Month: October 2016

halloween

The massive displays of pumpkins, mums, and candy signal autumn and Halloween are here. October 31 is one of my favorite childhood memories. For one night a year, I enjoyed a fun costume and received candy from people I didn’t know. What is not to love?  But looking back, my appreciation of that evening isn’t in the cool costume or the big bag of sugary delights. Now, I realize it was an evening spent with my father. It remains a special place in my heart.img_0204

My sisters and I hurried to get our homework done before donning our simple, hand-me-down costumes. A ghost, a witch, or a skeleton were reused year after year. They consisted of a step-into jumpsuit with a single tie in the back and a plastic mask secured to our sweaty faces with a tiny band of elastic. If someone wanted to be mean, they could snap that piece of elastic and sting your head. Like I said, if someone wanted to be mean.

I believe my father got the trick or treat assignment because we traveled to his neighborhood where he grew up and worked. He knew the homes where we would be welcomed. He was familiar with the side streets and back alleys which added to the excitement. Just picture this small group of short hobgoblins scurrying through the dark alleys, the fallen leaves crunching under our feet as we chattered excitedly,  Where we going next, Daddy?

Our evening began at my father’s childhood home where my grandparents made the first deposits into our empty bags with the good stuff: Milky Ways, Snickers, and Mr. Goodbars. My grandfather had a sweet tooth so there was always candy around. From there, we headed out though the little town of Paramount, Maryland.

We followed my father. We knew we were safe and in good hands. He knew the way; he knew the route. We just needed to follow and keep up. We trusted him to lead us.  House after house. Trick or Treat. Thank goodness, no one ever demanded a trick. I had no tricks up my little ghost sleeve. Just thankful for the yummy treats.

My father would hang back as we made our way up the front steps, half blinded by our lopsided masks and drooping costume pant legs. Trick or Treat. Then my father would come out of the shadows and make some small talk with the neighbor. We made sure to say thank you. Manners always.

Where we going next, Daddy? 

“This way”, he would respond with a little bit of mischief in his voice.  He enjoyed this as much as we did! Later, I discovered this precious joy of parenthood: enjoying fun activities with my own children.

With simple, childlike faith we followed our father. We didn’t have to be concerned about the direction; he knew which way to go.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Matthew 18: 1-5 (NIV)

I enjoy revisiting my childhood memories, like Halloween night. Life was imaginative, playful, and spontaneous.  The foundation of my faith was built in tiny Sunday School rooms with flannel graph pieces illustrating the stories of Jonah, Daniel, Paul, and Jesus. I believed and followed with childlike faith.

Unfortunately, now I have allowed too many adult-like doubts and questions to cloud my once joyful relationship with my Heavenly Father. I want to return to a childlike faith that is wholly trusting, transparent, carefree, and full of joy. I want to follow my Heavenly Father with childlike faith through life’s alleyways, just like I followed my earthly father through the dark alleyways those chilly but magical Halloween nights.

Where we going next, Daddy? 

This way. Follow me. 

 

 

 

golden

Growing up on a farm, I found many places to play, hide, work, and think. The apple orchard was one of those places. In the spring, pink-tinted fragrant blossoms filled the air.  During the hot summer months, lower branches invited me to climb and stay awhile, delaying my chores.  In the fall, I gathered and enjoyed the free-falling fruit. The wintertime barrenness signaled it was time for the orchard to rest.

Proverbs 25:11 is wise King Solomon’s metaphorical use of ‘apples of gold’ to praise good speech and the value of words.

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given. (NIV) 

Other versions say it like this:

Timely advice is as lovely as gold apples in a silver basket. (TLB)

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. (KJV)

The right words spoken at the right time in the right way is as pleasing as beautiful pieces of fruit in a silver setting. Choose words carefully. Speak words that bring joy and life to the recipient. Give apples of gold: give words of comfort, praise, counsel, and encouragement. The right word from the right person at the right time is life-giving and priceless.

A story from Greek mythology highlights the appeal of golden apples. The young and very beautiful Atalanta is a skilled hunter. Originally abandoned by her father, they are reunited and dad is eager to find a spouse for his daughter. Although, many suitors come seeking her hand in marriage,  Atalanta is hesitant to marry.

But to keep daddy happy, Atalanta agrees to marry but with one stipulation. Her suitor must beat her in a foot race. Since Atalanta is extremely fast, no suitors are able to beat her. Her singleness remains preserved.

Then one suitor, Hippomenes, develops a plan. Armed with three golden apples, he drops one at a time during the race to distract Atalanta. It works. Atalanta stops running long enough to retrieve all three golden apples. Hippomenes wins the race and Atalanta’s hand in marriage.

The golden apples distracted Atalanta.  Was she hungry for pretty objects? Did they catch her eye and she just couldn’t resist?I don’t blame her. Golden apples get my attention too. Kind, inspiring, and life-giving words get my attention. I will stop what I am doing and gather them.

Someone once advised me to keep an encouragement file. Harsh criticism naturally comes with leadership but hang onto the supportive and uplifting ‘apples of gold’ when they come. Start a file, a place to gather golden apples. Then feast on them during the dark and hard days.

When a golden apple comes my way, I gather it, keep it, and savor it. If inspiring words come as a note, I keep it. If it is an uplifting email, I print it and file it. They serve as drops of soothing cool water during the dry, dusty, challenging days. I stop, gather, and collect golden apples representing  words of praise and reassurance.

Since I know what apples of gold mean to me,  I want to be a giver of golden words. Thoughtful words to inspire and uplift. What words do others need to hear from me? I want to offer golden words just like the Golden Rule based on Matthew 7:12: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It is apple harvest time. If Atalanta slows down, I will join her and we will pick up golden apples tossed our way.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)