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

Daily Photo Parable -  May 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--Russell or Caleb Jurgensen. 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.

The Distant City
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 31, 2014

One sunny morning a little over a week ago, I was heading north on Interstate 5. Traffic was—as usual—slow, and especially noisy. Vehicles of all kinds, such as the southbound truck and trailer you see in the photo above, rumbled and sputtered toward their destinations. Beyond them, the apartment complexes of Renton “spoke” of thousands of people living in close proximity.

But then, on the horizon, I caught a glimpse of the towers of Seattle. Here’s a zoom-in view.

Yeah, those towers are a bit fuzzy-focused. After all, they’re 12 miles away, and the air is hazy. See the little white-topped Space Needle peeking out between the tallest building and the one to its right?

I don’t know why, but the sudden view of that distant city lifted my spirits for a moment from the clatter and roar of I-405 traffic. Seattle’s a great place. A lot of very interesting things happen there, and a lot of good is done from within those buildings.

It’s kind of like God’s Holy City, the New Jerusalem, right? Here we are, toiling through Earth’s traffic, trying to stay out of trouble, when up there—out there—stands a City which God created for us. I’ll never have an office in downtown Seattle, and will certainly never own an apartment or condo there, but God has prepared a place for me, rent-free, in His personal metropolis. And He’s making plans to send His Son to pick me up.

For more mouth-watering Bible facts about Heaven, including how to get there, click the links immediately below.

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Who Are You?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 30, 2014

Wednesday afternoon of this week I was pausing at an intersection behind the car to which was bolted the license plate you see above. For privacy I have blocked out the license number.

You might be able to make out what’s on the top of the frame: “Nintendo.” I’m not steeped enough in Nintendo lore to understand why they chose to use the “Who are you?” question on the lower part of the frame, but whether or not you own and play Nintendo products, it’s an excellent question.

And a crucial one. Several years ago in one of those news items that rotated for a day or two on my former internet service provider, the story described how someone challenged a beautiful young Hollywood starlet about her immoral lifestyle. Her reported response—probably accompanied by a shrug—went something like this: “Well, we’re all animals, aren’t we?”

And if indeed all we are is highly-evolved animals, her comment makes perfect sense. If I’m the latest word in evolution, I can do anything I want to, because I’m accountable to no one but myself.

Who are you? Macroevolutionists say you’re a very fortunate combination of some very happy accidents which happened over millions of years. And since you’re here, you’re not one of the mutant discards—you made it to now, mainly because of your—and your ancestors’—survival skills.

Who are you? God says you’re His child, and that He created your first two ancestors perfect—in His words, “Very good” (Genesis 1). And even though those perfect ancestors made the dreadful choice to distrust their Creator, He loves them more than parents love their kids.

Jesus referred to God as “Father” 200 times in the four Gospels. And though God’s parenthood is vastly more complex than the parenthood of a mom and dad and a couple of kids, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him need not perish but have everlasting life.

Recognize that verse? It shows up—along with several other helpful Bible passages—in the link immediately below.

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This Brick
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, May 29, 2014

At the Cougar Mountain Zoo near Issaquah people can donate to improve the zoo.  In return the zoo will print the donor's name on a brick.  So besides seeing the cougars, tigers, parrots, etc., you can also see names engraved in bricks along the paths.  This particular brick caught caught my eye, and also made me think.

God wants to print His character on our hearts.  In this world, we are born with weaknesses and tendencies from this world.  We are also born with individuality and freedom to think and do.  God wants to reconcile us to Him and give us His character and likeness.  We don't need to pay for it, like at the zoo.  We just need to ask God for it.  Here are a few instructions from the Bible about how we can ask and receive.

Psalm 51:10-12 says,

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,

    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

1st John 4:11-12 says, "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."

Romans 5:17 says, "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!"

God has intentionally let the choice be ours.  Let's let Him print His character on our hearts.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The other day, while doing some yard work, I came across a nest of those caterpillars you find in your fruit trees -- that you don't want.  Besides calling them pests, you can also call them by their true name - Western Tent caterpillars.  After reading a bit about them, it seems that they won't kill the trees they are inhabiting but will eat up the foliage off the tree.  I presume if there are enough of them, they could do some major damage.

OK - some of you may be asking, when I saw them in the tree, why wasn't my first reaction to 'get rid of them' versus run inside to get my camera.  Well, what attracted me to take the image was the pattern.  Just look at the color, design on each individual caterpillar and then the pattern they make, while they squirm around each other.

Here's the interesting part.  While inspecting this clump of soon-to-be moths, I saw their socialization -- living amongst each other -- in order to survive, an interesting view of our church. Not the building but the concept of coming together as one, worshiping, fellowshipping and caring for one another.  We all go through difficult times, as individuals and we typically turn to our own families for support.  In the church setting, the congregation is the extended family.  All there to support and care for one another.

No, I didn't call you a caterpillar.  I called you to be part of the church family, where you can be supported and cared for.

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Pygmy Nuthatch II
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pygmy Nuthatches are often found feeding together in family units.  Long after leaving the nest they can still be seen working their way over a tree in search of their favorite foods.  Still, I can imagine one sibling getting fed up with a clingy brother:  “Come on now, give me some space.  Of all the trees in the forest, why do you have to pick the same one as me?  Even if we were on the same tree it wouldn’t be so bad, but do you really have to be on the same limb?  Go find your own pine cone.”  Perhaps overly dramatized, but we can all recall juvenile squabbles over whether someone else was too far over on “my” side of the car seat.

As humans, we too are social beings.  We enjoy contact and interaction with others.  Joys shared are joys experienced twice and sorrows somehow seem easier to bear when we find someone who can empathize with us.  But there are also times when we just need to be apart from the press of the crowd.  Perhaps it’s because we need silence in order to hear that still, small voice that seeks to reach deep inside our being.

Jesus Himself displayed this need for quiet time, for separation from the crowd:  “Very early the next morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and left the house.  He went out of town to a lonely place, where he prayed.”  (Mark 1:35 GNT)  Thank God for a warm shoulder to lean upon, but thank Him too that we can find our own limb for that moment of quiet.

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Are You Prepared?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 26, 2014

This is not the greatest picture of a female belted kingfisher, but it's the best one I have.  The only reason I was able to get it at all, was because this bird perched on a yacht that was in a marina and very close to the public pathway.  Oh, and I was carrying my camera, had a charged battery and had my longest lens attached.

You can't wake up in the morning, at least in my experience, and decide you're going to get a great shot of a kingfisher today.  There are a lot of factors involved.  It helps to go looking by a body of water that contains fish. Even then, you may or may not be in a good spot to take a picture.  You may or may not even see a kingfisher at all - even when you're in a suitable habitat.  Another factor involves how close you can get to the bird.  I've seen kingfishers lots of times through my binoculars that are way too far away for me to even try to take a picture.

It also helps to have some equipment with you.  You can have the greatest photo op in the world but if you don't have your camera with you or if you do have your camera with you but the batteries aren't charged or if you have your camera with you and the batteries are charged but you have the wrong lens on your camera, you're not going to get the shot.  I've missed a lot of shots for all of the above reasons.

In the world of photography, being prepared can get you a good photograph while not being prepared will get you a missed photo op.  More important, and of much greater significance and with eternal consequences, is the preparedness of Christians for the return of Jesus.

Jesus tells the parable about five wise and five foolish young women:

The kingdom of heaven is like what happened one night when ten girls took their oil lamps and went to a wedding to meet the groom. Five of the girls were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps, but no extra oil. The ones who were wise took along extra oil for their lamps.

The groom was late arriving, and the girls became drowsy and fell asleep. Then in the middle of the night someone shouted, “Here’s the groom! Come to meet him!”

When the girls got up and started getting their lamps ready, the foolish ones said to the others, “Let us have some of your oil! Our lamps are going out.”

The girls who were wise answered, “There’s not enough oil for all of us! Go and buy some for yourselves.”

While the foolish girls were on their way to get some oil, the groom arrived. The girls who were ready went into the wedding, and the doors were closed. Later the other girls returned and shouted, “Sir, sir! Open the door for us!”

But the groom replied, “I don’t even know you!”

So, my disciples, always be ready! You don’t know the day or the time when all this will happen. Matthew 25:1-13 (CEV)

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Iguassu Falls – Part 4
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tropical flowers seemed to pop out on many of the trees in the Iguassu Falls area, creating a colorful canopy in the jungle. The Silk Floss Tree (Ceiba or palo borracho) got it's name from the soft silky fiber around the seed pods. Nectar from the large, colorful flowers attract insects such as butterflies which help with pollination. Many types of butterflies fluttered near these flowers and others.

The butterfly in the photo immediately above apparently is getting salt from the dirt in the mud puddle. Did you know that the butterfly is a Christian symbol of the resurrection because it seems to be dead while in a cocoon, but emerges into a beautiful creature, much different from the larva? So when you see butterflies, think of the hope of resurrection and rebirth! “When anyone is united to Christ, there is a new world; the old order has gone, and a new order has already begun.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NEB

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Trash Talk
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 24, 2014

Over the last couple of years our church has undergone major renovations. These included providing new trash containers for the bathrooms. I was familiar with the taller one on the right, but it wasn’t until a week or so ago, in an out-of-the-way, seldom used restroom, I discovered the tinier version. I couldn’t resist carrying the little one to the bigger bathroom, parking it beside Big Brother, and snapping this photo.

These two trash buckets remind me of Jesus story about the Pharisee and the tax collector. Many tax collectors at that time were cynically corrupt, setting local tax rates exorbitantly high so they could skim off a large percentage for themselves before remitting the rest to the Roman authorities. Since most tax collectors were Jews, they were regarded as the scum of the earth, because they profited at the expense of their brothers and sisters.

In Jesus’ story, the Pharisee seems to have thought of the tax collector as the big trash can, loaded with all kinds of sin and therefore beneath his contempt. But listen as Jesus recounts the facts:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9 – 14 NKJV

To read more about what the Bible has to say about pride and its dangers, click the link immediately below.

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Missing Steps?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 23, 2014

This past Monday I walked past this escalator which was being repaired. I looked at the four upended steps with interest. Even if only one step had been defective, the entire escalator would still have had to have been brought to a halt until the step was back in place. If the machinery had been allowed to keep running, that missing step-slot could have caused damage to someone who stepped down into the hole where the step should have been.

Remember how many “steps” there were in God’s stone-carved law? Ten, right? Since all were personally hand-scored into those rock-slabs by God Himself, He considered them equally important, because if there’s ever a gaping hole where that commandment should have been, it can cause havoc.

“But this is happening now,” you say. You’re right. If you listen to the news at all you hear of people—and sometimes whole tribes and cultures—who are living as though there’s a gap in place of “Thou shalt not kill.” Others, some quite rich and famous, ignore the deep sinkhole where “Thou shalt not commit adultery” used to be.

And the elephant in the room, of course, is the longest and most central of the Ten, the Sabbath commandment. Are you keeping God’s seventh-day Sabbath holy, as He commanded? Millions are doing so, and are discovering the sanity and balance which happens when that “step” is restored to its proper place.

For more about God’s Ten Steps (and how valuable He considers each one), click the link immediately below.

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Holey Bread
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sitting in an undisclosed location (not in our house!) on an empty box of Hershey's chocolate and next to a dead-bug-filled-bag with three marshmallows in it, sat this package of graham crackers. Some sort of bugs had burrowed straight through the plastic wrapper and made a network of tunnels through the graham crackers. (see inset image) I broke the top one off for the picture, but they all were stuck together in one brick. I think the little pellets are the bugs' droppings.

I was trying to think what the "parable" part of this would be, and something about the devil eating tons of tiny holes through your soul didn't seem quite right. So we will read something from Joshua instead. Joshua 9:3-15 says:

"However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. 6 Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.” But Joshua asked, The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?.... Who are you and where do you come from?”

They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God.... This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.”

The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath."

Always be on the lookout for (metaphorical and physical) moldy bread, and remember to pray for guidance from God when you make decisions.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
There are plenty of ways to figure out how we’re different from one person to another.  In fact, sometimes it’s easier to determine the differences than finding the similarities.  I know I’m guilty, at times.  Is that the example Jesus showed us?  The years He was on earth, did He walk around pointing out all the differences of others?  Did He only surround Himself with people exactly like Him?  No, Jesus’ example was quite the opposite.  He associated with people we wouldn’t normally associate with.  He shared with the outcasts.  He preached to the masses.  He loved them all.
The image above is, of a female mallard duck, standing precariously close to a Western Pond turtle.  The shot was humorous from the standpoint that, although they live in the same area, you don’t always seem them hanging out so close to one another.  In the same way, Jesus lived on our planet with all sorts of people, but instead of looking at all the differences (in this case, feathers, wings and a bill, versus, hard shell, claws and a snout), He focused on the similarities.  His whole purpose was to show others the love of His Father – regardless if they were just like Him, or on the other end of the spectrum.
Trust me, I know it’s not always the easiest thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do – it’s what Jesus would want us to do.  Look at the similarities, long before you start focusing on the differences.
John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

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Black-throated Gray Warbler
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It’s so confusing.  The comment could have been made about the intricacies contained within the pages of Scripture.  After all, there are 1300 plus pages covering 6000 years of history, so it shouldn’t be surprising if everything isn’t immediately clear after a quick run through.  But the comment could also have been made by the novice trying to wade through the 40 plus North American warblers that flit through the glimpses of our vision.  For the challenge is complicated by their elusiveness, frequently offering us only the briefest of looks at their plumage. 

Then there’s the names:  Jeconiah, Jedidiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin, and Jehoiakim.   What could be more confusing?  Unless perhaps it’s the name of the warblers:  Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler (shown above), to say nothing of Black and White and Blackpoll Warblers?

We sometimes like to blame our biblical confusion on the language, for few of us speak Greek or Hebrew today.  But look at the Black-throated Gray Warbler.  The Chinook along the Northwest coast called it Ah Kah a qual, and its scientific name is  Setophaga nigrenscens, not that that helps. 

But the truth is, as we spend more time with the subject, those subtle differences start to become clearer.  One begins to know how to read with greater understanding, and what before was only confusion begins to form recognizable patterns.  Few of us would presume to call ourselves experts on either subject, but we can all grow to understand and appreciate the beauty found just by looking more closely.

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Sweet Perfume and Wise Counsel
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 19, 2014

We tend to take our five senses for granted.  I'm sure you remember learning what they are in elementary school:  the sense of taste, the sense of touch, the sense of smell, the sense of sight and the sense of hearing. 

It's only when we lose one of them or one of them deteriorates that we start to value what we had. 

I was at the Bellevue Botanical Garden a couple of weeks ago and the lilacs were in bloom.  There were lilac, purple and pink ones.  It's amazing how their fragrance can be smelled long before you even see the flowers.  Someone who had lost their sense of sight would be able to tell that lilacs were blooming just from smelling their perfume. 

When you think of the variety of pleasing aromas that surround us continuously - from cut fruit to flowers to the scent of pines - it's really amazing. 

The Bible says that while fragrances and sweet perfumes warm our hearts, our souls are sweetened by the wise counsel of a friend.  I hope you have wise friends and pleasant scents in your life.

The heart is delighted by the fragrance of oil and sweet perfumes,
    and in just the same way, the soul is sweetened by the wise counsel of a friend.
Proverbs 27:9 (The Voice)

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Iguassu Falls – Part 3
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 18, 2014

While at Iguassu Falls, we saw several animals living in the subtropical jungle. Even though it's in the crow family, the Plush-crested Jay (pictured above) is better looking with it's dark plumage head and yellowish-colored breast. They live in the falls area year round.

A large family of Capuchin monkeys (below) chattered as they played in the trees above us. Several young ones clung tightly to their parents who jumped from one branch to another carrying their young.  When discovered in the 15th century, they were named after a group of friars who wore brown robes with large hoods over their heads. Capuchins are thought to be one the most intelligent kinds of monkeys.

(Below) Several coatimundi (also called coati or quati), the most commonly spotted mammal in the park, roamed the paths, begging for food. Even though cute, with their sharp teeth and paws they can be vicious so we were warned to keep our distance!  As member of the raccoon family, you can see they have ringed tails. “Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?” Job 35:11 NEB

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 17, 2014

This past Wednesday while driving on a local freeway, I saw a tractor-trailer rig just ahead of me with this message on its mudflap. I grabbed for my belt-camera and snapped a one-handed photo. (Relax. I enlarged and cropped this photo on my computer later—I don’t get that close to semis while driving!)

As you see, the white-and-red striped bar (installed as a stepping device for those wishing to climb into the trailer) casts a shadow which almost totally conceals the final “T” in “FLEET.” What’s left seems to be describing a major, panic-stricken dash for safety, with a note of dreadful finality sounded by the supposed period at the end of the phrase.

I immediately thought of the end of the world, when the Bible says there indeed will be a time of “mega-fleeing,” in which those who do not wish to meet their Savior will try to hide. Here is this terrifying passage:

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:12 – 17 NKJV)

The point, of course, is to not be in that group of people. How do you avoid being like that? Settle down and read some of your Bible every day, especially the stories. Also, make sure you understand salvation and put its steps to work. A good place to start is this link (and check the related links on the page it takes you to):

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Tune My Heart
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 16, 2014

Not long ago, a talented friend—who owns the beautiful bowed psaltery in the photo above and plays it beautifully—mentioned how badly out of tune it had become. I suggested she loan it to me and let me try my hand at tuning it.

I took it home, and in ten minutes I had it sounding sweet again. This wasn’t because I was a better psaltery-tuner than she was, but because I had one of those new clamp-on guitar tuners, and she’d not yet acquired one. She had an electronic tuner, but it was an audio one, where the machine listens for sounds through the air. This works fine for larger instruments, but it can’t easily register  the sounds made by the delicate psaltery strings.

As you can see above, my clamp-on tuner has come very close to the psaltery—in fact, it’s connected to it. And it picks up even the feeblest, faintest discords, and displays them, so the string can be adjusted.

This photo (which I actually took to send to my friend to show her what a clamp-on tuner looked like and how it could be attached) reminds me of how close the Holy Spirit wants to be to us. It also reminds me of the second line of the beloved hymn below:

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of thy redeeming love.
              Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

To learn more about the teaching, comforting, “tuning” Holy Spirit, click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sometimes nature can provide unexpected blessings like this rainbow on a rainy day.  Nature can remind us of God's power, and it can remind us of His glory.
Ezekiel 1:27-28 says, "Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking."

I'm glad that the Lord who cares about beauty in nature also cares about our lives, and invites us to live with Him forever.

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How Far?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

There was a recent news article (I’ve included the link below) that caught my eye, about a lone wolf in the Oregon cascades.  The article mentioned that this wolf, named by scientists “OR 7”, was in search for a mate and had traveled from Oregon to California and back to Oregon.  The hundreds of miles this single wolf has travelled, after being tagged in 2011, is remarkable.  All this traveling, in order to start a family. Willing to go as far as it took.  As you can read, the story appears to have a happy ending, “OR 7” in contact with a possible mate.

The image above is not “OR 7”, in fact it’s not a wolf at all. No this guy is my late Siberian Husky – Nanuk.  The Siberian Husky is claimed to be close relative of the Grey Wolf (canis lupus).  Huskies like the snow and running – if you combine the two, they are loving it.  In the image of Nanuk, the snow was pretty thick one year and he was getting up in age, so the slow walk around the yard was excitement enough for him.

The story got me thinking – how far are we willing to go for our God?  Are we willing to stand up for Him, witnessing to others?  Are we willing to be persecuted for Him?  How far?  When we are facing challenge and we have a choice – stand-up for the Creator of the Universe.  Be willing to travel as far as you are able.  Fight the good fight.
1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

If we are willing to do this, I am pretty sure we're going to have a happy ending as well.

(To read the article about the wolf, click the link immediately below);_ylt=AwrSbm2js3JTLTUAPCxXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0MDVpbHRyBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkA1ZJUDQwNV8x

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
It was a most interesting drama to watch unfold.  A female Verdin was housed within a large desert aviary, a setting which suited her perfectly, except for the wire mesh that limited her freedom.  There was plenty of food and water available and she was protected from predators.  But then again, there was that wire.  Perhaps she would have been satisfied if it wasn’t for him.  The him was a male Verdin that lived in close proximity outside the enclosure.  Repeatedly the two would meet on the wall that separated them, he clinging to the outside of the cage while she fluttered just inches away on the inside; a case of forbidden love if there ever was one.  You could almost see the frustration painted on their faces.
But what was most interesting was what she did when not responding to her lover’s call.  She went on with her life as if there were no dividing wall present.  She continued to gather nesting materials with which to create a nest.
Our separation from God is of a different kind; one that, at least to a degree, we create ourselves.  We become so absorbed with the physical world around us, all those things that grapple for our time, that it becomes easy to lose sight of the eternal.  Such misappropriation can leave us feeling dissatisfied and frustrated.
Notice how one writer addressed this problem.  “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.  I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”  And who do you think penned those insightful words?  It was none other than Anne Frank, imprisoned within her own house by the threat of the impending Holocaust.  While we may not be incarcerated by political bondage or limited by a wire cage, we need to ensure ourselves access to that which brings us closer to the Divine, “alone with the heavens, nature and God.”

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God Will Meet All Your Needs
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 12, 2014

This little fledgling red-winged blackbird was keeping its father very busy looking for food.  There were actually two fledglings and he'd no sooner given one something to eat than it was already begging for more.

All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
Psalm 104:27 (NIV)

As God has designed a way for the natural world to find food, He will also sustain us.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

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A Mother's Love
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 11, 2014

While in a village outside Lhasa, Tibet we saw the local women busy with their household tasks: gathering wood and dried dung for the stove, preparing food, making clothes and rugs, tending their gardens and animals, carrying water, and as in this photo, caring for the children. Perhaps the child's grandmother, she is carefully watching over him outside their humble home.

The second a child is born, a woman becomes a mother, taking on a new role that will change her life forever! Those of you who are mothers know what a huge responsibility this is, as well as challenging at times. Since children grow up so rapidly, we need to treasure our time with them, nurture them and tenderly care for them. Think of a mother's love when you read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” NIV

Today, we in the United States celebrate Mother's Day by honoring mothers, motherhood, maternal bonds and the influence of mothers in society. Created in 1908 by Anna Jarvis, it became an official holiday in 1914, signed by President Woodrow Wilson.

To you mothers – Happy Mother's Day!

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Take It and Follow
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 10, 2014

Early last month, hundreds of Adventist delegates from all over western Washington gathered at the Auburn Adventist Academy church for a once-every-five-years constituency meeting. As usual, discussion was sometimes lively (though gracious). I and several of my church members were delegates, and I was so proud of how well—under the blessing of God—church democracy took place.

Out in a hallway around the corner from the sanctuary’s main entrance I was startled to see a couple of giant wooden crosses leaning against a wall. (No, nobody was planning a crucifixion for that day! These were “prop” crosses for an Easter pageant.)

To me, just seeing a life-size version of the cross fills me with shuddering uneasiness. People actually died. This was an excecution device! What those two crosspieces really signified has been muffled by the gold and silver Christian jewelry many proudly wear.

Jesus once said to a group of people, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23, NKJV) Criminals bound for crucifixion were often made to haul their own crosses to the execution site. Jesus’ statement would have been horrifying to His hearers—since someone who carried his own cross was bound for his death.

To learn more about the Savior who finally carried His own cross to Calvary, and what some of His radical statement mean, click the link immediately below.

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Double Wheel
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 9, 2014

I’ve always gotten an immense kick out of these grocery carts which double as kid-carriers, and whose design keeps the kids occupied while mom or dad fills the cart behind them.

I hope the genius who designed two steering wheels into the mix is getting some sort of royalty. Think of all the wrestling and tussling of two kids over just one: “It’s my turn now! Mommmmmm!” But I often see side-by-side steerers, whirling the wheels this way and that, happy with the fantasy that they may be controlling the journey.

Okay. What does this have to do with God? Well, most Christians have traditionally thought that our lives have only one steering wheel, and the smart thing to do is to relinquish it to God.

But maybe there’s some truth to the double-steering-wheel idea too. After all, God has given us free choice. And many of our decisions don’t necessarily need a direct word from the Lord, such as which shoes to wear, whether or not to fill up your vehicle’s gas tank today, or wait till tomorrow.  So in a sense, we all can—and should--have legitimate control over most of our life.

But the smart Christian welcomes God into the cab and lets Him take the other wheel too—and makes sure to keep an eye on where He seems to want the life to go. When you see God’s wheel go left, the smart thing to do is to turn yours the same direction.

So how do you know which way God’s wheel is turning? First, prayerfully read much in your Bible so that you can sense God’s modus operandi. God is patient, so I need to turn my wheel in the direction of patience. God is ethical, and so must I be. God is a selfless servant, so I must swerve away from haughty pride. Next, talk to Him. Pour out your heart about your concerns. Ask Him to open doors He wants you to walk through, and resolutely close and lock the others. Like any fond yet sensible parent, He'll want you to use the mind He gave you, but He loves to hear you voice your prayers.

For a screen's worth of Bible verses which shows how God gives us wisdom, click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, May 8, 2014

Last weekend, our Pathfinder club was out camping in the rain. There were some nice breaks in the rain, but everyone's shoes got soaked from the wet grass. Here you can see some shoes being dried off by the fire, and more people warming up nearby.

It was similar to right after Paul was shipwrecked. Acts 28:1-5 says, "Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, 'This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.' But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects."

Fortunately there weren't any serpents in our firewood, but this story shows the power of God by saving Paul from a poisonous snake.

It was thoughtful of the islanders to build a fire for Paul and the shipwrecked men. And thoughtful of God to give us a way to warm our feet.

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The Amazing Giraffe
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 7, 2014

There are some amazing animals in this world.  One of those is the giraffe.  It’s the tallest land animal, up to 20 feet tall. Also, their tongues are up to 20 inches long, since they need to be able to grasp branches and leaves with it.  In fact, their tongue and mouth are protected from thorns and prickly leaves, by their taste buds and an 'antiseptic' produced in their saliva.

There are nine sub-species of giraffes, identifiable based on their fur patterns or patches.  To see one (or many) in the wild, you’ll have to travel to the continent of Africa, as all nine species are located there. The two pictured here are the Masai giraffe, found in the Masai Mara, Kenya.

God is the master Creator and He continues to care for us and all His creations.  I am sure I have said it before but what a day it’s going to be, when we are sitting at the feet of our Lord asking Him about the thought process of creating these amazing, unique animals.  It will be great to hear the story of what inspired all the unique colors, patterns and unusual traits of the all creations. Cannot wait!

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All a Matter of Lighting 
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

In 2006 the Blue Grouse was split into two separate but closely related species, the Sooty and the Dusky Grouse.  Only in Washington does the range of the two species overlap. Both of the birds shown here are female Dusky Grouse, even though they look quite different.  One bird has reddish tones while the other is attired in shades of gray.  

In truth, they are shots of the same bird, only taken at different times in the day.  The first was taken in the early morning hours which brought out redder tones, while the second was taken later in the day when the white light was more severe.  It’s all a matter of lighting.

And so it was with the Children of Israel as they fled captivity in Egypt.  Oh, they had seen God control the light during the plagues that fell on their masters, but this power was even more personally displayed as they neared the Red Sea and became aware of the troops that were pursuing them. “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them.  The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.  Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.” (Exodus 14:19-20 NIV)

It’s simply a matter of lighting.  Whether one is seeking a desired exposure or needing protection from an unstoppable force, lighting can be critical.  And is it any less vital to our daily lives?  No wonder the author of Psalm 119:105 wrote, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path.” (NIV)

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A Shelter in the Time of Storm
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 5, 2014

You may remember singing this old hymn:

The Lord's our Rock, in Him we hide,
A shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever may betide,
A shelter in the time of storm.


Mighty Rock in a weary land,
Cooling shade on the burning sand,
Faithful guide for the pilgrim band-
A shelter in the time of storm.

O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,

A shelter in the time of storm.
Be Thou our helper, ever near,
 A shelter in the time of storm.

      --Lyrics by Vernon J Charlesworth

A few weeks ago, I was with my family on Orcas Island and we decided to drive up Mount Constitution to the viewpoint.  Unfortunately, when we got there, there was a very strong wind blowing and it was very cold.  I've never been there before when it was that cold and that windy at that time of year.  We didn't even go to the rock wall to see the beautiful view from there. 

Instead, we headed up the stairs of the tower that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. The wind was whistling up and through the stairwell of the tower and the stone walls did nothing to insulate the building.  I kept climbing because I knew there was a small observation room at the top that was made of wood and glass and would at least be able to cut the wind while we looked at the view. 

Sadly, the door was locked!  There was no shelter in the time of storm for us there.  Our next best option was to head down to the parking lot and get back in our cars where we could find some some relief from the wind and some warmth from the heater!

Although the stone tower didn't offer us any protection, God is always there for us when the storms of life rage and does not lock us out:

Live under the protection
    of God Most High
    and stay in the shadow
    of God All-Powerful.
Then you will say to the LORD,
“You are my fortress,
    my place of safety;
    you are my God,
    and I trust you.”
Psalm 91:1-3 (CEV)

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Iguassu Falls - Part 2
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 4, 2014

On our second day at Iguassu Falls, a small Eco-train, chugging along in the jungle, took us to the start of the trails above the falls on the Argentina side. We hiked to explore the many falls from their tops to their bottoms. The refreshing spray was welcomed like a cool shower on a hot day. So much beauty surrounding us! So much to appreciate and absorb!

     “For the Beauty of the earth,
     For the glory of the skies,
     For the love which from our birth
     Over and around us lies,
     Lord of all, to Thee we raise
     This our grateful song of Praise.”
          -Folliott Pierpoint

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 3, 2014

Right around noon this past Monday, I visited a recuperating church member in what is probably my favorite local hospital—mostly because I’ve been a patient there several times, and have always been treated well.

From what I can gather, this facility’s excellence is no accident. I’ve observed over the years that they take a lot of pains to involve the staff in forming and carrying out their mission. Several years ago someone erected a huge white foam-core board in the main lobby, and staff members—anonymously—were invited to write little notes about what they would like their hospital’s mission to be.

And on Monday I saw this idea repeated in another form in its hallways. What you see above, from what I can tell, are photographic cutouts of actual people who work at the hospital, from executives to nurses to doctors to maintenance people, and so on. As you see, they all have big smiles and are holding circular cards containing letters which spell out the word “Absolutely!”(There’s even an exclamation point at the end, which I inadvertently cropped out of the picture.)

I’m not quite sure of the question which “Absolutely!” answers. It may have been just to the left of the photo, and was probably something like, “Are we working for your health?” Because further to the right, additional displays broke the response down into “When?” (Answers included “Now!” “Today!” “Yesterday!” “Tomorrow!” “Every day!” and “Always!”) “Where?” (“Our Workplace!” “Our Office!” “Our Space!”).

And here are the responses to “How?”

If you can’t quite read them, they say “Constant awareness,” “Best practices,” “Top-quality systems,” “Superior performance,” “Diligent commitment,” and “Thoughtful processes.”

As I walked along that hallway, I thought, Somebody in the front office is making sure that patients, visitors and staff never forget what the people in this hospital are here to do.

In much the same way, Planet Earth could be considered a hospital for sinners. And anyone who accepts the life and death of Jesus in place of his or her own automatically becomes a hospital staffer. Listen to what the Great Physician says about our responsibilities:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13 – 16 NKJV

Which is basically the first-century way of saying, “If you’re on Heaven’s staff, your mission is to help heal sin-sick souls. Absolutely!”

For more Bible directives on this topic, click the link immediately below.\

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Bad News, Glad News
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 2, 2014

A week ago Wednesday night, Shelley and I were driving home from prayer meeting. The rain was pelting down, and through the rivulets of water on the windshield I saw the above display of lights (actually, since we were stopped at an intersection, I simply turned off the windshield wipers and let the window get really rain-covered to make the colors more dramatic).

As near as we could figure out, there’d been some sort of accident, because I saw a couple of police cars and a tow truck, plus other stationary vehicles.

This was, of course, a bad-news-good-news scene. Bad news: at least one car, and hopefully no people, got banged up. Glad news: help has arrived and has started mopping up the mess.

What happened to our planet since Eden wasn’t so much an accident as it was road-rage. The devil wanted to write and enforce his own “rules of the road,” while God wanted to maintain the Garden’s peace and its opportunities for Him to be with us.

Sadly, God’s plans crashed and burned. Bad news. But the glad news is that plans were already in place to take clean up the damage and heal the hurting. To read about the Rescue Team and their successful mission, click the link immediately below:

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, May 1, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I strolled through Third Place Books before settling down at a table in the commons area to work on my sermon. I was brought up short by the sight you see above. As you can see, both foreground and background are filled with books, books, books.

But look at the guy sitting in the easy chair in the center! His graying fringe around his bald head proclaims that he has lived the vast majority of life flipping paper pages. So what’s he doing with that iPad?

Reading a book, probably. I’m guilty of the same sinister practice. I have probably 20 paper books stacked on the table beside my bed, but I’m liable to spend more time swooshing my finger along my iPad screen. 

Hey, it’s not the end of the world. Civilization isn’t collapsing. Actually, there are a couple of “good news” items in the scene above. First, God made the human mind incredibly adaptable. This man may have learned touch-typing, as I did, on a manual typewriter, and may have used a slide rule in math class. But we both made the switch to electric typewriter and calculator, and then to Macs or PCs, and then to the Pads. That right there shows breathtaking adaptability of minds built for eternity.

However, the key thing is to make it over into eternity, right? And the flexible mind bodes well in this area too. Many people grow up thinking that religion is something like frequent-flier miles—you build them up over time and one day you have enough for a really long trip.

But that’s not how you get to eternity. For a two-text summary describing the truth about this, click the link immediately below. (You can also type in “salvation” or “Jesus” for more details.)

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