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

Daily Photo Parable -  December 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.

A Fresh Start
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 31, 2012

I had a white Christmas. As you can tell from the footprints on these stairs, they have been climbed. When I was there, the temperature was hovering just below freezing so the stairs were quite treacherous. In order to make a safe ascent or descent, you had to really watch each foot placement.

As this year ends and another starts, we are at a place of making new resolutions and starting afresh. David seemed to have been in a similar place in his life and wrote a psalm showing us the keys to sticking to our goals and objectives:

GOD made my life complete
when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to GOD’s ways;
I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works;
I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
and I’m watching my step.
GOD rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

Psalms 18:20-24 (The Message)

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Star of Bethlehem
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 30, 2012

(NOTE FROM MAYLAN: Our recent website changeover meant that the site was down a Sunday or two ago. This has pushed Bev’s blogs a week into the future, which is why you’re getting this glance-back at Christmas! Thanks for your thoughtful work, Bev!)

uring biblical times, people believed in the study of the stars. One of the greatest astrological stories in the Bible is the story of the Star of Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus. A bright star revealed the birth of Jesus to the magi, wise men or astrologers and led them to Bethlehem. “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” Mathew 2:2 King Herod of Judea directed them to Bethlehem where they gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus. Being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned home another way.

The magi were probably astronomers or astrologers (apparently indistinguishable during this time) from Mesopotamia or Persia where the Jewish people were aware of a prophecy about a savior-king. Was this star a miracle, or the merging of two planets into one single gleaming object or giant star as some scientists believe? Whatever it was, this star stopped and stood over the Child. (v. 9)

The Bible doesn't record how the magi traveled to Bethlehem. We often think they traveled by camels, but they could have ridden donkeys, horses or walked. They could have ridden a camel something like this one I recently photographed by the pyramids at Giza in Egypt. I found that riding a camel was more “bumpy” than riding a horse and you had to lean way back when the camel stood up and got back down!

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 29, 2012

A couple of Fridays ago on a morning walk with Shelley, I spotted this startling sidewalk. At first glance, it may seem as though an impossibly well-defined rainstorm has just passed through, leaving one section wet and the other dry. However, the left-hand segment isn’t really wet (and no, it's not a shadow) – what you see is simply dirt and mold which hasn’t been pressure-washed away, as it has on the right-hand part.

Evidently, the neighbor on the right either rented or possesses a powerful pressure-washer, and recently got to work with it. And this is what’s so unusual. I’ve seen many other sidewalks where one neighbor got the sidewalk-cleaning urge before the other one did, and in all those other instances, the boundary was mushy rather than crisp. In some cases, probably with the other householder’s permission, the pressure-washer operator actually continued to cleaning down the sidewalk for a bit, even offering some artful “blending” so that the difference between the two sidewalks wouldn’t be so obvious.

But notice what has happened above. The right-hand neighbor has first of all found out where the exact property boundary is, as you might be able to tell from the near edge of the sidewalk, where the boundary-marker nail-head is. (In fact, that firmly-planted white stake on the yard side might have been anchored in the soil by one or the other of these neighbors. “This is where my property ends and yours begins!”)

And look at that crisp, sharp distinction between clean and dirty. If you’ve ever done pressure-washing, you know that you just can’t be that accurate with a highpowered stream of water; there’s always some bleeding and blending. This means that the pressure-washer-operator has actually placed a straight-edge on the sidewalk in order to make sure that not even a centimeter of the other property gets washed.

I don’t know about you, but the more I look at the scene above, the more uneasy I become about these two neighbors. True, one of them could simply be an obsessive neat-freak. But more likely, there some sort of animosity here.

Your Bible insists that being a good neighbor is supremely important. To look at one verse each from Jesus and Paul on the subject, click the link immediately below:

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Depicting the Undead
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 28, 2012

I certainly can’t claim to be any kind of an expert on what popular culture says about 21st century America and its entertainment preferences, but I’m utterly confused about the fascination some people have with zombies and other variations of those who have “returned from the dead."

The “undead” star regularly in graphic novels, comic books, movies, and other media. Evidently the interest is so great that the publisher of the above how-to book – which I saw earlier this month – figured it might be profitable to provide instruction to artists who wish to draw or paint these monsters.

What does an undead – in other words, resurrected – person really look like? The Bible tells about several individuals to which this happened, and in each of these stories, the person returned to life more healthy than when he or she departed it. So anyone who is interested in truly “drawing and painting the undead” would have to toss the above book aside.

Several years ago, Signs of the Times magazine asked me to write an article on the Bible facts about what happens after death. The truth is not only immensely encouraging, but – perhaps most important of all – provides a superbly humane picture of a loving God.

If you’d like to read my article, which was reprinted recently in the Signs print edition, click the link immediately below:

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Pain in the Neck?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, December 27, 2012

Last week I got a chuckle out of this readerboard sign. I should have paid more attention to the business it was placed beside, but I imagine it was a chiropractor’s clinic. Literal pains in the neck can be annoying, but metaphorical ones can be even worse!

A few months back, the editor of the Signs of the Times magazine asked me to write an article called “How to Get Along With Someone You Don’t Like,” so I took him up on it. I am providentially blessed to be currently surrounded by a whole lot of very likeable people, but if you’re like me, this hasn’t always been the case. Here’s the online link to the article:

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The Day After
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
We anticipate and prepare for specific days throughout the year -- birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, first day of summer, and of course Christmas.  Each year they come and they go.  Sometimes after such a day, it can feel dark, cold and bleak....Do we just move forward and try and forget?  Do we just start looking forward to next year?  Do we spend enough time on each event, to really understand what it means? 
This time of year, especially, there are millions of people that believe Christmas is the day that you....see Santa, buy presents, eat, go to parties and eventually get tired of the hustle and bustle and look forward to the “holiday” being over.  As Christians we realize what the season is really about.  It's a season (and specific day) to reflect what Jesus has done for us.  What a sacrifice it was, to come to the earth as a human baby and show us what it means to be perfect.   A sacrifice that allowed us to shed our sins and have the hope for eternal life.  It's a time of the year when we can stop and take stock of our blessings -- show our family and friends what they truly mean to us.
As we move past “the day” and enter into the “after,” let us not forget that every day is a gift from God and we need to make the very best of it -- to Him be the glory!

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Yellow-eyed Junco
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Preparation for the Christmas season differs widely from house to house.  Some bemoan the commercialism the holiday elicits and wait until the last minute before caving into the pressure to find the perfect gift for someone special.  For others, planning seems to start for the next year’s celebration almost before the decorations are off the tree.  

One might incorrectly jump to the conclusion that this Yellow-eyed Junco would fall neatly into the second group.  After all, it’s dressed in colors appropriate to the season despite the fact that the picture was taken in the heat of summer.  Truth be told, little or no thought was given to its attire.  This species is found only in the United States at high elevations of the Southwest.  Primarily a Mexican species, this locally abundant bird possesses several qualities which make it an ideal subject for behavioral studies.  It does well in captivity and is generally sedentary, as well as being philopatric, which is just a fancy way of saying it commonly returns to its birthplace to raise its own family.  While it was just stated that there was probably limited forethought given to its wardrobe, that’s not exactly true.  For while that may fit the subject itself, the researcher who placed the rings on its legs undoubtedly gave considerable attention to the colors and details of those bands.   

And it’s this attention to detail, this personalization that causes us to place greater value upon the gift given.  When the gift reflects time and effort offered by the giver, rather than a one-size-fits-all offering, its worth increases incrementally.  And that’s what the Christmas gift is all about.  The One whose birthday we celebrate on the 25th of December gave the infinite gift, a gift beyond calculation.  The incarnation, the act of God becoming man, cannot be computed. And its worth increases beyond infinity because of the personal way His sacrifice fits each of us, covering our unique and individual shortcomings with His own righteousness.   

So, how do we become members of that second group, those who prepare for Christmas all year long?  It’s not by rushing to the after-Christmas-sales.  It’s living a life of appreciation for His gift each and every day, starting today.

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God's Gift To The Whole World
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 24, 2012

Although we don't know the exact date when Jesus was born, this is the time of year when we traditionally celebrate His birth by exchanging greetings, presents and well wishes with friends and loved ones. Nothing we give each other, however, can compare to the gift God already gave to each of us - His own Son!

As the angel told the shepherds so long ago:

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:10-14 KJV

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. John 3:16 KJV

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Lying in a Manger

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 23, 2012

Was Jesus born in a stable, a barn or a cave? We really don't know. Luke 2 mentions a manger because there was no room for him in the guest room or inn. Some experts think He was probably born in the house of relatives, but outside the normal living and guest quarters. We tend to think that since a manger is mentioned, that must have been in a barn. However, in ancient times, animals were kept in homes at night and mangers were found inside the house. This first or lower floor was for animals and the upper or second floor was the family quarters. By being inside, animals were protected at night and they helped provide heat for the family on cold nights. Therefore, perhaps Mary and Joseph couldn't find space in the living quarters of this family home or inn, but downstairs with the animals. When traveling in other countries, there have been times we've stayed in inns such as this. At first I thought it somewhat strange, but after thinking about it, it made sense!

While on our hiking trip in Cyprus during October we traveled to Nicosia, the divided capitol city. On the Turkish side, we visited a khans (han), inn or caravanserais, a halting-place for caravans located in the traditional old market center. This Buyuk Han (Great Inn) (in photo above) built in 1572 by the first Ottoman governor of Cyprus provided accommodation for travelers on the top floor and their animals on ground level as well as a place to trade goods and socialize with fellow travelers.

No matter where Jesus was actually born, we know He is our Savior, our Lord!

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Five Pillars of [Faith-sharing] Success
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch

Sabbath, December 22, 2012

I love SparkCharts! 

SparkCharts (and there are other brands which are equally good) contain the essential facts about a course of study – such as algebra or philosophy or chemistry – boiled down so that they will fit on two sides of a laminated card about the size of a file folder.

Whenever I see a bookstore display of such charts, I always stop and study them. Once I even bought one on algebra, hoping that it might help me brush up on a topic that never really gripped me. (I got about 3 inches down on the first column, and realized that I was already ‘way over my head!)

Earlier this month as I passed a SparkChart rack, my eye was caught by the “Five Pillars of Success” on the “Public Speaking” chart. As I scanned down through them, I recognized that they were not only excellent speech-making principles (I minored in speech), but each of the five also fit perfectly with sharing one’s Christian faith.

Most of the time, Christian “witnessing” or faith-sharing isn’t done as a public speech, though it can be. Christians will usually wait for an opportunity to tactfully share with someone who shows an interest. But I think that a look at the following speech-prep steps can keep our feet on the ground.


1. Start planning early. If you attend a class on sharing your faith, the instructor will often urge you to write out your personal testimony. This is a good idea, because writing something out helps you stick to the point, and will provide you with ideas you can later use in conversation. (Rarely if ever will you actually use the written version of your testimony, though if you have it typed into a computer file, it’s easy to cut-and-paste into an email you might send someone.)

2. Believe in your presentation. If you don’t, no one else will. The most effective faith-sharers are the ones who have discovered how lost they were before they found Christ, and the staggeringly generous things He has done for them. I myself grew up in an already-solidly-Christian home, so my testimony isn’t as dramatic. But I have many stories to tell about how my parents’ quiet, humble faith in God provided me with a positive, loving picture of Him.

3. Create realistic expectations and limitations for yourself. Remember, it is not you who is the Messiah. Even though your new-found faith makes such sterling, splendid sense, and you can’t for the life of you figure out why everyone else can’t “get it,” think of yourself as someone who may give a speech in a business setting. You probably won’t change hearts in an instant, and some who hear you might disagree with you. But others might quietly agree, and you will have given Heaven a hearing.

4. Always offer something new to your audience. Worse than no Christian witness at all is a believer who mechanically spouts theological clichés. Always consider your audience – how much they already know, what their current prejudices might be, and how entrenched they are in their current thinking. If you can present the ancient truths with startling freshness, wonderful things can happen. If you want an example of how this can be done, read the book Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Lewis never ascends a metaphorical pulpit and pontificates, but instead views faith in God from street-level, and shows deep respect for his readers.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Part of this practice – an important part – is continuing to study your Bible and allow its truth to surprise and shape and encourage you. But once you’ve written out your personal faith-story, you might actually want to say it out loud to yourself a few times, just to keep it fresh. It’s been my experience that, once we allow the Holy Spirit to plant a helpful Bible insight in our minds, an opportunity to use it arises surprisingly soon.

Speaking of Bible reading, check out our Bible reading plans (there are both a chronological and a non-chronologal one) at the link just below: 

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Learning to Love the Invisible Man
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 21, 2012

Wednesday of this week I stopped in at the University Bookstore and discovered that it was in the midst of an “I Love Books” promotion. Mounted on several exterior windows were large posters of people of all ages with books pressed lovingly against their smiling faces.

As you can see, the above young lady has been photographed in the act of adoring Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. This 1952 novel is narrated by a black man who asserts that the color of his skin makes him, in essence, invisible, because people don’t take the trouble to look at him and see him for who he is.

This poster made me think of another invisible Man, the one whose birth we will celebrate in just a few days. Thousands and thousands of artists have painted His portrait, and many actors have portrayed Him in movies, but do we really know Him? In effect, He is invisible to us if we depend on sound bites from others who claim to know Him, neglect to read widely in His four gospel biographies and listen to what He is really saying.

I recently learned of what sounds like a wonderful way to get better acquainted with the Hero of the New Testament. It’s called Spiritual Growth Triathlon. Here are details below, and for your convenience I have provided a live link, right here (read the information below before going to the link).


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Create in Me a Clean Heart
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 21, 2012

In late July I spotted the above delightful vehicle in a parking lot about a mile from where we live. I snapped its photo because this rig is unique, but now that I take a more lingering look at it, I think I can see deep into the heart of its owner. See if you agree with what I seem to have found.

First, the owner really cares. As far as I can tell, this isn’t one of those “old-car kits,” where somebody has duplicated the quaintness in modern fiberglass. Instead, this car body is original. Being no expert, I couldn’t tell you what make or model or year it is, but I Googled—just picking a random year—“1930 Model T,” and what I saw looked enough like the above photo that I concluded that the above body is pushing 70 or 80 years old.

So we can infer that whoever owns or at any rate refurbished this old truck has a genuine affection for it. Something about those curvaceous running boards, though rusty, spoke to the owner’s heart, and he (maybe she) refused to part with it. This genuine love leads to another thing we infer:

Second, the owner has provided enhancements. Notice the sturdy green truck-box? The modern tires with red-painted wheels? The red-and-black Navaho-blanket pattern of the seat-cover (which I can see better than you, because I have a higher resolution and can zoom in on it)?

And look at that engine! Again, I have zoom-in capabilities you don’t, and though I am no expert in this area, this seems to be a muscular V-8, which probably emits a healthy roar from the tailpipe we can see peeping out in front of the rear wheel. .

Okay—there you have the “Daily Photo.” What’s the “Parable”?

You’re way ahead of me, right? Some of the most wonderful Christians I have known don’t look like much on the outside. Life has handled them roughly. But a heavenly Mechanic looked at them and loved them, and—keeping their essential lovability intact—got to work on them, adding enhancements in ways which highlighted their worth as human beings. (That bright engine in the photo could be compared to the "clean heart" for which David confidently prayed in Psalm 51:10) And like every dedicated hobbyist, God loves this kind of work.

Writing to the Christians at Philippi, Paul told them that he was “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6

And knowing how thoroughly we are loved allows us to let this love flow out to others. As the old Christian song says,

I am loved, I am loved
I can risk loving you
For the One who knows me best
Loves me most
I am loved you are loved
Won't you please take my hand
We are free to love each other
We are loved

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The Proof is in the Penciling
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, December 20, 2012

What you’re looking at in the photo above is one of the first sections I make a beeline for when I visit a bookstore – in this case, the Crossroads Mall Half-Price Books. What you see above is a display in the “art” section which, along with bound collections of many artists both ancient and modern, contains several shelves of how-to manuals.

To the left you see The Ultimate Book of Drawing, which offers in its subtitle “Essential Skills, Techniques & Inspiration for Artists.” Though we can’t see them, this display features books on cartooning, oil painting, sculpture and other media.

Cartooning happens to be my favorite "oh-if-I-just-had-the-time" fantasy. However, experience has proven that even when I do devote time to this, I’m not that good. I think I’m condemned to be one of those wannabes who admire from afar.

In many of the several how-to art books I own, the reader is earnestly counseled to spend time at the drawing board, or with a sketchbook. Again and again, seasoned artists say that it’s like anything else – basketball, soccer, playing the violin – you’ve got to put in the hours. If you put in the hours, you will be better than if you didn’t put in the hours. In other words, “The proof is in the penciling.”

Maybe that’s why whoever prepared the above display plopped a large black sketchbook on a stand at the top. Or maybe it was simply the desire to generate a bit more cash flow – in case the shopper pages through an art book and suddenly gets inspired, here’s a sketchbook he or she can hurry to the counter with!

At any rate, spending time with the Bible is how the Christian comes to understand spiritual nuances which are a sealed book to those who don’t go this route. One of my recurring New Year’s resolutions is to read much in Scripture. Right now I’m doing it by way of a little MP3 player which contains the entire Bible.

If you’d like to examine a couple of plans for reading the Bible through in 2013, click the link below (which you can also find in the left-hand menu on the home page of this website). You’ll even find links to each of the daily readings to keep you on track.

Spend the time!

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Imagine the annual Christmas play, complete with shepherds, wisemen, Joseph and Mary, and of course baby Jesus.  The cast will undoubtedly include a group of angels which accompany the diverse group, most of which are dressed in bathrobes of various vintages and shades of color.  The angels are the exception.  Bathrobes somehow just don’t fit these heavenly beings who appear on the scene bearing glad tidings.  Depending upon the age of those involved in the play, the part of angels is displayed using the impression of wings and clothing that differs noticeably from others in the play.

Whatever the wardrobe crew came up with, I fear it was a miserable failure compared to that which the original participants observed.  But that’s alright, we know it’s a play and we know our feeble efforts to recreate the scene will fall far short.

Several times in Scripture we find a similar description of the attire worn by these heavenly beings.  Luke 24:4 tells of their appearance to the women following the resurrection:  “They stood there puzzled about this, when suddenly two men in bright shining clothes stood by them.”  (GNB)  In Acts, Luke again describes angels as wearing “shining clothes” in the account of their visit to the home of Cornelius.  And in Revelation 15:6 John adds one more detail by describing their attire as “shining linen.”

The realm of natural science has also made an attempt to imitate these beings.  The name Phainopepla is probably not a familiar one to most people.  Yet the name of this Silky Flycatcher whose home is the desert literally means one who wears a “shining robe.”  This title may not seem especially appropriate to the female which is shown above, but the male comes closer with his glossy black attire.  Perhaps those who first named this species were also attracted by the distinctive, fluttery flight it uses to climb upward, followed by more direct horizontal flight towards its destination.

However, words are just that, words.  They are the tools we use to try to convey our feelings, our vision, our glimpse of reality.  Like tinfoil wings glued on our backs, they are a poor imitation.  Nevertheless, we should be grateful for them, but humble as we realize how far short they fall of the genuine.

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 17, 2012

This picture is of Common Tansy, or tanacetum vulgare.  Personally, I think its flowers are quite pretty but it is  considered a Class C noxious weed in Washington.  It's an introduced plant which originally came from Europe and Asia and is now widely distributed and invasive. 

People have used it for folk remedies and as a medicine but this plant contains alkaloids that can be toxic to humans and livestock if it is eaten in large quantities. 

The Bible has something to say about weeds:

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.  Galations 6:7-8 (The Message)

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Shepherds in the Fields
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sheep peacefully grazed in their stone-fenced field in the Lake District in England, shown in my photo above. These sheep didn't have a shepherd watching over them. However, when sheep are on the open range, a shepherd is needed to keep them from wandering off and to protect them. My photo immediately below shows a shepherd in Eastern Turkey, near the base of Mt Ararat watching over his flock of a variety of sheep and goats.

According to Luke 2, shepherds in the fields keeping watch through the night over their flocks were surprised and terror-stricken to see an angel of the Lord, saying, “Do not be afraid; I have good news for you: there is great joy coming to the whole people. Today in the city of David a deliverer has been born to you – the Messiah, the Lord.” v. 10 NEB Then, the shepherds went straight to Bethlehem to see Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. What joy it must have been for them to see Jesus, their Savior!

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The Innocents
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 15, 2012

By now you’ve probably heard about the horror which happened Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut, as a heavily-armed 20-year-old man entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School  and shot 26 people, 20 of them children.

Those precious innocents were just barely older than the above flock of kids I spotted in early July being taken on a field trip by their summer daycare teachers beneath the huge trees at the University of Washington.

No words can express the Sandy Hook horror, though everyone from talk-show hosts to the state’s governor to the president of the United States has tried. What happened in the mind of the shooter to cause him to follow this path toward his eventual suicide is utterly unfathomable.

Which is why I will refrain from trying to explain it. Instead, please join me in praying for the survivors—the siblings, the moms and dads, the teachers, the community, everyone who after a numb weekend must resume their lives, somehow. May the day soon arrive when children can play at will in the forests of Eden restored, free forever from danger.

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All Around the Neighborhood
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 14, 2012

Yesterday morning around sunrise, after Shelley’s and my regular walk, I hiked around a couple of extra neighborhood loops while she was fixing breakfast.

At one point a blaze of sunlight caught my eye, reflected from the upper windows of a house further up the block. Sensing an opportunity to talk about living the Christian life, I fumbled for my belt-camera and snapped a photo.

I had originally been going to simply compare the above flash with our Christian witness, reflecting Jesus to those around us. But the more I think about it, the deeper the symbolism becomes.

For one thing, notice that the sky is cloudy. Weather systems have been sweeping over us for the past several weeks, ranging from sprinkles to heavy downpours to gloomy gray clouds. The unexpected glare of sunshine into the drabness gives courage that above the clouds the sun is shining steadily. As a pastor, I sometimes speak with people who are so discouraged that they can see no ray of hope. But all it sometimes takes in their lives is the presence of one joyful Christian with his or her feet firmly on the ground.

Another key element to the above photo parable is that, walking through my neighborhood and spotting the reflection, I didn’t immediately say, “Oh, what a wonderful house!” Instead, I largely ignored the house and focused on the sunlight.

In other words, I as a Christian should not be concerned with exalting myself in the eyes of others. Jesus resisted this temptation, and did so successfully that on a number of locations the Bible says that when He performed miracles, the people immediately glorified not Him but God. As the song says, “Not I, but Christ be honored, loved, exalted . . .”

This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine!
This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

All around the neighborhood,
I’m going to let it shine!
All around the neighborhood,
I’m going to let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

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Memento Mori
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, December 13, 2012

Almost exactly a month ago I was sitting in my car waiting for Shelley to emerge from a QFC grocery store, when a car pulled into the parking spot to my right. A young woman perhaps in her 20s emerged and went into the store.

Once she had closed the driver’s door, I couldn’t help catching sight of what was swinging from her rearview mirror – the little skeleton you see above. Once I discovered what it was, I thought back to the young woman. She had been dressed in black, so perhaps this skeleton was hung there to strike an additional “goth” note. Whatever her reason for putting it there – maybe it was to remind her to be a safe driver! – I remember thinking how strange it was that a woman that young should be displaying such a symbol.

I suppose you could consider this little skeleton as a memento mori. Every once in a while, painters through the Middle Ages and beyond included a symbol in their paintings that was supposed to be a memento (Latin for “reminder”) of mori (“death”). If you type “memento mori” into Wikipedia you will see several examples of such paintings. Sometimes there will be a young man in the prime of life, but he’ll be holding a skull, as a reminder that life is much too brief.

I believe it’s a good idea, at Christmas time when we see manger scenes and sing about a Baby, to remember that Jesus came primarily not to coo from Mary’s arms but to show us what God was like, to take our place and die the “second death” we all deserve, and to rise to a ministry of intercession for us in heaven.

For a more ample biography of Jesus than you might find at Christmas time, click the link immediately below.

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To and Fro
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One morning late last month while I was on the campus of our Adventist schools in Kirkland, I glanced skyward and saw the above dramatic crisscrossing of many jet contrails.

Now, as I look at that photo, I am reminded of Daniel 12:4 where—depending on the translation you’re reading – it says that in the last days just before the resurrection, “many shall run to and fro” (NKJV and ESV), or “Many will go here and there” (NIV). The NIV connects “going here and there” with increasing knowledge.

Whatever this actually might mean, one thing is very certain: in the last 150 years, the human race has developed an amazing amount of ways of “running to and fro.” Not only do silver cylinders full of people streak across the sky, but we are a truly connected globe with our ability to email, text, and even view someone “live” on the opposite side of the planet.

All this instantaneous interconnection is thrilling in itself, but it just might be one of the ways which will fulfill a last-day prophecy of Jesus: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14, NKJV

For a few Bible verses about why it’s important for you and me to be ready to help share the good news, click the link immediately below.

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Dead Leaf
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Writers of the Bible often use objects of nature as a reference point, a symbol, to draw attention to the human condition.  Sometimes this symbol is used to encourage the reader to hold on, to persevere, in much the same way the writer O. Henry did in his short story "The Last Leaf."  At other times the Biblical penmen employed objects from the natural world to draw attention to the fate of those who reject their Father’s love.
The book of Psalms begins this way, by contrasting the lives of those who ignore His word with those who delight in His counsel.  He commends the latter group by saying, “Instead you thrill to God's Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. You're a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom.”   (Psalm 1:2-3 The Message)

Today, dead leaves elicit a variety of responses from us depending upon the circumstances.  Our feelings are quite different when we find them clogging our gutters from those times when their beauty brightens the autumn scene bringing enrichment to our lives.  We may add them to our compost pile to improve the soil, but we ourselves should never be one who is dead to what God has to say to us through His living word. 

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 10, 2012

I took this picture last year while driving through the Columbia Gorge.  I think this shows how our day to day lives are; we don't know what is coming around the corner but it helps to keep in mind that God knows and is there to help us get through the rough spots. 

And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”  James 4:13-15  (The Message)

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

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Lazarus, Part 2
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 9, 2012

If you missed reading about Lazarus two Sundays ago, you might want to go back and read that first. Under the Ayios Lazaros church in Larnaca, Cyprus lies a cave-like crypt. We had to bend and turn a corner while entering this rocky underground passageway that supposedly housed the remains of Lazarus at one time. We were surprised to see and hear a group of village women singing hymns in this small cave, as shown in my photo. (I wasn't sure if I should photograph them, but did so discretely so I could share this scene with you!) Others came to fill their bottles with water from a nearby faucet. While I don't fully understand their religious beliefs, I do respect them. My thoughts turned to the power of Jesus in raising Lazarus and His gift of offering everlasting life to all.

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A Pattern-seeking Device
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 8, 2012

My wife once worked for an associate superintendent of education who often made the comment, “The brain is a pattern-seeking device.”

I thought about that comment this past Wednesday when Shelley and I pulled up behind an SUV at a stop light. I squinted at this window-sticker, trying to figure out whether it stood for something as-is, or whether its real message had been long since faded and weathered away by the elements.

Take another look at it. Don’t make too much of the greenish part to the left – that’s simply the tint of the window plus some sort of metal plate behind it. But just the white shapes – could that middle horizontal part be someone’s arm, embracing someone else? In that case, we see the torsos of two bodies close together. 

And I would imagine that if you spent more time staring at this than I did, you’d see other shapes. Maybe it’s sort of a Rorschach test. (Come to think of it, I can see a squarish hamburger! Could it be that I – a vegetarian since 1980 – harbor a secret desire for a Big Mac?)

Anyway, this is almost certainly a faded window sticker after all. But isn’t it wonderful how our brains start to work when they get the chance? I heard recently that our memories are most likely half-real and half-invented. (If you don’t believe me, start a conversation about your childhood with your siblings at your next family reunion! You will hear a slightly different version of a story from each person who experienced it, which is probably because each time we tell it, we unconsciously "enhance" it, filling in the blanks with details which aren't real but which make the story more interesting).

All of this makes me very humble. For one thing, I need to remember how fool-able my mind is. This past Thanksgiving, some people invited us to their home. Also present was an amateur magician – I would call him a professional! – Who entertained us with some astounding conjuring.

Another reason I’m humbled is that the God who created our minds must not only be awesomely inventive but also possessed of a wonderful sense of humor.

What’s really wonderful is that, if we want to, He promises us a happy eternity with constant access to Him and His love, and the galaxies of opportunity He provides those He created in His image.

Doesn’t that make a tingle of excitement thrill through your brain? Would you be ready if He were to arrive at this planet tomorrow?

If you’d like to review the essential steps to that happy future, click the link immediately below.

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Vaccinate Against the Gripe!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 7, 2012

As a former English teacher, and as somebody who has watched non-native English speakers wrestle with this language for the first time, I am firmly convinced that English is the world’s craziest language. I have had Russian people tell me that Russian is the craziest language, and German people tell me German is, but I always craftily respond that English is the language into which words from many other languages have been poured in and mixed around.

Take the following sentence, for example: I coughed as I ploughed through the tough dough. Notice all those words with ough in them? That combination sounds different each time it occurs in that sentence. Like I say, a crazy language.

That’s why I grinned when I saw this large Spanish sign outside a Rite Aid drugstore in our neighborhood. Spanish is a fairly straightforward language, as many Spanish-speakers trying to learn English have bitterly observed to me. I’m to the point where, even though I can’t claim to know the language, I can figure out what signs must be saying.

Unless I am gravely mistaken, the upper part of this sign says, “Vaccinate against the flu now!” And here’s where crazy English comes in. “Gripe” in English means “to complain naggingly or petulantly; grumble.” (The only reason I deduced that it means “flu” here is that all the drugstores always urge people to come in and get their flu shots.)

This seems to be an example of how the perfectly good Spanish word gripe (or maybe it was the French word grippe, which also means “flu”) was taken hostage by a crazy Englishman to describe complaining or grumbling.

Well, since we can’t solve this matter in a few words, let’s get to the reason I uploaded this sign to our Daily Photo Parable. I’ve been a pastor for 30 years, and I have sometimes wished that modern science would turn its attention to developing a vaccine against complaining naggingly or petulantly. Many a church board meeting – or a marriage – has become a weary desert because someone has gotten into the habit of griping.

Modern science, of course, isn’t the way to fix this habit. One of the reasons it’s important for Christians to read their Bibles is not only does Scripture give a tremendous perspective on how bad things can get, and how good we really have it right now – but the Bible also gives us earnest counsel about the words we speak.

Want to read five golden texts about this subject? Click the link just below.

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Obedience School?!?!?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, December 6, 2012

About a week ago Shelley and I were in a store, and I passed a rack of greeting cards. I got the biggest kick out of the expression on this dog’s face. It goes perfectly with the upper and lower caption. In case you can’t read it very clearly, the upper blue box says “Obedience School?” And the lower one says “Ummmm . . . NO.”

One of the most vexing dilemmas of our human condition is how naturally rebellious we are, how much we resist correction and instruction.However, the Bible from one end to the other strongly insists that we need the guidance of God from His laws. And the good news is that we need not worry about exactly how we will come to the point where we do all the “do’s” and “don’t” all the don’t’s.

First let me urge you to look up Hebrews 8:10, and then with that verse in mind, click the following links.

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The Santa Shadow
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, December 6, 2012

This past Saturday night as Shelley and I were returning home, we drove around our neighborhood to see the Christmas decorations. As we paused beside the above house, Shelley said, “Look at the shadow!” Sure enough, the spotlight in front of Santa cast a dark image on the house, as though showing us a looming, sinister side of Father Christmas.

It’s no secret that Santa has cast his shadow over this holiday for many years, though not as many as you might think. A lot of people don’t realize that even though the 4th-century St. Nicholas was a real bishop, “Santa Claus” in his present form – plump tummy, red suit, fur-lined hat – has existed only since the mid-1800s.

Santa, you might say, is the patron saint of Black Friday, the shopping day when merchants’ annual incomes are said to move from the red into the black. He is also a frightener of susceptible children – a couple of weeks ago in a bookstore I saw a hilarious little volume which showed nothing but photos of jovial but longsuffering and glassy-eyed Santas holding little kids who are horrified at being so close to that beard.

It’s a good idea for you and I not to allow the Jolly Greed Giant to cast his shadow on us, as we move through the holiday which is supposedly about Someone else. Happy Shadow-dodging!

Want to read Wikipedia’s history of Santa Claus? Here is it is:

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Ancient Murrelet
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We live at a time where the emphasis is upon youth.  In ages past great honor was given to age, for it was assumed that wisdom came with the passing of years.  But with today’s focus on the immediate, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of that which lasts and has permanence.  Scripture uses the word “ancient” in that way and is employed to describe wisdom, times, mountains, doors, laws, and landmarks.  But only Daniel incorporates it as a name of God.  In chapter 7 of his book he tells of four beasts, representing four empires, which come on the scene of history and then pass away.  In contrast with their temporary nature, he speaks of God who will judge each of these kingdoms and calls Him the Ancient of Days, emphasizing His eternal qualities.  (verses 9,13, and 22)

Science has also used this term to describe a member of the auk family which is found in the coastal waters of the West Coast as well as waters bordering China and Russia.  Its English name, Ancient Murrelet, was derived from the white streaks on the head of adults in the summer which supposedly resemble the gray hair of an old man. 

They are unique among seabirds in the way they raise their young.  They nest in burrows on the forest floor in which are placed two eggs, which collectively weigh half of the female’s weight.  Upon hatching, the young are immediately led out to sea and continue to move away from land for twelve hours.  They are never fed at the nest, so their first meal of small fish and zooplankton will be taken sea, one to three days after hatching. 

The parents continue to feed the young for at least a month in offshore waters near the edge of the continental shelf, but will sometimes come closer to land when food is brought close to the surface by tidal upwelling. The Ancient Murrelet is the only seabird to raise their young entirely at sea, a fact long thought impossible by scientists, but designed by the Ancient of Days even longer ago.

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I Will Give You Rest
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 3, 2012

I was walking through the Bellevue Botanical Garden recently and saw this bench at a bend in the trail.  It can be really peaceful just to sit and relax and take in the scenery of the woods while listening to the birds and watching for squirrels or deer.

Life can get really busy and hectic with our long "to do" lists - especially this time of year.  It is good to remember what Jesus said: 

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves."  Matthew 11:28-29 (Common English Bible - CEB)

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