Friday, October 26, 2012

What to do about Halloween?

This is the second time I've written this post today.  I tossed the first because I figure it doesn't really matter that Nathan and I "discussed" ;o) this when first married, he on the cons, me on the pros.  Nor does it matter that I clung stubbornly to trick or treating because I wanted to recreate the simpler time, more innocent pleasures of my childhood for my kids.  Nor does it matter that I even sewed elaborate costumes just three short years ago so my kids could be super-cute.  Or that I'm so thankful the neighbors don't have full-sized dummies strung up by their necks across the street, or that I'm even more thankful for the delish-nature of all things chocolate.  See?  My thoughts bounce all over the place this time of year, so aren't you glad I avoided putting you readers through that?

Even though the possibility of a certain someone being re-elected ;o) gives me far more concern (and even a nightmare or two), Halloween IS next week.  This 'minor' issue comes up annually, and my kids discuss it from the moment the decor appears in the store (approx. March) until Christmas baubles overwhelm their petrified little psyches with joy.  My children truly hate Halloween.  OK, Kathryn truly hates Halloween.  Alex just does because she does.  She's scared stiff of everything related to it.  And note to retailers:  the decor that yells out at you when you move too close isn't helping!  Last year, I actually intercepted a Walmart employee who thought it would be fun to jump out at them with a hockey mask on.  (They didn't see him, but I gave him a nice motherly reprimand).  And then it gets really complicated.  Every church we've been in over the years has some kind of event that night.  Trunk or Treat, Fall Festival, Jesus Doesn't Trick, He Treats- it must be a local phenomenon.  None of you have heard of this, right? 

So...  what to do?  There are varied, and strong, opinions on the subject.  Do we 'redeem' Halloween, 'reject' Halloween?  What about those weirdos who do Reformation Day instead? (;o)- a little hint about what our Oct. 31 blog will look like).  In the discussion, it's easy to lose the fact that there are impressionable, sensitive children involved in our decisions.  So here are just some thoughts to consider:

1.  What is the purpose of your local church's event?  There is a great difference between giving the Christian kids wholesome activities so they don't feel punished for not 'doing' Halloween, and doing 'outreach' to the community.
2.  If your church is of the outreach mindset, is it working?  I mean, are people responding to the gospel, or are you just a place where lots of candy can be gained for little work on the parents' part?
3.  Do you restrict your kids' movie watching to a certain rating but then expect them to comfortably 'minister' to the neighborhood kids/adults dressed up in scary, scary costumes?  Or sexy, sexy costumes?  How do you deal with their fear/shock?  If they're not afraid, is that always a good thing? 
4.  Is your child's conscience bothered by participating in the events your family goes to?  How does your family deal with that?  Is it a "you stay home with the babysitter, mommy and daddy have to go - it's a church thing, you know" or maybe "you know it's just pretend, it's not real."  I'm going to give credit here where credit is due.  I heard Karen Blankenship (a Bible Methodist pastor's wife) counsel a mom with a sensitive child with this simple question:  "What does what you do say to this child?"  I've thought a LOT about this one.
5.  Is your desire for sentimentality closing your eyes to what is around this holiday these days?  I know the devil is blamed for everything, but focusing on the macabre, the spooky, the evil- how is this possibly a "God-honoring" activity?  (Note to trunk or treaters at CHURCHES:  I've seen some dark stuff in Christians' car trunks.  Our image to the world should be intentional and careful- just saying)
6.  If your spiritual authority (pastor) asks you to participate when you're not comfortable, what does a respectful appeal look like?  How might you 'participate' and still value your family's position?  (This can take creative thought).
7.  And most importantly, how does what our family do show our love for God and our love for others? (Including the others living under our roof?)

Did you hear the doorbell?  Trick or treat!  Here's your can of (gummy) worms! ;o)

Friday, October 12, 2012

No Grace Given

Last night we stood in line to pay our respects to the Scott Harbison family on the loss of their middle child, Trent.  Trent, only 20, passed away suddenly of an overnight extended seizure.  And of the last six funerals and/or viewings we've attended, he was the fifth young person.  In the last ten years, we've grieved our dear, dear friend Greg Makcen (mid-40's).  And just before him, Judy, a dear Christian lady (mid-40's) who died of heart failure.  Since then, it's been a 9 year friend of Kathryn's who had a brain stem tumor, a young Spanish student of mine who accidentally shot himself while cleaning a gun, another self-inflicted gunshot death, a baby who lived seven minutes.  We've attended a few elderly people's services sprinkled in here and there, but just a few.

Everything in me tenses up before/during these 'young' services.  As you know, there can be a general sense of rejoicing, relief, bittersweet nostalgia that happens around the services of the elderly (at least the Christian elderly).  But it's at the 'young' services where there is more of the sounds that haunt you for months.  More of the questions, more of the tears, more of the unnaturalness that rides on the shoulders of the parents who have to bury their children.  The grief comes and rides in waves of tears, or in the dumbstruck look on the young children's faces who are close to the family.  Or in sudden moments of laughter when something amusing is recalled on the surface of such dark emotions.

I spoke with a friend of mine yesterday (who doesn't know the family at all.)  We talked about the mind-game that an observer to these tragedies can fall into.  It looks something like, "I just can't imagine what they're going through" and "I keep thinking about how I would handle this" and "What if it were my child?"   This friend had gone to a child's funeral (her first 'young' one) and had to leave before the service even started.  Because of her grief for the child's mother, her friend?  No, because she had lived through the possibilities of it happening to her so completely there in the pew that she couldn't be in the building.  This is such a natural, human response.  How do we stay in the valley with someone, weeping with those who weep, comforting without sinking into this mind-game?

I'd love to hear any tips you have for these kind of moments.  I have only one that I lean on- a life-saying that I chant into my soul in those lines, that I speak into my heart on the pillow.  In the moments when prayer for the hurting turns into worry for the future. 


God is granting to the Harbison family the grace to follow Him through this very dark valley.  He is not giving that to me.  God walked beside my friend when she found her son dead.  He is not walking through my mental picture of that.  God held my friend's hand when she held her sweet dead baby.  He is not holding mine when I imagine holding mine in such a moment.  It's been a relief to find I don't HAVE to feel what they're feeling to give a hug, to send a card, to call them up and let them give me the 'unedited' version of their day.  And when something tragic happens to us, and someone says, "I just can't imagine...," we can say, knowing that we are receiving His unique grace, "Don't try."