Faith-Based Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating

By Rachel Sircy

I believe I mentioned in my last post (the one about gluten-free trick or treating) that my family and I don’t actually celebrate Halloween. I’ve never made a big deal about this before because I honestly didn’t know anyone outside of my own church who abstained from Halloween celebrations. Last week, however, I was talking to the mom of my daughter’s school friend who asked me if I had any good ideas for Halloween alternatives for small children. This was the first time since I’d moved to Columbia that anyone had asked me that question, and it made me realize that perhaps there are many of us out there who would like something to do with our kids on October 31st that doesn’t involve traditional Halloween celebrations.

pumpkin

If you look online, there are tons of ideas for Christian alternatives to Halloween celebrations for parents to do with their kids at home. I read several blogs, each with some great basic ideas that any family can make their own. You can throw a fall-themed costume party for your children on October 31st and include fun games with candy prizes. One blog suggested doing a treasure hunt (similar to an Easter Egg hunt, I guess) and fill objects with candy. These activities can be religiously themed and designed to teach a faith-filled lesson. One of my favorite ideas was using pumpkin carving to teach a lesson about receiving the Holy Spirit: cleaning out the pumpkin is analogous to what Jesus does to us when we repent and the light that we put inside the pumpkin can represent what happens when Christ puts His Spirit in us. Other sites suggested doing a kid-friendly movie marathon at home, involving popcorn, candy and letting your kids watch fun movies until they fall asleep. These parties can be family-only celebrations or involve neighbors and friends. If you have the luxury of getting out of town, one blogger mom suggested taking your kids on a small weekend trip. Getting out of the house may be a good idea if you’re opposed to handing out candy to trick-or-treaters (personally, I hate telling little kids “no,” so if I stay home, I always plan on handing out some candy. If you’re trying to build your Halloween alternative into a neighborhood party, it might not be a bad idea to hand out candy and spread the word for next year’s party!).

And don’t forget, many area churches put on Halloween alternatives in the form of Fall Festivals or “Hallelujah Nights.” A few I saw online that might be worth looking up near Columbia are Redbank Baptist Church’s Fall Festival night; Family Worship Center’s Hallelujah Night, and Harvest Collaborator’s Hallelujah Praise Night. If your church is having a fall festival or Halloween alternative night, you can feel free to share it in the comments.

Happy holiday alternatives, everyone! 

Summer Road Trip Series: Part VI God’s Protective Hand

By Marianna Boyce

God had graciously paused a thunderstorm to grant us a couple of hours at the Grand Canyon for some breathtaking views. As we were walking to the car after a phenomenal sunset, Gerry mentioned his throat was sore, so our son, Cody, drove the eighty-mile trek back to Flagstaff. The heavy downpour resumed as we were exiting the park.

Gerry dozed in the front seat while I searched my travel app for room availability at Little America Hotel. I fell in love with this eclectic little place during our visit in 2015, but wouldn’t you know, there would be no vacancies this year. The one reservation I should’ve booked months in advance, I didn’t. Being on a whirlwind road trip, I wasn’t sure the exact day we’d arrive—until today.

Rain 2I was disappointed, but more so, I was concerned when every familiar hotel lining Flagstaff’s main thoroughfare also showed no vacancy. Not sure where to go, Cody stopped for gasoline while we determined our next course of action. I ran inside the store to purchase Hall’s cherry-flavored cough drops for Gerry. Clouds were still pouring buckets of water on this crisp, dark night, so I was drenched and shivering, laughing uncontrollably at myself as I jumped back into the car. Gerry also chuckled at my misfortune but appreciated the nice gesture in my attempt to make him feel better.

I finally found a room available at a Hampton Inn further north of our current location. I asked Gerry for his wallet in order to book it. God, on the other hand, had a different plan.

In transit, I pulled out our Chase credit card and entered the requested information into my iPhone. We’d had this card for more than twenty-five years and never had any problems; yet tonight, it declined—four times in a row.

God’s unique warning in something as simple as this declined credit card is no coincidence.

No longer in the tourist section of Flagstaff, we slowly drove through the relentless rainstorm finding ourselves amidst their local nightlife district—clearly the wrong side of town for us. I’m not sure if there was a college or university close-by, but the young, raucous crew was having a blast, unconcerned about the downpour and thunder clapping around them. Most were beyond tipsy as they entered and exited local bars, so we wasted no time turning the car around to head in the opposite direction. I’m sure the hotel further north of this little party district was a nice one, but we were suddenly okay with our current ‘declined credit card’ situation.

Rain 1Our energy levels were completely depleted. I dreaded mentioning there were no hotels south of us for sixty additional miles. Gerry stated we’d be heading south in the morning anyway, so why not get a head start? We both did our part keeping Cody alert as he navigated unfamiliar roads in the deluge of falling waters from the sky. I’d never seen so much rain in my entire life. The drive from Flagstaff to Sedona was quite treacherous. Little did we know, it was the beginning of monsoon season for North America.

Monsoons originate in Mexico. They quickly form when seasonal shifts in wind direction create an entirely different type of weather pattern. These nasty storms push into the southwestern states and are quite dangerous—especially with flash flooding. We were oblivious to the seriousness of the monsoon winds and torrential rain. God saw fit to safely guide us through it all.

I managed to find a delightful room in Sedona at a Holiday Inn using my handy-dandy travel app, but in order to book it, we needed that pesky little credit card. Surely, it had been flagged for suspicious activity, so I suggested using another card. Gerry, however, was adamant in using the one rejected earlier. With a smirk on my face, I shook my head the entire time thinking it would decline again. This time, he verbally called out the card number, expiration date, and CVV code, as I re-entered them into my iPhone.

I quickly sat straight up in my seat, dropping my phone in the process. I wiped away the smirk as my eyes widened and asked, “Wait—what? What’s that expiration date again?”

Gerry’s calm reply was, “October, 2020.”

Fumbling for my phone in the darkness, I giggled and said, “Honey, no wonder the card rejected earlier. I was giving the expiration date as September, not October. What was I thinking?”

I’m almost positive Gerry rolled his eyes as Cody burst out laughing. We were all clearly amused for the bone-headed moment I had earlier as I tried booking a room in northern Flagstaff.

When we entered the parking lot of our hotel in Sedona, we quietly sat in the car for a few moments. Mesmerized by the rain now gently falling from the heavens, we listened to the soothing sound created on the windshield, but the hypnotic state we were all experiencing could’ve also had something to do with our sheer exhaustion.

Selfie With RocksAs we laid our heads on the fluffy white pillows and drifted off to sleep that stormy night, we were all comforted, knowing every single detail unfolded exactly as it should have. Without God’s protective hand, who knows what we may have encountered otherwise.

He had clearly spoken—not audibly, but God was present the entire day. From the splendor and beauty of the sights we’d seen to the minor inconveniences we needed to block our so-called, brilliant plan—He was attentive to our every need. As always, He had everything under control. God reminded us of how our way is not always the best way. When things don’t go accordingly, it may be for our own good. God’s protection thousands of miles from home was His priority for my family—I’m absolutely convinced of it.

I was elated departing Sedona the following morning on a beautiful, sunshiny day. We were less than six hours from the sole purpose of this entire road trip. It would be our final destination before heading back to the Palmetto State of South Carolina, and I could hardly wait…

Facing your fears

By Eliza Boulware

I am scared, or should I say AFRAID of dogs. Any size, any type – yes, even the tea cup dogs. I know it’s bad and it is sometimes embarrassing because it seems like everyone has a dog. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer and they told me it was aggressive which mean it grows fast, so I was faced with a greater fear. The fear of cancer and not sure if I would live through it.

Before I started treatment, I was told that they would bring therapy dogs around and I began to panic. If a dog came near me, I would run, jump, break things, as I screamed. My heart would race and it felt like I stopped breathing.  Now I am trying to figure if I am sitting there plugged up to all these machines, what if I pulled the needle out? I began to pray and made my mind up that if I could face the fear of cancer, I will face my fear of dogs at the same time. My journey started and I became the main attraction.  Everybody would walk up to see how I would respond. At first, I could not relax when the dog came in. The lady had to keep the dog from even touching me. As I continued treatment, I kept dogworking on overcoming my fear. As you can see in the picture, with trusting God to face my fears, I was able to allow the dog to sit beside me and even rub the dog. I can’t express how major that was.

Lesson learned that when we trust God, we can face any fear and overcome them. Life sometimes has us to face some difficult situations and we become fearful of the unknown. I still don’t know why I am afraid of dogs but that fear could hinder me from doing what God has for me to do or can keep me from being in the right place to receive my blessing. Face your fear so that you can overcome what maybe hindering you on your journey. With God all things are possible. Face your fear!

Facing Your Giant

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Eliza:

By Eliza Boulware

I am Eliza Boulware, a five year breast cancer survivor. I can recall during a spiritual fast God spoke to do a self-examination. My first thought was checking my spiritual walk but I heard it again, so this time I did a self breast exam. I felt a lump in my left breast.

From there I went to the doctor and completed all tests needed and it was confirmed I had stage 2 aggressive breast cancer. My world was turned upside down. I became afraid that I would die because I had never been sick. After losing both of my parents, I had spoken that when I find any health problems, I did not want to suffer long.  Now I am looking at my children and my granddaughter and saying, “not now Lord!”

I held it together at first. I allowed one tear drop when I was first told I had breast cancer but the flood gates opened when I sat with the counselor who went over the financial cost. I cried so hard because as a single low-income woman, how can I afford this and take care of my children?

As a minister of God, I had believed I was healed and now I was angry at God. I began to pray and I had to face that this was a cross I had to bear. I had to face this giant and believe I have the victory.  Faith no longer was just a word but it became a true action word for me. I faced the giant called CANCER and defeated it. I went through 12 rounds total chemo treatments and 33 rounds of radiation. I lost my hair and did not hide it. My fingers and feet turned black. I told my story every chance I got. I continued to go to work, host my yearly conference and continued to preach God’s word. I faced my giant with my faith and family support.

I encourage everyone to face your giant. At first, it looks bigger than you can handle, but with God CANCER became cancer.  Facing your giant with truth and education helps you know how to defeat your giant. Never give up – you have the victory.

Finally Finished

By: Chaunte McClure

For at least the past four years, I’ve looked forward to graduating from Erskine Theological Seminary. Now that graduation has come and gone, it seems surreal. But how can that be when my mind, soul and body have longed for rest from the circle of studying, writing, and reading? For the past six years, I’ve been immersed in Bible, theology, history, and practical ministry and consumed by exams and research, exegetical and response papers. As of Saturday, all of that came to an end. Sort of.

The closer I got to finishing seminary, the more challenging the course became. Senioritis on top of weariness, kicked into high gear in the fall and revved up a notch this spring. With only one class to complete, an annoying sinus infection in April led to my getting behind with one of my weekly assignments. I moved forward, completing the remaining homework and finally decided that I just wasn’t going to reach back to make up the missed book report. One of my classmates, who considers me OCD, was shocked that Chaunte McClure was going to settle for (I’m ashamed to say it!) a zero. I was mentally drained. I was just ready for the class to end and for 10 a.m. May 20th to arrive. One day before graduation, I found myself sitting in the hotel room trying to write that three-page paper. Days before, such a conviction came over me for not completing that one assignment. Unfortunately, at the same time, I was battling another self-diagnosed sinus infection and all I wanted to do was lie in bed after struggling through the workdays. By Friday, I was feeling better and had plenty of time on my hands so I finally began crafting a few words for an introduction. That’s about as far as I got. Commencement was the next day. Even after the graduation ceremony I longed for was over, I could not shake the guilt. On Monday, May 22 when I arrived home from work, I wrote the rest of that book report and submitted it to my professor with a note of apology and confession. It won’t even count towards my grade, but a burden is lifted from my heart.

So long homework. Goodbye evening, Saturday and online classes. Hello to my family and friends whom I’ve not spent much time with in the past six years. Let’s do something together often.

My time at Erskine Theological Seminary has been a great one. It has prepared me for ministry doing whatever and wherever God leads. Until then, I want to rest, spend time with others, fulfill desires I’d put on hold, and read and study at my leisure.

Many have asked, more times than I count, if I am returning to school to earn a doctorate. No. I can’t even wrapped my mind around the idea.

The Fine Line

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Every Woman Blog_The Fine LineIt was just before 10 p.m. on a cold Thursday night when the doorbell rang.

I had already gone upstairs to get ready for bed. My husband was in the living room watching college basketball on T.V. Most of the downstairs lights were on, so it was obvious someone was home and up, but still … 10 p.m.? That’s never a good thing.

“Maybe you shouldn’t open the door,” I called down. Our front door doesn’t have a chain, so it’s kind of all or nothing.

But he did, to see what he later described as a soft-spoken woman in her ’30s or ’40s wearing a white coat.

“I was led to come here,” she told him.

“Are you in trouble?” he asked.

She said no, and when he gently pointed out it was 10 o’clock at night, she replied, “I understand,” and walked away down our front path. We didn’t see where she went, and didn’t notice or hear a car nearby.

The whole thing was a little scary, so we called the sheriff’s department that serves our rural northeast Columbia community. A short while later, an officer arrived to check around our home and the neighborhood. He saw nothing then, and we didn’t hear anything later.

The officer agreed we’d done the right thing. Maybe the woman was only a well-meaning religious evangelist with poor time management, but then again maybe she was mentally unstable or on drugs, or had a weapon in her pocket or an accomplice waiting out of sight. For perhaps the first time, I could understand why people keep a gun in their homes. At the very least, I thought about getting the old aluminum softball bat out of the garage to keep under the bed.

But as we settled somewhat uneasily into bed later that evening, we also felt some doubt. We wondered where the woman might have gone on such a cold night and if she was OK. We hoped the officer found her and was able to help her. We also hoped God would understand if one day we stand before him and he says, “I came to you when it was cold and dark, and you turned me away.”

I’ve had similar thoughts when driving down the road and seeing a motorist in apparent trouble, but haven’t stopped for fear of becoming a victim myself. A woman alone just can’t take that chance, I reasoned. It’s sometimes a struggle finding the line between wanting to do the right thing and wanting to be safe.

Once – just once – I did give a ride to a man I saw walking down a rural road in the rain. He had no umbrella because both hands were in use holding what appeared to be a cake box. Indeed, it turned out to be a birthday cake for an elderly relative. I was on my way to church that night, and maybe that was why I stopped. Or maybe I figured he couldn’t easily attack me with his hands full, and anyone carrying food in the rain couldn’t have much ill intent.

I’m not sure I believe God sends us tests, but I do know life brings events that can test our faith. Yet if I had it do over, I still wouldn’t have invited that woman in. In fact, if my husband wasn’t home, I wouldn’t have answered the door at all.

But I’m also still not sure I’m right.

Guardian Angels

By: Shannon Shull    

Angel

Belief in guardian angels can be traced back to the beginning of time. The concept is clearly present in the bible. Mystics, Christians, Catholics, Jews, Pagans… I could go on and on. In almost every religion there is mention of guardian angels. Some Muslims believe we each have two guardian angels, one on each side of us. Guardian angels are said to be assigned to individuals to aid and protect. It’s really a matter of faith. Do we all have a guardian angel? Could such a lovely thing be real? There is no scientific evidence to prove that guardian angels exist. So for now, it is truly a matter of faith.

“The wisdom of the ages teaches that each individual, whether believer or not, good or bad, old or young, sick or well, rich or poor, has a personal guardian angel with him or her at every moment of life’s journey.” – Janice T. Connell

A dear friend of mine once told me that when we dream of those special and close to us that have passed, it’s their way of communicating with us. A lot of us have had those moments when we sense something special, whether smells, visions, or dreams of a loved one that has passed. In those moments, our brain tries to rationalize and say, “Oh, it’s just my mind playing tricks on me, that wasn’t real.” My friend told me to simply believe. If a loved one that has passed comes into our consciousness or dreams, take it seriously and allow yourself to believe that it really is them communicating with you, letting you know that they are ok. Sometimes they may even be sending us an important message. I choose to believe this because I’ve had all too many occasions in which a loved one has visited me in my dreams or in some other random, odd way. It always brings me such peace, not to mention happiness, at getting to see them again or have the memory of them alive in my thoughts.

I sometimes wonder if these special loved ones are my guardian angels. Or could there maybe be an assigned angel that is all mine? I will never know. But I do know that I have had so many moments in which I know for a fact that I should’ve gotten hurt or even worse, killed. You know those times when you’re driving and you have such a close call that you cannot fathom how you did not wreck? Moments when you think that by some miracle you magically escaped injury or worse? Or just simple moments when you slip but somehow mysteriously catch yourself and avoid getting hurt. Even those moments when you’re given the courage to face something in your life, do something brave, stand up for yourself, or take a leap of faith. Is there a guardian angel at our side guiding us along, giving us strength, and leading us into the direction we’re meant to go?

I don’t know and I’m quite certain I will never know for sure. But I do know that I choose to believe, to have faith that a guardian angel (or angels) is looking after me. I’m thankful for them. I’m thankful for those loved ones that have passed on, but are still in my heart, in my dreams and watching over me. Whatever the explanation may be, I will continue to have faith.

“Angels are principally the guardians of our spirits. Their function is not to do our work for us, but to help us do it ourselves, by God’s grace.” – Eileen Elias Freeman

“Ever felt an angel’s breath in the gentle breeze? A teardrop in the falling rain? Hear a whisper amongst the rustle of leaves? Or been kissed by a lone snowflake? Nature is an angel’s favorite hiding place.” -Terri Guillemets