Breathe!

Breathe!

Breathe in.

Pause.

Breathe out.

Pause.

Breathe in.

Inspiration:     “To be filled with God’s Spirit.”

Pause.

Breathe out.

Expiration:     “To die to self.”

Pause.

Breathe!

Breathe

BOO!

Boo

Did I scare you? October 31st claims the title of Spookiest Day of the Year.

The church doesn’t quite know what to do with Halloween. Some believe it is a demonic observation that accentuates the occult. Others think it is a nothing more than a harmless fall festival. However, a deeper meaning makes the holiday a holy day for Christians.

“Halloween” is a contraction of the words “All Hallow’s Eve.” “Hallow” means to make holy. “Hallows” names God’s holy ones or saints. In the church calendar, October 31st is the evening before “All Saints Day” when the church honors God’s faithful dead.

Like many Christian holidays, the church co-opted a pagan holiday and baptized it with new meaning. The ancient Celtic people observed “Samhain” (SAH-win) on October 31-November 1. The festival celebrated the harvest and recognized the division between the “light” and “dark” halves of the year. It combined Thanksgiving and New Year’s in the Celtic calendar.

During this time, the Celts believed that the line between this world and the next—between the living and the dead—thinned. Spirits could cross the weakened boundary freely. So frightened people lit bonfires, carved gourds, and wore masks to frighten or confuse any harmful spirits. Many of our Halloween traditions reflect these Celtic practices.

Little wonder that Halloween so confuses the church. It blends piety and paganism, the profound and profane, the sacred and secular. Some devout believers see the occult disguised in costumes. Others dismiss the day as a harmless folk festival. A few recall the deeper meaning of “All Hallow’s Eve.”

Today fear and faith symbolically face off against one another. Halloween sports the traditional colors of black and orange. Black represents the darkness of night. Orange symbolizes the light of fire. The black dark of doubt challenges the orange fire of faith.

In my office, I treasure a copy of a 16th century prayer from A Peasants’ Cornish Litany which reads:

From ghoulies and ghosties, long leggitie beasties,

And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!

What frightens you? What threatens to scare your faith to death? Jesus Christ calls us from fear to faith. We can become fearless!

Fear nothing this Halloween. Fear nothing in this world. Fear nothing in life. Fear nothing in death. We serve the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and nothing can overcome us in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord!

Amen.

The Five Languages of Appreciation

In 1995, Gary Chapman published The Five Love Languages. The author asserts people express and receive love in one of five “languages,” including: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch. Each person possesses a primary and secondary language.

Chapman goes on to say that people tend to express love in the ways they like to receive love. This can lead to misunderstandings among couples. With the best of intentions, a couple may be speaking two different languages, and miscommunication naturally follows.

I often recommend The Five Love Languages in premarital counseling. It’s a tool that can enable effective communication in a marriage.

Five LanguagesI recently discovered Chapman wrote a variation on his bestseller designed for organizations. It is entitled The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. He notes that people often feel unappreciated where they work or volunteer. Little gestures can make a big difference.

Chapman explores four of the five love languages in the workplace. (He recognizes that physical touch might not be appropriate at the office!) Remember that effective communication means learning and practicing the recipient’s language of appreciation rather than your own.

Words of Affirmation: Recognize the effort of others and express your appreciation for the work they do. Be specific and timely in your words.

Quality Time: Make time to spend time with others. Invest your precious time and undivided attention into another’s life.

Acts of Service: Offer help in appropriate ways when a colleague is overwhelmed. Let the person define what would be most helpful, and then do it his or her way!

Gifts: A gift does not have to be big to be significant. A note, cup of coffee, gift card, or lunch can express more than a thousand words for some people.

I recently heard a mega-church pastor speak about appreciation. He encouraged leaders to consider an appropriate amount of appreciation, double it, and then add a little more before expressing it to others.

In one of his classic songs, James Taylor sang: “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel.” Turns out appreciation works the same way.

Water of Life

Bottled water has become a multi-billion dollar business. National brands cost more per gallon than gasoline. Industry representatives spend millions annually touting the merits of bottled elixirs over tap water. However, studies suggest no discernible difference between designer and faucet water.

During my childhood, no one thought much about water. Every faucet tapped into an inexhaustible supply. We took long baths with shower heads that dispensed enough pressurized water to peel paint. Oversized commodes flushed away countless gallons with a satisfying rush of liquid. When the plumbing ran too long, jiggling the handle took care of the problem.

Bottled waterI recall the first advertisements about bottled water back in the 1980s. The concept dumbfounded me. Why would people pay good money for something they could get for free? I figured the concept would die along with other fads like cell phones, satellite TV, and Apple computers.

Today grocery stores dedicate shelf after shelf to bottled water. The name brands by the major bottling companies occupy the most space. However, flavored waters with exotic ingredients have carved a niche for themselves.

The ecologically conscious now recommend using reusable bottles with tap water. Many homes and offices recycle. We have all begun to realize that natural resources are not inexhaustible resources. Water is a precious gift of creation that must be wisely utilized.

Tap, spring, artesian, or bottled—water is life. As children of the Creator, we are called to be wise stewards of this valuable commodity.

Children’s TV

The Grand Miss Haisley, our adorable granddaughter, recently spent the weekend at our house. In preparation for the visit, we recorded a few family friendly videos on TV. Contemporary changes in children’s programming proved to be a big surprise.

Our children grew up in the 1990s with Barney. The purple and green dinosaur sang and danced his way into the hearts of American millennials. According to an internet search, Barney became extinct in 2009.

Big Bird

Our son and daughter also loved Sesame Street. However, the current HBO production bears little resemblance to the former PBS version. Many of the same characters remain, but entertainment rather than education now appears to be the goal.

VeggieTales also disappointed. The computer generated cartoons debuted in the early 1990s, featuring animated vegetables and fruits. The direct-to-video format featured unapologetically Christian story-lines. Scripture passages provided the theme for every episode.

Today’s Netflix production of VeggieTales has abandoned its religious roots like Esau trading his birthright for a bowl of stew. The morality tales teach mild lessons about ethics and manners with a passing nod at the Judeo-Christian heritage.

Money talks, and changes in children’s programming no doubt reflect the bottom line. However, I find myself missing older days when Mr. Rogers talked about simple truths with hand puppets serving as high tech.

Ultimately, it’s parents’ responsibility to teach their children about the faith. If we are depending on TV, Hollywood, or the government to do the job, then we’ll be eternally disappointed.

Raise up a child in the way they should go . . . including what children watch during screen time.

The Five A’s of Mistakes

The Northside Church staff leadership team recently attended a seminar and heard Danny Meyer speak. The renowned restaurateur emphasized the importance of hospitality in the service industry. In his best-selling book, Setting the Table, Meyer discussed the importance of servant leadership.

Although flawless service is the goal of every restaurant, miscues inevitably happen. Meyer teaches his staff team “The Five A’s” of responding to mistakes.

  • Awareness. Recognize a mistake has been made.
  • Acknowledge. Claim responsibility for what has gone wrong.
  • Apologize. Two of the most powerful words in the English language are “I’m sorry.”
  • Act. Match words with action. Do your best to right the wrong.
  • Apply additional generosity. Go the second mile with lavish graciousness.

Mistake 2

Meyer states that mistakes grant the opportunity to “write a great next chapter” in a relationship when one strives to “make it right.”

“The Five A’s of Mistakes” are not only good advice for restaurateurs but also for Christians.

Daniel’s Character

Daniel LionsLast Sunday I preached on the Old Testament story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den.

The story took place during a dismal time in Jewish history. After being defeated in battle, Israel’s best and brightest had been exiled to Babylonia. However, a Jewish man named Daniel rose in leadership through his ability, integrity, and faith.

Through a series of providential events, King Darius appointed Daniel as an administrator to help oversee the kingdom. Darius was so impressed by Daniel’s character and faithfulness that he planned to place him in charge over the entire country.

However, other royal advisors envied and resented Daniel. They investigated the man of God thoroughly to find some fault against him, but they were unable to do so.

Listen to the assessment of Daniel’s character by his ENEMIES: “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”

It’s striking how Daniel’s enemies confirmed his good character! Their extensive investigations revealed NOTHING.

Daniel passed every these test with flying colors. In fact, his enemies ultimately decided the only way to trap him was through the faithful practice of his faith.

Daniel’s life was a witness for those around him. By the end of the story, even King Darius called the people to worship Daniel’s God.

May we live in such a way that even our enemies confirm our faithful lives.