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Monthly Archives: October 2012

When the doorbell rings on 31 October

Tomorrow is Halloween and, regrettably, the UK seems to be embracing the custom with the same degree of unbridled enthusiasm as the US.

While retailers are rubbing their hands with glee all the way to the bank, Christians are cringing at the thought of the ringing doorbell and planning their tactical response: to keep the curtains tightly shut and pretend they’re not home, or to reluctantly participate because it’s ‘fun for the kids’.

Over in the US, my sister-in-law laments the general ‘no problem’ attitude of Christians: “Almost no-one takes a stand against it. Like so much that is inherently evil, people choose not to give it that name and so, I suppose, they don’t feel they have to stand against it. In any event, in not participating in the trick-or-treating you are regarded as a kill-joy seeking to spoil the children’s fun.”

How do Christians in Britain feel about Halloween? Is it innocuous fun, or an occultic practice that should be avoided at all cost?

Lies of Halloween

Yesterday, in a blog entitled The Tragedy of Halloween, Canon J John posted an excellent commentary on the lies that Halloween perpetuates, and warned against allowing our children to be deceived.

Two that resonated most with me were that ‘evil is trivial’ and ‘evil is undefeatable’. As he says, “Nowhere in Halloween is there any sense that evil should be combated and can be defeated…. The subtle lesson that Halloween teaches here is that all you can do with evil, death and the occult powers is to appease them by making an offering to them and hoping that they will go away…. How much more encouraging is the good news that, on the cross, Jesus defeated all the powers of evil.”

In his Christians and Halloween article, Grace to You’s Travis Allen explains the origins of the custom and tackles its current-day practice from a US perspective. But most significantly, he advocates using the event as an opportunity to share the love and truth of the gospel.

It’s for children

No doubt Christian parents find this time of year challenging, with children under pressure to participate in Halloween-themed parties, wear scary costumes, eat ghoulish-looking food and, of course, join in the mandatory trick-or-treating.

As a church, we will be hosting an alternative party where local children will play games, eat party food and enjoy a great deal of fun but in a wholesome, Godly environment.

In the Koeksister household we’ve decided to hand out sweeties to those kids who come knocking, but along with a UCB Bag of Hope containing a gospel booklet. With its truth, says J John, “we can change the eternal destiny of a child.”

Now that’s worth sharing this Halloween, along with a prayer for God’s ‘hallowed-ness’ to reinvade our neighbourhoods.

 

Do you think Christian objections to Halloween are a storm in a teacup? Or do you see the custom as evil? What do you think the Christian’s response to Halloween should be?

A mother’s heart

Isn’t it peculiar how a memory can come from nowhere and pierce your heart? There I was, driving down the dual-carriage way, casually listening to the radio, when suddenly it felt like I had been thumped in the chest. Its swiftness and intensity took my breath away.

“Severe heart failure fills your lungs with fluid,” said the radio to the gurgling soundtrack of someone drowning. “Until you can’t breathe,” it continued, “time and time again”.

It was a British Heart Foundation advert for its Mending Broken Hearts appeal, and it engulfed me in powerful memories and emotions.

My mum had had a heart murmur since childhood, but with age her aortic valve had also begun to narrow. The cardiologist anticipated it would be many years before the valve needed replacing.

Then she started to feel worse: coughing, tiredness, difficulty breathing. “Probably flu,” pronounced our GP, somewhat concerned, and sent her home with medication.

The symptoms persisted. We started to worry. “Call the cardiologist,” instructed our GP. He was busy. We left a message.

Distressingly, she began coughing up foam. We worried more.

A couple of days later the cardiologist called back. He was going away but would see her when he got back.

We worried a great deal. We lay on the bed together, pouring our hearts out to God. I laid hands on her. We prayed more. We asked friends to pray.

Back at the doctor’s surgery our GP said, “I’ve seen this once before, and it wasn’t flu… it was heart failure. I’ll call the locum cardiologist.”

He wasn’t concerned. “Probably flu,” he said. Our GP persisted. “Okay,” he relented, “I’ll admit her to hospital and examine her this evening.”

Later that evening as he scanned mum’s heart, the locum exhaled and said quietly, “Good thing you came in. You’re in heart failure and couldn’t have gone much longer.”

The long journey

But that wasn’t the end of the journey. Transferred first to one hospital and then another, she came into the care of a cardio-thoracic surgeon who established she also had septicaemia. There was no alternative but to operate. I waved her off to theatre, relieved she was finally getting the treatment she desperately needed.

But the surgeon came out of theatre with a frown, “We replaced the valve, but we couldn’t get her heart going again. We’ve had to put her on life support. She can only be on the machines for about 24 hours as then the organs start to deteriorate. Come back tomorrow morning at seven and we’ll see if her heart will start beating on its own after it’s had a rest.”

That evening, I visited her in ICU. The ward was dark and quiet, except for the whirring and pumping machines. She lay pale, motionless, her face jaundiced under the direct beam of soft, yellow light. I stroked her hair and kissed her cheek. I spoke softly to her and read the Bible aloud. I thanked the nurse monitoring the machines. I left. That night I took a sleeping pill.

The next morning, my brother and I waited outside ICU. I prayed in tongues under my breath. Hospital staff tramped up and down the corridor. Visitors chatted. We waited.

Inside the ward, the surgeon was removing the life support machines. “Start beating again,” I silently prayed, over and over. I felt a surge of nausea and hurried to the bathroom. My brother paced.

The doors swung open. The surgeon looked serious, but relieved. “Her heart’s started again. We’re not out of the woods, but last night she had about a 5% chance of survival, and now that’s gone up hugely.”

The tears welled up. I breathed deeply.

So, you see, when I heard the Heart Foundation’s advert, of a person drowning on the fluid in their own lungs, I was instantly back there with my precious mum, watching her drown. Until God jump-started her heart and breathed life into her again.

 

To donate to BHF’s Mending Broken Hearts appeal, or for more information on heart disease, visit http://www.bhf.org.uk

Deepening the family bond

A couple weeks ago we were blessed to spend three days in a beautiful setting with our family, whom we only manage to see about once every three years.

My husband’s sister was living and working in Italy for 2½ months and had invited her parents to join her for a holiday. Unfortunately we were unable to do likewise but we did manage to arrange a weekend trip which, we decided, had to be a surprise visit!

Amazingly, on an overcast Friday morning we found ourselves sitting on the Piazza Duomo in Como, northern Italy, awaiting Mom-and-Dad-Koeksister who were sightseeing in the nearby cathedral.

As they exited the magnificent building, my sister-in-law – having cunningly orchestrated the rendezvous – casually led them over to the outside café where we were waiting, hidden behind a strategically positioned umbrella.

Making memories

Their surprise and disbelief on seeing us in a totally foreign setting – miles from where we should have been – closely followed by hugs of delight, created one of those perfect moments that will be affectionately remembered and recounted at family gatherings for a long, long time.

It was a precious weekend of conversation over delicious pasta in famous Bellagio, during a gelati-sweetened stroll around Varenna alongside the lapping waters of Lake Como, and while sipping on Prosecco sun-downers in little Torno’s charming piazza. We simply enjoyed being together.

And all this without any of the time and technology constraints that families living on different continents must usually contend with.

Building relationship

It reminded me how greatly I miss the freedom of being able to share things with our family whenever I want, and how significant those shared moments are. Even the simplest and briefest ones create memories and build relationship.

It’s easy to take our families for granted. For some of us it’s because we’re able to see them any time and we’ve become overly familiar. For others it’s perhaps because our relations are sometimes difficult to get along with and it is simpler not to try. And for families like mine that are separated by great distances, it’s because we are forced to learn to live our lives without our loved ones being available to us.

Today, let’s take a moment to think about our families, wherever they may be, and to ask God how we might deepen our bond with them.

Do you find spending time with your family enjoyable or challenging? What are some of the ways in which you build relationship with them?