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

Daily Photo Parable -  March 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 Cross
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ancient Egyptian temples served as places of pagan worship. As Christianity spread throughout Egypt and pagans converted to Christianity they established sections of these temples for their places of worship. To consecrate these places they inscribed crosses by the doorways and on other parts of the walls and columns, standing for the “cross” of Christ. My first photo taken at the Temple of Philae, near Aswan Dam illustrates two of these Christian crosses. One is on the front of the stone pulpit and the other on the wall behind it.

Many variations of crosses can be found on ancient monuments and temples in Egypt indicating that the sign of the cross was in use as a religious symbol for thousands of years before Christ. Our Egyptologist guide told us that Christians defaced pagan hieroglyphical characters and added their own Christian characters including their type of cross. Today, the remains of both are being preserved as seen in my second photo, below, again taken at the Temple of Philae.

The cross was not a Christian symbol when Jesus was hung on it. It is not what killed Jesus, but what His death accomplished that is important. Today, people are celebrating Easter, remembering the resurrection of Jesus Christ that gives Christians a new birth and a new way of life. Through His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, giving us eternal life with Him. You might want to look at the words to “On a Hill Far Away” or “The Old Rugged Cross”:

And I love that old cross
Where the dearest and best,
For a world of lost sinners was slain....

Then He'll call me someday
To my home far away,
Where His glory forever I'll share.

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Love Spelled Backward
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 30, 2013

This past Sunday I spotted the above intriguing display on a car trunk. At first glance it looks as though the car’s model is called “Revolution” and the “Evol” was placed over it. But when I zoom in on the photo on my monitor I find that it’s “all of a piece.”

So—what is the bumper-sticker-mounter trying to communicate to us? Here are some possibilities:

One possibility “’Love’ spelled backward is ‘Evol’ (‘Evil’), and that should be part of true ‘revolution.’” In other words, love doesn’t work, so we must revolt as a “necessary evil.”

Or maybe the message is “True love is revolution for the good of humanity.”

Or maybe—as seems to be the case with many bumper emblems these days—its maker just happened to notice the reverse-spelling trick and created the item without any deep philosophical reasoning.

Here’s the spin I would like to put on it. Selfishness and love (at least God’s kind of love—and really, what other kind is there?) are at opposite poles. When love is reversed into selfishness, the natural human tendency is to revolt against God’s rule. Lucifer did it, and persuaded humanity to do it. And that’s why we wince and sometimes weep when we see the latest headlines on 

When He arrived on this planet as a human being, Jesus resolutely set about reversing “evol” into “love” again. First, He demonstrated His utterly selfless “I and My Father are one” love, and urged His hearers to do the same. Then He lay down on rough wooden crossbeams, closed His eyes, and waited for the hammer-blows.

But Sunday morning He rose again, and is now interceding for us in Heaven, sending His Spirit to energize us for our daily “love revolution” acts, and preparing to return to our planet to finish the revolution Himself.


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No, It’s Not a Trick Photo
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 29, 2013

Last weekend, at the invitation of the Arlington Adventist church, Shelley and I presented the worship service at the Walla Walla University Marine Station at Rosario Beach. The weather was almost perfect, and Sunday morning before we left, we took a walk through the Rosario State Park next door.

As we returned, we came through the gate which separates the park from the Marine station grounds, and I noticed something astonishing – something I had never noticed before in the nearly 3 decades I visited the station.

What you see above is absolutely not a trick or “Photoshopped” photograph. The woven-wire fence is indeed disappearing into one side of the tree and emerging from the other. Here’s a view from the other side:

What happened, I imagine, is that this tree straddles the property line between the park and the station property. So, how to erect a security-fence without trespassing on either side? I’m thinking that, several years back, one section of the wire fence may simply have been nailed to one side of the tree, and another section to the other side.

So if the wire segments were fastened to the tree on each side, the tree simply continued to grow around the staples or other fasteners, and soon they disappeared within the wood.

As I look at these two photos, they remind me of religious beliefs. I just read an online article on about someone who has decided to return to the faith of his childhood. That faith is not one I agree with, because I believe that particular faith does not reflect as much of a Bible-and-Bible-only a view as I myself have been trained in.

The bottom line is that whatever beliefs have been attached to us by loving parent and well-meaning church children’s division teachers tend to become (for better or for worse) powerfully ingrown.

Which makes it desperately important for those beliefs to be correct ones, right? How do you get the right beliefs? By resolving to consider the Bible the ultimate source of spiritual truth. Because that’s what the divinely inspired apostle Paul says it is.

As he mentored young Pastor Timothy, Paul encouraged him this way: “. . . 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.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17 NKJV)

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A Marvelous, Obsolete Wonder
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 28, 2013

In early February in a store display I spotted this beautiful 1917 Corona typewriter. A couple of minutes online revealed that this is actually a folding typewriter – the platen roller at the rear swings up and over the machine and rests on the keys, making the typewriter easier to fit into a suitcase.

I’m typing this Daily Photo Parable, of course, on a computer. In fact, I’m not actually typing, but dictating into a speech recognition software headset. But I still look back on the manual typewriter as one of the most amazing inventions of modern times. When you consider that it was able to lay down a line of print, each letter engraved on the end of an angled metal type-bar, at more than 100 words a minute, and do so year after year with only minor problems, using no electronics at all, it almost brings you to reverence.

Yet even though I own two old manual typewriters myself (neither as intriguing as the one you see in the photo) I never use them. For one thing, it’s hard to find typewriter ribbons, though if you buy a cash register ribbon and simply thread it onto the typewriter’s spools, you can get by.

But typewriters are simply obsolete. They have gone the way of the grand old slide rules which were once the scientist’s constant companion, or heavy black telephones. I have an idea that none of us who pounded those old keys, or adjusted those elegantly-engraved slide rules, or held those phone receivers to our ears with our shoulders had even the dimmest idea of the technologies we take for granted today.

“Eye has not seen,” says 2 Corinthians 2:9, “nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” This verse’s context tells us that it’s talking primarily about the mystery of a relationship with God, but our Heavenly Father has prepared so much more for us as well. Can you imagine the happiness we will feel as we finally get to experience life the way God wanted us to?

Maybe, in heaven, the Corona typewriters and iPads will be replaced not by even greater mechanical marvels but by minds with staggering memories, plus plenty of time to put ideas into perspective. I can’t wait.

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Longing for the Simple Life
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I don’t know if the same comfortable, old-fashioned feelings reach out to you from these posters the way they did me earlier this week when I saw them in a store.

The one at the upper left has no word on it, but is simply a picture of an old-fashioned bicycle with a huge front wheel. The one to its right – hard to make out because of the layer – says “walk.” It’s probably not only the simple words on these posters but also the woodcut-style of the art that makes me yearn to go somewhere where I could live in such a way that I would truly have time for all these worthy, simple, basic human activities.

I’m sure there are good reasons we long for simpler times. When God woke Adam and Eve in Eden, the young couple found themselves surrounded not by wires and computers and printers and electric lights and clocks, but by living things – and the ability to enjoy this lifestyle forever, had the tragedy of the Fall not intervened.

What little the Bible tells us about heaven (also called the New Earth) assures us that our Creator’s fondest wishes for His children will come true for those who really want to enjoy His presence forever.

To learn more Bible truth about the land our hearts hunger for—whether we realize it or not—click the link immediately below.

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Northern Pintail
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

With its long, graceful tail and sculptured neck, the Northern Pintail has to be one of North America’s most elegant ducks. It is probably among the most numerous as well, coming in either second or third. Ninety percent of its diet is made up of seeds, aquatic vegetation, sedges, and grain. Its long neck enables it to reach down deeper to feed on vegetation growing on the bottom. And therein lies part of the problem. Dabbling ducks, geese, and swan are often poisoned when they ingest lead bird shot while searching for food. Should they evade the hunter they still are not safe, for even one ingested pellet can kill a duck.

Lead poisoning isn’t a problem new to the world. Some historians believe one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire was that the upper class, which had indoor plumbing, were slowly being killed by drinking water supplied through lead pipes. Ludwig van Beethoven complained for years of symptoms in line with lead poisoning and studies done more recently, using a strand of his hair, confirmed it contained 100 times the level now considered common in humans. 

But there is another kind of poisoning that long preceded that caused by lead. James recognized the destructive power of the spoken word. Just like a blast from a shotgun, once spoken, it can continue to do harm, even if it missed its original target. “But no one has ever been able to tame the tongue. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison. We use it to give thanks to our Lord and Father and also to curse our fellow-man, who is created in the likeness of God. Words of thanksgiving and cursing pour out from the same mouth. My brothers, this should not happen!” (James 3:8-10 Today’s English Version) And of course James is right, after all, shouldn’t we care as much about taking care of our fellow man as our waterfowl.


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The Harvest
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 25, 2013

It's getting to be that time of year again. Daffodils are apparently blooming now in the Skagit Valley and tulips should be ready soon. These pickers were harvesting tulips a few years ago.

I like the prayer at the end of of Psalm 126 and the description in the beginning of the chapter about how God can make the impossible possible. According to the study notes in the Andrews Study Bible, "The Lord Brought Us Back. Gratitude and joy over deliverance from Babylonian captivity. It looked impossible but God has done great things. Sadness and weeping were changed into joy. . ."

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
when GOD returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations—
“GOD was wonderful to them!”
GOD was wonderful to us;
we are one happy people.

And now, GOD, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
Psalms 126:4-6 (The Message)

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Early Paper
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 24, 2013

Papyrus was developed in Egypt thousands of years ago. In the first century AD, papyrus scrolls and a form of parchment prepared from animal skins were used as writing materials. It is thought that the earliest Christian writings were on papyrus. The scrolls of parchment would be wrapped around a rod, often of wood. The Hebrew Torah scrolls often had two rods, one at each end. Early Christian writers began cutting the sheets of papyrus called codex instead of using it as scrolls because it wasn't pliable enough to fold without cracking. Codices, with pages bound into a book appeared in the first century A.D. As the church grew and acquired more financial resources, writers began using leather parchment which was more durable. Papyrus was inexpensive but was destroyed by dampness, thus very few manuscripts on papyrus remain. The Dead Sea Scrolls containing biblical manuscripts include the earliest known surviving copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents. They are mostly written on parchment (leather), but some were written on papyrus and bronze or copper.

Papyrus is made from the stem of the papyrus plant. The fibrous inner part is cut lengthwise into thin strips that are placed together overlapping. Moistened with water, it becomes almost glue-like. This process is repeated and hammered together, mashing the layers into a single sheet. After drying, it is polished and cut. For longer manuscripts pages were joined to create a papyrus roll or scroll. Our English word “paper” is derived from the Egyptian word “papyrus”.

My photo shows a young Egyptian woman demonstrating the making of papyrus at a papyrus museum/shop in Cairo. She is holding a stem of the papyrus plant. Notice the tools used to make the sheet of papyrus and the pieces of art on papyrus behind her.

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Stick Man’s Really Bad Day
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 22, 2013

You’ve seen “Stick Man,” haven’t you? I think he’s almost always male, though there might be a few exceptions, such as the Skirted Stick Woman on the door of ladies’ restrooms in stores.

Stick Man’s purpose – aside from indicating the gender of the men’s restroom – is often to alert the viewer to any one of a number of possible dangers into which he or she might stagger. In fact, in the book’s introduction, author Steve Mockus says, “This book illustrates a day in the life of Stick Man using images derived from real signs from around the world.”

The left-hand side of the book’s cover portrays some of these: Stick Man is about to be crushed by falling black object which might be a garage door; he is either trapped inside a triangle (an unlikely fate for the average person) or is perhaps announcing that there is a risk of falling. In the third picture he is slipping on what looks like a patch of oil; in the fourth he is being attacked by a crocodile or alligator; and in the final illustration he seems to have caught the front tire of his bike in some sort of grating, and is gracefully sailing over the handlebars.

Poor Stick Man. You might say he is sacrificing his safety and security to warn the rest of us how to keep from falling or being punctured by alligator teeth.

Aren’t there some days when you or I could gaze at Stick Man’s woes and say, “That’s me!” I remember a saying from my childhood – “All things come in a rush.” I think we most often used it to comment on how bad things tend to arrive in clumps, battering you in quick succession.

I don’t think God designed the Sabbath to be a day when we recuperated from life’s bumps and bruises – bumps and bruises were never to be a part of Eden’s daily agenda. However, His weekly permission to pull away from the madness and gain some eternal perspective is certainly effective.

At the end of the Stick Man book’s introduction, the author comforts us by saying that no matter what happened to his hero, at the end of the day things weren’t really that bad after all, and he provides the picture below. Maybe we can use it as a metaphor of Jesus’ soothing invitation:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28 – 29 NKJV)

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How To Write by Gertrude Stein
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 21, 2013

There is a good possibility that you have to have been a card-carrying English major in order get the most fun out of the above book title.

So what’s wrong? Isn’t it good to have a book on how to write in your library, just in case you suddenly come up with the idea for the Great American Novel? And shouldn’t we thank Gertrude Stein for taking the trouble?

What makes this such a hoot – and before I saw this book a few days ago in a used bookstore I didn’t realize it existed – was that Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) had to have been one of the most difficult-to-understand American authors ever.

“But hey,” someone says. “Maybe her obscurity was put on for art’s sake, and maybe she becomes crystal-clear when she knows she needs to teach somebody else how to write.”

Oh yeah? I’ll let you be the judge. Let's all pay attention to Miss Stein as she informs us how to write a sentence:

No doubt about it, Gertie was one-of-a-kind. Whatever she thought she was doing with her how-to-write book, she was not teaching the average American to write accessible prose.

Some people who haven’t read widely in the Bible assume that it, too, is fairly impenetrable. But that’s precisely because they haven’t read it widely. Recently I spoke with a Christian man in his 20s who told me that he gets far more out of reading the Bible nowadays than he did as a boy. I’ve been reading – and preaching out of – the Bible for decades, and I entirely agree.

Are you on some kind of regular Bible reading plan? Or are you simply reading large portions of it every day, without a formal system. Either way, knowing what is inside the Bible is key to understanding and surviving the onslaughts of earth’s death-struggles.

So why not try it out? If you have a smartphone or a computer tablet you’ll find many options for reading the Bible on those devices. Or you can simply get hold of a comfortable-print paper version and read it that way. Just do it. It will quite literally save your life.

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Do Some Prayers Get Lost in the Shuffle?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ever think that when you pray to God, the prayer gets lost in the shuffle? I think we have all been there – thinking our request, our appeal, our plea, hits the spam folder or just never arrives. Actually, that’s not the case at all. In fact God hears them all and answers them all – in His time, according to His will. As humans, those are two caveats that can be very difficult to adhere to. We live in a world with more information we know what to do with. We can get an answer to almost anything – practically instantaneous (of course the answer isn’t always correct). Thus when we pray, we expect to have this instant response and are more than willing, to continue to listen for the answer we are looking for…

In Matthew 6, we can read (and use) the prayer Jesus gave us as an example:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”

Do you see it? Line 4 – “your will be done”. God hears our prayers, don’t think for a second He doesn’t. He answers our prayers too. Make sure you are ready and willing to hear the answers. of course I recognize this is a lot easier to write then to put into practice, at times. Maybe we all need to add a little extra to our prayers – “Please give me the patience and open mind, to wait and listen for YOUR answer.”

--The image above is, below the fish ladder (looking up), at the Seattle Aquarium.

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Long-tailed Duck and Arctic Tern
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Paul’s letter to the first church he established in Europe expresses his gratitude to the believers in Philippi for the support they extended to him in spreading the gospel. But he wasn’t satisfied with just proclaiming the Good News; he recognized this truth would come under attack and so he continued: “For you have all shared with me in this privilege that God has given me, both now that I am in prison and also while I was free to defend the gospel and establish it firmly.” Philippians 1:7 (TEV)

As a faithful worker, Paul realized the importance of having support from others, someone with whom he could share the joys and challenges of this work. And at the beginning of his letter to his fellow believers, he expressed his joy of being able to continue his efforts in a place where he knew he could depend upon the reinforcement their presence would offer.

In harsh settings it’s especially important to have the support conferred by others. In such an unforgiving environment, an isolated organism has much less chance of success than one which works in tandem with others. A good example of this is the Long-tailed Duck (top photo) which nests in the far north. It nests on the ground, often under low shrubs. These nest sites are frequently found near those of Arctic Tern (bottom photo) which offer protection by attacking intruders which might wander into their territory. Should Paul’s travels have taken him north of the Arctic Circle, he might have smiled in recognition of the support he observed taking place there on the tundra, and remembering the support of his friends offered him back in ancient Philippi.

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Freed From the Net
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 18, 2013

I took this picture on one of the local piers. People were trying to catch crabs in a ring net and this sunflower star was pulled up along with some crabs. I was able to get this picture of its numerous tube feet while it was upside down and before it was tossed back into the water.

This is the largest and fastest star in the sound and eats clams, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and fish eggs among other things. It has 20-24 rays and upwards of 15,000 tube feet. It can move 5 feet or more per minute! If attacked, it can drop a ray and get away.

We also have help when we are caught in situation from which we cannot extricate ourselves.

The LORD counsels those who honor him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are always looking to the LORD
because he will free my feet from the net.
Psalm 25:14-15 (CEB)

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Joseph Reunited With Family
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sacks of colorful exotic spices. Glistening gold, silver, brass and copper goods. Souvenirs. Fabric. Clothing in all sizes and styles and for various degrees of modesty. Fruit and vegetables. Meat and fish (with an abundance of flies). Live animals. Many different kinds of grain. These are just some of what can be seen in public markets or bazaars. Here in the medieval Khan al-Khalili bazaar in Cairo, one of the biggest bazaars in the Middle East, my photo shows young men and boys with a load of corn.

During the famine, when Joseph was in charge of distributing grain in Egypt, his brothers came to him to buy goods. They didn't recognize him. Speaking in Egyptian, Joseph accused them of being spies. They said they had come to buy grain for their family in the land of Canaan. Since they said a younger brother, Benjamin (Joseph's full brother) was left at home, to prove their honesty Joseph demanded they get him after their stay in prison. With Simeon as a captive, Joseph sent them home with grain on their donkeys. They may have looked something like this man with his donkey in the photo below, which I took in Giza, Cairo.

Secretly, Joseph had returned their money into their money sacks. (Genesis 42:1-28) Upon their return to Egypt with Benjamin, Joseph tricked them again. This time with placing a silver cup in Benjamin's bag. When caught, Joseph demanded that Benjamin become his slave. (Genesis 44) No longer able to control his emotions, Joseph revealed his identity. Because the famine would last another five years, Joseph requested his brothers take their father and all of the household to Egypt. After 22 years, Joseph and his father saw each other again! Joseph's family met the Pharaoh of Egypt who honored their stay in Egypt, offering work for them. (Genesis 47)

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What Bothers Little Kids
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 16, 2013

As I’ve mentioned before in these photo parables, I volunteer at our local Adventist elementary and high school a few hours a week. One of my duties is to give a little talk to the kids in the kindergarten room and the first- and second-graders’ room.

This past Tuesday I did something I hadn’t done before. I first asked the kids to tell me things that annoyed them or made them feel bad. What you’re looking at in the photo above is a whileboard on which I wrote the responses of the first-and second-graders.

It’s interesting that each of these “negatives” had to do with people. Or, maybe this people-centered result is because the first kid mentioned a people-problem, and that got the other kids thinking in the same direction. I’m sure that some kids in this classroom are also afraid of the dark, or of loud machines, or of certain kinds of animals.

If you look closely, you will notice little tally-marks above some of the circles. What happened was that, as I asked them to tell me what made them feel bad, some of the kids would mention issues that had already been placed on the board, so I simply made a tally mark to indicate that this issue had just received another “vote.”

As you see, “people who bother you” was the winner, with “people who mess up your stuff” coming in second. “People who scream” got a rather startling two votes (the “people”  in this category were later identified as younger brothers or sisters).

After I had recorded these items and made the tally marks, I then asked the kids if any of them had discovered a way to solve any of these issues. Several hands shot up, and I asked them to come to the front one by one, tell me the issue they solved, and how they’d solved it. One kid had a matter-of-fact solution to people who were mean – “I just ignore them.” Another adopted the universal cure-all when a brother had messed up his stuff – “I told my mom.”

As I glanced at that whiteboard with those issues which burden children’s hearts, it struck me that they aren’t so very different from the ones grownups face. In my own life there are people who bother me. And every time I hear of a house burglary – Shelley and I have been burgled three times in previous homes we lived in – I, too, feel annoyance with people who messed up our stuff. People who fight occupy the huge proportion of the daily news feed, and so on.

As I concluded my little experiment in those two classrooms this past Tuesday, I got the definite impression that the kids felt comforted in talking about these things. Part of this was due to realizing that their friends also faced some of the same problems. Hearing how a classmate had dealt with this or that issue probably passed on some helpful tips.

One of the things I’ve learned in three decades of pastoring is that a church isn’t simply a place where you come and sing a couple of hymns and listen to a 30-minute sermon. People since Jesus’ day have discovered that the church can be a marvelously comforting support group where – as trust grows between its members – issues can be shared and advice can be given and prayer can be prayed.

If you’re not currently attending a church, there are many good reasons to look into doing so. If you are in our vicinity, check us out. This coming May, my wife and I will have had the privilege of serving this congregation for 22 years. We are biased, but we think our congregation is wonderful!

To learn what the Bible has to say about church (which is far more important than anything I can say about), click the link immediately below.

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Salvation’s Womb
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 15, 2013

No commentary today . . . I’d rather you take the time to think for a moment about the above message which is currently on our church readerboard.


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[Our apologies--it wasn't Cheryl's fault that the previous picture didn't match her commentary below, but the fault of Pastor Maylan Schurch, who, though meaning well, is pretty much of a floral illiterate. The replacement photo you see above is correct. Thanks, Cheryl, for your always-thoughtful commentaries! By the way, her normal Monday posting resumes this coming week.]

The Gardener
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Thursday, March 14, 2013

I went to the see the Winter Garden in the arboretum a few weeks ago. It was a visual and olfactory delight! The winter rhododendron had finished flowering but there were snowdrops, hellebores, camellias, cyclamens, daphne and witch hazel (pictured) trees all blooming. Hummingbirds were enjoying the nectar and the air was perfumed with the daphne and the witch hazel and there was another flowering shrub at one end that smelled a bit like furniture polish. As I was leaving, I noticed someone bending down to take in the scent of the flowering daphne which is exactly what I had done on my way in.

Gardens feature prominently in the Bible. Life here on earth starts out in a Garden. Jesus spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane just before the crucifixion. Jesus said he was the vine and his father was the gardener.

Jesus said to His disciples:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts away every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already clean because of what I have said to you.
Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me. If you don’t stay joined to me, you will be thrown away. You will be like dry branches that are gathered up and burned in a fire.

Stay joined to me and let my teachings become part of you. Then you can pray for whatever you want, and your prayer will be answered. When you become fruitful disciples of mine, my Father will be honored. I have loved you, just as my Father has loved me. So remain faithful to my love for you. If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him. John 15:1-10 (CEV)

When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he told them:

Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working. 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 (MSG)

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Greater White-fronted Goose
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The old question, “If you were charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to condemn you?” is not an entirely facetious one. It deserves thoughtful consideration. Names given to identify behavior or belief should be visible to the observer. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how the “Paradeschritt” or “Parade March” inherited the title goose stepping, although the Greater White-fronted Goose pictured above does so much more naturally than humans who have adopted it. This aggressive march was designed to intimidate and display the aggressiveness of the army, showcasing their athleticism and discipline. Although most closely associated today with Nazi Germany, it was first employed by the Prussian army in the 17th century and is still used by North Korean forces today.

I like the story, apocryphal, I hope, of the elder who was late for church and found himself stalled at a traffic light behind a less than responsive driver. When the absent-minded driver failed to react the instant the light turned green, the elder laid on the horn and yelled a few less than complimentary words. It was at this moment a patrolman observing the incident, turned on his red light and pulled over the elder. He instructed him to get out of the car and place his hands on the hood. He was then cuffed and taken to police headquarters with the elder loudly proclaiming his constitutional rights. After a brief time, the arresting officer rather sheepishly came to the elder and told him there had been a mistake and he was free to go. Still upset by this unreasonable action, the elder questioned him on what basis he had made the arrest. To which the officer responded, “I saw what was going on at the light; I noticed your Christian bumper sticker, and I just assumed the car was stolen.”

While some behaviors may come naturally, as in the case of the goose, we humans may need to exercise more self-control to carry out our movements. The early believers were first derogatorily called “Little Christs” or Christians because their beliefs and deportment matched those of their Lord. It would be nice if we always displayed our convictions naturally, but being human, there are times when our old nature tries to take control. And maybe that’s when we have the opportunity to be truly human, when we choose to act in a way that doesn’t just come naturally but stems from the choices we make.

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Daily Bread
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 10, 2013

I'm amazed at how some people can carry items on their heads – be it water, bricks, bread or something else. Growing up here in the U. S., that's something we've never learned to do. While in markets in various countries I'm amazed to watch the skill (and strength) these people seem to have. This Egyptian man is carrying a supply of freshly-baked bread delicately balanced on his head.

Genesis 39 tells us that God was with Joseph while he was serving in Potiphar's household, even being appointed to oversee all of the household. All was fine until Potiphar's wife began having an interest in him. Not wanting to displease God, he avoided her advances. Angered, she grabbed his cloak and made a false claim against him. This resulted in Joseph being sent to prison. While there, Joseph interpreted dreams including Pharaoh's dreams foretelling seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. Impressed with Joseph's proposal to store grain, the Pharaoh released him from prison and put him in charge of assuring that the storehouses were full. When the famine came, people from other nations went to Egypt to buy grain for making bread. As the famine became worse, people sold their livestock to Joseph in exchange for the needed grain. Bread, along with water has been basic to life since biblical times. (Genesis 47) Thank you, Lord, for our daily bread.

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Send Mom a Letter?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 9, 2013

A few weeks back, on a morning walk, Shelley and I spotted this delightful scene – an honest-to-goodness mailbox, with red flag and security lock, embedded in a small tree.

I didn’t pause to investigate, so I don’t know whether the mailbox is attached to the tree trunk or to a post next to it, but I imagine (assuming the mailbox is at regulation height and the householder keeps the tree trimmed) that the postal worker gets a kick out of delivering mail to Mother Nature!

What kind of a letter would you write to her? “Dear Mom: Let up on the snowstorms, would you?” “Dear Mom: Please make sure our family reunion weekend is sunny!”

The Bible, of course, makes no mention of Mother Nature. God did all the creating, so I guess we could call him Father Nature if we wanted. But even the most agnostic and atheistic among us cheerfully admit that nature is not only staggeringly complex but explosively abundant. And for those of us who believe that God was responsible, this gives us a very important truth about Him: God is on the side of life.

And frankly, that warms the heart. If we were simply dealing with a Mother Nature, or an Earth Mother, or Gaia, or whatever she is called in whatever New Age thought-system out there, we would still not be dealing with someone who truly cares about us, personally, one by one.

But God does. How do I know this? Because my name is in the Bible, and so is yours. Watch for it:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever [See? That’s me—and that’s you!] believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 NKJV

And no matter how many letters you might slip into her mailbox, faithfully raising the flag every time, you’re not going to hear anything like that from Mom Nature.

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The Crazy English Language
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 8, 2013

Every Tuesday I volunteer at our two Adventist schools in Kirkland, and I get to grade quite a few student papers. As a former English teacher, I have a healthy annoyance not so much with kids’ misspellings as with the looney language which produces them.

It’s easy, on the first glance at the above quiz-segment, to chuckle and say, “Whoa. That kid needs to learn how to spell.” But take another look, and you suddenly discover that this student is using the language not correctly but with awesomely logical precision.

Look at the answer to Question 4. That “no” should be “know,” but “no” is what the English sounds like, not “kuh’now.” (And the totally superfluous "w" actually spins the sound in a different direction, because most words ending in "ow" sound like "wow" or "chow.")

And “ocen” shows that the student is already starting to become poisoned by crazy English. He or she has somehow discovered that the word “ocean” has a “c” in it. This makes no sense, of course, because “c” usually has an “s” or “k” sound to it, not “sh.” But the kid is starting to live with the non-logic.

Again, the answer to #5 gives the phonetic spelling of “shallow.” Again, the "w" is unnecessary and sound-twisting. The extra "l" isn't needed either. And in the response to #6, “slids” is logical, because when you repeat the alphabet, the “i” sounds like “eye.”

Question 7’s response drew the widest grin from me, and was the reason I snapped this photograph. “Howie” is of course a nickname for “Howard.” However, if you simply sound out that penciled word letter by letter, you get “How-eye-ee.” Hawaii.

As a former card-carrying English teacher I must, of course, insist that students suck it up and learn the language, crazy spellings and all. I used to fix my own classes with a glittering eye and intone, “You may not BE dumb, but if you can’t spell, you’ll LOOK dumb!” And I would rigorously mark them down for spelling errors.

Where am I going with this? God wants us to read His words with great care. He wants us to avoid the crazy “spellings”—the unbiblical interpretations and traditions—humanity has added to otherwise clearly-understandable Scripture verses. And once we read those sacred words, He wants us to follow through on what they say. (By the way, both Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek were, unlike English, marvelously logical languages.)

Want to learn still more about the Book God inspired? Click the link immediately below.

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The World’s Great Events
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 7, 2013

I love thrift stores, because you just never know what you will find in the bins and on the shelves. I always make sure to check out the old books, and have found many a treasure.

I was on a book-reconnaissance mission a few days back when I spotted this elderly blue notebook. Its spine bears the portentous title The World’s Great Events, and I grinned when I saw only a couple of magazines inside. For a world is complicated as ours to have only two “great events” was really strange.

Actually, this binder notebook is probably one of several, and perhaps each one is devoted to a year’s worth of great events. But it got me to thinking about our planet in a spiritual sense, because when you boil away the less-essential matters of Earth’s history, you are indeed left with two main events.

The first is this world’s creation. If God had not spoken those powerful words of His, nothing we see would now exist. The second great event is, of course, Jesus’ death on the cross, because accepting that death and nothing less will be the key which unlocks the door into the earth made new.

So, for the time being, turn away from the newspaper, the online news feeds, the TV set, the Twitters, and click the link immediately below, which will review how you and I can enter that new world!


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Mi Familia
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Trust me, that is the extent of my Spanish.

You know how people say, "Family is everything."? Well, I would agree. In fact, family is everything. When it comes to siblings, parents, grandparents, or children, the bonds and relationships we establish will make us who we are. The experiences you enjoy with them can last a lifetime. Sure there are times we may not see eye-to-eye with our parents, siblings or children but when the dust settles, they are family.

God has a very distinct view of our relationship too. He knows there will be times where we will be stubborn and we choose not to listen, or we are defiant and we run in the opposite direction. Of course, when the dust settles, we are His and He is ours. That's a pretty good promise.

Of course, as we live on a sinful planet, over time we will lose some of our family. Sometimes that loss is permant and sometimes it's temporary, but either way it's difficult. We need to treasure the time we have with our family -- during the tough times and the easy times. Treasure them always. When it's too late to treasure them on earth, we can cling to the promise of God's triumphant return.

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Laysan Albatross
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 5, 2013

One of the frustrations that arise between those who are scientifically based and those who are theologically grounded is the way they regard new information. While this is a gross oversimplification, science tends to view current information as tentative, reliable until new data comes along and revision is necessary. Conservative theology on the other hand views God’s revelation as much less variable; God said it, so it must be true. It’s difficult for those opposing camps to appreciate the other’s approach. 

If you’ve followed recent releases from the Associated Press (AP), you may have noticed news that came from Midway Atoll in the middle of the Pacific. There, a Laysan Albatross (named “Wisdom” by scientists) working on the island, gave birth to a healthy chick that hatched February 3, 2013. What makes this noteworthy is that Wisdom is at least 62 years old, being banded in 1956 while nesting on the island and was at least five years old at the time. Biologists have traditionally believed that albatross females became infertile late in life, but now that conventional wisdom has been brought into question. Since her first banding, Wisdom has worn out five bands and flown approximately two to three million miles, effortlessly gliding over open waters. Put another way, that would equal four to six trips to the moon and back again. Too bad she couldn’t get frequently flyer miles. 

But conventional wisdom has often been proven wrong. Just ask Sarah. There in Genesis 18 she was promised a son in her old age and she chose to laugh it off. Perhaps it was a bitter laugh, we just don’t know. Still, we can identify with her logic. But that seems to be God’s specialty, doing the unlikely. Whether it means giving birth at 90, causing water to pour from a rock, or raising Lazarus, God seems never to be bound by our well thought out reasons. Certainly He could have given Sarah a son earlier, but then, would the AP, or you or I, consider that worth noticing?

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Flowers Blooming in a Garden
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 4, 2013

These cyclamens were blooming in the winter garden in the arboretum at the end of February.

The LORD will bring about
justice and praise
in every nation on earth,
like flowers blooming
in a garden. -- Isaiah 61:11 (CEV)

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Coat of Many Colors
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 3, 2013

If you had any siblings or have more than one child, you probably know something about sibling rivalry – competition for parental attention or animosity among siblings. Such was the story of Joseph (Genesis 37 & 39). Being his father's favored son, his brothers hated him. A special point of contention was the coat of many colors or long-sleeved robe his father made for him. And, he enticed their feelings by sharing his dreams with them. We know the story of his brothers plotting to kill him, but his brother, Reuben didn't want any bloodshed. At the age of 17, Joseph was sold to Ishmaelite merchants who took him to Egypt where he, again, was sold. - this time to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's eunuchs, the captain of the guard. The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered.

When in Egypt, I was impressed with the many colors of the “coats” or “blankets” worn by the hundreds of camels we saw. While unlike Joseph, the camels probably didn't care about the colors they wore, they do look attractive for tourists' photographs! I took this photo in Giza, Cairo when the camel owner was resting on the colorful and intricately designed camel coat or blanket.

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Our Valued Radiology Patients
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 2, 2013

In a medical clinic not long ago I spotted this sign on the wall in the waiting room. Though every nurse I have ever met has had a sense of humor, I don’t remember having seen a lot of humor in clinic signs.

However, this one—which informed patients that at certain times of the day (and on weekends) there might be a bit of a delay in obtaining their X-rays—illustrated this helpful reminder with a cartoony “X-ray” of a skeleton hand doing a thumbs-up. A perfect way to generate an appreciative grin, and an appreciative grin can be a great apprehension-reducer.

CT scans and MRIs are wonderful—a bit over 15 years ago they accurately pinpointed the location of a large kidney stone which was harrassing your humble correspondent – but they’re nowhere near as accurate as the penetrating vision of God the Creator.  In 1 Samuel 16:7, God tells the prophet Samuel: “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

In other words, in both a literal and figurative way, God can see right through you. Just before sending the great flood which would carry Noah’s ark to safety but bring doom to the rest of humanity, God was able with His supernatural vision to look beyond words and deeds to the thoughts and motives of the heart: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5 NKJV

The sensible person, when in uncertain health, wisely sets up an appointment with a doctor to find out what’s wrong. And when it comes to our spiritual ailments, God has not only the ability to thoroughly examine us (we are indeed His “valued patients”) but He also has the great love which led His Son to die so that we could be eternally healed.

For more about God’s amazing love, click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 1, 2013

Even though mine was the finger which snapped this photo, just staring at it gives me a woozy feeling.

And that’s because there’s no way to get the “scale” of this picture. Your average fork or spoon is five or six inches long, and here are some forks and spoons. But somehow you get the strange sensation that something’s not right. And then you spot the clocks at the top of the photo, and you say to yourself, “Are those wall clocks? Or wrist-sized watchfaces?”

Actually, these cutlery pieces I saw in a Pier 1 Imports store are over four feet long, probably nearer five. That means that the peg-board they’re hanging from is maybe 9 or 10 feet from top to bottom. And if I had asked someone to stand beside the pegboard, viewers would have immediately understood the scale, and would have been immediately intrigued by the size and realism of the dinnerware.

As you can probably guess, there are far more important “scale” issues than optical-illusion photos like the one above. Again and again, the Bible tells stories of people who either got scale right, or got it wrong. Eve let the serpent talk her into magnifying the tree-of-knowledge fruit into the most important wisdom-supplier she had ever seen, totally eclipsing the trust-Me command of God. Joseph and Samuel and David and Daniel (among many others) got scale right—and this allowed them to endure short-term inconvenience or harassment or danger because they knew that the scale of God and His happy eternity shrinks everything else to microscopic size.

The ultimate scale-understander was, of course, Jesus--and the following verses urge us to use Him as our example:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  (Hebrews 12:1 – 3 NKJV)

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