31 October 2013

Halloween: Relax, Christians. Have a Milky Way.

This is what Halloween meant to me as a child, and what it means to about 99 percent of children everywhere:

This is what Halloween means to a lot of Christian ADULTS. I didn't want anyone to stumble, so I altered the image just a smidge:

I guess these are Future Satanists of America?

When I was a kid, there was this big house in my friend's development that we referred to as "the White House." It looked like the White House, but on a much smaller scale. They didn't answer their door on Trick-Or-Treat night and everyone assumed that really old people who couldn't get around very well lived there. Why else would someone diss trick-or-treaters?

One year, just to be stupid, my friend and I rang the White House doorbell until the occupants couldn't stand it anymore, and a young boy finally opened the door. 

He was like, "What do you want?"

We were like, "Candy, you idiot!"

He was like, "We don't celebrate Halloween."

We were all, "Huh? What do you mean you don't 'celebrate' Halloween?"

He was all, "I don't know. We just don't celebrate it."

Dumbfounded, we walked away and hit up the good neighbors, the ones who clearly didn't hate children. 

When I became a Christian, I quickly learned that a lot of believers are anti-Halloween and all of the trappings that come with it. They see it as celebrating evil, the Devil's holiday, and it's not something they want any part of. I understand why and I see their point of view, but I don't totally agree.

Michele Blake - who devotes much of her time to "researching the false claims of psychology and psychiatry since she became a Christian 15 years ago" (that's another blog for another day) wrote an article on why she kissed Halloween goodbye. It's a well thought-out piece delivered gently, but I think she's over-thinking some of it. My thoughts:

1. She mentions the tradition of Samhain, which is an ancient Celtic festival in which people would dress up in costume and light bonfires in the hopes of warding off ghosts. The Celts were not Christians, and therefore couldn't be expected to follow Christian theology.

Now, as they started to convert to Christianity, Pope Gregory IV turned Samhain into
All Souls' Day (later All Saints' Day) - a holiday resembling Samhain that was designed to win new converts to Christ. While this might sounds just terrible to some of you, keep in mind that we do this all the time with Christian rock, Christian movies, and even our worship - we update our culture (though it's sad that Christianity has it's own culture) to reflect the rest of society's in order to appeal to more people. It's just that, back in the day, they were much more creepy about it, but they had good intentions.

So, Blake is at least partly correct - Christians shouldn't be putting on scary costumes and dancing around fires to ward off spirits, nor do we have any need to. Of course, I don't remember doing any of this as a child. I don't remember anyone else doing it, either. Maybe Blake lives in Appalachia?

She makes an excellent point, though - you shouldn't dine with demons. I concur. They burp, lick their butter knives, and eat with their hands. No class at all.

2. Blake says: "Putting a Christian label over the top of a pagan practice does not make it pleasing to God. In fact, we are to get rid of all pagan practices and have no part of them." 

Just because something started out as a pagan tradition, that doesn't mean that it has to be celebrated that way. I can only assume that Blake does not have any Christmas lights, nor does she decorate a Christmas tree, since both are pagan traditions. Also, she must celebrate Christmas on a different day, since Jesus wasn't actually born on December 25.
I guess she doesn't celebrate Christmas at all.

And, again, I can only assume she does not listen to Chrisitian rock of any sort, as this would clearly be affixing a new label on something very worldly.

3. Sharing food with someone represents a sacred connection.

I'm not sure if Blake is referring to Halloween candy or not, but it's hard for me to wrap my mind around little kids committing a heinous sin by eating a Snickers bar in a SpongeBob costume. This one is over the top. Moving on...

5. We play how we practice.
"We think we can entertain the macabre, erect gravestones in our front yards, and prop dead 'bodies' on our front porches. 'Oh, but they’re not real,' we demur. Then we are appalled when a 17-year-old has a fascination with dead bodies and decides to act on his morbid desires."

For the record, I don't do this. I know zombies and bloody body parts are all the rage these days, but I'm not into it. I have a Dollar Store inflatable Jack-O-Lantern hanging from my balcony and that's about as exciting as it gets. I very much agree with Blake that this is a super crappy way for Christians to "decorate." We're supposed to celebrate life, not death.

I can't argue with this one. Our society is obsessed with the macabre. I don't necessarily agree that Halloween drives teenagers en masse to go out and murder any more than anything else does, but this sort of stuff does desensitize us en masse, and that's a scary thing to consider.

6. If we forego Halloween but give our children a substitute celebration instead, are we sending the message that “I am trying to compensate because I think you’re missing out on something really amazing”? I want my children to believe what I myself believe: that we have been given something so much better than this! No more bobbing for apples in the church basement (a pagan fertility ritual, by the way) when I have true joy in knowing God’s true Son!

The parties. The trick-or-treating. The bobbing for apples. The costume contests.
Yes, it's amazing. Yes, these church celebrations are substitutions, and they should be.
Why shouldn't Christians be able to have as much fun as everyone else, if it's within the walls of a church and free of death and darkness? Why in the world would we, as believers, allow the ENEMY to have all the fun? Wanna fight back? Transform a dark holiday into something fun and innocent. Reclaim it.

7. Second, God has told us to focus on what is pure, noble, right, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8). Is Halloween any of these things? No, and therefore it is unworthy of any of our time or thoughts.

Depends on what you're focusing on. If you're focusing on candy, looking cute, and little kids having fun - without the zombies, vampires, and corpses - then you are living out Philippians 4:8.

8. We often say we don't want to deprive our children of candy, of dressing up, of the "fun" they have by participating in this holiday. But God has already told us the customs of the world are futile! 

And, yet, Blake has a blog.
She probably drives a car.
Has electricity.
Isn't Amish.

9. Even if we think our costumes are not sinful (as if it’s the costume that’s the problem and not the fact that we are still giving reverence to the holiday itself), what about others who have decided that there is nothing wrong with their costumes either? After all, they aren’t really practicing witchcraft, just dressing up as witches. So do we excuse the dressing up but draw the line at Ouija boards? What about pretending to cast spells? We have made ourselves the judges of what is good and evil instead of following God’s command to avoid even the spoils of the enemy.

You can't do anything about other people. You can't expect non-Christians to act like Christians, and you can't crawl into the hearts of believers and make them believe the right things. This is life, not just Halloween. My advice: don't let your kids dress like demonic characters, don't buy a Ouija board, don't cast spells, and don't judge others. If you take little Jimmy trick-or-treating, avoid the house with the coffin on the front porch. Explain why. It's really pretty simple.

10. Perhaps the reason I finally let go of Halloween was precisely because I didn’t want to. 

If that sounds like a contradiction, let me explain. You see, the very fact that I kept coming up with reasons and excuses so I could continue celebrating eventually led me to question my motives. Why was I hanging on so tightly? Was it possible that my celebration of Halloween had become an idol to me? Certainly it appeared so, because still I embraced the traditions of men even when I knew God’s heart on the matter.

I don't know, maybe because you know you did it as a kid and it was fun and you never sacrificed any babies or kittens. Maybe because you know Halloween can be whatever you make it to be.

Maybe because, deep down, you know your kids could be having a lot of fun.

I appreciate anyone who takes a stand, even if I don't totally agree with it. Blake's article was well thought-out. I don't doubt her sincerity and she obviously loves God and wants to please Him.

I disagree that Christians can't take something that used to be dreadful and make it life-breathing. If Halloween makes you stumble, don't celebrate it. If God has laid it on your heart not to participate, by all means, listen to that small, still voice.

Personally, I think children can dress up like fairies and ninjas and collect candy bars without any ill effects, and certainly without offending the Lord. Especially at a church harvest party. 

I think we need to stop giving the Devil so much credit and take back what is rightfully ours - childlike joy, innocence, fun, and laughter - whatever that means to you. Church parties included.


29 October 2013

Fukushima Radiation: For Those Who Prefer to Catch Their Fish Pre-Fried

Fukushima radiation.
It ain't good.


Jesse Ventura Has Lots of Theories, Little Facts

OK, before you read this blog post, read THIS:
I'm not dissing all conspiracy theories. I'm dissing Jesse Ventura's TACTICS and the FORMAT of his show. Truthfully, I don't trust anyone in our government and nothing would surprise me anymore.

All right? Are we friends now? Great. Read on.

I love conspiracy theories. They fascinate me. I even believe some of them.

Take the JFK assassination, for example. I don't believe the President was killed by a lone gunman, or that Lee Harvey Oswald was the guy who killed him. Lots of reasons why, but too many to go into in this blog post.

I have my doubts that the explosion of TWA flight 800 in 1996 was caused by overheated fuel tank vapors. I even spoke extensively with the father of one of the Montoursville High School students who died in the crash years ago before his death (R.I.P., he was such a sweetheart of a guy) and even though he accepted the official explanation, I still did not.

I just think it's too fishy that the Navy was test-firing missiles just off the coast at the time of the crash, and that thousands of witnesses reported seeing something being fired into the air.

[Incidentally, flight 800 - which occurred the summer after my junior year of high school - horrified me so badly that it's one of the reasons I despise flying to this day.]

If you're interested in conspiracies, though, do yourself a favor: look beyond Jesse Ventura.

Jesse Ventura is a former mayor, governor, Navy seal, and "fighter," as he likes to refer to himself. Actually, he was a WWF (now WWE) wrestler known as Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

Now, I'll admit, I think pro wrestling is totally lame. But that's not why I consider Jesse Ventura to be a bad source of info. The problem is that the "Conspiracy Theory" cast (investigators?) rarely arrive at any logical conclusions.

Tonight I watched the episode about the Ozarks conspiracy.
The theory is that the Illuminati - described by LiveScience as "an 18th-century secret society made up of numerous influential intellectuals and freethinkers of the time" that is supposedly still operating today - is building an ENORMOUS (72,000 sq. feet!!!) mansion in Highlandville, Missouri, that is really a fortress for a new one-world government that will form after some future apocalyptic event. Underground cities are also allegedly being built to save a chosen few to survive and repopulate the world.

I should also mention that this apocalyptic event will be perpetrated BY the Illuminati, and that the man who is building and funding all this crap is a man named Steven T. Hunt. Hunt is Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Overwatch Geospatial Operations and was a CIA agent.

Rich intellectuals trying to take over the planet? Population control? Underground cities?
Sadly, I can believe it. It's just that Jesse Ventura hasn't proven it to me.

During the team's investigation, they arrived at the following conclusions:

-A local sheriff agreed to drive them up to the mansion, but would not let them get out and look around. In fact, he locked them in the car. Therefore, there is a conspiracy going on.

-The team drove into one of the underground tunnels and found that it was large enough to accommodate living space for thousands of people, not to mention a 2-lane road large enough to accommodate tractor-trailers. They also found that the underground area is connected to the railroad. Therefore, this MUST be where the Illuminati plans to relocate their chosen few when said apocalyptic event occurs. Large storage areas and the railroad connection prove that this elite intellectual army is hoarding food, fuel, and whatever else they need to survive the pending cataclysmic kaboom.

-The Ozarks are smack dab in the middle of the U.S. and surrounded by stupid hillbillies, making it the perfect place to plan their New World Order without being detected. These people are really, really counting on the locals' stupidity and lack of real teeth. I'm a little surprised they didn't set their circus down where I live.

-Read the Word "OZARK." What do you see? Nothing? Well, then, Sean Stone thinks you're not looking hard enough. Who is Sean Stone, by the way? A young, handsome, brooding guy who rides a motorcycle and wears a leather jacket. He is also Oliver Stone's son, which is how he is introduced at the beginning of the show. It amuses me that they don't mention the fact that he studied at Oxford or Princeton, or that he wrote his thesis on the New World Order. He's just "Sean Stone, son of Oliver Stone.
I digress.
Here's Stone's take on what "OZARK" really means:

Jesse Ventura and his investigators speculate that the Huff property will actually serve as a kind of Noah's Ark -- or palace of Oz -- for the Illuminati once the world crumbles. The town it's based near, after all -- Ozark -- is a combo of the two ideas.

Are you amused yet? That one just came out of nowhere.

My point is this: you can make anything look shady, but that doesn't make it shady.
Ventura delivers every line of the show like he's fixin' to body slam you onto a table in the wrestling ring, intending to make you quake with fear and believe every word he says.

But real answers are hard to come by. Most of the time, their interviews get canceled, their visits fall through, and they use that as "proof" that something sinister is going on. In reality, it could just be that people think Ventura and his show are a joke and they don't want to be associated with them. It could be that bunkers are being built, supplies are being hoarded, but it has nothing to do with the Illuminati or a plot to shave the earth's population down by a few billion people. It could just be what you call preparedness. It could be that no matter how many honest answers Ventura gets, he doesn't believe them. He is always saying things like "we obviously made him nervous" and "you could tell Bob didn't want to answer our questions." I'd be nervous if Jesse Ventura asked me for directions to Dairy Queen, so that doesn't mean anything.

In another episode, Jesse Ventura takes on Plum Island.
Plum Island is a real place near Suffolk County, New York, and it's scary as all heck. Legitimately so - animal diseases like Foot And Mouth are studied there, and the facility - which is now run by the Department of Homeland Security - has a long history of outbreaks and poor safety practices. Security is lax, and any old terrorist could sail up to it on a boat and blow it to smithereens, contaminating our food supplies and potentially sickening humans.

Jesse and the cast rattle on about how "open" Plum Island is to terrorism or catastrophic error, but then get pissed off when they try to approach the island and are met with security vehicles and the Coast Guard tailing them. How dare they fear a former governor? Ventura spouts, "Who do they think I am, a f**king terrorist?"

But, of course, Ventura uses that to back up his claims that something nefarious is happening at Plum Island, including human experiments.

Take your pick, guv. Do you want security or not? You're not in office anymore. You're an old guy with a ponytail who is hosting a cable TV show. The old rules don't apply anymore.

Where there's smoke, there's fire. I think Jesse Ventura sometimes gets smoke confused with the vapor from the hot air that comes out of his mouth. Not all the time, mind you. Sometimes, I think he's dead-on. (His take on the JFK conspiracy, for example.)

But most of the time, there is a lot of driving, talking on the phone, and speculating, but no real fact-finding.

So, if you're into conspiracy theories, take this show with a grain of salt. Look beyond Jesse Ventura. Don't make him your conspiracy textbook. Enjoy "Conspiracy Theory" as the informative comedy that is sometimes - usually - is.

28 October 2013

The Walking Dead & Toy Story are Pretty Much the Same

This is for you fans of the very gruesome show "The Walking Dead."
Christian parents everywhere will now ban their children from watching Pixar movies.
Why? Because it seems "The Walking Dead" and "Toy Story" are pretty much the same story.
Enjoy. :-)

24 October 2013

There is no "Good" Cancer

About a year or so ago, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Fortunately, the tumor was removed and no other treatment was needed. No nasty radiation or chemo. Still, my friend was terrified. While walking out of a doctor's appointment with her one afternoon, I said, "At least it was easy to treat."

Translation: At least you had the good kind of cancer.

What was supposed to be a comforting statement was, in actuality, a very stupid thing to say. There is no "good" cancer. There is no "easy" cancer. The word itself strikes fear in the hearts of nearly everyone.

I didn't realize that until I heard the word used in reference to my husband.
My sweet, gentle, and kind best friend of 15 years. My spouse of 13 years. The man who has supported me through more trials than I can list in one blog post.

Our marriage hasn't always been easy. We fought to stay together and won, and the idea of losing him haunted me in my dreams - even though he was facing one of the "good" cancers, thyroid cancer. It didn't matter that only a tiny percentage of thyroid cancers attack and kill within months. I didn't hear the part about how most people don't need any additional nasty treatments. All I heard was CANCER.

I came down with shingles a few weeks ago. The doctor asked me if I was under stress and I nearly crumbled under the weight of the question. I tried my best to hand the situation over to God and go on with my life until the date of my husband's surgery, but I constantly found myself on the verge of tears, and one night I broke down and sobbed in front of my husband.

On the afternoon of his surgery, I was sitting in the surgical waiting room with my sweet father, picking poppy seeds out of my teeth from a bagel I'd eaten in the cafeteria earlier that morning and reading a copy of some mindless fashion magazine when I was ushered into the "consultation room" to meet with the surgeon. He told me a sample of the growth on my husband's thyroid had been frozen and sliced, and no cancer was found, but we would have to wait several days to receive more test results to confirm his findings.

That was a Thursday. The following Tuesday, we found out my husband's thyroid is cancer-free. He got to keep half of it, thank God. Hopefully he won't need medication for the rest of his life.

Biggest. Sigh. Of. Relief. Ever.

Ah, but as I write this, another biopsy is looming, this time of his tongue. There's a strange thing on the side of it. I can't explain it - you'd have to see it. Maybe he's just biting it in his sleep. Maybe it's the C Word. Who knows?

So, now I'm thinking back on all the times I told someone, "Oh, it's probably nothing!" Like that would somehow allay their fears. Like if Julie Fidler doesn't think it's anything serious, there's no way it could possibly be serious. It reminds me of the times I used to ask my mother growing up, "Mom, what if you die?" I was a little kid awakening to the fact that no one is promised another day, minute, second, or even breath. Her response was always the same: "I'm not going to die." I'd ask her how she could possibly know that and she'd say, "I just know."

It was a lot easier than saying, "Well, honey, Mommy could drop dead any minute now. Go back to pulling the heads off your Barbie dolls."

Behind every "it's probably nothing" is the reality that "it could be something." So I've learned, the hard way, not to pretend the possibility doesn't exist. It doesn't help to pretend there's no reason for concern.

So, if I ever said any of those things to you...I'm sorry. Sometimes you don't realize how ridiculous you sound until you're in somebody else's shoes. Shoes you'd always hoped you'd never have to try on.

As for worry...I think it's a lot like forgiveness, which is a topic I actually do know a lot about. Sometimes you have to forgive over and over again. It's more of a process than a once-and-done decision. Worry seems to work the same way. You have to give it to God repeatedly, because it does like to creep back into your psyche.

Just don't ignore it or pretend it's not there. Don't poo-poo anyone else's worries, either. Acknowledge that you're freaked out and then try to de-freak. Hand your freaking fears to God.

Again. And again. And again.

29 September 2013

Dear God, are You there? It's me, the one with all the problems...

Dear God,
Can we talk? I'm a better writer than I am a talker, so I hope You read blogs.

As You are well aware, my entire life has fallen into total disrepair. I'm not in a gutter with a needle in my arm, and I haven't been molested by any transvestites. For this, oh Lord, I thank you.

But still. Seriously. It's bad. It's I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-going-to-do bad. It has been this bad before, but I was much younger then and I was more resilient and there was a sort of (messed-up) romance about it. This is way more than I can handle. My mother always said You'd never give me more than I can handle, but I've now come to the realization that this is just something people say to make you feel better and not at all the truth.

You're always giving people more than they can handle.
Or You allow it, anyway.
You let us hit bottom so that you can pull us up to heights higher than the Rocky Mountains.

If You could, like, grab my arm now, that would be great. The word here is "dire," God. As in, I am in dire straits. Emotionally and financially. I'd like to sneak onto a train and wherever it stops is where I start over, just me and my husband.

You seem to really like to use us as examples of how you pull people out of the swamp just seconds before a crocodile snaps us in two. It's all for Your glory, Jesus, but no more swamps, please. Just dry land and some time to catch our breath.

I've wondered if maybe we're cursed, Lord. I've been assured by faithful friends that You don't work that we. Satan has no hold on us. We belong to You. It's up to me to react to my problems in a way that glorifies You, but I'm getting too tired to react at all.

We need a solution. Not just a quick fix, but a SOLUTION. And we need it NOW. I still believe in You because You bless me when I don't deserve it. I don't deserve Your blessings now, either, but I'm begging You for them. Lift us up and OUT.

Help me to turn to You and not other things - things that destroy me - while I wait.

In Jesus' name,