Joshua 1:9 “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Halloween seems to give a lot of Christians fits, but the holiday has always been a part of my life. Probably this has a lot to do with my brother, Rob, who has been creating haunted houses for neighborhood kids since his teenage years. We grew up on a lonely old road surrounded by gnarly elm trees whose bare branches made the perfect creepy silhouette against the late October moon. And the stone basement of our 1776 home made for a great atmosphere for Rob’s special effects on Halloween night.
As an adult, Rob has taken over his neighbor’s small barn and made it into the chief Halloween attraction in his town. Here’s the local paper coverage for this year: http://www.nashobapublishing.com//ci_7287901?IADID=Search-www.nashobapublishing.com-www.nashobapublishing.com. You’ll notice in the article a mention of “Robertson’s sister in full witch regalia.” Yes, tending Rob’s cauldron full of treats and glow sticks is how I spend my Halloweens now…in full costume myself with a witch puppet on my hands to talk to those who dare to enter. With the addition this year of the singing skeleton quartet, Cindy Skinless and the Decomposers, I also recorded some dialogue and wrote a Halloween carol for them. To see the depths to which I have sunk, you can see and hear them here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXZ4xaEzkkc. Of course Wed. night they were standing outside in the graveyard and Cindy was holding a microphone.
As sick and depraved as all that may seem, each year I find the experience to be more and more filled with grace. Last year I found myself in a priestly role, despite my witch costume, and preached about it the next Sunday: http://www.annerobertson.com/BVNT/TheGreatHighPriest.htm. This year I was especially aware of how the barn is forming the character of the kids in the neighborhood. A boy about six years old came into the barn in a lion costume. His mother showed me that he wasn’t just any lion. The badge of courage he sported gave him away as the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz.
She explained that the reason he chose that costume was because the barn had scared him last year and this year he was determined to overcome that fear. So he donned the costume of the cowardly lion AFTER his gift of courage from the Wizard. Then he marched into the barn, told me of his new-found courage, and proved the point by reaching into my smoking cauldron for a treat. Pleased as punch and quite brave indeed, he took his mother to the next house, no longer dominated by fear.
And there was another one…a younger boy—maybe four. He wore a skeleton costume but simply could not bring himself to approach me or to reach into the cauldron, despite the assurances of my witch puppet and his mother that all was well. About an hour later they were back. “He was so mad at himself for being afraid,” said his mother. “He wanted to come back.” And so with his mother beside him and the witch puppet saying kind things, he screwed up his courage and reached for a glow stick. Victory! He reached out his hand and gave my puppet a high five.
The timid fireman took a few more tries. He was older—maybe 8, but quite fearful. He began by walking in a few feet and then running out. He stood at the door and I told him how glad I was to see a fireman around who could keep us all safe. He came back a few minutes later and walked in a bit further. He came within a couple of feet of me but wouldn’t get any closer. But he went closer to Rob’s talking skeleton and some of the spiders and snakes scattered around. He came back about five times all told, each time with a bit more courage. By the last time, he was carrying on long conversations with the skeleton, was able to look into the screaming mirror, and finally came over for a hug from the witch.
It seems our culture these days is always telling us we need to be afraid. Our policies seem always to come from fear—of terrorists, of losing jobs, of waves of immigrants. Scripture, however, has the opposite message. Three times in the first chapter of Joshua the people are told “Be strong and courageous!” Whenever angels show up in the Bible, their first words are usually, “Fear not!” And First John tells us that “perfect love casts out all fear.”
I can’t do too much about the fear-mongering going on in the culture. But I can dress up in a scary costume once a year to help little children learn that they don’t have to fear those who look different and reward their courage with a treat. The children in Townsend, Mass. were braver on Thursday morning than they were on Wednesday, and I can’t help but think that’s a good thing.
Teach us courage, Lord, that our love may be perfected. Amen.
SpiritWalkers is available in audio as a podcast. Visit www.annerobertson.com/poddevotions.html to subscribe or to listen online.
Be sure to check out my books: Blowing the Lid Off the God-Box and God’s Top 10: Blowing the Lid Off the Commandments. Order now on Amazon.com or check local bookstores.