For anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
I’m not a big fan of Hallowe’en.
Perhaps it goes back to being a parent of kids with food allergies and being what we called then “a health food nut” (before it became trendy).
Perhaps there is some latent childhood guilt about the way my brother and I planned our routes like those clocked shopping spree wins in the supermarket. (They don’t have those anymore, do they?) Two totally full pillowcases each was our usual haul. (Hey, we were good.)
Our costumes then were always homemade, often out of stretchy crepe paper, and had to fit over a parka. Decorations were something, often unidentifiable, made out of construction paper at school and taped to the window. Our loot bags, often drool-stained, were the pillow cases Mom had already rejected for regular use. No adults accompanied us; they would only slow us down.
Our parents didn’t freak out about Hallowe’en. Mom commandeered the apples in our bags for pies, so she was okay with it. They steered us away from the parts of the occasion that mentioned evil or the occult, but by the time my kids wanted to go out things changed.
Then the night of mocking our fear gave way to fear. Fear of razor blades in apples, poison in popcorn balls, drugs in cookies… fear of pedophiles… drunk drivers… actual satan worshippers…
As I walked around the stores this week and saw the decorations around the neighbourhood, I realized much of what this All Holy People’s Evening (the meaning of the word Hallowe’en) has morphed into is actually an expression of things we fear – the opposite of all that is holy. In the way Medieval Carnivals were parodies of religious and cultural restraints, when for one day a year folks felt free to turn their society upside-down, I wonder if Hallowe’en has become the day to remove restraints on expressions of what folks fear?
The fear of death has always been with us, but I’ve noticed some changes in the past few years. Hallowe’en is getting darker. Fewer Dorothys and more wicked witches.
The obsession with zombies lately tells me people are afraid of going through the motions, but feeling dead inside – living, but not alive.
Perhaps this thing with vampires is a clue to a fear of having the life sucked out of one, and then feeling helpless to curb cravings left in its place. What if we also become both victims and perpetrators? What if we become someone who uses other people in a way that leaves them feeling so hopeless and needy that even death is not an escape?
I wonder if a bad guy costume (the pirate, the axe murderer, the monster, the seductress) is about fear of a person’s inability to control the darkness in their own hearts.
I wonder if ghosts and ghouls and witches and wizards are about a fear of the supernatural and the misuse of things we can’t explain or control?
I wonder if underlying all this is our deepest, darkest fear – the fear of disappointment in God, the fear that he is not there for us, the fear that we somehow have to get through the perils of darkness all on our own? (The lack of good father figures in popular children’s stories and films may be another clue to this common fear.)
Fear attracts more fear and more darkness, I’m sure of that. I understand people who want nothing to do with a celebrations of death and darkness and evil and choose to boycott the whole thing. I know some folks who shut the lights off and go down to the basement for the evening. As a person who has had to fight fear and anxiety much of my life I admit I ran scared of the fear of the taint of possible demonic ugliness myself for a while. I had seen too much to dismiss its existence.
But I am reminded that there is no such thing as a flashdark. Light dispels darkness, not the other way around. We can curse the darkness, or we can light a candle, and if the evil one tries to blow it out, we light another one, and another one and another one. Perhaps it’s time to redeem the time.
I read about a prayer request today. It was that time when Paul asked the people in Thessalonica (who were prone to listening to fearful tales that they had missed Jesus’ return) to pray for him and his friends, that they may be delivered from wicked and evil men. He held out a torch of light to them when he assured them God was faithful and was willing to strengthen and protect them from the evil one if they looked to Him and just asked.
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance,” he said. Knowing the perfect love of God is the only antidote to fear and anxiety.
So this is the little light I try to let shine: Jesus loves you. This I know.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4,5)
On All Hallows Evening my house is the one with the candle in the window. It’s a symbol of hope. You are welcome to come to my door. It will be open. I will be waiting and praying for you.
On earth as it is in heaven. Deliver us from the evil one. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.
Or three -or four -or five.
Just after I posted my last blog about steeping in God’s reality I looked through other photos I took this week. The significance of this simple photo of a grandfather carrying his grandson on his shoulders suddenly hit me.
Five and a half years ago we had a tough week full of bad news:
-Our daughter learned that damage from the disease that had already given her so much pain was more advanced than the specialist had thought and it was highly unlikely she could conceive a child.
-My husband learned he had a serious degenerative bone disease that affected his spine so severely that the strange malformation was threatening his spinal cord. He had to give up all sports and stressful physical activity immediately.
-A business coming out of a research project he had dedicated years to was pronounced dead, done, and defunct.
That week I had a bizarre experience when I heard a voice that said, “Follow 228, Ban our tyres,” that led to an understanding of the definition of hope I believe the Lord gave me. I wrote about it here:
Hope: vision-led endurance
I had a vision of babies for my daughter, health for my husband, as well as a satisfying post-retirement business for him. It seemed like an impossible hope at the time, but I felt the Lord was asking us to be patient while he worked things out.
This is a photo of one of the children born to that infertile mother, conceived, like his sisters, without medical intervention.
This is a photo of his grandfather, not only able to walk and have full use of his hands, but able to carry the weight of that child on his back without pain despite missing a vertebra. (It’s been replaced by some sort of vascular tissue growing there now which doesn’t pinch his spinal cord.)
This is a photo of a visit brought about by God-coincidence. As for the business, he has been able to apply his expertise to a new venture -and he and son-in-law sat together working on it this week beside this beautiful lawn.
This is a photo taken by a photographer who was smiling so much that day, her face hurt.
Our son-in-law (miracle # 4 in this story) survived a bout of flesh-eating disease which took him as close to death’s door as his doctors had ever seen someone come and still be restored to full health, with all his limbs, organs and brain intact and fully functional.
“You know it’s a miracle that guy is still alive,” one of them told his colleague.
“What? That guy should be f…. dead!” exclaimed another of the first specialists to treat him, upon hearing reports of “John’s” recovery after he returned from a long trip.
Their generous friend gave our daughter and son-in-love the gift of a week at a time share in Montana to celebrate. Now we have only been to that part of the world two, maybe three times in the past 20 years, but my husband just happened to have an appointment in the same area this very same week so we joined them for a couple of days.
Miracle # 5? The golf course closed for the season just before we arrived, but it was open to guests to stroll around on the green, green grass, beside still waters and brilliant autumn-coloured trees in warm sunshine (60 degrees F in late October is warm to Canadians!) without having to take turns hitting or chasing or losing those silly little balls. In fact our grandchildren made a profit selling 27 found balls to their Daddy.
I’m looking at the photo and steeping in the reality of God’s goodness.
Wow. Thank you, Lord! Thank you!
I love you.
Steep your life in God-reality,
Don’t worry about missing out.
You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now,
and don’t get worked up
about what may or may not happen tomorrow.
God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up
when the time comes.
(Matthew 6:33,34 The Message)
True contentment is a real, even an active, virtue – not only affirmative but creative. It is the power of getting out of any situation all there is in it.
– G.K. Chesterton
I just about jumped out of my skin when the dog lunged at the fence, barking with an authoritarian voice that clearly negated anything that sign said about being welcome. I paused by the shaking boards only long enough to snap a photo -and then I was out of there. If he wanted the entire lane to himself, that was fine with me. The sign said welcome, but something was missing.
Mixed messages may be difficult to read, but usually action barks louder than words.
One day I was expecting a student for a singing lesson, but I wasn’t sure if I would be on time because I planned to attend the funeral of an old acquaintance earlier in the afternoon. My student was a mature person I knew well, so I phoned her and said I would leave the door unlocked, and if I was a few minutes late she could just come in and practise.
Well, the funeral went on longer than I anticipated because so many people wanted to share what the dear departed soul meant to them. She was dearly loved and the boxes of tissue thoughtfully placed on the pews were passed between all her many friends and family. The last person to speak talked about how her door was always open to students who dropped by regularly for cookies and advice.
At that moment I suddenly remembered that although I left the door open for my student, I forgot to turn off the burglar alarm! It is partly a motion detector type alarm and wouldn’t go off if the unlocked door was opened, but it surely would if she walked into the living room where the piano was.
I looked at my watch and whispered my dilemma to the fellow sitting beside me. Poor guy. I caught him off guard and he guffawed loudly. Bad timing.
I wonder about the messages we give people. Sometimes the messages people intend to communicate are not, for various reasons beyond their control, perceived in the same spirit. Sometimes it’s an oversight, or bad timing. Sometimes words don’t match actions and people are rightly spooked. If folks preach love and grace, yet passers-by hear snarling disapproval or condemnation from the other side of the gate –well, no wonder they run away. If people implore others to come into their parlour and then scare the hide off them with alarms that scream “intruder alert,” they probably will not need to set another place at the table.
I used to do an exercise with students to demonstrate the importance of making sure your body communicated the same message as a song. I would ask them to touch their chin with their finger.
“Touch your finger to your chin like this,” I said, but then I deliberately touched my cheek. Nearly every one of them touched their cheek as I was demonstrating. A few looked confused or asked me to clarify. Rarely would someone actually do as I said and not as I did.
I usually went on to tell them if their face and shoulders looked morose, even if the song was joyful, the audience would go with morose. Actions carry greater authority as messengers than we realize.
How many prodigals are kept out of the Kingdom of God by the unlovely character of those who profess to be inside!
– Henry Drummond
It’s a pretty basic lesson, really. People will know if love is genuine or if they are being coerced or manipulated. Jesus said, “By this will all people know that you are my followers: if you have love for one another.”
Love. Either it’s real, or it’s not.