Friday, February 5, 2010

The Cardinal in the Wood

If you are at all like me, you are probably eagerly awaiting the start of spring. Many of us are looking forward to the snow melting, the leaves starting to reappear and the the thermometer making its climb back up to more pleasant temperatures. Personally, I am not going to miss scraping the windows on my car in the mornings or shoveling the driveway. However, winter isn't all bad. I do enjoy the snow while it lasts, and recently I was privelaged to witness a beautiful scene one morning before work.

From my chair at our dining room table, I have a direct view of the woods off the side of our yard. Since it is the middle of winter, most of the leaves are off the trees and everything in the woods is kind of the same dull gray color. One morning I was sitting at the table looking out into the woods. Everything kind of looked the same, except for a little bright red dot in the middle of some of the thicket. I looked closer and realized that a male cardinal was sitting on one of the gray branches. The next morning he was there again, and after a few days, I realized that his nest must be close by because he was sitting amidst the dull colored twigs nearly every morning. His brilliant red color against the drab color of the surrounding branches was one of the most beautiful contrasts I have ever seen. It was also very thought provoking.

Over the course of the next few days after seeing the cardinal, my mind wandered back to the beautiful scene more than once. The boring lack of color in the branches wasn't able to squelch the cardinal's brilliant feathers. The lifeless depression of the surrounding trees couldn't overcome the beauty and life emanating from the glorious bird waking to face his day. As I thought more about my red friend, I began to wonder how much do I stand out from my surroundings. Sometimes the world around me feels like the gray branches of the winter woods. Life can be tough, and like some winters, sometimes there seems to be no end in sight. It is easy in some of life's seasons to blend in with our surroundings, but the Lord has created us to to shine as cities on a hill. As a matter of fact, in Matthew 5 Jesus referred to us using those words. In the same text, He called us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. To put it in more modern terms, the Lord intends for us to stick out like a sore thumb.

Just like the red cardinal sitting among gray limbs, a city on a hill can be seen from all around. Just a pinch of salt can be the difference between a tasteless dish and a gourmet meal, and the smallest flicker of light will penetrate even the deepest darkness. As the Lord's followers, that's how we are supposed to be. Let me point out that standing out doesn't mean that we have to promote ourselves. It also doesn't mean that we have to be weird. That beautiful cardinal stood out by being himself. It would have taken effort to camoflauge himself, but by just being what he was created to be, he was shining forth a brilliance that separated him from what was going on around him. Some of us need to stop working to fit in and start allowing ourselves to stand out.

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