Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Daily Photo Parable

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; THURSDAY-- someone from the Jurgensen family. I handle 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.




Take Aim
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Have you ever noticed, whether it’s at the beginning of the year and you’re setting New Year’s resolutions, or just working on a goal for yourself – that if you set the goal at “X,” you very rarely exceed “X” (I’m sure there is a math equation that would do a better job of explaining that). For example, if I were to set a goal of getting out and running 4 days a week, there are very few weeks that I’d get to 5 or 6 or 7. I won’t say never, because some of us are over achievers (if that’s you, feel free to skip to the bottom ). My point is, if we set our sights (yes, a pun) on a goal, a belief, a promise – that’s where we are aiming and that’s where we are trying to land.
 
Our goal as believers is to get to Heaven, start eternal Life with our Creator, nothing less. Our daily aim/goal should be a closer relationship with God. Get to know Him. He already knows us, so it’s a matter of us ensuring we know what He wants us to do. Love Him. Follow Him. Speak to others about Him. Whatever it is for that day – that’s where we are targeting.
 
The shot (too many puns) above is of Zach posing with a replica pirate rifle (it’s a pirate rifle, because it’s in a pirate museum) on the island of St. Thomas. Speaking of Thomas (a different one) – don’t doubt our God. He can, and will, show you exactly where to aim, as long as you are willing to listen.


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Pygmy Short-horned Lizard
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Pygmy Short-horned Lizard enters onto the scene like a stand-in bit player whose name isn’t even recognized in the final credits.  For just like other horned lizards, it is frequently called a “horned toad”, or in the vernacular of the local peasantry, a “horny toad”.  But toad it is not, for it is a reptile, not an amphibian, which allows it to live in semi-arid regions of the Pacific Northwest. And as its name implies, it is fairly small, seldom reaching more than 2 ½ inches in length.  It certainly isn’t a showy creature for it relies upon its cryptic coloration to hide from potential enemies.  Its portly physique prohibits a fast get-away so instead, it will crouch down low and remain motionless, hoping to avoid detection.  The most exotic defense mechanism it can deliver is called a “shimmy burial” where it subtly moves its body side to side to partially submerge itself into sand or loose soil.

Being an ectothermic (cold-blooded) creature, it seems to disappear during the cold winter months when it goes into hibernation, only to reappear along with the arrival of spring.  And even during the summer months it is largely inactive during the hottest hours of the day. At night it will burrow into the soft soil or find refuge in hidden rodent burrows.  In general, his is not a name you expect to see in lights, but appears quite content to remain in the background.

In this regard, we might compare him to one of Christ’s Twelve Disciples.  Andrew, the brother of Peter, was never one to be pushing for public acclaim.  Instead, Andrew always seemed to be one who was of service to others.  As an early follower of John the Baptist, Andrew was the one who introduced Peter to Jesus.  When the 5000 were fed it was Andrew who brought the boy with the five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus to be blessed by Him.  And not long before Christ’s death it was Andrew who brought a group of inquiring Greeks to meet Jesus during that Passover weekend.  All have a role to play, and it appears Andrew and this "horny toad" did theirs well.


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The Work of the Creator
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 29, 2016

I love watching dragonflies.  Their maneuverability is just amazing.  I found this one a couple of weeks ago flying around a garden which had some ponds.  Luckily it stopped for a minute for a photo.

I've heard nature referred to as "God's Other Book."  I like this text that I found in an online NIV version (an older NIV version talks about the "creatures in the field") about how everything actually belongs to the Creator.


I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine.
Psalm 50:11 (NIV)

Then there is the text about how by taking a look at what God has created, we can ""see" what our eyes can't show us:

Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. 
Romans 1:20 (The Message)


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Gift of Colors
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, August 28, 2016

God’s gift of color is displayed in the many species of bee-eaters, most often found in Africa and Asia.  I hadn’t seen so many species in a group of colorful birds before traveling in countries in southern Africa.  As the name suggests, their diet mostly consists of bees and other flying insects.  Before eating bees, the bee-eater will remove the bee’s stinger and extract the venom.  Look at the beautiful colors in these various bee-eaters.  (1 – Southern Bee-eater, 2- European Bee-eater, 3 – Little Bee-eater, 4 – White-fronted Bee-eater, 5- Yellow- breasted Bee-eater)

The Bible uses colors to symbolize God and His plan of redemption for us, pointing us to Jesus and His life. Gold, a precious and valuable metal represents God’s precious love for us. (John 3:16)  Black symbolizes suffering and death. (Romans 6:23)  Red in the Bible represents blood and redemption.  Jesus’ blood paid for our sins. (Ephesians 1:7)  Blue represents Heaven, God’s dwelling place. (Nehemiah 9:6)  Purple represents Kingship. Jesus is the King of Kings. (Revelation 19:16)  White represents righteousness - purity of color and light.  It reminds us of the righteousness of Christ and His washing sinners clean. (Isaiah 1:18)  Green represents growing with a Christian life that produces good fruit. (Jeremiah 17:8)  To me, this can be summed up in the first verse, John 3:16.  “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.”  Watch for colorful birds to remind you of God and His plan of redemption!


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Street Philosopher
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, August 27, 2016

This past Tuesday I was driving through a little town north of Seattle and noticed this man sauntering along the sidewalk holding this sign, which he occasionally thrust above his head and waggled. (Actually, the other side of the sign said “Buy Silver,” and it was that side which he was displaying to the passing public that day.)

What’s interesting about this man—and he must be part of a group, because I’ve seen at least one other man doing the same thing on this same sidewalk—is that his signs never proclaim him impoverished nor do they ask for money. The signs never give a website or phone number, such as where you can go to buy the silver. And they don’t always say “Save Yourself” or “Buy Silver,” but proclaim other messages of self-sufficiency.

On the one hand, it’s rather touching that this man, and whoever his compatriots might be, are selflessly parading along this sidewalk preaching utter selfishness, without selfishly asking for donations the way panhandlers do.

On the other hand, it seems clear that these people do not believe in an adoring Heavenly Father who watches over them with scalp-hair-numbering absorption. And that is truly a pity.

For Bible documentation about who God is and what He is like, click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/god


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Intelligent Design???
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, August 26, 2016

Every morning Shelley fixes me, among other breakfast items, a huge plate of fruit. This past Thursday morning she drew my attention to this apple. I said, “I’ve got to take a picture of this,” so she patiently waited until I’d done so before carving it into slices.

I solemnly promise you that I have not “faked” this photo in any way. For some reason, you see a luscious red hue, then a pale yellowish hue, then back to the luscious red. And the divisions between the hues are crisp, ruler-straight lines.

I’m assuming that perhaps a straight strip of plastic or paper must have adhered to this apple while it was growing, and that the deep red is where the sun hit it most directly.

I chuckled as I gazed at this apple. Was this apple evidence of an Intelligent Designer? No and yes. No, because God rarely designed nature with absolutely ruler-straight lines. (Too boring?) Yes, for many reasons, one of them being that these apples are not only marvelous works of nature in themselves, but contain internal mechanisms which allow them to be modified and improved by crossbreeding them with other kinds of apples to produce delicious breakfast fare. (When I was a kid, the apples we got in South Dakota were, though red, almost infallibly mushy. Nowadays it’s extremely rare to find a mushy one.)

Want to read some Bible verses about our Creator and His Creation? Click the link immediately below.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/creationwhere-did-i-come


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The Teaser

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, August 25, 2016

Have you ever known anyone who knew how to tease in a very pleasant manner?  It must take talent to tease someone and make them happier for it.  It is much easier to be negative and make humor at someone's expense.  Those people who can give positive attention and brighten someone's day are a pleasure to be around.  I think they must practice this habit regularly and put effort into it.

I thought these daisies and thimble berries with a green background provided a nice scene.  Then I discovered a teaser in the picture at the upper right corner.  Fortunately, my daughter's golden retriever is a pleasant and kind sort of teaser.  Although, she probably is just sniffing for the berries.

Let's try to be the thoughtful and pleasant people God wants us to be and put effort into brightening the lives of others.


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Lost at Sea?
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It might look like this small water craft is just that – lost at sea. In fact, they aren’t that far off shore and are currently enjoying a late afternoon of fishing. When we see this tiny boat, in this vast ocean, we can think of the world we live in. How we, as Christians, can feel lost amongst all the sin on this planet. We can take comfort that it’s not just our “generation.” No, Jesus used a few different parables of items being lost – a coin, a son and a sheep – and in the end all were found. All were cared for and never forgotten.
 
You can read about all 3 stories in Luke 15. In verses 1-7, the story is about the one lost sheep –

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
 
Whether you feel like you are the lost sheep – out there all alone, feeling like you have been forgotten feeling like you are 1 in a 100, so why would anyone care if you are missing?  Well, take solace in the belief that not only does God know you are missing, but He’ll rejoice more, after bringing you back home, then He will with the other 99 already home.
 
….OR you are already part of 99 and just like God, you’ll rejoice with great exuberance, when that 1 lost sheep is brought back into the fold.  We all can rejoice at the fact – we’re never lost, if we want to be found.


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Red-eared Slider and Western Painted Turtle  
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 23, 2016

One of the sure signs of summer here in the Puget Sound area is the appearance of these two species found jointly basking in the warming rays of the sun.  Children visiting the local parks delight in seeing real, live turtles living in the wild right in their own backyard.  That’s not to say they didn’t do so without some assistance, for the native Western Painted Turtle (on the right) was joined by the introduced Red-eared Slider.  As the most commonly kept turtle in the world, the slider’s range has expanded widely due to pet releases.  It now is listed in the world’s 100 most invasive species since it often outcompetes native species.  The size of the two is comparable, so the difference shown in this picture may be due to age or gender.
 
In his typical style, Ogden Nash penned these words:

The turtle lives twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.
 
Lest we think Nash was too far off, the sex of a turtle is not determined by sex chromosomes, but by the temperature during the incubation period.  The slider’s eggs that develop between 71 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit will become male, in contrast to females which are incubated at warmer temperatures.  There isn’t too much margin of error allowed here.  If there was a dramatic change in temperature, only one gender would be the result, and in turn, extinction.  It appears life, even for a turtle, is too finely tuned to have happened just by random chance.


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Fruit of the Spirit
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 22, 2016

I saw these peaches hanging on a tree last week and they looked just about ready to pick.  Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of fruit there are?

The Bible talks about a different kind of fruit (fruit of the Spirit) and tells us what that is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians  5:22-23 (NKJV)


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Predictable or Unpredictable?
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, August 21, 2016

Before we and our paddler went out in our mokoro canoe in the Okavango Delta, one of the guides canoed ahead of us to make sure no hippos were lurking in the tall grass or keeping cool in the water.  We had been warned that hippos were ranked among the most dangerous animals in Africa.  In spite of having short legs and a rotund body, they can run fast over short distances.  They are known to be highly aggressive and unpredictable.  Because of their aggression and large size (they can weigh over 9,000 pounds), they are rarely preyed upon.  They can be very aggressive toward humans, either on land or in boats, killing around 3,000 people a year.  They can stay completely under water for five minutes or longer as their nostrils close to keep water out.  Even though they spend most of the daytime in water, they can’t swim.  In fact, they sometimes sleep under water, resting their heads on one another.  Every five minutes or so they automatically rise to the top of the water to breathe then sink back to the bottom while still asleep. This second image shows two hippos play-fighting.  Notice their big mouths and sharp teeth that spell danger!



Hippos can travel up to six miles while grazing on grass during the cool of the night. That’s one of the reasons we were escorted to our tented camp each night where we were to remain until daylight when staff came around.  (We had an air horn to be blown in case of an emergency during the night.  Luckily, we didn’t have to use it!) During the night we heard the snorting sounds of these unpredictable hippos as they trampled through the grass near our tent.

Unlike the hippo, God is predictable.  His character and His love for us are predictable.  He never changes. The Bible says “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8  Is God is also unpredictable?  We might not know how or when He’ll do something, but we have faith that He’ll do it.  Let’s keep our faith strong in our predictable God who can do mighty things in our lives!


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The Cleansing Storm
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, August 20, 2016

Doesn’t the above photo look like a tumultuous storm on the surface of a distant planet? Or the roilings of a pre-hurricane here on earth?

It's nothing so dramatic, actually. Every once in awhile I run one of our cars through an automatic car wash near a large shopping center. After squirting my car with water, the machinery sprays it end-to-end with this multicolored, foamy soap, which lands upon the car with an ominous rumble. I don’t know whether the manufacturers think that patrons consider this part of the car wash boring, but they have definitely mixed in dyes of several hues, including purple and green. It’s pretty dramatic the first time you see it—and I would imagine that to someone who’d never experienced this kind of car wash before, the sight and sound might even be traumatic.

But it’s a cleansing storm. Weeks of road dust and oils have accumulated on the chassis, and this soap—coupled with the slapping and buffeting of the spinning brushes which follow—will produce a shine that makes the car look almost like new.

The Bible says that spiritual washing and refining and polishing may not always be pleasant, as God’s Spirit does battle with our selfishness:

You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. (Deuteronomy8:5 NKJV)


My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11, 12)

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. (John 15:1 – 3)

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ ” (Revelation 3:19 – 22)


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The Pessoptimist’s Handbook
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, August 19, 2016

A little over a week ago, during a ramble through a bookstore, I spotted this volume in the “clearance” section. (And subsequent searching on the internet reveals that it’s clearance-priced there as well.) It’s one of those books that can be read from either end, though you have to flip the book upside down to do it.

According to the summaries, the optimist part points out the joyful and encouraging features of life (“Humanity's story is one long testimony to the truth that life is as rewarding and beautiful as you make it. As pioneers, inventors, and dreamers have always known, you can do anything if only you persevere”).  And the pessimist part does the opposite (“Why beat around the bush? The truth is that life is a never-ending cycle of toil and pain with nothing but death to reward all our suffering.”)

Know where I’m going with this? Sure you do. Depending on how you read it—such as what parts you start with, or where you stop reading—the Bible can seems like a “pessoptimist’s handbook.” Sin begins three chapters in, and isn’t finally dealt with until three chapters from the end. Parts of Scripture contain disturbing events and even thunderings from heaven, yet it also includes the most encouraging messages ever put into print.

On a phone call a few days ago, a truckdriver friend told me that he listens to the Bible on CD while he drives. He gave me this advice: “If you ever try doing this, start with the New Testament first.” Good plan.

Want to get an overview about what the Bible has to say about itself? Click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/bible


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Light on a Rainy Day
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, August 18, 2016

This picture is from a Pathfinder youth campout complete with traditional rain.  I didn't notice the reflections of the tents and trees on the water until I looked at the photograph again.

I think it is kind of neat that the water reflected the light even though it had many rain-drop splashes on the surface.  It made me think of how the first thing God created was light.  Light is significant in several ways.  In John 8:12, Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."   The light of creation refers to the teaching of God.

The light of creation also refers to literal creation as well.  In physics the properties of light define fundamental physical constants in the speed of light and the Planck constant.  I believe God created the very fundamental properties that give us existence.  It gives relevancy to the story in Genesis in relation to physics.

Just like the water reflects the physical light, people can reflect God's light by listening to and following the words of Jesus who shows us the true character of God's love.  I like it that the Pathfinder tents are reflected and I hope those great kids go on through life reflecting God's light.



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Big Plans
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
 
Tuesday of this week, on our morning walk, Shelley and I paused to study the spray-paint markings at an intersection about three blocks from our house.

I don’t remember ever seeing as many markings as these anywhere else, at any one time. The different colors, I’m sure, represent different utilities, but I don’t know which color goes with which. We can assume that the parallel white lines indicate where a trench will be cut, which will pretty much block off the intersection. I’m particularly curious about the ominous blood-colored slashes, but am also concerned about the cabalistic designs at the right, which I have never seen before. Bottom line—we gonna have a lot of action in this spot in the not-too-distant future, and things should be much improved.

I wonder whether in some way, invisible to the human eye, God has made re-construction marks on this old globe. Come to think of it, God’s not planning a mere patchwork of fixes—He’ll be starting from scratch:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  (2 Peter 3:10 – 13 NKJV)
 
Want to make sure you’ll survive this renovation? Click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/salvation


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Rope Swing
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Time had changed things.  The rope was the first indicator of that.  Too heavy to be tied there by a child, undoubtedly placed there by a caring father who wanted it to be the best swing in the neighborhood.  But that was long ago; the rope showed that.  Now, too short to even grab onto, even if you rightfully had aspirations of going into professional basketball.  Proof that time had passed was also borne out by the tree, for no compassionate father would endanger the life of his child by tying that rope around a decaying tree.  No, it would have to have been sturdy back then.  And the banks, once perfect as a launching pad that sent you arching out into open space, but long since covered with thorny brambles that now defied any to climb through their tangles.  Even the stream was different back then.  Perhaps father and son had worked together to build a stone and dirt dam at the narrowest point where the waterway trickled through.  Such would have created an inviting pool where the most courageous could plunge into with a satisfying splash, followed by a spray of droplets that induced others to follow suit.
 
A keyhole vignette of the world at large; a world brought into existence by another loving Father, only to see it ruined by sin and the passing of time.  But enough beauty remains to give us a glimpse of what the Father had in mind.  Not only perceived by looking backward, but also by gazing forward to the promise of an Eden restored.  A promise, not only hinted at in Scripture, but also positioned within the heart of man.  The wise man was right once again when he spoke of that longing placed deep within us, “God has planted eternity in the hearts of men.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11 TLB)  It all seems like something a loving Father would do.

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Wild Meadows
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 15, 2016

Spring comes late to the meadows in the mountains.  These are some of the wildflowers that were blooming in the Paradise area of Mt. Rainier when I was up there in August of 2009.  

There was a John Muir quote engraved into a low wall up there:  ". . . the most luxuriant and most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings."

Of course, these gardens are nothing like the Garden of Eden or what we will see in the earth made new but I think God has arranged that every now and then we get a glimpse or a reminder.

Oh, visit the earth,
    ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
    fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
    Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
    soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
    bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
    scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
    Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
    a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
    Oh, oh, let them sing!
Psalm 65:9-13 (The Message)


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Helping Each Other
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, August 14, 2016

What would you think if birds were on your head, even covering an eye as shown in this image of a Cape or African buffalo and Red-billed Oxpeckers?  Actually they are friends and help each other out. How can that be?  It’s thought that Oxpeckers perform a symbiotic relationship with large animals like this Cape buffalo, eating ticks and other parasites.  They even remove insects, parasites and wax from their host’s ears!  Oxpeckers are also on the lookout for predators, alerting their host with a special call if they perceive potential danger. An Oxpecker will spend its entire life on the host except for nesting. The birds are somewhat protected from predators by remaining on these huge animals.  Oxpeckers have a steady supply of food from the buffalo, while the buffalo benefits from having parasites removed.

What does the Bible say about helping or treating each other?  There are texts about living in harmony, being sympathetic, loving, compassionate, encouraging, and forgiving with each other.  Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:2, 3 NEB) says that people are to be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, charitable and peaceful with each other. Even though we’re not a Cape buffalo or an Oxpecker, we can help one another with good deeds as mentioned here!


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Law and the Holy Spirit
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, August 13, 2016

If you’ve kept up with my recent Daily Photo Parable blogs the last few Fridays and Sabbaths, you’ll have picked up that Shelley and I recenly spent a few days back in my South Dakota home town, visiting family.

The street you see in the photo above is where one of my sisters and her husband live, who graciously hosted us during our stay. Their house is concealed behind the speed limit sign—in fact, that pickup truck you might be able to see just to the right of the “Your Speed” sign probably belongs to them.

As I strolled past this sign, I noticed that it looked new, and that it went beyond simply informing the motorist of the speed limit. Somebody had evidently complained that traffic was roaring past at dangerous velocities, so the authorities provided not only input, but feedback. Indeed, what first drew this sign to my attention was when I was driving past at 28 or 29, and that number was displayed on the black screen, flashing alarmingly.

A pretty apt parable about what God’s law and His Holy Spirit do, right? The law tells us God’s code of moral behavior—giving specifics on how to show love for Him, and more specifics on how to show love for our neighbors. Can you imagine how different the content of our newspapers and news media would be if everyone kept those Ten Commandments?

And aren’t you grateful that the Lord provides His Holy Spirit to send warnings to our consciences, making us feel uneasy about soul-damaging practices we’ve fallen into?

To discover or review what the Bible says about what the law and the Holy Spirit can do for us, click the links immediately below.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/law-god

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/holy-spirit



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This Old House
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, August 12, 2016

I don’t know who owns this house now, but as far as I can tell, it has looked this way pretty much all my life. It’s the house in Redfield, South Dakota where I was born. I snapped this photo a little over a month ago during a visit to see family.

At that time, if I have my facts straight, this was the hospital, or at least a maternity hospital. I can’t say precisely which of these windows my mother may have stared out of while awaiting my arrival, but do you see the little porch thing with steps and handrails to the right? I was probably born in the three-windowed corner room just to the left.

A few years after I was born, the town built the new Community Memorial Hospital many blocks to the south, and I believe that this building became something of a boarding house, and later an apartment complex. Can you see its evolution? It began, no doubt, with the large two-story central section (three stories if you count the gables with windows above), a massive enough dwelling to start with. But then the add-ons began, both front and back. The three separate visible entrances show that a number of people could potentially live here.

It just struck me—and maybe I’m being a bit too metaphorical here—that this house could represent a human life. You grow from a well-designed central core, but you add relationships as you go: friends, spouse, family. And these additions give you more personality and perspective. Unless you lock and barricade some of those doors, they can allow you to be more understanding and accepting of diversity.

And if you continue to set a place for the “Unseen Guest at Every Meal,” you will have become acquainted with the One who will one day put you through an incredible renovation.

I ain't a-gonna need this house no longer.
Ain't a-gonna need this house no more.
Ain't got time to fix the shingles.
Ain't got time to fix the floor.
I ain't got time to oil the hinges,
nor to mend the window panes.
Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer.
I'm a-gettin' ready to meet the saints.
         --Stuart Hamblen, who also wrote “It Is No Secret What God Can Do”


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The Register
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, August 11, 2016

Some mountains have a register book to write your name when you successfully reach the summit.  This register is cute because it is at the top of the smallest of the Tiger Mountain peaks with trees blocking the view.  The peak is in the ferns a few yards behind and to the left of the box, where there is a small USGS marker.



It feels like an accomplishment to reach this spot because even though it is not very big, it is hard to find.  Our walk with the Lord is kind of like a series of peaks or events that may not seem large and significant.  With the right understanding, helping someone is more monumental than other things we traditionally think are big.  There may not be a register to sign, but as we continue to do our best to help and encourage each other, we leave our marks on other peoples' lives.


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Safety Net
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

We all have plenty of challenges. Whether we are dealing with a situation at work, or something going on in the home. I learned a long time ago, we cannot do this on our own. I think of unbelievers and what they go through – struggling in life, with no thought of a higher power to bring burdens to and ask for assistance. As believers, we have that safety net – the ability to cast our burdens at His feet, ask for help and await direction and guidance.
 
David had plenty of times where he would come to God and ask for help, forgiveness and guidance. In Psalm 34 we read that God is always listening to us, always hearing us and ALWAYS there to deliver us.
 
Psalm 34:17-20
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.
 
As you face, yet another crisis or ‘bad day’, always remember you have the all loving safety net – our God! Rely on HIM, not on yourself.

The image above was captured at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.





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Muskrat Reflections
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 9, 2016

We all like to look our best, both physically and spiritually.  It’s easy to point fingers at those in their teens for exaggerated efforts made to catch the attention of others, but those of an older age seem equally concerned when the passing years impact their appearance.  It would be foolish to assume this Muskrat was narcissistic about his own reflection, even if he did shift to show us his best side. Mankind seems to have a corner upon that quality.  And we ought to be grateful for mirrors, lest we exit our homes and scare the neighbors, for that mirror can help us evaluate ourselves and make corrections when necessary.

But how easy it is to deceive ourselves using the old “smoke and mirrors” approach.  Reality should be the goal of introspection and self-examination, but even when doing this we can fool ourselves.  Psalm 36:2 describes this fateful flaw:  “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.”  (NIV)  James continues this thought in the New Testament where he writes:  “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”  (1:23-24 NIV)

It’s understandable that some would like to forget their spiritual appearance, for we all cast an ugly shadow at times, but the purpose of that reflection is to show us our need.  And that need is supplied, not by re-combing our hair a dozen times or investing in plastic surgery, but by focusing more intently on the One in whose image we were originally made.


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Do Unto Others
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 8, 2016

I was at the mall last week and was glad to find a parking space close to the store entry that I wanted to use.  I had just come from another store where I had bought some groceries which I had put in the trunk and I thought my car was locked when I left it.  I even walked behind it on the way into the store.  I may have inadvertently clicked on the open trunk button instead of the lock button on my key fob as I was walking away from the car.

When I came out, I found this note on the windshield.  I actually didn't even notice it until I was driving out of the mall parking lot.  I pulled into a nearby office parking lot and read it and was very grateful to find that someone had found my trunk open and had kindly closed it for me!  Nothing was missing.

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.

Matthew 7:12 (Message)


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Fast=Winning?
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, August 7, 2016

Impalas, a type of antelope, are known to be fast runners and great leapers. They can jump up to 33 feet in distance on the ground and close to 10 feet up in the air.  When running from predators, they jump high and far, seeming to fly over vegetation and other impalas.  This young impala was resting with a nursery group of other fawns.

As you probably know, the Rio 2016 Olympics have just begun where more than 10,000 athletes from around 205 nations are competing in this largest sporting event in the world. Many of the competition venues involve being fast – fast like the impalas!  Even though many compete in each event, only one will win the gold medal.

Paul wrote about running a race (I Corinthians 9:23-26).  “You know (do you not?) that at the sports all the runners run the race, though only one wins the prize.  Like them, run to win!  But every athlete goes into strict training.  They do it to win a fading wreath; we, a wreath that never fades.  For my part, I run with a clear goal before me.”  One of the stated goals of this Olympic Games is to “send a signal of hope and joy to the world in our much troubled times.” What else can be a signal of hope and joy?  How about God?  “And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace by your faith in him, until, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you overflow with hope.” Romans 15:13 NEB  With God, we can all be winners!


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It’s Only Wallpaper
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, August 6, 2016

Not long ago while walking along a sidewalk, I paused beside this business and found my eyes caught by the floor-to-ceiling library on its far wall. “Whoa,” I muttered enviously, “I’d love to have an office like that.” Since nobody was present I snapped the above photo.

But something seemed strange about those venerable old books, and as I stared at them I suddenly realized that they were wallpaper! In fact, if you let your eye start at the lower left corner and move slowly up at an angle to the upper right corner, you’ll discover a repeating pattern.

I’m sure this wallpapering was tongue-in-cheek. Or maybe the business-owner just loves books. But there’s no doubt that this wall lends a bit of class to an otherwise casual room (is that a pet-basket on the desk?).

I’ve always loved books, and just looking at them reminds me of their stored wisdom. But there’s only one book—make that a capital B—whose wisdom can really be trusted, and can act as a corrective to that of other volumes.

For more of what the Bible says about wisdom, click the link immediately below.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/wisdom


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Perspective
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, August 5, 2016

While visiting my South Dakota home town a little over a month ago, Shelley and I stopped in at the Carnegie Library. Above you see--from the viewpoint of a little kid who has just entered the front door—a formidable glossy wooden horseshoe librarian’s desk towering above you. A librarian of the "old school," sat enthroned there, and if you knew what was good for you, you behaved as though you had entered a sacred Temple of Learning. (See those stools? There were no stools "back in the day." What boy or girl would voluntarily sit and whisper pleasantries with such an intimidating personage?)

When you grow up, of course, your perspective changes:



I still must confess that, even seen from a mature height, this desk still intimidates me. But now I can understand more of the reason for the library lady's iron rule—it was to protect the precious volumes in the shelves behind the desk, the fiction section, which was my favorite. All the books there are different now—I checked—but I shaped my writing style with the authors I found there in my formative years.

Think of God as a library lady. To the heedless, He may sometimes appear grumpy as He works to preserve the integrity of His creation and reputation. But once He has your attention, once He can get you to look Him in the eye, He opens His arms to you and shares incredible treasures. And He'll finally give you the run of the universe.


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The Love Corner
Photo (c)2016 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary (c)2016 by Russell Jurgensen

I was looking at this picture and wondering what flowers on display could represent.  I guess I'm a little slow, but it really boils down to love.  We might give flowers to someone who is sick to encourage and show caring, which is loving them.  Flowers are good for anniversaries and just anytime to show you care.  Just about every reason leads back to love.

God's law also leads back to love.  Each of the Ten commandments can be analyzed in regards to how it expands God's primary law of love.  It is pretty clear that the world's logic is not the same as God's logic.  Often times we think we know a better way and make complicated unassailable arguments why our way is right.  However, if we search and study and dig deep, each of the Ten commandments reveals God's perfect logic.  This law, combined with Jesus' forgiveness, provides the perfect model to live by.

A warehouse flower corner may not be the best place to stand and contemplate God's logic of love.  But, you can make your own "love corner" by studying and pondering Exodus 20: 1-17

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”


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Where God Dwells
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, August 3, 2016

In Psalm 43, David is asking (pleading) not be "lumped" into the rest of the nation, given their unfaithfulness. He’s asking God to hear him and to take care of him.
 
43:1-4
Vindicate me, my God,
    and plead my cause
    against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
    deceitful and wicked.
You are God my stronghold.
    Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.
 
I can relate to the line about asking for guidance, wanting that guidance to bring me to the place God dwells. In this case, David saw this place as a mountain – a place he could feel the presence of God and worship Him.
 
This last weekend, I was able to go for a short hike (with a bunch of our Young Adult members), up Denny Creek – out towards Snoqualmie Pass. Along the way, there were numerous spots to "take in the beauty." At this particular spot I was gazing up the rest of the mountain side. I had the valley on one side--and on the other, this view up the hill. Over the course of the hike, I decided that between the rocks, trees, hillside, foliage, creek, waterfall, birds, and all the rest of amazing sights – I was truly in a place where God dwells.


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American Kestrel
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Names frequently tell us something about the person or thing being described.  This is a good rule of thumb, but unfortunately not always true.  One looking for a residence in a development entitled “Lakeside” might legitimately expect to find a body of water nearby but overly zealous brokers may have simply created the pseudonym in hopes of creating interest in prospective buyers.  Falaco sparverius is one of those suffering under such an identify crisis.  The genus name, Falaco, accurately describes the bird’s falcate or hooked shape of talons and beak.  The species name, from which we get one of its common names, Sparrow Hawk, is something of a misnomer, for only a small part of its diet is made up of sparrows and it is not a true hawk.  To avoid confusion with a European species of the same name, its name was changed to American Kestrel.  It is the smallest and most common North American falcon and can frequently be seen hovering over its prey before plunging onto the unfortunate insect, reptile, bird, or small mammal.  Pictured is a male, identified by its gray wings and slightly smaller size.
 
The Apostle John, writing to the believers at Laodicea from the Island of Patmos, wanted to ensure his readers knew who the true author of his words was.  To do so, he used three names of God, each with its own shade of meaning, to give them confidence in its reliability.  “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”  (Rev 3:14  NIV)   The first two names, “Amen” and “faithful and true witness,” both contain the same idea, that Christ is absolutely trustworthy and completely reflects the will of the Father.  The last title, “the ruler of God’s creation.” assures the reader of the totality of His sovereignty and the guarantee they are included in His dominion.  Unlike the builder who is trying to sell property or the taxonomist who is seeking to bring current names into sync with the latest mitochondrial research, Christ simply wants to assure us that we are included as a part of His plan.


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Watering the Earth
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 1, 2016

This photo is of a tiny wild rosebud after it had been raining.  It appeared to be perfectly formed and very delicate.

I like the following verses which talk about how God's word can bring spiritual nourishment (just like the rain and snow can
bring much needed moisture to the plants of the earth which also provide us with physical nourishment) and how it will accomplish
what God desires.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:8-11 (NIV)





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The Pessoptimist’s Handbook

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch

Friday, August 19, 2016

 

A little over a week ago, during a ramble through a bookstore, I spotted this volume in the “clearance” section. (And subsequent searching on the internet reveals that it’s clearance-priced there as well.) It’s one of those books that can be read from either ends, though you have to flip the book upside down to do it.

 

According to the summaries, the optimist part points out the joyful and encouraging features of life (“Humanity's story is one long testimony to the truth that life is as rewarding and beautiful as you make it. As pioneers, inventors, and dreamers have always known, you can do anything if only you persevere,”).  And the pessimist part does the opposite (“Why beat around the bush? The truth is that life is a never-ending cycle of toil and pain with nothing but death to reward all our suffering.”)

 

Know where I’m going with this? Sure you do. Depending on how you read it—such as what parts you start with, or where you stop reading—the Bible can seems like a “pessoptimist’s handbook.” Sin begins three chapters in, and isn’t finally dealt with until three chapters from the end. Parts of Scripture contain disturbing events and even thunderings from heaven, yet it also includes the most encouraging messages ever put into print.

 

On a phone call a few days ago, a truckdriver friend told me that he listens to the Bible on CD while he drives. He gave me this advice: “If you ever try doing this, start with the New Testament first.” Good plan.

 

Want to get an overview about what the Bible has to say about itself? Click the link immediately below:

 

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/bible

 

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