Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hash browns and Halloween

I’m in Seattle again for some meetings at our conference office, It also happens to be halloween. I stopped off at a little restaurant to grab an egg and toast for breakfast on my way to the meeting. the restaurant was mostly empty except for a me and an older couple at a table across the room and a few others enjoying the artery clogging meals that are the true greasy spoon experience.

The waitress came up up to the couple eating breakfast to give them their check and laid it on the table with “thanks for coming in have a happy halloween”. The woman at the table answered back “oh we don’t do halloween - I think it’s terrible” I don’t think the waitress was really expecting a point counter point discussion so she kinda had that “well ok then...” attitude. The problem was that the restaurant was small enough that she couldn’t get away from the “conversation” (and I use the word conversation more in the monologue sense of the word)

As the woman launched into the evils of Halloween and how the fact that “these kids” are celebrating an evil holiday more than Christmas is a sign the world is going to hell in a hand basket. I felt more and more un easy, and more than a little dissapointed, that as a woman of Christian faith and conviction this was the avenue she was taking to speak out.

Now, I can see the terribleness in Halloween, especially the terribleness in our waitress wearing a kitty costume made for a 12 year old who weighed 98 lbs and she was neither 12 nor 98 lbs. Every year we have a “harvest party” at church as a gift to the kids of our community, cause we are uncomfortable associating with Halloween, which is fine. Every year I have to explain to the youth group why we don’t do a haunted house at the harvest party. We work hard at making this place, and this group of people, a safe place and community where people feel loved, and can explore the life giving grace of God. Does having a gool chase you with a knife down the back hallway of the church promote that spiritual life of hope we are about?... not so much. So I can see some of the woman’s point.

What bugged me about the one-sided conversation was the fact that it so quickly turned form “oh we don’t do the holiday of halloween” to “those kids...” In my mind I pictured her at the mall while my wife and I take my two kids (Adeline 6 years old will be a china girl thanks to mom’s trip to China town in San Francisco this summer, and Jackson 9 years old will be Ash Catchum (sp?) of pokemon fame) trick or treating. It was the same feeling I had when I heard someone tell me that “the pastor’s son shouldn’t be reading Harry Potter books”. Is there a better way to make people, especially kids, feel like they are evil and unloved, than by saying such things?

I don’t want to imply that we as people of faith shouldn’t stand up for what we believe is right, or stand against those things we feel are wrong. In fact I think we people of faith have lost that desire to love justice do mercy and walk humbly with God in most arena’s of our lives, both personal and private. But in doing so we can never forget that there are people involved. When I hear “those kids” are so bad - I hear “my kids”. I also see cranky old woman with a heart of coal... It reminded me that the way we live our faith affects people, and not just on a grand society level, but on a very personal level (that is if we are even living our faith at all) I’m challenged by the fact that when I make those stands, or act on my beliefs they have to come from a place of love and compassion and life, not from meanness or revenge or dislike.

So if you celebrate Halloween make sure you costume is age and weight appropriate, brush your teeth well after sweets, and have fun.

For the rest of you have a happy Harvest party, or All Saints day or Day of the Dead, or whatever, or just a happy Tuesday.

God Bless

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

There's always a chance!

I was watching the Monday Night Football game this last week between the Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears. As the pre game show started the Bears were a HUGE favorite. As the pre game show announcers were talking about the teams; giving us injury reports and statistics and another thing they could think of to fill the remaining half hour till kickoff, Tom Jackson made this statement about the Cardinals; “They don’t have a chance”. The other three announcers looked a bit stunned, and in fact he said it a second time “They don’t have a chance” to emphasize his point. Finally former 49er's QB Steve Young replied to the comment “What do you mean they don’t have a chance? There’s always a chance! Sheesh! That’s why they play the game. There’s always a chance!” As the game was played the Bears ended up winning the game by one point after coming from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the team that supposedly “didn’t have a chance”(Field goal kickers have to have the highest stress levels known to humanity.)

Although the team I was rooting for was the underdog, and it was wonderful to see the team that that didn’t have a chance almost shock the world and win the game. (it would have been a better story if they won the game but ya' take what you can get)

That phrase has been rolling around in my head all week “There’s always a chance!” I don’t want to be a pie in the sky type person but I think it's true of football and in life - “There is always a chance!” Every Sunday we pray the “lord’s prayer” and say “thy kingdom come, thy will be done”. No matter how screwed up things seem politically or socially or personally we pray that God’s kingdom would break into this world, and our systems and God’s will would be done. When the Israelites were crying out in their misery under Pharoe’s slave masters there was always a chance. That chance became reality when Moses answered God’s call at that burning bush. When the paralytic had been confined to a mat for years there was always a chance. It became a reality when his friends tore a hole in the roof to lower that mat down to Jesus and he was healed.

It seems to me that when our faith becomes about the work of God’s Holy Spirit in us to see our world changed and lives made new, we find hope. It’s in that hope that we can say “there’s always a chance”. The cool thing about it is that in this situation the underdog does win. The servant who is beaten and bruised breaks free from the tomb, conquers the sins of the world that were so heavily favored to destroy us, and all of creation is redeemed - and we get the joy of being partners with God in that recreation of the world. Never forget - “THERE IS ALWAYS A CHANCE!”