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

Daily Photo Parable - May 2012

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

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



Blue-themed Thanks
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June , 2012

All school year long I've been volunteering Tuesdays at our two Adventist schools in Kirkland. This week’s Tuesday was the last, since school is over on Friday, so a couple of the classes I've been spending quite a bit of time with gave me thank-you tributes. The third and fourth grade class provided me with cards and a hand-personalized canvas bookbag, and the second grade class gave me both a book made in my honor and the stupendous “cupcake cake” you see in the photo above.

Once I had proudly taken the above photo, the cake magically disappeared, as the kids seized and consumed the various cupcakes. I think I got one of the corner pieces, which meant that my cupcake was covered entirely with dramatic blue frosting. Carefully observing the kids, I noticed a lot of blue on a lot of faces, so I consumed mine gingerly, at one point asking a passing child if I had blue on my face. She nodded, so I plied my paper towel with greater vigor. It was only later, after I had attended a talent show and spoken with several people, that I discovered that my shirt front bore a baseball-sized stain caused by that same blue frosting!

Isn't it nice to be thanked, especially when you’ve put in a lot of steady work? The apostle Paul understood this, which is probably why he spent sizable chunks of most of his books thanking this or that person, or entire congregations, for what they had done. "I thank my God always for you" is one of his most frequent statements. I remember attending a nonprofit fundraising seminar where the presenter earnestly told us, "You can never thank people too much."

So I would like to thank my fellow Daily Photo Parable bloggers for their faithful, thoughtful and excellent work, and I would like to think the many people who visit this blog from time to time and scroll down through it. I would like to thank whoever invented the digital camera (are you old enough to remember having to worry about taking too many pictures because of film and developing costs?)

And I would like to thank the Inventor of both color and retina color receptors so that I can re-live the happiness of the thank-you cake, and share the memory with you.

The Bible says a whole lot more than you might think about the importance of gratitude. You’ll find some examples at the link below:

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


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Abundant Life
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When you get up early, you get to see some amazing sights.  This particular morning was along the Yakima River.  The rays of sun are just cresting over the valley, painting the dry hillside, but not yet touching the lush greenery along the river bank.  It’s calm and quiet.  The only sounds you hear are the birds starting to move about and call each other, as well as the water flowing by.  It’s very peaceful.  You can imagine the things God has created, bowing before him, calling out His glorious name. 
 
In Isaiah 55:12, we see this very thing happening: ““For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
 
It’s a funny thing to think of the hills breaking out in song or the trees clapping their hands, but on this particular morning, along the Yakima River – I could absolutely imagine that.  God has created so many wonderful things.  It gives us a taste of heaven as we are chained to this sinful world.  I look forward to the day when, we are in the New World and we witness the mountains singing and the trees clapping their hands, all to glory of God.  Only then will we truly have the abundant life God has always wanted for us.


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Scarlet Tanager
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

As a kid with a box of crayons it was patently clear to me: there were some pictures that needed  to be colored using a lighter touch, gently shading in the central parts while outlining the figure in bold, distinctive lines.  Then there were other pictures that deserved the full weight of my chubby little hands, with the now diminishing color crayon becoming shorter by the minute. 

Pictures of the Scarlet Tanager definitely fell into the latter group.  And deservedly so, for every photograph of them I saw was of an adult male, swathed in the reddest of reds and blackest of blacks.  Thoreau, like many others, was captivated by its beauty and wrote, “It flies through the green foliage as if it would ignite the leaves.”  Should I have read its scientific name, Piranga olivacea, I would have been puzzled for the name means “the olive-colored one.”  I would have had no way knowing the first one to be described was undoubtedly a young male or perhaps a female which would better fit that description.  A disappointment I did face was never seeing one of these brilliant birds flit through the woods I regularly explored, for I grew up on the West Coast, and the Scarlet Tanager lived far to the east.  Of the 240 species of tanager, it is one of only four which are regularly found in the United States, the rest living in the tropics. 
 
As a child I also remember hearing the Bible story about the Good Shepherd who risked His life to rescue His one lost sheep.  That appealed to me, for I also entertained the idea of doing the same if I had had a sheep, it just seemed like a good thing to do.  Of course no thought was given to the difficulties facing a would-be rescuer.  The truth is, not all of our efforts are successful.  In a period of just over forty years, a bird banding lab captured and banded 30,405 of these brilliantly colored birds.  Of these, only 58 were ever recovered.  That means only a 0.10% degree of success, if that’s the way you measure success.  The question must be asked, is it worth the effort?  The answer for these workers, and for the Good Shepherd, both has to be yes, very much a yes.


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Lost and Found
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 28, 2012

I was in the Columbia Gorge last fall and stopped in to get some photos of Latourell Falls.  I saw this little star that someone had obviously dropped beside the trail.  I assume some little girl was very unhappy when she found it was missing. 

Luke 15 tells us three parables about being lost and found.  There is the parable about the lost sheep, the parable about the lost coin and lastly, the parable about the lost son. 

In each of these stories there was great rejoicing when what was lost became found.  In the same way, Jesus rejoices when one lost sinner comes home. 

Count on it—there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue. 
Luke 15:7   The Message


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A Safe Refuge, Part 1
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 27, 2012

When I started studying about Turkey for our recent trip, the Cappadocia area seemed extraordinarily intriguing with its surreal volcanic landscapes like nowhere else in the world. Not only that, but the tufa cave dwellings have served as homes for thousands of years in the area of Goreme. The caves stay cool in the heat of summer and warm in the winter with a small fire.

The Hittites settled in Cappadocia from 1800 BC to 1200 BC, then the Persians, followed by the Romans. By the 2nd century AD, a large Christian community had formed in Cappadocia. Christianity continued to flourish as evidenced by the 600 carved churches in the caves. Some Byzantine frescoes still be seen in these churches. Also, early Christians felt close to God in these dwellings. These underground cities with their many levels, tunnels and creative traps for a defense system were used by early Christians and others as refuges from invaders. The cave-cities could hide thousands of people, as well as their livestock and necessary supplies. The people in Cappadocia are named in Acts 2:9 as a group of people who were in Jerusalem when Peter preached his first sermon, as well as being mentioned in I Peter 1:1. (Next week I'll show you the inside of cave-dwellings.)


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Sacred Scroll
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 26, 2012

I suppose today's blog could be considered a follow-up to my Thursday blog, the one with the big blue book-donation box (scroll down a bit in order to see it, if you'd like). That blog talked about how we should read our Bibles, use its wisdom, and then pass that wisdom along as appropriate.

Today's photos were actually taken the same day. That Friday morning I had given a chapel talk to the kids at Puget Adventist Academy, about a mile south of the blue donation box. Just north of the academy is Northwest University, a Christian school connected with another denomination. After my chapel talk, I walked next door to the university's library. Just inside its door, in an elegant wooden case, is this huge Hebrew scroll, probably originally used in a synagogue somewhere.

Observant Jews treat their copies of Scripture with great respect. Look closely at the bottom of the case, between the two scroll-rollers, and you'll see a thin silver pointer. When children are taught Hebrew, they use the pointer to carefully touch the page to keep their place – they never use their fingers. Here's a closeup of the lettering--notice the detail.

Back in seminary I was told how carefully and painstakingly the Jews preserved and copied the Scriptures, letter-by-letter. Prior to the late 1940s, the oldest manuscript anyone had of the Hebrew Old Testament was dated from no earlier than 1000 A.D. But in the late 1940s, when the Dead Sea Scrolls (written before Christ’s time) were discovered, it was found that the Scrolls' book of Isaiah was almost letter-for-letter identical with manuscripts produced 1200 years later. This means that Jesus read exactly the same Old Testament Bible that we do! Literally, He and we are on the same page!

Here's another encouraging and intriguing fact. Did you know that the Bible is the best-authenticated ancient manuscript? What that means is that there are a whole lot more ancient copies of the New Testament, for example, than of any other ancient book. For example, there are no early copies of Plato's works, or Aristotle's. But archaeologists have discovered copies of parts of the New Testament dating all the way back to about 125 A.D.

Why are there all those ancient copies of the New Testament? The answer is simple – these writings spoke to the heart, and people wanted copies of them. If somebody read one of Aristotle's essays, they might say, "Wow, that is one smart guy,” but they might not necessarily feel they needed to laboriously copy his essay by hand so they could refer to it later.

But when it came to the Bible, people hungered for its message, and thus kept its writings alive, century after century. So that 750,000-word Book you may own several copies of is very special. It has not human but divine origins.


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Not Solomon in All His Glory . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 24, 2012

I don't remember where I took this photo, but the date was earlier this month, May 6. My eye was caught by the flowers, how the sun shining through the tulips’ petals enhanced their beauty. It was only later, looking at this scene on my computer monitor, that I discovered what looks like a fairly expensive house in the upper left corner of the frame.

I'm resigned, of course, to knowing that on this earth I'll never live in a house like that. And it's really a relief – think of having to keep a mansion clean! And think of having to worry whether home-invasion burglars might burst in on you at any moment.

One of the Bible's most heartbeat-quickening promises is that somewhere out beyond the galaxies (or maybe close by, in another dimension) is a gigantic golden city, whose builder and maker is God.

I don't know whether the flowers in the photo above were planted by – or are connected to – the owners of that earthly mansion. But I do know those flowers' Designer, and know that He also created the sun which illumines them. And I know that with Him, eternity will be free not only of poverty but of the nagging obsessions which greed sprouts within us.

My dad grew up as a dirt-poor Depression farm kid, and one of his favorite songs was “A Child of the King.” He was in the habit of singing, in a soft and meditative voice,

A tent or a cottage, oh why should I care?
They’re building a mansion for me over there.
Though exiled from home, yet still I can sing:
“All glory to God—I’m a child of the King!”


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Read, Reuse, Recycle
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, May 24, 2012

Just about a mile north of our two Adventist schools in Kirkland is a shopping center. Beside the northeast corner of the center's drugstore is this blue box. When I first spotted it last Friday, I thought it was a Goodwill donation container. But it's not connected with Goodwill at all – the tiny white sign which is partially visible at the bottom says "Communities in Schools."

The idea is that the education-minded citizen (who probably has a number of books in his or her home) should toss some of those no-longer-needed books into the back seat, and just before going into the drugstore, slide those books into the chute. Later, someone will come by with a truck and pick them up, and put them to good use again.

The three-word slogan on the front and sides of the box seems to me perfectly applicable to the Bible. First, we need to read it – thoroughly ingest its words and ideas. Then we need to re-use it – continue to draw on its wisdom as each new ethical or moral dilemma presents itself. Finally, we must recycle it – provide its wisdom to others, whether through our personal example, or through tactful truth-sharing.

To read some of what the Bible says about itself, click the link below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/gods-word


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Waiting In Line

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
 
When I was on a business trip down to Santa Monica, California, I took a few minutes and walked out on the boardwalk.  As you can see, one of the images I captured was these pigeons, all sitting in a row on the railing.  It reminded me of standing in line for something – waiting for minutes, or hours or longer.  We wait in the car, we wait at work, we wait for our kids, we wait for the phone to ring, we wait for the food to be ready,  we wait for just about everything.  At the end of all that waiting….is it worth it?  Of course it depends on what you are waiting for – right?
 
Now, fast forward to the Second Coming – Jesus returns and we go “home” to Heaven with Him.  There we are, waiting in line to meet Jesus. Is it worth it?  Of course it’s worth it.  So what are we doing on earth?  Preparing ourselves and those around us, for His triumphant return. The great news -- it is going to be so worth the wait!

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Razorbill
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Many today worship the god of science, believing it can provide all the answers needed by modern man.  While the scientific method has added greatly to our understanding of the natural world, it still is limited in the scope of its authority.  The example frequently used to illustrate this point is that science can provide us with the tools needed to construct an atomic bomb, but fails to supply us with answers as to when it should be used.  In much the same way, careful observation can add greatly to our understanding, but often falls short of offering us satisfying answers as to why such behavior or characteristics exist. 
 
A good example of this is provided by the Razorbill, a member of the auk family.  Its common name succinctly describes its most distinctive characteristic, its unusually shaped beak.  Just like puffins to which it is related, it is able to carry multiple fish horizontally in its bill, thus requiring fewer trips back to the nest which contains a single chick.  What science has not yet been able to determine is the purpose of the white lines on its laterally compressed beak.  There has been much speculation along these lines including “some very important yet unknown function in the breeding cycle to functioning in a manner similar to gun sights on a rifle which aid in fishing for food”.  Since mention as been made of gun sights, we might broaden our guesses to include a similar function involving kleptoparasitism, the stealing of food from another species.  Most typically this involves swimming beneath a puffin, then torpedoing it from below.  The startled puffin then drops their fish which are promptly retrieved by the Razorbill.
 
Perhaps our speculations are harmless, perhaps.  Unfortunately, we have a way of letting our
conjectures evolve into what we believe are absolute truths.  The modification in our thinking can be so gradual we aren’t even aware a change is taking place.  But there is a safer way, a way whose authority is guaranteed in Psalms 119:160.  “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (ESV)  If you’re looking for truth, it appears God’s Word might be a good place to start.


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Each Little Bird
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 21, 2012

I was up at Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in British Columbia last week when I saw this little male Rufous hummingbird.  There was a feeder hanging near the entrance and this little guy kept coming back to it about every five minutes.  He would stay less than a minute but there was a crowd, young and old, just standing around waiting for his next appearance. 

I've always liked hummingbirds; they are just amazing little creatures.  Their colorations (especially in the males with their iridescent feathers), their speed and their ability to hover and change course are just a few of their attributes. You can usually hear their chirps long before you see them.

Do you remember the old song, "All Things Bright and Beautiful," by Cecil Frances Alexander?  James Herriot used a lot of the lines for his book titles.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful: 
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
God made their glowing colors,
And made their tiny wings. 
 
The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky. 
 
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden: 
God made them every one. 
 
God gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.  
 
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20 (NLT)


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Amazing Storks
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 20, 2012

People in Turkey believe that storks bring prosperity and health for those who see them in the air as shown in my first photo. Storks care for their young with great affection, staying with their young even though in danger themselves.



They are hunted in some countries, but not in Turkey where they are known as pilgrim birds because they are welcomed guests. After spending the winter in Africa, they come here to breed and raise their young during the summertime. It's estimated that between 135,00 to 185,00 stork couples migrate to Turkey.

Unlike other birds, they build their large nests on village houses, mosques, electric poles and aqueducts. Yes, old aqueducts as you can see in my next photo taken in the town of Selcuk, near the ruins of Ephesus!



The storks in Selcuk make their nests on the peaks of aqueduct ruins. They are the messengers of the beginning and end of summer. When the Romans took over Ephesus over 2000 years ago, they built many aqueducts to carry water from the nearby hills to Ephesus, a distance of about three kilometers. Even though the Romans have gone, the storks remain and like the aqueducts

Storks are mentioned in the Bible, including “knowing their appointed times” (Jeremiah 8:7), probably when to migrate to a warmer or cooler climate. Apparently they begin gathering a couple of weeks before “flight” in order to fly in large groups. Not only do they know when to fly, but where. They return to the same place year after year. Seems they have been given a good GPS system!


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The Beautiful Fern
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 19, 2012

Unlike the rest of our Daily Photo Parable bloggers, all of whom bring knowledgeable minds to their nature photos, I am a babe in the woods when it comes to flora and fauna. I would love to be able to tell you authoritatively that the above fern is a member of the Fernafaunaflora Halitosis species, and blooms on alternate Thursdays in the jungle swamps of the high Himalayas, but the truth is that I only know that this is a fern because my wife Shelley told me so when we spotted it on a walk last Sunday.

But – unless you're addicted to the idea that we can't really see something until we know more about it, an idea in which there may be some truth – this fern looks lovely no matter what it's called. And I consider it to be yet one more evidence of Intelligent Design.

The other day I was visiting a scientist’s home and saw on the wall a poster featuring a large circle. Within that circle were lots of little letters and numbers connected by little lines to other letters and numbers. What I was looking at was the interactions within just one cell from a fruit fly. Just one cell. From a fruit fly.

And even though I couldn’t have told you what those numbers and letters meant, the fact that all those cell-level connections were happening, and the fact that human minds had penetrated the secrets, shouted once again, There is an intelligent God!


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Tabletop Catapult
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 18, 2012

Earlier this week, just inside the front door of a Barnes and Noble bookstore, I noticed that the staff had set up a military-theme display. I chuckled when I saw, in the midst of all the gun manuals and World War II coffee-table books, a build-it-yourself kit for a catapult. That way you can bring the battle to your home or office. I can imagine a boy constructing this machine in order to wage war on his sister’s dolls.

I keep telling Shelley that I wish that a Cabela’s outdoor store branch would open up closer to where we live, because in the Mitchell, South Dakota Cabela’s I once saw a 12-shot rubberband gun. One end of the rubber band would be looped around the front of the gun, and the other would be placed behind one of the spokes on a wheel. Each new rubber band had its own spoke, and the machinery was arranged so that each time you pulled the trigger, the wheel turned, releasing another rubber band at your shrieking sister.

What is it with this war-impulse? Is it simply a relatively harmless “dodge-ball syndrome,” or does it express something deeper within our sinful hearts?

That's a question we'll have to sort out in heaven where, according to Isaiah 2:4, at the end of time, people will metaphorically “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

This might be a good time to examine our own lives for warlike tendencies. Are we quick to leap into an argument, blaming our feistiness on our ethnic heritage (I’ve literally heard people do that)? Or does our conflict take the form of cold silence, in which we withhold words and affection from someone near and dear to us?

 Speaking of Isaiah, it's also a good idea to remember one of the titles he gives to Christ:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV)


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The Light
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 18, 2012

Tuesdays I volunteer for a few hours at our two Adventist schools in Kirkland. I have learned to stock up on a few miscellaneous office supplies, such as sticky-notes and paper clips, and green gel pens (for grading papers and tests), and other miscellaneous items.

At one point I added to my little cache two larger sticky-note pads in case I should have to write longer notes to teachers about why I graded a particular assignment the way I did. As it turns out, I rarely use these, so this Tuesday – when I felt the need to use such a pad – I was intensely surprised to discover this white band at the top.

I actually have an in-car portable desk which sits on the passenger seat, and I had stationed those larger pads upright in one of the slots, so that a couple of inches of pad were exposed to daylight. Over the weeks, the sunshine has done its work, and the pink has pretty much faded to white.

Jesus often used light as a symbol of His presence, and of course science has discovered that sunlight is an effective germ-killer. And the deep pink of this post-it pad simply did not survive the steady solar rays.

Strangely, staring at this pink/white pad gives me courage – in a “parable” kind of way – that continued exposure to the Sun of Righteousness will indeed transform me. I've seen it happen in many Christians.

How do you increase your exposure to Vitamin D-eity? By opening the pages of His Holy Scriptures and spending a few minutes each day proving the truth of Psalm 119:129-130: “Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”


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Least Favorite
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
 
One of my least favorite birds is the Great Blue Heron – pictured above, taken in Victoria, B.C.  The story of why I don’t care for this particular bird, is too long for this but you’ll have to trust me – I don’t care for the bird. 

The good news is that God loves these birds--in fact God loves all His creations.  As much as I dislike the heron (the one that came to my house and ate my Koi), I truly love the fact that no matter what, God loves us.  In Genesis, we can read when God created the animals of our world, “Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” He created us and He will always love us. 
 
The next time we (I) have trouble with a particular animal, or even a particular person – remember, God loves them just as much as He loves us.


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Chipping Sparrow
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Most of us share a common quality; we like it when people remember our names.  Those who make a special effort to do so are appreciated and in turn fare well in the social arena.  Unfortunately, this quality is not always reciprocal, for some of us seem to have a mental block when it comes to this skill.  One of those which seem to have been victimized by this unfairness is the Chipping Sparrow.  Of all the sparrows found throughout the U.S. it appears to be the most domestic and frequently builds its nest in close proximity to human dwellings. 
 
This socialness was noticed by Alexander Wilson who named it Fringilla socialis, or social sparrow; not a bad name by all accounts.  But science has its rules and unknown to Wilson, another had twelve years earlier named this bird Fringilla passerine, or sparrow-like sparrow.  What a letdown.   In one fell swoop, this attractive little bird went from being recognized as uncommonly friendly to just another nobody in the crowd.   
 
In his message to the Children of Israel, the prophet Zechariah wrote about a day when “the Branch”, or the Messiah, would come and, in a single day, wipe out sin from all the land.  We are still waiting for the completion of that promise when “At that time, everyone will get along with one another, with friendly visits across the fence, friendly visits on one another’s porches.” (Zechariah 3:10 The Message)  Heaven indeed sounds like a friendly place, the kind of place Chipping Sparrows, and more importantly, you and I might enjoy.

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Under His Wings
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 14, 2012

I saw this mother goose a couple of weeks ago.  There were six goslings initially and they were all scratching around in the dirt and eating when it started to rain.  Five goslings are under her wings and the other one decided to do its own thing. 

The little nonconformist eventually did scoot under her wings to join its siblings but it reminded me of how God tells us to do something (for our own good) and we decide our way might be better and do something totally different.

    He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
    Psalms 91:4 NLT


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The Hard Path
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 13, 2012

If you look really hard (in the upper photo), you'll see a grassy patch and buildings way down in the valley below where the cable lift ends. The lift is used to transport food and supplies to this rifugio (lower photo) in the Dolomites in northern Italy where we were staying while hiking. When studying the map before our arrival, the rifugio seemed to be next to the trail head. I thought that should be an easy hike! I was really fooled – because it was straight up a couple thousand feet! Not only was it straight up, but when we arrived and had to start climbing, a major thunder and lightning storm was upon us with a downpour of rain! I really didn't want to climb up the mountain, but there was no other option. A few hours later, our hiking group arrived at the rifugio soaking wet, but alive!

Sometimes our paths on this earth are difficult and challenging, but God is there to help us along the way and to guide us.

“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” Psalms 48:14

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalms 119:105


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The Marlboro
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 12, 2012

A couple of days ago, on my way back to my car from a quick stop at a Home Depot, I spotted this still-burning Marboro cigarette lying on the parking-lot concrete. (I was hoping I could actually photograph the wisps of smoke, but they’re a bit too filmy for the camera lens to pick up.)

If you study this cigarette carefully, as hawk-nosed Sherlock Holmes would do in those stories I loved as a boy, you can discover a few facts. First, this cigarette is still relatively long, meaning that its smoker did not wait around to suck the last nicotine-fragrances from it before discarding it. There could be at least two possible reasons for this. Maybe the person knew that he (or she) wasn't allowed to smoke in the store, so discarded the cigarette ahead of time. Yet if this were the case, I might not have even found this cigarette at all, since most merchants, outside their stores' entrances, often have containers to safely dispose of smokes. The cigarette you see above was a long distance away from the store’s entrance.

Another possibility—which I favor—is that as soon as the person emerged from shopping in the store, he lit the cigarette, and smoked while walking to his car (which, as I say, was quite a distance) and then – not wanting to smoke in the car – dropped the cigarette on the concrete.

I've never smoked, but Shelley and I and other members of a North Seattle church I once pastored held three stop-smoking clinics every year. About 30 people would sign up for each of those clinics, and after helping about 600 people through that process, I can believe it when people say that quitting the tobacco habit can be harder than quitting heroin. I deeply admired and appreciated these new friends, and truly enjoyed their company. The vast majority of the time they’d been hooked by the habit while still kids, and had no memory of themselves as adult non-smokers. One the most bitter ironies is that the tanned, handsome cowboy in the "Marlboro Man" commercials seemed the epitome of the rugged, will-powered, "I can accomplish whatever I want" person--yet those same cigarettes have often shackled their slaves to death by cancer or emphysema.

Those of us who led these stop-smoking sessions discovered that different people quit in different ways. Normally, the tiny minority, the "I'll just use my willpower" people (the ones who, after quitting, would sometimes carry an unopened pack of smokes in their pockets just to dare themselves to light one up!), didn't come to these sessions at all. They didn't need to.

But the people who attended our classes were far more fun to be around than the "willpower" people probably would have been. The first night I would tell our new friends, "It's my theory that you folks are the best-adjusted people of all, because you enjoy people, and you like to do things in groups."

By the program’s Tuesday night, most participants would be struggling the hardest. So on that night I had one of our church members tell how he had gone to three different sets of stop-smoking classes and still couldn’t quit. He simply loved to smoke. One morning while in church, he surrendered the habit to Jesus. "Jesus, you know I love to smoke," he prayed silently but fervently. "You know that I cannot quit on my own. I'm going to give this habit to you." And the Lord had mercy on him.

Do you need strength from the Lord? Click this link for a few Bible promises--

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


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The Earlier Incident
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 11, 2012

Early yesterday (Thursday) afternoon I headed north on Interstate-5 toward the Honda repair guy I’ve been going to for nearly 3 decades, to have him deal with a car problem. Right at the junction of I-5 and I-405 I saw this traffic-alert sign which says (in case the print doesn’t come through well on your screen), “Earlier incident north of MLK (Martin Luther King) Jr. Way.”

Notice the word “incident”? Normally such alerts say “accident.” But I’d just flicked on the radio a couple of minutes earlier to check traffic, and I already knew what the “incident” was—President Obama was in town, and his presidential motorcade had just finished shuttling him between two fundraising events. The sign was deliberately vague, not wanting to call special attention to what was already causing a major traffic tie-up.

One of these days we’re going to witness the arrival of another leader—this one with a capital “L,” Someone who is a Leader of leaders, a King of kings. And no traffic sign operator is going to have to be vague about the “angel-cade” He’s traveling with, because every eye will see Him.

Before President Obama came to town, several people got ready to meet him, by making sure that they had donated various amounts to his campaign in order to gain varying degrees of closeness to him.

And before Jesus arrives, those who want close access to Him will have had to make a donation too—their hearts. And when the heart is truly given, all else follows: one’s mind, body, the will, time, treasure, talent.

Let’s let Christ Himself describe His arrival:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.  Matthew 24:29 – 31 NKJV

To learn how you can be ready, click the link below:

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


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Retaining Ponds
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, May 10, 2012

Within the last week or so, our local weather has changed from being obsessively rainy to sunny most of the time. In recent decades, developers have made sure – I'm sure with county insistence – to provide retaining ponds as part of their design.

We have two such ponds in our neighborhood, and while I am certainly no expert in water systems, it always surprises me to see the difference between the two, only a few blocks apart. The two photos in today's blog were taken within a day of each other, one on May 5 and the other on May 6. As you see, though both ponds have received the same amount of rain, one is dry while the other is so full that its runoff often has had to pour into an overflow tube. The other day Shelley and I saw a large and happy family of brown ducks swimming in the water.

As far as I can tell, the major difference between these two ponds is that the one with water in it is constantly receiving fresh H2O through a pipe on the opposite side of the overflow outlet. Sometimes the water in this pond sinks to the level where you can actually see this pipe with water pouring out of the opening. The dry pond must have no such inflow.

I'm sure the people familiar with public water systems could draw greater and more accurate parables from this than I can. But the bottom line is that the dry pond needs water from somewhere, and the occasional rain doesn't seem to be enough. It needs water from a dependable source.

Jesus insisted that this is the way Christianity works. In John 4, Jesus begins a conversation with the woman by asking her for a drink of water, and eventually says to her: “Whoever drinks of this water [the literal well-water] will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13 – 14.

And in the Bible’s final chapter “. . . let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17.

Why not pray your way through Jesus’ John 4 conversation with the woman at the well. Pray that He will give you that living water too.


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Peace Like a River
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
 
In Isaiah 66:12 is says "For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, And be dandled on her knees."
 
It reminds me of the song, I used to sing while attending primary class in Sabbath School, as well as when I was teaching in the class:
 
I've got peace like a river
I've got peace like a river
I've got peace like a river in my soul
I've got peace like a river
I've got peace like a river
I've got peace like a river in my soul

I've got love like an ocean
I've got love like an ocean
I've got love like an ocean in my soul
I've got love like an ocean
I've got love like an ocean
I've got love like an ocean in my soul

I've got joy like a fountain
I've got joy like a fountain
I've got joy like a fountain in my soul
I've got joy like a fountain
I've got joy like a fountain
I've got joy like a fountain in my soul

I've got peace like a river
I've got love like an ocean
I've got joy like a fountain in my soul
I've got peace like a river
I've got love like an ocean
I've got joy like a fountain in my soul

Just like it says in Isaiah, God gives us peace.  We can surely hold onto that.
 
This shot is of "Double Falls" in Glacier National Park, Montana.


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Sage Grouse
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Henry Fielding is a name probably unfamiliar to many today, but in 18th century England he would be much better known.  Several notable accomplishments were his.  For one thing, he, along with his brother, were responsible for establishing London’s first police force known as the Bow Street Runners.  In old age he became blind but continued his position as a judge and was known as “Blind Beak” due to his ability to recognize criminals by their voice alone. But he is best remembered as a novelist whose earthy stories portrayed a wide variety of characters in  British culture.  One of these novels, Tom Thumb, contains the following line:  “All nature wears one universal grin.”   He continues to admonish that nature has been faithful in doing her job, now we humans need to make sure we responsibly do ours.  This thought has not been lost on today’s ecological movement.  Rather than follow that line of thinking, consider for a moment what nature has shown you that would solicit a grin; not just a smile, but a genuine laugh or grin.
 
Numerous incidents may come to mind. but one that ranks high on my list would have to be the courting rituals of the Sage Grouse.  This largest of the North American grouse is a lek species.

A lek is a parade ground, selected for some reason known only to them, where male birds gather to strut their stuff in hopes of attracting a female with whom they would then breed.  The males are polygamous and will mate with as many females as they can attract.  Studies have shown that generally only a few males obtain this right, usually those at the center of the lek.  These large chicken-like birds gather around dusk and begin by spreading their tail feathers and swaggering around the relatively open desert floor.  They take large gulps of air which are used to inflate the sacks on the breast which are then pushed outward, rendering a popping sound.  This must be considered very erotic by the males for they continue this behavior all night long and until an hour or so after sunrise.  Females, seemingly oblivious of their efforts, wander among the excited males without giving them, from all appearances, a second glance.  In truth, they must take some notice, for each year more Sage Grouse are hatched.
 
To me, it’s the best birding show in America.  The price of admission is free.  All that is needed is to find a lek and station yourself there, sometimes all night long, and await the sunrise.  God must have a sense of humor.  If we are bemused by the outlandish efforts of the grouse, just imagine what He must think of our efforts to attract the attention of the opposite sex.  He must have grinned when He said, “It was very good.”


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Create In Me A Clean Heart
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 7, 2012

 I was on a Washington State Ferry recently and saw this puzzle laid out on one of the tables.  Anybody can just add a piece as they have time as the ferry winds its way through the San Juan Islands. 

When Samuel was looking for a king to replace Saul, he thought that one of David's brothers looked like a perfect candidate.   But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV (emphasis supplied in all passages)

The Message compares the heart to a puzzle and shows how God sees through our facades:

"The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
   a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart
   and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
   I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
   not as they pretend to be."
Jeremiah 17: 9-10 (Message)

I think we can pray along with David in his prayer of repentance:  Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Psalm 51: 10 NKJV


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A Time of Rest
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 6, 2012

It was so exciting to see some of the 83 pandas at the large Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center in China. Because of the decline in the number of pandas in the wild, this center was created for the best possible environment for rearing and breeding pandas. Their fiber-rich diet of a certain kind of bamboo makes them sluggish. Therefore, they move slowly and they sleep a lot, getting their required rest. My second photo (just below) is of a poster of a baby panda at the Center, with words we all recognize!

We humans also need sleep for growth and rejuvenation for our bodies. In addition to physical rest each night, we benefit from a day of rest, the Sabbath. In Mark 2, we read that the Pharisees objected to the disciples picking corn on the Sabbath. In verse 27 Jesus said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”


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The Creator?

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 5, 2012

 A couple of days ago Shelley and I traveled across Puget Sound to the peninsula, where the teacher in one of the Adventist schools had asked me to come to talk to his students. Once I had spent a truly delightful hour with his not only polite but truly interested kids, Shelley and I traveled a bit further to the town of Sequim.

 Shelley stepped into a small Christian bookstore, and I paused to study a nearby outdoor mural. Since without expensive equipment a photograph is like one eyeball looking at a scene, it looks as though the muralist is right there on the scene, touching up a bridge girder.

 However, she's a creation too. Here's a close-up:

 

Even though the real artist (whose name I could not discover) has done wonderful things with painted shadows and 3-D perspective, the woman on the ladder (who may have been created in the artist’s own image) is as two-dimensional as the little girl in the tree.

As I look at these photos, I am reminded of how tempting it is to assume that humanity has created itself. The idea of macro-evolution, each species stepping upon and crushing its weaker members to raise the race a notch higher, has this fallacy at its root. “I am the master of my fate,” wrote poet William Ernest Henley in the late 1870s, “I am the captain of my soul.” Centuries earlier, the Greek philosopher Protagoras intoned, “Man is the measure of all things.”

Good try, Bill. Nice effort, Pro. But you’ve both missed the bigger picture—the Greater Creator. As the shadows of death crept over you, didn’t you feel at least a little wistful hope that there might be a truer Measure, a more powerful Captain? Good news, guys. There is.

He rides the wild heavens, He strides through the seas,
The high mountains tremble to hear His decrees.
His voice with great thunderings sounds from above,
But to His children, He whispers His love.

His power is great and will ever endure,
His wisdom is peaceable, gentle and pure.
But greater than all these glories I see,
Is the glorious promise that He cares for me.
 --“He Cares for Me” by Jimmy Owens


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Intimidation
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 4, 2012

I couldn't help chuckling, earlier this week, when  after getting a quick bite to eat I returned to where my car was parked. Mine is the meek little silver Honda nuzzled up against the tree, and surrounding me on either side are much larger SUVs, probably all driven by soccer moms.

Though as a farm kid I began operating powerful motorized vehicles at a really young age, somehow I was never possessed with the desire to own and drive the fastest car with the most horsepower. Yet seeing my Civic towered over by vehicles which – among their other qualities -- are too high to let you see through their windows to find out if anybody is coming when you back up – makes me feel a little weird. Am I missing out on something by not possessing all that power and hauling ability?

Nope. Easy answer. Some people need, and should have, big vehicles like that, to transport kids safely along with their soccer equipment. We don't all have to downsize to SmartCars. But I don’t have kids, so all I need is something small and dependable and as infrequent-as-possible a visitor to gas pumps.

It is extremely important to keep in mind that when it comes to following Jesus, humble is better than haughty, and servanthood is better than sophistication. Over and over Jesus preached (and demonstrated) that while this old earth stands, Christianity will never be in the majority, and Christians will often be the targets of ridicule, and sometimes worse, from those who simply cannot understand the attitude of Christ.

For a helpful seven-text Bible study on humility, click the link below:

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


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Duh? (Or maybe not . . .)
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recently I bought a couple of doorstops so that when we open our house’s windows we won’t suddenly hear a heart-stopping slam! from upstairs when we least expect it.

When I turned the doorstop’s package over, I saw what you see above. My first thought was Duhhhh . . . . Do people really need directions to use a doorstop? My second thought (my second thoughts usually make more sense than my first thoughts) was to remind myself that there have been many, many times when something I found very puzzling seemed obvious and simple to those around me. Like the time when, as a South Dakota farm boy whose Depression-raised parents didn’t branch out much in purchasing a variety of breakfast fruit, I thought that a grapefruit was a large orange!

There’s no doubt that, to someone who comes from a culture where doors aren’t often used, or whose doors are so rough that they must be propped open with a rock rather than a thin wedge of plastic, this doorstop would indeed be an impenetrable conundrum at first.

The Bible gives us a number of hints that God is deliberately “dumbing down” His ideas to make them understandable to “hearts as dull as stone.” The loving King of heaven has sometimes had to thunder threats (and even create deterrent-examples) in order to get through Satan-selfishness-thickened skulls. But to hearts soft and tender He rapidly turns to the gentle persuasion for which He is so justly famous.

Open our eyes, Lord . . .
We want to see Jesus . . .


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Nobody Said There Wouldn’t Be Potholes
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I do love the scripture found in Proverbs 3:5&6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” It gives me faith and promise – believe in God and He will guide our path / future.
 
As I reread the scripture a few times, I realized something important.  It is a promise for a straight path, but nothing is mentioned of it not being difficult. In fact, we can expect trials, challenges and tribulations along the way.  That’s the price we pay for living in a sinful world. In one way it’s disappointing to hear that, as Christians, our lives aren’t free from pain and hardships but instead of concentrating on the unfairness of this world, we should focus on the scriptures true promise – regardless of what we face, God will be there to guide us down the correct path.  Again, it may not be perfectly smooth but we can rest assured it’s the right path.


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Showing Love

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Last Friday on our morning walk Shelley and I approached the house of Spud the cat. I think I featured Spud in a photo blog couple of years or so ago (Spud is a she, and Spud is indeed her name, as we discovered once from her collar). Back then I mentioned that whenever we passed her house, and she happens to be at liberty (that is, outdoors) she always hurries up to us and greets us warmly. She never follows us as we walk away. She seems to know her boundaries, and to have an even greater affection for her owners than for any passerby.

Since then, we always hope that we will see Spud when we walk by. Sometimes we have been known to shuffle our feet loudly, or raise the volume of our voices, in hopes that she will drop what she's doing and race over to fraternize.

She is almost doglike in her affection, except that while a dog will leap enthusiastically upon you and try to lick your face, Spud displays her adoration by rolling around in the gutter, as you see her doing in the photo above. Even though I personally would not think of expressing my love in this way – just as I would not think of leaping up and licking a loved one’s face – I do recognize Spud’s happiness at being in our midst.

I hope it's not sacrilegious to introduce Heaven’s love at this point. God and His Son showed their love to humanity in the most universally understood way:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:6 – 8 NKJV

Have you responded to that love? To learn how, click the link below:

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

 

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