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

Daily Photo Parable -  June 2012

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

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

“Forever” Health Care
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 30, 2012

Unless you have just descended from a month in a Himalayan hermit’s cave, you are still vibrating from the media-saturation about the recent Supreme Court “Affordable Care” vote. 

That’s what made me change our VBS promo sign (VBS’ final night was Friday) to the message above.

Want more Bible facts about salvation? Click the link below:

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Faithful Companion
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 29, 2012

Earlier this month, thousands of Western Washingtonians converged upon Auburn Adventist Academy for an annual campmeeting. A lot of people look forward to this gathering, which includes lots of great preaching, singing, classes, and socializing.

Campmeeting is so popular that even people with disabilities often spare no effort to attend. While listening to a program in the huge Rainier Auditorium, I noticed this wheelchair-bound man, parked behind the last row of chairs in one section.

And then I noticed his faithful little companion, lying on a wooden platform the man was using as a foot rest. He had had it built extra long, and had carpeted it, so that the dog would have a comfortable place to rest. As I watched them, I thought to myself, The man is happy with the dog—and the dog is happy with the man.

Our other Daily Photo Parable bloggers are vastly more qualified than I am to write about animals, or birds or flowers or other growing things. But though I may not know the name of a dog’s breed, or a bird’s genus and species, I can tell how "meant for each other" are we and they.

Interestingly, God allowed into His Word a “Be kind to animals” verse:  “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal . . . . ” Proverbs 12:10 NIV  I guess the bottom line is, how you treat God’s creation shows how much you respect—and reflect—your Creator.

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Hidden Assumptions
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thanks to a wife whose cooking and personality make life healthy and serene for me, my blood pressure throbs along at pretty much normal readings most of the time.

However, there are a small number of stimuli which can bump up the old Schurch BP once in awhile. One of those you see pictured in the photo above. It's one of the frequent pop-up ads which America Online presents for its subscribers’ viewing pleasure.

I hasten to assure you that I am not against all pop-up ads. Businesses need to thrive. And – if you've read the above ad's content – I am not snortin’ and snarlin’ because of this ad’s politics.

No, what really irks me are bald-faced and ludicrous assertions which are based on hidden assumptions which nobody shines a flashlight on. For example, here are some I see in the ad above:

Assumption 1: The term “patriot” is always a good one. Normally, this is true. However, one cannot say that a staunch patriotic supporter of the policies of Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, or the slave-holding Confederacy would be a good patriot. Yet the word "patriot" – especially in heated political rhetoric – is presented with a positive spin, and the assumption is that once you have labeled someone a patriot, that person’s ideas are those which the rest of us should adopt.

Assumption 2: President Obama owns and controls an enslaving “electricity monopoly.” Unless you have recently arrived from the other side of Neptune, you know that this is absolutely not true. No president of either party has ever enslaved his country with an electricity monopoly. The President can flick the switch on the White House Christmas tree, but that’s about it.

Assumption 3: There is a “they” who are out to get you. "They" are the bugaboo monsters of conspiracy theorists everywhere. A distant relative of mine, before passing to his rest, was firmly convinced that the day would come when “they” (in this case, godless Communist soldiers who would finally invade a weakened America) would one day thunder over the plains toward his farmhouse, so he kept himself heavily armed.

Okay. You're saying to yourself, "Did I click on the wrong website here? Isn't this the old familiar ‘Daily Devotional Parable’ I’ve grown to love?” Yup. But, sad to say, unexamined assertions are often used to support looney religious ideas as well.

You see, at least in my opinion, God did not "wire" Adam and Eve with automatic lie-detectors. After all, Eden was supposed to be a land where people always told each other the truth as they understood it. Sure, there might be temporary misunderstandings while ideas got clarified, but nobody would deliberately set out to deceive.

But Adam and Eve did sin because of Satan's deliberate deception, and when God came walking through the evening garden to talk to them about it, both the man and the woman immediately tried to deceive Him into thinking that it wasn't their fault.

So what's the bottom line? Let silly ads like the one above do all the asserting they want, but you and I need to be extremely vigilant about the hidden assumptions behind religious ideas we hear. For example, there are those who assert that Jesus wants you wealthy, and if you're poor, you're doing something wrong or don't have enough faith. For another example, there are those who assert that when you die, you go immediately into the presence of either God or the devil—and if the latter, you will live out the rest of eternity in flames and torment.

And as you may suspect, I am only scraping a few shavings off the iceberg-tip here.

The safest thing to do with a new religious idea is to do what I did with the ad above -- unravel its assumptions, lay them out, and then evaluate those assumptions with your Bible. Paul had the highest praise for a group of Christians who did this. As he traveled through Asia, teaching in Jewish synagogues about a Nazareth carpenter who was really God’s Son (a startling assertion in its own right), he met with a certain amount of resistance. But not in the town of Berea:

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed . . . . (Acts 17:10 – 12)

In other words, those Bereans – while gracious and open-minded – didn't simply swallow everything Paul said because he may have been a dynamic speaker. Instead, they calmly opened their Bibles and compared his assertions to what its pages taught.

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Have you ever eaten too much food? To the point you were more then full? Maybe at Thanksgiving, or Fourth of July, or some other holiday, we tend to over indulge. I know I have -- it's actually not the greatest feeling. In John 15:9-12, we read, "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
This is Jesus speaking to us, giving His promise to us -- that He will give us Joy, that we may be full of His joy. As you can see in this vase, the water is overflowing and is almost too much.  With the pormise, we'll be full, not too full but perfectly full with God's love and Joy. What a promise He has given us. 

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The Old Man of the Mountain
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Twelve hundred feet above the valley floor, the Old Man of the Mountain stoically surveyed the Franconia Notch which was his domain.  Composed of granite cliff ledges which make up the White Mountains of New Hampshire, this 40 foot profile had been admired by many since its discovery in the early 1800s.  This came to an end in May of 2003 when the ongoing process of freezing and thawing caused it to fall into a heap of rubble far below.  Recognizing this possibility, engineers had sought to reinforce it, using twenty tons of fast drying cement, steel rods, and turnbuckles, but to no avail.
Perhaps Daniel Webster, a native of New Hampshire, can be excused for his regional pride when he wrote, “Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades, shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe, jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth, but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.”
Mountains are often used in the Bible as a symbol of strength and stability, but the author of Psalm 46:1, 2 acknowledges that even these lack genuine permanence.  “God is our shelter and our refuge, a timely help in trouble; so we are not afraid when the earth heaves and the mountains are hurled into the sea.” (New English Bible)  The one Constant remains, and He has offered us His protection.

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Time for a Change
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 25, 2012

I found this swallowtail on a lilac bush last month.  At one point there were about four of these large butterflies on a couple of big, fragrant bushes that were growing close together.  It was a nice sunny day and there were a few different kinds of butterflies flying around a small park. 

I think the change that takes place when a caterpillar changes into a butterfly is what God has in mind when he talks about the kind of change we need to make in our lives.  The caterpillar becomes a totally different creature.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, preaching the Good News from God.  He said, "The right time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News!" Mark 1:14-15 (NCV)

"If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!"  2 Corinthians 5:17 (NCV)

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Ephesus, a Center for Christianity
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Library of Celsus is the most beautiful and impressive of the restored buildings in Ephesus. This library was once one of the largest in the ancient world. Today, the library consists of a rebuilt facade, without the rooms that once contained thousands of scrolls.

Why was Ephesus so significant for early Christianity? In part, this had to do with the prominence of the city itself in the first century and its central location along the coast of Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. It was the capital of an Asian province with a large population and trade center. In ancient times, Ephesus had a harbor with the city on a hill reaching down to the water. But, more importantly, Ephesus attracted many influential Christian leaders, including Paul, John, and Timothy. Therefore, it became an area in which Christianity thrived and flourished.

Paul traveled to Ephesus (Acts 19:1) and found a number of converts. He attended the synagogue, speaking about the kingdom of God. When most of the Jews were closed to Paul's message, he moved to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. After a period of two years there, the whole population of Asia had heard the word of the Lord. (Acts 19:10-11)

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Carry Your Own Football Helmet!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 23, 2012

Back in late April, on what was evidently a rainy day, I spotted this handsome snail inching its way along a parking lot pavement. Studying the photo up close, I find it startling how much the shell looks like a football helmet.

In recent sports news, there's been a lot of talk about how football – even professional football where you think the guys would know how to be safe – is really quite dangerous to the brain because of the multiple concussions players often suffer.

This little snail, of course, carries his helmet with him, and if I were to have reached down and tapped lightly on its top, he would've immediately folded himself up inside it.

God encourages us to build of a wall of defense against what can hurt us. His 10 Commandment law can be that barrier. If I firmly resolve, and ask his help, to not even begin traveling down the path toward murder, adultery, stealing or lying, I am as effectively protected from the results of these sins as if I were indeed wearing protective mind-gear. Psalm 119 puts it another way, speaking about God’s Scripture: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

Are you prayerfully reading something in your Bible each day?

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Line Up By Degree Type
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 22, 2012

The first Tuesday in June, after I'd visited someone in a North Seattle hospital, I dropped in to the University of Washington bookstore. On its lowest level I noticed this sign.

I'm not exactly sure what a "graduation order" is – is it a package containing your cap and gown? At any rate, people who were graduating were urged to line up according to the degree they were getting.

As I glanced at that sign, I wondered how many of these students, four years earlier, had decided on their major based on whether it would make them a lot of money, or whether it would fulfill their parents' desire for them to be a doctor or dentist and thus bring prestige to the family, or for some other reason besides enabling them to fulfill their own aspirations. Just within the last couple of weeks I spoke with someone who had taken a dental degree to please his parents, but then had gone into another line of work!

God, of course, is our loving Heavenly Parent, and since He has far more insight into our personalities than even our earthly parents, He knows best what life course would satisfy us most deeply. But the Bible’s stories indicate that, to a breathtaking extent, God is willing to give us free choice. And when He does it express His hopes for us, He puts these aspirations in general terms, like this: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 21, 2012

Earlier this month as Shelley and I took our morning walk, I spotted this twig on the sidewalk. It looked like the left profile of someone who is sticking out his tongue at someone else. (See the long nose pointing left? Then a bit below it, the thin “tongue” poking sarcastically forth? It’s like someone’s saying Mnyahh, mnyahh, mnyahh!)

As I glance back through the tragic saga known as the Bible, it seems to me that sneering at God is the major sin we see in its pages, and certainly the very first sin. The highest created being, the angel Lucifer, wasn't content to bask in the presence of his Creator and serve Him faithfully. Instead, this angel allowed himself to imagine that he could exalt himself above God. And the devil’s first act on this planet – in Genesis 3 – was to plant this very “I can out-guess my Maker” seed in Eve’s heart. And the rest is hiss-tory.

Distrusting God is not only the ultimate heresy, but also the ultimate stupidity. Isaiah eloquently agonizes over this tendency when he says:

Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord, and their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?” Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:15, 16 NIV)

As the Psalms show, it's okay to ask God hard questions. It's okay to share your deepest emotions with Him, even your distress at what He seems to be allowing into your life. But if you read through each of those "God, why?" psalms, you'll see that at the end the psalmist concludes by reaffirming his trust in the Almighty.

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Deep End of The Pool

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
What can separate us from God? Well, sin can be a distraction. Work can be a distraction, so can school and life in general.  These can all be distractions but the good news is found in Romans 8:38 & 39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Certainly not the water, or I should say, the depth of this pool, in Hawaii.
In this text, Paul explains to the Romans, as well as US, nothing will separate us from the love of God – we always have His love, no matter what.

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Mountain Bluebird
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Birds are often considered the most colorful of all the vertebrates, although fans of the coral reef might argue with that.  Nevertheless, their colors are derived from several sources.  The first and most common of these is pigmentation, composed of chemical compounds which are part of the feather itself.  It’s from this source it gets reds and yellows, browns and black, and at least some greens.  The second type is produced by the structure of the feather or schemochromes.  The third type is formed by a blend of the first two methods.  The greens seen in many parrots are an example of this combination. 

The blues, such as those seen in the Mountain Bluebird, are derived from the second source.  This blue is created from interaction with sunlight spectra.  Thus, the intensity of the light shining on the bird largely determines how blue it looks.  I’ve taken pictures of bluebirds which appear to almost be made out of plastic due to this optical illusion.  Iridescent colors such as seen in hummingbirds are created in much the same way.

Apparently some birds can see colors which are not available to the human eye.  They are simply beyond our perception.  This makes me wonder what Paul really had in mind when he wrote, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  (1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV)  God hasn’t been exactly parsimonious with the colors He used to paint the world, but still more awaits us.  I can only imagine. But then again, like the text says, even the imagining is beyond us for now.

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He Waters the Mountains
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 18, 2012

This photo is of Shannon Falls which is in British Columbia.  If you've ever driven up to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway, you may have stopped to view it. 

I met up with family in Vancouver last week and none of us had been on this road before.  The weather forecast was not great but we decided to go anyway.  It turned out to be a very nice day and the views from that road are amazing.  We didn't make it all the way to Whistler but saw a couple of beautiful waterfalls and a pretty little lake where we stopped for lunch.

I like the way the following psalm talks about the water and its source.

Praise to God Who Made the World
 My whole being, praise the LORD.
       LORD my God, you are very great.
    You are clothed with glory and majesty;
 you wear light like a robe.
    You stretch out the skies like a tent.
 You build your room above the clouds.
    You make the clouds your chariot,
       and you ride on the wings of the wind.
 You make the winds your messengers,
       and flames of fire are your servants.

 You built the earth on its foundations
       so it can never be moved.
 You covered the earth with oceans;
       the water was above the mountains.
 But at your command, the water rushed away.
       When you thundered your orders, it hurried away.
 The mountains rose; the valleys sank.
       The water went to the places you made for it.
 You set borders for the seas that they cannot cross,
       so water will never cover the earth again.

 You make springs pour into the ravines;
       they flow between the mountains.
 They water all the wild animals;
       the wild donkeys come there to drink.
 Wild birds make nests by the water;
       they sing among the tree branches.
 You water the mountains from above.
       The earth is full of the things you made.
 You make the grass for cattle
       and vegetables for the people.
       You make food grow from the earth.
Psalms 104:1-14 (NCV)

According to the footnotes in the Andrews Study Bible, Psalm 104 is "A creation psalm.  In a poetic way the seven days of the CREATION week (Gen. 1:1-2:4) are beautifully rewritten and explained as a result of divine creative activity.  Each day of creation is echoed in the text with the stress on their functions and benefits . . ."

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Paul, From Tarsus
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 17, 2012

This mosaic of Paul is in the Church of St. Paul, now a museum in Tarsus. Built in the 11th and 12th centuries, the church was dedicated to Paul.

As well as his being born in Turkey, the first Christian communities Paul founded were there. Christianity spread there from Jerusalem, and from Turkey to the rest of Europe. Although he traveled in other countries, Turkey is where he spent most of his time, and where he preached the most. Tarsus was a refuge for Paul after he accepted Christianity and worked at spreading the gospel of Jesus. He was taken to Tarsus when his teaching of Christianity in Jerusalem so upset people that they wanted to kill him. Paul made several missionary journeys planting churches, preaching the gospel and giving encouragement to the early Christians. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul is credited as author of more of them than all other writers combined.

Paul taught that people are saved by grace, not works: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of ourselves: it is the gift of God.”(Ephesians 2:8-10,) Let's rejoice in our salvation gained by the loving sacrifice of Jesus.

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Thank You
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 16, 2012

This past Tuesday afternoon our telephone rang, and as I picked up our cordless handset I noticed this unusual name. (By the way, knowing that the call was probably a "robo" one, and not wishing to be bothered at the moment, I didn't take this call. Therefore, I do not know which company or charity was calling, and I am not responsible if you yourself dial that number and get scammed!!!)

But even though I'm hard-core resistant to people phoning me to sell me something I haven’t asked for, I felt a momentary warmth toward whoever had transmitted that bit of electronic gratitude to my phone. It’s like when a driver merges onto a freeway from an on-ramp, and waves to you when you slow down to let him in.

God, of course, programmed this ability to express and appreciate thankfulness. And His Bible contains exhortations to make it a continuous part of our lives. Click the link below to find out more.

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The Analyzed Bible
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 15, 2012

I think it was in the Port Angeles Goodwill store that I spotted this copy of The Analyzed Bible.  I don't know whether G. Campbell Morgan knew (or minded) that he was called "Prince of Expositors,” but this book reminds me of Someone else who truly was that Prince.

Jesus knew His Bible extremely well, and on a far deeper level than anyone else. It's interesting that, on the evening of His resurrection day, two of His disciples were walking toward the town of Emmaus, sharing their grief over the death of their crucified Friend. Jesus, who had disguised Himself, joined their walk in their conversation.

He asked them why they were so sad, and they poured out the tragic story. “Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:25 – 27 NKJV

Many thoughtful Bible students have envied those two Emmaus travelers, and would have cheerfully fitted them with digital recorders if they could have. What were some of the verses Jesus mentioned? We know several of the Old Testament messianic prophecies, but were there other ways He tied His own ministry to the Bible?

Several years ago I preached a sermon series called "The Emmaus Walk." It was basically a year-long trip through the Bible looking for references to the Savior. There are more than you might think.

Are you reading some of your Bible every day? Right now I'm listening to the Bible on CD as I drive. I’ve reached Joshua, and with each new chapter my faith is strengthened.

If you'd like some online Bible reading options, click the link just below.

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Total Reclaim
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 14, 2012

A couple of Wednesdays ago I had dropped Shelley off at work and was heading north toward the church. Catching sight of the above truck, I wrestled my camera from its belt-case and snapped a picture.

On the truck's left side, at too much of an angle for you to read, is the slogan "Responsible Recycling Solutions," plus the name of the website. The website confidently says, "Our recycling services are designed to limit your liability and protect your reputation as well the environment.”

Isn't that an almost perfect description of the gospel of heaven? God and His Son and the Holy Spirit have worked together through Jesus' death and resurrection to not only limit but remove our liability to sin's consequences. Thanks to Jesus' righteousness, those who accept that righteousness become as though they had never sinned – talk about a perfect reputation! And the "environment" which will ultimately be protected from further damage is the happy, sinless universe to come!

Would you like to learn more about God’s "total reclamation"? Click the link just below:

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The 96 Crayon Set

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
When I was in elementary school, the 96 set was the ultimate.  They had the little boxes with 12 or 24 and then you could graduate up to the 64 set, but there was nothing like starting the school year off with the 96 set.  I don’t remember ever  being able to get the 96’er, as that was a bit much (I was told the 48 or 64 would be just fine).  Basically, I was informed I could do lots with a set smaller than the 96.  Of course that was a true statement, but I could only imagine what drawings and colors you would have at your fingertips with all 96.
God did not limit himself to the 12 or the 24 set--no, He didn’t mess around with the 64 or even the 96 set.  God gave Himself all the colors he possibly could imagine and then some.  The image above is just one example of the many colors God has used in His creations.  This one can be found at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.  If you have never been (and you are in the local area) I highly suggest you check out the colors God has used.  Of course you don’t have to go to the Botanical Gardens to view God’s amazing set of crayons; you can see them just about everywhere.

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Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
It’s adorable, irresistible, and not at all shy, but it’s stuck with an awful name.  The Northern Saw-whet Owl is found across much of the United States but tends to favor evergreens.  Because they are largely nocturnal and tend to stay well hidden during the day, they are probably much more common than sightings seem to dictate.  Many books on birds will state that it got its name from its call, which according to some, sounds like an old lumber saw being filed.  Traditions are hard to break, even when the facts don’t agree with the conclusions.  None of its calls even come close to resembling a saw being filed.  A more plausible explanation comes from the fact that in French Canada where the owl is found, any small owl is referred to as La Chouette (shoo-ET).  The transition can be easily imagined.  
None other than John James Audubon is probably responsible for perpetuating the confusion surrounding the Saw-whet’s name. In 1811 he purchased a mill in Kentucky, from which he heard issuing a loud, rasping sound.  Recalling stories he had heard, he proclaimed it to be a Saw-whet even though he never saw the bird.  The name stuck, even though his foreman who did see it stated it was a Screech Owl, even though Saw-whets aren’t in that part of the country in summer, and even though they never call during the day, still his identification stuck. 
None of us like to be labeled by people who don’t really know us, especially when that name is less than complimentary.  The good news is we will be getting a new name, and it will be given by One who knows us intimately.  God is speaking in Revelation 2:17: “I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”  (NIV)  Knowing how much He loves us, I think we’ll like our new name.

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Good News
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 11, 2012

Every year I go looking for these Mountain Ladyslippers.  I know of two easily accessible locations where these orchids bloom and one site is at a higher elevation than the other.   Some years I just find buds or dried up stalks with last year's dead flowers but this year, they were blooming in the location at the lower elevation.

The flowers are only out for a short time and then they are done for the year.  I might be able to find them growing at a higher elevation later in the season but if I want to see them at the same location again, I am going to have to wait for the following spring.

Our life on this earth is short as well compared to eternity: 

For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end.
Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. 
As the Scriptures say,

“People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
But the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:23-25 (NLT)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.  1 Peter 1:3-8 (NLT)

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Paul, a Changed Man
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 10, 2012

My photo is of a site called St. Paul's Well where the water level never drops. It is thought to be in the courtyard of Paul's house in Tarsus. The foundation of a very old house, covered with glass for protection, is nearby. Even though it may have nothing to do with Paul, it is interesting to see this old well and house foundation likely to have been from the time of Paul.

Paul (Saul), one of the best known early Christian missionaries was born in Tarsus, a town in a country now known as Turkey. At first, he was one of Christianity's most zealous enemies involved with threatening, punishing and persecuting Christians. In fact, according to Acts 8:1, he was among those who approved of Stephen's murder. In Acts 9, we read that he had a vision where Jesus Christ appeared to him and he was blinded. A few days later, Ananias was sent from God to lay his hands on Saul and heal him. His sight was regained, he was baptized and he began proclaiming Jesus publicly in the synagogues. People couldn't believe this was the same man! He had been changed! He was no longer a persecutor of Christians, but a defender.

God can change anyone. He gave Paul the strength, wisdom, and endurance to carry out His mission. Paul believed that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13), reminding us that our power to live the good life comes from God.

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The Way of the Cross
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 9, 2012

A couple of weeks ago when Shelley and I were on one of our morning walks, I spotted this natural cross on the sidewalk (no, these little spears or twigs were not adjusted by human hands).

This is probably a good photo with which to follow the "Second-generation Airbags" image in the blog just below. In the paragraphs which accompanied it, I mentioned how we need to make sure we are remembering just who God is and what He has done.

And He has done nothing greater, of course, than working together with His Son to provide our salvation through the cross of Calvary. No matter which "sidewalks" we stroll during our weekly journeys, we always need to see the humble cross in front of us. Because the cross promises us that God loves us to the uttermost. As Kurt Kaiser’s wonderful song says,

O how He loves you and me
O how He loves you and me
He gave His life, what more could He give?

Jesus to Calvary did go
His love for mankind to show
What He did there brought hope from despair . . .

O how He loves you and me

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Second Generation Air Bags
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 8, 2012

The cover article in the current issue of Christianity Today has to do with the “juvenilization” of Christianity. The writer of the long and well-written piece expresses concern about how, in its music and its dress code and in other ways, Christian worship – in its desire to attract young people – has caused grown-ups to "dress down" both in clothing and in worship language. The writer describes how one public prayer began: "Hey, God . . .”

I'm no parent, but I'm wondering how the children of such grown-up "juveniles" are going to develop any sense of God's sacredness and awesomeness. God is not a football buddy, and while Bible people addressed Him earnestly and sometimes emphatically, they always did so reverently.

Again, I don't have kids, and must therefore speak academically. But I hope we are not growing a batch of "second-generation air bags," young people who do not have a solid sense of who God has been, and what He has done, along the centuries. Because it seems to me, the day is coming – and now is – when we must take Him very, very seriously.

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I’m Happy
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 7, 2012

This past Sunday, down one of the neighborhood cul-de-sacs where Shelley and I walk, we saw this cheerful message written on the sidewalk.

I'm a bit cautious about going into raptures about these particular hieroglyphics, and I’ll tell you why. They do seem as though they might indeed be the result of a spontaneous eruption of childhood or teenage joy, and maybe they are. However, this same cul-de-sac has brought forth other chalk inscriptions and illustrations, written too carefully and drawn too professionally to be from innocent children. In those creations I have strongly suspected a motherly hand, a hand animated by Ideals, seeking to Form Young Minds. (For example, a year ago we noticed a three-foot-in-diameter colored drawing of Earth, with the caption, “Care for Our Mother.”)

But, laying cynicism aside for the moment, the above markings don't seem to show the same carefulness that Philosopher Mom’s productions do. So maybe the above sidewalk scrawl is what it seems to be—a blurt of joy from a cheerful heart.

If so, that's good. It shows that someone of some age at some point passed through a happy experience, and – rather than simply glow internally – was inspired to display it in this anonymous way.

The Bible’s psalm-writers went a step further in expressing their joy. They used this word: הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ 

Since it's Hebrew, you've got to read it backward, of course, but if you put it into English letters, it’s hallelujah! The hallel part means “Praise!”, the u part means “you,” and the jah (or yah) part is the first half of the name “Yahweh.” In other words, “Halleluiah” means “Praise the Lord!”

I don’t know whether the happy sidewalk scribe is Christian or not, but a joy-filled Christian armed with a piece of chalk should ideally work the Source of all true happiness somehow into any praise. 

To find out why, here’s an 11-verse Bible instruction sheet on praise:

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
I have had 4 Siberian Huskies in the past 15 years.  All of them have been very special to me.  If you review the Wikipedia page on Siberian Huskies you will see that with recent DNA testing, they have proved that they are one of the oldest dogs. They are known for their hard work, deep family bonding and ability to thrive in cold climates (with all that fur).  In fact when it snows at our house, you will find Nanuk (pictured above) enjoying sleeping in the snow.  Because they are bred to be hard workers, their life expectancy is in the 12-15 year range.  Nanuk just turned 15.  15 years for a husky is a lot to ask for, even if he gets to live in a warmer climate and we aren’t hooking him up to a sled on a daily bases.  Unfortunately, Nanuk acts (and I am sure feels) like an old man.  His hips hurt him, he isn’t able to run around much, but that’s expected at his age.
I don’t know where you stand on the thought of if our earthly pets will be with us in heaven, but I am a believer in God wanting us to be happy throughout eternity with Him and having a few more of His creations join us doesn’t sound like a horrible thought.  In fact I would love to see my earthly pets roam around, swim in the crystal blue lakes, and jump and play with the other animals God has created.
It’s difficult to fathom the joy we will experience once we get to heaven, the incredible relief we will feel living without sin. I guess that gives us the hope we need to make it through the challenges of the day, in order to FINALLY be where we belong – home with God.

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Bleeding Hearts
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines a bleeding heart as being:

1.  Any of various perennial herbs of the genus Dicentra especially the old world  D. spectablilis having arching clusters of pink to red or sometimes white heart-shaped flowers.
2.  A person who is considered excessively sympathetic toward those who claim to be underprivileged or exploited.

The hybrid shown in the photo above is derived from D. Formosa, a wild plant found growing in moist forest habitats.  Some have described it as “the ballerina of native plants” with its fernlike foliage. The heart-shaped flowers have been associated with the crucifixion of Christ as well. 
But let’s consider the second definition offered.  While the adjective “excessively” may render a negative response from some of us, as Christians, we should each remember the words of Jesus that preceded, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)  There He speaks of feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and those in prison; those the dictionary might include in the category “underprivledged”. 
The Seattle area is considered to be one of the most secular parts of the country, which make the following results even more surprising.  In a study conducted by the federal government, Seattle came out in the top ten cities nationwide in terms of volunteer rates.  The study showed that 33.9 percent of the city’s resident volunteered their time in some capacity while the national average rate of participation was about 25 per cent. 

It’s nice to know flowers by this name grow well in our area.  They add beauty to our woods and yards and enrich our lives.  It would be even nicer if the same thing could be said about our churches and the people growing there as well. 

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The Beauty of the Earth
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 4, 2012

I was up visiting family in British Columbia last weekend and on our search for calypso orchids, we came across lots of wild clematis (pictured).  These flowers, 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, are beautiful but very delicate and they don't last very long. 

If you've read the news lately, there are so many terrible things happening around the world.  Despite all of that, there is still much that is beautiful. 

Sometimes we have to go out and deliberately search for that beauty.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

Here are a couple of verses from the old hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth" by Folliott S. Pierpoint (1864):

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies;
For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour,
Of the day and of the night;
Hill and vale and tree and flow'r,
Sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

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A Safe Refuge, Part 2

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 3, 2012

(See last Sunday's entry for Part 1)

The Tokali Church at Goreme in Cappadocia, Turkey, oldest rock-cut church in the region has frescoes illustrating the life of Jesus, including many showing the miracles He performed. (Photography wasn't allowed in this section so I don't have any photos to share with you.)

The kitchen, larder and refectory of one of the early century dwellings we visited were connected by passageways. Recesses hollowed from rock were used as storage spaces. The kitchen had a tandoori oven, similar to a type used in local village kitchens today. A large table with benches carved from rock could seat 40 to 50 people in the refectory, as shown in the photo above. (Wood slats have recently been installed on top of the benches.) A place hollowed in the rock-floor was used for squashing grapes.

Some families still live in these rock-cut dwellings with lodging offered for travelers. We didn't stay in one, but I would have welcomed the experience! Try to imagine living here as many early Christians called this home. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in Him will I trust.” Psalms 91:1,2.

To top off our adventures of exploring in Cappadocia, we took a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the fairy chimney landscape of rock formations. Floating over this marvelous landscape in one of ninety balloons was one of the highlights of our trip!

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Event Parking
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 2, 2012

A couple of Fridays ago while waiting for Shelley to pick me up at the Christian college next door to Puget Sound Adventist Academy (where I’d given a talk to the high school kids), I spotted this sandwich-board sign.

Something puzzled me about the sign, and then I discovered what it was. Normally, signs like this have either a left-arrow or a right-arrow to guide the potential event-parkers. But the arrow on this sign was straight up. Normally this is not the most practical method for guiding drivers left and right through a maze of streets—but I guess it’s okay if your event is straight ahead.

However, this sign perfectly fits another Event. This one is going to happen not in some performance hall or sports stadium—it will happen above us in the sky. And when Jesus’ return does occur, I want to be properly “parked,” perfectly positioned so that I won’t miss the event, and so that the event won’t miss me!

This means that we need something more than a vague arrow sign. We need GPS (God’s Predictive Scriptures) data. You’ll find coordinates at the link below.

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Concise Bible Characters

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 1, 2012

This past weekend, on a visit to the religion section of a bookstore, I spotted this Bible reference book. If you can make out the upper part of the sentence that disappears below the edge of the frame you'll see the words "simple overview."

I can see the author's point, of course. The Bible is 750,000 words long, as much as a stack of seven or eight thick blockbuster novels. That's pretty intimidating, and it's tempting to want to reach into that massive amount of print and extract some easy-to-use character outlines. However, the danger is that you’ll get "concise characterizations" like these (these are not taken from the above book, which I’m sure went into more detail):

Miriam: the girl who watched over her little brother who slept in a basket of reeds on the Nile

Samuel: the little boy who heard God speak to him

David: the teenager who killed a giant with a slingshot

Elijah: the prophet who called down fire from heaven

Anybody who has actually read the full Bible biographies on these people knows that their stories are far more complex. As a grownup, Miriam joined her brother Aaron in open rebellion of Moses, and was temporarily stricken with leprosy. Samuel raised a couple of boys who became corrupt politicians. David's parenting skills were scarcely better. And after the fire-from-heaven episode, Elijah ran like a scared rabbit from a pagan queen.

So you can see why I did not plunk down my hard-earned cash for the above volume (though, again, I'm sure it did a better job that I'm intimating). The Bible is not concise, but complex, because people are complex. Sin is a dreadfully confusing puzzle, and can't be explained in a single punchy paragraph. Jesus' death wasn't a crisp Friday afternoon PowerPoint demo.

Seasoned Christians are people who have discovered that, rather than trying to find a “Dummies guide” devotional experience, we need to seek patiently and prayerfully through the Bible's pages for God's great, complex heart. Because His love is tangled inextricably with the souls of even those who spit in His face. Heaven is not a happy place – yet.

But keep reading. In the publishing world, nonfiction books are beginning to sell better than fiction. People want reality. And when it comes to God's agenda, people need reality.

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