Monday, October 31, 2011

Christians and Halloween

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:04 AM 0 comments
It's interesting to me that I've heard more discussion about Christians and Halloween in the last week than I have my entire life. I can honestly say that for the majority of my life, I never gave the holiday a second thought. Growing up, I dressed up (although I can't remember a single costume I wore) and trick-or-treated at the dozen houses in close enough proximity to do so. As an adult, I've attended costume parties (I do remember a few of those costumes), get-togethers, and handed out candy to neighborhood children. I'm not sure exactly when the change started, but sometime after becoming a parent myself, I began to look at it from a slightly different angle. I'm sure my maturing faith and growing closer and learning to be more heedful of God in my life played a role as well.

Still, I've never once considered completely giving up doing anything on Halloween. Both of the churches I've attended have done fall festivals - one on Halloween day, one not. The festivals focus on fellowship, fun, and food. In other words, your normal Baptist fare. Costumes are allowed, as long as they're not scary.

This year, however, I observed a passionate discussion between some Christians that began over one's opinion that Christians should absolutely, in no way shape or form, take part in Halloween or its celebrations. The main argument was that Halloween has deep roots in pagan rituals. It began as a pagan celebration that's been white-washed and adapted to the American commercial culture. We are in a spiritual war and participating in Halloween opens us up to spiritual attack from our enemy, the devil.

The counter, argued that in Romans 14 God clearly addresses how Christians are to respond to the world and pagan rituals. In discussing eating things offered to idols, the Word says to seek God and either eat or don't eat with a clear conscious. He never says don't eat. He also says that nothing in and of itself is unclean. That includes Halloween - nothing means nothing.

However, it also says not to put a stumbling block in another's path, a statement another fellow Christian made in a completely different discussion about Halloween I found myself in. So what does that mean for Christians?

It means to seek God. Keep the issue between you and Him. And be willing to give up whatever your ideas are about the holiday and its traditions. Whenever we begin to espouse our opinions and what God's lead us to do over love and edification of each other, we have missed the point.

Another comment made in the latter discussion is that we are to be light in the world. How do we do this in relation to Halloween? For some it's completely pulling out of anything to do with it. For others, it's offering alternatives. For our family it's taking part in something that is very cultural, but in a slightly different way.

We allow our kids to dress up, but nothing scary is allowed. We allow them to go trick-or-treating and see neighbors we don't normally see after the weather gets cold. We also hand out candy, each peace with a scripture stapled to it. These tiny pieces of paper are surely discarded as quickly as the wrapper, but curiosity almost ensures that it will at least be read by some. And who knows? Maybe this is the only time some children will ever hear the words of the one, true, and holy God. Maybe a parent is struggling, has lost their way, or has never heard the Word themselves, and that one sentence will make an impact. (God's word is powerful and accomplishes things on its own.)

In addition, we hand out cider and chili to the parents that are supervising trick-or-treating. I'll be honest to say a warm cup on a cold night has never began a conversation about God. But I regretfully admit I've never prayed that it would. That an unexpected door would be opened. From now on, however, I will. And maybe a heart will be softened and open to the gospel because of a small giving gesture.

This is how we choose to be light in world full of darkness and a holiday steeped in historical darkness.

In the end it doesn't matter for you what I do with Halloween. In the end, it matters if you're willing to submit completely to obedience to God and how He leads you to handle this holiday. We are not to quarrel over disputable matters. Halloween is not directly addressed in Scripture (although passages on other pagan rituals are there to guide us) and is not a make-it-or-break-it issue for salvation. That makes it a disputable matter. We shouldn't extract a few scriptures to back up our point of view either, but take scripture as a whole and with an openness to God about this, as well as about the other details in our lives. God might surprise us. He might confirm us. Most assuredly He will bring us together as one and bring glory to Himself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When Does Helping Hurt?

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 3:28 PM 0 comments

A few years ago, my daughter would look at me with a twinkle in her eye and an adorable, slightly crooked smile on her face. I knew that look, and what was to follow. “Mom, because you’re such a kind, loving mom, will you…?” Then she’d bat her eyes and try to weasel an act of service out of me. As a parent, I must continually ask myself: What is best, long-term, for our daughter? When is helping an act of love and when does actually cause harm?

Our daughter’s behavior lasted but a blip because I’d always respond, “Honey, I love you too much for that. I want to train you to have a servant’s attitude, not a serve-me attitude. I want you to be responsible and confident, not dependent and insecure.”

In my opinion, helping hurts when it prevents growth or perpetuates faulty thinking.

About ten years ago I read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In the book, one of the authors share a story of visiting a friend. While there, this friend picks up her teenage son’s room. Watching this, the author says he feels sorry for the young man’s future wife. Basically, he pointed out that although the mother thought she was helping, her assuming responsibility for her son would actually hurt him in the long run by creating patterns of behavior that would affect future relationships.

I wrote a story about this very thing on Samie Sisters, a tween E-zine. You can read it here (http://www.samiesisters.com/previous_articles/Who-Cares-if-My-Room-is-Clean-.html). Through the story, I explore the habits formed during chores, habits that will carry into your child’s adult years. Although I didn’t mention it in the article, I also believe chores go a long way towards strengthening your child’s confidence. Each time we assign a task, then allow our child to complete it without jumping in, we are in effect saying, “I have full confidence in your ability to do this.” Each time we rescue them, perhaps because they throw a fit, get overwhelmed, or don’t do it how we’d like, we say, “I don’t believe you can do this.”

Everything we do, intentionally or unintentionally, forms habits, positive or negative. Our actions always make a statement. Multiply these unspoken statements over the course of 18 years, and you can see this is a big deal.

I adore my daughter. If given the chance, I’d shelter her from every trial and shower her with blessings, but as a mom, my love for her must override my desire for her pleasure. I need to parent from a long-term perspective, always evaluating attitudes and behaviors (I tend to place more emphasis on attitudes, because I believe attitude precedes behavior), in terms of our long-term parenting goals. We all want our children to be compassionate, responsible, dedicated, etc. The trick is helping them develop those character traits. I believe character traits are learned through consistent action.

Okay, so we all want these things for our children, and we love them deeply, but often we’re not sure how to go from desire to game-plan. (Forming a game plan, with your spouse, is essential because otherwise you’ll have a tendency to parent on emotion and the present, not based on forethought, education, prayer, and long-term goals.)

For me, one verse sums it up and ties it all together: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

Notice truth and love must always go hand-in-hand. And what is the goal? Maturity.

Take a moment to prayerfully evaluate your parenting in light of your child’s adulthood and Ephesians 4:15. Make a list of character traits, habits, and attitudes you’d like your child to develop, then review your parenting in light of that. Are you and your spouse moving your child toward those goals or away from them? And what can you do, starting today, to help train the future adult in your child?

Thanks a bunch to Jennifer Slattery for the guest post!!

Jennifer Slattery is a freelance writer, marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles and publicity assistant for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach. She’s placed in numerous writing contests and her work has appeared in many publications including the Bible Advocate and the Breakthrough Intercessor. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Samie Sisters, the Christian Pulse, and co-hosts a faith-based Facebook community called Living By Grace with five other writers. You can find more about her and her writing at her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud (http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com) and you can find out more about her critiquing and marketing services at Words that Keep (http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com).



Monday, October 31, 2011

Christians and Halloween

It's interesting to me that I've heard more discussion about Christians and Halloween in the last week than I have my entire life. I can honestly say that for the majority of my life, I never gave the holiday a second thought. Growing up, I dressed up (although I can't remember a single costume I wore) and trick-or-treated at the dozen houses in close enough proximity to do so. As an adult, I've attended costume parties (I do remember a few of those costumes), get-togethers, and handed out candy to neighborhood children. I'm not sure exactly when the change started, but sometime after becoming a parent myself, I began to look at it from a slightly different angle. I'm sure my maturing faith and growing closer and learning to be more heedful of God in my life played a role as well.

Still, I've never once considered completely giving up doing anything on Halloween. Both of the churches I've attended have done fall festivals - one on Halloween day, one not. The festivals focus on fellowship, fun, and food. In other words, your normal Baptist fare. Costumes are allowed, as long as they're not scary.

This year, however, I observed a passionate discussion between some Christians that began over one's opinion that Christians should absolutely, in no way shape or form, take part in Halloween or its celebrations. The main argument was that Halloween has deep roots in pagan rituals. It began as a pagan celebration that's been white-washed and adapted to the American commercial culture. We are in a spiritual war and participating in Halloween opens us up to spiritual attack from our enemy, the devil.

The counter, argued that in Romans 14 God clearly addresses how Christians are to respond to the world and pagan rituals. In discussing eating things offered to idols, the Word says to seek God and either eat or don't eat with a clear conscious. He never says don't eat. He also says that nothing in and of itself is unclean. That includes Halloween - nothing means nothing.

However, it also says not to put a stumbling block in another's path, a statement another fellow Christian made in a completely different discussion about Halloween I found myself in. So what does that mean for Christians?

It means to seek God. Keep the issue between you and Him. And be willing to give up whatever your ideas are about the holiday and its traditions. Whenever we begin to espouse our opinions and what God's lead us to do over love and edification of each other, we have missed the point.

Another comment made in the latter discussion is that we are to be light in the world. How do we do this in relation to Halloween? For some it's completely pulling out of anything to do with it. For others, it's offering alternatives. For our family it's taking part in something that is very cultural, but in a slightly different way.

We allow our kids to dress up, but nothing scary is allowed. We allow them to go trick-or-treating and see neighbors we don't normally see after the weather gets cold. We also hand out candy, each peace with a scripture stapled to it. These tiny pieces of paper are surely discarded as quickly as the wrapper, but curiosity almost ensures that it will at least be read by some. And who knows? Maybe this is the only time some children will ever hear the words of the one, true, and holy God. Maybe a parent is struggling, has lost their way, or has never heard the Word themselves, and that one sentence will make an impact. (God's word is powerful and accomplishes things on its own.)

In addition, we hand out cider and chili to the parents that are supervising trick-or-treating. I'll be honest to say a warm cup on a cold night has never began a conversation about God. But I regretfully admit I've never prayed that it would. That an unexpected door would be opened. From now on, however, I will. And maybe a heart will be softened and open to the gospel because of a small giving gesture.

This is how we choose to be light in world full of darkness and a holiday steeped in historical darkness.

In the end it doesn't matter for you what I do with Halloween. In the end, it matters if you're willing to submit completely to obedience to God and how He leads you to handle this holiday. We are not to quarrel over disputable matters. Halloween is not directly addressed in Scripture (although passages on other pagan rituals are there to guide us) and is not a make-it-or-break-it issue for salvation. That makes it a disputable matter. We shouldn't extract a few scriptures to back up our point of view either, but take scripture as a whole and with an openness to God about this, as well as about the other details in our lives. God might surprise us. He might confirm us. Most assuredly He will bring us together as one and bring glory to Himself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When Does Helping Hurt?


A few years ago, my daughter would look at me with a twinkle in her eye and an adorable, slightly crooked smile on her face. I knew that look, and what was to follow. “Mom, because you’re such a kind, loving mom, will you…?” Then she’d bat her eyes and try to weasel an act of service out of me. As a parent, I must continually ask myself: What is best, long-term, for our daughter? When is helping an act of love and when does actually cause harm?

Our daughter’s behavior lasted but a blip because I’d always respond, “Honey, I love you too much for that. I want to train you to have a servant’s attitude, not a serve-me attitude. I want you to be responsible and confident, not dependent and insecure.”

In my opinion, helping hurts when it prevents growth or perpetuates faulty thinking.

About ten years ago I read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In the book, one of the authors share a story of visiting a friend. While there, this friend picks up her teenage son’s room. Watching this, the author says he feels sorry for the young man’s future wife. Basically, he pointed out that although the mother thought she was helping, her assuming responsibility for her son would actually hurt him in the long run by creating patterns of behavior that would affect future relationships.

I wrote a story about this very thing on Samie Sisters, a tween E-zine. You can read it here (http://www.samiesisters.com/previous_articles/Who-Cares-if-My-Room-is-Clean-.html). Through the story, I explore the habits formed during chores, habits that will carry into your child’s adult years. Although I didn’t mention it in the article, I also believe chores go a long way towards strengthening your child’s confidence. Each time we assign a task, then allow our child to complete it without jumping in, we are in effect saying, “I have full confidence in your ability to do this.” Each time we rescue them, perhaps because they throw a fit, get overwhelmed, or don’t do it how we’d like, we say, “I don’t believe you can do this.”

Everything we do, intentionally or unintentionally, forms habits, positive or negative. Our actions always make a statement. Multiply these unspoken statements over the course of 18 years, and you can see this is a big deal.

I adore my daughter. If given the chance, I’d shelter her from every trial and shower her with blessings, but as a mom, my love for her must override my desire for her pleasure. I need to parent from a long-term perspective, always evaluating attitudes and behaviors (I tend to place more emphasis on attitudes, because I believe attitude precedes behavior), in terms of our long-term parenting goals. We all want our children to be compassionate, responsible, dedicated, etc. The trick is helping them develop those character traits. I believe character traits are learned through consistent action.

Okay, so we all want these things for our children, and we love them deeply, but often we’re not sure how to go from desire to game-plan. (Forming a game plan, with your spouse, is essential because otherwise you’ll have a tendency to parent on emotion and the present, not based on forethought, education, prayer, and long-term goals.)

For me, one verse sums it up and ties it all together: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

Notice truth and love must always go hand-in-hand. And what is the goal? Maturity.

Take a moment to prayerfully evaluate your parenting in light of your child’s adulthood and Ephesians 4:15. Make a list of character traits, habits, and attitudes you’d like your child to develop, then review your parenting in light of that. Are you and your spouse moving your child toward those goals or away from them? And what can you do, starting today, to help train the future adult in your child?

Thanks a bunch to Jennifer Slattery for the guest post!!

Jennifer Slattery is a freelance writer, marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles and publicity assistant for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach. She’s placed in numerous writing contests and her work has appeared in many publications including the Bible Advocate and the Breakthrough Intercessor. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Samie Sisters, the Christian Pulse, and co-hosts a faith-based Facebook community called Living By Grace with five other writers. You can find more about her and her writing at her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud (http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com) and you can find out more about her critiquing and marketing services at Words that Keep (http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com).



 

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