You Can Create Nothing More Precious Than Memories

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As I write this week’s blog I’m about to embark on a weekend wedding for my niece. Camera, check. Kilt, check. Greek dance lessons, check. I’m not exactly sure what all is in store but of this I’m certain-lasting memories will be made. Some will be suitable for print and framing while others will simply be etched forever in our minds. Truly, there is little more precious that one can create than a memory of a happier time. They cost nothing but are priceless.

I’m not old by any means but I’m certainly getting older every day. While I try not to linger on things past or regrets just yet, I do already regret that I didn’t make the effort to create more positive memories, especially with my boys. I’m sure many who thought they took advantage of every opportunity can look back and say much the same thing, especially as your kids grow into adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I carry with me plenty of precious memories of their childhood and school years.  I can still remember my oldest son’s cap and gown kindergarten graduation. I recall my middle son playing Little League baseball-I still have his gear. I recall my youngest being a chubby version of his current model like appearance. I remember taking all of them to a small Indiana amusement park no longer there; I remember wrestling with them on the living room floor and sledding with them on cardboard boxes down snowy banks during Indiana winters. These are things I won’t soon forget. But, I didn’t spend nearly enough time with them as I should have.  For every opportunity I took advantage of there are two or three or more I missed. And sadly there is no way to go back in time and recapture lost moments or forfeited opportunities-once lost, they’re gone forever. And I’m just as certain that if you were to ask the boys they would say the same thing-I could have done more.

My wife takes pictures of everything-every event-every occasion; we must have 50 photo albums waiting to be filled that we haven’t started because we have 100 albums worth of photos to go through. Each photo is a moment in time-an image captured that can be revisited and for a brief moment relived. There seems to be nothing so insignificant or unworthy of a photo opp with her-I love that about her. One thing we have learned as grandparents is that moments are fleeting.  We want to be sure not to miss anything we might have missed in the first round as a parent. And besides, who can resist pulling out embarrassing baby pictures on certain occasions just because we were smart enough to keep them handy for such times.

There are many things we do in the faith to remember special occasions-things we should never forget. In the Jewish custom Passover is celebrated as a reminder of the Exodus. We partake of Communion at the Lord’s command to remember His broken body and shed blood on our behalf. We celebrate Christmas to acknowledge the Incarnation, the day the Word became flesh.  We likewise celebrate Easter or Pascha and give thanks for the glorious works done through the cross and the Resurrection. We refer to scripture to revisit the historical roots of the early church and acknowledge the lives of certain Saints for their works and contributions to the traditions of our faith. To us of the faith these are indeed precious memories of eternal existence that will continue to be celebrated in our Heavenly home. 

Creating lasting positive memories is vital to enjoying life because all of us will unfortunately have our share of not so positive memories that must somehow be offset. There are the memories of past relationships that couldn’t be repaired.  There are the memories of broken homes and reduced visitations and forever lost bonding time. There are the memories of tragic events, auto accidents, violence, the unexpected loss of a loved one, the crippling illness that one never recovered from. I recall a fire in 1994 that destroyed all our photos.  Life is not always kind and some painful memories will be created by circumstances beyond your control and without your consent. Such is life.  They too are forever etched in the recesses of your mind and can pop up randomly without explanation. It is for this reason that we must have an inventory of deliberate memories to fall back on that can push out the ones we don’t cherish as much.  This catalog of mental archives can sustain us through the most difficult situations. It is in times of distress that we can be grateful for moments captured and embossed in our memories.

This wasn’t intended to be overly spiritual. All of us, regardless of faith or race or income bracket have equal opportunities to latch on to memorable occasions and relish the value of time-stamped memory making. If I could offer any advice for my children that they would actually adhere to, it would be to never take for granted the small seemingly insignificant events of your life when laughter is shared and family and friends are gathered.  And never think that time stands still for you or that you will pass this way again at some point in the future. Don’t let “if only I had known” be a regular part of your vocabulary. Don’t look back at times in your life and have regrets that you didn’t do more to exploit and savor the moments. Take advantage of every opportunity you are given to create something that costs you nothing but can’t be purchased for all the money in the world-precious, timeless memories.

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Halloween-the Eighth Deadly Sin

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The beauty of owning your own blog is the freedom of opining without apologies on certain controversial issues.  Yours is a choice to read, agree and share or cast stones and pray for my soul.  Either works for me-why should the kids have all the fun on Halloween?

It happens this time each year.  As parents of young children contemplate how to dress their young ghouls up for the traditional night of begging for candy, the do-good keepers of the faith and all that is holy come out on social media and proclaim with mighty shouts of condemnation the evils of celebrating a time-honored festival. Young Christian families, wanting to honor God and train their children up correctly while not depriving them of one of the rites of childhood are caught in a dilemma.  Guilted by the pressure to disavow themselves of any acknowledgement of such an evilly rooted pagan ritual, they bow out of all observances of Halloween much to the dismay of little Frankenstein and adorable Snow White, and the legalistic overseers of Christendom wring their hands and give glory to God for another backslidden lost soul that has been snatched from the fire.

I suppose by now you may know where I’m going with this. So while the Pharisees are preaching to you about All Hallows Eve, let’s examine a few facts, just for the record.  The term “Halloween” dates back to 1754 and is, hold on to your seats, of CHRISTIAN origin! It is a Scottish term meaning holy evening. It is an evolved term from older English that refers to the night or eve of a Christian holy day, All Hallows Day on Nov. 1 and All Saints Day Nov. 2, in commemoration of all the departed souls through death and martyrdom.  While fundamentalists will try to link this holiday back to the Roman observance of Parentalia, or festival of the dead, it is more typically and easily traced back to the Celtic Festival of Samhain,or Summer’s end.  But the posted theories of Halloween’s beginnings are so numerous that even scholars can’t easily agree with it’s birth or original intent. Sadly many won’t do the research to come up with their own understanding of the roots and origins of Halloween but will instead treat as gospel all they hear from the legalistic protectors of the church, the same that lead you to believe similar heresies about Christmas and Easter observances. What’s important to the young mom struggling with this decision is not how it originated 1000 years ago, but what it represents today and how you share it with your children.

I have fond memories of Halloween as a boy.  Our parents had many hard times due to labor strikes, etc, so money was not always abundant. Most years I recall putting on one of my dad’s over sized shirts around me and a pillow to look like a little rascal street bum.  The pillowcase from the pillow served as my treat bag and I was pretty good at filling it up. Unlike today, in the 60’s every house was lit up as the homeowners anticipated what creative costumes the new year would provide. There was nothing evil, sinister, dark or demonic about the holiday.  I might add that my parents were strict Full Gospel at the time and saw nothing wrong with the way we observed the night. Our neighbor would host a Halloween party for the kids on the block (not the musical group) complete with treats, scary stories and a buffet of gruesome finger foods (brains, heart, intestines) made from simple ordinary foods.  We had to partake blind folded for the shock value.  An amazing thing happened-I lived and am not possessed (usually).  I even went on to a brief time of pastoral ministry.

As a young father I couldn’t wait to take our boys out and introduce them to the same childhood ritual I had partaken in many years before.  We would take them house to house and then gather as a community for one large block party at the rec center. Not one time in all my observances did I feel the Holy Spirit convict me of honoring evil influences.  One of my fondest memories as a Christian teen was our Youth group’s annual trip to a haunted house in Indy called Scream in the Dark, an AG church sponsored function. There is still within me that part that likes the thrill and suspense of the holiday. I never morphed into an evil ogre or dreamed of releasing sadistic rituals on the unsuspecting. I wasn’t hypnotized by watching scary movies and I didn’t have nightmares of Sleepy Hollow (Freddie and Michael hadn’t been born yet).

So it begs to question-can the evil forces that constantly plague our souls for control use Halloween as a conduit for warfare?  Absolutely! Can they do the same while watching an NFL game on TV?  Absolutely! Can Christ be honored at Halloween? Absolutely! “Whatever we do, do for the glory of God”. Churches have opened their facilities to host alternative celebrations or Trunk or Treat evenings. They have used this occasion as an opportunity for outreach to attract kids and families from their local communities to the existence and ministry of the church. It is not uncommon for an entire family who had not gone to church prior, to find a new church home as a result of these outreaches. Many in our faith will wrap small chocolate bars with scriptures they printed out and use the time as an opportunity to plant a small seed with the candy. Christian bookstores sell candy and gum already imprinted or wrapped with inspirational quotes or verses. Some just find a sheer joy in opening their homes up on Halloween and giving treats to kids just because.

Of course there will be those who take advantage of the night to perpetrate evil, as they would with any holiday. The night will only shed light on the evil that is already present.  Halloween doesn’t mysteriously bring evil to life like the immortal Michael Meyers.  He comes back more than an ex-wife for an alimony check. If as a believer in Christ you are genuinely confused about how or if to observe Halloween, seek God for peace in your spirit one way or another. Don’t bow at the feet of the Puritans words without doing your own soul searching on the matter.  If you ask me, the only evil of Halloween is the sinful amount of calories consumed as you raid your child’s treat bag!