Reflections

Soren’s Remarks at John’s Memorial Service; January 12, 2020:

My name is Soren. I am John Geiger’s oldest child. Many members of the Geiger family are here today, including of course my mom and two siblings. (I would never tell my brother and sister that dad loved me the most, but, of his children, he did love me the longest, so … just connect the dots.) On behalf of his family, I thank you for being here today to remember God’s work in and through his son John and to rejoice with us that death has no victory over the children of God. You are all here because you loved John Geiger, and he loved you. He might have taught your children in class, or maybe he taught you. Perhaps he was someone you looked up to as a role model and mentor. Maybe he was one of your good friends — a brother. He was a father by blood to a few of us here, but a father-figure to many, many more. 

For nearly twenty years he served as headmaster of Eastwood Christian School, where he taught many classes. One of them was Rhetoric. He relished the opportunity to instruct the young on how to craft a public address and deliver it effectively. And he was pretty good at it himself. We all here have been moved by John’s words. Most, perhaps all of us, have heard him deliver one of his talks on his Last Breath speaking tour.  His message, delivered while looking death in the face, was powerful, even though, as the disease tightened its grip on his tongue and throat, he began to slip into what we called his  J o h n   W  a  y  n  e     v   o   i   c   e.

I took his Rhetoric class at Eastwood, and in it he taught us that one of the key elements of an effective speech is the use of analogy to capture the attention of the audience, to develop the nuances of the topic, and to help your audience remember what you said. I have known for a long time that I wanted to speak at my father’s funeral, and I knew that I needed to come up with an analogy. But I did not know which one to use … until recently, when he told me what to use. 

So, many of you here have run a marathon. More power to you. Most of us here, like myself, have only seen marathons on TV, or maybe from the side of the road. All of us, though, should be familiar with the kind of runner that stands out, the one that captures the attention of the crowd. Something has set this runner apart from the rest. Maybe he’s an underdog. Maybe he’s overcoming great personal adversity. Maybe he is setting records at each mile marker he passes. Whoever he is, all eyes are on him. His lungs are burning as he nears the home stretch. His legs are failing him as he hits and then breaks through the proverbial wall. The salt from his sweat is caking around his mouth. He has pushed himself to the limit. People start to run alongside him, hand him water, pat him on the back, and pump their fist as he pushes forward. As the finish line comes into sight, the crowd’s applause swells, and then it peaks when he crosses it. 

That runner was my father during his final months and years. His body was failing him, but his spirit remained as strong as ever, it even became more determined. He was focused on the finish line and the prize that awaited him. He would not waiver from the course. And he was a crowd favorite. He captured our attention, and he inspired us. We saw him and said to ourselves, “That’s how you run the race.” And what else could we do but cheer him on, follow his example, and congratulate him on a race well run. Like Paul, he could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I shared this analogy with him two weeks ago, and he texted me, “Say that at my funeral.” Yes sir. 

You may also remember the story of the first marathon. It took place in the year 490 BC in Greece. The Greeks had just defeated and repelled the invading Persians at the battlefield of Marathon, so they sent one of their soldiers, Pheidippides, to run twenty-six miles all the way back to Athens in order to proclaim to the Greeks waiting anxiously there the news of victory. He ran up to the city magistrates and, with his last breath, said, “Joy, we win.” The marathon my dad ran was a grueling one at the end, but that did not deter him from running hard, running straight, and running to proclaim with his last breath the joyous news that “we win.” Remember 1 Corinthians 15: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Let me end by encouraging you with something my father shared with me after he learned that, due to his diminished lung capacity, he only had weeks to live. I asked him if he was scared. He said, “No,” but he wished his family did not have to see him suffer because he knew that what would follow would be hard. But then he reminded me that Jesus even allowed his own family and loved ones to watch him suffer and die. My father’s point was not to compare himself to Jesus, but to remind me that Jesus knows our pain; he knows our hurt; he loves us through it; and he promises that one day sin and death will be no more. 

So let’s remember that we are all runners in this race. John just crossed the finish line before us, and he showed us how it’s done. Let us run this race with perseverance. Let’s stay on course. Let’s encourage one another, love one another, and proclaim with every breath, even our last breath, “We win.”

Dawn’s Remarks at John’s Graveside Service; January 14, 2020:

My family and I are overwhelmed with gratitude for the way you have loved us and the way you loved John. Thanks to each of you for joining us today as we commit John’s body to the grave. It may seem a little unusual for me to be standing here. But John and I talked a lot about this, and he wanted me to share some of these thoughts with you.

Look around you. This is a place of waiting. We are standing in a field of anticipation. After we leave, it will be a quiet, deserted field. But these markers all signify spots where bodies have been placed, many of them in anticipation of a coming event. There’s a marker here at our family plot. Decades ago they chose to carve verses from Titus into the monument — verses that point back to an event in the past and forward to an event in the future. On this side the verse says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.”  And on this side it says, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” That message sits out here day after day silently testifying that these bodies are all waiting.

It’s interesting that we take care of our bodies when we die, of these shells that are left behind. After all, God tells us, “You are dust and to dust you will return.” Yet in the Bible we have stories of people who took time to care for the bodies of the dead. Jesus said that the woman with the alabaster flask had anointed his body beforehand for burial. Joseph of Arimethea asked if he could remove Jesus’ body from the cross and place it in his own tomb. And the three ladies went to the tomb with spices on Sunday morning only to find that there was no body there to care for. 

One of my favorite comments about a body that gives us a little insight into this moment is the verse assigned to Joseph in Hebrews 11. This is the chapter that lists lots of Old Testament men and women of faith. It says things like,

“By faith Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice.” 

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death.”

“By faith Noah constructed an ark.”

“By faith Abraham, Isaac and Jacob . . .” 

Most of these people had really important events recorded. But this is what it says about Joseph: “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.”

But Joseph did way more than that. He could supernaturally interpret dreams; he saved a nation from a famine. But what gets recorded is that he made mention of his bones. By faith he believed in a future event, and he told them what to do with his body. 

Joseph knew the story wasn’t finished. John’s story isn’t finished. In his now somewhat famous song “With My Last Breath,” he says, 

Fearfully and wonderfully, I was made of Eden’s dirt.

To there I will return, but with no lasting hurt.

The kindness of God’s love is felt each wasting day.

Thanksgiving, praise, and hope is what I say.

John made mention of his bones. By faith he assured us that this is not the end of his story.

No lasting hurt. I like that. But there is a present hurt. While this cemetery represents anticipation in a coming event, it also represents separation. Again, look around you. That’s what we don’t like about cemeteries. They scream out separation — not only separation of body and soul which is unnatural, but separation from the people that we want to be around. 

Our seventh graders at Eastwood read a book about a South American indigenous people who say that when someone dies, their language leaves them. I think that’s so insightful. We watched John’s language shift and change and dwindle down to a letter by letter form of communication, but it was with him to the end. He was an encourager with words to the end. But not now. His language has left him. Death has separated us. 

So what does a family do when they are concerned about being separated? You’ve all done it. Whether you’re in Disneyworld or the fair or maybe even just Costco, you tell the children, “If we get separated, we’ll meet at such and such a place.” When I was a child, we would go to the fair and the designated meeting place was always the big cow. But we had a designated meeting place. 

I was recently reading a book about Jesus’ last days on earth, and it points out that three times the disciples are told about their designated meeting place. Jesus, knowing separation was imminent, set up a meeting place in Galilee where they would receive their last orders. And he has done the same for us. In I Thessalonians Paul explains, 

The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 

Whenever I left my grandmother’s house, I’d say, “See you later. Mamaw.” And she’d say, “Here, there, or in the air.” Not sure where she heard it — and it’s kind of cheesy — but not inaccurate. We won’t meet John again here. If we die and enter the presence of Jesus we will meet him there. And if Jesus returns while we’re alive, then we’ll meet him as we are all caught up in the air and prepared for the new heavens and new earth. There’s both a comfort and a warning in that. The comfort is knowing that we will meet again; the warning is don’t face this certain separation without knowledge of the designated meeting place. Jesus is the designated meeting place. 

Right now everyone here can think of someone they have been separated from. Their bodies may be in this cemetery or they may be somewhere else. We have John and my brother and grandparents and other family members here in this plot, but we have the body of our precious granddaughter, Ruby Mae, in a cemetery in Michigan. We are separated from them by a gulf we can’t cross no matter how much we want to. 

Well, there’s a passage in Isaiah that assures us that this sadness and separation from the very young or the very old or the not-so-old is only temporary. What we feel today is unique to this moment in history, but one day separation will end. This is what God has said about that final designated meeting place: 

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days.  Praise God. Come Lord Jesus.

So we’re all waiting. Those whose lives are marked by stone monuments all around us are waiting. Those of us standing around here today are waiting. Even the unborn are waiting. We know we may be separated from each other as we wait. So what do we do in the meantime? 

Well, I think John told us that in his talks, in his song, in the way he lived and in the way he died. We will live by faith in a coming event — without fear — because we know the designated meeting place. One of John’s last texts to the family was “I am not scared. . . . God is in control.” 

In 1749 Charles Wesley penned the hymn “Jesus the Name High Over All,” and I want to end with the final verse of that hymn because it tells us how to live and how to die and it sounds so much like John: 

Happy if with my final breath

I may but gasp his name, 

Preach him to all and cry in death,

Christ Jesus is the lamb!

Who are the warriors?

A message from Dawn

Eastwood Christian School gathered together this morning to mourn the loss of their headmaster emeritus, John Geiger, who died Tuesday evening, January 7, 2020, around 11 pm. In that moment we relied on John to remind us of what’s important, to tell us where to go from here. The following was read to the school family and I wanted to share it with all of you:

Here we are school family, facing another school day, but this time with the awareness that Mr. Geiger has died and we are left to carry on the great battle without him here to charge up the hill ahead of us. Now is the time to remember Mr. Geiger’s words when he spoke at Commencement 2018. He knew it was the last time he would address Eastwood School as its headmaster. He called it “Who are the Warriors?” And he answered the question with “You will need to be.” So what did tell us? He said, 

“My warrior time appears to be drawing to a close. I want to remain faithful. . . . There’s more of the battle ahead. But remember this, the commander in chief has not changed. Our goals in the battle have not changed. The enemy has not changed. The only thing that has changed is an officer on the battlefield [has fallen.] Well, that happens all the time. The Church has experienced that before. Remember Joshua. What was he told? Be strong and courageous. Do not turn to the right or to the left that you may prosper as you go.”

Here is a link to the full address if you are interested in listening to it:

On behalf of my family, I am deeply grateful for the many expressions of love and appreciation for John’s life we have received.

Dawn again, one year later

One year ago, we began the blogging era of our lives with ponderings on the massive ponderosa that filled our living room, so I thought it only fitting to return to the theme of the Christmas evergreen to close out 2019. (Ok, technically it wasn’t a ponderosa pine, but who could resist that little play on words?) 

We went in a little different direction with this year’s tree, or I suppose I should say trees. It’s true. We have three Christmas trees this year. Well, tree may be overstating things. Saplings actually—culled from beneath the giant oaks, pines, and poplars that crowd out the sun in the woods behind our house and stunt the growth of tiny cedars trying desperately to become all they were meant to be. We went out in search of the perfect tree and brought home three imperfect reminders that life doesn’t always look like we expect it to look. 

Three is a number that works well if you’re looking for a symbolic justification for this breach of tradition. Three trees can represent the Trinity, the Holy Family, the three gifts brought by the magi . . . I’m sure you can come up with more. However, as we carefully chose only light-weight ornaments and moved the trees in close to each other for support, I found myself enjoying their frailty and the transformation that lights and tinsel, lovingly placed, can bring to the most misshapen of little underdeveloped evergreens. Here are three things that our three trees remind me of during this season of our lives. 

Gentleness. An elusive virtue, gentleness seems to flee with the slightest hint of hardship. But, gentleness is a command. Jesus demonstrated it and we are told in Colossians to put it on: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Isn’t it ironic that, right now for John and me, getting dressed is one of those times when gentleness seems to go into hiding? Action point: if John’s toes get caught when I’m helping him put on his socks, maybe pushing through with anger is not the best option. If I can gently place the ornaments on our little trees, surely I can be more gentle when pulling socks onto my husband’s feet. (But not compressions socks — I’m afraid those will always make me angry. If you have ever tried to put these on someone else’s feet, you know what I’m talking about.)

Support. Alone, these three trees are pretty pitiful. Their little trunks are almost too small for the tree stands. It would hardly have been worth our time to adorn just one because they simply can’t hold too many ornaments. However, when we move them in close to each other so that their branches interlock and the strings of lights can bind them together, they become a solid representation of the season of hope we are celebrating. Reminder: God did not leave us alone. He sent Jesus who sent the Spirit so that we can link arms with each other and stand strong, bound together by the light of the world. There has never been a season in our lives when we have experienced more support than we are experiencing right now. Not alone. We are standing strong because you, our friends and family, have moved in close. Thank you.

And finally, love. Overshadowed and undernourished, our three little trees were destined to live out their days in obscurity and purposelessness. But for a few weeks they will fill our home with light and beauty. One of our favorite books when the kids were young was a traditional folktale called The Tale of Three Trees as retold by Angela Elwell Hunt. You can still buy it online (click here) and I highly recommend it. This is how this particular tale of the transforming power of God’s love goes:

Once upon a mountaintop, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. 

The first little tree looked up at the stars twinkling like diamonds above him. “I want to hold treasure,” he said. “I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I will be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”

The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be a strong sailing ship,” he said. “I want to travel mighty waters and carry powerful kings. I will be the strongest ship in the world!”

The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and busy women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave this mountaintop at all,” she said. “I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they will raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world!”

Years passed. The rains came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. 

One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.

The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. 

“Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest,” thought the first tree. “I shall hold wonderful treasure.”

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said,“This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.  

“Now I shall sail mighty waters,” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship fit for kings!”

The third tree felt her heart sink when the the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven.

But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me,” he muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell. 

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought him to a carpenter’s shop, but the busy carpenter was not thinking about treasure chests. Instead his work-worn hands fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals.

The once-beautiful tree was not covered with gold or filled with treasure. He was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.

The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took him to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ships were being made that day. Instead the once-strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat.

Too small and too weak to sail an ocean or even a river, he was taken to a little lake. Every day he brought in loads of dead, smelly fish.

The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard.

“What happened?” the once-tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted to do was stay on the mountaintop and point to God.”

Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.

But one night golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box.

“I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered.

The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said.

And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveller and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveller fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake.

Soon a thundering storm arose. The little tree shuddered. He knew he did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and rain.

The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun.

And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry, jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her.

She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything.

It had made the first tree beautiful.

It had made the second tree strong.

And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

And that was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

So this Christmas, if you, like us, sometimes feel like you are stuck in a barn or struggling on a storm-tossed lake or neglected in a lumberyard . . . if you have almost forgotten your dreams . . . think of the three little trees and believe. Believe in our heavenly Father who says, “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Merry Christmas and dream on.

The Mucus Monster

The beast, a wretched foe, goes for the throat, seeking to strangle its victim. Last Monday it crept into my bedroom, pounced on me, fastened its claws on my throat, and we began a five hour murderous battle. Visions of Beowulf and Grendel’s gladiatorial wrestling match occupied my mind. I denied it victory several times. Weary, I entertained the possibility of defeat. Then, as if spooked, the Mucus Monster released its grip and fled. As it left I heard the slimy murderer hiss, “I shall return.”

Mucus (phlegm) is constantly swallowed by the average person. Due to ALS my swallowing is minimal and my ability to cough and clear my throat is practically nil. So, the mucus builds and lodges in my air passage (I have dubbed this — The Mucus Monster). The effort to clear this and breathe is traumatic. It is a real battle.

During the five hour struggle my brain was still functioning well. A comforting thought kept going through my mind: “I am only gasping for air! I am only gasping for air! The important issues of life are settled.”

I reminded myself I wasn’t gasping for truth — “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

I reminded myself I wasn’t gasping for love — “This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son [Jesus] as an atoning sacrifice.”

I reminded myself I wasn’t gasping for peace — “Peace I [Jesus] leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I reminded myself I wasn’t gasping for salvation — “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [Jesus] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

You see the controlling idea here? It is Jesus Christ.

Without Him, everything collapses. With Him, everything holds together.

After the Mucus Monster left, this Christmas hymn flooded into my spirit — “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” Notice the last two lines of the first verse:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus

Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us,

Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth Thou art;

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.

This “Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart” is better than air in my lungs. His real birth, His real death, His real resurrection, and His real return provide answers to mankind’s questions, solutions to mankind’s problems, and joys for mankind’s longings.

I can’t fathom a more treasured thought to grasp this Christmas. While there is air in our lungs, let us hold onto Him who is better than air.

Merry Christmas ‘til my last breath, John

Happy Birthday, John

I get to celebrate another birthday today! I wasn’t sure I would get this one. I am thankful for it. I have always daydreamed about a birthday party where I give gifts to all the guests instead of their giving gifts to me. Why? I didn’t do anything in getting born; sort of strange to get gifts for that. But, I am so happy for the friendships I’ve been given. Will you come to this online party and let me give gifts to you?

You are my friends. It may be a bit narcissistic, but I want to give the gift of myself. I have links below to three talks I gave last year. I hope you will find these useful and encouraging. My prayer is that you would live well after enjoying this gift. Also, these talks can be shared with others. Feel free to re-gift them to your friends.

So, enjoy these. Two are videos and two are audio. Happy birthday to me!

First Baptist Church, Interviewed by Jay Wolf. https://vimeo.com/278211939

Frazer Church – I am introduced about 9:00 in. YouTube: https://youtu.be/d8JqOYqV4Tc

Gateway Baptist Church, “Reflections of a Dying Christian” http://gatewaybaptistchurch.sermon.net/main/main/21158053

Eastwood Presbyterian Church, “Reflections of a Dying Christian” http://www.eastwoodchurch.org/sermons/john-geiger-reflections-of-a-dying-christian/

Happy Birthday, Ruby Mae

Today, October 27th, our family will be celebrating the third anniversary of the birth of our granddaughter, Ruby Mae Geiger. The Lasseter/Geiger clan will get together, play games, eat chili, cut cake, laugh and remember our little girl whose 26 days opened our hearts in ways unimaginable. It’s true that we tasted the bitterness of death, but we also discovered the beauty of life–everlasting life!

Man’s disobedience to God’s command brought death into this world; Jesus Christ’s obedience to His heavenly Father destroyed Death’s lasting grip on mankind and ushered in eternal life. Death’s poison to the soul is gone, but our bodies still die. Whether 26 days or 126 years, we were made for eternity.

As I grieved Ruby Mae’s death a song was birthed.  We all missed her. We focused on eternal truths from God. We knew she lived though her little body died.  We watched the Holy Spirit comfort her parents. We looked forward to the return of Jesus and the end of death. These thoughts shaped the lyrics. I’ve also included a few of my favorite pictures because, well, because I’m a grandfather. That’s what we do.

Ruby Mae

Hey Ruby, may I show you something, Ruby?

May I reveal something Ruby?

Your mom and dad smiled the other day.

I heard them laugh in the old familiar way.

There’s music in their hearts.  They still have a tune.

They will see you soon.

Ruby Mae, Sweet Ruby Mae, Dear Ruby Mae.

Hey Ruby, may I tell you something Ruby?

May I say a word or two, Ruby?

Your short life stirred up so much love.

Your tender life brought blessings from above.

Adorable is what we often heard.

Beautiful, the perfect word.

Ruby Mae, Sweet Ruby Mae, Dear Ruby Mae.

Hey Ruby, may you show me something Ruby?

May I peek into heaven, Ruby?

Can you think? Can you talk? Can you feel in any way?

Who’s your twin? Have you met? What did she say?

Open up the sky, show the light above;

Show your smile, show your love.

Ruby Mae, Sweet Ruby Mae, Dear Ruby Mae.

*Through the skill and encouragement of Charles Mauney, we recorded this in September of 2017.  Ruby Mae’s parents were visiting that week. I was honored to have Soren on piano and Virginia on vocals. 

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’” Revelation 22:20

Heard about the Herd?

“Horses are herd animals,” my daughter said recently explaining her purchase of the second horse in six months. I had to admit the two did look happy and natural out there in the pasture. So now Winona and Trigger are rarely seen apart; they are a herd.

In 2016 several upper school boys at Eastwood were dubbed The Nerd Herd. The Nerd Herd spent as much school time together as they could.  You could see them sitting in the hallways, hear them talking about video games or soccer, or watch them building a Herd Hut in the woods behind the school. The Hut was quite impressive — stone-paved entrance, couch, roof — all items found in the woods. It was the envy and talk of all the younger boys. The nerds enjoyed each other and one couldn’t help but enjoy them enjoying each other.  They were a herd. 

My daughter and family moved from Idaho to Montgomery when they heard of my ALS diagnosis.  They live 100 yards behind Dawn and me. My oldest son and family recently moved from Michigan. They live 30 yards behind me.  He thought this was a good time for law school and to be near us. My youngest son sacrificially changed his college choices to a local school so he could continue to live with us — 40 feet down the hall.  My herd has gathered. I have a surprisingly deep joy in the midst of this chaos — laughter, teasing, preparing meals, grandchildren climbing, exploring, eating, throwing food, screaming, giggling — all part of the herd. I feel like I have been handed a gift from God.  His kindness knows no bounds. My heart is a herd heart. Humans are herd creatures.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” We were created for fellowship. This should not surprise us; we were made in the image of the triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  There is fellowship and unity in the Godhead. Mysterious, yes, but present and beautiful. When we experience friendship or family love and unity, it is so good and blissful.  And, when relationships are broken and the family is fragmented, it is so bad and painful. We long for a healthy herd.

Lately, my family and I have been the focus of herd affection, yours.  The word suffocation comes to mind. I am very sensitive to that word because I am fighting to breathe everyday. Also, I know the word carries a negative image. But I am focusing on a positive, enjoyable use.  Picture laughing until you are out of breath, being tickled breathlessly, or the breathlessness of a groom when his radiant bride begins her journey down the aisle. The outpouring of love we have received is astonishing — letters, cards, texts, emails, visits, songs, food, money, hugs, tears, prayers — the herd is suffocating me and, yet, I have never felt more alive.  I feel like half of me is experiencing heaven . . . and heaven is very good.

Jesus said to the Church, His herd, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Do you hear the tender and eager invitation in Jesus’ tone?  It is for you and for me. Our first fellowship must be with Him; then our other fellowships are in order. The arms of our souls must first go up, and then they can go out. This is how God’s herd works. 

How are our relationships doing?  With God? With others? Home is best when there is peace, peace with God and peace with others. 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Being part of God’s herd is mankind’s intended home. There is peace in His house. Let’s go home.