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

Daily Photo Parable - March 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.

The Promised Land
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 31, 2012

I took the above photo on January 11 of this year while paused at the intersection of 140th Avenue and Petrovitsky, in south Renton. What you see, under a gray winter sky, are an SUV and what looks like a pickup, brake lights on, and a set of traffic lights shining red. It’s a classic scene from a hectic metropolis—many people in many vehicles bound for many destinations, yet under the control of systems which are designed to capture us all, and feed us systematically and fairly along our routes so that nobody gets hurt. Except that their blood pressure goes up.

What caused me to fumble for my camera, of course, were the sunlit Olympic Mountains in the distance. Even if they held no special meaning for Shelley and me, they’d be pretty mountains. But every time we see them we think of our favorite mini-getaway spots—the lavender fields of Sequim and the coastal town of Forks, and the magnificent scenery in between. And pretty much every time we see those mountains, we promise ourselves that we’re going to get back there again as soon as possible.

God and His Son, in their autobiography/history textbook the Bible, have said just enough about heaven to let us know how bright and delectable that Promised Land is. And just as the space between the above stoplights and those distant snow-swathed mountains contains oily streets and mossy roofs and  belching smokestacks and screaming aircraft, there’s a lot of gritty living yet to do between here and Paradise. But heaven is real--far more real than that solid ridge of peaks. And I need to lift my eyes once in awhile and remind myself of that.

Want a quick Bible travelogue about heaven? Click the link below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 30, 2012

I don't know if you can make out the large word on the blue-and-white sign in the photo above, but it says "Wetland.” It's located along the trail where Shelley and I walk some mornings and most weekends, and as you can see by its faded lettering, it faces directly into the sun.

Most of the year that sign stands in dry ground, and you could stroll past it into the weeds and feel not a bit of dampness. In those seasons, that sign isn't lying – it's a "we-walk-by-faith-and-not-by-sight" sign. "Trust me," it says. "This is a wetland. It may not look like a wetland. Its soil, scorched by the same sun which has faded my lettering, may not feel like a wetland. But just wait – you'll see."

Skim through your Bible sometime, stopping whenever you see a story happening. You will find that a staggering number are "faith-not-sight" stories. Noah boards his boat by faith. Abraham heads west from Iraq by faith. David – hunted like a dog by King Saul – scribbles psalms which express both his in-the-moment agony and his trust in the God who will one day make him king. Daniel and his friends stay firmly true to God even in the face of potential torture and death. And the stories go on and on.

If we can get into the habit of not always needing logical or sensory proof for the realities which are beyond our understanding, we too can walk in those Bible people’s sandals. And if your faith does falter from time to time, just remember that the God who created you went all the way to death for you.

Want to read a five-verse Bible study on faith? Click the link below:

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Every Day a Friday!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Early last month on a bookstore display labeled "New and Best-selling Religion," I saw popular Christian pastor and author Joel Osteen’s book Every Day a Friday. Its subtitle is "How to be happier 7 days a week,” and from a glance at its table of contents, it seems to be a sensible and very helpful everyday-living handbook. Some of the chapter titles: "Express Your Joy," "Bloom Where You are Planted," "The Right Perspective," "Know What to Ignore,” and so on.

I have a feeling that the reason the author chose Friday for part of the title is that Friday can put a zing in your step because you know that the workweek is nearly over. You might call Friday "anticipation day."

But for Christians who have rediscovered God's long-neglected gift of the seventh day Sabbath, Friday– as it has been for observant Jews for thousands of years – is "preparation day." In this setting, Friday is much more than the anticipation of 48 hours of free time. Instead, the Friday sunset hours usher in 24 hours which, on Day Seven of creation, were made holy by the Creator.

The more you think about this, the more implications you see. Adam – and possibly Eve – were created that first Friday. This means that the very first full day of their life was not to be a work day, but a rest day. God could have created Adam on Day One, given him a pick and shovel, and set him to work all week, "earning" his Sabbath rest. But that's not the way God planned it. Instead, He wanted this newborn couple to first experience His presence and His rest, and then go into the week.

This week, think toward Friday as a preparation day. If you're not currently attending a Seventh-day Adventist church, find one close to you. (Normally the services happen at about the same time services happen in Sunday churches.)

What you'll find is that the people in those Adventist churches look at Sabbath differently than Sunday-worshipers look at Sunday. Adventists allow the entire day to be a Sabbath, and do their best to stay as far away from the work and entertainment of  the other six days as they can. In other words, they’re trying to make Sabbath a weekly “day in Eden.”

Want to give it a try?

Here are a couple of interesting links. The first is a Christianity Today article about Sabbath and the season of Lent.

You'll find Bible information about the Sabbath by clicking the link below.

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Created All
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
I love reading in the book of Psalm and when I come to the following passage, I imagine many of the (tens of thousands) images I have taken over the years….Psalm 33: 5-9:

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
He puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the people of the world revere Him.
For He spoke, and it came to be;
He commanded, and it stood firm.

You can see in the above photo the beauty from the the island of Oahu.  If you were thinking, walking along this beautiful sandy beach, admiring the amazing ocean, soaking in the tropical breeze, gazing upon the majestic lush mountains and listening to the palms sway in the wind....was a torture, you would be wrong.  On the contrary, it was one (or several more)– amazing example of all the things God created.  As we can read in the text, God created it all!

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Cassin’s Finch

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The image of finding protection under God's wings is a familiar one.  The writer of the Psalms uses it three times, and Jesus Himself used the same illustration twice, in both Matthew and Luke.  The Living Bible renders Psalms 36:7 this way: “How precious is your constant love, O God!  All humanity takes refuge in the shadow of your wings.”  When Jesus used these words to refer to His desire for Jerusalem, He was using words familiar to His hearers.  Unfortunately, there were undoubtedly some who heard His words that couldn’t imagine Jerusalem needed any protection. 

The Cassin’s Finch is one of three finches which are superficially similar.  The other two species are more frequently found at lower elevations and around human dwellings.  The Cassin’s on the other hand is almost always found higher in the mountains, often in coniferous forests.  This carries with it some built-in liabilities.  A female was found frozen while sitting on eggs in the Lake Tahoe region.  A June snowstorm proved fatal for her.  There is a danger of pushing illustrations found in nature too far, but for believers, both in the past and even today, the parallels should be obvious. 

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Whatever You Sow

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 26, 2012

I had read on the Internet that some daffodil fields were in bloom in the Skagit Valley so I took the opportunity to go up there this past weekend.  I love seeing the fields full of flowers which are in sharp contrast to the stark branches of the trees at this time of year.

It is obvious, based on the crop, that the bulbs that were planted in the these fields were daffodil bulbs; we can see the crop!  In Galations, Paul cautions us to be careful of  what we plant in our lives as the final crop may be nothing but weeds:

Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.

Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. Galatians 6:6-10 (The Message)

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Alive in Christ
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sabbath and Sunday, March 24 and 25, 2012

During our cold, wintery months many plants and seeds are dormant. Once we get a little warmth, the leaves start budding and seeds sprouting - especially the weeds! Even though there was no growth in the winter, this didn't mean the plants and seeds were dead – they were alive. They were waiting for the necessary ingredient, warmth and sunlight, to make them appear alive. These snowdrop flowers are one of the first to “come alive” giving a hint that spring weather is around the corner!

Some people question if God is alive or not. And if He is alive, can we be alive with Him. In Ephesians 2:4-6 we read, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Paul wanted the people of Ephesus to know the important truth in Christianity that we are made alive together with Christ. He has come to live in us, has joined Himself to us, making us one with Him. Yes, we are made alive with Jesus Christ – even today!

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Let’s Read That Again, Slowly
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 23, 2012

Several years ago a popular Seattle radio talk show host (not a screamer, not a "the other party is always wrong and my party is always right" pontificator, but an articulate observer of all sides of an issue) featured a regular segment called "The news read real slow."

This host would keep an ear out for the kind of ridiculous, shallow statements that public figures sometimes utter while assuming—or trying to appear—that they are making sense. He would play the clip. "Can you understand that? I can't," he would say. "Maybe we could understand it better if I read it slowly." This he would do, and of course the statement (accompanied by his humorous observations) would sound even more lame.

I thought of this talk show host last month when I happened upon this poster. It advertises an improve-your-mind seminar, whose name I have graciously obscured under a white box at the top of the photo.

One would hope that poster-writers understand that, once their sentiments are printed, they may be distributed far and wide, and thus become fair game for the "let's read that slowly" specialists. I truly do not know if the above message was what the seminar-presenter really wanted to communicate.

The first sentence, "Relax yourself to a state of higher mental performance," I'm willing to let stand. Maybe we are all a bit too uptight. We all certainly need more rest.

But take a look at that second sentence: "You can transform your life by opening your mind by achieving great things." What does it mean? At first glance, you get the impression that by "opening your mind" you can "transform your life." Maybe so. But how does the "achieving great things" phrase tie into it? Do you first have to achieve great things, which will then open your mind, which will then transform your life? Should the “by achieving” have been “and achieve”?

Well, maybe this riddle is all untangled during the actual seminar itself. But since you are visiting our website, and reading a Daily Photo Parable which seeks to draw spiritual lessons from things we can see around us, you probably understand that there's only one way to truly transform your mind.

Paul gives us the solution in two passages—one contains the “theory” and the other the “how to.”

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory . . . . (2 Corinthians 3:17 – 18, NKJV)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.   (Romans 12:1, 2)

To read some more of what the Bible says about the mind, click this link:

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Poster Wisdom
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hats off to whoever finds and displays the inspirational posters in the hallways of Puget Sound Adventist Academy, in Kirkland, Washington. I was strolling down one of those halls the last Tuesday in January when I came upon the above wonderful piece of serial wisdom. It's hard to read in the photo, so here are the words:

Watch your
They become words.

Watch your
They become actions.

Watch your
They become habits.

Watch your
They become character.

Watch your
It becomes your destiny.

Isn't that profound? And of course thoroughly Biblical.

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New Start

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
By far my most favorite season is Spring.  As today is the first FULL day of Spring, I thought it fitting to showcase the weather we have had around the great Northwest.  Now, this particular image wasn't taken this year but a couple of years back.  As you can see, cherry blossoms know the calendar and what the weather should be, but the skies had a different thought all together.
Why do I like Spring over the rest of the seasons?  Simple--it's the "fresh start" we get.  It always feels fresh and new, as we uncover ourselves from the Winter Blues.  It is daylight when I get to work, as well as when I get home, which is not the case in Winter.  I love the new growth you see on trees, the flowers coming up, and the feeling that we can start doing outdoor activities without feeling we might freeze to death.
This time of year always reminds me that God gives us a second chance (or third).  We have the assurance He is willing to listen to our plead and grant us forgiveness, if our heart is truly ready to accept.  He makes us new again -- a fresh start indeed.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read the promise, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
The next time you see the flowers popping up or feel the air warming, you can count on God's willingness to give us a new start.

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Newspaper Gleanings
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In learning a new language, one of the most difficult transitions to make is comprehension of idioms used in that language.  Even though the reader may have a grasp of the literal meaning of the terms ‘raining cats and dogs’, the connotation carried by those words may be entirely overlooked.  The challenge comes into play whether one is reading a newspaper, a novel, or the Inspired Word of God.  While idioms may present the greatest challenge, even the meaning of words themselves change over time.  Although some of us who grew up memorizing the King James Version still feel those words carry greater weight than the more informal terminology used in modern translations, we might do well to bear in mind the benefits of more contemporary paraphrases, such as The Message, written by Eugene Peterson.
Consider if you will the following expressions found in that translation.  Each of the terms carry for most of us an image, a picture in our mind, that needs no explanation; yet none of these terms would be familiar to those writing in the ancient Hebrew or Greek who were seeking to convey God’s message to us.  The illustration shown above contains two of those expressions, ”newspapers” and “photograph”.  The first is used in Daniel 2:31-36 to describe what happened when the stone struck and destroyed the iron-ceramic feet of the great image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  “Then the whole thing fell to pieces – iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold, smashed to bits.  It was like scraps of old newspapers in a vacant lot in a hot dry summer, blown every which way by the wind, scattered to oblivion.”  Likewise, the term “photograph” is used in Job 11:16 to describe what happens when one turns to God.
A few more examples will suffice to make the point.  Certainly there were “egotists” in Peter’s day as well as our own and this term is used in II Peter 2:10,11 to describe those who willfully go against God.  In the same way, nightmare, freeway, cul-de-sacs, trademark, and boomerang all find their way into Scripture via Peterson’s paraphrase.  While we may not want to rely upon such a liberal rendition to establish doctrinal beliefs, the freshness and meaning it brings cannot be denied.  If Jeremiah were writing about God today, I think he might have liked the way The Message translates his words:  “I’m God, and I act in loyal love.  I do what’s right and set things right and fair, and delight in those who do the same things.  These are my trademarks.” (Jeremiah 9:24)

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The Good News
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 19, 2012

I was driving past this closed gas station the other day and saw that a car had pulled in here and was starting to slowly drive away.  The logo for the gas station was covered up with tape and the pumps were all covered with plastic bags but the sign was still showing the last gas prices before the place closed down.  I'm sure the driver thought he or she had found a great bargain when they first saw the sign.  I can only imagine their great disappointment to find out that the advertised price for regular gas of $3.77 a gallon was not valid because the gas station was no longer in business.

Life is like that.  We have great expectations about something and then find out that things are not exactly what they seem.  Things wear out, friendships fade and that great new electronic device becomes obsolete almost as soon as we purchase it.

The only thing that we can truly depend on is God and that is GOOD NEWS!  God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.  God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16 and 17 (NCV)

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The Trinity
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day recognizes the patron saint of--and arrival of Christianity in--Ireland. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years.

Even though we don't celebrate this day as a religious holiday, I'd like to share some thoughts about it with you. In the 5th century, Patrick was called to Ireland to Christianize the Irish from paganism. He is said to have used the shamrock (Oxalis) to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish.

We know that visuals can help teach a lesson. We're familiar with the concept of the Trinity, the Christian doctrine that defines God as three divine persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. These three persons are distinct, equal and united, yet coexisting in one being. Maybe the shamrock could serve as a visual aid for us, too!

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Abandonment Sale
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 17, 2012

A few days ago I spotted this mournful sign outside a strip mall store which I think deals in furniture. I had never heard of an "abandonment sale" before, and a search online didn't really help define it. The first Google hit led me to an actual abandonment-sale form, which would evidently allow me to apply for such a sale, but it never defined exactly what it was. Neither did my brand-new edition of the American Heritage Dictionary.

So was this a sale of merchandise which had been abandoned by the merchant? I don't know.

What I do know is that, in spite of thousands of years of agony which His children have caused Him, God has not put us up for an abandonment sale. Instead, He reserved that fate for His Son, who let Himself be loaded with the sins of the human race, and willingly carried those sins to His cross.

He took my sins and my sorrows;
He made them His very own.
He bore the burden to Calv’ry
And suffered and died alone.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful
Is my Savior’s love for me!
Charles Gabriel

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Earth Angels
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 16, 2012

A week ago this afternoon, Shelley and I were on our way home from the church. We had just pulled west onto Interstate 90, and if all had gone well, within a minute or so we would have turned onto southbound I-405.

However, things did not go well. A cloud of steam arose in the vicinity of our hood, and once I discovered it was our own personal steam and no one else's, I looked at the heat gauge. It was climbing rapidly.

I'm pretty much of a klutz when it comes to cars, but even I know that this is the time to pull well off the road and institute inquiries. I opened the hood, and saw what you see pictured above. Do you notice that fat gray rubber hose curving up to the right? See the wet splash surrounding the 2 inch gash in the hose? That was the problem. Pretty much all my engine’s "coolant," the mix of water and antifreeze that keeps the engine from burning itself to death, had escaped through that rupture.

So here we were, parked beside an extremely busy freeway at rush hour. Rarely does anyone stop to help anyone else these days—any supposedly stalled car can be a robber-trap, and anyway, most people have cell phones. But almost immediately, a car pulled up ahead of us, and three young adults emerged, two men and a woman. They anxiously asked if they could help us, give us a ride somewhere. One even went back to the car and got a gallon jug of water, which he totally emptied into our radiator. The young men realized that they wouldn't be able to do anything about the radiator hose, so they reluctantly left us.

I got on the cell phone and ordered a tow truck from our insurance company. While we were waiting, we fervently hoped that none of the passing drivers would allow his or her attention to wander and smack us in our tail blinkers, especially as the sky was getting dark.

Suddenly, a car pulled up in front of us, not a policeman or emergency vehicle. At almost the same instant, another car pulled up behind us, also a "civilian" car. Oh, no, we thought. Are we going to be robbed and beaten? But almost immediately, winking red-and-blue lights shone behind the rearmost car. A Bellevue policeman walked up, and paused beside our window, and looked at us in puzzlement.

"Our radiator hose blew," I told him, "and the tow truck is on the way. But I don't know what the car in front and the car behind are doing here." He grinned. "They got into an accident," he said, and moved on to the car in front.

Considerably relieved, we kept waiting for the tow truck. Shelley made the comment that we now were indeed protected from somebody banging into us, but she wasn't sure whether the rear-most accident driver would appreciate the event that had turned him into a guardian angel!

The policeman had told us that the state patrolman would be along, and sure enough, a few minutes later we saw more blinking lights. The two accident victims (it had evidently been a mere fender-bender) walked back to talk to the patrolman, and I figured I'd better go out and assure this new representative of the law that no, we weren't involved in the accident.

As I approached the little group, I was thunderstruck to observe the son of one of our church families! He and his brother are both state patrolmen, and here he was, acting as another guardian angel to us and to the accident people! He greeted me by name, and later stopped by our car window to ask if he could help further.

That evening, Shelley and I thanked the Lord for keeping us safe, and for reminding us that we as human beings can converge to look after each other!

Want to read some Bible verses about real angels? Click this link:

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Let’s Discover Tissue!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 15, 2012

I suppose that if every book author (or book-title-writer, because they are often not the same person) obsessed over the many ways a title could be taken out of context, maybe no books would ever be written at all. I myself have five or six recent slang dictionaries on my reference shelf, just to try and make sure that I don't unintentionally offend in either my titles or my prose by using something I don't realize is a dirty word.

I volunteer each week at our two local Adventist schools, and this past Tuesday I happened to spot this book lying on an office desk, and couldn't resist a grin and a camera-click. Even before I opened its cover I was fairly certain that its author did not intend for it to serve as a "how-to-use-a-restroom" manual, or even as a helpful guide for those with head colds. Instead, as I discovered when I glanced inside, this book is an art manual written to expose students to tissue paper as a creative medium.

But there's still another use for tissue. In my pastoral office at church I keep a box of Kleenex at the ready, because occasionally my visitors need to express their emotions in tears.

And there's nothing wrong with this. In fact, if you have one of those big Bible concordances, turn to the word "wept" and you’ll find a whole column's worth of weepin’ goin’ on. Sometimes these Bible tears happen because of the joy of reunion. Sometimes they’re tears of self-pity, sometimes of bereavement, sometimes of desperation. Expressing a whole mix of complex emotions as He stood before the tomb of Lazarus, even Jesus wept (John 11:35).

And, surprisingly, the Bible assures us that suffering – for the right reasons – can be good for us, since it makes us stronger. If you click the link below, in under two minutes you will have read some crucial Bible material on this all-important topic. Why not check it out right now?

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View From Above
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darrren Milam
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When we took a recent trip to Victoria, British Columbia, our view from the hotel balcony was this fantastic marina.  In the photo you can see a few "house boats," the parking lot including a few cars – all miniaturized.  This ‘miniaturization’ process was not done under a special miniaturizing microscope or with a dash of pixie-dust over the boats.  This process was by the magic of photography software – basically it takes the image, blurs part of it and sharpens the other areas, thus causes the sharpened areas to appear smaller. 
When I was looking down at the marina, it got me thinking of how God peers down on us.  Sometimes He is pleased with what He sees and sometimes He needs to step in and protect and care for us.  The best part about God watching over us is His "vision." He not only sees everything but His view is with perfect sharpness.  No details are blurred.  All is in perfect sight of Him.
Luke 12:7 speaks not only of God’s all-knowing power but the value He puts on us as well, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

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Snowy Owl
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From out of the far north they come, not every year, but at least some years.  Periodically they come in increased numbers in what is known as a fallout, and this year just happens to be a fallout year.  The Snowy Owl is a circumpolar species, found throughout the Arctic and preys primarily upon lemmings and other rodents.  Biologists have speculated about what causes these fallouts and two theories seem to predominate.  What is unusual about this is that the two theories are based upon opposite, even conflicting reasons.  It is well known that lemmings, upon which the owl depends, are a cyclical species, reaching huge numbers one year with their numbers falling drastically another season.  Undoubtedly, it was from this pattern that the fable of them committing mass suicide by plunging over cliffs originated. 
One theory to explain the Snowy Owl’s invasions of the lower 48 suggests that in years when the lemming population has plummeted, there is not enough food for the owl to subsist, and as a result they are forced to extend their range southward.  The other theory suggests that the owl’s migration occurs following a peak in the lemming population and such an abundance of food allowed an unusually large number of owl chicks to fledge, thus creating an overly high demand on the food chain.  This idea is backed by the fact that the majority of those found in our area are immatures or first year birds.
Towards the end of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, He uttered these famous words:  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  (Matthew 7:1,2 NIV)  Why does He give such strong counsel against judging?  Could it be that He is speaking here of judging a person’s motives, the reason why they are acting as they do?  It appears this is the case for Paul, writing in I Corinthians tells the church members of that congregation to disfellowship a member who was living in sin.  Since only God can truly read our hearts, only He would be qualified to read our inner motives.  After all, even the most professional among us can’t seem to agree WHY we have such an abundance of Snowies this year, even if we can agree it’s a great time to get out and see them.  

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Following Directions
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 12, 2012

I took this picture at a nature reserve where the reserve boundary ended and the path took a sharp left hand turn.  Carrying on beyond this point would be considered trespassing.  Following the path and the sign would keep you on the right side of the boundary - and the law.

The Book of Proverbs carries some similar "signage:"

 Dear friend, take my advice;
   it will add years to your life.
I'm writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way,
   I'm drawing a map to Righteous Road.
I don't want you ending up in blind alleys,
   or wasting time making wrong turns.
Hold tight to good advice; don't relax your grip.
   Guard it well—your life is at stake!
Don't take Wicked Bypass;
   don't so much as set foot on that road.
Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth.
   Make a detour and be on your way.
     --Proverbs 4:10-15 (The Message)

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Confined or Set Free?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 11, 2012

While in the backroads of Slovenia, we toured a farm that was open to visitors. As you can see, these poor goats seemed to want out! It seems that animals, as well as people, don't like being confined, especially in a small space. They wanted to be set free!

Jesus came to this earth to “set us free” by giving us salvation. According to the Bible, salvation is simple: believe in Jesus, hear His word and accept His sacrifice for us. It's summed up in John 3:16 when Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” We are no longer confined, but with Jesus we're set free!

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But Where’s the Hope?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 10, 2012

“But where’s the hope?” That’s the question my wife Shelley asked after I told her about—and later showed her the photos I’d taken of—the man you see above. This past Wednesday afternoon he stood near a busy freeway off-ramp, wearing an orange t-shirt with “FEAR GOD” stenciled on its back, and bearing a sign with a different spin on WWJD:Who Will Jesus Destroy in 2012—YOU.” Printed in fluorescent yellow paint across the lower half of that final word is the command “REPENT.”

On neither sign nor t-shirt did I see any clue as to which brand of Christianity this man represented. Maybe he was acting on his own. Maybe he had some kind of tie to that Kansas church which insists that soldiers’ and other deaths happen because America tolerates homosexuals. Or maybe he was obsessed with the worry that God would hold him personally accountable for the souls of all those he did not warn. But whatever his motivation, this man’s message held out no hope, no reason to repent except to avoid the Savior’s purported 2012 slaughter.

A couple of days back (in Thursday’s Daily Photo Parable) I spoke about eroding God’s reputation through poking fun at Him. That kind of blasphemy implies that God is so irrelevant that He’s a laughing matter. The above photo, equally blasphemous, implies that God and His Son are so unreasonably wrathful that I’d never enjoy their version of eternity even if by the skin of my teeth I managed to reach it.

In other words, Where’s the hope?

What’s the solution to this sad dilemma? Full disclosure. Dozens and maybe hundreds of “fact checker” blogs do their best to burrow into candidates’ past lives or political decisions to defend or dispel attack-ad claims. But nobody needs Wikileaks or public information access laws to discover the historical truth about God. It’s there—all 750,000 words of it—in a decidedly un-spun and remarkably “warts-and-all” document of which you probably have several copies in your home.

And a thoughtful, prayerful daily study of your Bible will introduce you to a God who has done His heroic best to rescue a selfish, sinful race from eternal death. And as you read, you will be less and less afraid of signs like the one in the photo—and you’ll instead turn your mind toward praying for that misguided sign-holder, whoever he is and whyever he does what he’s doing.

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What Is It?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 9, 2012

Don't peek at the next paragraph. Instead, gaze at the above photo for a few more seconds. Doesn't it look like something that the Hubble telescope might have zoomed in on? See all those specks (no, some of them aren't dust on your screen!) surrounding the main “nebula”? Couldn’t those be distant galaxies?

Okay, you can peek at the answer now. Almost exactly a month ago I snapped this photo, but the camera was pointing down, not up. This is a three-foot-wide oil spill on a grocery store parking lot. The oil has mingled with water from a recent rain, and I have actually enhanced the image by tweaking the brightness and contrast—but I did not tweak the color one iota.

Oil on a parking lot certainly isn't good for the environment. And petroleum was certainly not in God's original Eden game-plan. But I think the above photo shows just how beautiful even nature's underside can be. And that, to me, shows what a wonderful, intelligent Designer we have. And that allows me to trust Him even more.

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It’s So Easy
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 8, 2012

I forget where I snapped this photo of a large poster, but it was a bit over a week ago. I've deliberately zoomed in so as to remove any of the poster’s printing, but those absent words solemnly proclaim the above gentleman to be a master of meditation, and assert that he can teach you this art if you will attend his seminar.

I come from a different spiritual tradition, of course, but I have no doubt that this man has probably devoted at least as much time and reflection to his version of the Higher Plane as I have to mine.

But as you can see, the anonymous amateur adornments drawn on his profile provoke a smirk rather than a thoughtful contemplation of the principles this man may teach. In other words, 20 seconds’ work with a ballpoint pen has pretty much cancelled out decades of spiritual discipline. It’s just so easy to tear down what took so long to build up.

Have you spotted where I’m going with this? In the latest New Yorker cartoon-a-day calendar pad, God shows up several times, and always as a white-robed, white-haired, white-bearded old grump. The saddest thing about sacrilege is that each cartoon, each comic routine, each comedy movie where God plays a part, draws a little moustache and goatee on His face, which makes it harder to take Him seriously. Each time someone inserts God’s name into an oath, or even an “OMG” into a text message, it muffles His majesty.

And that is not good. Because “seriously” is how He has taken us. Far from sitting on a throne on some cloud, sharpening lightning bolts, God came down to live for us and die for us. And perhaps even more wonderfully, He lets us choose whether we want His company for eternity, or not.

Have you made your choice?

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You Can Smile . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A little over a week ago, as I was strolling along the hallway in our Adventist elementary school in Kirkland, I was stopped short by this dramatic bulletin-board display. February of course is the month we focus on our nation’s presidents, and one of the teachers had evidently instructed her students to create a construction-paper rendition of Barack Obama.

From the result, I have a feeling that she didn't leave each child to summon up a personal mental image, but instead provided them with a photo of that famous smile. And, except for one mysterious portrait with no face at all, it was the smile which was featured most prominently.

That started me thinking about the influence our facial expression can have on others. As I think back to my childhood and youth, the grown-ups I appreciated and admired most fervently were the ones who smiled – not glorious Miss America or Mitt Romney grins but humble smiles which said, "You know what? I like you, and I'm so glad you are with me right now."

You and I just never know what the people in our lives might be going through, even though they might gamely try to summon up smiles themselves. So let's switch it on. Some of you might remember this old song:

You can smile when you can’t say a word
You can smile when you cannot be heard
You can smile when it’s cloudy or fair
You can smile anytime, anywhere.

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Climbing the Face of the Liberty Bell    

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Should you elect to cross over the North Cascades via Highway 20 you may find yourself looking up at Liberty Bell Mountain.  It, along with several other spires clustered together, cast their shadow over Washington Pass.  These rocky crags hold the interest of both the casual observer passing by as well as the serious climber intent on reaching their summit. The two photographs, though taken from different vantage points, illustrate where these interests diverge.

The first, taken by me, places me squarely in the casual camp.  One can drive to the overview, pull out the camera and snap the picture with minimal effort.  It might even be argued it is esthetically more appealing.  Should I fall into the second group composed of serious climbers, there is no question which picture would be of greater interest. Look at the photo just below:

The second, taken off the internet, is an obvious choice.  I’m informed by the overlay that ascending the face would be a Grade V, Class 5.9-A-2 climb.  Particular parts of the climb would be specifically described with guidelines on how to successfully master that portion.  By reading further, I’m informed this particular climb is included in the book, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, letting me know that those who have gone before me have a healthy appreciation for the challenge.

If you’re like me, you may have read portions of Scripture which seem clouded with worthless detail.  You might even argue they block your “view of the mountain”.  This may be true, especially if you’re just a casual observer.  But should you wish to climb higher, to reach the  summit, those annoying details might prove to be valuable.  While I’ll probably never get closer  to climbing the Liberty Crack on the Liberty Bell than I am right now, sitting at my desk, I do know we all have a much more challenging climb facing us.  Since that’s something we all face, let’s be thankful for the details that have been included, and for those who have gone before us.

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Are You Connected?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 5, 2012

I called my folks the other night on Skype.  As the call was going through, I suddenly realized that the headset was not connected.  As I connected it and put it on, I heard my mom saying that they couldn't hear me!

If you've ever had a conversation with someone where you don't know if they are listening to you and you aren't getting any feedback, it can be kind of disconcerting.  You probably won't keep talking for very long.  

I think we also need to stay connected to God.  It's a two way relationship.  We need to keep the lines open and connected.  We can talk to God through prayer and He can communicate with us through His Word (the Bible). 

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)

"Why are you so polite with me, always saying 'Yes, sir,' and 'That's right, sir,' but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.

"If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss." Luke 6:46-49 (The Message)

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Spiritual Food
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 4, 2012

Those of you who have made pasta will be interested to know how it's done in some areas China. While staying with a family in a small village near Xian we found the local people very friendly. It was here I saw how villagers make pasta. Women bring sacks of flour to the village “pasta maker” as you can see in my first photo, where the flour is mixed with water and rolled into pasta sheets. After the noodles are cut, they are hung outside on bamboo poles to dry, like the woman in the second picture is doing. Along with vegetables, noodles are the basic food for people in this area.

We know that everyone needs food to live. What about “spiritual food?” When we are “born again” into the family of God, we need “spiritual food” which is the word of God - the Bible. This is where we get better acquainted with God and develop a positive and everlasting relationship with Him. Moses says in Deuteronomy 8:3 that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (NEB) Yes, we need spiritual food as well as physical food!

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 3, 2012

For years, a used-book store stood on a busy corner in Seattle’s University District. Evidently, what with e-books and iPads and other electronic reading devices, interest in real paper—and especially old real paper—has waned, and the above photo shows the former bookstore’s space being gutted and renovated for a new occupant.

Recently I was in that area again, and saw a brand-new bank branch in that space. 

This is a great location for a bank, because the services it offers are much more widely used than musty tomes on tall shelves. A lot more people will pass in and out of the bank’s doors, and it’ll make a lot more money.

However, the Bible clearly says that there will come a time when both elderly books and ATM cash will become charcoal. Absolutely the only thing we’ll escape this planet with will be human natures which have been softened and sanctified by our Savior.

Need a Bible refresher course on Jesus’ arrival? Click the link below:

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The Tally
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 2, 2012

Every once in a while in these Daily Photo Parables I mention how, when near a thrift store, I swoop through looking for used books. While there, I also swoop over to the office supplies section, hoping to snag a nice three-ring notebook for a tiny price.

On Wednesday of this week, while pawing through one thrift store's rather meager notebook supply, I opened a black leather legal pad portfolio and discovered that its previous owner had neglected to remove the top sheet, which held a column of numbers.

I glanced at the first item in the column: “Bank of America  – 4252.” Good, good, I thought. A modest little savings nest egg. So is the 2700 in US Bank a couple of lines down.

But suddenly it hit me—these weren’t savings amounts. This was credit-card debt! Nordstrom isn’t a bank, and neither are Sears and JC Penney. These entities will graciously accept your money, but they won't give it back unless you return – quickly and in good condition – the products you removed from their inventories.

My jaw rather slack with shock, I punched this number-column into my calculator (the legal pad owner evidently didn’t have the courage to!), and if I punched correctly, I see that this person was in debt for over $24,000. What happened? Were they able to pay off that debt? Did they have to go into bankruptcy?

As a pastor, every once in a while I meet people who are so discouraged by their many sins that they wonder if God can forgive them. "What use could I possibly be to God?" they ask themselves. "After all, I have wasted pretty much every talent and opportunity He may have given me, and there's no way I can go back and change that."

Enter the gospel. The gospel is about God's awesome love for every human being – broken and battered and empty as he or she might be. The gospel is about God Himself, through His Son, paying the price for our sins and sinfulness. The gospel is about God – if we let Him – doing wonderful restoration work in our lives, and promising us a happy eternity where (with new bodies and minds) we can indeed start all over again.

Does that sound good? Of course it does. That's why "gospel" – both in the original Greek and the original English – literally means "good news.”

Want to learn more? Click this link:

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It’s IMPORTANT to Lighten Up!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 1, 2012

In case, as an advertiser, you ever want to know the key to Maylan Schurch's heart—and if you’re lucky, his wallet—use humor. Though I did not actually purchase the product which was described within the above envelope (it was insurance, and I have insurance I'm happy with already), I got immense joy from what was printed in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope.

You’ve all received junk mail with portentous warnings on the front: “Deliver Only to Addressee” or “Postmaster: If This Mail is Undeliverable, Deal with it in Accordance with Postal Regulation (and then comes a string of numbers, probably referring to a regulation which says “Just discard it.”).

And at first, this “IMPORTANT” envelope seems to be going the same alarmist route. But then a heartwarming chaos gradually breaks loose. Using humor is, of course, risky, but once we sense it, we feel a kinship with the advertisers. “Aha,” we chuckle, “they too see the silliness of the usual way of doing things. These folks aren't taking themselves too seriously.”

The more familiar you become with the Bible, the more humor you see in some of its passages. Want some real irony—even scathing sarcasm? Read Jeremiah, quoting God Himself, who is never above inserting exasperated humor into His pleas for His people to show some common sense and stop worshipping gods of stone and wood.

And if you’d like to read a Bible translation which amplifies the humor, get Eugene Peterson’s The Message. Peterson will be the first to admit that his renderings are a bit more hoppy-skippy-jumpy than they are literal translations, but they’re always warmhearted, and seize on every bit of joy and fun and irony that’s present in the original language. The Message helps us remember that God’s emotional palette definitely includes humor.

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