Coastal Shipping- Look, See, Pray

Timber barge off the coast of Vancouver

I was on holiday on a passenger ship full of comforts and luxuries. We passed this hulking load of timber, which seemed to be gliding effortlessly, towed by an ocean-going tug. Stacked tree-trunks… perhaps heading for a lumber yard, for housebuilding; or maybe to be pulped for paper. Who knows?

Trees that had stood for decades, now a dead weight.

I cannot imagine the weight of that timber- or the confusion in the lives of the distant animals and birds who once called them home. The more I look at this photo, the more ways of interpreting it come to mind.

Is this economic success, or ecological tragedy? Is it just dead wood, or the beginning of something beautiful and useful? Have replacement trees been planted yet?

How can a (relatively) tiny tugboat lead the barge safely across the channel? What if a storm blows up?

It’s a picture of effective leadership- go for it, tug! You’ve got this…

Or a picture of disconnection, of utilitarianism, of exploitation. A leader dragging a reluctant lump- if you don’t keep the tension in the cable, the barge will drift wherever the wind or tide decides.

This could illustrate politics, business, or even church leadership.

What do you see?

Does this scene show the value of a clear purpose, and the application of sufficient force/energy to achieve “success”? You could interpret it that way.

Think of the skill of the captain and crew on board the tug. Superb professionalism. It shows how important it is to use the right tools- imagine towing that load by paddling a kayak… Or what if you had left port without checking the weather forecast: a maelstrom instead of a blue silken mirror.

If the cable breaks… perhaps that represents the disaster that happens when communication breaks down.

Or irresistible momentum. They got the barge heading the right way- how will they stop it? Or navigate it to a safe unloading harbour? It’s tricking parking a caravan, never mind a floating behemoth like that!

The photo may remind some of you of the parables in the Bible about the tongue, small- but deadly if misbehaved.

Perhaps Paul talking about the way a horse can be controlled with a small bridle and bit. Or maybe the disciples in a boat on Galilee, scared witless by a sudden storm- as Jesus snoozed peacefully- then calming the storm with a word.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” says the old proverb. Perhaps this one needs a thousand words of its own! Every picture needs to be interpreted carefully. What assumptions and preconceptions do we bring to that interpretation?

What do you see?

Make a space in your day to look at the photo: and ask a question of God. “Lord, what meaning can You show me from this scene?”

Pictures are like stories- they open the INNER eye, unlock the imagination, chuck out yesterday’s stale bread and bake anew. Looking at an unfamiliar picture makes the brain stretch to encounter new possibilities. They can “accidentally” throw light on a hard problem you have agonised over for weeks!

It has to be worth asking the question.

What do you see? And what does it mean?

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