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

Daily Photo Parable -  January 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.

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 31, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, while standing in line at a Bellevue bank’s ATM machine, I saw the above interesting juxtaposition. Three large structures stood before me.

To the left were the looming angles of the bank’s overhang. To the right, in the distance, a silvery skyscraper almost vanished in the sky its windows reflected.

In the center stood an almost perfectly symmetrical tree. Like the two buildings on either side, it too is reaching skyward, but unlike the buildings it needed no human scaffolding to arise. Maybe a bit of pruning on one side or the other, along with expert shaping of the youngest branches, and then the balanced growth became natural.

I’m glad that an enlightened city planning committee allowed the occasional tree to flourish in the glass-and-cement canyons. It’s the “green” and aesthetic thing to do, and for those of us who admire its Creator at least as much as we admire architects and building contractors, it’s a reminder of God’s ideal environment. Eden, as you remember, was awash with trees and plants.

Next time you see a tree, pause a moment and study it. Walk up and put your hand upon its bark. And thank the One who will one day arrive to pulverize the skyscrapers and do a whole lot of replanting.

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Details, Details, Details
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I don’t know about you but my daily job demands a great attention to details. If the wrong number is included on someone’s offer letter, that could be a very bad thing (for the candidate or the company). If I send the wrong person, confidential information…that could be bad (mostly for me). Lots and lots of detail, is needed for my daily duties.

My guess is most of you are in the same boat I am. It’s difficult to keep track of all those details, while you are multi-multi-tasking (yes, that’s double the amount of ‘normal’ multi-tasking). That said can we even comprehend the level of detail God has to pay attention to? I mean, the entire universe is under His control – not just a household, or a state, not just a single country. No, He’s in charge of the ENTIRE Universe – all populations, all plants, animals, humans, angels – all living objects. That’s a lot of detail. Does He forget something? Does He push one thing aside because the other issue or another task is more important? Does He value one life over another? No.

In Luke 12: 6 & 7 we read, ““What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” The hairs on my head? He worries about the hairs on my head? It’s literally unfathomable. Who am I to have the God of the Universe, be concerned about me – let alone the hairs on my head?

The image above reminds me of the level of detail that God shows to us, through nature. The veins of the leaf. The dew drops, hanging on to nurture the leaf. Amazing. Beautiful. Details.

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Road Signs
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Road signs have been known to be less than 100% clear to some of us. The scenic Oregon coast is not without exception, although in all fairness, it must be admitted that arrows omitted from the picture did clarify the situation. Still, it seemed like a threesome worthy of some notice.

A state park is something one would expect to find along this beautiful coastline, and for such insight which provided for these we are grateful. However, living in such beauty does not bring an end to death, so even in this idyllic setting, a cemetery is necessary.

What made the road sign worthy of notice was what was combined with the word graveyard. Since our nation has been encouraged to “Go Green”, the idea of a recycling center fits right in with the effort to maintain a park-like environment. But for a Christian, the closer tie-in with the cemetery is unavoidable. I hope it’s not irreverent to think of death in these terms; it certainly isn’t intended that way. For isn’t that how we look at the end of this life, as another step towards eternal life? That in no way lessens the sense of personal loss we feel when we lose someone we care about. Still, it’s nice to know how the story ends.

As Paul puts it: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51,52 NIV) He seems to want to make sure we get it; that things will not be like they are now with cemeteries right next to parks, and dumps adjacent to grave sites. Twice in these two verses he repeats “we will be changed”. And that’s the good news; Eden restored and death eternally wiped out. And the very best news? That God has us at the center of His divine recycling plan.

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Designer Tools
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 28, 2013

I took this picture of a badger at Northwest Trek in Eatonville, WA. I think the park has done a pretty good job of letting you see animals in a close to natural environment for the most part. It's a good place to get close up views of some of the local animals you may only get a glimpse of in the wild.

Look at the amazing claws on this badger. They are made for digging. Badgers are carnivores and will dig to catch their prey. It is said that they can dig faster than a human can shovel.

It's incredible how each different animal, reptile, bird and amphibian was created to fit into its own niche in the ecosystem.

All the earth should worship the LORD;
the whole world should fear him.
He spoke, and it happened.
He commanded, and it appeared.

Psalms 33:8-9 (NCV)

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The Hanging Church
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 27, 2013

This beautifully decorated Hanging (or Suspended) Church in Cairo, Egypt was named such because it was built on top of the Water Gate of the old Roman fortress of Babylon. The history of a church on this site dates to the 3rd century AD. According to tradition, the apostle and evangelist Mark brought Christianity to Egypt in the first century, a few years after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Soon after, a large number of native Egyptians (rather than Greeks or Jews) accepted the Christian faith.

Before Christianity became a state religion in the fourth century, Egyptian Christians experienced heavy persecution because they wouldn't offer sacrifices to the Roman gods. During the 4th to 6th centuries AD until the Muslim conquest, Christianity was the largest religious group in Egypt. Today, about 10% of Egyptians are Christians. This colorful mosaic of Joseph, Mary and baby (just below) Jesus is in the entry courtyard of the church.

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The Next Storm Surge?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 25, 2013

Well, I guess you could have guessed it.

I worried so little about the ending of the Mayan calendar in December that I don’t even remember now which day it was supposed to be – the 21st or 22nd or something like that. Anyway, as we all know, nothing happened, and all the sensationalist paperbacks have hopefully properly recycled into garden mulch or some such logically healthy substance.

But our good friends the sensationalist publishers had all their ducks in a row, because they have devised new ways to cause the jumpy to release a few greenbacks to bone up on the next crisis. Notice that the next heart-palpitator could start as early as 2013! That's NOW!

After I snapped the above photo, I actually opened this book and paged through a little bit of it. It’s based on astrology, and it asserts that when a certain conjunction of Pluto and Uranus happens (I think it’s when they are at right angles when compared to Earth), negative events are bound to follow.

What is so wearying about books like this – and this one is no different – is that the author provides long lists of doleful happenings that did indeed occur on the previous occasions when this right-angle arrangement happened. You and I both know, of course, that we could have a pet monkey pick five random dates out of a hat, and we could hunt through the history books, and sure enough, on each of those random dates a crisis would have occurred. Ain’t no shortage of world crises . . . .

What’s so sad is that the gullible will stare those frightening lists, take a couple of heart pills, and start their own websites, on which they begin assembling their own lists so they too can Warn The World.

And nobody – or rarely anybody – takes the trouble to settle down and study the prophetic pronouncements of the One who knows the end from the beginning.

If you and I are different, right? Of course we are. That’s why this weekend we should read Daniel chapter 2 and Matthew chapter 24. These are good prophetic starting points which will do much to muffle the latest prognostications of those who haven’t a clue but who don’t mind profiting off the fearful.

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The House of Might-have-been

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 26, 2013

About a week and a half ago, wiggling my way north through Renton, Washington traffic, I snapped the above poignant photo. The surprisingly unpretentious white-and-gray building with the light-green roof is the Virginia Mason Athletic Center (VMAC), the home of the Seattle Seahawks football team. The 19-acre facility has four full-size practice fields (three outdoors and one indoors under that roof).

If you are even vaguely a Seahawks fan, you remember what happened a few weeks back. Part way through the season, our young team – under the inspiration of its laser-focused young quarterback – had developed an astounding streak of games, in at least a couple of which they climbed back from numbing halftime deficits. Then came the playoffs. They won the first game.

In just a few seconds from the end of the second playoff game, they lost.

Though young, these players are pros. They’re making big bucks. Life will go on. There’s always next year, and they can build on this year’s momentum to go further. But loss is not fun, and it takes a while for the sour stomach to settle down. I would imagine the things were rather somber within the Seahawks’ “house of might-have-been” for a few days.

Every professional football game is recorded from several different angles. Following each game, players gather to “watch the films,” analyzing what worked and what didn’t. They also watch films from teams they’ll be playing in subsequent weeks, trying to spot tactics and weaknesses they can exploit.

God has provided lots of helpful “film” for us to study between battles with our Adversary. Many “teams” have fought him, some with triumph, some with mixed success, and some with staggering defeat. After “rolling some film” for the church at Corinth, Paul explains why it’s so important to review these Bible accounts:

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:11 – 13 NKJV)

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A Memoir by God?

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 24, 2013

Monday night Shelley and I stopped at a bookstore on our way home. On a clearance table I spotted this arresting book cover and its equally arresting title: The Last Testament: A Memoir by God.

After snapping the photo, I almost didn’t open the cover, but yielded to temptation. Flipping through the pages, I found the same kind of numbered chapters and verses you'd find in the King James Version, but the content was totally different. It was clear that its human author had decided to express his opinions on all kinds of popular culture in a humorous way, and put them in the mouth of God. This book’s tongue-in-cheek message seemed to be, “As God, I am extremely ticked off not only about the big issues but about Brittney Spears and Lindsey Lohan!”

I can’t say for sure what the real God’s expression is when He happens to think of this book and its cover. There’s a good possibility that He can take a little kidding. If we are created in His image, which of course we are, He has the best-developed sense of humor in the universe. Read the scathing irony in some of the Old Testament prophets’ messages, and you see that God can unleash satire if He thinks it will help jolt minds loose from the cement of their false ideas.

Personally, I’ve resolved that whenever I see a parody of God – either on the cover of a book or in a cartoon or wherever – I’m going to let it remind me to settle down with the book of Hosea or Philemon or Mark. Because there’s no better way to scrub away the spiritual smog-fog which the devil has breathed upon the windows of God’s soul.

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Keep It Simple

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In a quite unexpected turn of events, I spent this past four-day holiday languishing on a hospital bed! I am firmly on the mend, thanks to the Great Physician, who worked through a wonderful hospital staff and my loving and solicitous wife.

Within my restroom was the above example of what I consider to be a perfect message. I don’t know how many committees wrestled with this announcement. Maybe the original draft was a pompous, “In the event that you are not feeling well, and need to summon the nursing staff, please pull on this cord.” A bit more buffing may have produced, “Pull cord to summon nurse.” But “Nurse Call” is vastly better, because it can be understood in a single glance.

Jesus entered a religious milieu which had loaded a lot of needlessly complicated rules and regulations into the lives of the people of His time. Small wonder that He went immediately to work making things simple. In the Sermon on the Mount, for example, He insisted that a relationship with His Father is really as uncomplicated and as natural as that between a child and a parent. This angered those who considered themselves to be the creators and interpreters of all those rules, but Jesus didn’t care. He knew that – just as someone in a hospital restroom with a medical crisis needs simple and helpful directions – souls in the grip of discouragement neither happy relief of knowing that God is close and God is love.

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Up Close and Personal
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Perhaps no other statesman of the twentieth century was so endowed with the gift of eloquence as Winston Churchill. Two of his contemporaries, Franklin Roosevelt and Adolph Hitler, also were able to move masses with their words, but Churchill did so with a style that was unequaled. His gift was put to good use during the war years when he inspired the British people with his pointed, straight forward commentary. Never one to avoid confrontation, he always approached a topic directly and there was never a question as to where he stood on an issue.

Churchill was not a religious man in the traditional sense, but I’d like to use one of his comments to make a spiritual point. In his abrupt, succinct style he stated: “Nature will not be admired by proxy.” One cannot experience nature in the fullest sense from the couch. As inspiring as the pictures may be, as convenient as the view from the couch may be, it’s not the same as personally experiencing nature firsthand. The exact same thing can be said about religion. Second hand Christianity just doesn’t work. It must be personally experienced to be genuine.

Churchill and the other Brits would call them tits, but we here in America would refer to them as chickadees. There are 64 species in this family found around the world in boreal and temperate forests. And just like Churchill, they appear to be afraid of nothing. I’ve had them land in my hand to grab a select bite of food before flying to a higher limb to consume their find. We have four species of chickadee in our state including the Mountain Chickadee pictured above. It is separated from the others in its family by the white eye stripe or supercilium over the eye. As its name implies, it is usually found at higher elevations.

Fortunately, chickadees are of a friendly sort, and make it easy to put Churchill’s counsel into practice. And the same can be said for Christianity, for Christ wants to have that intimate experience with us. He wants to be known by us personally. And could we ask for anything more, an infinite God who wants to dwell within us? Even someone as salty as Churchill should have been impressed.

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Who Needs Wisdom and Instruction?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 21, 2013

I took this picture a few years ago on a trip over to Poulsbo, WA.  As you can see, the kayaking instructor is giving these new kayakers some pointers on how to make the best use of their newly rented kayaks.  Although I don't see any life jackets lying around, I hope they were also taught some basic safety rules such as the need for personal flotation devices.  

It always helps to learn from someone who is an expert at doing what we are trying to learn.  When someone is trying to learn a trade or a profession, they are generally paired up with someone who is knowledgeable and has experience in whatever area it is they are trying to learn about.  The expert can give them tips and warn them about potential problems and help them to avoid making mistakes.

Ignoring sound advice can be perilous.  We've all read the news stories about people who ski out of bounds and run into trouble; they are caught in an avalanche, they get lost in the back country or they fall off a cliff.   

Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7  Common English Bible (CEB)

Life's best instruction book is still the Bible. 

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A Place of Protection
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 20, 2013

Our guide led us down several steps and along a small alley to the St Sargus Church and Holy Crypt, one of the oldest churches in Cairo, Egypt, dating to the 4th century. It was supposedly built on the site where Mary, Joseph and Jesus stayed for several months at the end of their journey in Egypt. It is thought they lived in a cave or room under the current altar. 

Photos weren't allowed inside this church, but here is a photo that shows the stairs where it's thought the family stayed along with a sign in English! Because ground levels have risen, the church is now at basement level. This church is likely to be the oldest existing structure within the 3rd c AD Roman fortress of Babylon in Cairo.

Christians in Egypt place special significance in the fact that their country protected the life of Jesus as an infant from persecution by King Herod. Their historical records apparently show the family lived in Egypt for about four years. What is the significance to us of His life being saved as an infant?

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Invisible Connections

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 18, 2013

What you see in the photo above will be invisible in just a few weeks. Over the past couple of months we’ve been renovating our church sanctuary, and part of this has been the demolition of the platform area. The old audio wiring and connections are gone, and the above piping and boxes represent the well-thought-out plans of our audio-visual team. Each of these boxes, plus others out of range of the photo, will provide microphone and monitor speaker connections so that what is spoken or sung from the platform will be easily heard.

The new platform—which will be poured concrete—will cover the conduit piping and will rise to the very top edges of the boxes. And the audio-visual people have made sure that all the conduits and connections will be dependable.

The more I read my Bible—and the more I come to prayer meeting and listen to the many answered prayers I hear about—the more I realize that God has set in place dependable ways to stay in touch with Him.

One of these is gathering with fellow-Christians for prayer, as we do each Wednesday evening at 7:30. You’re invited! If you have questions about this prayer time, contact me at  This would be a wonderful way to make use of the invisible power God has waiting for you!

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He Knows My Name

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 17, 2013

With a last name (and, come to think of it, a first name) like mine, I have become good-humoredly resigned to its butchery. When people come unexpectedly upon my first name, you can see the wariness in their eyes. Most get it right the first time, correctly sensing that it is pronounced like “mailin’ a letter.” Others feel the need to put an exotic spin on it, and using a slight and unconsious foreign accent call me “My Lonn” or “Mylun.”

But my last name provides the sucker-punch that leaves the uninitiated gasping. A few seconds of shrewd analysis cause some to discern the word “church” in it, and if they know I’m a pastor, they say, “Hey, you’ve got an appropriate name.” And if these church-discerners are cornered into actually pronouncing Schurch, they’ll come out with “S’Church,” which sound like someone scooping snow off a driveway.

thers, familiar with German or people with German names, know that the “sch” sound is the same as “sh,” (like Schindler’s List) but they forget that the “ch” at the end is a “k” sound (like Shadrach or Rohrshach or Bach), and they’ll call me “Shurtch,” to rhyme with “perch” or “lurch.”

Only rarely do I find someone who nails it the first time (it sounds just like “shirk”), and when in amazement I ask these perceptive people how they knew what to say, they give me a startled look as if to say, “Hey, it’s a no-brainer.”

A couple of days ago my church secretary placed the envelope in the photo on my desk. “I think you’ll be amused by this,” she wrote. The envelope was addressed to "Unknown Shirk."

I am indeed amused, but maybe not in the way she suspected. Here’s an organization (whose name I have tactfully hidden) who has planned what seems to be a wonderful banquet. They have enclosed two tickets for that banquet in every envelope they sent out. Yet they evidently have no real clue who I am.

It sounds as though the compiler of these addresses must have heard someone correctly pronounce my last name, but not spell it. My first name remained a mystery, so “Unknown” was inserted to fill the slot. I don’t know whether anybody paused in concern to note that an invitation was seemingly being sent to an anonymous scoundrel who shirked his duties.

In several of His parables Jesus spoke of heavenly banquets, and since God knows the number of hairs on our heads, He and His Son know exactly who we are. His invitations to celebrate and feast with Him, conveyed by the Holy Spirit, are personal and individualized.

To learn more about God’s happy heavenly home, and how to get there, click the link immediately below.

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Do Over

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We live in the convergence zone. Many times, during the winter when just down the road it’s cold and raining, at our house – it’s snowing. This is exactly what happened last week. It snowed about 2 inches and then over the course of the next few days, some of the snow melted and then refroze with the frigid temperatures. With a combination of cold temperature and moisture in the air – I was delighted with some amazing ice crystals – delicate creations of God.

When I see ice and snow, blanketing the ground, grass and trees, I think of a fresh start. It’s clean, bright and beautiful. It reminds me of God’s willingness to give us “do over’s”. We mess up, realize it, go to Him in prayer and ask forgiveness. God hears us and grants us the opportunity to start fresh – do over. Of course, we never want to take this for granted but isn’t it amazing we have a God that quickly forgives and forgets? I know I am thankful. God – thanks for the “Do Over” – I needed that!

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It can be startling to take a close look  at ourselves. Most of us generally like what we see, a citizen without too many blemishes on our record that would make us unfit for the  society in which we live.

But perhaps that’s our problem. We tend to compare ourselves with our own social order, an order which we ourselves  tend to give less than passing grades. We cringe when we remember Scripture’s description of our good works as being comparable to filthy  rags, yet in our heart of hearts we know it’s true. (Isaiah 64:6) We are all complex creatures, all a mixture of both good and evil.

Perhaps we will be able to visualize this better by looking outside ourselves at  another creature, the Tilapia buttikoferi. Avowed aquarists will  recognize this as an African cichlid, native to Liberia and surrounding  areas. They are considered to be one of the most intelligent fish and  can recognize their owners. Larger aquariums are needed to house  them since they can grow to decent size. Mine is currently around thirteen inches, pan size if you are into eating your pets.This  quality makes them popular among aquaculturists, for they can provide  amazing amounts of protein in a relatively short time,  something especially needed in Third World nations.

This attractive fish  has been used by Phoenix to clean the canals that provide drinking water  to the city, as they consume large amounts of vegetation and detritus that  would otherwise clog the canals. This is cheaper and more beneficial than trying to accomplish this with chemicals. In Kenya they are used  to control mosquitoes that cause the spread of malaria.

However, these  positive characteristics do not make it the ideal fish for all homes.  It can be very aggressive and has been known to attack its owners,  bringing blood after a painful bite. This in turn makes it unsuitable as  a community fish in most cases, though there are exceptions. It has been banned from certain areas and is now illegal in both Texas and  Florida where it is considered an invasive pecies.

So how do we reconcile that people, like fish, area mixture of both positive and  negative qualities? Yet on judgment day there will be two  distinct groups, the righteous and the unrighteous, with none making up  a third faction of hybrids? The simplistic answer has to be that we’re  focusing on the wrong thing, our own track record. The only record that  counts is He who has the perfect record. To have Him is to have life.  All else is anecdotal.

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Amazing Creatures
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 14, 2013

I find dragonflies a fascinating part of God's great creation. They can fly up and down, sideways and hover and they also eat mosquitoes. What's not to like about these colorful creatures?

I spotted this eight-spotted skimmer this past summer while I was walking around Green Lake in Seattle.

There are over 5,000 species in the Odonata family which includes dragonflies and damselflies. You can look online and see all the different kinds just in North America and then check out the amazing variety right around the globe.

Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out. John 1:3-5 (The Message)

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Flight to Egypt
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 13, 2013

When the wise men left Jesus and his family in Bethlehem, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Rise up, take the child and his mother and escape with them to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the child to do away with him.” Mathew 2:13-14 NEB

So they got up during the night and went to Egypt where they stayed until Herod's death. Since Egypt was outside the domain of King Herod it would be a safe place to live. What happened to Jesus and His family during this time? Their flight through the sands of the Sinai Desert and down the Nile? Their footsteps in Egypt?

While in Egypt in November, I tried to gather as much information as available on this in the Coptic (Christian) churches and back streets of Cairo. While we can't confirm the accuracy, this chart of the “Holy Journey in Egypt” is shown at several Christian sites.

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You’ll Lift With Ease
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 12, 2013


In yesterday’s Daily Photo Parable, which you’ll see if you scroll down, I mentioned that this is New Year’s resolution time. And the above safety poster cartoon, which I spotted mid-December near the employee break room in a local store, almost perfectly expresses another healthy Christian resolution.


“You’ll lift with ease,” says the caption, “when you bend at the knees.” Shelley and I have the privilege of attending a weekly Wednesday night prayer meeting to which people come with well-worn prayer notebooks. We all first mention thank-you’s and answered prayers. Then we turn to matters we’re concerned about, and we pray for these.


Once in awhile in that quiet sanctuary (like this past Wednesday evening) we hear about jaw-dropping prayer answers which are immediate and tangible New Testament miracles. Most often answers don’t come that quickly, but we keep praying. Because we believe that (as the poster says) burdens become more manageable when we first bend our knees.


Want a detailed Bible tutorial on what prayer is? Click the link immediately below.

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Are You Ready?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 11, 2013

A few days ago, Shelley and I walked by a community bulletin board in a grocery store near our church. Our attention was immediately caught by this poster – not because of its topic, but because so many of its little tear-off tabs had been removed.

Once I saw this evidence of deep popular interest, I had to find out what it was advertising. A wavy line of print at the top says, “Are You Ready?”, and the line just below reads, “Welcome to piano lessons for all ages.” The next line promises a teacher with “many years of experience, and then comes the contact information (which I have blotted out for privacy’s sake), which is repeated on the little tear-off tabs.

After all, it’s the time of new year’s resolutions. It would be interesting to know the percentage of tabs torn off by mothers wanting to enroll their children, versus adults hoping to brush up their skills.

One thing I’ve learned from a lifetime of Christianity is that God created us not to be spectators but actors, in the sense that we are happiest when involved in service to Him.

Earlier this week I attended a pastoral seminar where I sat in a room with nearly 80 men and women in my profession. Many of them, I know, were deeply-committed lay people before entering the pastoral ministry. And, like me, they were filled with delight when their churches’ lay members found niches of service which matched their spiritual gifts.

As for me, I’m going to allow the enterprising piano teacher’s opening challenge to speak to me: “Are You Ready?” Am I ready for the opportunities God has for me in 2013?

Serving the Lord most often involves sacrifice. But don’t let that scare you—so does service in almost every other line of work. To take a current example, the Seattle Seahawks’ rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has not only discipline but an impressive work ethic. This is paying off in his last several games, and it’s inspiring his teammates to give their best as well.

“Are You Ready” to read what the Bible says about personal sacrifice? Click the link immediately below.

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My New Year’s Resolution Is . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy New Year!

Above, you see the current readerboard message on our church sign.

May your heart be warmed by your Creator’s heart this year.

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Drop By Sometime
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sorry about the pun -- this shot is from the Bellevue Botanical Gardens. I love the close-up of this leaf, with the dew drop hanging on for dear life. God's creations always fascinate me. They can be an amazing Cheetah, the migrating Hump-back whale, or a drop of dew on a dangling leaf. God is creative.

God created us in his likeness and wants us to come to Him. We can come to Him in prayer, scripture, song or some other form of worship. Regardless the form, He wants us to drop in on Him. The closer we are with Him and the more frequently we visit, the better the relationship - for both of us.

David, in Psalms had the right idea when he asked God to not be silent with him. David wanted to hear from God. He wanted to hear the voice and hear what God had to say. David chose to drop by on a frequent basis and converse with God --

To You I will cry, O LORD my Rock:
Do not be silent to me,
Lest, if You are silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my supplications
When I cry to You,
When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.
Psalms 28:1,2

As we still consider resolutions, let's focus on a resolution that will make a difference to our spiritual life.

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Barred Owl
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nature photographers love owls. They are, after all, rather photogenic and don’t jump around a lot once you have located one. They seem to have little fear of man and will frequently remain perched as you set up your equipment for that once-in-a-lifetime photo. 

However, such subjects do present their own set of challenges. Frequently they are hidden, with branches or other debris obscuring a clear view. They do so to hide from pestering crows and jays which love to torment an owl trying to catch forty winks. But that too presents a challenge. Should you come upon one basking in the sunlight which provides a great exposure, it’s likely that you’ll find said owl with its eyes closed, providing a less than ideal portrait opportunity. 

A generation ago, Barred Owls were relatively uncommon in the West, unlike the eastern part of the country where they could be easily found. But in recent years their range has expanded westward and now they are relatively easy to find. Some believe this expansion presents a threat to the closely related Spotted Owl which is more of a specialist and requires a more specific habitat. As Barred Owls move into their already limited area, the Spotted Owls run the danger of being pushed out, eliminated from that biome. 

Still, it’s hard not to like such a fluffy creature, especially when they can appear so friendly. But isn’t that the way itoften is in our own lives? It’s easier to turn on the TV and relax rather than opening the Word and reading those sometimes difficult passages. Getting to school or work has a way of crowding out time for much more than a cursory prayer as you run out the door. And even the good has a way of becoming the enemy of the best when our values become distorted. 

Christ spoke about this in His familiar parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. His disciples, slow to understand, had to wait for His explanation. He does so later in the chapter and offers this clarification: “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.” (Matthew 13:22 New LivingTranslation) I’m not sure we can do much about the expansion of the Barred Owl’s range, but we can do something about what’s highest on our list of priorities. 

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Winter Snow
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter is not my favorite season; that would be spring with its promise of new beginnings. I like the way Psalm 147 describes how, when we think we are not going to make it through the winter, there is a change in the weather and the snow melts. I think that this can apply literally and also metaphorically to describe how things can take a swift turn for the better.

It’s a good thing to sing praise to our God;
praise is beautiful, praise is fitting. . .
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!

Psalm 147:1 and 15-18 (The Message)

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The Important Donkey
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 6, 2013

I took today's photo on a recent trip on the Nile River between Luxor and Aswan. As our boat slowly moved south, we watched the many activities along the river with its lush vegetation: people and animals bathing, people washing clothes, gathering water, fishing, mending fishing nets, working in fields, herding animals, burning rubbish and traveling just to mention a few. As you can see, my photo shows men by their small boats and a person on a donkey while cows and other donkeys look on. I was amazed to see so many donkeys (as well as horses and camels) providing transportation in cities (even Cairo) and villages as well as in the countryside.

During Bible times a donkey was a real necessity as they were strong enough to carry travelers and transport heavy loads and cheaper to feed than horses. Donkey caravans were the trains and trucks of ancient times, being used by both the rich and poor. The Bible tells us that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a young donkey. (Mathew 21:4-5) Before the birth of Jesus, Joseph along with pregnant Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, approximately 70 miles. The Bible doesn't say if they walked or rode a donkey. In our Christmas pageants, we often show Mary riding a donkey. None-the-less, donkeys were important to families in biblical times. Let us think about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf. Now that's really important!

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Super Mini

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 5, 2013

At one point during the last couple of days of December, Shelley and I popped into a drugstore to pick up some necessaries. While we were at the cash register, I spotted this sign on a bin of small collapsible umbrellas.

I have a deep affection for advertising, and am very interested in the methods they use to try to fulfill customers’ wishes. But I’ll confess I was puzzled by this seemingly contradictory sign. “Super” signals large, oversize, giant, getting-your-money’s-worth. “Mini” sends the opposite message – compact, pocket-size.

I have a feeling that maybe the ad writer started with the word “mini” – which is what these little umbrellas truly are – and then hunted around in the “How to Write Ad Copy” manual for surefire customer-attractive words, and there was “super.”

Though, as I say, I’m fascinated with advertising, I can also become quite fed up with the hype. Most often, the products that promise me health, wealth and happiness don’t deliver. “Super” promises often deliver “mini” results.

We need to be careful that we don’t allow our “hype cynicism” to carry over into our reading of the Bible. God’s promises of a glorious future eternity seem too good to be true, especially if we realize how sinful we are.

But that’s where faith comes in. Faith is believing what can’t possibly be true from a human standpoint. But faith isn’t a foolish leap into the dark –it is trusting what is utterly and faithfully promised by God.

How is your faith level as we swing around into 2013? For five crucial Bible verses on this subject, click the link immediately below:

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Safety Rules

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 4, 2013

Not too long ago I walked past a major construction site and noticed this large sign with the title “Ten Commandments of Safety,” and including common-sense injunctions such as “1. Obey all safety rules, signs and warnings” and “2. Wear approved hardhat and sturdy work boots at all times.”

Sadly, somebody with a spray can—and maybe yet another person with a marker—have defaced these commandments. The word “Sissies” looks like the work of a marker-bearer, while the indecipherable larger scrawl is definitely from a spray can.

This reminds me of what the devil has repeatedly done to God’s Ten Commandments. Like these construction-site rules (designed to make as sure as possible that each worker will return home each evening to the wife and kids), God’s commandments are barriers which protect us from horrible evil which can result in eternal death.

Do you regard the Ten with a wary eye, imagining them to be old-fashioned relics of legalism? If so, you’re looking at them through demonic graffiti scrawls which need to be removed. For a fresh—and refreshing—look at God’s laws of love, click the link immediately below. 

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With Uneven Floors
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 3, 2013

This past Monday, while emerging from a store in an elderly building, I spotted this sign (which I should have noticed on the way in!). If for some reason the resolution on your device doesn’t make these words clear, the sign says “Caution! Watch your step! You are entering an old building with uneven floors. Watch your step!”

Couldn’t this be a parable of our creaky, stained old planet? Shouldn’t this be a warning sign placed inside the end of every newborn’s crib?

And it’s probably a good reminder to any of the rest of us who, launching forth into a new year with resolutions still resolute, that we are not in the perfect setting for which we were originally design. And if we move too recklessly ahead, without carefully and regularly consulting the Map and the Mapmaker, we might very well stumble.

Do you have some plan in place to read real Bible print each day? A couple of different plans can be seen on this website at the following link:

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Well, That's It

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 2, 2013

If you remember a few days back, way back to the 21st of December in 2012, you'll remember there was a lot of talk about the Mayan calendar and the fact that (in some peoples' minds) it was the end of time -- the calendar didn't reflect past this day.

The picture above is of our microwave. Oddly enough I was heating something up, on December 22, 2012 and thought how ironic it was. Not only was I still alive but I was looking at the word - "End." It got me thinking -- how horrible it must be to think, when the final days of this sinful earth do happen, "that's it!" Nothing else. No happy reunions. No peaceful living. No eternity. So many people in this world view their lives as finite - born, grow-up, work, retire, die. Of course I am simplifying the process but you get the point but they don't. They don't have the hope of eternal life with their creator. Just -- End.

We need to help others stop worrying about the end of their sinful lives and start focusing on the beginning of their new ones -- John 3:16 & 17, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."

God bless you in this New Year!

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Prized Possessions

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The other day I decided it was time to clean house. Not the kind of cleaning that involves a broom and a mop, but the kind that entails throwing away things that you haven’t used within recent memory. It’s not that the selected objects no longer worked or were defective. No, they worked just fine. It’s just that they had become obsolete, replaced by their more up-to-date alternatives.

If you’re old enough to recognize the two silver balls in the foreground, you’ll know what I mean. As a kidvisiting the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, I found myself intrigued by IBM’s introduction of these balls used by their Selectric typewriter. They fascinated me even more than the futuristic car displayed by General Motors, probably because I recognized the car would never enter into production, but that whirling ball could actually be acquired and used by someone like me.

We tell ourselves how much more productive we would become if we were just able to acquire the latest, when in reality we frequently just like to feed our thirst for owning the product that is currently in vogue. However, there is a degree of truth about increased performance. As I sat down at the typewriter, I couldn’t believe how awkward and slow it felt, that prized possession that was once the flagship of the written word. And physical objects do have a way of losing their luster. Even my imaginary new Porsche in the garage will start to gather not-so-imaginary dings in the car door with the passage of time.

Psalm 119 tries to put things in their proper perspective, stressing the durability and trustworthiness of God’s Word in contrast with that which seems to occupy most of our attention. Verses 36 and 37 put it this way: “Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way.” (The Message) Something tells me it may be nearly impossible for the young to really incorporate this moralism, our youthful perceived self-worth is so intrinsically tied up with things we own. But let a few years pass, and its truth will become self-evident. A few house cleanings should do it.


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