Family Friday. Sea Birds Thirst for Fresh Water

A few weeks ago I awoke to the call of Canadian Brent Geese that were along the water’s edge below our home.  I looked out to see half a dozen pairs swimming in the shallow water.    They love to eat Eel Grass.  It grows along the shoreline where fresh water flows into the sea.  There is a small stream that enters the sea below.  

I fetched a pair of binoculars to take a closer look.  The brown colour of their body feathers are a good camouflage against the brown, grey, seaweed covered stones. They have a white feathers on their lower bodies. They swim about on the edge of the water avoiding other gulls that are there.  

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When the gulls fly off, the geese come up out of the sea and begin to drink from a small stream that flows across the stones.  They come to get a drink of fresh water!  They wait for each other to get their thirst quenched.  Then the whole group fly off, their outstretched wings, with white V markings on the tail, blend with the colour of the moving water and disappear into the distance.  

A couple of Great Black Backed Gulls come for a drink later.  There are a few pairs of them along this part of the bay.  A couple of Herring gulls rest nearby.
 
It never occurred to me that these birds needed fresh water.  I would have thought they would have got water from the food they ate in the sea.  When we went for walks along Tyrella beach I remember flocks of different sea birds gathered at the end of the beach.  A river flowed into the sea there.  The wildlife rested there in the sunshine for a while.

I believe God our creator wants us to drink from the flowing river of the Holy Spirit and rest a while.   Jesus told us to look to the birds of the air.  They don’t sow nor reap, yet their Heavenly Father cares for them.  I am taking a lesson from the birds of the air this morning.

As I watched the wildlife from my window, I was reminded of the Holy Spirit.  Very often life makes us weary, tired, dry and barren.   Our lives seem staved of life with nothing new happening.   But God invites us to come to him to get a drink of refreshing water to nourish our thirsty souls.

Jesus said to the woman at the well he would give her water and she would not thirst again.  
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

The Holy Spirit is the Living water that Jesus promised.  He is described as the river that flows from the throne of God.  We are invited in Isaiah to come to the water.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.  (‭Isaiah‬ ‭55‬:‭1, 3‬ NIV)
As we drink in the Holy Spirit life flows again.

As I spend time praying in the Holy Spirit I get refreshed and have new strength.  No matter what age we are, we still run out of strength if we are too busy.  We need life from God to renew our energy.

Family Friday. We Move to A New Town

 

Brendan and I moved back to Ballynahinch, Co Down where I was born.  Nine children moved with us.  Four other children were at university.  One was married.  Friends were perplexed at us moving away from Coleraine with your big family.  “How were we going to manage?” they asked.  “You will never get good schools like here.  Where will you live? Your children will miss their friends.”

I had been praying for five years that God would provide a bigger home for us.  I knew these young children would turn into teenagers and would need more space.  I believed that God would provide for me.  He gave me my children, and I believed he would help me.  When the children of Israel went into the promised land they were given land according to the size of their tribe.  I had a big family and I hoped that God who helped the children of Israel would do the same for me.

You must distribute the land among the clans by sacred lot and in proportion to their size. A larger portion of land will be allotted to each of the larger clans, and a smaller portion will be allotted to each of the smaller clans. The decision of the sacred lot is final.  (‭Numbers‬ ‭33‬:‭54‬ NLT)

We moved to a modern, warm bungalow.  There was plenty of room for us all.  My son John loved his new home and town.  He made friends easily at his new school.  He loved getting outdoors.  He would spend a Saturday with his new friends walking along the river behind our house or wandering over fields and forests beyond.  There was a corn mill nearby that was still working.  The boys went down there and looked at the large wheel turning with the water flowing over it.  I remember going there when I was a child with my father.  He was getting bags of corn bruised into oats.  The river behind our house fed the wheel that turned the grinding stone in the mill.

John’s adventures reminded me of Robert Louis Stevenson’ poem,

Keepsake Mill.

Over the borders, a sin without pardon,
Breaking the branches and crawling below,
Out through the breach in the wall of the garden,
Down by the banks of the river, we go.

Here is the mill with the humming of thunder,
Here is the weir with the wonder of foam,
Here is the sluice with the race running under
Marvellous places, though handy to home!

He would head off down the back of our garden, through a hole in the hedge to meet his friends.  They went fishing and swimming in the river behind the garden.  He would not return till late.

John started a new school, and travelled nine miles by bus to it.  His older sister went to the same school.  Settling into a new area and a new school can be daunting for any child.  John looked on his experience as an adventure and was enjoying a whole new world, new countryside, meeting my extended family, and making new friends.  He never looked back.

I later found out that our new neighbours’ son was bullied on the bus and at the school John went to.  He left and went to another school.  My daughter and son did not face any trouble on the bus or at school.  Because they had each other, no one dared pick on John because his big sister would soon respond and not take any hastle.  She was used to dealing with her siblings.  On any bus full of teenagers there will always be banter.  John and his sister took it all in their stride and didn’t make any enemies.

We all had a family holiday to Spain in the year 2000.  On the flight over to Spain John met a girl who went to his old school.  She was telling him that many of the children in his old class were using drugs.  I was so glad we moved when we did.  It was good for my daughter as well.  She was getting to the age where she was being influenced by friends to rebel.  She was made head girl in her new school.  Both my children found favour when they moved to a new town and new school.  I knew God was with us and he would look after us just as this scripture says.

And you saw how the LORD your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child.  Now he has brought you to this place.’ (‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭1‬:‭31‬ NLT)

The Salmon

When Brendan and I were in Seschelt our friend Ivan took us for a drive up along the coast.

We parked near a bay and our host told us he often went fishing there. The salmon were abundant in these waters and one was sure of a catch. What an ideal way to spend an evening in the sunset on his little boat in the bay. This certainly was the good life.

We stopped off at a coffee shop. Some people called over to us and told us “The salmon are running!”
There was a small river flowing nearby. We crossed over to it and sure enough we saw salmon spawning in the shallow waters. What an oppportunity for us!

While Brendan and I rejoiced to see this feature of nature before our eyes, our friend took some video footage. We were all excited as we spent those moments. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

Salmon live their adult life in the waters of the ocean. The Pacific is a big ocean, and millions of salmon return up the many rivers along the Canadian coast in Autumn. There are many types of salmon. The Sockeye is the biggest and most popular salmon caught. Wild bears and eagles have a feeding frenzy when the fish return.

The salmon has one goal, to return to the place where they were born to hatch their young. Once they leave the salt waters and enter the fresh water of the river the salmon stop feeding. They start the hazardous journey upstream over rapids, waterfalls and potholes to get to the shallow water when they can swim no further.

There the female releases her eggs in the sandy water bed and the male fertilises them. The parent salmon work is done. Every ounce of their energy has been used to get to their destination. They die soon afterwards.

We watched as the salmon released their eggs in that Creek. There were queues of fish waiting in the shallows to take their turn to lay their eggs. Perhaps they were not so keen to go forward because they knew their end was near.

Brendan, our friend and I savoured this moment. What is nature saying to us?

As I pondered on this I thought of my own life as a parent. Our goal as parents is to raise our young and help them through the stormy waters that we have passed through and show them the way.

The salmon entering the fresh water begins the journey of dying to self. This is symbolic of the one who decides to follow Jesus as well. He leaves the ocean, which represents the world and enters into the river of The Holy Spirit. Just like the salmon one has to die to self so more of the life of Christ lives in us.

As I get older I realise that on my journey in the river of the Holy Spirit I have had to die many times to my own will. As I trust God ‘s leading in my life I have peace. I can pass what I have learnt on to my children. I do not have to die physically like the salmon, but I have to die to my own will. The following scripture sums up the Christian journey.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (Jesus the author and finisher of our faith) since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7, 16, 18 NIV)