Halloween and Saul Using Mediums to Talk to the Dead

Lego Batman Guards the Halloween Pumpkin
Lego Batman Guards the Halloween Pumpkin

So it’s once again All Saints Eve, Reformation Day, or Halloween as most call it. This is one of those many days in our culture now that has virtually no meaning left to it whatsoever, except for that blip on the balance sheets of Target and Walmart. Ah the great machine of capitalism that can turn virtually any historic, religious, or memorable occasion into a commercial venture (just ask Linus). Thus the box stores have succeeded in extracting all true meaning, and have replaced it with the idol of consumerism we all (or most) willingly participate in every day the calendar says to do so. I have family members who like Halloween for it’s decorations of fall and Goth appeal, (those people from that barbaric uncultured Germanic tribe called The Goths who wreaked havoc on the Romans). And I have family members who hate Halloween for the celebration of Satanic rituals and the like (which for some reason brings back memories of the 1987 classic Dragnet and the Pagan Chief holding the ceremony to burn people at the stake). And both parties are represented in my church, and in most churches today.

I really think Halloween at this point in our culture has no meaning left at all, so why bother at all is my point I guess. Generally, no body knows the historical origins anymore, at least not without looking it up, and our society overall has successfully removed any and all understanding of a spiritual world that works around us at all times. Evil spirits are now likened to only exist in people’s minds who are uneducated, or live in some far off land like Africa. A real, but unseen, spiritual world where angels and demons exist, defies science and the educated mind today, and the more we rely on ourselves and our own wisdom, the less we see of the spiritual world at work.

From that, I take you to a very interesting part of 1 Samuel (at least as it relates to Halloween in our world today), and King Saul’s pursuit of David. In 1 Samuel 28, after a long mind battle with David, the future king of Israel, Saul is desperate to kill David and is facing an impending Philistine invasion. After inquiring of God, and getting no answer, he goes to find a medium (a person who is or can call the spirit of a dead person) to try to talk to the dead prophet Samuel. This is not going to be a long exegetical look at 1 Samuel 28, but go read this short chapter and see what happened.

  1. Saul previously removed all the mediums and necromancers (v.3)
  2. Saul disguises himself (in a costume) to go see a medium (v.8)
  3. Saul asks to speak with the dead (v.8-9)
  4. Saul swears by the Lord’s name (v.10)
  5. The medium, for some reason, is allowed by God to call up Samuel from the dead (v.12-13)
  6. The medium is startled, perhaps because this was different than at any other time (v.12)
  7. Samuel is recognizable to Saul (v.14)
  8. Samuel questions Saul (“why have you disturbed me?”) (v.15)
  9. Samuel reiterates that God is now his enemy (v.16)
  10. Samuel delivers a prophecy of Saul’s impending death along with his sons (v.19)

There is so much in that one set of verses. It isn’t placed here to show a séance is acceptable, but rather that this activity was sin, something that was forbidden by Mosaic law (Lev 19.31, Deut 18.10, and 1 Sam 15.23). It does suggest that in certain circumstances, a medium can contact the dead, and not just that of an evil spirit as an evil spirit would not deliver a true prophecy to Saul. The overall point is that Saul did not seek the Lord, he sinned by going after the dead, something that ultimately caused his own death (see 1 Chronicles 10:13-14).

In our 21st century culture in regards to tonight’s celebration of Halloween, I’m not sure which is worse. Blindly going along with Halloween without questioning it’s true origins, or shutting your house to any and all visitors in the name of righteousness, pretending like Halloween doesn’t exist (I’m lucky, I don’t have to do either since I have no neighbors [haha]). Look what Luther did, he didn’t hide out on this night. On this night 495 years ago he made a pretty bold statement, and there is no way you can look at the 95 Thesis and call it a coincidence that Luther posted that on the door of the church on October 31st, 1517.

Reformation Day is officially on October 31st of course, but I don’t think Walmart is going to have a sale on Luther’s 95 Thesis in the magazine rack, oh well.

Parting Shots for Auburn vs Texas A&M

Parnorama of Jordan-Hare Stadium from the Endzone
Parnorama of Jordan-Hare Stadium from the Endzone

It’s not like anyone ever wants to remember a 63-21 total blowout like what happened on Saturday, but there is more to life than football, even in the south. I’m not just saying that because we have only one single win against a ULM team we probably should have lost to, I said that in 2010 when we won the National Championship as well. That doesn’t mean people, media, fans, and the like can’t be brutal when Auburn doesn’t win every single game, or a single game, just look at the cover of the OANews below, but it’s still not the end of the world as we know it (just ask the 1952 fans).

There have been a few things this football year that have been interesting and fun. I did finally get a decent shot of Nova, Auburn’s Golden Eagle from the Raptor Center (below), and last Saturday we have 4 F-16’s do a flyover at the game for military appreciation week. The flyover was rare for Jordan-Hare Stadium lately (see my iPhone video of the flyover here), I can’t remember the last one we had, and they actually didn’t really even fly that low and loud either. I didn’t stick around for the parachuting team that jumped at halftime in the dark blustering cold, but all the military appreciation fanfare was outstanding. This may have been a day to forget the score and the game forever, true, but it’s fall in the south. We were blessed with being able to see with our eyes and hear with our ears yet another day the Lord had made.

Auburn Golden Eagle Nova
Auburn’s Golden Eagle Nova Poses for the Camera
Texas A&M Football Player Warms Up
Texas A&M Football Player Warms Up Around the Auburn Band
Auburn Marching Band vs Texas A&M
Auburn Marching Band vs Texas A&M
Auburn Marching Band vs Texas A&M
Auburn Marching Band vs Texas A&M
Chalk on the Wall Things Will Be Better Auburn Football
Written in Chalk on the Wall on Auburn’s Campus
Front Cover of the OANews Sports Section
Front Cover of the OANews Sports Section

Last Breath of Summer from a Beach in Gulf Shores

Lighthouse Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico
Lighthouse Silhouette as the Sun Sets Over the Gulf of Mexico

Busyness has many enemies, but to me, one of the greatest causalities of busyness is the loss of creativity. When life turns into a checklist of task items the thing that loses out, at least in my life, is always the creativity of reading, writing, photography, poetry, contemplation, prayer, games, music, and so on. Many of those can be viewed as spiritual disciplines, which means one could say that busyness can pull us away from those things in our life that are to be set aside for worship.

This past weekend I finally got a few days to go down to the beach and relax, only it wasn’t quite as relaxing as I had thought it might be. Sure it was time away from the routines of life, which was great, but I really think it takes more than a few days to untwist your mind from the speed of life we live today. That’s the part that never really happened… but that’s ok too, after all, how busy could it possibly be with the view from our balcony below. What we did get to do was visit with family we haven’t seen in a few years, I finally got to visit the aviation museum in Pensacola (that post is upcoming), and we enjoyed a few glorious sunsets on some empty white sand beaches.

I left Auburn hoping to get through two books while I was down at the beach, both of which I had made it about one chapter deep. I managed to make it to the last chapter of the first book, one called Lifted By Angels by Joel Miller, and one I hope to write a review about soon. This was a great book to read uninterrupted at the beach, a place where one’s thoughts can be lifted above the routine of daily needs. There were so many quotes that caught my attention in this anthology about our interactions with angels, especially when it comes to our interaction through a prayerful life, but this stood out when talking about asking for things in prayer…

Isaac the Syrian said that when we ask for earthly things, it’s like a subject standing before his king and imploring him for a measure of manure. The request insults both the king and the subject.

I think we often get so caught up in the earthly life of “things” and the tasks of the day, we forget our life is about preparing for eternity, not necessarily worrying about tomorrow. Below is sort of a timeline from sunup to moonup on our last day, in the last bit of summer warmth before the real fall arrives soon.

Balcony View of Gulf of Mexico
Balcony View of Gulf of Mexico
Sun Setting Over the Gulf of Mexico
Sun Setting Over the Gulf of Mexico
Sunset Through the Grass at Gulf Shores
Sunset Through the Grass at Gulf Shores
Moonrise Over the Beach
Moonrise Over the Beach

iOS Panorama Beauty of Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn Jordan-Hare Stadium Panorama
Auburn Jordan-Hare Stadium Panorama

There is nothing quite like a stadium full of 87,451 fans creating a sea of orange and blue. It actually doesn’t happen all that often, and it’s even harder to capture all 87,000 people in one single photo. My expectations for the rest of the season are very low at this point, but that’s ok, Auburn is still Auburn, and while there are many reasons why I love this town, football is one. Ever since the iPhone 5 came out this shot above is the very shot I had in my mind for the new panorama feature, and I finally got to take it during the Auburn vs Arkansas game. The result is something that can only be seen with a very wide angle lens, or in a stitched panorama shot of the stadium, from the south end zone. I loaded a full size high-res version here if you want to take a look at the shot at full size.

It does take a little practice to get a decent panorama shot using the new iOS 6 camera feature, but with some practice you can really get some great shots that you can’t get without a lot of work and specialized skills otherwise. My first real professional attempt was done at this scenic vista in Colorado called Lake City back in 2008. That setup required an elaborate (but well worth it) set of tripods, panorama ball heads by Markins (an outstanding ball head), levels, and some good knowledge of Photoshop to be able to stitch together the final panorama product. Today, a mere 4 years later, it’s a much different landscape with the iOS 6 option where the software allows you to take the shot above, automatically stitching together a series of shots taken simultaneously.

If you have your own iOS 6 panorama example leave it in the comments below. I’m going to offer a how-to on the iOS option down the road, but for now, stadiums make a great subject.

On Apple’s Tribute to Steve Jobs One Year Later

Pulling into the Gate in Amsterdam Airport
Pulling into the Gate in Amsterdam Airport

I remember landing in Amsterdam on October 5, 2011 after being in the air for almost 10 hours. I turned on my iPhone and AP news alerts started pinging my phone as happens when a “world event” takes place. I read through the Fox News, CNN, Sky News alerts and articles, and read through my Twitter and Facebook feeds. As we pulled up to the gate I had already received the text below from Deborah (yes I have all my text messages from years ago), a message received in my hand sitting on a runway in the Netherlands thousands of miles away from Auburn, Alabama.

Text Message From DeborahAs we pulled up to the gate I took the photo above of the Delta flight parked next to our gate, pulled it into my Camera+ app, put a boarder around it and posted it to Instagram. At this point I had already checked my email, responded to a few emails, and looked up our connecting flight information. All from a small piece of metal, glass, and plastic that didn’t exist a few years earlier.

This may sounds like a lot of poetic musings for a phone, but for some reason my mind wasn’t ready for this particular piece of news that morning, and it confused me. I was on my way to Africa, and the only reason I was going to have any personal connection with my wife halfway around the world was because Steve Jobs had decided he was going to invent and create what I was holding in my hand.

Here was a man who shared no convictions with my faith, a brilliant man who had no understanding beyond the pluralistic view of Christianity known for centuries mixed with his version of Buddhism. He just couldn’t go beyond his own understanding and even made this statement to Isaacson:

“The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t.”

Yet I still felt some connection, even if a minor one, with Jobs, sitting on a runway in Europe, as if the plane full of people melted away leaving me and my connection with Jobs sitting in my hand. He shared none of my beliefs, yet he changed the world, my world, and still does on a daily basis. After I got home from Africa I read, back to back, the biography on Steve Jobs and the biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Metaxas. What an amazing contrast of times and cultures, beliefs, and both had the ability to change the world. Ultimately in death, as we all will do some day, either looking to what lies ahead, one perhaps clinging to life here on earth, so did these two great men.

I boarded the plane to Africa, still thinking about Jobs’ fate and wrote this as we took off.

The biggest surprise to me so far [on this trip], was upon landing, finding out that Steve Jobs died. I was truly saddened to hear this. I know we are all temporary to this world, but this man, who for all accounts wasn’t a believer, changed the world. He forever changed the way the world communicates, how we are connected with each other, and the reason I can talk to Deborah from this plane in Europe while she is in Auburn.

He affected so many people through his innovations. How are we to greave his death? I’m saddened over his death as if he was someone I knew personally, and at the same time I really don’t know why either. Death seems so imminent for all of us, especially when you hear about Jobs dying at 59. I know why we die, the fall created this and Christ had to die for us, but it’s still so hard to understand. I didn’t even know Jobs, but I will miss him. The new iPhone announcement yesterday had people wanting to see Jobs at the event, people who never knew, other than God, that he would die the very next day. I pray for his soul.

I’m not even really sure why I write this today other than to acknowledge the gravity this one person had on our world. A person I vastly disagree with on almost all aspects of life, yet he was someone who had a positive impact on so many people.

Jobs once said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” which really became his whole life philosophy, and was carried on today by Tim Cook and Apple with the video on their front page and the letter below. What other for-profit company would take down their entire front page just to show a 2 minute tribute video. Simplicity and sophistication.

Apple's Tribute to Steve Jobs
Apple’s Tribute to Steve Jobs