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10/12/2005

SCARY

Her front yard looks like the Grim Reaper's carnival set up shop. Tomb stones litter the flower beds. Gargoyles bask in black lighting. A ten foot spider crouches guarding against sidewalk riff raff. An undead woman in rotted wedding regalia laughs maniacally at the front door while fog machines seethe a low haze of dread across the lawn.

She's scary. She's my neighbor - a woman in her late thirties who looks like any other mother of boys driving a mini van to the elementary school twice daily and dropping by Kroger for ten items or less every few days. But this mom looks forward to Halloween. It's her Christmas, she exaplins. After the first week of October, as soon as her yard begins crawling with plastic ghouls of all manifestations, people start to wonder "Who ARE these people living among us?"

She's an accomplished author, that's who. She's written book adaptations of some very frightening films, examples of which I won't list here for fear of blowing her cover and drawing fans to our otherwise sleepy neighborhood. Her biggest claim to fame is, however, a series of original books about a vampire slayer - a very sexually rambunctious vampire slayer. In the one chapter I was brave enough to peak at (I scare easily) a woman woke up in a dungeon chained to a bulging hunk of a man, wondering if she'd had too much to drink the night before or if something more sinister had taken place since her last memory of consciousness. In less than a page the sleeping stranger she's tethered too awakes, is of course gorgeous, and predictably amorous. He crawls on top of her and paragraphs of odd dialogue about vampires, werewolves and assassins ensue, made uncomfortable by constant internally monologued sexual fantasies from both characters. Of course the two characters consummate their new "friendship" and embark on an unholy sinister adventure and I'm left wondering A) Why am I still reading this? and B) Who ARE these people living among us? Again, she's scary.

I'm living next door to the Danielle Steele of the Dungeons and Dragons crowd. I imagine her fans to be a certain group of guys I knew in high school. I imagine them believing vampires were real back then. They probably worshipped the devil, wearing black as a kind of warning shot, to ward off the rest of us. They put curses on the homes of strict teachers and sacrificed farm animals and such. They probably talked to Satan, heard him talk back and hated all things beautiful and innocent - I imagine. And this imagination of mine kept me from getting closer to my neighbor than a wave from the mailbox and a smile. She's scary - feeding demonic sex crazed wackos page after page of encouragement every day like she does.

But then my kids asked if they could cross the street and stroll through her tomb stones and corpses and how could I refuse? That's when she came outside and we actually met, laughed, talked a long time - her in a "I'm Evil" t-shirt (black of course) and me in a "Relevant Magazine" shirt (white of course). We talked long enough that the hazer in her bushes ran out of juice and then the fog began to clear.

She's known apparently for quite some time about what I do too. "I live across the street from a guy who sings songs about God for Christians," she may have blogged in the past. "I knew people in high school who listened to that crap. They'd skip our dances and look mortified when I'd cuss or walk around campus with my hand in my boyfriend's back pocket. I imagined them talking about angels and what Jesus would major in at College or what the new Queen record says if you play it backward. They had slumber parties at which the souls of damned class mates were "lifted up", and G-rated movies were consumed while wearing footy pajamas before turning in no later than 9."

Now that we're friends though I've learned she need not use her imagination to picture one of my fans. She doesn't have to lean on foggy high school memories of Christians. Her sister is one - an angel seeing, doily decorating, ceramic figurine collecting, George Bush voting, speaking in tongues, slain in the spirit, charting the end times, boycott Disney and Ellen and the Teletubbies, "don't say geez", church twice a week, Jesus fished, until-you-stop-writing-those-kinds-of-books-don't-come-to-our-house-for-Christmas Christian...who loves my music and hates her.

Now that's scary. Or, sadly, that's what the scary are sometimes made of.

27 Comments:

Blogger Stephen said...

Those are some good things to think about. What kind of pre-conceptions do I have when meeting people? What do they think about who they think I am?

BTW, Shaun, the book that I mentioned to you is Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird - Some Instructions on Writing and Life".

10/13/2005  
Anonymous Matt said...

Talk about contrasting lifestyles...

Anyways, it's awesome to see how God has opened up an opportunity for her to see and interact with a Christian in a more realistic sense. By that I mean more than just the typified stereotype of Christians that you described in the second- and third-to-last paras.

10/13/2005  
Blogger supersimbo said...

wow sounds like you should move...........! actually she sounds kinda cool, your neighbour!

10/13/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Shaun,
Wow! Since she thinks she "knows where you're coming from," do you think it will be harder to witness to her? You've obviously taken the right "let her SEE Jesus, in me" attitude with her instead of what seems to be the "Bible thumping, righteous indignation" attitude her sister has taken thus far. What a great opportunity for you to introduce her to the real Jesus. BTW, do you let your kids (the older two anyway) participate in the traditional Halloween celebrations? Do they get to trick-or-treat? Why or why not? My stance on this has change dramatically from childhood to adulthood and I'm just curious how others feel and what they may choose to do, if anything, in place of the traditional celebrations they may not participate in now.

Beth

10/13/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

My kids trick or treat, yes. We'll probably beg door to door with all the cousins in their neighborhood (that would be seven kids in all). They'll dress as cats and clowns and pretty tame stuff I'm sure.

They just like dressing up. Gabriella just likes being nosey and seeing in somebody else's house - and getting Smarties and suckers. And I just like eating what they can't. Mmm, bring on the chocolate.

SG

10/13/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Stephen, I took your advice and ran out and got Bird by Bird yesterday morning. It's great. I'm already half way though it and extremely inspired and comforted. Knowing a great writer like Anne Lamott freezes when staring at her blank screen, is somehow very reassuring.

Thanks for the tip.

SG

10/13/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My parents instilled in me the feeling growing up that if someone was different from you, if they didn't believe like you, they were pretty much strange and best left alone. I started questioning this in college, and was considered rebellious.

I'm now just past 40, married with two daughters, and dealing with "different" every day in so many areas. Life happens and you just have to deal with it. 20 years ago someone with purple hair, tattoos and multiple body piercings would have made me more nervous than a Southern Baptist taking communion at Mass. Now kids like these are classmates and friends of my high school daughter. And not ALL of them worship Satan. Some of them are good, decent, God-loving kids. Heck, some of them go to our church!

I guess my point is that other people's differences shouldn't preclude us from getting to know them and sharing our stories with them. You never know what you might say or do that could eventually lead them to Christ. Billy Graham used to say that it took 40 people to lead someone to Christ. The first person thinks they didn't do enought, and the 40th person usually takes all the credit. But it takes all 40 over time.

10/13/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shawn, you're sounding more bitter ever day. What's goin on in your life, man? Why this negative perspective of everything? This isn't how God looks at the world. He has love.

10/13/2005  
Blogger Dave Haupert said...

Good article. Reminds me of something I need to remind myself of often- that we are not to judge those who are not in Christ by the same standards as those who are. In that respect, the sister is the more scary story to hear. As Donald Miller puts it in Blue Like Jazz, we need to own up to the mistakes our brothers and sisters in Christ have done to stain the name of Christianity. That starts with a confession- an apology on behalf of those Christians who are trying to love their neighbor.

10/13/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

I guess I'm not picking up on Shaun's bitterness. Sarcasm, yes. That's his style sometimes.

I started out taking my kids trick-or-treating when they were little. In Hawaii it was easy as the weather was always cooperative. We also lived in base housing so that meant we could get 75 pounds of candy in 20 minutes! As they began to grow older and I began to really focus more on what we were doing, I came to the conclusion that Halloween really isn't something I wanted to "celebrate." As a family, we sat down and discussed what Halloween is, how it originated, etc. and what the kids thought it was. As a result, (and because of the many changes the holiday itself has undergone over the years), we now choose an alternative. Our local Christian school hosts a carnival night on Halloween. The kids love to go there and play the games, spend time with friends, and eat too. It's a good fundraiser too. The school chooses a charity each year to support with the proceeds. They can dress up and not have to worry about covering up the costume with winter wear as it's usually very cold here in ND by Halloween!

Shaun, I applaud your efforts to really get to know your neighbors and not just stay away because they are "different." Our society today is so very mobile and busy, that we don't honestly know our neighbors the way we used to. I remember growing up in an urban neighborhood, but boy, we knew everyone in our neighborhood. I also knew that I could go to any home for help if needed and that if I took the occassion to screw up, any of my neighbors could feel free to let my parents know, or just a easily take care of the discipline themselves! Ah, those were the days!

Shaun, please post some photos of your little Halloween costumed kids. I'm sure they'll be adorable!

Beth

10/13/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Nice drive by "anonymous." It is pointless to poke a finger through the curtains and into my face, spew assumption and judgment (the lesson of this post I think) and run. Pointless. Is that negative?

Another word I've been called is "cynical". Very similar accusation. And when it's made I usually quote George Bernard Shaw and pass his words off as my own: "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

The ability to be negative or accurate - depending upon how negative your own perception of me is - is not a recent development in my character. It is a gift I was given at birth. And I use it when appropriate. Appropriateness is of course the hard thing to discern. Always will be I suspect. But I don't think I've made an error in discernment on this post.

I guess my point is that I don't have to be like you in every way in order to be like Christ in my own way. TO have value. Did you read this post of mine? Relative to you I'm a cynic. Relative to me you're a passive aggressive coward. I'd still like to talk to you and would like the same respect in return. I'm a person, not a "negative" post. You're a person, not a whiny comment.

So, in conclusion, shut up or dialogue. I'm not interested in rebukes without the possibility of discourse. If you'd like to accuse me of being not like Christ in some area of my life - as you seem to - then e-mail me. I'm very accessible. shaungrovesfanmail@charter.net At the very least use a name. Leave a link. Some way of dialoguing. But to stand righteously across the street at your mailbox hurling stones is completely pointless - and makes you more like me than you'd probably care to be. It makes you just another negative voice representing Christ. And you don't want to be that. Soon people will start leaving hit-and-run comments on your blog.

SG

10/13/2005  
Anonymous Matt said...

That was a bit harsh, Shaun. However, what you said still rings true.

There's really no point in hit-and-runs. Cause if you're not gonna give a chance for dialoguing about your disagreements, it just becomes whining criticism.

Also, I fail to see any bitterness. Maybe I've lost my analyzing skills...oh well.

10/13/2005  
Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...

I agree, I fail to see any bitterness in this post. I also fail to see why in the world any Christian should be "scared" of Halloween. I use to work at Lifeway and around October we would get these books in with a title like "Mommy why don't we trick-or-treat for Halloween" or "Mommy what's wrong with Halloween." I had to pick up one of these books to try and comprehend why in the world parents would want to deprive their children of getting FREE candy?! Okay, true it USE TO BE a Pagan worship of the dead day sure, but now it's just an excuse to let your kids be hmmm...KIDS!! My mom and dad both are HUGE Christian's and I can honestly say I trick-or-treated till I was in the 8th grade! I'm President of my BSU and we're gonna dress up and have a cook out on Halloween Night. I mean if someone thinks it's best to deprive their kids of an actual fun childhood that's their deal, but if that same person thinks I'd be a bad Christian for trick-or-treating all I gotta say is get a life. It's like those people who take the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus way outta context and say ohh we shouldn't celebrate Easter or Christmas anymore because it's all about the Bunny or the Santa now. Boo-Freakin-Hoo hand over my candy.

10/13/2005  
Blogger Mark said...

Ouch!

It's something I still have to fight everyday. And, I think if we're honest, so does everyone else. Thanks for being honest here.

As a side note, last year I was campaigning for Bush in Oct. I was only supposed to be going to Republican houses, and they were the ones most decorated for Halloween. And the ones that gave me the most creeps since suddenly have a noise start that you weren't expecting always makes me jump. Anyway, my point is that sometimes we will find we have more in common with people different from us then we realize.

10/13/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Mustard Packet Pelter,

I do heartily agree that celebrating Halloween doesn't make you a bad Christian at all. I enjoyed trick-or-treating as a kid and dressing up, and visiting the haunted houses, etc. As I've grown older though, the holiday has changed somewhat. It seems to be another occassion for the partying crowd to drink themselves into oblivion again and run the risk of running over one of my little trick or treaters, or someone else. I also grew up in Florida where it was pretty warm (sometimes hot) to go out during the evenings. Here in Grand Forks, dressing up for Halloween is underminded by the snow pants, ski jacket, hat, mittens, and snow boots that are often required to be outdoors at that time of year. That's why I opt for the indoor carnival option. That and the fact that they do typically end up with less candy that I have to ration (and you know that means I eat it to keep them from eating it!), pay the dental bills for, and clean up after they gorge themselves on! We're not too big on the commercial Santa either although he's not taboo or anything. My kids love to hear about St. Nicholas more and especially love the Christmas move "Santa and Pete." Great fantasy stuff! They get the most fun out of decorating the tree, making the nativity scene out of gingerbread and helping me bake the tons of cookies for all their teachers.

Beth

10/13/2005  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

I did not find any bitterness in Shaun's original post. I thought it was a clever way of standing two sets of stereotypes back to back and giving them a playful poke.



And I'll be out on my front porch again this Halloween. The neighbors come over and we all visit, eat each other's candy and hand out what's left to the kids after we've oohed and ahhhed over their costumes.

It's a great, relaxed time for us harried Washingtonians to just sit and enjoy each other's company.

nt

10/13/2005  
Anonymous anna said...

where i live everyones super exited about halloween. they decorate their porches. im not talking about little plastic figures but the whole 9 yards. and so just to get into it we do the same. my mommy hands out the candy to the little kids in huge handfuls and i go trick or treating with my friends although im fourteen. at church everyone says we shouldnt celebrate it so they have thier own version. on halloween night they host a party and you have to come as someone from the bible. they arent tottaly against it but they are not for it. they are wishy washy. i dont think its wrong unless some little kid starts practicing being a witch or gets super obssesed with her barbie costume. its just a night of fun, candy, and trying to be something else.

10/13/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

WHich brings up a profound question, anna...

How old is too old to trick or treat? I think it's when the elastic on your Walmart costume's mask won't stretch around your head without busting. What do you think? At some age trick or treating just becomes less obtrusive panhandling doesn't it? I especially think of this every year when the sixteen year old bearded guy comes to my door wearing the elaborate and imaginative costume of a wig, jeans and a t-shirt. Don't hurt yourself trying to be creative there, buddy. At the very least I'd like to see the teen agers in my neighborhood, IF they insist upon begging me for candy at their age, to put forth a little effort. Amuse me in exchange for my sugary benevolence. I want to see Spiderman, George W., one of the Wiggles, anything! New rule: No nougat until I see something more extensive than an afro. Makes me want to have a separate goody bin full of popcorn balls or left over Easter peeps just for the unimaginative and post-pubescent beggars on my street. Hmmm, I'll have to work on that.

So, anyway, I got sidetracked entertaining myself and planning my torture of others - how old is too old to trick or treat? I went up to fifth grade. After that I felt a little embarrassed. Not saying you should. I'm a little insecure, you may have noticed, so I may have bowed out of Halloween prematurely. Thoughts?

10/13/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

man anon., if you call this post bitter then you must not get much more than the level 1 spicy at the thai food restaraunts.

anywho,

i have the privilege of having a birthday on Holloween. I must say that there is no better time to have a birthday. My mom and dad went through extreme fundy phase of dressing me up like moses or paul or peter. basically a robe and a beard. pretty dang boring. (not that its bad if you are in the same position but for me it was a big bummer) in a way holloween feels sort of healthy. sometimes is good to make light of those things that go bump in the night or those things you are sure are hiding under your bed. amazingly, i was never scared on Holloween. i got more scared after i read revelation for the first time than any trick-or-treat excursion.

Seth

10/13/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Seth, what about Stephen. He's biblical and bloody. Could be a win win for you, man. Just looking out for my Shloggers. No thanks needed.

(Man, I'm sarcastic today. Need to take my meds.)

10/13/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

today?????

man if only i were 7 again and would have thought of that.

there was one halloween in those early years that i tried being moses with some fake ten commandments so at least people would know who the heck i was. when they would say "oh you must be Moses" i tried spicin' it up a bit by throwing down my plastic commandments. it got a few laughs but it only lasted a few houses and then it was just about the candy.

seth

10/13/2005  
Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...

Let's see the last time I went trick-or-treating I went as Mary (the mother of Jesus)...I think. It was either that or a Queen something like that, I was 13 at the time and since it was my last night EVER to trick-or-treat and since my mom let me know it was my last night EVER to trick-or-treat we stopped at every house and then some. Started at about 7 and ended about 9:30 and came out with a whole book bag full of candy. I think this year I may got to the BSU cookout as a Ringwraith. Girl yeildin' a sword...I love! hee hee hee It's like I was finally told that Santa Claus wasn't real my 11th grade in school. As I like to say I'm 12 only backwards.

10/13/2005  
Blogger Fruitcake said...

My parents never took me trick-or-treating. They never condemned it, just never took us. My brother and sister went once with friends, but never me. And I don't feel deprived at all. I think that Halloween has changed somewhat. There are still those freaks out there who celebrate with bloodshed, but I think for kids it's once a year when you get all the free candy your parents let you. Not a problem with that. (Well, not until the visit to the dentist.)

You're brave, Shaun. I don't think that many parents would walk over to their scary neighbor's house so their kid could meet her. And by doing that, especially with her knowing what you do and Whose you are, I think you showed Jesus to her.

You inspire me and challenge me continually. I thank God for you!

10/13/2005  
Anonymous anna said...

i dont know about most of you guyz but i go full out. i think the older you are the more dressed up you should be. as a little kid i didnt even have halloween. i just started when i was like 10 so im going full out. you know i started small with the masks from walmart but you know as i got older and wiser in ways of getting candy. last year i went as barbie-pink long dress, tiara everything. the year before i went as a biker babe with all the chains extra makeup and fake hair and nails. this year im not sure what im gonna go as but im thinking something christiany. i dont think your ever too old to trick or treat unless your 80 yrs old and on a walker then i think all the signs are pointing for you to stop. so Shaun get your costume ready or ill personally make you_ _ _ unless your 80 yrs old and on a walker. your not too old it pure wholesome family fun. :)

10/14/2005  
Blogger robyn elise said...

i was a pumpkin my first year (i had a cape with pumpkins all over it, and a hood). i was a crayon for a few years. a pink one. and for kindergarten, we could go to school dressed up, so i went as rodeo rosie from sesame street. that year i won the pumpkin decorating contest in school. i was a hershey kiss around 3rd grade, after i outgrew my crayon costume, and after i spent a year as a ballerina in the 30-degree weather. nobody could see my costume cause it was covered up by a huge jacket. i stayed in the hershey's kiss one for about 3 years. in 6th grade i was a headless horseman (meaning, i put on all black, complete with a black hood with a black mask, and carried around a "head").

my roommate just bought a halloween costume for her: an angel. she got a devil costume for her puppy. (awwww!). she's gonna go trick-or-treating as a 21-year-old. where, i don't know. she invited me along, but i *cough* think i'm gonna have something to do that night (like PRACTICE!!!).

10/17/2005  
Anonymous anna said...

wait practice for what,i just got a mental pic of you with that little crayon costume and the hershey kisses its cute. my first year when i was ten i went as a hershey kiss and everyone kept giving me or blowing me kisses even total strangers. talk about wierd.

10/17/2005  
Blogger rainey said...

Yes! Easter Peeps! I'll take 'em!

10/18/2005  

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