Halloween? No thanks.

I won’t be home for Halloween, and I must admit, I don’t mind. Unlike my youngest daughter, who has turned it into a warm neighborhood event, the best I have mustered is handing out stickers instead of candy. (I don’t use sugar, so can’t see giving it to children.) However, my feelings about Halloween go much deeper. It’s the darkness.darkness

Sure, a lot of people make cute costumes and have fun parties. I did that as a child and loved it. I enjoyed trick-or-treating with my brothers, gathering the haul of sweets that had to last us until Christmas. Bobbing for apples, carving Jack-o-lanterns and eating an apple on a string were great fun, too.

Back then, I didn’t recognize darkness. At least, not conceptually. I certainly felt it. And more, I lived in more darkness than I realized.

As an adult, when I learned what my father had been involved in, and the important part Halloween plays in the gruesome practices, I wanted to ban the celebration entirely.

I certainly never dressed up as a witch again. Give me animals or fairy tale characters any day.

What concerns me about Halloween, for our culture at large, is the growing, blatant familiarity with, and for some, preference for darkness.

Have you noticed, there is a trend toward more elaborate decorations for Halloween than for Christmas?

I know the darkness cannot overpower the light. I’ve read the last chapter.

It isn’t ghoulish rubber masks or pointed hats and brooms that bother me, so much as what they represent. It’s not all fantasy.

I am well acquainted with the way darkness can twist lives, damage children, tear families apart, even drive some to take their own lives, or other’s.

Evil is real.

In our world full of discord, public and personal ugliness, polarization on every side, selfishness, addictions of all kinds, and with an astounding market for child sex slaves and “private” porn, I don’t want to even play with the shadows.

I’ve seen what happens in my life when I’ve shifted my focus from what has harmed me to what blesses me. Have you?

I’ll chose the light, every time.

It does matter what we celebrate and honor, where we focus.

When Paul was in prison in Rome, and eventually died there, he wrote what some have called the Book of Joy to the Philippians. He could have looked at the moss on the cold stone walls, the chains, the guards, and the whispers of his eminent death, and gone into major depression.
Instead, he writes:

…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

We need to remember

I still cannot watch videos or look at pictures of that horrible day on the eleventh of September, 2001, without churning emotion. Many chose not to look, say it’s too depressing. But I believe, no matter how painful, we need to remember.

WTC, NYC
One World Trade Center

With granddaughter at WTC memorial reflection pond
With granddaughter at WTC memorial reflection pond
Steel girders on display at memorial
Steel girders on display at memorial

Remember what?

Remember how real evil is.

When we see and feel the evil on 9/11 we know that evil is not just a matter of someone getting up on the wrong side of the bed, or having suffered a bad childhood. Evil is real, and active, deceiving many into believing they are securing eternal happiness by killing as many others as possible.

Sadly, evil is not the solely the province of terrorists.

In the last fifteen years I’ve seen a huge shift in our collective awareness of evil, of right and wrong. From video games, TV shows, movies and social media it seems that many in our culture have a growing fascination with darkness, violence and death. Some seek it as power, others as escape.

It is neither.

Evil is ultimately only about destruction. Others first, then our own.

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for — will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:6-10 MSG

We also need to remember the good. The first responders who rushed in and gave their lives. The private citizens who ferried thousands who were trapped off Manhattan Island that day. The passengers and crew on Flight 93 who sacrificed their lives to protect the Washington target. Volunteers who arrived in NYC and the Pentagon, day after day to help in any way they could, and people across the country who donated food and supplies.

Whenever evil strikes, it lights a fire it cannot snuff out, a fire of courage and determination, of light and love.

In the end, we are faced with daily choices, light or darkness, though very rarely so clearly defined.

Will we pause and reflect, then go on with life as usual?

Or will we decide to make a difference, be the bearers of light? Truth? Love?

Can we do our part?

Only if we remember the stakes.

What do you recall from that day? Has it changed your life?


I’m not very familiar with country music, but this song expresses it.

The big choice

It’s been a hard week. The death of a dear young person close by, along with a poorly handled health crisis of a son-in-law, so far away in.Switzerland, who had a second, more aggressive surgery today that shouldn’t have been necessary, the shootings and reactive killings across our country, and terrorism throughout the world have roiled over me. I’ve spent a lot of my nights praying, and a somber cloud has shadowed my days.

It’s not a lack of faith. I know who is in charge, the Alpha and Omega. I know how the story ends. I know evil will not ultimately triumph.

Not even death.

But as I drifted off to sleep last night I realized I don’t want just a glimpse of peace.

I want peace in huge gulps, big armloads, total immersion.

I wondered, have I been so focused on the aches and pains of others–I really do care and often feel led to intercede—that it’s all I see, the dark side of life?

Does this view diminish the colors of everything else?

Maybe it is a daily question, which starts with The Big Choice, then must be chosen afresh every morning.

Maggie Valley

Do I choose life?

Or will I follow the pain? Dwell in the grief? In the gray place? Look no further than this side of the glass darkly?

Some of you are natural optimists (how often I’d like to trade places!). If you are still reading, you may be wondering what the issue is. Make the choice and get on with it, you say.

But I wonder if sometimes you roll right past the hurt and needs of those around you. (There is a reason the world is populated with both types of people. We need visionaries and optimists who will launch projects and lead the way. But we also need those who can’t help feeling trauma, confusion or fear in another person and want to make a difference, either directly, or by lifting that person to the One who Heals.)

I circle back, content with who I am — my place in the world.

And, once again, I choose life.

Even when there is pain I will look for the colors.

I’ll be more intentional about enjoying the flowers, the sunsets, a bird’s wing, laughter, the voice of a little girl with every reason to cry, singing, “Amazing Grace.”

red flowers driftwood on Dry TortugasCelery Fields, Sarasota, FLstar white flowerSarasota Sunset

It’s all right here for the choosing.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” I Cor 13:12,13