I was talking to my mom in Florida the other day when she said, “What’s that noise I hear in the background?” I smiled and said, “Oh, that’s the grandson singing.” He loves to sing and, in fact, sings all the time.
I love to hear him sing. Sometimes, he will be singing to himself in the back of the car. Sometimes he sings while he plays.
Sometimes, the melodies are unrecognizable as he loves to make up songs. Other times, the songs are recognizable. They are tunes that he has picked up from one of the shows that he watches. Sometimes, we sing together and I make up songs that we sing.
Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Like most kids, I remember growing up listening to my mom listen to music. My mother loved to sing, and even plays a few instruments. I grew up loving music.
I remember when the Glen Campbell show used to come on. As a little kid, I would run to my room and grab my kid’s guitar and play along (whether it had strings, I don’t remember).
Eventually, I began to take piano lessons and enjoyed playing. I took lessons for a couple of years. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun. Along the way, I discovered that playing the piano wasn’t cool. I’m not sure which one of my friends informed me of that. But, I recognized the need to move on to a more suitable instrument.
As a teen, I think I initially wanted to play the drums. But my mom, extremely wise, knew this would probably not be the best choice for our family. Instead, we headed off to an old Sears store and I got an acoustic guitar. This was a monumental event.
I took guitar lessons and found that learning to play was much harder than I imagined it would be. I remember the initial pain of my fingers as I tried to push the strings down on the frets to play notes and chords. But, despite the pain and callouses, I was hooked. With a lot of time and practice, I was able to get the hang of it.
Playing guitar became a part of my DNA. I had a pretty good ear for music, a passion to play, and the discipline to practice. I would play for hours trying to figure out songs and making up my own. Doing my homework would have to take a back seat.
Several years later, I began to meet other musicians and bounced around in several bands. I met a great friend, David, who was extremely talented. I became the backup guitarist for his band. David could play anything from Van Halen to Bach. He was versatile and could read music and play by ear.
He helped me see the potential that I had and was extremely encouraging. He eventually went on to become extremely successful and was featured in several bands, eventually becoming a studio musician in Nashville. David and I played for several years until I decided that I wanted to be in the spotlight.
After high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I got into some trouble with the law and my mother was insistent that I do something with my life and suggested college. I enrolled in a local junior college and began to study music. After several semesters, I realized that college, at least at the time, was not for me. I was destined for greater things like becoming a rock star. I had the hair and the look. All I needed was the break.
At the age of 19, I got my big break. I found my purpose in life and became a Christian. I sang a new song (Ps 96:1). I continued to play in a band, but because of my faith in Christ, everything changed.
I’ll never forget that fateful band practice. My band was in the studio practicing for an upcoming show. As a rock band in the 80s, we played Boston, Rush, Van Halen, and even AC/DC. At that time, we were working on the AC/DC song, “Hell’s Bells” and Van Halen’s “Running with the Devil.” I had played these songs hundreds of times, but never thought about the songs before. They were just songs and I was going through the motions.
However, as I began to play and our lead singer began to sing, the words of the songs became extremely clear. They weren’t just songs. They were messages. Hell’s bells were no longer chiming for me. I was no longer running with the devil. Now that my life was in tune, these songs were in the wrong key. I knew that this was my last band practice. I didn’t look back.
I don’t know why I was surprised, but the Bible has a lot to say about music. For example, at creation, the angels sang (Job 38:7). If you are ever on Jeopardy and are asked, “who is the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe?” make sure to say Jubal—but make sure to say it in the form of a question (Gen 4:27).
The Bible also mentions stringed instruments, percussion, wind instruments, and more. In fact, a whole book in the Bible is filled with songs. It’s called, Psalms. Did you know that when God descended on Mount Sinai, there was a loud trumpet blast? (Ex. 19:19-20). Also, when Jesus comes again, there will also be a loud trumpet blast (1 Thes 4:16). I wonder if there’s a coincidence. Jesus Himself sang with his disciples (Matt 26:30). God Himself sings. The Bible says, “he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph 3:17).
As the years went on, I began to play in church and, for many years, played in a praise band. Having the opportunity to play was fun and the times of worship were meaningful. Playing in the praise band was also a challenge. There were times that I played for God. However, there were other times that I played for me. It was a delicate dance.
My sacrifice of praise was not intended to be for my personal enjoyment, but for God’s ultimate glory. There is a difference. At times, I had the wrong audience and needed to remember that my greatest joy is found in making sure God is in the spotlight, not me.
Initially, I really thought that God would use me in music ministry. Although, I did work in Christian radio for decades, and got paid to listen to music, it was all behind the scenes. I really thought I would play. Apparently, God, the Master Conductor had other plans for my life and He called me to preach.
The instrument has changed, yet, the song remains. I still love to play and sing. I sing to myself, sometimes singing out loud. I’ve even been known to sing when I preach. As the old gospel song goes, “there’s within my heart a melody.”
I think all of us were created to sing. God has given us a wonderful gift in the gift of music. We all have a song in our heart. But, like an old 45 rpm record, there’s a A side and a flip side (you might need to Google that). For the believer, it’s the song of the redeemed (Rev 14:3). It’s a song of hope, joy, peace, and fulfillment.
There’s no other song like it. The wonderful thing is, even if you can’t hear the tune right now, there’s plenty of room in the choir.
Dr. Wayne Geiger Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.
You’ve probably noticed that our culture is in the process of renaming things—or de-naming things. It’s a confusing, but concerted effort to erase and eliminate uncomfortable history. That’s, perhaps, an article for another day. But here’s something I can get on board with.
I would like to suggest that we change the name “Grain Valley” to “Train Alley.” I’m a newcomer and only moved here in 2015. Since arriving, I have not seen any grain. Come to think of it, visiting Monkey Mountain, I saw neither monkey or mountain.
However, what I have seen and heard—is the train. In our divided country, we have been united by memes of Bernie Sanders. In Grain Valley we have been united by the train.
Think about it. We argue about roundabouts, masks, political ideology, and people who cut in the drive thru at McDonalds. These are all sources of contention. But, we all hate to get stopped by the train and all love to talk about it!
On Wednesday, January 27 of this year, we were holding our weekly kid’s program at the church. At check out time, several kids had not been picked up. There was some concern until we found out—the train was blocking the road—again!
I’ve always heard it’s hard to stop a train, but apparently not so much in Train Alley. We’re kind of used to it. Not so much fun when you’re just making a Sonic run or have to pick up the kids, but, it does bring us together if only for a moment. And, it is a source of entertainment.
Seeking the latest fodder, I hurried to social media to the Residents of Grain Valley Facebook page. Melissa, an unfortunate newcomer to town, perhaps out looking for grain wrote, “Okay, I’m fairly new here... why the heck does the train always park itself in the middle of GV?”
Thankfully, many residents, concerned about her plight, offered their assistance. At last check, about ninety-one comments. Some of the comments were extremely witty. Some were informational. Some offered sympathy. Some welcomed Melissa to town. Most complained about the train. For a brief moment, we forgot about our differences and, our lives intersected—albeit at a railroad crossing.
My first memory of a railroad was at my grandmother’s house in Hialeah, Florida. My family tried to visit weekly. When I got bored wandering the backyard and throwing mangos at lizards, I wandered off to the train tracks. I was fascinated by their construction and wondered where the trains came from and where they went to. It was fun to think about.
In 1990, my wife and I moved to New Orleans into a one-bedroom apartment at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Several years later, we decided to buy a trailer in the trailer park on seminary property. Like the Jefferson’s, we were “movin’ on up” and thought we reached the big time. The only drawback, other than living in a metal box in Louisiana’s sweltering heat, was the fact that we lived right next to the train tracks. A small price to pay for luxury.
It was apparent when the train came through. The foundations upon which our metal box rested shook violently, sometimes causing pictures to fall off the wall. Over time, we removed anything breakable, and kind of got used to the train. When friends would visit, and the train would come rumbling through, rattling our world, they would say, “Oh my goodness, doesn’t that train bother you?” Our response was usually, “What train?”
There were really only two times the train bothered us. First, when the train came around a bend and the light faced directly toward our bedroom window. Thankfully, the aluminum foil we put on the windows put an end to that. The second issue was that the train would often stop on the track and just sit.
After some time, it would start again. The roaring locomotive leading the pack chugged on its way, but the cars in tow hadn’t figured it out yet. However, when they were arrested to attention and commanded to move, there was a huge “clang” that sounded like Thor wielding a sledgehammer and striking a large anvil with incredible force right outside our bedroom window.
The aluminum foil didn’t help with that problem. It was enough to make us shoot straight up in bed in the middle of the night. Over time, however, the frequent sound of the train brought a strange comfort and tranquility. It just made me feel like, “all was right in the world.” Trains can do that.
The First Transcontinental Railroad was constructed between 1863 and 1869. It connected the existing eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa with the Pacific coast at the Oakland Long Wharf on San Francisco Bay. The railroad officially opened for travel between Sacramento and Omaha on May 10, 1869. That’s when the golden “last spike” was driven in by a silver hammer in Promontory Summit.
According to, “A History of Grain Valley,” by Michael Gillespie, the Kansas City, St. Louis, and Chicago Railroad obtained a state charter to build a line from Mexico, Missouri, to Kansas City. By August of 1878, railroad work was in high gear as more than one-thousand laborers prepared the area for track gangs who laid an average of 1-1/4 miles of rail per day.
The tracks reached our area in January of 1879. In fact, Grain Valley, like neighboring towns, received its name from the C&A who had a say in naming the city. We didn’t name the train. The train named us.
The first passenger trains roared through our city in May of 1879 and, according to Gillespie, after one year of operation, Grain Valley generated over 260 carloads of outbound freight per year — mostly grain and livestock.
Even though we have other forms of mass transit, the trains are still used today. In fact, freight trains are cheaper, more economical, and better for the environment.
The majority of trains in the U.S. are diesel-electric, which means, a diesel engine runs a generator that supplies electric traction motors that turn the wheels. They can also move more cargo more efficiently. On average, freight trains are about 11 times more energy-efficient than trucks.
“Well, maybe so,” you might argue, “but why don’t we just force the trains to stop blocking the intersection? It’s complicated. By law, all passenger and freight rail travel in the U.S. is subject to regulation by the Federal Railroad Administration. Rail travel has been under federal law since 1887.
According to MODOT, it’s “unlawful for a train to prevent the use of any street for purposes of travel for a period of time longer than five minutes. This does not apply to a moving train or to one stopped because of an emergency or for repairs necessary before it can proceed safely.” I’m no legal expert, but there are enough holes in this statement to call it swiss cheese.
So, when all is said and done, the train is good news/bad news. The bad news is, since the train was here before we even existed and is subject to federal legislation that is somewhat nebulous, crossing the track means that we will likely one day get caught by the train. Sorry, Melissa.
As I write this final line, the train whistle is blowing in the background. I can’t help but smile at the impeccable timing. I also have a strange sense of history and nostalgia. I also wonder if the train is just passing through or if he plans to stop and run down to Sonic.
Either way, the passing train passes the time. Its constant rumbling, horn-tootin’, and intermittent stopping on the tracks bring us together—if only for forty minutes.
So, rather than fight the impossible, let’s embrace the inevitable and see the opportunity before us!
To naysayers, it’s 2021. The grain is gone. The train is here to stay and sometimes to stop. Here’s my passionate plug to rename Grain Valley to Train Alley. I would also like to suggest a tagline: “Train Alley: the town where if you’re just passing through, you’re probably on the wrong track.”
Dr. Wayne Geiger Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.
My first memory of Santa is having to wait in line to see the big guy at a makeshift workshop in my neighborhood in Miami, Florida. I don’t remember if I was frightened, but I do remember having to wait in line for what seemed like an eternity.
I also remember a certain apprehension of being on the naughty list. I never knew what to ask for, but somehow, he always seemed to know.
On Christmas Eve, my parents, attempting to get me and my sister to go to bed, would say that they could hear the rumblings of Santa’s sleigh several blocks over.
So, with a sense of excitement and an element of fear, we would rush off to bed listening ever so closely for Santa’s arrival on our rooftop, before helplessly drifting off to sleep. The fact that we did not have a chimney was irrelevant. I was told that, somehow, he was always able to get in. The statement made me curious and left me a little unsettled.
I was never able to catch Santa in the act. But, on Christmas morn, I did see evidence of his handiwork. He always sampled my mother’s cookies and drank some of the milk. Why he just sampled several cookies and never ate the whole thing was puzzling. Did he not know there were starving people in China?
No matter, Santa left glistening presents under the tree and I had a fear that questioning Santa’s ethics would have repercussions that would perpetually place me on the naughty list.
I fully understood the naughty and nice list and, every mid-December, I did my best to rectify my fearful dilemma. To me, it appeared that the list was not binary, but more of a spectrum. Santa had favorites. One Christmas morn, I looked outside at the neighbors’ house and saw the family across the street playing with their new toys.
As a creature of social comparison, I investigated further only to find that Santa had brought one of them a Power Wheel’s car. They were on the nice list—or maybe the “nicer” list. I thought about the inequity and wondered why I did not get one. Perhaps, Santa’s list had been compromised, there was a mix-up in delivery, or maybe I had been exceptionally naughty that year (the latter would be closer to the truth).
I’ll never forget the Christmas season when my sister and I were jumping on our parent’s bed and I rolled off. I was not hurt but was now at eye level to look under the bed. I noticed boxes of toys tucked away. One of them was a really cool jet that I really wanted to play with. I knew that I had found gold, but I was on someone else’s land so had to simply cover it back up and let it play out.
My sister and I were hush hush and went about our daily lives until Christmas morning when, to my joy, I got the jet! Interestingly, it did not come from my parents. It came from a higher authority. It was my passageway into adulthood. From that point on, Christmas lost some of its sparkle. Santa got run over by a Power Wheel’s car. The mystery and magic faded into materialism and empiricism.
I did not really understand the power of Christmas until I was 19. That was the age that I became a Christian. That first Christmas was nothing short of spectacular. It was the first time I truly understood what Christmas was all about. A lightbulb went on and the sparkle returned.
After getting married, and having children, my wife and I struggled with the whole present thing. Like every family, it was a personal decision we had to make. But, for us, it didn’t feel right to promote the north pole and the manger in the same breath—only to have them discover later that we had told them a partial truth.
In addition, we wanted them to know that dad and mom worked really hard to try to provide something special for them at Christmas. We knew that one day they would realize that, in life, sometimes the neighbors get a Power Wheels car and you get a skateboard.
In our family, we always wanted all the attention of Christmas to be upon Christ. We reached a workable compromise by focusing on Christ, being honest with our kids, and also creating an element of mystery and fun. The kids got presents from dad and mom, residents of the north pole, the dog, cat, and the parakeet. It was always fun and electric. The presents were always put out Christmas Eve and were not hidden under the bed. Been there.
We warned our kids not to “spoil” the fun for any of their friends or classmates whose family chose to celebrate differently. I’ll never forget one of the kids coming home from school and saying defiantly, “My teacher says that Santa is real and he brings the presents.” This child’s face was serious and their hands were firmly on their hips demanding a response. I think I commented back by saying, “We love you and want to be honest with you. Dad and mom make Christmas a special time by getting the presents.”
Our little one was not convinced. They folded their arms and blurted back, “Well, my teacher says he’s real.” I concluded by offering to do an experiment. I said, “Okay, let’s do this. Dad and mom will buy all the other kids presents except for you and we’ll see if Santa brings you anything.” After a few thoughtful moments, she changed her tune.
As a pastor, I’ve done a great deal of research on the history of Christmas and could write extensively. In short, no one knows the exact day of Christ’s birth. We do know that in the fourth century AD, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth should be celebrated on December 25. The date merged Christmas with the pagan celebration of Saturnalia. It was an unholy compromise that began a slippery slope that led to Frosty the Snowman.
If you look around at most Christmas celebrations nowadays, Christ is reduced to a small figure in a nativity set under the tree, hidden by the wise men, shepherds, and the little drummer boy, while Santa, reindeer, elves, snowmen, elf on a shelf, and a host of other holiday fixtures take prominence in the front yard and in the home. The true, historical celebration of the Messiah’s birth is easily lost, or worse veiled, through an endless array of holiday décor.
But we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s possible to have a Christ-centered, fun celebration. My wife and I love the lights, colors, and the celebration of Christmas, but we also try to keep Christ as the central focus of our celebration.
We also like to make it fun. All of our four children are grown now and each of them say that they appreciated our honesty and plan on taking the same approach with their own families. None of them have needed counseling.
So, here I am, on the ladder, attaching Christmas lights to the gutter of the house. My wife is inside trying to figure out where to put our six trees and the Christmas village. It’s best for me to stay out of the way. In the end, although under protest, my outdoor mission will be to try to rival the illumination of the Griswolds.
I love Christmastime. If, for only a brief season, the world pauses to consider the whisper of the birth of Christ, I’m all for it. For me personally, Christmas is another day to celebrate what I know to be true all year long. Christ came into the world to seek and save the lost. Christmas is more than just a day or an event.
The problem with viewing Christmas as an “event” is that in early January, the lights, tree, and Christmas village will all be put back in the garage on the shelf. The unfortunate thing is many people lose the Christmas joy because happiness that is found in a box is only temporary.
The beautiful thing about seeing Christmas as a “season” which last all year is that even after the bling comes down, the joy remains.
The difference is keeping Christ central—all year. Because of Christmas, I have no fear of being on the naughty list. That was settled at the cross. I have no fear of losing Christmas joy. I know that my Redeemer lives and that He is alive in me. Jesus is the best present ever and the gift that keeps on giving.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Church Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.
I’ve never been a fan of driving in winter weather. But, I’m not “the guy” that drives 25 mph in the center lane. I’m also not the “other guy” that thinks he is somehow immune to the dangers of winter weather, weaving in and out of traffic at a rapid rate of speed. I’m somewhere in between.
Early one snowy morning, I was headed west on I-435. The rain had changed to snow with dropping temperatures. As I approached one of the bridges, I was shocked to see vehicles scattered all over the road.
Some had bumped into one another, some slid into the guardrail, and some were facing in the wrong direction! I immediately became guy number 1 and slowed to 25 lest, I too, became a causality of the ice. From what I could tell, everyone was okay, and it would not be safe, or even possible, for me to even stop.
Thankfully, I made it through the carnage and breathed a sigh of relief. Moments later, my vehicle began to slide counterclockwise. In a slow motion, dreamlike state, I watched my life flash before my eyes. My simple prayer was, “Lord, don’t let me go over the embankment.” I was out of control.
My vehicle did a complete 360 and came to rest just inches away from the guardrail--facing in the right direction! I said a prayer of thanks, regained my composure, and headed back on my journey—somewhere between guy number 1 and 2.
I’m guessing that Mary and Joseph felt out of control, too. The images displayed on Christmas cards make the nativity scene seem so peaceful and romantic. I don’t believe that’s the way it was for Mary and Joseph. More than likely, they were tired, confused, scared, and frustrated.
There’s a good chance that they had been publicly ridiculed and ostracized by the people who lived in their small village. After all, Mary, a young, teenage girl of about fourteen or so, was “great” with child. Who would believe that this “Child” was a product of God and that Mary was a virgin?
The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 90 miles. Uber was not a thing. Mary, in her third trimester, probably would have preferred to be home resting. But, because of a decree by Caesar Augustus, the journey had to be made.
Traditional images show Mary riding on a donkey. The Bible is silent on her mode of transportation. We do know that the terrain was treacherous. It was rocky and hilly with steep and rapid inclines and declines, filled with beasts and bandits.
Once safely in Bethlehem, they must have been frustrated when they learned there was no room at the inn. They settled for what they could get--a stable or possibly a cave. Then came that moment when Mary said, “Joseph, it’s time!”
The couple would have preferred that the baby be born in a more sanitary environment, surrounded by family. But the stable would have to do. There was also “no crib for a bed.” Jesus, God incarnate, was placed in a feeding trough. To Mary and Joseph, life seemed out of control and may have asked, “Where is God in all of this?”
Not only was God “in” this, but God preordained these events down to the smallest detail. Hundreds of years before, through the prophet Micah, God promised that His Son would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
The trip to Bethlehem was not an accident. The Divine Maestro, God Himself, orchestrated the melody and ensured that every note was in tune and in perfect time. As frustrating as the journey must have been, the census was not an accident or an inconvenience. It was divine providence.
During difficult times, when the winds of change blow us in every direction, we too ask, “Where is God?” as we grip the steering wheel for dear life. During these dark times, God may be silent, but He is not absent. He is working.
The fact that it is early December boggles my mind. For me, it seems that time has slowed down and sped up all at the same time. 2020 has been the longest, strangest, and scariest year for many of us. The worst part is, we don’t know when it’s going to end. It may be the year, like the Energizer Bunny, that just keeps going and going.
I have talked to many people who ask, “What will happen to our economy?”, “How will Christmas be for the little ones?” and “How will this pandemic affect our normal routine this Christmastime?”
I can’t answer any of these questions. And yet, in all of these questions, my response needs to be faith. I know that God is there, that He is love, and that He has not left or abandoned me. I just need to trust. You need to trust.
Two thousand years ago, a couple, headed toward Bethlehem felt out of control. It wasn’t the way they had planned it. It wasn’t what they chose. And yet, the virgin Mary was the vehicle that God chose to escort into the world the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
God could have chosen to bring Jesus into the world any way that He wanted. He chose a difficult path for the couple and offered them no explanation. They trusted God and took Him at His Word. And from the ashes of pain and soil of despair, hope emerged. A light in the darkness.
God has a way of bringing beauty and harmony out of confusion and chaos while creating something magnificent, melodic, and fragrant. Our part in the story is to ride the wave and trust Him during the process.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Church Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and a freelance writer.
As I write this line, I have no idea who won the presidential election. But I vividly remember what a friend of mine wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday morning. “I estimate that in about a day or so, half of the country will be mad.” I chuckled when I read that and then I grew sad. His words were true, and they stung. We have become such a polarized society. Like Ozzy Osborne sang, “We’re going off the rails on the crazy train.” The question is, “Where are we going?” Naturally, that all depends on who’s driving.
It’s no secret. Our country is facing some very serious, polarizing issues and we are certainly are not a united nation. At the same time, I believe that, as common Americans, most of us want the best for us and our family. I really believe that. I don’t think that anybody literally wants to destroy this country. We all have a dream for a better tomorrow and long for a world of happiness, peace, equity, and opportunity. We just all envision a different path to get there.
The big problem is our worldview or the way we see things. We all view the world through a different lens. There are many reasons for this. Here’s two: First, sometimes, we actually see different things. For example, on our social media feeds, most of us attract people that are like us (that’s why we like them as they validate us). So, if most of your friends have a similar political view to yours, that particular view is mostly what you will see, and you may falsely believe that most of the country is like that.
Second, sometimes, we actually see the same world, but interpret it differently. Let me offer a simple illustration. Take music, for example. We all have our favorite genre of music. Conversely, we also have some types of music that we loathe. A younger generation, when forced to listen to an older generation’s music, will often complain about how “out of touch” and “boring” the music is. They laugh at the simple melody and poor quality. “It’s old fashioned and outdated” they bemoan. In the eyes of this younger generation, old music is not as good as new music. As a society, they believe, we are now living in the pinnacle of music utopia.
Their parents, or grandparents, however, have a different view. The music this generation enjoys belongs to a day and time long gone. Their favorite tunes were on CDs, albums, or worse, 8-track. This generation complains, “You don’t have to have talent nowadays, all you need to do is be good looking, dress scantily, have a few dance moves.” Who’s right? It’s all about perspective. Like beauty, “good” music is in the eye of the beholder. Both generations are products of their environment and shaped by that environment. There is no changing their mind.
As a nation, our society has changed dramatically, and that change has changed people dramatically. Just think about what we’re experienced just this year! I really feel sorry for younger people. We now live in a time of fear, frustration, and uncertainty. We live in a time of distrust. We live in a time of anger and violence. Thankfully, we’ve stocked up on toilet paper.
My grandson is six. He has grown up surrounded with media. He has a computer issued by his school. He also has one of our old iPhones that he plays learning games on or watches Bluey. He has a portable gaming system. He lives in a world of convenience and technology. Like most kids, the last part of his school last year was virtual. His memories of going to school have mostly involved wearing a mask.
“Who is your best friend in school?” I asked. “I don’t have any friends in school” he answers. Seeing the shocked look on my face, my wife chimes in, “They have to wear masks all day and they sit six feet apart with little to no social interaction.” My heart breaks for him as I remember a simpler time of playing outside and having to come in when the streetlights came on. We knew our neighbors and people looked after one another.
Not so anymore. My grandson is growing up in a world where you shop online, don’t know your neighbors, rarely play outside, and where they have more friends in a virtual world that in the neighborhood. An experience like those will affect your world view and your interactions.
But deep inside, we are all the same. We love our families. We want the best for them. We also want to live in a world of peace and opportunity. We just can’t seem to see eye to eye on some things. The big problem is worldview. There is a simple solution. The solution is not allowing your worldview to be affected by culture, but to be driven by something much deeper and more solid.
A friend of mine is a police officer in another state. He told me recently that, during a difficult time in his city, he was working at a local event where a church was meeting the needs of the community and was going to have a Christian worship service outdoors. My friend was there, in uniform, to help make sure everyone had a good time.
Relating the story, he said, “Most people were friendly and really did appreciate the police, but one man just didn’t want me there. It was pretty clear as he voiced loud statements and made hand gestures to let me know he didn’t want me around.”
My friend decided to go over and talk to the man. “I went over, introduced myself, and just said hi telling him that I was glad that he was there and hoped he had a good time.” The man grumbled something about not wanting the police around and walked off.
During the service, one of the ministers shared the story of Jesus. He told the crowd about the love, mercy, and grace of the Lord. He talked about the destructive nature of hate and the power of forgiveness and asked if anyone in the crowd wanted to follow Jesus.
When the service was over, the same man approached my friend. Actually, he was not the same man. His demeaner and attitude were totally changed, and he had tears in his eyes. He had been deeply touched by the words from the minister and he decided to release the bottled up anger and bitterness he had been clinging to for years.
That night, his chains fell off and he found true freedom, forgiveness, and peace. He put out his hand, introduced himself to my friend, and said, “thank you for being here, sir.” My friend smiled, took his hand in his, and said, “It’s my pleasure. Thank you, sir.”
That’s the power of restoration. Harmony is not found in a philosophy or ideology, but in a person—the person of Jesus Christ. As a society, people will be affected by an ever-changing culture which will affect their worldview. So, God’s answer is to take our eyes off the ever-changing culture and put our faith in an unchanging God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Only the power of the cross can break down barriers of hatred and pain. Only the power of the blood of Jesus can turn enemies into friends. No matter who sits in the White House, God sits on the throne.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.
Before deciding what to wear, I checked my weather app. The high was a beautiful 72 degrees! It would just take a little while to get there. At the moment, it was in the mid 40s. Welcome to Missouri. I looked through my closet and decided that a short sleeve shirt would be the clothing of choice.
Although I’m pretty cold natured, I would just suck it up for a few hours.
Leaving the house, I was slapped in the face by a brutal, cold wind. I began to regret my decision to wear the short sleeve, but there was no going back now. With a “brrr” I was reminded how much I disliked the wind and the cold.
I was also dreading the inevitable: the impending winter. Thankfully, according to my trusty weather app, it looked like it was going to be pretty comfortable for the next week.
According to the National Weather Service, an interest in calculating the weather can be traced back to our early history. The weather was also important to some of our Founding Fathers. While he was in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson purchased a thermometer from a local merchant.
In his journal, he noted that on July 4, 1776, it was 76 degrees. I’m guessing he wore a short sleeve shirt. The desire and accuracy of forecasting the weather began to grow with the invention of the telegraph. At this point, you could communicate the weather “on line” (pun intended).
Knowing what is happening with the weather is essential. It is for our convenience and our safety. How wonderful it is to be alerted of approaching storms, high winds, or artic air. Meteorology is a science, but one that contains many variables. We’ve all joked about wanting the job of a meteorologist. All you need to do is remember not to wear green and to be right about the forecast about 40% of the time. That’s about a coin toss.
From what I’ve heard, you also have to be somewhat attractive. When I worked in radio years ago, I had a friend who told me that one of his professors in college encouraged him to go into a career in radio rather than TV meteorology because he didn’t have “the looks for the job.” He turned out to be very successful in radio, but was still fascinated by the study of weather and wondered along the way if he had “missed his calling.”
Mankind has not always viewed weather as a science. Some of the ancients turned to mythology to help explain the mysterious. They invented terms like “Mother Nature” and “Old Man Winter.” The history of the term, Mother Nature, is somewhat confusing, but most believe it can be traced back to the Greeks.
The Greek Goddess, Demeter, was over the harvest. She had a daughter named, Persephone. Because of Persephone’s great beauty, she caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld. He was no gentleman and abducted her, taking her to the underworld to be his queen. She was less than thrilled.
Her mother, Demeter was so distraught that she refused to allow any crops to grow upon the earth. The dire situation fell upon the ears of Zeus, ruler on Mount Olympus, and he interceded, forcing Hades to return Persephone to her anxious mother.
All did not end well, though. Unfortunately, while in Hades, Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds (the supposed food of the dead). Because of her actions, she was condemned to spend a part of each year with Hades in the underworld. Demeter gave us winter.
The harsh and barren winter months are a reflection of a mother’s broken heart. The beautiful summer reflects the season when Persephone is able to return to her mother. Thus, the phrase, Mother Nature was born.
Most people recognize, if not use, the term, Mother Nature. In fact, in the 1970s, there was a popular and humorous commercial on TV to promote Chiffon Margarine. In the commercial, Mother Nature appears and samples what she believes is real butter. Turns out, it’s not butter, but a synthetic substance known as margarine. She has been deceived and is not happy about it responding by saying, “it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”
The history of the term, “Old Man Winter” has been around for a while too. Unfortunately, the origin of the phrase is even harder to uncover. The term is a personification of winter. It is believed that the term Old Man Winter also derived from Greek Mythology, although the history is not as clear.
It seems that various cultures all had different names for the god of winter and eventually the specific names were dropped for the generic, Old Man Winter. His darker side is also known as Jack Frost.
In an article for the Chicago Tribune, meteorologist Tom Skilling lists about a dozen Greco-Roman gods and demigods who have been fighting over the weather for quite some time. Can’t we just all get along?
From my perspective, I avoid Mother Nature and Old Man Winter. It’s not personal, but theological. From a biblical view, I believe that these terms stealthily undermine and confuse the obvious. God is the maker and sustainer of the universe. Any attempt to assign the weather to anyone or anything else undermines his sovereign authority. God refers to this action is idolatry.
As humans, we’re always trying to assign the unknown to the mysterious or attempting to measure and control through the avenue of science. But in the end, that job belongs to God alone.
To his first century audience, Jesus said, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matt 16:2-3). Basically, Jesus is saying, “from time to time, you can discern the weather forecast, but you miss the really important stuff.”
God alone is the author of creation and has authority over His created order. This was the message that Jesus was sending when He walked upon the water and then caused the wind to cease and the Sea of Galilee to be still. God can calm the storms of the sea and the storms of life.
I respect the work of meteorologists and use my weather app frequently. But, I also recognize that, as humans, we only have so much control. God continually reminds me of that. Not too long ago, after checking the weather app, I headed to the office with the promise of clear skies.
However, a rainstorm appeared, unannounced, and I without my umbrella. I smiled and acknowledged God’s sovereign rule over the universe. So, although it might not be nice to fool Mother Nature, it’s best to restrict her to mythology, abandon the term, and acknowledge Father God. It’s also a good idea to keep an umbrella handy just in case.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.
“I’m not really sure if I’m having contractions,” my wife said, “Aren’t they supposed to hurt a little more?” My wife, close to her delivery date, was laying on a bed in an examination room of the hospital. She had been experiencing birth pangs for a little while and we decided to come in. This was our first baby and although we had attended the mandatory classes, it was all new to us.
“Sweetie, you’re not going to have this baby tonight,” the nurse said gently after examining her, “You’re only at about two centimeters. You’ve got about fourteen hours left.” However, they decided to monitor her and got her hooked up to all the equipment. We got comfortable and waited.
Not soon after, for some reason, the baby’s heartbeat dropped. A little concerned, they decided to hook her up to an internal monitor. To do so, they broke her water. A couple minutes later, my wife felt that first wave of “real” pain and grabbed me by the shirt collar and pulled me close to her. With fire in her eyes, and the voice of a drill sergeant, she said, “Get me the epidermal, now!” I stared at her in disbelief and horror, but I was not going to argue. The nurse came in to check on things and told my wife that they would call for the anesthesiologist when she was at about four centimeters. It was going to be a long night.
It just so happened that our doctor was at a seminar at the hospital that night. “I thought I would stop by and say hello,” he said with a smile. “I’ll see how you’re doing, head home and get some sleep, and come back.” He checked on my wife, sat down near us, and watched a portion of the old show, “Moonlighting” with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. “I love this show,” he said. “Are we paying for this?” I wondered. By now, about 9:15; she was at four centimeters.
At 9:38, my wife frantically tried to get off the bed saying, “I need to use the restroom.” The nurse interceded and said, “That’s a premature urge to push, but I’ll check you.” Upon inspection, there was a look of shock on the nurse’s face. My wife was now at ten centimeters.
The doctor and I quickly exited to wash our hands while medical professionals quickly rolled my wife into the delivery room. As we scrubbed up, I heard a sound of panic from the delivery room, “Doctor, your hands are clean enough! Get in here!”
We both ran into the delivery room. Nurses were attending my wife and the doctor just barely made it to the foot of the bed to deliver our baby into this world. My wife had gone from four to ten centimeters in twenty-three minutes and our daughter was born eight minutes later.
The doctor handed me a pair of scissors allowed me to cut the umbilical cord. I wondered if he was going to give me a discount for only delivering half a baby and then having me saw through this rubbery, hose-like tube.
When I was done, he then handed me this fragile, whimpering, slimy…thing! It was the grossest and most beautiful thing I had ever witnessed. Tears welled up in my eyes. This was nothing short of a miracle.
My wife and I have four children. We call them all, “our children.” To our delight, and sometimes, dismay, they have our DNA, our personality, and our mannerisms. As they say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
As humans, we mistakenly think that because we are the vehicle that brings children into this world, we are also the agent and, thus, have control over the process of life. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The concept of life is not just biological. That’s the byproduct. Life is primarily theological. From a theological perspective, the question to “how” we were created is actually pretty simple. God created life. In the very beginning, “God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:26-27). As the Psalmist acknowledged, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb” (Psalm 139:13). Creation: it’s a God thing.
Mankind was created in the image of God, to rule over, and take care of the environment. Mankind is superior to all the created order and has more value than all the other creatures. It may be true that you care for your dog more than some people you know, but any human life, even people you don’t care for, have more value in God’s eyes than any other creature. Only humans were created in the image of God.
The scientific community has a lot to offer us. But when it comes to our existence, the humanistic/ontological and biblical/theological views of our existence are “kissin’ cousins.” They both begin with a leap of faith. You either believe in a Big Bang or a Big God. Either nothing created something or Someone created everything. Both are leaps of faith. Only one of those views comes with an instruction manual.
An old story is told about a group of scientists who decided to take God on in a creating contest. God went first and reached down into the dust of the earth, formed man in His hands, and breathed into him the breath of life.
The scientists were impressed, but confident. They got out their instruments and meters and said to God, “watch this.” They too reached down into the dirt… but God stopped them and said, “wait a second. I created that dirt. Go make your own dirt.”
Humans can only take raw materials that God has created to manipulate and form them into other shapes—much like a carpenter who takes a tree and makes it into a chair. He made the chair but did not grow the tree.
The question is generally asked, “when does life begin?” Thanks to science and the study of fetal development, at twenty days, the baby’s heart is in the advanced stages of formation. The eyes begin to form. The brain, spinal column, and nervous system are virtually complete. At twenty-four days, the baby’s heart begins to beat.
The answer to the question, “When does life began,” is simple. It is not a scientific question. It is a theological question. God says very simply, life begins at conception. As God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5). From the womb to the tomb, life is sacred and should be protected.
Human life has value, meaning, purpose, and accountability. God said, “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Gen 9:6).
Mankind cannot create life, nor should he take life—except in accordance with the will of God. God allows life to be taken in a judicial sense. This is the “eye for an eye” principle. This is not to be done in vengeance, but this necessity (really obligation) is given to governmental entities (Rom 13). Similarly, governments, in order to protect their citizens, may find it necessary to engage in warfare against hostile enemies. In short, life is a gift and a trust. The Author of life is God Himself.
At the birth of our first child, we were convinced that we were having a boy. Back in the day, before advanced technology, everybody said it would be a boy. We were so convinced that we had a boy’s name picked out and some ideas of what a girl’s name might be.
In that birthing room, when the doctor said, “You have a beautiful baby girl” I said, “Yea, everybody told us it was going to be…” I was speechless. We were shocked and surprised and a little overwhelmed at the time.
However, God, the Author of life, was not shocked. From heaven, I believe God smiled and said, “Surprise!” God preordained this moment from the foundation of the world. He may also have said, “Here’s a beautiful gift Wayne. Take good care of her and make sure you tell her who gave her life—both in this world and in the next.”
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.
Our front porch is decorated with mums, pumpkins, corn stalks, vines, and other junk. My wife, the highly creative one, loves to decorate. I’ve never had an eye for the aesthetically pleasing, although I do admire the colors in a well-dressed turkey club sandwich.
Like his Maw-Maw, my grandson also has “the eye.” He loves to decorate and knows how to make things look nice. It’s a passion of his and he loves to decorate. When I think about decorations, I think about work.
For weeks, the grandson has been talking about putting up “fall stuff.” That’s his vernacular for fall decorations. A couple of weeks ago, when it was 90 degrees, he was wanting to put up fall stuff and my wife had to redirect his attention and energy.
It just wasn’t time for fall stuff. Honestly, I wasn’t ready either. I love summer and try to hang onto it as long as I can. I wasn’t ready for fall stuff.
There is much about fall that I love. For example, I love the “cooler” temps and the beginning of football season. It’s also a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy a walk. Although I despise pumpkin spice anything, I do enjoy some of the fall foods and the beginning of baking season.
There are also things about fall that I’m not fond of. Like an hourglass running out of sand, the brisk breezes of October will give way to the bone-chilling temperatures of December. It also reminds me of the approaching holidays and the focus on commercialism not to mention that I’ll have to hang the Christmas lights.
As I watch from my comfortable spot on the couch, my grandson, aided by his Maw-Maw, is putting little plastic pumpkins into a glass container that will be placed upon a shelf. He puts them in methodically and creatively. They have already weaved the vines with orange leaves (my wife uses the fancy name garlands) throughout the staircase banister.
After putting in the last pumpkin, he smiles proudly and examines his creation. “Do you like fall stuff, Papa?” he asks.
“I love your fall decorations. You make it look very pretty!” I reply heartily, strategically avoiding the pointed question, but still attempting to boost his self-esteem.
The mention of fall stuff stimulates an area in my brain that secretes some type of substance into my brain resulting in massive amounts of pain and unvoluntary physical reactions, like comments that protrude from my mouth such as, “Really, why do we need to put up all that stuff?” My wife gives me “the look,” but graciously allows me about three to five days to wallow in my misery before I face the inevitable trip to the attic.
My wife, the decorator, has filled our attic with plastic tubs marked “fall” and “Christmas decorations.” It’s been a long time since I’ve been up there. The attic is a scary place.
By design, I am a strategist and planner. My hope is that the fall stuff is in front of the Christmas stuff. Once in the attic, I look around at all the plastic bins. The memory of the pain from putting them away last year begins to reemerge. The stuff looks painfully familiar.
As I peruse our tubs, we have gray, the most-popular, black, orange, and red. Unfortunately, the colors do not represent an organizational structure, but probably what happened to be on sale at the time.
I am not happy that all of the labels are not facing out. As I think back to last seasons I had some help putting stuff away last year.
After moving back and forth through the plastic bins, stacked four or five bins high, I flip bins around to ensure that all of the labels are facing out. “What will the labels say?” I shout from the attic.
“They will say fall decorations,” my wife replies, “There are five or six bins.” I’m amazed that she remembers the number and don’t doubt her memory. I’ve learned to trust her on decorating stuff. I just keep looking.
Like an archeologist on an expedition in the sweltering heat of the desert, I begin to sweat profusely and am getting steamed in the process. After twenty minutes of looking I have reached the end of the line. “I can’t find anything that says fall decorations,” I complain, “everything says Christmas.”
The fact that everything says Christmas frightens me because I know in several months, these will need to come down too. “They’re up there somewhere,” she says, “you put them away.”
Leaving no stone unturned, I begin the process again and find the missing bins.
Fall stuff is seasonal. I guess that’s a good thing.
God created the seasons for a reason. In Genesis it says, “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (Gen 1:14). Seasons were created by God and are a gift from God. They break up the monotony of life and serve as signposts.
The four seasons give us four changes. We have changes in the weather, changes in our wardrobes, changes in our food choices, and changes in our decorating. It also gives us some different things to complain about. It’s too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet.
Life also comes in seasons and that’s a good thing. For most of us, this has been a tough season. Between the pandemic, the strife, the politics, and all the personal stuff we always have to deal with, we’ve all experienced a rough season. But, be encouraged. It’s just a season. It will change.
Just this morning, my grandson exclaimed “Hey, Maw-Maw, we haven’t finished our fall stuff.” So true. Fall stuff is never finished, but it’s not about the product, but the process.
Last year, the grandson was a mere observer in the placement of fall stuff. This year, he is a part of the planning team. A year of seasons made the difference.
There is so much in each season to take advantage of. We can, and must, celebrate the good and deal with the difficult in every season. Through every season, God is faithful. Soon, fall stuff will give way to winter stuff and the cycle continues.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.
That was kind of fun! I was surprised. I had just finished an exercise in a required course in college. Our professor instructed us to do some creative writing in class. Although I’ve always struggled with grammar, the process of clustering, and then writing a short story was entertaining, energetic, and kind of fun. The exercise brought out something in me I didn’t know was in me. I liked to use words.
Sometime later (this was in the day of the newspaper), a friend of mine said that he had written an editorial for the local paper and they had printed it. I was excited for him and also intrigued. “How did you go about doing that?” I asked. “I just wrote a letter to the editor,” he said.
I took that as a personal challenge and decided to try to get something printed, too! I laugh now, but rather than trying to communicate an important idea, my only motivation for writing was to try to get something printed in the paper.
I emailed several papers and shared a few stories. I was shocked that they printed them! I realized that I enjoyed communicating ideas through the written word. That led me to becoming a writer for our local newspaper and doing a few articles in magazines. And here I am, this many years later, continuing to write and share ideas.
Historians note that in the middle ages (5th to the 15th century), most people could not read or write. The only communication was oral communication. The spoken word. Spoken words are great, but they need an immediate audience. It’s one person communicating ideas in earshot—or close proximity. Communication was also limited by the memory of the hearer. All of that changed in the middle of the 15th century. Words would take on new life.
Although writing was nothing new, it was Johannes Gutenberg who is credited with the invention of the printing press around 1440. Mass communication began. We may scoff at the idea of mass communication being tied to such an ancient device, but before this time, mass communication was limited to someone speaking to a large group. Written documents were somewhat scarce and copied by hand, and even then, very few people could read. Once words and ideas were spoken, like a vapor, they simply dissipated into the atmosphere and were forgotten. Perhaps hanging somewhere over Lake Michigan.
With the invention of the printing press, a whole new medium emerged. Now, words and ideas were not merely limited to memory and oral transmission. Instead, someone’s words had the chance to be crystalized, duplicated, widely disseminated, and perhaps, immortalized.
In addition, logic and reason took on new life. The speaker now had the opportunity to think through words and ideas for maximum impact upon a reader or hearer. These ideas could be written down, examined, and edited.
In addition, the reader benefited as well. They could read the material at their own leisure and did not have to be in close proximity to the actual author. They could take their time reading and reflecting upon the information and, if necessary, read it again. This was not always the case with oral communication. Sometimes, you had one chance to hear. As history reveals in the enlightenment, the printing press led to increased logic, reason, and rationale thought.
Writing is not only for others—it can be very personal. Many of us keep a “to do list” or have them impressed upon us. Before written language, I guess they just had to tie strings around their fingers and depend upon their memories.
Writing is also therapeutic. In our current society, we have multiple opportunities to write and record our ideas. Many people choose to keep a journal. Every morning they remember, reflect upon, and write out the significant events that happened to them the day before and how they felt about those events. They also write how God spoke to them and they record blessings or hardships.
As a people who need to process and destress, journaling is a great way to get our thoughts out of our head and heart and onto paper, a hard drive, or cloud. There is a unique power when the words hit the paper. For some strange reason, visualizing the words on the page helps us to grapple with their power. They bring clarity and focus. Sometimes, we say, “did I really think that?”
As a forgetful people, journaling is a way to help us remember where we’re been and where we’re come from. For example, as we read back in our journal, we remember past thoughts and emotions—and often the reasons why we did what we did.
Sometimes, reading and remembering these events helps us remember why we chose to avoid some things, people, or situations and reminds us not to go down that road again. Other times, reading back reminds us of God’s faithfulness and blessings. We’re reminded that, in times past, God came through for us in a very difficult time. Then, we’re able to face the future with faith and peace knowing that He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. There is great power in the printed word.
If you’ve never journaled or just sat down to write out your thoughts, I would encourage you to try. You can journal in a notebook or find an online source that is password protected. Don’t worry about what you’re going to write—just begin writing and let the words take shape. It’s as much about the process as the product. There is a healing process is writing.
One site that I use allows me to write and to include pictures. This app also notes the time of day and the weather. In addition, like most databases, it’s searchable. When I look back, I’m often reminded of the exact emotion at the time.
The greatest and most powerful word of all is the eternal one. Is it any wonder that Jesus is called “the Word?” The gospel writer, John said, “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). The Bible tells us that Jesus is the essence of all things and is the embodiment of divine communication. The writer of Hebrews echoes this concept saying, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:1-3). The divine mystery is that the essence of God, is imprinted upon, the Word, the person of Jesus.
God gave us his Word to communicate His heart and desire. His eternal Word brings salvation, comfort, and peace. All we need to do is listen. There are a lot of voices out there. Jesus is the first and final word. As the Father said, “this is my beloved Son; listen to Him” (Mark 9:7).
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.
I hate when I get an earworm and keep singing something over and over. Mowing the grass not too long ago I found myself singing the song, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’m not sure why. The song is just okay, and I’ve never even seen the whole movie. I do like breakfast, though. It’s probably my favorite meal.
We all like to eat. We all have our favorites. We talk about food, watch shows about food, exchange recipes, and delight ourselves in plating food. If you’ve never been to a church potluck (pre-COVID of course), you’re really missing out. Center stage is generally the official Baptist bird: fried chicken.
Have you noticed there is an intimacy involved with eating? Most of us have invited people into our homes to share a meal. It’s a special occasion. We do our best to make our guests feel warm and invited and try to delight their palette.
Also, when two people enjoy one another’s company, they take the relationship to the next level and often go on a date to a restaurant. As seen in Elf, the movie, Michael, Buddy’s little brother, encourages him to ask his love interest, Jovie, out on a date to eat food and then advised him, “If she says yes, you’re in. It’s like a secret code girls have.”
We also serve food at most of our social gatherings and for holidays. What would a birthday party be like without a birthday cake? Families also build holiday traditions around food. It may be odd to you, but my family’s Christmas would not be complete without my wife’s black beans and rice with roast pork.
It’s a staple of our family and celebrates the Cuban heritage of my wife. We’ve enjoyed it for as long as I can remember and our family wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Bible has a great deal to say about eating—much more than I could write about here. The Bible even talks about eating with God. For example, in Exodus 24, Moses and some of the elders of Israel went up on Mount Sinai and “beheld God and ate and drank” (Exodus 24:9-11).
Jesus used the metaphor of food to symbolize eternal life.
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, “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.” It’s an invitation to intimacy. An invitation to dine with the Savior—forever.
It’s interesting that we can eat a huge meal and be totally stuffed, but when someone says, “You ready for dessert?” we find room—especially if it’s one of our favorites!
But it’s also true that, as stuffed and as miserable as we might be after eating a huge lunch, in just a few hours, we feel the need, or the want, to eat again. The food is delicious and nutritious—but temporary. We are not fully satisfied.
The “food” that Jesus offers is real and fulfilling. He says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27). This spiritual food can’t be obtained. It must be attained and is available for the asking. It is a free gift of God (Eph 2:8-9).
Food is also a part of our worship. Jesus gave His followers a wonderful meal to commemorate His life and substitutionary death. He gave us the bread and the cup.
It’s a visible, tangible reminder of a deeper, spiritual truth. Some churches call this meal the eucharist (which means thanksgiving), some call it communion (idea of participation), while some call it the Lord’s Supper (term used by Paul in First Corinthians 11).
The meaning and frequency change from church to church, but the basic truth is consistent. It calls us to reflection and remembrance.
Jesus celebrated a final meal with His twelve disciples. This is often called, “the last supper.” As you remember, Jesus and His disciples were actually eating the Passover meal together. They commemorated the fact that God redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. Redemption came from the powerful hand of God and the provision of the Passover lamb.
During the Last Supper, Jesus redefined the meaning of the Passover meal. He called it the new covenant (Luke 22:20). The bread would symbolize His body and the wine, His blood. At this meal the focus was on Him--the perfect, Passover Lamb.
Anticipating His passion Jesus said, “as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24-25). Jesus gave us the bread and the cup to represent powerful symbols to memorialize His ultimate sacrifice. As humans, we tend to forget all kinds of things. Jesus gave us this powerful visual aid to call us to remember.
When we see the bread, we remember that Jesus called Himself, “the bread of life.” When we break the bread, we remember His body that was broken and that we are all part of one body (1 Cor 10:17).
When we eat of it, we remember that man does not live by bread alone” (Matt 4:4). Regular bread just leads to the vicious cycle of more hunger. We’re invited to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8). We remember that Jesus satisfies the deepest need of our soul.
He also gave us the fruit of the vine. A reminder of the ultimate sacrifice to purchase our pardon—His precious blood. In the Old Testament, sacrificial lambs had to continually be offered for atonement. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, died once. No other sacrifices are needed.
As we partake, we remember. We remember our former hopelessness. We remember the emptiness and the wandering. We also remember the cost. God did not just flip a switch in heaven to purchase our pardon.
The free gift to us cost God the life of His only Son. Finally, we remember that in this life of pain and frustration, we’re just passing through. We’re remember that which is to come. The Bible says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26).
And when He comes, it will be party time. Jesus promises, at that time, another meal. The table is already set and He waits for His own. He tells His disciples that He will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom comes (Luke 22:18). Breakfast at Tiffany’s is probably overrated. The social event of eternity, we’re told, is the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9).
Heaven will be a glorious, eternal party with food. Jesus Himself invites us to come and to celebrate. The best news is that everyone is invited to participate. He stands at the door and knocks, but the human heart must be opened from the inside. You hungry?
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.