Not Fishing

Have you seen the videos online?  On some rivers in Missouri and Illinois, folks have to be careful of the fish jumping into their boat.

Seriously.

By now, the reports are not only confirmed as true, the incidents are actually on the rise.  The Asian carp, which were introduced to help keep down algae growth in those rivers, are multiplying at an alarming rate, endangering many native species of fish.  This particular fish, for some reason, responds to the vibration and sound of the motors and propellers, swimming frantically by the thousands in the wake of the boat and also in front of it.

Then the real action begins.  The large silver fish, which can grow to four feet long, begin to jump, almost seeming to fly.  There are so many of them that large numbers can actually jump right into the boat.

Imagine.

Fishing without even putting bait on a line–without even throwing the line into the water.  All one has to do is to sit and enjoy the ride.  Oh!  They do also have to keep an eye out for the flying fish, since the larger ones can do serious damage to both boat and passengers.

That’s my kind of fishing!  I understand this type of fish is actually quite good to eat, too.  There is no legal limit in most states, since they’re considered a nuisance fish, so a casual boater (with a fishing license) could fill a freezer without much effort.

Now, I should mention–I’ve heard of other things that get into boats without invitation as well.  Snakes can drop from branches of trees.  In some places the alligators occasionally feel the need to approach.

Why, even President Carter in one incident, widely reported in the 1970’s, saw a rabbit swimming across the lake toward his fishing boat and, in a panic, began swinging an oar wildly to keep him out of the craft.

I’m trying to remember why I started this little essay on fishing and uninvited hitchhikers on water craft.  I suddenly recall that I really don’t like to eat fish all that much.  I’m not even a huge fan of being out on the water, over-eager fish notwithstanding.

I do, however, have a point to be made.  That was inevitable, wasn’t it?

In recent days, I’ve been thinking a bit about motivation for achievement and even ministry.  Previous essays have pointed out the dangers of having an artistic bent, the most prevalent danger being the need for reassurance.  Artists tend to seek approval from their audience, often to the detriment of their art.  Even ministers (which we all should be) tend to need a pat on the back with some frequency.

I should tell you before we go too far into this mine-field–I don’t write this seeking compliments or signs of approval for myself.  My cup is already running over and needs nothing more.

I guess you could even say my boat is teeming with a full load.  And, I haven’t even had to put a line into the water to coax the approval.

But, tonight I’m wondering about how we make sure people around us don’t have to go fishing for approval.

Why is it we make folks rig up their fishing poles and toss their bait into the water in front of us before we’ll simply say a few complimentary words to them?

When we see people doing something well, or even just trying hard, why is it so hard for us to tell them they did a good job?

I know from personal experience that if I have to go fishing for approval, the benefit from being bolstered up is short-lived.  Soon I begin to think that perhaps the words only came because I backed someone into a corner.

Maybe they didn’t even like what I did at all!

Recently, there have been a number of friends who have been kind enough to offer encouragement, seemingly out of the blue.  Funny.  When that happens, I have to assume they really mean it, that their enthusiasm is genuine and not feigned at all.

What a gift!

It seems to me it’s time the river gives up its harvest without any bait or any attempt to garner praise on the part of the person in the boat.  Like the real river and the fish, there is no shortage.  It’s not like we’ll run out of compliments and won’t have any to share with the next person who needs them.

If you’ve been blessed by something someone has said or done, tell them!

Just like the example I gave earlier, there is a flip side to this issue, too.

Sometimes what jumps into the boat isn’t what we need.

I stood and talked with a man this evening about his wife.  She used to sing in church, accompanying herself on a guitar.

Then one day, she quit.  Gave away her guitar.  She hasn’t sung again in public.  Ten years have passed and she still won’t sing.

It seems a snake fell into her boat.

On that day, the last time she sang at her church, a man came up to her after the service.  He was smiling.  He told her he appreciated her willingness to sing.  Then he went on to suggest that she should practice a little more before she got up in front of the congregation again.

Need a minute to let that sink in?  I did.

She may never get over the experience.  I hope she does.

The man who wrote the book of Hebrews gave us these words from the mouth of God:  Let us find ways to spur each other on to love and good works.  We need to encourage each other today.  Do it before it’s too late!

Words to live by.

“Like golden apples set in silver is a word spoken at the right time.”
(Proverbs 25:11 ~ ISV)

“We live by encouragement, and die without it–slowly, sadly, and angrily.”
(Celeste Holm ~ American actress ~ 1917-2012)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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