The Real Haunts of Halloween

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October 31st, Halloween; a season of scary ghost stories, freakish costume parties, timeless horror movie classics, culminated with the annual tradition of trick-or-treating with our kids or grandchildren.  Whether you are a willing participant and victim of the many haunts waiting for you at local Haunted houses or you are more likely to turn off the lights and refrain from the chaos, it is a holiday hard to escape from.  But after tonight the costumes will be put away for another year, the houses of horrors will close their doors and the candy will be devoured to assure job security for all dieticians for another year.  Halloween will go back to its resting place only to be reincarnated next October.

However, for many people Halloween is nothing compared to the constant haunting from the ghosts, the memories, the regrets, the voices inside each head that are inescapable.  Unlike costumes which can be put on and taken off at our whim, the real haunts inside us never give us any relief and they are much more real than any Hollywood production with all their special effects.  The night terrors that come in our sleep, the monsters under our bed or hiding in the closet don’t go away simply by turning the lights on.  In a twist of irony, these haunts become the real person hiding behind our everyday masks or costumes of normalcy. They can be entirely overwhelming.

Each year we hear of successful, intelligent, enlightened  and even spiritual people who are driven to the unspeakable act of ending their own lives.  We scratch our heads as from all appearances the person had everything going for them that we deem stable-wealth, power, fame, success.  But we were never allowed into their world of haunts and torment and are shocked to learn only after the fact that they faced severe bouts of depression, addictions and suicidal tendencies. Their silent tears and painted on smiles hide the most authentic of haunted houses, the prison of the brain victimized by false voices of condemnation, self-worth and inadequacies.  It can be more gory than any Halloween tradition.

Just last night I viewed a movie on Russ Taff, a Christian Music legend.  His credits are unmatched-18 Dove Music awards, 6 Grammys, a three-time inductee into Christian Music’s Hall of Fame and beloved by anyone who has ever heard him or had the privilege of performing with him on stage.  And yet at the pinnacle of his success, he was haunted by the voices in his head telling him the awards meant nothing, that he was a phony, that he deserved the physical abuse he suffered as a child, that he would never be good enough to merit his father’ approval.  He would leave the Grammys and fall immediately back into the haunted house of his mind even while clutching his latest award in his hand.  The voices drove him to drink because only when intoxicated did he find silence from the voices in his head.  It was a downward spiral that nearly cost him his marriage, his family, his career and his life.  He hid it well until he lost all control and appeared on a Christian music show completely and obviously intoxicated.  He hit the bottom.

Truth be told, many of us are confronted by similar haunts or voices.  In fact, I would suggest that the stronger you think you are the more vicious the attacks and schemes of our internal warfare.  And the attacks are relentless! You are where you are because of your own inadequacy.  You are broke because you are a poor employee and no one values your contributions.  You are unhealthy because you are lazy and a slob.  You lost your business because you didn’t have the business savvy it took to succeed.  You failed at marriage because the real you wasn’t worth loving.  You are single because you are not attractive to anyone and no one sees any value in a relationship with you.  You never hear from your kids because they still think you were a lousy parent and you can’t ever change that.  You are so flawed that even God can’t look upon you without disgust and contempt.  Night and day the voices inside your head terrify you.  There is no secret door to escape the room, no safe passage or panic switch to stop the ride-you are powerless to the suggestions of failure, of worthlessness, of insignificance that abuse you mentally without relief.

Sometimes the severity of these mental disorders require professional treatment.  Surrendering to seeking help is not a sign of weakness but in fact the first step to recovery.  For others, it may be a matter of reprogramming your brain, or resetting it to the original default spiritual setting through a therapy of scriptural reminders, of which there are plenty.  Christ was no stranger to the tricks and schemes of the enemy of the mind.  He was taunted in every way and we should expect no less.  However he fought back with the knowledge of scripture as his weapon.  It seems too simplistic to assert that quoting Bible verses can reprogram a haunted mind, but it remains our most effective defense.

Romans 12-be transformed by renewing our minds;

Philippians 4-think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable;

2 Timothy 1-the Spirit gives us power and a sound mind;

Proverbs 4-guard your heart and mind;

Ephesians 4-be made new in your mental attitude;

2 Corinthians 10-take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ;

Colossians 3-set your mind on things above, not earthly things;

Psalm 46-be still and remember that I am God.

Hauntings can be fun when we know the blood is fake and the chainsaw is just a prop, or that we can clearly see the escape doors for the faint of heart.  But the haunts of the mind play for keeps and the prize is our soul, our very lives.  There is not a single person walking this planet who has nothing of worth to offer another. Even a recovering alcoholic who has lost everything to the battle of the bottle can be a sponsor to another addict upon their own recovery and sobriety.  Regardless of what the voices in your head want you to believe, we all have value in God’s eyes-we can all contribute something to someone-we can all find love, purpose, meaning to our existence.  We don’t have to succumb to the numbing through intoxication, the escape that a high offers, the relief that suicides seduces us with.  Through prayer, through grace and through retaking control of our thought processes we can expose these mental haunts for what they really are-a fake scary costume that we can take off and put away like any other Halloween costume.  The only thing more relentless than the haunts of the enemy is the relentless love of Christ which chases us down the darkest of alleys and surrounds us in protective layers of his mercy and compassion. When that happens and we can put on the cloak of Christ, we become the haunts to the dark forces who now run from us.

Understanding the Black Response to American History

This morning began with another white person apologizing for comments deemed insensitive to the black community.  On yesterday’s show, Megan Kelly and her guests were discussing how ridiculously politically correct we have become when it even reflects on the choices for our children’s Halloween costumes.  She rattled off a list of costume limitations published by a liberal university that were judged as insensitive.  I won’t even address the folly of that particular list.  However, in response to the list, Megan stated that if a white child wanted to dress, say as Diana Ross or Michael Jackson, to the point of darkening their skin, it should not be viewed as insensitive.  Upon receiving much corrective criticism and outrage from viewers as to why attire like this would be insensitive,  she quickly learned why this was such an emotional issue among black Americans.

This morning she offered a very heartfelt and sincere apology, stating in essence, she really had no idea as to the history of whites portraying themselves as blacks and how demeaning it was received even in 2018.  Her defense of ignorance is very common among otherwise well-meaning whites. Megan simply had no idea of the historical roots of methodical bias or the pain it still stirs today.  How could she or any white American have the capacity to fully understand the black response to our history if they are not engaged with them in intimate ways?  We as a white society are overall a loving people, and especially among believers, we think we go out of our way to be loving, but will a loving attitude alone be enough to come to an understanding of the things that continue to separate us?

I, like most, have a Facebook profile.  With all the evils of social media, there is some good that can come from its use.  I have over eighty black FB Friends, most of whom I have never met in person, and a few I feel I’ve known all my life.  I made a conscious effort to add many of them and form connections, not so that I could boast of some false sense of diversity, but to engage them in posts covering a host of trending issues, including racism and bigotry.  I was raised in a mixed neighborhood and went to school with a very racially mixed student body, so being exposed to blacks is nothing new to me.  That said, I still wasn’t given full disclosure into the life of being a black American.  I have learned a great deal just by being involved in (or sometimes tricked, trapped or baited) discussion threads by my FB Friends and their responses to such things as Driving while black, police shootings, corporate discrimination, etc.. Sometimes I jumped right into the heated exchanges, often times being targeted since I was one of few whites they could unleash their anxieties on, while at other times I followed the discussions without saying a word, and without their knowledge, just to read and to learn.  My initial thoughts were, “wow, you all are an angry bunch”.  But as I remained exposed to their discussions, I learned more about why there is still such a deep seated hostility toward certain aspects of the white vs. black culture in America.  If you drop your defenses and remain open, you can hear why images like certain flags or statues arouse such anger; you will see how discrimination still plays out from the local school or church setting all the way to Hollywood or the music industry.  And yes, you might even understand why certain Halloween costumes should be avoided as being insensitive.

Last night on one of the country’s leading TV shows, This Is Us, there was an incident where one of the lead white characters who is dating a lovely black character, was in a convenient store and the white clerk snubbed the black female, and the white man she was with didn’t even notice because, we just aren’t tuned into the everyday attitudes some whites harbor toward blacks, even when it happens right under our noses.  What makes these situations worse is that blacks expect us to be aware of these attitudes, yet when we aren’t, we are deemed part of the problem through tolerance, when in fact the problem is simply ignorance.  If the whites in America continue to posture, with all good intentions, of “accepting” or “loving” blacks when they cross paths, but do not make a deliberate attempt to really get to know them and understand their plight through daily and constant interaction with them, our ignorance will continue and will almost always be viewed as being sympathetic towards racism.  Like Megan Kelly, we need to listen, engage and learn whenever given the opportunity so that we can fully grasp the core of the anger of our fellow black Americans.

Scripture tells us that we are to love others as Christ loved us.  How does He love us?  He has an intimate knowledge of us!  Jeremiah says He knew us before we were born.  Perhaps we can’t be expected to display a knowledge of others that only comes through a supernatural ability, but we can will ourselves to engage in developing such an intimacy through deliberate and intentional socializing and interaction, even if only on social media.  If left only to what comes natural to us, most would remain segregated, that is whites generally socialize with other whites, blacks with blacks, Asians with Asians, Latinos with Latinos-there is safety and comfort when “sticking to our own kind”.  We are called to more than that.  As long as “our kind” continues to be defined by ethnicity and preferred over intermingling, we will continue to apologize for things we have no idea are offensive or insensitive.  It takes more than love alone or some feel-good meme-it takes a determination to pursue intimacy that isn’t limited by skin tones.  We may never fully eradicate all barriers between us but we can most certainly do better by each other simply by desiring the knowledge that explains the responses so that we can become brothers-in-arms against all who would continue to perpetrate and exploit  anything that causes any one of us pain.  God Bless all who choose to engage.

For Christians Everyday is Halloween

361535-slasher-films-halloween-resurrection-screenshot  It’s here again already-Halloween. It’s a time for scary costumes, trick-or-treaters, classic movies and ghost tales.  Oh, and the whole church debate thingy which takes scary to a whole new level. Say what you will-I have fond memories of my days as a kid in Indy gathering as much candy as I could-I still struggle with sweets! And I recall taking the boys out when they were old enough to enjoy the experience. It’s funny to me how this particular holiday causes many to seek out the thrill of being scared senseless.  Even as church youth we went to the scariest settings we could find for that ultimate chase for the annual feeding of our dark side.

One of my favorite movies and all time classic scream traditions is the Halloween series with one of my favorite actresses Jamie Lee Curtis, the reigning scream queen. In her movies there seemed to be nothing she could do to escape, outrun or kill the demon Michael Meyers as he kept coming back to life episode after episode, sequel after sequel. She was haunted by him from her early teenage babysitter years through the time when he had a teen of her own. The character Michael Meyers was ruthless, persistent and seemingly impermeable to death or destruction.  I still don’t know if he’s dead.  I fear as long as Jamie is alive, Michael will pursue her.

This movie series is the classic metaphor for the Christian experience.  We are told in scripture that our battles on earth are not against flesh and blood but rulers of the earth, demonic forces unseen but very real. No matter how much we may pray, attend church or read scripture, there are battles going on within us and around us by the Michael Meyers of the unseen world.  I’m convinced that the more devoted one is to their faith and practice, the more vulnerable to attack by our haunting enemies.  It’s a classic battle strategy to take out the strongest first.

Spiritual warfare doesn’t have to manifest itself in our lives ala Linda Blair and the Exorcist. More times than not the attack is subtle in nature-that quick glance, the one drink too many, that innocent flirtation with someone other than your spouse.  You tear down defenses one brick at a time until there is a large enough hole for a full on attack. The Apostle Paul was engaged in these battles as he recorded for us that the things he knew he should do, he didn’t, and the things he knew not to do he did anyway.  If you walk through life as a believer but are not tempted, not tested or challenged in any way, you are disengaged in your faith, and the battle, for the enemy has evaluated you and deemed you not to be a real threat.

The good news is that we also have unseen Heavenly protectors who will battle for us.  In 2 Kings 6 Elisha prays the God will open the eyes of his young assistant and when He does, the young man sees a host of Heavens armies in chariots of fire encamped around the hillside ready for battle. We are told that the war is already won, but the battles until then can be fierce.  Halloween may be a man made and fake holiday with no real substance, one we know to be artificial, thus the constant pursuit of the ultimate scare. But for believers, the scares can be real if we don’t properly prepare for war.  So be careful and keep your defenses up at all time against incoming attacks, even when they look like Jamie Lee Cutis.

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!