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

Daily Photo Parable -  November 2012

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

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

The Fuselage
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 30, 2012

A couple of Mondays ago I happened to be driving along a rain-soaked street and spotted this unusual sight. From a distance, I thought it was a band of blue-green sky below the rainclouds, but when I got closer I saw that it was the fuselage of a Boeing plane, on its way by rail to the next step in its construction.

As I look at that photo now, it reminds me of how, as Christians in this world, we sometimes feel – and maybe even look – out of place, just as this not-yet-completed airplane does.

For one thing, while other vehicles are driving in all sorts of different directions, this fuselage is on – literally – the right track, the track which will lead it to the place where it will be completely assembled and ready for service.

For another thing, there is no way that this fuselage is going to improve itself, on its own. Airplane-making is not evolution. An intelligent designer – in the case of Boeing, lots and lots of intelligent designers – have developed the best and most perfect arrangement of parts which will carry it and its hundreds of thousands of passengers safely through the skies.

I think we as Christians need to remember these two concepts. We need to get – and stay – on the right track. We do this by remembering that the Bible often speaks of the “way,” and in both the Old and New Testaments those words literally mean “road” or “path.”

And we also need to remember our own Intelligent Designer. “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3), and know that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Join me, fellow fuselages, in honoring our Creator by patiently allowing Him to guide us along paths which will fit us for eternity.

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Amid the Holiday Hullabaloo
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Above you see the message currently displayed on our church readerboard . . .

For a three-computer-screen bio of Jesus, taken from Bible verses about him, click the link just below:

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
If you thought of the kind that sits on top of a cake or cupcake, you must be hungry.  No, I am talking about the kind we see this time of year, covering the grasses, leaves, bushes, trees and even the roads.  Frost is: the solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air. It is formed when solid surfaces are cooled to below the dew point of the adjacent air as well as below the freezing point of water. Frost crystals' size differ depending on time and water vapor available. Of course this is straight out of a text book (or Wikipedia) and doesn’t reflect the character of the frosts’ creator – God.  As we read in Psalm 147, God commands it all – snow, frost, hail, water – all of it.
Psalm 147: 15-18 
“He sends out His command to the earth;
His word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes;
He casts out His hail like morsels;
Who can stand before His cold?
He sends out His word and melts them;
He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow.”
In the image above, we can see the delicate created features of this frost, so perfect that only an artist could create. We reference God as the creator (rightly so) because He was the one that created all.  In this context, I would like to reference Him as an artist -- still creating amazing works of art.  Enjoy the art show this winter.

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Song Sparrow
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

One of the most common and widespread sparrows in North America is the Song Sparrow. 
It is enjoyed by many, not just because it is so ubiquitous but also because it is true to its name.  It can be heard throughout the year vocalizing its song which has many local variations but always starts with a clear, three note introduction.  “There are at least three different types or kinds of songs produced by birds; those that are innate, those which are partially learned, and those which are entirely learned, not being inscribed in the DNA.”  It’s this third type we’d like to focus on for an application to our own lives.
Revelation 15 speaks of a song which only the Redeemed will be able to sing, because they are the only ones who have gone through the experience enabling them to render the Song of Moses and the Lamb with meaning and understanding.  It is a song of praise and worship as well as a song of deliverance.  Its name comes from a similar incident of deliverance experienced by the Children of Israel after they passed through the Red Sea and were rescued from impending destruction.  It’s the same kind of song, or maybe an extension of the same song found in Revelation 5:9 where it is spoken of as being a “new” song.  If this truly is a new song, one which must be experienced in order to be sung, then it stands to reason that this must be one of those “learned” songs. 

While it’s very clear that our salvation is a gift, the reality that we must personally encounter this gift tells us something about the learning process and how much God values that experience.  Unlike the world down here where many of us are pretty good at faking it, there will be no lip-syncing on the Sea of Glass.  Only those who have been delivered by His hand will be able to sing, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways, King of the ages”…  And that’s a song worth singing.

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A Smooth Path
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 26, 2012

I went to the Bellevue Botanical Garden recently to see the new suspension bridge on "The Ravine Experience."  I used to go walking in there a lot during my lunch hour when I worked close by but I hadn't been back in a long time and I didn't even know it was there until I was talking to a couple of friends who used to walk there with me and they said they had been back there and found a new path. 

I decided I had to go check it out when we had a bit of a break in the weather and sure enough, there was a nice bridge going over a ravine that had a creek at the bottom.  Going down the ravine, crossing the creek and climbing back out of the ravine would have been quite difficult to negotiate without the bridge. 

I imagine that this is sort of what Isaiah was talking about (metaphorically) when he talked about God smoothing out the paths of the righteous:

But for those who are righteous,
    the way is not steep and rough.
You are a God who does what is right,
    and you smooth out the path ahead of them.

 Isaiah 26:7 (NLT)

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Lazarus, Part 1
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 25, 2012

The familiar story of Lazarus falling ill, dying and being resurrected by Jesus is recorded in John 11. According to John 12, before the Passover festival Jesus was guest of honor at a dinner where Mary, Martha and Lazarus were present. “A great number of the Jews heard that he was there, and came not only to see Jesus but also Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. The chief priests then resolved to do away with Lazarus as well, since on his account many Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him....The people who were present when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead told what they had seen and heard. That is why the crowd went to meet him; they had heard of this sign that he had performed. The Pharisees said to one another, “You see you are doing no good at all; why, all the world has gone after him!' John 12:9-11; 17-19. NEB

The above text tells us that the Pharisees wanted to do away with Lazarus as well as Jesus. Where did Lazarus go after this? The Bible doesn't tell us, but tradition says that the Pharisees cast him adrift in a leaky boat after persecuting him. He landed in Kition (today Larnaca) in Cyprus where he brought Christianity. Later, he was appointed first bishop of Kition by Paul and Barnabas. Today, one can visit the Church of Ayios Lazaros (in my photo) which was built in the 9th century and renovated in the 17th c. According to tradition, it was built over the tomb of Lazarus.

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Think Before You Speak
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 24, 2012

The more Tuesdays I volunteer at our two Adventist schools in Kirkland, the more I discover that some of the world’s greatest wisdom is found on teacher-prepared bulletin boards.

I spotted the above display a couple of Tuesdays ago in the elementary building. If by some chance you are not able to clearly make out the sign from the photo, here’s what it says:

Think Before You Speak
T – Is it true?
H – Is it helpful?
I – Is it inspiring?
N – Is it necessary?
K – Is it kind?

Fantastic advice, right? It’s great to have the kids walk by that bulletin board and ponder on these valuable concepts for a few seconds before they head for recess or their next class. And as someone who has seen several decades drift by since he was a kid, I’m going to memorize that little acronym and try to keep it in mind when I talk to people.

Even the Bible weighs in on the subject of our words. Check out seven key texts at the link just below:

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Grand Opening
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 23, 2012

About a week and a half ago Shelley and I were driving along the street, when suddenly she pointed. “Look at that,” she said. “’Grand Opening.’”

I didn’t catch the humorous note in her voice until I zeroed in on what she was pointing at. Hearing the words “Grand Opening,” I was expecting a new Home Depot store, or maybe a Target.

Instead, I saw the taco trailer pictured above. Never had I seen a sign this large on a business this small. What makes me grin as I look at this photo is that this little taco-dispensary isn’t really that “grand,” and when all you have to do to “open” your business is to flip up the awning at the back, we’re not exactly talking thousands of customers camping out since three in the morning waiting to get that first taco. 

You can’t read the circular logo on the right, so I will tell you what it says: “Taqueria El Huarache Loco.” A quick Google foray informs me that a “huarache” is a Mexican dish, and that “loco” means “crazy.” The red printing just below the logo says No somos los unicos, pero si los mejores,” which I imagine could be roughly translated, “We are not the only ones, but we’re the best.” So here you have a taqueria which, though tiny, boasts a huge “Grand Opening” sign, and makes the humble claim that while it might not be unique, it’s the greatest!

I get a special kick out of the little white signs stuck into the ground between the trailer and the street. You might be able to make out that they say “Dozen roses $5.00.” It’s as if the taco-stand’s owners are saying to themselves, “Well, if someone’s not hungry for a taco, maybe they’ll stop for the bouquet of flowers—and then catch the taco aroma! Might as well as hedge our bets.”

That little taco trailer reminds me of myself as a Christian. When I turn my life over to Jesus, it’s as though He presides over a “grand opening”—“Come meet the new, refurbished, refitted Maylan!” And though I myself am not a megachurch, but a single Christian in a world that pays Christianity scant or scornful attention, with Jesus I am in the majority, and can have the audacity to believe that I can make a difference for Him.

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You Fought Our Wars
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 23, 2012

Above, you see the reader board message I put on our church sign for Veterans Day. The other day I was talking to a woman whose 94-year-old father had just passed away. Her dad had been a medical cadet in the Pacific Theater during World War II, but had modestly refrained from talking about his experiences, even the heroic ones (he received the bronze star for bravery), though his unit saw one of the longest periods of sustained battle in the history of the war. The medics, of course, are the ones who low-crawl out through the line of fire to desperately drag wounded soldiers back to safety.

Truly, Lowell Barger was indeed one of the veterans who faced his fears and fought our wars. As I was talking to his daughter, it struck both of us how frighteningly young those soldiers were. America and many other countries of the world put a staggering burden on the backs of kids who often are barely into their twenties.

The poem on this sign could, of course, refer to Jesus as well. In Gethsemane, just barely into His thirties, He faced His fears, and it was also in that Garden that He fought our wars, because by the time He emerged from the that olive tree forest, the battle was essentially over. He had made the decision to die in order to save us.

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends. And let’s not forget to thank the Founder of the Feast – our Creator who became our Redeemer.

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Where Are We Going?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
One of the most enjoyable sights when I’m driving is to see a dog's head sticking out of a car window. In fact, the truly perceptive dog-owner will roll down a window on both sides of the car so that once the hound has absorbed all of the scents on one side, he can lunge over to the other window collect the same scents all over again!

I think a dog displays a wonderful mix of trust and curiosity. He trusts his master enough to hop in the car and allow the smelly, rumbling beast in whose belly he is riding to transport him where the master wants to go.

On the other hand, the dog – especially if young and energetic – is not content to doze passively in the back seat, disinterested in the journey. Instead, his eager leaps from side to side are almost as calorie-burning as if he were out on the pavement running alongside.

Maybe we can take a lesson from the dog in the photo. We can have absolute trust in the Master who is piloting this rumbling old planet toward its destiny. Yet we can – and should – be interested in what’s happening along the journey. The Bible has a surprising amount to say about the last days of Earth’s history. Matthew 24 and Luke 21 are great places to get a view of the passing prophetic scenery.

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Wild Turkey
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We sometimes appear to be the most thankful when things are less than optimal.  For instance, Abraham Lincoln instituted the first official observance of Thanksgiving Day in 1863, right in the middle of the Civil War, as a “national day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  Perhaps our abundance makes us take things for granted, to forget our Father from whom all blessings flow, and to focus more on the football scores and the antacids needed after eating too much. 

It’s likely the 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans who gathered together for three days in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation were more acutely aware of their indebtedness to their Heavenly Father.  They couldn’t run down to the local grocery store and pick up that one item they forgot to include on their shopping list. 

Then again, that idea may not be entirely true.  It’s likely that the most frequently used symbol of Thanksgiving is the bird.  Even Norman Rockwell, in his series of four pictures depicting the “Four Freedoms”, illustrated the “Freedom From Want” by featuring a large turkey, front stage and center.  So it may be surprising to learn that those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving undoubtedly brought their turkey along with them.

A variety of Wild Turkey was first domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico, and the Spaniards brought this tamed bird back to Europe in the mid 1500s.  By 1620 it had become ordinary fare in England, so that the Pilgrim settlers likely imported these birds along with them from England, perhaps without being aware that a larger relative inhabited the forests in their own backwoods.  Maybe this can serve as a reminder to us to be looking for the ways we are blessed.  Not only those gifts that seem to come without any forethought on our part, but also those blessings which the Lord has given us a part to play in obtaining.  

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Throwing Out the Garbage and Getting on With Our Lives
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 19, 2012

I have been sorting through some things and have been deciding what I want to keep, what I want to give away and what can be thrown away.  These decisions are not always easy.  James has some words of wisdom for cleaning up our lives and for what to do after that has been accomplished:

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.  James 1:19-25  (NLT)

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The Chora Church, Part 2
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 18, 2012

Last week I presented some of the history of the Chora Church. If you didn't read it, you might want to go back to that first. Today's photo shows The Nativity of Jesus scene, again in mosaics. While returning from Bethlehem, where they had gone for the census, Joseph and Mary could find no room in an inn. When Mary began to have birth pains, she was forced to shelter in a cave, where she gave birth. In the center, Mary rests on a blanket after the birth. Baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lies beneath a bean of light descending from the heavens. Behind Mary, on the left, is a group of angels. On the right is the angel telling the shepherds about the birth of Christ.

In the lower half of the mosaic, we see the preparation for the bath of Jesus. On the right side, Joseph sits. “The birth of Christ” is written around the beam of light. The inscription on the right reads, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Luke 2:10 You might want to read the story in Luke 2. Thanks to the artists who could portray stories from the Bible in picture form for the many people throughout the centuries before the Bible was available in print and for those who couldn't read!

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Olden Gate
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 17, 2012

Occasionally Shelley and I will take a mini-break by traveling to Washington’s coast and staying a couple of days in the little town of Forks. On our last visit, which was in August, I was walking along the street that doubles as Highway 101, and I happened to catch sight of this sign exactly at the moment when it was partially hidden by a banner hanging from a lamp post. (As you may suspect, the restaurant’s full name is “Golden Gate,” and it is our favorite eat-out spot in town.)

Forks itself is an “olden” style of town – no skyscrapers, no symphony halls, no water parks. Even its being chosen by the author of the Twilight novels as the setting for an immensely popular teen vampire saga has only vaguely disturbed its backwater atmosphere.

Both Shelley and I grew up in towns you might call “olden.” Mine was Redfield, South Dakota, which has almost the same current population as Forks, a bit over 3000. Shelley’s was Juneau, Alaska, and even though Juneau was (and still is) the state capital, the governor’s mansion – just up the street from Shelley’s home – was a welcoming place where you trick-or-treated on Halloween, and whose yard had no high fence.

I have to grin whenever I enter a Christian bookstore and see all of the virtuous romance novels which feature pioneer women falling in love with pioneer men, or the same thing happening in Amish communities. It seems as though Christian story-readers hanker strongly for simpler times.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, the prophet Jeremiah quotes God as urging us back toward the past for spiritual nurture.

Thus says the LORD:
‘Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls. ‘
Jeremiah 6:16 NKJV

In other words, in a very real way, God and His Holy City are approached through the “olden gate.” Because if you go back far enough, those ancient teachings were neither old nor new—but eternal.

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Study Spaces
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 16, 2012

This past July I visited the library of the Christian college right next to the campus of our two Adventist schools in Kirkland. On the library’s second floor I discovered this carpentry construction. If I remember right, there was a sign saying that these would eventually be small “study rooms,” where I’m assuming little groups of students could get together and cram for a test out loud, without having to speak in hushed tones.

As I look at those soon-to-be rooms, it reminds me how important it is for me to create some kind of daily “study space” where I can thoughtfully and prayerfully read my Bible. College students discover that to make the most of their time (and their parents’ money) they need these study spaces to be able to focus and concentrate, where other distractions can’t reach them. Because the time will come—maybe next Tuesday at their 2:30 class--when they will be required to literally put to the test what they have learned.

That’s a lot like what every Christian needs to do with his or her Bible. Paul summarizes this crisply: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4 NKJV. Notice that Paul isn’t content with “learning for learning’s sake” – this learning is to provide us with hope.

Have you carved out—or can you escape to—a daily “study space” (literal or temporal) to read the letters of love from your Creator as you ready yourself for the Final Exam?

To get a great overview of the Bible—from its very pages—click the link just below:

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Christian Growth
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, November 15, 2012

A couple of months ago I was in a religious bookstore standing in front of the “Christian Growth” section, and discovered that the “Financial Records” area was in the very next aisle. As I clicked my camera, capturing these two signs end-to-end, I thought, “Why are they separating the two? Financial Records and Christian Growth should be together!”

I realize that Christian bookstores have a lot of supplies available, and they do need to segment them into different areas, but if there’s one thing the Bible makes crystal clear from one end to the other it is that how we relate to money directly connects with how we relate to God.

Within the very glades of Eden itself, Eve selfishly grasped at what God had forbidden. Abraham’s nephew Lot coveted the wicked but fertile plains of Sodom, even though he would later have to be dragged from the city by destroying angels. Following Eve’s example, Achan coveted and stole what God had forbidden (Joshua 7). The examples continue to come thick and fast – people who chose not to wait for God to provide what was best and most satisfying for them, but instead grasped for momentary advantage or fleeting bursts of pleasure.

Money and Christian growth is topic Jesus often spoke about. You’ll find His earnest opinions—as well as a divinely balanced discussion of this subject—in Bible verses found at the link below:

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A Calm Comes Over Us
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
For me, one of the most peaceful places to be is near the water.  It can be a gushing waterfall, a trickling brook, a still pond or waves rolling onto shore.  This particular shot was taken as the sun was setting, over the beautiful shoreline of Walla Walla’s Marine Biology Station, near Deception pass.  There is something about hearing the waves gently move in an out over the rocks, while viewing the last streams of light for the day.  It’s calming.  In a sinful and hectic world, we need more calming.
I was reading in the book of Psalms and came across chapter 51, which is entitled – A Prayer of Repentance:

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

We do live in a sinful, hectic world.  We deal with it, each and every day.  This prayer starts off with asking God to have mercy on us.  The last verse (I have shared – v. 6) basically assumes God is not only going to forgive, but to grant us the wisdom to become better.  If that’s not a calming feeling, I don’t know what is.

We don’t always get the chance to be near rolling waves, watching the sun set, so for the times we aren’t that lucky – concentrate on the calming power of God’s forgiveness, mercy and wisdom.

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Green Trees and Blue Skies
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 13, 2012

None of us likes restrictions, from the toddler who is told he must go to bed just when the party is starting, to you and me who are forced to slow down by the oppressive speed limit.  These limitations are particularly offensive when the party looks especially fun or our already busy schedule can’t seem to afford the luxury of crawling along when you just know you could be going thirty mph faster with no problem at all.  Perhaps that’s why religion, and Christianity in particular, seems to be declining in popularity in many areas. It has so many “thou shalt nots” attached to it.
Another way of dealing with restrictions is to recognize the wisdom of these limitations, but to reason they apply best to others.  Of course my little brother should have been in bed half an hour ago, but I’m way older than he is.  It’s obvious that our roads wouldn’t be safe the way those teenagers drive today, and that old lady in the blue Buick probably couldn’t make it around this corner at half the speed I could.  Laws are fine, just not for me.
It may be that some of you remember studying about e e cummings in some long ago English class.  If so, it’s likely the only thing you remember about him was that he didn’t use capital letters in his poetry.  He at least had one thing going for him; he wasn’t going to be tied down by all those dumb writing rules.  Unfortunately, if that’s all we remember about his work, we may have been missing the best part, the ideas he creatively conveyed on paper.  He corrects our aversion to a God of “nos” in one simple line.  “I thank you God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”  Maybe it just takes a few years of maturity to appreciate e.e.cummings, and for us to see what a positive God we really have.  For if we look carefully, we will find an abundance of yeses which the Lord has lavished upon each of us. 

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He Will Take Care of You
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 12, 2012

Finding these striped coralroots blooming in the spring is kind of hit and miss for me.  I often get there (I have one place where I consistently find them) too early and find only the dried up stalks from the previous year or get there too late and they are past their prime.  Last spring I found a patch of these orchids in full bloom.  The plant is about 6-16 inches tall and the flowers are less than an inch across.  You can easily walk right by them if you aren't paying attention.

I like these words in Matthew where we are told to go out and see what we can learn from wildflowers:

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Matthew 6: 27-33 (The Message)

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The Chora Church, Part 1
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why are some of the older churches throughout the world decorated with frescoes and mosaics while our modern churches, including our Seventh-day Adventist Churches, are rather plain? One reason is that nowadays, we can read! In former times, the average person was not able to read. Therefore, the primary way of learning was through pictures – stories from the Bible portrayed through art. Also, the Bible (or anything else) wasn't readily available in printed form.

While in Istanbul, we took the effort to go to the outer skirts of the city to see the Chora Church, now a museum (Kariye Muzesi) with it's beautiful interior of art. This church, originally build in the year 536, was dedicated to Jesus Christ and formed the center of a large monastery complex in the Eastern Roman Empire. Rebuilding and restoration occurred throughout the years. In 1511 it was changed into a mosque; then a museum in 1945.

Of the many frescoes and mosaics, I'll just share two, one today and one next Sunday. This photo shows the Genealogy of Christ, in mosaics. Starting with the bearded figure of Adam, twenty-four ancestors are depicted. Others are depicted in a lower area. When looking up at the domes, one can almost become dizzy! Studying here definitely illustrates what's in word in Matthew 1, the list of generations.

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When He Returns
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 10, 2012

A mist hung in the trees the Sunday morning of our church retreat in late September. But the sun shone through, and several of us paused to capture the dramatic sight of the sunbeams exploding outward from behind the tree.

I wonder, as I look at that photo now, if Jesus’ return will look something like that—at least at first, when that dazzling reunion procession is at a great distance from the earth.

Because that moment is coming. Bible prophecy after Bible prophecy assure us that our Creator and Redeemer will return as a conquering King. And at that moment, those who long for His appearing will rise to meet Him.

Are you ready?

To find what the Bible says about Jesus’ Second Coming, and how you can be ready for it, click the link just below:

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Missing Piece
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 9, 2012

In early October, just after Shelley and I had returned from our church retreat, we were taking a morning walk in our neighborhood. Suddenly Shelley spotted this puzzle-piece on the sidewalk. She moaned in sympathy, and I remembered that on the Saturday night of the retreat, several people (including a young girl) had worked diligently on a gigantic puzzle. Once the puzzle was done, Shelley asked the little girl how it had gone. The girl said mournfully, “When we got it all done, there were three pieces missing.”

I believe that – thanks to Satan’s diligent efforts – this planet is missing a puzzle piece. And I think that puzzle piece is a full understanding of the phrase “God is love.” What does it mean?

The only way we can find out what it means is through the pages of the Bible – and specifically through the ministry of Jesus Christ. After all, He said, “I and my Father are one,” and “he who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

This old planet has some truly puzzling puzzle pieces, but they all make sense when “God is love” is understood in its completeness. Take the “bad things happen” puzzle piece, and add “God is love” to it, you find a Creator who gives His human family truly free choice, and along with that choice comes the freedom of experiencing the consequences of the bad decisions.

And take the “bad things happen to good people” puzzle piece. Add “God is love,” and you have a God who is patient enough to allow the devil’s plans to work themselves out fully and completely so that his evil can be completely seen. And along with this, read God’s many promises of how He will sustain us through our trials, and bring us through to a happy eternity.

So next time you read through the Bible, mentally hold that missing puzzle piece over every passage. Try to spot the places where God loves us so much that He does or allows something a lesser lover might not.

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Life Among the Cleansers
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, November 8, 2012

This past Sunday Shelley and I stopped in at the new Walmart store eight blocks east of our church. We were strolling through the “cleansers” aisles when I suddenly discovered – among the brightly-labeled bottles – the story of humanity. Keeping a wary eye alert for suspicious Walmart employees, I hastily assembled a selection in the order you see above.

First comes “Dawn,” when the world is bright and misty, filled with the innocence of childhood. Then, as the child grows, the desire to acquire becomes stronger, and he or she begins to seek for “Gain.” This provides fleeting “Joy,” but human nature intrudes every once in a while with the urge to engage in “Combat.” Finally comes the “Finish,” with mingled happiness and regret.

Those emotions, of course, aren’t wrong in themselves. Even “Combat” has its place, because though it arose because of the entrance of sin, we are told to put on the whole armor of God, wield the Sword of the Spirit, and fight the good fight.

And as any Bible-reading Christian knows, true joy and gain, and a triumphant finish, are only found by surrendering to the One who invented the dawn of time and life.

How is your devotional life doing? Do you spend some time prayerfully reading the Bible every day? For a couple of different online Bible reading programs, click the link below.

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Eyes On You

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Maybe not the eyes you were hoping on having on you . . . these were captured at the Woodland Park Zoo, in Seattle.  This section is the Northern Trail area, where you will find bear, Mountain Goats, River Otters, eagles, Elk and of course – wolves. When we go to the zoo, this section is one of my favorites.  Not only does it have Bald Eagles and Grey Wolves (two of my favorite) it’s also "close to home," as in these are animals we can potentially see in the great Northwest. 

Back to the eyes – clearly, the wolves have very unique and intense yellow iris.   Of course if there weren’t a fence in between me and these intense eyes and/or I were a smaller animal . . . I may be a bit more nervous, as the intent of this set of eyes may not be the best.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have God ALWAYS watching over us. We are promised this compassionate protective eye watching in the first 4 verses of Psalm 121:

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

The next time you are scared, the next time you are alone, the next time you are lost – remember that God is with you, watching, protecting you.

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Bumper Sticker
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It’s a good thing to have a cause, something you believe in and can give it your unreserved support.  Such a belief automatically involves a desire to openly express your conviction to others.  Unfortunately, sometimes what seems very clear to us is less than unmistakable to others. 

I found an example of this on the Mazda stopped in front of me at an intersection the other day.  What first caught my attention was the red and blue bumper sticker which boldly proclaimed the names of two well-known political leaders, KENNEDY/JOHNSON.  The problem was, the car was not of a 60s vintage.  In fact, that company didn’t begin importing their vehicles to the U.S. until ten years after Kennedy won the election.  This caused me to wonder if I was ignorant of a local political race where the contestants shared names with their more familiar counterparts.  While possible, I’m guessing the intent was to convey support for the ideals supported by this earlier Democratic ticket. 

What caused me to reach that conclusion was a smaller sign affixed to the rear window which stated: Driven by FAITH / Not by Fear. 

I really have no idea what the political leanings of the owner of the car were, but it caused me to start thinking along two divergent lines of thought.  The first was to recall the quote attributed to Winston Churchill:  “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have not heart; if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.” 

The second, and undoubtedly more significant issue, caused me to consider my own Christian position.  Do I really believe in the ideas presented by One who lived long ago and died for that cause?  And if I can give my support to those same ideals, do I project my belief in such a way that there is no confusion about my position?  And lastly, is my conviction based upon faith in that Person rather than fear of the consequences of rejecting that opportunity? 

I don’t drive a Mazda.  I don’t even have a bumper sticker on my car.  But what I do have is a message. One which I convey to the world, whether I like it or not.

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Paying Attention to the Road Signs
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 5, 2012

This car was going across the railway crossing appropriately; the vehicle had the right of way and the gate was open to let it go across.  We've all heard the horror stories about people who ignore the gate and think they have time to drive around it and are then struck by an oncoming train.

The Bible also gives us clear directions and warning signs.  Some people feel restricted by the "rules" but the directions and warnings are for our own good and personal safety. 

You’re blessed when you stay on course,
    walking steadily on the road revealed by GOD.
You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
    doing your best to find him.
That’s right—you don’t go off on your own;
    you walk straight along the road he set.
You, GOD, prescribed the right way to live;
    now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady,
    keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets
    in comparing my life with your counsel.
I thank you for speaking straight from your heart;
    I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I’m going to do what you tell me to do;
    don’t ever walk off and leave me.
How can a young person live a clean life?
    By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I’m single-minded in pursuit of you;
    don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted.
                     --Psalms 119:1-10 (The Message)

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Putting Pigeons to Work
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 4, 2012

Last Sunday, my photo parable was about the Domed Church in the Soganli Valley. Between the many carved churches in the valley, numerous other strange holes are cut into the rocks. Additionally they are bordered with white paint, as shown in this photo.

“What are these for?” you might ask. Actually monks in the churches have wooed pigeons by cutting dovecotes into the rock, painting them so the pigeons could more easily locate them. The pigeons were wanted for their guano (droppings). The birds enter the holes to find sticks on which to perch. They sleep there and defecate. Later, the monks collected their guano for use in fertilizing their crops.

After these Byzantine monks left in the 1750's the local farmers continued to attract pigeons to use their guano for fertilization. The people helped the pigeons by providing them a safe place to roost; the pigeons provided fertilizer for the fields!

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Into the Unknown
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 3, 2012

Every autumn our congregation enjoys its annual church retreat near Deception Pass, not far from Anacortes. While staying in cabins owned by the Walla Walla University Marine Station, we can relish not only good fellowship, good food and good singing, but also great hiking along the beaches and through the forests which are a part of Rosario State Park.

Sunday morning, September 30, I snapped the above photo, of a dock projecting out into Sharpe Cove. As you can see, the mist has settled in, and from this vantage point you can't tell what's out there beyond the dock's edge.

However, if you were to fly directly overhead and take a picture, such as the one below (which Google Earth has captured from a satellite on a fog-less day), you would see that in the mists beyond that dock is not a watery wilderness but the comforting semicircle of Bowman Bay:

If you want to orient yourself in this satellite shot, my misty photo was taken when I stood almost directly above the capital “S” in “Sharpe,” with the camera pointing to the right. (See the tiny white dock above the "a"?)

Isn’t this a comforting way to think of the human’s-eye view versus the God’s-eye view? With God there are no mists, no horizon-humps, no visual limitations. God sees all—not only in the present, but in the past and future as well. How wonderful this is to know!

For more on our Heavenly Parent, click this link just below. (I included this link on yesterday’s blog as well, but I think it’s worth a repeat.)

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Pocket God
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 2, 2012

While strolling through a large Barnes & Noble bookstore a little over a week ago, I was startled to see – propped on top of a shelf of books – what you see in the photo above.

It wasn't the first time I'd seen deities for sale. You can buy little Buddhas, and, if I remember correctly, you are promised good luck if you rub the image's tummy.

I found a few things about this display quite interesting. Nearby was a card with the complete set of gods ("Collect them all!"). I'll include that photo just below.

The first thing that I noticed was that, even though these are hyped as a "pocket gods," the one in the package is bigger than any pocket I own.

And notice the facial expressions? All of the gods except one have frightening expressions. And they all seem to have the look of something a witch doctor might try to conjure up.

Another interesting thing about the god in the package in the first photo was that there weren't any "operating instructions." Sometimes you will see humorous voodoo kits containing little cloth images into which you can stick pins and thus hopefully cause discomfiture to an enemy. In that case there is an owners manual telling you how to do it.

But even though I looked on the back of the package, and at the top, and at the bottom, there was no statement such as, "Instructions included." The only thing I could figure out was that this must tie into something on the Internet, and sure enough – a quick online search lets me know that they're part of a video game and even a comic book series.

Unfortunately – and sometimes with equal parts of deadly seriousness and utter obliviousness – human beings create gods in their own image. Consciously or subconsciously, people who haven't become acquainted with the true God of the Bible will satisfy their hunger for worship in surprising ways.

God of course doesn't experience high blood pressure (the way the "gods" in the photos seem to be doing), but He does get emotional. And one of the surest way people aroused His alarm was to start worshiping other gods besides Him — human-created gods whose worship practices were often horrendous. If you're a parent, how would you feel if one of your older children practiced human sacrifice on one of your younger children?

Nowadays, of course, "civilized" humanity merely snickers at pocket gods in bookstores. Yet even though we may not bow the  knee to literal images, how often do we pay such fleeting attention to the true God that – when a crisis or a moral dilemma arises – we create our own deity-advice, desperately putting words into God's mouth so that He'll approve of, or at least wink at, what we want to do?

Something to think about.

For a three-screen-long discussion of the God of the Bible, click the link below.

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Just a Quick Nonpartisan Note
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, November 1, 2012

I would just like to go on record here by saying that, when it comes to presidential elections, they ain't worth high blood pressure. I deliberately do not listen to partisan media. I do, of course, keep a close watch on national and world events, and try to assess how effective candidates are. In the next couple of days I am going to study my voters’ pamphlet with due solemnity, and then mail in my ballot. And I hope that everyone who drives by our church reader board sign above does the same.

I think one of the reasons I don't get really stirred up about politics is that I refuse to voluntarily put myself in a position where someone keeps shouting unsupported assertions at me. I choose instead to remember how, in the Bible, the Lord was – and still is – perfectly able to turn the course of history to suit His own wishes, in response to the prayers of His people.

This is not, of course, saying that God is personally responsible for who might get elected, or what that individual might do once in the seat of power. But the Lord eventually will sort things out.

If you'd like to read a thoughtful, balanced essay on the Bible and politics, check the link below. (And don't forget to vote!)


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