Going Green for Halloween – Seven Tips to Consider

Halloween lantern

Halloween lantern

This morning I was reading through Green America and came across an interesting article on Halloween. Now I am not an advocate for Halloween. It always seems weird to me that Christians celebrate it as much as non Christians. But here in America it is such a part of the culture that this rarely seems to be questioned. And I certainly know it is coming because the number of horror movies on T.V. has increased astronomically. So instead I thought that I would turn my thoughts to preparations for the season.

First some thoughts from the Green America article and elsewhere you may want to consider:

  1. Face paint: A 2009 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that 10 out of 10 children’s face paints tested contained at least trace levels of lead. This article provides some DIY alternatives.
  2. The Candy Problem: 41 million kids in the U.S. go trick or treating. Last year Americans spent something like 2.2 billion on Halloween candy. No wonder one out of three children in America are overweight and many will develop diabetes. Consider making your own healthy treats, giving out non food items like polished stones, temporary tattoos, or friendship bracelets.
  3. Swap costumes: Millions of costumes are purchased in the U.S. each year. Consider holding a pre Halloween party to swap, mend, make or borrow costumes from your friends.
  4. Reverse Trick or Treating: I wrote about this a couple of years ago in this article. My growing concern for just working conditions for children makes me a strong advocate for this. I think it is a wonderful way to raise awareness of these issues and show consistency for our values.
  5. Hold an All Saints Party. Rather than celebrating Halloween celebrate All Saints Day November 1st. Have kids dress up as their favourite person or saint. Share stories, decorate pumpkins if you must but also consider some alternatives like decorating window panes with non toxic paints, making Christmas decorations and wreaths.
  6. Organize a Community or Neighbourhood Event. Green Halloween started in Seattle but grew into a national phenomenon with community events at more than 50 locations. You might want to join in the fun and get to know some of your neighbours.
  7. Make the most of you pumpkins: Kids and adults alike love carving and decorating pumpkins, but I hate to watch them slowly rotting on the porch. So here are some thoughts to use that pumpkin more effectively. Save the seeds and toast them in the oven with a little salt. Use the pumpkin flesh (discarding any melted wax) to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and pumpkin bread.

Walk in the Way of Love

Today is Valentine’s Day – one of those celebrations I struggle with a lot because it seems to me that the love we celebrate on this day is the very antithesis of the love of God.  It did start out as a religious celebration commemorating the life of St Valentine, one of the early Christian martyrs but today is more a celebration of romantic love and another opportunity for the consumer culture to have us all out there buying lots of chocolates, roses and other gifts that we don’t really need.  I was overwhelmed as I walked through the supermarket over the weekend by the array of red flowers, red chocolate boxes and red cup cakes that were strategically placed to jump out at me as I entered the store.  This is not what love is about.

How do we transform Valentine’s day into the celebration of the love and sacrifice of God that I think should be at the heart of our observances if we do celebrate this day at all?  I don’t think that we should be party poopers and deny the need to celebrate.  We just need to find ways to celebrate that not only connect us to God but also to the world in which we live.   Some Christians I know use this as a day to reaffirm their marriage vows and commitment to each other.  Others use it as a special opportunity to reach out to loved ones around the world.

Getting into the true story of chocolate and the real price of our purchases on this day is another way to celebrate as I talked about on my blog post Valentine’s Day is Coming. I mentioned that we plan to tour Theos chocolates this afternoon.  I am really looking forward to this and will probably eat more chocolate than I ever had on Valentine’s day before.  This is the only organic fair trade bean to bar chocolate company in the US.  I love to find practical ways like this to transform the celebrations that have been co-opted by the secular culture.  At the least  I think that we need to educate ourselves about the chocolate that we eat.  Those of you who are not aware of the dark side of chocolate may like to plan a showing of this video

I would love to hear other ideas you may have come up with that transform this day into a celebration of the love of God.

Celebrating the Big 60th

Today is my 60th birthday.  Hard to believe that I have been on God’s good earth for such a span of time.  And it has been a wonderful time so far.  I am humbled by the numbers that have contacted me in the last couple of days to share ways in which my life and ministry has impacted them.  I feel privileged to be a part of what God  is doing to transform the world and am so appreciative of the many friends and family who have made that possible. Milestone birthdays like this are not just a time to celebrate but also a time to remember and give thanks to God.

On Saturday we are holding a big celebration.  We are calling it  A Feast of Friends because we want it to be a celebration of those many friends who have walked with me along the way.  More than anything I am aware at this time that I do not walk my journey alone.  There are so many who have supported, encouraged and strengthened me along the way.  There are saints past and present who have been Godly examples for me, providing role models that have made it possible for me to follow God even when the going got tough.  Friends have provided a shoulder for me to cry on when I was depressed, and a loving embrace when I was in need of comfort.

So may good memories and I thought that I would share a few of them with you here in this video.  My apologies to friends in New Zealand where I lived for 5 years .  In the years of travel my photos from that part of my life seem to have disappeared.  But they are still stored in my heart.


What Does it Mean to Walk as Pilgrims?

Therefore since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  (Hebrew 12: 1,2)

I could not help but think about this today as I was reflecting again on pilgrimage.

Pilgrims prepared well for their journeys as they expected to be gone from home for a long time if not forever.  They wore a special costume, a brown woolen robe that was long enough to wrap around them at night to sleep.  This costume was regarded as both a penance and an honour.  It both identified the person as a pilgrim and helped them to beg alms on the way.  A cross decorated the sleeve.  On the head was a broad brimmed hat usually turned up to display the pilgrim badge and symbols of the shrines he had already visited.  Slung around the neck was a scrip with two days food and a large knife and a flask for water.  The pilgrim aso carried a long stout staff which was for vaulting over streams, climbing hills and as defense against outlaws and wild animals.

What difference would it make to our lives if we prepared for our Christian journeys in this way – recognizing that we are meant to be distinguished from the world around us with a very different purpose and a very different way of living?

Alternative Celebrations

the MSA team is thinking of putting together a celebration calendar for the next year.  We would like to highlight ways to celebrate the ordinary events of life – not putting emphasis on the negative but on the positive & giving them a Christian focu

Here are a few examples that we have thought of – Pentecost as a multicultural feast, Make Something Day (thanks to Ecclesia Collective rather than Buy Nothing day, Advent II Homecoming – feasting into the kingdom, and Stations of the Kingdom rather than Stations of the Cross.  We also want to highlight events like the Mutunga Challenge and  Prayer for Children at Risk Weekend. If you have any suggestions of events or ideas from celebrations you have held that you think should be incorporated we would love to hear from you.