“…Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b
When my children were young, we played a game that I called, “The World’s Biggest Hug.” The game went like this: I would get on my knees on one side of a room in our home, while my toddler children would line up on the opposite side of the room. I would open my arms wide and tell the first child in line that I was ready for him. Then he would run as fast as his toddler legs could carry him and fling himself into my waiting open arms. Big hugs, tight squeezes and giggles would follow. I would send that child off to get back in line while the next child ran into my open arms. We would do this over and over again, until either the kids or I were too tired to continue.
Recently, I was reminded of this game we played years ago as I was reading in the book of Romans. Romans 10:20-21 reads, “Later Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying, ‘I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.’ But regarding Israel, God said, ‘All day long I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious.’”
Author Nancy Guthrie writes of these verses: “We might expect a completely different posture from our heavenly Father. We might expect that his arms would be crossed in anger and frustration, or at his sides, waiting for us to make the first move. We might expect that he would want to keep us at a distance. But no. His arms are open, welcoming us to come near to be loved and cared for. ‘All day long’ he opens his arms to us. ‘All day long’ is a very long time.” (Nancy Guthrie, “The One Year Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids”, p. 208)
God waits for us with open arms. He waits for us to come to Him for salvation. He waits for us to come to Him for forgiveness. He waits for us to come to Him with our problems and concerns and questions and need for love. And He waits for us with His arms open wide.
Jesus took this word picture even further when he told the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. In Jesus’ story, when the runaway son decided to return home to his father, the father saw him a long distance away. The father was filled with love and compassion. The father started running. He ran until he reached his son and then that father threw his arms around his boy, embracing him in a big fatherly bear hug, and he kissed him. His son was home! Nothing could have been better for that Dad! And nothing could have been better for that returning child.
Jesus wanted the people listening to his story to know that is how God the Father waits for us. He waits with arms open wide, waiting to give us the world’s biggest hug.
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, make their home in central Arkansas. They have five grown children and are grandparents to wonderful grandchildren. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.