I want to begin by thanking communication director Brenda Dickerson and her team for praying over and creating our theme for the 2020 issues of OUTLOOK magazine. Abiding both in Christ and with one another is truly one of the great needs we have as a church. It is amazing that even though we might seem more connected than ever through our use of cell phones and social media, loneliness and isolation appear to be on the rise.

I frequently watch people in airports, restaurants, buses, and yes even in church, glued to their cell phones while making no effort to be “present” with the people around them. And if we are doing this to one another, it is possible as well to not abide, or be “present,” with our Savior.

“Higher, Daddy!”

When our oldest son Ryan was around three years of age, he was a maniac on the swings. No matter how high I pushed him, he wanted to go even higher.

One day a gracious church family invited us over for a meal. They lived on a farm and had made a huge swing from the towering arms of an oak tree in their yard. As soon as Ryan spotted the swing, he made a run for it. Our friends were excited to see Ryan in the homemade tire seat swing, and immediately began pushing him.

To my surprise, he didn’t want them to push him high at all. This just wasn’t like him. True, with this enormous swing he would go higher than he had ever been before—but that is what he liked to do.

I walked over to the swing and asked, “Ryan, don’t you want to go high?” He looked at me and said, “Daddy, would you push me?” Of course I agreed, and then, at every pendulum of the swing he yelled, “Higher, Daddy!”

What made the difference? I believe it was the simple fact that Ryan knew me and not the other gentleman. He knew I loved him and would let no harm come to him. He knew his dad would take care of him and therefore could return to his fearless self and enjoy the ride.

Knowing the Shepherd

This begs the question, Who is pushing your swing? It is an important question because ultimately, if we don’t know and trust the one pushing our swing, we won’t ever have that calm assurance and peace that comes from knowing Jesus is with us and will take care of us on this swing called life.

Jesus used the word picture of a shepherd and his sheep to illustrate this truth. He said: “But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:2-5 NASB).

So, as this new year begins, I invite you to turn off all the noisemakers modern life affords us—TVs, cell phones, iPads, tablets and any other thieves of our time and attention—so you can spend quiet time abiding in Christ.

Doing this will give you the assurance to be fearless no matter the size of challenges life brings … because you will know the Good Shepherd is the One pushing your swing.