Ring-Necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

This is a ring-necked duck. Do you see the ring? I bet you don’t.

But now let me tell you the ring around the neck which the duck is named after is chestnut brown. In this picture the ring is partially visible.

Back when the bird was named they did most of their study with the aid of a shotgun. When looking at dead specimens in a lab the ring around the neck was this bird’s most obvious trait.

However when you look at a living example of the species it is nearly impossible to see any brown on it. This means the trait that it is named for is totally useless as a field mark to identify the bird by in the wild. Instead people identify it by the purple sheen of the head, and the slight crest making the head seem pointy.  From closer up they recognize it by the distinct black, white and charcoal color pattern on the bill. From further out they recognize it by the white spot on the side between the light grey and the black breast.

All of these things are great field marks and yet the distinctive feature it is named after is not visible until the duck is dead.

The Christian life is like this. The common idea is that anyone gets to call themselves Christian. They determine for themselves what criteria they meet to bear that name. Trying to tell people there is a real eternal definition of the word which must be met is useless because they believe they get to make up their own definitions.

But no matter what happens in this life once we are dead, once we stand before the eternal judge, it will be obvious what we are. We will either be identified by Him as Christians or informed that He never knew us and cast into outer darkness.

That field mark which will show up so brightly in heaven is whether we have Jesus in our hearts. Not a designer Jesus we came up with or that some group redefined historically, but the real Jesus. The Eternal Son of God who came and died on the cross for us.

Romans 10:13 (HCSB) For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved


Great-tailed Grackle

Great Tailed Grackle


The great-tailed grackle pictured above is an immature male. When he grows a little older the tail will be a little longer still and the eye will become bright yellow. This species of grackle is fairly common where I live, gathering in roosting trees to make a ruckus or just hanging out in parking lots looking for easy meals.

Grackles have a habit I find fascinating. When they fly they will take their long tail and twist it into a vertical position. Like every other bird they hold their tail horizontally when they are sitting, and often when they are flying. In fact every other type of bird fly with their tails horizontal. But the mature males, which have remarkable tails, will often turn them into a vertical rudder after takeoff.

I have always wanted to get a picture of this behavior, but as of yet I have failed. Which is how you ended up with the picture above instead.

For a bird, flight requires cooperation with the air. There are certain patterns birds follow when working out this cooperation. I suppose you could think of this as the tried and true, safe way of accomplishing flight. But the Grackle tried something new and found a better way. I wonder what type of person it takes to come up with a completely different way to do something.

A Christ follower is what immediately comes to mind. Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB) says “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” This is just one of many passages indicating we are to do things in a different way than the rest of the world.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

This chipping sparrow took off right as I was trying to take his picture. Despite it not being the picture I planned I really like the picture.

This bird is named for his song, and is one of the most commonly heard song birds in North America. But the song, is not very musical at all. It lasts about 3 ½ seconds, and in that short time it repeats the same note about 55 times. This trill is what was being referred to by the name chipping sparrow.

There is a little variation in the sound of chipping sparrows from bird to bird, but every bird repeats its own note over and over again in that short burst of sound.

Do you ever feel like a chipping sparrow? Do you think your communication has been reduced to a broken record of making the same statements over and over? This repetition can be for bad reasons, but it can also be a positive experience.

It might be you feel like no one is listening and your repetition is an expression of your frustration. You repeat yourself hoping they will hear you this time.

But it can also be that you have found something important enough to make it your life message. Jesus will give you a personal testimony. Your testimony is the story of how you can to know Jesus as Savior, but He may also give you other messages to speak forth on His behalf.

Speaking on behalf of the Savior is a very repetitive experience, but if you keep your relationship with Him fresh then He will keep your message on His behalf fresh.

Consider 1 Peter 3:13-15 “And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

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.”



This bird is an osprey; it fishes for a living. It will circle over the water and on average it will take about twelve minutes to spot a fish. It will then dive after the fish and at least one-fourth of the time it will catch it. An experienced bird will catch closer to three-fourths of the time. (Statistics from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology as presented on their All About Birds website. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/osprey)

I took the picture while sitting along the shore. My angle on the water caused me to look across the surface, and the reflective nature of the surface of the lake kept me from seeing into it. While I did catch one fish that day the osprey caught several, and ran a bunch of other errands in between.

This phenomenal capability is largely empowered by the bird’s vantage point. By being high above the water looking down, it could see into the water. The reflective problem is greatly reduced by the point of view giving the osprey a chance to see things I could not.

The lesson for us humans is to be aware of our perspective. Seeing an issue clearly often means getting above it. For the soldier this means taking the high ground. For the statistician this would mean getting as large and diverse of a sample as possible. For the Christian it means to seek holiness.

Believers often place themselves just outside of sin. Not so close as to be caught up in it, but close enough to vicariously enjoy the sight of it. As long as they are not getting their feet wet they are confident they are not sinning and therefore on good ground.

A safer approach would be to get as far away from the sin as possible. The extra distance will give you a better perspective on the sin, allowing you to fully understand what is wrong about it and eliminating its draw on you.

Does reaching for this higher stand seem unnecessary? Remember in Matthew 5:27-28 (NASB) Jesus taught we will be judged by the perspective we choose. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”