This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
It was a beautiful October day, and I was heading to my friend Kelly’s house for a prayer walk. Brightly colored trees were everywhere, and my mind was filled with lovely visions and happy thoughts of Jesus. But that soon changed.
Although my stereo was playing one worshipful song after another, as I got into the town my eyes were assaulted with dark images from virtually every yard I passed. Lawns had been seemingly transformed into cemeteries, with tombstones displaying clever sayings, as though graves were things to be laughed at. Replicas of partially decomposed corpses swung from trees or reached bony hands upward from the ground. Yards and houses were decked with sculls and garlands of cobwebs, as though death and decay were things to be celebrated.
By the time I reached Kelly’s house, my mood had changed considerably. When she answered the door with a cheery “Good morning!” instead of greeting her back, I blurted out the thought that had been building:
“If Christians celebrated Life half as much as the world celebrates death, we could really make a statement!”
Kelly didn’t flinch, and she had no idea what I was suggesting, but she was immediately on board.
“Let’s do it!” she declared. “We can use our yard!”
Thus began one of the biggest adventures of our lives, an outreach that was to fill every October, and a great deal of the weeks leading up to October, for the next fifteen years. It started that year with humble beginnings:
Year One, Halloween Night: Kelly’s family’s yard has been transformed into a cemetery of sorts, but with two twists: Every plywood tombstone has on it, not a clever saying of man, but a verse of Scripture making reference to the Resurrection of Jesus. The swing set is covered with sheets spray painted various shades of grey, and the round picnic table has been turned sideways and covered with the same grey sheets to look like the stone that has been rolled away from the tomb of Jesus. Kelly and I have dressed our adorable daughters as angels, and they are running to and fro, handing out bags filled with candy and Bible tracts to the people who have stopped to read the messages on the tombstones. A boom box is playing worship music nonstop all evening.
Fast Forward, Ten Years: Dozens of people are gathered outside the yard, filling their bags with tracts, candy, and small New Testaments. Kelly’s girlfriends are handing out free popcorn, hot dogs, coffee, and hot cider under the strings of star-like Christmas lights strung from the trees to the porch. Some trick-or-treaters are warming themselves at the portable fire pit on the sidewalk, and a pastor is giving “sidewalk counseling” to one of them. Most of the visitors are lined along the fence, watching the production of “Satan’s Worst Nightmare,” a multimedia production depicting the death, burial, Resurrection, and final victory of Jesus over the powers of darkness – from Satan’s point of view. A live band is on the porch, and a big screen is behind the production, displaying the lyrics to the songs being played. The mood is festive, everyone seems to be having a great time, except perhaps the kids in long black robes who have been trying unsuccessfully to burn one of the New Testaments in the fire. The set is impressive, thanks to the artistic gifts of friends the Lord has sent to us over the years. The costumes look professional, unlike the white sheets we had used for angel robes that first year. God has sent us talented designers, actors, musicians, singers, dancers, choreographers, lighting technicians (Kelly’s husband just happens to be an electrical engineer.), and enthusiastic, servant-hearted people of all ages who have just shown up and asked, “How can I help?” And it seems I have finally made use of my college degree in directing and play-writing. (Don’t let my scurrying around with an overloaded clipboard fool you – I’ve got everything under control!) By the end of the evening hundreds of people will have witnessed the reenactment of Satan’s worst nightmare – the Resurrection of Jesus and His final victory.
“Satan’s Worst Nightmare” is the reason I may start spending less time writing blogs and more time working on the manuscript of my next book. When I start telling people about this outreach, I find myself wanting to talk for hours. There isn’t room here to elaborate on all the “adventures” Kelly and I have had over the years, along with anyone else who wished to be involved in this project. Suffice it to say, we’ve felt ourselves to be “on the front lines” more than once, and if we’ve learned one thing, it’s that we need to bathe everything in prayer and to keep our spiritual armor on (Ephesians 6:10-18) at all times.
After all, even in a small town, if you set out to make a public mockery of the devil on Halloween, you’re in for a wild ride.