December 5, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 
      I know no one who has the kind of "good fortune" that I seem to enjoy. Planned for nearly a year, Cheri and I took six days to grab some "Sabbath rest," touring the trees of New Hampshire/Vermont/Maine during the "fall colors" season. You take your chances on jaunts; if the leaves choose to "hang in there" and delay their promised painted plumage, you'll be in green tree tunnels instead of harvest hued grandeur. We landed in Boston on the last day of the 100 Year Floods and were outta-town before the remnants of Wilma came a'callin'.
      Our last morning out was spent in Salem, Massachusetts - remembered forever as the site of the pre-Revolutionary witch trials. We had just a few hours before our flights out of Boston, and no one of the four of us had ever been there. Was it worth the side trip?
     I've been in "tourist traps" enough times to understand the merchandising of memories. Modern-day opportunists regularly erect the retail counters that will offer the can't-live-without-it trinket that will forever remind you of your visit to the place that hosted history. Like New York City before Christmas, Salem was gearing-up for their holiday hijinks... on Halloween. I don't mind telling you, with no pun intended for a laugh, it was downright spooky.
      When they say "witch" in Salem, they aren't recounting "once upon a time" fiction and fables. I don't know whether it was hysteria or Wicca when they made the place famous in 1692, but - today - those who practice the black arts are out of the closet and openly declaring their allegiance to the Dark Side. We walked through the village... and made a beeline for the car and the airport. Been there; don't need to go back...
      Today will be a convoluted compromise for a lot of real-deal Christians in America. Workplaces that won't allow the mention of the Christ Child at Christmas will be highly-tolerant today about the trappings of terror. Ghosts, goblins and Freddy Krueger will be welcomed in the same schools where the angels, wise men and shepherds have been blackballed.
      Tonight, you'll be faced with the annual enigma. Your neighborhood will host children - some local, some imported from across town - who will plod door-to-door with bags bulging with Snicker bars and organic tangerines (there's at least one health-food promoter on every block, out to reengineer the treat menu!). Will you turn off the lights and head for the cinema, or stick around and answer the door? As a Christian, how do you adopt an "in, but not of the world" posture on Halloween?
      You'll be exposed to three strata of Halloweening today. At the deepest level, people who openly engage interchange with the god of this world will be doing their thing. Dozens of movies and programs will celebrate Satan through every broadcast and box-office outlet tonight; make it a point to avoid these. What benefit will you derive from flirting with evil? The midlevel of the macabre will be the trendy mix-ups that use costume parties and pumpkins to "get into the spirit of things." You could pull out a soapbox and deliver a discourse on demon possession... or, you could smile and move along without making it into a bigger issue than it might be for them. The surface of the subject will be at those front-porch moments with the Star Wars character from down the street; what about them?
      They're looking for a handout. What will they get from you? Will your house be remembered as a "dud," or a goodie oasis?
      The Pocket Testament League is a ministry that has drawn the partnership of many Master's grads. Their wallet-sized gospels (it's How to Go to Heaven for Dummies) are designed to hand along with a smile... knowing that you've just passed the wisdom of heaven with a handshake.
      Just imagine if the kids at your door this evening could walk away with a Peanut Butter Cup, taped to John's Gospel. It's a little late for tonight, but... you could join the League on-line, practice passing life along for the next 364 days in your normal routine, and be ready for next Halloween...

Bob Shank


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