Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Halloween, Back in the Day

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Always has been, always will be. I was raised in a time when kids dressed like hobos or bums for Halloween. Not very p.c. these days, but the costumes were original and created at no cost. These days, little effort goes into costumes. With cheap overseas factories, parents won't blink twice at shelling out $20-$40 bucks (or more) for nice store bought costumes. 

Don't mind me. I'm just jealous. I grew up in the '70's. We had store bought too, but here's what we got:

I can still smell the plastic and feel the sweat running down my face! And the elastic...that was good for about ten seconds, then it gave out and your mask kept falling down all night. But year after year, the stores stocked their shelves with these boxes, and we kids couldn't be happier!

Other Halloween traditions have changed as well, and not for the better:

1. Treats: Forget the homemade stuff. Even in my day, kids were cautioned against eating anything unmanufactured. I still remember my third grade teacher terrifying us with tales of psychos putting razor blades in apples. I asked my 14 year-old daughter if she'd ever heard of this. She asked, "What's a razor blade?"

4. Trick or Treat Pansies: On October 31st, we donned our cheapo plastic costumes and headed out the door just like little mailmen: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor other crappy weather.... Modern parents will gasp, but we actually had to trick or treat in inclement weather. We didn't wimp out at malls or retirement homes. No! We braved the elements and went door to door with hundreds of other kids in our neighborhood. The air was cold and smelled liked leaves and fireplaces. We were frozen to our marrow, but no one cared, least of all our parents. It was the best night of the year! These days, it's impossible to even guess how much candy to buy. I overheard one young mother say, "We don't trick or treat outside if it's below 70." Cover your ears, Great Pumpkin!

5. Foam Jack-o-Lanterns: Carve it once, store it, reuse it for a lifetime. Seriously??? WHAT IS THE FUN IN THAT! Give your kids a carving knife, say a little prayer they don't cut off a finger, and let them dive into the goo! Pumpkin carving is an all sensory experience, not to mention better for the planet. Think how much petroleum goes into making those foam fakes!

Sometimes I feel like Grandpa Phil on Duck Dynasty, disgusted with the way our kids are being brought up. All I know is that Halloween done right makes kids "Happy Happy Happy!" Try not to ruin it.


  1. In his statement today, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said, "Let us continue to wage a moral war even as our troops continue the physical battle."

    He was, of course, speaking to a nation shocked by al-Shabaab's brazen and violent attack on the Westgate Mall and the ongoing hostage stand-off that continues into today (Sunday). The "moral war" results - all too often in a fallen world - in physical battles. In this case, it is Kenya's armed forces standing with the government of Somalia, its neighbor to the east, against an al-Qaeda linked militia.

    This "moral war" (to use President Kenyatta's phrase) is not new; it is ancient. It has taken different forms over the long train of history. In the present time it seems to be between those who pray and work for a heaven best described by the prophet Isaiah, and those for whom such a picture is anathema. "They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain..." (Isaiah 11:9a ESV, emphasis added). Former enemies, the wolf and the lamb, live together in peace. Contrast that image with the carnage from the Westgate Mall to see a perfect juxtaposition of worldview between those who work for peace and justice, and an extreme few with warped visions of power and hegemony.

    This battle will not be won by bullets or drones; it will be won by God's people exhibiting his boundless love and mercy. It is a war of ideas and of loving labor that stems from this radical belief: that the universe's Master loves all his creation and creatures and wants them to experience reconciliation with him and with each other.

    Yesterday, that battle found its way to the Westgate Mall: nearly 60 dead, hostages still being held as I write this, a familiar oasis turned tempting target, a place known to anyone who has spent time in Nairobi.

    The attack on Westgate reminds us all of the importance of pastors who find themselves on the front lines of this moral war. The more they can be equipped to explore, explain, and expose the depths of God's grace and mercy, the more the radical ideas of the Bible can soften and replace the physical war.

    Most foreign policy thinkers today believe that the Cold War was won not by military might, but by ideas. My wife and I lived and volunteered in Poland in the early 1990s, taking part in the great cleanup after the collapse of the Soviet bloc. I joined African Leadership because the battle of ideas has shifted to Africa, and I am called to it. Our work isn't just about training pastors to give better sermons; our work is equipping pastors for the front lines of this moral war, this clash of visions of heaven that sadly is worked out over the lives of too many innocents.

    Let us pray for the safe release of the hostages and for those families grieving today and in the days to come after the news cycles move on.

  2. I love your reflections of Halloweens past. I was right there with you! I agree with your sentiments!