All Treats, No Tricks

Earlier tonight, our family enjoyed the fine tradition of Halloween.

You know the one – kids dressed up in creative costumes, adults handing out candies to scores of children at their door, while spooky music and candlelit pumpkins welcome passers-by in front of homes.

Ah yes, the annual ritual all of us have come to love and embrace as part of our North American way of life.

That is, almost all of us.

Our son Isaac was not too enthused tonight at the prospect of his first trick-or-treating experience.

Sure, things started off promising, as we gathered with some neighbors for a pizza dinner and some pictures of all of the kids in their costumes. However, when the time came to go outside and knock on doors, Isaac would have no part of it.

Nearing two years of age, Isaac was dressed as a cute monkey, with his baby brother Hugh stuffed in a pumpkin costume and wrapped snugly inside my wife’s coat. We thought this would be a real hit for the lad – carrying around a tiny bucket ready to be filled to its brim with chocolate and lollipops. After all, who wouldn’t want to receive plenty of free candy?

To our great surprise, Isaac cried and insisted on sitting in our wagon to be carted around the block instead of walking with Mommy or Daddy and his friends to each house porch and being handed handfuls of tasty treats.

Fortunately, Isaac eventually took the plunge and walked up to a door. And then another. And another.

He loved it.

The amazed reaction of people as he met them at their door, the sight of other children dressed in costumes around him, the sound of Halloween music, the candies dumped into his pumpkin bucket –Isaac soaked it all in. He even got to meet Batman (otherwise known as a neighborhood dad dressed as the superhero).

It got to the point where Isaac was begging us to hurry to the next stop, as compared to us having to seemingly drag him to the first house.

Trick or treaters on the porchLater, my wife remarked how it was so nice for Isaac to discover something so incredibly enjoyable despite his initial hesitation.

I suppose when it comes to faith, many of us are like Isaac and other children so fearful of their first trick-or-treating endeavors.

How often are we presented with a possibility, but our doubts or insecurities prevent us from taking advantage of the experience?

Whether it is a chance to join a school play, run for student council or try out for the volleyball team, so many students pass on a golden opportunity to grow and discover more about life, others and themselves.

Others in society may be offered a set-up date by a friend, or come across a job opening or trip advertisement and elect to decline, effectively closing the door to the unknown happiness awaiting them.

With such subtle invitations from God to venture out of our personal comfort zone, why are we so afraid? After all, are we not assured by God that He is with us always and will never lead us astray? (Matthew 28:20)

Not only that, our loving God reminds us He has set us up for the complete opposite of failure and sadness. He has destined us for greatness and abundant joy. All we have to do to attain this success is trust in Him and give Him a shot. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

In today’s increasingly secular world, however, placing hope in God and opening ourselves to Him is not altogether easy or fashionable.

Yet, we can rest confident knowing God has blessed us with the Holy Spirit and has equipped us with the necessary armor to combat any messages or outlets that encourage us to run from God’s calling. (Ephesians 6:13-17)

With this in mind and nourished by Jesus’ gospel of truth to strengthen our faith, we can move forward despite our fears and overcome any obstacles facing us.

Only then will we be able to stand firm against any tempting tricks so we can enjoy God’s tremendous treats.

All Clues Lead to God

These days, with the world being as busy as it is, it is often hard to sit down for just a few moments to relax and pass the time with a hobby.

With work or school demands, an endless to-do list at home, family commitments or finally squeezing in some time to hang out with friends, it seems any limited opportunity a person has can easily be spent on a cell phone, checking or updating a social media profile, or on the couch, watching part of a television show or playing a video game to distract us from reality.

It could strike you as strange that a person today would actually sit down and read a book, complete a puzzle or play a good old-fashioned game of cards.

With the advance of technology today, I wonder how common it is for people to even sit down at their kitchen table and work on a crossword puzzle.

Sure, looking at the crossword puzzle in the newspaper may not be as exciting as combing through random pictures on Instagram or posting your every thought on Twitter for your friends to follow. Yet, it could be far more educational and gratifying in the end.

And who knows – you might even discover God along the way.

Crossword PuzzleYou see, in the midst of all of those tiny squares stacked horizontally and vertically, God is hidden and available just as much as the answers we’d find in the next day’s newspaper. The only glitch is, similar to the answers for a crossword puzzle, we have to find Him.

We are certainly blessed to have God reveal Himself through regular hints along our journey, as each day, God is present around us (albeit in mysterious ways).

Perhaps He speaks to us through a stranger at a bus stop, or a baby laughing, or the wind blowing.

In His unique way of whispering instead of shouting, God can also reveal Himself through a phone call from a friend at that precise moment when we are feeling down and hopeless.

We can also find God in any number of other ways, such as an ad for a job when we are in dire need of employment, through an item on sale when we so desperately wanted to buy it for a while but just couldn’t afford it, or when we stumble upon something important we had misplaced a short while ago.

Most definitely, we can find God when He is disguised as a person who is homeless, hungry, imprisoned or needing clothing, as described in the seven corporal works of mercy. (Matthew 25:31-46)

Whatever the experience, God is available through daily hints in our lives just like answers available through clues in a crossword puzzle.

But just as God is always with and around us, it is up to us to approach and grow with Him.

As much as completing a crossword puzzle is no fun if all of the answers are provided for us or if the clues are overly simple, seeing God present in our daily lives should not be so effortless, either.

While our Lord offers His unconditional love to us freely, we are still called to seek in order to find, to ask in order to receive. (Luke 11:9-10)

The challenge, then, must remain to explore and discover God for ourselves while sharing Him with others. In so doing, we may develop and appreciate God’s gifts and presence in our everyday living, rather than taking God for granted and never evolving as individuals.

In applying this conduct, we may not just see God through horizontal clues, but also discover with Him new and abundant blessings and life horizons.

Replacing the Batteries

Being a big sports fan, I love sitting on the couch over the weekend and watching a game on TV. I put my feet up, recline back with a soda and some chips, huddle with a blanket and take in all the action.

Whether it’s my favorite team playing, an important playoff game between rival clubs, some pre-season exhibition contest or an international event like the Olympics, I truly enjoy the relaxation of sitting with my remote control in hand, watching the competition unfold before me.

Now, finding the opportunity to do so is rare these days, having two children under the age of two years old.

However, if I time it right, I can usually head down to the basement for half an hour or so while the boys are sleeping. That is, of course, if house chores are already taken care of and my school work is done.

If I’m really lucky, I can get a good chunk of time to watch an entire game or go for a run on our treadmill while flipping back and forth between different sporting events being televised.

And right then is exactly when it happens.

Invariably, I will get so comfortable on the couch or I’ll hit such a stride in my run that I need to get up on my feet or step off the treadmill because the remote control batteries have died at the most inconvenient time.

Then, I either have to search throughout the house for replacement batteries or resort to changing channels manually – and I think we all know how much fun that can be.

What good is a remote control when its batteries are dead?

Pressing the different buttons with greater force only leads to the same result, except with more frustration.

You see, the exterior is secure, but the foundation is weak. Without a true and healthy core, the remote control’s strength is severely compromised, if not eliminated altogether. New batteries give the device full power yet again, enabling peak performance.

Remote Control BatteriesAs humans, we are similar to a TV remote control. With blood pumping from our hearts throughout our bodies, we receive the energy required for living. Yet, as important as the heart and body are, we should never forget the center, or battery, of our existence – the soul.

Just as our faith is meaningless without supporting works, our bodies are ineffective without a vibrant spirit. It is the soul that serves as the source of our lives, without which the flesh is rendered useless. (James 2:26 & John 6:63)

A soul rooted in God can lead to a healthy heart and effective body, while a weakened soul not devoted to Christ can expose us to many perils. (Matthew 10:28)

Perhaps it’s resorting to cheating on a test or essay due to poor studies, or succumbing to temptations of drug experimentation at a party in order to gain approval from peers.

It could be the desire to dress a little more provocatively in order to attract the attention of that cute guy in school. Or, it might be the curiosity to take performance-enhancing drugs to secure an athletic scholarship on a university football team.

Sure, immediate results may seem promising and, as such, their prospects can lead us to follow the path of least resistance. But what do we truly gain if our soul is lost and corrupt? (Matthew 16:26)

A soul devoid of righteousness and strong self-esteem will prevent us from ever obtaining complete peace and joy.

Having Jesus as our rock can give us the force required to overcome such obstacles. Following God’s word, listening to His voice speaking inside us and applying His teachings in our daily living can all give us a soul of truth and can lead to a new life of abundant riches. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Doing so can restore our better judgment and, as better choices will lead to better actions and results, we can further discover the wonderful programs God has planned for us in His TV Guide booklet of life.