To celebrate Halloween or not?

Several years ago I had to make a choice between following God and celebrating Halloween. I had an opportunity to go to Cursillo, but it was the same weekend as the annual Halloween party.  I chose Cursillo, and it made a huge difference in my life.  While I have been to subsequent parties, I really am wondering about it this year.

I am part of a social group that really likes Halloween. And when I say really like it, I mean that they decorate their homes for Halloween every day of the year. They eat sleep and breathe Halloween.

Don’t get me wrong – I like October and the crisp fall air the same as anyone else. I love free candy and I love the idea of costumes. But every year I have to start thinking to myself is this really the best way to show that I am a Christ follower?

Some of the people in the group are starting to discover the darker side of their hobby. They’re constantly getting sick and having to go to the emergency room. The husband is constantly being attacked by wasps. He could lose his life because of these little tiny things because he is so allergic. I think the same thing is true of his love for Halloween. Something that he sees as small and innocuous is leading towards death. The wife is now having nightmares and believes there is a poltergeist in their home.

The devil can’t bite you if you’re not playing with his tail.

The Bible tells us that every day we have a choice between life and death. We are asked to choose life, but it is a choice.

In the Hebrew scriptures God tells Israel repeatedly to make themselves holy because he is holy. They must purge the iniquity for among them. They must separate themselves out in order to remain a distinct and distinguished people. They are not to take up the habits or worship the idols or follow the traditions of the communities that they stay in. Then Jesus comes along and associates with the outcasts. Jesus does not advocate that we spend our lives separate from everyone else.  Jesus identifies with those who are lost or broken, those who are unable to connect. Jesus touches lepers and heals them. He heals people by including them.

So as Christians can we go to Halloween parties or not? Will it be an opportunity to minister to people who are lost?  Or will we “catch” their sickness?

The apostle Paul says that there is no harm to us in eating food sacrificed to idols.  But he does point out that it might cause harm to new believers.  They might get the wrong impression from our actions.

The party this year was called “Doc Satan’s Halloween Hoedown”.  That alone made me think twice.  Is that something I should associate myself with? Jesus can return at any time.  I like to think of this as a very serious version of “Musical Chairs”.  When the music stops – what are you doing?

I have gone to their Halloween parties in the past, and I thought of that group as my friends, but then I realized that they don’t invite me to their dinner parties on their trips.  They never comment or even “like” my Facebook posts.

I kind of feel like I’m getting sober, and seeing who my friends really are. I’m also feeling like it is time to stand up for what I believe in.

I thought about the bare minimum idea of how to celebrate Halloween – that giving candy out is symbolic of appeasing the evil spirits. And yet, to even do that is to say they have power, when the only Power that exists is God.

I appreciate Dia de los Muertos and All Saint’s day. I like what they stand for – of remembering loved ones who have died.  These celebrations are about remembering a life, rather than celebrating death.  They are more like a family reunion.

I decided not to go to the party, and when I saw the pictures of the male host dressed as Baphomet, I knew I had made the right decision.  It isn’t a fun little costume party when you dress up as a demon.

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This decoration was at the party.  Is this healthy to associate with?

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This Scripture is important – “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” When you know better, do better.

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Return, not repent

I frequently drive by this train trestle on my way to centering prayer. I finally decided to take the time to stop and photograph it. This required that I drive past it and park at the entrance to a neighborhood and walk back.  There is no shoulder to the bridge I stood on so I had to be very mindful of traffic, and pray they would notice me.  I had not planned to do this so I wasn’t wearing bright clothing.  Army green is a neutral in my world.

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I admire the effort required to write this, and I love the colors and font. The word on it – repent – is problematic. The English word “Repent” has such weight. The original Hebrew word is “tshuvah”, which means “to return”. It isn’t about “paying for your sins” but turning away from them and walking towards life. Every moment of every day we have a choice – to choose life or choose death. And every time we make an unhealthy choice, we get the opportunity once again to turn around and get going in the right direction again. It isn’t about penance at all.

Consider when the Psalmist says in Psalm 103:12 –

“As far as the east is from the west / So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

– that the distance from east and west is simply a matter of direction, instead of distance.  If you are walking east, all you have to do to walk west is turn around.

God doesn’t care how far you are along the path of life – just as long as you are walking along it.  God cares which direction you are pointed.

When you notice that you’ve gotten turned around and are headed in the wrong direction (this is part of being human and happens to all of us) then all you have to do is turn back around towards Light and Life and the Lord.

Stone Hall sketch 10-27-17

Back to Stone Hall this Friday. I’d thought about going to the great Catholic cemetery on Hermitage Avenue but the trees weren’t at their Autumnal peak yet. Plus, by the time I got back the traffic would be bad. That is something for a day when I get out of the house early. Leaving the house to have lunch at 2 puts a kink in sketching, especially when the sun sets by 5:45.

I walked around looking for a place to sketch and decided to do the front view as I’d considered the first time. I had to use a little bit of the panorama feature to get in all that I saw.

With sketching, you can get in more than a photo can see.

You also don’t have to treat it like a photo – you can highlight what you want, and leave out what you don’t.

Watercolor pencils on Strathmore mixed-media mini-journal. Around 3:30 to 4:30, 69 degrees.

Sketching at a cemetery

I went to the Hermitage Memorial Gardens on 10-20-17 and sketched. It is normal for me to go visit a cemetery in October. My family members who have died were cremated – not buried, so I don’t have a place to visit when I feel the need to visit. So I go to a random cemetery and think about them.

Note that I call it a “cemetery” and not a “memorial garden”. You don’t plant memories. We have to stop being euphemistic about death. Pretending it doesn’t happen makes it harder when it does.

But I’ve also committed to sketching once a week, so here we go!

The tree (I didn’t sketch from this angle, but you get the idea)

The sketch, first dry (watercolor pencils) and then after I added water.

I stood up while I sketched, balancing the case of 10 pencils on the left side of the journal.  I sketched in the shade of a tree.  This was maybe 20 minutes.

Too many journals?

I have a journal problem. I can’t pass a new one up, even though I have a lot of them already. They are all different sizes and shapes. And these are just the empty ones!

Here is a list of the ones I’m in the middle of. I have only recently come to accept this part of my creative process and not fight it.

 

The big Strathmore one where I paint and glue.

One where I am rewriting the Psalms.

A book where I color and reflect upon the Psalms.

“Color your life” coloring and journaling.

A small magazine collage.

A large magazine collage.

A daily one with meditations, observations, stories, and art and ephemera.

Paper vintage ephemera collage.

One for testing new art supplies and the bison series.

A small leather book (handmade) with meditations on the oneness of God.

A biography of myself using stamps as the illustration / reminders / triggers.

A book where I put in my history and illustrated with printed pictures.

A small journal that I take to church to take notes.

A journal just for writing in with nothing else – no art.  It has meditations and observations on my life trying to figure out how to make things work better.

A dream journal.

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That is a lot of journals!

I use them in different ways, putting different things in them – different materials, different ideas. Some are open to the world, some are more private.

Having multiple journals going at once means that I can work on whatever I want when I want instead of having to feel stuck with one project at a time.

However, I do sometimes feel that I never get anything done, that I have too many “open tickets” to borrow a term from my husband’s work. When this happens I then look at what journals I’m closest to finishing and focus on them.

But it isn’t long before I will start another one!

Sometimes I think I have too many journals, and then I think of hermit crabs, who have to have several different shells to choose from when it is time for them to trade shells. My journals are my shells, where I put myself.

Here are some I have finished that were made with a theme. There are plenty others that are just daily writing or observations.

These include one where I wrote out my favorite verses from the Psalms (on paper I first gessoed and inked); one about the eclipse 8/21/17; a longitudinal study of a maple tree in autumn, and a tiny one that has pictures and words from magazines.

Stone Hall

I have decided to go sketch outside once a week (at least).

This is my first trip.  It was Friday October 10/6/17

This was at Stone Hall park, a tiny Metro park near my home.  It was a private residence that was built 1918.

I found a little porch where I could sit.

Here is the dry watercolor pencil version. This took an hour.

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Here it is after I added water.

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A lady named Julie came by and unlocked it.  She was cleaning it up for a wedding that afternoon.  I asked if I could go in.  She said yes.  I couldn’t believe my luck.

I’ve made up so many excuses to skip doing this for at least a year.  It was too hot or cold or sunny or wet or I was tired or needed to go to the bathroom or take leftovers home….and while some of these were applicable here, I went anyway because I had packed my supplies and a camp chair in my car.   I thought it would be a shame to not at least go and look.  I ended up spending over an hour here.  It was very invigorating.

Here is me inside the building.

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The inside/outside room

This week’s sketching adventure was at Summit hospital. There is a small patio that is surrounded by the building. It is inside and outside at the same time. The door has been locked for at least a year due to construction and remodeling.

I’d been there a year ago (an annual appointment with my cardiologist brings me here) and was planning to sketch then.  The construction had just begun, so there was no way.  This sign greeted me this year –

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I looked.  I could see no danger.  I didn’t test the door.

I got a pumpkin spice latte at the coffee shop and sketched and photographed from inside, through the glass.  This was my view from the inside.

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This is what I sketched (this is dry watercolor pencil)

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It is more impressionistic than realistic.  I didn’t match up the angles in the top North East corner (9 to 10 on the clock), so there is a gap.  It is OK, and I was grateful to have done this – to have made time to do this.

But this wasn’t enough for me. I talked to three people to determine why it was still locked.  The second person didn’t even think people were meant to be out there.  When I told her there were benches, she changed and said “Ask Ann” and jerked her thumb behind her to a small window that was set up like a bank teller.  It turns out that Ann is in charge of the switchboard. I have decided that if Ann doesn’t know the answer, she knows who knows.  She made some calls. She learned that it was safe to open again.  She called a security guard to unlock it for me.

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I’m the first person there in a year.

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I was overwhelmed with joy and pride at my bravery in asking.  I quietly said the “Shehecheyanu” prayer  – – “Blessed are You, Lord, ruler of the universe, who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this moment.”

I chose a bench to sit on.  Here is what I saw –

One picture could not cover it all.

Here is what I sketched – (this is dry watercolor pencil)  This was 10-11 am, Friday October 13, 2017.  It was about 65 degrees.

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Here is what it looks like after, with water added. sum 10.jpgSketching isn’t about drawing everything that you see.  It is more than a photograph.  The filter is your perspective – not only externally, but internally.  It is what you want to show.  It is about editing out the trash cans, or highlighting the blue reflection of the mirrored glass.  It is choosing to draw only three lines of windows instead of 5.

It is more than a photograph because it shows things from a human perspective.

I took the results to the three people who I talked to in order to gain access.  I said “here is the fruit of our labors”   – and only the coffee shop person even remembered me.  I’d been gone for an hour and the other two had talked to lots of other people in the meantime.  They had forgotten about me.

Ann was particularly taken by my sketch and said “Do you do this for a living?”  No – I’m not paid (yet) for my art.  I do this to live.  But I don’t make money at it.  She brought up a local artist, Phil Ponder.  To have my art compared with his is a huge complement.  She said “You have real talent”.  I am pleased with my work, but I don’t think it is that great.  But this is inspiring.   She also thought that it would be a shame for this to stay in my journal – that I should make it so it can be on display in the hospital.

We will see.  This would involve asking more people, making sure that it will actually be on display and not hidden in a corner.  It might involve re-painting it on bigger and better paper.  Getting it framed.  Do I pay for that – or do they?  Do I want to go through all of that work?