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

Daily Photo Parable -  June 2013

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

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











The Unusual Orchids
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday-Monday, June 30-July1, 2013

The world's smallest flower, the liverwort orchid (Platystele jungermannioides), is so small that one needs a magnifying glass to view it. While in Monteverde, Costa Rica, we visited the Orchid Garden with more than 500 local species and were astonished to learn there were so many orchid varieties. Costa Rica has more than 1400 species of orchids growing in their forests. Some are speckled, others shaped like spiders with long, narrow petals while other orchid flowers blend in to look like leaves.

The tiny Comet Halley Lepanthes Orchids, in the two lower photos (one of which is a closeup), grow on the underside of leaves for protection. Orchids are “air plants” that simply attach themselves to a tree's bark. Each type of orchid depends on a special fungus that is essential to its lifecycle. Some flowers bloom for only a day each year, others longer. Orchid seeds are so small and fine they are dust-like. Some orchids have amazing scents while others actually stink! Were you aware that you've eaten a type of orchid fruit? Yes, vanilla! Orchids attract insects and birds and are valuable for pollination.

Even though the Holy Land was not an “orchid” country, apparently around 70 species of orchids are native. It seems that orchids weren't mentioned in the Bible. The diversity of orchids is something like the parable of the talents (Mathew 25:14-30) with God giving plants different variations as talents. Orchids have “used their talents” to produce a tremendous variety for us to enjoy!


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Have You Checked the Mail?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 29, 2013

Back in mid-May on a morning walk, Shelley and I spotted this mailbox. Either because it was rusty, or because the homeowner just likes pretty mailboxes, it was covered with a wrap depicting autumn leaves.

Shelley and I share a special fondness for getting mail. When she was a single teacher on an Alaskan logging-camp island, and I was a single assistant professor of English at a Nebraska Adventist college, we met by snail-mail, long before there were such mails as “e-“ or “voice-.” We literally typed or hand-wrote hundreds of pages to each other before we met face to face. And by the time we finally met, we were close friends, and as of last month we’ve been married 35 years.

Right now, God’s most dependable way of keeping in touch is through His letters—66 of them, totaling more than 750,000 words. And like the mailbox cover in the photo, God’s messages are often autumn-themed: life, though beautiful, is dying through the sad decay of sin. However, among the sobering accounts of human need, there’s an occasional postcard decorated with springtime images, of a new earth and everlasting life, and a wistful “Wish you were here.”

To learn Bible information about the resurrection and how you can take part in it, click the link immediately below.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/resurrection


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Made Where?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 28, 2013

Walking through a store on the last day of May, I saw a six-pack of ping pong balls. Since our church has a twice-a-month Saturday night vespers and game event, at which ping pong is a major event, I figured I’d buy the balls and donate them to the cause.

I couldn’t help grinning when I turned the package over and saw the earnest pronouncements that these ping pong balls come from (in italic capitals) “AN AMERICAN COMPANY,” and that the “package and product” were both “designed in the USA.” Yet despite this salute-the-flag patriotism, the product is actually “Made in China."

Isn't that a bit like you and me? Our packaging and contents were originally designed in Heaven by our Creator, but since the Fall, we've been "Made on Earth"--a planet and a culture which have gone astray from God.

Nothing against China and its products, of course, but I’m looking forward to the time when God personally re-manufactures this earth according to His own blueprint. The apostle Peter describes this transformation this way:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  (2 Peter 3:10 – 13 NKJV)


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The Gathering Storm
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 27, 2013

Earlier this month while I was running errands, I came to a stop behind a lot of cars waiting for a red light. Glancing at the left-hand portion of the sky, I noticed the ominous-looking clouds you see in the photo. It almost seemed as though, once that red light turned green, we all would be plunging forward on a collision course with some really heavy weather.

Seems pretty bleak, right? But the Bible specializes in telling us the brutal truth—and then beckoning us to look beyond the present and walk carefully with Jesus toward eternity. Listen as Paul tutors young Timothy in these matters:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!  (2 Timothy 3:1 – 5 NKJV)

Okay, Paul, tell us how we can survive these times.

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (Verses 14 -17)


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A Few More Options
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

God is a good god. He provides gifts to us all and all of us have the ability to use them. You can’t choose the gift you are given, only what you do with the gift that was given to you. Some He gives the gift of speech (not me), some He gives the gift of service, or the gift of faith, or prophecy. That said, the options we have to use these gifts are something we need to continually ask God to guide us, by showing how He intends us to use our gifts.

In 1 Corinthians 12, we can read about these gifts: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”

Pray for guidance and use your gifts the way God intended.


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White-winged Dove
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It seems we generally bring confirmation by observation to that which we already believe. Our observation also adds clarification or emphasis, but seldom does it create an entirely new idea or philosophy within us. Much more likely, it forces us to unify our thoughts and ideas so the parts fit together as a whole. Perhaps this is what Albert Einstein had in mind when he wrote, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

The book of Job also speaks of the power of nature to give us insight, to help us see our God more clearly. “Even the birds and animals have much they could teach you; ask the creatures of earth and sea for their wisdom. All of them know that the Lord’s hand made them. It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; every man’s life is in his power.” (Job 12:7-10 GNB)

With that in mind I considered what lessons the White-winged Dove might teach me. This common dove of the southwestern desert areas is rather attractive with a bare patch of blue skin which surrounds the eye that becomes more colorful during the breeding season. It was given the species name asiatica by Carl Linnaeus because he believed its native home was in the East Indies, when in truth it is found only in the New World. While I might become upset with improper labeling when applied to me, the dove doesn’t let this detail disrupt its life.

There also seems to be an appropriate division of labor between the sexes. It appears the male selects the general nesting site area, but the female takes the responsibility of choosing the specific place to nest. Both share in the responsibilities of incubation, with the male taking the early shift while the female is on the nest from midafternoon through the night. Part of its success derives from its adaptability. It was originally a bird of desert thickets but as these have been removed due to the growth of human population in the area, it has expanded its habitat to include the cities and towns that spread across the southern part of the country. While it’s unlikely I will model my life after this species, it is nice to have reminders that God has a plan for each of us, and we are the happiest and most successful when we adhere to this design.


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Lost and Found
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 24, 2013

Kelsey Creek Park in Bellevue has a farm with various farm animals, including goats, cows, pigs, horses, chickens, ducks, rabbits and sheep. They even have a blue and gold macaw which is not your traditional farm bird, at least not in this country!

I spent a bit of time watching the sheep. They weren't particularly special in any way but I'm sure the people working at the farm know each one of them and have probably even named them. While I was watching them, all they did was eat grass.

Like the sheep have people looking out for them and caring for them, we have a heavenly father who cares for us and knows each of us by name and even knows the number of hairs on our heads!

The Son of Man came to save lost people. “If a man has a hundred sheep but one of the sheep gets lost, he will leave the other ninety-nine on the hill and go to look for the lost sheep. I tell you the truth, if he finds it he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that were never lost. Matthew 18:11-13 (NCV)


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The Dangerous Crocs
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 23, 2013

We anticipated seeing crocodiles, but not so many in one place! While standing on a bridge, we looked down on the Tarcoles River near the west coast in Costa Rica and saw somewhere between 40 and 50 American Crocodiles basking in the hot sun. With over 2000 crocodiles in this river, it has one of the highest populations of crocodiles in the world!

The sex of the American Crocodile is determined by the temperature during the incubation period, with males hatching when it's warmer. Climate change and deforestation with increased temperatures are creating a sex imbalance in this area. With their ears, eyes and nostrils near the top of their bodies, they can still hear, see and breath when submerged with only the top of their heads above water. Fish, frogs and turtles are their main diet, however large adults have been known to eat full-grown cattle! They spend their time basking in the sun, resting in a burrow or river bank and waiting for prey.

Crocodiles can live to be around 70 years old, but have been known to live as long as 100 years. Because they are shy and reclusive, they rarely attack humans, however they are potentially dangerous. Costa Rica sees an average of eight crocodile attacks every year. Notice the warning sign in the photo  below– no swimming! Would you pay attention to that sign?





Warning signs are there for a reason, usually to protect us or others. Many “warning” signs appear in the Bible, some given by Jesus, as in John 12:47. “But if anyone hears my words and pays no regard to them, I am not his judge; I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Thank you, Jesus, for saving us!

 

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Heaven’s Shoes
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 22, 2013

A week ago this afternoon, Shelley and I were privileged to be a part of one of the most amazing gatherings I’ve ever experienced. One of our teens had just graduated from his high school coursework, and since his family has been deeply involved in several areas of ministry in our church and others, many people came from all directions.

What you see in the photo above is the outdoor “shoe overflow.” (There were three times as many shoes just inside the door.) But even the ones visible show a great deal of diversity. At the bottom you see the white jogging shoes of the most recent arrival (me), and some miscellaneous sandals and flip-flops, more athletic shoes toward the horizon, and even a pair of cowboy boots peeping in from the right.

As I looked at all those shoes, and the ones inside the door, I immediately thought of heaven. Those who eventually arrive in that happy paradise will have come from many different cultures with many kinds of footwear—sandals to wooden shoes to cowboy boots to high heels and everything in between. Other people will have never felt any kind of footwear on their feet.

Those in heaven’s melting pot will have two things in common—their “walk” followed their Savior’s footsteps and led them to those golden streets, and they have figuratively removed any earthly sandal-bottom defilement, because the place wherein they entered is holy.

To learn more about heaven and how to get there, click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/where-heaven-and-how-do-we-get-there


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A Sign from the Lord?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 21, 2013

On a recent Sabbath afternoon, another congregation used our sanctuary to conduct a baptismal service. Two women arrived early, and it turned out that they were two of the ones being baptized.

As they entered the church foyer, they were bubbling with excitement. “We asked the Lord for a sign on our baptismal day, that we were doing the right thing,” they said, “and He has given us one!” They led me out to where we could see the sun. I glanced up and saw the splendid ring around it which you see in the photo above (that’s our church steeple jutting into the photo from the lower left corner).

Was it a sign from the Lord? Or was it simply a “22 degree halo”—its technical term—which happened because the clouds were of just the right composition?

Probably both, wouldn’t you think? There’s a good chance that the rainbow Noah saw wasn’t necessarily created by God just for a faith-demo, but was the same light refraction we see when the sun appears after drizzles today. God probably used it as a parable to emphasize His promises.

And maybe the same thing happened with these two ladies. As they prayed for a sign, the Lord may have smiled. “Well, there are going to be some ice crystals up there in the atmosphere,” He may have thought. “So let’s allow that to be their sign.”

Or He may have deliberately rolled those ice crystals into place. Who knows? He is capable of it, and we are His deeply beloved children. Let’s never scientifically reason miracles out of God’s possibilities.

As these two women mature in their Christianity, they will of course learn that the true indicator of whether something is God’s will is the print on the pages of their Bible. Baptism is certainly the will of God—Jesus Himself was baptized, and sent His disciples to baptize in the name of the Trinity.

By the way, are you interested in being baptized? Once you’ve read the link below, contact me at maylans@aol.com and I’ll do what I can to help you. Or find a pastor in the area where you live.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/baptism


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Move That Book!
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 20, 2013

A little over a week ago I darted into a thrift store to see the books in the “Religion” section. Among the titles you see above are books like Common Prayer, Common Ground, and a collection of devotional readings by Women of Faith speakers called Joy Breaks, and book by James Dobson called Coming Home.

Each of the books I mentioned, in some form or other, presents some variation of “We are Christians. Life isn’t easy and we have sinful tendencies, but take heart—God can change us for the better!”

But the book with by far the easiest-to-read title doesn’t belong there. It’s I’m OK—You’re OK. I remember seeing it on bookshelves even when I was back in college long ago. Wikipedia says that it was published in 1967, was on the New York Times best-seller list for two years, and has sold over 15 million copies to date. (By a wild, ironic coincidence, the automatically-generated number my camera gave this photo was the mark-of-the-beast-y “P1030666.”)

Even though the book sold well, and its title has been used in a lot of popular culture references, it has aroused some criticism, especially from Christians, who believe that I’m not OK, and you’re not OK, but God loves us, and gave His Son to die for our sins so that we can spend an eternity that’s not merely OK but unbelievably happy.

So whatever that book’s merits in its own field, somebody needs to move it off the shelf and put it in “self help” or some such category.

For a thorough Bible study on sin and all its ramifications, click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/sin


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Open Doors
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In Revelation 3, we can read about the “The Faithful Church” message. It speaks of the promise of God – where the faithful church holds and spreads the true message of God.

‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”. “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

God allows doors to be opened, as well as closed. Sometimes, as we move through life, we feel that the wrong door has been closed, or the right door isn’t opened. In fact, God opens the correct doors as well as closes those that need to be closed. Pray that we follow the correct path and enter the right doors.


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Ash-throated Flycatcher
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I can well remember my father telling me “my bread and water would be sure” if I trusted God. I wasn’t particularly impressed. Here’s where my memory is less than clear, but it seems like this reminder came after I was complaining about having to eat my vegetables or some such thing. The idea was, you may not always get, cake but you’ll get enough nourishment to keep you going. Like I said, I wasn’t terribly impressed.

Look at the passage in more of its context. “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” (Isaiah 33:15,16 King James Version) Somehow the more contemporary translations make the provisions sound less austere. “The answer’s simple: Live right, speak the truth, despise exploitation, refuse bribes, reject violence, avoid evil amusements. This is how you raise your standard of living! A safe and stable way to live. A nourishing, satisfying way to live.” (The Message) I especially like the part about raising the standard of living.

But age has brought some maturity. At least these virtues can be appreciated in others. Take the Ash-throated Flycatcher for instance. This tyrant flycatcher is found in dryer parts of Western North America. Because it can survive in high temperatures without needing to drink water, and because it can nest in reasonably small cavities, these factors allow it to successfully breed where other species cannot. Put another way: its wants don’t outdistance its needs. Perhaps I would do well to remember that. That doesn’t mean I want a smaller home or an older car, it simply means I should be grateful for those blessing that are mine. And after all, based upon our weight, we already do get cake more than once in a while.

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Blowin' In the Wind
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 17, 2013

Paul was a prisoner when he wrote to Timothy to remind him of what was important. Part of his letter talked about his suffering for the gospel: . . . nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 2 Timothy 1:12

There are so many different philosophies floating around out there. We can be so easily blown off course and change the direction of our beliefs just like the weather vane twists and turns depending on which way the wind is blowing. We need to know what we believe and we need to be able to stand up for what we believe. Like Paul, we need to be able to say that we know whom we have believed and that we are persuaded that He is able to keep what we've committed to Him until the end.


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The Praying Mantis
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 16, 2013

Near the beach at Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica I saw my first mantis – a praying mantis. This unusual-looking insect is so named because of it's “prayer-like” posture with folded fore-limbs used to catch and hold its prey. It is the only known insect that can turn its head 180 degrees, look over its shoulder and see completely around! And they have only one ear! They can blend in with their environment by looking like leaves, sticks, tree bark, flowers and stones. They feed mainly on insects, but large mantises have been known to eat scorpions, lizards, frogs, snakes, birds, rodents and fish. They remain very still with their front legs in a “praying” position, ready to snatch it's prey. These front legs have sharp spikes to securely hold their catch. A female mantis will sometimes eat the male during or after mating. Even though it's behavior might seem cruel, they destroy many harmful pests and are used by many organic gardeners.

We know the praying mantis really isn't praying because it doesn't know about God. Like the mantis that appears to be praying, Jesus warned about people who pretended to be religious. “Beware of the doctors of the law, who love to walk up and down in long robes, receiving respectful greetings in the street; and to have the chief seats in synagogues, and places of honor at feasts. These are the men who eat up the property of widows, while they say long prayers for appearance' sake.” Mark 12:38-40 NEB God will always hear our prayers when we go to Him with sincerity. He wants to hear from us and He wants us to hear Him!


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Ready to Go
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 15, 2013

Today’s Photo Parable is actually a follow-up to yesterday’s.

Back in mid-May Shelley and I were taking a walk when I noticed this large camper behind fence-gates. But then I noticed that – probably because the camper’s trailer hitch was just a trifle too long – its owner had cut a square hole in the gates so it could protrude. It’s as though the camper is so eager to depart that it wants to make sure it can be quickly attached to the pickup which will pull it!

Yesterday we talked about the resurrection, and it’s logical to follow up by talking about being ready at any moment for one’s death, or for the arrival of Jesus. And key to that readiness is the assurance of salvation. Click the link immediately below to be wonderfully encouraged.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/assurance


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Resurrection!
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 14, 2013

Several weeks ago, as part of our church’s capital improvement projects, a group of us gathered in the fellowship hall and dismantled a sturdy platform which had stood at one end of the room since the late 1960s.

Several kids helped with the demolition, and once the boards had been pried up, one of them spotted the little plastic Pluto finger-puppet you see above. Evidently, decades back, when the platform was being constructed, kids were also present, and one of them must have allowed Pluto to fall into the wrong place at the wrong time, and the little dog was interred for half a century. I’ve calculated that the child who owned him—and has probably long since forgotten him--is now most likely pushing 55.

Thanks to the dark, safe area which contained him, Pluto looks good—probably as pristine as the day he was created. To me, this can be a parable of the resurrection. Should time last, you and I will both die and be laid to rest. But if we have surrendered our hearts to the One who holds the keys to the grave, we will spring to life when He calls us.

Want to learn more about the resurrection and how you can take part in it? Click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/resurrection


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Exile
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 13, 2013

A week ago today, parked outside a grocery store, I saw this sad assemblage of furniture – two chairs and a cigarette-ash receptacle. As you probably know, smokers need to go outside buildings and be at least 25 feet away from the entrance in order to light up. The proprietors of this store had banished smokers around the corner out of sight.

This reminded me of the 600 very likable people which my wife and I and several other volunteers helped through several 8-day stop smoking programs back in the 1980s. Some of my happiest memories have been being in that church fellowship hall which smelled of cigarette smoke from these people’s hair and clothing. During those evenings we shared many a laugh, many a tear, and many a victory.

Since then, hospitals and other places have developed effective stop smoking programs, so we don’t offer such classes any more. However, if you are currently struggling with the cigarette habit, here is a synopsis of the material we presented that people found most helpful:

The peak of any cigarette urge last no longer than 3 to 5 minutes. When you feel the urge, take a drink of water, breathe deeply, or even step outside for a 10-minute walk. By then, the urge will have started to subside. It might be back in a few minutes, but just repeat the instructions.

Reward yourself. List specific things you will do or buy for yourself if you’ve been nicotine-free for a day, a week, two weeks, a month, six months. Keep those promises you made to yourself – remember all the money you’re saving by not smoking!

Repeat the affirmation, “I love being free from smoking!” Emphasize different words for additional meaning
     “I LOVE being free from smoking!”
     “I love being FREE from smoking!”
     “I love BEING free from smoking!”

Get your teeth cleaned by a dental technician. People have found this a marvelous incentive to not sustain their teeth with nicotine.

Plan your shopping excursions like football plays. Plot a route through the grocery store that keeps you away from the tobacco products (most are now behind a counter that only the clerk can access). Do the same for gas stations – use your credit card so you won’t have to go into the station itself.

Plan other hand-to-mouth activities (besides excessive eating) you will do in place of smoking. Some people chew on tiny carrots, others each shelled sunflower seeds. Smoking isn't simply a nicotine addiction--it's a psychological and social one.

Cut down on, or eliminate, coffee-drinking. People told us that coffee and cigarettes went hand-in-hand. Learn to love the taste of cool water.

Anyway, these are just some of the ideas. You’ll find many others from the American Cancer Society, or from your doctor. It is possible to quit smoking--and permanently stop those regular exiles!


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Peaceful Streams
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

To me, nothing is more peaceful than a journey into God’s creations. Nature is known as God’s second book and I love "flipping through the pages." As we look around, we see trees, grass, clouds, the sun, birds, bugs, the moon, water, etc. All of these things were created by God, for us. A gift for us, to help us remember the love of God. It’s one more example we can look at, and reflect on God’s character. He loves us and wants to share eternity with us.

When I see an image like this (taken at Bellevue Botanical Garden) it reminds me of the Lord’s prayer. Here is the Living Bible version of Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD
forever.


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Really Seeing
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Most of us are pretty lazy much of the time. And unfortunately it’s true in many areas of our lives, even those spheres which define who we are. For example, many of us spend a segment of time reading our Bible; it’s become part of our daily routine. But how many of us really study it? I suppose the reason we don’t is because it’s work. It’s much easier to passively glide over those comforting words and never bother to dig deeper. But in doing so, we inevitably miss much of what is there for us.

I like to think of myself as being a reasonably close observer of nature, but the truth is, I barely skim the surface. The other day I was looking at the honey bees feeding on flowers in our front yard when I came upon a bee I’d never seen before. It wasn’t that it was rare, for there were several partaking of the nectar from the same plant. I just had never bothered to look closely enough before. But there it was, smaller than the other honey bees, but clothed in shimmering metallic green with contrasting black and yellow stripes.

It got me wondering, and further investigation revealed there are more than 3,500 species of bees in North America. And this particular one belonged to the family Halictidae, which alone contains about 500 species. They are commonly known as sweat bees because some believe they are attracted to perspiration. Unlike our common honey bee, they usually are solitary and nest underground. As a result, they have not been used by humans for the production of honey but are nevertheless an important pollinator. Careful observation reveals they concentrate the sugars in the nectar they have gathered by regurgitating the liquid and then reswallowing it. In this way they are able to reduce the amount of weight they are obliged to carry back to their nest. Five hundred species of Halictid bees, and I never bothered to notice they were even there.

The Greeks had a good word for it, σπουδάζω (spoudazō), meaning to study with diligence. The Message carries this same feeling in the way it translates I Chronicles 16:8. “Study God and his strength, seek his presence day and night; Remember all the wonders he performed, the miracles and judgments that came out of his mouth.” . Good advice, whether reading the Word or looking at bees. And if we really did study with diligence, just think how much more He might reveal to us.



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Made Welcome
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 10, 2013

This is the sign that greets you as you cross the border between Canada and the US at the Blaine, WA, crossing. We all like to feel welcomed, don't we?

It sort of reminds me of the poem by Emma Lazarus that is mounted on a plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

New Colossus (AKA The Statue of Liberty Poem)
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Even the idealistic Proverbs 31 woman makes people feel welcome:

She welcomes the poor and helps the needy. Proverbs 31:20 NCV


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A Strange Lizard

Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 9, 2013

The color of a Basilisk Lizard, shown in my photo, ranges from olive to bright green. They can be found in the rainforests of Central and South America. They are also called the Jesus Christ lizard because they can walk (or run) on water for a short period of time. Their long, webbed toes create air pockets above the water as well as their unique running style keep them from sinking. Counting their long tail, they can grow up to two feet in length. Males have crests on their heads and backs, which apparently the females think are attractive! They spend much of their time in trees that are close to water. Because of their camouflage, we had to look very closely to distinguish these lizards from the leaves and branches near them.

The miracle of Jesus walking on water is described in Mathew 14:22-23; Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:16:21. After the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children, Jesus sent His disciples by boat to the other side of Lake Galilee while He remained alone to pray. While on the water, a storm with a strong wind arose and frightened the disciples. When they saw Jesus walking on the water, they were further shaken and thought He was a ghost. But He reassured them and told them to not be afraid. This miracle was instrumental in showing the divinity of Jesus among early Christians.


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Mackerel Sky
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 8, 2013

This Wednesday morning on a walk, Shelley and I saw this dramatic cloud formation spread out above us. A bit of online checking confirms that this is called a “mackerel sky,” and is generally a sign that good weather (that is, no rain) will continue for awhile. I always enjoy seeing a formation like this, because it reminds me of just how much sky there really is up there.

Back on the Dakota prairies, my farm-girl mom was a careful sky-watcher. If she saw a pattern she wasn’t familiar with, she would ask me, “Maylan, what do you think those clouds mean?”

In the first few verses of Matthew 16, Jesus was talking with some Pharisees and Sadducees who were opposing Him. Into this discussion He brought the human tendency to predict the weather by looking at the sky. “Hypocrites!” He growled. “You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.”

A few chapters later, in Matthew 24, Jesus went into more detail about some of the signs which would happen just prior to His return. I’m sure He would appreciate it if you and I brushed up on some of these signs so we could talk intelligently about them to acquaintances who are becoming worried as they watch world events.

To see several Bible verses on this topic, click the link directly below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/signs-jesus-coming


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No Problem . . .Problem!
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 7, 2013

Two or three weeks ago Shelley and I were in a traffic backup, and I spotted the messages on the rear window of this SUV. This was a humorous way of telling a very grim truth – if that vehicle were lying on its top, and you could read the word “Problem” right-side-up, then indeed it was a problem!

In Acts 17:6, Paul and Silas’ missionary tour had taken them to Thessalonica. As they were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, those who opposed them accused them of “turning the world upside down.”

And even though this was probably deliberate propaganda designed to help inflame the masses against the apostles, there’s a lot of truth in it. People in the culture of that time were worshiping images created from silver or stone, when the truth was that God had come to earth in the form of a Man.

I think it’s a good idea for you and I to ponder our own beliefs and to see which ones are – compared to the Bible – upside down. Some people worship money and even afford gold, but Revelation says that in heaven, gold will be used for pavement, not payment. So money-hoarders are simply stockpiling cement and asphalt.

The more familiar I’ve come with my Bible, the more uncomfortable I become with popular culture, and the more “upside down” everything seems to be. Popular culture focuses on “me” – my current desires, my advancement, my ego. People who prayerfully read their Bibles recognize how important it is to think backward and forward from “me” – backward to when a loving Creator fashioned our planet, and forward to the time when He will create a new heavens and a new earth.

To help enhance your deepening understanding of God’s Word, check out www.bibleinfo.com 



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Grammer
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 6, 2013

A couple of weeks ago Shelley and I stumbled upon something bittersweet—a large used-book store which was closing. The closing was what was bitter, but the books’ greatly-reduced prices were sweet!

Actually, not all the books had been discounted. Section by section, all through the store, the staff had separated the discounted books from the regularly priced ones, and had scrawled new shelf-labels.

As a former English teacher I found it deliciously ironic that on the shelf below several books on grammar and word usage, the label had been misspelled! Decades ago, as I stood before my college English classes, I needed to convince the kids that spelling was important. And I had my ammunition ready. To any nursing students in the room I would growl: “If you misspell  a patient’s prescription, that patient might die!” Careful spelling, I told them, was even important for language preservation: A “chick” is different from a “check,” and a “check” is different from a “cheek” or a “choke,” which is different from a “shack” or a “shock.” 

Another thing I told my students—and here’s where we tie this into a devotional idea—was that the more they loved reading, the less they would probably need remedial grammar and spelling. Because if they truly loved the written word enough to read it carefully, a whole lot of spelling and grammar and style would “osmose” (is that a word?) into them. They might not know what a direct object is, or a prepositional phrase, but when the time came to write their college themes, their mind would go into “writing mode” far more easily than the kids who hated books.

In the same way, reading widely in your Bible gives you a familiarity with its characters and concepts that you otherwise might have to learn with difficulty through other means. And the ditches on either side of life's highway are littered with those who misunderstood and misapplied the Scriptures.

These days bookstores are doing their best to sell you “beach reading.” Why not find a fun-to-read Bible translation (like Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase, or the new Living Bible) and settle down with the world’s best-selling classic?


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Congratulations
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This time of year there are plenty of graduations – Kindergarten, 8th grade, high school, college, etc. In fact, in the last 2 weeks, I have attended events for 4 separate graduations. There are a few common themes during these ceremonies: celebration, congratulations, excitement, relief, and overall jubilation. At the end of these graduations, sometimes the student is finished and sometimes just barely getting started.

It got me thinking of the REAL graduation we are all longing for. The graduation from this sinful world. The day we can throw our cap into the air, raise our hands in jubilation and be taken away to paradise. The ceremony is open to anyone that wants to attend, as the entire world watches. I truly long for the day when we can’t stop the fighting, sickness, the turmoil and strife. We can put this cold planet behind us and finally celebrate with God.

John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

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Baby Birds
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 4, 2013

All babies are cute, at least to their mothers. In truth, some are much easier to admire than others. While the baby Red-winged Blackbird (above) may not win any beauty contests today, it will undoubtedly grow up to be as beautiful as its parents.



On the other hand, the baby Wood Duck looks adorable right now to most of us, as do most precocious offspring. But watching these babies the other day confirmed something I was already aware of, babies spend most of their time eating and sleeping. And that’s the way it ought to be. That’s the way the good Lord made them.

But if we were to continue our lives, following the behavior that was appropriate in our infancy, we would probably run into more than a few problems. That was what the author of Hebrews was talking about in his letter. “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” (Hebrews 5:11-6:1 NIV)

In this passage he wasn’t condemning youthfulness, or even infancy. To him these were appropriate stages which each must pass through. His concern was that we not become stagnant in our growth and fail to mature. I seem to remember something about ‘being perfect at every stage of our development.’ I’m grateful for those stages of life which we all pass through. I’m even more grateful that God provides us with opportunities to grow and mature in Him.


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Discernment
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 3, 2013

Jesus tells us about our choices in life.  There are really only two paths to take.  He also talks about false prophets who are like hungry wolves under the camouflage of sheep's clothing.  These are people who are not on the right path themselves and who can and have done a lot of damage to other people who think that they are.

In order to stay on the right path ourselves, we need to make sure we are listening to the right people.  The best way to do that is to look at their lives and their actions.  We have seen in the past what happens when people choose to follow the teachings of someone who is not following the teachings of God themselves. 

There are two paths before you; you may take only one path. One doorway is narrow. And one door is wide. Go through the narrow door. For the wide door leads to a wide path, and the wide path is broad; the wide, broad path is easy, and the wide, broad, easy path has many, many people on it; but the wide, broad, easy, crowded path leads to death. Now then that narrow door leads to a narrow road that in turn leads to life. It is hard to find that road. Not many people manage it.

Along the way, watch out for false prophets. They will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath that quaint and innocent wool, they are hungry wolves. But you will recognize them by their fruits. You don’t find sweet, delicious grapes growing on thorny bushes, do you? You don’t find delectable figs growing in the midst of prickly thistles. People and their lives are like trees. Good trees bear beautiful, tasty fruit, but bad trees bear ugly, bitter fruit. A good tree cannot bear ugly, bitter fruit; nor can a bad tree bear fruit that is beautiful and tasty.  And what happens to the rotten trees? They are cut down. They are used for firewood. When a prophet comes to you and preaches this or that, look for his fruits: sweet or sour? rotten or ripe?  Matthew 7:13-20 (The Voice)




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The Playful Monkeys
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 2, 2013

Costa Rica has four species of monkeys, all classified as New World Monkeys because they have flat noses. On our recent trip there, we were lucky to see all four kinds, three of which I'll share photos with you today. The first one (in the above photo) is the largest, a Mantled Howler Monkey, known for its distinctive loud roar which we heard as they scampered from tree to tree. Most of their food consists of fruit, flowers and leaves.



I thought you'd like to see this second photo, a Spider Monkey that I managed to photograph in mid-air as it was leaping from one tree to another. Their long limbs and tail come in handy as they swing in the upper forest canopies.



Last are the Squirrel Monkeys following their leader as they cross a busy road overhead on wires. Did you see the baby on the back of the last one in line? In order to protect them, local residents have installed blue and green cables (the colors monkeys see) over many of the roadways where the monkeys like to cross. This time they chose to use other wires! These are tiny monkeys whose tails are used for balance only. They eat insects as well as fruit. When predators come near, they sound an alarm and quickly flee for their lives.

Many translations of the Bible don't mention monkeys, but my NEB does in I Kings 10:22 where King Solomon's merchantmen came home every three years bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes and monkeys. King Solomon must have enjoyed having playful monkeys around!


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Heated and Alarmed!
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 1, 2013

This has been a bumper-crop week for Daily Photo Parable photographs, at least for my little belt-camera. I don’t know if business sign-makers ever lie awake at night worrying about the different ways their messages might be taken.

I do know that I got a big grin out of this sign on one of those storage-unit places. (That white rectangle just below the “$29” used to contain the company’s website address, but I deleted it so as not to kid them too specifically.)

I understand, of course, that a storage unit space which is both heated and burglar-alarmed offers a great deal of comfort to the customer. But as a fairly dedicated student of the news (CNN.com, KOMONews.com, the Seattle Times, etc.), I have the feeling that in response to all the local and national crises we hear about, a lot of people get alarmed, and then call in to the talk shows and get all heated up.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping track of the news and getting emotional about it, of course. But three decades of pastoral experience has taught me that Christians who understand their Bibles—with its encouragement about a God who exists and who can provide a happy eternity for those who really wish to go there and who will accept Jesus’ sacrifice as a gift—these Christians can face the media’s “agony parade” with a calmness which comes from a wider perspective.

It’s not that Christians turn blandly away from the world’s sorrows. Instead, knowing God’s wishes for, and promises to, this weary planet, they can pray and work with more focus and fervor.

I’ve resolved that when I hear about bad news, I’m going to whisper a prayer for God to show His kindly face to those involved—and if possible, through me.

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