Entries # 9-16 – Eight Reasons I Love Fall

•September 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Once again I have fallen massively behind, but wait! Yes, that is correct this is me actually blogging instead of disappearing until Thanksgiving with an apology post. I have decided to catch it up in this one post, and if I can do some bonus makeup posts I will. So, eight reasons why (this year, already) I am in love with Autumn all over again.

Reason #1: The weather! This could be every single reason right here, repeated over and over. I was right! I totally called a cool down in September way back in July and many disbelieved me. What do they have to say now? Standing outside at night has not felt this good since I was a young child. Amazing.

I have been driving to work with my windows down, that smell is in the air that signals the change of seasons, and I feel a certain festiveness in my heart. Yes!

Reason #2: Football is back! Yes! I cannot tell you how exciting it is to come out of the long miserable drought and be able to turn on the TV on Sunday afternoon and see RedZONE blasting out at you for seven hours. Ahhhhhh, refreshing.

Speaking of Football, we need to get some watch parties going soon, friends. Come on now! Football is more fun with snacks, friends, and yelling.

Reason #3: Fantasy Football is back! I can’t even tell you how bad I am at drafting in fantasy football. And yet, somehow I manage to do fairly well. Not great, but fairly well. I tell you what, I have fun though! I am 1-1 in both my leagues, so not a bad start.

Reason #4: Dinosaur Dracula’s Halloween Countdown! If you like Halloween, Nostalgia, and discovering hidden gems on the Internet, you need to go check it out. (warning: adult language) This site will get you in the Autumnal spirit, i guarantee!

Reason #5: The soft caress of autumn’s promise. I know, sounds ridiculous. But I went outside a couple nights ago, and the breeze was cool and carried with it the unmistakable scent of changing seasons. Summer’s reign is ending truly, and Fall comes with all the promise and magic of it’s splendor.

Reason #6: Fire pits! We have not done one yet but I am SO READY. Fire pits and hanging outside with friends are major parts of a well-grasped Autumn for me.

Reason #7: Leaves. They change color. They fall. They remind us that there is beauty not only in the sprouting of life but also in its change. That time and its relentless grind brings not only challenges but also majesty.

Reason #8: Are you kidding me? Come on… DOUBLE DIGITS TILL CHRISTMAS!! Oh you are so not ready for me to crank this up. It’s coming!

Entry #8 – A Passing Shadow

•September 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Friends, as we enter this mega season of warmth, love, thanksgiving, and hope, I would speak to you a truth. We may not agree on everything, we may not agree on hardly anything, but what I am about to tell you is not opinion, it is fact. If you act on this truth, I promise it will not only enhance your life, but it will bless others and you could transform a life.

Here is this truth, which I have bought with all my years so far on this earth: Listen, Love, Speak

All of these are predicated upon the deeper truth, which is that people are hurting. People you know, people you don’t know, people you think you know… they are hurting. They are fighting their own battles. God never intended us to fight our own battles, but we have become so inward-focused that we do not see the pain of those around us. And even when we do see, we find reasons not to collapse our comfort zone to extend a hand to them.

I beg you, I plead with you, this must stop. We are the Church! If you never listen to another word I say, listen to me today.

Listen to what people are saying. We speak all the time to people, asking things like “How are you?” “How’s it going?” and the truth of the matter is that we don’t really want to know. It has become a rhetorical question, which robs us of the connection that we all need. I am not saying that you have to have a sit down session with every single person, but we need to start caring about people.

Let me challenge you. Find someone that you have a feeling might be going through something or that you see a look on their face of pain, of something that strikes you as sorrow or loss or whatever… and reach out to them. Just the fact that you care enough to talk to them and really listen could change their day if not their lives.

And this refers exponentially to those you call your friends. We are intended to do life together. What use is a friendship that only celebrates the good times? We all need to do a better job of asking the right questions and truly listening for answers. And if someone is hurting, going through something, be a real friend and be there for them. You really do not know the impact that you could have by doing this.

Bear each others burdens. It isn’t easy and it isn’t comfortable, but we can enable each other to overcome the struggles of life and reach the heights that God has called us to by actually being there for each other.

Love people. One of the things I love the most about our church is that we reach out to the poor, that we feed the hungry and clothe the needy, that we truly are the church. What I would say to you today is that we need to do a better job of loving the people around us in our spheres, in our day-to-day lives.

Give each other grace. Extend mercy. Forgive wrongs. Laugh when they laugh, cry when they cry. Hug them. Love them without condition, without strings or pretense. People need love. This world has gotten so small with technology and communication, but people have never felt so alone.

LOVE more. Unconditionally. When in doubt, reach out to someone you think needs love. If you don’t think they ‘need’ it, give it to them anyway. There is no excuse for people who have been loved as Christ has loved us to be so stingy with it.

Speak to hearts and lives. This is just as important as the other two. If you see someone hurting, don’t just hug them and listen to them, encourage them. Tell them what the Word says, yes, absolutely, but also make it personal. Let them know that YOU care about them, that YOU love them, that YOU are there for them.

So many people are desperately starved for connection. We can be that to them. Don’t let someone else do it, YOU  do it. One of the most terrible and savage killers of the human soul is Depression. It festers in a life without authentic connection, and we CAN help. When you grab someone and tell them that you love them and they are awesome and that you are there for them, no matter what, and then you PROVE that with your actions, that makes a difference! It makes a difference, I promise it does.

And not just Depression, there are a host of other things people are dealing with that are sapping away their energy and their drive and their heart to pursue life and everything they can be. We can help them!

I know that many of you are already strong in these areas, I am just saying we can all do better. We must do better. We are the Church.

Let us Listen, let us Love, let us Speak encouragement to the broken. Only God can heal, but we are called to represent Him on this earth. It is on us, my friends.

It is on us…

Entry #7 – The End of Summer’s Reign

•September 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This is going to be short and sweet, because I am super behind on posts. I am super behind on posts because of crazy work stuff.  For me, Fall started September 1st so I have just been waiting on the weather to catch up. On the forecast are some 70s for highs and 50s for lows, and I could not be happier!

The first night of cool air is so very magical. It is transcendental. It washes away summer in one caress, and promises a season of enchantment to come. It does not matter if it warms up again for a few days… at this point, Summer has already lost. I am strongly considering breaking out the Fire pit!

I have spoken at length about the special ‘feel’ of a Fall night, and I predict this weekend we will have a few of them. Revel in it with me, friends. Let us greet Fall’s soft arrival with open arms and hearts.

I am going to see Alton Brown at the Orpheum later this Fall, and I am strongly considering going to see Penn & Teller as well. If I am going to do that, though, I need to get on it quickly!

I am also considering going to the Cooper Young Festival, as I have never been. Anyone want to fill me in on it?

Do you have any Fall plans yet?

Entry # 6 – Returning to the Fair

•September 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

When I was a teenager one of my favorite things to do was go to the fair. Wristband day, skip school, go with some friends and ride rides and eat terrifying (but oh so delicious) fair food until you felt you would be ill. Good times! The smell of animals (petting zoo), sweaty humans, fair food, and a general haze that was kinda gross but yet somehow comforting at the same time. It smelled like nostalgia. It smelled like fair.

As I made my commitment to post every day during the Mega Season, all the way back in February, I was serious about embracing the elements of Fall, Winter, and Christmas. I am serious. So, even though it was HOT on Friday night, I was determined to go. I was oh so thankful that Kevin, Austin, and Tiffany agreed to come with! Instead of rambling all over the place as is my wont, I will instead tell you about the evening in chunks.

Team Lazy Overcomes

I was really not feeling getting out of my chair Friday afternoon. Kevin was a lock for the fair but both Austin, Tiffany, and I all were wavering. Tiffany was not feeling the best, Austin agreed with me that it was kinda hot, and I really was tired and wanted to take a nap instead. On the other hand, my commitment to all things Fall, I had told Tiffany and Austin I would go, and Mason Jar Fireflies were playing. I keep missing hearing them live and I was determined not to let that happen again. So, I got off my butt and off we went. Tiffany and Austin followed suit, and we made our way to the line to get in the parking lot.

Parking

I only make this its own heading because I want to wax contemplative for a moment. With all the people at the fair, the parking lot was JAMMED and we basically ended up parking in a field. Which was fine, no problem, but I thought to myself: what if it rains? Talk about a quagmire! I can’t even imagine all those hundreds of vehicles locked down in the mud. I wonder what the contingency plan was… giant tarp? anti-rain dance? lots ‘o’ prayer? In any case, I really am curious what their plan was. What do you think?

Mason Jar Fireflies

If you have not had the pleasure of hearing Mason Jar Fireflies, hear their music on Spotify and bless yourself. Kyndle has a voice that… she is my favorite female singer. Period. Anyway, they had some technical difficulties but they tore it up! What a great set. I just can’t recommend them enough. Austin and Tiffany got a bit lost finding the tent (our instructions were wrong for them because they came in the other entrance. Oops!) but they heard the last few songs. We had the distinct pleasure of getting to chat with the band afterwards as well, and I finally bought their album on iTunes.

Now that the good part is covered, let’s discuss the heat. It was so hot in that tent. I am telling you, it was really bad. It was worth it to get to hear Mason Jar Fireflies but dang when it was all over we went straight for the (blessedly air-conditioned) exhibition hall. We saw some cool crafts and artwork in there, and I got a much needed beverage. That strawberry lemonade was seriously legit.

Viewing Art with Artists

I am glad we were with Tiffany and Austin in the art gallery area, as they were able to give a refreshing and insightful perspective about the stuff we were looking at. Lots of it was from school kids who were producing pieces that were truly stunning! The one thing that was ridiculous was the ‘Calligraphy’ section. Um… that’s just cursive. Not calligraphy. I can’t even… no.

We all had our favorites, but overall the entire thing was great because I (as an artist with words only) find those who can draw, carve, sculpt, or paint to be wondrous inspiration. I am easily moved by art. I love it. I give a massive kudos to all those young people practicing what (for many of them) is a great budding talent. Amazing.

Fair Food

Oh yes, the food. I think that perhaps the best part of the fair is the food, beyond it’s representation of the changing of the seasons. Normally I go with a philly cheesesteak or chicken on a stick, but this time I wanted something different. What I ended up with is a bucket of fries. Yes, a bucket. Of chili cheese fries. Not the large bucket, because come on now it may be the fair but I wanted to walk out, but a bucket nonetheless. I did share some with my friends but still. Ridiculous. Kevin had an italian sausage and Austin had a philly cheesesteak. Then, we shared a quesadilla (it was amazing) and contemplated how awesome it was that we were eating fair food at the fair. True story.

At this point Austin had to go to help out a friend so the three of us remaining decided we would do the Ferris Wheel. It is the one ride I always feel like I need to ride, for reasons that will become evident shortly. Kevin wanted to get in a fair dessert first, and who could blame him, so we had a Funnel Cake Sundae, which is just as awesome as you may think it is. So good, so evil! Tiffany is not a funnel cake fan, and I was so stuffed that Kevin was forced to bear the burden of eating most of it himself. Poor guy!

Ferris Wheel Finale

We all wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel, so we waited in the (pleasantly short) line and off we went. I absolutely love Ferris Wheels, and there are multiple reasons. First, you get the best pictures. All the lights, the crowds, the cars, it is amazing. Second, the nostalgia of it. I have been going on Ferris Wheels since I was a kid! Thirdly, and most importantly, the view from the top.

At the top of the Ferris Wheel you can take the best pictures but you can also see so far. From the Ferris Wheel at the Delta Fair I could see Clark Tower in East Memphis and other landmarks too far away to completely distinguish. I could see a big chunk of the road ahead, Germantown Parkway, and I could see for miles in all directions. I love the lights, but there is a certain beauty in seeing beyond them to the far distance. In those moments, it makes me think and I contemplate about how we have to have an elevated perspective in our lives. We have to elevate beyond the temporal and take the long view. In taking on the Eternal perspective, we can see part of the road ahead, and better prepare for our futures and surrender to what God has planned for us. We can see beyond our immediate surroundings, the trappings and lights and sounds and distractions of life,  and gain peace from the knowledge that there IS a plan. And we are a part of it.

That night we heard amazing music, had lots of laughs, Kevin gave us a grand tour (he had already been this year), we ate some amazing fair food, and we rode the Ferris Wheel. It was a great night, it was a memorable night, it was a Fall night, temperature be darned.

Entry #5 – Introduction to the Mega Season (pt. 3)

•September 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I am now two days behind, but fret not my friends! My commitment has not wavered, and today will be a catch up day.

Stage Three – November 1- December 31 – CHRISTMAS SEASON

On November 1st as I was growing up, every year without fail, my father would put up the Christmas tree. We would decorate it to some Christmas music in the background, and end the day with a Christmas movie. I cannot even think of those memories without a happy warm glow suffusing me.

November first is when I go full throttle. Cube at work? Decorated. iPhone? chock full of Christmas tunes! Christmas spirit? IT’S OVER 9000!!! Seriously, once we hit November first I am over the top Mr. Christmas until past Christmas. Every year for the past few years I try to make this peak of the season count. This very concept of a Mega Season was born out of the desire to maximize fall, Halloween, and especially Christmas.

How do I do this?

  • Music – Although there are things that get me more in the Christmas spirit than music, they only do it in the presence of Christmas music. Christmas music is the water that all the other elements swim in. Other Christmas stuff needs it to be Christmasey!
  • Movies – Christmas movies are there to warm your heart and fill your soul with the magic of Christmas. Now, granted, I only watch the cheesy Hallmark ones if I am with my family OR if I am really needing a Christmas infusion. Even bad Christmas movies are ok in a pinch, because Christmas.
  • Decorations – Decorate your homes, decorate your workplaces, decorate your life. You WILL feel more Christmasey when the magic is all around you.  Decorations will be everywhere so you don’t even have to look hard.
  • Friends – This is probably the most important thing. It is super hard to even attempt to be full of Christmas spirit if you are always doing it alone. Find some friends who love Christmas, we are everywhere  (even behind you! ahh!) and we would love to celebrate the season with you! For instance, ME! Hit me up, I am all about some Christmas and the best thing about friends and Christmas is that you can feed off each other’s Christmas spirit and go all kinds of festive-crazy. The best kind of crazy.
  • Parties – You need friends for this, and please do not doubt the power of a Christmas party to jump-start your Christmas spirit! They don’t have to be anything too fancy just throw some lights up, put on some Christmas music, watch a Christmas movie and the fun will find you. I am particularly fond of Dirty Santa, everyone loves getting gifts!
  • Events – Do some Christmas stuff! Go to TSO, see A Christmas Carol, go shopping at Collierville Mall (Avenue at Carriage Crossing) after they decorate, go to one of the other elventy-billion Christmas events that will be in your area this year. It’s all out there! You have to seize it! Trust me on this, I have spent so many days in regret when I realized I could have done so much more. 
  • Embrace the spirit of the season – Straight up, if you let it the Christmas spirit will transform you. For a short period of time, so many people turn into better versions of themselves. You can maximize that by embracing everything that makes Christmas so magical. Love people. Be generous. Not just in your giving but in your kindness, in your encouragement, in opening your eyes and your heart to the world around you and the people in it, and trying to be the best person you can in their lives. Why? Because at Christmas we celebrate the world shaking generosity of a God who became flesh to redeem the people who betrayed him. Such forgiveness, such love, the best way we can repay it is by showing our best pale imitation of it and trying to love the world like He has already proven He does.
  • Embrace ALL of it – You know how I defeat the cynical Christmas haters? I embrace everything about the season. I embrace the commercialism, transforming it into sincere appreciation of all the magic of Christmas; I embrace the calendar bloat, as I too celebrate the season far beyond its traditional borders; and I embrace the haters, because the more they hate, the more I celebrate, decorate, and accentuate the season.

Maybe you can’t or don’t want to get down with that whole list. That’s cool! But pick at least a couple things and wring every last bit of awesome out of this most awesome of seasons. Now, a poem:

quiet blows the softest wind
a caress on the cheek
the barest chill a promise made
that fall will reach it’s peak

seasons turn and nights grow long
in stars your solace find
for shining bright the gentle night
will soothe your troubled mind

light the fires and listen close
to ancient hallowed tales
embrace the holy advent days
before the season pales

Entry # 3 – Introduction to the Mega Season (pt. 2)

•September 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

First, let’s handle the elephant in the room. I am two days behind on these. NO FEAR, friends, I give myself plenty of grace. There will be an entry for every day. In fact, I state with confidence that by the end of today we will be caught up.

Now, where were we? Ah yes!

Stage Two – October 1-October 31 – Hardcore Fall and Halloween

Stage Two – Christmas

This is when I move more Christmas songs onto my iPhone and Christmas movies are fully in my rotation. I am not watching them every day at this point but they are definitely getting some play. At this point, I am searching for and buying up Christmas decorations and planning out everything I want to do for the peak of the Christmas season.

There are tickets to buy, decorations to prepare and get ready, parties to plan, and I have to contact all of my fellow Christmas lovers to start figuring out what group outings we are going to enjoy. I get pretty pumped up at this point. It is tempered, however, by my absolute love and adoration of the arrival of True Fall.

Stage Two – Fall/Halloween

This is peak Autumn. This is when you stand outside and, even in Memphis, feel a cool breeze that carries with it that unmistakable scent of fall. This is when I go outside and just stand there and breathe. Breathe in the magic of heat’s retreat. Breathe in a thousand memories of Autumn breezes and laughs under starlight.

October is a time, for me, of powerful memories. Family, friends, hayrides, ridiculous Church Halloween alternatives, candy, trick-or-treating, the mountains, a fire pit surrounded by close friends and you get that feeling in that moment that this, this is what is real and you have to grab it because life is full of false positives. I will tell you some of these stories in future blogs. We have a lot of time together, my friends.

Maybe false is the wrong word, but life is full of fleeting joys. It is important to appreciate them for what they are but the true moments, times of warmth and laughter with your friends, times when a season and an atmosphere come together with true connection between human souls… that is the real real. Those are the moments that you must capture and encase in the permanent storage of a powerful memory, because you will need them later. I sure have.

So yes, October is a time for memories… but it is also one of the best times for building NEW memories. Go on a weekend trip with your friends, plan lots of parties, DO lots of things, and just grab some friends and sit around a fire pit or a bonfire on a cool October night and remember to wring every bit of happiness out of it. Seriously, throw parties and do stuff. And invite your good buddy Stephen O! I am down.

One of the great tragedies, I have learned, is that we just don’t ever slow down. We are so busy trying to get to the next thing that we never appreciate the current thing properly. You could try to turn that barb around me on the whole Christmas thing, but I think I have explained myself sufficiently. Please, make the most of October. If you like scary stuff then for pete’s sake get to decorating! If you don’t, there are plenty of Fall decorations (pumpkins and leaves anyone?) that also bring a smile to my face and that of countless others. If you don’t want to decorate, then just get out there and enjoy that autumn atmosphere and ambiance.

I have to mention that I absolutely love driving around and checking out peoples Halloween decorations. I love all the work that goes into the elaborate ones, and I also love the simple ones where you know that person was like “dang it, I am putting a skeleton and a pumpkin out this year”. It reminds me of trick-or-treating and doing scavenger hunts and just breathing in that cool autumnal air, reveling in my youth. Good times! By the way, f you decorate for Halloween please let me know I want to check that stuff out!

This is getting a tad long so let me conclude by saying that the seasons mean something different for all of us, but find something you can appreciate about Fall and really get in there and maximize it. The memories you create will prove me right.

Next up? A review on the Stephen O Show and then back here for the last part of the introduction.

 

Entry #1 – Introduction to the Mega Season

•September 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

July and August passed as swiftly as time can pass, and that is even with me being sick during a lot of that time. Great news: I am better, and raring to go for an awesome MegaSeason! I am so glad that early Autumn (aka September) has arrived, and you and me are going to have some great times here and on my StephenOShow blog over the next four months+.

What is MegaSeason 2014? MegaSeason 2014 is me celebrating Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas within the umbrella of a four month long Christmas celebration. Like I do every year, I will break down why this is and maybe give a bit more details this year.

Origin

When I was young, my parents did not have much money. What we did have was Christmas spirit in spades. So, every year on September 1st my dad would bring all the Christmas movies and music out of the closets and we would begin a four month celebration!

This left an indelible mark on me as I grew up, and stuck with me. I will always love Christmas more than the average bear, and I will always celebrate it longer than most of you, maybe all of you. It’s not commercialism for me, it’s family and memory and all the best parts of my childhood, seasons of magic and wonder.

Not Just Christmas

Let me be super clear here. I am not ignoring Thanksgiving, let alone Halloween. Far from it! I celebrate Fall heavily, my favorite web site being Dinosaur Dracula (warning: some adult language) and it’s yearly Halloween Countdown. I also love Thanksgiving and everything it stands for.

But lets get serious. The two rock stars in the building are Halloween and Christmas. For me, Halloween means the changing of the seasons, cool breezes and leaves changing colors, that smell in the air and the other birds starting to sing, all the magic that tells me that Summer’s last remnants are gone for good. The smells, the atmosphere, the fun food and yes even the scary stuff, I love it all. When I was a kid we were not allowed to celebrate Halloween, but as an adult I absolutely love it.

That being said, I cannot let go of my September start to my Christmas season, so I have re-dubbed this entire block of celebrations MegaSeason 2014. I celebrate Christmas as I always have, in stages, which still gives plenty of time for the celebration of Fall (and Halloween).

Stage One – September 1-September 30 – Waxing Autumnal

Stage One has two components, Christmas and Fall/Halloween.

Stage One – Christmas

This is when I put some Christmas songs on my iphone (doing tonight) and work a Christmas movie or two into my schedule. This is also when I start doing Christmas shopping for friends and family and start shopping for decorations. Gordmans should have their stuff out any time now.

Stage One – Fall/Halloween

This is the time when the scents are in the air, everyone has the fall candles out and Halloween decorations are abundant. It is time to buy all the crazy food, stand outside waiting for that first cool breeze of the season, and contemplate how cool is cool enough to break out the fire pit.

This is when Dinosaur Dracula starts his Halloween Countdown, which brings exceeding joy to these days! This is when you watch scary movies if that is what you are into, Red Lobster has Endless Shrimp (just started back up!), and you go to the Fair!

There are oh so many reasons to love September. Oftentimes here it is a hot month, but ignore that. Please. There is so much fun stuff going on. FOOTBALL IS BACK! So many reasons to get excited!

Ok, this post has gotten long. part two tomorrow (aka later today, since this is a make up post)

 
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