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Jesus, the Good Shepherd can bring you peace in the midst of the pandemic chaos

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Brian Carmack"Fifteen days to flatten the curve." Do you remember those words from our President in March 2020?

What were you doing a year ago this week? How were you responding to the sudden changes taking place here and worldwide? My first question was, "Where did all the toilet paper go?" Not only toilet paper, but all normal living was gone as well.

When we came to the end of those first 15 days, I remember thinking, "this curve doesn't look very 'flattened,' but we should be done with this by June!" Not. This wasn't just a disruption in the way we travel (as in 9-11). This was a disruption of how we live. And it wasn't just 15 days. Much was lost in the last 12 months. We need to acknowledge the loss and take time to grieve.

We also need hope. Ezekiel 34 says, "I will make a covenant of peace with my people and drive away the dangerous animals from the land … And in the proper season, I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing. The orchards and fields of my people will yield bumper crops, and everyone will live in safety …They will live in safety, and no one will frighten them … And I will make their land famous for its crops, so my people will never again suffer from famines …"

A good friend of mine sent me a text a few weeks ago inviting me to read this portion of scripture. His intent was to open for me a door of hope. It did.

Anybody up for a covenant of peace? Who brings this peace? Ezekiel 34:11 says, "For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day."

As we read on in chapter 34, we see that God is speaking of His Son, Jesus Christ, who will bring peace where there was chaos. We are sheep; He is the Good Shepherd. Sheep need tending.

Fifteen days have now turned into 365-pluse. I don't know about you, but I've had many "pasture options" this past year. There's a pasture that the culture calls "trending." It's "the latest news," and it's always a great distraction. It's social media and what it has to say about how we got here. It's the latest conspiracy theory, and who's to blame for the pain we suffer. It's Netflix and the constant river of entertainment. I find that the "trending pasture" does very little to increase my level of hope.

The Good Shepherd wants to tend to me. He leads me to hope. Psalm 23 speaks of his, "green pastures … and still waters." So, I went there recently. I found a quiet room where I could cut off all influence from the outside world; Psalm 91 calls it the "secret place." I read a few verses from the Bible and listened to my Good Shepherd. It was powerful to feel the world's anxiety loosen its grip on my heart and feel the hands of a shepherd begin to pick up my broken pieces of hope and put them back together again.

Many times, the trending looks more exciting than His tending. Initially more exciting but ultimately disappointing. When I don't make time for the tending of the Shepherd, I find emptiness, lack of purpose, and I'm no longer walking in His "showers of blessing." But, when I take time to be with this Good Shepherd by reading His Word rather than watching TV, choosing to worship instead of complaining, giving of myself to help others instead of taking, His covenant of peace leads me to hope.

It might be easier if we had a technological pandemic? What if the internet exploded and all cell phones were dropped in toilets? What if the trending option was wiped out? Might it make the tending option easier to choose? Yes, but there is something powerful about choosing rather than having no other option. When you look at your Good Shepherd in the midst of other temptations and say, "I choose you," can you imagine the blessing you are to his heart?

365 days ago, we didn't get to choose the pandemic. It just happened. But, today, you can choose: The Good Shepherd's tending, or the world's trending. Where will this life find you?

Brian Carmack serves as Lead Pastor at Eastside Church in Prineville. For those with questions or comments, he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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