Great Egret

Great Egret

Last week I showed you a picture of a snowy egret. This picture is not of a snowy egret. This picture, taken a few steps away from a snow egret, is of a great egret. The differences are numerous. This bird has dark legs and dark feet, while the snowy egret features yellow feet and dark legs. This bird has a light yellow or orange bill, while the snowy egret has a dark bill.

But the main difference is that the great egret is significantly larger. In the lingo of bird names a great bird is bigger than others. A great egret is the biggest of the egrets. A great blue heron is bigger than a little blue heron.

This bird however didn’t appear any taller than the snowy egret walking nearby. A close look at the picture will tell you the main reason why. The snowy was all stretched out, full length, but this great egret had folded up its neck making it appear hunched up. Birds do this sometimes when they are resting, and at other times when they are cold. Either way, it will make an identification based on size a little more difficult, especially at a distance, when the parts blend together into one indistinguishable, bright white, mass.

Humans are prone to a desire for greatness, but of course with us it is not a measure of size, but of accomplishment. If you want to be great in the kingdom of God, look to Scripture to understand greatness.

Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 (HCSB)

In other words, being great for God’s sake isn’t about making yourself bigger, but making yourself smaller. Maybe the egret is onto something after all.

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Female Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow Head Female

This is a female, yellow-headed blackbird. They are seen considerably less often than male birds because their habits are almost opposite. The male will sit on top of the cattails and call out. They puff themselves up to show off their colors. And will vigorously defend their territory against intruders.

But the female will stay hidden down lower in the vegetation. They are pretty much only seen when dashing out to grab some slime or floating plant from the surface of the water. This is taken back inside the reeds where she will build it into a nest, built around several strong shafts, and suspended above the water.

The male makes sure everyone sees him while doing basically nothing, but the female prefers seclusion and carries on the tasks of nest building. Given the two different personalities, which are you and which should you be. For the blackbirds both are necessary. The male creates the nesting territory, the female builds the nest, raising and hiding the young. Within humanity the role of defending a territory from others is not needed, but the quiet, industrious, and humble work of the female fits what both men and women need to be in the kingdom of God.

When I use the word humble, I am referring to the way the female blackbird makes its entire life about others. She does not puff herself up. She does not seek to be the center of attention. Instead of spending her energy on herself, everything she does is for others.

This behavior is not only beneficial to humanity, it is Christ-like. Perhaps it is the greatest development of character a Christian should strive for as they mature. In Philippians 2:3 (HCSB) “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Annas Hummingbird Sharpened

Here is a picture of a male Anna’s hummingbird. The brightly reflective feathers on the face are called the gorget. This happens to be the only hummingbird which has a gorget that goes above the head as well as under it. This positively identifies it as an Anna’s. I can also identify it for the commonly heard call which is a high pitched wispy scratching cry.

In addition to these identifications, the hummingbird has a distinctive display flight. It will pick its target and hover right in front of it. Then it will swirl straight up into the air, reaching up to about 130 feet. It will hover for a moment before diving straight down in a line and then as it passes its target it will circle back and hover in front of it, right where it started.

The male Anna’s hummingbird is a bit of a show off. It might be showing off for a female, but it will also do the display flight for people. Many times it will do the display flight while waiting for its favorite human to put out a feeder.

Being a show off is seldom a positive trait. It might impress people around you. It might earn you a raise or get you a date with a pretty girl—but more often it just shows the world that you are self-centered.

Christians also need to be careful about showing off. We can be so subtle about it, we don’t notice we are doing it. We show off by praying in King James English. Or maybe we quietly draw attention to our own humility. Preachers might be the worst, we can show off from the pulpit and if it works out well people will call it evocative preaching.  Even if it doesn’t work out, few people will point out how bad it was or nobody ever says it was because we were showing off.

Jesus warned against showing off. He taught the danger is when our pride gets to the point where all we want is to be seen by others. Choosing others over God is hardly living out the life of the Christian.

In Matthew 6:1-6 Jesus said,

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”