“It seems to me that if something comes across your path three times in a row, God is probably in it.” This gem of wisdom, offered by a godly man a few weeks ago, has been echoing in my mind recently. Is there something particular which God is wanting me to understand right now, or is there just an inordinate number of feathers that keep, almost literally, coming across my path these days?
Feather 1 – from a cockatoo
It was just lying there on what should be grass in my backyard. It was two days before I went away for a l-o-n-g stretch of meetings. I had a sixth sense that God was behind its placement and timing, and was delighted, after posting the photo below on Facebook and asking about its asymmetry, to realise that it is a flight feather. After 3 1/2 years of taking life fairly gently for one reason or another, perhaps it is time for action again? Or was I reading too much into the presence of a simple feather in the backyard?
A prayer collage of feathers
Have you ever done a prayer collage? We sometimes do them at a particular gathering of friends, and I always find that God speaks to me as I stop and prayerfully flick through magazines. I had anticipated that this most recent collage, which I put together early in February, would feature fluffy feathers. I had been collecting magazines for the activity and had spotted a page which I fully intended to use. Only somebody else got to it first. The page of soft falling feathers was no longer available. You can see how the collage ended up. It is filled with other birds instead, most of which are soaring (though one is showing off). Significant?
(Interestingly, I have since learned that the feathers used by birds for visual courtship are also flight feathers. They’re used for flirting rather than flight.)
Feather 2 – a failed photo
After returning from that long trip, one of my first priorities was to take a half day retreat and pray about the year ahead. While doing that up in the hills near home, I happened upon a beautiful kookaburra sitting on a shelter. I crept closer, clicking my camera. Without a sound, the kookaburra took off, soaring through the trees. Would I have caught the perfect picture, I wondered, as it soared past the camera? My shoulders sagged when I looked at the image. The kookaburra was too close and I had zoomed in too far. All I had were its wing feathers.
Then, it struck me. Perhaps this was also from God. Flight feathers……
Feather 3 – from an Eastern rosella
Two days after the failed photo episode, I had finally finished unpacking and sorting through the myriad of receipts, scribbled notes and candles and soaps (potential small gifts) from my recent trip. I had taken the collage, trimmed it to size, and pinned it to my notice board. As I did so, I had taken the first feather (the cockatoo feather, above) and added it to the picture. “Is this really of you, Lord? One more flight feather that I can’t miss would be lovely if it is you speaking……”.
The brightly coloured feather was literally right in my path the very next day. I wasn’t looking for it. I wasn’t even in a park or bushland. I was simply walking up a driveway to a friend’s front door. And there it was. Asymmetrical. Beautiful. Almost demanding to be taken home and treasured.
This morning I spent time in Isaiah 40:31. I learned that the Hebrew word אֵ֖בֶר (’ê·ḇer), usually translated ‘wings’ in that verse, literally means ‘pinions’. When I looked up the meaning of the word ‘pinion’, I found that … yes, you guessed it … a ‘pinion’ is the outer part of a bird’s wing, including its flight feathers.
In fact, some people clip the flight feathers of big birds specifically to prevent them flying away. The feathers will grow back after the birds moult but it effectively grounds them for a time.
In contrast, “… those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings (pinions) like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)
How can we soar on wings like eagles?
How do we renew our strength? How do we soar on wings like eagles? What is the secret to being a middle-aged woman who is full of energy, enthusiasm and action? Eat more vegetables? Take up jogging? Get to bed early each night?
Isaiah clearly states, “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28 NIV). It is this God who “gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29).
It’s not about what I do. It’s all about who God is.
There is something I can do, though. Hope. Isaiah goes on to say that “… those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)
But HOW do I ‘hope in the LORD’? The next verse, addressed to nations, rather than individuals, finally, at long last, gives me something specific that I can DO.
“Be silent before me, you islands! Let the nations renew their strength!” (Isaiah 41:1a NIV).
Contemplative prayer is something I have been exploring, as you may know from earlier blog posts. And today, as I look at what are now ‘my’ feathers mounted on my collage, I sense that God is reminding me that everything I do and am is only because of him. Times of silence before God is the best I can contribute.
I very much hope that there is a season of productivity and ‘soaring’ ahead for me. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is. Time will tell.
One thing I do know for certain is this. When we put our hope in the LORD, the Creator, the Untiring, Unchanging and All-knowing One, we can’t go wrong.
And in the meantime, I intend to do all I can to make the soaring happen. ‘All I can do’ isn’t terribly energetic. It is just this: