Happy Halloween—I think.

I have mixed feeling about Halloween. But, to be honest, I don’t think I’m the lone pumpkin in the patch.

Like myself, a lot of Christians struggle with Halloween. While we enjoy certain aspects of the day, we feel uncomfortable too.  Many faithful Christians truly believe that Halloween is evil and take no part in celebrating it. So we wonder—should we ignore October 31?

I like many things about Halloween. Take costumes, for instance. Who doesn’t delight when we see little girls dressed up as princesses, ballerinas, kitty cats, and Wonder Woman? And the boys—tell me whoIMG_4098 could possibly scowl at baseball players, Ninjas, Spider Man, and pirates?

When these cute little kids knock at our doors, do our hearts not melt when we plop a piece of candy into their pillowcases and receive a mile-wide grin and breathless “thank you?” Okay—maybe we can make an argument that sugary candy isn’t good for children. But my philosophy is that Halloween comes once a year—let the kids live a little. If you’re really concerned about the sugar, kids love cool pencils, home-made cookies (Although I warn you—as a parent, if I don’t know who gave my kids that homemade cookie, I pitch it; what if it’s poisoned?), and other healthy snacks. Or, if you IMG_4082really want to see a megawatt smile, give them money.

Besides the costumes, I love the carved pumpkins, the corn stalks, the hay bales. And this year, in my little village of Romeo, Michigan, folks have even decorated their homes in orange lights.

Ah, lovely.

But then there’s the flip side of Halloween that I definitely do not like—not one little bit. I shudder when I see children dressed as witches, ghosts, ghouls, or fortune tellers. The Bible clearly tells us to have nothing to do with these things.

There shall not be found among you anyone…who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead,  for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. (Deuteronomy 18: 10-12)

And, call me a fuddy-duddy, but children dressed up as the devil? Jesus—myJesus dying on the cross Lord that I love above all—allowed soldiers to mock him, beat him,  and nail him to a cross to free me from sin, death, and eternal damnation—the same sin, death, and damnation that delights the devil. Satan isn’t a fairy tale or something to take lightly. He is serious business; so serious that it took God Almighty himself to save us from him. The devil wants nothing more than to separate us from God by wooing us with worldly sin. To die and spend eternity in a lake of fire. And, make no mistake about it—his agenda includes our sweet children.

How’s that for scary?

Therefore, I will never, ever see anything adorable about a child dressed as the devil.

Of course, I could easily pretend that Halloween doesn’t exist, thus eliminating my quandary. My kids are all out of high school, so I don’t have anyone to dress up anymore. And, since we live on the outskirts of Romeo, the number of trick-or-treaters that came to our house in the past few years is a big fat zero. Therefore, no one will be disappointed if I don’t pass out candy. Yep, October 31 could just roll on by—be another fall day like any other day. Except, as anyone who lives in Romeo knows, Halloween is almost impossible to ignore.

Because of Tillson Street.

Starting in early October, the residents of Tillson Street decorate their homes for Halloween. When I say decorate, think thousands of dollars—and the results are spectacular. I have friends who lives on Tillson Street, and every year they convert IMG_4092their home into a castle, complete with a cannon that goes BOOM and scares the pants off anyone inching past the house in the long queue. Fun stuff. (I’m a willing cannoneer at least once a year—see why I kind of like Halloween?) And, I kid you not, during the week before Halloween, people actually wait in a line to walk the sidewalks with thousands of other folks who have come to view the amazing displays. On Halloween, the police close the streets as over two thousand costume-clad children scurry to the coolest trick-or-treat spot in Michigan. You can find out more about Tillson Street at https://www.facebook.com/Halloween-on-Tillson-Street-Romeo-121198587983604/ or at http://www.terrorontillson.com.

Tillson street is fun to visit. Again, while I’m not a fan of the witches and ghosts, a lot of homes are truly wonderful to see. Let me end this blog by displaying my favorite decorated Romeo homes in the photos above and below, many of which are on Tillson Street.

Be safe on October 31.

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That’s My Son’s Truck

I’ve been writing a lot about vehicles lately—Jeeps, our GMC Safari… Here’s one more, courtesy of Dizzy Blonde Chronicles.

garageSeveral years ago, my oldest son’s Dodge Dakota needed new wheel bearings. Since the garage my husband and I use would do the job for a good price, he dropped off his Dakota and took my Jeep for the week. I’d drive his truck when the mechanics fixed it, and then we’d swap back next weekend.

One evening, my son called and said his vehicle would be ready for pickup the next afternoon. So the next day, I had my youngest son take me to the garage.

“Wait here, in case it isn’t done,” I told him.

It’s a good thing I asked him stay, because when I walked into the garage, the first thing I saw was my son’s brown Dakota still on the lift.

When a mechanic came my way, I pointed to the Dakota. “That’s my son’s truck. He told me it would be done by now.”

The mechanic took off his hat and wiped his brow. “Sorry, but that truck needs a lot of work. We’re not finished.”

“But my son told me it just needed new bearings.”

The mechanic replaced his hat. “It does, but we found a lot more problems.”

I cringed. My son was a new teacher and not making much money yet. “My son said the bill would be around $600,” I said.

The mechanic shook his head. “Not anymore. He’s looking at $1,500, maybe more. Let me show you.”

He led me under the truck and began pointing out the problems. I’m sure he wasempty pockets trying to be kind, but all I could think about was that $1,500 would wipe out my son’s meager savings. While the mechanic pointed to thingamabobs and twiddled hickey majigger, I contemplated asking my husband if we could help by paying at least half the bill. But, no matter what, I’d have to break the bad news to my son when I got home.

I called him as soon as I walked in the door.

“Honey, bad news on the truck,” I told him. “It’s not done, and they found more that needs to be fixed. And it’s going to be over $1,500.”

“But they told me $600,” my son said.

“I know, I know. But they showed me all the problems. And even though my knowledge of truck innards can be summed up in the words ‘diddly squat,’ even I could see that those parts needed replacing. But don’t worry, we’ll help you.”

After I hung up, I found myself angry. How dare those mechanics give my son a price, have him haul his truck all the way up here, and then swindle him. Wait until I picked up his truck—I’d give them a piece of my mind they’d not soon forget. And I’d never, ever, ever take our vehicles back to them.

An hour later, my son called. “Mom, I just talked to the guys at the garage. They said the bill was $600.”

“But, but…”

“They also told me they finished my truck this morning.” My son broke it to me gently. “Mom, I think you were looking at the wrong truck.”

The wrong truck? Now that I thought about it, I’d never told the mechanic my son’s name. I’d just pointed to a brown Dakota, assuming it was my sons.

“Mom,” my son continued, “can you go back and pick it up today? I already gave them my credit card number and paid for it.”

“Uh-uh, no way José, I’m not showing up there again,” I said. “Never, ever, ever. I’ll be the laughingstock of the whole garage!”

20171020_154622But in the end, I went back. But not until the next day, hoping another mechanic was on duty. Just in case I saw the same guy, I pulled my hair back, put on a ball cap, and wore a different coat, hoping he wouldn’t recognize me.

But, when I slunk into the garage, there stood the same mechanic. And, yes, he recognized me right away. I could tell by the way he bit his lip when he saw me coming.

Fortunately, the man must have a blonde wife, because he had the remarkable ability to keep a straight face. “So, talked to your son yesterday. I guess you got his truck mixed up with another customer’s truck.”

When all else fails, I’ve learned to try laughing at myself. “Ha ha, isn’t that funny? What’s the chance of there being two Dakota’s in here at once? And both dark-colored! What a hoot, I can’t believe I did that, I’m so funny…” I snapped my trap shut. I was babbling, like I always did when I’m humiliated. I got the receipt, grabbed the keys, and hightailed it out of there as fast as I could go.

Today, we still use the same garage, now that I’m back to trusting them again. And I’m never embarrassed to have my son or husband drive me there when I have to pick up a vehicle.

Of course, I have them pay and get the keys while I sit outside slumped down in the seat.

Wouldn’t you?

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The Bagel Seduction

cropped-img_38361.jpgBeing a penny pincher, I have a hard time resisting anything that’s free. Maybe I’m weird—if I pass up something that’s free, I feel like I’m wasting my money. Am I alone in this?

Lured once again by the Sirens of free food, I find myself writing this blog at Panera Bread. Sometimes it’s free coffee for a month. Sometimes it’s a free pastry of my choice. This week, it’s a free bagel, every day for seven days. I love bagels, so “free” plus “bagel” equals “I’m-there-wild-horses-couldn’t-stop-me.”

Of course, I can’t always use things that are free. Last week at a car show, I stuffed my backpack with free pens—although I already had four or five—and my stomach with free candy—which I absolutely did not need. When some friends and I stopped at a newly-opened craft store and the owner said we could take anything we wanted from the upper room, I loaded two bags full—only politeness and a twinge of embarrassment kept me from taking a third.

I never, ever, have unused Kohl’s Cash. And when I go to Costco, I take a free food sample from every product demonstrator.  We even got our first dog thanks to a “free puppy add.”

Last month, it was replacement blades for a razor.

“What are these?” My husband asked as he came into the living room, holding up tworazor-587625_960_720 packages of Gillette Mach 3 cartridges.

“One of the managers at the store was giving them away. I think they were free samples or something.”

My husband stared at them. “Honey, I use an electric razor.”

“I know. But they were free,” I said. Which, in my mind, explained everything.

“What am I going to do with them?”

“No clue,” I told him. “But they were free.”

I think I’m in good company, however, in my inability to pass up anything that’s free. Years ago, when a windstorm knocked over our rabbit hutches, allowing our boy rabbit to become acquainted with our girl rabbit, people called for weeks to inquire about our “free baby bunnies,” although they were gone less than an hour after the ad ran. When I’m out walking the evening before trash day, it’s not unusual to see waiting in line-540519__340someone loading an item they found at the curb into their vehicle. And when I see a line of people, I can bet my bottom dollar it’s for a free give-away. (Unless, of course, the latest iPhone or PlayStation system is now available.)

Yep, we all love free stuff. Which makes me wonder…

Why, then, don’t we have a line of people waiting for God’s free gift of salvation?

Our big God sacrificed his only son, who paid the penalty for our sins, so that we could have eternal life…just by receiving it. That’s it. We don’t have to do anything to earn it, and we don’t have to pay for it ourselves—neither of which we could do anyway. Jesus already bore the cost. All we have to do is accept it. And him.

Talk about the freebie of a lifetime.worshipping-god-2101347_960_720

Actually, the freebie of eternal life—the most wondrous gift ever.

Now that’s worth a wait in line.

And definitely a lot better than bagels.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelations 22:17 NIV)

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Apple of Your Eye

cropped-img_3836.jpgI love October in Michigan.

There are six apple orchards less than fifteen minutes from my house. U-pick apples (which means U-stuff-yourself-silly-while-U-pick apples), fresh cider, hot donuts, pies, caramel apples…a veritable fall feast for the taste buds.

And for the eyes. Hay bales, pumpkins, corn stalks, and sunflowers decorate the buildings that bulge with rows of house-made jams, jellies, salsas, barbecue sauces, and fresh honey.

I’m hungry just thinking about it.

But, in my humble opinion, nothing beats the beauty or gets my mouth watering faster than an apple tree, boughs teeming with apples and almost touching the ground.

And the variety of apples–there’s something for everyone. Michiganders seem to favor the Honey Crisp, God’s perfect blend of tartness and sweetness. I prefer hard, tart apple orchardapples—Winesaps being my favorite, followed closely by Empires and Braeburns. Johnagold, Cortland, Yellow and Red Delicious…the list goes on and on. There’s an apple to satisfy everyone’s palate.

When I think of apples—which I do often these days—I can’t help but remember what David prayed to our big God. “Keep me as the apple of your eye…” (Psalm 17:8a ESV)

What a prayer! The phrase, of course, is an idiom; the apple here refers to the pupil. But when I think of this verse, I am overcome by the meaning. David is asking God to guard and protect him in the same way that we guard and protect our eyes, the source of sight. And in the same way that God protected our eyes, fashioning them with meticulous care.

eye-1173863__340We take special care of our eyes, valued by us as our most important sense. We wear safety glasses in situation where something might splash into or puncture our eyes. We spend money on eye doctors and medical doctors to keep them healthy.

And God gave us natural protection to keep our eyes safe. We involuntarily blink when something gets close to our eyes. And God recessed them in eye sockets and surrounded them by the bony forehead and cheek bone. He also gave us eyelids and eyelashes to shield them, and tear ducts to wash away any foreign object.

The eye is precious, more valuable than riches or fame. David is asking our big God to protect him apple-single apple in a handwith infinite care, with the tenderest touch, with constant diligence.

To Keep him as the apple of his eye.

Psalm 17:6-8

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Wondrously show
your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings…

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The Jesus Safari

cropped-img_3836.jpgThe story I posted last week about our jeep brought back fond memories of another vehicle…

When my three children were young, we spent a lot of time traveling out of state to see family. Once we added a Labrador retriever into the picture, seating in our small minivan became cramped and chaotic.

“I’m tired of the kids fighting every time we go anywhere,” I told my husband. “We need a larger vehicle.”

“I’m on it,” he told me.

A few months later, he brought home a GMC Safari. The kids loved it, because it was roomy and had captain’s chairs in the middle row. My husband loved it, because he could tow a trailer.

And I loved it, because the kids had enough space between them, so they didn’t have to touch each other.

I’m not a huge fan of paper bumper stickers, but I always like putting an Ichthus on our vehicles. (In case you’re wondering, that’s a fish, an early symbol of Christianity.) Inside the fish was the word “Jesus.” Not only does a fish on my bumper let other fish decalpeople know I’m a Christian, but it holds me accountable when I’m on the road and reminds me that I’m representing Jesus—which means no speeding, yelling snide comments out the window at other drivers, or giving an impatient, prolonged blast of my horn to someone who does not move the exact second the light turns green.

When we traveled to New York or Pittsburgh, my sons each took a captain’s chair in the middle, my daughter sprawled across the entire back seat, and the dog slept on the floor in the middle aisle. Bliss. When I carpooled for soccer, football, or baseball practices, I could pile six stinky kids, balls, and sports bags inside with ease. The Safari took members of our church to Tennessee for a mission trip and rowdy teenagers to youth group. It was the perfect vehicle, and my kids loved it.

Until they got their driver’s licenses.

Suddenly, the van wasn’t such a great ride anymore. When they wanted to go out with their friends or drive to school, they often had to take the van, since my husband used the car for work.

“Can’t we get a cool car or truck?” my son asked. “It’s embarrassing, driving this ugly thing everywhere.”

“Get a job, save your money, and buy your own cool car,” was my practical reply. “Until then, you’re stuck with the van.”

When my daughter started driving, she was even more vocal. “Mom, I’m so humiliated when I have to drive that van around. Please, I beg you, can we get something else?”

“C’mon,” I said. “Is it really that bad?”

My daughter stared at me. “Do you know what all my friends call it?”

“The van?” I said sweetly.

My daughter rolled her eyes. “They call it ‘The Jesus Safari.’ ”

“Hah! That’s a great name!” I told her. “I love it.”

Spurred on by their mortification, my kids got jobs and helped pay for cars of their own. And, once again, “The Jesus Safari” was all mine.

But, alas, vans don’t last forever. In 2011, the rear door stopped opening. In 2012, the heating system went kaput and the driver’s side door occasionally stopped closing. But I drove “The Jesus Safari” around Michigan, freezing my bottom off through the winter and using a bungee cord to hold the door closed when it wouldn’t shut. But when the engine started making funny noises and warning lights began flooding the dashboard, I knew it was giving up the ghost. It was time to say good-bye.

In 2013, we traded “The Jesus Safari” in for $1,000 and bought a Ram pickup. My youngest son, who had just passed his driver’s test, was ecstatic. No more slumping at the wheel hoping no one would recognize him. No siree. Now, he proudly drove to football practice and showed off his new wheels.

“The Jesus Safari” may not have been pretty, but our big God used that van to bless us in so many ways. We traveled all over the country—with no one touching each other—while we sang and laughed and talked together. I always knew what my kids were doing and thinking, because when you lug your child and a load of friends to sports practices or youth group, they forget Mom is driving and talk about everything. And we never got into an accident—no one could miss “The Jesus Safari” coming their way.

But I have to admit—the Ram drives like a dream. I hardly feel the potholes on our dirt road, and it’s a lovely cherry red that sparkles in the sunlight. The heater warms me in less than five minutes even on the coldest of days, and my door always closes. Oh, and the  Ichthus sticker looks great on the shiny silver bumper. It’s a wonderful vehicle.

But I miss “The Jesus Safari.”

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