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Just Thinking— RZIM.org

Every day is Halloween

Charlie Brown and the animated Halloween classic are familiar to many of us. This month we present an excerpt from a review of the philosophy represented in that story from Danielle Durant of RZIM.

Maybe we all want to be someone else. Or maybe it’s just that we should. Halloween brings out a pale shadow of this longing. Boys take on the garb of someone heroic if they yearn to be heroes, or something frightening if they are afraid. Girls put on something lovely, even if they are going to be cowgirls or kittens. In sad cases, the older ones attempt to dress seductively, either egged on or ignored by their fools for parents. Halloween is a physical acting out of what most of us do every day, which is to put on what we long to be. Once in a literature class, my professor asked us to rewrite the beginning of a fairy tale, telling it from the perspective of its monster. We had been reading Lolita, which is likewise the story of a monster, told from the monster’s point of view. What struck me was that five of the six women in the class chose Cinderella, while none of the men did. The sixth woman chose Sleeping Beauty. It made me wonder if this dream is deeply engrained in a girl, that someone will see beauty inside her and forsake all others for her and rescue her from a darkened world. I wondered, too, if we males, each of us having chosen stories in which a hero uses an ax to slay the monster, didn’t in some hidden place desire to be rescuers. What happens, do you think, to leave the world littered with boys who never became anyone’s hero, and girls who never got rescued? When we grow older we put away our costumes, and so maybe with them we box up the

Spring cleaning in my house is rarely completely finished. Year after year, though I have forgotten about them until they are dusted and put back on a closet shelf, I still can’t bring myself to let go of them. They are books by the late cartoonist Charles Schulz. As a child I treasured his picture paperbacks, reading them over and over, and eagerly awaited his holiday television specials. Yet “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” evoked mixed emotions in me—and does so to this day. On Halloween night, the Peanuts gang goes trick-or-treating and to a party, but Linus refuses. Instead, he persuades Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, to sit with him in a pumpkin patch to await the Great Pumpkin. Linus announces that if you “sincerely” believe in the Great Pumpkin and wait for him in a “sincere” pumpkin patch, he would arrive bearing gifts. “He’ll come here because I have the most sincere pumpkin patch and he respects sincerity,” Linus muses. Charlie Brown tells Sally that the Great Pumpkin doesn’t exist, but she joins Linus anyhow. What beckons her, however, is not so much her belief in the Great Pumpkin as her crush on Linus. I recall as a child each year hoping against hope that the Great Pumpkin would appear, at least for Sally’s sake. After all, Linus sincerely believes in him and Sally believes inLinus. But he never shows. Instead, everyone, even Snoopy! laughs at Linus and Sally is angry with him because trusting him has caused her to miss out on the sweet rewards of Halloween. Charles Schulz’s popularity extends across generations and cultures, and his books have been translated into numerous languages. Watching this cartoon as adult, I am intrigued by Schulz’s many allusions to “sincerity” and Linus’s reinterpretation (or childish confusion) of the story of Santa Claus with this parable of the Great Pumpkin. Interestingly, the television special first aired in October 1966—at the height of the “death of God” controversy. On Good Friday of that year, three red words appeared on Time magazine’s black cover: “Is God Dead?” In October 1965, a Time article opened with Emory University professor Thomas Altizer’s soon-to-be famous quote: “We must recognize that the death of God is a historical event: God has died in our time, in our history, in our existence.” Altizer would argue in his book The Gospel of Christian Atheism (1966) that the transcendent God we once hoped in and appealed to now no longer existed, for where were signs of him to be found? Nevertheless, he assured his readers that the God of our modern world intended that we live without his intervention, and rather than hope in heaven, our transcendent longings could be met within our own world. Thus, in such an atmosphere, perhaps Sally’s and Linus’s responses to the Great Pumpkin’s absence give voice to both the anger and ambivalence of their generation. Sally cries, “I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, when I could have been out for tricks or treats. Halloween is over, and I missed it! …. What a fool I was…. You owe me restitution!” Conversely, Linus’s poignant letter to the Great Pumpkin reveals a quiet Cont on Pg 2, Middle Column — Top

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What are the Fruits of the Spirit? (Hint: There are 9) What is the origin of Love? When does Joy come according to Proverbs? How do we acquire Wisdom?

Wellness Tip of the Month Don’t eat the kid’s Halloween Candy. Humor Me Three doctors are waiting in line to get into the pearly gates. St. Peter walks out and asks the first one, "What have you done to enter Heaven?" "I am a pediatrician and have brought thousands of the Lord's babies into the world." "Good enough to enter the gates," replied St. Peter and in he goes. The same question is asked of the second doctor. "I am a general practioner and go to Third World countries three times a year to cure the poor." St. Peter is impressed and allows him through the gates. The third doctor steps up in line and knowing the question, blurts out, "I am a director of a HMO." St. Peter meditates on this for a while and then says, "Fine, you can enter Heaven...but only for 2 days."

1Th 5 18

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haps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. 2. Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it. 3. Paul hated Christ, until the day he met Him. Then he said, “For me to live is Christ”. Multitudes have been like that. Millions who never sought Him, met Jesus on the road of life and been captivated by His love. They HAD to believe when they met Him. The fact is that nobody can understand what it is like to meet Jesus until they do. Then they know why others are so full of it.

for this is the will of

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This month we are launching a new column by Jeannie Smith, an educator and Westport resident. Jeannie offered to share her experiences with us on how parents can effectively partner with school teachers to help ensure their children’s success. Communicating with your Child’s Teacher

Parent/Teacher Conferences are just around the corner. As parents, we are our child’s first teacher. We know them best and we love them more than words can express. Each year, we entrust their care into the hands of a professional teacher. We can seek to foster good communication with our child’s teacher throughout the school year to collaborate on the best plan for your child’s educational goals and development. My advice, as a mother of four and a former teacher, is to take time to encourage your child’s teacher by pointing out something positive each week that you notice about your child’s learning process. Most teachers have some type of two way correspondence plan, so this can be accomplished in a hand written note in your child’s folder/backpack or via email. For example, ‘Johnny is really enjoying learning about volcanoes this week. Thank you for making science so interesting and fun for him!’ Once we establish a mutual respect ‘we are in this together’ Cont on Pg 2, Right Column — Top

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dreams of becoming what our hearts once whispered we should be. Growing up means snickering at fairy tales, after all. Who needs heroes? Selfish self-sufficiency is the realist’s calling. And besides, no modern woman wants to be rescued, Pal. Tonight my sons will be an Army man, Batman, and Robin Hood. They still believe that boys ought to grow up brave, and that they ought to protect girls. Sometimes I wonder if they’ll leave us too old-fashioned to be suitable for the modern woman. Then I think about that literature class, and the rightful outrage of those modern women at Lolita’s stolen childhood, and how their minds went to Cinderella. Maybe there’s still room for boys to be heroes after all. By Tony Woodlief Oct 31, 2008

Used by permission | Copyright WORLD Magazine, all rights reserved | www.worldmag.com

You Know This One 1. Galatians 5: Paul writes: 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever [c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. 2. Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. … We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:7-21 3. For his wrath is only for a minute; in his grace there is life; weeping may be for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Pr 30:5 4. ...If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him. Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting) James 1: 5-6

Who Said It? 1 C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series, made this classic quote about understanding the world better in the light of the revelation of God, in his book Mere Christianity 2 G.K. Chesterton was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, playwrighting, journalism, public lecturing and debating. Chesterton has been called the "prince of paradox". 3 Reinhard Bonnke, a European Evangelist and author of over 20 books, posted this on his Facebook page in early October. Reinhard posts inspirational quotes daily, an is always willing to accept a “friend request.”

despair: “Everyone tells me you are a fake, but I believe in you. Sincerely, Linus van Pelt. PS—If you really are a fake, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” A year later, however, the American release of a groundbreaking book by German theologian Jürgen Moltmann would alter the religious climate in North America. Indeed, when Moltmann’s Theology of Hope was released in 1967, The New York Times front page announced, “God is Dead Doctrine Losing Ground to ‘Theology of Hope.’” Moltmann contended, “If we had before our eyes only what we see, then we should cheerfully or reluctantly reconcile ourselves with things as they happen to be. That we do not reconcile ourselves, that there is no pleasant harmony between us and reality, is due to our unquenchable hope. This hope keeps man unreconciled, until the great day of the fulfillment of all the promises of God.” Early in this work Moltmann builds upon John Calvin’s assertion that hope is the “inseparable companion” of faith. Moltmann writes, “Without faith’s knowledge of Christ, hope becomes a utopia and remains hanging in the air. But without hope, faith falls to pieces, becomes a fainthearted and ultimately a dead faith. It is through faith that man finds the path of true life, but it is only hope that keeps him on that path.” What is hope? “Hope,” observes Calvin, “is nothing else than the expectation of those things which faith has believed to have been truly promised by God. Thus, faith believes God to be true, hope awaits the time when this truth shall be manifested; faith believes that he is our Father; hope anticipates that he will ever show himself to be a Father toward us; faith believes that eternal life has been given to us, hope anticipates that it will some time be revealed; faith is the foundation upon which hope rests, hope nourishes and sustains faith.” Surveying the Territory Moltmann and Calvin identify the critical nature of hope: “without hope, faith falls to pieces… hope nourishes and sustains faith.” Faith relies on hope to press forward; if hope becomes fragile, faith may lose its way. Having been witness to the lives of many individuals who have crossed our ministry’s path over the years, we have heard various questions about the Christian faith. Can I truly know God? Is the Bible trustworthy? How can God be good if there is so much suffering in this world? These are real questions that can challenge one’s belief in God, even causing some to feel they are experiencing a crisis of faith. I know, for I have wrestled with similar questions as have those whom I know well. Nonetheless, I have come to wonder if, for many, such a crisis of faith might be better described as a crisis of hope. That is, the struggle is often not so much about belief in God as it is an expectation of Him. Or, as a friend said recently, “I believe God’s Word is true; I just don’t know if it’s true for me.” In my friend’s case, he wasn’t questioning what God could do but rather what He would do on his behalf, and based on a past painful experience, his hope remains tentative. At such crossroads we need direction—and indeed, hope. Just as one would take time to study a topographic map before venturing on a long hike, so we are wise to examine our spiritual terrain more closely lest we arrive at a place only to ask where signs of God are to be found. Here again, Calvin presents a thoughtful survey of the territory: “Hope is nothing else than the expectation of those things which faith has believed to have been truly promised by God” (emphasis mine). Hope anticipates the outcome of what faith believes, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Such hope is grounded upon a past and future reality—God’s saving and preserving grace—and offers an ongoing promise for the present. Thus, when circumstances threaten to cloud our view of hope, we may not only lose perspective but also confidence in what we once held fast. A resignation of spirit may slowly give in to a rejection of what once seemed possible. We may then begin to doubt our faith, whether what we believe is actually true. Though this experience may be best identified as a crisis of hope for some, we cannot rigidly demarcate the borders of faith and hope, for as noted thus far, each overlap and cannot stand without the other. Calvin writes, “Faith believes that he is our Father; hope anticipates that he will ever show himself to be a Father toward us.” Additionally, we arrive at our expectations of God (hope) from what we believe (faith) to be true: his self-revelation in Scripture. As we continue on our journey these expectations in turn shape (or misshape) our beliefs about Him and his work in our world. So, taking our lead from Calvin, we will want to examine our hope, our “expectation of those things which faith has believed to have been truly promised by God.” We will meet hope’s companions as well as some of its obstacles. And along the way, perhaps we will recognize signs of God’s faithful presence where we once did not & journey forward with newfound hope. ** The Object of Our Hope Unlike Linus’s beliefs about the Great Pumpkin, in the Scriptures, hope—and its antecedent, faith—are not circumscribed by “sincerity” or some abstract state of mind but rather by their object: the Triune God. In Psalm 25:3 David declares, “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame” and in 62:5 he pleads, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him” (all biblical references are from NIV). The prophet Isaiah writes, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you who acts on behalf of those who wait for (or hope in) him” (64:4). God’s name is even characterized by hope: the “God of hope” in the benediction “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Hope is, though perhaps not expected, the fruit of suffering as well: “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us (or ESV: “put us to shame”), because God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5). The biblical writers often portray faith and hope as nearly identical or as building blocks, with faith being the foundation and reason for hope: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.... And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6). Faith is defined by hope and also recognized as the necessary first step in a relationship with God. Likewise, hope expands faith’s horizon, believing God to be generous with those who expectantly seek after Him. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure,” says Hebrews 6:19. “This hope” is Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God and anchored, or intimately attached us, to Him. Like an anchor in a storm, Jesus holds us securely and keeps us from losing our way. “This hope” is also the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham long ago, both in Isaac and ultimately, Jesus: “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’ And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (Hebrews 6:13-15). Paul puts this waiting in stronger words: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him…” (Romans 6:18). So hope denotes “to wait” and “to look in expectation” and is linked with “to trust,” “to desire,” and “to put confidence, take refuge in” God. The most common Hebrew expression, qawa, appears only once in Genesis and mainly later in the Old Testament. Yet hope—and God being the object of hope—is clearly implied in God’s covenant promises with Noah, Moses, Abraham, and David, and in the fabric of relationship that He unfolds with Jacob, Ruth, Hannah, and his people of every generation. As He reassures Joshua on the threshold of the Promised Land so He assures those who hope in Him, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor abandon you” (Joshua 1:5; cf., Hebrews 13:5). Hope is, thus, an expectant longing, a trust, which rests upon God’s spoken promise of his steadfast love, presence, and provision. The rest of this article, deals with “The Place of Trust” and “Obstacles to Faith, Hope, and Trust” (like those which Linus and Sally struggled with) and is available on-line at RZIM.org

Educational Insights relationship, it will lay the foundation for the times when we need to share concerns or issues we may have with our teacher. Encouragement goes a long way….in and out of the classroom. Jeannie Smith is running for school board this fall, and we would like to wish her the best of luck!

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**At St. Paul Westport, St. Paul Darien, Harvest Time Greenwich, Blackrock Church, Easton Covenant, Grace & Huntington Chapels, Hope & Cavalry churches, PCOG, Stamford Baptist, and many of the other Biblical churches in our area, hope is fulfilled and our faith is built up because the evidence of the Holy Spirit and God’s faithfulness is manifest!

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