“Falling” Opportunities

I love October. It’s my favorite month, and not just because of my birthday.

I enjoy the changing seasons, and the promise of approaching holidays. Beyond that, October brings with it numerous opportunities to reach out to neighbors, to connect – or reconnect – with those around us.

The cooler weather is perfect for going for a walk through your neighborhood. This, in turn, provides opportunities to bless your neighbors through something called a prayer walk.

A prayer walk simply means to walk around your neighborhood, praying as you go. (Some of us had to learn that it’s okay, at least in these circumstances, to pray with our eyes OPEN!) Just pray for your neighbors – by name, if you know it. If not, God knows who lives in that house, and He’s okay with you just offering a basic prayer of blessing over that home and all who live there. Don’t forget to ask God for discernment about how to pray for people.

While you’re out walking, you may meet some of your neighbors who are also out for a walk. Engage them in conversation, and if the opportunity arises, ask them how you can pray for them. (This may seem somewhat unusual, but very few people will object to having someone pray for them!)

Another idea – autumn, of course, means falling leaves and tree limbs. Are there senior adults that you know of who could use some help in cleaning up their yard? It doesn’t have to be an all day job. Just a few minutes raking and picking up small, dead branches can go a long way towards improving the overall appearance of a yard. And I’m sure it will be warmly appreciated.

One of my favorite things about fall is that we get to eat more delicious “comfort” food – soups, stews, chili, etc. The next time you make a pot of stew or chili, why not take a bowl of it over to an older adult or other neighbor? Or better yet, invite them into your home to share a meal together. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and in reaching out to them as a friend, you may just make a friend yourself.

Do you like to bake? Perhaps you could make some Halloween cookies or pumpkin bread and take some to the neighbors around you. Almost everyone loves home-baked goodies, and it’s a great way to introduce yourself and begin a conversation.

Every new season brings with it opportunities and challenges for reaching out, making friends, being a good neighbor – these are just a few suggestions that I have used. Try it! And who knows? Your new friends may just be waiting for you to knock on their door.

October Blessings

autumn_railroad_by_celem-d5ogfhqI 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 no, I didn’t take that picture; it’s one I found somewhere online. But I love it!)

And okay, yes, full disclosure: my birthday is in October (the 11th, if you’re wondering). I remember as a kid feeling a kinship with others in my school grade who shared October birthdays. I seem to recall that Paul Christian and Carlene Chandler were two in my class who shared this month with me. Later, I learned that my best friend from college, Kurt Stallings, has an October birthday, and my brother Jimmy and wife Christy got married in October. (On Kurt’s birthday, as a matter of fact.)

Of course, once you get over 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. By this time of year, 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 nicknamed, “Mr. April.” (Thank you, Drew Bowen!) So bring on the World Series, and Let’s – Go – Rang – ers!

The changing season 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 before the calendar changes again, I’ll be making a pot of it.

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. Summer’s over, winter’s coming, but for now, October is here. And I’m happy about that.

Let’s enjoy it while we can.

Reflections On A Birthday

From time to time, all of us have significant days – days when we realize that things have changed, that our lives are going to be different. Days when we pause to take stock of our lives, and perhaps think about some things that we are too busy to consider at other times. I’m talking about times such as, the birth of a baby. The death of a loved one. A wedding. A graduation. A child leaving home.

I had a birthday the other day.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, birthdays don’t necessarily rank up there with some of the other life events listed above, but I can’t seem to stop thinking about this one. Partly because of the age I have now reached: 58.

(Insert your favorite joke about getting old here. I’ll wait.)

It’s not that I’m feeling older, because I really don’t. But my grandpa Archie died of a heart attack when he was 56. His father had died at 56, and apparently, several other men in the McMillan family also died at about the same age, mostly from heart disease. I grew up very aware that men on that side of the family didn’t get out of their 50s.

So my first reflection after this birthday is, I’m thankful for good doctors and better medical care. I say this knowing that there are still far too many men in our culture who die of heart attacks in their 50s, or even younger. But I’m thankful for effective medicines to manage diabetes, and better understanding of diet, and all of those blessings. And I’ll tell you, it sometimes feels pretty sad to me to think about all that I still want to do with my life, and to think about my Pa-Pa dying at 56, and how young that seems now, and that I’ve already lived longer than he did, and how much he missed.

And not that this has anything to do with that, but here’s another thing: I’m blessed to be part of a church fellowship that is outward-focused. I have seen too many churches whose primary emphasis is nothing but member-care, and all the programs and activities are designed to pamper and tend to the folks on the inside. Beltway may not be perfect, but I appreciate their focus on missions and growing the Kingdom and reaching out to others. They prove it by the high percentage of their budget that they spend on missions, by their emphasis of projects in service to others – even by hanging on the walls the flags of the nations where we have partners at work.

At a time in my life where it’s easy to settle in, to pull back and become more inwardly-focused, I’m glad to be part of a group that is still going out.

By the same token, I’m honored to work for an organization that has a vision for community. I get to meet neighbors, to build relationships with them, and to help host events in our home that facilitate those things. Jesus said nothing was more important than loving God and loving neighbors, and I am so blessed to get to focus on those things 24/7.

One of the things I like best about my birthday is that it comes in my favorite month. I don’t love October only because of my birthday – that’s just one of many reasons. From cooler weather to changing leaves and so much more, autumn is my favorite time of year.

October means that the holidays are approaching. I’m not trying to rush the season – it still annoys me that Walmart is already playing “Jingle Bells” – but there’s no denying that Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming. Another year will soon be over. And in my head, somehow to me, at least, my birthday is kind of like the start of the holiday season.

The year is not over, but if there are things you need to get done before the end of the year, you need to be doing them. Which brings me to my final reflection –

I’m reminded of the need to make every day count. I’m 58. I hope to have a long time yet, but there is one undeniable fact: I’m one day closer to dying than I was yesterday. And so are you. Paul said we should “Redeem the time, for the days are evil.” In “Dead Poet’s Society,” Robin Williams reminded us of the old Roman adage – “Carpe Diem.” Seize the day. Make every moment count.

God bless us all for a good year.