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

Daily Photo Parable -  February 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. 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.

Hardening of the Wateries
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, February 28, 2013

Okay, if you back me into a corner I’ll have to admit that – at least according to the latest edition of the American Heritage Dictionary -- there’s no such word as “wateries.”

But, if you’ll permit me a bit of lexicographer’s license, that’s exactly what has been happening in the photo above. Those hands you see belong to deacon Jim Learned, one of whose multitudinous skills is a facility with plumbing. This week Jim has been replacing the upstairs and downstairs water fountains in our church’s education wing.

Decades ago, the builders very properly used copper piping for most of our facility’s water-arteries, but for some reason ran galvanized pipe to the water fountains. When Jim turned off the water and looked into the connections, he saw what you see above – caked rust!

Jim explained to me that this rusting is very like what happens to clog arteries – cholesterol builds up over time and eventually reduces the blood flow to a minimum or, as in the case of the connection at the left, cuts it off completely. And then you have problems.

As soon as Jim saw all that rust, he knew what he had to do. He methodically cut into the wall plaster, and tracked that galvanized pipe all the way down to the copper line on the floor below, and has now completely replaced it with state-of-the-art plastic pipe. And—to paraphrase a popular saying—“the rust is history!”

Jim would give me an alarmed look if I compared him to God, but bear with me, Jim. Sin clogs up our spiritual “wateries”—those channels which convey the Water of Life to our hearts and minds. But no matter how long we’ve allowed this to go on, even if access is seemingly blocked completely—the Master Plumber knows exactly what to do. And just as Jim replaced the rusted pipes, God will work supernatural repairs in our spirits so that the Water can flow freely, and can be passed along to others.

I’d mentioned to Jim the “hardening of the wateries” approach I was planning to take in this blog entry. Jim—who also thinks deeply about spiritual matters—adds this comment: “[The rustining] phenomenon has nothing to do with hard water (a commodity unknown in the Northwest) but is more like battery action when dissimilar metals are brought into contact. The dissimilarities could be a metaphor for our challenges living in a ‘kingdoms in conflict’ world - to be happily resolved at the Second Coming. But we don’t have to wait that long to feel His cleansing, redeeming work by being ‘born again’ with fresh ‘wateries.’”

Well-put, Jim.

Want a warm-hearted refresher course on the miracle of salvation? Click the link immediately below.

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Choice Reads
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, February 27, 2012

Last Thursday night just before closing time I dropped in at the Fairwood Library. Near the door is a bookshelf which features “Choice Reads,” the latest-and-greatest new titles just acquired by the library.

However, that night – except for a few books at the left edge of the photo – the shelves were empty! I fantasized that perhaps the library’s standards had risen sharply, and that no recent arrivals had passed the “sniff test.”

On the way out, however, I saw the scene below --

-- and discovered that no, I had simply caught these shelves at the moment when they had been purged of the old and were poised for the new. And knowing the Fairwood librarians, I knew that they had carefully selected which books to advertise. (In fact, though you probably can’t read the title, the second book from the left, on the top shelf, is Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine by Eric Weiner.) Here’s a closer shot.

In Luke 11:24 – 26 Jesus tells a disturbing parable about an unclean spirit which left a human being. After wandering around for awhile, the spirit decides to go back to the man. However, the man has not taken the trouble to refurnish his “house,” but has left it empty. So the evil spirit goes and gets seven other spirits which are worse than he is, and the eight take possession of the man.

As Jesus is telling this story, a woman calls out a compliment from the audience. He responds, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (verse 28)

I would suggest—and I know that Jesus would insist—that when you and I have let Him eject from our lives the wickedness which we may have thought so “choice” and desirable, that we make sure to replace it with the Word of God. Satan is notoriously gun-shy in the presence of Scripture, as proven by Jesus’ use of three Deuteronomy passages to drive him away during the Savior’s wilderness temptation.

So establish some kind of daily Bible reading habit, whether it’s an audio Bible in the car, or the print on your computer tablet or screen, or maybe even real print on real paper. Want some motivation? Click the link immediately below.


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Lesser Scaup
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 26, 2012

Contamination seems to have been a major issue to the Jews in the Bible, and not without cause. The Books of Moses have a good deal to say about keeping both physically and ceremonially clean. But as is often the case, they found it easy to major in minors and miss the point God was trying to convey to them. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Mark 7 where we find Christ addressing the crowd. “There is nothing that goes into a person from the outside which can make him ritually unclean. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean.” (verses 15 and 16 Today’s English Version) As one might guess, His hearers misunderstood, even those closest to Him, His own disciples, and asked for further clarification. And sad as it may be, we too run the same danger of misunderstanding.

Jesus isn’t here negating the guidelines given in the Pentateuch; He is simply establishing priorities. He wants them to understand how much more there is to living a full life than scrupulously avoiding minutia around them. Lest we disregard those cautions given for our own benefit, some of which we understand and others we don’t, we might be wise to give them a second look. If we assume they were given by a loving God who wished only the best for His people, then it would be wise to put those into practice, not to earn God’s approval, but simply for our own well-being.

The Lesser Scaup is probably the most common diving duck in North America. It feeds on both plant and animal life, both obtained underwater. When Zebra Mussels were accidentally introduced into Lake Erie in the 1920s, this likely changed the migratory routes of the scaup to take advantage of this new food supply which multiplied rapidly. This unexpected bonanza was not without cost however, for the mussels are filter feeders which accumulate contaminants rapidly. In studies, 77% of the female scaups tested on the Great Lakes were found to have increased amounts of selenium in their bodies. Selenium is a semimetallic trace element which is naturally present and necessary for life, but increased amounts can cause sterilization of the females. Many see a direct connection between the reduced number of Lesser Scaup in recent years, and the increased intake of contaminants from the mussels.

Details are important, very important. But we should also remember Christ’s advice about making sure our priorities are clear. For us, that means looking at the details, but doing so only in the context of the big picture. Not an easy task, but one worth pursuing to live life to its fullest.

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 25, 2012

One of these things just doesn't belong here! Little kids were running up to this duck which was minding its own business on a Whidbey Island beach. Some of them were asking if it was a chicken! Even small children recognized that this bird was not something you normally see on a Pacific Northwest beach.

It's actually a Muscovy duck and probably escaped from a nearby farm or backyard. The ones you find around here are domesticated and the domesticated ones have all sorts of different color variations; the wild ones are mostly black and are found in southern Texas, Mexico, Central America and northern South America.

Have you ever felt lost? Maybe you're not sure about the direction your life is taking and you're heading down a path that you never expected to be on. Maybe that is because of some poor choices you made or just because of overwhelming circumstances that were beyond your control.

The story of the lost sheep in the Bible is very comforting. Jesus is just as concerned about the lost as the found:

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:3-7 (NIV)

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Crossing the Red Sea
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 24, 2012

Standing near the Pyramid of Khafre, the Sphinx is the earliest known monumental sculpture of ancient Egypt dating to around 2500 BC. It probably looked similar to this during the time the Israelites were there as slaves. As recorded in Exodus 12:31, the Pharaoh and his Egyptians were fed up with Moses, Aaron and the rest of the Israelites, saying”Up with you! Be off, and leave my people, you and your Israelites. Go and worship the Lord, as you ask; take your sheep and cattle, and go; and ask God's blessing on me also.” NEB At that command, the Israelites quickly gathered up their belongings, even bread as it was rising, and took off. Meanwhile, they did as Moses told them, and asked the Egyptians for jewelery of silver and gold as well as clothing.

The 600,000 men along with women, children, flocks and herds must have been quite the site as they headed east to get out of Egypt, land of their slavery. (Exodus 12:37-39) On their long journey to Canaan, God guided them to go by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea instead of the shorter road occupied by the Philistines. Having a change of heart, Pharaoh and his army set out in pursuit of the Israelites. Pharaoh was almost up to them when the Israelites noticed the Egyptians advancing. Terrorized, they were upset with Moses for taking them in the wilderness to die – they'd rather live and be slaves!

Again, God was in control as He drove the water away by a strong wind so the Israelites could pass through the Red Sea. When the Egyptians were in the seabed, God made the waters return, destroying them, their chariots and cavalry. (Exodus 14:21-31) They continued marching until they found springs of drinkable water and palm trees. At last, after 430 years in captivity in Egypt, the Israelites were free!

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General and Specialty Pain
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 23, 2012

So—which would you choose? General pain, or specialty pain?

I’m afraid that as I clicked the above photos I didn’t pause long enough to do extensive research into the pain-relieving products under each of these store’s signs, so I can’t give you inside information as to how the store chose to categorize the various “ouches” humanity has fallen heir to. Going by personal experience, I myself have always felt that anything from a stubbed toe to a charley horse to an upset stomach to a toothache is “specialty pain”—a pain I want dealt with immediately.

Some people think that the Bible seems to make a distinction between “sins”—specific thoughts or acts—and “sin”—the fallen state of humanity. However, we shouldn’t separate them further than the Bible does. Sins grow directly from sin, and when it comes to the soul, sin and selfishness are probably synonymous. Lucifer’s rebellion sprang from his desire to rule heaven.

Whatever the breakdown between “general” and “specialty” sins—and we probably won’t be able to fully probe this mystery until eternity—sinfulness and its resulting sins need to be promptly dealt with. Fortunately, your Bible’s pharmacy provides complete and long-lasting relief! Click the link immediately below.

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The Collapsible Shopper
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 22, 2012

Do you ever feel like a collapsible shopper? I got a chuckle out of this Target store sign, obviously meant only for the eyes of the staff. My first thought was that a fatigued customer (perhaps one whose Social Security number matched the number on the sign) could be placed on what looks like a beanbag chair while recuperating.

Actually, a “collapsible shopper” turns out to be a sturdy shopping bag (which is what the red item with black stars is). These bags are flexible and foldable, and the only reason the sign has come into view is that several customers had taken all but one.

As Jesus walked thoughtfully through Judea, He noticed—and often commented on—how easy it is for us to become weighed down with our possessions. This was certainly true of the man whom many Bible subtitles call “The Rich Fool.” Jesus told his story in Luke 12:16 – 21. This man was so obsessed with acquiring wealth (in the form of grain) that he ran out of storage space.

So rather than decide—as occasionally happens today with billionaires who want to make a real difference in the world—that he’d earned enough and therefore had decided to invest  some of his plenty in relieving human suffering, this man began to make plans to build bigger barns! On the night he made that decision, he became a “collapsible billionaire” and forfeited his soul.

For a concise, nine-text summary about what the Bible teaches about money, click the link immediately below.

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Send My Roots Rain
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, February 21, 2012

Spring is almost here, and already on our walks Shelley and I are spotting budding trees and even the occasional brave crocus.

This week I suddenly thought of the last two lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ sonata “Thou art indeed just, Lord,” and put them on our church reader board. A little over a year ago I inserted the entire sonnet in one of these Daily Photo Parables, and I’ve inserted it again, below. Hopkins (1844-1889) was a devout English priest now considered a poetic innovator.

“I’d suggest reading his poem below three times, each time out loud,” I wrote in the blog back then.” As you’ll see, he seems to be writing in a moment of deep discouragement, addressing the Lord directly but arguing with Him. The Psalmist David, upon reading this, might nod his head in empathy. Both David and Hopkins understand that it is not wrong to reason, or even to argue, with God, but understand that the King of Heaven not only tolerates but appreciates this fearless honesty.

“As you read, pray Hopkins’ prayer (an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet) for yourself, especially if you’re going through a time of discouragement too.” (From the December 3, 2011 Daily Photo Parable)

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build – but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.
 --Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 20, 2012

About a year ago, I was able to go and visit one of my good friends, living back in South Carolina. He and his wife are both in the Air Force and at the time, she was deployed in Afghanistan. (Currently he is deployed at the same base). When I went to visit, I got to hang-out with him and their two boys. Both are very proud of their dad being a pilot and this image shows Jim, showing his oldest son the airplane he gets to fly. When I captured this moment, I instantly thought of the brave men and women around the globe, protecting our country from harm. I also saw a great father, wrapping his arm around his son, shielding him from danger. What a thought – having a Father, to protect, guide and shield us from danger.

In Psalms 5:8-12, we read about David, asking his Father, to not only lead him from his enemies, but to shield and give protection to those that rejoice God’s name.

Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make your way straight before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongues they tell lies.
Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

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White-throated Sparrow
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 19, 2012

Paul has just spoken eloquently about the richness of God’s free gift of grace to all men, not just the Jews, a thought which was new to many of his readers. He concludes chapter 11 of Romans in this way. “How great are God’s riches! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! For everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by his power, and everything is for his glory. To him be glory evermore.” (verses 33 and 36) While these words of praise refer directly to His unmerited mercy, they seem equally fitting as a tribute to His creative power shown in the natural world around us.

Take the simple sparrow for example, specifically a White-throated Sparrow. As shown above, this species comes in two morphs or varieties, those which as adults sport a tan-striped headpiece (TS), and a second group, those with a white-striped crown (WS). Both are the same species and readily interbreed. In fact, the males most frequently breed with a female of the opposite morph. The way this works out is beyond our ability to conceive. While males of both groups sing, only the female WS do so. Experiments have shown that male WS birds are more aggressive than TS males towards singing birds. As a result, WS males tend to drive off singing WS females and consequently mate with the remaining TS females. This works out equally well for the TS males who now find an abundance of WS females singing their song with abandon. Scientists can’t really explain why such behavior has been adopted but they call it “negative assertive mating”.

It seems only appropriate to restate Paul’s words, “How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! Everything lives by his power, and everything is for his glory.” And we are the beneficiaries of this wisdom and enjoy the delight of discovery.

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 18, 2012

Have you ever made a puzzle and then realized that pieces were missing only after you had put in hours of work? There was no way to complete the picture and all you could do at that point was to dismantle it and throw it away or give it away (and someone else would be equally frustrated when the same thing happened to them)!

Sometimes we feel that our life is a puzzle and pieces are missing and maybe our lives would be more complete if we only had a particular item or a particular relationship or a great job or lived in a particular place.

As Paul and Timothy wrote to the church in Philippi, there is only one way to get completion in our lives:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

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Out of Slavery
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 17, 2012

Upon reaching adulthood, Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. He killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand. In fear that he would be killed, Moses fled Egypt. (Exodus 2:11-15) While at a well in Midiam he protected the daughters of the priest from rude shepherds. Their father gave a daughter, Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Moses remained in Midian for about forty years working as a shepherd and head of his father-in-law's herds. The pharaoh when Moses was born had died and a new pharaoh was king. (Exodus 2:23) When on Mount Horeb with his flock, Moses saw a burning bush that wasn't consumed when it burned. Upon looking more closely, God spoke to him from the bush. God told him He had heard the cry of His people in Egypt. (Exodus 3:7)

God had a project for Moses – the release of the Israelites from Egypt. As happens today, obstacles were in the way. Eventually pharaoh decided to let the Hebrews leave after God sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians. The events are commemorated as Passover, meaning how the plague “passed over” the house of the Israelites while attacking the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:29-30)

About a year before Moses fled Egypt, his adopted mother, Queen Hatsheput began co-reigning with her infant son, Thutmosis III, Moses' younger adopted brother. Thutmosis I and onward were buried in this desolate and barren Valley of the Kings (see my first photo) in Thebes in hopes of keeping robbers from stealing the priceless possessions buried with them. Also in Thebes on the Nile side of the hill, we visited the Hatsheput Temple (shown in the photo just below), a monument the Queen commissioned for herself that rises from the desert plain, set into a natural amphitheater with a limestone cliff in the background. Some statues show Queen Hatsheput, clothed like a man, including a fake beard, because pharaohs were considered to be men!

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Telling It Straight
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 16, 2012

When you’re a pastor, you feel a constant tension between the message you know the Bible contains and the fact that most people may not be ready to receive it in its most direct form. As a result, Christianity has often gone too far in trying to “market” its message the way a business might.

I remember attending a Christian seminar whose leader suggested that a congregation change its name in order to attract a wider audience. Just down the street from my church is another church which did that very thing – and a year later changed back to their very distinctive denominational label. (Evidently there were more people hunting for that particular denomination than there were people hunting for a generically-labeled church!)

Earlier this month I saw the above notice on a sandwich board outside a university-area church. If you’re not able to make out all the print, here’s the complete sign:

Remember that you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

Come and . . .
- confess your sins,
- acknowledge your need
- receive forgiveness.

Ash Wednesday
11:30 a.m. church
7:00 p.m. church

Ashes will be imposed
upon those desiring it.

As I stood there looking at that sign, I was impressed with how direct it was. I don’t come from a tradition where the penitent person’s forehead is marked with the sign of the cross made with ashes, but I certainly agree with the sign’s first six lines.

While marketing and contextualizing are fine in their place, there are times when it’s not only appropriate but imperative to talk straight. John the Baptist strode into Judea shouting “Repent!” Jesus told one of the nation’s eminent theologians, “You must be born again.”

The important thing is to constantly ask the Lord to give you wisdom, moment by moment, for the best way to share your faith. Jesus didn't speak with John-the-Baptist directness all the time, but adjusted His approach to each audience. In John chapter 3 He told Nicodemus the bald facts about being born again. In John 4, while speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, He said nothing about being born again, but asked her for a drink of water. In John 5, standing beside a man who had been a cripple for decades, He mentioned neither water nor being born again, but asked the invalid what he needed.

So every morning pray, “Lord, please lead me to someone who needs me, today.”

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The Track
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 15, 2012

Yesterday I was forced to drive to an unfamiliar gas station because the one closest to our home was temporarily closed. After I had prepaid the cashier, I returned to the pump and was gassing up my car when I noticed this large shoe-print on the concrete pump pedestal.

If I had put a coin or a pencil on the concrete to give a sense of the scale, you would see that the track was very wide. I thought, “Who on earth has such a big foot?” I was kind of glad that the track-maker had gone by the time I used the pump.

Suddenly I had a different thought. “Do I really know what the bottom of my own shoe looks like?” I bent one leg and looked at the sole, and sure enough – that track had been made by my own foot! I’d evidently stepped in a pool of rainwater on my way back from paying for the gas, which was why the track was still fresh.

This got me thinking about the “footprints” you and I leave as we walk through life. When I first saw the track on the cement, I felt intimidated by size – yet in my personality I do not put on an intimidating pose (or I hope I don’t).

very once in a while I’ll look at myself in the mirror and wonder what people see in that face that is so familiar to me. Do they see someone who has a sense of humor? Or do they see a grim set of lips with no laugh-creases around them?

Even though first impressions are a dreadful way to form an idea of someone’s character, that’s often what happens. Think of the people in your life who are quick smilers. It’s as though their lips are poised to respond to happiness and humor. Even though as a Christian I am supposed to hold the thought of love to everyone, I confess that I find it easier to like the smilers. It's like someone once said, "If you're happy, notify your face!" Voice tones can give either accurate or inaccurate first impressions as well.

Maybe this is a good time to do a personal inventory of our facial expressions, our voices, even our body language. Does anything need to be adjusted to more clearly reflect the geniality and love which Jesus wants us to show. After all, Mark 12:37 says that “the common people heard Him gladly.” The Savior evidently radiated such kindness, such unconditional love, such twinkly-eyed happiness that people knew that they would enjoy His presence.

And it’s not simply an interesting side fact that Jesus had this kind of personality. He came to show us what His Father was like. “I and My Father are one,” He said in John 10:30. Jesus knew very well that the most important question in the universe is not “Will I be saved?” but “What is God like?”

So our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to spend every waking moment reflecting Jesus’ – and therefore His  Father’s – personality!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, February 14, 2012

No lengthy commentary today . . . just read our current church readerboard message!

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God's Words
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 13, 2012

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that's the case, the shot above (taken on a secluded beach on Oahu) and the message from Psalm 96, should keep you busy for a while.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, praise his name;

proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;

let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

He deserves our attention and as you can see (and read) He is all around us.

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Townsend’s Solitaire
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 12, 2012

Its home is high in the mountains of the American West. But it would be unfair to limit this member of the thrush family to one locale, for the Townsend’s Solitaire wanders widely, especially in the winter, in search of berries and other food. Once found, it will defend its feeding territory, which in turn will supply its total food for the duration of the winter. But when winter is over, it will return to its true home, the high mountain slopes in a 3,000 foot band just below timberline. There in the wilderness it will raise its family, nesting on the ground, often on banks or under exposed tree roots.

Perhaps it is too romanticized to refer to its breeding grounds as the wilderness, yet even its name implies a certain isolation inherent to unsettled territory. Philip Yancey, writing in The Bible Jesus Read, talks about another advantage to such a setting, a setting which enables the participant to more easily engage in worship. Notice his thoughts sampled from page 126 of this book: “In praise, the creature happily acknowledges that everything good and true and beautiful in the universe comes from the Creator….Authors of the psalms, especially David, had an advantage in praise because of their closer tie to the natural world…Psalms presents a world that fits together as a whole, with everything upheld by a personal God watching over it …. Wilderness brings us down a level, reminding us of something we’d prefer to forget; our creatureliness. It announces to our senses the splendor of an invisible, untamable God.”

The flute-like notes of the solitaire are just a small part of this palette upon which our senses can feast. Distractions of the artificial, the plastic and neon that clamor for our attention are replaced by a quietness which enables us to more clearly hear that still, small voice. It may be that we cannot live our life in such a setting, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rejuvenate our inner self by periodic visits. If so, you may hear the solitaire’s song as well.

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Be Still
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 11, 2012

I saw this lady a few years ago while I was out birdwatching with a friend. We were amused to see that fishing and being outdoors was not enough to hold her attention. Of course, we were birding and taking photos at the same time!

We are so used to multitasking that we have trouble just concentrating on one thing.

Of course, there is also the work model where productivity is the bottom line but there are constant interruptions. We are told that after an interruption, be it an e-mail, a computer malfunction, a co-worker talking to us, a phone call or whatever, it takes us from five to ten minutes to get back on track with what we were doing prior to the interruption.

God has a different timetable and schedule for taking care of what is important. There's the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), embedded in the ten commandments, which is a 24 hour rest stop after six days of work, and we are also told to:

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 NKJV

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Slaves in Egypt
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 10, 2012

The Pharaoh Amenhotep I repaired and restored many ancient temples along the Nile. He is best known for utilizing different types of stone including alabaster and sandstone for construction at the huge Temple of Karnak in Thebes. My photo shows just a small part of the excavated ruins of this temple. Pharaoh after pharaoh added on to the Temple of Karnak with no expense spared. At one time there were more than 80,000 men working on it's construction. This huge temple lay buried under sand for more than 1,000 years, until the mid-19th century. What might this have to do with biblical history? Some scholars think that Amenhotep I (18th Dynasty) was pharaoh when Moses was born and that his daughter, Princess Hatsheput, around ten years of age, found Moses among bulrushes along the Nile. (Exodus 2:5-10) The story goes on, saying that his mother, Jochebed was employed to nurse and care for Moses.

The Hebrews were slaves in Egypt for 400 years as foretold by God: “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.” Gen 15:13 More specifically, Exodus 12:40 states that the Isralites had been settled in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years. For fear that they might help Egypt's enemies, the pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed by drowning in the Nile. However, God had a plan to free the Israelites. That plan involved Moses, a child of the captive Hebrews. God would use him to deliver Israel from their oppressors, the Egyptians.

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Scary, Gross and Weird
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 9, 2012

The other day in a bookstore I spotted this volume, At first glance it seemed like something an atheist author would come up with in order to mock God’s Word.

However, if you look up the book’s title on Google, you can actually page through a bit of it, and it turns out to be a thoroughly Christian study guide for teens. The last line on the cover tells the story: “The truths buried in the bizarre.”

No doubt about it, reading the Bible isn’t always for the faint of heart. That’s because its stories aren’t fiction but sometimes brutal reality (for example, you will want to read only little bits of the book of Judges at a time). Bible stories sometimes show what happens when people turn their backs on God and get as far away from Him as they can. But they also show a God who invests His deepest emotions in us (which is why He seems “wroth-y” once in awhile), and who invites us back into His presence no matter how far away we’ve run.

A suggestion: If you’re planning to read the Bible through for the first time, read only the stories. Skip the sanctuary furniture and the priestly laws. You will discover some amazing truths about God. And you will shudder at all the trauma we have put Him through. And if what you discover overwhelms you, just keep reading. The saga--absolutely the most powerful you will ever hear--ends happily!

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A Splash of Color
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 8, 2012

Last June I had my camera with me when the above glorious vision passed before my eyes. Now—in the midst of a dreary Seattle winter with precious few sunbursts—it struck me with the same emotions I felt when I saw Cheryl’s sunny Daily Photo Parable photo of a couple of weeks ago (which I include below).

Thank the Lord that, just above the clouds, the sun is steadily shining . . .

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On Thin Ice
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 4, 2012

[NOTE FROM PASTOR MAYLAN:  Due to our recent difficulties uploading to our website server, Cheryl Boardman's blog did not appear this past Monday. Here it is today, and this coming Monday she'll be back on her regular schedule. Thanks to Cheryl and all our Daily Photo Parable bloggers for their inspiration!]

This photo is of a Northern Shoveler. There was a very thin layer of ice interspersed with open water and the ice was just holding him up.

Sometimes we feel like we are on very thin ice and that it wouldn't take much for us to fall in. Unlike this duck, we could be in a lot of trouble if we did fall through the ice.

It's at times like this that we need to remember this promise that is part of the Great Commission:

Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

The I AM, of course, is Jesus.

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Well, Well, Well - What Do We Have Here?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 6, 2012\

OK, you have to use your imagination for this one. The image above is not your traditional "well," but I was inspired to write about something specific and this was the closest shot I could find -- it's a spring, welling up....I know, it's a stretch.

This last Sabbath, I was lucky enough to be part of the ever growing Young Adult class at church. We were discussing four specific conversations Jesus had: with Nicodemus, Satan, Mary Magdalene and the Samaritan at the well. The one that struck many in our class was the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan women at the well. First we discussed the fact that a Samaritan woman wouldn't be found talking to a man in public - especially not a fellow Samaritan. As you can read in the story, found in John 4, we recognized this wasn't about Jesus being hot and thirsty and needing someone to bring him a cold glass of water. No, this conversation was about the Messiah, concerned about this woman and wanting to show her the true meaning of life. To show her the way out of her sinful ways and into eternal salvation.

There are so many examples of Jesus meeting people at their level, where they are in their life, and helping them. We say we want to strive and be more like Him -- I think that starts with the willingness to love those around us, even when we may not agree on everything, or they aren't in our "typical" circle. Jesus came to earth, as a human, to set an example for us to follow. Meeting the Samaritan woman at the well was just one of those examples of loving someone, regardless of their past, and focusing on their future.

Here's to meeting people at the well.

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Multiple Choice Questions--Porcupine

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 5, 2012

[Note from Pastor Maylan: We're sorry that a website server glitch made it impossible to view Cheryl Boardman's Monday parable, and erased the photo from Bev's Sunday parable. I'm going to put Cheryl's on Thursday--she'll resume her normal Monday schedule next week--and try to get Bev's photo inserted below. Thanks for your patience.]

Students always seem relieved when they open a test and see at least some multiple choice questions on the exam. This relief is especially evident among those who are marginally prepared, for these questions allow at least something to be written down. But a good multiple choice question isn’t necessarily a give-away. Alternatives can be so worded that the respondent really has to know the material to get the correct answer.

Consider, for example, the following question. Which of the following animals is/are mentioned in the Bible: A. Porcupine, B. Mouse, C. Dolphin, D Hedgehog?

Easy enough to venture a guess, but what if the question wasn’t limited to just options A through D? What if it also included the following alternatives: E. Two of the above, F. Three of the above, G. All of the above H. None of the above? That makes it a lot more difficult, doesn’t it?

Those of us who have managed to graduate from some school of learning and entered the school of life can attest to the fact that life seldom gives us simple multiple choice questions. Our tests are closer to the essay type where we are asked to demonstrate or explain why our answer is correct. It’s a lot tougher than simply closing your eyes and guessing.

But would you really want it any other way? Doesn’t God want to see us applying principles which are the basis of His system of government? Love God and love your fellowman covers an awful lot of territory. But living those out makes a lot of sense to anyone who really gets to know the Test Giver.

By the way, the correct answer is G, if you end up using the right translations, which in this case is the Living Bible. The porcupine is mentioned in Isaiah 34:11; the mouse in Isaiah 66:17; the dolphin in Ezekiel 16:10; and the hedgehog in Zephaniah 2:14. Aren’t you glad God is the one making out our test and evaluating it through the gift of grace? That’s better than a multiple choice test any day.

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Jesus, Our Light

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 3, 2012

Flowing through ten countries and a length of over four thousand miles, the Nile River is generally considered the longest river in the world. Without the Nile, Egypt would be a barren desert. The Nile has provided water, food, transportation and soil for growing food for the Egyptians for centuries. Nearly all the cultural and historical sites of ancient Egypt lie along this river.

Every morning, before we set out on our journey of discovery along the Nile, the sun rose with a brilliant color. We knew that the temperature would be rising and be very hot by mid-morning. But, the temperature was “perfect” at this time of day, the early morning when I took this photo (no photoshop). As I watched the sun rise that morning and turn darkness into light, I thought it was so much like Jesus shining in our lives and bringing light and life to us.

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12 John uses darkness to describe a relationship without Jesus. Faith in Jesus can and will change our lives. It's hard to walk in the dark without running into things or getting lost. But, as soon as we have light, we can see. Our Christian walk is the same – Jesus shines the way to light our path. What causes darkness in your life? Have you asked Jesus to be your light, like the tune we sing?

Shine on us. Shine on us . . .

Shine Jesus shine

Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze, Spirit blaze,
Set our hearts on fire

Flow, river flow

Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth Your word
Lord and let there be light.

May Jesus, our Light, let us shine with His reflection.

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Go to Sleep, James
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 2, 2012

Last September I spotted this puzzling license plate on the back of an otherwise ordinary Toyota. I’m never sure whether a plate like this is an interesting coincidence, or whether the vehicle’s owner truly did want to signal that he or she was bored to the point of slumber with James Bond movies.

Even those who never read one of Ian Fleming’s novels or seen the films about Agent 007 probably know the basic plot. The world is plunged in crisis, and the handsome Bond (aided and abetted by beautiful women) eventually manages to calm things down. In these circumstances, the planet is safer if the spy is on the alert, on his toes, trigger finger well-flexed.

No matter how thrilling such action-adventure might be, I’m looking forward to the time when anyone with James Bond crime-fighting talents can "sleep in" every morning. My Bible concludes with predictions about this super-safe environment. Revelation 20 describes how sin will finally be eradicated, and chapters 21 and 22 describe a wonderful city and kingdom whose streets will be entirely free of spymaster headquarters and even police stations.

To read dispatches – fortunately not in code – describing this environment, click the link immediately below.

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The Prosperity Bible
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, February 1, 2012

When I first spotted this volume in a used bookstore late this past November, my first thought was that it was yet another of the many “study Bibles” which Christian publishers produce.

But, knowing what I know about the Bible, I immediately had second thoughts. I’ve seen the “Serviceman’s Bible,” the “Firefighters Bible,” and even the “Hunter’s Bible.” But something told me that a “Prosperity Bible” would probably crossed the line.

And sure enough, a closer examination of its cover revealed that, no, this was no creative repackaging of Genesis through Revelation. Instead, “the greatest writings of all time on the secrets to wealth and prosperity” includes sections by Napoleon Hill, Benjamin Franklin, James Allen and several other authors. In the publishers included “Bible” in the title not to invoke a spiritual message but to signal that this volume was the “go to” source for bank account enhancement.

As you might suspect, the real Bible speaks about wealth, but does so in a way that is both balanced and eternity-based. To find out more, click the link immediately below.

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