Thursday, 17 June 2021

Ducks, Duck Ponds, and Return on Investment

By Mazzy Adams

One of the delights spread abroad by the Lord in recent times has been the proliferation of church services now livestreamed, many of them made available for later viewing. It’s possible to binge watch church in your lounge room 24/7. I’ve been incredibly blessed while partaking of this abundant feast. 

I wonder if the streamers realise how many people they’re blessing. Last Sunday, I shared communion with a worldwide fellowship of believers. As I broke my piece of communion ‘bread’ (a gluten free seeds and grains cracker), the Holy Spirit whispered, 

“Cast your bread upon the waters and after many days it will return to you.” 

I jotted the words down so I could consider them later. What did I think of? This:

Image copyright Catie Jay Sercombe. Used by permission. 

Our family’s favourite picnic spot when our children were young—the duck pond at Lake Annand Park, Toowoomba. It’s changed a bit since those days—the old bridge has been replaced, the lake and islands have been upgraded to incorporate flood mitigation aspects, and the playground is now a modernised safe environment for children. 

But the ducks are still there, and children still cast pieces of bread upon the waters, and the ducks still come running to partake of those soggy morsels, and children still shriek with delight as they do.

Last year, before our eldest son and his family cast their hopes (and themselves) abroad to live overseas in obedience to God’s leading, our whole clan gathered for a barbecue at the duck pond. As my beloved and I watched our grandchildren at play, (and feeding a new generation of ducks), we revelled in the blessed return on the efforts and energy we expended raising our children.

In essence, The Preacher’s words recorded in Ecclesiastes 11:1 reflect the words I jotted down, though translations differ as this Biblehub search reveals. The myriad renderings include:

CEV: Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded.

AMP: Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, [be diligently active, make thoughtful decisions], for you will find it after many days.

ISV: Spread your bread on the water—after a while you will find it.

NIV: Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.

NLT: Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you.

GNT: Invest your money in foreign trade, and one of these days you will make a profit.

A little research into the cultural understanding of King Solomon’s day reveals three main ideas, interpretations, and principles drive these variations. Each holds wisdom and encouragement for believers and writers. They work together to remind us not to be discouraged or give up when we don’t see an immediate or obvious return for all our efforts. 

1. Practice generosity.

Giving generously of our time, energy, enthusiasm, directed endeavours, capital, wisdom, knowledge, and experience with due diligence and without expectation of return opens a channel of blessing that often surprises and delights us in due season.

Back in December 2020, my sisters and I received a request from the church my family attended when I was a toddler. They were seeking photos for inclusion in a book and history display for their centenary celebrations in June 2021. While my eldest sister has excellent memories of people and places from that time, as the youngest sibling, I’m keeper of the extensive collection of photos and slides taken by my father who was a keen photographer. 

Though it was a joy to honour our father through this legacy, and to honour the faithful ongoing ministry of that church, searching, scanning, mending and transforming relevant images into suitable quality for print, exchanging dozens of emails with my sister who lives in another state, and writing and collating information and memories took hundreds of hours. At the time, we had no idea which, if any, of the images would be used, nor whether either of us would be able to attend the celebrations.

But God … God worked in marvellous ways.

My sister and I and several other family members were able to attend whilst enjoying a lovely couple of days at the beach together. Several of the images and memories we provided were included in the book. ALL of the images, memories, and testimonies of God’s goodness we provided were utilised in the history display which remains open to the public for a month. 

My sister met folk who, like me, had attended the Sunday School class she’d taught over half a century ago—once children perpetually captured in a photo she’d taken with a box brownie camera—now adults who love and serve the Lord with all their hearts. Seed she had cast upon the waters as a teenager had fed children hungry for the love of God and resulted in a bountiful harvest.

For me, perhaps the defining moment attesting to this principle from Ecclesiastes 11:1 came when the lady who had first suggested they create a book said to me, ‘When your photos and stories started to roll in, the whole team got excited, believing we could do this.’ 

Not only is there a blessing which returns to those who cast their bread, or seed, or efforts, or words upon the waters of God-given opportunity, there’s a flow-on of blessing to a potential ocean of others.     

2. Consider diversifying your marketing efforts and options.

Back in Solomon’s time, if farmers could not sell all their produce locally, they would send it overseas on consignment. The wisest would divide their grain (produce) between ships, sending it to many distant ports in the hope that some, if not all, would be purchased, providing a return. This focus explains why some translations use the words ‘ship’, ‘send’, ‘invest’, and ‘spread’.

Words can travel across oceans. Borders might be closed to bodies, but not to words. 

As much as we writers may baulk at the thought, this interpretation supports and confirms the wisdom of diversifying our marketing endeavours. It also encourages thoughtful planning, diligence, optimism, patience, and trust when waiting for sales and results.

3. Take advantage of God-given opportunities and seasons.

This interpretation derives from the agricultural practice of sowing seed during times of flood; the seed cast upon the water settles to the soil below. When the waters recede, it sprouts in the flood-enriched soil which has been replenished with nutrients. The idea is especially reflected in the words ‘cast’ and ‘spread’. 

Coconut seeds cast upon the ocean can float a long way before they reach the shore and take root. Even seed dropped or dispersed by the wind during times of drought sprouts into life after flood waters pass over. 

Hmm … a writer’s efforts are often spread thin when the idiom, “It never rains but it pours” reflects real life. I’m challenged by this thought even as I write it, given the number of times I’ve pressed pause on my writing/publishing activities till after the ‘flood’ subsides. Or been frustrated by a drought of inspiration and enthusiasm. What about you?

There is another aspect to seed that sprouts after it’s been immersed in water; just as baptism symbolises death and resurrection, it is when we surrender all, cast our bread, our seed, our hopes, ourselves upon the waters of God’s grace and mercy, that his eternal promises and resurrection life return to us, and us to him. 

And remember, the one who inspired The Preacher to pen Ecclesiastes 11:1 also inspired the Apostle Peter to write, “Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

How or where has God challenged you to cast your bread? Have you experienced an unexpected return on investment or activity that exemplifies the truths in Ecclesiastes 11:1? I’d love to hear about it. 

Mazzy Adams is a published author of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. She has a passion for words, pictures, and the positive potential in people. 




  1. I was musing on this verse a few days ago so thanks for unpacking it. It’s a great verse for those with perfectionist tendencies. There are so many voices in the writing world say that if you want to be an author you must do things this way, or tha way. You can get to a point where you do nothing. Similarly if you have multi-creative passions. Which one do I work on? Too many choices. So for me this is saying, ‘Just get out and do the things. Worry about the results later.’ What was the key application of this verse for you, Mazzy?

    1. I truly get what you're saying about the paralysing effects of the multitude of voices pushing the 'way of perfection', which is why I need to spend time in that place of quiet reflection where I hear the voice of the One whose wisdom releases actual effective productivity.

      Apart from the immediate application - as a subject for this blog - I'm still seeking clarity on the full implications for me personally, which is why I'm so keen to read responses from others. However, like you, I'm encouraged to press on with my genre rebel tendencies and my Indie Publishing efforts so I can continue to cast my bread and seed abroad whenever and wherever I can.

      I think God has blessed you with many kinds of bread to cast - as a writer, an artist, and an encourager. And your veterinary skills and keen observations on life and people (human and otherwise) speak volumes of wisdom wrapped in humour as you give voice your little dog. I pray God will grant you a bumper harvest of seed to cast abroad in due season, that the flood of information will fertilise but not overwhelm you, and that you will rejoice in the knowledge that his blessed return is on its way.

  2. Regarding knowing where to cast my bread or words, in relation to finding the right readership for each thing I write, at first it was easy. I was teaching speech and drama and was very aware of the struggles young teenagers faced then. So I had them in mind when I wrote Jodie's Story, which was successful, much more so than my other books. I think finding where to cast your bread, or your words, is so important. Thanks for the reminder. I always appreciate, too, a reminder to be generous. As I have less energy these days in my seventies, I can be time pressured and therefore a bit stingy with my time. I need to review this. Thanks for an excellent post, Mazzy.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your struggles, Jeanette. From what I have heard and read over the last decade, they reflect an all too familiar pattern for writers and creatives. And yet, the world would be a sad place if no-one wrote books, or created art in its infinite forms of expression. You've faithfully added to that burgeoning beauty. I think this verse offers great encouragement to continue casting in faith and obedience to his leading, believing that he will cause your words to drift to places where they will bless. As for the age/energy balance, I love The Preacher's reminder that those who live have hope.(Ecclesiastes 9:4). May your youth and energy be renewed like the eagle's.

  3. A great read, Mazzy--thank you. So glad you were rewarded for all those hours searching out those old photos and preparing them for the anniversary! Re casting our bread on the waters, I have just come back from speaking at a Probus Club about my writing journey and always feel so privileged to be able to mention something at least about God in a natural, gentle way as I speak at these secular venues. No, I don't sell many books at such events, but who knows where the books I do sell will end up? And who knows if some of those folk who took my business card might look up my website and read why I write? And who knows too whether God spoke to someone today as I spoke and encouraged them to draw closer? So I hope and pray the bread I cast will indeed result in a return for the kingdom somehow someday.

    1. Thanks Jo. Isn't it wonderful how your writing, your life experiences, and your expertise and availability for speaking engagements work together for good, creating opportunities for who knows how many souls to be encouraged and nourished by the bread you share and the seeds you sow? When I think of your loving, smiling face and your gentle encouraging voice as I've seen and heard you speak, it always brings me great joy. Do I remember everything you said? No. But I do remember the love with which you said it, love that flows from who you are in Christ, and it is amazing.

      It's hard when we can't see immediate and long-term results; people don't or can't always let us know the impact we've had. However, just as my sister and I were surprised and delighted to see unexpected returns (eg the improved photoshop skills I gained through practice), I'm certain you will be amazed when the Lord reveals the massive impact you've made and are still making for his kingdom.

    2. Oh that's so lovely, Mazzy--thank you. Such an encouragement for me to read. God bless!

  4. My thoughts took off with visions of Manna - the daily bread from Heaven - and Jesus as the Bread of Life. I saw this verse in a way I’d never seen - casting your bread like the net thrown for fish, your example of following the Lord, your faith, your trust, cast upon the waters of life and your reward shall return, “Good and Faithful Servant!”

    1. Oh, Rosie, yes! What a wonderful revelation. It also ties in with the parable Jesus, the Bread of Life, told about the sower.

      Even though they grumbled, God in his grace satisfied the people's hunger with manna in the morning and meat (quail) in the evening. Writers are forever having to consider the demands of the market ... your words have encouraged me that we can trust God in his grace to supply us with manna and meat that will satisfy us and others.

      It's interesting you mention a net cast for fish. One of the stories I read while researching this verse was about a fisherman who would go to a particular location beside a pond every day and cast bread there. The small fish would come to that location to feed. Eventually, the small fish became big fish. The fisherman then went to that spot and cast his net, bringing in a huge haul - certainly receiving a return of his investment.

  5. Hi Mazzy, I've always loved that Ecclesiastes encouragement to cast our bread upon the waters, and I love your encouragement too 💕 Your tale of the centenary book is very powerful. While being generous, your sister and yourself were both blessed with the opportunity to see the results of old bread cast decades ago. Great testimony. As for all of us writers, yes, being unaware of where the bread we cast ends up is part of the territory 😊 Thank you for an uplifting post.

    1. Thank you Paula. You may rest assured that I have been very blessed by the bread you have cast as you have faithfully served others through CWD. But that's not all; I purchased and read your novel, "Best Forgotten" well before I met you online and it sits right up there amongst my all-time favourite novels. You'd written to the emerging 'New Adult' market before it was a clearly identified category so, when that focus began to emerge as I penned Licence to Die (GRUnGE.001), I felt at peace about it.

    2. Oh, that's great to hear ❤️ I'm so pleased! And yes, I was writing the novels long before I'd heard the term and instantly thought, 'That's me.'