October 26, 2020

Bless the Pelicans

The brown pelican and I have had a chequered relationship. I’m not really a fan of these large water birds, and I was surprised to learn that they are common in my newly adopted state of North Carolina. What’s to dislike about pelicans? For most people, probably nothing. They are impressive predators and certainly interesting to watch.

I recently spent a beautiful 80 degree October day at the beach with my family. (80 degrees in October! Can I get an ‘Amen’? This yankee has seriously fallen in love with North Carolina.) As I sat in my beach chair, I closed my eyes to listen to the waves and feel the breeze on my face. It was idyllic. I inhaled the salty air and rested in silent contemplation. I thought about the state of our nation and our world. The moment itself was peaceful, but I couldn’t ignore the weight of the brokenness pushing in from all sides. I asked God about the anger, hopelessness, fear, and division that seems to be spreading like a cancer through our nation. While I prayed, I watched three pelicans bobbing on the rolling waves. Suddenly, I heard a voice inside say “Bless the pelicans.” Umm, what? That idea certainly hadn’t come from me.

Let me take you back to a south Florida beach in 1980. A 7-year-old girl with copper hair stood at the end of a pier. A large brown pelican glided over to the pier and perched on top of a post near the girl. Her mother recognized a wonderful photo op and asked the girl to pose. Just as she snapped the photo, the pelican snapped its voluminous beak shut over the girl’s head, leaving a wound along her hairline. Did the bird think she was a shiny fish? Who knows? But 40 years later, the girl still doesn’t love pelicans.

So there I was on a North Carolina beach with this bizarre thought in my head. Bless the pelicans.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

— Matthew 5:43-45

When someone hurts us, our natural inclination is not usually to bless them. It is more natural for most of us to wish them harm, hold a grudge, or even seek revenge. Unless forgiveness happens, we can’t desire the best for the one who has caused us pain because we are held in bondage to the past. I sat and pondered this tendency, realizing it is one of the biggest problems facing our world today. We are quick to take offense and slow to forgive. Quick to curse and slow to bless. Ultimately, this robs us of our freedom as we become slaves to our pain. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Who are the pelicans in your life?

Ask God to reveal the pelicans — the ones who caused childhood wounds, the ones who provoke fear or anxiety in you, the ones you’d rather not have to deal with on a daily basis, or ever. Maybe your pelicans are people of a different political persuasion. Maybe they are people who support a cause that makes your stomach turn.

What would it look like if we had a more Christ-like response to our pelicans? What would happen if we spoke blessings over the people who have hurt us? What if we forgave those who have caused us offense? What if we sought unity over division?

None of us are perfect, but every one of us can do better. Today, I am asking God to help me approach the coming days with grace, patience, and love. I’m choosing to bless the pelicans.

Here’s a prayer to help you begin to bless the pelicans in your life:

Lord, today I choose to forgive ___________.

Forgive me for holding unforgiveness in my heart.

Soften my heart and help me to love.

Bless __________, and help them to experience your love today.

Please keep in mind that this is not a formula. It is only a starting point. Allow the Lord to give you his words for blessing. Let me know how it goes in the comments below…

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