I’ll say it right up front: this writing is not about the philosophical or biblical arguments for or against the celebration of Halloween. I’m not going to address that issue at all. But it was in reading several different folks’ thoughtful writings on that topic that my thoughts took a turn toward Halloween past. And I’m not referring here to the origins of the celebration of Halloween. As the Ghost of Christmas past said to Ebenezer Scrooge, “Not long past – your past.” Only in this case, of course, it’s my past.
I grew up attending a little church in the foothills of the Catskill mountains of Upstate New York. (And yes, “Upstate” is supposed to be capitalized!) Our church was small, only reaching three digits during VBS week. But we knew how to have fun. And my church had a Halloween party. I don’t think there was any concept of “redeeming” Halloween in anyone’s mind at that time. I’m not sure whether they thought of it as a church outreach, or just wanted the local kids to have a safe place to come that night, but they always had a party. How we looked forward to it! It had everything that could possibly be called “good” at such a gathering, and truth to tell nothing that I can recall of the bad. No ghoulish outfits were allowed, and no one wore them. I wore my dad’s WW2 Army uniform one year, with my hair stuffed up under the cap, and some mascared sideburns. My friend Cathy Hardman showed up one year wearing a striped baseball uniform, and when she smiled, she had a blacked out front tooth. Cool! There were hobos and scarecrows aplenty, and even the grown ups got involved.
We had bobbing for apples and relay races. Howard Schrumpf, one of the church men, could always be counted on to come up with some really fun games. And he did gospel magic, too, with ropes and things. He was really good! Some years we had hayrides, and there was always hot cider and donuts in the back room of the church.
My favorite Halloween memory is the time my dad decided to go as an old hag. A new string mop served as his hair, and I have no idea where he got the very generously sized clothes. What fun we had stuffing his chest and his backside with pillows! We had to stop and rest a couple of times, like when his “bottom” pillow fell out of his skirt, and we were too weak with laughter for a moment to help him put it back. He won the “Hardest to Guess” costume award that night – no one figured out who he was. (It helped that he had remained silent the whole evening, using sign language for whatever he wanted.) My wonderful daddy left me with many precious memories, and his night as an old hag definitely ranks right up there with the best. All these years later, it still brings a chuckle.
Yes, Halloween past – my Halloween past. It wasn’t a bad place to be!
When I was in Australia I learned that when you order ‘takeout’ or ‘to go’ food, you call it takeaway. I like this – it seems like I am taking it away to enjoy rather than having my meal ‘to go’ which (in my mind) implies something hurried. Anyway, I have been looking for ‘takeaways’ in other aspects of life. It could be from a sermon in church or a song I listen to or a conversation with a friend. I want to carry something with me (albeit in my mind) to savor. I want to marvel, rejoice, skip a little or do a happy dance no one can see except me and God.
My takeaway from last Sunday’s message is this. You are not the only one praying. And a good thing it is for I fear I am no champion pray-er.
I am sure that at times there are other people praying for me. Surely there is a group of old fashioned ‘prayer warriors’ with my name on their list. I am reasonably certain they bring me before the ‘throne of God’ faithfully. And I think my kids ask God to help Mom and Dad on a somewhat regular basis. And maybe my sisters and brothers pray for me now and then.
I am talking about someone praying 24-7. ALL THE TIME. When I’m up. When I’m down. When I can hardly survive the pain of life and when all is good and I am happy.
My dear husband and I spoke about this just yesterday, both of us with tears in our eyes. It is a comfort that helped him find peace when our daughter died and it is a truth we both count on. And it is this- Jesus, our high priest, prays for us! He never gets tired. He never stops. As the Bible says, He always lives to make intercession for us.
I say it to myself, Jesus prays for me. It is overwhelming. It is humbling and reassuring and truly divine.
So that is my unspeakably wonderful, heavenly takeaway from last Sunday. It has encouraged me all week.
I sat at a table a while ago with several friends, included among them CS Lewis (via his book of, course, though it seemed like he was there in the flesh). We were reading through the Screwtape Letters, a discipline I had neglected until this time.
And I have been rudely awakened from a stupor I vaguely knew I was in. Here it is. In chapter 1, Lewis mentions the distractions of this life. He talks about the ‘daily press, radio, television and other such weapons’ used to keep people from thinking too much. (Distraction, thy name is media.) Oh, CS, I think, how ahead of your time you were. But really, daily news? Now it is news almost before it happens, and often wrongly reported in the haste to be the first to get the story out. And ‘other such weapons’…….. We are inundated with all types of media fighting for the attention of our minds! Look here, read that, watch this.
What a distracted life I have been living. Often I breakfast with facebook, lunch with youtube and have dinner with the Drudge report.
Or if I am tired of the computer I pick up a book. Nothing heavy, nothing that means anything because I am tired and I ‘need’ to veg.
Thus I have wasted way too much time NOT thinking because, I tell myself, thinking is too painful or too much of an effort and I need to relax.
Really? Is it? Do I?
Clearheaded plain old fashioned thinking is a good thing. Remember when people talked about their daily quiet time and what they meant was a time set aside to read the Bible, think , and pray? Maybe it sounds outdated. Often worthwhile things do.
So yesterday when I was running and thinking about these things a song I have not heard in years popped into my mind. Perhaps God had something to do with that. I tried to remember the tune and all the words. First comes one line – sung thrice. Be still and know that I am God.
I kept thinking- now what is the fourth line of this verse? I sang it over quite a few times trying in vain to remember. And then the tune and the words found their way from a dim memory into a clear (though somewhat off key) song. I sang it quietly.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
The third line is sung with a decisive ending- the tune itself lets you know this is the end of the verse.
Be still and know that I AM GOD.
What relief and rest for this weary and way too distracted soul. Our part is to be still and know – His part is to be God. Distractions, begone. I am pushing you aside to your rightful place. Today I will purposely face my worries and pain and concerns. Then I’ll just be still – and know and trust He who is God.