Trunk or Treat

Why do some Christian churches celebrate “Trunk or Treat” rather than Halloween? It is because some denominations are strongly opposed to the idea of Halloween because they think it is honoring the devil. They also are concerned about the safety of their children knocking on strange neighbor’s doors asking for candy. So they want to find a safe alternative.

Instead of having “Trunk or Treat”, perhaps would be better not to have anything at all. “Trunk or Treat” still gives reference to Halloween. Perhaps have a harvest festival if you have to have something. To observe even part of a holiday that you are opposed to is still acknowledging it. Referring to it gives it credence. If they are truly opposed to it, then don’t have any festival of any kind on Halloween or in the week before.

But there are other things to consider. As to worrying about the neighbors, remember that part of being a follower of Jesus means that you should treat your neighbors as you would like to be treated. So you want people to be afraid of you and to never talk to you? If not, then why would you treat the neighbors like that? Why is it that Halloween is the one time of year where we are encouraged to talk to our neighbors? Halloween is a great time to be a Christian. You can meet your neighbors and make new friends.

Another problem is that there is no “trick” in “Trunk or Treat”. It is all “treat”. There is no risk of anything unusual happening. The risk is part of Halloween. Halloween is about things being different, where the unexpected can happen. It is about acknowledging that we aren’t in control of our lives. This too is in line with the words of Jesus, who reminds us constantly that God is in charge, and we aren’t.

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Tilly and the lawn.

Tilly and the lawn

 

It was a big yard, and somebody had to mow it. 82° in the shade, and there wasn’t much of that to be had, but the grass still needed mowing.

Tilly was pleased with herself. All 7 acres in one day! Maurice said it couldn’t be done, but she did it. All week long he doubted her and it only egged her on. It was years later before she suspected that was his plan – to fire her up to do it by saying she couldn’t.

He was forever getting out of doing things one way or another. He thought he was so clever, but she was the real winner. He spent his whole life making others do everything for him and had never learned how to do anything for himself. Now he was a manager at a forgotten branch office of a small appliance outlet. Upper management had been fooled for years, thinking he did all the work.

When employee after employee quit, the house of cards tumbled down. They’d held it together for a very long time, but there was only so much they could take, watching him get the praise, the bonuses, the requests for motivational speeches. They couldn’t get why nobody else could see through his lies. Finally they left, one by one, and he was left by himself to run the shop. He didn’t even know how to run the cash register. It took the corporate office a week to suspect something was wrong. It took them a month to find an out-of-the-way office where he couldn’t do the company a lot of damage.

They couldn’t fire him, no, that wouldn’t do. Nobody really knew why. It wasn’t like he had tenure, not officially. This wasn’t a college after all. Plenty of half-rate incompetents had slid under the wire in that field. He was likable, in an odd kind of way. Perhaps that was how he could cajole everyone – employees, family, neighbors, into doing things for him.

He wasn’t pushy in an obvious kind of way. He just knew how to put a little pressure here and a little finesse there and before you knew it you’d agree to give up your one day off to work his shift. Somehow, at the time, you forgot you had plans you made weeks ago with friends you’d not seen since September. Somehow, it took several hours into your shift – his shift – to remember, and get angry and even a little resentful.

He was far away by then, and maybe that was part of his magic. The closer he was to you, the more you couldn’t resist, the more you couldn’t say no. Even 30-some-odd feet away at the other end of the building, his influence could still be felt. When he was at home he didn’t have the same power over them. But he sure had it over his wife.

Tilly made less than Maurice, always had. She was fine with that, because she had something he’d never have, something more than money. She had respect. She was respected by her coworkers and her family – people who had to be around her. Her friends didn’t just respect her – they adored her. They were drawn to her charm like a child is drawn to fireflies. They all did what she asked joyfully because she rarely asked – asked only when absolutely necessary, and even then she always said “You can say no”. They never did. Doing for her was like doing for a saint. You felt better after doing it, whatever the task.

Years later Tilly saw the picture of her standing on the front porch and laughed. If she’d only known just a few years later there’d be gas powered motors to speed things up. Just a few years later and there’d be tennis shoes, not loafers, for better grip. Just a few years later and she could have worn a T-shirt and shorts to do this chore, free to choose to wear a dress rather then it be the only option. All these advancements made her mowing accomplishment at the time all the more impressive because she did it without them.

She’d always thought that handicaps were advantages in disguise. They made you work harder, not take anything for granted. They handicapped the athletes who were stronger, didn’t they? Or was it horses? Something about making it a fair match. So being handicapped meant something good to her, meant that she secretly was better, stronger, more capable. Like she had secret powers and had to figure out what they were, hidden under that handicap. She always said that the more you focus on what you don’t have, the more you miss what you do.

Maurice was her handicap, so he was her blessing. Because of him she learned how not to treat others. He gave her so many examples of how not to act that she had a clear road in front of her showing her the way. It was like he’d gone through the test book of life and crossed out all the wrong answers, leaving her with all the right ones. It was an odd way of learning but it was learning nonetheless. It took her years to understand the gift that he given her by teaching her backwards.

Pictures from St. Meinrad’s monastery – the Abbey. September 2015

Outside. Looks like Hogwarts. The building to the right is the seminary.
Abbey outside<a>

Stained glass inside. The tree with the forbidden fruit becomes the cross that Jesus is crucified on in atonement for our sins.
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The altar, set out in the middle, amongst the people, rather than far away and separate from them. Note the two large candle holders. Two candles represent the Old Testament and the Gospels – and are also reminiscent of the two candles used at the head and foot of a dead body lying in state.
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Another picture of the altar. Note the really unusual Christus painting on the back wall. It is all in black.
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Where the laity sit. Note the small amount of informational books to help you follow along.
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Where the monks sit. Solid, with slight dividers. This way they pray together, but also have some privacy.
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Note the vast amount of informational books here for the monks. You’d think they wouldn’t need it more than the laity.
monk pews

The flying cross
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The cross
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The cross and altar. Note how the baptismal font looks like a chalice atop the altar at this angle.
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Outside door in the sunlight. This is a door that is not normally used.
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It is quite atmospheric this time of day and year.
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The baptismal font. Covered in scenes depicting stories about water in the Bible. The font is connected to a water pump so it burbles all the time with fresh water. It is quite large.
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Outside the Abbey front doors.
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Inside the Blessed Sacrament chapel.
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The Black Madonna.
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A sunny picture of the Abbey.
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Very ornamented.
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Inside, a Corinthian column.
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A Yale lock on the front left door.
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Halloween and Christianity

I’ve met a lot of people in the small community I work in who say that they don’t celebrate Halloween because “It’s the Devil’s holiday”.

There are a couple of points to be made. Halloween is, fully spelled out, “All Hallow’s Eve” – the name refers to the day before All Saints Day, which is observed on November 1st. The word “hallows” refers to “hallowed”, meaning “sacred”. All Saints Day is a holiday that is primarily observed by Catholics and Episcopalians. All other Christian denominations generally have no idea of its existence, thus they don’t know what the word “Halloween” refers to. All Saints Day is the day to remember and honor all the famous people who have died who were strong in their faith and lead the way for us. This includes people such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Patrick, and Mother Theresa. They are our role models in faith. Lesser known is that November 2nd is “All Soul’s Day” – where we remember all the people we know and love who have passed on. This includes any relatives or friends we might have who have inspired us to be better people.

Another point is that we believe that there is just one God. To give any power to another force is in violation of the commandment saying “You shall have no other gods before me.” Everything is from God. To personify the idea of evil and to ascribe power to it is to say that there is another god, which is not possible. To say that it has power over you verges on idolatry. So remember that God is in charge, first and foremost.

When I was at Cursillo, I received a bookmark that really helped re-frame Halloween for me. I’ve reworded it a little to polish it up. Here you go –

Being a Christian is like being a pumpkin. God chooses you, raises you up, takes you in and washes the dirt off of you. He opens you up, reaches deep inside, and scoops out all the yucky stuff – including seeds of doubt, hate, greed, and the like. Then God carves a new smiling face for you and puts His light inside of you to shine for all of the world to see.

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds, and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Hilda in the snow.

Hilda

Hilda was shivering. Cousin Tom insisted on taking her picture.  She protested, mildly. “You can’t take my picture – it can’t even be given away.” She mentioned an old tale she’d read in one of the many folktale books she’d found to while away the time in these cold winter months. “Some cultures say that taking pictures takes the soul, others say that it is making a graven image, and that’s a sin.”  When pressed, she couldn’t remember what culture said it, or if there were more than one that had this belief.

Tom was having none of it. “The sooner you let me take this picture, the sooner you can be inside,” he retorted. That was enough for Hilda. 10 feet away, stock still, she stood. The moment she heard the metallic click of the shutter release she was free. She trudged back inside, her duty done.

He said he was going to take a picture of all his relatives, save them up in an album. He’d include labels too, with history, birthdate, the lot. Maybe even accomplishments. She thought he should include that she’d won first prize in typing at the local career college.

Typing wasn’t her thing.  It was her parent’s idea. She’d always wanted to be a cellist for some big symphony in some city – anywhere away from here. The sound of the cello reached down to her bones with its warmth, all golden-honey smooth. Her parents thought this was poppycock, wasteful, a dreamer’s fantasy, and told her often, even if she hadn’t brought the subject up that week. She was going to be a secretary and that was that. They paid good money for those typing classes and weren’t going to have her waste it with some fool idea of playing an instrument they’d never even seen in real life.

They decided they had to do something to prepare for her future. That was the reason for the classes.  They had no ambitions she’d ever get married, so she’d have to support herself after they’d passed on.

They would never say she was ugly, at least not out loud. Homely. Plain, even. “She has a great personality,” they’d chirp to new acquaintances, in the off chance they might have a son in a similar predicament. Even if a date did come of it, there never was a second one. The boys all said “You think too much,” and that was that. The guy didn’t want her, and she didn’t want him.

“Like thinking too much is a bad thing,” she’d say to herself. She wasn’t one to dumb herself down to their level. They’d either have to rise to hers or she do without a man in her life. That suited her just fine.

Meanwhile, she was cold, and her party shoes were now ruined from that snow.

 

(Photo purchased October 2015, from the three-story antique mall on West King Street in Boone, NC. It was in the “adopt a relative” box and cost $0.50)

The bramble-bush baby

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He found the feral child on Wednesday, under the bramble-bush. Hank had meant to cut that bush down six weeks ago, after that toad-strangling thunderstorm.  Said it would loosen up the roots, make it easier to get out, to do it then.  He forgot, or put it by, maybe hoping Ellie wouldn’t remember she’d asked.

She hadn’t. That was all he heard about.  She left him notes.  She asked him after he came home from work.  She suggested that today looked like a good day.  It started off once a week that she’d remind him, but then it was twice a week.  Then it was more. At 8 that Wednesday morning he finally got tired of her reminding him, so out he went, hoe in hand.

He thought he saw something odd the moment he stepped out the back door.  A bit of laundry blown over from Mrs. Whipple’s house? A piece of paper from a torn-open bag of trash? The wind was forever driving things into their yard.

The wind drove a baby into their yard this time.

The moment Hank saw it, dark-eyed and brooding, with a narrow-eyed stare that thinly hid years of malice and hate behind them, he knew this was a baby in size only.  Knew right then and there it wasn’t human, neither.  He ran back inside, more afraid of that child than of the ribbing he’d get from Ellie at bein’ a’feared of anything.  First off he’d have to explain how he wasn’t shirking the bramble-bush chore.  That alone was enough to make him think twice about going all the way back inside.

He stood a bit in the mud-room, on that peeling linoleum floor, trying to decide.  He’d known Ellie for 18 years.  He just met that baby, if a baby it really was.  He decided he was better off going back outside.  He knew how Ellie got when she was angry.  He’d take his chances with the baby.

(Photo purchased October 2015, from the three-story antique mall on West King Street in Boone, NC. It was in the “adopt a relative” box and cost $1.50)