Don Goulding - Blog

Mighty Embrace

His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. Song. 2:6 (NIV)caring man protecting hug people holding sky WVZ

We were three man-friends trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A rogue bear cleaned out our treed food cache. The shortest way out was to cram two days of hiking into one day and climb over a 14,000 foot peak. Survival mode kicked in and we plied the stream for fish and combed the meadow for edible plants and roots.

Drawing on our wilderness savvy to overcome a bit of peril bonded us as guys. It was a grand adventure. We emerged from the woods a few pounds lighter but high on testosterone.

Outside I might act the self-sufficient manly man but spiritually I’m vulnerable as a trembling schoolgirl. Demons swoop about my head while my own flesh threatens to dash my faith on the rocks of sin. I’m defenseless and weak-willed, exposed and shaking. I don’t need a far away, one-day-when-god but one who can hold me through the dark night.

Jesus pulls me into his embrace and tells me to stay low. If I rise to my feet of self-effort, he can’t guarantee protection. His left hand cushions my skull against the hardness of life as he whispers promises that drive fear away. I wonder at our intimacy when he has billions who depend on him. Still, his right arm—the symbol of his might and power—is around my waist. It protects me from attacks and keeps me from bolting.

This is the Savior I need. Not one who adds me to his list of followers then marches away but one who keeps me close until the storms are over. I can’t endure the horror of the world without a shielding lover and so I’ll never survive if I squirm from his embrace. The manly thing to do is to recognize my dire need and curl under his strong embrace.

Prayer: Mighty Lover, don’t let me go.



Successful Prayer


Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 NET_FL)

The night was thick with hot air and loud worship music. As the evangelistic festival in Tamil Nadu unwound, three Indian coeds pressed through the crowd for prayer. Most people ask for healing or general blessing but these daughters of Christ were different.

“The Hindu landlords won’t rent to Christian girls and for months we’ve tried to find a safe place to live.”

The ladies pulled their shawls over their heads and bowed while I lifted a prayer to heaven on their behalf. Swirling into the muggy either was compassion, faith—mostly theirs—and doubt—mostly mine. After I said amen, I could see their fear was gone. They knew Father God would take care of them. Our prayer was already a success.

When Jesus compared us to sparrows he said we’re precious to God. We matter, we’re not ignored. We are encouraged to pray for our needs, then wait on God’s answer. My job is to trust that his reply and timing are better than my understanding of what is best. I have to transfer responsibility for the outcome from me to him. When that happens, my prayer is successful no matter what the outcome.

Jesus never said we’d always make sense of God’s answers but he unequivocally promised we’d never have cause to fear. Prayer that takes away fear is the definition of successful prayer.

The girls returned the next evening bubbling with excitement. Our prayer had been answered that morning and they had a place to call home. I knew it was really answered the night before, when trust chased fear from their hearts.

Prayer: Compassionate Father, thank you that I can wholly trust you.


Below the Waterline

orcaThings that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NET_FL)

Twin rushes of air erupted from the cobalt sea. My kayak was a mile from the shore of my home in Washington State when two killer whales breached. They exhaled and thrust their dorsal fins above the water. My heart pounded as I took in every bend and scar on the triangular fins. The magnificent creatures dove again and I made an adrenaline pumped race into their swirling water.

Then it hit me. I only saw the seven-foot dorsal fins and not the enormous animals below the waterline. Alone in the open water, I didn’t want to run into whales, only to see more dorsals.

I often approach the crucifixion of Jesus like I approached those whales. I want to know the historic facts of his death and resurrection but I run from an encounter that could destroy the old me. A safe redemption at the surface is fine but don’t take me down to where my heart must reform.

Instead of paddling off to secondary doctrines, prophecies, and worship styles, it’s time to man-up and meet the enormity of the gospel. By the discipline of meditation, the Holy Spirit carries my heart to depths where I can’t depend on physical life, to where love becomes the medium around me, and the reality that God died for men is shocking in its magnitude. 

Beneath the waterline of grace, I can’t contribute to salvation, defend myself, or even breathe. I can only stare in wonder at God’s death for me. Minuscule flailing sinner that I am, I lose every hope of survival except by the beneficence of the whale before me.

That massive carnivorous entity might easily swallow me. Instead, he nudges me to the surface. When I break through, I have something new, not more head knowledge but more love. For who can be spared by that majestic creature and not love in return?

Prayer: Spirit of God, embolden my heart to plunge the depths of grace.


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