I've heard all the uptight brouhaha about Halloween. It's a pagan holiday. It gives the devil more than his due. It lures innocents to the dark side. My response to all that hue and cry is, "Lighten up!" There are spiritual lessons-scriptural lessons-amid all the tricks and treats of this holiday.

Lesson One: Diversity Is Good--in Candy Sacks and Community

All kids have a rating scale for a neighborhood's trick-or-treating. Where could we make an efficient but abundant haul? Which neighbors gave the most candy? To my mind, the best ones were those who gave full-size Three Musketeers bars. My sister preferred Good 'n' Plenty. My friend loved Mounds. How anyone could prefer licorice or coconut to chocolate was beyond me, but it made for very satisfying swapping as we counted and sorted afterwards. In a small, snack-sized way, I learned that difference and diversity were important in creating a happy whole.

Herein lies the first lesson, my version of 1 Corinthians 12:17 ("If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?"): If the whole body were a Three Musketeers Bar, where were the Good 'n' Plenty? And if the whole were Good 'n' Plenty, where were the Mounds? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. are they many members, yet one body.

Lesson Two: Overcoming Fear Pays Off

When I was little, I was normally scared of going up to doors of neighbors my parents knew but I didn't. But Halloween gave me a legitimate reason--indeed, a candy mandate--to venture beyond my comfort zone. On that night, I overcame my shyness and talked to grown-ups. (Granted, the script was limited: "Trick or Treat!" followed by "Thank you!")

Blood, gore and spirit

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  • I arrived at some doors at the same time as other costumed kids I didn't know. This was another source of anxiety. But I started to understand that we were all in this together, so it felt, ever so briefly, like a bond. I drew courage from those kids--and amazingly, some of the younger kids drew strength from me.

    Straddling the boundaries of scary and safe helped me know that fear needn't cripple me. There can be benefits from taking action even while afraid. In Halloween's case, I developed confidence and got peeks at a greater sense of community and connection, training wheels toward love.

    The second lesson is here: 2 Timothy 1: 7: "For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

    Lesson Three: God Loves Us No Matter How Scary We Are

    The best thing about Halloween is dressing up. I loved (still do) thinking up costumes. The store-bought options are an easy route today, but my favorites have always been the homemade ones or the really imaginative ones. How pleasant to have three 12-year-olds appear at my door, whack their chests, and have their shirts suddenly turn red with bloody gore. Never mind the cute little fairy princesses marching up the sidewalk just in front of of Hannibal Lechter.

    Two neighbors went as a horse. One was the head and front legs and the other was the back legs and rump. Walking was awkward for them, but the costume was a real crowd pleaser.

    Chieko Okasaki, a leader of great wisdom and wit in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pointed out a wonderful parallel about Halloween and grace. She noted that on this day we come in our most outrageous, often terrifying guises (even as the back end of a horse) and what do we receive? Not shaming and censure but a generous outpouring of bounty and goodness.

    The welcome we receive on Halloween is a wonderful analogy for the unearned gift of grace we read about in Ephesians 2:8. We sinners approach God, and He looks beyond our nastiness and lavishes love and mercy on us.

    Don't let Halloween trick you. There are plenty of gospel treats to be had--Good 'n' Plenty of them, in fact!

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