the park and saw a good friend and shared a hug. (I really needed one!) – Veronica
I took my camera outside to shoot the beautiful blooms, worked on a quilting project this afternoon, took some old license plates to my daughter who is making birdhouses and needed 'roofing material', then came home to play the piano and read in my novel! Great relaxing day! – Loretta
I sat on my patio watching & listening to a classroom of children playing on the playground of the school. There is nothing more joyful than watching children play & listen to their laughter! – Karyn
I sing hymns and count blessings – Jennifer
Played in the flower garden with my two beautiful, fun, affectionate Ragdoll cats. – Lorna
Starbucks! – Sally
A bundle of lavender and sitting for a moment are a perfect mixture for relaxing. I think I need to plant some lavender. – Rhonda
           


            Since that day I’ve enjoyed many more Joy Breaks. Some were longer chunks of time – walks along Netarts Bay with Trish, a Sunday afternoon of unplanned adventures with Kelly, having girlfriends over for a Saturday brunch. Others were just a pause to breathe in the blessing of the moment – looking out the window as the sun was coming up to marvel at the mountain silhouette as clouds melted away, looking up the words to an old hymn when a phrase popped into my head, grabbing my husband for an impromptu dance when a good song came on.
One day I thought I was too busy to take a break, but happened to notice a silver sheep on my key chain as I took the keys from my car. It was a gift from my Aunt Mary years ago – I was in college or maybe even high school – and it’s been on my key chain ever since.I paused to think about how much I love her. How grateful I am God put her in my life. I reminisced about all the fun family gatherings we’ve had at her house. And how she cried with me, prayed with me, and held me through my divorce. It was only a minute, but God found a way to refresh my spirit in a sweet and abundant way.
We serve a loving God who wants to delight us with His presence, His children, His creation, and the simple pleasures of everyday life. How is He blessing you today? Are you ready for a Joy Break?