European Starling

Starlings

So am I the only one who instantly thinks of Alfred Hitchcock when they see this picture?

These birds are European Starlings. They were introduced into Central Park by a group of people who wanted to bring all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings to America. They were so determined that when early attempts failed, they repeated the effort. For the individuals who were involved in this operation, it was a romantic gesture.

Birder’s all over North America see it more as a disaster than a romantic idea.  Starlings are not just an invasive species they are notorious bullies. They have become one of the most common songbirds in America.  Along the way mobs of starlings have been recorded participating in all kinds of acts of avian terrorism. They will raid nests, kill the young, toss the parent birds and destroy the nest.

Maybe Hitchcock was on to something.

Have you ever taken an action which had unexpected consequences? It’s a common experience.

But is there anything we can do to prevent the experience? Yes, there is. If we place ourselves under the direct command of the One who can see the future, and see the outcomes of all possible actions, we will be protected from ourselves. It’s not necessarily that everything will happen like we want, but that our lives and its outcomes will be in capable hands.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

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Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinch

There are three goldfinches in the United States. American goldfinches, Lawrence’s goldfinches and lesser goldfinches.  The picture above is of a lesser goldfinch. These birds are a great example of the old saying it’s not the size of the goldfinch in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the goldfinch.  Or something like that.

Lesser goldfinch overlap the range of the Lawrence’s goldfinch. This causes the two species to interact a great deal at feeders, nesting territories and the like. When these interactions take place the smaller lesser goldfinch dominates the larger Lawrence’s goldfinch. It will always chase them off at feeders so the Lawrence goldfinch have to feed last, and lesser goldfinch will drive them out of the best nesting opportunities.

Christians might want to remember the lesser goldfinch when they begin to think of lesser sins in their life. We tend to think of sins as smaller and larger. We want to believe we can measure the damage they do and therefore assign them a size. There are multiple problems with this logic.

It begins with assuming God looks at sin the way we do. But this is simply not true. God sees all sin as rebellion against Him and the right ways of living He designed. Sin is therefore a rejection of Him and defining rejections as bigger or smaller is simply nonsensical.

Another problem with the logic is we bias what we define as big or small problems based on our own behavior. Basically we define our sins as small and the sins of people we don’t like as big. For example we all know someone who is unfaithful and we count that as a big sin, but our looking is seen as a lesser issue.

We would be better off to remember the lesser goldfinch. Small things can have a big impact. Consider Matthew 5:27-28 (HCSB) “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

This western bluebird looks peaceful enough in this picture, but it’s important to not be fooled by the appearances.

While many birds will have territorial disputes, most are settled relatively peaceably. Often the matter is settled based upon some display of courage. They might even have a sing off to determine who is going to maintain rights to the territory. But with western bluebirds, these gentle looking birds are some of the fiercest fighters in the avian world while defending their territory.

The battle between two males might well start in the trees, or even in the air, but likely will end on the ground with the winner standing over a defeated opponent. Not a dead opponent, but one that has been toppled by the other snatching his legs out from under him, and then pecked into submission.

This complete domination leaves no doubt as to who is the winner, but it also is likely to leave one or both of the contending birds injured. If you think about it, winning this battle is likely to leave the victor in such a condition as to guarantee losing the next battle.

If I draw a lesson from the very territorial western bluebird, it is believers should carefully pick our battles. There are indeed things within our doctrinal stand which are worth fighting for. But if your list is too big you will never have time to do anything but fight.

Once people begin to see you as someone who will fight for every little detail of practice and belief they will no longer take anything you are fighting for seriously, not even if it is the most important tenets of our faith.

Remember as children of God our defining factor is to be our love. The bluebirds fight each other to define their pecking order. Who is more important and who is less. But we believers are commanded to prefer others above ourselves. If we adopt the worldly way of doing it, we leave the Christian way behind.

Galatians 5:15 (HCSB) “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.”