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

Daily Photo Parable - January 2012

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

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

The Provision of the Lord             
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Apostle Paul spent a decent amount of time talking about two worlds, the seen and the unseen, the real and the really real.  Though other Bible writers may not have articulated the idea as clearly, they also each knew of the tension between these two realities.  Because we humans exist and think three dimensionally, God often deals with us in ways we can understand, yet He still seeks to expand our thinking from the transient to the eternal.  This can be illustrated in God’s dealings with the Children of Israel in the wilderness found in Exodus 16.  Even after God had displayed His supernatural power in delivering them from Egypt, they still became absorbed with the task of living from day to day in a very natural setting.  We take up their story as they aired their complaints to Moses about their inability to survive in such an inhospitable environment without any source of sustenance.

Notice how God ties these two worlds together.  “Now the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now I am going to cause food to rain down from the sky for all of you.  The people must go out every day and gather enough for that day.  I have heard the complaints of the Israelites.  Tell them that at twilight they will have meat to eat, and in the morning they will have all the bread they want.’ ”   (Ex. 16:4,12 Good News Translation)  This promise was realized in the following verse.  “In the evening a large flock of quails flew in, enough to cover the camp. And in the morning there was dew all around the camp.  When the dew evaporated, there was something thin and flaky on the surface of the desert.  It was as delicate as frost.” (verses 13,14)  God wanted His people to comprehend His desire to be with them, to help them in all aspects of life.  He wanted them to realize that He had power over both the natural and unnatural world and He did so by providing them with quail (the natural), and the manna (the unnatural).  The next icy morning you step out of your door and see the world wrapped in a frosty blanket, remember God’s provision “as delicate as frost” but remind yourself also that He’s the One behind those ordinary or natural blessings you work for yourself.

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God's Word
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 30, 2012

Have you every found and eaten ripe wild strawberries?  They are really tiny compared to the cultivated varieties but they are just packed with flavor.  One of these small fruits has more taste than a whole quart of cultivated strawberries you can buy in a clamshell in the grocery store.

I like the way The Message paraphrases Psalms 19:10 to state that God's Word is better than precious stones and you'll like it better than red, ripe strawberries.  I don't think it's referring to those insipid strawberries you can buy out of season.

The surrounding verses go on to show why we need the Word of God.

   The revelation of GOD is whole
      and pulls our lives together.
   The signposts of GOD are clear
      and point out the right road.
   The life-maps of GOD are right,
      showing the way to joy.
   The directions of GOD are plain
      and easy on the eyes.
   GOD's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
      with a lifetime guarantee.
   The decisions of GOD are accurate
      down to the nth degree.

   God's Word is better than a diamond,
      better than a diamond set between emeralds.
   You'll like it better than strawberries in spring,
      better than red, ripe strawberries.

 There's more: God's Word warns us of danger
      and directs us to hidden treasure.
   Otherwise how will we find our way?
      Or know when we play the fool?
   Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
      Keep me from stupid sins,
      from thinking I can take over your work;
   Then I can start this day sun-washed,
      scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.
   These are the words in my mouth;
      these are what I chew on and pray.
   Accept them when I place them
      on the morning altar,
   O God, my Altar-Rock,
      God, Priest-of-My-Altar.

Psalms 19:9-11 The Message

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

My Amaryllis plant sits by the window on my kitchen counter with its bright red trumpet-like flowers brightening the long, dark days of winter. "Nothing amazing," you might say! However, during one of our colder days, a little hummingbird came by and hovered outside the window hoping to get some delicious nectar from the blooming flowers it saw inside. Since I had taken our hummingbird feeders in for the winter, I filled one and hung it outside the Amaryllis for any hummingbirds that might come by! With my garden providing food for birds and butterflies in the warmer months, I felt bad this hummingbird couldn't get its food! The window was a barrier keeping it from reaching what it needed - the flower's nectar.

Life can be more meaningful when we have a close walk with God. Even though God erects no barriers to prevent us from reaching Him, sometimes we have barriers in our lives that get in the way. Do you want a closer relationship to God, but it doesn't seem to happen? You might look at your life and discover what distractions or beliefs are keeping you from this experience. Do you need to refocus your life and let Him talk with you? He can help you get through these barriers and help lead you to a better life. God has many blessings He wants His people to experience, some include peace, comfort, adoption into His family, salvation and eternal life with Him. According to I John 3:1-3, blessings are waiting for us - we just need to take down the barriers! He's waiting to help you. When will you take down the barriers?

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Mathew 11:28

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

As I’ve mentioned in the blog entries just below, wintry weather descended on the Puget Sound area for several days earlier this month. The temperature got so cold that a thin sheet of ice formed over part of a retaining pond in our neighborhood.

The above photograph shows a twig projecting up through the snow which dusted the ice. The scraggly patterns just behind it are ice-cracks, but they seem like they could be the enhanced shadow of the twig. It's almost as though the design on the ice is "foreshadowing" what the twig would look like if it grew and flourished. (No, I've done no "faking" or creative airbrushing. This is what the camera really saw.)

Incredibly, God is able to look at a child growing in its mother’s womb and see foreshadowed that child’s life. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” He insists to Jeremiah. “Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 NKJV) Heaven provided several other such miraculous foreshadowings—often choosing barren women to give birth to world-changers. And most miraculous, of course, was the birth of the long-predicted Messiah, Jesus Christ.

John reminds us that God has absolutely unbelievable plans for everyone who accepts Jesus as Savior:

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  (1 John 3:2, 3 NKJV)

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The Hungry Robin
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm sure that, if you're like me, when you gaze at the rapturously photographed birds of Daily Parable Photo nature-lovers like Robert Howson, Darren Milam, Cheryl Boardman and Bev Riter, you imagine that these lovely winged creatures were snapped at exactly the moment when they were gazing skyward in a rapture of happiness. At least that's what it looks like.

However, birders will probably tell you that the main thing on the tiny minds of our avian friends is, "Okay. Lunch was great. Now I need to start hunting for supper."

That's certainly the case with the robin in my photo above. Last week we had a major "weather event" in which a lot of snow fell, then an icy rain, and finally more snow. Friday things began to settle down, and I noticed that a couple of our front-yard bushes were weighted heavily down with an 8 inch thick ice-and-snow sandwich. A couple of quick karate chops and a few shoves relieved those bushes of their burdens, and they sprang upright.

A little while later, I noticed several robins digging busily amongst the newly-freed branches, and it gave me a good feeling to know that I had evidently opened up a source of nourishment which the elements had temporarily sealed off. The little guy above looks like he's keeping a wary eye out for other birds who might want to muscle in on his territory.

Are you in the habit of speculating about how often a loving Heavenly Father has reached down and removed an obstacle so that your needs can be provided? Jesus earnestly spoke about God's care for birds like that robin, and how you and I are far more valuable to Him, in passages like this:

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

“Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  (Matthew 6:25 – 34 NKJV)

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Frozen Conscience?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 26, 2012

If you’re one of the 6 people from Indonesia who recently visited this website (that’s true—we can actually track how many people visit this site from all over the world), you’re probably studying the above photo with awe and maybe horror. But if you’re a resident of the Puget Sound area, you know all too well that we’re emerging from a winter weather sandwich—first a snow dump, then a freezing ice-rain dump, and then another snow dump. Shelley and I were without power a bit over 24 hours, but we were among the lucky ones. Others went without for a week or more.

Last Thursday, while Shelley and I were bundled up against our dropping household temperature, she noticed this weathervane on top of our neighbor’s house. Indonesia, this is what freezing rain looks like, and it had not only coated the vane’s top edges with a half-inch of ice, but it had frozen its workings. That means that no matter which way the wind was blowing, this weathervane would no longer be affected.

Shelley and I naturally kept an alert ear on our battery radio, and every once in awhile the weather person would talk about wind direction, telling us that if the wind came from the north, things would get colder. But with our neighbor’s weathervane frozen stiff, there would have been no way for either them or us to know what was coming.

Our conscience, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is like a weathervane. It’s what sends us warning signals that what we’re doing, or are about to do, isn’t right. That’s wonderful—except the Bible also says that our consciences can be damaged. Using a metaphor that’s exactly opposite to a chilly one, Paul puts it this way:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, (1 Timothy 4:1, 2 NKJV)

The good news is that even a “seared” or “frozen” conscience can be healed by the Holy Spirit. I’ve seen it happen in the lives of people who have surrendered to the Lord.

If you’d like to do more Bible study about your God-given conscience, click the link below:


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Flying High Like an Eagle?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by
Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A couple weekends ago, I went for my annual trip to the Skagit River, to see if I could get The Shot--the one I have pictured in my head but haven't quite captured digitally yet (that's what keeps me going back, so it's actually a win-win).  The weather was overcast, at best.  The rest of the time it was fog soup and you could hardly see across the river.  Regardless of the weather (and no I didn't get 'my shot') we were able to see over 80 bald eagles in a stretch of about 15 miles.
In preparing for this blog, I went to look up a motivational verse, referencing an eagle.  God had a different plan.  That's a good thing because, God gives us nuggets of wisdom, even when we are looking for it.  The verse I looked up is Proverbs 23:5 but I then read both verses - 4 & 5,
Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
Will you set your eyes on that which is not? 
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.

No motivational, "soar like an eagle/ follow your dreams", etc.  Instead, we read we should be very careful with what we concentrate on, focus on, and view as important.  Before we focus our energy and chase after the treasures of the earth, we need to connect with our creator and see what He thinks of the matter.  After all, He did create the beautiful bald eagle -- I bet He cares for us and is happy to share some good advice to us as well.

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The $461 Katydid 
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Things are seldom as they seem at first glance.  The Wise Man bears this out in his book of Proverbs:  “There is a way that appears to be right but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV)  If we could see the end results from the choices we make, would we really choose differently?  I’d like to think we would . . . .
Walking along a path I glanced down and there it was, its bright green colors beckoning me to take a second look.  And look I did, for this vibrant insect was not familiar to me.  Bending down low, I took a picture, then another.  It was at this point that it jumped onto my jacket.  Not wanting to harm it, I sought to remove my jacket without disturbing it and then it happened.  With a sickening thud I heard my camera fall onto the surface below.  $461.43 later, my camera was once again fixed.  So what did I learn from this experience?
I learned that what I was looking at was most likely a drumming katydid, or as they are known in Europe, an Oak bush-cricket.  This particular species entered the U.S. from Europe and became established in the Long Island area around 1957.  By 1980 it had spread to Rhode Island and worked its way as far west as Michigan.  For some reason there is a disjointed population in British Columbia and records of it being found in Washington and Oregon.  You can tell it’s a katydid by its long filamentous antennae which may be longer than its body, and the sword-shaped ovipositor at the end of its abdomen which the female uses to deposit eggs.
But that’s probably not really the answer you were expecting.  It’s likely you were wondering how MY behavior has been changed by this incident.   I learned it wasn’t the katydid’s fault, as much as I’d like not to be held responsible.  I learned that being responsible means holding on tightly to that which you value, even while investigating the new and different.  I also learned how vulnerable we are, and how grateful I am for One who can remake us as good as new.  And if I can really remember this, $461 is a cheap price to pay.

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Avoid the Potholes
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 23, 2012

I took this picture at a little natural area up in British Columbia. As you can see, the road is not in the best shape as it is full of potholes.  I've driven on some very potholed roads right here in Washington and the experience can be rough on one's car and one's  passengers.  The more potholes there are, the less chance you have of avoiding them.  Driving on a road filled with potholes is best avoided.

The Message puts it this way:  The perverse* travel a dangerous road, potholed and mud-slick;
   if you know what's good for you, stay clear of it. Proverbs 22:5

*Perverse:  a : turned away from what is right or good : corrupt   Online Merriam-Webster definition.

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White As Snow
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter

Sunday, January 22, 2012

(Note from Pastor Maylan: My home internet has been pretty spotty since the weather crisis, so while I was at the church Friday evening I uploaded Bev Riter's Sunday Photo Parable, which you'll be able to enjoy all weekend!)

BEV WRITES: As I write, snow continues to fall, covering everything like a thick blanket of fluffy powder. It's reminding us that it is winter! I chose this photo of deep snow on a high, rugged mountain to share with you today. No, I didn't take it recently, but during mid-July! It is of the Breithorn Peak at an elevation of 13,645 feet between Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn in Switzerland. While at almost 13,000 feet at Klein Matterhorn it seemed we could reach out and touch this lofty peak with its thick covering of overhanging snow. An incredible view!

Israel was also familiar with snow. It is mentioned several times in Scripture, even by God Himself. Snow coming down from heaven is mentioned in Isaiah 55:9-10. Snow was often used as a symbol of purity and cleanness. David asked to be washed so he could be “whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7) Isaiah writes of a promise, “come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 8:18) Fresh, white snow is a reminder of what God can do for us. He can transform our sinful lives into lives that are pure. He can make us as white as fresh snow! Have you asked Him to do that for you?

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Foot in the Door
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 19, 2012

A few weeks back, in a Barnes and Noble bookstore, I happened to glance at what looks like a fairly solid wooden door. What caught my attention was that while the knob section was firmly closed—and the keypad just above it presumably allowed in only those who knew the combination—the lower part of the door has warped outward. It’s as though whoever was on this side of the door had slammed it, not quite in time, against someone who had placed his foot firmly in the way.

As the new year has turned, and some of the resolutions I so earnestly made are starting to slip away, the above photo reminds me that there’s a malignant former angel who tries deftly to insert his foot into the door to my life if I give him half a chance 

But the Bible gives me firm, confident counsel. In fact, if you think you know the verse below, hang on. What follows the first familiar words gives us even more encouragement:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. (1 Peter 5:8, 9 NKJV)

Those are the familiar words. But here are the ones which follow: 

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Verses 10 and 11)

Aren’t those followup words incredibly encouraging? Even though the devil is indeed a fearful foe, God is in charge. If we’re sober and vigilant and determined to resist the devil, God provides not only the power to do so but will “perfect, establish, strengthen and settle” us. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I need as 2012 speeds beneath me.

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Beggars Can't Be Choosers
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's true -- those who beg shouldn't be disappointed with what they get.  That said, this particular sign I captured doesn't appear to have much of an option -- "oil change" appears to be the one selection on the deli menu.  What would happen if that’s the way life was -- one option?  Actually, if there is one option, that means that there is really no option.  That’s because the word “option” implies there is a choice of at least two items, two paths, two directions.  The beauty of saying "we have options" is indeed the fact that we normally do 

God gives us options each and everyday. Hundreds of choices we can make about the insignificant stuff --what cereal I eat, should I comb my hair to the right or the left, should I start the dishwasher before work or after, etc.  He also gives us tons of choices on the major, life-altering decisions.  In our Youth class last week we were discussing the difference between intelligence and wisdom.  We can gain intelligence everyday.  You can read books, do research, experiment, watch TV, listen to radio programs -- tons of ways to gain intelligence.  What you do with that intelligence all depends on your wisdom -- choices.  True wisdom comes from God.  He gives us the tools in order to make good decisions, not only with the intelligence we have but the choices He has laid before us.

When I read this sign again, I didn't really believe 'oil change' was the one and only option the deli menu had.  Then again, I am not sure I want to order my sandwich from a short order cook who doubles as the mechanic.  Maybe we should look elsewhere, somewhere with a few more options.  I think it would be a better decision, to  allow God's wisdom to help us make the right decisions.  Thank You, God, for all the various options You give us -- technically we only need one menu item -- YOU.

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Golden-crowned Sparrow
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Isn’t it interesting that God sees us far differently than we see ourselves.  We see all the warts and wrinkles, the should-a-oughtas and the might-have-beens. He sees us as perfect, covered with His own Son’s perfection.  Christians have grown up with the thought that someday, in heaven, we will be given crowns of gold to wear.  That may be based upon the idea that God Himself will wear a crown of gold (Rev 14:14) as will the twenty-four elders around the throne. (Rev. 4:4)  Perhaps our crowns of life will be symbolized in gold as well.  But in the everyday here-and-now, you don’t see too many of the saints that look like such attire would fit them. 

Then again, take a look at the Golden-crowned Sparrow pictured above.  It’s the way most first year birds of this species appear during winter.  With maturity and spring will come the bright golden crown bordered in black that gives this species its name. (See below)

It would be foolish for this bird to deny its rightful title simply because it temporarily doesn’t look the part.  We understand with time, this common bird of the American West will develop into a sparrow wearing a crown of gold.  The good news is that our Maker and Redeemer sees us as we might become, not only fit to wear our crowns, but actually wearing those crowns of gold.  So, let’s hear it for the Golden-crowned Sparrows out there, reminders of what we might become and of the reward promised to each of us.

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The First Day
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 16, 2012

This sunset picture was taken from the west side of Orcas Island.  I love sunrises when a new day is about to begin and sunsets when the day has come to an end.  As I was driving home from work this last Friday evening, the sun was setting and to the east, there was a pink alpenglow on the snow covered Cascades while to the west, there were scattered clouds which produced a magnificent sunset that seemed to involve the whole sky.  Unfortunately, there was not a good stopping place to contemplate the view and I didn't even have my camera with me.

 Light is so important, that we are told in the creation account that it was the first thing created:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. Genesis 1:1-5 NKJV

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A Mountain Experience
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 15, 2012
©2012 by Bev Riter

It takes preparation and effort, but once in the high mountains, the beauty can be astounding and breathtaking. In the silence, one can listen to God. Today's photo shows us hiking in the Dolomites, stopping for a rest and a drink of water while soaking in the views of the rugged peaks in the distance.  How can one not be close to God here?

In Biblical times, mountains were places where God often met his prophets to commune with them. In Exodus we read of Moses' experience with God on Mt. Sinai when God gave him the ten commandments. In I Kings 19:11 Elijah stood on the mountain to find the Lord. Also, Jesus went to the mountains: In Mathew 5:1, He went to the mountain and began teaching what we know as the “Sermon on the Mount.” John 6:3 tells of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee, going up a hill with thousands of hungry people following – and He fed them! He went into the hills to pray to God, His Father (Luke 6:12). And, on the Mount of Olives He departed from the disciples to be alone with His Father (Luke 22:39).

We can be close to God when we're in the mountains, but He doesn't limit Himself to the mountains. He is not only the God of the mountains, but He is also God of the valleys we face in our lives.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. Psalms 121:1-2

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Cameras Where?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 14, 2012
©2012 by Maylan Schurch

I snapped this photo this past Monday after buying a camera battery, but the incident I’m about to describe happened several months back.

I don’t remember why I needed to stop at Cameras West back then, but it had been a long time since I’d visited the store. As I pushed open the glass door and came inside, I saw that things seemed to have been rearranged. The counters were all different, and so were the displays.

Before, the walls had been bristling with the latest cameras, and an entire corner of the store had been filled with an array of tripods. Now, the photography theme seemed to have been muted in favor of a decidedly more sporting aura. Golf clubs were on display, and there were several portly male customers drifting about. A tanned, genial salesperson behind a counter was wearing a jaunty white baseball cap. “How sad,” I mused. “It’s like art stores and bookstores which have had to morph into gift shops. Cameras aren’t selling well, and this store has had to diversify too.”

So I strolled about for awhile, and lo and behold, I could find not one single camera! And that's when the truth suddenly dawned: This isn’t Cameras West! This is another store!

Trying to conceal the dazed expression on my face, I made my way to the door, weaving dexterously between the portly gentlemen.  “Wow,” I was thinking. “This store-switch happened so fast that they haven’t even changed the outside sign yet.”

But when I got outside and stared up at the sign, it didn’t say “Cameras West.” Instead, glance again at the photo above. ‘Way off to the left, through the trees, you’ll see another store, with the same storefront and the same red sign-lettering. Here’s an enlargement.

See what happened? Pro Golf and Cameras West have the same exterior paint color and the same roof-tiles. Their entrances both face east. Driving through that parking lot on mental auto-pilot (and with no recent visit to remind me of the lay of the land), I’d simply mistaken one store for the other.

The above story is a chuckle-generator, and might even be useful if some nefarious person were trying to prove that Maylan Schurch might be getting a bit too “vague” to be allowed outside without a leash.

During my nearly three pastoral decades, I’ve seen quite a number of situations where people wandered into the wrong lifestyle or way of thinking without realizing it. At a church I pastored in the 1980s, we would conduct stop-smoking seminars, and I would always ask attendees how old they’d been when they started smoking. Only one out of a hundred started when they were 20 or above—the majority were hooked in their early teens or even before that. Instead of portly gentleman golfers fingering the latest Titleist clubs, they had been surrounded by grownups and peers who were experienced smokers, and this convinced the kids that they must be in the right place. No one ushered them to the door and shooed them out to safety.

“There is a way that seems right to a man,” says Proverbs 14:12, “but its end is the way of death.”  Proverbs also has a lot to say about where your “feet” go—in other words, your spiritual and moral direction. For example:

Proverbs 4:26, 27 says: “Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil. “ And in Proverbs 6 there’s a list of seven specific things the Lord hates, and one of them is “feet that are swift in running to evil” (Proverbs 6:18).
The moral? Before you enter, make sure you know what you’re getting into!

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Pheneas Speaks
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 13, 2012
©2012 by Maylan Schurch

When I saw the above display behind glass in a used bookstore earlier this month, my stomach gave a twist. Like millions of other boys of several generations, I eagerly devoured Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories about the mythical detective Sherlock Holmes. One of the things I admired about the hawk-nosed, pipe-smoking, magnifying-glass-wielding Holmes was his ability to ignore superstition and use cool, dispassionate reasoning to solve his criminal cases.

Doyle, Holmes’ creator, certainly had a wonderful mind himself. But he was far less immune to superstition than his world-famous creation. In the last two decades of his life, reeling from the deaths of his wife and his son as well as other close relatives, Doyle became a hopeful and enthusiastic spiritualist, and firmly believed that the spirits of the dead are conscious in the world beyond, and can be contacted if the conditions are right.

The above photo shows the cover of a pamphlet in which Doyle published the "communications" from a spirit he called “Pheneas (or Phineas) of Ur.” This was supposedly someone who had lived thousands of years ago, and whose ghost was communicating wisdom through a "medium," or today we might say a "channeler."

In the same bookstore in which I saw this display, as a part of the religion section (containing Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Christian materials) there is also a surprisingly huge array of occult books. It seems that people purchase them, because publishers keep printing them.

Knowing about people like Arthur Conan Doyle, who allowed his mind to be manipulated by superstition, makes me extremely cautious about my own mind. After all, we are emotional creatures rather than primarily logical ones, and there is an evil being who has had millenia of experience in helping our feelings overpower God's facts.

The Bible gives several emphatic warnings against toying with the occult. Here's one of them: “And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”  (Isaiah 8:19 20)

For some additional Bible material on this subject, click the link below:

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 12, 2012
©2012 by Maylan Schurch

I do my best to avoid laughing out loud in grocery stores, but it’s tough. I did emit an involuntary chuckle when I spotted the above display of bread-loaves. Maybe this chuckle had changed to a rolling giggle by the time I snapped the picture, because the focus isn’t as sharp as the standard set by the other bloggers on these Daily Photo Parables.

It’s like “Okay, bread. I get the point. You’re BIG BIG BIG.” Big is presumably good, when you’re a parent fixing lunches for your spouse or your kids. The bigger the bread, the more acres of goodies you can spread between the slices.

But if you compare this brand’s bigness to the size of the more understated Sara Lee loaves to the left, they’re not that different. Truth in advertising demands a label that reads “Just a little bit bigger, maybe” rather than “BIG BIG BIG.”

Okay, this is just advertising, and everybody’s used to it. You have to scream really loudly any more to get yourself a hearing. And this holds true for more than grocery store items. Have you, too, been plugging your ears during our recent caucuses and primaries? (Gracious sakes. Grow up, candidates. Grow up.) 

Into this “puff” and “me-first” and “survival of the BIG-est” atmosphere cuts the clean message of God’s word.

Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2 NKJV

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.  Proverbs 16:18-19

For a a great balance-restorer and a deeper “dig” into what the Bible says about ego, click the link below.

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New Year, New Ear

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
©2012 by Darren Milam
This time of year lots of people make promises to themselves – resolutions.  It’s a time to have a fresh beginning, a new start.  What if our new start involved being a better listener? If you haven’t noticed, for most people (not naming names), it’s easier for them to talk (sometimes about themselves) then it is to listen to someone.
How many times does God listen to us? Compare that with the times He speaks.  Our prayers work due to God’s ability and willingness to listen – not talk. How much of a better friend would we all be, if we ended up listening more than talking.  People will feel comfortable and be interested in being around you.
Be more like God – listen more than you talk.  Make the resolution to use your ear(s) more than your tongue.

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Ross’ Gull
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
©2012 by Robert Howson

There’s something to be said for the excitement of expectation.  Whether it’s the lack of childhood sleep brought on by the anticipation of Christmas morning or deferred adult rewards, the result is pretty much the same.  The gull shown here may not mean much to you, but to me it was high on my wish list of birds I had to see.  The Ross’ Gull is a species that lives in the Arctic, far from where our paths are likely to cross.  Only once before, 17 years ago, did I have the chance of seeing this bird, and then only after a long drive did I discover I had missed it by one day.  Disappointment is an understatement.  Perhaps that missed opportunity increased my desire to encounter this bird.  Whatever the reason, when I learned one had been spotted at a remote lake in Eastern Washington, there was little hesitation before jumping in the car and heading over the pass in pursuit of this elusive species. 

Ice was forming around the edges of the lake, but my first glimpse of the bird was a white speck perched far out in the lake on an emerging ice flow.  Even with my scope set to its highest power it was barely recognizable; gratifying, but hardly satisfying.  Persistence paid off and I was finally able to get a close up look when it landed near where we were set up. 

I fear the danger of complacency, of being satisfied with the here and now, that same feeling you get after enjoying an enormous Christmas dinner.  We need that same excitement that pushed me out of my comfortable chair and sent me chasing after what I longed to see.  Paul had it, that hunger for a close up encounter with his Lord and he wrote about this longing to the believers at Philippi:  “But there’s far more to life for us.  We’re citizens of high heaven!  We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own.  He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.” (Philippians 3:20-21 The Message)   May we, like Paul, long for and hasten that day.

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And I Know He Watches Me
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 9, 2012
©2012 by Cheryl Boardman

 I took this photo of a house sparrow when I went up to Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta, British Columbia, last year.  It's a great place to watch and photograph birds (and squirrels) because they have a lot of different kinds of birds (everything from hummingbirds to cranes) and a lot of bird feeders so some of the birds there are accustomed to people and will let you approach much closer than they would elsewhere.  There are also blinds and you can even purchase your own bird seed.  It's well worth the three hour drive from here; just make sure you have your passport or an enhanced driver's license with you so that you can cross the Canadian border.

 There were a lot of different kinds of sparrows around one of the feeders near the entrance to the grounds.  They reminded me of the old hymn, "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" (words by Civilla D. Martin):

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."  Matthew 10:29-31  (NKJV)

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Safety in Jesus
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter

Sunday, January 8, 2012
©2012 by Bev Riter

Italy is one of my favorite countries for traveling and exploring the beauties of God's creation. Today's photo is from the top of Sassolungo between Val Gardena and Val di Fassa in the Dolomites. In the valley below is Alpe di Siusi, the largest high altitude alpine meadow in Europe spreading out for miles with colorful flowers blooming in the summertime, where we'll be the next day. Ron and cousin John are dropping over the edge climbing down from the summit. Being more cautious, cousin Flo and I went down an easier way! We've discovered that some of the most beautiful mountain areas carry the most risk in getting there (or down)! And being safe is always a high priority. When traveling in the backcountry it's important to have the Ten Essentials or Systems for one's safety that could save your life. It's also important to be informed about the terrain and weather conditions.

In Genesis 6 we read about the ark of Noah being the only safe place during the flood. Likewise, Jesus Christ is our only Savior. Acts 4:12 NEB states, “There is no salvation in anyone else at all, for there is no other name under heaven granted to men, by which we may receive salvation.” People were invited to go into the ark; today God invites us to have salvation through Him. In Acts 16: starting with verse 25, we read about Paul and Silas in prison during a violent earthquake that frightened the jailer and he asked ,“Masters, what must I do to be saved? They said, Put your trust in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” v 30-32. Yes, safety in Jesus!

We're all familiar with the old song “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” by Fanny Crosby. Have you heard the newer song, “The Prayer” written by Carole Bayer Sager and sung by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli? To me, this points us to safety in Jesus. Some of the words are

I pray you'll be our eyes, and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer, when we go our way
Lead us to the place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe.

I pray we'll find your light and hold it in our hearts.
When stars go out each night, you are eternal star
Let this be our prayer when shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe.

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath,  January 7, 2012
©2012 by Maylan Schurch

I suppose it’s too much to expect that game manufacturers should have on staff someone who took New Testament Greek in college. But it seems that the makers of a game which won the “Mensa Select” national competition (which is what the out-of-focus gold sticker in the corner says) ought to have done a bit of checking first.

I don’t know what the game-makers think Anomia means, but even first-year Greek students can spot it instantly. Anomia (or ἀνομία if you want to see what it looks like in real Greek) means—according to Barclay Newman’s A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament-- “wickedness,  lawlessness, sin.” The Greek word for “law” is nomos, and the “a” tacked on to the front of the word is like our “un.” So anomia means “un-law,” or “lawlessness,” as in "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." 1 John 3:4, NKJV

From all I can tell, this game's label is an innocent mistake on the part of its creators, because Anomia seems to be a harmless pastime something like Trivia. But the real anomia is serious. As I am writing these words (on Sunday, January 1), more than 100 law enforcement officers are hunting for a suspect who shot a female park ranger to death at about 10 a.m. this morning. He’d committed some kind of traffic infraction, and was driving off when he was stopped by the ranger. He got out of the car and shot her, then ran into the woods. (Later he himself died of exposure to cold and wet during the next day or so.)

Here was someone who, far from making an innocent mistake, deliberately stepped outside the law and became a law to himself. That’s anomia. No one except God knows his mental state or can judge his motives. But he must have known that what he did broke the law, because he fled, just as he had fled a day earlier from a shooting closer to civilization.

But here’s some good news to those affected with anomia. God, speaking approvingly to His Son Jesus, said, “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness (anomia).” (Hebrews 1:9 NJKV). Knowing that Jesus hates lawlessness with a pure passion is good news. It’s like knowing that your state governor or your local police chief is repulsed and disgusted by crime and corruption.

And here’s some better news. Later in Hebrews God makes a wonderful promise to people who surrender their hearts to Him: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrew 10:16 – 17) So the same God who detests lawlessness can redeem us from it.

What’s our part? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)

If you’d like a brief Bible study on how to be saved, click this link.

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Save Thousands on New Wood Pulpits!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday,  January 6, 2012

Ever wonder what kind of e-mails pastors get? The above photo (a screen shot of an electronic ad which I received yesterday morning) is an example.

When I first set eyes on this, I thought of what every pastor worth his or her salt should remind church members of—every member is a minister. We are all pastors, preaching from thousands of pulpits. Anyone who claims to be a Christian is a disciple. Some may be mature disciples, others less mature. Some of us may be so immature that we give  dangerously warped messages about God. But there are no spectator Christians. We are in the arena. Every Christian carries around an invisible pulpt.

As I say, even though you and I might think we’re hunched over a computer keyboard in a cubicle, or sitting in a classroom taking notes, or mowing the lawn, we’re actually delivering sermons with topics like these: As a Christian I react patiently to an unreasonable supervisor. As a Christian I am kind to those who are my enemies. As a Christian I am serene when the economy is going south. And maybe most importantly: As a Christian, I refuse to be your “judge.” And on and on. You will “preach” sermons I may never preach from my real wooden pulpit.

And not only do we need to make sure our sermons are true, we need to do this humbly and not pompously. Out of curiosity, I actually clicked on the red “click here” in the e-mail ad above. I almost laughed out loud at what I discovered:

When I compare the very adequate but far more humble wooden pulpit I stand behind each week with the above monstrosities, my jaw can’t help but drop. I mean, these look like the sterns of 18th-century pirate ships! And speaking of piracy, the fact that the well-polished exhibits above are being offered at anywhere from $1000 to $2000 off makes me shudder to think of the remaining price!

Don’t get me wrong. God’s earthly sanctuary contained quality materials, most of them very expensive. God deserves only the best. But give me a break--it'a not like I’m delivering the State of the Union speech each Sabbath morning!

Jesus, of course, is the perfect example of a pastor. My Webster’s Third New International Dictionary  traces the word “pastor” back through Middle English to Anglo-French to Old French to Latin, where pastor means “shepherd.” (The words “pastor” and “pasture” come from the same place.) So in John 10:11 when Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd” in the Latin Bible—used by the Christian church for centuries—He says, “Ego sum pastor bonus.”

And even though one day He will sit on a throne of genuine gold, while He was on earth Jesus never demanded multi-thousand-dollar pulpits to preach behind. Instead, the Son of God stood on hillside grass, or sat in a smelly fishing boat, or reclined at a humble domestic supper-table.

Not too long ago in one of these Photo Parables I printed the lyrics of a gospel song which fits perfectly here:

Do you know, oh Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?
Do you know, oh Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?
Jesus calls upon you to spread the gospel news,
So walk it, and talk it, and give it, and live it,
A sermon in shoes!  
          --Old Gospel Song

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Sacred or Scared—or . . . ?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 5, 2012

In the religion section of a used bookstore the day after Christmas, I saw the above book titled Sacred. I don’t remember whether I even looked inside it.

But as I stood there staring at the title, my mind shifted a couple of the letters—which I later did literally using the Microsoft Paint program:

Do you know anyone who’s a bit scared of the sacred? Are you scared? Some Bible texts talk about the “fear of the Lord” as a good thing—that deep, reverential respect which causes us to recoil from doing what He has told us is bad for us. You’ll find most of the “fear of the Lord” texts in the Old Testament, when God attempted to forge Heaven’s culture from rebel former slaves with chillingly  short attention spans--something like the first steps in transforming a class of rowdy eighth-grade boys into scholars.

But in the New Testament, Jesus makes it clear that fear can progress toward confidence and the deepest kind of love.  He Himself was God in the flesh, yet He told His disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”  (John 15:15 NKJV)

Crude though I am when it comes to retouching photos—and this time you’ll probably be able to spot my cut-and-paste work—I revised the book title one more time. Take a look:

Because to me and to countless other Christians, this is what makes our Savior supremely worthy of our most sacred worship—that He was willing to bear the scars of sin for us, because He loves us so much.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
 We have turned, every one, to his own way;
 And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:5 – 6)

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Offerings, Offerings

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
©2012 by Darren Milam

Did you get it? You know, the thing you wanted for Christmas?  If you didn’t, you can still be thankful, correct?  Of course you can.  In fact, if you never receive another Christmas, birthday or anniversary gift again, you can be extremely thankful each and every day.
God has given us so much that we could never repay all that He has given us.  Of course He doesn’t need our offerings, but He wants us to want to give to Him. As we give back, sometimes in the form of money and sometimes in the form of our talents, God rejoices in our generous hearts.
In 2nd Corinthians 9:7 it says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
My hope is we all WANT to give back to Him.  This act shows our love for God and thankfulness for all He has done for us.


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Small Beginnings  
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
©2012 by Robert Howson

Like so many things in life, it was wrapped in a mixture of emotions--joy that they had returned from captivity to their homeland and had finally started reconstruction of God’s temple, disappointment that it still seemed so far off, so much smaller than the edifice Solomon had previously built.  It was at this point the prophet Zechariah stepped in with his words of encouragement:  “Do not despise this small beginning, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin…" (Zechariah 4:10  (Living Bible)
So many things start out small, not just building projects.  The majority of plants begin as seeds, a form that doesn’t resemble the finished product in the slightest.  Christ even used the mustard seed to illustrate the infinitely small amount of faith that would be needed to accomplish unbelievable miracles.  Such is the potency of faith and seeds. Seeds serve as an excellent example of this power for they are storehouses of nutrition.  Just think of the millions of people fed by cereal crops.  Seeds: rice, wheat, corn, and the list goes on, all seeds.  And their consumption isn’t limited to humans.  A large part of the natural world lives off of the energy they gain from eating seeds. 

And many of these seeds are not subtle about hiding their treasure. They are wrapped in a broad palate of colors and textures, seeming almost to advertise the riches they hold.  Some of this adornment aids in dispersal while others seem to have no reason for their beauty except beauty itself.  Next time you consider undertaking a new project, however large or small, remember Zerubbabel and his building project, but also remember those seeds all around you. 

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Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 2, 2012
©2012 by Cheryl Boardman

This past Christmas I was up visiting my folks in British Columbia.  The weather was much warmer than usual; the roads were bare and there was barely enough snow on their lawn to still retain the shapes of the snow angels someone had made. 

On Christmas day, we went on a short hike down by the creek that runs in the little valley beside their subdivision.  There was a bit more snow down there as the bottom of the valley is mostly in shade.  My dad and I like to take pictures of the different shapes and formations in the ice along the stream.  It was so warm, I wasn't even sure there would be any ice but, as you can see in the photo, it hadn't completely melted. 

Winter is not my favorite season but what gets me through it is knowing that Spring is coming.  Life is full of change and it helps knowing that God is with us whatever season we may be experiencing in our lives.  This reminds me of the old hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness (with lyrics by Obadiah Chisholm):

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

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

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

The Message puts it like this:

He launches his promises earthward—
      how swift and sure they come!
   He spreads snow like a white fleece,
      he scatters frost like ashes,
   He broadcasts hail like birdseed—
      who can survive his winter?
   Then he gives the command and it all melts;
      he breathes on winter—suddenly it's spring!
Psalms 147:15-18

He is faithful no matter what the season or what difficulties we encounter.

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What Direction?

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 1, 2012
©2012 by Bev Riter

While hiking in other countries, it's important to know names of destinations in the local language for the direction you are traveling. And, it's important to go in the right direction!  As you can see in my photo, we were not in an English-speaking area, but Slovenian. Unlike most hiking trails here, the average walking time is given on this “direction post” with the markers showing the destination and pointing in the correct direction. As some of you know, when reading road maps one has to sometimes look for the name of a larger town in the direction you are going, even though you might not be going that far. It's important to be going in the right direction.

Last night at the stroke of midnight, people all the world over welcomed in a new year. At this time of the year some people resolve to make changes in their lives by making resolutions to do--or not do--something, for a new direction in their lives. Others think of a new year as a new beginning and perhaps a better tomorrow, full of promise. Others think of a need to turn to God, for a better direction in their lives – for hope and peace and joy. What direction are you headed at the beginning of this year? A closer walk with God?

I thought the words of the song, My Prayer, fitting for us on this New Year's day. I don't know the author. “And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace by your faith in Him, until, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you overflow with hope.” Romans 15:13 NIV

My Prayer

Fill me with Your Spirit; help me to love others;
Let me know Your power; be an over comer.
Show me how to follow Jesus Christ, my Savior;
Be His faithful servant to obey Him always.

Lead me with Your presence; help me know the right way;
Teach me love and kindness, generous compassion.
Give me grace and courage to be Jesus’ witness,
Teaching His salvation to a world who needs Him.

Won’t you come and follow Jesus Christ, your Savior?
He died so you’d be free of control of your sin;
Free to follow His ways in complete surrender;
Living sacrifices – let His grace transform you.

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