'Fear not, little flock'

A Christian Science perspective: A spiritual lesson from birds' daily flight to find food.

During the Christmas season our large family gets up at “o-dark-thirty” to beat the sunrise 75 miles south at the Bosque Del Apache bird refuge. The refuge is a large area of ponds and lakes and cornfields in central New Mexico. Our goal is to catch sight of hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, and cranes as they take flight to seek food for the day. We have gone in rain and sleet and snow and bone-chilling cold, but the trip wakes us to gratitude for the wonders of our world.

Each year we watch as one bird flexes his wings and rises followed by the others. My husband, Mike, always said, “He’s the Grand Kahuna telling them it’s time to get up.” There is a strumming and a swishing sound as the birds fly overhead. Sometimes they fly over us in one direction, only to retrace their flight and fly over us again. Some are close to us and we can see them as individuals, some farther away as specks in formation. We listen and watch as flock after flock ascends. I am always reminded of the birds’ innate knowledge that each day food is waiting for them in the river estuaries, farms, and pastures hundreds of miles around the Bosque refuge. Through the winter we often see them feeding in the pasture on our own farm, only to return that night to the Bosque.

I’ve also noticed that there is never any sign of hesitation or distrust among the birds as they soar skyward to seek food for the day. We humans hear daily from the media and other sources that there is not enough – not enough food, not enough energy, not enough education, and not enough money. Accepting that essentials of life, and goodness itself, are limited can trap us in a cycle of fear.

When I was growing, up my mother always reminded me that “fear is a habitual distrust in God.” In the book of Luke, Jesus tells us, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). In his translation of the Bible, “The Message,” Eugene Peterson interprets this as, “Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” So there is a reality we can seek, indeed steep ourselves in; an understanding of God that transcends the cycle of fear. Just like those flocks of birds, we can expect our needs to be met.

As I watch the birds take flight, it is easy to understand why Jesus used the phrase “little flock” to address his group of followers. A flock – of sheep, or of birds – denotes an inclusiveness that embraces us all. The promise, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” is not conditional. It includes the complete flock of humanity. Nor is Jesus placing such care for humanity in the past or future. So when we feel fear about the future, or regret about past mistakes made by ourselves or others, we can always conscientiously shift our thought to the side of abundant good. Like those fowl at the refuge, we can take flight with a sense of present well-being.

I love the idea that God takes “good pleasure” in giving us the kingdom. Jesus was sure our Father represented good because his own understanding of this enabled him to go about healing and doing only good. Jesus knew that each of us need not worry about the Father’s abundance. Our heavenly Father, divine Mind, joys in us, knowing we are cared for and loved.

Jesus’ command also reminds us that we have been given the kingdom. And he assured us that the kingdom, the sense of harmony and completeness, is always right there in our own consciousness: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Our flight is assured and protected, and what we need is available today, tomorrow, and always. Like the thousands of ducks, geese, and cranes who fly each year to gain their place in the fields and lakes around the world, we are assured of God’s plenty and peace.

Last year as our family gathered to watch the birds take off, we were treated to a breathtaking sight of beauty. It was a perfect day, with a clear blue morning sky. As the birds took flight, the sun glanced off the western hills and reflected in the lake in front of us. How blessed we were – and what a beautiful reminder of divine abundance.

From the Christian Science Sentinel.

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