My Father’s Arms

baby-and-dad-sleeping

“Father! — to God himself we cannot give a holier name.”

~William Wordsworth~

Waiting in the local Walmart parking lot, I felt the wind swaying our 2-ton vehicle. It whistled around the building corners and practically blew shoppers in and out of the automatic doors.

I watched a couple get out of the car, the man pulling his coat tight around his chest. When I looked closely, I saw he carried something in his arms, wrapped beneath his coat.

A child.

A tiny pink-socked foot stuck out beneath the coat. The couple fought the wind as they approached the store’s entrance. I was entranced by the baby hidden away from sight.

I smiled to myself. In an instant, that father painted a picture of God for me. Baring himself to the elements without a concern, putting his head down into the wind without hesitation, shouldering through the storm without blinking–but his baby girl was safe and warm against his chest. He might be blasted by the wind, but not his girl. She was protected in his arms.

“I have found a place where I can hide. It’s safe inside Your arms of love. Like a child who’s held throughout a storm, You keep me warm in Your arms of love.”

 – Grant, Smith, and Chapman, “Arms of Love” –

Thinking recently about God’s powerful kindness, I wrote, “You carry the cosmos like a lamb between Your shoulders.”

I face storms. We all do. In many ways, we face the wind and waves and must stand up to them in courage. We seem them crashing down over our heads and wonder if there is a place of shelter from the wind after all.

In the middle of our questions and in the midst of our fears, how refreshing it is to remember the Father, to whom we are “worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).

Chris Tomlin’s new song “Good, Good Father” has run through my head so often lately. The concept of God’s fatherhood expressed in this song has become a frequent meditation. “He’s a good, good Father,” I find myself saying to others.

Isn’t He, though? Life is hard, certainly. The path is rocky and the wind rips with cold ferocity.

But He is there, too. He is with us, carrying us in His power, bearing us in His arms, wrapping His coat of love around us to shelter us from the storm.

Life isn’t perfect.

But still, He’s a good, good Father. And He is making all things new.

“In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

 – Luke 10:21-22, ESV –

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Living Safe

old-ship-and-flowers

“A ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it’s built for.”
– Albert Einstein –

There is a part of me that craves safety.

Something deep–maybe fear? A wishing that the storms would never blow in.

This part of me–I know it’s selfish. But it is so tempting to just hide and pretend all is well when life has blustered up snow clear past the windows. The cold is everywhere and I’m snowed-in for a good long while.

With people, it’s just so hard to keep saying yes to them and no to the things tugging my heart. It’s hard to say “I’m sorry” again and again, to wonder if I’ll ever get this daughter thing right. This sister thing. This friend thing.

Safe.

Sometimes I just want to be a hermit and make my own pretend world–not because of a lack of blessings, but a lack of security in this real world.

How can I be safe?

I can stop trying.

No more caring–doesn’t love hurt too much?

No more reaching out. At least I couldn’t be rejected.

No more working for responsibilities. Can apathy hurt more than over-and-again failure?

No more vision. Why jump at all if the goal’s too high?

These thoughts, frustrated impulses, almost sweep me away. And, along, with these, comes the deeper conviction that the problem is mine. Something in me must be desperately wrong, for it to come to this.

This. To give in, to follow this only safe way–what is the cost?

Here’s the truth: Living isn’t safe.

And if I give up all these hard things, what’s left?

Nothing.

For safety, I’d be giving up life itself.

The options weigh heavy on my spirit. The real problem suddenly surfaces in my mind, in the shape of a verse learned long ago.

Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God….” (2 Timothy 3:4)

Conviction hits, hard.

More than God?

More than Him, I so often cling to my agenda, my dreams, my way, my rights, my comfort, and my safety.

Pleasure more than God.

But if I were to retreat to the “safe,” lifeless place where my own pleasure lives, all would be lost. This soul wasn’t made to grovel for command or shrink from light or hide away from all that stings. This soul was made to soar the heights of what God’s love can do in a vessel given over.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt –

And like that ship that Einstein spoke of, this soul might have a brief moment of safety by refusing to do what I was carefully knit together to do, formed to fulfill from the womb by my own Maker’s fingers. But if I do, I will miss everything.

If a soul does not surrender to Christ’s shaping…

…it is a tool rusting on the shelf, never to be used to carve a masterpiece…a bird content to look into skies he will never touch with outstretched wings…a stunted sapling afraid to extend its limbs, afraid to reach the heights…

And, yes, a ship.

A ship that will never feel the tickle of waves under her hull, never swell her sails with the swooping, rushing gusts of heaven, never bathe her deck in the shimmering gold cast to the farthest horizons by a sinking sun.

Even now, I’m weighing anchor.

I will not live the life of shrinking back (Hebrews 10:39).

Forget playing life safe.

This ship is setting sail.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

– Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV, emphasis mine –

A big thank you to George Hodan at Public Domain Pictures for today’s photo!