Reading the Signals

As many motorists would tell you, driving at any time can be extremely challenging.

There are speed limits and stop signs to consider and obey, as well as construction and rush-hour traffic that can wreak havoc on road conditions and arrival times.

There is the stress brought on by weather for drivers and passengers alike, whether it is early-morning fog, bright afternoon sunshine, late-night heavy rain or any other trick up Mother Nature’s sleeve.

Other vehicles passing by, pedestrians and cyclists to always be mindful of, our favorite song playing on the radio or an incoming phone call on Bluetooth can also serve as some of the countless aspects that test our constant attention when behind the wheel.

For me, one of the items on the driving watch-for checklist has long been traffic lights.

I could be distracted by something around me, in a hurry to get to my destination, lost in thought over an event in my life or caught up in a conversation with people in the car – the changing of a traffic light always seems to catch me at the worst time.

Traffic LightsWhen sitting at the stop line, I anxiously await a red light to turn green and give me the go-ahead. When cruising towards an upcoming intersection, I tense up at the sight of a yellow signal, as I am forced to instantly determine if I can stop safely or if I should proceed with caution.

I wonder if God sometimes chooses to act like a set of traffic lights.

For instance, how often do we want to say or do something despite our conscience telling us otherwise?

Like an audience watching a silent film and yelling “no!” to warn a character tempted to open a closed door, God frequently tells us to stop whatever it is we are thinking or doing, in order to protect us from further harm.

It could be a sudden noise we hear in the midst of a lustful gaze at someone or the appearance of an individual just as we are about to begin an angry and profanity-laced tirade. Whatever the case, God has a unique way of showing us a red light.

At that time, He lovingly places His hand on our shoulder to remind us how to act, saving us from unchangeable and regretful action. (Psalm 101:3 & Proverbs 21:23)

Then there are times we are unsure of how to behave in any given circumstance.

For example, so many of us have, at one point or another, been tempted or pressured to go against our parents’ teachings in order to conform at a party. We may have also had the inclination to speak up in front of a group against an injustice, only to hesitate out of fear for repercussions.

During such moments of uncertainty or trepidation, God guides us calmly like a yellow traffic signal, reminding us of what is most important in the situation. (Matthew 6:21)

Of course, God also clears an obvious path for us to take advantage of various opportunities in our lives.

These green (including left or right turn) lights are found all around us, such as when a neighbor mentions an employment opportunity just as we are desperately seeking a summer job, or when a girl approaches a guy to ask him out on a date after he had been too shy to do so the past several encounters.

Naturally, though, like any green light at an intersection, we must never squander a chance granted by the Lord, for He is blessing us with a happy ending. (John 13:17 & James 1:22)

But just as we choose how to react in our vehicles to any of the three colored traffic lights, we equally have our God-given free will to follow God’s direction in any scenario.

And, just like in driving, we must still remember we reap the results of our actions.

Thus, may we always strive to heed God’s guidance in order that we may drive along the road of life safely and free of both tickets and accidents.

Brushing up on our Faith

When preparing our son Isaac for bed, it can sometimes be challenging to have him brush his teeth.

His younger brother Hugh is much easier to convince. After all, when trying to change a one-year-old’s diaper, I’ve learned the best thing to do to keep him still is to offer a distraction, and a toothbrush to chew on does just the trick for when I’m getting Hugh ready to sleep.

For Isaac, however, there’s something about a bristled stick jabbed in his mouth that he just doesn’t like. Go figure!

Thankfully, our dentist is a natural when it comes to persuading young kids to brush their teeth.

At his first appointment, the good doctor told Isaac about some “sugar bugs” that were living in his mouth. In order to make them disappear, we’d have to brush them away.

In the weeks since that appointment, Isaac has loved his nightly routine of getting rid of the dreaded sugar bugs. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has a softer brush with one of his favorite cartoon characters on it, or that his toothpaste is really flavorful.

ToothbrushingJust the same, brushing his teeth has proven to be both beneficial and enjoyable (like anything else in life should be, really).

If you think about it, teeth brushing and God are a lot alike.

As any reliable dentist would attest, brushing one’s teeth regularly helps remove bacteria that form in the mouth, eliminating plaque and avoiding tartar build-up. Similarly, having God in our lives strengthens us in our daily battle against Satan and his attempts to contaminate us with germs through the allure of sin.

The more we brush, the more we combat plaque and tartar. The more we turn towards God, the stronger we become in fighting the devil’s temptation to turn away from Him. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Brushing regularly also guards tooth enamel from breaking down, acting as a deterrent to tooth decay. Holding God central in our lives helps us maintain a clear mind so we can make prudent decisions in order to keep our bodies healthy.

Properly taking care of our teeth has further been proven to defend our gums against recession and gingivitis. For His part, God nourishes our soul, steering us on a path to Heaven and away from hell. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

Furthermore, as we are all reminded by dental advertisements, a proven toothpaste is also key in practicing oral hygiene and preventing cavities. By the same token, celebrating as part of a community of fellowship can certainly bolster one’s faith in God and provide desired support for our life challenges.

You could say brushing your teeth without toothpaste is equivalent to believing in God without going to church. Sure, you are doing some good, but just consider all the advantages you are missing out on and the pitfalls you can escape in the long run.

So, something as routine yet important as brushing our teeth can reinforce how critical and beneficial it is to have God as a focal part of our lives.

And with God close to us, He will always grant us protection from harm and defend us from Satan and his evil ways. (Psalm 140:4)

God ensures this through many means, including sending saints to guide us upon request, as evidenced by St. Michael the Archangel.

But where do prayers for the intercession of St. Michael fit in with teeth brushing?

Well, just as it never hurts to call on the help of God’s trusty aide in our daily living, we can always try to get rid of those leftover sugar bugs stuck between our teeth with a little dental floss.