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It's another of those questions that's been swirling around in my head for a couple of weeks. :hamster: At what level is fantasy okay and when is it sin? When does imagination and make believe move to the dark side?

I'm launching this here in hopes that some of our pastoral types will chime in with their own perspectives as this is really a hot button topic within the church where our teens and twenty-somethings are concerned. Heck, even as a woodworker, I'm confronted with it! More on that in a few paragraphs.

When I was a little kid, the television superhero was Superman. Every Saturday, his black and white, leotard and tights clad caped self came flying into my living room. Between Davy Crockett and Superman, I could not make up my mind what I really wanted to be when I grew up. I had a faded red bath towel that was my cape. I would assume the posture, usually either laying on the bed with one fist outstretched, on my way to do some world-saving good. I could hear the cheers from below, "Look, up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's SUPER-DEAN! Some days I wore my coonskin cap, too. It must have been a sight.

I was imagining what it would be like to have super-powers. I was imagining what it would be like to be the best shooter in Tennessee with an Indian for a pal. I never jumped off the roof or out of trees to try and fly. I knew that when I jumped in the air like Superdude did, my feet never strayed far from the sod. I was not kidding myself. I knew who I was and I knew who I wasn't.

In my early teens, I fancied myself a magician. Yup, another caped gig. Not a magic-based magician, mind you, but more the illusionist sort. Sleight of hand, gadgets with a gimmick that gave the illusion of magic. Again, no illusion that I had any power other than being able to learn how to lure your eye away from where the "magic" was actually being made. Dear ole Mom kind of helped me in this line. She shared some of the fun and silly things that she used to do with her brother and mother during the Great Depression for fun. No money, no way to go anywhere, they made their own fun. I only remember a couple of pretty harmless and silly things. Take a pan of water, sprinkle pepper on top of the water. It will stay on the water, pretty much wherever you sprinkle it. Rub your finger on a bar of soap (without the other person seeing) and put said soapy finger into the water while uttering your favorite magic word. "Presto change-o" and the pepper flees to the edges of the pan. Pretty neat and a great way to fool a little kid or to tell a silly story. Mom had a LOT of these.

And then, there was "the problem". I would not know it was a problem for years to come, but it was right there in my face. One of the things that Mom & her mom used to do back then was to play with a Ouija board. Some pronounce it as a WeeJee board. A board with letters, numbers, and a few words along with a little triangular pointy thinger that you rest your finger tips on and it would move. And move it did. My mom was amazed. She'd never seen a stylus move that fast. I began to ask it deep questions. I was NOT in this for amusement for very long. I wanted answers to what was to come, even at that age! I had unwittingly crossed a very fine line between the positive spiritual realm and the not so positive supernatural.

For the next seven years or so, I found that I had "powers" that not everyone shared. I could often enter a room where there was a Ouija board, and I could tell what it was going to say! Sometimes, it would move with only my fingers on it, sometimes if it was just in my lap. Telekinesis is being able to move things or affect objects through thought alone. Remember Yuri Geller who used to bend keys and spoons on that same black and white TV?? I found myself reading some pretty far out tales about some pretty far out powers. I dabbled in mind-reading and had some pretty amazing experiences with it. From MILES away, even though the experts said that was not possible. And I'm talking tens of miles, and once thousands of miles! Made phone calls and confirmed the things I "heard" in my head. Pretty spooky stuff, looking back on it.

It got bad enough, or good enough, that three of us in service were not allowed to play cards at the same table. They thought we were using signals or code. No, thoughts only.

I HAD POWERS!!!!! Some of Superman's powers seemed to have taken up residence in me. In puny little ME! Amazing. Still could not fly. Never played with astral projection or I might have figured that I was flying, too! Confuseduperman:

Dabbling. Dabbling. A little dab of fantasy, a dab of abracadabra, a dab of what if, and an exposure to a dab of the power of the spirit realm, and my head was HOOKED! I did NOT grow up in a Christian home. I attended a Sunday school fairly often, but not with my parents. Mom was a Baha'i until a month or so before her death, so I had a dab of that, too. Strictly schooled Baha'is would probably not have approved of the dabbling either, but she wasn't and I wasn't strictly schooled. It was more of a social club. I've known people from church-going homes who would say the same thing. It was social, surface-s stuff and not anything that would protect heart and soul.

It was not until years later, after Christ was in my heart, and after I read a book by Dennis & Rita Bennett about the Holy Spirit and how to let Him be part of your life that I realized what I had been "dabbling" in.

Think about our culture. Think about the entertainment dabblings that we can face any day of the week, and that our kids are often immersed in! Cartoon characters, good witches and not so good witches, magic of the very real sort, the influences of Wicca, crystals, amulets, role-playing games, and all sorts of things that seem to border on the fantasy side, but just might be moving the boundaries unless we're careful. Confusednake:

I promised another story. I'm a woodworker. I love to make square things round on my lathe. One of "THE" most popular toys for the last several years have been "magic" wands, a la Harry Potter and company. People ask me, "Will you make me a magic wand for my grand-baby? He really loves Harry Potter movies!" And they get offended when I tell them no! And they don't understand when I tell them that I've given up magic for Lent!

How do we explain the unseen to the naive? How do we as seasoned soldiers in the army of God explain to the next generation that the seeds of dabbling reap a crop that might consume them? How can we make it real to them? I think about Elisha and the guy I call his stupid servant, Gehazi. Gehazi just did not get it. He lied to Elisha about where he'd been when he was trying to influence someone else, he did not seem to at all understand the huge mantle that was on Elisha. The one scene that I wish I could replicate, where I wish I could be Elisha for the many teens and twenty-somethings in my sphere, is where Gehazi was in a panic about all the myriad of soldiers that were about to descend upon them. II Kings 6:8ff. The king Aram and all of the Arameans were mightily ticked off at Elisha. Gehazi is quaking in his sandals at all who were set to not just come against them, but set to surely overwhelm and utterly destroy Gehazi & Elisha. So, Elisha prays a simple but powerful prayer, "O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." God answers, Gehazi sees, his jaw drops, and there just is no more problem.

How much we are like Gehazi in that we can't trust what we can't see? How much more are the young people in today's culture like that. There is no belief that marijuana is a gateway drug. Oh, addiction will never happen to me. No belief that smoking tobacco causes cancer. Oh, cancer will never happen to me. No belief that "innocent" parlor games like Ouija or Dungeons & Dragons have serious spiritual consequences. "It's just a game, lighten up!" Oh, watching a television witch twitch her nose and make things vanish isn't harmful. Or her not so nice witchly mother, sister, uncle, and cousins doing evil magic things to harm or harass. Those things aren't harmful, just entertainment! And dare we talk about Harry potter and the HUGE magical following replete with incantations and spells that are apparently documented to have come from very serious black magic sources?

And there are indeed fantasies that are not evil, but still pretty close to magical. Think of the Rings trilogy. There is lots of supernatural stuff that goes on there, complete with warlocks and wizards and all the rest. Or Narnia. That's pretty fantastic, too. Where does the line get drawn in those? Both give some pretty sobering glimpses of the spiritual realities that are really out there. The good guys win in the Rings and the Narnia scenarios, but there are heavy doses of supernatural if not magical powers involved. Good teaching tools, perhaps? Ways to expose people to a reality they are not ready to accept let alone face?

How do we fight this fight? How do we champion for a Gehazi generation?
Like Dean implies, this topic is a hot potato. For me, too!

We just might have to look into ourselves and decide what we really believe (accept as truth, adhere to, hang onto, act upon).

Is there really evil in our world, especially supernatural powers? Do I really believe Satan is real? Yes to both of them! Do we as brothers and sisters stand when we should for the truth? Sometimes, more and more often, I hope. Do we lay down laws for our children and friends and parishioners without educating them in the truth that our God is powerful and has gifts for us to use in establishing his kingdom on the earth? Only sometimes so, sad to say. It Is never too late to change, though, to learn and teach these important lessons.

My own background was in the supernatural arts. When Christ became Lord of my life in 1976, my eyes were opened to the difference between the deceptive gifts and the gifts given us by God. I had to rethink everything I had learned while "living on the dark side". The biggest piece that had to be removed was self-centeredness. The deceptive arts were all created for selfish ends; love spells and potions, spells for bringing people to me, mind control, revenge, violence.

We know from research that this generation is spiritually alive. Unfortunately, pastors and teachers and parents in the body do not teach them from a young age that our Papa God created us to establish His kingdom on this earth. In commanding us and expecting us to establish it, He has given us all--children included--access to the tool box filled with the gifts of healing, the gifts of wisdom and of knowledge, the gift of prophecy, and the gift of discernment, to list a few. Those gifts are not just for the pastor or for the bishops but for all of us. In fact they are not given to us for ourselves, but for those that would receive their ministry from God through us. When we get prideful and possessive about the gifts God is using in us they come very close to crossing the line. In teaching teens I have a particular point of view--when what you read, study, participate in becomes a lifestyle rather than a "fashion statement", becoming instead your persona, or an outright rebellion, then we have a problem and need to look at each thing and what the Word says to the issue.

When I arrived at my first parish assignment, the youth had already begun to talk about Halloween! It was only July!! I asked the youth leader if I could teach for 4 weeks on holiday celebrations and the scriptures. Before it was over they were doing the research and Halloween changed from having a coffin in the sanctuary to a whole weekend of giving thanks and service to our community. Christmas became very Christ-centered with a birthday bash for Jesus. Easter became a time that included carrying a cross up the mountain for sunrise service, holding an all night praise and worship service and prayer service.

Did I get them to stop reading Harry Potter? No, but because I was willing to read it with them and use the movies it opened doors where we could talk about the theology found there and what Godly things we found (and there are many, actually). Do I or did I promote looking to the dark to find the light? Absolutely not. Why go to the fake when the real is so much more powerful.