Thursday, October 31, 2013

One Christian's Take on Halloween

The debate among Christians over Halloween seems especially intense this year.  Some stand firm believing that to go trick or treating is to teach your children to worship Satan, and others stand firmly stating that there’s no harm in a little costume and candy.  And, even though I am completely certain you don’t need another opinion on the subject, I’m about to give you mine!

Here’s my thought. There are some things in Christendom that must be adhered to by the whole group of us, the Church. For instance, Jesus is the only way to peace with God, Jesus is God, Jesus was born of a virgin, Jesus lived a sinless life, Jesus rose from the dead, etc.  And if you notice a theme here, Jesus is at the root of it all.  He is the deal breaking issue.  You can’t get Him wrong.  Jesus matters. However, there are other things that we, as believers, can differ on (for instance, sprinkling or immersion for baptism).  I hold to one view, but if you hold to the other, we can still be brothers/sisters in Christ.

In the same way, I think peace can be found in the topic of Halloween.  There have been times in my life that God was convicting me, personally, about something specific…something that He wasn’t necessarily telling some one else.  There was a lady in my Bible study class one time who said that God was showing her she needed to stop coloring her hair.  My response?  Well, ok!  And I was thinking, “You do that, and I’ll still be highlighting my grays away!”  Why?  Because God didn’t show me to stop getting hair color…He showed that to her.  Maybe for her, continuing to color her hair would end up a stumbling block toward vanity.  I sure don’t know.  But God does.  And as His kid, I know He’ll be the one to specifically reveal sin to my own heart as I need it, which is daily because I’m just a flawed sinner saved by His grace!   

And in the same way, I think that God lays things on our hearts as parents that He desires we implement into the lives of our kids.  I believe that He is the One enabling us to train up our children in the way that each of them should go.  Sure, there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, but we better be careful who our counselors are.  I don’t need a counselor who will only tell me their personal opinion about an issue, say Halloween, for instance.  I need a counselor to point me to the Word, showing me what God has to say about the matter.  I think we need to let our brothers and sisters off the hook regardless of the hill they choose to stand on when it comes to the great Halloween debate.

So, here’s the Word for ya.  1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”  So, here’s the deal from where I sit…we need to back up off each other.  It’s lawful to trick or treat.  It’s also lawful to skip it.  It’s lawful to give out candy and share the gospel with each little goblin on your doorstep (or not).  It’s also lawful to share the gospel at each door you stand on waiting for your treat (or not).  Here’s what’s not ok:  It’s not ok to get in each other’s faces, judging a decision that God has led them to make for the good of THEIR family.  I know we know it, but it’s so hard not to force something that God has laid on our hearts on someone else, as if God is telling them to do the same thing!  I think Christians sometimes have a hard time with this.  We are, most likely, just trying to encourage someone to a godly life.  And yet, what we are actually doing is trying to play the part of God, calling others to the life God has called US to.

So, what should you do about Halloween?  I sure don’t know.  Pray about it.  God will show you what to do for your family.  But here are some tips for a happy, peaceful Halloween:

          1)  Pray about it.  You can’t get God’s heart on the matter unless you’re listening to what He’s saying to you.  So, go and listen…with a willing heart.

      2)  Consider that even if it’s lawful, it still might not be best.  Remember our verse says, that even though things are lawful, not all things are profitable and not all things edify.  That means that everything isn’t going to be best for you and your family, even if it isn’t sin. But this is something, at the risk of sounding repetitive, you’ll need to go to God about!

3)  Don’t flip out over somebody else’s decision for their family…even if it’s your best friend.  You’re not the mother in her home and she’s not the mother in yours.  God gave YOU your babies and HER her babies, and they won’t be raised exactly the same.  It is OK if you do this differently.  It really shouldn’t be a deal breaker for your friendship.

And on the other side of that coin, don’t take it too personally if someone hasn’t read this blog and they still criticize your decision for your family.  Just let it go.  It’s really gonna be ok.

      4)  Some people will make a choice this year that is different from last year.  And that’s ok! Feel free to even make this decision on a yearly basis. Kids grow and change and that will play a part in the decision making process for each family.  Try not to set up expectations for your friends on this each year (and re-read this at Christmas, because I think it’ll still apply).

     5)  Christians “celebrating” Halloween should look different than the world celebrating Halloween.  We are in the world, but are not of it.  So, let’s remember as we choose costumes and our home’s outside decorations, that the world is watching us…and we really should look different. 

     6)  Use Halloween as an opportunity to teach and point your kids to Christ.  This is really the most important tip.  We’ve got to use every opportunity to share Jesus with our kids because the world is so great at telling them everything else!

Those are just the tips that popped out off the top of my head!  I’m sure there are others!  And now, because I feel like I owe it to you after bringing all this up, here are our plans for the night:  My kids are dressing up, we’re going to enjoy a family dinner, we’re buying the kids a bag of candy, and then we’re taking our kids to Disney on Ice (which I realize is a whole other topic for Christians to debate).  We have reasons for not trick or treating, one being the fact that my kids find no humor AT ALL in being scared…but who knows what next year will hold.  What I know is that today, this is what God has led us to do.  Enjoy today, doing what God is leading you to do!  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Can Feed Monkeys With Jesus, Right?

I suppose there is a great irony in that my blog is called Raspberry Road and it seems like I’m always writing about the Raspberry’s being on the road.  Ok, actually I only wrote one other one about when we were travelling.  But truth be told, I really feel like every time we take a trip with our kids, I end up learning some spiritual life lesson…and, as you probably could have guessed, today's blog is about my most recent one!

“I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.”  (Phil. 4:13)  Great verse.  You know it.  You’ve got it written on that sticky note on your bathroom mirror. You have heard it literally a million times.  And you’ve probably heard it used most frequently when someone is about to go bungee jumping, or sky diving, or monkey feeding, or something sort of ridiculous.  I’ve even heard it used among Christians in basically the same context as a football player smacking a fellow player on the behind as if to say, “You can do it!!”  And bear with me, I’m just gonna throw this out there…but that’s really not what Paul meant at all!  If you back up a moment to get the context of the verse, you see that Paul says, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13) Paul isn’t saying I can bungee jump because Jesus makes me strong enough to walk off a cliff, or I can jump out of a plane because Jesus makes me strong enough to open my parachute, or I can go to the jungle and get close to wild animals because Jesus makes me strong enough to hand food to an ape, or even that I am able to do anything at all ever because Jesus makes me strong. No.  The point here is that we, like Paul, can live lives of abundance and peace regardless of the circumstances around us, and that, only because Jesus is our peace and our joy and our hope and our confidence and our steadfast One.

This passage had been circling through my mind for days before we left on our trip.  We were heading on a massive cross country trip to see family, and while we were on the way home, I became aware of how tired I was, how tired my husband was, and how tired my kids were.  You know that moment when everyone is just a little snippy and short with each other?  Oh, we were there.  And we were stuck in our car.  Together.  This was not my happy moment.  And then, to make the circumstances outside our car more like the circumstances inside our car, it started to rain.  I don’t mean sprinkle.  I mean deluge.  I mean the traffic that had been travelling at 75 mph, suddenly slowed to 25 mph.  I was not happy at all.  It was 9:00 at night and we were over 120 miles from our stopping spot near Atlanta, which had our hotel, already reserved and paid for.  It became absolutely apparent that we were not going to make it to our destination with 3 little ones (aged 4 and under) to that hotel room, to OUR hotel room.  Now, I was very unhappy, very discontent, very grumpy.  So, we stop.  And, we pay for another hotel room.  The next morning, with everyone feeling slightly less grumpy, we hopped in the car and headed to Atlanta…all we wanted to do was see the aquarium, stay Saturday night at our hotel, go to church as a family, and finish our drive to home sweet home.  It sounds so nice, doesn’t it?

Well, the aquarium was insane…really great and very impressive…but so busy you could not walk 3 feet without bumping into someone.  The hotel room, which we should have already been in on Friday, was flooded when we woke up Sunday morning…like, major flooded (due, of course, to the rain which had stopped our traffic the night before).  Church was a nice reprieve in the midst of our chaos.  And then as we’re finally getting on the road to head out of Atlanta, our traffic, once again, comes to a standstill due to an important muckity muck travelling through and needing to get to the airport…his name was Barack Obama.  Then once the president’s massive traffic halt abated, you’ll never guess, but it started to rain…again.  Sheesh.

At this point in my life, I was having an internal argument…the me in Christ vs. the me in my flesh.  The me in Christ said, “Jane, remember to count all these various trials as joy!”  To which, the me in my flesh said, “Shut up.  Absolutely not, you idiot.”  And then, you know that moment when God gently whispers to your soul and you have a dual response of saying, “Yes, sir” and “oh, I already knew that”?  That’s exactly what happened to me.  What God said to my heart stung, and I felt embarrassed.  How could I be so silly?  His words were the very words He had laid on my heart before we even left for our trip.  Here’s what He reminded me, “Not that I speak from want, FOR I HAVE LEARNED TO BE CONTENT IN WHATEVER CIRCUMSTANCES I AM.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Oh.  The secret to being content in every single stupid circumstance is resting in Him.  He had prepared me for the chaos of that trip by laying those verses on my heart before we ever left our home, and yet, in the middle of my frustration, I flat out chose to ignore Him.  How silly.  In the midst of rain, to ignore the maker of it…who does that?!  Me.

But, I believe I am not alone in working through this.  Job did.  And he too, concluded that God was steadfast and good regardless of the circumstances.  At one point, Job even asked his grumpy wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”(from Job 2:10) I don’t know what your circumstances look like, whether you have much or have little, whether you are sick or healthy, or whether you are even happy or not.  But in any case, God is in charge.  He’s in total control.  Your circumstances aren’t catching the Maker of the universe off guard. And the answer to having great joy in the middle of whatever life looks like is simple.  It’s Jesus.  It’s just Jesus.  Simple in concept, but hard to actually live out.  On the rest of our way home, my heart-cry was, “…you can have all this world, just give me Jesus.”  And, hopefully, the next time I’m stuck in a torrential downpour, I’ll stand, joyfully trusting the boss of the rain who strengthens us as we wait in Him.