by Dale Vallejo-Sanderson
With Our Good Shepherd I Find the Power of Belonging
Sunday, April 25
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me” (v. 14).
“Pastor Dale! I knew that was you when I heard your voice.” Sheila, an old friend, found me with my grandkids wandering the aisles of Ross’s. Friends know each other’s voice, even when muffled by a Covid mask.
Jesus heard my first desperate prayer, kneeling as a 16-year-old: “Lord, if there is room for me with you, please come.” The pure rush of convincing love has held me in the years since. My deepest regrets have found recovery from Jesus knowing me as his own. In my dark nights of depressed hopes and uncertainty, he assures me there is a way ahead with him. Generous encouragements in unexpected calls, cards, friendships, and whispers in my prayers remind me once again that I belong to Jesus, he knows me, and I know him. In humble gratitude, I will live and love with him.
Jesus, help me to find strength and freedom to live and love in belonging to you. AMEN.
With Our Good Shepherd I Find the Power of a Caring Companion
Monday, April 26
“I am sorry, the cancer has spread to your bones.” My wife and I sat stunned. The long year of painfully intense chemo, searing radiation, and constant aches she had endured did not stop the tumors as we had hoped. “The aim now is to slow the spread down as best we can and focus on quality of life.” Through our tears of sadness and despair we searched for footing to stand on, a path to find our way. The words, “quality of life” emerged in our minds and hearts. God has guided us over the years, through our long journey of challenges, unknowns, and changes with an encouragement to seek his “quality of life” foremost. Our heavenly Father has been our constant caring companion in the worst of times and into the best of times. He has walked alongside us over the years, convincing us to listen, follow, and be assured. “Quality of life” has been the ongoing encouragement of our caring Companion, our Good Shepherd.
Jesus, in the face of our dark valleys, show me how your companionship offers quality of life. AMEN.
With Our Good Shepherd
I Find the Power of Good
Tuesday, April 27
“God doesn’t care, Jesus is useless, the church is full of hypocrites and pastors are frauds.” I stood outside my office in the early evening as the distraught man spewed out his hurt and anger. I asked questions to understand and waited for moments to encourage him. Suddenly, he collapsed in my arms, tears on cheeks, whispering, “Thank you for listening.”
The next Sunday he was in church. Two women who were also new to the church introduced themselves. “All we heard was one man cussing in a loud voice. We stopped playing tennis and watched, worried something bad may happen. But you stood before him, quietly listening, responding gently; we couldn’t even hear your words. Then he fell in your arms and you held him. That’s when we said we need to go to church ourselves.”
The truth of God’s word can often best be heard in simple ways of good.
Jesus, who are you asking me to give good to that they may know how good you are? AMEN.
With Our Good Shepherd I Find the Power of Humble Confidence
Wednesday, April 28
“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your own judgment; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard’” (vv. 19-20, NASB).
To hold in my heart and mind the good, the healing, and the love Jesus has given, is giving, and will continue to give me strength to respond rather than react. More can be said of the work of Jesus in me and through me in humble yet confident responses in moments of conflict and challenge.
Lord, may I be more humbly open and responsive to you, so to be more humbly open and responsive to others. In Jesus’s name, AMEN.
With Our Good Shepherd I Find the Power of Overcoming My Enemies
Thursday, April 29
Word of Dorothy’s passing came to me in a text from her son. The sadness of her dying was also relieved by her tenderhearted love for God and her kind and joyful love for her family and me over many years. Dorothy often said Jesus rescued and redeemed her from a dark and desperate life to live and love. Her son and I had been close friends and partners in ministry. At one point, I was hurt by what I saw as acts of betrayal and divisive rumors, which festered into feelings as toward an enemy. He may have felt the same. Yet the love we both held for his mom and her request for me to officiate her memorial compelled us to overcome the wounds of the past with genuine forgiveness. The deep pain of loss caused us both to seek healing for ourselves and each other. Through a process that began in me, Jesus helped me overcome my enemy.
Jesus, who is an enemy I can pray for healing for—both for them and for me? AMEN.
With Our Good Shepherd I Find the Power of Generosity
Friday, April 30
1 John 3:11-17
Stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle, while hosting Saturday Night Live, invited viewers to his idea of “Kindness Conspiracy.” He explained, “Do something nice for a Black person, but make sure they don’t deserve it.” He went on to say that for 400 years Black people have been given what they don’t deserve. He said if you see a drug dealer on the street corner, give them an ice cream. They may be suspicious at first, but do it anyway. He gave a call to love—love for all. When all people are loved, all people are loved. Following Jesus’s generous love laid out for all of us calls us to humbly receive his love and to generously share his love, just as he has shared it with you and me.
Jesus, who can I take new steps to show generosity toward, in evidence of your generous, unconditional love? AMEN.
With Our Good Shepherd I Find the Power of Freedom in Christ
Saturday, May 1
1 John 3:18-24
“And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them” (vv. 23-24).
My brother Dave carried an unspoken burden of guilt and regret for much of his life. In one week’s time, his own capacity to carry this load gave out under the added weight of a disheartening job loss around false accusations of mismanagement, betrayal by his girlfriend, and a freak skiing injury. His world collapsed. He felt he was beyond hope and reason to live. Yet in a rare moment of genuine humbleness he kneeled before God, opened his heart, and welcomed Christ as his forgiver and Savior. From that moment on my brother walked with a growing freedom to live and love as he had so generously received till his last day.
Jesus, what freedom might you grant me that would allow me to love God, others, and myself more freely? AMEN.