The Good Shepherd

Based on Psalm 23

By Ward Shope

Dear Jesus,

As I begin this day, your words remind me that you are the Good Shepherd.  I’ve heard your voice, recognized it by its familiar fondness for my company, and receive it as one of your gracious provisions for my life.  You give me all the nourishment and refreshment I need.  When I take time to recognize who you are, I’m content regardless of my circumstances.  And when I feel otherwise, it is because I have become distracted from what is truly necessary. In fact, I am embarrassed by the drive and the striving within me, and the frustration and tension that shows without.  It reveals that often I falsely believe there is something more that I need than you.

I know you are working on me and within me.  Daily your Spirit shapes my heart’s desires and longing.  We often become like those we spend our days with, and my desire is to look more like you each day so that others might see you in me.  Keep calling me to spend time with you.  It is a check for my natural desires to pursue my own ends.

You never promise that our lives will be free from pain and sorrow.  Truthfully, my life is pretty easy, but I know that can change in a heartbeat.  Keep me from being presumptuous.  Many others that I know are facing either their own illness or the potential loss of someone they deeply love.  None of us will escape that in this world.  Others I know are literally in dangerous places in the world – some spiritually and some physically.  Yet there is no one who knows you that you are not close to.  You are ready to protect them and guide them even through the temporary death we experience now.  I pray that you give them this assurance in the most vulnerable of places.  And I thank you that you’ve laid down your life for your sheep so that they and we together might experience an abundant life that begins now and leads into the next age.

We truly don’t have to be afraid.  Even in the most threatening of circumstances we can feast on you.  You enable us to face the challenges of this world with confidence that you are in charge and we don’t have to control the outcome.  I am aware that the living water you give never stops.  To my surprise as a convinced cynic, my cup just keeps overflowing.

Jesus, I know I deserve none of this.  Sometimes I am simply overwhelmed by what you’ve done for me, my family and all my brothers and sisters in the faith.  All the pains that have gone before become nothing in that perspective. There are no axes to grind, no reasons for bitterness, nothing to prove.  And I am thankful that you are preparing a place for us all to go.  Your house will be far bigger inside when we get there than we ever could see from the outside.  Give us great expectations, and the longing to bring others with us as we come.  Thank you for shepherding us.  In your name, Amen.