Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Halloween Story

Thanks for stopping by. I'm taking a short break from my break to share with you a timely story about Halloween. My family has long held the practice of bringing Christ into Halloween, and the following story is a reflection of how this tradition came to be.

Hopefully, most of you have read When Love Calls, the novel I wrote a few years ago. The story I'm about to share is an excerpt from the sequel, Love's Determined Grace, which is still in production and soon to be on the market, I hope. This excerpt is from Chapter Fourteen, and is a rare glimpse into the lives of the Harvey Family a few years following the conclusion of When Love Calls. I pray that you will enjoy this short intrusion into the Harvey household, and I hope that the story will help focus your walk with Christ.

The Harveys spent several months in the hospital following the tragedy surrounding the birth of their son, Alston. (I don't want to give away any of the story line.) Because of the time they spent in the hospital, they missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. And now, I present to you:

Love's Determined Grace
Chapter Fourteen
Lilly deeply regretted the family didn’t get to participate in any of the fall and winter festivities that were common traditions. One snowy afternoon in January, Lilly was trying to locate a skirt that would fit her enlarged waistline, which was a trophy she collected while sitting in a hospital room daily and eating brownies nightly. As she pushed aside a long red cocktail dress, which had no hope of fitting her, she found a Halloween costume, which she’d purchased for Mariah several months before Alston was born. Mariah was continually enamored with Indian maidens, and loved to pretend that she was an Indian princess. When Lilly ran across a maiden playsuit on a closeout rack at the mall, she bought it and tucked it away until Halloween came along.

She held the costume at eye level and examined the genuine imitation leather and beads, determining that Mariah would outgrow the costume before the next Halloween. In a flash of inspiration, she decided that they would celebrate the holidays they’d missed while in Georgia. When she suggested the idea to Caton, he greeted the thought with enthusiasm. A plan was launched that afternoon which would allow the Harveys to celebrate lieu holidays throughout the month of January.

The biggest challenge with re-celebrating Halloween in January was finding a pumpkin that would be suitable to carve. The other was the fact of having no other families in the area that would participate with a trick-or-treat night. However, in reality, having other families participate was irrelevant, as they lived so remotely from other homes that they usually didn’t go door to door trick-or-treating, unless Mariah was at a party in the Village. That’s when Lilly had a second inspiration. She would incorporate the idea of Easter eggs into a trick-or-treat night. She had Jane and Susan secretly hide various chocolate treats throughout the outbuildings surrounding the big house.

The challenge of the pumpkin was left to Caton. Somehow, he managed to deliver a fairly decent pumpkin the night before the planned Halloween party. When Mariah saw her father carrying a pumpkin in his arms, she was ecstatic and hyper beyond control. Lilly was proud she ever had the idea.

The next afternoon, while Mariah was posing in her costume for photos in front of the fireplace, Caton casually asked Lilly, “So, are you going to cry like you did last year?”

She giggled at the memory and pushed him away. “Don’t you rub salt into my wounds, Mister.”

Jane, who was helping Mariah with the feather in her hair, couldn’t resist the urge to meddle into the private dispute. “So, what’s this all about?”

Lilly placed her hands on her hips and boldly declared. “Oh, Mr. Self Righteous had a melt down one Halloween when I wanted to take Mariah to the harvest festival dressed as a witch.” She glanced at Caton. “And it wasn’t last year, it was several years ago.”

Jane was enthusiastic. “There has to be a great story here. Who wants to tell it?”

Caton smirked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Lilly tisked him from afar. “Oh, please!” She looked a Jane. “I’ll tell you. In fact, it was our worst fight ever.”

Jane was all ears. “Great! Do tell!”

“Well, it happened this way. Caton has never been a big Halloween participant—which involves something about his church and his mother.”

Jane squinted as she tried to make sense of that information. “What does that mean?”

She rolled her eyes and flashed a smile at her husband. “I donno. It has something to do with Satan… or worshiping Satan on Halloween.”

“What?” Jane asked in complete surprise.

Caton grunted in disapproval and stood. “I’ll tell the story, if you don’t mind.” Lilly quietly sat back down, satisfied that she’d managed to poke the bear into getting involved. “Jane, I’ve never really celebrated Halloween as a child. I can remember one year where Mom let us dress up and go to the neighbor’s houses for trick-or-treat. Of course, we lived much closer to the Village in those days, so it wasn’t such a big deal. The only thing I remember about that night was making my Mom mad because we ate all our candy and ruined our supper. After that, we stopped participating in Halloween entirely.”

Jane was incredulous. “You’re kidding me! You stopped Halloween because you ate all your candy and got in trouble?”

He shook his head. “No, not at all. Shortly after that, several families in our church decided that Halloween was all about celebrating Satan, so we stopped interacting entirely.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

He lifted his shoulders. “No, it’s true.”

“But Halloween isn’t about worshiping Satan.”

“I know that now. But it was a bitter struggle for me to evolve to the point where I could admit that.”


“Because I grew up believing that way, and once you have that notion in your head, it’s hard to change. We always assumed that Halloween was evil because it was so pagan. On the other hand, Lilly grew up participating in every Halloween event that came along, so it was a day filled with fun and games for her. After Lilly and I married, she pressed me for a reason why I was so opposed to celebrating Halloween. All I knew was that I grew up believing Halloween and everything attached to it were evil. I couldn’t articulate why, but I knew I believed it.”

Lilly jumped into the conversation. “It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I’d never heard of anyone being offended by Halloween, and I had no idea that he would react as he did.”

“Why? What did he do?”

“I brought home a small costume of a witch with a black cat perched on her shoulder. It was the cutest outfit I’d ever seen. There were little brooms printed on the pattern, with a little kitten holding onto the broom as if it would fall off. When I saw it, I simply had to buy it. When I showed it to Caton, he acted as if I’d thrown away all of his baseball cards.”

Caton grunted at her and she whispered in a loud voice, “Which I’ll never do again. But that’s a story for another day.”

“So, go on. How did he react?”

“It was strange. At first he thought I was joking, so he laughed. When I called to Mariah and had her try on the outfit, he became irrational. He was so angry that he didn’t know what to do. Now mind you, I’m not expecting him to be opposed to Halloween. So, when he yelled at me and made Mariah change clothes, I became very upset. He was accusing me of glorifying Satan. It all seemed so unfair.”

“A miscarriage of justice, if you ask me.”

Caton replied, “We’re not asking, Jane. Thank you.”

Lilly patted her husband on the knee. “To his credit, when I challenged him to defend his position, he couldn’t answer me at that moment. But, he did the research. He discovered something that made us all reconsider what we believed.”

“What was that?”

Caton spoke. “When I traced the roots of Halloween, I discovered it originated from an ancient Celtic feast called Samhain. The druids believed that on the eve of Samhain, the veil between the physical and the supernatural was pierced, allowing witches, demons, and hobgoblins to roam the earth and harass the living. In order to protect their lives, the people would disguise themselves as demons and ghouls, and they would carve faces into gourds, lighting candles inside of them to ward off evil spirits. They would also try to appease the spirit world by leaving offerings of food and other treats.

“The Christians of the day attempted to take the pagan elements of Samhain and convert it to a holy day. They proclaimed that God had triumphed over evil, and proclaimed that Jesus had supremacy over all the superstitions. So, all Hallows Eve, which later became Halloween, was an effort by the Church to overtake the beliefs in the ghouls with the power of the Gospel.”

“Yawn. What a boring story. What’s there to get all upset about?”

He shrugged. “Honestly, it was a well intended, but misguided reaction by contemporary Christians. I mean, Halloween is heavily dominated by paganistic elements, and a lot of Christians chose to run and hide from this one night, instead of engaging it and try to bring glory to God.” He scratched his nose. “Actually, I was one of those Christians that were dead set against even acknowledging Halloween in any way whatsoever. When others told me that Halloween was a satanic holy day and that anyone participating in any Halloween related events is inadvertently worshiping Satan. But, when I admitted that I didn’t know why I believed that Halloween was evil, I was able to research the truth. I was a bit surprised at what I’d found.”

“Me too,” Lilly volunteered. “While Caton was preaching against Halloween, I was being awakened to the idea that many of the things Christians do on that day don’t necessarily bring glory to God, either. I don’t believe that it glorifies God in any way to dress as a demon from Hell, or some supernatural enemy of God. But, on the other hand, I don’t see any harm in a child dressing up as something that is innocent and harmless. Last year, Mariah dressed up as a Cabbage Patch Doll. And let me tell you, she was cute!”

“I’ll bet.”

“Wait, let me show you the pictures.” She pulled a photo album from the bookshelf and laid it open in Jane’s hands. “See? There she is.”

“Oh, she was so cute! What is that? She’s wearing glasses!” Jane turned the page. “Well now, what’s this?”

Lilly leaned forward and blushed. “Oh, that? I decided to dress up as a fairy.”

Caton leaned forward. “I remember that outfit. It was my favorite.”

Jane nodded. “I’ll bet. Look at those curves.”

Lilly was flushed red from blushing. “Caton wouldn’t let me wear it out of the house.”

“I don’t blame him. Yikes, I need to try it on and see if I can…”

“I don’t think so,” Lilly interrupted. “You would only get in trouble if you wore that outfit.”

“Jane?” Caton offered. “Lilly can wear that outfit any day she wants extra attention from me. But I refuse to let another man see her dressed as a fairy. That’s reserved only for me. Right, Baby?”

Lilly winked at him. “Darn right!”

“Now, now, you two. Settle down. So, how did Caton dress up?”

Lilly frowned. “He wouldn’t. He said it was pure foolishness to parade around in a costume.”

“What a stick in the mud.”

“Tell me about it.” She smiled and blew a kiss at her husband.

Mariah, who had been patiently waiting for the grown ups to finish their boring conversation tugged at her mother’s blouse. “When can we carve the pumpkin?”

Lilly glanced at Caton. “When do you want to do it?”

He glanced at his watch. “I was thinking of driving to town to check on the crew working at the Apple Tree Hotel, but it’s getting pretty late.” He knelt down and pulled Mariah close to him. “How about we do it now? Would that be alright?”

“Yeah!” Mariah shouted. “I’m ready.”

“How about Miss Jane? Is she ready?”

Mariah excited turned on her heals. “Are you ready, Miss Jane?”

“Why not? What are we going to do?”

Lilly explained their tradition. “We carve out the pumpkin and then Caton reads 1 Corinthians 15. It’s really simple. Sit down and watch.”

Jane sat on the hearth in front of the fireplace and watched as Caton cut a hole into the top of the pumpkin. As soon as she could, Mariah began to pull the seeds and sinew from the pumpkin’s interior. While she worked, Caton asked her, “What does the pumpkin represent?”

“Our heart.”

“What does the gunky stuff on the inside of the pumpkin represent?”

“Sin.” She loved to play this game, and she answered with gusto as she squished orange goo and seeds between her fingers.

“What does Jesus do with our hearts?”

“He takes away the sin.”

“What are we doing with the pumpkin?”

“We’re cleaning out the pumpkin, like Jesus cleans out our hearts.”

When they scraped the final gunk out of the pumpkin, Lilly carved a cross in the pumpkin, where a face would normally go. While Lilly and Mariah busied themselves with the cross, Caton picked up his Bible and read the passage from 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on resurrection, and which boldly declared that Jesus had triumphed over death. When he came to verse 55, Mariah joined him in saying, “O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?”

Caton concluded his reading with, “The sting of death is sin, and strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved family, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

“Amen,” Lilly said.

Caton then asked Mariah, “What is the purpose of the cross on our pumpkin?”

“It’s the cross that Jesus died on when He cleansed our hearts from sin.”

“Why did He die on the cross?”

“So that I wouldn’t have to.”

“To what?”

“Daddy!” she exclaimed. “To die!”

“Oh, that’s right.” Then he watched as Lilly placed a candle inside the pumpkin and touched a match to the wick. “What does the candle represent?”

“The light of the Lord in our hearts.”

“Okay, Mariah, go turn off the lights so we can see the pumpkin.”

“Yeah!” She jumped and ran to the light switch, sending the room into darkness, save the light from the fireplace and the gentle glow emanating from the pumpkin. As Mariah climbed into her mother’s lap, Lilly began to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…” Soon, all, including Jane, were singing the age-old children’s hymn.