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

Daily Photo Parable -  March 2014

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

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







A Clean Heart
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 31, 2014

This picture is of some handcrafted soap.  One of these is a bar I made (my soap making skills leave a lot to be desired) and the rest are ones that other people have made.  (You might want to ask Carl Porter about his Pathfinder fundraiser).

I have been buying handcrafted soap for a number of years now.  I like the way that colors are combined and I like the fragrances of the various soaps. Some even have oatmeal or rose petals or other additives mixed into the soap. 

I went to a soap making class recently and found out that the process is quite involved and is more chemistry than cooking - despite using a recipe!  There's even a part in the cold process of soap making where you wear goggles and gloves and fumes are created so you have to make sure the area is well ventilated.  After you've made the soap and poured it into a mold, you can cut it in one or two days but then it has to sit out and "cure" for four to six weeks. 

People can create some amazing bars of soap that look more like a dessert than something to use to get yourself clean.  You can see some of these creations on You Tube.   

If you've ever had to go for more than a day without soap and water, you know how refreshing it is to finally be able to get clean again.  We kind of take access to soap and water for granted where we live but there are parts of the world where these are precious commodities.

More important than having a clean body, though, is having a clean heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10 (KJV)


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The Cute Penguins
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 30, 2014

Magellanic penguins live on the rocky islands off the coast of southern South America. While on an expedition ship, the Via Australis, sailing in the Terra del Fuego, we saw many of these cute penguins, especially on Tucker Islet. The young penguin in my third photo was very curious about seeing us and seemed to want to jump in our zodiac raft and go for a ride! Being exceptional swimmers, they have been known to swim over 600 miles from shore foraging for food. Their rigid wings help them cruise under water.

Aren't you glad that God created many kinds of birds for us to enjoy! According to Genesis 1:21, “God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” And the cute penguins were created on this day!

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A Great Day . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 29, 2014

A little over a week ago I spotted this church reader board sign beside a large and very active church. Whoever uploaded this sign was, of course, encouraging passersby to drive into the parking lot on Sunday morning and check out their worship service.

However, even though Sunday might offer opportunities for pausing and reflecting, I know of another day which God created for worship, and – if properly observed – provides much more than a “pause,” since it is an entire day of rest.

Have you considered how interesting it is that God felt so strongly about his Day Seven Sabbath that he consecrated it as the capstone of the world’s first week, long before Moses and the Jews? And then He hand-engraved it in stone as Commandment Four. And then His Son observed it when He was alive, and rested through its hours when He died. And not a single line of Scripture cancels out God’s Saturday Sabbath invitation.

If you’d like to read what the Bible says about God’s own rest-day, click the link immediately below (and once you get to that page, you’ll see some helpful followup links):

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


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Camera Lens Hath Not Seen
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 28, 2014

I took a stroll in the sunshine this past Monday morning, and stopped to snap the above photo. When I looked at it on my computer screen, however, I was disappointed in what I saw.

Gazing at these little flowers with my real eyes, I saw that they had an intense brilliance which seemed almost to burn my retina. They seemed lit from within, or at least coated with the kind of glowing fluorescence you see on license plates or road signs.

But here in the photo they look like ordinary purple flowers. I even tried to tweak the “Brightness and Contrast” settings with the computer, but I could not give them back that same dazzle. And I don’t know how possible it is – unless you also have seen flowers with this sparkle-quality – to convince you of the dramatic beauty which I saw in them.

This reminds me of a Bible verse which has been slightly misused over the years, and I have been guilty of misusing it too. Here it is:

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV

The way this passage has been misused is to apply it to the glories of heaven. Of course, it’s certainly true that with our limited, sin-tainted vision, we cannot imagine what heaven is like.

However, if you study the context, there’s not a single mention of heaven. In fact, the verse just afterward says that these un-seeable mysteries can be revealed to us, right now, by the Holy Spirit, and that the mysteries themselves apply to what God has in store for us right now.

And this means that as you and I look ahead to this coming week, and consider the uncertainties we know and don’t know about, we can step forward confidently, knowing that God has resources to meet those challenges we know nothing about.

I’ve been a Christian, and a pastor, long enough to know that God really does answer prayer. And if we will continue to keep reading His Holy Bible, we will sharpen our instincts about  what to pray for, and how He might possibly answer.

After all, this is really a matter of faith, isn’t it? And doesn’t Paul say, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”? Romans 10:17

Are you following some sort of systematic Bible reading plan? Here’s a link to Bible Gateway, which provides several possibilities:

http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/


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Solitary Mushroom
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, March 27, 2014

A couple days ago in the woods at my grandparent's house, I saw this little mushroom growing on an old stump covered with moss. I don't know what species they are; there are more types of moss than I realized, and even more mushrooms.

So this mushroom might seem out of place with only moss around it, but it makes the scene complete. God made each one of us special. Even if you feel different and out of place, variety is still needed to make a beautiful picture.

Luke 12:6-7:
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 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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Stop Clowning Around
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
 
There are several varieties of Clownfish, a.k.a anemonefish. In fact according to Wikipedia there are 30 varieties.  This particular one is a Fiji Pink Skunk Clownfish – two guesses as to where I took the image….Yes, Fiji.  These colorful fish are found in the warm waters of the Pacific as well as the Indian ocean.  They can range from 3 to 7 inches in length. As beautiful as these fish are (one of my favorites) the color and shape is not the most amazing part of their story.
 
Clownfish and their host ‘dwelling,’ the sea anemone have a symbiotic relationship.  They benefit from one another.  The clownfish finds shelter in the stinging tentacles of the anemone, which the fish are aren't bothered by because of a protective mucus coating on their scales.  In return, the clownfish fights off potential dangerous predators and/or parasites, while luring smaller fish (potential food for both fish and anemone) with their bright colors and quick movements.  This relationship is mutually beneficial.
 
God protects us. God provides for us.  In return, God wants us to love Him.  I don’t necessarily think our relationship with God is an equal, give-and-take but I do know, God wants us to need Him.  God created us for a reason.  He longs for a full and healthy relationship with us.  The amazing creation of the clownfish and the sea anemone is just one more example of God’s love for His creations.  I look forward to hearing the incredible stories God has to tell about His creations – all the while, strengthening my relationship with Him.

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Varied Bunting
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Words have a habit of changing their meaning depending upon the context in which they are used.  For example, in Britain the term bunting has a slightly different meaning than it does here in the United States.  Our local usage applies to a group of finches which are unrelated to those going by the same name across the water. 

Even its common name, Varied Bunting, carries the inference of changeability.  In this case, the bunting’s appearance changes with lighting conditions.  Generally, it appears black except when it is seen in good light and its hidden colors become apparent.  Its scientific name, Passerina versicolor reemphasizes this idea with versicolor meaning “I turn various colors”.  This shy and reclusive bird is seldom seen as it tends to stay hidden in the thorny undergrowth except when the male sings from the top of a bush.  Even its eggs are polymorphic in color and appear in a variety of colors, something which is unusual among perching birds. 

Jesus Himself used the word change in different ways.  Most frequently He employed it as did John the Baptist where they spoke of a need to modify or have a transformed life.  “Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all. ‘Believe me,’ he said, ‘unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.”  (Matthew 18:2-4 J.B. Phillips New Testament)

A lasting change in our life is different from that of the bunting, except that both must have contact with light, sunlight, or in our case, The Light of the World.


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Are You Feeling Tired?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 24, 2014

I saw this harbor seal pup hauled out on a floating fish enclosure a couple of weeks ago.  I was able to get a good look at it because it was right beside a fishing pier.  There were actually two pups and the other one was sleeping the whole time I was watching.  This one was acting like a little kid who had been put down for a nap.  It would put its head down, close its eyes and then a few seconds later would open its eyes, lift its head up, look around and then yawn.  At least it looked like it was yawning!  This photo was taken mid-yawn. 

Do you ever feel like you need to rest but you have too much to do?  In this modern world we live in, it is sometimes difficult to find time to fit everything in.  When we do try to rest, we keep thinking of all the things we still have to do.  

Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest." (The Voice)
Matthew 11:28-29


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Waiting
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site in southern Argentina, is one of 47 major glaciers within the park. This glacier, the park's greatest attraction, is visited by thousands of individuals each year, hoping and waiting to see part of the glacier collapse or calve. Since the glacier is 19 miles in length and 2 ½ miles in width, sections of it do often break off.

We were lucky! After walking down many boardwalks as shown in my first photo, I studied (and photographed) several sections of this huge glacier. My eyes focus on a section with deep blue coloring and thought this would most likely fall next. Sure enough, after a short wait – it began to tumble, as you can see in the next photo.





Being so large, it took quite awhile to fall and when it did there was a very huge splash sending ice-berg topped waves across the water. Then an adjoining section fell. Yes, we were successful in waiting for a gigantic piece of glacier to tumble in Lago Argentino, Argentina's largest lake.

Waiting. Are you waiting for God to return to earth? What are you doing in the meantime? “I wait for the Lord with all my soul, I hope for the fulfillment of his world. My soul waits for the Lord more eagerly than watchmen for the morning.” Psalms 130:5,6 NEB Are you ready for Him to come?

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The Ultimate Non-vanity Plate
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 21, 2014

Are custom-lettered license plates still called “vanity plates”? If so, a couple of days ago in a grocery-store parking lot I saw what must be the least vain of these plates ever created. Normally such plates say things like “HERSTOO” (indicating that the hot sports car the plate is bolted to is used by the female as well as the male), or “KIDSDR” (pediatrician).

But the BMW above announces that—at least according to the plate—the owner’s adoration is focused not on himself or herself, or on a loved one, or on a profession, or even on the BMW, but on God.

With my access to better photo resolution than you have, I can look at the plate’s frame and can make out the name of a megachurch in a town south of where I live. I don’t know whether or not this car’s owner is one of the pastoral staff or not. If so, and if the pastor thoroughly follows through on the printed sentiment, that’s great. If his (her?) goal is to closely follow the example of God’s Son, then I need to bolt a metaphorical license plate on my life just like that. If every one of my possessions and actions and verbalizations is what Jesus would possess or act or verbalize if He lived today, then those in my life would bathe in the reflected light of the Savior.

Want to read a three-screen biography of Jesus done with Bible texts? Click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/jesus-christ

 

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God's Word
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 20, 2014

Westlake Park in Seattle often has a police car or this police van parked nearby.  The van always interests me because I wonder why they park such a large vehicle there.  Maybe it is in preparation for any emergency that may come along.  Or maybe it is to encourage good behavior among the varied population that visits this area.  It could carry quite a lot of law breakers to the slammer at one time.  In any case, it gives me comfort to know that there is a hedge against misbehavior nearby, although I know it won't be able to stop all crime.

In a similar way, the Bible gives me comfort to know that God reminds us of the best way to live with each other in this world.  The Bible can't carry us to jail in a police paddy wagon.  But, it does offer warnings about what life is like when we break God's laws of love.  David has an interesting and wise perspective on God's law.

Psalm 119:97-105 says, "
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
    and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
    for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
    for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
    so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
    for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
    therefore I hate every wrong path.
  Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

It often is not easy to know how to love others in many situations.  The police presence lets us know that if we take the opposite extreme, they will do something about it.  I think it is worthwhile to take God's extreme and see how we can use His law to actively love others.


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A Different Charging Station
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 20, 2014

Last Thursday at the Walgreen drugstore eight blocks north of the church I saw something I’d never seen there before—an electric-vehicle charging station. I guess the ideas is that if your car is electric-powered, you park in the space with the blue-green stripes, and plug in the connector cord.

I’ve seen several of these charging units in the last few months, but only once have I seen a vehicle receiving power this way. The overwhelming majority of cars and trucks roll up to fossil-fuel pumps, and then chug away, emitting carbons galore.

This photo reminds me of how a lot of people on this planet seek for security and power and satisfaction everywhere except where their Creator wants them to seek. Walk into a bookstore and you’ll find more self-help books, more how-to-succeed-in-business books, more how-to-empty-your-mind-in-meditation books than you’ll find Bibles. And surprisingly, quite a number of books in the Christian section speak of the Bible, or certain sections of it, as mythological.

Nothing wrong with self-help books. There are some good ones. Nothing wrong with how-to-succeed-in-business books. The Bible book of Proverbs has many of their same principles. And who doesn’t need a bit of meditation now and then? The key is NOT to empty your mind, but to fill it with God’s Word.

After all, "The entrance of Your words gives light," says Psalm 119:130, "It gives understanding to the simple." And to the how-to-succeed students, verse 72 of the same chapter says, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.”

To learn more about what the ultimate “how to succeed” book has to say about itself, click the link immediately below.

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

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Surfbird    
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fortunately, many taxonomists had the wisdom to award names to the creatures they were observing that actually told us something about the organism: where they lived, how they behaved, or their appearance.  The Surfbird can serve as an example.  Most of its life is spent adjacent to the spray of the Pacific Ocean all the way from Alaska to Southern Peru.  The one exception is when it is nesting on the mountain slopes of the far north.  The six or seven weeks it spends in the alpine areas of Alaska stand in marked contrast to the rest of its existence.  There it must switch from dining on muscles to foraging for insects.

Personal names used to have more significance.  Many people of the Bible were awarded their names in response to the way they lived.  Somehow we have lost that tradition.  Instead we may look in a book of baby names and select one that we like the sound of or perhaps that reminds us of an individual popular in the current culture.  Our curiosity may cause us at a later date to look in another volume for the meaning of the name we were given, but this seldom amounts to more than a curiosity.  For some of us, it might be threatening to carry around a name that actually reflected our character.  Somehow that seems too personal.

But this did not seem out of place to John the Revelator.  Severtimes as he addressed the topic of the seven churches he refers to the importance of names.  While focusing on the church of Pergamum he wrote: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Rev. 2:17 NIV)  In the next chapter he writes about the church of Philadelphia and adds more insight as to what that name might be.  “The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.” (Rev. 3:12 NIV)  And that’s the kind of name I’d like.  One that includes where I live, my home, and one that identifies what is eternally most important to me, the name of my God. 


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Don't Be Afraid
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 17, 2014

I saw these little raccoon kits last summer in a campground.  They were not too happy as they had somehow gotten separated from their mother and had run up a tree while she had gone under a shed.  They were chittering and apparently wanted to get down but didn't have the courage to run down the tree while a ring of admiring children and adults looked up at them from the ground.  As you can see, the one that is higher in the tree, is holding its sibling by the tail!





Camping was over for the season and people were packing up to go home.  Apparently they were eventually able to be reunited with their mother as the campground emptied out. 

Sometimes we can feel like we are not where we want to be and would like to get out of the situation we find ourselves in.  We need to remember that we are not alone.  As Moses told Joshua when he was passing on the leadership of the Children of Israel:

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)


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The Interesting Rhea
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rheas, related to ostriches and emus, are native to only South America, living in flocks in the wide open grasslands and pampas. Being large birds, they can measure around 3 feet from the ground to their back. Even though we saw many of these interesting birds in Patagonia, they seemed to quickly scamper away from us! Unlike most birds, they have only three toes on each foot. When they see danger, they flee in a zig-zag manner, using first one wing and then the other to guide them as they run on their powerful legs. As their wings aren't large enough or strong enough for them to fly, their wings help them balance and change direction when running. They are often seen feeding with deer, guanacos and cattle.

Like the ostrich, rhea males build the nests and incubate the eggs while the females move on. This is what Job has to say about the ostrich: “The wings of the ostrich are stunted; her pinions and plumage are so scanty that she abandons her eggs to the ground, letting them be kept warm by the sand. She forgets that a foot may crush them, or a wild beast trample on them; she treats her chicks heartlessly as if they were not hers, not caring if her labour is wasted (for God has denied her wisdom and left her without sense), while like a cock she struts over the uplands, scorning both horse and rider.” Job 39:13-18 NEB Thank You, God, for creating us in Your image, with a brain for thinking!


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The End of History
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 15, 2014

Our Daily Photo Parable photos are always taken by the six or seven people from our congregation who also write the blog copy, and today’s entry is no exception. However, my own personally-taken photo is a little further down.

What you see above is an online webcam shot, refreshed every five minutes, from a camera mounted atop Kane Hall, one of the buildings surrounding “Red Square” on the campus of the University of Washington. (The square’s name comes from the reddish brick tiles which make up its surface.)

The above shot was taken at twilight Wednesday of this week. The building to the left is Suzallo Library, the main campus library, and the gothic tower against the sky to the right is part of Gerberding Hall. On the horizon to the left of the tower you might just be able to make out the low triangle of Mount Rainier.

From this square, an impressive array of buildings fan out in all directions, all devoted in some way to science or art or history or athletics. This is one of the major learning centers in the Pacific Northwest.







Here’s my personal photo, taken in early February from ground-level in Red Square, the camera pointing in the same direction as the webcam. I’d taken one of our cars to my North Seattle Honda repairman for service, and had hopped the bus down to the UW. You can see Suzallo Library on the left, and the tower of Gerberding in the center.

The reason I took the photo was that the sky was covered with such a filmy cloud-haze that the bright sun was diffused into a huge circle of light. I’ve scen canvases where artists have tried to represent what the Second Coming of Jesus might look like, and to me, this photo could be one of these depictions.

No one knows what the Saviour’s arrival will actually look like--though Jesus Himself spoke of it being like lightning flashing from east to west, and there being lots of angels in the sky. But if this photo even comes close, I can imagine that this is the moment when the blaze of the celestial visitors appears in the sky, but the walkers in the Square still haven’t perceived that something literally earth-shaking is about to happen. One or two seconds later, of course, the Red Square tiles will heave and explode in front of them, and those immense monoliths will topple.

And in classrooms all across the campus, professors will try to calm their students. Many will imagine for a moment that nuclear war has broken out, and everyone will drop-and-cover. From the floor, students will stare out the windows and see the angels whose mention would have brought sardonic grins to the faces of their professors just two minutes earlier.

And everybody will finally get it--history has come to an end, and eternity has begun.

Sobering, right? Of course. It should be.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 2 Peter 3:10 – 12 [NKJV]

To learn more of what the Bible says about Jesus’ history-ending return, click the link immediately below:

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


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Mailboxes
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 14, 2014

This past Tuesday as I was walking in our church’s neighborhood, I saw this pile of mailboxes. (Those white cylinders you see a little further away are newspaper tubes, nailed to the bottom of the frame of an up-ended batch of mailboxes.)

I know what happened, and you probably do too. The neighborhood of condos and apartments had been having too many mail thefts, and had decided to invest in secure, lockable, metal mail stations.

At the edge of the highway beside the South Dakota farm I grew up on stood our huge mailbox. I developed a deep interest in it after I’d started submitting articles for magazines. A trip to the mailbox always meant that I might find a check—or a rejection—from the publishers.

As I look at the photo above, I think about how the Bible contains God’s letters to us. Some are purely love-notes. Others contain memories in the form of historical accounts He thinks important to share with us. Still others are filled with warnings about future dangers He sees in the clearest detail but of which we are oblivious.

And I know that He would love it if each you and I checked our mailbox—read something in His Word. Because reading the Bible isn’t like reading a suspense or mystery novel, where you read the book and don’t need it again. The Bible contains layers and layers of meaning, many of which you can never understand unless you’ve grown and read, and grown and read some more.

To learn more about what the Bible has to say about itself, click here.

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


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God's Frantic Love
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, March 13, 2014

This is our dog Taffy, about to jump up and get her tennis ball (Elephant our goat is in the background). Taffy has to have two tennis balls, and if for example, Elephant is standing over one, she starts barking frantically. In this picture she had just rolled a ball down the little slope; there is a different spot that it will roll a lot farther, so she likes to roll it and then chase the ball down the hill. She also likes to drop balls into our creek and chase them downstream. But sometimes she loses the ball in the rocks or in the current, and then she starts frantically looking for it, and sometimes comes for our help.

God has a frantic love for us, sort of like how Taffy desperately loves her tennis balls. A few years ago the Pathfinder theme was “God’s frantic love,” and they used the movie Finding Nemo to illustrate their point. God might not exactly get frantic, but He will never stop trying to reach us. In Jeremiah 31:3, God says,

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”


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Promise of a New Day
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

While we live on this sinful planet, any given day can bring some bad stuff our way.  Maybe it’s a bad day at work, trip to the doctors, or something much more significant about a loved one.  Whatever is thrown our way, God has promised He won’t allow us to take too much.  When we look at what we are facing, the world is very dark.  When we focus our attention on God, we see the light and with that light comes a new day.

How much is too much?  Everyone is different, as all of us are at different stages of our relationship with God.  Take Job for example, God allowed Satan to pour it on Job – lots and lots.  In the end, Job was able to stay focused on God and prevailed.  I don’t wish what Job had to endure, on anyone but at least we have the faith that at any point God can step in and take care of us.

Whether you are going through a very dark time, or you are seeing all the sunshine, know that God is there, ready to listen and deal with anything you are facing.

This particular morning shot was created in Kenya, looking down into the Masai Mara valley.  Take a minute and dwell on the image, feel the sunrise on your face. Now, pray that today your focus will be on God, as He has just given you a new day.

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Caution Boat Overhead
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Have you ever read a piece of Scripture and it just didn’t make much sense?  Portions of the sanctuary service or maybe selections from Ezekiel might fit into that category.  It could be the reason for that is we see only part of the picture.  We’re focused so closely on the literal words that somehow we miss the bigger picture.  

A recent trip to the marina provided an illustration of this.  There, in proper nautical colors, was a sign clearly stating:  CAUTION BOAT OVERHEAD.  No words were hidden which might have offered more of a clue to its meaning except for the city which issued the warning.  But what was missing was the historical, or in this case, geographical clue.  This sign was posted alongside a boatlift which was used to remove yachts from the water and place them into dry dock.

It was not in use the moment I saw it, so I might have improperly concluded the sign was in error since boats by their very nature do not hover over our heads. This misconception could be supported by careful observation since all the boats in sight were peacefully resting in the placid waters of the harbor.  But the error would have been mine.  The writers of the sign were not confused or intentionally deceptive.  Their aim was to offer sound advice which, given the right circumstances, could have prevented a fatal accident.  The next time I come across one of those complex passages that just doesn’t make much sense, I would do well to remember the image of a boat over my head, an image you might benefit from as well.


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God Will Cover You With His Feathers
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 10, 2014

I'm sure you remember singing the old hymn "Under His Wings" written by William O. Cushing:

Under His wings I am safely abiding;
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me;
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Psalm 91 talks about God covering us with His feathers. That's an amazing visual if you've ever seen birds protecting their young by covering them with their wings.

He who takes refuge in the shelter of the Most High
will be safe in the shadow of the Almighty.

He will say to the Eternal, “My shelter, my mighty fortress,
my God, I place all my trust in You.”
For He will rescue you from the snares set by your enemies who entrap you
  and from deadly plagues.

Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers;
  will protect you under His great wings;
His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you.

Psalm 91:1-4 (The Voice)


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Scars from the Past
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 9, 2014

Two years ago a fire broke out the the beautiful Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile destroying native forest in this popular hiking area. Apparently the fire was started by a tourist who was irresponsible with his fire. This is one of the largest and most visited parks in Chile with trekkers and other tourists coming from all over the world. My first photo (above) shows the Cuernos del Paine mountains in the distance with vegetation in the foreground.






By looking more closely (photo immediately above), you'll see colorful grasses but white branches of what was once a green birch tree. Life has started again with the help of a reforestation program. In a few years, birch trees will again be seen in this area. In the meantime, only the skeletons of the dead trees remain on the grassy hillsides.

My thought turns to sin entering the beautiful Garden of Eden and the scars left by that choice. Our lives today are affected by that sin. But we can be thankful that God sent his Son, Jesus to come here to earth and save us from this sin, our sin. “And she shall bring for a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.” Mathew 1:21 Thank you, Jesus, for saving us!


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To Do
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 8, 2014

I can’t remember where I was when I noticed this to-do list a couple of weeks back, but I remember thinking how sensible it is. Time management experts have preached for years that busy people need to prioritize their to-do’s. Not everything needs to be done right now.

Stephen Covey, in his best-selling Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, went further. He broke down to-do’s into four categories (which he called “quadrants,” because he positioned them in a chart with four squares):

1. Urgent and important
2. Non-urgent but important
3. Urgent and non-important
4. Non-urgent and non-important

Category 4 is a no-brainer. Unless they provide a recreational break, keep these activities on the bottom of the to-do list. Category 1 is also a no-brainer: do these items first. And Category 3 can sometimes distract you—an example of this category would be a radio or TV ad screaming that until 4 p.m. today you can purchase at half-price something you don’t need and will never have a use for.

Covey suggests that you pay most attention to Category 2, items that are very important but may not be immediately urgent. The world won’t immediately end (these are my thoughts now, and not Covey’s) if I don’t spend some thoughtful time reading my Bible, but doing this will fortify me with Bible principles and a knowledge of God’s agenda which will guide my life so that the important-urgent items will tend to diminish.

Why don’t you try to label your to-do items according to Covey’s four categories? Decide which tasks go where. It can be a wonderful life-changer, but only as you commit your schedule and your soul to your Savior.


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The Power in Your Name???
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 7, 2014

Not long ago, during yet another visit to the used-book section of a thrift store, I spotted this book in the “self-help” section. I don’t know whether you can make out the first two lines of white print below the title, but it says, “Unveil the metaphysical and esoteric potentials that lie hidden within your name!”

I flipped through a few pages of the book, and each of the pages I looked at featured a name at the top (“Darlene” was one of them, I think), and then that name’s meaning, and then a couple “devotional” paragraphs which if taken seriously would presumably help you meditate on the meaning and draw strength from it.

One of the things which mildly ruined my happiness as a child was that I could never find my first name in those “name your baby” books. Each time I seized upon one of those books and thumbed through the M’s, hoping to unveil the metaphysical and esoteric potential of “Maylan,” I was bitterly disappointed. I envied my friend Bobby, because the name-your-baby books always connected “Robert” with brave Scotch royalty. (Even the Biblical Ruth’s husband’s name, Mahlon, was never in those books. In Hebrew, “Mahlon” means “sickly,” and who would ever name their kid “sickly”?)

Two weeks before I was born, my mother—cheerfully unaware that names have esoteric potential which needs to be unveiled—picked my name out of the local newspaper. I later got to meet that name’s owner, Maylan Manning, a likeable guy about my parents’ age who has unfortunately passed to his rest.

I suspect that the Bible wouldn’t go along with the “Sacred Power” author in confirming that all names have secret power. But there were instances in which God actually changed someone’s name so that it would reflect that person’s destiny: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, and so on.

And according to Revelation 2:17, God will give a new, secret name to His faithful people, maybe something like the sweet nicknames spouses give each other, or parents give their kids.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’ Revelation 2:17 NKJV

Want to “claim your name”? For helpful Bible information on the topic of spiritual rebirth, click the link just below.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/spiritual-rebirth


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Prayer Circle
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 6, 2014

Seattle has various pieces of artwork inside and out of many of the buildings.  This picture is taken inside the US Bank Centre building.  (That is how the owner wanted to spell it.)  I know artists have a meaning for their artwork, but they often don't say what it is and let the beholder decide what it means.   I examined this piece of art and could find no moving pieces, so it doesn't seem to be a clock, although it could be if someone wanted to imagine it that way.

I would like to interpret it as a prayer circle representing a community of believers united by their connection to God.  We all walk in different shoes and have different experiences and challenges.  By uniting in prayer, we can empathize with and support each other.

Artists have done their job when they get people to think introspective thoughts.  This particular piece makes me think about God's plan in giving us a community of believers who can unite to communicate with Him and each other.


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Ice Cream Truck
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tuesday night of this week I happened to spot this little Jeep (or Jeep-like vehicle) in a parking lot. At first I thought it might have been a throwback to the hippie era where many blithe souls made their vehicles works of art.

But then I spotted the little can-like bullhorn on the roof. No-brainer – it’s an ice cream truck. But sadly, it’s not jingling its way through neighborhoods, attracting hordes of kids. Instead, it’s rainy, and the temperature isn’t quite to the point where kids hunger for whatever the current frozen-treat-of-the-hour is.

In short, what you have here is a symbol of a once-desired product which nobody wants.

Isaiah chapter 2 contains a disconcerting stanza of prophetic poetry which describes how people who chose gods other than their Creator will suddenly discover those gods' worthlessness when He returns:

They shall go into the holes of the rocks,
And into the caves of the earth,
From the terror of the LORD
And the glory of His majesty,
When He arises to shake the earth mightily.
In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver
And his idols of gold,
Which they made, each for himself to worship,
To the moles and bats,
To go into the clefts of the rocks,
And into the crags of the rugged rocks,
From the terror of the LORD
And the glory of His majesty,
When He arises to shake the earth mightily.
(Isaiah 2:19 – 21 NKJV)

Who or what sits on your heart’s throne?

For Bible advice on how to correctly align your spiritual priorities, click the link immediately below.

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


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Roots
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 4, 2014

They often go unnoticed since they remain invisible, buried beneath the forest floor, but without them the giant trees that reach for the sky would not exist.  Roots are basic, foundational to the life of the tree, and for that matter, to mankind.  They provide the nutrients needed for growth, and hundreds of gallons of water daily to supply the needs of the tree.  Perhaps the most obvious function of roots to the casual observer is that they serve as an anchor, a method of stabilizing the tree as it reaches ever higher in search of sunlight in the dense forest canopy. 

Paul talks about this same need for stability in the life of the Christian, for he recognizes that just like trees of the forest, we too will experience winds that would topple those not deeply rooted.  “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  (Colossians 2:6,7 NIV)

One of the things that impress observers as they gaze at these mammoth trees is their antiquity.  Even if we don’t verbalize it, we wonder how long this tree has been standing here.  Perhaps we are impressed because so many things in our lives are transient, here today and gone tomorrow.  And we find ourselves longing for that which lasts, has permanence, and can be depended upon. Could it be that is why Paul encourages us to continue, to stay rooted in Him who is dependable.  Just one more reason for us to be eternally thankful.  


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The Harvest
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 3, 2014

It's almost tulip season in the Skagit Valley (it usually occurs during the month of April) and I thought I'd throw in another picture with some color because as I write this, it's rainy, grey and bleak outside! 

Here is a short chapter from the book of Psalms:

Our God, be kind and bless us!
    Be pleased and smile.
Then everyone on earth
    will learn to follow you,
    and all nations will see
    your power to save us.
Make everyone praise you
    and shout your praises.
Let the nations celebrate
    with joyful songs,
    because you judge fairly
    and guide all nations.
Make everyone praise you
    and shout your praises.
Our God has blessed the earth
    with a wonderful harvest!

Pray for his blessings

    to continue
    and for everyone on earth
    to worship our God.
Psalm 67:1-7 (CEV)


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Being Alert
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 2, 2014

Some of you know we've been away exploring the rugged wilderness of beautiful Patagonia. This photo shows a guanaco, a camelid, in the spectacular, remote Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile. We saw many of these cute animals while hiking and along the road where we watched them and they watched us! Like the llama, they have two coats of fluffy fur, the fine undercoat and coarse outer coat. Their running speed is important for their survival as well as staying in herds. Additionally, their pointed ears always keep alert for any perceived danger, their main natural predator being the mountain lion.

In our Christian experience, we also need to remain alert or watchful for anything that can draw us away from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In the calling of a Christian, the apostle Peter said to be “Awake! Be on the alert! Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, prowls round looking for someone to devour. Stand up to him, firm in faith, and remember that your brother Christians are going through the same kinds of suffering while they are in the world.” I Peter 5:8-9 NEB God, please help us to be alert and not get distracted from doing Your will.

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The Shape of Things to Come
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 1, 2014

I’m writing this Friday evening on the last day of February. Shelley and I have just returned from a refreshing 20-minute walk in our neighborhood. Even though today's sky was cloudless and blue, the air was still nippy enough to cause our fingers to take refuge in our gloves.

But as we walked, we noticed signs that spring wasn’t far away. As we walked by what I think was a rhododendron bush (though you’ll have to check with Shelley to be sure), we saw large fuzzy buds. Shelley said, “One of these days, this will be in bloom.”

Toward the end of our walk, Shelley stopped me. “I hear the spring peepers,” she said (someone later suggest that they may actually have been the Pacific Treefrog, since peepers don't technically hang out in Washington state). Sure enough, after we’d walked a block and a half, we came to an enclosed wetland, and the air was alive with high-pitched croaking.

A half-block north of the frogs stood the tree you see in the photo above. Its many bare branches stood out sharply against tonight's twilight, yet we know with the certainty of having lived in this neighborhood for nine years that it, too, is a sign of spring. Its rounded shape will soon be a dark green, and a refuge for many birds.

Though my toes—literally—are still cold from our walk, my heart lifts to know that we’re heading toward the season of growth and renewal. And it’s the same with this planet as it sails through its final days toward its total rebirth.

Want to know what the Bible says about Earth’s eternal springtime? Here's a link:

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


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