EL CAJON, Calif. -- This season of the year lends itself to gaining a renewed focus on what is important― not only for growing into a more intimate relationship with God but also to set aside time to let your family and friends know how much they mean to you.
I can't prove this, of course, but I think God made fall just for family and friends. I know, anytime is a great time for being with those we love and appreciate, but this time of year seems special. Think about the reasons why it is a great time for relationships and reunions:
―School. As much as kids imply that they don't like school, most kids (of all ages) love the social reunions that the return to school brings. But it's not just the kids ― parents wave at each other in the carpool lanes, see each other at parent-teacher meetings and sporting events, and sit in activity committees together. After the summer break is over, a new school year offers the opportunity to rekindle relationships at school.
―Church. Because of travel and vacations, some churches drop back to a single service instead of multiple services during the summer months. They adjust the music programs, combine some Sunday School classes, and sometimes cancel small-group studies during the summer break. It has nothing to do with commitment ― it's simply an adjustment to the realities of life in America. But in the fall, everything gets back to normal. Suddenly, you're seeing friends at church and in small groups that you've not seen consistently during the summer.
―Thanksgiving. If there's one event where families and friends connect, it has to be Thanksgiving. It seems people like to celebrate Christmas ― at least Christmas morning ― with just family. But in America, Thanksgiving is the day we fling open the doors, tell people to bring a dish, spread it all out, and thank God for the blessings we enjoy.
Lump those three dynamics together ― school, church and Thanksgiving ― and fall arrives with more opportunities to reconnect with one another than any other season of the year.
Let's face it ― we know how to do family and friends in the fall. But I want to encourage you to put your prayerful, creative hat on and consider how you can touch one or more of your family members in a unique way ― a way they're not expecting.
Could you write several anonymous "secret admirer" notes expressing your love and appreciation? Could you provide a special gift (like an old photo) that illustrates your bond? Perhaps a meal in a special setting where you can reconnect?
I hope you will write down your ideas, then carry them out. Make this a time to refocus on your family. If you need a reminder, check out the following verses illustrating how important family is to God: children honoring their parents (Ephesians 6:1), parents loving their children (Ephesians 6:4), spouses loving one another (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Family is central, of course. But the Bible says, and demonstrates, something about friends that highlights their importance as well, such as Proverbs 18:24: "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." In the Old Testament, Jonathan and David weren't family but stuck "closer than a brother" to each other (1 Samuel 18-20). Ruth was free to leave her mother-in-law Naomi when her (Ruth's) husband died, but she refused -- she remained with Naomi as a loyal friend (Ruth 1). Jesus and His disciples weren't family, but He declared them to be His friends (John 15:13-15).
I hope you have one or more friends with whom you exchange loyal friendship ― and I hope you will come up with several creative ways to express your affection for them. Notes, gifts, outings ― you know your friends and what communicates best. Make a list of your closest friends and create ideas for how you can express your love and appreciation for each of them.
Mature Christians are not afraid of dying or of what might happen in the future, but they also know that our time and our plans are not our own, so we don't presume on the future.
If there are family and friends to whom you need to express your love and gratitude, and perhaps voice your faith, take the time to do so now. Some things just shouldn't be put off. Treasure your family and friends and your faith -- they are all gifts from God.
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