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October 2012 entries

Why is it Alright to Promote Halloween but Deny Prayer

It's been a constant stream of news in the last couple of years; schools restricting the use of prayer because a small minority oppose it. Most recently it was the controversy over a football team in Texas running onto the field through a banner with a Bible verse. Can you imagine what damage that must have done to the sensitive minds of the students who took time to read it before it was torn in half by a sophomore lineman? For those of us, and there are many, who think introducing prayer and scripture into the public school systems of America are good things, we wonder what form of Christian free speech will be the next to fall. What about purely pagan rituals and practices, are they off limits simply because they aren't religious in nature? This brings me to my topic; Halloween. Halloween isn't religious? In fact most of the symbols and practices of October 31 are based on pagan religious rituals of Western Europe that pre-date the birth of Christ.    

I am offended by the open practice of Halloween in public schools. There are tombstones, jack-o-lanterns, witches brooms, black cats.... well you get my drift. Symbols of this dark holiday are abundant from elementary thru high schools all over America. Not only are there representations of death and evil all over the classroom, but most kids will be allowed to dress in costume as well. Every year it seems the costumes get a little less scary and a little more risque.

So why is it that it's ok to promote Halloween but it's not ok to call it Easter or Christmas break anymore? Why is it ok to place skulls, tombstones and blood around small children while taking down crosses? Is it alright to act contrary to the few of us who are opposed to such symbolism?

I read  in Ephesians 5:11 "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." It seems to be sufficient enough at the beginning of a ballgame to prevent prayer when there is only one parent that is against it . Is it because they threaten with lawsuits? Should those of us threaten legal action who are against Halloween in schools? I don't think so.

Why? I don't really think Halloween costumes or decorations are going to damage our children. Just because I have a personal conviction against celebrating Halloween doesn't mean that everyone else shares my convictions. I'm just asking for equal treatment. While some may assume I want the whole world to think like I do, I don't. I want people to think for themselves. I know a lot of Christians who disagree with me about Halloween. That's ok too. It's not a deal breaker with me. People who have faith in Christ are responsible for their own walk before the Lord. I have no right to dictate my personal convictions to another. And neither do those who choose not to have faith in God have the right to dicate where or when we pray. That goes for public or private prayers. If they can promote activities that glorify violence and death then we should be allowed to advance the practice of prayer to the One Who gives abundant and eternal life.        

Behind the Scenes Look at Ministry

I thought I would share with those of you who are not in full time ministry what it can be like.

If you are a preschool minister your day could be reassuring a mom that her baby will be watched like a hawk by the workers assigned to the child's care. All the while praying the two escaped toddlers she's watching over the mom's shoulders don't make it to freedom before the harried workers chasing them crash into the next 7 moms who are waiting to make the same request.

Or the chidren's church director who is trying to teach the children that the offering plate is for making deposits and not withdrawls. All the while praying the 12 year old girl who is leading worship in children's church that morning doesn't lead the children in her favorite classic praise chorus, "Oops, I Did it Again", choreography, outfit and all.

Maybe you've never been with a middle school pastor when he explains to the group that "free time" is not a code word for "let's walk to MacDonalds to meet high school boys." Or when at a beach retreat a kid spikes a volleyball at the speed of sound onto the end of the middle school pastor's big two that he just broke while playing frisbee football.

Maybe you weren't there the night of the lock-in for high schoolers when the high school pastor was dumped just before dark in a remote cemetery. There he waited for the kids to arrive just after the sun went down to tell the story of Jesus Who was in the grave three days.  Just to be left until 1 in the morning because a student began sharing their heart with the other students which resulted in a 3 hour hug fest before someone remembered the stranded youth pastor among the tombs.

How about the Easter Sunday morning when a choir member got mad at our worship leader during the 6 a.m. rehearsal and called the police. We convinced the officer to wait until at least after our 3rd Sunday morning service before escorting the worship leader downtown to be booked for assault. (By the way, the charges were dropped.)

Why don't I share with you the times a member has met me as I walked off the platform from preaching God's Word to share that my fly was half unzipped the whole time; or that I misquoted their favorite verse; or that I had forgotten to fill in a blank and that I would be responsible for their ensuing nervous breakdown if I did give the answer immediately.

All of these stories are based upon real events. To be in the ministry is a tremendous honor. It is also a trip!    

This is Pastor Appreciation Month all across America. Would you write a sweet note of encouragement to one of our pastors. Stop one of them in the hallway at church and encourage them. Chances are you have no idea what a blessing you will be.          

Is Nothing Sacred?


"Serve you please?" That phrase brings back great memories. When my wife and I were newlyweds we would meet her parents at the Piccadilly for dinner almost every Friday evening. Walking through the serving line each lady would ask, "Serve you please?" Carrying my tray with a Dilly Platter and strawberry shortcake we would hunt for a seat in the crowded dining room. The wait to get into the restaurant would sometimes be 30 to 45 minutes. There you would strike up conversations with strangers who were also devotees to the long established eatery. Here is a lesser known fact. My first real job as a 16 year old was washing dishes at that very same Piccadilly.

Sunday the Piccadilly closes it's doors for the last time. That's what I was told last night at church. While I haven't eaten there in years, I suddenly feel remorse. A part of my heritage is going to be no more. Where will all the folks eat who have eaten there for years? Where will I eat when my wife and I are old and grey. (Well just old since the other is already taking place.)

Then as I read the headlines in this morning's paper, I felt like a heavyweight boxer who had survived one fierce left jab just to be pummeled with a haymaker to the chin. "Krystal Offices Moving to Atlanta." IS NOTHING SACRED? First they close the Piccadilly and now Chattanooga's own Krystal is moving to Atlanta?  Krystal defines my past. The first place I ever remember eating, besides home and the school cafeteria, was the Krystal. Dad wasn't much on taking the family out to eat, but my baseball coach was. Coach Welch would take us all to the Krystal on Cherokee Blvd. and tell us to order anything we wanted. I would order 5 Krystals (if you aren't from around here you may not know that the burger is the same name as the restaurant), a large order of fries and a large Coke. We would all sit at the stainless steel counter and wait. The food was delivered on real plates, not in paper boxes. They would stack my burgers with 4 on the bottom and one perched atop the others. The fries would be on a plate as well and they were the best I have ever eaten. The Coke was in a real glass with ice and a paper straw. I have eaten in restaurants all over North America, Asia and Europe. Nothing compares with the experience at that steel counter with my teammates.

My second real job was at the Krystal on Highway 58. I fried real chicken. Not chicken fingers. Not Chicken nuggets. I fried wings, thighs, breasts and drumsticks for families headed to the park for the day. I made Krystal King burgers (check your history books students) and redeemed Krystal Kritters for free food. And now a group of investment bankers from Atlanta is ripping out my heart and taking it to their town! IS NOTHING SACRED?

Can anything good come from this? Well as Paul wrote to the Romans when the Emporer was messing with their way of life, "And we know all things work together for the good, for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

For years I have complained that church people resist change too much. Everytime something would change at Dallas Bay I would receive criticism from some. I understand just a little more now how they feel this morning. I guess I have been a little unmoved by their protests because I don't have a lot of fond memories of church when I was young. To me it's just about reaching people for Christ. "Whatever it takes" has been my mantra. Sometimes it probably seemed I did not care about the feelings of the saved just to reach one for Christ. I plan to be more sensitive about change from now on. Some people have the same fond memories of church that I do of the Piccadilly or the Krystal. I will always be motivated to reach the lost, but I plan to be more sensitive to the sacred things of the church.