Archive for October 2014

What’s in your trunk?

October 27, 2014

It was not all that long ago when children could trick-or-treat in their local neighborhood without parental supervision; when there was no worry of a door-knocking child’s plunder being laced with drugs or poison; when distributing homemade treats at Halloween was acceptable.  But that was then.

My research to identify the origin of the newer “trunk-or-treat” option was unsuccessful, except to see that many sources credit – or blame – the Christian church for this phenomenon.  Dissenters claim that the church is trying to de-goblin and Christianize the holiday, creating an opportunity to preach religion to the children.

One blogger called the church “misinformed Christians” and then declared, “these well-meaning zealots are a lot more terrifying than what any kid would encounter on Halloween.”  Another source understands the alternative as “some sanctioned, artificial world where teaching kids to get candy from people in cars is viewed as beneficial. Dunderheads.”

There may indeed be some so-called fanatics who have a hidden agenda lurking inside their trunks.  And unapologetically, it is likely that a church-sponsored trunk-or-treat event will hope to include printed information about that church, or a brief verbal witness for Christ.  After all, it is Jesus himself who commanded his followers to go into all the world and preach the gospel.

In my mind, however, it is first of all a safe alternative for children and families to guard against the potential dangers that did not seem to threaten communities 50 years ago.  Some families find that mall stores provide for trick-or-treaters at their places of business.  Should we considered them to be money grubbers, or could they be saying “thanks” to their consumers by offering a way for children to trick-or-treat in a safe environment?

Further, as a local church pastor, I see it as a way for the church to give back to the community.  We desire to be a recognized and trusted presence among our neighbors; a church who not only is a beacon of the Good News, but who also caringly serves the needs of others.  We want to be a friend to those around us.

For a vast majority of people, Halloween is a harmless and fun holiday for our children and their families.  The very small percentage of our population who choose to make it an evening of dangerous pranks and malicious, destructive stunts has created the apparent need for safer alternatives; protected environments.  So, let’s support our local churches and businesses who strive to provide a night families can enjoy.

Is Your Cup Half Full or Half Empty?

October 20, 2014

By Dr. Steven J. Callis

Alexander was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, so Judith Viorst decided to write a book about it.  Forty-two years later, Walt Disney Pictures has decided to take it to the big screen.  Poor Alexander!

We will read it, watch it, and laugh at all the mishaps of his day, all at his expense, and then feel a little bit better at the realization that our own circumstances could be worse than they are.  Everybody wins, even Alexander, as he learns that everyone has a bad day from time to time, even people who live in Australia.

Have you ever come to the place where you actually enjoyed your misery?  Is there a point where the self-pity party seems so well deserved that you do not want to leave the party too soon?  It is said that misery loves company, so the inclination is to invite other people to our party so they can see how unrelenting and difficult life can be.

In such a state of mind, we are prone to faulty thinking that assumes the worst, and our perspective is viewed from negative spectacles!  That is when the cup appears half empty.  Of course, it probably is leaking, or we will spill it if we try to fill it to the top, or any number of other things that can go wrong will, indeed, go wrong.  We might as well move to Australia!

In 1972, Kris Kristofferson wrote and recorded a song titled, “Why Me, Lord?”  With Rita Coolidge and Larry Gatlin backing with vocals, the song became his biggest hit in 1973.  The lyrics are from the perspective of seeing the cup half full.  He writes, “Why me, Lord? What have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known?” Rather than asking why so many things go wrong, he seems to wonder why anything ever goes right. His is not a sense of entitlement, but of gratefulness.

I have heard people begin a thought with, “In a perfect world…” Often what they mean is, “If everything went the way I want it to go…” However, it is not our world. We are merely given a small spot on this earth for a brief time over the course of millenniums, and every breath of this life is a gift from God.

Soon Thanksgiving will be upon us, complete with football and parades and huge feasts and family and friends. However, we would do well to practice living every day with an attitude of gratitude. Yes, things could be better, but they also could be much worse. Let’s take a moment and give thanks today for those blessings we are privileged to enjoy.


October 3, 2014

Dr. Steven Callis

Eight organizations are fielding a team in the playoffs, while 22 teams are home thinking of what might have been. Yes, it is post-season Major League Baseball.  Fans will pay anywhere from $30 to $450 to get through the gate for one of these games, and seats for a world series game start at around $400, if tickets can be found.

There is little doubt that the atmosphere of such an event is an awesome experience in itself.  The noise, the hype, the aromas, the fans, and the extremely small chance of catching a foul ball or home run ball for a souvenir.

My uncle took me to my very first MLB game when I was a young child.  He caught a foul ball from the bat of a Baltimore Orioles player and gave it to my brothers and me.  I was not old enough to realize how special – and rare – that was.  My guess is that it became an everyday backyard game ball, because it certainly is not mounted under glass on my shelf.

Something extraordinary happened in 1921 that changed, and enhanced, baseball fever.  For the first time in history, the World Series, featuring a “subway battle” between the New York Giants and the New York Yankees, was broadcast on radio under the voice of the famous Grantland Rice.  Then a 9-game series, the Giants defeated the Yankees 5 games to 3 games.

That event opened the door for students, decades later, to sneak “transistor” radios and earphones into the classroom at school to hear the broadcast.  Teachers easily detected their shenanigans, some of whom confiscated the radios, and others who graciously turned a blind eye (and asked for an occasional update!).

Nearly a century later, the stadium atmosphere still is exciting, but there is something to be said for relaxing in a recliner at home with a refrigerator full of concessions and the advantage of the rewind button on the remote and the ability to watch every game – even all of the playoff games – without missing a pitch.

I once attended a game at Turner Field where our seats were so far away from the infield that I literally could not see the baseball leave the pitcher’s hand or the hitter’s bat. I determined that day to either spend the money on decent seat location or stay home. However, especially if your ticket seats you close to the action, there really is nothing like being there.

Recent films have declared that “Heaven is For Real” and “God’s Not Dead.” You can see it on the big screen or on DVD, and you can read about it in books, but there is nothing like actually being there. The Bible offers a word picture of heaven and details on how to get there when that time comes in your life.  Take a look for yourself.  This is one time when being there is the only way to really experience it.