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

Daily Photo Parable -  July 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.

In His Hands
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last Thursday morning on a walk I discovered a clear glass marble. I held it up to the sun, saw a sparkle of light, and fumbled for the camera I always wear on my hip.

However, as you see above, what you see in the marble is not much sparkle but quite a bit of green and blue, and as I look at the photo it makes me think of a tiny Earth, held in the fingers of God.

And if you study the marble more closely – and especially if you know something about what happens to an image as it passes through a convex lens -- you realize that what you’re seeing is the world upside down. The sky is on the bottom and the trees are on the top.

That’s what will happen, in a way, when God re-creates our scarred and pockmarked old globe back into His original design. In Acts 17:6 some enemies of the early apostles derisively accused them of being “men who turned the world upside down,” but they weren’t far from the truth. Again and again Jesus turned commonly-held ideas on their head: in God’s kingdom the last shall be first and the first last, broad is the way that leads to destruction but narrow the way to life, let him who wants to be greatest among you be your servant, blessed are the peacemakers and not the warmongers, not by might nor by power but by My Spirit, says the Lord.

To get used to an eternity pretty much opposite what earthlings expect from life, read your Bible! Try it for 15 minutes a day for a week. You’ll be surprised. Pray before you read.

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Lapland Longspur
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Its name gives us a clue as to its home, for the Lapland Longspur does come from Lapland, that northernmost part of Finland. But it also lives in other areas of the Arctic including Alaska. And while it might breed there, winter may also find it comfortably living in the lower 48 states.

While in its winter range it may look like just another little brown bird since its new feathers following molt obscure its distinctive plumage. But as these feathers wear away, the males’ distinctive breeding plumage becomes apparent. This longspur is the most widespread member of its family and the most common bird in the high Arctic.

Living in this harsh environment is enabled by two adaptations. While residing in more temperate areas during the winter, they put on an extra layer of fat which is found just beneath the skin which in turn enables them to survive the unpredictable weather conditions of the Arctic spring. The female, which is shown here, does not always build its nest within the male’s territory, so he will expand his territory to incorporate the new nest. Once the young fledge, the parents divide the young equally and care for them separately. The long Arctic days are needed to provide for the needs of the nestlings. Studies have estimated that each parent must collect two crane flies per minute to provide for the needs of the family.

We, just like the longspurs spend much of our time just meeting needs, both of the family and ourselves through the daily grind. And just like the disciples in the back of the boat we’re inclined to sometimes ask, “Don’t you care that we are about to die?” (Mark 4:38 Good News Translation) It wouldn’t be a surprise if Peter was the one who blurted out those words, just like he did at other times. But if he was the one, it appears he finally figured it all out, for look what he has to say in 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV)

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Finding Firm Ground
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 29, 2013

I recently went on a suspension bridge that had a lot of sway.  I've been on a number of suspension bridges before and some just have very slight movement but this one had a lot of motion!  When I was the only one on the bridge or the person ahead of me was close to the other side, it wasn't too bad but as more people started crossing the bridge, I had to hang on to the railing to keep my balance. 

Sometimes out spiritual experience can be like that (all over the place) - especially when we are new Christians or not yet mature in our faith.  Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians to let them know about God's wisdom.  He intimated that this was something that they would be able to grasp once they had some spiritual maturity or were on "firm spiritual ground." 

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text:

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.

But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you. 

1 Corinthians 2:6-13 (The Message)

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The Mighty Power
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 28, 2013

Costa Rica's most active volcano, Arenal rises above the peaceful San Carlos Plains in a perfect symmetrical cone. Tribal villagers in years past called it “Home of the Fire God.” After nearly 400 years of inactivity, it erupted in 1968 and buried three villages. For years after that, it sent out lava, ash and gas on a regular basis. Now it's less active, but it still smolders, as you can see in my photo from the north side. Those of us living in the Pacific Northwest know about volcanoes, especially if you were here when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980. The power within a volcano is tremendous.

The Bible has a lot to say about power - the power of God. This includes “glorious in power” (Exodus 15;6), “excellent in power” (Job 37:23) , “strong in power” (Isaiah 40:26) and “mighty power” (Ephesians 1:19). Belief in the power of God should should strengthen our lives and give us peace and joy. Has the mighty power of God given you a new life in Him?

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Where’s Your Hometown?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 27, 2013

Once upon a time at a women’s event our church presented, my wife Shelley attached a huge world map to the wall and invited everyone to come up and put a pin where their hometown was. This aroused a lot of interesting conversation, both at the event and later, since the map was left up for several weeks.

Wherever your hometown is (mine is Redfield, South Dakota), this wasn’t God’s original plan. His idea was that we should all claim the Garden of Eden as our place of orgin—along with all its wonderful, positive features. We get an idea of God’s opinion by the oft-repeated “God saw that it was good” in the Genesis 1 creation story.

Eden, of course, was a place of wonderful health. In fact, in the last couple of verses of the Bible’s first chapter, God prescribed a vegetarian diet for both humans and animals, a point the Adventist church picked up on in the late 1800s. As you’re aware, the world at large is coming to the same conclusion.

The photo above shows page 12 of the July-August 2013 Nutrition Action Newsletter, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. On just this one page there are several “back to Eden” concepts, even though the magazine does not couch them in those terms. The first article, “Soda and Stones,” says that sugar-sweetened sodas may raise the risk of kidney stones. (Neither sodas nor kidney stones were present in Eden.) 

Another article, “Don’t Just Sit There,” reports on a study of 71,000 women, which says that women who sit at least 10 hours a day have a greater risk of heart attack. (Eden, of course, was where Eve walked and did garden work.)

The article at the upper right says that people who eat a lot of beta-carotene and lutein—found in fruits and vegetables—have a smaller risk of getting ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. The article on the lower right says that while drinking coffee and tea can lower your risk of dying of throat and mouth cancer, tobacco and alcohol are most likely where you get these cancers to start with. (Eden had neither cancer nor caffeine.)

The article on the lower left actually mentions Seventh-day Adventists. Here it is: 

The bottom line? Live as though your hometown is Eden!

For more of what the Bible says about health, click the link immediately below:

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Precious Jewels
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 26, 2013

I snapped this Vacation Bible School photo with the little point-and-shoot camera I carry on my belt, and as you can see, its little flash didn’t reach very far. But I hope you get the very true impression that our sanctuary was packed that week—with 130 kids plus a large number of volunteers (the people with red shirts and crowns on their heads are “crew leaders,” each of whom were responsible for four to six kids throughout the week).

Directors Lorrie Bervis and Jeanette Salsman led the VBS team this year, filling the awesome shoes of previous leader Dixie Robinson—who had retired from the leader’s role but who was there every night supporting the team in various ways. And thanks so much to all those other volunteers!

For the last several years we’ve been using Vacation Bible School programs prepared by Group Publishing, an organization which has done wonderful and creative work, all focusing on Jesus and how to get to know Him and how to live out His love to others.

It’s great to see all the kids in the sanctuary, but a particularly heart-touching scene for me is the one below—a table with the kids’ name-tags. (There was a separate table with pre-schoolers’ names as well.) It reminded me about how God earnestly longs for all our names to be written in His Book of Life.

If you have kids, you’re caring for their physical, educational and social needs. But what about their spiritual needs?

Did you know that several Bible passages talk about what children need to know and do as citizens of God’s kingdom? To make sure you’re on God’s “page” as you’re raising yours, click the link immediately below.

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Be Still
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday-Thursday, July 24-25, 2013

It’s been a rough couple of weeks at work.  Super busy.  It’s times like this that it’s very easy to lose focus on what truly matters.  The image above is simple – boulders in a lazy river – still water.  It makes me think of Psalms 23 and how God is always there for us.  He makes me lie down.  He leads me.  He restores my soul.  It’s all right here.  

The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD

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Botteri’s Sparrow
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I’m glad it doesn’t end that way, the book of Ecclesiastes, I mean. In chapter 1 Solomon states: “Everything’s boring, utterly boring – no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There’s nothing new on this earth. Year after year it’s the same old thing.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8-10 The Message)
Then again, we’ve all felt bored at times. So, perhaps we just need to look a little deeper.

From all appearances this Botteri’s Sparrow has a good chance of winning the “most likely to be boring” contest among American birds. To begin with, it’s described as an average sized sparrow with a rather plain appearance. To make matters worse, it is generally secretive and difficult to observe since it likes to sulk in the tall grasses it calls home. Not exactly Mr. Personality. Some field guides suggest it can’t be told from its relative, the Cassin’s Sparrow, except by its call. Others will point out that Botteri’s has a warmer color and has white tips on the tail feathers. They also suggest that its head is flatter and its culmen, the upper part of the beak, is curved while the Cassin’s is not. Even reading this description is enough to put the average reader to sleep.

But wait, there’s more! There’s its song, that wonderful song that’s so distinctive. Those who know these things describe it as resembling the sound a bouncing Ping-Pong ball would make. The only trouble with that is, it generally doesn’t sing until the late monsoon rains come which apparently sets off its territorial and nesting instincts. The male will then ascend to an elevated perch and announce to the world its true identity.

If it really is so boring, then why do large numbers of birders make the pilgrimage to Southern Arizona and search for this Mexican species in what might be considered less than hospitable habitat? It must be because it is special, special in the sense that this ordinary looking bird can be found in a very limited and specialized range in the U.S. It becomes even more special when one realizes that it was probably extirpated from the U.S. from the 1890s until the mid-20th century due to overgrazing by livestock.

And isn’t that what makes you special to your Maker? Not that you do a lot of sulking in the grass or you’re on someone’s list as an unwanted alien, but because you are unique. And in spite of those unusual quirks which are yours only, you are worth looking for, and finding.

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Free Life Jackets
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 22, 2013

I saw this little booth at a marina the other day and thought it was a great idea.  You can help yourself to a free life jacket if you don't have one and return it after you get back from your trip.  This person (I assumed it was a dad) obviously wanted to minimize any risks for his daughter.

In a way it reminds me of salvation.  It is something that is free; it is not something we can buy or deserve.  God loves us and obviously does not want to see us suffer any harm.  We can accept his free gift of salvation and there are no conditions (like having to give it back).  The offer is there but it is our choice whether or not we accept it just like using a life jacket is a choice. 

The analogy pretty much ends there because while wearing a life jacket may or may not save your life, depending on the circumstances (and there is no doubt that in the right circumstances, life jackets can and do save lives),  accepting salvation is always about choosing life.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)   

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Camouflage and Disguise
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 21, 2013

Butterflies use many ways to hide themselves from predators. This can be by their coloration, their patterns or by hiding out of sight. Their disguises can be in the appearance of another object such as lichen, twigs, bark or leaves. Do you see the butterfly in this first photo? It's the object at the bottom of the yellow leaf on the left, looking just like the leaf and well camouflaged!

Some have colors or patterns like dangerous or toxic predators that act as a warning against attack. False-eye markings on the butterfly in my second photo could frighten potential predators. Since butterflies live a short period of time as an adult, many of them just 2 or 3 weeks, protection by camouflage and disguise is vitally important.

Camouflage and disguise have been used throughout history, starting with the recorded account in Genesis 3. The serpent deceived Adam and Eve saying they would not die if they ate fruit from the forbidden tree but their eyes would be opened and they would be like gods. Satan was either appearing as a serpent in disguise or was possessing the serpent. Even though the names Satan or Lucifer isn't recorded in the Book of Genesis, Satan is called the serpent in Revelation 12:9, 15 and 20:2. “Finally then, find your strength in the Lord, in His mighty power. Put on all the armour which God provides, so that you may be able to stand firm against the devices of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-12 NEB As Christians, we know that Jesus is our advocate and protects us from Satan, however he might be disguised or camouflaged.

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 20, 2013

Shelley and I got a chance to spend this year’s Fourth of July in Forks, Washington. Forks really knows how to do the Fourth!

Above you see a few of the hundreds of folks who lined either side of Highway 101 getting ready to watch the parade. On the right is a girl holding a plastic bag into which she will stuff what she can retrieve of the candy which will be flung from the various parade floats.

The boy on the left has just strolled up and engaged her in conversation, and is asking her if she wants to buy a bottle of water for a dollar, no doubt in aid of a worthy cause. Though there’s no evidence she will do business with him, the girl’s expression indicates that she’s enjoying (or at least politely tolerating) the chat.

As I look at those two kids, I’m reminded that if I claim to be a Christian (a “Christ-follower”) I need to position myself to be a dispenser of the Water of Life. The bonus is that even though it’s the most expensive water in the universe, it costs you absolutely nothing except your wholehearted “Yes.” “Whoever desires,” says Revelation 22:17,  “let him take the water of life freely.”

For Bible answers about the new life Jesus offers us, click the link immediately below: 

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Vote Them All Out!
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 19, 2013

I’m not a personal bumper-sticker-user, but if I were ever to plaster one on the lid of my trunk, I would probably make sure it was something that made sense. The sticker-plasterer who owns the car above has evidently let election-year frustration drive him to the point of howling anarchically, but there’s no room left on the sticker for what to do once the pols are all ejected.

The “Be Joyful” decal on the window has a cross in the design under the “L” (it’s more visible when zoomed up, as I’m able to do to the original photo) so perhaps the car owner’s wife is a Christian. But it’s possible that she would agree with me that in our country’s and planet’s current condition, it would decidedly not be joy-producing to have no organized political system. (Email a few people in Egypt or Somalia if you don’t believe that.)

How should Christians relate to politics? For a thoughtful Bible-based essay on this subject, check out the link immediately below.

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Handbook for the Recently Deceased
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 18, 2013

Back on July 1 while wandering through the bookstore I noticed the intriguing title you see above. So I opened the book, and saw this:

Chuckling a couple of times, I laid the book down and went on my way. But, cute though the practical joke was, it is soberingly true. According to what the Bible clearly teaches, and what a widening circle of Christians are beginning to accept as truth, when you die you remain unconscious until the Lord’s return.

I won’t dwell on this topic any longer in this edition of our Daily Photo Parable, because it’s not a very cheery subject. However, it’s an important one. So for a very clear and “unspun” set of Bible texts on this topic, click the link immediately below:

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Keeping It Simple
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I can’t remember where I was when, ‘way back in February, I took the photo above. If I remember correctly, what you’re looking at is a page in a child’s Christian picture-book. On another page—I’m assuming just to the right—is a picture depicting Jesus feeding the 5,000.

As you see, the story has been broken down into its essentials—Jesus positions the crowd and blesses the food, His disciples distribute it, and all are satisfied.  There’s even an audience-response question, not a deeply theological or metaphorical one, but a question about one of the simple facts in the story. And then comes a "practical application" prayer.

Jesus Himself was in the habit of simplifying the truth about God. Open your Bible to Matthew chapter 5, and just start reading for several chapters. Some of His parables’ meanings will be instantly obvious, and others will require looking at the context of what else He was saying. But all will add puzzle-pieces to God’s picture, a smiling face of love.

If you’d like to do this reading online, click here:;&version=NKJV

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Water Wheel
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Like many parables or metaphors, the meaning changes as our understanding grows. Such was the case of an old water wheel, still spinning after all this time. Years before, it had labored purposefully, powered by spring water on the same property where it now stood. At first glance it was assumed it was totally decorative, driven by electrical power to provide onlookers a feel for the past. Thoughts came to mind how this wheel accurately depicted Christians who “have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof”. (II Timothy 3:5)

But upon more careful inspection, it became apparent that water was indeed the force that was driving the wheel in its endless rotation. Water had been piped from the original spring to the wheel’s present location. The visual effect remained the same; the wheel still turning on its axis with sparkling droplets of water falling from soaked paddles. But something was missing, the objective for which the wheel had been made. At one time the creators of this structure designed and built it for the purpose of accomplishing work. That work may have been to grind grain or perhaps it was set up to accomplish some other duty. But its movement resulted in a task accomplished, a job well done. Now, though its action appeared the same, it was being done simply for show.

Though the details have been adjusted, the words of Paul to young Timothy still seem to have relevance. His warning against just going through the motions seem to fit not only the water wheel but also well-worn Christians who are comfortable in their familiar church pew but fail to have any impact on the world around them. Both of us have been designed for a higher purpose.

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No More Death
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 15, 2013

I saw this yellow pond lily in a small local lake while I was out looking for dragonflies.  As you can see, it's past its prime.  We are into summer now in this part of the world and the spring flowers are finished or on their way out - at least close to sea level. 

Spring is my favorite season because everything is new and budding with all sorts of possibilities.  Summer rolls around all too soon though and fall and winter are not far behind. 

People have their seasons as well and death is as much a part of life as birth is.  Death, however, was not in the original plan.  One of these days, there will be an end to pain and suffering. 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and there was no sea anymore. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It was prepared like a bride dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Now God’s presence is with people, and he will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone.” Revelation 21:1-4 (NCV)

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Hidden Treasures
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 14, 2013

We always enjoy visiting people and seeing their homes, especially when in foreign countries. A special treat (and often very interesting) is sharing food or a meal together. While in the farming village of Sonafluca, Costa Rica, we visited two families. First, was to make empanadas and the second, to have lunch. While in the first home, I noticed some old stones used for grinding grain. I was told the farmer found them when he was plowing his field and that many fields in this area have old artifacts discarded centuries earlier. They said that this maize grinder in my photo was from around 1500 years BC. While I don't know the accuracy of this, it did indeed look old!

This reminded me of the Parable of the Treasure Hid in a Field as recorded in Mathew 13:44, “The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure lying buried in a field. The man who found it, buried it again; and for sheer joy went and sold everything he had, and bought that field.” NEB There are various ways of interpreting this parable. One, is that we are the man and the treasure is the kingdom of Heaven, and we are willing to sell everything for Heaven. A problem with that is that heaven can't be purchased but is a free gift. That's where a second interpretation comes in: Jesus is the man in the parable and He buys the field with his blood to attain us. No matter how one interprets this parable, we know that Heaven is a treasure and that Jesus paid the price for us to be there. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 Let's thank Him for this great gift – a real treasure!

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Which Way?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 13, 2013

My nearest and dearest would never call me an expert on travel by water, but even I can spot which way these two boats are going. Their respective wakes tell me that the big boat (a Washington State ferry crossing Puget Sound a little over a week ago) is chugging off to the left, while the sprightly littler boat is racing to the right.

See those houses on the shore in the distance? They’re filled with people like you and me. And each one needs to decide whether he or she will hurry along with the popularity-conscious crowds or make decisions as an individual—which often means standing alone. After all, Jesus once said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13 – 14 NKJV)

Click the link just below for some Bible wisdom on making the right decisions.

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Bad Checks
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 12, 2013

One day during Shelley’s and my recent Washington peninsula getaway, we walked past a store whose window displayed this startling poster.

What you’re seeing is only a small portion of the display. I have done my best to smear out the names with a photo processing program, but on the poster those names were as crisp and clear as the money amounts you see.

I shuddered, wondering how it would feel if one of those names had been “Maylan Schurch.” Would I hide my face in shame? Or would habitual bad-check-passing have hardened me so that it wouldn’t make much difference?

The Bible makes very clear that a time is coming when what’s done in secret will be revealed. It’s called the judgment—and it’s actually more encouraging than you might think. For two screens’ worth of Bible texts on this topic, click the link immediately below:

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Getting the Big Picture
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shelley and I escaped to Washington’s peninsula for a few days over the Fourth of July, and I think it was in the Sequim (for non-Northwesterners, that’s pronounced skwim) WalMart that I saw this picture. Both boy and dog are cute, and what’s equally appealing are the three advertising messages. Based on the photo above, this duo is not only easy to use and easy on your budget, but they are evidently rentable! Who wouldn’t like to have a boy and his dog for a couple of weeks. No strings attached . . . .

Well, as you’ve guessed, that’s not the whole picture. I backed the camera away a little more, and here’s what I saw:

A horrifying number of people treat the Holy Bible this way. They zoom in close on a text, and assume that that text can and does always apply to their personal life, when in reality it might have been something the prophet Isaiah was saying to King Hezekiah. (At one point the Lord gave the gravely ill Hezekiah an additional 15 years of life—2 Kings 20:6—but this doesn’t mean that I can personally claim this promise myself.)

Would you like to check out a free online study guide which will help you become more familiar with your Bible and how to study it? Click the link immediately below:

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Nothing gets me thinking more about fun times with animals than when I think of heaven.  The promise of sin being nonexistent and the dream of hanging out with God’s creatures – the way He intended us to.  This image of a lioness wasn’t taken in the wild of Kenya’s Masai Mara  - no, I took this shot nearby at our local (great) zoo – Woodland Park.  Just look at her – relaxing on her favorite elevated rock in the sun.  Not a care in the world.  That’s the beauty of heaven – we (nor the animals) have any need to be concerned with dangers.  

Isaiah 11:6-19,
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.”

Among many other things, I am ready to go hang out with some wolves and lions. Let’s continue to pray for the fast return of our savior, to take us home to where we belong.

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Great Gray Owl
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We are all creatures of habit. We use the same brand of toothpaste on a regular basis; we generally take the same route to school or work, and the buttons on our car radio are set the way they are for a reason. We also know how hard it is to break those habitual patterns of behavior. But such conduct is not limited to mankind alone. The familiar story of Balaam and his donkey points this out as the donkey questions his master who is beating him, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” (Numbers 22:30 NIV) Such deportment was out of character for the animal, to say nothing of his verbally communicating with the one riding him.

Animals in the wild follow rather predictable rules of conduct as well. Reaching nearly three feet in length with a five foot wingspan, the Great Gray Owl is an impressive creature, even though most of its size is comprised of feathers. This heavy covering of feathers serves as effective insulation from the cold where it makes its home in the mountains or in northern forests. But even this silent hunter is a creature of habit. While it is a nocturnal hunter, it is most frequently observed during the morning and evening hours as it searches for voles and other small rodents. In a monitored study it was found these birds spend 90% of their time within 124 meters of an open meadow.

Predictable behavior is not necessarily bad, for Acts 17:2 speaks of Paul’s usual habit of going to the synagogue to worship on the Sabbath day and Paul himself wrote about changing one’s habits for the better: “Do not lie to one another, for you have put off the old self with its habits.” (Colossians 3:9 Good News Translation) And that’s good news, that even though we may feel we are stuck in a rut too deep to dig out of, the promise is we can exchange that rut for a street paved with gold.

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Creatures of the Deep
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 1, 2013

I recently went on a whale watching trip with a friend. There were about 125 people on the boat and I'm sure each and every one of us was hoping we'd see orcas, which get most of the publicity around here. Technically orcas (otherwise known as killer whales) are the largest member of the dolphin family but they kind of get lumped in with whales due to their size.

We were out a little over five hours and we saw lots of birds, lots of harbor porpoises and even a couple of minke whales but we never did find the orcas despite our captain networking with a number of other whale watching boat captains in the area.

The minke whales are the smallest members of the "great whales." They are baleen whales and can get up to 35 feet in length and weigh up to 20,000 lbs. We saw two of them hunting fish. What you had to watch and listen for was birds congregating on the surface of the water. This generally means that there is something under the water that is after small fish. When this happens, the fish go into what is called a "bait ball" and some of the fish are leaping up out of the water ((which is why the birds are there). In this case, the whales swim up under the bait ball and scoop up the fish.

We watched the two minke whales for some time. We didn't see much more of the whale than what is in the picture above but it was interesting to watch this behavior.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and all that move in them.
Psalm 69:34 (NIV)

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High-security Hanging Nests
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Montezuma Oropendola birds, which we saw in a rainforest region of Costa Rica, weave their nests in the form of hanging basket-like sacks suspended from tall tree branches usually several feet from one another. Actually the female builds the nest as the male looks on. If he approves, they mate! They anchor their nests with strong vines and fibers close to the tip of branches to discourage monkeys from raiding their eggs. They choose trees that are separate from others and especially like those near wasp or hornet nests to help deter predators. Usually around 30 nests are in a colony, but as many as 170 have been seen on one tree.

These attractive yellow-tailed birds (in the photo immediately above) are known for their strange songs reaching a very high pitched popping sound. We saw males doing somersaults around branches in the tall trees to perform for the females.

We, as people, have a need to feel safe and secure. As you can see, these special hanging nests provide safety and security for these birds. Likewise, faith in God can provide safety and security for us. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” Psalms 23:6

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Support System
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 6, 2013

Back in mid-May I happened to be walking past the side of a Bartell’s drugstore. Noticing out of the corner of my eye that part of its wall was covered with vegetation,  I studied the situation more closely, and that’s when I noticed the zigzag pattern of wires.

The landscaper had planted this climbing foliage, but realized that a smooth wall is hard for a plant to get a grip on. So he or she strung the wires, and sure enough, the plant was easily able to do what comes naturally. And if I re-visit that drugstore in a year, the wall will probably be entirely covered.

I’ve been a pastor for more than three decades, and I’ve seen how belonging to a church family can be an important spiritual support system. Scan through the Bible and you’ll see that while God calls individuals, He always calls them to groups. From Adam and Eve, whom God gave the ability to create family from themselves, to the tribes of Israel, to the 12 disciples who were sent out to gather groups of Christians together in places like Colossae, Ephesus, Philippi, God has ordained that gatherings of believers are the way to gain and provide mutual support when things get tough. Just read through the book of Acts sometime soon, and you’ll see this powerful principle at work again and again.

Are you allied with a Bible-believing church, a church which takes all of God’s word seriously? Don’t leave your family defenseless in these frightening times!

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Eve’s Daughter?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 5, 2013

I couldn’t resist snapping this photo in late May while stopped at a traffic light. The driver of this car is almost certainly a woman. We can tell that she cares for her fellow women enough to display the pink breast-cancer ribbon, and that she cares for the ecosystem—or at least her bank balance—to drive a frugal Cooper Mini..But her license plate, whether whimsical or in earnest, proclaims that she considers herself divine.

A fallen angel suggested the same potential to the female ancestor of all women (and all men) once upon a time. And such was the fascination of this idea that Eve’s sinless, stainless mind caught hold of the suggestion and ran with it. Make that fell  with it. And so, to whatever degree, has her Mini-driving daughter.

Maybe the first step any fallen human needs to take toward God—even before understanding that God is love—is to admit that God is God and we are not. This isn’t bad news, but good news. When we understand who God really is, and what He can really do, and how ultimately He really loves, we gladly accept our place in His happy eternity.

Have you done a personal “Am I a deity” check recently? How many areas of your life are you withholding from God’s guidance?

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A Different Direction
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 4, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I tend to keep a pretty close eye on news of the world (at least what the media considers to be news). It’s rather ironic that here on America’s Fourth of July, other parts of the world are suffering setbacks in their quest for democracy. Millions of Egyptians, aided by their military, have just deposed their elected president because they perceived him to be someone who, rather than respond to the people’s wishes, instead sought to advance the narrow views of his own Muslim Brotherhood party. And some Syrian freedom fighters who have wrested control of certain parts of the country away from the government have begun to set up strict Islamic law courts which sometimes deal out brutal justice.

The photo above, though it has no Stars and Stripes or other political symbol, gives me a powerful reminder about how different Heaven’s rule is from our own. Notice the green freeway sign? It promises that if you follow the direction the arrow is pointing, you will go south into Seattle. The problem is that the arrow is pointing north. South is actually to the left. This means that once you pass underneath the overpass, you must go against your instincts and go in the opposite direction of your goal.

Jesus is a specialist in “wrong-way” living, at least according to the way the world thinks is sensible. Most if not all of His Matthew 5 Beatitudes command us to be counterintuitive. “The meek [not the powerful] shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are the peacemakers [not the warmongers] . . .” “Blessed are the merciful [not those who rigidly demand absolute justice] . . .”Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . .”

America’s founding fathers, whose accomplishments are regarded so wistfully by revolutionaries around the world, made sure—under the direction of God—to provide a haven of freedom unfettered by the chains of any particular ideology. Religious freedom was placed at the top of the new young nation’s priorities. Oh, if only other cultures had such courage.

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Liberty For All
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
As a kid growing up (yes, even as I get older...) I LOVED fireworks.  I loved buying them. I loved organizing my cache. I loved selecting music to play, while they lit up the sky.  I loved lighting them all.  Truth be told, I only had to go to the ER 3 times because of fireworks – a decent ratio, given the amount I have lit in my years – (Kids – always let an adult light the fireworks, always be very careful around them and NEVER open them up to light the inside contents).  No, it’s not 4th of July – you still have a day.  That said I thought this day represents a few different things and we can always learn multiple lessons.
The image above, as you most likely figured out, are not fireworks.  No, it’s a chandelier created by glass blowing artist – Dale Chihuly. Amazing work of art and it reminded me a little of an exploding firework – high in the sky.  This “explosion” of color stays hanging from the ceiling and is always there, so there is no need to wait for a specific day to see it (Union Station, Tacoma Washington).
As you can imagine, when I think of the 4th of July, I automatically think of…yes, fireworks.  I also think of the independence of our country.  The liberty that was fought for.  Way back when our fore-fathers were fighting for our independence and liberty, I would venture a guess they weren’t thinking of Jesus, claiming to be the Son of God and the impact on all of creation.  No, they were focused on the independence, liberty and freedom of the United States.
In Luke 4:16-22, we read of the REAL liberty, “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Am I saying that our forefathers were focused on the wrong liberty? No.  For them, the real threat for the peoples’ independence and freedom was with another country.  In this scripture, the liberty Jesus speaks of, is from the evil of this entire planet.  Am I saying we shouldn’t celebrate our country's freedom?  No.  In fact we should be very proud of it.  That said, we should be even more proud of the gift of liberty and freedom from our Savior.

The next time you see one of those fantastic, beautiful, exploding shells – remember the free gift of eternal life.  With the sacrifice that was made and the prophecy fulfilled – liberty is given to all.

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Facing the Formidable Ice Cream
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fortunately for us, not all formidable tasks are unpleasant. Take for instance the challenge facing the young boy seated across the table from his gargantuan order. Perhaps given the freedom to order whatever he wanted, he impulsively ordered the biggest thing on the menu only to come to the realization that his eyes truly were bigger than his stomach. This of course is only speculation. But we’ve all been there. We’ve bitten off more than we could chew.

The truth is, many of those situations are not of our own choosing and they certainly aren’t topped with whipped cream. The demands of work and school seem insurmountable for a person given only 24 hours in his day. Family responsibilities clamor for attention and each have “URGENT” stamped in bold neon letters on their calling card. And the ever expanding chasm between “do” and “done” has grown so wide that the distant shore of the accomplished seems at best unreachable and at worst, not even visible.

Whether by our own choice or by that placed upon us, Paul offers a solution that sounds almost too glib to have any practical value. Glib that is, until one considers the challenges he had to face. The one writing to the believers in Philippi was on a first name basis with the insurmountable. Yet it is with confidence he writes, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13 KJV)


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