Friday, December 31, 2010

post-christmas

we followed up the 12 days of christmas with 5 days of family sickness...am ready for that to be over.

i've been working all by myself at westwinds this week. except for brief appearances by one of our interns (Jess), and the UPS delivery guy, this place has been a tomb.

it feels weird to be here with no one else around, working quietly and always finding the coffee pot full and the bathroom bearable.

still, we've got some exciting stuff planned for the new year and i'm getting more and more geeked while prepping for it this week




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Robinson Rd,Jackson,United States

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

stories and writing

i've always thought of myself as a writer, mostly because i've always been writing. when i was a little kid i used to sit in the back of the schoolbus and write stories. when i was in high school i tried to take every writing class i could. i used to write in my free time. i still do. when i first began working in ministry i began writing more and more (plays, songs, stories, whatever) thinking that there would be good opps for good writing.

along the way, though, i gathered this impression that *people* thought writing was a waste of time and that i really shouldn't bother with it. that made me sad, but at the time i felt like i understood.

then we started writing atlases for westwinds.

it was a strange sort of beginning - almost an accident, really. norma everly, a lovely gal who loves christ and loves her church, transcribes all our messages after the fact. she does this for sunday teachings, but also for other stuff - like sunday school or mid-week stuff when we ask her. we had taught a new believer's class at the winds, and norma had transcribed it so when we - about a year later - considered teaching that material on a sunday it just made sense that we'd take her transcriptions and put them into some sort of book form. that way, people could read up on the material beforehand and get prepared.

the response was really positive, so we began doing it more and more and more until, now, we pretty much do it for every single teaching series.

i've often thought this has been a cool way to bring my love for writing back into my ministry. it has all felt really natural, and there's so much good fruit from it (both within the winds, and through amazon.com and the internet as well).

having written about 30 atlases now, though, i'm beginning to wonder if non-fiction writing is as helpful as i'd like it to be.

when "the shack" was published there was such a huge outbreak of enthusiasm and support that i immediately went and bought it and read it (as i do most popular books, as a means of staying in step with the popular mind/culture). i was so disappointed. the story was great, and his thoughts on spirituality were terrific, but i thought the writing was poor.

still - the shack has done 100 million times as much good as all our atlases combined. that might simply be because god has chosen to use that book in a special way, but it might also be because simple fiction is easier for most people to identify with than simple non-fiction.

non-fiction feels like work or school, but fiction feels like the beach or a sunday afternoon on the couch.

i'd like to write some fiction. i've written a bunch of short stories and whatnot for the winds (and those have been really fun), but i'd like to write a few that are a little longer, a little more involved, and (yup) a little more like the shack.

i kind of cringe at that statement, but if i'm honest that 'cringing' is pride. thing is, i have no reason to be proud. especially not these days, and especially not about writing. i've had some signficant writing-related disappointments this past year, and been told (by people i think know what they're talking about) that i shouldn't waste my time. that hurts. but then i think about the guy who wrote the shack, and about all the other cringing-jerks like me who didn't like his writing, and i think: well, even if i'm no hemmingway, i ought to at least do the things that god has placed inside me to do... and if that means writing some crummy fiction, then so be it.

that's all any of us can do, isn't it? do what we love, work to get better at it, stay sweet while doing it.

so, in a couple of years when you're scouring for trashy summer reading at the local thrift store, enjoy my forthcoming theological speculations concerning the gospel of atlantis, the recovery of quantum magic and potentiality (as taught by angels and dragons), and that one about the guy who wakes us from a coma only to discover he's satan.

they probably won't be worthy of pulitzers, but i hope you still get a few moments of reprieve from life's tragedies because of them.

peace.





- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

the transformer nativity

on saturday, jake and anna and i played out the christmas story with jake's transformers for about three hours. it was a blast. afterwards, i decided to take some fotos and cobble them together into a comic book for him.

here is the final project

enjoy!




12 days of christmas 2010: day 7 (the playfords)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 days of christmas: day 2 (gifts from dwayne and staci and sadie, taylor, & lucas)

12 days of christmas 2010: day one

every year we give our kids 1 small gift on each day prior to christmas (beginning 11 days ahead) so they actually appreciate and can take time to enjoy the gifts they receive (instead of acting mental and getting overloaded and enjoying nothing).

these are the videos that document the 12 days of christmas 2010



Thursday, December 09, 2010

there are so many things to be thankful for

one of the unique challenges of public life - political, pastoral, etc - is that you can't really share the things you're going through because (normally) anything bad is directly tied to another person in your life that matters in your church, or city or whatever.

which means, when you're hurting - you hurt alone.

i generally refuse to talk about the things that bother me with any but my closest, closest friends, because any frustrations or difficulties i encounter are usually due to other church and/or kingdom people. i don't want anyone else to know my business, and i certainly don't want anyone else's reputation to suffer because (even in code, or indirectly) i have expressed my frustration with them on a blog, or in a sermon, or at a local restaurant.

consequently, you'll never hear me talk about that lady who always posts those things on facebook; or that guy who always sends those letters; or the person with the issue that they cannot drop; or, whatever

(those, by the way, are not real examples of stuff i wrestle with...which is sort of the point)

anyway - suffice to say this week has been hard. there have been some challenges. i don't want to talk about those challenges, really, i just want to express my gratitude to god for being there in the midst of those challenges

he sustains
he heals
he comforts
and he gets me through

i have anything i need, and more than i could ever want. my life is rich in every conceivable way that matters, and my wealth comes from god.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

30?!

i'm just now realizing that the "common time" teaching atlas, second in the "seasons of christian spirituality" series is now 30th atlas.

30. wow. that's a lot of books, a lot of research, and a lot of writing.

the early atlases were amateurish at best, but they got a lot better over the years. in true bull-in-a-china-shop mcdonald fashion, i've blundered my way from sermon transcripts to something much more like a phd thesis (with charm, though) published every 4-6 weeks.

whew.

i feel proud about how far i've come, and exceedingly glad at how many other people all over the world have contacted me and thanked me for making these resources available on amazon.com and through westwinds. but mostly, i feel thankful. i feel thankful to god for placing me in a spot where i can do this. i feel thankful to carmel and the kids for putting up with me when i do this. i feel thankful to the staff at the winds who pick up the slack while i do this. and i feel thankful for the windies who gobble it up everytime i finish doing this.

god is good,
and so are you.

here's to better and better resources, and a better experience with god, for another 30 installments or so!

D

game of thrones preview

Thursday, December 02, 2010

a foretaste of advent and an excerpt from "advent: preparation, anticipation and hope in Christ's coming"


Perhaps, like many others, you've wondered: what is Advent?

Well, Advent is a liturgical season (a time or particular religious observation in the Christian faith) that centers around a "coming."

If Advent means, literally, "coming," one might wonder: who is coming?

The answer, obviously, is Christ. But we might further wonder: who is Jesus Christ?

In the Christian Bible, Jesus Christ was and is God of the Cosmos - above Whom there is none other, Peerless Peer and Everlasting Lord of All. He was born under supernatural circumstances to a teenage girl during her engagement to an older, respectable man who likely only half-believed her explanation of the Holy Spirit impregnating her and planned to divorce her quietly once the baby was born.

Jesus (his name is Joshua in Aramaic) was born under a cloud of suspicion, but later came to be called Christ (which means "anointed one" and relates to an ancient belief by practicing Jews in a military hero known as the Messiah who would deliver them from their national and spiritual enemies).

Christ wasn't his last name, but his title.

All of this begs another question: why is Christ coming?

He is coming, simply, because something has gone horribly and persistently wrong with his creation. God created the world and placed us within it as a well-ordered and developing ecosystem, complete with interpersonal and interspecies interaction that would have sustained life abundantly and joyously. We were created to be something akin to planetary horticulturalists or zoologists, while simultaneously being given the directive to establish ourselves into societies and govern the earth.

Sadly, there is now great corruption in our world for which we - inescapably - must acknowledge our own culpability. (War. Famine. Hate. Bigotry. O-zone depletion. Global Warming. Jealousy. Greed.) None of us are guilt-free concerning the human condition, nor the condition of our planet. Our world is deeply wounded, and Christ came to fix it.

Once again, one further - and, for now, final - question is now appropriate: how does Christ plan to fix the mess we're in?

To begin with, Christ wants to start by fixing us.

Jesus came to live in this world as one of us and show us how we were always meant to live. He demonstrates what it means to be human, while simultaneously giving us a reference for what it means to be godly. He was, and is God, who lived as one of us, showing us how we might behave, love, interact, and aspire to live like God.

In an important sense, Jesus re-lived all of human history - resisted every kind of temptation, confronted every kind of eveil, even figuratively re-enacted every one of humanity's great failings up until that point without, himself, failing - and showed us what God has always intended for his people and his world.


This brings us back to our original question (what is Advent?), with new insight. Advent is not just about "coming," but about the coming of a savior to heal the wounds of the world caused by sin.

Advent, then, is a new beginning for humanity - a new starting point for the future - and a new opportunity to live life the way it was meant to be enjoyed by God.




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, November 28, 2010

productively lazy

that's the new phrase i'm coining after this week. honestly, i look back over this week (and maybe even spilling a bit into the week prior) and i simply cannot believe how much i've 'achieved' while at home with my kids for the long weekend (and the long evenings leading up to it).

i guess i've earned it. all those resumes. it was like being sent to HR hell. and, of course, i'm in between atlases (the next writing week begins dec 5).

but all that is really just lame justification for why i spent soooo much time in my pajamas over the last 10 days or so.

it's been magical.

it's been good dad/kid time too. i didn't do all of this with my kids (certainly not the R-rated movies or M-rated games), but i did do an awful lot with them on my lap or snuggled up beside me on the couch.

to say we've 'bonded' would be to under-represent the fact that we more oozed-together with sheer fantastical lethargy than just 'hung out.'

anyway, this is what i did:

i've read 3 novels

the man who was thursday, by GK Chesterton
- boring, then brilliant, mystery about anarchy and theology

behemoth, by scott westerfield
- teenage SF about an alternate WW2, very cool

academ's fury, by jim butcher
- pure pulp, love jim butcher's dresden files, but am still undecided about this series


i've watched 5 movies

law abiding citizen, starring gerard butler
- think 'saw' meets 'mission impossible', definately rated-R

the hurt locker, starring jeremy renner
- no plot, but totally scintillating

get him to the greek, starring jonah hill and russel brand
- this was the filthiest movie i've ever seen...please, mom, don't go rent this and get mad at me :)

tangled, starring mandy moore
- this movie was great except for the singing. the singing was crap. it wrecked everything else.

jackass, starring johnny knoxville
- the original, watched purely for Carmel's benefit :)


i've finished 6 video games on the PS3

fallout: new vegas
- game of the year, i think...but somehow i screwed something up and will need to replay it from the beginning. oh well.

call of duty: black opps
- great story. not much of a multi-player guy, so it was too short, but still great.

star wars: the force unleashed II
- loved this.

nier
- this was fun, but very...japanese

spider man: shattered dimensions
- this was stupid X2

james bond: blood stone (still got 2 levels to go on this one, i think)
- this was super fun, easy, but super fun


i've watched two cartoon series (about the 1st half of each)

robotech: the macross saga
- because transformers weren't the first robots in disguise...sadly, however, anna now wants to grow up and be Min Mei (my apologies, future son-in-law, for the sing-song voice and persistently hurt feelings)

voltron: defender of the universe
- honestly, i don't know how anyone could make a cartoon this convoluted, weird, and dumb...and yet, it's great. jake's new favorite.


and, just to make myself sound a little bit spiritual after all, i've read richard rohr's 'the naked now' and 3 separate books on the liturgical calendar (from an anglican, cathlolic, and methodist perspective).


not sure what i'll do this week. hopefully more of the same before i have to go back to being an adult with a job and responsibilities and stuff.

we'll see :)




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

still searching for staff

...and it's exhausting.

400+ resumes for the executive pastor job and 90+ resumes for the communication designer job.

and i've been the one to sift through them all, not trusting either the timeline or the discernment of a committee

(we're fond of avoiding committ-ia, here :)

i choose to place my trust in god that he'll bring us the right people in both positions. our church is in a great spot right now, and the right hire(s) could really propel us forward.

i think that's what god has in mind.

so let's keep praying.

D


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

concerning ordinary time

i'm having a devil of a time figuring out 'ordinary time.' it's the time between times during the liturgical calendar - after christmas, prior to lent - and there's very little material on why it matters

except by those who say it matters simply because it is not special

(do you understand why i find that an unsatisfactory answer?)

thankfully i've received a little coaching from len sweet on the issue and i think i've got a way forward. suffice to say it'll be a different way forward than either the catholic or the mainline way forward, but it will focus on episodes during christ's life that establish the basis for the church and our mission.

it'll be cool.

it's new material for me to sink my teeth into, and it'll be new stuff for us to explore during the cue.

more later.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

pray for wisdom

that's what i'm praying for...and hoping for

wisdom concerning the finances of westwinds
the future of westwinds
the plans and vision and dreams of westwinds

wisdom for my family
for my schedule
for my limitations
for my future and my development

wisdom for my heart
and my mind and my spirit

wisdom

"get wisdom, get understanding"

yup.


over the last 3 weeks i've conducted over 100 phone interviews, read almost 500 resumes, and made plans for a half-million dollar visionary push at the winds

big stuff

thankfully i don't have to make these plans, or these decisions, on my own. i love working with Jvo - dependable, loyal, jesus-loving - and i'm grateful for both our finance and elder teams - great people, greatly skilled. i'm also thankful for people like conrad lowe (consultant), linda stanley (at leadership network), len sweet (author), and dad (dad :) who can speak wisdom into our scenario and give us good insight.

but - at the end of the day - this church is our responsibility to steward well before god.

we have to make the decisions that affect everyone, and we have to make wise decisions.

i have to make wise decisions.

me. for him.

so i'm praying for wisdom.

please pray too.

D




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

what a week!

i finished the advent atlas and got it off to the publishers, have had 11 phone interviews, reviewed over 50 resumes, completed planning/strategy for the remainder of this years' teaching schedule, had 7 one-on-one meetings, finished 2 books...

and it's only wednesday.

sheesh.

it's been humbling to hear the great stories of so many people eager to work at the winds (we're hiring 2 new positions for 2011, remember); but saddening to have to inform 6 different people today that they are no longer in contention for their respective positions.

man, that's tough.

we've had 75+ applicants for the comm. designer job, and 350+ applicants for the XP job, and i've got to whittle down the comm. applicants to my top 3 by friday.

i'll need to get to my top 100 XP candidates by Dec 15.

sheesh.

have i said that already?

in the meantime, i'm working hard and putting a lot of energy into finding us a space for our upcoming youth facility and second campus. we're down to two locations: spring arbor road (the old almac pharmacy) and west ave (the old hollywood video store).

pray for us, and for our entire church leadership, that we are wise, prayerful, and attentive to God

D




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:whirlwind

Monday, November 08, 2010

Friday, November 05, 2010

happy birthday to the church of the resurrection

submerged

in my basement, writing on advent, drinking coffee and eating sour kids with my dog

i'm 3/4 done the first draft, am working with a new editor (my friend Caleb is all tied up, and i'm using his friend Julie)

in between frantically trying to remember every appropriate memory, i'm also sifting through XP candidates and applicants for our communication designer job, working on the 2011 ww budget, and wondering why i haven't bought one of those ultra-cold-weather jackets from columbia.com

v for vendetta is my companion read for this project (i find graphic novels to be a nice reprieve from theology) and it is amazing. alan moore is a brilliant writer - a literary power, really - but he mostly wrote graphic novels (all of which i have now read). he also wrote a traditional novel, but it was really dull.

sad, that.

i've also grabbed a bunch of chesterton's novels (at the recommendation of mojo, a prof at SAU) and am working through the 'codex of alera' novels quickly so i can read brandon sanderson's latest in the dragon reborn series.

dork much?

i've got a couple other projects on the go: an american gospel/apocalypse with my friend and sometime research assistant ryan phillips...think of it as a salvation history for the USA much like the OT was for the jews (more on that later, i think...though it might be a cool piece to present at the michigan theatre, as a kind of outreach)

also, ken brewer (also at SAU) and i are working on a beginner bible. it'll include the covenantal scrips from the OT, all of luke (with additions from matthew, mark, and john) and acts chapters 1 + 2. a total newbie will be able to read these 100pages or so and get the complete story of god and the world, with special emphasis on the time between the birth of christ and the birth of the church. it won't be a teaching atlas, just a reader comprised of various selections of scripture. look for it around easter.

and speaking of easter...

plans are still moving forward for our youth center and our second campus. i'm geeked. god is all over this - with great facilities being offered to us at great rates and with a recent donor who suggested he'd be able to donate up to $50K in matching funds over the first year.

god is good.

ok - back to advent

D

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

halloween origins

(found this on theonion.com)


Halloween Origins

Every Oct. 31, children dress in a variety of popular costumes and go door-to-door collecting candy. Here's where that Halloween tradition, and several others, came from:

Haunted Houses are based on Victorian England's "Scare Manors," places where children who didn't mine enough coal were sent as punishment

Giving children candy at the door began when early American settlers realized it was a lot easier than talking to kids about the meaning of death

Much like people today, pre-Christian pagans would throw toilet parchment all over the tree outside their mean alchemy teacher's house.

Jack-o'-lanterns first debuted in 1981 as part of a marketing scheme to promote Monsanto's invention of the pumpkin

The song "Monster Mash" borrows its melody from a medieval Gregorian All Saints' Day chant entitled "I Worketh In The Abbey Into The Darkness One Night (O Monster Of Salvation)"

Bobbing for apples was originated at a Halloween party by a group of people who were patronizing an armless friend

In 1928, Nathaniel Darder of Worcester was the first guy to give out treats in a strategically loosened bathrobe

According to modern-day Wiccans, most of today's Halloween traditions are actually blah, blah, blah


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

got this amazing story about monsters, reprinted here in it's (anonymous) entirety

Monsters in my life

Religon has always been in my life. Strict lutheran family and church raised me. Yet, I never felt God loved me.

I found out that the relationship with God was not good at age 38. It was then that I started to learn that He loved me, forgave me, and wasnt punishing me for being a bad person. This new realization gave me new life, hope, a purpose and a future full of Christ.

My childhood memories are empty besides the severe punishments my siblings and I endured. At twelve I started to physically abuse myself; twelve, parents divorced, then Bulimia set in. At sixteen started looking for love and found it in my daughter. Disowned and alone I raised my daughters. Graduated from high school, college and a masters degree and began teaching, all the while still searching for a love my daughters could not give me. I found it, lost it, and with heartache found my true love; alcohol.

My daughter was raped by two men at age 15 together we tried to keep her alive visiting U of M mental ward four differnt times before she fell into drugs. Alcohol helped me through my hardest times in life. We were together for 12 years before my bottom hit, jobless, homeless, and alone depression had visited me my whole life but know it had taken over. I had found no reason to live, suicidal thoughts consumed me.

My last drink, I awoke in jail, shackled, naked and full of humility and shame. Arrested for my second DUI, felony assult on an officer that would lead me to have to fight for my teaching certificate. I hated myself.

God had provided me with the strength, courage and love, to withstand the pain and humiliation of recovery. His mercy, grace and love saved me. Six years later, I am a better parent and teacher, married, and full of peace. By working through the twelveth steps of AA, I found the real meaning of my life to help others that were in need, as God had provided people in my life and to share my story (testimony). I have been blessed to have the opportunity to do missionary work in Jamica, Brazil, New Orleans with Katerina, inner city Chicago, and local prisons and youth detention centers.
I know now that I can endure anything because I have my best friend with me all the time. The monsters in my life have been defeated by Christ himself.

If you ever need me to share my story to help others know they are not alone, please let me now. I cannot promise no tears.

I have been attending your church since the beginning of this summer, and I love the messages you give.

Thank You.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

getting ready to write for advent

next week i'll be holed up in my basement writing on advent. this will be new for me, as i've never done an advent series before (despite doing numerous christmas series).

in fact, this whole next year will be new for me because we'll be following the liturgical calendar from advent through ordinary time (after pentecost). we just thought it would be cool to put the spin from the winds on the liturgy - both to breathe new life into something, and to validate the traditions of those who've come before us.

so, yeah...advent.

i think it's gonna be cool




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

city of jackson releases halloween

(found this article on mlive.com today, but couldn't figure out how to link to it through the blog app on my ipad so i've just reprinted it)


Jackson City Council voted to save Halloween on Tuesday.

At its Sept. 28 meeting, council had passed a motion to encourage children to trick-or-treat from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, not Sunday, which is Halloween.
On Tuesday, Mayor Karen Dunigan said she had heard complaints from numerous citizens about the move so she asked council to go back to the traditional date.

“The city spoke up so it is what it is,” Dunigan said.

Motions to reconsider the previous date and set the new one both passed unanimously. Council is now encouraging children to trick-or-treat from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Dunigan said staff encouraged the move because Sunday night is a school night and also for safety reasons. She said the move was not done maliciously or with intent to anger people.

City Manager Warren Renando said he made the recommendation and a number of cities around Michigan are celebrating Halloween on Saturday. But Renando said he agreed with Dunigan and did not want her to take the criticism for his recommendation.

During citizen comments, two people thanked council for going back to the traditional date.

David Rogers said Halloween might be a minor holiday but it still means a lot to people. “It’s one of life’s little things,” Rogers said.

Mark Kostrzewa said the city has much more important issues to address than Halloween and he was glad the city is keeping the traditional date.
Numerous people criticized City Council for the move on the Citizen Patriot’s website and the Citizen Patriot’s Facebook page.

Dunigan said she still wished people had as much passion about major issues as they did about Halloween.



COMMENT: I do feel a slight tinge of sympathy for the mayor. Making unpopular decisions is hard, and invites a lot of criticism. Criticism hurts, and the mayor is 100% that we should focus our passion on things worthy of our devotion and ardor...but, c'mon, changing trick-or-treating times was a little out of their jurisdiction, don't you think?



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

what your facial hair tells her...

Men's Grooming Advice
Via: OnlineDating.org

city of jackson abducts halloween

apparently, the city of jackson has "moved" halloween from october 31st (sunday) to october 30th (saturday) this year.

no one is allowed to trick-or-treat on sunday, just saturday, because this way 'it won't interfere with school.'

nevermind the fact that every other year halloween interferes with school (by falling on a monday, tuesday, etc) or that oct 31 simply IS the date for halloween (and has been for over 200 years in america).

this year, our local government decided to get involved and make a difference.



in other, unrelated, news valentine's day will be a tuesday morning in 2011, while christmas has been abbreviated to a lunch. thanksgiving, however, will be given an 11-day break from public school (because our children are so far ahead of the educational curve) and moved closer to the beginning of hunting season so the meat is still fresh.





- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 24, 2010

great day

fantastic day at the winds today...so many great stories of people whose lives are being changed, whose faith is coming alive, whose relationships are being restored.

god is good.

on a more personal level, i just want to give thanks to god for all that's been happening during the monsters series. i was so excited to write monsters, but then was forced to write it on the road on my ipad and was initially very disappointed with the manuscript. for starters, it was waaay too short. and it also didn't have any real world relevance. thanks to my editor, caleb seeling (samizdatcreative.com), the manuscripts were "rescued" and we adapted the project into more of a coffee table book that turned out really well.

i love the finished product, and have loved seeing so many people so positively impacted by god through the series.

but i'll still likely re-write it one day, fleshing it out a little more and adding all of the other unexplored bits about monsters that i had to neglect this time around.

anyway,
i just thought it was worth mentioning that i feel happy and grateful and thankful to god for all he's doing in us, in our church, and in our world.

monsters is available on amazon.com here

Friday, October 22, 2010

I haven't had any strange or critical emails in months

From time to time people like myself - Christian leaders, pastors, teachers, etc - get nasty emails. I understand this. After all, we ought to be passionate in our Christian convictions and feel strongly about our beliefs, so it makes sense to me that when our beliefs are challenged we respond aggressively.

I dont't think it's right, and I'm positive it's not the model Jesus established for us, but I understand where it comes from. It's a mix of godly passion and thoughtless immaturity. It's zeal, tainted by flesh.

We all wrestle with the Spirit, trying to cooperate with God to subdue our fleshly impulses. We all fail in some regard. Thank God there's grace for that, and for us too.

But it is ironic when the occasion for the victory of flesh-over-spirit is either church-related or pertains to some aspect of doctrine or Christian living.

That's ok, though, because God's grace still extends to irony, and I'm praying that I, too, will become more gracious and more quickly overlook offenses.

I'm writing all of this as a reminder to myself, by the way, that I have been forgiven of much and am now required to be more forgiving.

I am happy and grateful and thankful to God that I don't get offended easily, but am ashamed at the things that catch me off guard and make me angry. Usually, if I can see something coming, I am well-prepared to handle any scenario with grace (I'm thinking of church conflicts, interpersonal squabbles, confrontation, miscommunication, etc). However, if something catches me by surprise - especially a certain quality of 'somethings' - then I immediately get super-lightning furious.

And I shouldn't.

It is evidence that I must continue to actively and aggressively welcome the Spirit to transform me with the utmost urgency.

Anyway - the thing that makes me so angry and so often catches me off-guard is a religious spirit. How did Jesus ever love Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin)?

More importantly, how can I learn to love them?

I think I've got the 'don't condone their hateful behavior' part figured out. I feel pretty good about 'challenging them on their self-righteousness.' But what Christ-in-me really wants is for me to genuinely love them in all truth, sincerity, and grace.

I must love the anonymous person who writes me a letter, delivers it at night, and calls me a hypocrite.

I must love the blog commentor who accuses me of being abberant and sinful because I capitalized "Jacob" but not "god" in a blog post.

I must love the seminary student who accuses me of being a heretic when I don't use either the King James bible or the ESV.

I must love the fundamentalist who says I serve Satan and am a false prophet because I like rock and roll, smoke a pipe, and wear jeans to church.

I must love the kid who thinks I'm not biblically grounded because I only read 4 verses of scripture one sunday, or because I read those verses in the middle of my sermon instead of at the beginning.

This feels like it's getting ridiculous.

Apparently, I'm not allowed to continue hating anybody.

jeez.

Actually, let's not abbreviate...the person telling me I must abandon the path of scorn and derision is Jesus.

There will never be an end to "those people," though I do hope that the folks who are now among that group will mature beyond it, just as I hope that the ones who replace them will grow beyond it more quickly.

There can, however, be an end to my surprise. There can be an end to my anger.

I would love to see that version of myself, and choose to be thankful and glad every time I see evidence of Christ-in-me growing stronger, even if what occassions that evidence is the reckless accusation of others.

After 6 months or so of no critical emails, I received 2 this week. I was able to quickly dismiss them as emotiomal and unfounded, but the experience reminds me of how much God still needs to do inside me to deliver me from my flesh.




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

another westwinds commercial

surpise visit to my mom

it's so cool to love the poor

i've noticed a weird trend among many of my peers in ministry: loving the poor.

that's good. there are over 2000 verses in the bible about our responsibility to the poor, and if we're serious about loving jesus then we must become increasingly committed to the outcast, the disenfranchised, and the indigent in our communities.

but the "weird" part of this trend is that, for many dudes out there, it has become "cool" to love the poor.

"cool" should never be our motivation for love.

in this case, cool is dumb.

fraudulent, even.

specifically, i think it's fraudulent to love the poor when our love is motivated not by obedience but by a developing trend among young, hip, chic pastors with clever book-titles.

again, don't get me wrong - loving the poor and serving the poor is supremely important - but i can't shake the feeling that loving and serving the poor in these cases is really more about loving and serving ourselves and our image in the perception of others.

let me explain...

i have two good friends who minister together (sorry, dudes, if you recognize yourselves in this accounting, but this is nothing different than what i've challenged you about privately) who 'love the poor' but who consistently mock people who shop at Walmart, have inflatables in their yard, or who wear clothes purchased second-hand.

that's weird. how can we claim to love the poor but disdain the working poor? how can we glorify ministry to the indigent, but disregard the plight of the working man, the blue-collar larborer, the single-mom living on social assistance, or the burned-out football coach?

how poor do people have to be before it becomes cool to love them?

here's a solution: love everybody.

love those who are like you
love those who are not like you
love those who shop at places you would never shop
who buy things you would never buy
love those who worship in ways that make you cringe
love those who worship something you think is evil
love those whose sexual mores and preferences are contradictory to your own

the hard rock cafe said it best: love all, serve all

but jesus said it first: love your neighbor as yourself

this is hard, however, because it requires us to acknowledge that some of the people who don't like we actually don't love...and once we acknowledge that there are people we don't (or even can't) love, we're confronted with our own Phariseeism.

well, get over it.

don't love someone because it's hip
don't love someone because they're poor

just love people
ask god to help you love them more
practice showing love, even when you think it's hard

that's the way of jesus





- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

updates, staff search, writing, stuff

Carmel and Anna have been away for almost a week, visiting family in Canada. Jake and I have been enjoying "dude week." We've been eating pizza and staying up late, watching movies and exploring the woods around our house, playing with the dog and playing video games. It's been so great.

It also means I've been working fairly short in-office hours (leaving every day as soon as Jake finishes school), then working at home after he goes to sleep. Mostly, these days, my work is focused on church leadership stuff: new elders and nominess, staff searches, plans for the upcoming youth center and new campus, etc.

Which is a switch, because usually I'm much more focused on writing and speaking.

Two things have freed me up for more of the leadership piece: first, I've been leaving my imac at home and only working on my ipad, which is frustrating, and forces me to abbreviate all computer-related work (sorry if any emails you've received have been abupt or terse :); second, Jvo is writing the next ww series ("King Me"), a short 3-week-er that will fill the gap between Monsters and Advent. I'll be doing some of the teaching for King Me, but he did all the writing (which my wife especially appreciated, given that 'writing weeks' are pretty tough on the allied home front).

Of all the stuff I've been focusing on, I think the most rewarding part has been searching for staff. The search has got me thinking about the future, setting my intention on the good things God is doing and the good things he will continue to do with and through and around us.

It's exciting.

Anyway - that's me, now.

Only 1 day of dude week left, and then back to vegetables.

D




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Regarding Halloween III

Halloween now is different than Halloween then

Halloween, in our contemporary context, is really only about two important things: kids and candy.

For most children there is no religious significance involved in either the day itself or in such elements as pumpkins or costumes. It’s true that such things as jack-o’-lanterns, bonfires and black cats, which are part of the Halloween tradition, have roots in pre-Christian activities. But when children go trick-or-treating or visit haunted houses, they are not thinking about participating in any religious festivities at all. They are just trying to have fun.

All of this isn’t to say, of course, that there are no occult overtones to modern-day celebrations of Halloween. It does have some contemporary significance to wiccans and druids, and those elements, which could be considered anti-Christian, should most certainly be avoided.

According to the Bible, the world of the occult is real and energized by demonic powers that must be recognized and resisted by Christians because our beliefs and practices bear consequences in this world and in the next. However, there is a clear difference between the real occult practices of shamanism, magic, and divination and the contemporary practice of trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, and bobbing for apples. Since the door of the occult world must be entered through human interest and initiative, general Halloween practices most people participate in do not draw them into occult activities.

Despite the historical roots of Halloween, all it takes for us to dissociate the Halloween we have now from Halloween then is a doorbell and a digital camera.

It’s hard to believe that the systematic collection of candy in a given neighborhood by "Spider-Man" and his "Rugrat" friends constitutes the promotion of an occult worldview or demonic racketeering.

Even the recognized Christian authority on cults and the occult, Walter Martin, said: If Big Bird comes to my door, he's definitely going to get a treat.

I’m not saying all of this in order to engage in some theological hairsplitting, I’m simply trying to help us all make logical and moral distinctions. Obviously if anything about Halloween feels weird or bad or violates your convictions somehow, then don’t get involved. But most Christians believe they can engage Halloween as a purely secular day of amusement, and that seems pretty consistent with our beliefs about other forms of ‘mindless entertainment’ like movies, video games, Facebook, and sports. They have no redeeming cosmic features – they’re just fun.

But condemning trick-or-treating outright on the basis that Halloween has pagan origins is a little inconsistent with many of our other moral choices. Halloween has dark roots, true, but so do Christmas (and it’s association with Saturnalia), Astronomy (now regarded as a credible science, but was originally a cultic system unto itself), and any kind of covenant (in the ancient world it was not only the Israelites who made covenants, nor was it likely that they were the first).

We cannot evaluate something solely in terms of its origin, without giving appropriate consideration to how it has changed or evolved in contemporary practice.

While the Bible expressly forbids a believer's involvement in certain pagan and/or occult practices (see Deuteronomy 18.9-13), Halloween for the vast majority of American families has nothing to do with the practice of, or belief in, occultism. Rather, this celebration gives children an opportunity to dress up in funny, spooky, and outrageous costumes and accumulate candy by the pillowcase.

The Apostle Paul deals with these kinds of issues when he addresses meat offered to pagan idols. Is it wrong for the Christian, who doesn't believe in the false gods to whom the meat was offered, to eat meat offered to idols?

Here's Paul's advice:

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall

1 Corinthians 8:4-13

If Paul were alive today, he might write something like:

Don't worry about the ancient association of these holidays with paganism since we know there are no gods of sun and death, and that the dead don't roam the earth. You're not appeasing Samhain when you go "trick-or-treating" or sacrificing to the gods by carving a jack-o-lantern. But if your family or friends have reservations about these things, don't encourage them to do something they feel is "sinful."

Again, my aim in writing this is not to convince everyone that they should dress up like Dracula on October 31. I only want to gently remind us that there is nothing to be afraid of, and no reason to be angry, on Halloween.

Engage at your leisure.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Regarding Halloween II

The Origins of Halloween

Halloween’s roots come from the ancient Celts, a tribe living about 2,000 years ago in the areas that are now Ireland, Great Britain and northern France. The Celts were a fierce, warlike, terrifying people, many of whom would string human heads together and tie them on their bridles. Halloween was their main holiday, called Samhain. It was a festival that honored the Celtic lord of death. The celebration marked the beginning of the season of cold, darkness, and decay.

On the night before the November 1 (considered the beginning of the new year by Celtic folk), Celts believed that Samhain and the dead would roam the earth causing all kinds of trouble. So the Celtic priests, the Druids, would demand that all light be extinguished on Halloween night and sacrifices be made to prevent trouble.

The restless spirits' "tricks" could be avoided only if appropriately "treated." And so originated the present-day Halloween practice of children dressing up like spirits and arriving at the front door chanting (or demanding), "Trick or treat!"

The Druids built a huge New Year’s bonfire of oak branches on which they burned animals, crops, and even human beings, considering them sacrifices.

During the celebration people wore costumes made of animal heads and skins. They told fortunes by examining the remains of the sacrifices. After this ritual, villagers would carry the fire, thought to be sacred, back to their homes in carved out vegetable shells – the origin of our Jack-o-Lanterns.

Regional Halloween customs developed among various groups of Celts. In Ireland, for example, people begged for food in a parade that honored Muck Olla, their sun god. The leader of the parade wore a white robe and the head of an animal. In England, families sat by the fire and told stories while they ate treats such as apples and nuts.

The Romans conquered the Celts in A.D. 43 and ruled what is now Great Britain for about 400 years. During this period, two Roman autumn festivals were combined with the Celtic festival of Samhain. One of them, called Feraila, was held in late October to honor the dead. The other festival honored Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees. Apples became associated with Halloween because of this festival.

In the eighth century Pope Gregory II moved the church festival honoring martyrs of ‘All Saints’ to November 1 as a Christian alternative to the Celtic New Year celebrations. ‘All Hallow's Eve,’ or ‘Halloween,’ means the ‘evening of holy persons’ and was a time of spiritual preparation for All Saints Day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Concerning Women in Christian Ministry - X (Common Objections, continued)

At Hivemind (our Westwinds' owners gathering) the other night, we rolled out our decision to now formally allow women to serve as elders in our church. There were two questions posed to us that evening that were not covered in the previously posted document "concerning women in christian ministry" and I thought I would take a little space and answer them here (so that anyone else who has these questions, but was unable to attend Hivemind, can have a documented response).

The first question concerns Paul's use of male pronouns (he, him, his) when describing the role of an elder. The question was: if elders could be either male or female, why does Paul always use male pronouns to describe the role of the office?

NT Wright, in his commentary on Timothy, did a great job of answering this very question. I have reprinted his answer here:



Paul refers to the bishop throughout as a man. My reading of the rest of the New Testament inclines me to think that this is more because that’s how Greek grammar normally refers to both genders together, and because in the very early days of the church the leaders of most communities were probably men. I don’t see it as debarring women from this particular ministry and vocation.

So to the main point, and the main challenge, of this passage: what must this person be like? What are the special standards which they must uphold? In the light of what we said earlier, we should note that this isn’t only of interest to those who are called to be office-holders (or those who want to check up on them); the reason they must keep to these standards is because this is what God longs to see all his children be like. The leaders must, as it were, be on the leading edge of that new humanity which the church is supposed to be. Because we’re all ‘on the way’, rather than having ‘made it’ into the complete new humanity God desires, it’s important that there are role models, especially that leaders should play that sort of part.

When it comes to specifics, Paul begins with the bishop’s marital status: he must only have one wife. I don’t think this means that the bishop should not have been married more than once (and have lost his wife through death or divorce and then married again). Polygamy was common in Paul’s world, as it is in some parts of the world to this day. (The Old Testament, after all, has plenty of families like that, including some of the central figures in the story of God and Israel.) But Paul has grasped, following the words of Jesus in Mark 10 and elsewhere, that God’s long-term plan, intended from the very beginning, was for faithful, lifelong partnerships of one man and one woman. That is what church leaders should model.

Nor do I think this means that the bishop must be married, in other words, that single people are ruled out. Different churches have different norms at this point. What is being ruled out is a person in a position of leadership who has two or more wives. This is all the more interesting because it implies that there were some, perhaps many, people in the early Christian churches who did have two or more wives--just as there are some converts in churches in Africa, for example, who have come from a background where polygamy is normal. Debates rage today about whether such people should be told to choose one wife only and dismiss the others, or whether, as the present passage seems to me to imply, they should be accepted as members of the church as they are, but should not be put in a position of leadership where they would then be regarded as role models.

I realize this is tricky because it seems to set up two different standards—a special level of holiness for the ‘clergy’, and a lower one for everybody else. That can be disastrous. Any ‘ordinary Christian’ who thinks they can leave the practice of real holiness to the ‘professionals’ is heading for disaster. But I return to the point I made at the beginning. Of course God wants all his people to embody the life of the new creation which has begun in Jesus and is available through the power of the spirit. He longs that every single one of us should follow after that holiness as energetically as we can. But as every pastor and teacher knows, different people made progress at different rates. In any real community, as opposed to theoretical ones that people hold in their heads while reading texts, there are anomalies and puzzles, times when you have to accept that at the moment a particular situation is not ideal, but it’s where we are. The point, though, shines out all the more clearly: those in leadership positions should not exhibit that kind of anomaly. Their lives must embody and represent the message they are called upon to proclaim.

The rest of the instruction follow the same pattern. We might want to highlight, as the previous passage did, the ways in which normal expectations of male behavior are challenged by the command of the gospel. ‘Gentleness’ wasn’t regarded as much of a male virtue in the ancient world, and it still isn’t in many places. That’s important when it comes to managing one’s own household, and also to managing God’s church. It’s not too difficult to manage a community by bullying and bossing everyone around, and losing your temper and threatening violence when people step out of line. But if you do that you will not only cause human disasters; you will hold up a rotten picture to the world and the church of what the gospel of Jesus is like.

The last two notes are particularly important. Pride is such an easy trap to fall into that the church must take care not to expose people to its dangers too soon. And, once again, the leader must be well thought of in the community beyond the church. Obviously at a time of persecution the entire church may be vilified by outsiders. But in relatively calm periods people around will watch this strange little group who don’t behave the way everyone else does. They want to know if they are good neighbors, good citizens, good friends. That isn’t the whole Christian duty towards outsiders, of course. The responsibility to preach the gospel remains central. But people are much more likely to listen to what we say if they like what they see of who we are. And if that’s true for ordinary church members, how much more for leaders. Especially bishops.





The second question concerned Jesus' choice of apostles. The question was: if Jesus intended for women to serve in equal authority as men, why did he only select male apostles?

CS Cowles did a wonderful job of answering this very question in his book "A Woman's Place." I have reprinted his answer here:




The answer is apparent in what we now know about the limitations women faced in the first-century world. There was little chance that female apostles could have spearheaded the Great Commission, given the narrow social conventions of that day.

For one thing, having been denied an education and access to the Hebrew Scriptures, it would have crippled their effort to prove that Jesus was the Messiah of God to unbelieving Jews. Furthermore, they would have been barred from preaching Christ in synagogues and would undoubtedly have been unable to gain a hearing in any public forum, especially from men. They would also have been unable to travel freely. Therefore, the predominance of male leaders in the disciple community had nothing to do with an eternally fixed divine decree but represented God’s gracious accommodation of himself of the social structures and conventions of the world into which the gospel originally came.

Thanks to the seeds of liberation planted by Jesus and cultivated by Paul (as we shall see in the next chapter), women are increasingly enjoying the mature fruit of emancipation from gender discrimination and now enjoy an acceptance and freedom of movement never before known. Women are today as well educated as men. They have access to the best in biblical and theological training. They not only are accepted on an equal par with men in most public forums but are acknowledged leaders in all segments of the human enterprise as well. There is, therefore, no loner any justification for binding women under ancient cultural constraints that no longer apply. To do so is sheer prejudice and sexism.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Robinson Rd,Jackson,United States

Regarding Halloween I

INTRODUCTION


How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

Psalm 137.4


I used to love trick-or-treating as a little kid. Every year, my best friend Geoff Wright and I would walk around for hours in our suburban neighborhood collecting candy and getting into trouble. We’d eat ourselves into a coma and laugh and run around.

It was awesome.

Since I lived in the same house from first grade until my senior year of high school, Geoff and I became very familiar with all the homes in our area. We knew which ones gave lots of candy (so cool), which ones gave money (lazy, but still cool), and which ones gave out apples (lame, uncool, and oddly industrious).

But there were always a few homes, which on Halloween were completely dark. They looked abandoned, foreboding, and uninviting. I always just thought these homes were for sale or that the owners were out somewhere celebrating. But one night I clearly remember a middle-aged couple peeking out from behind their curtains, telling us Don’t even think about it as we crossed over their lawn.

I asked Geoff: What’s their problem?

He told me: They’re Christians.

This was a strange concept for me. I was a Christian, albeit a young one (just 7 or 8 years old at the time, old enough to understand “Christian” but too young to understand there was more than one kind). Furthermore, my dad was a pastor, and if there was something Christians didn’t do I felt pretty confident that he would tell me.

Well, I’m a Christian, I told Geoff.

Yeah, he said, but you don’t turn off your lights.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that, concerning Halloween, there are two kinds of Christians: lights on people and lights off people.

Christian people who leave the lights on engage Halloween (I’m intentionally avoiding the term ‘celebrate’ here). They may still have reservations about some of the pagan roots of Halloween, or about all the horror movies or spooky stuff in the news, but they love their community and celebrate life and enjoy getting to see little kids in costumes pander for sweets.

Christian people who turn their lights off distance themselves from Halloween completely. They tend to think of the event as a kind of soft glorification of demons and witches (or, sometimes, a very strong glorification) and believe that they should keep themselves completely free from any involvement whatsoever on a moral, ethical, and scriptural basis.

Many Christians have concerns about Halloween – about its origins with pagan and occult practices, about the scary movies that always seem to be released around October, and about the general atmosphere of fear and terror associated with the event – and in many cases those fears are entirely justified. Like anything, Halloween is a complex issue with numerous aspects to it which require discernment. Some Christians want to abolish the event altogether, while others consider it all right for their children to go trick-or-treating, so long as they don’t wear a scary costume.

Addressing common questions about this scary holiday may alleviate some of the concerns that surround it.

Please allow me to be completely candid: I like Halloween. I know that many good and godly people have strong feelings against Halloween, believing it to be satanically inspired and rooted in pagan idolatrous practices. I’m not one of those people. I don’t mean to suggest, by taking a contrary opinion, that those who believe differently than I do are foolish somehow or uneducated, but in my opinion the “evil” many people often associate with Halloween has been greatly exaggerated.

But all the fear associated with Halloween often results in three problematic behaviors:

we speak hatefully,

we argue relentlessly,

we fantasize apocalyptically.

Allow me to explain what I mean, and why I believe it is so destructive.

First, when good Christian people allow themselves to become alarmed about Halloween they tend to act as if everyone who isn’t likewise alarmed is either willfully ignorant of the demonic activity surrounding Halloween or they are complicit with it somehow. Because they are so certain that Halloween is spiritually evil, they only permit themselves these two intellectual options, forcing them to regard everyone with contrary beliefs as either adversaries or imbeciles, worthy in either case of aggressive behavior and scorn.

Since I am both a pastor and Halloween enjoyer, I am often criticized and lambasted by otherwise charitable people who think that I must never have learned about the pagan roots of the evening. And so they grab me and try to shake some sense into me. However, once they discover that I’ve already heard these historical truths, they then get concerned that I am working secretly for the same powers they are opposing. One woman said to me, albeit several years ago in a different place, “You have chosen to align yourself with Satan.”

Allow me to repeat what I said then: “No, ma’am, I wholeheartedly have not.”

For my part, I have resolved to love and serve Jesus with all my heart including – and perhaps especially – on October 31st, a day I intentionally bring the light of Christ into a dark world and shine brightly.

This, then, is the often-unexplored intellectual option for Christians once confronted with the dark roots of Halloween: to not be worried.

I know Halloween has a dark past (I’ll cover that later in this paper). I know there are still some who choose to cultivate that darkness in a variety of ways. I know, also, that I have neither a share nor a desire to celebrate that darkness. That darkness cannot harm me. That darkness does not control me. I am called, equipped, and appointed by God to shine light into that darkness. The best way I know to do this is by being there myself, and bringing love and laughter and happiness and holiness with me.

I am an uncontaminated participant.

Second, and this of course relates to the first (as they all must inevitably), our fear compels us to argue relentlessly about our differences of opinion on biblical grey matters.

The Bible does not speak about Halloween, and anything we may choose to interpret from the Bible in light of Halloween is conjecture at best. It is a “grey” area, meaning a question of individual conscience – like personal consumption of alcohol or musical preference. Halloween is, to put it simply, an issue upon which we must often ‘agree to disagree.’

But we usually don’t. We either love Halloween and are resentful of those who demonize it, or we think Halloween is demonic and are indignant with those who seek to explain it away. Both sides tend to gird up their intellectual loins and drop the gloves for every fight that can be fought on the issue.

This should not be the case. You can never change anyone’s mind about anything by arguing. Also the very act of arguing is itself likely to cause both sides to “absolutize” their opinions and make enemies of those with differing perspectives.

My friend Shawn, a college student I used to pastor, was a great example of how to avoid arguing over grey issues. He and I had different opinions on a number of biblical issues and I always wanted to argue about them, while Shawn never did (despite being incredibly astute and very well read). We disagreed about predestination, tongues and interpretation, the eschaton, alcohol, human sexuality, and a host of other issues. Yet, Shawn somehow understood that our varying perspectives on these matters didn’t have to make us enemies, and that he didn’t have to attend another church.

I always admired that about him and have used him as an example of how to discover and share our convictions respectfully. Too many of us do the opposite, but our churches need more Shawns.

Third, we tend to fantasize apocalyptically when we’re afraid of what Halloween might mean. Now, I don’t want to make fun of or lampoon this phenomenon, but I have frequently noticed that when Halloween, and its increasing popularity and holiday market share, is brought up, it is used as justification for the belief that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, that everything is worse than it used to be, that the world is no longer safe, that Christians are no longer welcome in it, and that we’re just a short step from the Great Tribulation during which we will be so heavily persecuted for our faith that we will likely either be imprisoned or killed.

None of that is true. What is true is that the world has always had, and will always have (until God’s great eschatological clean up), good people with some evil mixed inside of them. Which is to say all of us. And it’s also true that the world has great goodness in it now, though there is much evil around us, and evil makes for better news so they show it more frequently on Fox and CNN.

However, we cannot let the evil in the world dictate

when we keep our lights on.

We need to stop hating others.

We need to stop bickering.

We need to stop forecasting gloom and doom.

Here then, is what I’m really hoping to achieve with this little paper:

I don’t want you to be afraid.

I don’t want you to be angry.

This paper explores the pagan roots of Halloween, its contemporary manifestations, and gives suggestions for how to think though the issue of whether or not to participate in Halloween and to what degree. Believe what you will about Halloween, but whatever you do, decide first that you don’t have to be afraid of Halloween, nor do you have to be angry about it.

Decide that – no matter what – you’re going to keep your lights on.

Perfect love casts out all fear.

1 John 4.18