Of Boats and Birds

Of Boats and Birds

I am fascinated by boats; especially sailboats. They are so graceful and quiet, but for the sound of the waves and the slapping of the sails and lines against the mast. I’ve watched them for hours on the lake. Watched them motor in and out of the harbor. Watched them tack and run with the wind. I’ve visited the tall ships. I’ve toured the whalers on the East Coast. I’ve read Moby Dick several times and carved small wooden sailboats. But, I’ve never sailed. Someday, hopefully someday soon, I’ll have the opportunity. Pictures on the Golden Coast of Michigan often show a white sandy beach with white sails speckling the emerald waters of our sunlit, sparkling Inland Sea as the ultimate vacation destination for serenity and relaxation.

Another fascination for me as I consider the handiwork of God is the world of birds, as you can probably tell from my many references to them. Their colors and shapes, their movement and habits provide an endless array of variety that shows the wonderful diversity of the creation as it reflects the beauty of its Maker.

In fact those pristine pictures of the lakeshore would not be complete without several seagulls on the beach and a few more gracefully floating past on the breeze.

You may wonder why I’ve written about both birds and boats together. I hope that you are amazed as much as I am that the same scientific reason for birds to be able to fly (along with planes, I might add) is the same reason that sailboats can move so swiftly in the water and that they can sail into the wind. You see, the shape of a bird’s wing and the shape of a sail are the same. God created the wing of the bird according to aerodynamic principles. Man, the crown of the creation and after many, many design attempts, learned to copy those principles in the shape of a sail, and later an airplane wing.

I’ll try not to get too scientific on you. Because air molecules must travel further over the top of a moving bird’s wing or the rounded side of a sail in the wind, they travel faster than the molecules of air on the back side. This creates a low pressure on the top of the wing causing the air underneath to push it upward or forward, in the case of a sail. This shape is called an airfoil. When the lift on top of the wing is greater than the force of gravity the bird can fly. When the pull of the low pressure is greater than the drag of water against the hull of a boat, it moves forward.

As a child, and later as a teacher, I learned to demonstrate the working of an airfoil with an easy experiment. I would hold a sheet of paper by the corners crossways in front of my mouth and blow over the top of it. The moving air of my blowing causes the paper to lift instead of drooping downward, as you might expect.

What an amazing part of the work of the Creator we behold here. Because of the built in order and physics of the behavior of air molecules over a moving airfoil we have a whole world of unique relationships between creatures and an incredibly useful means of transportation for man. God created the thousands of species of birds with the ability to fly. He gave the proper muscles, skeleton and feathers for their size and food gathering needs. Before this wonderful diversity, adding also the other flying creatures of the world, we stand amazed at His handiwork.

The invisible and powerful force of the movement of air over an airfoil propelling and lifting boats and birds, reminds me of the powerful work of God on the hearts of His saints. Apart from God we are as ships with tattered sails driven by the waves to destruction on the rocks of the shore. Or, we are as a bird with broken wings falling to death on the hard ground. But God, in His great mercy and love for us draws His own people to Himself, delivering them from certain death. By the invisible and irresistible work of the Spirit, He lifts us to Himself. O sinner, repent of your foolish ways! Turn unto Him and He will lift you up. Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Our salvation is shown to be completely the work of God. It is His creation. In Him, find all your hope and salvation. Next time you observe the graceful movements of the boats and birds, be reminded of the wonder of the works of God.

Deane Wassink,
January, 2003

Keeper of the Deep

Now each ripple follows the last,
Yet quickly arises the wild blast.
A picture of my life I see,
As if a boat my life would be.

When sailing on life’s fitful sea,
And round me waves swirl and dance,
Lord keep my eyes firm fixed on Thee,
Lest assailed my heart thinks all is chance.

Lord of the wind, fill my sail,
Let not the storm o’er me prevail.
Without Thy sovereign hand to guide,
My ship would crash at eventide.

I see great waves and billows roll,
For the lost the bell doth toll.
Alone, I cannot make the strand,
But, smash to dust and join the sand.

Thy Word of Light a beacon shines,
Piercing dark of heart and fog of mind,
Guiding Thy chosen sailer home,
Till safely into Thy port I come.

Lord, teach me how to furl the sail,
To grip the tiller before the storm,
To run swiftly with the wind,
To tack steadfastly back again.

Lord, teach me how to read the sky,
To observe with weather eye,
To trust Thee when all seems becalmed,
To anchor when I’m safely home.

Thou art sovereign o’er the deep.
Through waves and billows, Thou dost keep.
Powerfully Thou sayest, “Peace be still”,
And all the tempest flees Thy will.

Through pain and sorrow Thou dost keep,
Thy servant stumbling faint and weak.
Thou in love dost come to seek.
Thou savest me, O Keeper of the deep.

On Thee, O let me safely sleep,
My God, Great Keeper of the deep.

Deane Wassink 01/17/00
revised 01/22/03