“TRICK-OR-TREAT”!

trick or treat

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I know a lot of Christians who refuse to celebrate Halloween. I understand and respect their opinion.

Me? Other than some of the ignorance shown on this day of the year, I love it!

This is a night that even some of the grouchiest people act nice. Cute kids knocking on doors, knowing if the door opens someone is going to be charitable, even hospitable.

Halloween feels to me like a warm up for Thanksgiving and Christmas. People practicing being cheerful getting ready for the championship of holidays.

I have some pretty fond memories of Halloween. I don’t remember being much more excited about anything as much as Halloween and Christmas. I even remember what I was dressed up as. I got the most compliments as I recall dressed up as a Cowboy. The home-made-by-my-mom mustache was the coolest part of my costume.

We have a ritual for Halloween in our house. My wife stays home and passes out candy and I take the kids Trick Or Treating. Now I just take the youngest.

At 12 years old my ritual and streak is at stake. My wife asked our youngest how long she was going to Trick Or Treat with her dad. “Until I’m outta high school”! she declared… That’s my girl. I hope that’s true, although I suspect her heart while in the right place may change before then.

I’m a little more sentimental than my wife when it comes to these matters. I remember when my wife announced it was time for the youngest to be weaned from her baby bottle. I was devastated. I knew that season or chapter of our lives were over forever.

As the Sun is starting to make its somber descent this afternoon, I’m faced with that similar awareness. Today is Halloween and it might be my last one spent with my youngest in costume.

I think back on all of them when all three girls went with me. Kenz dropped out, Ali lasted another two or three years, and now Gurm’s in the twilight of her Trick-Or-Treat career.

I remember the costumes. I recall reminding them to say please and thank you, even in their frenzied scurrying. We discussed tactics, which streets to take. Sometimes up one side and down the other, sometimes zig-zagging across the street to cover more houses.

I carried bags, coats, shoes, and my daughters. I walked a lot of miles Trick-Or-Treating. I loved every one of them.

God’s word says life is like a breath. An inhale, an exhale, and it’s over. I’m reminded again of that tonight. Understanding how short life is gives me strength and desire to bring God and my family honor.

This is one of those nights that will accumulate with the Halloweens past to create a vivid memory for my daughter. She’ll always remember our ritual. She’ll share stories with my future grandkids of all the fun her and their grandpa had.

I’ll bet she even remembers and shares with her children how her Dad’s favorite candy was Snickers Bars. She’ll hopefully tell them the truth, how she always let me have as many as I wanted.

She’s a good girl. I wish we could Trick-Or-Treat forever, but that’s not the way life works.

We all need to cherish every day as the gift each one is, whether you celebrate Halloween or not, I’ll cherish this day as a gift from God.

If you see a cute 12-year-old dressed up as a Narnian Princess and her dad in a sweatshirt with a ponytail watching proudly from the sidewalk, wave…

It might be the last time you see me there.

A VETTE’ OR A HUMMINGBIRD?

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It seems appropriate that a person’s priorities change with time. The things that are critical to a person of high school age are dramatically different to a person who’s been there and done that.

It seems even more appropriate to the parents who have children that have gone through that process either currently or in the past.

The maturation process is different for everyone. In a few rare cases, we’ve all witnessed the person who refuses to mature.

If someone would have asked me up until my late thirties, “Which brings you more joy, a Corvette or a hummingbird”? I wouldn’t have hesitated. My answer to this hypothetical question would have probably been something like, “Are you serious”?

When a person answers a question with a question you know there is a sarcastic explanation forthcoming.

I might have rambled on about strength and probably horsepower. You know the words when used a blind person could guess accurately the age of the speaker, by the lack of wisdom in the statement.

The more seasons of this life we are gifted to participate in, the more appreciation for the wonder of each one of them we gain.

If you hang around long enough you’re going to see that Vette wear out and become obsolete. Pretty soon, the thing of prestige and pride ends up on blocks in a driveway or in a junkyard.

In that tree above the worn out muscle car, you might find a hummingbird.

The car might still be of some use even in this condition. It might remind us of how fleeting our life has been. The hummingbird, however, will remind us of how precious life is.

It is my opinion that when we get so focused on a specific goal or task, we miss everything of value that surrounds us.

It’s almost like our enemy has the watch swinging back and forth, from side to side, in front of our face. Subconsciously he’s saying to us, “Your getting sleepy, sleepy, sleepy.”

Soon we’re in the hypnotic trance and he controls us in every aspect of our life. Allowing us to see what he wants our priorities to be, not God’s.

How silly must we look being controlled by something or someone who has different values than we espouse?

The good news for me has been, as I get older I’m a little more difficult to hypnotize. While I love the enchanting aroma of a new car’s interior, (this might be a guy thing) I know by experience it’s short lived.

In contrast, the smell of orange blossoms happen bi-yearly where I live. The color of my red Hibiscus blooms on the bushes in my yard, renew themselves daily during season. The red paint on a new car is beginning to fade the day it’s shot.

The things done by our hands, while sometimes grand, pale in comparison to the creation of life.

I think one of the indicators in our lives that we’re maturing and our priorities are changing is when we aren’t the priority anymore.

I find people in life who are still the center of their universe, are the least mature and happy.

In the journey across our lives in search of maturity or wisdom the adage, “Less is More” takes on a more complete meaning. The less we see in ourselves the more value we really have. This can only be measured in the heart of each of us and only by God and ourselves.

Jesus Christ summed it up like this, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

It is acceptable for very young children to act without the wisdom of this verse in their lives. The rest of us? Not so much…

Which brings more joy, a strong mature tree, or owning the dirt it grows in?

MICKEY

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mickey

Mickey

As we were leaving my brother and sister-in-law’s house, on our way to the airport, their dog Mickey was looking at us with a longing look on his face. He wanted to be outside too.

It’s peculiar how the animals in our lives have such an impact on our lives. I felt bad for the little guy as we were preparing to leave St. Louis.

Even though we live across the country from my wife’s family we keep tabs on all of them, not just the siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews, but also all the animals in they’re lives.

My wife’s sister’s family had a dog named Gordy. He’s been gone for close to ten years and we still enjoy reminiscing about him and his impact on their family, me especially about his soccer techniques.

Mickey’s been around for 15 years. That’s a long time. Our niece and nephews don’t have a lot of memory before Mickey. He’s been a constant companion to them in their lives.

Mickey has seizures now. When he gets scared, excited or runs a little too much he seizures and faints. He’s still conscious and cries a little because it looks like he’s scared.

Saturday morning we were outside drinking coffee, enjoying a perfect Autumn morning. I say we because it included most of the family and Mickey, of course. While we were outside one of Mickey’s old arch enemies decided to drop in for a visit.

Things that fly, including airplanes have kept Mickey busy all of his life. This time it was a butterfly. The little flying creature bounced through the air unknowing the disturbance he would cause below.

Mickey somehow caught a glimpse of the flying enemy through his worn-out eyes. Running and jumping after the butterfly caused a couple of things, the butterfly to change directions and altitude for one. The other was the far away look in Mickey’s eyes from the chase. Then the inevitable fall to his side and seizure.

As soon as my niece saw Mickey start to run, she yelled for him to stop, when that was having no affect she tried to bribe him with a “treat.” Still no go. Mickey while old, was still doing the things that he enjoyed his whole life. Probably the only thing he enjoys more than “treats” is chasing things that fly.

From my view, it looks like Mickey doesn’t have too many days left. His time spent doing what he loves should be encouraged. I understand our family doesn’t want that day to come. So they go out of their way to care for him and prolong his life as long as possible.

That’s exactly what we as humans do with our loved ones. We don’t want to face the inevitable, we want to prolong time with loved ones as long as we can. I’m no different…

Unlike Mickey, we don’t usually want to risk our lives to do the things that bring us pleasure due to our fear of death. Fear of the unknown is natural.

For those who know God and understand the sacrifice of Jesus Christ should be different.

We should be a little more like Mickey. Mickey plays like his soul will live forever. I don’t have any idea how the afterlife works for animals. I can make some assumptions from a Biblical point of view.

However, us two legger’s with opposable thumbs have written instructions from eye witness authors of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those instructions include us living life in abundance doing the things that bring God and us joy.

When we live without fear of death and chase butterflies like we did when we were young, that is the life we were designed to live.

As we pulled away from my in-laws house we were all looking at Mickey, who was looking back from the window. My wife said out loud exactly what I was thinking. “This is the last time we’ll ever see Mickey again.”

I think maybe Mickey will be waiting for his family on the other side. If it’s not butterfly season.

SOMETHING IN COMMON

something in common

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I was approached by a man as I was walking to my truck a couple of weeks ago. He was a man of small stature and a quick glance had me guessing he was a shell of a once proud man.

He was hunched over with worn, dirty clothes. His hair was unkept and his smile revealed what looked like a battered and worn picket fence. He was friendly enough as he explained to me that he was in need of a ride.

I have to confess I didn’t want to give him a ride. He cleverly asked me which way I was headed and his 25% gamble paid off. Looks like we were both headed east. Rats… I wasn’t going to lie and I figured God had a lesson for me. If not I sensed God wanted to use what really isn’t mine to help the old guy out.

This short journey was the kind that was filled with conversation. The bum’s conversation I should say. As he gave me his detailed life story, I muttered a few “Yeah’s and Naw’s.”

He was a veteran, served in Vietnam, worked construction until his health wouldn’t allow it any longer. He said he was a “God Fearing Man.” I guess we had something in common. He shared with me how his Daddy raised him right, I learned we had even more in common.

My new pal just kept on talking, he got more animated when he shared with me how they, whoever they were, cut down his meds. He explained the necessity for his meds because he was depressed and kinda crazy. At this point, I was with him on the depressed side. The other crazy side? I was a relieved to learn something we didn’t have in common. At least not in my opinion anyway.

My new buddy was headed to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles to acquire a new I.D. he’d lost. I was trapped in one of those 15-minute drives that seem to last an hour and a half.

As he was rambling I thought about some of my cousins who were Vietnam veterans. I pondered my cousin Larry who’s knees are shot and the only health care he has is the Veterans Hospital. The VA’s answer to Larry’s knees? Drugs. They want to give him pain pills and prolong the inevitable, either a surgery or death from Agent Orange complications.

I also envisioned my other cousin Mike, who is a retired California Highway Patrolman. His foot has got to the point where the pain, due to left over shrapnel from a land mine has him struggling to walk. He’s been carrying that souvenir for over 40 years. He was awarded a Purple Heart, I guess that makes him a bonafide hero. He is in my book anyway.

I considered the differences between this man and my cousins as I drove glancing between the road and him, nodding agreeably. The thing that struck me first, was that this was a pretty organized person who knew where to go to get what he wanted, or what he considered a necessity, namely drugs.

The next thing that struck me was his self-appointed title of “crazy.” I have another four cousins who served in the military during that era, one of which was in Special Forces. There are more than one of these cousins who any average person I know would consider “crazy.”

The difference between the people I know who are crazy and the people who claim to be crazy is this; The people who are truly nutso, don’t know it! The truly “crazy” people think they’re normal and the rest of the world is “crazy”!

I’m not saying my passenger didn’t have a tough life. Maybe he had it worse than some of the others, I don’t know. It’s just my observation.

As I pulled into the DMV my new friend panicked, “OH NO”! “I have a brand new 5th in my pack”! ” I can’t take that in there”! My opportunity to speak had finally arrived. I quickly offered, “There’s a trash can right there in front.” He looked at me like I was crazy.

He rapidly studied the situation and declared, “I can find a place to stash it.” I was seeing more clearly than ever at this point.

After he got out and we exchanged pleasantries, I watched him for a few seconds. Before I drove away the realization crept over me that we had more things in common than I was comfortable with.

I was slowly yet overwhelmingly overcome with wisdom speaking to my soul,

It spoke to me from inside my heart softly whispering,

“But by the grace of God…There Go i…”

SUNDAY

CHURCH BELLS courtesy of photobucket.com

Repost from last year.

Sunday is a peculiar day of the week for me. I know the obvious reasons for its stand alone importance relative to the other days of the week. It’s the first day of the week, it’s the Sabbath, therefore, a resting day appointed by God.

Sunday is more than that for me. You see, me and Sunday have had what your might call a stormy past.

When I was young it was Church on Wednesday and twice on Sunday. Going to church wasn’t an option. Oh my parents said it was, but somehow when I tried to exercise my option it ended with, “GET IN THE CAR”!

I thought when I was young, “Boy, just wait till I’m a grown up, I’m NEVER goin ta church”!

Time seemed to pass slowly, but eventually I did grow up and true to my word, I quit “Goin ta church.” During my dark years, God’s Spirit hounded me. I hated Sundays, I was moving at light speed through the week.

I was the epitome of “Burning The Candle At Both Ends.” Given the chance I’d work 15 hours a day on Sundays. Eventually, I’d find myself stopping with nowhere to run and no place to hide. Alone with the Holy Spirit torturing my soul.

During those days, if I happened to hear just the right song and I was alone, the pain in my soul would manifest itself with moisture in my eyes.

I remember a specific song written by Kris Kristofferson, sung by Johnny Cash. The song is “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” That song for whatever reason stirred up the memories of my childhood and made me long to live a better life than the one I was trapped in.

These days Sunday is still peculiar for me although for different reasons. It doesn’t feel like the first day of the week to me. It feels more like the last day of the week. It is my day of reflection, it is my rest from the last week, not my rest for the next week.

I’m not running from God anymore and I have a different focus when I share the Bible story of Jonah. I don’t dwell as much on the miracle of Jonah being swallowed by a whale and sitting in the whale’s stomach for three symbolic days.

I focus more on the fact that Jonah physically tried to run from God and the wisdom that he ultimately gained in the process. Proven by the fact that Jonah penned the story himself.

Running from God seems like “chasing the wind.” It is futile but not to a lost world or a madman.

Occasionally my girls would want a day off from Church, sometimes we’d give it to them. Other times my wife and I would explain to them that it wasn’t the ritual of going to Church that honored God. It is the obedience and sacrifice of our time to show thanks and respect to God.

Similar to a tithe offering, we’re going to give, not to get. In that process, we gain more than we can ever give. In a humble state of being before God is where we found Him.

God has used my foolishness to give a bit of wisdom. I’m no Solomon, but wise enough to warn the young people in my life that with free will comes choices. With choices come consequences, either positive or negative.

I remind them that God is in control, He either causes or allows all things in life. I don’t want them to carry the spiritual and physical scars of an undisciplined life. It is my deepest desire to not have them wander this earth as the walking wounded.

It saddens me to think of a cold wind blowing across the faces of the tormented souls with tears in their eyes on Sundays because they hear Church Bells ringing in the distance.