Don Goulding - Blog

Minimal Maximumist

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Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

“There’s one coming toward you. Get it.” I pointed into warm, calf-deep water at a parrot fish as it darted from one clump of rocks to another. 

Polynesians joined me in herding our prey toward a woman with a machete. Her job was to club the fish. Children squealed and laughed, as they carted each dinner catch to the boat.

For two months, I was privileged to live in a Fijian village for language immersion. Communal lawns separated the two dozen houses, and ran down to the beach, where palms leaned over a turquoise reef. Fish, gardens, and coconuts sustained life.

More than the local language, I learned about contentment. At first, I was fidgety and doubted I’d stay long. There was no electricity, indoor plumbing, or even a store. What did these people do with themselves for sixteen hours each day?

I forced myself to learn the rhythm of the village, to do what they did, when they did it. Each morning, before sunrise, we heard the lali drum—a hollowed log beaten with two sticks that made a flat, thunking sound. It was the call to wake and begin personal devotions. Soon after, women started fires in their outdoor kitchens, children washed their faces and donned their school uniforms, and men collected a few papaya or breadfruit.

Throughout the day, one task led to another, but there was never a hurry. Wringing out the wash, weaving a grass matt, or herding parrot fish—everything was done while chatting and laughing, and almost always in a group. What these people didn’t have was furniture, electronics, or cars. What they did have was community, natural food, and serenity. They lived content, refreshingly immune to the ambition to own more or achieve a higher position.

Missionaries have more to learn than they have to teach—at least this one does. I needed the islanders to teach me a slower lifestyle, and freedom from mania over my next toy or experience.

Prayer: Generous Father, let me rest content in your salvation today.

Sweet and Sour

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For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. (Romans 8:22-24)

What rolls along your tongue, teasing it first with honeyed fun, then with sarcastic tartness? It’s the brilliant pairing of sugar and vinegar in sweet and sour sauce. God’s Spirit also blends a sauce that is sweet and sour at the same time.

The sweet ingredient is the experiential presence of the untamed Creator of the universe abiding in our hearts. The word that expresses this sugary confection gathers a hundred descriptions of the goodness of God, and pins them in the bull’s eye of speech. The word is joy—ecstatic, welling, dancing joy. 

Next, God adds the sour ingredient. As we intercede for our loved ones, country, and world, the weeping of Christ folds groans into our prayers. It begins as a peculiar stillness, but it grows into a bone deep sadness. The world is far from what it should be, and Jesus grieves his pain through us for the hopeless, the harassed, and the hurting. We endure the crushing sorrow, yet, we do it with him.

The Christian’s deeper prayer life is a base of sweet joy spiked with sour groans. It’s a beautiful union with God’s great victory that shall overcome this present tragedy. It enters into Christ’s laughter, and his tears. We are named his friends, and called to share his business, both the sweet and the sour.

While we await our completion as sons and daughters, this holy sauce will flavor our prayers right up to the day that Jesus returns for the redemption of life.

Prayer: Dear Savior, I open my heart to both your joy and your pain.

True King

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…because the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
the one who accuses them day and night before our God,
has been thrown down…
He is filled with terrible anger,
for he knows that he only has a little time!” (Revelation 12:10, 12)

A blast of orange and black fire roars on the right. Thunderous reverberations belch with steam from the left.

“They have sinned and cannot abide with the Perfect Presence. The ancient laws that judged me must also judge them,” a booming voice echoes.

If this were a scene in the Wizard of Oz, the dog, Toto, would pull back a curtain to reveal a false wizard—a little man pulling levers and shouting into a microphone. 

Satan is a wizard without real power over those in Christ. He rants about the curse over us, and it sounds convincing amplified through the machinery of half-truth. In reality, it’s harmless smoke and levers. The danger has passed, because the accusations are without legal standing. For those who choose God, eternal pain and torture ended on the cross, when Jesus said it was finished. All that’s left are the ravings of a lunatic whose days are numbered.

When the false wizard blows hot air of all I’ve done wrong, I stop up my ears and hide behind Jesus. I don’t answer to guilt. Love is my master. When Love says his blood heals and makes me perfect, I listen.

The true King declares, “There’s no place like home. I want you to be here with me. Until that day, I’ll grant your requests for a new brain, a new heart, and courage.”

The one who welcomes me to paradise, and remakes me from top to bottom—that’s the only King I will listen to.

Prayer: Mighty Jesus, help me ignore the false wizard and hear only you.