Archive for the ‘Fear’ Category

Preston Castle

It’s the beginning of October and already everywhere you look all that is Halloween is starting to show up. The pumpkins, the cute little ghosts, the black cats, it all has become very commercialized and acceptable, not at all what it began as all those years ago.

And now, as seems to happen about every ten years or so, the paranormal element of it is coming back full force. I was reminded of this just the other day when I looked at the Yahoo home page, and there was a grainy, green tinted photograph that had something to do with a ghost. I didn’t stick around to see exactly what it was all about, but saw enough to think, “Here we go again.”

In recent years, the popularity of the paranormal has gone through the roof with shows that revolve around hunting them and coming up with hard scientific evidence to prove their existence becoming popular cable shows.  I’ve seen a couple of these shows a few times, but watching a group of people running around after dark looking for things that go bump in the night has no appeal for me. It seems to me that most people would rather watch people getting scared out of their wits, than actually go into the situation themselves. I don’t blame them, especially when there could be a remote possibility of actually running into something that goes ‘bump’ in the night.

Whether or not you actually believe in that sort of thing, it’s hard to deny the fear that can spring up in us full-grown when it comes to wandering around at night in the dark.

About 45-minutes from where I live, a beautiful old juvenile rehabilitation center stands tall against the background of the rolling California foothills. Built in the 1880’s to usher in a new age of helping boys who have taken the wrong path to become upright members of society, Preston Castle – also known by its actual name, the Preston School of Industry – is an amazing specimen of roman revival architecture that you can’t help but want to see up close if given half the chance.

I was given that chance when I was assigned a story about the past, present and future of the building. In the course of my research I was treated to personal tour of the building from the Preston Castle Foundation president. As he led me through the huge building, I couldn’t help but think that although it was in need of a lot of work, it still retained its beauty and grandeur. It reminded me of a slightly disheveled cousin of the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, which was built by George Vanderbilt, one of the industrialist giants around the same time.

Preston Castle closed its doors for good  about 50 years ago. In recent years it has become quite a hot spot for the paranormal, with individuals from shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures coming through and spending the night in lockdown to see if there is any residual presence of a brutal unsolved murder in the kitchen, or any sense of the many who stayed, and presumable died, in the castle’s infirmary wing.

Although many people seem to focus on that dark side of Preston Castle’s past, maybe because they like to be scared and then go home, as I left the amazing castle, I couldn’t help but think of all those boys who came through its doors, and the reality that it was built because there was an upswing in juvenile delinquency during that time period. Which means to my mind, there must have been something going on in society that caused most of these boys, and presumable girls, to have to live on the street and sustain themselves through crime.

The Civil War had left families broken in both the North and the South, orphan trains were bringing kids out West to work on farms where some of them were treated so brutally that they ran way rather than endure the harsh treatment. I’m sure there are others societal elements that contributed to the rise in crime amongst young people of that time, but, it was this particular darkness that struck me when I drove away from the castle.

These kids were essentially orphaned by society in one way or another, which is a darkness that still exists whether we choose to see it or not.

My beloved Nann used to say, “It’s not the dead you have to fear, it’s the living.”

And, it seems to me that as long as we choose to entertain ourselves by scaring ourselves with the darkness of the dead, we can essentially distract ourselves, blind ourselves from the reality of the darkness we live with everyday.

The darkness that only the LORD Himself can overcome because He is the only one who can save us from ourselves.

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.”

Psalm 14:2-3

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The last three weeks have been interesting one in the life of my son who is finishing up the seventh grade.  He’s at that point where he’s pushing boundaries to see just how far he can go, while at the same time having to step outside his own comfort zone to try and communicate with others.

The whole situation looks an awful lot like the Push-Me-Pull-Me in the original Dr. Doolittle film. One day he’s very forward in pushing for what he wants, and the next he’d rather die than explain himself.

The last three weeks have been pretty heavy in the rather die category especially in regards to explaining himself to his teacher. It was about then that she told me he was missing a couple of spelling assignment from that week. So, as soon as we got into the truck to drive home I asked him about them, and he said he didn’t remember doing them. So, I told him he had to do all of them including his regular homework when we got home, and turn it in the next day, which was a Friday.

He said okay, did the work and I thought it was a done deal. Until I saw his binder on Sunday evening after he’s spent the weekend with his father, and the missed assignments hadn’t been turned in.

I pointed them out and he said that he didn’t think his teacher would take them because they were late. I said, ‘you need to apologize, explain what happened and turn them in.’

Well, long story short, he didn’t. Over the next three weeks, I felt like I was in a time-warp, or the movie Groundhog Day. I would ask him if he turned the late homework in, he would say, ‘I couldn’t get my teacher’s attention and she won’t take it anyway’ and I would say, ‘you have to try.’ The time frame was made even longer by the fact that we were gone for a week and half because of Easter.

Those two assignments felt like the proverbial bad penny that just keeps on showing up regardless of how you try to get rid of it. And, even though my son was refusing to go and turn them in and talk to his teacher about it, I could tell that he was distressed about the whole thing. It just wasn’t sitting well with him.

Finally, I said to him, ‘you need to turn it in and explain yourself or I will make an appointment with your teacher and you will explain to her at that time about your homework.’

That finally did it, he turned in the work, and it turns out that she gives half credit for late assignments unlike what he thought about zero credit. When I asked her about how he explained himself when he turned it in, I could tell he didn’t do a very good job, but I was just happy he actually did it. And, I wouldn’t have to open his binder to find those two assignments staring me in the face again.

The whole thing did get me thinking about things we need to give to the Lord, and how we need to explain them to Him, not for Him to know, because He already knows, but for ourselves. How many times do we intend to give Him something, then don’t? We don’t for a variety of reasons, because we’re afraid, or don’t know how to do it, or even because we would rather stay silent and assume He will react a certain way, rather than tell Him and find out the reality of how He is.

It gets to the point that it’s like we’re in our own personal Groundhog Day with the Lord. Until we give it over to Him, everyday it just keeps showing up and staring us in the face.

We carry around the weight of not only the things we need to give to Him, but the weight of not turning them over to Him, which means we’re carrying around a lot more than He ever wants us to.

He, like my son’s teacher, can just go and get whatever it is that needs to be turned over to Him, but that wouldn’t do a thing to help build a relationship would it? Because many times  it’s in those moments of giving something over and communicating with Him about it, that the threads of our relationship and our faith are formed and strengthened.

“I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse.”

Psalm 39:2

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