For two hours tonight our street will be crawling with hundreds of zombies, ghosts, and perhaps a few skeletons. There will be other reminders of the realities of spiritual brokenness, death, and decay walking the streets as well. Sadly, some of those reminders walking our street will be little girls who have been allowed to dress for the night like street-walkers. . . but that’s a whole other subject.
In many ways, the candy-infused “sweetness” of Halloween glosses over many of the reminders of the fact that things on this earth are not the way they’re supposed to be. . . we get sick, we suffer, and we die.
This morning, my journey into today’s entry in Scotty Smith’s Everyday Prayers reminded me that in reality, today is better known as “All Saints Day.” Scotty begins today’s prayer by reminding us of the words of Hebrews 12:1-2. . . “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Scotty goes on to pray, “This is the weekend we celebrate All Saints’ Day – a time for remembering our faithful brothers and sisters who have gone on before us into heaven, leaving us examples of commendable spirituality. It’s also Halloween – a celebration of hideous attire, doorbell ringing, and tooth decay. I never really thought about how much these two seemingly antithetical dates have in common until now.”
I’m thinking the same thing this morning, thanks to Scotty’s prayer, the date on the calendar, some remembrances of folks who now inhabit that cloud, and a death that occurred last night. You see, it was 10 years ago yesterday that Mike Yaconelli, co-founder of Youth Specialties, died in a car accident. It hit many of us in the youth ministry world hard. Mike and co-founder Wayne Rice had spoken deeply into my life as I was trying to figure out how to best minister to kids. Mike and Wayne gave me and CPYU a platform from which to communicate our message. I am indebted to them both for many reasons. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Mike over the last few weeks. One of the best treats was sharing dinner around a table with Duffy, Marv, Tic, and Mike’s son Mark a few weeks ago. I hadn’t laughed like that in awhile. . . much of the laughter prompted by remembrances of Mike and his antics. This week, I was also reminded of the sting of death when my dear friend Rich Van Pelt posted this short message on Facebook: “Missing my Mom a bunch tonight. Hard to believe that it’s already two years since she was welcomed into the presence of Jesus.” And then last night, my friend Duane Smith lost his wife Karin after an especially difficult and trying battle with cancer. No. . . things are not the way they’re supposed to be. But thanks be to God that He made a way for there to be so much more to the story. It doesn’t end there.
Today, Mike Yaconelli, Mrs. Van Pelt, and Karin Smith are part of that cloud that surrounds us. I’m thinking about the finish line. I’m thinking about how we think about the finish line. . . that it’s a dark place, when actually it’s a place of great joy.
On Monday I snapped this picture while standing on the rocks at the end of Bearskin Neck in Rockport, Massachusetts. For years this has been one of my handful of “happy places.” I can sit there for hours at a time. Monday’s sky was astounding as it stretched out over the ocean. The clouds swallowed me up in their beauty. I couldn’t help but thank God for the gift of my eyesight. I take it for granted most of the time. But it struck me on Monday just how much I need to consciously appreciate the ability to look at things like this. What a gift of God those clouds were. And what it is that they represent as we read Hebrews. . . . well. . . . that’s an even greater gift.