Unequal Love, but That’s the Way It’s Supposed to Be

Saturday morning. It is 6:30. I sit here in the football stadium under an overcast sky wondering if three is too many to hope for. Will this, the third high school graduation I’ve saved these exact same seats for, be the one we get drenched? If not there’s one more opportunity in two years when our fourth walks this same path.

 

I am alone in the stands. Well, not quite alone.  There are many other parents beginning to show up and even some already here before me, saving seats for their clans.  But I am the lone clan member sitting here this morning saving a dozen spaces for extended family.  I sit here and watch the activity before me and think about what we are celebrating and who we are celebrating.

 

Of course we celebrate you, the graduates. You have worked hard (many of you) and accomplished much (some of you). But whether you’ve worked hard for this day or squandered opportunities up until this day or struggled with friendships and workloads and other issues, here you all will be soon. But more importantly, here are gathering their family members to celebrate this day. The unconditional love that is driving all the bustle in the stands is palpable. It’s even forgivable that this love causes us to forget for a moment that everyone in the stands, saving the seats, jockeying for the best picture spot, all of us are here celebrating our child. We are all excited. We are brothers and sisters in this journey with more in common than we realize.  We want this moment to last. I understand you. I feel you. Here. Use my towel. You don’t want to sit on that oxidized bench without wiping it down. We’re in this together.

 

Yes, of course, we celebrate you, our children and your accomplishments. But that cannot be all that we celebrate. I cannot sit here and watch the bustle on the field and on the track and in the stands and ignore how many it took to make this day possible.

 

I see your fellow classmates. They are putting out programs and sunglasses on every chair. They are dressed in their best and eager to serve you, their friends. They have all worked and played and laughed and even cried together and with you and at you. They do this for you and dream a little about a day one or two years in their future when others will be setting out their programs and sun glasses.  This day would not be possible without the friends that helped you through these four years.

 

I also see a dozen men and women in the stands. They don’t have a child here. They have gloves on and towels that look like they once were white but are now a mottled gray and black. These dozen faithful are here simply to wipe down the stands before the parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles come and sit down. They do this work quietly and faithfully. They are not looking for recognition. They appear embarrassed if you thank them. This does not stop my wife from seeking one out and giving her a big hug and thanking her over and over again. This is not the first thing these faithful servants have done so quietly in these four years to make this day possible for you. They have cleaned up after you. They have prepared rooms and facilities and picked up enough paper off the ground to republish whole sets of encyclopedias. Their work is as essential as it is overlooked. But you would not have this day to celebrate without them.

 

And definitely I see the teachers and administrators.  They are preparing the stage and their speeches. These have sacrificed much for you. They have given up evenings to grading and prepping. They have sacrificed far better pay, even just a county away, in order to instruct and serve and love you. Many are the very inspiration you and other young men and women have needed to see a brighter future for yourselves.

 

I watch all of this and know that somewhere inside the building behind me are 500 plus soon-to-be graduates. You are not thinking of your fellow classmates who set up your chairs. You are not thinking of the staff who have cleaned up ahead of and after you for four years. You are not thinking of your inspiring and patient teachers and administrators who have watched and forgiven much in these four years. You are not even thinking of us your parents. Our work. Our tears. Our fears. Our twelve years of wondering how on earth we will ever get you to this day. No. You are, admittedly, thinking of yourselves. Your accomplishments. Your parties that will follow. Your futures.

graduation 1

And we gladly give you this day. We know that this momentary amnesia toward us and others is not who you will be in a few years.  Maybe not even in a few hours. But even if it takes until you are sitting in these stands and you are saving your own seats and watching the commotion unfold before you. In that moment you will be free from that nasty beast of self-centeredness. We can forgive you and give you this day. We know (well, we ought to know by now) this is not an equally reciprocating love. We know that we will pour far more into you than we will ever receive back. It must be this way. It can only be this way. There is no way for you to return the sacrificial love we have for you. And we would be embarrassed if you tried to. We are delighted to celebrate you today. On this day, we are as impressed with you as you are. On this day, we come a little closer to knowing the perfect love of a Father who loves us not because we will ever reciprocate that love anywhere near the level of sacrifice he has given for us, but simply because he chose to love us. He is driven entirely and purely by his love for us.  And we are driven entirely (though not always so purely) by our love for you.

graduation 2

 

But now my thoughts are interrupted. Because you have walked in. Yes, you, plural, you 500+ seniors who will graduate in less than two hours.  But more specifically.  You.  Singular.  You have walked in.  You in your dress and your gown and your cap.  You, who feel so grown up.  I know.  I remember.  And you, who feel so scared.  I know.  I remember.  And I see you.  You and 500 of your closest friends walking to your seats. But they mean very little to me in this moment. You are all I see. But I can barely see you. My eyes are blurry. My throat feels funny. I am here and yet not here.  I am in a thousand moments spread over 18 years and crammed into one instant. I’d say I cannot imagine loving another this way. But that’s not true. I love three others this exact way. I would live and die and give and cry for them and for you. And not because of who they or you might become if I love you all well enough. But just because. I love them and you because you are mine. I love you, because I love you.  There is no higher reason.  There is nothing I am after.  I love you. Period. End of story.  And realize I am loved. Period. End of story.

ilona 1

Advertisements

Some Practical Helps for Willing God’s Will and Wanting God’s Glory

Toward the end of May, we were looking at John 7:1-24.  You can listen to that sermon here if you are so inclined.  In verses 17 and 18 Jesus says,

“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.  The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”

A marker of true belief is that we will want God’s will and we will seek God’s glory more than our own.

But that leaves us with the question, even if I want to want God’s will and wished that I desired God’s glory more in my life, how do I do that?  How do I cultivate a taste for God’s Glory?  Let’s be honest.  After all, we don’t always want God’s Glory and His will is too often the furthest thing from our desires.

What are some practical steps to changing my tastes so that God’s will becomes more and more my will and God’s glory becomes more and more my chief and driving desire that sets all other desires in their proper place?

Maybe an illustration would help us.

When my son came home from school this Spring he announced to us that he wanted to learn to play the piano.  At first I thought, “Sure.  Don’t we all?”  But when his older sister also came home from school he told her the same thing.  He asked her if she would spend time with him teaching him the basics of piano.  Now, full disclosure time.  My oldest son and daughter are like any other brother and sister.  They do not always see eye to eye on things.  And when his sister points out things that he ought to be doing my son’s response is not always the most mature.  But she agreed, and they have been spending time downstairs at the piano side by side many nights.  She has been showing him some basics from old piano books she has, and he has also been spending about a half hour every day at the piano on his own.

My son wanted to develop a taste for the glory of the piano.  He sought out someone who already had that taste and asked for help.  He also began spending his own free time seeking to develop that taste on his own.

If you wanted to develop a taste for fishing you would spend time—well, fishing.  You would read articles and books on fishing techniques and you would find a group of people who either already had a taste for fishing or who, like you, wanted to develop a taste and appreciation for fishing.

Why is it that when it comes to our desire to grow more and more delighted in God’s will and God’s glory we expect that desire to miraculously (magically?) grow in us?  How do you develop a taste for God’s glory?  You spend time with others who also want that same taste cultivated in themselves.  You spend time with others who already have a taste and delight in God’s will and God’s glory.  You spend time reading God’s word and reading articles and books by others who have shown that they delight in God’s will and God’s glory.

There are so many opportunities at Hope of Christ for just such cultivation.  Our vision at Hope of Christ is to help one another know Jesus Christ, grow in grace, and go into the world with the hope of Christ.  Sunday morning worship is the first of those opportunities.  It is the one day of the week God invites us to set everything else aside and just rest in his glory and grace.  Are you making Sunday worship a priority in your life?  Care groups and Bible studies are another place where you can begin to cultivate your taste for God’s will and God’s glory.  Even our new classes, Theology Thursdays, are an excellent place to begin developing your tastes for God’s will and God’s glory.  After all, it is hard to truly know a person’s desires when we don’t really know much about that person.  Theology Thursdays are a great place to be reminded of who God is and why it is essential to our well-being to desire his glory and his will.

If you want to start wanting God’s will, if you want to begin to be delighted in what brings God glory, you must seek out places and people where that is being cultivated regularly.  Make Sunday morning worship a priority in your week.  Make Bible studies and care groups a priority in your week.  Spend time on your own in prayer and in God’s word.  And watch as the Holy Spirit begins to change your desires and correct your tastes.  Soon you will find the glory of God your goal and the desires of God your desires.

I love you all.  Enjoy the Journey!

via Left Unsaid… for better or worse ‹ Log In

A Reflection after Nine Years of Pastoring this Awesome Congregation

A Reflection Nine Years in the Making

 

Last month Hope of Christ Church celebrated our ninth year in worshiping our Savior and serving each other and our community.  This means we are now in our tenth year of worshiping together as one Body of Christ.  It is exciting to begin thinking about how we will celebrate ten years next March.

 

I saw on Facebook, shortly after our anniversary came and went, a “memory” posted by a friend of and supporter of Hope of Christ. I usually enjoy seeing those Facebook memories either from my own account or from others.  It is fun to recall the past or see the things that struck us funny or worth posting about all those years ago.  This particular memory was a picture of the majority of the Hope of Christ congregation at our one year celebration.  As I looked at this picture, however, I must confess that I was not filled with sweet nostalgia.  My first look at the picture filled me with sadness. But the more I looked at and thought about the picture the more I was filled with hope and a new sense of faith in Christ and his promises.

 

Why sadness?

As I looked at the picture I could not help but see a lot of pain and suffering and loss and struggling.  I see a family that will be forced to do the unthinkable in one month and say goodbye to their daughter not even four months old.  I see a man who will bury his mother without any assurance of her salvation.  I see two families who will watch their daddy walk away from them, from their mommy, and from God himself as each of those men pursues lust and selfishness to the extreme.  I see families who will leave Hope of Christ with tears as God moves them to new places for their journey to continue.  But I also see families who will leave, not because God is moving them away, but because tastes and wants will move them to walk away from friends and vows.  I see a man who, in three years, will accuse me of stealing from the church and another man who, in one year, will tell me I have no business being a pastor.  Other than my own family, there are only two families in the picture still worshiping and serving at Hope of Christ. Interestingly, neither of those families were part of the launch team, which means my own family is the last family still in the church who helped start the church.  People who study these kinds of numbers tell church planters to plan on losing the entire launch team within the first five years. We made it almost nine years.

 

Why Hope?

Seeing all of that in a single Facebook memory, how can I possibly see hope in that picture?  I see hope because I see in this picture of pain and suffering and loss and disappointment a picture of God’s faithfulness to his children. I see the family who had to say goodbye to their daughter surrounded by dear friends who have become family who will weep with them and bear that unbearable burden with them. And I see that same family who knows real loss and can help others with the losses they are sure to face in this fallen world. I see families to whom God is remaining faithful even if the husbands/fathers are not. Though men (and women) disappoint and abandon, our Savior never will. Though there be husbands who will sacrifice others for their own wants, we have a Savior who died to self and sacrificed himself to secure our marriage to Him. Though I see a picture mostly of people who are not at Hope of Christ anymore, God has remained faithful and there are so many, many families who, though they were not around for the one year celebration, are with us today and committed to the work to which God has called us.  I also see in that picture many young people who have grown up at Hope of Christ and have now declared their own faith in Christ and are serving faithfully in the church and growing in their understanding and application of God’s amazing grace.

 

So much of the New Testament is written to help us remember the words of our Savior, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world.”

 

The church has always been made up entirely of sinners and sufferers.  Not two categories of different kinds of people, but rather two titles that we all share.  All of us are sinners.  All of us are sufferers.  We have a Savior who suffered for us, suffers with us, and bore our sin in his own body on the tree so that we could be healed by his suffering.  In these last nine years, I have been asked often, “What exactly is the hope of Christ?” Our hope is not that we will never suffer again or be sinned against, but that we have a Savior who is himself our Hope and Comfort.  He is our Rock and an ever present help in times of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way or the mountains be thrown into the heart of the sea.  No matter how much chaos or turmoil we are called to face in our own lives or in the fellowship of the saints, we will not fear because God is with us.  And he who began the good work in each of us will remain faithful and will complete that work he has begun.  This is good news indeed!

 

So, Happy Anniversary, Hope of Christ.  I am delighted to be with you and am eager (though admittedly a little anxious) to see what God will do in and through us in the next ten years.

 

Enjoy the journey!

Rejoice in the Lord, Only?

Last month, as we continue to worship our way through the Gospel According to John at Hope of Christ Church, we found ourselves in John 2.13-25 and the account of Jesus cleansing the Temple.  You may listen to that sermon here if you are interested.  In that passage, we were shown that the Old Testament prophesied that Jesus would delight in and be consumed with the worship of God:

“His disciples remembered that is was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’” – John 2.17

In an attempt to emphasize the attitude of Christ toward worship, I fear I overstated and went beyond even God’s thoughts on how you ought to view the rest of your life and the gifts of God in your life.

While it is true that we ought to be consumed by God’s love for us, especially as displayed in Christ and on the cross, this does not mean that we cannot or even ought not find joy and delight in other smaller, even temporary gifts from God.

My mother once told me about a woman in the church where I grew up.  Her attitude toward ministry was that it wasn’t serving Christ if you enjoyed it.  You were really only serving and ministering if it was something you didn’t like.  She was my 3-4-year-old Sunday School teacher.  This revelation explained a lot.

Maybe none of us would go this far, but I wonder if this is not our assumption about most of the rest of life – if you are enjoying it, it is probably an idol.  But is this true?  Is this the attitude God wants us to have toward our work, our possessions, our endeavors?  I think not.

God has given to each of us certain abilities, passions, possessions, and opportunities.  If these are all gifts from God, he has not given them so that we despise or ignore them, but that we might enjoy the gifts and even share them with other people.

James 1.17 states, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  This reminder comes right after James has warned believers of the temptations and trials that come our way.  He points out that these temptations don’t come from God but form our own lusts and desires.  The good and perfect gifts are from God.  Our wrong uses and attitudes toward those gifts are from our own lusts and desires.  The answer is not to deny the goodness of the gifts nor to avoid those gifts, but to take those gifts captive for the glory of God.

Psalm 104 is a great celebration of all of creation.  The psalmist celebrates everything from the Sun and moon, the mountains and seas, the forests and pasturelands, the wild beasts and domestic animals, labor and toil and rest, and even oil and wine and bread.  Certainly, none of the pieces of creation are delighted in as an end in themselves, but always as a means to delighting in God.  But the delight is there all the same.

It is good for us, and even an act of worship, when we enjoy the gifts God has given.  You worship God when you enjoy your work and your abilities.  You worship God when you are passionate about aspects of creation and delight to share that passion with others.

Certainly, we each need to know our own hearts, and seek to keep our desires in a healthy God-honoring place and confess our lusts as the Holy Spirit exposes them.  But when we enjoy our work or our hobbies or passions or any other aspect of creation we are enjoying things the way God first intended creation to be before sin affected it and the way things will one day be again when the old is passed away and the new comes.  God is delighted when we find delight in his gifts as any earthly parent is delighted when the gift they give their child is enjoyed and appreciated.

C. S. Lewis describes the difference between looking at a sunbeam and looking along a sunbeam and at the sun. The sunbeam has a beauty and glory in itself, but that beauty and glory are not from itself. The glory of a sunbeam comes from the sun.  the beam cannot exist without the sun.  The sun can easily exist without the beam.  We need not deny the beauty of the beam in order to properly value the sun.

Enjoy the beams of your work, your passions, your abilities, your children, your relationships.  And let those beams of goodness draw your eyes upward to the Son.  Look along the gift to see the Giver.

Hope for Hump Day, November 6

I saw this video the other day.

What had this Dad weeping tears of joy for his son?  A ‘C.’  His son got a ‘C’ on a Math exam that would determine the direction of the rest of his academic career.

This got me thinking two simultaneous thoughts.

My first thought was as a dad.  Do my children know that I rejoice in their God-given mediocrity?   Do I rejoice in their God-given mediocrity?  Or have I bought the lie that the only things worth celebrating in my child are stand out, out of the park performances?  Social media is overflowing with those humble brags about all the amazing accomplishments of our kids.  Have we made them the most arrogant and anxious generation?  One reason children are “specializing” earlier and earlier is that the world only recognizes and praises above average performances.  As a parent am I supporting this lie?  When is the last time you rewarded mediocrity (or even a sub-par performance according to the world’s scale)?  This is not a post about everyone getting a trophy and no longer keeping score at little league games.  If anything that makes my point.  But as a parent are you vocally, regularly, genuinely joyful with your child over every aspect of his or her life?  I am not advocating laziness or working below one’s ability but simply as parents helping our children, as Tony Horton would say, “Do your best, and forget the rest.”

My second thought was as a son.  My heavenly Father has this same heart toward me.  He has created me with some abilities that may be above average, but mostly with abilities that are average and quite a few that are below average.  And when I use any of them at the level He has gifted them to me, He is pleased.  My Father in heaven shouts with joy over me like this Dad:

Let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing

Zephaniah 3.16,17

My Father in heaven throws a party every time I admit failure and return to him.  In fact He happier over one admitted failure than ninety-nine humble brags

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety- nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15.7

Your Father in heaven is delighted n every aspect of who you are as His child.  He knows the areas you are above average and is pleased by them.  He knows the ways in which you are average and is pleased in those areas.  He knows where you are even below average, and He rejoices.

May you know the weeping joy of your Heavenly Father over your average performances today and this week.

Enjoy the journey.

Hope for Hump Day, October 30

Never Use ‘Always’ – Always Avoid ‘Never’ – Unless…

It happened again. Your spouse, your teenager, your brother or sister, your friend has let you down. An argument, a disagreement, a misunderstanding, a missed opportunity. And now the words begin to flow – maybe to the offending party, maybe to someone else about the offending party. Soon the words are not merely flowing, they are flying with the speed and accuracy – and deadliness – of an arrow off a crossbow. And then it comes:

“You always…”

“She never…”

“You never…”

“He always…”

They are such easy words to say. And they certainly communicate well your frustration and hurt. But do they over-communicate? Do they say more than you intended to say? And is it true?

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4.29-32).

Hello, My Name Is…

When you use words like, “You always,” or “You never,” what you are saying is, “This trait, this offense is your identity. This defines you.” In other words, nothing else in the person’s past has any capital or impact on who this person is at his or her core. This, and this only, is their identifier. It becomes the monochromatic lens through which you view the person. Everything they do is colored by this one fault or flaw or sin.

But if you can take a moment to be honest you have to admit, that is simply not true. Hyperbolic language is always over-the-top and never accurate (see what I did there?). This sin is NOT the defining character trait of your husband or wife, your teenager or sibling or friend. Our sin is not our identifier. It is certainly true that our sin used to be our identity, but no longer. Christ has delivered us.

“You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6.11

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” Romans 8.14-17

If God himself does not identify us by our sins, we ought not use each other’s faults as identifiers either.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

When we use the language of “you always” and “you never” and other phrases like them, what we are saying is that there is no hope for change. “This is so much your definer that the Holy Spirit is not going to change you.” “I have no hope for anything ever changing in you.”

Is that what we are seeking to communicate with one another? Is that an accurate assessment of the ongoing struggle with the power of sin?

“He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” Philippians 1.6

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4.8,9

If God’s view of us is that we are washed, justified and sanctified shouldn’t that be our view of each other?

Our words have meaning and power, power to heal and help or power to tear down and destroy.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18.21

Where ‘always’ will always work and ‘never’ will never be out of place

So, how does God use always and never when he describes our relationships on earth? Won’t we always be dealing with each other’s sin? Won’t we never be perfected before the Lord returns? Yes, and so we need love… always.

1 Corinthians 13 is that well-known passage that is read at so many weddings. It’s the “love” chapter. Have you ever noticed that most of the descriptors of love are in response to a negative situation? “Love is patient.” When is it that you need patience? “Love does not insist on its own way; it is not resentful or irritable.” When is it we are most insistent that others follow our way? When are you tempted to be irritable or resentful?

The passage ends with four “always” and one “never.”

“love bears all things (always bears), believes all things (always believes), hopes all things (always has hope), endures all things (always endures). Love never ends.

Love never gives up. This is the love God has for you. This is the love God grants to you for each other. The next time you are tempted to throw the “always” and “nevers” into an argument. Remember the always and nevers of the Gospel, of Christ’s love for you, of the Spirit’s presence both in you and in the other person. And never give up.

Enjoy the journey.

A Halloween Letter

            In the very early centuries of the church, bishops would write annual holiday letters to their congregations and communities in order to encourage the faithful and to instruct in ways that might not otherwise be addressed from the normal week to week preaching from the pulpit.  These were usually Easter letters providing meditations and teachings on the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

            Along those lines I thought I would send out a “holiday letter” of my own to encourage the faithful during this season of controversial candy and costumes.

 

            Many Christians are not quite sure what to do with Halloween.  Do we trick?  Do we treat?  Do we offer a “safe alternative?” Do we batten down the hatches more securely than if there were a category 4 hurricane ripping through our neighborhood?  What is the proper response? 

 

            My desire here is not to bind your consciences or to tempt you to sin against your consciences, but to inform your conscience and help you, in whatever you do, to do all to the glory of God and with the absolute assurance of the joy of your salvation.

 

            Whatever else might be said about the 31st of October and the origins of the activities therein, it can safely be said that in most neighborhoods in the U.S. the day has become “National Candy Day.”  When I was growing up there were basically two categories of those who did not celebrate Halloween or pass out candy to children: Jehovah’s Witnesses and party poopers.  Now, I am pretty sure that no one attending Hope of Christ Church is considering a life in the Watchtower, so that sort of leaves one category. 

 

Consider this – October 31 is the one day out of the entire year that you can walk up to your neighbors’ doors uninvited, ring the doorbell and say hello and introduce yourself and your family, and you will be greeted with a smile rather than suspicion.  In so many ways subdivisions are an ugly blight on the landscape, but on October 31 people are out walking the streets, laughing with each other, and just having fun.  And for the majority of the families out, it is just good, clean fun. 

 

            Concerning the “safe alternatives” I do have some reservations, but these can be done with the same joy and love for others.  But do consider whether these alternatives are not simply the “Christianizing” of the same thing that is going on in your neighborhood.  Are you merely removing all the Christians from your neighborhood and collecting them in a parking lot for all the same candy and dress up and fun?  Why couldn’t you do that in your neighborhoods? 

 

            What about passing out more “Christian alternatives” to high fructose corn syrup and xanthum gum and other polysaccharides? Maybe a nice tract or booklet—“Here’s a ‘treat’ you can suck on for eternity while your friends all burn in a lake of fire.”  My only cautionary advice (well, maybe not my only cautionary advice—please do NOT pass out booklets that even closely resemble that title) would be that if you are going to be known as “that house” that gives the little darlings something to read and ponder you should also be known as “that house” that gives out the bestest most awesomest candy in the neighborhood.  If you give out tracts or the like, attach them to king size candy-bars or twenty-dollar bills, and then tell the kids to spread the word.  Nothing is more effective than word-of-mouth advertising.  “Don’t go to that house, you just get Halls mentholyptus.” vs. “Wow, those guys are giving out huge goody bags attached to a little booklet!” 

           

                        My family has enjoyed trick-or-treating since our oldest was big enough to sit upright in a wagon.  Actually, that’s not accurate.  My children have enjoyed it since then.  Amy and I have enjoyed it for far longer.  Every year since we were married Amy makes a crockpot full of hot, spiced cider and buys powdered sugar donuts on Halloween for after the trick-or-treating is over.  You know, because they didn’t pick up enough sugar.  Now that we have kids, we all sit around the table eating donuts and candy and drinking apple cider while sharing any funny stories about the evening.  After the kids go to bed I divide the candy into two bowls—the bowl that will not kill my third child and the bowl that will (she has a nut allergy).  This may sound socialist or communist or whatever, but we are trying to diffuse the “mine, Mine, MINE!” attitude in our household especially over giant bags of sugar (special gifts, toothbrushes and underwear are the big three exceptions).  We often have younger families from our church over to join us and I would not want to penalize any of my kids for choosing to serve the toddlers and first-timers by taking it slower for them.  In fact one year my youngest stayed with just such a family to help there two-year-old.  She was out for an hour and when she got home told me that they didn’t get past the end of our street or even to the other side.  She had been to a whopping five houses in that hour.  She was definitely disappointed but it was a kindness to the young family.  Well, when her oldest sister got home 30 minutes later and heard what she had done, she grabbed her hand and bag and ran out the door.  The two of them sprinted the neighborhood in the last 30 minutes.  It was a great picture of caring for others all the way around. 

 

None of this is to claim that every costume is appropriate or that gluttony is excusable, but simply to say that Halloween is an opportunity for us all to enjoy each other and our neighbors.  Whatever you do this Halloween be sure that the manner in which you communicate your convictions is one of love and respect for others who may not share those convictions.

 

            Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  –Colossians 4:5,6

 

Enjoy the journey.