"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—" John 10:14
"Make yourself at home." That's what my paternal grandfather used to say whenever I would visit my grandparents' farm. Then, he would laugh and say, "Have a chair and sit down beside it."
My parents divorced when I was very small and my dad was killed on his job when I was just seven years old. As the years have passed, I've been blessed to meet and become better acquainted with many of my dad's close friends and distant relatives. Though I spent a rather small amount of time with my paternal grandparents as a child, I have also come to treasure some really precious memories of them.
Throughout his life, Grandpa Walden was a farmer by profession. In addition to planting and tending the fields, he raised sheep and also raised and trained border collies to herd sheep. One of my favorite childhood memories is of Grandpa allowing me to stand in the sheep pen while one of his dogs brought the sheep from the pasture. Grandpa would give his dog special commands to herd the flock of sheep all around me. The dog would then hold them in one place so that I could walk among them and touch them.
My grandpa even had his own shepherd's staffs which he had hand-whittled from large tree saplings. Sadly, to my knowledge, those staffs were lost in a fire.
Fast forward a few years on my journey of music and ministry. I was in Lincoln, IL one Sunday morning presenting for the Lincoln Church of the Nazarene. Orienting myself with the church, I stood in the pastor's office prior to the service. I reached out to touch the wall beside me as I often do, when what should I find but a beautifully hand-carved shepherd's staff! I couldn't stop admiring that staff and told Pastor Greg about my Grandpa Walden who had since passed away.
Weeks later, I received a call from Pastor Greg asking when I would again be in the Lincoln area. We made arrangements to meet and he surprised me with my very own shepherd's staff!
Unbeknownst to me, this generous, discerning pastor had contacted the man who carved his shepherd's staff and had told him about me. The two then contacted Rev. Bill Dolan, Lincoln's Christian radio WLLM station manager who is also blind, and asked him to give them a sample of the words "Grandpa Walden" spelled out in Braille. On the shank of my shepherd's staff, fasteners similar to upholstery pins serve as simulated Braille dots to form my grandfather's name.
This shepherd's staff is one of my most valued possessions. It made the journey with me when I came to Charleston, SC where I currently live. In addition to bringing back precious childhood memories, it serves as a reminder that—whatever our geographical location or life circumstances may be—we can always "make ourselves at home" as part of the family of God.
Our Good Shepherd has laid down His life for us. He is risen and has ascended to prepare a place for us! What a magnificent gift!
Has another member of the Body of Christ gone out of their way to make you feel "at home?" What can we do to make others feel the same? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.
Until next time, God bless you and keep His Song in your heart.
© 2016 by Laurel Jean Walden