Monday, October 29, 2007

What Would Jesus Do on Halloween?




It's time to talk about writing.










I'm excited that my Halloween article just came out in LIVE magazine. For those of you who are interested in writing, I'm including my query letter. Queries should be short (editors are busy) and should convince the editor that your piece is worth reading!


Dear Editor:

The article,
What Would Jesus Do on Halloween, will put a smile on the face of anyone who has ever wondered what to do on Halloween.

Summary: This true story begins when the door bell rings on Halloween night. My young sons and I dive onto the living room floor and pretend we are not home. But Jesus had a different plan for us. When we discovered it, Halloween became an unforgettable adventure.

Need for article: There are not many articles written for Christians about Halloween. Christians need encouragement and guidance. They are curious about what other families do on Halloween. This is a story that will inspire your readers and make them feel good about whatever they do!

Thank you for considering this piece,

ARTICLE ATTACHED (First Rights)



WHAT WOULD JESUS DO ON HALLOWEEN?

Ding Dong!

“Trick or Treat!” called a choir of high squeaky voices.

“Quick! Hit the floor!" I commanded as I scrambled to turn down the T.V. "Let’s pretend we’re not home.” My two young sons and I lay as still as possums until the voices on our front porch drifted away.

“Can we move now?" asked Cody.

"I'm hungry," said Dylan.

“Yes, but I hope no one sees us through the curtains,” I said, glancing at the white lacy fabric.

Cody crawled underneath the window toward the kitchen. As I watched his younger brother scoot along after him, I thought, What am I teaching my kids? I knew that something wasn't quite right. This couldn't be the best way to spend Halloween night.

Recently I had read an article on Halloween’s history, causing me to feel uncertain about its shadowy past. Our Halloween traditions are partially connected to an ancient pagan festival commemorating the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. Pagan customs included rituals and practices centering on death and the afterlife. Should Christians be celebrating a holiday preoccupied with themes of darkness and death? I decided the safest thing to do was to ignore the holiday altogether. So I rented a movie for the boys, drew the curtains and turned the porch light off.

But now, in the darkness of the living room, a thought came to me. “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14, NIV) In the same passage Jesus explains we shouldn’t put our lights under a bowl, but instead place them on a stand so everyone can benefit.

Were the children and I hiding our lights? As I pondered the question, I wondered what Jesus would do on this night. He certainly wouldn’t be sprawled on the living room floor, ignoring the children standing outside in the dark. Instead, he’d have his porch light on. I could easily imagine him standing outside on the steps smiling and talking with the young costumed visitors and their parents.

Before the next Halloween approached, I called a meeting with the boys. Showing them the verse in Matthew, I explained how Jesus was counting on us to shine our lights in this dark world.

“Last year we covered up our lights,” I said. “We need to come up with a new plan.”

“Like what?” asked Cody.

“I don’t know—what do you think Jesus would do on Halloween?”

When I shared with the boys how I had imagined Jesus on his front porch talking with visitors, they looked at me warily. Striking up conversations with the night’s masked wanderers was not something they felt comfortable about. We talked about other activities Jesus might do on Halloween night.

“He might go to a harvest festival,” I began.

“—or a party,” added Cody.
“He might make hot chocolate,” said Dylan.

“Good thought,” I smiled. I could picture Jesus in his front yard serving hot chocolate to weary Halloween travelers.

We came to the conclusion that wherever Jesus was, whether attending a party or walking the streets, he would be shining his light and loving lost people. Eventually we came up with an idea that fit our family. We would compose a letter to give to our visitors and include some great candy. This is what we wrote:

It's dark out there! But you don't have to feel afraid. There is a light that will always shine for you. It's the light of Jesus. Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life." It's easy to follow him. Just talk to Jesus like you'd talk to a friend. He'll hear you! And he will help you in your life. He will love you and forgive you for any wrong things you have done. He'll be your best friend!

A few days before Halloween, we busily prepared our letters. As we worked together I found myself actually looking forward to the upcoming evening. My boys were excited too! We rolled up the letters, tied them with ribbon and put them in a basket with the biggest candy bars we could afford. Cody carved a “Jesus loves you” pumpkin for our front steps. On Halloween night we hovered near the front door.

“I hope someone comes!” Dylan peeked out the front door.

Cody squeezed out the door with a flashlight. “I’ll be hiding in the bushes. If someone is coming, I'll signal you! "

Dylan ran across the living room and stood by the front window.

To see my boys enjoying their first experience of sharing Christ warmed my heart.
Moments later, the flashlight blinked behind the bush.

“Someone’s coming! Someone’s coming!” called Dylan.

Suddenly I realized I had forgotten to do something important. I reached over and turned the porch light on.


8 comments:

Michelle (wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, and striving to be a Proverbs 31 woman) said...

Sharon,
Thanks so much for sharing your query...no wonder the editor was intrigued!
And, I love the article. Congratulations on getting it published, but also thank you for writing it. This is a great idea.
My family is not in the same place as I am regarding Halloween, but one thing I plan to do is pray for every trick-or-treater who comes to the door. It's something between God and I, and I know He will honor that.
Blessings...and thanks again.
Michelle

Cynthia said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I have been curious as to how to do a query and your article helped ease my mind about Halloween!

Congratulations on the article!!

Susan Kelly Skitt said...

WONDERFUL SHARON! No wonder they picked it right up. Well done, great wrap about the porch light and that was a good idea to include your query for other writers. I always like to think of the query as the "curiousity letter." You give them just enough to get a taste of what you're doing and your writing style, but not the whole thing so they'll want to see your piece. Excellent.

In your story, you had a good mix of dialogue, it flowed nicely, great transitions, really Sharon, very well done. I need to start submitting some of these pieces. Most of what I've had published are devotionals, except God Allows U-Turns for Women, that was a 800 word story. All four of my published pieces are in books though, so often the payment is very low, $20 or not at all. The new book coming in Nov. from Tyndale? My payment is a copy of the book.

Anyhow, great witness to people. When I lived in a neighborhood (now I live on a 5 acre plot away from other houses), we would hand out great candy bags with a fun Gospel tract for Halloween, filled with good jokes and the salvation message. I like what you did with your homemade note, beautiful. I've struggled through the years with this issue too about the pagan holiday, but finally decided like you, there were people who needed Jesus light. My grandparents always handed out huge Hershey chocolate bars wrapped in a children's gospel tract.

Great post. Do you mind if I showed this to my writers group sometime? We have all levels of writers, new to experienced and I think it will encourage the newbies.

Let me know, okay?

Susan Kelly Skitt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dawn said...

I love it. I have a tendency to turn the lights out and pretend I'm not home, since the kids are gone. But we have a huge thing at our church called Light in the Night, and we have reached so many new families through it and our Easter Marketplace. Lots of work, but the Lord honors it.

Thanks for your comment today - I'm really behind again this week in reading. I am caught up with you now, and loved the last few posts that I had missed. You are doing a great job in your neighborhood!

Maxine said...

Sharon, This was so interesting.I came over to visit from Living the Adventurous Life because I saw that you had posted about this. Thank you so much for sharing this and for including your query. That is such a help!

I really like what your family did and I'm always thankful to find families who try to use whatever righteous means they can to shine as a witness for Jesus. It's special that your children could be a part. We took a somewhat different approach and I just posted about it this morning. Come over to my Nanna's Reflections blog to read it when you get a chance. Thanks for your input.

Maxine said...

Sharon, This was so interesting.I came over to visit from Living the Adventurous Life because I saw that you had posted about this. Thank you so much for sharing this and for including your query. That is such a help!

I really like what your family did and I'm always thankful to find families who try to use whatever righteous means they can to shine as a witness for Jesus. It's special that your children could be a part. We took a somewhat different approach and I just posted about it this morning. Come over to my Nanna's Reflections blog to read it when you get a chance. Thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

Sharon, I love all your Blogs. Halloween was really well done. I wonder where you got all your talent!

Your mother