Sister to Sister: Q and A: Boo-ing Halloween?

10615534_10204242926530145_8465613083946747314_nQuestion: Should Christians participate in Halloween traditions?

Response: Perhaps I am wrong about what I think about Halloween traditions. Maybe there’s something I’ve yet to consider that may change my mind. At the very least, it is probably not a smart thing for me to publicly say what I think because there will be so many people who disagree with me about a matter that I deem so inconsequential. Besides that, we all know that it really doesn’t matter what I think about it…at all. So you can stop reading now if you want and be none the worse.

But the question has surfaced in our inboxes three times already this week, so I’ll go ahead and take a stab at conveying my thinking about costumes, trick-or-treating, jack-o-lanterns and all things Halloween.

1. I believe there is an innocent way to observe the candi-est holiday of the year. I was an adult before I knew there was any supposed tie to anything pagan or evil about Halloween. When I was a child my parents were creative in costuming and very much involved in our fun neighborhood masquerade night. I had absolutely no idea that wickedness was ever associated with the holiday until I was much older…an adult. Today, my family in the West Huntsville church has the best of times in what we call a “trunk-or-treat” night, although it is primarily done indoors in our fellowship hall. It involves nothing scary and nothing that has to do with death. It involves sweet children in delightful costumes walking around giving big smiles and hugs to the adults that line the walls. And it involves chili and Mexican cornbread and orange cookies and treats in the bags that the children carry. Lots of the adults dress up and join in the fun, too. I’ve already been a popcorn vendor and “Lucy” from the Peanuts gang at two different West Huntsville get-togethers this season.

2.   I do not believe that the origin and early development of the holiday necessarily prevents our nod to it in benign observances. It is my judgment that, just as we can separate Christmas from the birth of Christ and celebrate it as a national rather than religious holiday,we can celebrate Halloween as a cultural observance rather than a pagan one. Just as we can celebrate Valentine’s day without expressing allegiance to or approval of a Catholic“saint”, we can celebrate Halloween, in innocuous (otherwise innocent) ways without any allegiance to anything wicked or pagan. Just as we can call the names of our months by names that are derivatives of the names of pagan gods without implying approval of idolatry, I believe we can trick-or-treat without implying approval of witchcraft, Satanic practices or devil worship.

3.   I do believe this is a matter of opinion and not faith. (I love I Corinthians 8 when I’m contemplating matters of judgment.)

4.   I believe if one finds herself in violation of conscience by participating in any form of trick-or-treating or pumpkin carving, that it would be wrong for her to thus violate her conscience by so participating. It is always wrong to violate your conscience. Consciences can be retrained by diligent Christians who are studying the Word, but never should be violated.

5.   I believe it would be wrong for me to cause another Christian to stumble by my participation in any event that is not commanded by the Lord. If a weaker brother who worships with me is offended if I wear a shirt around Halloween time that says “Boo”, then why would I wear that shirt? However, in most scenarios, I have found that those who choose not to celebrate Halloween in any way are reading the same book about unity and freedom in matters of judgment that I am reading, and, most of the time, they are not offended by the “fun” that others in the church are having with pumpkins and trick-or-treat.

6. I believe it is appropriate for moms and dads to decide together about their tolerance level regarding this holiday. While things associated with death and the morbid and certainly the mean and destructive practices are not becoming of Christians, things associated with princesses and super-heroes and candy treats might be fun  and wholesome for your family. I believe parents should enjoy the freedom to guide their families in this tradition.

7. In congregations in which unity may be threatened over an observance of Halloween, it would  be good for elders to sit down with concerned families and express their judgments about the concerns and members should thus abide by their wishes. After all, what are shepherds for, if not to  make judgment calls in matters of opinion and, in making such decisions, to preserve the flock from division? The biggest tragedy about Halloween would be for a church to find itself, on November 1st, splintered and at odds over something so insignificant as a Halloween party…or not. (I might add here that it would be challenging for me, as a preacher’s wife in our congregation, to abstain from participating in our West Huntsville time of holiday fellowship without causing some discomfort among some in the body. That is, I believe dressing up this year as Lucy for trunk-or-treat was more of an encouragement to others than a stumbling block, in my particular circumstance. Perhaps in another church in another part of the country, that might not be true.)

8. I believe Halloween is a great opportunity for widows and elderly Christians to bond with the children of the church. Our own children made “appointments” with elderly people in the church to come by and “show off” their costumes and we sometimes took treats to those elderly people (kind of backwards trick-or-treating). Anticipation and excitement emanated from the faces of those older saints. But more importantly, our kids grew, through this and other service projects to love these mature Christian people—a great blessing in the development of our children, for sure.

9. I believe that sometimes the innocent celebration can open doors for evangelism. I know it did with us in our neighborhood as we discussed and invited neighbors who had questions even in the street as our kids trick-or-treated together. Of course, that knife could cut two ways and if your religious friends are  negatively impacted by your participation, you should be sensitive to their concerns and even take the chance to discuss your practices with them. Souls of people are far more important than your personal family fun.

10. Having said all of this, we should not underestimate the positive impact of family traditions on our kids. They are a big part of the glue that holds your family together. They are second to the spiritual traditions of family Bible times, prayers before meals, prayers before kids leave the house for school or college, attending singings and gospel meetings together, participating in programs for leadership development,etc… in binding your family together. From experience, I know that the anticipation of traditions and holidays celebrated in ways that belong uniquely to your family are huge in creating the cohesiveness that you want your family to maintain—the bond that helps you through the tough times that every family inevitably faces. (And it is usually Mom who best creates and maintains the great traditions that sweeten the adult memories of every child who grew up loving family traditions.)

Now, this ten point synopsis is probably overkill for the subject of boo and bats and costumes and candy. Further, I’m sure there will be those who disagree and that’s okay. But if all of us can be 100 times more concerned about the health of the Body of Jesus than we are about promoting our own “take” on the holiday, we will experience a strengthening of our precious unity as the family of God, even during the last week of October.

Sister to Sister: Really?… God, Are You Listening?

images-2Moses definitely had some “issues” with God’s faithfulness as he prayed in Exodus five and six. Hear his words:

O LORD, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?

For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all. (5:22, 23)

Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips? (6:12)

Moses had heard all the promises of deliverance at the burning bush. He had faithfully, albeit hesitantly, followed. But things were not working out for that “great deliverance.” In fact, Pharaoh’s grasp of bondage was becoming ever tighter and more painful. Things were definitely getting worse and not better. So Moses turned to God with his list of grievances. They are so much like those of road-weary Christians today.

  1. Why is all of this happening?
  2. The harder I try, the worse the circumstances become.
  3. I’m not seeing the fulfillment of what You’ve promised (I do not see the “exit sign”).
  4. Even Your own people are rejecting your Word. How can I expect outsiders to listen?

But God, the lofty One who inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15) sees the big picture and responds, to Moses and to us.

  1. This is all happening because I have an eternal plan that does not begin and end with you (6:1-4).
  2. When my faithful people cry, I am listening and responding (6:5).
  3. Just because the fulfillment of promise is not immediate, does not mean it is not certain. My timing is perfect (6:6-8).
  4. Working to be “separate” from “Egypt” (a charge) is the answer for My people who are weak in faith (6:12,13). A distinctive people is necessary for outsiders to see the work of God through His people. (Israel had to believe they were leaving and get ready to leave prior to the working of God in Pharaoh.) Do we live today as if we really believe we are leaving it (our Egypt) all behind?

Let’s look at Isaiah 57: 15 one more time. I want to go and inhabit eternity, the high and holy place, with the One whose name is Holy. But, to do that, I have to have an humble and contrite spirit. The humble spirit waits on the Lord’s plan, knowing that He is listening as I suffer and that He responds with impeccable timing. Therefore, in faith, I will keep His charge to live every day and make each decision with the full knowledge that I am looking for the exit sign. I’m leaving my “Egypt” in a very short time.

…And don’t forget the podcast. Tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 7 CST.

Sister to Sister: “Trans-prayer-ency”

praying-crying-womanSometimes I find myself making excuses to God when I talk to Him….”Father please forgive me for failing to study Your Will for my life this week as I should have. You know it has been so difficult with all this company in the house.”…Or “Lord, I pray for Tricia. I know I should have already taken that book about redemption over to her. I want her to be saved and she is open to the truth. But Lord, it is so hard to catch her at home.”…Or “Father, please help me to be a more submissive wife. I need to control my tongue, but sometimes he is just so stubborn.”

But then, I usually come to my senses and realize that God knows the difference between excuses and reasons. He knows every thought behind every motive behind every attitude and every action. We simply do not “pull punches” with God. We do not “make” him believe that negligence to duty was really an impossible circumstance. We do not “gloss over” sin and convince the omniscient One that it was righteousness. When we speak to God, we should remember that He could just as well read our thoughts. We pray, not so that He can know our hearts, but because He wants to “hear” our hearts’ expressions. Sometimes we sing the prayer song “Words are not enough to tell you of our love, so listen to our hearts.” He DOES listen to our hearts. If our words in prayer are not representative of our hearts, He understands that our hearts offer the REAL sentiment. We may fool men by misaligning our words and our thoughts, but we do not fool God.

Transparency is the concept we must remember as we approach the throne. Just as God saw through the excuses Moses was making around the burning bush in Exodus 3 and 4, so he sees us, barefoot on holy ground and hiding our faces, as it were, in His holy presence. He knows we, like Moses can perform the required tasks of our short sojourn in this wilderness as we travel to the Promised Land. Like Moses, we may be expressing our unworthiness to the task (3:11), our lack of preparation or knowledge (3:13), the negativity of the world around us (4:1), the weaknesses of our humanity (4:10), or the ready availability of those more qualified (4:13). But God knows our potential and He is already aware of our obstacles.

So, while thinking of prayer, perhaps we should coin a new word: “Trans-prayer-ency”. When I pray, He sees right through the words I say and all the way to the heart’s condition. That’s very comforting if I am meekly submitting. And it’s very UNcomfortable if I am offering excuses.

So, when I find myself “explaining” to God, I generally just say, “Father, it is so silly for me to be telling You why I haven’t done Your will about _________. You know everything about this scenario. Lord, Forgive me. ‘Help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:23).’”

Sister to Sister: Not a Bad Thing

soccer-mom-1So many of the things that turn our lives upside down in a very damaging way are not really “wrong” things. The thing that turned Martha’s day in Luke 10 into a nightmare that’s still being rehearsed was not a “wrong” thing. Fixing dinner was a good thing to do… important, even. Just not as important as listening to the Lord. The object of attachment that made the rich young ruler (who, by the way, was a knowledgable, law-keeping Jew) in Mark 10 walk away with sorrow was not an “evil” object. It was simply that what he loved most was not what he should have loved most. There was nothing inherently bad about the bowl of porridge that Esau obtained in exchange for his birthright in Genesis 25. It was, once again, simply a case of misplaced priorities.

And so it is with me and so many of my friends today. When I love sewing for the sweet baby in my life more than I love sewing for a needy family, I have misplaced priorities. If I love stashing casseroles in my freezer so I will have easier days for self while never thinking of sharing with other moms who have sick children or with families who are grieving, then my “good” thing becomes evil. If I am being a “good influence” on my fellow civic club members or bowling league while meeting with them on Wednesday nights during the regular Bible study hour of my congregation, I have let a good thing take the place of the best thing.

One important application of the obvious relevant passage—“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you ” (Matthew 6:33)— is this: Mark it down….If I love my child more than I love my spouse, I am putting a good thing—even a great thing, one notch too high on my list of priorities. Sometimes I see this happening around me. A mother chooses to distance herself from her husband because she is simply absorbed in the activities of the children. A daddy spends all of his time playing ball with his sons  to the neglect of the emotional needs of his wife. A mother chooses to sleep with her children rather than with their dad. A daddy of teens chooses to absorb himself in his work (camping, fishing and hiking) with the teenage boys of the church, leaving his wife alone on many or most weekends. A young mother defies the rigid but reasonable discipline regime that her husband has set in place in their home because she “feels it is a bit too regimented.” A mom spends hours and hours in Facebook groups about motherhood or in hobbies that revolve around the kids while Dad is left to pretty much fend for himself. A dad puts an exorbitant amount of money into sports gear for his children while his wife has trouble having enough grocery money each month. The list is inexhaustible.

But you get the point. We can be “good” and still reserve a place in our lives for selfish defiance. This is true even when our defiance is borne of what we may believe is love for our kids. But the important truth to remember is this. If I love my child more than I love my husband, I will ultimately hurt my child. Every. Single. Time. Ask Rebekah how that worked out when she sought the “best interests” of Jacob at the expense of Isaac in Genesis 27. When your children are grown, you can’t go back and have a re-do. So, if you can find it in your heart to believe this old grandmother now, you can save your children a lot of heartache. Just love their father to the max. Put him right there between God and your children in the pecking order. When you love him, you love those beautiful children he gave you. And all will be better in your world!

I Have a Prior Commitment (Conclusion)


images-1Of course, the big reward is heaven. If we can just make it to the throne…if we can sit around the throne of God with our spouses and our children in the New Jerusalem, singing praises to the Lamb…our marriages will have rendered the ultimate reward. But there are more immediate rewards of honoring the Christian commitment in our marriages.

Our prayers are not hindered when we do marriage God’s way (I Pet. 3:7). Have you ever tried to talk to God when you have argued in anger with your husband or failed to abide by His decision? You will find that you cannot approach the Highest Authority until you have submitted to His delegated authority. If you find yourself in that awkward place, go apologize to your husband and then come back and talk to your Father.

Our daughters receive invaluable training for submission in their own future marriages. This is training that they will rarely receive in other venues in our world of feminism. In fact, their guidance counselors at school will, almost always, scoff at girls who would like to marry and bear children in lieu of having a career. Their role models in secular society mock at the rare woman of God who openly speaks of submitting in marriage. So this gift of a godly mother’s example is crucial. We must be constantly aware that we are countering a very convincing culture when our children watch us interact with our husbands. Our window of opportunity to indelibly etch this vision of what God wants and rewards in the hearts of our sons and daughters is extremely limited.

Our husbands will be better able to slay the dragons in their hectic and often godless worlds as they go about leading and providing for our families. A warm and loving haven where there is respect and admiration for a man enables him to do the tough stuff for his family in a culture of disrespect. He can take almost any courageous action for his wife and children if there is peace, harmony and respect around the dinner table.

But the biggest reason is the one listed beneath the admonition to be obedient to husbands in Titus 2:5. It is this: “…that the word of God be not blasphemed.” If we knew nothing else about the rewards of doing marriage God’s way, this would be enough. I have seen this blasphemy in the words and demeanor of teen girls and young wives who wear the name of Christ, but whose moms failed to teach them the principles of respect in marriage. One teenage girl in class responded to a lesson on submission in marriage by asking “Are you telling me, Mrs. Cindy, that I will one day have to obey the man I marry?”

I responded “No, Heather. I am not saying that. God said that.”

…To which Heather responded with folded arms and a steely resolve in her voice…“Well, I’m not doing that!”

This was a harbinger of disaster in Heather’s future marriage. It was blasphemy. It most certainly would, one day, represent a breach in some promises she had made when she had taken His name. Heather had decided not to be a daughter of Sarah. She had decided not to do well.  May you and I do well and may God help us to teach our daughters to do well.


I Have a Prior Commitment (Part 2)

280107_10150245550298692_363378268691_7579920_3733981_o-1The Prior Commitment and My Attitude

It is interesting that Peter commands actions (subjection and obedience, chaste manner of life) and attitudes (meek and quiet spirit) in the details of how  we attain to be daughters of Sarah In I Peter 3: 1-6).

Christianity obviously rules not only our outward actions, but it requires our hearts. The greatest command is still, today, loving the Lord with my all…all my heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). Thus, core principles of Christianity, the “ethics,” if you will, of Christ, determine my daily decisions and regulate my relationships…all of my relationships. I am often amazed as I see women who are kind and gentle people, mannerly and decorous, unselfish and soft-spoken until they get behind the closed doors of their own homes.

May I suggest to you that home should be the place where you exhibit the best that Christianity has to offer? After all, your relationship with your husband is the most permanent of all earthly relationships. If you have children growing up in that home, you are daily and indelibly etching on their souls. You are putting attitudes in them that will prove very difficult to remove…ever. And your own happiness in your marriage is largely dependent on your attitude at home. Are you getting in your own way of happiness?

Remember the premise. Your prior commitment–the one you made to Jesus in the waters of baptism–rules your marriage. Perhaps the most succinct passage that you apply daily in your relationships is known as “The Golden Rule”:

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them, (Mat. 7:12).

It’s a great challenge to apply this passage at home. It means we refrain from nagging. We are nurturers as women. We want to fix our husbands, even the insignificant shortcomings of good husbands. But nagging is ineffective (It is like flipping a light switch over and over when the lights are still not coming on) and is not consistent with our prior commitment.

Applying the golden rule means we’re not pouters. As pouting wives we give our  husbands the silent treatment. If we don’t get our way, we withhold conversation, smiles and warmth from the men we love. We treat them in ways in which we would not like to be treated. We should never let the sun go down on marital wrath (Eph.4:26). Further, we should not end phone conversations in words of malice or let cars back out of our garages when relationships have rifts. Life is too fragile and regret is too bitter.

The golden rule also prohibits manipulation. Women have the power to get much of what we want. It takes strong women to keep this power under control. Whining, crying, lying, withholding sex or using sex to achieve selfish purposes is inconsistent with the prior commitment. Weak women, like Delilah (Judges 16) and Jezebel (I Kings 21) use the power of manipulation. Strong women for God use the power of self-control. We do not submit to our husbands because we have to. We submit because we choose to honor the prior commitment.

The golden rule makes us polite, genteel people. Are we polite to our husbands? Do we speak respectfully to and about them? Do we especially work to do this in front of our children, our most crucial audiences?  Do we refrain from interrupting and correcting them? Do we use the words like “please” and “thank-you” and “you’re so welcome” and “excuse me”  to the people we love most? We are most certainly reaching into the future  marriages of our children as they watch the marital interactions of their parents. Surely it makes sense that our homes will be warmer and happier if we are polite within their walls. But, regardless of whether we see the positive outcomes, we must honor our prior commitment. We must honor the original vows we made to the Lord. Remember, Sarah called him “Lord”.

Financial matters are tempered by my relationship with Jesus, as well. My husband’s masculinity–his wholeness as a man–is incomplete if he knows he fails as a family provider. Do you want to give your husband the gift of emotional wholeness? Stay in the budget! Work hard to be frugal and help him in every way possible to make ends meet. Be sure you contact him about all large decisions prior to making them. “What is a large decision?” you may ask. If you’re wondering about this with regard to some pending choice, you should go ahead and ask before purchasing. It’s much more pleasant to hear, “Oh, sure…go ahead,” than “I cannot believe you did that without consulting me.”  Never compare your husband’s money-making ability in an unfavorable light with that of another man. That comparison is a great way to strip away your husband’s confidence and masculinity.

The golden rule simply has endless and positive ramifications in our marriages. Think about how many problems with in-laws would automatically find solutions if both spouses applied the Golden Rule toward their partners in dealing with parents. In fact, if you combine Jesus’ Golden Rule with his eternal rule about leaving and cleaving (Gen. 2:24), your marriage would be insulated from interferences that cause pain in marriage.