Sunday, December 20, 2015

Advent: Free or Inexpensive Ideas for the Season

Typing the title for this blog post made me cringe.

“Free or Inexpensive Ideas for the Season”? Really?

How about the most free and most free-ing idea of all: 

We can take time with God today—right now!—and tell Him that we are tired of living a life that throws up barriers to our relationship with Him.  Even though nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39), we sure spend a lot of our time trying to get away from Him, trying to “manage” on our own, trying to convince ourselves that doing whatever we want is the real definition of “freedom.”  For a truly meaningful Advent “activity,” let’s just pray. 
Let’s bow our heads in the midst of rooms so full of clutter that it looks like a bomb has gone off (that’s not just my living room, I hope), and tell God that we are sorry for anything and everything that has gotten in the way of our relationship with Him. Let’s ask Him for the strength to turn away from our sins, for the courage to live our lives differently than we have been, and for the open-heartedness to make a place for God’s Spirit to live within us so we can have His power to live every new day. 

When John the Baptist fulfilled his role of preparing the way for the Lord, by preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4), and when Jesus came after proclaiming: “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15), they were giving us the great message of Advent: The Savior is coming.  Turn away from your sins. Receive forgiveness and salvation.  Live as God’s beloved child!

So that, my readers, is my very best suggestion for a free activity that gets to the heart of the Advent season.

Now, for some of the ideas that I had originally planned for a post with the title, Free or Inexpensive Ideas for the Season!

I was keeping a running list of ideas, which I, of course, misplaced right before sitting down to write this post.  Here are a few that have come back to mind; I hope you'll add some to the list, as well!
  • Watch classic Christmas movies, with messages that are uplifting if not necessarily religious, such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  • Enjoy a mug of hot chocolate or warm apple cider as a family.
  • Get out the family stash of box games, and enjoy a cozy evening at home. 
  • Drive around the neighborhood to see all of the Christmas lights and decorations.

  • Find a Living Nativity being held near your home.
  • Sing lots of Christmas carols, and help your children learn the words to the meaningful songs of the season.
  • Attend Christmas Eve services wherever you have traveled for the holiday. 
  • Have an old-fashioned Christmas crafting session, cutting paper snowflakes or crafting candy canes from colorful beads and chenille stems.

  • Bake a bunch of Christmas cookies, brownies, or candy.  Deliver them to one of your neighbors to spread some Christmas cheer.  (It’s okay to enjoy a few yourself, too!)
  • Go Christmas caroling around your neighborhood with friends.  Decide on a few familiar carols to sing, and try to ring the bells of some of the older generation, who seem to be especially appreciative of the smallest carolers among us!
  • Read from the Gospel of Luke perhaps the most familiar account of Jesus’ birth, found in chapter 2 verses 1 through 21.
  • Offer the gift of your presence with someone who could use a little company—an elderly relative in a nursing home, a homebound friend, or a church member spending the holidays in the hospital. 
  • Offer another kind of "gift of time": offer to babysit for a friend’s children so she can have a much-needed “date night” with her husband; offer to pet sit for a friend going out of town for the holidays; offer some special service you are able to provide, like a free haircut, massage, or manicure, if you have such a talent; offer to write down an aging person’s memories to create a priceless keepsake for his family.

  • Combine the benefits of de-cluttering your home with the blessing of giving to people in need by making a concerted effort to collect all of the items in your house that you are no longer using and are no longer bringing you any joy.  Then, redistribute them appropriately: to the Media Free Store, to a clothing cupboard, to a home for women and children escaping abusive households, to Goodwill.

What other ideas can you add to this list—free and inexpensive ways to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends in meaningful ways? We've got a few more days until Christmas, and several days after before the new year arrives...let’s put our heads together, and share.

No matter where you go and what you do, I wish you all a most blessed Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent: These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things

In my recent blog posts, I have shared with you my vow to keep Christmas simple this year, and to focus on the true sense of joy and expectation of the Advent season.  As we enter week three of Advent, I thought I would share some of our family favorites that have helped us in our efforts to keep things simple and focused.

1.  Daily Devotions
I try to do a devotion with the girls each day before school.  This Advent season, we have occasionally turned to our usual resource, The Year Book of Devotions for Girls, but I have also been adapting materials from Margie J. Harding's The Christmas Countdown: Creating 25 Days of New Advent Traditions for Families.  We've contrasted how we get ready to celebrate Jesus with how John the Baptist prepared the way all those many years ago.  We read from Psalm 80, and talked about how long Israel had to wait for God to restore them. We talked about how Zechariah had to endure God's discipline for not believing the angel sent to give him the news that his wife would have a son, John. We talked about Mary as a role model for accepting the word of God.

Some days we simply read the words to a Christmas song, like "What Child Is This?" or a favorite Christmas book from when the girls were much younger, such as The Animals' Christmas Eve by Gail Wiersum or Patricia Pingry's The Story of Christmas.

My goal is to keep just a brief message about the true meaning of the season at the forefront of our minds as we go into a day that will load us up with images of Santa, toys, elves, and reindeer.

2.  Simple Decorations
I've taken it easy with the Christmas decorating this year, just putting up some key pieces that make the house feel festive, but not so much "stuff" that it feels overcrowded.
I found out that I can't get away with secretly buying new decorations; everyone noticed the two new pieces I couldn't resist from Target back in November--a happy fabric reindeer and the "joy" sign! They've become my new favorites, and I love how the sign refocuses all of our attention on JOY.
And I can't resist a few well-placed snowmen, even though snow is quite noticeably absent from our Advent season this year!

3.  The Girls' Favorites
Katy and Bayla have a few favorite ways to mark the days toward Christmas that they like to see come out of storage year after year.  
We call this "the puffy Advent calendar," and it wouldn't be Christmas around here without it.  Now that the girls are six and eight, they are much more amenable to taking turns pulling puffy characters out of the pockets and attaching them to the Velcro at the top. They know exactly what is coming up each day, and enjoy putting things in silly positions, like occasionally putting a cow up on the roof where the angel should be.
They also take turns changing numbers on our chalkboard countdown.  Simple and interactive--it doesn't get old with the toddler/ preschool/ elementary school set!
And we always bring out their favorite plastic nativity, purchased years ago to save our "nicer" sets from the curious hands of much-younger girls.  They can arrange and rearrange this to their heart's content.  As you can see, the three wise men are enjoying the shade of the stable, while baby Jesus and his folks hang out in front.  

4.  Manger Scenes and More Manger Scenes
I have a collection of nativity scenes; some years I put them all out, and some years, I select just a few.  No matter what, though, this full set from my sister is put on display:
For me, there is no better and easier way to stay focused on the "reason for the season" than these visual representations of the first Christmas story.
My husband has his own special nativity scene as well.  Now that the girls are older, they can move the pieces around on our favorite sets safely, so here you will see absolutely everyone, including the donkey and cow, crowded into the creche to get near the baby!

5. Christmas Books and Music
Another great and simple way to enjoy the Christmas spirit is to keep plenty of seasonal books and CDs on hand.  

One year, I tried this idea for celebrating Advent with our children: I wrapped up all of our Christmas books, and then let the girls unwrap a book for us to read each day.  Sounds great, right? Not only was it an environmental disaster (ridiculous numbers of trees were harmed in the creation of all that wrapping paper), but Christmas morning was actually anti-climactic for the girls, who had been unwrapping things all month!  

It's definitely better to keep it simple.  I stash the books in a box or basket every year, and they only see them during the month of December.  
Every year or two I try to add something new to our Christmas CD collection as well.  We have instrumental music, Celtic Christmas, kids' entertainers, "alternative" artists, and my favorite--a country Christmas album!  Light the candles, make some hot chocolate, and put on a Christmas CD, and we have instant holiday spirit around here.

EDIT:  6.  Our Church Angel Tree
I almost forgot a very important, very special part of what keeps us focused on the true spirit of Christmas each year! There is a huge Christmas tree at the front of our church sanctuary, and every year it is covered in paper angels.  Each angel has the name, gender, and age of a child, along with an idea or two of Christmas presents the child might enjoy.  These kids are part of our Second Time Around Parents (STAP) mission--they are children being raised by their grandparents in place of their parents.

Each year the girls and I select a set of three angels, and this year they were the perfect age to really participate in the selection of gifts for the girls whose angels we selected--a three-year-old, a five-year-old, and an eight-year-old.

This activity each year has helped them understand some difficult realities about the world, and builds their desire to find ways to make the holiday brighter for children who are not so very different from them.


What are some of the simple but special things that keep you and your family focused on the true spirit of Christmas this time of year?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent: Simplifying the Holidays

I mentioned in my last blog post that I would be trying again this year to capture the true meaning and spirit of Christmas for my family this Advent season, resisting the world’s best efforts to catch me up in the whirlwind of materialism, consumerism, and holiday stress.

I’ve been jotting down tips, ideas, and strategies from all sort of resources that I’ve run across over the past month or so, and I thought I would share what I consider the top 5 ideas for keeping the holidays simple.  

For me, simplicity feels like the key to keeping my focus on Christ this Christmas.

My top 5 Ideas for Keeping the Holidays Simple

1. Prayer
Whenever I try to do something new, it makes sense for me to start with prayer. I can talk to God about what I'm working on, and ask for His blessing, strength, and guidance to see me through.  
During Advent, I am looking for God-honoring ways to participate in the season. I want to prioritize the activities and experiences that will allow me and my family to enjoy the hope, peace, love, and joy of Christmas. For me, especially, I am looking for a sense of peace:
  • I intend to participate in the shopping and the wrapping and the gift-exchanging, but I don’t want that to become the sum-total of my Christmas efforts and memories. 
  • I take my children to activities like Breakfast with Santa at their school, but I want them to understand the spiritual meaning of the holiday without getting bogged down by the secular trappings. 
  • I am decorating, and volunteering, and baking, and traveling, but I want to do these things for the joy they bring to me and my family, and not out of a rushed sense of obligation. 

I can bring all of these things to God in prayer; He knows my heart, and I believe without reservation that when I bring these kinds of God-honoring concerns before Him, He blesses me with His grace. 

When Jesus explains to his disciples that they will receive the Holy Spirit after he is no longer living among them, he tells them: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27). This is one of the promises I am happy to claim this Advent season!

2. Reality-checks
I don’t know where I read this, but I love it: “Don’t try to be some kind of Christmas superhero.”
I’m not as prone to this temptation as some people are: I’m not a big holiday entertainer; we don’t go “all-out” on the outdoor Christmas lights and lawn decorations; I don’t worry about whether my gifts cost as much as what anyone else has spent. Overall, I don’t see myself as a big “keeping up with the Joneses” type.  But I think it’s a very real problem for a lot of people.  

We do well to limit ourselves—not doing things just because we think we “should,” just because someone else tried it on Pinterest, or everyone else seems to have a picture of it posted on Facebook.  If we do the things that truly bring ourselves and our family joy, then we will hit the mark this holiday season. As soon as we try to be someone we are not, we are likely to miss that mark every time.

Here’s another aspect of reality checks: I think sometimes we indulge in unrealistic expectations about the holidays. We want it to be a magical time of year. We try to ensure that every moment will be a lasting memory of unspeakable delight for our children. We think that THIS will be the year the extended family will get together without arguing.  

But this isn’t our first rodeo.  The lights short out, the cookies burn, the kids put each other in a headlock, our great uncle gets drunk and tells lewd jokes.  I don’t know what it will be for you...I just know it is likely to be SOMETHING! 

Hope springs eternal, but we do well to adjust our expectations and seek the realistic blessings of our personal homes, families, and situations. We just can’t wear ourselves out trying to make something unrealistic happen this time around.

3. Basic health and wellness tips
If you read most any magazine that covers topics of health and wellness, then this list of ideas will look very familiar. The challenge is putting the ideas into practice! These strategies are probably more helpful at the holidays than any other time of the year: 
  • Get enough sleep! We know what we as individuals need, and we can tell when we aren’t getting it.  Sometimes an afternoon power nap of about 20 minutes will do a world of good if we’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to take one!
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Don't forget to breathe! Most of us aren't breathing in nearly deeply enough.
  • Be careful about drinking too much alcohol. The holidays can be a time when we start a little earlier than usual, pay less attention to how much we are drinking, and/or drink a little extra to ease the holiday stress. We are much healthier when we pay attention to what we are doing, and exercise good judgment and limits.
  • Balance holiday indulgences with healthy snacks.
  • Take time to exercise, or at least stretch a little.
  • Get outside for some fresh air.  At least look out the window once in a while!
  • Give yourself a grown-up time-out. Many of the ideas here are good for our time-outs: a brief walk, some deep breaths, a cup of tea, a stretch, a little music.
  • Take time out for a laugh—a joke with a friend, a stand-up routine on TV, or a silly meme or YouTube video.
  • Enjoy the moment you are in. We don’t need to borrow trouble worrying too much about what comes next. “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

4.  Honest Assessments
When we think about the things that occupy our holiday season, and ask ourselves some honest questions, we can make important decisions that can return the spirit and meaning of the season to our lives.  
For example, I realize that every year, the one thing that causes me Christmas stress is trying to get a good family photo, create a card to order online, and then get it sent out to the people on my Christmas list.  So I am trying something new this year: I am not sending any Christmas cards at all.  I have let myself off the hook from the one Christmas task that makes me feel anxious.  As I noted in a Facebook status: If the earth doesn’t shift on its axis and I don’t bring about the end of the world by my negligence, then I will decide next year if I will resume the tradition or decide that dropping cards was the best decision I’ve ever made. 

It doesn’t hurt to try something new to see what we think about it, either by adding a new tradition or shedding one that doesn’t seem to improve our holiday experience. 

In the same vein, we can ask ourselves:
  • Do I have to attend (or host!) so many parties?
  • Do I have to buy so many gifts for so many people?
  • Do I have to make so many appetizers? So many side dishes? So many desserts?
  • Do I have to make sure my wrapping paper is themed or color-coordinated?
  • Do I have to put up ALL of the decorations from all 3 (or 5 or 15) tubs in the attic?

What would happen if we said “no” to some holiday invitations or commitments? Could we have each family member pick one favorite tradition or activity, and only do those few things this year? Could we try to do something new with gift-giving so we don’t all feel rushed/ baffled by what to buy/ worried about our finances?

I’ll take gift-giving as an example to go into in more detail.  I have read so many options for handling gift-giving in new ways to alleviate some of the stress it tends to cause. Check out all of these options, and see if there might not be something fun that your family or friends could try new this year to determine how you like it, and if you want it to “stick”:
  • Rather than everyone buying gifts for everyone, adults could buy gifts for children only.
  • Your family could organize a Secret Santa exchange so that each person gets a gift for one other person.
  • Your family could play a fun holiday gift-giving game where everyone brings a wrapped present that cost a certain modest amount of money to place at the center of the room. Then everyone draws a number and waits for their number to be called to select a gift. You’ve probably played a version of this at White Elephant parties; I’m sure a more comprehensive set of instructions can be found online!
  • Reduce/ reuse/ recycle.  Have a book swap. Or a decoration swap. Or a cookie swap.
  • Set up an exchange where everyone hand-makes a gift, or has a dollar-store gift exchange, or purchases something that supports local farmers or artisans, or creates a food-related gift in a reusable container (like a casserole dish from a thrift shop), including the recipe.
  • Consider giving experiences rather than things: trips or memberships to the zoo or a local museum, classes in hobbies of interest, car washes, restaurant vouchers, massage gift certificates, movie tickets, bowling passes.
  • Create “coupon” gifts promising to complete chores around the house or helpful errands.  These are often created by children for their parents, but I can think of plenty of chore coupons I would love for my husband to give me so that I could redeem them through the year!

If we talk to our extended families about some of these idea, we may discover that they welcome a change of tradition, especially when it simplifies this aspect of the holidays for everyone involved.

5.  Free and Inexpensive Experiences
I’ll devote my next blog post to developing this idea…stay tuned!
This topic is probably like so many other topics: we know what we want to do, and even what we probably ought to do, but getting around to doing it is another matter.  Feeling stressed at the holidays is almost a habit...for some people, I think it's some sort of badge of honor! 

But there is nothing in feelings of stress or anxiety, in worries about budgets and debts, in concerns about materialism and consumerism that helps us prepare our hearts for a celebration of Christ's coming into our world, for remembering and honoring God's amazing act of mercy and grace on our behalf, for experiencing and sharing the hope, peace, joy, and love of the season with our families and our wider communities.

If you could do ONE THING to ease the stress and anxiety of the season and to simplify the holidays for you and your family, what would that one thing be?

Now, go do it!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent: Preparing Our Hearts for Christmas

The time leading up to Jesus’ birthday is called the season of Advent. Advent is from a Latin word that means ‘coming.’ This season focuses on the coming of the Savior. It begins on the Sunday closest to November 30th and ends on December 24th, the day we celebrate Christmas Eve. 
We use the time of Advent to get everything ready to welcome Jesus. Just as families prepare a room when a new baby is expected, God helps us prepare our hearts. How? By thinking about how wonderful God is to give us this special gift of His son. 
The days of Advent also give moms, dads, sisters, and brothers a special reason to pray together each day as a family. They can share their excitement, look forward to receiving baby Jesus afresh into their hearts; and remember that Jesus will come again someday.
From Getting Ready for Christmas: A Daily Advent Prayer and Activity Book for the Family, by Yolanda Browne
As we prepare our homes for Christmas this December with decorations, gifts, cleaning, entertaining, maybe a new holiday outfit, and delicious holiday treats, let’s make sure that Christ receives an even greater portion of our attentions.  

We have four beautiful weeks ahead of us to prepare our hearts to receive our Savior anew…four beautiful weeks of waiting with joy and sharing our expectation with the people all around us…four beautiful weeks to envision Christ’s return in glory to gather up His faithful followers to eternal life...four beautiful weeks to help our children understand the real reason for Christmas joy.

Here are some questions I am thinking about this Advent season, and I invite you to consider them, too, if you think they might be useful:
  • How can I reclaim my sense of joy at the news of Jesus’ birth--God’s great gift to His children?
  • What activities and events do I want to experience this month in order to focus my attention on the joy and expectation of this holiday season? (And which activities and events can I let go?)
  • When I strip away the commercialism, consumerism, and all the other –isms that have attached themselves to Christmas, what will I do to be ready for a true celebration of Jesus’ birth?  How will I celebrate Christmas in a way that reflects my faith in Christ?
  • How can I help others—my family, my church community, people in need—share in the joy of this season?

It's easy to get swept up in the exciting, colorful, flashy side of Christmas--and I will do my share of shopping, decorating, and holiday baking, to be sure--but every year I try again to capture the true meaning and spirit of Christmas for myself and for my children. I will share some of my efforts in blog posts during this month of December as we head together again to Bethlehem to peek into the lowly stable and catch a glimpse of the tiny little baby who came to be our King!
Jesus is the world’s greatest gift. He is the gift to be shared above all others with family and friends. It is not only my responsibility to share this gift, but also my joy. 
From The Christmas Countdown: Creating 25 Days of New Advent Traditions for Families, by Margie J. Harding

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Appreciating Abundance This Thanksgiving Season

In the book Daring Greatly, Brenee Brown writes about global activist Lynne Twist’s perspective on the subject of the scarcity mentality we are prone to.  Consider this:

What are our thoughts when we first wake in the morning? “Ugh, I didn’t get enough sleep!”

And once we’ve glanced at our calendar for the day? “Yikes, I don’t have enough time to get all of this done!”

Our day perhaps is filled with a litany of “never good enough,” “never thin enough,” “never powerful enough,” “never safe enough.”

By the end of the day, we are reflecting on what we didn’t get that day, or didn’t get done, or still don’t have in our lives.

Scarcity, writes Brown, is the “never enough” problem.

Brown suggests that when we free ourselves from the scarcity mentality, we discover the value and benefits of…enough.

Twist suggests that when we free ourselves from the scarcity mentality, we discover the value and benefits of…sufficiency.

I’ve been tossing all these words and concepts around in my mind this Thanksgiving week, and I’ve come to the conclusion that through the grace of God, I can set my scarcity mentality aside in favor or His great and promised…abundance.

The promise that lies at the heart of the gospel is a promise of abundance:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  That’s not just a good life, or a long life—that’s a forever life with God. Abundance.

And to show that abundance is not just a word for Jesus, he displayed this principle of abundance in his miracles
  • not just a little water turned into wine at the wedding banquet, but six stones water jars holding 20 to 30 gallons each (John 2);
  • not just water from the well that lasts for a single day promised to the Samaritan woman, but “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4);
  • not just a man carried to a pool for a chance that its waters will cure his disease, but a healing that allows him to pick up and carry his mat—that very Sabbath, right to the temple (John 5);
  • not just enough lunch to feed a huge crowd of 5000 men and their accompanying women and children, but with enough leftovers to fill twelve baskets (John 6);
  • not just healing the son of a royal official (John 4) or a man born blind (John 9), but bringing a man back to life who has been in the tomb for four full days (John 11);
  • not just a nice catch of fish for some hardworking fishermen grieving for their slain friend and leader, but a haul so huge they are unable to bring in the net because of the large number of fish (John 21).

The examples of abundance through Jesus are abundant!

Further, Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesian church that God “is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (3:20).

And in his letter to the Romans, he describes the Holy Spirit providing us with an abundance of hope born out of a fullness of joy and peace in believing (15:13); again, as in the verse above, he references a power within us-- the Holy Spirit, within us by the grace of God.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul points out that this grace of God is so abundant that it provides everything we need—“sufficiency in all things at all times”—so we can be abundant in the good works that we do (9:8).

And examples of abundance through Jesus are abundant in our own lives, if we are willing to pause and take notice of them.  Ann Voskamp points out, “Everyone gets to decide how happy they want to be, because everyone gets to decide how grateful they are willing to be.”

Right now, I am in circumstances that make it easy to be content; I pray that you are, too!  But our challenge is to learn alongside the apostle Paul “to be content whatever the circumstances”…well fed or hungry, in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:11-12).  It’s so easy to be content right now, when I just spent $100 yesterday at the grocery store for food for my family, and sit snugly on a sofa in a home filled with healthy and happy family members.

But how can we be content when faced with the opposite circumstances…the “hungry” and “in-want” end of the equation? 

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

That’s no easy answer, no flip response, no fortune-cookie proverb. It is a hard-won understanding made possible only through a daily commitment to accepting the grace of God no matter what the circumstances of that day.

My prayer this Thanksgiving week is that you will leave aside an attitude of scarcity, and embrace the abundance so abundantly exemplified by Christ—promised in his words, exemplified in his miracles, and taught by his followers.

My prayer is that you will look to Christ for your abundance, which is the strength you need for whatever circumstances you are facing.

My prayer is that you are able to see the abundance of blessings that are already yours through grace from God, strength from Christ, and power from the Holy Spirit.

Have a truly blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Putting Our Faith to Work: Winter Blanket Mission

The other night as I was putting my daughter Katy to bed, I noticed that it was chilly in her bedroom, and commented that we should put another blanket on her bed to snuggle with on these colder nights.  She chose one from the stack at the top of her closet, and cozied down for a good night’s sleep.

I thank God every night for our comfortable, warm home, and I pray that others are blessed with the same safety and warmth we enjoy.  But as I well know from the Book of James, it’s not enough just to pray for it and wish others well:
“My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people claim they have faith but don’t act like it? Can that kind of faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister has no clothes or food.  Suppose one of you says to them, “Go, I hope everything turns out fine for you.  Keep warm. Eat well” and you do nothing about what they really need.  Then what good have you done?” (James 2:14-16, NIrV)
This passage from James challenges us to “put our money where our mouth is,” so to speak, to match our actions to our words. 

Our actions bring life and usefulness to our faith (James 2:17, 20).

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I wanted to get back to crocheting, but I didn’t have anyone to make blankets for.  (Granny-stitch blankets are pretty much the extent of my crocheting repertoire.) 

I had a sudden thought one night as I drifted off to sleep that I would crochet blankets, and then donate them to the Media Food Bank’s clothing donation room.  I had helped out there last winter, and they were trying to make sure that everyone who came received a hat and a pair of gloves for the frigid temperatures we were experiencing.  I thought it would be great to contribute toward a goal of the babies and children whose parents go there to receive a blanket to stay warm this winter.

My mother decided to join me with this project.
By last week, we had nine blankets and four hats between us to contribute to the Media Food Bank! 
All of her blankets and hats were crocheted, while mine were a mix of crocheting and no-sew fleece projects. These are not blankets for covering a bed, but rather blankets to wrap a baby or child up in for a warm sleep. 
I also included two little "schleppies"--small 10"x10" fleece blankets with fringes for babies to play with (like the "taggie" blankets that were so popular when my girls were babies).  
I also made a couple of no-sew fleece hats from a pattern I found in a library book ages ago.
I would like to invite you—challenge you!—to join me in contributing a blanket to the Media Food Bank so that even more babies and children will be warmed this winter.  I heard a song not long ago that included a man wondering why God didn’t DO something to help out with all the need he saw in the world, and God answers back, “I DID do something:  I created YOU.”  Join me in being part of God’s answer to the need in our corner of the world. 

Here are some ways you can get involved this holiday season:

1. Crochet or knit a child-sized blanket.
2. Buy a no-sew fleece blanket kit from the craft store to create a cozy blanket with tied-fringe edges. Don't forget to take a coupon with you in case they aren't already on sale!

3. Buy 2 yards of solid color fleece and 2 yards of patterned fleece, then watch a YouTube video to find out how you can make a no-sew fleece blanket in just a couple of hours.
4.  Purchase a $5 fleece throw blanket at Five Below.

5.  Purchase a $15 to $30 blanket at Target; there are plenty of differently-priced options to choose from.

Once you have your blanket donation, you can give it to me and I will deliver them all at once to the Media Food Bank as a ministry donation of the Living Stones Women’s Ministry, or you can deliver your blanket donation on your own to 350 West State Street, Media, PA, at the First United Methodist Church. 
A clothing closet volunteer finds a spot for our blankets.
If you are not a member of Living Stones and do not live in this area, please consider a blanket donation to a Food Bank/Homeless Shelter/Clothing Closet near your home.
However you choose to participate, please contribute by New Year’s Eve Day 2015! 

There are 17 women currently on the email list for Living Stones.  That is 17 warmer babies and children if we each just contribute a single blanket to the cause!  If others outside of our group get involved, the needs of even more families will be met in this basic way.

Thank you for your participation!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pick Up Your Mat and Walk!

If you had asked me at the beginning of last week, “What did it take to be healed by Jesus?” I would have answered, “Jesus healed people who showed that they had faith that he could.”

After all…

When the bleeding woman touches the hem of Jesus’ robe, she thinks just that distant connection is enough, and Jesus says that her faith heals her.  When the four friends lower the paralytic through the ceiling of the home where Jesus is preaching, He sees their great faith, and their friend is healed.  When the synagogue leader demonstrates faith that his daughter can be brought to life, even though the mourners at the house laugh at the suggestion, the little girl rises up to have something to eat. 

The presence of faith in so many gospel accounts brings about mighty miracles.

But during Bible study last Thursday, as we talked about the healing of the man at the pool recorded in John 5:1-18, I learned something new about Jesus’ healing miracles, which also taught me a lot about God’s grace.
image from
Note:  I want to thank my Associate Pastor Nikki Passante for her teachings about 
this Bible passage during our Bible study last Thursday.  
Many of her insights are included in the post.

In this gospel episode, Jesus is in Jerusalem for a Jewish festival, and goes by a pool of water in an area of the temple known as the Sheep Gate.  At this pool, a “great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed” (verse 3).  They embraced a popular superstition that an angel of the Lord would periodically stir up the waters in the pool, and that the first person to get into the pool when the waters began to move would be healed of his disease or condition. 

On this particular day, Jesus encounters a man called “an invalid for thirty-eight years” (verse 5).  We don’t know how long he has been lying there next to the pool, but we know that it is long enough to feel hopeless that he’ll ever have a chance to get healed; after all, when the waters stir, he has no one to carry him to the pool, and he can’t move to it on his own (verse 7).  Someone must have brought him here, but it sounds as though no one has been there to care about his plight for quite some time.  Where is his family?  Where are his friends?  He has likely gone unnoticed for quite awhile. 

But Jesus sees him, and Jesus recognizes his need.

“Do you want to be well?” Jesus asks the man (verse 6).

 “Do you want to be well?” This is what you’re going to ask him, Jesus?  Don’t you assume he wants to be well after thirty-eight years of suffering? Don’t you know he’s miserable—alone, neglected by friends and family, unable to make it to the water’s edge in time for healing, watching everyone else get their miracle while he continues in his distress?


Imagine how painful a healing after thirty-eight years could be. 

This man’s invalid state has become central to his identity; it is likely central to how he sees himself and how others relate to him, if at all.  His condition has become a way of life. 

A healing would require the building of an entirely new life.  He’s going to have to figure out how to earn a living, how to interact with his community, how to regain an identity within the temple.  It’s not going to be easy. 

Put in those terms, it might be easier to go back and sit by the pool!

We don’t ever really find out the man’s answer to Jesus’ question.  Does he want to be well?

His response is much more complicated than a “yes” or a “no.”

There are probably a number of ways to read the man’s tone in verse 7, when he says to Jesus, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.  While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”  I tend to read it with a kind of whining tone:  Everyone always gets in ahead of me!  When will it be my turn?! 

But at the same time, I can also imagine the genuine despair he must feel at losing again and again what he sees as his chance for healing. 

Perhaps this man is “playing the victim,” or perhaps he is simply expressing, “I want to get well, but I can’t do it on my own.”  Either way, he is being “real” with Jesus.  Whether he bears bitterness, a victim mentality, abject misery, hopelessness, or some degree of all of these, he exposes his heart to Jesus no matter what it looks like. 

And no matter what it looks like, it’s okay with Jesus.  Jesus has sought him out, Jesus has taken the initiative to approach him, Jesus demonstrates His divine grace and heals him.

God’s grace is truly a free gift, not dependent on the state of our heart.

This man, by the way, didn’t even know he was talking to Jesus (verse 13)!  It is not his faith that saves him; no specific belief is required for his cure. 

Jesus is not limited by our faith or lack of faith.

God’s grace is truly a free gift, not dependent on the state of our own faith.

Jesus gives this man what he never even asks for. 

This miracle calls to my mind the miracle at Cana, where He changes water into wine at the wedding feast.  Mary, remember, points out to Jesus that the host has run out of wine, but doesn’t dictate a specific action for Jesus to perform; rather she simply directs the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do (John 2:5).  Rather than simply calling up a few extra glasses to provide for the most important and potentially influential and critical guests, Jesus provides six large stone jugs full of top-quality wine to carry through the rest of the feast (John 2: 6-10). 

Likewise, by the pool, Jesus does more for the man that he could have ever thought to ask.  If anything, perhaps he might ask Jesus to help him to the pool’s edge in time for the stirring of the waters.  Never in his wildest imagination would he have said, “Please heal me so I can walk again.”
And yet that is just what Jesus does for him:  “Get up!” He tells the man. “Pick up your mat and walk.” 

This time the man does not delay with stories and excuses, as in verse 7.  Rather, he is cured at once, and so picks up his mat and walks.

Jesus’ compassion surpasses all limits—the limits of what we can imagine to ask for, the limits of human law codes or social expectations.  He doesn’t take a day off from caring about people, or relating to people, or demonstrating compassion, or doing His Father’s work. 

God’s grace is truly a free gift, not dependent on what we think to ask for.

I love that when Jesus goes to look for the man after his healing, He finds him in the Temple.  It’s a promising start to the man’s “new life.” This man seems to know that something extraordinary has happened, something that warrants some praise and thanksgiving to God. 

But that doesn’t stop Jesus from issuing a further warning:  “See, you are well again.  Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (verse 14). Again and again in the gospels, there seems to be a close link between a person’s physical healing and their spiritual healing, a correlation between healing and forgiveness.  Here, Jesus seems to be saying, Now that you have bodily health, attend to your spiritual health.  The consequences of neglecting your spiritual health would be even more dire than the misery of the physical distress and suffering with which you are well familiar.

As a result, this man becomes a witness to Jesus the Healer.  “The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well” (verse 15).  I don’t think he did this with evil intentions; I don’t believe he knew that the very men he told of his experience were the ones who wanted to see Jesus dead.

God’s grace is truly a free gift, a gift that heals us, fills us, changes us, revives us.

Thanks be to God, He never leaves us where He finds us!  He bids us pick up our mat and walk.


As an aside, I was struck during Bible study by what a great bumper sticker we could create based on this account from the gospel of John:

Pick Up Your Mat and Walk!

Don’t dwell in your weakness.  Walk in the forgiveness and healing that God has given you as a free gift.  Live in that state of grace that God offers to you in Jesus Christ. 

Pick Up Your Mat and Walk!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Living the Questions with Rachel Held Evans

What happens when a Christian woman questions one area of her faith, or doubts one aspect of what she has always been taught to believe?

It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it?  One question leads to another, one doubt brings to mind others, and she is suddenly in danger of her whole belief system coming unraveled.

Rachel Held Evans recently posed this scenario—drawn from her own Christian walk—at a talk given to students at Eastern University entitled, “Living the Questions.” How we understand our faith and how we explain it to other people changes with the seasons of our lives, Rachel told us.
Rachel Held Evans, speaking at Eastern University in October 2015
But for a long time, she didn’t know those kinds of changes were allowed.

For Rachel, the questions began in her years at a Christian middle school.  She was always taught that anyone not coming to God through a belief in salvation through Jesus Christ was going to hell. 

And then for English class, she read The Diary of Anne Frank

She was so moved by this young girl’s story, and could not imagine that the God of her faith was going to treat Anne even more horrifically than the way she was treated during the Holocaust. 

The questions resurfaced in her years at a Christian university, where she was told that all Muslims were going to hell. 

At one point on the news, however, she saw footage of the stadium execution of a Muslim woman charged with adultery.  And again, moved by her story, Rachel could not imagine God subjecting this woman to an even greater punishment than she faced under the horrors of the Taliban, simply because she was born into and raised in the Muslim faith.

Rachel could no longer shove down the questions, could no longer hold so tightly to the faith she had been delivered as a child.  In spite of the “Best Christian Attitude Award” she won for three years in a row as a young girl, Rachel came to see doubt as better than its alternative—a Zombie-faith, as she calls it, a checked-out faith, an ongoing fear that her faith wasn’t strong enough to handle tough questions.

In Rachel’s mind, it’s 100% worth it to risk that slippery slope, in order to live with a tried and tested faith.  She proudly calls herself a “doubt-filled believer.” As she told us in her message, “If there was a guarantee, then it wouldn’t be faith.  That’s part of the deal.”

For Rachel, she indeed found herself on that dreaded slippery slope, but for her, it led right to Jesus.  She vows to keep her head and heart fully engaged in her faith, and to do that, she told us that she made friends with her doubt; her doubt has actually become a part of her faith.

She characterized a dangerous doubt as being the kind of doubt that would lead us to stop obeying—to stop doing the things that Jesus teaches us to do, such as caring for others and praying for our enemies. 
Rachel, far right, listening to the introduction to her talk
Faith isn’t about getting everything right and having perfect doctrine, Rachel says.  Faith is about following Jesus in spite of our doubts.  She spoke of the importance of routine for preserving her faith.  She prays, she goes to church, she continues in these practices of her faith, even when she is going through a particularly intense period of questioning or doubting. 

Hearing Rachel's talk made me consider the role of doubt and questioning in my own faith journey. 

We can easily move through life in a state of doubt if that is our personal disposition.  We can doubt that the actions of the people around us are done with positive intentions.  We can doubt that our efforts to serve in our communities will make any real difference.  We can doubt that our efforts to be good role models to the young people around us will influence them in any way.  

For me, doubt is a negative state of mind that would leave me pretty miserable day-to-day if that was the way I chose to live my life.  

If I choose to go through life doubting that God exists, doubting that God really cares about me, doubting that God hears my prayers or that my prayers make any real difference, then I can pretty well guarantee that my faith will not just unravel, but that my whole spirit will shrivel away in exhaustion and distress.

I have a very different view of questioning, however.  

For me, questions are the driving force behind learning, behind increasing my knowledge and deepening my understanding of any topic or person.  If I re-frame my doubts as questions, then I am on a life-giving, faith-strengthening path:  Where do I see God at work in my life and my world today, helping to support my faith in His existence and His concern for me?  How can I strengthen my prayer life and engage in daily communication with God?  How can I listen for God’s “voice” in my life, perceiving the ways He communicates right back to me?  

If I choose to go through life asking questions about my faith journey and my religious traditions, then I can pretty well guarantee that my faith will not just hold together, but that my whole spirit will strengthen and flourish. 
God tell us in the Book of Jeremiah, “Call to me and I will answer you, and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (33:3).  And Jesus Himself tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7).  James writes to Jewish believers living in Gentile communities outside of Palestine:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (1:5).  God’s Word supports a questioning Christian, one who calls out to God, one who asks for wisdom, and one who remains open to the “great and unsearchable things” that God would then reveal.

The Psalms are filled with tough questions for God:  Why do You hide in times of trouble (10:1)? How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever (13:1)? How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land (137: 4)?  David is always described as “a man after God’s own heart,” and he felt free to cry out to God with whatever deep and honest emotion he was experiencing, even the hard questions that we continue to ask so many thousands of years later. 

I have not read Rachel Held Evan’s books yet, so I don’t know the specific nature of the doubts she has faced over the years.  While she calls herself a “doubt-filled believer,” she speaks of never knowing when she’ll head to church on a Sunday and not believe a word of what she hears.  She talks of conversations with her husband about whether they will raise their son (due early next year) as a Christian.  She speaks of faith crises that have cost her friendships, until her friends came around to their own faith crises and could finally understand where she was coming from. 

Rachel ended her talk with the admonition to respect each others’ journeys, and I agree wholeheartedly that we all relate to God in beautifully individual ways.  And she seems to have grown in her understanding that she shouldn’t “evangelize the doubts,” trying to spread her faith crises around to her friends.  And finally, even though she has doubts related to the Gospel, she told us that “the story of Jesus is a story I’m willing to risk being wrong about.” 

Faith, she says, is about taking the risk of obedience in spite of the doubts, taking the risk of being wrong about what we are putting our faith in.   

The caution that I would offer is to beware of doubting for the sake of doubting.  Turn your doubts into questions, and bring them to God.  Seek His answers in His word, through the teachings of trusted Christian leaders, in conversation with other seeking believers, and in other resources that God will almost surely place in your path once you bring your questions to Him with an honest and authentic desire for the answers.  
What role has doubt and questioning played in your journey of faith?  Did you experience the "slippery slope" phenomenon that Rachel describes, and did it bring you right back to Jesus?  Do you see a difference between doubting and questioning, in the way that I do?  Please join the conversation in the Comments section!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Deeds of Darkness or Harmless Fun: Looking at Halloween from Christian Perspectives


NOTE:  This began as a very brief blog post about my thoughts on celebrating Halloween.  Then I reached out by email to a community of women within my church, and received additional perspectives on the subject that I wanted to share with you as well.  Many thanks to the women who took the time to share their experiences and perspectives!  Please add your voice to the conversation with a comment.


"It's Not Really My Thing"

People celebrate BIG for Halloween where I live.  Halloween rivals Christmas for outdoor home and lawn décor.  We see inflatable ghouls riding motorcycles, spiders crawling up the sides of houses, netted webs across bushes, and phantoms hanging from the trees. 

Every year my girls ask if we can decorate BIG for Halloween, and every year I say, “Nah, Halloween’s not really my thing.” (I’ve always felt that’s close to blasphemy around here, so I usually keep that opinion within the family.)

This year, on the way to taking Bayla to 1st grade and Katy to 2nd grade, we passed a house with a simulated graveyard on the front lawn—a sea of headstones with sentiments like, “I love dead people” and “RIP Zombie.”  The girls asked if we could put a graveyard in our front yard, too.  I tried my usual, “Nah, Halloween’s not really my thing,” but they pressed me to find out why not.  This is what I told them,
“Girls, I don’t think it’s wrong to celebrate Halloween, and I don’t mind the ‘fun side’ of it with pumpkins and candy and that kind of thing.  But Halloween isn’t a Christian holiday.  Halloween celebrates monsters and witches and darkness and scary things, while God is Light and Love.  That’s why I don’t ‘get into’ the scary, dark side of the holiday.”
They set aside their dreams of a front yard cemetery, and Katy moved on quickly to, “Okay, Mommy, but can you get us some white cloth and some thread?; I have an idea for making ghosts…”

I had never before articulated my “problem” with Halloween, so my response to the girls was completely off the cuff, but it set me to thinking about a Christian’s “proper” response to this somewhat controversial holiday. 

The Bible doesn’t directly address Halloween, trick-or-treating, and creepy home décor, so Christians have to decide for themselves from what the Bible does say and their personal direction from the Holy Spirit how they will respond to it. 

Responses to Halloween

Some Christians fully embrace Halloween; as one of my friends wrote to me in an email: “I see Halloween as a fun night to be creative with costumes and have fun with your friends.”  Another friend wrote that until her son began attending a private Christian school, Halloween had always been “an innocent day where kids dress up and get candy.  Friendly pumpkins, fall leaves, candy corn…what’s so bad about that?”

Others celebrate a modified version, with certain limits that make it more comfortable for them. As one  friend shared with me, she and her husband focused on the “community building connections” of trick-or-treating, and encouraged her kids to create clever, rather than gory or dark, costumes.  Their decorations focus on pumpkins, gourds, hay bales, and cornstalks, what she calls “evidence of God’s creativity and goodness” rather than the “scary stuff.”  Another friend agrees that the children are allowed to dress up in “non-ghoulish attire” and “exchange candy with our neighbors as an expression of welcome and friendship with our community.” 

Some ignore it quietly, like a family in Katy’s kindergarten class who kept their son out of school on the day of the class party and costume parade.  A woman from my church described Halloween as having a negative effect on her son’s spirit when he was just three or four years old.  She had not much liked the holiday anyway, so her family stopped celebrating it.  In place of trick-or-treating, her children got to go to the store and pick out their favorite candy, and on party day at school, they could choose to dress up if they chose, or stay home that day if they preferred. 

Others boycott it, perhaps by turning off the lights during trick-or-treating, or leaving them on while refusing to answer the door.  When my friend’s son began attending a private Christian school, they encountered an environment in which Halloween is not even mentioned, except to specify that no Halloween-themed shirts are allowed on “wear your favorite holiday shirt” day. 

Still others turn it into an opportunity for evangelism, perhaps handing out Bible verses attached to their Halloween candy, or speaking about Christ to the children who come to their door. 

Determining Your Comfort Zone

No matter what your “take” on the holiday, I think the important thing is to determine the parameters of your comfort zone, and listen to the calling of God’s spirit on your conscience.  I don’t like monsters, skeletons, devils, skulls, and creepy witches.  I don’t mind pumpkins, cats, “cute” witches, and ghosts of the white-sheet, not-particularly-frightening variety.

I have let my girls participate in school Halloween Trunk-or-Treat events and trick-or-treating around the neighborhood.  They love going around for the candy, and enjoy the experience of handing out candy at our house almost as much.  I have determined that all of this lies within the parameters of my comfort zone.

A woman from my church made a very good point:  She grew up in a home where Halloween was not observed, and was seen as evil.  Because it wasn’t part of her childhood, she “had no sentimental connection or enthusiasm about Halloween; it was a non-issue.”  She had to reevaluate her point of view after marriage to a man who embraced the holiday with enthusiasm.  But she continues to welcome conversations on topics like these, saying, “I find compelling arguments for many perspectives and am not married to mine should the Lord convict my heart in another direction.”

In addition to listening to your own conscience by defining the parameters of your comfort zone, and being open to redefining your views, consider this point from this same friend:  Consider consistency.  “Am I making an issue out of something I’m okay with in other areas?”  She uses the other holidays with pagan origins as her examples.  Is she boycotting Halloween, yet singing songs about Santa Claus at Christmas and hunting Easter eggs at Easter? 

The Problem with Halloween

Why do some Christians have a problem with Halloween, anyway? 

Our Halloween traditions are drawn from pagan celebrations marking the beginning of winter and the Celtic new year.  October 31 was seen as a time when there is free movement between the natural world and the spirit world.  Witches and evil spirits were said to roam the earth, playing tricks, a feature we memorialize with our trick-or-treating traditions.  (This article from the Grace to You web site, entitled "Christians and Halloween," provides some helpful background on the holiday.)

While the Bible doesn’t address Halloween directly, there are plenty of passages contrasting darkness and light, warning against a spirit of fear, and not participating in fortune-telling, sorcery, witchcraft, and casting spells.  (If you feel like some homework, you can look up some of these many verses for yourself:  Deuteronomy 18:10-12; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 1:5, 4:18 Luke 1:74; John 8:12; Ephesians 5:7-12; Romans 12:2; Hebrews 2:14-15.)  Halloween is seen as glorifying things that Christ does not represent, and making light of things that do not honor God.

One of my friends did not think it was a good idea to explain the pagan roots of Halloween to her young children, as it “would put the emphasis on things we did not feel they needed to ‘carry’ in their hearts and minds as little people.”

Another friend explained to her children that they didn’t want to celebrate anything evil or glorify things like demons.  “I still am not crazy about the holiday,” she writes, “but have come to learn not to judge those who do choose to participate.”

Still another friend told her son:  “Anything is bad if you focus on the bad parts of it.  But Halloween has a lot of good too.  Number one—it’s just plain fun!  Number two—it’s exciting for children to dress up…to become football players, TV characters, or  for a special night.  Number three—it’s great practice in meeting people [when handing out candy to trick-or-treaters].  This builds confidence.”  She concludes, “There is much evil in the world.  But my belief is when you make it about the evil, the evil wins.  When you make it about love and friendship, God wins.” 

What's Your Stance?

As you make your own decisions about the role of Halloween in your Christian home, I would suggest taking some time to consider what is acceptable to you and what is unacceptable, and determining your reasoning. That way, when your children ask you about particular activities, you can respond calmly and authoritatively. This approach is much more likely to lead to acceptance and moving on, then if you are caught off guard, hem and haw indecisively, or offer a “because I told you so” explanation.


Defining MY Comfort Zone

When I was thinking about this blog post, I took some photos at Target, Party City, and Michaels that illustrate my personal Halloween parameters.  Maybe doing this could be a step towards you defining your own comfort zone.  If you are like me, you definitely will have different feelings based on what you are looking at on your foray into "the Halloween zone."  The next step is determining how you can articulate those feelings if challenged by your children or others. 

The NO Zone

For me, these images represent the "NO" area of my Halloween comfort zone:

Skulls and skeletons of all sizes?  Um, no thank you.
Creepy skeleton phantom greeting me and my children when we come home every day?  Um, no.
An image of death and torture for "fun"?  I don't think so.
Bloody weapon garland?  Do I even have to say?
A prom corpse costume for my little girl?  Again, no thank you.

The YES Zone

And here are some images that represent the YES area of my Halloween comfort zone:

Flowers in the beautiful colors of fall?  Sounds like a good place to start.
Traditional plastic pumpkins for trick-or-treating?  That's a Halloween tradition from my childhood!
"Cute" black cats and ghosts?  I'm down with that.
You want to dress like Super Mario, a hot dog (bless your heart) or Super Girl?  I can handle that!
And even though it drives me crazy from a dental hygiene perspective, I well remember the thrill of sifting through piles of delicious candy alongside my sister after an evening of trick-or-treating:
Not everyone's YES and NO areas are going to look the same; I can see that by looking around at the choices that my friends make during the Halloween season.  I don't think my choices need to dictate anyone else's, and I don't think anyone else's choices need to dictate mine.  But, as with so many things, I think there is room for fruitful conversation about our differences. 


About Such Things

Julie at Happy Home Fairy offers a bit of advice when it comes to choosing a Halloween costume.  There are so many options out there; she advises following the principle found in Philippians 4:8: Is this costume choice right, pure, lovely, admirable, true, noble, excellent, and praiseworthy?  “The Bible tells us to think about these things, so I think it’s appropriate to apply our thoughts to our actions,” she writes.

Perhaps this is a worthy guiding principle for our approach to celebrating Halloween as a whole.
Found in Yahoo images; source not found
For Further Reading

Here are some links to articles from Christianity Today that I think add to the conversation.  Keep in mind that the comments that come after the articles often provide new points of view as well:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...