October Blessings

I love October. It’s absolutely my favorite month of the year.

I don’t think this will come as a galloping surprise to anyone – I mean, LOTS of people consider autumn their favorite season. But for me, October specifically is my favorite, for several reasons.

And okay, yes, full disclosure: my birthday is in October. I remember as a kid feeling a kinship with others in my school grade who shared October birthdays. Later, I learned that my best friend from college has an October birthday, and my brother Jimmy and wife Christy got married in October. Of course, once you get past the age of 10 or 12, people stop making a big deal out of your birthday. Still, I enjoy mine. But that’s not the only reason I love October.

Getting to October means that we’ve survived another Texas summer. This is not a small thing. Summers around here are brutal, and September is nothing but a tease. The calendar may say that summer is over, but really, it isn’t – even in late September, the highs can easily reach the upper 90s or more. But October is a different matter – there are still warm days, to be sure, but the evenings and mornings have a delicious chill about them.

Another thing I like about October: postseason baseball. “October baseball” means that only the best teams are still playing. Playoff baseball is a thing of beauty – even more than the regular season. Big players make big plays in big games. And there’s a reason nobody in baseball is ever nicknamed, “Mr. April.” (Thank you, Drew Bowen!) As I write this, this year’s World Series is about to begin, and I’m ready!

The changing season also means some changes to the menu. I love a good pot of chili, and there’s something about good chili – especially venison chili – that is warm and comforting and satisfying. I don’t know why we don’t eat chili when the weather is hot – we eat other soups and stews – but chili is the ultimate cold weather comfort food. And I know, at some point soon, I’ll be making a pot of it.

Or chicken and dumplings. Or Guinness beef stew. Or something else warm and filling. There are plenty of delicious, hearty foods to enjoy with friends and family this time of year.

October means the holidays are coming, but not here yet. We have the excitement and anticipation of those good things, but don’t yet have to put with the craziness of too many events and too little time to do them all. I can, and do, look forward with a child’s excitement to the approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I love the colors of fall: red, orange, yellow, golden brown. Even though we don’t have the brilliance of New England or Appalachia (or even East Texas!), it’s still nice to see the changing colors of leaves and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

In some ways, autumn is like a parable. The changing colors can inspire us to glorify God by taking up a new interest and exploring new opportunities to grow. The loss of leaves can remind us that sometimes we need to let go of some things, to allow old habits and destructive patterns drop away.

October is a reminder that nothing is permanent. Seasons change. Life is transitory. Make the most of every opportunity. We can choose either to be resentful that something is gone, or we can give thanks that we were able to enjoy it for a while. Savor it – appreciate it – then say, “What’s next?” and move on.

Summer’s over, winter’s coming, but for a few more days, October is here. And I’m happy about that. Let’s enjoy it while we can.

Changes, Changes

Someone has said that change is the only constant. Or as a character in a movie once said, “Nothing changes but the changes.”

The truth is, change is always with us. And most of us don’t like it. We get used to things being a certain way, and we want them to stay that way. Even when we don’t like something, if it’s familiar, we often prefer keeping it. “Better the devil you know,” we say.

But if life teaches us anything, it’s that everything changes. Parents grow old and die. Children grow up and leave. Neighbors come, neighbors go. Jobs end, and jobs begin.

It can be very depressing if we dwell on it with the wrong perspective. But it doesn’t have to be.

When change comes, we can either become angry and sullen about having our routine upset, or we can be thankful for the blessing we had and the time we had it. C.S. Lewis once pointed out that God gives us glimpses of heavenly joy, but only for a time. That way, we would understand the eternal joy that awaits, but we would never mistake this world for our true home. I don’t know if I agree completely with that or not, but it’s worth thinking about.

Another thing about change: every change is an opportunity for growth. It’s true, we like things the way we get used to them, but it’s also true that every familiar thing was once UN-familiar. I hated coffee the first time I tried it. Now I drink it every morning. Every best friend was once a stranger. Every golfer had to go through picking up a club and making that first ugly, awkward swing. The changes around us present us with a wonderful buffet of new opportunities, new experiences, possibilities for personal growth.

An old proverb says, “Be not the first to embrace the new, nor the last to forsake the old.” I think there’s some wisdom in there.

One other thing about change: the constant changes in this life and in this world, make our hearts yearn for the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the One who does NOT change, the One whose love is always constant and whose compassions never fail. So I hold on to the unchanging Eternal One, and He gives me the strength and courage to face the changes I meet.

Bring it on.


You may have noticed that I skipped a week in my blog posts. I have a perfectly good reason: I was moving.

Moving is one of those things that most people have to do from time to time, and almost nobody really enjoys it. Of course, there are some good things associated with moving. Change can be good. Moving gives you the chance to throw away old stuff you don’t need, discover treasures you forgot you had, and make a fresh start on some things.

And in our case, this was a happy move. We were given the opportunity to relocate from the College Heights Friendship House, about a mile north, to the North Park Friendship House. It’s a newer house, and a much bigger one. It has plenty of storage space, and even a special community room for hosting neighborhood events. We are excited about the opportunities it will bring, and the blessings that it offers.

But in reflection, perhaps I should say that this move is bittersweet, because while we are happy and excited about North Park, we are sad to leave behind our neighbors and friends in College Heights. The house we were in was old, but it had the charm of classic Craftsman architecture, and the floors were beautiful, well-worn hardwood – even if they did sag a bit!

CCC is bringing in a new coordinator for College Heights, and I’m looking forward to introducing him to our friends there. I know he will do a great job, bringing fresh enthusiasm and some new ideas to the work there.

Meanwhile, we’re getting settled into our new place, finding the best routes to get to work, school, and the store. The new house is nice, but it doesn’t feel like home yet. That will come with time.

So, as I’m looking back at the last six years, thinking about this move, reflecting on what to keep and what to throw away, here’s some of what I’ve learned:

People are more important than programs. It’s easy to mistake activity for progress. But our goal is not just to stay busy – we are called to love our neighbors, which means building relationships with them. And speaking of that,

Relationship-building takes time. Yes, we are moving to a different neighborhood, but the relationships we have built in our old neighborhood won’t be lost. And I’m looking forward to building on the friendships we already have with folks in the new neighborhood, and working with them to continue growing a stronger community.

There is no substitute for caring. As has often been stated, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. We are called to love others as Jesus did, learning as we go.

So, this is my last entry for College Heights, and my first for North Park. Thanks to our College Heights friends, for your patience with me and for being good neighbors. And on to North Park, where we hope to build on the wonderful work established by my predecessors, Danyel and Laura.

Here we go.