I believe some of the most practical and helpful words are found in the Christian Bible, especially where Jesus Christ says:
[ Do Not Worry ] “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? …” – Matthew 6:25-34
Later in the Christian Bible we find Paul an imprisoned apostle of Jesus Christ sharing how he has learned to be contentin every situation in lifeand goes on to say why…
“Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and requests, with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace that God gives, which transcends all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – from Philippians 4:6,7
Many people, including myself, have discovered the peace and contentment of hooking into God’s promises and letting Him into their life. This has been an amazing journey for me personally, freeing me from the worry, anxiety and stress I use to experience over the things in life I had no control over, but God does. Worry is simply our attempt to control circumstances we actually have no control over. Our attempt to be in control of every aspect of our life is a sign of deep insecurity and fear of failure which often stems from dysfunctional beliefs seeded in our family of origin i.e. unfulfilled expectations either within ourselves, our parents or our peers, being carried into our adult life. Our perfectionist behaviour including phobias, irrational fears and obsessive compulsive tendencies (OCD) form a major reason many seek counselling today. The Bible has been a source of therapy for thousands of years, and many principles in modern counselling are derived from Bible teaching. Professional counselling is expensive, but Bible truth is free and easily accessible by everyone. After all what better help can one get than that of the instruction manual from the manufacturer (Creator).
Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring on the thermals
2. Rise Above It All.
The eagle has always been a great inspiration to me, in a similar way to the Red-tailed Tropic bird, in the way that it rises up and effortlessly soars on the thermals, high above the cares and worries of the world below. From high in the sky the eagle gets a much better perspective of life, seeing the big picture and not just looking at the local scene. The reason we get depressed and anxious is because we allow our difficult situations to engulf and embroil our emotions and our thoughts stealing away our serenity and peace. We experience stress because we think and feel that the situation is bigger than we can handle safely. However big it might seem, God is always present for us to call on and rest in for help. This has been my wonderful experience when work appears to overload me, and it just seems impossible to get through it. When I ask God to help me and then rest and trust Him to do so, I am often amazed at how I get all my work done, with time to spare, and feel quite at peace about it all.
Isaiah the prophet wrote: “…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31
Below is a song I wrote that has encouraged many to avail themselves of God’s loving intervention in their lives and to Rise Above It All.
3. Live life without Unfulfilled Expectations and Rejoice in the Present Experience.
Clamorous Reed-Warbler calling
It is a well known fact in Psychology that Unfulfilled Expectations are the seeds of Disappointment which may lead, if one remains in this state to Depression, Bitterness, Resentment and Unforgiveness. Many times I have approached the sound of the Clamorous Reed-Warbler making its loud music from deep down in the reed bed. Many times I have sought to photograph this elusive and fast flying timid bird, with disappointment. However, in the most unexpected place, at an unexpected time, I was granted opportunity to photograph this bird. I had to be patient, and realised that I had to let go the ambition, and allow God to grant me the opportunity in His good time. We each share a damaged human nature which is formed in God-likeness, but has fallen into the trap of thinking we are God, and can have control over our life in all aspects. However, as birding has shown me, each time we go out to a location, knowing what has been found there in the past by others, or what we had found previously, may not be there when we explore it again. Birds move about, flying freely from habitat to habitat, and that makes birding all the more interesting and challenging. It is here that I have learnt to accept what is handed to me on each occasion, and be thankful for it. The wonder of this, is that God always gives us something special, a gift, which is uniquely ours for that birding experience, to show us that, he loves to surprise and delight us when we least expect it. The simple truth is, if you have no expectations you will not be disappointed and hurt emotionally and you will find it easy to be positive and joyful, being thankful for each life experience as it comes your way. The Bible including Counselors teach people to live each day with an attitude of gratitude, which has the power to transform one’s life and begin to experience the wonder and beauty of living in the present, rather then living in the failure of the past or the expectation of the future, which may never be the way one wants it to be. Becoming mindful of your present life, choosing to enjoy each moment, is healthy and restorative.
Birding has helped teach me more and more to appreciate what is rather than be gloomy about what I expected as what could be, or even what we may demand, what should be, which leads to anger and frustration, because we choose to think we do not have control over all our life aspects. The bird I am looking for may not be there when I explore an area, but I have learned to let that go, and enjoy what is there, and be thankful just for the opportunity to get out in the fresh air and the beauty of Creation. This harks back to Bible verse quoted above, which reminds us to let God lead our life, rather than try to unsuccessfully force our own way, only to become anxious, angry, frustrated and disappointed. Take a look at what Jesus Christ said in the parable he told in Luke 12:16-21
4. Learn to View Your Life in Seasons, as the Birds Do.
Birds readily adjust to the changing seasons. Seasons exist to bring the changes needed for the variety required in life. There are two kinds of seasons in life: Seasons which refer to the cyclic changes of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter as well as the seasons of activity and change that take place in the life of the bird/us. This refers to seasons of growth, development, courting, breeding, nesting, training and grieving loss. Birds have intelligently adjusted their life to seasons and humbly accept them as part of the normal function of life. The Bar-tailed Godwit pictured above has just returned from a 16,000 km, eight day, non stop flight over the Pacific Ocean from Alaska to Australia where it spent our Winter months breeding and feeding in the Northern Hemisphere. It has returned to Australia to avoid the harsh Alaskan Winter and enjoy the warmth of our Australian Summer. Each year these birds migrate about 32,000 km flying between Alaska and Australia, and they do not complain or refuse to make the journey unless they are juvenile or have some physical impediment. When I see my life as a series of changing seasons, I can calmly and peacefully adjust. The wisest man King Solomon, explained this concept in his wisdom writings in the Bible:
‘Thereisa time for everything, and aseason for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.’ – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
In a similar way to the birds we can embrace each new season of life and know that it must occur, and bring necessary change which is needed to help us grow stronger and wiser as a person. We may not like what happens to us or others at the time, but will see the benefits it brings later. Our acceptance of this process will assist to allay the anger and frustration that comes when unwanted changes occur, especially when they are unexpected, such as a death, disaster or illness. Many cases of depression and psychological disorders may be linked to people not coping with the changes in life, and reacting to them rather than acting with them, as the birds do. Sadness, anger, frustration and grief can bring a season of Winter to the soul, but the good news which we need to remember is that Spring follows Winter, and with it comes new beginnings and warm bright days of returning hope. There may need for adjustment to the changes and rethinking how life will look with theses changes. We need to ride the difficult season, and learn from it, with hope of a coming Spring. It is true that those who have braved the difficulties of their life, and not just endured surviving the experience, but grown and developed in character because of the experience, are far richer for it and able to assist and encourage others with a newly obtained empathy and understanding.
5. View each challenging Life Experience not as a Problem to Solve but as an Opportunity to Grow and Develop as a Person.
Male Spotted Pardolote
Birding is good for the soul. As I have already iterated, there is a richer and more wonderful way to live life, which I am still discovering more and more each new day. I have a favorite saying (or life principle) that I share with people going through hard times, and often to myself, which is
Don’t Miss the Treasure in the Trial.
Each challenge presented to us in life is meant to be for our good, not matter how horrible it may appear. We usually don’t realize the benefits at the time, but later in hindsight we can see how the hardship and difficulty helped shape our life and character. So why not look for the positive rather than be brought down by the negative emotions that often accompany our hurting situations. It brings a powerful dynamic into our lives. A better saying than the one above is:
Look for the Treasure in the Trial
The Spotted Pardolote is a favorite of mine, one of Australia’s smallest birds, having amazing beauty when viewed from above, though looking quite ordinary when viewed from below. The problem is, most of us never ever see this bird as it usually dwells in the tops of high eucalypt trees, flies very fast, and is very small. I am always amazed at how much detail is painted on the wings, head and back of this bird. However, this bird does not build a nest high in the trees where it seeks its food, but in a tunnel in an embankment at ground level. This bird shows in its life features the two sides of life, and how even under the difficulty of nesting at ground level where it is very vulnerable, but in fact actually protects it from larger carnivorous birds and animals, because the entrance is small and often difficult to find. It is amazing to watch these birds fly full speed in and out of their nesting holes with mathematical precision. It is not until we appreciate the full picture of the Pardolote that we can appreciate the full beauty of this bird. So it is with our life, if we choose to only look at life from one negative perspective, we may never appreciate or even permit the beauty and maturity, that is being constructed in our life to take place. Our lives are likened to a tapestry being woven by God, which is yet unfinished and in the process of being woven. So often in our life experience we wonder why we can only see loose threads and a messy picture of our life. God reveals in the Bible what he is really doing, and allows us a glimpse of the picture he is creating in our lives on the other side of the tapestry. This is to encourage us that it is all worthwhile, and has an ultimate purpose, to make us more like him in our character and life, to love and live in the way we were intended to from the beginning of time. The Bible reveals to us this reality, that we are loved and cherished by God, and that he is actively at work in each of our lives to bring us to a better place, and by faith we can know his love, forgiveness and restorative power, because of what Jesus has already done for us. We only need to believe and receive thankfully.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
My book “What Birds Teach Us” explores many more lessons in life, but not so much in a spiritual or religious sense, as above. Teaching our young ones life skills for making good life choices is so important in this information age, where the attention is taken away from wisdom and replaced by selfish pleasure and the addictions that come from trying to cope with a stressful life in our own strength.