Saturday, March 28, 2020

Winged Flocks

Photo by r Peretz Partensky 2011

As my husband and I strolled on our favorite beach last week, we were struck by the harmony of God’s creation, just a short ferry ride from the dissonant chaos of the world reeling from the blow of coronavirus.

The numbers of new cases and deaths in the United States and elsewhere grew exponentially. Schools, universities, theme parks, public beaches and state parks, and most businesses and churches had closed. Joblessness and unemployment claims soared while global stock markets took a nose dive. Fear and panic spread, not only over contagion, illness, and death, but over shortages of COVID-19 tests, critical care beds, and health care workers. Shoppers crowded together, potentially hastening spread of the virus, just to stockpile food and confront empty shelves that should be loaded with toilet paper.

Despite the catch phrase, “We’re all in this together,” the crisis seemed to bring out the worst in some people. Two brothers were arrested for stockpiling and price-gouging 170,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. A thief disguised as a delivery driver hijacked a truckload of medical grade masks designated for health care workers. “Covidiots” who flagrantly rebelled against quarantine and social distancing measures seemed hell-bent on risking the lives of others.

But on this private beach, the weather was idyllic; the occasional beachcomber or jogger waved politely from a safe distance; and the cares of this world seemed far away. The gentle waves advanced and retreated along the shoreline, a reminder that God created and controls all, even telling the sea how far it can invade the beach (Job 9:1-10; 28:11). He may allow Satan to test His children, but He places a hedge of protection around us beyond which Satan cannot venture (Job 1:8-12). Any trial He allows is for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory.

Far more numerous than humans on this beach were fowls of the air, mostly congregating in groups. Three pelicans patrolled the skies in squadron formation, flying parallel to the shoreline. The first would flap its powerful wings, then the second, then the third, and then all three would soar motionless on the resultant air current. Then the cycle would repeat in mesmerizing rhythm.

These birds reminded me of the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit – all working together in perfect unity to accomplish Their perfect will (Matthew 3:16-17; John 14:16-26). Once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), His Holy Spirit enters our hearts, teaching us about Jesus John 14:17). In turn, Jesus Christ is the perfect representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3), and the only Way to Him (John 14:6). In Christ we have the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).

High up along the dunes was a murder of crows, cawing raucously at one another to defend their claim to a washed-up horseshoe crab. This collective term seems fitting for birds with an unsavory reputation for being selfish and greedy. Yet God is able to use even these for His own purposes – in this case, as scavengers to clean up an otherwise pristine beach.

Scripture tells us that God used ravens, which are larger, more menacing relatives of crows, to feed the prophet Elijah. Shortly thereafter, God would use Elijah as an instrument of His provision and healing (1 Kings 17:8-24), and as His soldier in spiritual battle against the prophets of Baal, to prove that Jehovah was the true God who could bring rain to a parched, famine-struck land (1 Kings 18). Rather than pecking his eyes out, as one might expect from these cruel birds seeing Elijah in his debilitated state, they brought him bread and meat every morning and evening as he waited on God’s perfect timing (1 Kings 17:8-24).

A flock of ravens is termed an "unkindness,” "treachery,” or "conspiracy,” yet God can soften even the hardestheart to bend to His will. It reminded me that the two brothers, driven by greed to profit from people’s fear of contagion, ultimately donated their hoarded hand sanitizer to a local church and to others in need.

As we climbed up the dunes to the scrub pines separating the beach dwellings, a flock of mourning doves scattered from the branches, a symbol of God turning our weeping into joy (Psalm 30:5) and our mourning into dancing (Isaiah 51:11; Psalm 30:11), through His salvation and the blessed hope (Titus 2:13) of His soon return for His children at the Rapture (Psalm 55:6; 68:13; Isaiah 60:8)

How appropriate that a flock of doves, particularly when released upward into the heavens at a wedding, is known as an “exaltation of doves!”  We can be still, knowing that God is to be exalted above the heavens (Psalm 18:46; 46:10; 57:5,11), and His Son to be exalted with a Name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9).

At dusk, just after the golden orb of the sun had vanished below the horizon, illuminating the clouds in soft rose and coral light, we wandered over to the deserted pool. After I swam a few laps, I paused to look up and spotted an osprey, a strand of seaweed in its beak, flying majestically from the beach to a tall Norfolk Island pine, where it perched on the highest branch. Its mate was already there, as evidently they had returned to the same nesting spot where we had seen them several years ago.

There is no collective term for osprey, as they typically travel alone or in pairs. They choose the highest spot for their nest, which is often built upon and used for up to four generations. These birds reminded me that regardless of nationality, politics, financial security, race, or gender, God’s children are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Our relationship with Him supercedes all others, for He alone must have the preeminence in our life (Matthew 6:33). The church, or called-out body of believers (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12), is the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2), destined for Heaven and even now seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6) in Him!

No matter what perils threaten us, we can trust God, Who cares even for the birds of the air and so much more for us (Luke 12:6-7), to work all things together (Romans 8:28) for our good and His glory! He is still on His throne, and the temporary distress we endure here is but a fleeting moment (2 Corinthians 4:17) when compared to the beauty, glory, love, joy and peace we shall experience throughout eternity!

© 2020 Laurie Collett


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Three Dolphins: From Dream to Fulfillment


Photo by Nevil Dimins 2005

As we sat overlooking the beach at our island getaway last evening, we enjoyed the golden sun reflecting off the cobalt blue water as it sank below the horizon, illuminating the scattered clouds in rose and orange hues. Sandpipers were scampering along the edge of the waves, terns were bobbing for coquina shells, and the "local Air Force" -- a flock of pelicans -- were soaring majestically overhead. But no dolphins.
"It's been a long time since we've seen dolphins here," my husband remarked. 
As if on cue, a solitary black fin appeared out of the waves, followed by another, and then we saw the full body of a dolphin leaping from the waves and frolicking in the shallow waters along the coast.
It is amazing how God speaks to us in troubled times, sending us love letters meant especially for us. When my husband was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, He sent us a glorious double rainbow over the beach, reassuring us of His faithfulness, mercy and grace. Now that the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is creating chaos and fear across the globe and in the lives, homes and workplaces of families everywhere, I believe He spoke His peace into our hearts through the appearance of these dolphins. 
Four years ago I had a dream about three dolphins as a symbol of the omnipotence of the Triune Godhead, and now He reminded me of this vision by placing three real dolphins where we could appreciate their beauty. Below is the blog post I wrote in 2015 about my dream. Praying that it will be a blessing, and praying for health, safety and wisdom for all as they deal with the consequences of COVID-19 in their own lives and in their local and global communities. 

Reposted from 2015:
In this dream I am at a dance audition held in a studio at the beach. As I watch the choreographed combination each of us will have to perform for the judges, I feel confident that I will be able to dance the steps with ease and grace. But when it is my turn to take the floor, I can barely move and I almost fall over because I am wearing a bulky winter jacket and coat and heavy street shoes. 
I ask the director if I can remove these, and she says yes, but that I’ll have to leave them outside on the beach because there is no room in the studio. 
When I reach the sand dunes and hear the pounding surf, I am reluctant to set my extra clothes and shoes down on the beach, wondering if they’ll be safe. Will they wash away, or will someone take them? But finally I remove my winter gear, and I feel a great sense of freedom as the waves lap at my feet and the ocean breeze ruffles my hair. 
As I look out at the waves, I am thrilled to see three dolphins swim by, parallel to the shore. I glimpse the first leaping from the water then diving back in, just long enough for me to appreciate his beauty and vitality. The second is invisible, not emerging from the sea, but I can tell from currents on the water’s surface that he is there.
The third dolphin is a fantastical creature, much larger and more powerful than the first. As he flies out of the ocean and hovers over the waves, I can see his elaborately developed and ornate fins gleaming on his silvery body. One brilliant gold, fan-shaped fin on his back is like that of a sailfish; several fins crown his head; and a long sword-like bill protruding from his mouth resembles that of a swordfish.
This vision of the dolphins fills me to overflowing with unspeakable joy. With no fear I leave my excess garments on the beach and run off to tell the others what I have seen. But back in the studio, everyone is preoccupied with the audition and no one listens to me. Some clearly just don’t care; some politely brush me off; and a few are rude and even hostile as they order me out. So I leave, with great sadness that no one would be able to see the majestic dolphins or to experience the joy they brought me. 
As I awaken, I think of the burdens, sins and weights that encumber me as I try in my own strength to run the race He has set before me (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24). Why do I so foolishly cling to these, instead of laying them down at the foot of His cross (1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:28) where I can exchange my burdens for His blessings? The dance of life is effortless in His grace when I follow His lead, but when I rely on my own flesh, I can barely move. 
Jesus Christ is the Living Water, our endless Source of energy, freedom, and cleansing (Song of Solomon 4:15; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; John 4:10; Revelation 7:17). His shed blood washes away our sins and carries away our excess baggage, just as the tides faithfully empower the waves to clear out debris left on the shore (Revelation 1:5). 
The first dolphin represents Jesus the Son, come to earth in the flesh (John 1:14) to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). The second, unseen dolphin symbolizes the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus Christ to live within the heart of every believer (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), invisible like the wind except in the effects He has through His great power (John 3:8).  
And the third glorious creature reminds me of Christ Who will come again, wearing His crowns (Revelation 19:12) as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16) and carrying His fan of judgment (Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17). His victorious Word will proceed from His mouth (Revelation 19:15,21), sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), to defeat the enemies of Israel, Satan, sin and death (Revelation 19:15-21). 
Once we believe that Jesus died to pay our sin debt, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and recognize Him as our personal Lord and Savior, His Holy Spirit enters our hearts and lives there (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) until we go home to be with Him. In the meantime, we have the glorious, blessed hope of His second coming (Titus 2:13), when we will accompany Him as armies led by our King of Kings (Revelation 19:14). Through Jesus we have the fullness of the Godhead bodily: the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 
What an amazing message that anyone who is born again (John 3:3-8) should want to shout from the rooftops to all who will listen! The Bible shows us many examples of those who were saved and immediately left what they were doing to proclaim the Good News to everyone, including the shepherds (Luke 2:17-18), the woman at the well (John 4:28-29), and the apostle Andrew (John 1:40-42). Many of us, in the excitement of being newly saved, did the same. 
But sadly, many to whom we witness are apathetic, polite but unconvinced, or even aggressive in response to our testimony. Sadder still, that response may quench our fire to tell others the life-saving, destiny-changing Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
Thankfully, our mission is not to save or even to convert anyone, for only the Holy Spirit can do that. Our mission is to sow the seed of God’s Word and our story of how He changed us forever (2 Corinthians 5:17). We may think our sowing is bearing no fruit, but there may be many whose heart is softened by our words and deeds, later becoming receptive to accepting Christ (Matthew 13:3-23). 
For the most part, we won’t know of these until we reach glory, but what a joy it will be to meet them and realize we played a part in their being in Heaven! And I believe Jesus Christ will reward us for all good words spoken on His behalf, whether or not they reach fertile soil (Matthew 25:21, 23). 
May we not grow weary in spreading the Good News, regardless of what reaction we encounter! In the right season we will reap our harvest (Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13), for God notices and will reward our labor!  
© 2015 Laurie Collett
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