Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Daily Photo Parable

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; THURSDAY-- someone from the Jurgensen family. I handle 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.

Being Unique

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 31, 2016

It was amazing to see so many zebras at one time, each having their own unique stripes.  Are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes?  Actually, we’re told that their background color is black. Why do zebras have stripes?  It’s thought that the alternating color patter deflects up to 70 percent of the heat that hits its body. Humans see zebras differently than lions and spotted hyenas do, two of their main predators.  It’s been thought that zebra striping is camouflaging, but new studies at the University of Calgary and UC Davis indicate that the stripes do not provide anti-predator camouflaging effect.  Have you heard of motion dazzle?  When animals, like zebras, with motion dazzle patterning move, their patterns make it nearly impossible for predators to focus on an individual animal. Lions and other predators apparently become confused about the direction and speed of zebras.  Much like a fingerprint for humans, zebra stripes are unique with no two animals having the same pattern.

Unlike other animals, humans were created in the image of God, having the ability to make moral judgments.  Also, humans can communicate with God through the Holy Spirit.  There is no other person exactly like us.  Even identical twins have differences, including fingerprints.  We are individual members of the body of Christ – His masterpieces.  We have unique spiritual gifts and talents. “Thy hands moulded me and made me what I am.” Psalm 119:73 Thank you God for making each of us unique individuals.  May we use our unique gifts in Your service.

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Royal Neighbors

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 30, 2016

While back visiting relatives in my South Dakota home town a month ago, I saw the above ornate brass bell in an antique shop. The engraved plaque on the base says “Royal Neighbors of America – Oracle – 1967.”

I’d never heard of this organization, so I looked it up. It turns out to be a benevolent fraternal order founded in the late 1880s by women to benefit women, and over the years it has developed in to an insurance company. I couldn’t find anything about the use of a bell, though it might have been struck by a wooden mallet to convene board meetings. I even added the word “oracle” to my “Royal Neighbors” search, and came away equally mystified. Was this the title of the local leader, the one with the right to bong the bell?

The Bible, of course, is the Christian’s unfailing oracle, and it contains what must be the explanation for the organization’s name. James 2:8 says, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well . . . .” In other words, in God’s eyes people who are neighborly are royalty!

To learn more about “Royal Neighbors of America” (which I do not necessarily endorse because I don’t know everything about the group), click the link immediately below that. For a couple of additional Bible passages about neighborliness, click the link below that.

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 29, 2016

Have you ever seen someone gaze back into the past? That’s me in the late-June photo above, peering in through the window of the one-room prairie Adventist elementary school building in South Dakota where I received the first six grades of my education.

Back in the day, of course, it looked a lot spiffier. Every summer it was given a new coat of pure white paint. A flagpole was bolted to the little porch closest to the camera. To the right of the photo, where the darkest part of the trees are, once stood side-by-side outhouses, boys’ and girls’.

As I gazed through the window, I didn’t see blackboards or desks or the old oil stove, because the building had been used for other purposes in the intervening years.

As I think back on those times, I find that I cannot remember actually learning to read—though inside those walls was where I learned how. I don’t remember any lecture my teacher gave, or what she exactly said about history or science. I do remember joining the rest of the class in laughing goodnaturedly as an eighth-grader named Vince played a part in a skit designed to depict the discovery of aluminum. At the “eureka” moment, Vince was to cry out in amazement, “Aluminum! Aluminum!” In his nervousness, he said, “Aloomimum! Aloomimum!”

As I say, I remember little or nothing of what any of my teachers actually said. But I do remember whether each particular teacher seemed to like me or not. Though I received a very adequate education within that little schoolhouse, what I remember most was whether the teacher cared.

Good life lesson, right? If you’re a teacher, like your kids. If you’re a church member, give a big wide grin at the children who pass you by in the church foyer. And this goes for anyone else in that foyer, or in your workplace. Budget in the time to care, and listen.

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 28, 2016

A month ago, while visiting the South Dakota prairie cemetery where my parents are buried, I noticed for the first time this grave of a little girl, who must have perished in the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. Her name, Viola, was my mother’s first name.

As I’d discovered years earlier in the same cemetery on a moment of a little boy who’d died about the same time, it seems to have been the practice to seal a photo of the child in some sort of glass which made the photo impervious to fading. Here, sweet little Viola gazes alertly at us, as she has been doing for nearly a century.

To me, what’s especially heartbreaking about this monument is what is written at the bottom.

Because the sunlight isn’t coming in at a slant, it’s hard to read, so here’s the poem:

Sleep on, sweet babe,
And take thy rest.
God called thee home;
He thought it best.

Do you agree with that? Did God reach down and wrench this little girl from her mother’s arms, to take her to be with Him?

An online search shows me that this little verse was used quite often in that sad era. Can you imagine a sobbing mother in a funeral home, looking over the selection of epitaphs, and deciding on this one as the most comforting?

We know from reading the Bible with wide-open eyes that death is a sleep, and the first two lines agree. But the last two lines are rank heresy. God didn’t take her to the skies to laugh and play in His presence. She sleeps beneath this worn monument, awaiting the resurrection.

And “He thought it best”? The careful reader of the Bible roars disapproval at this point. God feels our sorrow, but He does not think death is “best.” True, sometimes death comes as a relief after a long, agonizing illness, but God does not think it best. He abhors the separation it brings, and will destroy death at the end of time.

To discover what the Bible really says about death and resurrection, click the links immediately below.

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Always Connected
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
I know you’ve heard this particular term before and it doesn’t always have the best connotation. Sometimes it’s used, in a negative – ‘so and so doesn’t listen to me, they are always connected.”. Whether it’s a phone, or a lap-top, or a tablet, nowadays it’s hard not to be ‘always connected’. That said we have to make a conscience effort ‘unplug’, so we can listen to God. We have to ‘disconnect’ to receive the ‘recharge’ we need. So, why did I use this title? Well, in this example we want to be connected.
John 5: 1-5
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
To be connected to the vine is to be connected with our Father. As Jesus tells his disciples, we must remain in HIM. Let’s remember -- disconnect from the world, so you can connect with the Universe.
My photo above was taken at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.

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Nesting Northern Gannets
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When Linnaeus began classifying living things using the binomial nomenclature system he developed, he selected the species name bassanus for the Northern Gannet.  Bass Rock, after which the bird was named, juts out of the Firth of Forth a little over a mile from the mainland of Scotland.   Today it is uninhabited except by the Northern Gannet which nest there.  At one time an early Christian hermit made this his home, and later on a castle of some importance was erected which afterwards was used as a prison.  The remains of a lighthouse which was constructed in 1902 still is present.   In other words, it’s probably not the most hospitable place to live.  That is, unless you happen to be a gannet.

These seabirds, with a six foot wingspan, return each year from a life at sea to nest in large colonies on the rocky cliffs of the island.  Returning adults arrive each year to reclaim the same site they used the previous year, adding new seaweed, flotsam, and grass.  A single egg is laid which both parents incubate for a total of six weeks.   The young are fed for eleven weeks, after which the adults stop feeding the young bird, and it must live off the fat it has stored.  Finally, hunger forces them to leave the nest and they launch themselves over the cliff to the waters below.  They still are not strong enough to really fly, but must float around on the surface for a few weeks gaining strength.

Gannets belong to the genus Morus, which means foolish or silly, a name undoubtedly given by those who found they could easily harvest the birds for food while they are on the nest.  Yet, as “foolish” as they may be, they are one of God’s creatures, created to fill a specific role in His plan.  Isaiah 34:16 presents this idea in a very personal way: “Search in the Lord’s book of living creatures and read what it says.  Not one of these creatures will be missing, and not one will be without its mate. The Lord has commanded it to be so; he himself will bring them together.”  (The Bible in Today’s English Version)

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Humpback Waterfall

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 25, 2016

This is the tail of a humpback whale.   I was on a recent whale watching trip and we were able to see numerous humpbacks.  (I've been on previous trips where people were getting excited over seeing one humpback!)  Whales were breaching and waving their tails.   I'm not sure what the scientific terms are for all of the behavior that we saw but it was amazing.  There were spouts all over the place and while you were looking at what was going on with whales in one direction, the people on the other side of the boat were exclaiming over what was going on with a different whale. Even the captain and the naturalist on board were saying that they had never seen anything like it and they have a lot of experience in these waters and have been in Hawaii also.

Apparently there used to be a lot of humpbacks in the Pacific Northwest but their numbers were decimated with whaling.  Only now are they making a significant recovery.  

It was an incredible day and after the humpbacks, we also saw orcas and then saw a full double rainbow on the way back.  That stayed in view for some time and was too big to even get a picture of the whole thing with my wide angle lens.  After that, there was a very nice sunset and the nearly full moon was playing peek-a-boo with the clouds on the way home.

We don't always have these kind of days but whatever days we have, we need to remember that God is in control and He is always there for us.

This is the day the LORD has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 24, 2016

As we were riding in our Safari jeep in Botswana, a flock of Helmeted Guineafowl (shown above) scampered on the road ahead of us.  All at once they ran off the road and stopped behind a clump of grass.  They thought they were hiding from us!  Their red and blue featherless heads seemed colorful compared to their body plumage, making them stand out from the vegetation.  

Like the guineafowl thought they were hiding from us, sometimes people hide from God.  Can you think of someone in the Bible who hid from God?  The Bible tells of people who thought they were hiding from God.  Adam and Eve thought they were hiding from God after they sinned. (Genesis 3) Elijah found his hiding places, but God found him. (1 Kings 19) Jonah disobeyed God and ran from Him, but couldn’t hide. (Jonah 1)  

Do people today hide from God?  Sometimes people are so caught up on their work, career or leisure activities that they think they don’t have time for God.  Even though important, sometimes too many family activities keep people away from God.  Are you running from God?  Think you’re hiding from Him?  Oops, He’s always there!  “Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?  Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24)  You can hide, but you’re not hidden!  Do you need to come out of hiding and reach out to God?

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The Eye of Love
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 23, 2016

A few weeks ago Shelley and I visited my two sisters and their families in South Dakota. One evening my nephew Michael and his wife Dana had put their little boy Payne to bed, and had then come outside to talk to us in the cool evening.

But Payne was not forgotten. Along with them Michael and Dana had brought a little device which looked like a large-screen smartphone. Glowing on the screen was the image in the photo above, which shows little Payne in his bed. As I studied this monitor, I could hear small noises coming from it—the occasional murmur of a sleeping preschooler.

I noticed that while mom Dana talked to us, she kept holding the monitor and glancing at it from time to time. The camera mounted on the wall above Payne’s bed had the ability to make use of just the tiny amount of light in the room to create a visible image. So, as the little boy slept, he was secure. Mom and Dad were keeping an eye—an eye of love—on him.

In the four Gospels, Jesus refers to God as “Father” approximately 200 times, and as far as I know He called Him nothing else. And in Matthew 10:30. Jesus gives us an amazing testimony about just how close an eye God keeps on us. “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered,” the Savior insists. Even a baby monitor can’t do that!  

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

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

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

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

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
        --Civilla D. Martin, 1905

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Anonymous—for Now
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 22, 2016

On the last day of June, I stood in the western section of the prairie cemetery northwest of Rockham, South Dakota. The oldest graves are the westernmost ones; my parents (who died in the 1990s) are buried in the eastern section.

Every time Shelley and I go back to South Dakota we visit this lonely cemetery, and for the first time I noticed the humble, anonymous grave in the photo above. In fact, from the condition of the earth around the stone’s edges, I’m wondering if this stone may have been recently rediscovered after being covered for a long time. As I mentioned, burials began in the west section, and this marker is in the midst of other stones whose inscriptions list death dates in the late 1800s.

I’m puzzled as to why this marker simply says “Grave.” You’d think that those doing the burying would have known the name of the person who died, though this might not have been the case. In an article titled “Umarked Grave,” Wikipedia gives an extensive lists of reasons a grave might be anonymous, including the disinclination to honor a criminal or other undesirable person, and the desire of some religious groups to not recognize a person regarded as “unclean.”

I’m not sure what happened in the case of whoever lies below this forlorn stone. But I do know that the God who created that person knows his or her heart, and knows how to give life at the resurrection.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthains 15:51 – 54 NKJV)

In the words of the old gospel song:

The mossy old graves where the pilgrims sleep
Shall open as wide as before,
And the millions that sleep in the mighty deep
Shall live on this earth once more.

He’s coming, coming, coming soon I know,
Coming back to this earth again;
And the weary pilgrims will to glory go,
When the Savior comes to reign.

To learn more of what the Bible says about resurrection, click the link immediately below:

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Photo (c)2016 by Chelsea Jurgensen
Commentary (c)2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer is a great time to get out on the beach.  With a little creativity and exploration, it is possible to find secluded beaches in the Puget Sound area.  It is also good to have times of seclusion in our spiritual lives to tune out the world and get new perspective in the Lord.  With so much turmoil in the world, we need all the wholesome energy we can get.

Paul has good advice in Philippians 4:5-7.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As we interact with people they will be able to see the difference.

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Do Not Fear

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Turn on the radio, the TV or look on-line, all we see are horrible headlines. It’s difficult to get away from all the depressing news. It truly is tough to swallow all the recent turmoil.
In Psalm 27, David speaks of war and of his enemies. We may not be at war, on the battlefield, but we are certainly in the midst of a war for the human race. This message is for us (today) just as much as it was for David. We are dealing with the Great Controversy. We see and hear about these horrific events, natural disasters, all the things we know are signs of the end. Clearly we can look at these happenings and get depressed. We can also read versus like this one and see that, in the long run, we having nothing to fear – we know who will be victorious.
Take a couple of minutes – view the serene image above, read Psalm 27 and then pray for God to be with you today.

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
   of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me
    to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the LORD,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
    and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the LORD.
Hear my voice when I call, LORD;
    be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
    you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
    God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the LORD will receive me.
Teach me your way, LORD;
    lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
    for false witnesses rise up against me,
    spouting malicious accusations.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the LORD
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the LORD.

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Head-On  (Butterfly)
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

There’s something to be said for directness, for not beating around the bush, but confronting the challenges you face head-on.  This approach however, isn’t always the most appealing.  In addition, the majority of pictures we see of butterflies usually depict them with their wings spread wide showing off their multi-colored hues.  Occasionally the view is altered to reveal the ventral side of the wings, which though not as colorful, may still show interesting pattern or texture.  But seldom do we see the butterfly depicted head-on.  Why is that?
The simple answer of course is that it is not as appealing.  And the same can be said for our predicament, for few of us enjoy batting our heads against an apparently unmovable obstacle.  It’s much more appealing to pursue the end run, or at least some other tactic that doesn’t demand direct confrontation.
But notice how James feels about such an approach:   “Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” (James 1:12The Message)

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Deadly Deception
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 18, 2016

A quote from Meriwether Lewis in the Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, notes that " .. . . the quawmash is now in blume and from the colour of its bloom at a short distance it resembles lakes of fine clear water, so complete in this deseption that on first sight I could have swoarn it was water."  I saw it blooming like that at a place where Lewis and Clark camped near the Idaho-Montana border just off Highway 12. I thought I had come to a lake only to see it was a meadow full of blue camas.

Lewis J. Clark, in his book Wild Flowers of the Pacific Northwest, tells how the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest used camas bulbs in the spring as a staple part of their diet.  The beautiful camas plants belong to the lily family.  Unfortunately, the Death Camas, zygadenus, (white flower, pictured) can grow in the same areas as the Great Camas, camassia leichtlinh and the Common Camas, camassia quamash (blue flower, pictured).  The bulbs of the Death Camas and the Great Camas are apparently very similar while the bulbs of the Common Camas are smaller.

You have to know what you are doing to make sure that you are choosing edible camassia bulbs and not the toxic, potentially deadly zygadenus bulbs of the Death Camas since the bulbs are dug up in the spring before the flowers are out.  I took both of these pictures at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Spokane County.  Apparently, the Native Americans used to pull up any Death Camas plants they saw blooming in areas where they dug up camas bulbs to eat so that they knew that the bulbs found in that in that area were safe to eat the following spring.

This all reminds me of the verse in Proverbs about how something can appear to be right but how looks can be deceiving:

There is a way that appears to be right,
    but in the end it leads to death.
Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)

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Walking On Water
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 17, 2016

Having extremely long toes and claws that spread out their body weight, the African jacana (shown above) can walk on floating vegetation.   Sometimes with the lily pads and other plants submerged, it appears they are actually walking on water.  They feast on fish, aquatic insects, worms, snails and seeds while walking on this floating vegetation.  They can swim under water to avoid predators, keeping only their bill tip above the water surface.  “Lily-trotter” is one of the names given to the jacanas since they often walk from one lily pad to another.  They even build their nests on partly submerged aquatic vegetation.  The African jacana is also called the “Jesus Bird” because it appears to walk on water like Jesus walked on water.

Jesus had his disciples go ahead of him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while he dismissed the large crowd.  After praying on the mountainside and before dawn, Jesus went to the disciples, walking on the lake.  The disciples were terrified and thought He was a ghost.  Jesus told them it was He and to not be afraid.  Peter replied, saying if He was the Lord, tell him to walk on the water.  Jesus told Peter to come. Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  A strong wind came up, frightening Peter and he took his focus off Jesus.  Beginning to doubt, he started to sink and cried out for Jesus to save him.  Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.  Jesus asked Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” They climbed into the boat as the wind died down.  For the first recorded time, the disciples worshiped Jesus, the Son of God.  (Mathew 14:22-33)

We need faith in God, like Peter did before he doubted.   However, like Peter, doubt can destroy faith.  Jesus was there to take Peter’s hand and guide him to safety.   Likewise, He is there to take our hand when we need Him!  And…let’s not doubt God in the first place!

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Making God Laugh

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 16, 2016

During yesterday’s Daily Photo Parable (just below) I told how I strolled around my old college campus in Aberdeen, South Dakota. While passing a bulletin board I noticed the eye-arresting title of a play being presented by a local repertory company. The title comes from a Woody Allen quote: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

I Googled the play, and found that it was about a family who gathered together after many years in some kind of reunion. There’s a lot of humor, but the final sentence in the play’s synopsis goes like this: “As time passes, the family discovers that, despite what we may have in mind, we often arrive at unexpected destinations.”

What do you think really makes God laugh? As far as I can tell, the Bible gives only one instance of God’s laughter. It’s in Psalm 2:4, and describes God’s derisive laughter against His enemies. But other verses, like Proverbs 17:22, talk about a “merry heart” doing good “like medicine.” The word “blessed,” in the Beatitudes, actually means “happy.”

Woody Allen’s “tell God your plans if you want to make Him laugh” is probably meant satirically, and refers to how often we plan our lives out in detail only to see those plans evaporate in the face of unexpected misfortune.

Paul has a better view of our happy God, and how our own happiness should echo His. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” the apostle insists, and then repeats himself for emphasis. “Again I will say, ‘Rejoice.’” (Philippians 4:4 NKJV) God created laughter, and loves to listen as we chuckle out our joy.

To learn more about what the Bible says about joy, click the link immediately below:  

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Times Have Changed
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 15, 2016

A bit over a couple of weeks ago Shelley and I were back in eastern South Dakota, where I grew up. At one point, with my two sisters, we drove to Aberdeen, where I’d gone to college. After dropping the three gals off at a mall, I drove to Northern State, my alma mater.

The Student Union building had changed a lot, but it still boasted a little college bookstore. And of course it still had soft drink vending machines.

But I glanced at the one in the phoro above, I noticed a couple of dramatic differences. One was the change in the green-and-red Mountain Dew logo. The other was the large admonitory sign above it. Back in my day, the pop companies couldn’t care less about how much nutrition-free sugar their customers consumed. But nowadays these manufacturers are feeling public pressure to at least draw attention to the issue.

But notice what they do next. Rather than simply attaching a warning label (“Too much sugar can be harmful to your health”), they admit that calories are important, and then they put the responsibility back onto the patrons. In other words, they avoid the feeling that “We’re the cranky old meanies trying to run your life.” Instead—and rightly so—they remind us that we’re not helpless pawns of the soda companies. We have free choice, and should use it.

The Bible has a lot to say about exercising our free choice. In fact, if you click the link immediately below, you will read four Bible passages and learn four principles to becoming more decisive.

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A Tangled Mess?

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, July 14, 2016

It is fun to look for chaos in industrial structures like this power-line tower.  From the right perspective it can look like there is no rhyme or reason to the structure.  However, stepping back a ways allows us to see the design and purpose for supporting wires that deliver power to our homes and businesses.

Does it sometimes feel like our lives and relationship with God are in a bit of chaos?  That is when it is good to step back and look at the pattern in our lives -- especially all the times God has led.  When we focus on the good things, life takes on a new perspective.  It also gives us a focus for moving forward.

Jesus is the source of good in our lives.  He says, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  John 10: 9,10.

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Love, Don’t Forget About Love

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
In a recent sermon I outlined a few key words (starting with the letter “F”) we need to keep in mind as we go through our daily Christian walk. If I had added in another word, it would have been LOVE. At the heart of everything that is good on this earth, is this word. In the sermon I mentioned that a "Foundation" is where it starts, and I would say that love is the concrete in that foundation.

In Proverbs 3:3-6 we read,
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
If we keep to this, not letting love and faithfulness leave us, I feel like we’re going to be in a really good place.
The image above is from a trip to the tulips up in the Skagit Valley. God created these wonderful colors because He loves us. Let’s not forget to love Him back.

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Age and Symbols (Flag and Steeple)  

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

They both appear to have been here more than a few years, yet through the extremes of summer and winter have maintained a sense of dignity.  Perhaps it’s because we imagine them to be picturesque we have awarded them this title, but I’d like to think it’s more than that.  It would be hard to deny they both have certain artistry about them, a sense of style that accompanies good manners and composure not likely to vanish under adversity.
It may be this impression was created through the use of symbols, or maybe the symbols reinforced what was already present, it probably doesn’t really matter.  But the symbols are there, and what they say to us speaks volumes:  the flag and the steeple.  God forbid they are archaic and no longer relevant.  If that were true we would be in bigger trouble than the anathema our critics wish to place upon us.
Freedom, by its very nature, must walk a fine line for freedom carries within itself the seeds of disunion and fragmentation.  But solidarity must not be coerced by forcing one upon the other, for in order to be strong, both the church and the state must exist free from control of the other.  A sorry day it would be should the reality these icons stand for become obsolete and relegated to a dusty drawer in the museum of our minds.  Wave that flag, say a loud “Amen” and let freedom ring across the land.

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Like a Deer

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 11, 2016

I stopped to look at this blacktail deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) in Olympic National Park recently.  It was on the rather steep and winding mountain road that goes up to Hurricane Ridge. It had initially been in the ditch and then when I drove past it and pulled over, it crossed the road behind me and started eating grass just a little ways behind my car.
I like the ending of Habakkuk's prayer found in Habakkuk 3:

There may be no grapes on the vines.
There may be no olives growing
    and no food growing in the fields.
There may be no sheep in the pens
    and no cattle in the barns.
But I will still be glad in the LORD;
    I will rejoice in God my Savior.
The Lord GOD is my strength.
    He makes me like a deer that does not stumble
    so I can walk on the steep mountains.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NCV)

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The Hungry Elephants

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 10, 2016

Have you watched elephants eat?  Before going on an African safari I had seen elephants in zoos, visited an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka and ridden them in India, but I had never really “watched” them eat before.  Have you?  If you think about it, their long trunk is in the way of them reaching food with their mouth like most other animals.

I was fascinated to watch them grabbing a hunk of tall grass with the end of their trunk, wrapping their trunk around the grass and giving a sturdy pull.  Next, they brought the grass up to their mouth and began chewing.  This was repeated over and over.  Being the largest land animal on Earth, they need a lot of food!

Their trunk is actually an extension of the upper lip and nose and is used for smelling, breathing, communicating, trumpeting, drinking, grabbing things like grass.  Two finger-like appendages at the end of their trunk are used for grasping smaller items.  In addition to eating grass, elephants eat leaves, roots, bark and fruit. They use their tusks to dig for food and water as well as stripping bark from trees.  In the national parks we visited, many trees had their bark stripped from them or even large trees were knocked down by elephants so they could reach the higher leaves for food.  Being so big, they require a lot of food – between 200-700 pounds a day!   That’s a lot of grass, leaves and other food!  In order to get enough food, they spend about 80 per cent of day eating.  They also drink as much as 50 gallons of water a day by sucking it part way up their trunk and then spraying it into their mouth.

As the elephant is hungry for food to sustain its huge body, we should be hungry for the word of God.  “Let them thank the Lord for his enduring love and for the marvelous things he has done for men: he has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things.” Psalms 107:8, 9 NEB

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 9, 2016

This past Wednesday Shelley and I returned from a "sort-of" vacation. During the first part, I was the Sabbath morning speaker for the last-ever reunion of the Adventist secondary school I attended.

Once the reunion weekend was over, we spent a few days visiting my two sisters and their families in Redfield, South Dakota. The above house, now no longer in our family, was where I lived from about age 12 to the time I left home in my 20s.

As I snapped the above photo a couple of weeks ago, I did so with mixed emotions. That’s our old house, but not really. When the last of my parents died, it was sold, and the new owners covered its white paint with the color you see above. They remodeled the inside, even changing the location of the beloved kitchen where Mom spent a lot of time nourishing us. They also added the side and front porch-awnings, and repurposed the pasture from a quiet meadow where sheep grazed to a strenuous training-ground for horses.

In other words, even if I were to buy this house back, it would have changed so much that it wouldn’t really be “home” any more. Mom and Dad are gone, and they’re the ones who really made it home.

One of the Christian’s chief joys is knowing that we have a heavenly home. It’s being built for us by the Carpenter Himself, who said to His friends, “I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1 – 3) Its materials and construction will be fantastic yet absolutely satisfying to dwell in. And our Heavenly Father will be there, and His presence will truly make it home.

My heav’nly home is bright and fair,
I feel like traveling on;
Nor pain nor death can enter there,
I feel like traveling on.

     Yes, I feel like traveling on,
     I feel like traveling on;
     My heav’nly home is bright and fair,
     I feel like traveling on.

Its glitt’ring tow’rs the sun outshine,
I feel like traveling on;
That heav’nly mansion shall be mine,
I feel like traveling on.

Let others seek a home below,
I feel like traveling on;
Which flames devour, or waves o’erflow,
I feel like traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me,
I feel like traveling on;
Until that blessed home I see,
I feel like traveling on.
     --William Hunter

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 8, 2016

Back in mid-June Shelley and I were in a popular community center shopping a sale at a bookstore. I noticed live piano music, which seemed to be performed by young players, coming from the commons area, where there was a stage, and strolled over to see what was happening.

I arrived just in time to discover that the young artist, while still playing the piano, had simultaneously burst into vocal song. Here was this boy, who couldn’t be older than five or six, allowing himself to be heard and seen by an appreciative flock of people he didn’t know well.

The main reason for this coordinated virtuosity was, of course, the woman holding the mike. She’s no doubt the boy’s teacher, and had probably provided the song as well as the mentoring. All the top musicians, whatever their instrument, give lavish credit to those who inspired them.

As Christians, we understand that we are not self-made. Everything we are, every talent we might possess, is a gift from a generous Creator. And when those talents reap rewards, we need to give God the glory.

For a review of several Bible texts about the marvelous creation, of which we are the triumphant culmination, click the link immediately below.

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A Track in the Woods

Photo and Commentary (c)2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, July 7, 2016

Have you ever seen a new and unknown trail or track in the woods and wondered where it goes? Have you ever just decided to follow it to find out?  I think we all have followed unknown paths literally and figuratively in our lives.

Every day, we have opportunities to choose paths that lead to the Lord.  Sometimes we are in a hurry doing our own thing and don't notice them.  Sometimes simply doing the right thing is taking a path less traveled.  In Psalm 119:32-35 David talks about following in the path of the Lord:

I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding.

Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
    that I may follow it to the end.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
    and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
    for there I find delight.

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God Is Good . . . .  How Good Is He?
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sometimes (more often than it should be) I take God for granted, not on purpose but it just happens. Whether it’s my expectation of safety throughout my day, the job I have, the house I live in, the food I have to eat. I know God is good to me, but do I really stop and think – How good? I know I need to. The book of Psalms is great for this. I can stop, find a chapter of ‘praise’ and see, just how good God is.
If you have the time, I encourage you to read the whole chapter. For now, read the first 11 verses – Psalm 147:1-11:

Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble
    but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the LORD with grateful praise;
    make music to our God on the harp.
He covers the sky with clouds;
    he supplies the earth with rain
    and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
    and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the LORD delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.
That sums up the goodness of God!  Thank Him – constantly.

Image shot in Skagit Valley, Wa.

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More Than Bread
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday & Tuesday, July 4 & 5, 2016

We generally think of butterflies sipping nectar from beautiful flowers but they also get nutrients from what is called puddling.  You may find one or several butterflies all in one spot where they are getting nutrients from other sources, including wet or muddy areas.  

I came across a couple of swallowtails recently which were landing on the wet sand at the edge of a lake.   They actually stayed in the same spot for some time and I was able to get quite close to them.  

We (humans) also need physical food but we are told in the Bible that it is not enough:

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,
‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4 (NLT)

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Reaching High
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 3, 2016

The giraffes we saw while on our African safari were keeping the tree tops well-trimmed! In fact, eating grass and other vegetation at ground-level is hard for them to do.  Even with their long necks, they have to spread their even longer front legs apart or bend their knees in order to reach the ground.  Therefore, it’s much easier for them to eat at a higher level.  Also, eating twigs and leaves encourages new growth on the tree or shrub, meaning they will have more food later on.  They definitely have an advantage of reaching food other animals can’t get!  Like camels, giraffes can go for weeks or even months without drinking water but get some moisture from leaves, fruit and flowers.  Being the tallest animal in the world and needing a lot of food, they spend most of their time eating – around 65 pounds of food a day.  While resting, giraffes chew their cud like cows do to aid in digestion.

Like the giraffe, people can benefit by reaching high for food – spiritual food.  Jesus taught His disciples to reach high and aim for perfection, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Mathew 5:48)  With God’s help, we can reach high and live a life according to the principles He taught: faith, hope and love. (I Corinthians 13:13)

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A Glimpse of Infinity
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch

Sabbath, July 2, 2016

Wednesday nights after prayer meeting Shelley and I stop at a grocery store south of the church to stock up. A few weeks back I noticed the above refrigerated case of fruit drinks. A few seconds later I discovered that each of the case’s inner side walls is a mirror, so that if you look at the display from one side, it’s as though you can see fruit bottles stretching into infinity . . . .

The above is an illusion of course—proving true the old saying, “They do it with mirrors.” And the juice in most of these bottles is no doubt very nutritious, and when combined with an otherwise healthy lifestyle might indeed add a bit to the lifespan.

But there’s only one place we can go to fulfill the tantalizing promise of real, true, century-after-century living forever. To learn or review, click both of the two links immediately below, and follow the directions in the Bible texts.  

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Man-made, God-made

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 1, 2016

On a morning walk in mid-June, Shelley and I spotted this sweet juxtaposition of man-made versus God-made. Here were these ornamental cement garden bricks, doing their stern duty holding up a bank of dirt, and in between them has managed to grow a pretty little flower whose name I do not know but whose Creator I do.

And what’s especially amazing is that God created not only the flower but also the molecular structure of the cement materials, so that amidst the bricks’ uncompromising security, the delicate flower can survive and thrive. “All things were made through him,” says John 1:3 in the English Standard Version, speaking of Jesus’ creative work, “and without him was not anything made that was made.”

What do you think of God? Is your attitude toward Him one which causes you to flinch back in fear, reluctant to savor His creative works as evidence of His love? Read the Gospel of John, then the other gospels, then the book of Acts and Paul’s writings, and you’ll see a God who loves us, but who wants us to freely choose to be on His side. Have you told Him you’ve chosen Him?

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