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

Daily Photo Parable -  December 2013

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--the Russell 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.

Northern Cardinal (female)

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It would be really nice if we were all consistent, if what we preached, we practiced.  But we know ourselves too well to deny that we fall far short of that ideal. The prophet Zechariah spoke about a time when all will be made plain, when our false garments will be stripped away.  “On that day people will be ashamed to claim the prophetic gift.  No one will pretend to be a prophet by wearing prophet’s clothes.  He will say, ‘I’m no prophet; I’m a farmer.  I began working for a farmer as a boy.’” (Zechariah 13:4,5 NLT)  But we all like to look good, and so we put on a façade to cover up our inconsistencies. 

While the Northern Cardinal may not have moral deficiencies, we can use it to illustrate our point.  It certainly is an attractive bird, with its red plumage and beautiful song.  They keep their colorful attire all year long without molting into a dull, post-breeding attire.  Both the male and female, like this one, are accomplished musicians with the female offering a longer and more complex song.  It was so admired that prior to 1918 it was kept as a caged bird until legislation prohibited this. 

So, what is its hidden “character” flaw?  Around breeding time, both the male and female become so territorial they can’t see straight.  They will frequently attack their own reflection in a hubcap or window, thinking a rival has intruded into their territory.  Fortunately, this usually subsides after a few weeks when high amounts of aggressive hormones return to normal levels. 

It might be convenient if our inconsistencies were limited to seasonal outings, but having been given a mind and the ability to make choices of a moral nature, our reliance has to go beyond claiming hormonal swings.  While the cardinal’s vanity may be predetermined, ours should go beyond just looking in a mirror. 

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For the Beauty of the Earth
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 31, 2013

My dad and I made our annual trek down to the little regional park that is in a small valley right beside where my parents live in British Columbia.  The temperatures were hovering just above and below freezing so there were some good ice sculptures over the water where the ice had thawed and refrozen.

I most enjoy going into the woods in the spring and summer when flowers are blooming and there is new growth everywhere but at this time of year the park is transformed.  It's amazing what beauty can be found when one starts looking around.

Here are a couple of verses of the old hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth:"

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
Text: Folliott S. Pierpoint, 1835-1917
Music: Conrad Kocher, 1786-1872

The LORD is the greatest God,
    king over all other gods.
He holds the deepest part
    of the earth in his hands,
    and the mountain peaks
    belong to him.
The ocean is the Lord’s
    because he made it,
    and with his own hands
    he formed the dry land.
Bow down and worship
    the Lord our Creator!
Psalm 96:3-6 (CEV)

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Ring in the New Year
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 29, 2013

One year is behind us and another just ahead. Are there fewer days in each year now? Or does it just seem that way? As you know, this week, we'll be “ringing” in a new year! Do you enjoy the sound of bells ringing? When staying in a former parsonage in Citta' di Castello in Umbria, the bell in the photo above was right outside our window! We even got to climb the round bell tower which dates to the 11th and 12th centuries, where I took this photo.

My first “real” introduction to church bells was when we lived in Rochester, England. Our house was a short walk along the Medway River to the Rochester Cathedral. Christianity was brought to this area in the 7th century. It is thought that the original Saxon cathedral of 604 on this site had bells. Parts of the current cathedral (the photo just below) date from around the year 1190. The ten bells are tuned for “change ringing” which is done on a mathematical pattern. Once I even inquired if I could be in the tower when the bells were rung by the long ropes, but was told that only ringers with “proper” ringing credentials were allowed.

My last photo (below this paragraph) is of the Bell of Peace (Campana Della Pace) in Rovereto, Italy, thought to be the largest ringing bell in the world. It tolls a hundred times every evening at nightfall in the hope that man, in memory of the fallen of every war and nation in the world, may find the path that leads to peace. Weighing 22.5 tons, it was cast with bronze from cannons donated by nations involved in World War I. We know that we can have peace with God through our faith in Jesus.

As years come and go, we change and the world changes, but Jesus remains the same. We are told in Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

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Two Natural “A’s”
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 28, 2013

I solemnly place my hand on the Panasonic Lumix camera I carry on my belt, and I swear that neither of the photos above was posed, nor were the items adjusted in any way. They are positioned exactly as I found them.

It was during our morning walk on Friday, November 22 that Shelley’s sharp eyes spotted first one and then the other of the two arrangements above. They were several blocks apart, but both clearly communicate the letter “A.”

Just a coincidence, of course, but consider the string of miracles associated with these “A” spottings. The human eye is a miracle all on its own, not only because of the high-definition retina, the flexible lens, the clear fluid between them, and the self-cleaning eyelid, but also because of the wondrous connection between eye and brain, and the astounding way the brain sees what the eye saw--and also makes the connection to the English language’s first alphabet-letter.

“A” is first in the Greek alphabet too, except that they call it “Alpha.” Jesus Christ, creator of eye and brain (and twig and seed) called Himself by that alphabet’s first and last letters.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” He says, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

Want to read the highlights of Jesus’ bio, and find several related links about Him? Click the link just below:

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 27, 2013

On a Metro bus ride to the University of Washington while my trusty North Seattle Honda repairman serviced one of our cars, I spotted this small restaurant.

Probably the same thing strikes you as struck me—the stark simplicity of the sign. With the name “Hawaii,” think of all the pictorial advertising possibilities: bright sun, blue ocean, palm trees, surfers, hula dancers, and so on. And even the printed message itself is understated. Rather than “Hawaii’s Best-tasting Cuisine!” we see a cautious “A Taste From Hawaii.” And even the sandwich board on the sidewalk (which I can zoom in on and read) isn’t fancy.

As you can see by the neon sign, the restaurant is “Open,” so it must be pulling in customers. I myself have never patronized this or any other Hawaii barbecue place, so wouldn’t be a good critic of the food there. But I have a feeling, with lots of hungry university students surging to and fro (a certain percentage being homesick Hawaiians), word of mouth is doing better advertising than any colorful sign could.

Isn’t that the way a relationship with God should be? Jesus made several pointed remarks about those who advertized their own piety but who were rascals when no one was looking. The Savior Himself lived an “understated” life—He addressed crowds not in Palestine’s Roman athletic stadiums but on hillsides and seashores and in humble homes and synagogues. And He insisted that His followers should be servants rather than superiors.

For more on what is definitely one of God’s high-priority topics, click this link:

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Snoqualmie Falls 
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sadly, most people didn't get a white Christmas here in Washington. Nature was a bit too early in this case.

A couple weeks ago, during a long cold spell, the 268ft tall Snoqualmie Falls got very icy. It was impressive to see all the giant icicles that had formed from the spray of the falls, and hear its powerful roar. Even more power (44 megawatts) comes from the Snoqualmie Falls hydroelectric plant. 

The Bible has several things to say relating to this.  Isaiah 1:18: "'Come now, let us settle the matter,'     says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet,     they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson,     they shall be like wool.'" 

Seeing Snoqualmie Falls covered in beautiful white ice reminds me of how Jesus is willing to forgive all our sins and make us "white as snow."  Matthew 1:21 assures: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Just as we approach Christmas, I wanted us al to pause and consider the true meaning of the season.  Not that you don't already,  but it's worth doing it again.
I took this heart-tugging image, at a Sabbath church service, in the Masai Mara, Kenya.  This little girl was extremely joyful to have this special crown we gave out at the vacation bible school program, earlier in the week.  As you can see, the crown isn't all that special -- in fact, it's a Burger King crown, we added stickers to. Nonetheless, this girl was thrilled to have something we might toss aside and consider trivial.
The joy on her face tells the story.  She, and her family, have VERY little in terms of earthly possessions. Regardless of this status, she has the choice to be joyful.  In fact, we all have that choice.
In the whirlwind of 'gift giving season', we don't have to wrap our joy around what we received, or for that matter, what we gave.  No, we don't have to look any farther then this cheap paper crown -- the sticker says it all, "I am a child of the King.".
Whether you have lots of presents, or no presents at all, you have the JOY of knowing, you are a child of The King!

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Candy-striped Leafhopper
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

If it weren’t so small, measuring just 3/8 of an inch, it would certainly draw much more attention than it does, for the Candy-striped Leafhopper is not lacking in color.  Its triangular shaped body and flashy paint job, complete with racing stripe through the eyes, give the appearance of an unusually wrapped Christmas package or perhaps a new entry into the hydroplane circuit.  And it does move fast.  Leafhoppers rest with their hind legs flexed behind them which enables them to quickly leap away from any perceived danger.  Other characteristics also help identify it.  The genus to which it belongs, Graphocephala, is so named because of the cuneiform-looking marks on the heads of some of the species in the group.  Apparent too, are the row of small spines found along the outer edge of its hind legs.  
One might assume that something so small and so colorful could do no evil, but there is a darker side to this tiny insect.   Like others in its group, it has piercing-sucking mouthparts which enable it to extract juices from the leaves and stems of plants.  This in turn can cause damage by disrupting the transport of liquids within the plant.  In addition to this, it can also serve as a vector in transmitting bacteria which can be fatal to the plants.  Some believe it is responsible for the decline of such plants as elm and oak.  This is critical since there is no known effective therapy for treating infected trees.
It is tempting to think of many of our sins as being so small, so inconsequential.  After all, they didn’t really hurt anyone.  In fact, no one probably even noticed.  But Christ reminds us that even though we may be inclined to think this way, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”  (Luke 12:2-3 NIV) 

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 23, 2013

This was my view out the window of the plane a few years back when I was taking a trip up to visit my family for Christmas.

Seeing this picture again got me thinking about all of the people traveling to reunite with extended families over the holiday season.  There are people taking buses, trains, cars, planes, ferries and just about any other mode of transportation that there is.

For some of us, family reunions occur in the summer or at Thanksgiving and for others of us, it's Christmas.  In any case, it's great to be able to get together with our loved ones at any time. 

At Christmas, we tend to think more of Jesus' birth than His second coming but the whole purpose of Him coming to Earth initially as a baby and growing up to then die for our sins was to save us. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17 (NIV)

He is coming back to take us to live with him and that will be a journey beyond compare!

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  John 14:1-3 (NIV)

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The Joy of Christmas
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 22, 2013

Do you enjoy Christmas time? My granddaughters can hardly wait to decorate our Christmas tree each year – sometimes even before our Thanksgiving holiday! Usually I just let them decide how to decorate it and decide what other decorations they want to put out so early! In addition to the tree, they enjoy arranging my collection of nutcrackers around our doll we have named Maria and “The Nutcracker” book. Next, they want to know if any gifts are wrapped and ready to go under the tree! They are delighted if they find a gift for them so early! Since it is somewhat fragile, I usually display our nativity scene last. What are your Christmas traditions you enjoy at this time of year?

No matter what our family traditions are for Christmas time, let's not forget the reason we celebrate Christmas – the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior – the Light of the world.

“O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to Thy perfect light.”

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Empty Knowledge
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 21, 2013

The first week in December I dropped by an office supply store not far from our church, and noticed a line of textbooks on a bookcase shelf.

I thought, Whoa. Impressive. Someone’s been visiting HalfPrice Books eight blocks east of here.

Except that when I looked closer, I found that these aren’t real books. What you’re looking at is a cardboard box, the top and sides of which are covered very carefully with photographs of real books, so real that the books even look used. But though the book covers proclaim that knowledge may be had on everything from art history to biology to chemical analysis, and even sculpture, inside the box it’s empty.

You know where I’m going with this, right? In the first three chapters of First Corinthians, Paul mentions “foolishness” several times—except that in most cases what the culture thinks is foolish is actually wisdom in God’s eyes. For example, 1 Cor. 1:18 says that even the cross is foolishness to those who don’t understand it. And in 1 Cor. 3:19 Paul sums it up by saying that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”

There’s nothing wrong with getting outside a book on chemical analysis, of course. There’s also a lot we can learn from art history. But to make the productions of the human mind the standard by which everything else is to be judged is the very height of foolishness. That’s because “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments”  Psalm 111:10 NKJV

So how can fear cause wisdom? By introducing immense respect, for one thing. “Tiger, tiger, burning bright in the forests of the night,” chanted William Blake, who had felt this thrill of fear.  “What immortal Hand or Eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?” In other words, the God who could create the fearsome tiger must be Someone well beyond us in thinking or creating.

To read the entire “Tyger” poem, complete with original spelling, click the link just below. And as you read, try to sense the humility which Blake felt as he came face to face with the thought of who the Creator might be.

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Waiting for the Mail
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 20, 2013

Earlier this month I spotted this cluster of mailboxes with an office chair parked expectantly in front of the furthest one. It only takes a bit of imagination to picture someone who’s expecting a very important letter, and wants to be on-the-spot when it arrives. (Actually, if you look closely you can see a piece of paper attached to the chair-back. It no doubt says, “Free,” and the chair is a discard.)

One of my personal New Year’s resolutions is to check God’s mail--read God’s Word--daily and more deeply than I ever have before. Right now I’m getting a head start on Genesis on my computer tablet. As always, I’m reading for glimpses of God’s heart, God’s character. Because each chapter is in some way a letter from Him.

There are a number of great plans to read your Bible through in a year. Check out the possibilities at Bible Gateway, by clicking the link below.

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People of the Forest
Photo ©2013 by Caleb Jurgensen
Commentary ©2013 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sam Campbell, a nature writer, talks about the people of the forest, meaning the critters who live out their lives there.  These critters are capable of forming affections and becoming friends with human people.  A few of the critters we enjoy seeing are the gray jays, aka camp robbers.  While campers are having a casual lunch beside a lake, these birds have been known to take off with a half eaten sandwich.  We think that this spoils their appetite for real food and messes with their digestive systems, so we have learned to avoid providing those temptations.   However, just like Sam Campbell noticed, out in the woods, it often seems as if our two gray jays come to meet us.

In this picture, a gray jay prepares to land on some outstretched fingers to grab some crumbs.  You can almost see her (or his) personality as she reaches out.  God knows each one of these people of the forest. How much more He must know you.

Job 12: 7-10 says, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,  or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. "

Next time you see a critter in the woods, pause to listen to what it has to say.

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On Fire
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A few years back  we took a trip to Glacier National Park, MT. One early morning, I captured this image of a fantastic sunrise.  The light was starting to creep over the mountains, lighting up the sky like the clouds were on fire.  The reflection on the lake was breathtaking.  Trust me, this image doesn't do the actual scene justice.

We can read in Revelation about the second coming of Christ.  Chapter 1, verse 7 & 8,
 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

I can almost see it -- the clouds, in all their glory, appear to be on fire. God, the King of Kings descending upon this earth, to free us - once and for all from sin.  Let's keep our focus on the clouds, waiting for them to catch on fire.

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Eyes of the Sandhill Crane
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

As it flies in with its six and a half foot wingspan stirring the air, it would be easy to overlook the details shown above.  The obvious can sometimes so dominate our thinking, that we fail to see the details which make the picture one truly worth remembering.    The Sandhill Crane’s size, along with its long legs and dagger-like bill, demands our immediate attention.  But as legendary collegiate basketball coach John Wooden once said, “It’s the little details that are vital.  Little things make big things happen.”  And to carry the basketball analogy even further, if I extended the crane’s proportions to myself, I could easily dunk, flatfooted.  It is one of fifteen species of crane found throughout the world, and like other members of its clan, it depends upon keen eyesight to keep it safe from would-be predators.  Besides having to be on the alert for coyotes, twelve Western states have hunting seasons on these birds which in turn causes them to be wary.  Visual acuity is also needed to obtain food.  Some birds can actually see some colors better than humans, thus enabling them to find food more efficiently.  Not that cranes are particularly discriminating, for as omnivores, they will eat almost anything, from fruit and grains, to reptiles and amphibians.  Mice and other small mammals are also included in their diet.

Scripture pays a good deal of attention to vision as well, and employs the expression, “eyes of the Lord”, to incorporate His omniscience.  This means He knows us better than we know ourselves.  Those secret thoughts and motives hidden from the rest of the world are open to His all-knowing eyes.  And yet despite this, He loves us anyway.  What He asks of us is to turn to Him.  Fortunately for us, I Peter 3:12 gives this hope:  “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (NIV)  And how can we dare place ourselves among the righteous?  Because if we have accepted Him, it’s His Son’s righteousness that He sees.

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Is Something Missing From Your Christmas Celebration?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 16, 2013

If the baby Jesus is missing from your nativity set, you can buy a replacement on ebay. But if Jesus is missing from your life, you need to find Him!  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13 (KJV)

If you are finding that the Christmas celebrations around you are just about all of the things that you need to do and buy and you are worn out and feel like you have lost your focus, remember the real reason for the celebration.

Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!

Messenger: Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.

At that moment, the first heavenly messenger was joined by thousands of other messengers—a vast heavenly choir. They praised God.

Heavenly Choir: To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God!
    And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!

As soon as the heavenly messengers disappeared into heaven, the shepherds were buzzing with conversation.

Shepherds: Let’s rush down to Bethlehem right now! Let’s see what’s happening! Let’s experience what the Lord has told us about!

So they ran into town, and eventually they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the feeding trough. After they saw the baby, they spread the story of what they had experienced and what had been said to them about this child. Luke 2: 8-17 (The Voice)

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The North Cape
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 15, 2013

The North Cape or Nordkapp, is a cape on the northern coast of a northern island in Northern Norway – yes, it's way up north!   It's often referred to as the northernmost point of Europe even though there is an island a bit further north. The photo I'm sharing today shows the more than 1000 foot cliff where the Norwegian Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean meets the Barents Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. Even though we were there in July, it was very cold and the wind blew so hard we had to be concerned about keeping our balance and possibly get blown over the cliff. It was a very “breath-taking” experience! In this area, the midnight sun is visible for 2 ½ months each summer.

This second photo shows the sun's position from six in the evening until six in the morning during that time of the year. Luckily, our windows had blackout shades to provide some degree of darkness so we could sleep. One morning I awoke startled around 3 am with a bright light shining in my eyes – the sun was shining in between the window shade and the window sill!

The fierce wind at the North Cape reminded me of the story of Jonah, when the Lord called him to go to Nineveh. Instead of answering God, he fled to Joppa and boarded a ship going to Tarshish. God sent a great wind into the sea likely to break the ship. Being afraid of all perishing in the sea, lots were cast and Jonah admitted he had fled from the Lord. Not able to make it to land, they threw Jonah overboard and the storm ceased. And we know that Jonah was saved by a great fish that swallowed him. This time Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.

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You Just Never Know
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 14, 2013

I enjoy taking a camera with me and watching out for startling or humorous scenes I might be able to use whenever my Daily Photo Parable turns roll around. But I was totally unprepared for what you see in the photo above, which I snapped mid-Friday afternoon.

Can you guess what it’s a picture of? Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat. First you see a four-digit number, and below it my last name hastily but legibly scrawled onto a card and partially slid into its slot.

Have you figured it out? What you see above is on the wall beside a door leading into a hospital room. Once inside that room, your knees – if you’re not careful – will bump up against a hospital bed, and if you had wandered into that room sometime Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and much of Friday this week, you would’ve seen a grimly resigned figure with tousled hair, slowly growing a gray stubble, an IV drip feeding into his left arm, a heart monitor hanging from his gown, and air-pressure leg-squeezers around each calf.

Other details about my hospital stay I will tactfully pass over (though they might occasionally arise in my personal nightmares from time to time), except to say that I had somehow contracted a severe infection which the doctors were blasting with a high-powered antibiotic. Part way into this epic struggle, an EKG let the authorities know that I had somehow switched into atrial fibrillation, which was why they put the heart monitor on me.

It was not a pleasant time, but it was made supremely bearable by the presence of a tirelessly caring wife whose philosophy has always been to stay with me day and night in my hospital stays. We kept news of my hospitalization low-key, because I was in no condition to provide a cheerful flow of conversation to those who might arrive. (It wasn’t like I’d broken a leg skiing or something like that, and needed relief from boredom. Most of Tuesday evening, for example, I was seized with uncontrollable shuddery chills.)

Anyway, all is well, and I'm back home now. The antibiotics are working fine. And the supervising doctor was startled and impressed at how quickly my heart went back to a more normal rate and rhythm – which happened at 3:30 this Friday morning. When we told her that the night before, Shelley had emailed our elders to pray, the doctor looked thoughtfully at us, and slowly nodded. “I know prayer works,” she said.

And Friday, as I left that room to head home, I turned and saw what you see above. We just never know, do we, what another week, or even another day, might bring.

Sometimes contemplating the future’s uncertainty sends chills up and down our spines. But as Shelley and I learned during this past week, adversity brings out the best in people, and it often produces times when God’s character and power in connection with His children come into sharpest focus, even confirming again in the analytical mind of an experienced doctor that there is a greater Physician than she.

You just never know . . . but if you know the One who does know, you can face the future with fortitude.

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OUR APOLOGIES that this Daily Photo Parable hasn't changed to Darren's, and then to Caleb and Russell Jurgensen's. Of course, what could be sweeter than a few daily doses of a cute little Black-capped Chickadee?  The reason for the hiatus is that I've been under the weather. This matter should be resolved sometime during the weekend. This would be a great time to page back through past months or even years of some very stellar blogs. Thanks to Bev, Cheryl, Robert, Darren, and Russell and Caleb for their help!

[EDITOR'S NOTE: If you'e someone who not only visits these Daily Photo Parables every day, but pays close attention to them, reading Robert Howson's title below might ring a bell. If so, it's because by pure coincidence, Cheryl Boardman also wrote about the Black-capped Chickadee in her blog the day before! -- Maylan Schurch]   

Black-capped Chickadee with Band     
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Have you ever caught yourself judging another person just by their appearance?  We all have, it’s part of the evaluation process each of us goes through.  We do so even though individuals wiser than ourselves have cautioned us against such superficial assessments.

The reverse is also true.  Most of us have been cautioned by parents or others that what we were wearing might not convey the idea we wished to project.  Frequently, our reaction to such advice was to mumble something about being our own person and not caring what others think.  In our great wisdom, we may have even uttered something about judging a book by its cover or some other conventional bits of wisdom.  It seems that human nature is still slow to learn.  

Let’s look outside ourselves for a less contentious illustration.  It’s clear this Black-capped Chickadee has taken on a different appearance than what its parents expected to see.  It has been banded, presumably to help determine the life story and distribution of its kind.  It’s not intended to be a fashion statement, even though it is designed to convey a message.  This particular bird happens to wear several types of bands.  The colored plastic bands are placed in such a way so their arrangement and color gives that bird a unique combination, thus conveying information to a knowledgeable observer.  More detailed data is provided by the metallic band provided by the Department of the Interior which is usually made of an aluminum alloy.  This particular one is a butt-end band, which is the most common one used on small birds.  It is simply a round band with two edges that butt up together when it is correctly installed.  

With some game birds, private bands may be employed such as those placed upon Canada Geese in Ontario by Jack Miner which carry a biblical quote in addition to a number.  At this time, approximately 1,200,000 birds are banded, with 85,000 recovered each year.  Since banding began in 1902, more than 63,000,000 birds have been so identified.  

So, what conclusions can we make which might be applied to our own lives?  First of all, the information gathered about one bird is not nearly as significant as that which is made up of many pieces.  Your influence as a single Christian may have little impact, but taken collectively, it could make a definite difference.  Secondly, I personally know very little about this individual bird, even having seen its bands.  All I can really tell is that it says “open”, which could be misleading since it’s now closed.  I would need more information and greater skill in interpreting those figures before I could draw any hard and fast conclusions.  Perhaps I can use this as a gentle reminder to withhold judgment until I can correctly interpret the rest of the band.

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 9, 2013

The black-capped chickadee is very common and you can often hear one before you see it.  Its call is chick-a-dee-dee-dee.

I was visiting Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, British Columbia a couple of weeks ago, and I held out my hand with some bird seed in it.  Four different chickadees were plucking up their courage and then landing on my hand to get the seed.  Because of their trust that I would not harm them, they were rewarded with the bird seed.  (The bird in the picture is from a previous visit.)

What kind of trust do we have towards God?

Examine and see how good the LORD is.
    Happy is the person who trusts him.
 Psalm 34:8 (NCV)

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 8, 2013

How many times have you moved during your lifetime? Some people are often “on the move” for one reason or another – to go to school or start a new job. Some of the Sami people (northernmost indigenous people in Europe, sometimes called Lapps) in Norway still make their living by herding reindeer. During the summer, the reindeer graze close to their owners' camps near the coast or on islands. In winter they migrate with their herders to live off moss found under snow. Herders take the same migration paths each year. Reindeer are very important as food and transportation for the Sami people. Their hides are used for clothing, shoes and tents. This last summer when in northern Norway, we visited Sami camps and learned more of their culture. The photo above shows a man with a reindeer at one camp, and the photo below is of a young couple at another location standing in front of a lavvo or tent which is still used by some of the Sami people. We were fortunate to see hundreds of reindeer grazing on the open grassland.


The Bible is full of stories of migration starting with Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden. We know the stories of Noah, Abraham, Moses and even Joseph, Mary and Jesus “migrating” for a better or safer life, or for food for them or their animals. Today, we see people leaving their homeland because of poverty, disaster or war. Even though challenging, my life has been blessed by the many years I spend volunteering to help those displaced by disaster or war. “For when I was hungry, you gave me food; when thirsty, you gave me drink; when I was a stranger you took me into your home, when naked you clothed me; when I was ill you came to my help, when in prison you visited me...I tell you this: anything you did for one of my brothers here, however humble, you did for me.” Mathew 25: 35-37; 40 NE

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The Approach
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 7, 2013

The first Monday in December I was in the University of Washington area while Shelley’s car was being serviced. While waiting for a bus, I glanced up and saw what you see above. It was mid-afternoon, and the winter sun was low in the sky, but was glinting brightly on the edge of the distant building.

The sight was so dramatic that it reminded me of how one day Jesus and His angels will approach our planet. The Bible doesn’t say whether His arrival will be signaled first by a distant glow in the sky, or whether the glory of His appearing will be instantly sky-filling. But whichever it is, it is inevitable.

Are you ready? This Scripture-based song tells how, and I follow it with a link to Bible passages about this topic.

We know not the hour of the Master’s appearing,
Yet signs all foretell that the moment is nearing
When He shall return—’tis a promise most cheering—
But we know not the hour.

(Chorus) He will come, let us watch and be ready;
He will come, hallelujah! hallelujah!
He will come in the clouds of His Father’s bright glory—
But we know not the hour.

There’s light for the wise who are seeking salvation,
There’s truth in the Book of divine revelation—
Each prophecy points to the great consummation—
But we know not the hour.

We’ll watch and we’ll pray, with our lamps trimmed and burning,
We’ll work and we’ll wait till the Master’s returning,
We’ll sing and rejoice, every omen discerning—
But we know not the hour.
   --F. E. Belden

Would you like a review of Bible texts which describe Jesus’ return and how we can be ready? Click the link immediately below.

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Honey Must
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 6, 2013

Did you ever hear of a “honey do” list? It’s a list of household chores that a wife imposes on her husband, thus getting him off the couch so he can do something useful.

A little over a week ago Shelley and I stopped by a combination health food store and deli to get a quick lunch. I decided on the salad bar, and right there close to the bleu cheese and creamy Italian dispensers I saw this one. Its full name is, of course, “honey mustard,” but there wasn’t quite enough space for the labelmaker tape. So it seemed as though, if this label had appeared atop a wifely to-do list, these were pretty high-priority items.

I hope no man reading this has ever pulled the half-educated ploy of quoting the “Wives, submit to your husbands” verse in Ephesians 5. Sure, that’s what the verse says, but notice the jaw-dropping challenge given to husbands just afterward. My advice to all the male “honeys” out there is to force-filter any “wives submit” suggestion through the following verses:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25 – 28, NKJV)

So what are the big “honey must-do’s”?

1. Love your wives—and not with a tepid “lust/like” seesaw, but . . .

2. Love your wives just as Christ loved the church.

3. Give yourself to your wife, and be self-sacrificing the way Christ was to His church.

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Watchful Marmot
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, December 5, 2013

A couple of summers ago, our family was hiking around Mt. Rainier when we saw this Hoary marmot (or possibly a Yellow-bellied marmot) off the trail a little ways. They look like giant fat squirrels, mostly because they are. The Hoary marmot is the largest species of Marmotini (AKA ground squirrels).

Here's a closeup:

Just like the marmot is always on the lookout, we should always be ready and watching for Jesus' second coming.

Matthew 24:42 NIV: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come."

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Dear God . . . Love, David
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
David had it right.  In Psalm 36, we can read how he felt about God:
Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.
Let us all hope we see the light.

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Pine Siskin
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It’s unfortunate but we only have one verse in the Bible devoted solely to her, yet in spite of that limited coverage, she is still well
emembered.  Apparently that one verse has painted such a vivid picture that her legacy is difficult to forget.  Genesis 19:26 states: But
ot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (NIV)  Salt is used a number of ways in Scripture, with both positive and negative connotations.  Our English word salary comes from the Latin term salarium, and possibly provides the background for the expression “to be worth your salt.”  It appears salt was given as part of one’s pay and is used this way in Ezra 6:9 where those
rebuilding the temple were awarded salt.  Christ Himself reminded us to remember Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32) but He also stated we are the salt of the earth.  (Matthew 5:13)   Clearly, salt played an important part in the life of people during Bible times. But it also does so today as well.

The human body demands a certain amount of salt to function properly.  Unfortunately, most of us consume far more than we need.  Overindulgence can prove to be fatal.  The same can be said for the Pine Siskin, a nondescript winter finch that is found in both evergreens and mixed woods.  It has a strong affinity for salt which can be found along roadways having been used to keep the roads clear of ice and snow.  Collision with passing automobiles takes a heavy toll on their numbers.  Interestingly, it is also attracted to minerals found in clay, ashes, and cement.  When feeding in groups of 50 to 200, they tend to begin at the top of a tree and work their way down in a compact group.  Experiments done with captive birds have shown they have the ability to learn. Which brings us to the obvious question:  If they are so smart, why don’t they learn to get their salt somewhere else besides the side of the road?  Lest we be too hard on them, we must also ask ourselves why Lot’s intelligent wife, and in turn we, are tempted to look back onto those things that can destroy us.

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 2, 2013

I took this picture recently of the sailboats and their reflections at a local marina.  It was on one of those beautiful sunny days we had a little over a week ago. 

I was thinking that if we had never seen a sailboat before and were to just look at the reflection of one (even if the water was perfectly calm), we would have a very imperfect impression of what a sailboat is and what it can do.

This is the same way we see God.  We can know a lot about God from reading his Word and looking at his creation in the world around us but what we know now is only a part of the whole.

Now all we can see of God
is like a cloudy picture
    in a mirror.
Later we will see him
    face to face.
We don’t know everything,
    but then we will,
just as God completely
    understands us.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (CEV)

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In the Way
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 1, 2013

Do you get frustrated if something gets in your way? How about slow traffic keeping you from where you want to go and when you want to get there? Or, that you always seem to get in the slowest checkout line at Costco? Often times, there is nothing we can do about it but try to think positively and relax. While not in a major traffic jam, but on a small country road returning from the hike shown in November 17's photo, we got behind a herd of cows returning from their open-range pasture to their barn. Here is a closer view:

One might think they would move over to the edge of the road and let us pass, but no, they were determined to walk in the middle of the “their” road. So, we drove behind them at the same pace they walked!

Are there things that are in the way and distracting you with your walk with God? Sometimes we allow things into our lives that distract us from God. Not necessarily bad things, but maybe too much time focused on them. Or maybe an obsession or addiction to something. If asked to list some possible distractions in a walk with God, some people would say it could be money, sports, media (internet, television, video games, etc), hobbies, or work (even could be “church” work). With eyes fully focused on Jesus, distractions shouldn't keep us from God. The Ten Commandments can serve as guidelines on what's important. Also, there is Mathew 22:37-40, where Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Enjoy the blessings God wants for you – because He loves you and me!

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