Fall Festival: A Christian Alternative?

I suppose the idea of Fall Festival that has become so common among Protestant churches this time of year came about as an alternative for the children of Christian parents to have a chance to dress up and have some good, clean fun on Halloween without the inherent dangers or pranking perils of the night-time event. And, of course, those who planned it wanted to encourage the community to come take part in a Church event that might open the door to knowing Jesus and joining a community of faith. I’m sure that was the intention.

My experiences have led me to understand that not everyone who professes Christ as Lord has a problem with dressing ghoulishly or participating in the fright-fest along with our larger American community. I can appreciate that point of difference with brothers and sisters. I just wonder if we are doing our children and our neighbors’ children a dis-service when they find our church events decorated with ghosts, goblins, and the like. And I’m really not sure how we could share our testimony of faith in Jesus with our children or our visitors while dressed as a witch. Or from a trunk decorated with scary red eyes or severed limbs.

I totally “get” the intention of Fall Festival. What I don’t get is how churches sometimes fall into the trap of allowing Fall Festivals to look and feel so much like a regular Halloween party. Kids love costumes. So do some adults. Costumes can make a church event fun as long as they are within some defined boundaries. Games, food, and candy are always fun party fare. All of those things are perfect ways for a church community to celebrate. But if those things happen without giving Jesus center-stage, we may as well have met down at the Club House.

I have raised children during the 1990’s, the 2000’s, and now the 2010’s. It is a challenge to raise Christian children, folks! It is a challenge because we are faced with so many calls to make on where to draw our lines. We are responsible for helping our children understand what it means to identify as a Christian and how that identity looks, feels, and behaves differently from what we experience at school, around town, and on TV. That, my friends, is a tall order and it requires great clarity and courage. Christian parents must dare to do things differently . . . and to explain why we make the choices we do so that our children learn to use Christian sources of authority in their own decision-making.

Do you have some defined boundaries within your family about the ways you allow your children to take part in Halloween events? Perhaps you have a different perspective you would like to share. Even when we see things differently, the discussion is always valuable!

Yom What?: A Lesson in Fasting, Prayer and Repentance

It was four years ago that I stumbled upon Yom Kippur. As a Christian growing up in the rural American South, I didn’t have Jewish friends or neighbors and never was exposed to any Jewish holidays or practices. Granted, my family name is largely a Jewish name. Several family members have a strong affinity for all things Jewish – I call it our cellular connection – but we have been estranged from that part of our heritage. Nevertheless, for reasons totally outside of myself, I was led to this annual practice of fasting, prayer and repentance.

The first time I did it, I was led to the decision to fast without even knowing that it was coinciding with Yom Kippur. While I was googling proper ways to fast, since I had never done it before, I literally stumbled upon the description of Yom Kippur and used it as my model for what I believed God was leading me to do.

Have you ever needed to hear from God so desperately that you physically ached to find His presence and hear a word from Him? That was my frame of mind when the Holy Spirit led me to this initiation into fasting. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I had to seek Him with everything I had and to do something I had never done before . . . because what I had been doing simply was not enough any more. The experience was life-changing for me. I learned that God is just as eager to meet us where we are – and His desire is to give us the hope, strength, courage, comfort , or whatever else we so desperately need.

I may feel led to fast at various times throughout the year during times of seeking or despair or thanksgiving, but Yom Kippur holds a very special place in my heart. It isn’t because it’s a Jewish holiday. It is because God himself led me into that time of communion, prayer and repentance and I consider it to be an annual date! It is a bonus in my mind that He used a Jewish holy day to speak to me in such a powerful way.

Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement. We think of atonement as it applies to what Jesus accomplished once and for all for humanity: at-one-ment with God. Being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ is our gift. This year, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Friday night and ends at sundown on Saturday night. Perhaps you have been seeking God’s answers to your most puzzling problems. Perhaps you have a need to spend time confessing and repenting for your personal sins, or maybe the collective sins of your family, your church, or our nation. Maybe the Holy Spirit has nudged you toward the spiritual discipline of fasting but you have felt uncertain about how or why to even do it. I encourage you try it. You may be led into the most wonderful experience of your life!