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

Daily Photo Parable -  July 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.

Cardinal Meadowhawk
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Luke contains three references that find their counterpart in one of the common dragonflies of the West Coast, the Cardinal Meadowhawk.  These parallels are found in Christ’s parables, the first of these in verse 39:  “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?”  In this brief statement Christ reinforces something that is already apparent to His listeners, in order to effectively guide others, you yourself must have a clear vision of the right path.  Not too many verses earlier, Christ reprimanded the teachers of the law for their unwillingness to see what was right in front of them.  For the Cardinal Meadowhawk, as with other dragonflies, this is one area in which they excel.  Since they are all carnivorous predators, vision is extremely important, not only for finding food, but to avoid become food themselves.  Each of its compound eyes is made up of thousands of individual eyes, some twenty to thirty thousand per head.  This gives them the finest vision of any insect. 
Throughout the chapter Christ encourages His followers to put action into practice.  In today’s terminology, He would say, “Be proactive, not reactive.”  Action is an important part of this dragonflies’ life.  It may not appear so at first glance for it spends a good part of each day resting on perches, but should it spot other flying insects which are good for food, it can shoot forward at speeds approaching 30mph, then turn on a dime, all made possible since it can move all four wings independently.
This bright red species belongs to the genus Sympetrum, which literally means “with rock”, a reference to its habit of sunning on rocks to absorb heat in the early part of the day.  Christ’s use of rock in this chapter takes on a different function; that of providing a trustworthy anchor upon which one can securely build a house or a character.  When Christ used parables, He did so to make it easier for us to understand the spiritual truths He wished us to apply to our own lives.  Maybe the Cardinal Meadowhawk is an additional one of His parables, just of another kind.   

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The Fruit of the Spirit
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 30, 2012

I was driving by the Volunteer Park Seventh-day Adventist Church in Seattle a few years ago when I saw this sign.  I thought it was a very good prescription!

When we become Christians, it doesn't mean that we'll never sin again. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:23-24 (NIV)

There is a change that takes place, however:

But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong.  Galations 5:22-23 (NCV)

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Hot Springs at Pamukkale
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 29, 2012

Famed for its intricate series of calcite shelves, Pamukkale is one of the most unusual sites in all of Turkey. From a distance, this area looks like a snowy mountain. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, efforts are being made to preserve these glistening white terraces and bluffs. Today, some of the areas are off-limits to bathers and one needs to take shoes off when walking on the travertines. Park officials see that all the rules are enforced! It took us almost an hour to walk up through the hot springs flowing over the rough calcite shelves to the ruins of Hieropolis at the top of the hill. As the sun set, the calcite shelves glowed.

Hieropolis, with its large Jewish community and early Christian congregation, was a cure center that prospered under the Romans. It is believed that Philip the Apostle was martyred here. Hieropolis is mentioned only once in the Bible, when Paul praises Epaphras (possibly the founder of the Christian community there), a Christian from Colossae, in his letter to the Colossians. He writes that Epaphras has worked hard for you and for those in...Hieropolis. Colossians 4:12-13. What nearby town was also mentioned in this text? Check in next week to find out about it.

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Your Arrest Record
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 28, 2012

If you pay any attention at all to your spam or junk mail file (and it’s probably a good idea to do so), you quickly realize that there is a strange and unearthly group of people selling products which range from the embarrassing to the zany to the “Who do these people think I am, anyway?” Recently, for some reason, I have been getting multiple suggestions that I enroll in classes to become a certified counselor or even an elementary classroom teacher.

I never click on any of these spam e-mails, unless I discover an e-mail from someone I know, who has written a subject line which I know has been personalized to me. In that case I’ll click the “Not Spam” button, restoring my friend's e-mail to its proper place.

I was doing my spam-checking routine this past Tuesday when I saw what you see on the above screen “FW: your arrest record.” As it happens, I do not have an arrest record, so my heart rate did not increase. But I wonder how many people with a more varied past viewed that e-mail with alarm. What do they know about me? Which legal entity am I in trouble with now?

The happy news—the “good news” which sets Christianity apart from any other well-meaning world philosophy—is that even though we are all sinners with a horrifyingly long “rap sheet," because of what Jesus did on the cross this arrest record can be totally wiped out, if we will accept it, and continually seek Him for forgiveness when we need it. This means that ever afterward, when Satan or one of his human agents sends you an e-mail about your arrest record, you can simply delete it.

Have you accepted Jesus’ decision to take your penalties on Him? Click the link below to find out more:

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Remarkable Powers of Endurance . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 27, 2012

 Not long ago in a used-book store I picked up a copy of Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes (Little, Brown and Co., 2000). It's a perfect book to read in little bits and pieces, and I've been reading it through page by page.

I had almost worked my way through the famous people whose last names begin with "F," when I came upon this delightful entry for Francisco Franco, Spanish general and dictator. The story is cute, as you've seen if you just read it, but what's really hilarious is when you read the story's first sentence again, and then look at the dates of Franco’s birth and death. Sure enough, this dictator did persist in "surviving" a long time – 146 years! “Remarkable powers of endurance" indeed!

When I first made this connection, I'll confess that for a second or two, I asked myself, "Is that possible? Somebody living 146 years?" And then, of course, I realize that it was a typo--somebody had switched the last two numbers. Wikipedia assures me that Franco was born in 1892, not 1829.

But what caused me to initially pause was the great credibility of the name Bartlett's, and the publishing company of Little, Brown. I own several editions of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and have always trusted those editions' contents implicitly.

This is a lesson to me, and to you, that sometimes we can't trust authority-sources we thought we could. Who can you believe? Who can you trust – especially when it comes to spiritual matters?

One of the things which quite frankly worries me about Christianity these days is the idea that, rather than spending a lot of time with their eyes focused on real Bible print, a lot of people seem to be reading devotional books by this or that well-known Christian author.

I'm certain that the majority of these authors do the very best they can to interpret the Bible for their readers, but I firmly believe that you and I need to become at least as deeply acquainted with our Bibles as perhaps those contemporary authors are.

Because, godly as these people may be, everybody has blind spots. Everybody comes to the Bible wearing a little backpack filled with his or her own religious presuppositions, presuppositions which have been stuffed lovingly into those backpacks by trusted Bible teachers or pastors. Most of those preconceived ideas are no doubt true, but those that aren't often give a distorted picture of God, a picture that does not appear within the 750,000 words of His Book.

Do you have some plan of daily Bible reading? You're going to need it, especially as the end-times open up before us.

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Protector or Oppressor?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 26, 2012

Not long ago I snapped this photo in a mall atrium. It shows a young woman, presumably on her first sky-dive, because a more experienced skydiver has strapped himself securely to her. Except that a clever Photoshopper has overlaid Alexander Hamilton’s ten-dollar-bill portrait.

Nearby was another large poster, only this time a laughing bride, dressed in white, was racing toward the camera, at her side her equally jubilant groom – except that groom's head had been replaced by the five-dollar-bill version of Abraham Lincoln’s.

If I remember right, the sponsor of this advertising poster was a bank or credit union, and their message was clear: if you have enough money, you can face life's most important (and even dangerous) moments with less uncertainty.

But as I looked at the above ad, I said to myself, "Wait. Is money really a security, or can it be a burden pressing down on us?" In other words, is Alexander Hamilton’s parachute always going to open, or isn’t it?

The answer, of course, is maybe yes or maybe no, depending on what role money plays in your life. The Bible makes it very clear that if your goal is to acquire as much of it is possible, you could be in grave spiritual danger. On the other hand, if you regard it as a tool to improve the lives of others, God might come to the conclusion that He can trust you with more and more.

Next time you see a cement truck driving down the street, take a glance at its mudflap. If it says “McNeilus,” as most often it will, you’re looking at the surname of a Seventh-day Adventist Christian gentleman who used the good deal of the profit from his truck-making company to do tangible good, building churches and spreading the gospel in many countries of the world.

The best way to sort out our relationship to our riches is to take a brief Bible tutorial, which you will find when you click the link below:

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Wonders of the World
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Maybe it’s not one of the 7 wonders of the world, but this is a real, live, albino alligator.  I got this shot while visiting a friend in Charleston, N.C. at the local aquarium.  Since this is the one and only albino alligator I have ever seen, when my friend was talking about it, prior to us getting to the aquarium, I kind of thought he was joking.  When we wandered up the second floor, there it was in all its whiteness.  Crazy.
God is creative. Very creative.  He loves colors, non-colors, very large things, tiny things, all of it.  He had fun in the creation process and it shows. 
God’s creativity is just one more example of His loving relationship He wants to have with us.  All we need to do is connect with Him.  Here’s the easy part - we don’t need to email, we don’t text, we don’t have to make an appointment, all we have to do is lift our voice up and He’s listening.  Doesn’t matter if we are old, young, black, white, or even albino…..we were all created equally by the hands of God.

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Four New Food Groups
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It’s good to know the government is watching out for us.  The proof of that?  Well, just recently they re-released another edition of the basic food groups to help us live healthier lives.  From all appearances it seems as though they are on the right track, with a greater emphasis upon natural foods such as fruits, grains, and nuts.  So we might ask, have the eating habits of Americans changed for the better? 

Rather than trying to answer that question, let me comment on a recent jaunt we undertook.  Having accomplished our goal, we decided to stop in at a local fast-food joint for a vegeburger.  We pulled up to the candy-striped entrance and were confronted with the sign shown above.  It appears they had developed their own basic food groups rather than being forced into conformity by the government’s new guidelines.

Of course I can’t know what the motive was behind the sign, but my guess would be they knew better, and simply erected their own sign as a way of saying, “You can’t tell me what to do”. James writes about people that may have had that kind of mindset.  “But don’t deceive yourselves into thinking that all you have to do is to listen to God’s word. You have to put it into practice.”  (James 1:22 Clear Word Bible)    As a postscript, we did have the vegeburger and it was good. But you’ll notice I elected to remove the phone number from the picture, just in case you were tempted to phone in an order something else.

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The Revelations of God
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 23, 2012

I saw this sunset a couple of years ago from the west side of Orcas Island.  It was one of those times where nothing was on the agenda and I was able to enjoy the moment. 

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the minutia of our lives that we don't take the time to look around us to see what's there and to determine what it tells us about our Creator.

  God's glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
   Madame Day holds classes every morning,
      Professor Night lectures each evening.

  Their words aren't heard,
      their voices aren't recorded,
   But their silence fills the earth:
      unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

  God makes a huge dome
      for the sun—a superdome!
   The morning sun's a new husband
      leaping from his honeymoon bed,
   The daybreaking sun an athlete
      racing to the tape.

  That's how God's Word vaults across the skies
      from sunrise to sunset,
   Melting ice, scorching deserts,
      warming hearts to faith.

  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.
Psalms 19:1-9 (Message)

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An Early Christian Church
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 22, 2012

Peter's Church is a natural cave on the slope of Mt. Staurin in Antioch, present-day Turkey. Christian tradition regards it as one of the earliest places where the first Christians met and prayed secretly. A tunnel is said to have served as an escape route to go further in the mountain. Even though this church was in a cave, one can still see that the floor was decorated with mosaics and frescoes on the wall. It is said that this cave was the property of Luke, the Evangelist, who was born in Antioch, and that he donated it to this early Christian congregation.

Since both Peter and Paul lived in Antioch for a few years, they almost certainly preached here. Acts 11:22-26 NEB reads, “The news reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem; and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the divine grace at work, he rejoiced, and encouraged them all to hold fast to the Lord with resolute hearts; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers were won over to the Lord. He then went off to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year the two of them lived in fellowship with the congregation there, and gave instruction to large numbers. It was in Antioch that the disciples first got the name of Christians.”

Later, (Galatians 2:11-21) Paul says that he met Peter in Antioch and discussed with him the matter of sharing meals between the Jewish and gentile Christians. “But we know that no man is ever justified by doing what the law demands, but only through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 2:15

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Ah, Sun and Cell . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 21, 2012

Above you see what’s currently on our church readerboard, on view to thousands who pass it each day.

If you’d like to hear my sermon about Dr. Antony Flew, a world-renowned atheist who came to believe in God late in life, click this link:

And if you’d like to read some Bible facts about creation and its Creator, click the link below.

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Big Job
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 20, 2012

Last week I paid a visit to my dentist, whose office is in the lot next to a gas station’s car wash. Because of the direction I needed to go as I departed, I had to drive past the car wash, and I noticed this delightful scene. This gentleman has decided that his large RV trailer needs scrubbing down, so he’s taken it to an ordinary car wash! You will notice that its top barely fits under the ceiling.

I didn't stay around to watch the whole process, but I'm assuming that, once he finished the front to his satisfaction, he drove the entire unit through, a little at a time. This no doubt meant a lot of crawling underneath with the spray hose . . . Come to think of it, how would he get the spray hose from one side to the other when the trailer was halfway through? Now I probably won't get to sleep tonight, trying to figure that out.

Have you ever wondered whether your personal soul requires a cleaning job that’s too much for Heaven to want to take on? Has your heart become badly smeared and caked and crusted with decades of sin?

Have no fear. Heaven has provided itself not with car washes but heavy-duty  dump-truck-washes, semi-trailer washes, road-grader washes. In other words, no matter what you have done, no matter how large your crime, bring your sin into the presence of God, confess it, repent of it, and He will take it away. And, if you're willing, He will fulfill within you one of the Bible's most breathtaking promises:

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. . . . Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.  Hebrews 10:16-17 NKJV

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How to Sharpen Pencils
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Earlier this month the above book cover evoked a chuckle from yours truly. If you can't make out all the words, here they are:

How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening. For writers, artists, contractors, flange turners, anglesmiths and civil servants. With illustrations showing current practice.”

And if you hunt the book up online, here's some additional promotion: “Have you got the right kind of point on your pencil? Do you know how to achieve the perfect point for the kind of work you need out of that pencil? Deep in New York’s Hudson River Valley, craftsman David Rees—the world’s number one #2 pencil sharpener—still practices the age-old art of manual pencil sharpening. In 2010, he began offering his artisanal service to the world, to the jubilation of artists, writers, draftsmen, and standardized test takers. . . . and includes chapters on equipment, current practice, and modern technologies. It also points at essential new trends in sharpening, including ‘Celebrity Impression Pencil Sharpening (CIPS),’ a warning about the ‘Psychological Risks Associated with Pencil Sharpening’ . . . .”

My favorite line, by the way, is “the world’s number one #2 pencil sharpener.”

Since a whiff of the Great Depression hung over my childhood, because of parents who were children when the Depression was at its worst, I forbore to actually disgorge cash for the above volume, and contented myself with snapping its picture. Someone once said that the essence of humor is to speak of great things as though they were trifles, and of trifles as though they were great things. This book fulfills the latter criteria.

Salvation, of course, is a subject which must neither be trivialized nor weighted down with needless baggage. The whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments, blossoms from its most beloved (and simplest, and most complex) verse:

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. John 3:16, NKJV

Want to learn more, or review what you already may know? Click the link below:

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Drops of Dew, For You and You and You

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Just as we see the thoughtfulness of God’s handiwork in this image – a blade of grass, with the dew on it, feeding it the moisture it needs for the long hot day ahead, we know He thinks of everything.  God is with us, in the little things we face, as well as the huge decisions or challenges we face.  He is there for us, even when we feel so alone, He is there.
In Job we can read the reminder of how mindful God is (Job 36:26-32):
“Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him;
Nor can the number of His years be discovered.
For He draws up drops of water,
Which distill as rain from the mist,
Which the clouds drop down
And pour abundantly on man.
Indeed, can anyone understand the spreading of clouds,
The thunder from His canopy?
Look, He scatters His light upon it,
And covers the depths of the sea.
For by these He judges the peoples;
He gives food in abundance.
He covers His hands with lightning,
And commands it to strike.”

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Long-legged Waders 
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

For most of us, we generally see them in their winter habitat, using their long legs and long bills to wade in the waters while probing for food between the tides.  Their foraging techniques vary slightly to accommodate their difference in bill type. But their overall pattern of feeding isn’t all that different.  The Long-billed Curlew with its rapier-like beak would probably draw the most attention, but the Willet with its contrasting black and white wing pattern has its fans too.  Both leave the land of abundance and fly to the high desert plains to nest and raise their young.  For those of us accustomed to seeing them along the coast, they seem almost out of place with their long legs, wandering through the tall grasses or perched on sagebrush. 
Exodus 3 and 4 contains God’s call to Moses to deliver the Children of Israel from bondage.  It also contains the list of reasons offered by Moses why he shouldn’t be the one to do so. One of his best was, “I’ve never been good at speaking”.  God’s response, “Who gave you this mouth; I’ll help you speak and even tell you what to say.”  How can you say no to an answer like that?  It’s almost like God telling our two wader friends to migrate and you can almost imagine them responding, “To where?  You’ve got to be kidding!  These legs are made for water, not some cactus farm.”  Maybe we’re pushing it here, but then again, they must have listened.  The proof?  There are still plenty of Long-billed Curlews  and Willets, at both the beach and those inland summering grounds. 

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Hidden Treasure
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 16, 2012

I was up in the Snoqualmie Pass area recently hoping to see some tiger lilies.  It was just a little too early and all I found were some buds but I did come across this curiosity. 

This flower is wild ginger (asarum caudatum) and is a member of the birthwort family.  You can't actually go walking through the woods looking for the flower; you need to be looking for the leaves.  They are big leaves and you have to brush them aside to find the flowers which are at ground level.

There is another way to find hidden treasure:  
    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.
Psalm 19:10-14 (Message)

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John in Ephesus
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 15, 2012

Christian tradition associates John, the Apostle, with Ephesus. It is thought that John assumed the leadership of the Christian churches in Asia Minor after the death of Paul. Tradition says he came to Ephesus twice, once between AD 37 and AD 48 with Mary, the mother of Jesus. In John 19:26-27, we read that while Jesus was on the cross, He said to his mother, “'Mother, there is your son', and to the disciple, 'There is your mother'; and from that moment the disciple took her into his home.” Thus, it is likely that Mary went to Ephesus with John.

It is thought that John was in Ephesus a second time, in AD 95, toward the end of his life. He came here after being exiled on the island of Patmos and wrote his gospel and letters in Ephesus. It is said that he was buried there on the hill where he lived. In the 4th century a church was built over his grave. Later, in the 6th century, a magnificent, domed church was erected, the Basilica of St John, which is shown in my photo.

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A Judge Named “Judge”
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 14, 2012

On the same "waiting for my new tires" stroll I described in yesterday's photo parable, I spotted this surprising campaign sign. I don't know who this woman is, but sure enough, when I Googled her I discovered that she is indeed currently doing what her last name describes, and wishes to continue doing it.

Wouldn't it be great if everyone who claims the name of Christian would behave – in every circumstance, at home and at work and at play – the way a Christian should? "Christian," of course, indicates that one is a follower of Jesus Christ. And if we "follow" Him, that means that (1) we remain close to Him and go where He would go, and (2) constantly review His teachings so that we can be His representatives when others can't yet see Him as clearly as we.

A good place to start this review of the teachings of Christianity's Founder is Matthew chapters 5 – 7, which you can read by clicking the link below:;&version=NKJV

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Country Church
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 13, 2012

This past Wednesday while my car was getting some balding tires replaced at a Bothell shop I have patronized for many years, I took a little stroll.

Shelley and I used to live in Bothell, and had often driven by this little North Creek Country Church, near the old location of the Washington Seventh-day Adventist headquarters. It seemed such a cozy little building, and though we never actually drove into its parking lot to get a closer look and try to figure out its denomination, we always pictured it as containing a small and probably fairly happy group of people, whose pride in their building was reflected in how well they took care of it.

During my stroll, therefore, I decided to take a closer look. I noticed a large white sign posted beside the little entrance-porch. Reading it, I discovered that this little building is a far more welcoming place than I thought. Take a look.

Evidently this little church has become something like a Grange Hall or a religious community center. If your computer monitor's resolution doesn't let you make out all the printing, the sign says that not only is there indeed a "North Creek Country Church" congregation which meets Sunday mornings, but that this building is also home to a Korean congregation and two Spanish-speaking ones, as well as something called Northern Lights International Ministry, and even an AA group which meets every night, and Saturday mornings as well.

I think this is a wonderful illustration of how people are reaching out for Someone beyond themselves, Someone they sense can meet their needs and heal them. Won't it be wonderful to someday meet the world's honest-hearted seekers in the New Earth, and hear their stories?

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Happy Feet
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'll confess that last week, as I rounded a corner while visiting the new Walmart close to our church, I was not prepared for this sudden squad of grinning children's boots. Once my ganglia had stopped vibrating, I reached for the ol’ hip-mounted camera almost automatically.

I think I can penetrate the psychology of these boot manufacturers. These are children's boots after all, and children's boots are designed to keep children's feet dry. However, kids don't like to wear boots, because a boot restricts the running foot to an intolerable degree.

However--and you can almost hear the wheels turning in the manufacturers’ minds--if one's boot bears the same daredevil grin one often finds on one's own face, the boot becomes something of a cohort, or partner in crime. In fact, unless we are observing a bit of copyright infringement here, the face you see on those boots is that of SpongeBob SquarePants. What right-thinking child wouldn't want to bounce through babbling brooks with Bob?

In recent weeks, as I've driven around in my car, I've been listening to the Bible on CD. I've just finished the book of Ruth, as I mentally glance back along all the stories I've read since Genesis 1, I see God constantly urging people to follow Him – follow Him onto the ark, follow Him out of Egypt and into Canaan, keep your boots off His sacred Sabbath, don’t let your feet stray to the high places where idols are worshiped, and on and on.

Again and again, in various ways, God insists to whomever will listen that His ways are happy and deeply satisfying ways. Notice, I didn't say trouble-free ways, but happy in the sense that our heavenly Friend is walking ahead of us, preparing the way.

Is there any area in your life you need to walk away from? Any habit any place of entertainment, any money-waster? Anything you need to keep from eating, or drinking, or otherwise ingesting? Anything you need to stop watching or listening to?

And to turn this positive, is there any place toward which you can walk where you will make people's hearts glad by sharing what you know about God?

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
--Isaiah 52:7, NKJV

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Heart of God
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
If you have a child, imagine not only giving your child away but knowing that eventually (a few years) that child will be ridiculed, tortured, rebuked and ultimately crucified.  I have two children myself and I cannot imagine giving them away, let alone knowing the outcome of their end and then having to watch that process. 

That is exactly what God did for the sinful world we live in – He gave up His son and, knowing what would happen, had to watch it all unfold. We can read the verses that capture this.  John 3:14-17 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 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.”
The image above not only reminded me of God’s love for His creations, but you can literally see His heart.  He gave all He had, in sending His Son to come down from heaven, to save our world – to save us from our sinfulness.  Thank you, God, for your love to us!

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On the shores of Maine, where the Atlantic stretches its fingers inland, we came across a scene reminiscent of Ezekiel 37.  In both instances the focus was dry bones. In Maine, it was the remains of a giant sea creature, a whale washed up on shore after reigning over the ocean depths.  In Ezekiel, the bones represented spiritual Israel, once healthy and vibrant, now reduced to lifeless skeletons. The Scriptural account has a better ending.  There, the Lord breathed into those lifeless bones and they came back to life and formed a vast army.  Alas, for the whale, his better days have come and gone.
At times we may be tempted to look at the church and picture it as having more in common with the whale than with the vast army in Ezekiel.  But that’s because we leave the most important element out of it.  Those disjointed bones had as much chance of living as our beached whale. That is, until the Lord intervened.  And let’s give Ezekiel some credit here.  He followed the Lord’s instructions, even when it must have seemed foolish to do so.  If we believe the Lord made the whale and that vast army in the first place, shouldn’t He be able to restore it to life once again?  Our part, like Ezekiel’s is to respond when He calls our name.  May we be as faithful as that ancient prophet.

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Industrious Ants
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 9, 2012

I was hiking with some friends last week in Olympic National Park. As we hiked up the Hurricane Hill trail, we came across this ant nest.  There were a lot of these rather large ants and they all seemed to be working very hard and moving very fast.

From what I found on a brief Internet search, they are western thatching ants (formica obscuripes) and can create huge mounds.

Proverbs gives us a lesson on laziness and uses ants as an illustration:

A Lesson from the Ant

You lazy fool, look at an ant.
   Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two.
Nobody has to tell it what to do.
   All summer it stores up food;
   at harvest it stockpiles provisions.
So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?
   How long before you get out of bed?
A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there,
   sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?
Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life,
   poverty your permanent houseguest!

Proverbs 6:6-11 (The Message)

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Too Many Gods?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 8, 2012

The uproar: As Paul’s ministry began to thrive in Ephesus, a certain Demetrius became concerned. He was a silversmith who made jewelry in the image of the goddess Artemis (also known as Diana) and of her temple. The above statue of Artemis is from the 1st century AD.  Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World in its heyday, which includes the first century A.D., this temple was one of the largest in the world and drew many visitors. All that remains of the temple today is a single pillar (see photo immediately below) rather than it's original 36 columns (see photo below this paragraph).

Therefore, anything that threatened the prominence of Artemis and her temple would have been seen as a major threat to Ephesus itself. Demetrius, noting the growing impact of Paul’s ministry, gathered the other silversmiths together and presented his case:

“'Men,' he said, 'you know that our high standard of living depends on this industry. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul with his propaganda has perverted crowds of people, not only at Ephesus but also in practically the whole of the province of Asia. He is telling them that gods made by human hands are not gods at all. There is danger for us here; it is not only that our line of business will be discredited, but also that the sanctuary of the great goddess Diana will cease to command respect.'” (Acts 19:25-27 NEB)

It was very common in the ancient world for people to add new gods to their personal list of gods to worship. Demetrius knew that when people became Christians, they stopped worshiping pagan gods. Christianity was distinctive from an Ephesian point of view, in that it claimed the total allegiance of followers to one God, Jesus Christ. He was worried about the potential loss of income if too many people were to become Christians and about the loss of glory for Artemis. Thus, Demetrius rightly concluded that the success of Christianity would put an end to the worship of Artemis.

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Hang On, Kids!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 7, 2012

This past Thursday I took my car for a tuneup to the North Seattle Honda repair shop I've been going to since about 1983. While the mechanics were ministering to my Honda, I hopped a bus down to the University of Washington area.

As I stood on the corner of 45th and University Way – probably the busiest intersection for many blocks around – I saw the heartwarming sight in the photo above. (I think, actually, that this is the second Photo Parable I've done on the subject of day care workers transporting groups of preschoolers along busy streets, but this time I got to see more of how they do it.)

These little kids were tiny – three years old, maybe four. But notice all the safety devices in place. First, everybody has on a blue shirt, which makes tracking easy in case one of the little sprouts manages to escape.

Then there are the three grown-ups, each with specific duties. The woman in the center holding the square blue towing-rope handle in one hand and relinquishing a toddler to an assistant with the other, was the leader, and walked in front. The tall woman in black with her back to us brought up the rear, and the woman to the left was pushing a large wagon which contained supplies, probably favorite blankets or stuffed animals, or diapers, that kind of thing.

It's the red tow-rope which is key, of course. All the kids are trained to hold firmly to squishy foam-covered rings attached to the rope. And if a child’s attention-span isn’t quite long enough for a sustained grip, a plastic tie is placed around his wrist, the other end of which is fastened to the squishy ring.

What you're seeing above is a telephoto shot. While they were on my side of the street, about to cross, the leader began to sing briskly,

We’re going to cross the street!
We’re going to cross the street!
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
We’re going to cross the street!

This valiant effort at communal singing wasn't catching on. The kids were wide-eyed, staring around them at all of the rumbling machines who were patiently waiting for them to cross. But they made it safely to the other side.

At the right side of the photo above is a man in a baseball cap glancing over his shoulder with an appreciative grin. I don't know whether he had kids of his own, but I have a feeling he could see that these three women were vigilant in their care.

I've begun listening my way through the Bible again on CD, and once again I am finding the Heavenly Trinity just as vigilant in their care. They, of course, are dealing not with preschoolers but with grown-ups whose minds-of-their-own often lead to deadly results (the kids being not least among the damaged). How many times God has longed for His children to simply hold onto the rope and let Him lead them to eternal safety!

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A Methodist to My Madness
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 6, 2012

I don't know who own the car which is attached to this license plate, but last November when I snapped this photo, I remember grinning widely. (Joyce, whoever you are, I apologize for snitching your license plate for a Daily Photo Parable, but I couldn't resist it!)

I'm always delighted when I see evidence of Christian humor. I'm not talking about humor which tries to imitate comedy club one-liners, but humor which shows that the humorist doesn't take himself or herself too seriously.

And when I googled "There’s a Methodist to my madness," I discovered that it turns out to be a rather common phrase among people of that faith, and is often to be seen as the title of blogs or online church newsletter columns.

What do you laugh at? I own a ventriloquist's dummy named Zach, and for a while I owned probably 100 joke books, which I would mine for the little dialogues I would put together. These humor bits normally included conversations in which Zach did what he could to poke fun at me. Here's an example:

Maylan: Zach, I’ll bet you can’t tell my age.
Zach: I can too.
Maylan: How old am I?
Zach: (He mentions my current age)
Maylan: (incredulously) How did you know my age?
Zach: I counted the rings in your neck!

So what are Joyce and her license plate telling me? They’re saying, “First, I like to look on the humorous side—and I’ve done a wordplay on my name to prove it. Second, I’m a Methodist, and I’m not trying to hide it—and I’ll do a wordplay on that word to prove that.”

I’m not saying, of course, that one should seize on the name of one’s denomination and silly-mangle it (although I’ve seen some creative ventures like, “Don’t be a Mad-ventist or a Sad-ventist, but a Glad-ventist!”). Instead, we should learn to settle back so securely in our Father’s loving arms that we can laugh even at anything which used to cause us to tremble.

After all, this is what God Himself does in verses like Psalm 2:4 and 37:13 and 59:8. In these verses God is laughing at wicked people who don’t get the joke that their evil plans are no match for His righteous ones. And Psalm 52:6 and 7 give us permission to laugh at the same silliness: “The righteous also shall see and fear, aand shall laugh at him [the wicked man described in the previous verses], saying, ‘Here is the man who did not make God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.’”

Go ahead! Give yourself permission to laugh!

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Sobering Reflections
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 5, 2012

The above skyscraper, whose photo I took this past Monday, towers over the Bellevue Barnes and Noble bookstore. As you can see, its architects deliberately designed its windows to reflect the surrounding sky, and this it does dramatically.

It's sobering to remember that one of these days, this very sky will brighten with a light which proceeds from neither the sun nor anything else in our galaxy. And for a few final moments, the above mirrors will glow with that light, before the whole tower shudders and collapses.

And within that building, and within the bookstore which huddles below it, will be two classes of people—those who are ready for the Lord's return, and those who are not. Those who are will levitate to the Light, and those who aren't will be lost forever.

Like I say, sobering. Sort of rearranges life's priorities, doesn't it?

Are you ready for Jesus' return? Why not take some time to read the Gospel of John, and get to know the Light-bringer more personally?

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
It’s easy for Americans to take our flag and our freedom for granted. But as our nation's Founders knew, freedom is in the details. Documents like the Declaration of Independence  and the Federalist Papers were carefully written and rewritten, so that every word would exert its proper power.

God pays attention to each and every detail, too.  It could be the details of your daily life, even all the way down to the tiny bud-strands in my photo of a plant whose name I do not know.  The name, description and every little piece of information – God would know, without even thinking about it.
In Matthew 10, we can read all about the attention to detail God has: (verse 29-31) “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.”.  We are much more valuable than sparrows, that is true, what I like most about this text is God’s attention to detail. He knows the hairs on our head.  How amazing is that?  That our God – the Creator of the Universe, would not only care, but keep track of that small of a detail on each person on earth. 
The next time you are out in a park, or sitting on your lawn, check out the detail God has put into each creation – grass, flowers, clouds, bugs, all of it.  What an amazing God we serve.

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Purple Gallinule    

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
It almost appears that at the end of the fifth day of creation, the Lord had some extra color left over so He simply decided to use it all on the last bird. With shades of dark blue, purple, light blue, red, yellow, and bits of olive-brown and white thrown in, the Purple Gallinule does present a striking image, especially for a chicken-sized bird in the swamps of the South.  While the tropics seem to have more than their fair share of color, such lavish use of brilliance further north seems unusual.  While it is an excellent swimmer, its long toes enable it to climb through low hanging branches as well as walk on floating vegetation.  One other characteristic deserves attention.  The bright blue frontal shield on the forehead appears to be connected with the bird’s ranking in the social hierarchy of the group, with the dominant birds having the largest shields. 
For most of us today, the concept of a physical shield has lost much of its importance.  But for readers of II Samuel at the time it was written, the message was clear.  It could mean the difference between life and death.  Perhaps that is why the author elected to use that term in this verse:  “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.  He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”  (II Samuel 22:31 NIV)   Much more than just a status symbol or a way of determining pecking order, for them, and us, God guarantees our safety in Him. 

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He Loves Us Too
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 2, 2012

I like white crowned sparrows because I can see one and instantly know what it is.  I'm afraid I can't do that with a lot of sparrows.  I generally have to get out my bird book to figure out what they are and sometimes that doesn't even help; I'm not familiar enough with them to know their coloration, habits, songs and flight patterns.

My Peterson Field Guide to Western (US) Birds has a couple of pages just for streaked sparrows and then another one devoted to clear breasted sparrows and additional pages for sparrows that don't fall into those two categories. 

Some people bird by ear but I'm not one of them.  I can often hear hummingbirds before I see them and can tell the unmistakeable call of a loon, the "chicago" cry of a California Quail or the song of the red-winged blackbird, but sparrows are not my forte.

People sometimes view God as being very far away and not at all aware of what is going on down here on this little insignificant planet.  The Bible gives us a different take on God's concern with not just the planet, but with us individually.  Two sparrows cost only a penny, but not even one of them can die without your Father's knowing it. God even knows how many hairs are on your head. So don't be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:29-31  (NCV)

Maybe you remember the song we used to sing as children:

God sees the little sparrow fall,
It meets His tender view;
If God so loves the little birds,
I know He loves me, too.

He loves me, too, He loves me, too,
I know He loves me, too;
Because He loves the little things,
I know He loves me, too.
 --Lyrics by Maria Straub, 1874

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Paul at the Ephesus Theater

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ephesus is one of the best-preserved classical cities in the eastern Mediterranean, if not all of Europe. This is where one can get a feel of what a city was during the time of Christ and the beginning of the early Christian movement. The Great Theatre, pictured here in the background, is located on the slope of Panayir Hill. First constructed in the 3rd century BC, it was enlarged during the Roman Period between AD 41 and AD 117. Capable of holding 25,000 people, with each successive seating section pitched more steeply than the one below, for a better view and acoustics for spectators.

Acts 19:29-31 tells us about the whole city of Ephesus being in an uproar and filled with confusion over Paul and his teachings. The other disciples and even some civic officials rushed to Paul and told him not to enter the theater. It simply wasn't safe for Paul to show up in such a chaotic and dangerous environment. What was the issue? Check in next week to find out.

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