Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Are you a fan of Jesus?

Playing catchup on our Mere Churchianity discussion group with Glynn Young and Nancy Rosback. I'm a week behind but am catching up on Chapter 16, "The Evangelical Sellout". Be sure to check out Glynn and Nancy's thoughts on the latest chapter here and hereMelissa at In Silence, Humming Softly has also joined the discussion so be sure to check out her thoughts as well.

I want to throw some numbers out there to set the tone. From Chip Ingram's book, Living on the Edge referencing a Barna study he commissioned:
  • 81% of those calling themselves Christians said spiritual maturity is "following all the rules"
  • Half of churchgoers don't know how their own church defines a "healthy spiritually mature follower of Jesus."
  • Only 21% of Christians described their relationship with Jesus as a sign of their own personal spiritual maturity, 14% living a moral lifestyle, 13% being involved in spiritual disciplines.
  • A minority of churches have a written statement outlining the expectations of spiritual maturity and they often define this by what people do, not what they believe
  • Outside of this Barna study, Chip gives the anecdotal case where he asked 50 pastors what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and only one was able to give a coherent answer. Everyone else gave a vague version of "a follower of Jesus". When asked further what that looks like, answers varied as described above.

From an interview I heard a couple of weeks ago with Phil Vischer, writer of Veggie Tales:
  • 50% of adult Protestants cannot define the word grace
  • 60% of high schoolers in youth ministry drop out after graduation
We know the symptoms. In Chapter 16 of Mere Churchianity, Michael Spencer defines the disease: we are fans of Jesus, not disciples of Jesus. He gives the comparison between a baseball player and a fan of baseball. I like the joke of "eating at McDonald's every Sunday doesn't make you a hamburger."

When I became a disciple of Christ, the visible evidence of the numbers above drove me to the fellowship I am in now. I was converted in a campus ministry after being part of another campus ministry that prayed hard Sunday nights after partying hard Saturday night. And the fellowship was more about who was sleeping with who than how were our own personal walks with Christ. I knew there had to be something more than this, and I thank God for leading me to where he did.

I remember when one guy started coming around our campus ministry. He was active in his home church, a few hours down the road, and wanted a local fellowship. He participated in our worship, we studied the Bible, we prayed together, and when he looked at the lives we were striving to lead he told us, "this is just like my church back home. But only for those in leadership." Michael gives a similar story of a brother who was taking a course on discipleship who dropped out because, "This is for preachers, not me." (Mere Churchianity, pg 189)

I look around the current Christian climate and I see a malaise that is contagious. I read book after book and follow blog after blog to try and find the magic formula for what is wrong and how to fix it. But I've forgotten my own conversion and what brought me to the foot of the Cross. I've forgotten the stories of those like my friend above, to whom it never occurred that the lifestyle of a disciple is the expectation of all Christians, not just those in arbitrary positions of leadership. And so I've fallen into the Christian consumerism trap that Michael describes. He gives a great outline of the catalogue of endless "Christian" products that would be worth a post of its own, but instead I'll give my own checklist:
  • I write a blog, tweet about my convictions, and follow several others who do the same as we all preach to the same choir.
  • I've taken classes on Christian marriages and Christ-honoring finances.
  • I've attended countless conferences, seminars, and workshops.
  • I've taken classes on Biblical survey and apologetics.
  • I listen to Christian radio and buy some of the CDs.
  • My kids watch Veggie Tales and we own several DVDs.
  • And I can't even begin to count the number of books I've read, most on how to be a "better fill-in-the-blank Christian".
And truthfully, not a single one of these has changed my walk with Christ. Sure, they motivate behavioral and attitudinal changes and feed my knowledge as well as my ego. But at the beginning and end of the day, it is only me and Jesus that matter and there's not one silver bullet program, book, study series, conference, song, et cetera that is as important as that. I am a disciple of Jesus, not just a fan who wears some officially licensed jersey with his name on it and has his poster on my wall. I thank Michael for that reminder.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eyes and Hands

Playing catchup on our Mere Churchianity discussion group with Glynn Young and Nancy Rosback. I'm a week behind and hope to catch up with another post either this evening or tomorrow. For the discussion on Chapter 15, "The Good and Bad of Being Alone," be sure to visit (or re-visit) Faith, Fiction, Friends and NancieMarie. Meanwhile you can check out their thoughts on the latest chapter here and here (but don't spoil it for me!),  Melissa at In Silence, Humming Softly has also joined the discussion so be sure to check out her thoughts as well.

"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don’t need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don’t need you!'" (1 Corinthians 12:21)

Unity but not uniformity. Community but not conformity. Sounds nice, but sadly is rarely seen. Authentic Christian community offers an uncomfortable paradox: one one hand, we are all parts of one body commanded through dozens of 'one another' passages in the Bible; on the other hand, we are all given unique gifts and talents to be used to advance the Church. We are expected in Christ to be part of a collective while forging our own path of faith. Oftentimes, churches do not know how to handle this delicate balance, so they err to the side of homogeneity. And free-thinkers, as Michael Spencer describes, are often forced out.

I don't agree with Michael's depiction of Jesus in this chapter, but I do see his point. I don't believe Jesus was a solitary man. Yes, he often sought solace, but that was for recharging himself spiritually. He poured himself into those closest to him, yet he intentionally kept that number small. A theme I continue to oppose in this book is the notion of Christianity without community. I just don't think you can survive spiritually that way and I think the instructions to the Church we read in the Bible bare that out.

But, we also cannot fall into the temptation to be a conformist or a yes-man and identify our spirituality by our fellowship rather than our own faith. The Body of Christ is not made of only feet or hands as 1 Corinthians 12 describes. We need our own faith, our own relationship with Christ, our own struggles with God in prayer. And sometimes that might mean walking away from the structure, the system.

It's a delicate balance, as I said, and I'm sure we all have stories of how we've had to "fight the power" so to speak. I won't belabor this point, but do encourage you to read Glynn Young's post on this subject linked above. His story is too close to mine for it to be worth sharing again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

How are you doing...?

(forgive the typos, I'm thumbing this in on my mobile)

How are you doing? That's a question that sets us right up to be fake.

How are you doing? With a hammer and nails.
How's it going? Forward.

My dad would get on his soapbox on this all the time in a kids-these-days kind of way. I don't blame him, the question is too vague and open ended, leaving limitless possibilities of vague, fake, answers. It is this fakeness that Michael Spencer addresses in chapter 14 of Mere Churchianity, the man who wouldn't smile.

Christians are almost pre-conditioned on giving the right answer. Just as outside of the church, inside we know better than to answer honestly. Most of the time, we really don't want to know the truth in someone's life- their pains or their sins. And when we do sincerely want to know, we don't know how to ask. We default to the standard "what's up?" I hate being asked because I am often so in-the-moment to answer
truthfully. How am I that moment? My answer is independent of whether I committed mass-murder the day before, if I'm tip-toeing through the tulips at that moment I'll answer as though nothing happened.

We put on other masks as well. I was recently in a Christian book store (please don't hold it against me) to stock up on books and music for a long business trip. The store was semi-busy, and I felt awkward with every other shopper I saw. I assumed they were Christians, so should I have greeted them in a special way as if there's a secret handshake? If they ask how I am, am I expected to answer, "blessed" or openly confess my sins? So I intentionally kept to myself and didn't dare look anyone in the eye. But I would sneak a peek or two and I noticed I wasn't the only one feeling and acting I'm this way.

It is tragic that the Church has developed such a country-club mentality that real vulnerability is rare and awkward, almost unwelcomed. When we are commanded to "bear with one another" and "carry one another's burdens" such an environment is contrary to Jesus' expectations of others knowing we are His disciples by our love for one another.

I posted similar thoughts here (http://theoppositepc.blogspot.com/2010/02/love-without-hypocrisy.html) and here (http://theoppositepc.blogspot.com/2010/02/love-must-be-sincere.html). Also check out the discussions by Glynn Young and Nany Rosback at http://faithfictionfriends.blogspot.com and http://nancemarie.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Reading, 13 November

Not a lot of time spent online this week, but a common thread ran through most of what I read. I don't think that's unintentional. The following posts challenged my faith, my hope, and my joy. It was exactly what I needed this week.

Of course any challenge in life can be related to by someone's experience in the Bible. There is no shortage of examples to follow and lessons to be learned.
  • Rick Lancaster wonders what we think is too hard for God, then reminds us of Abraham and Sarah.
  • Colleen Foshee gives some driving tips for our faith and encourages us to not slam on the brakes when the road gets rough by reminding us of Joshua.
  • Michael Perkins reminds us of Peter and how he got distracted by the wind and dedicates himself to focusing on what's important.
  • Jay Cookingham looks towards the example of Bezaleel who used his talents to worship God.
  • Herb Halstead sees Moses being given the promise of seeing his reward after he obeyed God, not before.
  • Kely Braswell thinks of a young David as a small young man in a small backwater town. But God saw something more. Like David, we are not too small or too remote for God to see us.
  • Tullian Tchividjian uses the example of Job to see that our joy is robbed not by suffering but by idolatry.
But we have personal stories and anecdotal parables to draw from.
  • Ryan Tate asks us where we are going. The challenge is do we really have an answer?
  • Chuck Salser thinks when we get stagnate and stale in our faith, we become like a smelly locker room. Yeah, that sounds about right.
  • Trevor Lund introduces a series of lessons on faith by asking how big is your but?
  • Justin Davis wants a new story to tell.

And to add to all this, I received the following email, forwarded from a sister in Christ who just lost her husband.
A man was sleeping one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light, and God appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might.

So, this the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sunup to sundown, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might!

Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain. Since the man was showing discouragement, the Adversary (Satan) decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the weary mind: (He will do it every time)!

You have been pushing against that rock for a long time and it hasn't moved" Thus, he gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man.

Satan said, "Why kill yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good enough."

That's what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

"Lord," he said, "I have labored long and hard in Your Service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"

The Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done.

Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed.

But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back shiny and brown; your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard.

Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. True, you haven't moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock."

At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants, when actually what God wants is just simple obedience and faith in Him.

By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God Who moves the mountains.

When everything seems to go wrong....... ......... ......... .Just P.U.S.H.

When the job gets you down........ ......... ......... ...........Just P.U.S.H.

When people don't do as you think they should............. Just P.U.S.H.

W hen your money is "gone" and the bills are due...........Just P.U.S.H.

When people just don't understand you.........................Just P.U.S.H.

P = Pray
U = Until
S = Something
H = Happens
And if that isn't enough, check out Kevin Martineau's Favourite Links Friday, Jason Stasyszen's Light Friday Hit List, Glynn Young's Saturday Good Reads, Ryan Tate's Five to Check Out, and Tyler Braun's Fortuitous Bouncing.

Have a blessed weekend.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flashback Friday: Armistice

***Originally posted for Veteran's Day last year. Although the holiday has passed, the message still applies today. Wars are still being fought, physical and spiritual. There are victors and victims in both. One day is not enough to remember this. I also added the clip from one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen, To End All Wars. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.***

[Yesterday was] Veterans' Day, where we honor and remember those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces. My wife asked me why this holiday falls on November 11. At 11:00 on November 11, 1918, (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month) armistice (or truce) was signed between the Western Allies and Germany ending hostilities on the Western Front of World War I. World War I was called "The War to End All Wars". We know how that turned out. But the holiday remained and is still celebrated throughout Europe as well as here in the United States.

Pause and think of that for a moment- The War to End All Wars. How we wish that were true. So we honor those who serve in battles across the globe while we enjoy the comfort of our home, hoping that the next battle will be the last.

Now think about Jesus. His sacrifice was The Sacrifice to End All Sacrifices so to speak (ref: Hebrews 10). He fought our sins for us so that we wouldn't have to fight on our own, and ultimately someday to never have to fight again. But like The War to End All Wars, it was not the end and battles continue. So we honor Christ, who fought and still fights for us, while we enjoy the comfort of our own lives.

While we remember the physical conflicts our Armed Forces are engaged in worldwide, let us not forget the spiritual conflicts that continue in our own lives and the soldier, Christ, who fights alongside us.

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Of Sandlots and Cathedrals

This post continues the conversation Glynn Young, Nancy Rosback and I are having over the book Mere Churchianity. They always have a head start on me, so be sure check out their thoughts on Chapter 13, "Leaving Behind the Church-Shaped Life" over at Faith, Fiction, Friends and Bend the Page. Melissa at In Silence, Humming Softly has also joined the discussion so be sure to check out her thoughts as well.

Michael Spencer, being a baseball fan, uses the analogy of Big League ball versus his childhood playing in empty lots. He notes that despite all the scandals (steroids, salaries, sex), it is the kid's game that captures our imagination and fanhood. As soon as the game under the lights and in the cathedrals to the game forget this, then interest will wane and seats will empty. The same is true of the Church, that it is the Jesus-shaped Spirituality that exists inside each of us, outside of the "big-time" walls, that drives us to the Church. And like Major League baseball, churches who forget this may fill the pews for a time, but will find many leaving for the purity of the sandlot.

To keep myself out of trouble, and being a huge baseball fan myself, I'm going to continue with the analogy. I grew up watching Minor League baseball. Rookie level as a matter of fact, where "kids" fresh out of high school would try and show of their talents, earning measly pay, and hoping to someday earn their "cup of coffee". I lived far from any major market team so I relied on TBS and WGN to watch the Braves and Cubs, respectively, and the network Game of the Week. I would follow my favorite players through the box score in the local paper. When traveling to visit family, we would catch a big-league game if we could and the enormity of "the Show" was magical compared with the rookie league I was used to watching. The players were faster, their moves more crisp and polished, their talents far surpassing the kids scraping by at the lower level.

I had my favorite players, enshrined with posters, jerseys, and baseball cards. I didn't care about the value of cards, I would trade away a valuable rookie for a card of my hero (but I at least knew not to put them in my bicycle spokes). The first World Series I remember watching, I laid out all my cards from each team and I followed the game using the cards to keep score.

Times changed and I grew up. I realized that none of the players I watched in the minors made it to the majors. An expansion team came to my region. Still not close, but drivable. TV expanded, ESPN gained in viewership, and I could catch a game every night. The Internet came and instead of following my favorite players through the "simple" box score, I now could follow their "splits" and "advanced metrics". The Internet and Cable TV enabled the 24-hour news cycle and sports followed suit. I could find out what my favorite player was doing at almost any moment. They would soon become unable to hide from the public eye, so every misstep, every harsh word, every bad decision would be highlighted for the world to see. And the magic of the game, the childhood awe, waned.

Today I live walking distance to a high-A club and I love taking my son to watch the game at this level. I go to Major League games on occasion, but the price and the publicity for the most part has discouraged it. There's something about watching these kids trying to make their way that maintains the childhood purity I remember.

So what does this have to do with the church? The megachurch, the spiritual superstars the big crowds can drown out the child-like awe we should have before Jesus for the sake of the show. Just as the Internet as created instant experts out of every fan who voices an opinion, so it has for Christians and the blogosphere  who have no expertise other than their opinion (myself included). And I think myself, like many who relate to Michael Spencer in this book, are longing for Jesus-shaped Spirituality that can be found in the sandlots, being played by kids, free from all the trappings, glitz, and glam. When Michael was sharing this analogy, I was thinking about how the game is the same, whether played in the Major League cathedrals or at a beat up Little League field. Jesus is the same, whether worshiped within walls filled with thousands, or in a beat up old church filled with a dozen. And in both places, Jesus is found by the awestruck child who just loves the game.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3)

Friday, November 05, 2010

Flashback Friday: Movements and Messiahs

***Originally posted February 20,2010, as the Tea Party started to gain momentum. Reposting this week after the elections on Tuesday that the Tea Party is either getting too much or not enough credit, depending on your point of view. Regardless, Christians need to be wary against putting too much faith in any political movement.***

The Tea Party movement has gotten a lot of press recently, from being credited for Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts to CNN doing a week-long look into the movement prior to its first "national conference" to the recent article in the New York Times. The biggest questions being asked are will this amount to a third party and/or how much influence will this group have on the Republican Party?

Sounds a lot like what was being asked about the fledgling Christian Coalition thirty years ago. Like the Tea Party, the Christian Coalition was initially focused on local involvement from people with little or no prior involvement in politics (at the time conservative Christians). Eventually their influence grew to such an extent that they are now blamed for everything wrong with the Republican Party. Egos, internal politics, and the idol-worship of fame eventually led to this movement's downfall.

Another similarity is the lack of unity or homogeneity among the grass-roots supporters. There is no definition of a "Christian voter" that applies to all Christians as Jim Wallis so accurately pointed out in his book, God's Politics, Why the Right Gets it Wrong and Why the Left Doesn't Get It (the subtitle sums this up the best). At the same time, the media has been unable to nail down a universal platform that applies to each Tea Party other than the expected discontent with the current administration. Some want a new party, some want an overhaul of the Republican Party. All want a smaller government, but there is disagreement how. Again, sounds a lot like the "value voter" broad-brush the media tried to invent after the 2000 election.

Tea Party organizers would be wise to study the history of this group as it appears they are going down the same road. We, as Christians, would also be wise to remember our folly with the Christian Coalition and not be enticed by the promise of any political Messiah as there is only one true Messiah, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:4)

Our commanding officer is God, not country nor political party. And our battle is not political but moral and the prizes are not votes but souls. We will never be the salt that Jesus calls us to be as long as we are only striving to score political points.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Savior, Healer, Both?

"While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'

On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.'" (Matthew 9:10-12)

"'Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.' So he said to the paralyzed man, 'Get up, take your mat and go home.' Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man." (Matthew 9:5-8)

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2)

"...'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

When the Chilean miners were rescued last month, the whole world watched. Christians praised God as they heard the news and the credit the miners gave to their Lord. The miners become not only pop-culture celebrities, but also anecdotal heroes of the faith. But this religious fervor raises an important question. What if they weren't rescued? Would God have been there then? Just how much did God have to do with saving those miners? Besides the Evangelical response, was the ecumenical response, and the skeptic response. Which is right? Is it possible they all are?

Michael Spencer, in the twelfth chapter of Mere Churchianity, questions the "perfection" demonstrated by many Christians under the guise of Jesus being both healer and savior. The premise goes that since they are saved, they are therefore healed. Healed of malady, financial hardships, depression, addiction, their own sinful nature. Paul, in the passages above would counter that claim, praising God for his weaknesses in one breath while reminding us that we are dead to our sin in the next. In the miracle above, Jesus' acts of healing and forgiveness were not the same. They were two different events.

I've found there are two extremes to this theological and philosophical dilemma. On one side are those who praise God for being healed of everything under the sun. On the other are those who mope around acknowledging that they are sinners, always have been and always will be, who are just saved by God's grace. On the one hand are those who believe so strongly that God heals completely through salvation that any sin or weakness must be the consequence of hidden sin or a lack of faith. Then there's the temptation to over-rely on God's grace for forgiveness without accepting our part to die to our sins (Romans 6, above). At the same time many Christians feel defeated by their sin, looking at Paul's "thorn in the flesh" example from 2 Corinthians and just accept their sinful nature while not doing anything about it.  Each is dangerous because they lead to using their present condition to judge others. Michael seems to fall towards the latter extreme. I admire admitting weakness, but he seems to dismiss any healing or providence from God.
But it begs the question of just how involved is God in our day-to-day struggles? Is he only around in the big things (Chilean miners) or in every little thing? And if He is involved in everything, then why doesn't everything "work for the good"? Why do we still struggle with sin? Why does he have cancer, why did she lose her job, and why are they so "blessed"?

I don't have the answers. I wish I did. But I know from experience being and working with addicts, that God can overcome our sinful natures. I also know that when he does so, "blessings" pour out in abundance. And I also recognize that this is completely different than salvation and grace. We joke in my recovery group that if you show up single, you'll leave married. That's been the case for four now-married couples. One brother just celebrated one year of sobriety. In that year, he's returned to church, gotten married, and is now expecting a child. I would not be married to my wife if not for both of our recoveries. I've also seen the same number of marriages saved from the brink of divorce through recovery. Yet there are defeats as well. One couple separated as they both went through recovery and have had limited and mixed success in their sobriety. His heart is broken because a judge just ruled that she can move two states away and take their kids. He has since left church while she has stuck around. After the judge's ruling, she posted on Facebook, "praise God..." He posted, "please pray for me..."

God is still there, still involved, and still active. How things will ultimately work out, I do not know. But I also do not know if God will grant me another day of sobriety, another day with my kids and my wife, another day employed. What happens next I just have to trust in Him.

(And iteresting dichotomy considering God's providence: Michael Spencer died from a brain tumor before this book was released. Why him and why then? Yesterday was posted an interview with Matt Chandler, who one year ago was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Why him, why has he been spared? The interview is worth checking out.)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Tricks (and Treats) are for Kids!

With one major Fall holiday down, there's one to go before Christmas, which means stores should already be stocked with Christmas decorations, parents are beginning to stock up and hide away presents for their little ones, and the "Keep Christ in Christmas" crowd is ramping up to full speed.

'Tis officially the holiday season. Holiday, derived from Holy Day. Can't really tell anymore looking at our consumer cultural landscape. Prior to having children, I was much more cynical towards the holidays, seeing them as nothing more than an attempt by the greeting card, toy, costume, and decoration industries to end their year in the black. Case in point, it is estimated up to $5 Billion (yes, with a B) was spent on Halloween this year (down from last, believe it or not). But going out with my young Iron Man and Minnie Mouse Princess last night and watching the joy in their faces as they went door-to-door, I've softened up my stance. Christmas and Easter I approach the same way- the kids don't care about the etymology of holiday or how the Church blended pagan influences with their own doctrine to be relatable and supersede existing holidays- they just want to have fun (and eat candy, lots and lots of candy).

Yet of the three major holidays (leaving out Thanksgiving which exists for me on a whole other level), Halloween has always been a personal favorite. I love the effort put into costumes, carving pumpkins, and decorating. Maybe it's the engineer in me. But as a Christian, there seem to be two approaches towards this holiday. Either participate but forbid costumes and themes that hint of the occult, or not participate at all. I'm honestly not sure which is better. As my son grows older, if he's anything like me, he will look for the scariest costume he can find and run with it. I'm not sure how to cross that bridge when I get there. For now though, I'll settle with Iron Man and Minne Mouse. And just from observation last night, superheroes and princesses outnumbered ghouls and goblins 2-to-1.

My question(s) of the week:

Did you celebrate Halloween last night? If so, how (basic door-to-door, haunted houses, fall festival, etc)?

Did you (or your kids) dress up? As what?