My Scary Experience

“…He did the mash, it caught on in a flash.
He did the mash, he did the monster mash.”
(1962) “Monster Mash” Composers: Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi

At this time of the year in America, you might experience some not-so-paranormal sights. During the Halloween season you just might turn a corner and see something like this…

Super frightening things can pop up from out of nowhere, like this…

Who knows, you may bump into a pumpkin on any given front porch. Or possibly, the most horrid, beastly thing which may be in your path…a political sign.

However, my personal spooky occurrence didn’t happen on a nearby neighborhood street, or a fund raising haunted house, or even a pumpkin patch with a maze. My personal ghastly experience appeared in my own living room a few days ago. Keep reading…if you dare.

It happened earlier this month of October, on a misty autumn evening. We had a family gathering, a reunion of sorts, complete with three generations of family in attendance, a potluck meal, three dogs, and eight people total. (Not to be confused with “ate people”.)

There was an abundance of laughter, snacks, and attempts at social distancing. After dinner, as expected, some games were unpacked and played around the dining table. Before you knew it, someone mentioned the game of charades. The partying group of eight formed a circle in our living room with cards suggesting characters and items to be acted out. It was tough when attempting to guess an apple bobbing in water, or a steam engine train, or Cleopatra. Then a family member read his card, got up on his feet and began to portray a raging, violent lunatic of an individual. This was acted out very well. There was rage plastered on his face with nostrils widening with gnashing teeth, looking down toward the floor while violently throwing invisible items toward invisible characters at his feet. Then ending with the clue of his arms folded and an evil grin of satisfaction on his face. Everyone was shouting out their ideas, “A criminal”, “A rioter”, “An angry sibling trashing his brother”, etc. Then suddenly, to my surprise, someone shouted out…”It’s GOD!” The presenter relaxed his disposition as he let go of the character, admitting that God was the right answer. To be perfectly honest, God was the most distant idea in my mind…but not for some in the room. If someone had shouted, “Zeus”, that would’ve been more of an accurate depiction. For me, it was frightening knowing there were those in the family viewing God in such a way.

You might think me too serious of a so-in-so with my thoughts of the clues given. And, frankly, maybe I should’ve lightened up. But, the One I know in my heart, the One dear to me since my childhood, can not be accurately characterized in such a way. Can one read scripture, especially in the Old Testament, and find God brutal, violent, and scathing? Yes, without a doubt. There have been times when God judged a people, a nation, in fact the entire world in Noah’s time. In context, it is easy to find His actions justified. Here’s a couple of examples: There was a people who offered their living newborn babies as a burnt offering to satisfy their false god. They didn’t have this practice for very long because they were removed from history. You will find entire nations wiped out by God’s hand who assaulted Israel, the people of His promise. Early in human history, you will find two incredibly vile evil cities “nuked” (for a better word) by a duo of angels sent by God. Sure, those actions were accomplished by the Almighty. Yet, what most readers miss is the fact that in each instance, God gave opportunities to stand down, to repent, to live by the truth of His righteousness for blessing instead of curses. Each of His actions teach those left behind. And we still remember. So much so, we make movies about these events.

It is interesting to note that most of God’s enemies knew about Him, knew His works, knew His deeds. At the same time, it’s one thing to know about God, even recognize His existence and authority, and yet another thing to KNOW Him. We may know ABOUT Queen Elizabeth, her likes, dislikes, her family, her homes, her deeds, but we may not KNOW her.

Four hundred years after the Old Testament events were history, Jesus was born. In that miraculous act, divine love, a love that cannot be imitated, was displayed. He came in spirit and in truth. Jesus, in all of His loving kindness, generosity, and unconditional love, told us that if we see Him, we also see the Father. In our finite minds it is hard to wrap our arms around the fact that Jesus, and the Heavenly Father, are One. It is the truth of the scriptures. If I go further on this subject I will write a book here.

Photo: Art.com (Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”)

Unlike the character portrayed by a family member, God always reaches out in love, not willing to destroy or harm. In fact, the opposite is the case. He sent Himself, in the form of Jesus, to be scourged, beaten, humiliated, and crucified in our place for sin sake. Grace with forgiveness is freely offered by the One who is not willing we all perish…not one.

It’s the reason why you don’t see God as a Halloween character for the front lawn.

True fact-checking is available in fuel for the race.

“…but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 9:24 (NAS)

Got Fear?

Photo:  Pixabay

“…Just like a ghost
You’ve been a-hauntin’ my dreams
So I’ll propose on Halloween
Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you, Spooky!”  (1967/1968)  Spooky.  Recorded by:  Classics IV (Later, The Atlanta Rhythm Section.)   Composers:  Instrumentals – Mike Shapiro & Harry Middlebrooks Jr.  Lyrics – J.R. Cobb & Buddy Buie

What spooks you?  According to the song, love can cause fear.  I’ve been there.  How about you?  Nevertheless, love was meant to be the opposite of spooky.

Me, KDB & Mom Wedding

After a few years as a single mother, my mom had remarried my adopted dad.  They were only married for four years, but I had zero fear in my heart concerning our new lives.  We have a good relationship to this very day and I love him.

Homestead Windmill

Fear wasn’t in my mind at all on one hot summer day in 1966.  One of my favorite things was our trips to Graham, Texas where his family resided.  It was in west Texas, rich in cowboy legends and Texas pioneer history.  Thick in Mesquite, cactus, and brush, the land is rugged.

Being a city boy at six years old, I loved visiting my new grandparents out in the rough and rustic hills.  The new adventures filled my imagination while I ran through the back pastures with their cows and horses in my canvas PF Flyers.  Usually in a cowboy hat with a toy pistol in hand, the hours would pass hiding from Comanches and Tonkawas on the warpath, while protecting the herd.  (Little did I know my great-grandfather did exactly that when he settled there in the late 1860’s.)

There was a sandy creek, mostly dry, running through the pastures where I spent lots of time playing in the sandy bottoms.  In my exuberance, during my brave stance fighting for the homestead, I found myself in an embarrassing, but spooky predicament.  Somehow, and I do mean “somehow”, I galloped my stick-horse to the very edge of a deeper bend of the creek.  By God’s grace I was able to stop my forward momentum before going over a vertical 8 foot drop down to the hard sandstone boulders in the creek bed.  After catching my breath, I could see the rubber tips of my sneakers were roughly two inches from the edge.  Between hard inhales, I said, “Wow!  That was close, Trigger.  Let’s get back to the herd where we belong.”  When I turned right, I found myself trapped by a wide sprawling cactus which couldn’t be negotiated.  Turning to my left, I found myself caged-in by a large amount of…well, I guess I’ll be honest here…cow poop.  Yep, a good pile blocking my only escape, spreading all the way to the prickly-pears.  So, there I was.  I couldn’t jump over the cactus.  I dared not try jumping over the pyramid of cow patties.  With things looking rather dim, I turned to analyze the depth of my chances to the bottom of the creek.  My fear began to build up inside.  A couple of times I considered the risk of breaking an ankle with a leap over the side.  Visions of starvation and coyotes filled my head as I went through a scenario where nobody would ever find me until this is all they would recover, minus the lamps.

Halloween Skeleton

Allow me to put some meat on the bones of my circumstance.

Of course, I know what you’re thinking.  There is the thought of, “This is easy.  He should’ve just walked out the way he romped in.”  True, but honestly, I couldn’t figure it out at the time.  You have to get in the mindset of a boy barely six years old.  To this little kid, there was no way out of the patch of ground I stood on.  But…someone had a different perspective.

Grandpa Brown

Photo:  W.R. Brown in his Sunday-go-to-meetin’-attire.  (He lived in his denim overalls and straw hat.)

After about four minutes, although it felt like four hours, I began to panic in fear.  Through my tears I started to scream out for help.  Unfortunately I was about half a mile from the farmhouse.  If someone was to hear me, it would be carried by a bird.  As I launched into yelling mode, the nearby cattle just stood there gazing at me as if I just arrived from Mars.  A lesson was learned.  They don’t take to commands like Lassie.  Not one bovine left for the farmhouse to alert the folks.  I don’t recall how much time ticked by when I heard a friendly chuckle on the other side of the cactus.

While trying his best not to let out too much cackling, in a very thick Texas accent the voice asked, “Well, what’s wrong, boy?”

Quickly I turned my head toward the voice to see my Grandpa Brown standing there with a farmer’s hoe in his hands.  He was a small, but rugged and weathered, kind, leprechaun-of-a-man with crystal clear light blue eyes.  The long hairs growing out of his ears always impressed me.  In my relief to see him, I explained my simple, but desperate situation.

He chuckled again, “Well I’ll be switched.  How did you get in such a fix?  Can’t you get out?”

After explaining how I boxed myself in, he began to slowly direct me through an escape route, which no doubt was the thin trail I used to get there.  As it turned out, he was working his garden not too far from that spot when he heard me cry out.  Poor guy.  He probably came running thinking I had been bitten by a Rattlesnake.  He was probably more relieved than I was.

Yes, I was embarrassed.  Yes, I should’ve figured a way of escape.  And yes, I worked myself up into a lather which wasn’t necessary.  But that’s what needless fear can do.

Of course, there are healthy fears.  You put some fear into a young child about the dangers of fire.  We have a healthy fear of walking out into oncoming traffic.  What?  You say you have a house for sale at the base of an active volcano?  My healthy fear says, no way.

Please don’t judge my six year old self too harshly.  What about that time you had needless anxiety over a job interview?  You may recall when you felt fear over a final exam.  How about the moments just before you walked down the isle with a wedding bouquet in your trembling hands?  It’s all so spooky.

Do you know how many phobias there are?  I googled the titles.  I was beside myself seeing the lengthy list.  They are real.  There’s the fear of leaving your house.  There’s a fear of lettuce.  There’s even a phobia involving bathtubs and shower stalls.  We all would strongly appreciate you obtain counselling for that one.  Spooky for some, but excessive and pointless.

‘Tis the season, says Halloween.  When you think about how we lather ourselves up in fear, every day of the year, it is all about anticipation.  Right?  We see a darkened line of trees at night, the vanguard of a wooded area, as the mind begins to imagine what “might be” waiting for us there.  Anticipation takes time, a moment or two on the clock to settle.  It all surrounds what we do in those moments before our imagination cooks up the horrid.  Naturally, there are those who orchestrate fright like a band of tubas.

While watching an interview with a so-called “expert” on Sasquatch, I was amazed at the push for fear in the following statement.  The authoritative man set the stage like this:

“Through the years we have learned that Bigfoot is attracted to campsites, and tents specifically.”

The vomit of laughter coming out of me continued for another minute or so.  Think about it.  He claims to be an expert on a beast that has never been found dead, never been captured, never been scientifically verified.  Zero DNA discoveries, or bone fragments.  It’s an animal that’s never been in a clear, sharp video production that wasn’t shaky, or solid focused photograph, all in order to keep the enhancements from detecting a zipper on the costume.  Moreover, any footage (excuse the pun) presented, the elusive Sasquatch always runs away from the photographer.  Very camera-shy.  Certainly, I’m no expert, but it seems to me, with all the footage thus far of a seemingly frightened beast, a human campsite is the last place it would want to invade.  However, it’s fun to be afraid.  Right?  Unless it’s true fright from actual danger.

Here’s my view.  I didn’t have to be afraid of the cactus.  I didn’t need to fear the edge of the creek.  I shouldn’t have been scared of the large pile of poop.  (Then again, I still shy away from poop piles.)  My viewpoint at the time was skewed at best.  My six year old self allowed panic to overtake the true scenario.  What saved me from it all was a gentle old man who saw me from a different perspective.  Love popped the fear-bubble and eased my troubled mind due to my Grandpa Brown.  And THAT made the difference.

When you belong to One who sees all, knows all, and dispatches guardians, the spirits of fear quake and shake.

Sometimes fear is very much like a Jack-o-lantern.  Fearful exterior, but all hollow on the inside.  Fearfulness isn’t heavy to push aside when lubricated nicely with fuel for the race.

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ – God –  Isaiah 41:10 (NAS) 

 

 

Children of The Mask

“Well, who are you? (Who are you? who, who, who, who?).  I really wanna know (Who are you?  who, who, who, who?).  Tell me, who are you?  (Who are you?  who, who, who, who?).  ‘Cause I really wanna know.  (Who are you?  who, who, who, who?).   – Who Are You? (1978)  The Who.  Composer:  Pete Townshend.

WARNING:  The following is a story based on actual events.

The breeze was slight, but balmy on that October evening of 1963.  The horizon was painted in orange stirred in hints of pink and mauve hues as a velvet black slowly crawled across the sky.  Holding a basket full of Tootsie Rolls, Juicy Fruit gum and candy corn, she eagerly waited in her living room for the next goblin to come knocking.  The festive excitement showed on her face in the glow of the lit Jack-o-lantern on the end-table.  Expecting guests, she wore her finest pearls, kid-leather pumps, complete with a gold charm bracelet.  Yet, this was no ordinary Halloween night in her Greenville, Texas neighborhood.  Little did she know the sinister duo approaching her home from out of the darkened street.  With Buddy Holly softly playing on her cabinet stereo, she heard the frightening voices anew at her door.

“Trick-or-Treat!”  An unanticipated chuckle came out of her mouth as she jumped up off the couch with the candy basket in hand.  As she innocently approached the front door, she could not have imagined the monstrosity awaiting just outside.  As she gleefully opened the creaking door, there, standing perfectly still and silent under the porch-light, were two 3-year old boys staring deeply into her eyes.  With a gasp, she held her hand over her heart while absorbing the sight.  She squinted to see two young mothers standing near the curb watching carefully over the lads.  Her head cocked slightly to one side as she noticed something odd about the boy’s appearance.  There was a lack of costumes.  They both were wearing button up shirts, cuffed bluejeans with Buster Brown lace-up shoes.  They both held simple lunch-sized paper bags in their hands with the top edges folded down.  The two had cheap plastic masks strapped over their faces.  One youngster had a mask of a Teddy Bear, while the other depicted Mickey Mouse.  A couple of seconds passed until she found the breath to speak.

Lady:  Well, hello, you two.  Happy Halloween!  Before I give you some treats, I think I might know who you are.  So, why don’t you tell me your names?  Go ahead, don’t be shy.

Boy A:  I’m Teddy Bear.

Boy B:  And I’m Mickey Mouse.

Lady:  (Giggling)  Yes, I can see that.  But, what are YOUR names?  Let’s start with you, young man.  And you are…?

Boy A:  I’m Teddy Bear.

Boy B:  And I’m Mickey Mouse.

Lady:  (Belly laughter)  I know.  But who are YOU?  I really wanna know.  Come on, tell me, who are you, really?

Boy A:  I’m Teddy Bear.

Boy B:  And I’m Mickey Mouse.

(I wonder if Pete Townshend heard this story and based his lyrics on the two kids of the mask.)

OMA-B W&Me 4yrs old

(L-R:  Woody, our grandmother Opal and me, one year later – 1964).

I will assume the poor lady surrendered and gave my cousin, Woody and I, our candy.  Woody was Mickey and I was Teddy.  My mom remembers it as if it were yesterday.  She, along with my Aunt Ellen (Woody’s mom), just split their sides laughing the entire time.  One thing is for certain, we were obviously not, under any circumstances, going to give up the characters played.  After all, it was Halloween when nobody was supposed to know who was under the mask.  Right?

My granddaughter is very much into masks and make-up.  It must be in the genes.  Each year I am always surprised at what she and her mom creatively put together.  It’s a shame, she’s got such a sweet face.

Mask - Skylar

Masks are nothing new.  Historical records tells the tale.

During the times of the ancient Greeks, the dramatic arts were the pastime of society.  Unlike today, each actor held up a mask on a stick to cover the face as a role was played on stage.  In fact, even today, the classic masks of comedy and tragedy represent drama and the theater in general.

Mask - Drama

Unfortunately, so many of us tend to do the same each day, as if we are playing characters in an amphitheater.  Have you noticed?

Recently, I was at an event where many of my old high school friends were in attendance.  It was a glorious night of hugs, laughter and recollections.  99% of my old friends were more mature, but somehow extremely timeless, some even ageless.  Many of us picked up conversation as if four decades hadn’t gone by.  Then, one of my high school acquaintances was spotted across the room.  This person was born into a family of great wealth.  If this person skinned a knee on the gym floor, the blood would’ve been blue.  We were never close.  There was always an air about this individual.  You know the type.  The kid was from the realm of community royalty and it was played out for all it was worth. (Excuse the pun.)  As a teenager, I didn’t understand it, totally.  It’s not that I didn’t have friends from wealthy families, but this schoolmate was of a different fabric.  My impression was that this person just didn’t have interest in the commoners.  Honestly, I’m not trying to be rude.  It’s the way the air hung over us all when this student walked into the classroom.  The nose was always pointed upward, which could be harmful in the rain.  After 40 years, I truly thought there would be a maturing — a different chemistry –coming from this old acquaintance.  How can you spend four years with a person, yet graduate as strangers?  So, two weeks ago, taking a deep breath, I spoke to this person.  I asked a couple of questions about mutual friends and mentioned how good it was to see this individual once again.  I am sorry to say, there was no change.  This person had plastered the old familiar mask to the skin.  It had become a lifestyle, a mindset.  How tragic.  Frankly, it saddened me.

Have you ever been there?  I mean, knowing someone, yet NOT knowing THEM, the person as they are at home.

During my career in radio, once a week I worked with a particular part-time air personality.  During my time at this one radio station, at midnight I signed off the air Monday through Friday nights.  He worked overnight on Friday nights/Saturday mornings.  We would banter a bit during the shift change just before I left the control room.  Over a two year period, I never felt like I knew the man.  He always “put-on” his air-time persona before he walked into the building.  As frustrating as it was, I always wished that I could’ve gotten to know HIM, the real HIM.  In the end, I only was allowed to meet the mask.

The masks we choose can be the mask of concrete, without smiles, frowns or expressions of any kind.  We use masks to masquerade, as a shelter, an easement or comfort to the one behind it.  The theory is, if they don’t get to know you, you will be safe from whatever they may throw your way.  In this way, the mysterious veil stays in place.  It can be a very lonely place.  Some masks have an etched smile, common in beauty pageants.  If someone wears a constant smile, we may believe life is always perfect for them, without flaw.  If the mask is overcooked in a joyful, party-all-the-time-mold, we may not understand the deeply seeded depression beneath the plastic.  Robin Williams could testify to that concoction.  Maybe it’s a mask of stoicism.  This shield on the face appears as if nothing touches the heart, whether sadness, happiness or enlightenment.  The idea speaks of hardness, emboldened strength or skin made of iron.  In reality, the opposite may be true.  You may be married to a mask, gave birth to a mask, have a cleric who is a mask, or have a boss who is a mask.  It’s not always so easily detectable.

Mask - Me

There’s a biblical instruction on the authenticity displayed in all things, as God sees it.  “But let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:37 (CSBV)

It’s not so much how life-like your self-placed mask may be, or how faulty it may be. The crux is to be a synthetic person, or not.  It’s not just about how others see you, or the portrayal you select toward a path of protectionism, but rather how YOU see them.  Ironically, the viewers see your entire mask as you hold it up, but there’s a problem looking back at them.  Most physical masks I’ve ever worn, tended to have slits or tiny holes for the eyes.  Lots of kids trip and fall on Halloween night.  Nothing much in life is ever gained by tunnel vision.

YOU are gifted.  YOU are stunning.  YOU are worth it.  YOU have lots to give.  No need to hide it from us.

If the truth were revealed, we all hide behind something, even if for short periods of time.  If you feel you don’t, it may be proof that you are Teddy Bear or Mickey Mouse.

When transparency directs the day, it might be conducted by fuel for the race.

“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus – Matthew 5:14-16 (NAS)