I was recently shocked to discover that my long-held belief was based on absolutely nothing.

Long ago, in a land kind of in the exact neighborhood I live in now because I never really moved that far away from my original upbringing, I had a childhood that consisted of discipline, things I didn’t want to do but was told I had to, and candy.

We didn’t get a lot of it, but what I did manage to have come my way still reminds me of how I used it as a way to escape, like other drugs of choice. Sugar in a brightly colored concoction can do wonders to remove you mentally from a trying moment of your youth.

They say that the white granules are more addictive than cocaine in lab rats. That explains why I never understood the role of Willy Wonka and how odd he was. Unless you have taken mind-altering drugs or over-eaten pixie sticks, he didn’t make a lot of sense.

There’s a high competitive undertone in that entry into the highly sought after company which can only be had by finding the golden ticket strategically hidden in candy bars. This brings out the worst in people who try to obtain what they think will buy them happiness.

I understood the concept of the greedy children being taught a lesson. Still, there seemed to be no regard at all for their demise by being sucked up a tube, getting stuck in a television, or expanding into a gigantic blueberry.

As a child watching, it was somewhat disconcerting as he moved along the chocolate factory, not seeming to care that the kids following him were getting picked off one by one. This then cued the singing and dancing of orange colored men. It was almost as bad as the witch from the Wizard of Oz, who gave me nightmares for a long time. I have heard others were terrified of the flying monkeys. They weren’t even in charge.

The only redeeming quality of the entire story is that Charlie, a boy from poverty, who wants nothing, ends up gaining the whole operation where he and his family will live forever. It sends the message that those who are humble and don’t take advantage of others will win in the end.

But you wonder, did the other ones learn from their mistakes, or did they keep on taking despite their abrupt departure? Did they go back out into the world and continue to roll others over to get what they wanted?

It seemed as if the parents had instilled this bratty behavior in them to the point of no return. They placated and gave in to their every demand because it calmed down the conflict. It was easier to be passive than to say no, which would have brought on a temper tantrum. So to not upset the apple cart, they gave in and weakly surrendered their authority.

I have seen this in action where a child insists on their way and is given what they demand, even though it’s not the right decision. This fosters in the next situation over another item, and a pattern becomes established.

It becomes difficult to recall where it all began in the long run. It just appears that a person is a taker. They were created by people who should have corrected it but didn’t want to cause a stir. They chose the path of least resistance to be nice.

I have seen the trials of parents trying to negotiate with their kids in public. It’s the usual screaming and sometimes throwing themselves on the floor over something they cannot have. It can go two ways, but I always cringe when the parent says no a million times and then hands over the very thing that is the source of contention.

It’s not only that the child won the war but also that the parent does not stick to what was said. The idea of wearing someone down until they get their way has been established, which becomes part of a person’s character. Unknown to many, this limits them spiritually.

What are the consequences of such behavior? It’s spoken of in John 2:16–17:

Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. (Message)

It makes it tough to follow God’s voice and be led when you always get your way.

You are not challenged on any level to die to yourself when you are not in a situation to lean totally on God as your source. Believe it or not, having everything taken away and hearing the word “no” isn’t always a bad thing. I have learned through my tough life stages that there is a realm higher than this one, but it can only be accessed by total submission.

This doesn’t mean God wants to punish you, but things will move in a way to get your attention. Living from an eternal perspective sometimes comes in a way that isn’t always to our liking, but there is always a reason for it.

What might feel like suffering today will open doors for greater understanding tomorrow.

When we are in a comfort zone or pattern of familiarity, these forces keep us from growing into our life purpose and higher state of existence. When you get stuck and preoccupied with minor issues, you cannot expect to be given more important things.

God never gives up, though, because there is work to be done on his behalf. So heaven is always trying to wake us up to a deeper understanding of things if we will listen.

My daughter brought home cherry Tootsie Roll pops. I usually try to eat healthily and not let myself have that type of thing. If I really am struggling with saying absolutely no, I find somewhere on my body a slight bit of extra and tell myself it will only make more. And I wear the tightest pair of jeans in my closet. Anything that stretches gives the illusion all is well when it might not be.

As I looked at the bag, I mentally went through a reasoning process. I had been good all week, worked out every single day not only with resistance training but also getting in my 10,000 steps. When I realized I had cleaned the house, I took one.

I instantly looked at the wrapper and said,

“I wonder if this has a kid dressed like an Indian shooting a star?”

My daughter said,

“What do you mean?”

“When I used to eat these, we were told to always look for that on the wrapper.”

Sure, enough, it was there. But, the star was a heart because it was Valentine-themed.

Her inquiry made me think.

“Why have I been doing this all these years? What’s the point of looking for this certain boy doing archery?”

I had never questioned this. It was something I just did on autopilot. Someone had told me it was necessary, and I had gone along with it. I recall the disappointment of not seeing it, but what for? Not finding this made me feel like a total loser when I was little.

I searched online to find out what I was missing. Apparently, this was a big fat rumor that had gotten started and spread like wildfire. Someone claimed that if you were lucky to have found this on your wrapper, you could mail it in to the company for a free one.

All of it was a lie. The company debunked this myth, but I read that one man who owned a grocery store took pity on those who believed it and honored it by handing out free pops.

News like that makes one reflect on what else has been pawned off as fact but isn’t? It’s so unreal that a person can get this far along in life and keep on doing something mindlessly based on faulty thinking. How gullible can we be?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of the truth? Way more than three, I can tell you.

As long as you stay flexible in your thinking and ask God to show you the path, I believe that you will be guided as much as you will allow. If you give up your will, you will be shown the way.

In Ephesians 6:14 it says,

So stand firm and hold your ground, having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness(an upright heart)(Amplified)

There will be individuals who will look to use your kindness for their selfish ways. But, God always brings balance where you won’t feel guilty if you decline to help, and you won’t be a part of promoting greed. Instead, you will be sent to be of help where your assistance isn’t creating more taking.

God loves a joyful giver, but you don’t have to fall prey to being a sucker.

It means nothing…

Trick or Sheeting

I watched her don a pair of gloves as she added the black mixture into the washing machine. Next came the white sheets that were immersed into the murky swirling water.  When she closed the lid she said,

“Now we just have to let it sit for awhile and see what happens.”

Later when we checked back after the cycle had run through its rinse and spin, we found that the sheets had transformed themselves into an off white color.  Not exactly the dark of night she was going for.

“I guess I have to do it again,” she said as she reached for the box of dye and gloves.  There would be no trips to the store to buy a manufactured costume.  She was of the era that a person scouted around the house, found some odds and ends and an outfit was made.  Even if it was a struggle.

Another round of treating the fabric with dye only led to a deeper shade of grey.  She continued this process over the next few days in an attempt to get the cloth to come out looking like coal. She finally gave up by saying,

“You will be the witch that doesn’t wear black.”

Next came the dreaded measuring and the pins.

“Fold sti..” which meant ‘hold still’ while she spoke with a push pin in her mouth.  She carefully closed up the garment around me.  I felt the prickles on my skin which gave me a mental image of going to the doctor and the ‘pokey’ things there never were my favorite.  I had no problem not moving one millimeter.

Once she was satisfied with the material being in place, she said,

“Carefully slip out of it now.”

I took a breath and tried to contort myself without messing up her work. The minute I was free I was glad to be back in my normal clothes that didn’t scratch my skin.

After a few more fittings, Halloween arrived, and I was required to wear the costume to school for a party.  I walked home at noon to eat lunch and was expected to return by 1 pm in full regalia.  After buzzing through my meal with excitement, it was time to step into my attire she had labored over. I hadn’t tried on all the pieces so I was curious to find out how I would look.

I threw the disappointing grey smock over my clothes which she secured with a rope for a belt, then she handed me a hat and a pair of black plastic glasses.  Quickly, I ran to her full length mirror to see her masterpiece.

I didn’t speak as I stared at my reflection.

“Isn’t it great?’ she said enthusiastically.  I remained silent.  She noticed.

“Don’t you like it?” I shook my head ‘no’.

I removed the glasses and the hat so I could see my real self again.

Picking up on my reluctance to wear it she said,

“Are you scared of what you look like with it on?”

“Yes.  I don’t like it.”

“Well, you won’t see yourself.  Put it on for fun. You can’t go back to school in grey sheets otherwise no one will know what you are dressed up to be.”

That would have been fine with me.  Even though I was only seven years old, I had heard enough about witches, how they treated people and how society viewed them. In every book and cartoon they represented darkness, spells and performed acts of unkindness towards humanity.  I suddenly realized I didn’t want to portray myself that way.  The hatred toward my outfit was growing.

“You don’t want to miss the party, do you?  You have to wear it.  I don’t have anything else.”

We had been pumped up for weeks on the promise of a party with treats at school. Was I going to throw all of that away?  I begrudgingly pulled myself back into witch mode and slumped off to school.

Once back in my classroom, I noticed other girls were dressed as beautiful princesses or fairies.  It only made me feel more self conscious of my less than friendly appearance.  Like a vampire, I avoided my reflection so I wouldn’t scare myself.

“Line up everyone,” the teacher announced.  “The parade is starting.”

Each room of students was expected to march around the premises to show off for the parents who came to watch.  I went through the motion of walking as people waved and smiled.  I kept my head straight down not wanting to glance up.  Not even to look at my own mother.  I trudged around that building like I was going to a funeral.

When I got home, I cast aside the afflicted garments and sat in front of the tv with my pile of pre-trick or treating treasure.

After gulping down dinner and dusk turned to night, I grabbed my bag to ready myself for the big haul of the year.

“You have to put your costume back on so we can take a picture.”

The air suddenly left the room.  The witch costume!  I had felt so good without it on that I forgot about it.  I did as I was told and my dad got out his camera to snap a picture of me and a neighbor girl.  My mom made me hold a small broom just to add to my misery.  I smiled with the idea of getting it over with quickly. While she thought I was in full cooperation, I was mentally formulating a plan.

As we made moves toward the door, I took off the hat and glasses.  I was not going to tromp through the neighborhood portraying myself as something I did not like. I would rather have people think I was a monk or a nun without her habit than subject myself to having others think I was a practitioner of the dark arts.   My mom tried to stop me but I was too quick for her.  I felt I had done my duty for the day and now it was my time to free myself from the shackles of sorcery.

In the years to come, I was a scarecrow, a farm girl and a gypsy.  I became wise that Halloween in 1975 that who I was at heart did not match the image of a witch. I didn’t even want to fake it for one night.  I no longer passively let her pick out what I was going to be, but instead, became involved in the process from start to finish.  It was a lesson that all of us have to learn at one point or another.  If we don’t take a hands on approach in life, we just might find ourselves trying to be something we are not.  That was the last year I ever went trick or sheeting.

(Halloween 1975. Enduring the costume)