Don Goulding - Blog

Face of My Pilot

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Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. (Matthew 8:23, 24) (NIV)

We shot under the Golden Gate Bridge, skimming at full throttle into an enormous swell. Our little boat plunged on the bias into the pit of a trough, and lost sight of everything save walls of saltwater. We raced up the mounting face to hurl the bow from the top. There was a moment of weightlessness before crashing down on the wave’s backside. I nearly panicked, but then . . .

I looked into the face of our pilot. He was a friend I knew well enough to detect any concern. What I saw was a Cheshire cat grin. He liked this.

My tension eased. I anticipated the waves, and enjoyed the intervals of defying gravity. My senses sharpened as my face pushed through an icy aftershave of brine wind. We flew off the crests, and I had to suppress a corny urge to yell, “Wahoo.”

Life’s waves are intimidating. Abandonment, illness, anxiety, addiction—they seethe and foam above my head like so much hateful seawater. Then I look into the face of my Pilot.

Jesus takes great pleasure at being on the ocean. He likes the feeling of salty wind and trusting his Father at each leap over a wave. He delights at swooping into the valleys. 

Am I relaxed yet? Jesus is. Look at that face, he’s laughing. I don’t see fear there. I see confidence and resolve, calm and sovereignty.

My Pilot knows what he is about. We are not headed for disaster, but for some other destination to which he’s steering. He knows his course, and he’s sure of the landing he has already experienced. I can loosen up and relax, because Jesus is at the helm, and life is under his feet.

Prayer: Strong Savior, I look into your face and take on your confidence.

Life Plan

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More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things- indeed, I regard them as dung! (Philippians 3:8)

Back while I was still in my 20’s, I drew the energy of the stars into a business plan for a human resources company. We would do everything God’s way. This company would treat people with dignity, and donate profits to Christian missions. A baby company was conceived.

There were sharp labor pains. I invested everything, and borrowed beyond prudence. There were contractions of litigation and lack of market share. After much travail, the new company wiggled in excitement. We nursed it to profitability. However, during the company’s teenage years, sleepless nights returned. Clients failed to pay, and finances grew rebellious.

“You’ve reared your child your way, now let me raise you,” God said. 

Up to that point, my purpose, acquisitions, and authority were all earthly and temporal. At age 44, it was time for a complete surrender. I sold the business and was ordained into the pastorate. There is nothing wrong with a secular career, but now I deal in commodities of truth, store treasures in heaven, and wrestle spiritual forces of evil for human souls.

My younger self had ambitions of achieving material prosperity, while honoring God on the side. I wanted much less for me than my heavenly father had in mind. I finally said, “I will try to become whoever you want.” He immediately set me on an ever mounting adventure of ministry centered on faith, hope, and love.

Looking back now, I am hugely relieved that I chose his life plan over my own. What if I’d missed out on the miracles we’ve experienced in thirteen nations so far?

Prayer: Jesus, help me lose everything for a bigger life with you.

The Spirit’s Ooze

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But it is God who establishes us together with you in Christ and who anointed us, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment. (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22)

Gray mud seemed to morph from the creek into the dormant trunk of a buckeye tree. Beneath the frost of late winter, there were no signs of life, only decomposed leaves and soggy mire. What was the point of hiking in this dead wilderness?

My gaze ran up the buckeye’s dry bark to the twigs rattling in the wind. Out on the tips, tiny buds pushed into the sky. They looked like bursts of green popcorn pasted on by a clumsy florist.

I asked myself how these verdant, silky eruptions of life could come from so dead a thing as the inert tree. The answer was that in the heart of the sleeping shell lived an ooze of sap carrying the life that was to come.

I am that tree—a dormant shell of the life that will explode out of me when heaven’s spring finally reaches earth. All I see now are muddy roots, gray trunk, and lifeless branches. But I can’t doubt the coming change. 

I hold a guarantee. The proof is in the word of God, in the buckeye, and in my heart. Inside me, the Holy Spirit gives an oozing trace of the life that will be. He pushes the sap of joy through my dry bones and broken circumstances. That private little knowledge is my deposit—my hint of the rapture found before the throne.

A buckeye tree in dark winter scarcely resembles the beauty of the same creation in summer bloom. Likewise, it’s a mistake for me to judge myself, or others, by this present form. I mustn’t look at the corrupted shell. It’s the ooze of the Holy Spirit hiding inside that defines future life.

Eternal spring is around the corner. To compare my winter self to my summer self is to compare night to day, a caterpillar to its butterfly, a gray stump to the leafed out, emerald and white, flowering buckeye. I’ll still be me, but oh, what a glorious, Christ filled me.

Prayer: Sweet Spirit, thank you for your holy deposit inside me.