Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church

Daily Photo Parable - April 2012

Thanks to all the photographers who have kindly accepted my invitation to provide their photos and commentary. Here's the schedule of those whose excellent, thought-provoking and encouraging work you'll be seeing, and when: SUNDAY--Bev Riter; MONDAY--Cheryl Boardman; TUESDAY--Robert Howson; WEDNESDAY--Darren Milam. I handle Thursday, Friday and Sabbath, generally using photos from the point-and-shoot camera I keep on my belt.-- Pastor Maylan Schurch

NOTE: To see previous photos from this current month, simply scroll down. To see previous months' blogs, click the month you want on the menu at the left.

Set Free

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 30, 2012

Does it sometimes feel like you are a prisoner due to poor choices and bad decisions?   Don't forget to pray.  Remember that the God of the Universe has unfailing love for us despite the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Shout praises to the LORD!
    He is good to us,
    and his love never fails.
Everyone the LORD has rescued
from trouble
    should praise him,

everyone he has brought
from the east and the west,
    the north and the south.
. . .

Some of you were prisoners
    suffering in deepest darkness
    and bound by chains,
because you had rebelled
against God Most High
    and refused his advice.
You were worn out
from working like slaves,
    and no one came to help.
You were in serious trouble,
    but you prayed to the LORD,
    and he rescued you.
He brought you out
of the deepest darkness
    and broke your chains.
You should praise the LORD
    for his love
    and for the wonderful things
    he does for all of us.
He breaks down bronze gates
    and shatters iron locks.
Psalms 107: 1-3 and 10-16

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 29, 2012

What do you think of when you hear the word “home”? Your current home, or the home where you grew up? Your family? I'm sharing a photo of a woman and her grandson I took in a village outside Lhasa, Tibet. As you can see, their home is different from our homes, yet it is their home.

In Luke 15:11-32 we read of the parable we know as the Prodigal Son. We know the younger son wanted his inheritance, then wasted it on riotous living. With famine in the land, he ended up feeding swine and not having enough food to eat. Realizing his father's hired hands were well fed, he admitted his sinfulness and returned home. As he was nearing home, his father saw him, ran to him and kissed him! Not only was he warmly greeted, but his father had the servants bring him the best robe, put a ring on his finger, shoes on his feet and killed the fatted calf for the feast. Yes, the son was lost, but now found and at home!

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 28, 2012

Late in January I was near the University of Washington and noticed the building above. I hadn’t laid eyes on it since back when it had housed a hot tub company. Since then, evidently, it’s been abandoned so thoroughly that graffiti artists have turned it into a canvas for their work. And though from a distance the results looks like a modified mishmash, closer inspection shows some really careful (though chaotic) artistry

Other buildings I have noticed in recent years have commissioned more traditional murals—perhaps a beautiful scene of Puget Sound. These works also produce an emotional effect, but one quite different from the photos just above.

“Art” often reflects what’s in the “heart.” Have you ever thought about what the canvas of your life is telling others about yourself—and more importantly, your God? Can they see His smiling face, and not a distorted one?

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Strumming a Steinway
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 28, 2012

Early this past January I happened to be walking by the window of a furniture store, and spotted this old piano which had been reconfigured into a desk. The little yellow card resting on the left edge of the keyboard cover proclaims that this is a Steinway piano, and that if you actually believe you can get some home office work done without reaching out to pluck the strings, you may present the owners with a check amounting to $2999.99 plus tax.

I’m a piano-tinkler myself, in a crudish and by-ear way, so you can bet I’d be strumming and plucking as well, assuming the long-play pedal still worked. I might even keep a guitar pick handy for a richer, fuller sound.

But since if I had a discretionary 3,000 bucks I would parcel it out for other purposes, I guess I’ll just have to stick to humming. A lot of Christians hum, I’ve noticed, maybe because we’ve been bathed so completely in communal hymns. One that’s going through my head right now is “Rejoice, ye pure in heart; rejoice, give thanks and sing.” And when I do wander near our own piano in the living room, I’m apt to thump out “In My Heart There Rings a Melody of Love.”

A saunter through Revelation reveals—amid all the disturbing images—a surprising amount of group singing. It’s as though the human heart under stress or under supreme happiness longs for music to express the soul's deepest feelings. So next time you’re in church and a hymn starts, study the words, and do your best to make melody.

In fact, that’s the specific advice Paul gives in Ephesians 5:18 – 20. Some people self-medicate with booze, but Paul has a better idea:

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

For a few Bible verses about music, click the link just below:

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Hunger Games
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 26, 2012

If you happen to have a spare $275 lying around, you may wish to drop into a bookstore of my acquaintance and invest the entire amount on the volume in the photo above. The bookstore had prudently placed it behind glass, and the little tag hanging down from the top of the cover asserts that this very book was "signed [stamped] by Susanne Collins during 2010 Mocking Jay tour.” (Mocking Jay is another of Collins’ books.)

Unless you have been wearing extremely effective media-blocking blinders over the past few months, you have at least heard the phrase "Hunger Games." If you’re a little vague as to how to place it in the stream of popular culture, think Harry Potter, then Twilight, then Hunger Games. It's the latest saga to have captivated the minds of the young.

The plot, about which I won't go into in detail, partly because I don't know it that well and partly because it's easy to find out huge amounts of information about if one wishes to take the time, is a rather grim one. The setting is in the future, and for complicated reasons, teens are expected to fight one another to the death.

That does sound grim, right? So was Harry Potter (in the later volumes especially) and the Twilight saga. And so were the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And for barefaced, brutal terror, delivered quickly, try Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

What is it with our literary tastes? Lots of theories have sprung up. Some say reading this kind of literature helps us process the unthinkable. And there’s no denying that reading about daredevil adventures when there’s little likelihood that you yourself will face them has a certain fascination.

What we read (or otherwise take in through our senses) does have an effect on our minds. I’m one of the poster children for that truth. I was a voracious fiction-reader as a kid, and hundreds of hours of skittering my eyes over print that was exciting and written to be read quickly did not prepare me at all for more serious books. And I know very well that, back in the days when I soaked my mind in adventure literature, the Bible and spirituality took a back seat.

“ . . . do not be conformed to this world,” Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

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New Creation
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
One of the best promises of God creating a new home for us is the fact that there will be no death. Not just amongst the animals but also within us humans.  It’s actually difficult to get my head around the concept of no death, no hurt, no pain, no sickness nor sin.  In Isaiah, we read and can imagine this concept – the wild lying beside the peaceful – coexisting due to the removal of sin.

In this particular image, these wolves are at a wolf sanctuary, in Tenino WA, called Wolf Haven.  I certainly look forward to the day when we can interact with the animals, since because of sin we haven’t been able to touch or be close to them, until the new world has been created.

Here is the verse we can dwell on, and hold close, as one of the many of God's promises: 

Isaiah 66:17-25 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy.  I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying.

“No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; They shall not plant and another eat; For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, And their offspring with them.

“It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” Says the LORD.”

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Mountain Plover
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A large part of the book of Genesis is devoted to the life story of Joseph.  It’s easy to see why - his life is punctuated with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  Such story is easy to fall in love with, especially when we can imagine ourselves, just like Joseph, on one of those upward bound trips.  But we mustn’t forget his faithfulness during times of discouragement and difficulty that allowed him to experience those turnarounds.  Chapter 37 of Genesis introduces us to Joseph and details one of those gut-wrenching moments when he was conspired against by his own brothers.  Imagine this thoughts as he languished there, stuck in the mud of a dried up well.  We know the story well, his faithfulness in adversity and ultimate attainment of position in Egypt.  It’s easy to celebrate those achievements but we hate the thought of those difficulties which must be met before the cheering can begin. 
Perhaps the lesson book of nature can provide us with an example which might help us value the discipline hardship brings.  The Mountain Plover seems to have had to face more than its fair share of adversity.  To begin with, it’s rather plain looking without any of the distinctive marking shared by its close relative the Killdeer.  Even its name is a misnomer for seldom is it found in either the mountains or the shore but breeds in the shortgrass prairie in places like Montana and Wyoming.  There on the hard ground the first eggs will be laid in a bare scrape of land, and only after incubation has begun will lining be added.  In more recent years their range has been contracting as some of this wasteland has been put under cultivation.  From a human perspective this might be thought to even improve the habitat for the plover as some have attempted to nest in the altered terrain.  But with the softer soil come the increased likelihood of their eggs become embedded in mud following prairie storms so that turning them become impossible.  The eggs fail to develop properly and the clutch is lost. 
Perhaps the next time we’re tempted to complain about the hard bed we’re forced to lie in, maybe we can remember the hard ground upon which the Mountain Plover nests.  And maybe that will remind us of Joseph, both in the well and on the throne.

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Good News!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 23, 2012

I was recently walking along in a rural area and passed these mailboxes and newspaper holders at the entrance to what looked like a multiple family access road.  We have so many ways of receiving news these days that these routes seem almost old fashioned!

I was talking to someone last week and she told me that a relative, who is in the military, has been wounded twice from shrapnel.  The injuries were not life threatening and the family received the news in an e-mail.  She went on to say that if a death occurs while someone is serving their country, then an official will make a personal visit to the family to deliver the bad news.  That is the kind of news one does not want to receive. 

When Paul wrote to the Romans, he was talking about "Good News" - the gospel.  This is the kind of news that is welcome however it is delivered:  

I am not ashamed of the Good News, because it is the power God uses to save everyone who believes—to save the Jews first, and then to save non-Jews.  The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself—that it begins and ends with faith. As the Scripture says, "But those who are right with God will live by faith."  Romans 1:16-17  New Century Version

For more on the "Good News," see John 3:16.

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 22, 2012

It was very interesting to visit classrooms and spend time with the children in China. While their classroom standards might not be up to our local standards, the children are still learning. During recess they enjoyed playing games and running around outside. And look at their smiling faces at the end of the day!  We could see they were intent learners!

What is a disciple of Christ? The definition of disciple is “learner”. During the brief period of His ministry, Jesus taught His disciples by His word and example. As recorded in John 8:31, as Jesus turned to the Jews who had believed Him, He said, “If you dwell within the revelation I have brought, you are indeed my disciples; you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” NEB Learning includes growth such as showing love for one another at home and in the community. Paul summarizes this in Galatians 5:22: “But the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness and self-control.” NEB With God's help, these are the things for us to learn!

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 21, 2012

A little over a month ago I snapped this picture just inside the entrance to a Kirkland mall. The letters have a gold shine, but their message is a dark one. Actually, that little shopping area – an out-of-the-way strip mall – is itself in rather dire straits. Lots of huge retail space stands empty.

You're ‘way ahead of me, aren't you? To achieve this gloomy word, I simply zoomed my camera in on the first four letters of the word "Directory." Carrying on the theme of yesterday's Daily Photo Parable, the Bible itself contains material which – if you zoom obsessively in on it and don't watch for the wider context – does seem dire.

Here's something someone once told me which I believe gives great perspective to the Bible message:

The first two chapters of the Bible talk about God's perfect world which once existed. The last two chapters of the Bible talk about God's perfect world which He is preparing for us. The third chapter in from the front talks about how sin began, and the third chapter from the Bible’s end talks about how sin will be destroyed. And everything in between is the record of how God has reached out to us to provide and to offer salvation so we can live with Him forever.

So zoom back! Look beyond the gloomy present to a delightful eternity. In fact, click the following link to read some of what the Bible says about heaven.

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As New as Tomorrow
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 20, 2012

Back in my teens I would often haunt the little Carnegie library in my hometown of Redfield, South Dakota. There I came upon a couple of well-worn books by British humor author P. G. Wodehouse. If you're familiar with the phrase "Jeeves the butler," Jeeves was created by Wodehouse (though Jeeves wasn't a butler, but a valet. Also, Wodehouse is pronounced “wood-house.” A few years ago the British teleplays “Jeeves and Wooster” brought these characters lovingly to the screen.)

I read those two Wodehouse books many, many times. Back in those days, the librarian glued a paper slip inside each book's front cover, and wrote the names of each person who checked it out. I found that there was only one other diehard Wodehouse fan besides me in our town, but we both checked those books out multiple times! 

And later, when I was older and had access to a large bookstore, I discovered there was much more fun to be had, because Wodehouse wrote scores of novels, all of them clean, all of them non-profane, all of them written in an awesomely wonderful (and surprisingly un-"dated") style of humor which nobody else has been able to match, though many have tried.

Imagine my delight when, a week ago, I dropped by the University of Washington bookstore and discovered, in the most prime location in the lobby on the main level, exposed to the curious eyes of thousands of people each week, the above vast treasury of the master’s work. When I zoom this photo up on my computer screen and read the titles, I discover that, aside from a couple of exceptions, I own them all, in older editions. And if you ever need a recommendation on which one to read first, I'm your man.

As a pastor for the last three decades, I've been in a position to watch as the Bible’s popularity waxes and wanes. As far as I know, it's still the world's best-selling book, but relatively few people are reading it with the close attention it deserves. I'm writing this on Wednesday, April 18, and just in today's mail I received a magazine which is published by people who have decided to ignore large chunks of real Bible print, and selectively choose texts which they bend to agree with their own preconceived and wildly unBiblical ideas.

But there are also people who are setting their own beliefs on the shelf and instead allowing the Bible to do a makeover on their preconceptions. Are you one of these? Then welcome to the fraternity of those who are moving from fantasy to reality—you're discovering that, far from being a dusty old document, the Bible is as new as tomorrow.

Want to read what the Bible has to say about itself? Click the link just below:

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“Revelation 7:00 PM”
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 19, 2012

As a pastor, I have become a connoisseur of church reader board signs, especially since my own church has a nice-looking one right beside a busy street.

I couldn't resist actually pulling into the parking lot of a nearby church of another denomination and snapping this photo. I'm sure that the line "Revelation 7:00 PM" means that Sunday evening they are conducting an ongoing series on that Bible book.

However, it struck me that you could also take this sign another way. It's not only during "Sunday school" (in our case, Sabbath school), or at the worship service, that "revelation" occurs. True, these classes and sermons are important, because they reflect what the Bible says about careful Scripture study and corporate worship.

Yet the experienced Christian has discovered that God reveals Himself at many other times during the week, for those who are patient enough to keep their eyes and ears open. The sight of an energetic flicker gripping a metal chimney-cap with his claws while hammering up a storm makes me grin, amazed at whatever instinct causes this little guy to do that. The sight of a pink, wiggling earthworm on the sidewalk stuns me with God's creativity. The schoolkids I volunteer with on Tuesdays are little imprints of the image of God (even though they don't always behave that way!).

So keep your eyes open for the "revelations" of God's caring, sustaining love, all through the week. And for some basic source material information about Him, click the link just below.

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Riding the Clouds

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
There is lot to think of, when you read the following verses…
Revelation 1:7 & 8:  "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'"
First off, we have the assurance God is coming again and will be taking us with Him, to live eternally. The second thing I notice is, how He will returning. It’s not going to happen secretly or passively. In contrast, He return will be so everyone sees Him – in the clouds. All nations (the entire world) will know He’s here. The final piece that sticks out to me is His claim. If there was any doubt or concern if God is real or entitled to the names that are given to Him – He puts that to rest. He IS the start, the stop, the first, the last. There is no denying who HE is. In our sinful world, there is a chance of losing sight that.
The image above is of some of the amazing clouds God has created (and place over the desert of White Sands, New Mexico). Like all clouds, they are made up of water vapors from the ocean, which He created as well. All is from Him and everything we have belongs to Him. I know we all look forward to the day when God returns to take us home with Him, on the clouds He created.

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American Avocet
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Any congregation that has engaged in a church building program has without a doubt heard words of encouragement from the pulpit quoting the book of Nehemiah.  This is because Nehemiah and his co-workers faced a similar challenge, that of erecting an edifice they believed would honor God. Such a parallel comes particularly close to home when the church members themselves are directly involved in the construction project; when it’s their hands that get dirty with the grime of pouring a foundation and the dirt of laying the sheetrock.  Confidence increases as the structure rises and they have the assurance that this work has been accomplished with the help of God.  (Nehemiah 6:16) 
As is so often the case, man is given an important part in the task set out for him.  Apparently God sees our involvement as significant, not only for our personal growth but for the strengthening of the church as well.  Sometimes, as in Nehemiah’s case, the work must be conducted under adverse circumstances with pressures that seem almost insurmountable. 
Man is not the only one that must face challenges that seem to have no easy answers.  As waters rise in the alkaline pools favored as nesting spots by the American Avocet, these graceful shore-birds must act quickly to prevent their four eggs from being destroyed.  What is usually a slight depression lined with grass can grow to be a platform of a foot or more as concerned parents work rapidly to add sticks, weeds, and other building materials to create a nest that will keep their eggs above water.  The parent’s efforts are frequently rewarded as day-old chicks can walk on spindly legs, swim with webbed toes, and even dive to escape from would be predators.
No one believes the job is finished when the last block is laid.  Perhaps it’s then that the real work just begins, the work of raising the church family, not just raising the church building.
Brick and mortar have their place; they play a vital role in the overall plan.  But they are not the church.  Should we ever need a reminder of that, just take a look at those first steps taken by those who are babes in Christ.  That should help us keep things in their proper perspective.  

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 16, 2012

I was looking through an old Singspiration Folk Hymnal recently and came across this chorus which was written in 1956 by Orien Johnson.  I haven't heard anyone sing this lately but some of you may remember it:

 His Sheep Am I
In God's green pastures feeding,
By his cool waters lie-
Soft in the evening walk my Lord and I;
All the sheep of His pasture
Fare so wonderously fine -
His sheep am I.

Waters cool, pastures green,
In the evening walk my Lord and I;
Dark the night, rough the way -
Step by step, my Lord and I.

This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.

He never did one thing wrong,
Not once said anything amiss.
They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you're named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.  1 Peter 2:24-25  (The Message)

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The Garden
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 15, 2012

If you're like me, you know that spring is here when the flowers start blooming! Not being one to enjoy cold weather, I anxiously wait throughout the winter for this to happen. It helps to know the calendar says, “Spring Begins”. As the days get warmer, we gardeners begin tending plants and watching them grow. Do you feel the excitement of watching the flower buds swell and explode into bright, colorful blooms, some with a sweet fragrance like perfume.

I'd like to share my garden club's creed, “He Planted a Garden”:

The Lord God planted a garden
In the first white days of the world.
And He set there an angel warden
In a garment of light unfurled.

So near to the peace of heaven
That the hawk might rest with the wren.
For there in the cool of the even,
God walked with the first of men.

And I dream that these garden closes,
With their shade and their sun-flecked sod,
And their lilies and bowers of roses
Were laid by the hand of God

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth.
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

For He broke it for us in a garden
Under the olive trees
Where the angel of strength was the warden
And the soul of the world found ease.
                 --Dorothy Gurney (1858-1932)

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The What Thesaurus?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 14, 2012

I love thesauruses (or, technically, thesauri), and own several of them. It’s not that I flip droolingly through them hour by hour—in fact, I scarcely touch them. But just knowing that, close at hand, are all those wonderful English synonyms makes me (take a deep breath here) happy, filled with pleasure, glad, delighted, joyful, elated, gleeful, light-hearted, cheerful, merry, enchanted, transported, captivated, and fascinated.

You can imagine, then, how brightly my eyes lit up the other day when I saw what you see in the photo above: The Thinker’s Thesaurus. "Oho," I said to myself. "Just what I need. I love thesauruses, and I know I need to become a better thinker."

But the book's subtitle stopped me cold:  Sophisticated Alternatives to Common Words. My left upper lip rose in a sneer. "So is that the only point of this book?" I wondered. "Does this volume exist merely so that I can appear, in print, to be smarter than I really am?" I didn't even lift the book from its shelf – I just turned away.

One of the Bible's chief delights is that it has something for everyone. If you want to read the words of someone who really was smart, and could lay down 150-word sentences without getting tangled up, flip through the writings of the Apostle Paul. But if you stand up in front of a crowd of Christians and poll them to find out the Bible verse they can repeat out loud, they'll probably tell you it's John 3:16.

The gospel of John, by the way, is where most biblical Greek teachers start their students. That's because John used a very simple vocabulary and relatively short sentences. This might be because his first language wasn't Greek, or it might have been because he wanted to make things clear even to the most humbly-educated person. But it's clear that John was definitely not keeping one eye on a thesaurus which was designed to pomposify (Hey, Roget! There’s a new word for you!) the gospel of his Friend Jesus Christ, who once prayed:  “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.” Luke 10:21 NKJV

The last thing God wants is for you to be intimidated by the Bible, to shrink from actually turning its pages because you don't have a theological degree. Nearly 100% of those who preached sermons in the Bible were laypeople. But they turned in God's direction, and God gave them wisdom.

Want to read more about spiritual wisdom and how to receive it? Click the link just below.

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The Talking Billfold
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 13, 2012

What you see in the photo above, adorned with my glasses, is my billfold. It's not your standard back-pocket billfold, but more of a passport case, now pretty weathered-looking, which I once found at a Staples store. I keep not only my driver's license and cash but also my cell phone in it.

I don't remember whose desk I parked it on, but I have a feeling that I removed my glasses because I needed to study something up close, and normally I put my glasses on top of the billfold, because there’s less of a chance I’ll absentmindly plop something down on them. When I finished my closeup examination of whatever it was, I peered around for my glasses, and they now looked like a couple of glassy eyes staring at me--and it also seemed as though my billfold, with its partly-unzipped “mouth,” was starting to say something!

If you're tuned in at all to the teachings of Jesus, you know very well that Jesus can hear billfolds and purses talking in tones loud and clear. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” the Savior warned, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV

Want a quick and vital Bible study about money-obsession? Click the link just below:

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Paper Zone
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 12, 2012

I snapped this sad photo back in late March. Paper Zone (which had just closed, for good) was one of Shelley's favorite stores, mainly because it sold little gift boxes in just the right size she might need for a present. There were also little rotating kiosks with writing journals, shelves and shelves of fancy paper to print wedding invitations on, mailing supplies, scrapbooking supplies and lots of other paper-based products.

You don't need me to tell you that paper isn't as important has it used to be (I wish someone would tell that to people who load my postal box with ads). Nowadays we communicate electronically and are far less likely to actually buy and use the calligraphy markers which Paper Zone also supplied.

I find that rather distressing. I mean, just take a idea of scrapbooking. To make a scrapbook, someone first of all had to get an inspiration, a theme. Along with that would come a "target" for that scrapbook, somebody who would delight in the memories it revealed. Then the creator had to turn her inspiration into specific items which could be glued into to that scrapbook. And then would come the actual work, the lettering, the positioning of photos and mementos, the inserting of extra pages if needed, the rubber-stamping. And then the presentation, the gasp of delight, and turning of the pages. But now it’s just, “Pull up my Facebook and see my shots.”

My wife Shelley made my mother at least a couple of scrapbooks while she was alive. Mom treasured those books, and showed them to many people.

Do you think God keeps scrapbooks? The Bible does speak about "books of record," but that's probably not quite the same thing. But God treasures each one of us so much that it's as though He has created a "baby book" for each of us. I was the firstborn in my family, and the amazing little things I did filled two baby books. My brother, the last-born of four, didn't even get one baby book! (I've heard similar stories from other later-borns.)

I have a feeling that, in some form or other, God will show us in heaven happy memories He has of us, His delight at our first words or our first staggering steps. Can you believe that? Remember, in the four Gospels Jesus called God "Father" about 200 times – and called Him (as far as I remember) nothing else. Every time Jesus mentioned the Creator of the universe, the Sovereign Ruler of the galaxies, the Almighty, He wanted us to think of God as a father.

Do you want to see your heavenly scrapbook someday? Of course you do – that's why you're reading this Daily Photo Parable, right? Amen? Amen! Have you surrendered your heart to your heavenly Dad?

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tuesday I was on the Kirkland campus which houses our two Adventist schools, and on my way from one classroom to another I spotted these instrument-cases just outside the band room. The band's current quarters is a room which is only barely big enough for the band, and a few of the kids have gotten into the habit of leaving their cases outside under the covered walkway.

This got me to thinking about how protective (or un-protective) you and I might be when it comes to our Christianity. Each of the cases in the photo is specifically designed to protect the instrument from the weather and buffer it from the bumps that inevitably happen on band tours. Each case is basically form-fitted to its instrument.

When you get a chance, glance through the Bible's longest chapter – Psalm 119. Almost every one of its 176 verses describes God's perfectly-fitting law and how it preserves us from all sorts of battering. Here are some examples:

Verse 9: How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.

Verse 11: Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

Verse 24: Your testimonies also are my delight And my counselors.

Verse 28: My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.

Verse 42: So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word.

Verse 45: And I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts.

Verse 50: This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life

Verses 59-60:  I thought about my ways, And turned my feet to Your testimonies. I made haste, and did not delay To keep Your commandments.

Verse 71: It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.

And on and on the chapter goes, perhaps the world's most enduring "infomercial." God's law was never designed to be an oppressive annoyance, but instead a protector of the heart and the home. And best of all, if we give Him permission, God promises to take responsibility for make law-keeping a natural experience:

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16 – 17)

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Preschool Priorities
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A recent trip to a local school provided a reminder of what’s really important, and as is often the case, it was the children who provided the lesson.  The teacher had given each preschooler a piece of paper with the words, “If I were a king/queen” printed at the top.  They were then encouraged to tell their teacher how they would change things with such unlimited power.  The teacher had then written out their responses which were placed upon the sheet bearing their name and a drawing which they had created to illustrate their wish.  This was the basis for the bulletin board now hanging in the hall.  In big gold letters on a dark blue background were the words, “IF I WERE IN CHARGE”.

Such a fantasy was too good to pass up.  The expected were there.  In response to the question one boy had responded, “everyone would have kittens”.  A brightly colored picture which was accompanied with the words, “it would be sunny outside” was undoubtedly created on a rainy day.  A budding socialist replied, “food, fruits and vegetables, corn, spaghetti, carrots and hotdogs would be free.”  Give the kid credit for providing details to his economic plan.  Hana, undoubtedly well-versed in biblical truths, replied the she “would have people listen to the Bible.”  I’m not sure what that says about free will but at least her heart was in the right place.  “There would be more magic shows” was suggested by Bailey while a more practical response was offered by would-be-engineer Talia who stated, “I would make the roads better.”  Her drawing showed four smiling faces under a colorful sky with only the fellow on the right looking like his teeth were put out of place when they hit a major chuckhole.  One undecipherable drawing done entirely in brown and black was accompanied with the words, “I would color.”  Go figure.
To me though, Ellen’s seemed to be the very best.  Not because she was an incredible artist or she could wish the fantastic into existence, but because she saw herself playing an important role  in accomplishing the process.  Her vision for the future also went outside herself and reached out to others.  She simply stated,  If I were a queen…“I would plant seeds and give everyone a flower.”

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Changing Seasons
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 9, 2012

I may have mentioned here before that Spring is my favorite season.  It's just so nice to see flowers blooming where there was just barren ground and to see leaves opening where there were just bare branches.

Our lives go through seasons as well.  As the saying goes, "Change is inevitable."  Change is not necessarily bad but it can be unsettling.  We do well to remember that even when it seems everything around us is changing, Jesus is the constant.

I like the old hymn, Great is They Faithfulness.  The lyrics were written by Thomas O. Chisolm in 1923:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As thou has been, thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

While the seasons change and our circumstances change, it is good to know that
Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Hebrews 13:8 (CEV)

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The Sacrifice
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 8, 2012

My photo shows the 14th century carving of the Pieta in the Orvieto Cathedral, Umbria, Italy. It was finished in 1579, and it took the artist eight years to carve the four figures in this marble group. As we can see, it shows the figure of Jesus after He was taken down from the cross – the sacrifice to save us from our sins. Paul wrote of this in I Corinthians 14:3 “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.”

It doesn't stop there - He arose thereby giving us the foundation of Christianity and hope of everlasting life. God gave Christians a new birth into a living home through the resurrection as recorded in I Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

We all know the familiar text: “For God So loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That's a sacrifice to always remember – especially this Easter time!

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When Is Your Moment?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 7, 2012

This past Wednesday I spotted this advertising poster on the rear of a Seattle Metro bus. (As you see, I've shrewdly "whited out" the name and logo of the casino.)

On the poster's left we see some well-dressed people, probably representing Mom and Dad and a grown-up daughter. The daughter has been possessed by a sudden spasm of glee, no doubt due to the news that she will shortly possess some of what you see on the right-hand side of the poster – lots of green pieces of paper bearing the portrait of Ben Franklin.

This epiphany is, at least in the eyes of the casino's advertising department, this girl’s "moment." Fortunately (or let's use the cruder word "luckily") it was she and not another who was sitting at that particular gaming device when the "moment" happened. Mom and Dad look on in quiet pleasure, savoring this family-togetherness joy.

Yeah, I know. Advertising is about hyperbole. If we were to stride into this casino's advertising agency's offices and gather its copywriters into a circle and say, "Okay. Let's get real. You didn't really mean that this girl’s gambling win was the most important moment in her life, did you?", they'd probably blink and say, "Of course not." When pressed to list their own truly big moments, one copywriter might talk about the birth of a child, another about a wedding day, a third about a spiritual awakening.

Did you know that God has a “moment” for you? Paul, quoting God, says, “ . . .  Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2, NKJV

Because as you well know, "now" is all we have. We can't go back into our past and tweak it. We can't dash ahead to the future and shoulder aside its roadblocks. All we have is this pulse beat, and this pulse beat, and this pulse beat. That's it.

Have you taken care of your "now" moment? Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior? If you're not sure how to do this, click the link below for some easy-to-follow Bible directions:

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 6, 2012

To me, one of the evidences that there is an Intelligent Designer is the irrepressible creativity of His children. Toward the end of February, at an office supply store, I saw the hilarious display above. It brought back many memories of speaking into a headset like that, back when that's the only kind of a headset there was.

If you're of my vintage you remember that headset. And you may also remember when Princess phones startled us all with their sleek, Star Trek-like shape, modish as your sister’s private telephone but totally useless if you wanted to brace the receiver against your ear with your shoulder!

I don't know what possessed someone to re-create the old-fashioned headset and configure it so that it could be plugged into a cell phone, but the whole idea makes me laugh – partly in admiration at the intrepid entrepreneur. (I didn't plug it into my own cell phone, by the way. My first thought was, "Who needs that clunky old receiver? Think I’m going to carry it in my pocket with my cell phone?")

There's nothing wrong with "retro," of course. In fact, your personal copy of the 750,000-word Owner’s Manual for soul, body, and mind is almost totally retro. True, the Lord’s Bible declares "Behold, I make all things new," but when He says “new,” He means the ancient splendor of Eden. Because back in Eden, we were all supposed to live forever, totally unobsessed and maybe even unacquainted with words like “ancient.” Life was to have been lived moment to moment, without having to measure the ups and downs of aging and ill health and bereavement.

Maybe this retro attitude is what the Lord meant in Jeremiah 6 when, just after He rebuked his sin-calloused people for being unable to blush, He said: “ . . . ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls . . Jeremiah 6:16 NKJV

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Meeker Wrestling
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday night of this week, on our way home from prayer meeting, Shelley spotted this delightful sign at a pizza place about a mile from our house.

This is a perfect example of how knowing the context makes all the difference. "What does this message mean?" asks the uninitiated tourist. "Is it a protest sign – an appeal for less sports violence?"

Nope. Those who, like Shelley and me, have moseyed over the Puget Sound landscape for a few years have seen the name “Meeker” a number of times. There’s a Meeker Street in Kent, and a Meeker Mansion in Puyallup, both referring to the family of Ezra Meeker, an early pioneer in this area. (He was also something of a character, as his photos show. Read about—and view—this white-bearded man at ) And I think there's also a Meeker Middle School, whose wrestling team probably packed their tummies with pizza at the above restaurant.

But shouldering Ezra aside for the moment, and simply staring at what it says on the sign in the photo, isn't "meeker wrestling" the Bible's way? There's nothing wrong with spiritual wrestling, of course. Jacob wrestled spiritually while he wrestled physically. And other Bible characters we name our kids after  also became famous by wrestling with God in prayer. But the most beloved of them did so from a position of humility. God wants to know we care about people, and are willing to intercede vigorously for them, but we must always seek to understand His plans rather than impose ours on Him.

Click the link below for several sub-links to Bible texts on prayer.

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Rock of Salvation
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This past weekend I found out the tragic news of the death of the brother of one of my high school classmates. In our sinful world, unfortunately, life can be taken brutally and without any warning whatsoever. Obviously that is not how God planned, or wants, the world to be.
Luckily we have something we can cling to – God, as He is our ROCK. We put our faith in Him and regardless of the sinful world, and what we face, we have the promise of that salvation. I realize this particular tragic event is just one of many that take place each and every day. With that in mind I encourage you to continually pray for the situations like this and pray that God will return to us soon, so He can take us home – away from the sinfulness we have to face. In the meanwhile, take the time to read what God is for us – our Rock:
Psalm 71:1-16
In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame.
Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape;
Incline Your ear to me, and save me.
Be my strong refuge,
To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;
You are my trust from my youth.
By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.
My praise shall be continually of You.

I have become as a wonder to many,
But You are my strong refuge.
Let my mouth be filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all the day.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.
For my enemies speak against me;
And those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together,
Saying, “God has forsaken him;
Pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.”

O God, do not be far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
Let them be confounded and consumed
Who are adversaries of my life;
Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor
Who seek my hurt.

But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.
I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.

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Red-breasted Sapsucker

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Many a Red-breasted Sapsucker has been misidentified by the novice as a Red-headed Woodpecker.  Such a mistake could easily occur since both sport a red head and have the familiar woodpecker form.  But the sapsucker is found only in the West while the woodpecker’s range is further east.  Their methods of feeding also differ.  The Red-breasted Sapsucker is a specialist, and like other sapsuckers drills neat, orderly holes in trees to which it will return later to harvest the nutrient- rich sap which accumulates in these holes. Its name, while rather creative, is somewhat misleading.  Rather than sucking the sap from the pantry it has prepared, the sapsucker’s tongue is equipped with stiff “hairs” which it uses to harvest its crop.  Young birds are taught how to reap the benefits of these created wells.  Such bounty includes not only the sap but also insects that are attracted to this source of energy.
Any specialist is in greater danger than the generalist of having its food supply vanish.  Though it is the least migratory of Washington’s sapsuckers, it may be forced to move to more temperate areas if the weather is cold enough to freeze the sap.  Repeated visits to the same tree over a period of time can cause sufficient damage to actually kill the tree, a fact which concerns some orchardists.  Not only do the sapsuckers benefit from these holes they have created, but Rufous Hummingbirds and chipmunks have been found drinking from this nutrient source as well.
As diverse as the creatures are under God’s heaven, each has been provided with the tools necessary for their well-being.  Undoubtedly, the author of Psalms 136:25 and 26 observed this as he poetically commented on God’s watch care of His own. “He feeds every living creature; His love never ends, O give thanks to the God of heaven; His love never ends.” (The Clear Word)

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Everlasting Good News
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 2, 2012

This photo is of the Orcas Island Post Office.  I thought it was very picturesque.  Of course, I think most things on Orcas Island are picturesque!

I still use a post office - especially to mail and receive packages.  I also like to pick and choose which stamps I want to buy and  I have friends and relatives in different countries so I need to go to the post office to obtain the correct postage when I mail them things.

We keep hearing in the news, however, that post offices are losing money and that post offices will lay off people and close; that post offices are going to go the way of the Pony Express and the telegram.  These days, people are paying their bills on line, they are ordering stamps on line, they are communicating with their friends by texting, e-mails, tweets and probably other electronic means I am not aware of.

Change is inevitable and people are reading more and more books on electronic devices.  It is very convenient to be able to carry around one eBook vs a stack of books.  (It's not so great when you read a good book and then want to lend it to someone else, though.  I end up buying the book so I actually pay twice!)  I personally don't think that books will ever totally go away but people are cutting back on paper and storing documents and reading documents, news, books and magazines electronically.

One thing won't change, though.  However, or wherever you read it (I have a couple of Bible versions on my eBook), the word of the Lord remains forever:

 For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.  As the Scriptures say,
“People are like grass;
    their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
  But the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And that word is the Good News that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:23-35  (NLT)

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The Light
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 1, 2012

We are fortunate to live in a country where electricity provides light in our homes and streets. We take this for granted, until a storm cuts it off!

There is another Light that many people take for granted – His name is Jesus. The difference between righteousness and unrighteous, good and evil is often illustrated in the word of God by contrasting light and darkness. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” (John 8:12) is what Jesus said referring to himself while debating with the Jews. Later, in John 9:5 during the miracle of healing the blind, He said, “When I am in the world, I am the Light of the World.”

Still later, in John 9:39, He explained that He came into this world so the blind might see. Before Jesus came to this world, people were spiritually blind. And the world was given light when He came. That light (Jesus) leads to eternal life. God wants to have a relationship with us and we can walk in His light, through Jesus Christ. Let's thank Jesus for coming to this world so we can see!

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