Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tribute to Marysville

It is world news that Victoria, Australia, has been ravaged by bushfires since Saturday 7th of February, a day which Victoria saw record temperatures. Country towns have been destroyed, thousands of hectares of bush lands burnt down, and close to two hundred lives lost. To add insult to injury, it is believed that some or many of these fires were lit deliberately.

One of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Victoria was a small town with a population of about 500, nestled in the foothills of the mountains. Marysville abounded with native Australian animals such as parrots, kookaburras and wallabies, as well as dozens of wild which ducks lived in the town’s small lake and Steavenson River.

On Saturday 7 February 2009, Marysville was devastated by bushfires. They say only one building is left standing in the town itself. Most of the residents were evacuated safely to the local sports ground, Gallipoli Park. It is not yet known how many were not so fortunate.

In last September, only four months ago, my family vacationed in Marysville, staying in a house that over looked that very same sports ground. We even played tennis there. My wife, two children, and I considered it one of the most idealic and relaxing holidays we have had. We fed the wild ducks every day, went on bush walks, and visited Steavenson Falls.

I took a number of photos of Marysville when there, and in fact, the title photo of this blog is a photo we took of Steavenson Falls. To think that this beautiful place has been devastated is heartbreaking. If you have a moment, please lift a prayer for the people who have lost their loved ones and homes due to these bushfires.

Here is a link to a news article on The Australian website.

While in Marysville, my family and I witnessed a scene so moving, that when I returned home and was waiting upon the Lord, He showed me something that motivated me to pen it into a devotional, which I placed on the net back in September. As a tribute to Marysville, I share that devotional again below.

When My Gaze Strays

Startled by my footsteps, the wild duck and her ten ducklings fled down the grassy bank to dive into the gurgling stream fed by the Steavenson River in Marysville. Within their element, they ceased their flight and took care not to stray far from the stream’s bank, where the water was shallow and the current slow.

Yet two of the tiny ducklings strayed from their mother and ventured towards the centre of the stream. My heart leapt to my throat in dismay as the stronger current tore them from their family and propelled them ruthlessly downstream. Watching over the remaining eight ducklings, the mother seemed oblivious to the hapless pairs’ fate. I stood there, aghast, afflicted by feelings of despair and helplessness as the current continued to sweep the ducklings away. Their valiant attempt to paddle upstream back to their mother was futile.

Is this how little ones such as these are lost? Divorced from their parent’s comforting protection, forcibly separated from the loving fellowship of their siblings? Soon they would perish, all alone, in a world suddenly devoid of love.

Memories long buried bobbed to the surface of the waters of my mind. Nineteen years ago, I had been in that very same predicament. Doubt, fear and terror raged unchecked through me, sweeping me far from the knowledge of God’s soothing presence. Anxiety and endless panic attacks became a torrential river from which there was no escape. I fought it with all my strength, but like those ducklings, I lacked the power to swim upstream back to the comforting arms of Jesus. My world turned black—despair became my constant companion.

Drawn back to the present by sudden movement, I was surprised to see the mother duck leave behind the other eight ducklings as she launched herself into the fast flowing stream. Paddling furiously towards her errant youngsters, she soon caught up with them. With practised care she guided them away from the middle of the stream and into a small dam formed by rocks and a fallen branch. Safe now, the two ducklings snuggled against her—relieved that she had seen their plight and rescued them.

Casting my mind back, I recalled how Jesus had also come after me when I had been swept into that desolate, black place of depression and hopelessness. “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” He assured me through His Word in Joshua 1:5. With loving patience, His Word, and practical advice through a book that He dropped onto my lap, ‘Self Help for Your Nerves’ by Dr. Claire Weekes, He lead me down the road to recovery, and soon restored me to the knowledge of His presence.

Returning to the present, I saw that the scene before me had not run its full course. What of the eight ducklings left behind by their mother as she raced off to rescue the lost pair? Imagine then, my surprise to see those eight youngsters—their eyes fixed firmly upon their mother, race into the midst of the stream and follow her into the safety of the small dam. Now mother and ten ducklings were reunited.

Right there was the answer, God’s blueprint to avoid being swept away by life’s troubles and storms. I had made the same mistake as Peter when he stepped out of the boat to walk on water to reach Jesus. Like him I took my eyes off the Lord and cast my gaze upon surrounding troubles, doubts and fears. Like Peter I sank. How eloquently those ducklings illustrated Hebrews 12:2, ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.’ Had I done that, and clung to His words in John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me,” I could have been spared such anguish!

Yet all the same, my heart is comforted by the knowledge that when my gaze strays from Him and I am swept away by life’s troubles, that He will come after me and restore me to Himself. He will never leave nor forsake me.

(All verses from NIV)

A photo of the wild ducks who inspired the devotional.


  1. Oh wow, what an amazing story and the illustration to our spiritual life is spot-on. I hope you don't mind if I refer people here to read this.
    Also, here in Toronto, I herd the news that the fires there might be deemed mass murder. This is just awful that people could cause such devastation.
    I will pray today for Australia and those involved.
    Blessings to you.

  2. I remember this devotional, Peter. It moved my heart so much then, but even more so now. Brian and I have been following this story closely, because of our love for Australia, and also because we know it is close to you. I'm so sorry that such a special place in your memory can never be revisited physically. Heart-breaking. Awesome tribute, Peter.

  3. My kids have been watching the fires and we've been praying...it's awful to think of the losses.

    That devotional is powerful and really spoke to me--thank you.

  4. This gave me goosebumps reading it. There's so much sadness, darkeness and whatever out there and yet, still. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  5. A beautiful tribute, Peter, and a moving devotional. Australia is absolutely in my prayers, as are the people there. So sad.

  6. Thanks everyone for your kind words and prayers, very much appreciated - this has been a difficult week for our nation. I think it will be sometime before we realize the true enormity of what has happened. (Thanks for offering to refer people to the post, Sita, I am humbled.)
    God bless

  7. That is so sad, and totally unnecessary, it would seem. Yes, I will pray for those affected.

  8. Hi Peter. I'm over from Sita's place and am so glad she sent us! My heart is heavy for all in Australia - thank you for sharing your personal insight. Also, I LOVED the duck devo!!!! Peace to you and yours this day.

  9. Thanks Peter for raising aareness about Marysville and places/ people like it. Also for the devotional. It reminded me of a visit to Abbotsbury Swannery when hundreds of cygnets hatched. As we watched one female in the water, I noticed a cygnet on her back virtually enclosed by the beautiful white wings. It was a very comforting image at that time. I love it when God speaks to us through His visual word Creation, as well as His written word, the Bible and incarnate Word, Jesus the Son. With love, Anne.

  10. Beautiful. I love how God uses his creation around us to teach us of his abiding presence. Thank you for this poignant devotional and tribute.