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

Daily Photo Parable -  November 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--either 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.

Destination:  Bethlehem – Part 2
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 30, 2014

We stopped for refreshments at the inn, Buyuk Han (The Great Inn) in Nicosia, Cyprus as shown in the photo above.  The upper rooms with octagonal chimneys were originally used for travelers. The rooms on the ground floor were for shops and storerooms.  Stables for camels, donkeys, horses and mules were located on the outside. The community water supply was in the round structure in the center of the courtyard.

This second photo shows the outside wall of the inn.  As you can see, inns protected people from danger of wild animals and bandits.

As I shared last week, it would take about four days to travel the 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the time of the birth of Jesus.  However, it could have taken Mary and Joseph longer since she was heavy with child.  It is likely Mary and Joseph stayed at inns on their way to Bethlehem. During that time, inns, something like the one shown here but often smaller, were located along the roads where people traveled.  These were accommodations of food and lodging for the travelers and their animals.  Often times it was group lodging like hostels today.  Many of those inns would have been small, with people sharing a common room where mats were placed on the dirt floor and people slept in their clothes.

Once they reached their destination of Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph found many people had gotten there before them.  Luke 2:7 states that there was no room for them in the inn.  Those knowing the original language think this really meant guest room or space in Bethlehem. Finally, they ended up staying where the animals were kept, at a place possibly belonging to a relative.  Check back next Sunday for photos of where it’s thought that Jesus was born.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 29, 2014

Back in early October I happened to be walking through a newly-built passage which connected an older shopping mall to an adjacent Target store.  Standing on the tile floor, right in the path of shoppers, was a brand-new, lighted display with the word “Directory” at the top.

I’m sure that not many more days went by before someone inserted a helpful mall-map into the frame. But there, on the day I saw it, I would have been helpless if I were depending on this directory to guide me through that complex of stores.

What “directories” guide your life? Like the display above, do they seem to be prominently positioned, and to emit light, but end up being truly blank? Do they reflect reality—the Bible’s map which takes us from Eden Lost to Eden Restored, and which urges us to follow Jesus through those trails to the destination He has prepared?

Here are three important Bible links to start you off in the right direction:

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Who Wore These Gowns?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 28, 2014

Usually I don’t get very emotional in a thrift shop--unless I see the perfect leather three-ring notebook, or a reference book I’ve always wanted and now can have for $1.99. But a week and a half ago as I walked through a St. Vincent de Paul store I suddenly came across this large display of bridal gowns.

As a pastor I’ve done my share of weddings, and have seen many brides walk up aisles in gowns such as these. And my understanding is that brides usually keep their wedding dresses in their own possession. And as I gazed at these beautiful gowns I felt a clutch at my heart. Who were the women who wore those gowns, and why are those gowns here? The reasons are probably as numerous and as individual as the gowns themselves, and no doubt each gown has its own story to tell.

The marriage relationship is an incredibly tender one, and in powerful passages in both the Old and New Testaments, God compares marriage to His own highest hopes for our communion with Him.

For a very detailed Bible discussion on marriage, click the link immediately below.

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Giving Thanks
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, November 27, 2014

Last week, this little hummingbird was found on a chair in a barn. It had probably been trapped in the barn overnight because it didn't have enough energy to even move. Nobody knew what to do with it, so it was put in a box with some cotton gauze and left for a couple hours until my mom and sister brought it home with them. By the time I saw it, I was pretty sure it wasn't going to make it. It was completely unresponsive, but my mom said she still felt a heart beat. We got the hummingbird feeder and put some of the nectar in a little cup. After about half an hour of my mom holding it and poking its beak in the nectar, it finally must have taken a couple sips. It slowly regained consciousness and realized that there was food in front of it and started drinking. The picture of it sitting on the hummingbird feeder was before it really started drinking so it was still pretty out of it. In the photo below you can see my mom holding it in front of the cup that it was drinking from.

After another half hour it started getting really active. It managed to escape and fly around until we caught it again.

We put it in a box and were hoping to keep it there overnight because it was almost freezing outside, but it kept trying to fly around in the box and we were afraid it would hurt itself. We took it outside and let it go in our rhodies. Hopefully it was one of the hummingbirds at our feeder the next day.

Matthew 10:29,31 tells us:
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.... So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

You've probably heard this verse many times, and I think it speaks for itself.

It seems like we take things like food, shelter, and even hummingbirds for granted so often. Let's be thankful for everything we have this Thanksgiving.

1 Chronicles 16:34 says:
"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."

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Plenty To Be Thankful For
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A few weeks back we visited Stocker Farms in Snohomish.  This gigantic pile of pumpkins called out to be captured.  Since we think of the pumpkin as a sign of the Fall season and ultimately, part of the Thanksgiving season, it  seemed like it was a big collection of "thanks."

As we are in the week of Thanksgiving, I thought we could concentrate on all the things we are thankful for.  It's incredible to think of all the things God has provided for us.

In the first verses of Psalms 107, we can echo the words that are written:

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

Take a couple minutes - grab a pen and paper, or start typing.  List the things you can say thanks to God for - health, family, job, His love, the house you live in, the food you eat....I know I could do this all day long -- much to be thankful for.

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Turkey Tail
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An ancient Chinese proverb states, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”  I would hope this might serve as a beginning, for I like the name ‘Turkey Tail’, as this is the name of a common polypore mushroom.  Its concentric rings of color carry a resemblance to the colorful pattern found in the tail of a Wild Turkey.  Its scientific species name, versicolor, follows the same line of thought and means ‘comes in different colors’.  Found around the world, it is usually located on dead hardwood where it silently works to decompose and return to the soil the nutrients and minerals recovered from the wood.

Possessing a hard surface, it appears to be inedible, yet it is consumed by some caterpillars, squirrels, turtles, slugs and isopods.  Chinese medicine uses it to combat cancer under the name yun zhi although traditional Western medicine has been reluctant to ascribe any benefit to it.  But the characteristic we’d like to emphasize is its close adhesion to the surface it is holding onto.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to pull in one piece Turkey Tail off of the wood to which it is attached. It’s in there for the long haul.

Scripture has a good deal to say about holding on, some of it good, some of it not so good.  For instance, the Rich Young Ruler rejected Christ’s challenge for “That was the last thing the young man expected to hear.  And so, crestfallen, he walked away.  He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.” (Matthew 19:22 The Message) And once again Christ condemned the Pharisees when He said, “You are so busy holding on to the traditions of men that you let go the commandments of God!” (Mark 7:8 J.B. Phillips New Testament.)

But the words written by Moses direct us to what should be firmly grasped.  “God, your God, is testing you to find out if you totally love him with everything you have in you.  You are to follow only God, your God, hold him in deep reverence, keep his commandment, listen obediently to what he says, serve him – hold on to him for dear life!” (Deuteronomy 13:2,3 The Message)

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Where Is The Path Leading You?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 24, 2014

These pictures are of the trail to the Big Four Ice Caves.  The trail head is just off the Mountain Loop Highway and the trail is very well maintained as you can see.  I think the circles are some sort of device to prevent erosion and they also help provide good traction.

It helps if we take stock of the path we are on.  Sometimes we totally wander off the path and sometimes the path itself is not going to the destination we want to reach.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
Proverbs 4:26 (NIV)

The Bible also tells us that there is only one path.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6 (NIV)

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Destination: Bethlehem - Part 1
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter

As recorded in Luke 2, Emperor Caesar Augustus issued a decree stating that people needed to go the town of the origin of the father in the family and register.  He and his council decided this was the only way of knowing the number of his subjects so they could be appropriately taxed.  Since Joseph was from the house of David, they needed to travel the approximately 80 miles south to Bethlehem.  When Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem for this registration before Jesus was born, they traveled overland either walking or riding donkeys like these donkeys grazing in a field in Nazareth.

People often traveled in groups as it was safer in case of attack by bandits or wild animals. It would normally take about four days to travel this distance, but because Mary was heavily pregnant, they may have taken more time. Back then it wasn’t always peaceful with being part of the Roman Empire, as there were repeated conflicts and protests.  Even though Rome allowed Jewish practices, the people didn’t like the Roman troops, laws or taxes.  Herod the Great, disliked by the Jews, was fearful that he would be overthrown.  Because of this, the Jewish people weren’t really free in their own land.  

Likewise, today conflicts continue.  Now it is between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  Nazareth is in Israel and Bethlehem is in Palestine. Since vehicles with Israeli license plates can’t travel in Palestine and those with plates from Palestine can’t travel to Israel, our bus took us to a “meeting place”, a service station on the border where we transferred to a minivan and were introduced to our new guide, from Palestine. 

We first entered “Area A” as you can see in my photo immediately above.  In order to help keep suicide bombers out of Israel, a concrete barrier over 300 miles long and 26 feet high in places, separates the West Bank from Israel. 

The many security points along the road, reminded us that Israel’s military was in control with their many watchtowers and armed guards, as shown the photo just above.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing devotional photo parables from Bethlehem.  Let’s pray for peace in this Holy Land.

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Introducing Preem-yoo-im Kitchen Towels!
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 22, 2014

A little over a week ago when Shelley and I were in a grocery store together, her alert eye caught the misspelling of “premium” on this package of kitchen towels. Neither of us had heard of this brand before, and we were startled that Copyediting hadn’t caught this glitch before the plastic wrap was printed.

Willing to give this brand a chance (and happy with the price), we bought this package and took it home—and quickly realized that the towels (made from bamboo rather than trees) were appallingly sub-standard. Not only are they not very “absorbent”—as the half-visible word at the bottom promises—but when you try to tear off a square, the towel itself is weaker than the perforations, and you end up with shredded, useless strips of former bamboo pulp.

So the earnest eco-friendly folks who produced these towels are going to have to go back to the drawing board. Their motives are excellent, but their “premuim” towels have a long way to go.

This reminds me of a God who created an eco-friendly environment for His first two children, using—and needing—nothing but renewable energy sources. Even after we have trashed His planet, a thoughtful contemplation of nature shows clearly that God got it right the first time. And the Bible tells us how His Son is going to come back to this planet and re-create His premium world one day. Check out the Bible texts at the link immediately below:

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The Bottom Line
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday of this week I was returning from giving a Week of Prayer talk at the Buena Vista Seventh-day Adventist elementary school in Auburn, WA. I snapped this hasty photo of a church beside a street in town.

I don’t know whether or not the lowest line on the readerboard was chosen deliberately, but its message is indeed “the bottom line” to understanding the one whom Jesus continuously called “the Father,” or “Your Father in heaven.”

If you’d like to review some solid Bible evidence that God truly loves you, and why that’s important, click the link immediately below.

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God's Power in Nature
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, November 20, 2014

I viewed this lightning storm out of my hotel window near Westminster, Colorado this last July.  I heard later that it also dropped golf ball sized hail in some places.  Watching the storm go by with a constant sound of thunder gave me a chance to reflect on God's power.

We have had some pretty good thunder storms in Washington as well.  Whenever we have one here, besides being alarmed, I also try to think about what lessons it can teach.  We can take comfort that God, who created nature, is able to act with so much more power than a bolt of lightning.  When I think of the problems we face, it helps me to remember just how big God is and how much He loves us.

Just having the knowledge of God is a very valuable thing in this world that often does not value God.  2 Corinthians 4:6 says, "For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ."

So let's take comfort in a God of power who values knowledge, truth, and love, and let's spread that knowledge around.

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Fall and Winter
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One of my favorite aspects of living in the Northwest is the changing seasons.  We have all four of them.  That sounds odd, if you haven't lived elsewhere, but other parts of the country either have shorter versions or in some cases, it only feels like two of the seasons.

This past weekend, I took a quick walk into the woods near our house and saw this image.  The bright colors of the fall leaves, the crisp white coldness of the frost - it felt like each season was trying to hold onto "their own time."

In Psalms 147, we read about a psalm of praise for God's word and providence.  In verses 12-18 specifically, we read about what God brings to us - including frost:

Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
For He has strengthened the bars of your gates;
He has blessed your children within you.
He makes peace in your borders,
And fills you with the finest wheat.
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.

Take the time to get out, take a walk and witness God changing the seasons.

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American Avocet
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I can easily identify with Christ’s disciples.  I can sense their frustration, wanting more clarification as to what He meant. Take His words in John 16:16: “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (NIV)  The conversation continues in the following verses: “They kept asking, ‘What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” (18)  And we’ve been repeating the same question ever since.  What does He really mean when He says He is coming back soon?

Two things came into my view that might help us come to grasp with this phrase.  One was seen out of my left car window.  It was an American Avocet, a graceful bird with an upturned beak.  When threatened by predators, it will sometimes issue a series of notes that gradually change in pitch, similar to simulating the Doppler Effect.  This in turn makes its approach seem faster than it is in reality.  Added protection for the avocet is the result.

The other protection offered was seen out of my right car window, in fact just outside my right window on my side mirror.  There engraved were these familiar words: “Objects may be closer than they appear in the mirror”.  This safety warning was given in response to the convexity of the mirror which was designed that way to give us a broader field of view.  If not properly interpreted, this wider vision could lead us to serious mistakes.  So, even though they work in contrasting ways, both the avocet and the sign on the mirror alter reality to offer protection.  Is it possible that our Lord had the same thing in mind when He said, “In a little while”?

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Sing a New Song
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 17, 2014

I was reading through the Psalms in The Message earlier this year and I really found them to be great devotionals.  If you haven't read through them in a while, you may want to try reading them in a modern paraphrase for a different perspective or read side by side versions on

I took this picture of the columbine and the insect a few years ago.  They make up a very minute portion of God's "world of wonders!"

Sing to God a brand new song.
He’s made a world of wonders!
He rolled up his sleeves,
He set things right.
GOD made history with salvation,
He showed the world what he could do.
He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.
The whole earth comes to attention.
Look—God’s work of salvation!
Shout your praises to GOD, everybody!
Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!
Round up an orchestra to play for GOD,
Add on a hundred-voice choir.
Feature trumpets and big trombones,
Fill the air with praises to King GOD.
Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in.
Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”
And mountains harmonize the finale—
A tribute to GOD when he comes,
When he comes to set the earth right.
He’ll straighten out the whole world,
He’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.
Psalm 98 (The Message)

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Nazareth Brings Us Together
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 16, 2014

The main road through the town of Nazareth has several works of local graffiti along the wall.  I thought the one I’m sharing with you was interesting, “Nazareth Brings Us Together.”  As you can see, it shows a bridge over water, families, a symbol meaning Jesus and doves.

With the Roman Empire ruling most of the Western world during and after the time of Jesus, the majority of the common people lived in poverty.  Apostles and other believers went into the streets and told the story of Jesus of Nazareth, his life, death and resurrection. According to Acts 2:44, the believers were together and had everything in common.  This belief in Jesus brought them together.  

Like in Nazareth, God has brought us together here in Bellevue and He holds us together through the power of His Word. We come from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicity, races, ages, economic means and towns having faith in God and belief in His Word. Yes, He’s brought us together!

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Author-illustrator Starter Kit
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 15, 2014

In a bookstore earlier this week I spotted a display of diaires and journals whose centerpiece was this huge hardcover blank book. The idea, I imagine, was that a child—given this book for Christmas or a birthday—would sieze upon it and start writing and drawing and creating a treasure he or she could someday show to the grandkids.

I’ve always been a bit too private to perpetrate self-revelation on such a grand scale, but I do know that I (and you, and everybody else) are providing daily entries into the books of heaven. Even back in Exodus 32:32 – 33, Moses interceded with God for the people of Israel, and volunteered to let the Lord blot his own name out of “Your book which you have written.” Psalm 56:8 suggests that even our sorrows are recorded in God’s book. In Daniel 12:1, an angel tells Daniel that only those who are “found written in the book” will be saved.

Malachi 3:16 gets even more specific: “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.”

Do you want your name written in God’s book? The verse just above gives us how-to advice: Fear the Lord (utterly respect Him, utterly take Him into account); speak to one another (take part in the fellowship of believers); meditate on His name.

And the best way—and finally the only way—to come to know the Lord in this way is to read much in His word, the Holy Bible.

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Be Boundless!
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 14, 2014

Whenever one of my cars needs servicing—as one did this past Monday—I take it to the same trusted North Seattle mechanic I’ve been patronizing since about 1984, then hop a bus down to the University of Washington district.

I snapped the above photo in Red Square on the UW campus. The sun caught not only the strolling students and the tent awnings, each representing an Asian student organization seeking members, but also the tall columns with purple banners, the rightmost of which urges the students to “Be Boundless.”

I don’t know how many committee meetings it took to come up with that slogan (more than likely it was a single inspired student), but it’s certainly a philosophical mouthful. I mean, more than a hundred years ago some visionary pioneer thought boundlessly enough to imagine that he (maybe she?) could actually plant a university.

And in the 1960s, artist Barnett Newman, himself in his 60s, thought boundlessly enough to create a gravity-defying a sculpture called Broken Obelisk, one copy of which is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and another of which stands right here in Red Square:

I don’t know what the student sitting at its base is doing—probably texting—but I think I would instead be worrying about earthquakes. (Wikipedia says that Broken Obelisk was fabricated from three tons of steel!)

“Be boundless.” Wasn’t that God’s original plan for His Eden children? Live forever, think forever, explore forever, create forever? And isn’t that His offer to us sinners, sealed by the death and resurrection of His Son?

Have you taken His hand and let Him welcome you into the promise of a boundlessly happy eternity?

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Photo and Commentary (c)2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
November13, 2014

This is my pet pygmy goat, Elephant. He is 12 years old but he still seems to be a happy little guy. When it gets below 40 outside, sometimes he starts to shiver. So for the past couple winters we've put his goat coat on him when it gets cold. We also move his friend Ducker (the 10 year old pet chicken) into his barn so that they can both be under the heat lamp.

Coats and cloaks were apparently important to people in Bible times. Even now we apparently think our clothes are very important, but back then they sometimes had an added significance.

Genesis 37:3 ESV:
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.

2 Kings 2:13-15:
And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

Matthew 3:4:
Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. This type of clothing signified that John the Baptist was a prophet.

Besides that, the main purpose of coats is to provide comfort. Elephant gets really agitated and upset when he is cold, but when he has his coat on, he is much happier.  God has promised to be our comfort. And in turn, He asks us to pass that comfort on, whether to a goat or human.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

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The Elephant in the Room
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I’d been bracing myself for when our local Ace Hardware was going to burst forth with artificial Christmas trees and inflatable holiday lawn things, but last week when I strolled past its window I didn’t expect to see such an industrial-sized Santa towering over everything, hat brushing the rafters. He must be 12 to 14 feet tall.

You know where I’m going with this, and could probably write the script better than I could, but as the Big Holiday steamrollers its way toward us, keep in mind the living, dying, triumphantly resurrected Son of God—the gift He gave to us, and the gift He’d love to receive from you. In the poetry of Christina Rosetti,

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
     --Final stanza of "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Christina Rossetti

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Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cyanea capillata is a name not familiar to most of us, but it is frequently seen in the late summer or autumn in the cold waters of the North Atlantic and Pacific.  For obvious reasons it is also known as the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish.  Its long tentacles can extend 120 feet, making it the second longest animal on earth.  These extremely sticky tentacles are grouped into eight clusters, with each of these clusters containing over 100 tentacles.  Found along these tentacles are nematocysts which contain a powerful neurotoxin.  This venom can cause paralysis of the breathing muscles, but for most humans, contact would be similar to a bee sting.
Interestingly, these stinging cells can still live for months after being detached from the jellyfish. Since they live near the surface of the water, they are frequently chopped up by boat propellers and these small pieces are not even noticed by the casual swimmer.  In 2010, around 150 people were stung off the coast of New Hampshire, possibly caused by the remains of a single animal.
Peter, writing to the believers in the early Christian church, cautioned them to be vigilant, always on guard.  “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)  Facing persecution, the image of a roaring lion is easy to envision, but for most of us today, Satan uses a much more subtle approach, one we may not even see.  It may be that our comfortable life causes us to overlook those stinging bits of sin that engulf us.  If so, Peter’s caution is even more applicable to us today, even if we don’t hear the lion’s roar.

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Wonders of God's Creation
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 10, 2014

This photo is of a couple of anemones and a sea star which I found attached to a piling during a minus tide (a lower than normal tide). Although the anemones look like flowers when they are fully open, they are actually animals. You can see that these anemones' tentacles are not fully retracted into their columns (the parts that are attached to the piling).  The tentacles contain stinging cells that can paralyze their prey: small crabs, mussels and fish. Once paralyzed, the prey is eaten whole.  

I would recommend going to the beach at a minus tide as you can see a lot of the marine life of the intertidal zone that is usually underwater.  You can look on the Internet for a tide chart for your local area to see when the minus tides occur.  There are all kinds of interesting creatures to be seen.  

GOD’s works are so great, worth
A lifetime of study—endless enjoyment!
Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial—
This GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love.
Psalm 111:2-4 (The Message)

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Water in Nazareth
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 9, 2014

Local Christian tradition in Nazareth believes that the angel Gabriel visited Mary (Luke 1:26) when she was drawing water from a local spring or well, even though this isn’t recorded in the Bible.  The photo above shows present-day pilgrims gathered by the well in the cave, and the photo immediately below shows the well itself.

Many of the local Christians believe this site was actually the home of Mary and her parents.  At the time of Jesus, poor people couldn’t afford houses so they lived in caves.  As with many important Christian sites, through the ages churches have been over this well.  Our guide told us that water from the natural spring in the well flows to a public fountain rebuilt in modern times, shown next.

Apparently so many pilgrims came to the well shown inside the church that they piped water to this fountain in the plaza. In earlier days, women went to the fountain to gather water and wash clothes.  It is likely that Jesus went here with his mother, Mary as she fetched water.  This was the only water source for all of Nazareth until this last century.

In ancient times, running water was the most important consideration when choosing a place for a village.  Nazareth did have this water source, but apparently it wasn’t adequate at times for the 500 or so people who lived in this small village at the time of Jesus.  We were told that the text John 1:46, “How can anything good come from Nazareth” referred to Nazareth not having enough water for their people, their animals and crops.  This is something like today, with the effects of global warming reducing the supply of water for farmers and their crops.  And this affects all of us!

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In Memoriam
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 8, 2014

This past Sunday, just before a wedding at our church which I knew would leave our regular church lot overflowing, I parked at an empty space in the Sammamish High School lot across the intersection.

I had just locked my car when I noticed these three wrinkled balloons attached to a tree trunk. From the photo it’s hard to tell the scale, but the two smaller ones are about the size of a grapefruit. If you’re a Pacific Northwesterner who has kept your eyes and ears on the news, you’ll probably guess why these balloons are hanging here.

Actually, one seems to be missing, because red, black, white and yellow are the colors of the Marysville (WA) Pilchuck High School, the scene of a school shooting Friday, October 24. The shooter was a 14-year-old freshman, and he had lured a number of friends and relatives to a cafeteria table that day, and had then shot several. Five students died, including the shooter (by suicide).

Empathetic reaction in all area high schools was immediate. One way the schools showed solidarity was by displaying Marysville Pilchuck’s colors. The above balloon bouquet had once been large and taut, and had probably also contained a yellow one. We remember, the balloons mutely cry. We’re sorry. We’re with you. Because it could have happened here, and you would be grieving for us.

Jesus knows that this kind of remembering is important. When He sat with His disciples in the hushed upper room, He created a brand-new ceremony which He hoped would be at least as powerful in bringing His sacrifice to our minds.

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19 NKJV)

And later, the Pharisee who made it his zealous duty—before his conversion—to lure many Christ-follower to where he could remorselessly assassinate them drives this “In memoriam” point strongly home for all New Testament Christians:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.  (1 Corinthians 11:23 – 26)

The shriveling balloons in the photo above proclaim the senseless death of four teens. The humble bread and simple grape juice proclaim a death which was far from senseless, but a redemptive offering for our sins.

When was the last time you prayed your way through a Bible study on salvation? You can do this by clicking on the link immediately below.

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Mary Lou, Where Are You?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 7, 2014

Ever since I was a kid walking along gravel prairie roads, I’ve always been intensely curious about scraps of paper I saw, especially if they had handwriting on them. Nearly a month ago when Shelley and I were on a morning walk, we noticed this notecard lying on a sidewalk just outside our cul de sac.

At first glance I was truly startled, because I thought the first word was my own first name! For an instant, I was rather glad that whichever stranger was trying to track me down hadn’t discovered my contact information!

But then I saw the capital “L,” and the extra little ascent in the first syllable, which was almost certainly a narrow “r.” Who is Mary Lou? Who is seeking her? Why do they need to get in contact with her? Does the fact that the writer used a notecard indicate that he or she was trying to track down several people, with other names on other cards? I hope the writer was able to get in touch with her and give her good—or at least important—news.

My Bible—and my Savior—assure me that God loves lost people, and He will move heaven and earth to find them. For several comforting texts about this, click on the link immediately below, and then get in touch with the One who wants to find you.

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Looking In
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, November 6, 2014

On the Maple Pass Loop trail we came upon this sign several miles in.  Until recently I didn't know there was a national park in the North Cascades.  So it was kind of exciting to come to edge of the park and get a view in.  Our trail did not go into the park, but traveled along side.

The mountains appear rugged and majestic.  They appear to go on forever. I can see why this area was made a national park.  It reminds me of Jesus talking about the kingdom of heaven in the present tense.  In Matthew 5:3, Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  He also says, "As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’"  Matthew 10:7

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21.

Maybe sometimes we look into the kingdom of heaven and admire it without stepping in.  Maybe by taking steps to do the Lord's will, we can enter a part of the kingdom of heaven in the present tense.  So let's keep trying to follow the Lord and see to what majestic heights He leads!

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Like Glue
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I’m not a birder like my fellow blogger – Rob Howson, but when I see an opportunity capture a shot, I do.  While on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, I was able to get a shot of the - Black-bellied whistling duck. It’s fairly rare in the SC area, more commonly found in Louisiana Gulf Coast and farther south – Mexico, Central and South America.  It is one of only two “whistling-duck” species, native to North America.   One of the unique characteristics of these ducks, is their monogamous pair-bond.  We see this more in geese and swans, but typically ducks don’t stick as pairs very often.
When I read this about the “whistling duck” and how they are made to stick together, I think of our bound with God. We are made to stick with God. In Philippians 1, Paul, writes in a letter to the church, that he is torn on wanting to be with God, but also wanting to stay and do God’s work, verses 23-26 “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.”
As Paul mentions, the bond is strong, the need is strong. To be with God, is the ultimate prize.  God has created animals (all sorts) that show that bond with each other, I think, to show His plan for us.  For now, we have our spiritual and mental bond with our Creator.  We wait and look forward to the day when this bond can become a physical bond as well.

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California Quail and Crested Auklet    
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 4, 2014

As a kid I admired Yankee catcher Yogi Berra as a player.  But even after his playing days were over, fame followed him based upon his ability to restate the obvious in a way none could deny the truth of his utterance.  “You can observe a lot by watching,” is one such statement.  But as watchful as I was, I was never able to observe a Crested Auklet (top photo).  That was true until my watching switched from Northern California to the Pribilof Islands in the middle of the Bering Sea which is the home of this species.

It has been observed that this alcid almost looks like a caricature of a California Quail (bottom photo), a species which was common in my backyard back home.  While neither species could survive in the habitat of the other, that plume adorning the top of their heads makes comparisons unavoidable.

Scientists have two ways of explaining parallel phenomena in nature.  One approach is to attribute it to divergent evolution where it is assumed the two species had a common origin, yet time has not been able to completely obscure all their similarities, even though at the present they appear unrelated.  In contrast, convergent evolution assumes similar structures have arisen independently to meet a similar need.

So which is it, convergent or divergent?  I’d like to suggest a third alternative that may come closer to the truth.  Might a Divine Artist at work simply find He enjoys including certain nuances in His painting which gives Him pleasure?  Not convinced?  That’s ok, just follow Yogi’s advice and keep watching.

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Become a Birder
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 3, 2014

I saw this beautiful cedar waxwing by a small pond that is in a little park not far from my parents' church in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.  August and September seem to be good times to see large flocks of these birds.  

They are named waxwings because of the waxy red colored secretions on the tips of some of the feathers.  To me, they look very elegant.

They eat a lot of fruit and you may have seen flocks of them in trees feeding on berries.  The ones I was watching on this particular day were flying over the pond and catching insects.

According to an article written by Terry Byrne printed in USA Today in March 14, 2014, "About 85 million Americans enjoy observing, photographing or feeding wild birds. Birding ranks 15th on a list of the most popular outdoor activities . . . according to the most recent National Survey on Recreation and the Environment by the USDA's Forest Service."

Did you know that the Bible actually tells us to look at the birds?

"Here is the bottom line: do not worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will drink. Don’t worry about how you clothe your body. Living is about more than merely eating, and the body is about more than dressing up. Look at the birds in the sky. They do not store food for winter. They don’t plant gardens. They do not sow or reap—and yet, they are always fed because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are even more precious to Him than a beautiful bird. If He looks after them, of course He will look after you. Worrying does not do any good; who here can claim to add even an hour to his life by worrying?" -- Matthew 6:25-27 (The Voice)

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An Angel Appeared
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 2, 2014

According to Hebrew custom, it is likely that Mary was between twelve and thirteen years of age when she was betrothed (engaged) to Joseph.  Both families were in agreement of this contract, which was as binding as the wedding that would follow in about a year. In Galilee, where Mary and Joseph lived, couples maintained a state of sexual purity until after the wedding.  Within this setting, you can probably imagine Mary’s surprise when the angel Gabriel appeared before her, a virgin, telling her that she will conceive and have a son.  He was to be great and was to be called Jesus, the Son of God. (Luke 1:26-36)  The angel also told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth was with child in her old age and that nothing was impossible with God!  Then Mary went to stay with Elizabeth for about three months and both recognized that their children had an important part in God’s plan. After that, she returned home to Nazareth.

What will Joseph think?  Undoubtedly,  he thought that Mary had an affair with another man, but how could his beloved Mary do this?  Joseph worried about what he should do:  He could marry her and live with the gossip.  He could divorce her (a broken betrothal was a divorce) in which case he would need to tell the officials why.  If she was found to be with child and he wasn’t the father, she would be judged to be an adulteress and the penalty was stoning.  He could also pay to have her sent away to have the baby and not return to Nazareth.  His heart was broken.  After careful consideration, he decided to put her away privately.  Then, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him to not be afraid, to take Mary home to be his wife!  The child, to be named Jesus, was conceived by the Holy Spirit and He will save His people from their sins.  And Joseph took Mary to be his wife! (Mathew 1:18-25)

This photo is of artwork showing the angel Gabriel appearing before Mary.  It’s in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.  Check back next Sunday for more details.

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“Except As We Forget . . .”
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 1, 2014

Right around noon on Wednesday of this week I was in a grocery store parking lot when I spotted this unnerving sight. This is a car’s right rear-view mirror—or what used to be the mirror. All that’s left is the motor which shifts the mirror’s position when control-buttons inside the car are pushed.

I found myself thinking, “What has happened to that mirror?” My first thought was that this car’s driver had sideswiped another car, or maybe a stationary object, and that what you see above were the ragged remnants of that accident. But now that I study the photos more carefully, it seems that maybe it was only the mirror itself which was broken, and since the rest of that side of the car seemed undamaged, the owner has simply removed the mirror fragments and is hunting around in auto salvage yards hoping to find a replacement.

And I hope they are hunting vigilantly, and that they will soon have a new mirror in place. Because if you ever done any driving in Seattle, as I do, or in another metropolitan area, you know how vital it is to make sure you know who or what is in your “blind spot,” that dangerous area just to the right of your car’s trunk. My little Honda has good window-views for that area, but I drove a friend’s car recently and discovered that it had an impenetrable blind spot which was truly horrifying. And only by keeping a close eye on the right mirror could I protect my friend’s automotive investment.

If you’ve taken driver’s training – or if like me you’ve never had formal training but have been driving for a number of years – you know that it’s almost as important to glance in the rearview mirrors to see what’s behind you as it is to stare straight ahead through the windshield.

One of Adventism’s founders, Ellen White, may never have had an occasion to look into a motorcar’s rearview mirror, but she knew how important it was to contemplate the past. One of her most-quoted passages is this one:  “In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” (Ellen G. White, Life Sketches, p. 196. Italics are mine.)

And she is simply echoing in more contemporary language what the Bible itself says about keeping an eye on the history of God’s interaction with His people:

Now all these things [the stories in Scripture] happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:11 NKJV)

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)

The Bible, of course, functions as another kind of mirror as well. As we look into it, we can compare ourselves in our lives with God’s ideal. Why not study God’s scriptural mirror every day?

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