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

Daily Photo Parable - October 2011

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.



Rest for the Weary
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 31, 2011

I saw this inviting bench while traveling through the Columbia Gorge in Oregon earlier this month. It encourages you to pause, take a break and just look at the amazing scenery.  You can sit, put down all your gear and just relax. 

Jesus offers us a much more permanent and refreshing rest.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."   Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

The rest that is offered is more than just physical rest.  We can turn over to him all of our cares and worries and let Him take care of them.  As the chorus in the old song goes:

Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.

From I Know Who Holds Tomorrow
Ira Forest Stanfill

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Autumn Leaves
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 30, 2011

Have you taken time to enjoy the brilliant colors of the leaves this autumn- the yellows, golds, oranges and reds? And – do you know how this change occurs?

During spring and summer leaves are green because chlorophyll is present in the leaf's cells, masking other colors present in the leaf. By using the sun's rays, chlorophyll produces sugar for the plant's nourishment from water and carbon dioxide. In the autumn as the temperature cools and daylight shortens, the veins in the leaf gradually close off, reducing the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves. At this time, the yellows and oranges that have been in the leaves all along, become visible because the chlorophyhll is no longer hiding these brilliant colors. The red and purple leaves are produced in another way. In the autumn, the sugar-breakdown process changes in the presence of bright light and cool nights creating bright red-purple leaves.

Take time to breathe in the fresh smell of the forest, look at the colorful display of leaves and enjoy crunching the dry leaves as you walk!

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11


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Two Towers
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 29, 2011

A week and a half ago I drove to Seattle's Harborview Hospital to visit a church member who was (and still is as I write this) a patient there. As you can see, the day was beautiful one, so I paused atop the hospital parking garage and snapped this picture.

“Two Towers” refers not to the two monsters on the right, but to the tall black monster and the cute little one on the left. The cute one is Smith Tower, completed in 1914 and owned by L. C. Smith, who also produced the Smith Corona typewriter (I once owned a beautiful manual Smith Corona). Smith Tower, at 489 feet, was the highest building west of the Mississippi River until the early 1930s..

The big black tower is the Columbia Center, which when it was finished in 1985 was also the tallest building west of the Mississippi (now it’s fourth tallest). It’s 932 feet tall, because FAA regulations didn’t allow it to go to 1,005 feet the way its owners wanted.

Towers are impressive—especially if they hold the “west of the Mississippi” title even for a little while. Unless you’re the FAA, you point at them with pride: “That’s our tower. We’re one of the world significant cities, and our towers prove it.”

God, however, had very definite feelings about at least one tower. Back in Genesis 11, the post-flood people gathered together and started building a tower “to make a name for themselves.” God regarded this tower with such concern that He went down and confused their languages, which made it impossible for work to continue. The various language-groups scattered, and humanity was dispersed farther and farther from their starting point.

Pride was evidently the motive the the Tower of Babel’s construction. Rather than call themselves by the name of the Lord who preserved the race in the flood, they wanted their own “name,” whatever that was, to be exalted.

Any self-exaltation towers you and I are building, and need to cut down to size?

For info about the two towers in the photo, click the links below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_Tower

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Center


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Wearing the Mask
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 28, 2011

A little over a week ago I was startled to see this plastic mask on the back ledge of a car, resting on top of the faded CD sleeve which had once enclosed a Van Halen album. The only thing I can figure out is that whoever owns the car keeps that mask back there as something of a statement. Maybe it's a college kid who's majoring in drama.

The sight of that mask caused me to think of how easy it is to wear different masks depending on whom you're talking to. I do this all the time. Some people enjoy a bit of kidding around, so I'll slip into my "kid around" mask just to help share the humor. Other people approach life with solemn intensity, so I'll go solemn when I'm talking with them. I don't think such mask-switching is wrong or deceptive, just adaptation.

But I thoroughly agree with Jesus when I think about another mask which He positively hated – the mask of hypocrisy, pretending to be pious so people will think well of me, when all the time I am a thief and a manipulator behind the scenes.

What are some ways I can play the hypocrite? By being smiley at church and snarly to the spouse or the kids in the car on the way home. By sharing profound spiritual insights in Bible class yet not giving a dime to the church budget offering to keep the lights and heat on. By being outwardly gracious to everyone while concealing a gossip-dagger behind my back. The hypocrisy-possibilities are probably limitless. Yuck.

For a short Bible course on hypocrisy, click here:

 

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


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Like a Tree
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, October 27, 2011

A week ago tonight (Thursday), Shelley and I drove up to a Christian bookstore just before it closed, and while Shelley was inside, I caught sight of the above bush.

As you can see by the position of its thick trunk, this bush was planted much too close to the building, no doubt by someone who hadn't had a lot of landscaping experience. As a result, as the tree grew, it had to be severely trimmed on one side so it wouldn't touch the wall. From the parking lot to the right, the bush looks incredibly full and healthy, but it's really living up to only one third its full potential.

Where have you planted yourself? Human beings aren't bushes, of course, but have you positioned yourself close to anything which is hampering your full eternal potential? As you know, such a "hamperer” can be something you are drinking or smoking or injecting or watching or wasting money on. It can be an attitude you cling to, a way of reacting to people, an obsession.

Christians who have earnestly and continuously asked God to have His will in their lives have found that once He knows they believe that they "mean it," He will grant their request. And these Christians discover a greater and greater happiness as time goes along. That's because they have allowed the Holy Spirit to branch them out to where they can use the gifts God has given them.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7 – 8 (NKJV)


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Cluster of Creation (3 of 3 in the “mini-series”)
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

 At first you look at this and it appears to a bunch of big cherries, with their long stems, or maybe a group of plums with stems that are abnormally too long.  By now, I am sure you realize it’s a close-up shot of a single blackberry.  In fact the blackberry is not a true fruit, it’s classified as an aggregate fruit (same as raspberries and boysenberries) and it composed of several drupelets.  In fact in the center of the cluster of drupelets, the skin is so tight, you can see the reflection of my house.

I can only imagine the fruits (or aggregate fruit) that were meals for Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden.  It will be amazing to see if God chooses to bring back those same fruit, or if He decides to create new ones for us, when we arrive in the new Garden.  In fact He may ask us to create our own.  I marvel at the various items God has created for us.  We realize God didn’t have to go to this much detail or too create all the flavors, sights, sounds and views that He did, but He did. 

This journey into the “small side” of nature has once again solidified my view of God – all powerful, all mighty and most important all loving.


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Clark’s Nutcracker
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

High in the mountains of the Western United States lives the Clark’s Nutcracker, a member of the crow family.  They were named for one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and Captain Clark himself described it as being a “new species of woodpecker”.  He could hardly be blamed for this error since they will sometimes cling to the bark of a tree and extract insects much as woodpeckers do.  Through not unique among birds, the nutcracker often will cache conifer seeds for later consumption in winter.  These seeds may later be dug up, sometimes through eight inches of snow.  It has been estimated that they retrieve 70% of the food they have stored which indicates a fantastic memory for detail.

The chapters just preceding Exodus 13 tell the story of the Exodus and Israel’s deliverance from slavery.  In chapter 13 the Lord gives specific directions to His people on how they should commemorate this event, how they should celebrate God’s direct involvement in their lives.  Detailed directions were given so they would be sure not to forget His leading.  “Then Moses said to the people, ‘This is a day to remember forever – the day of leaving Egypt and your slavery; for the Lord has brought you out with mighty miracles.” (Exodus 13:3 –Living Bible) Apparently God realized how quickly they would be inclined to credit themselves for gaining freedom from the world’s most powerful nation at that time.

To forget God means spiritual death, death more certain than the Clark’s Nutcracker would face should it fail to remember where it had previously hidden its food.  Remembering to be thankful should be a part of our everyday life, not just because our needs have been met but because our lives have been filled so abundantly.  If the nutcracker can do so at a 70% clip, surely we humans should be able to equal that.


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How Great Is Our God!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 24, 2011

 

I saw this scene when I was hiking the short trail leading to Bridal Veil Falls in the Columbia Gorge in Oregon.  It seemed so peaceful and serene.  I love looking at God's handiwork in nature.

I like these texts in Job:

How great is God—beyond our understanding!
   The number of his years is past finding out.
 “He draws up the drops of water,
   which distill as rain to the streams;
the clouds pour down their moisture
   and abundant showers fall on mankind.
Job 36:26-28  New International Version (NIV)


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What To Believe
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 23, 2011

Have you experienced situations when views of something (or someone) differed from one another and you were't sure of what to believe? Take, for example, this above photo which I took in the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. The name of this unremarkable geyser is “Fearless Geyser.” If one would believe its name, you might think it was safe to get near or maybe even into this bubbling water. Wrong! Note the nearby sign: “Danger: Thermal Area.” I'll choose to believe the “Danger” sign and stay away!

Since you've logged onto our Daily Photo Parable site, you probably believe in Jesus Christ and aim to exemplify His teachings in your life. So, what do you believe? Really believe deep in your heart? If you're like me, there are some things you know you believe and some things you're not sure about. And, perhaps some things you know you don't believe.

Next, you might want to ask yourself, “What is really important” to believe. Check out what Jesus said in Mathew 22:37-39: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” If you believe this, then how do you live it?

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Office Chairs?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 22, 2011

I took this photo a little over a week ago when I was in a Target store (the same store and the same night when I took the “See Baby While You Drive” photo in the Thursday Photo Parable below).

I love visual paradoxes. At first, the above cuddly blankets just beneath the office-furniture signs seemed to have been victims of a careless stock-person. But then I glanced to the right, down a long aisle, and saw that there were indeed a whole lot of the above-mentioned furniture.

So what’s with the unbusinesslike blankets? They happen to be resting on the aisle’s “end-cap” which, as every dedicated shopper knows, is fair game for any sort of merchandise, in grocery stores and elsewhere.  (Here’s the link to the official Merriam-Webster online definition of “end cap”: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endcap)

Know what I think of as I gaze at the above photo? I think of a long, busy, wearying week-aisle of work, whether in an office or in a classroom or in any other setting. But then, to people who understand and appreciate it, the Sabbath arrives as a sort of “endcap” to the week. And there on Day Seven you’ll find not more office furniture to do still more work, but a lovely invitation to rest in the Lord.

Ever tried truly worshipping and resting on God’s birthday gift to Adam and Eve? For more information on the Sabbath, click the link below.

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


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An Ant
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 21, 2011

In early June I stopped off for a quick bite at a favorite Mexican restaurant. Glancing up from my meal, I noticed the above unintended message. Look what it says when I "flip" the picture:

You see what happened, of course. "An ant" is simply made up of the last two letters of "Mexican" plus the last three letters of "restaurant."

However, this popular restaurant is operated by people who seem as diligent as the ants the Bible holds up as examples of hard workers. I always get courteous and prompt service, and one of the waiters – though he may see me only three times a year – remembers exactly what I order every time.

The Bible only mentions ants twice, both times in the book of Proverbs. “Go to the ant, you sluggard!” says Proverbs 6 (the NIV translates “sluggard” as “lazybones.”) “Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?” (Proverbs 6:6 – 9)  Proverbs 30:25 lists ants among several animals who are diligent: “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer;”

The book of Proverbs is a great reminder that the Bible doesn't only deal with spiritual, eternal things, but is deeply interested in where the Goodyear meets the gravel. For many years, some Christians have been reading through Proverbs monthly, a chapter a day. Why not try it? You'll be surprised at the insights you discover.


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See Baby While You Drive!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Earlier this week Shelley and I made a quick trip to a local Target store, and we passed this product, deliberately shelved at mom’s-eye height, called “Max-View Baby In-Sight.” A square blue sticker states its purpose even more succinctly: "See baby while you drive!"

Though I've never had children, the illustrative photo on the bottom portion of the box touched my heart – spiritually as well as emotionally. There’s Mom driving, and in the rear seat Baby is properly secured in his carrier, back-to-back with her.

This, of course, can at first be rather disconcerting to the uninitiated Baby. There before him is a wonderful expanse of rear window, but not much to see, since he is sitting at an angle where little but blue sky is in view. And no matter where he looks, he sees no Mom. So he lets out a yell, and keeps yelling, upping the decibels with each screech.

Enter Max-View. Mommy attaches a large mirror to the rear headrest. I'm not sure whether Baby catches on immediately that the small horizontal rear view mirror he sees reflected in his own mirror contains the eyes of Mom, but maybe he figures it out after a while.

Isn't this a parable of our relationship with God? God is definitely in the driver's seat, piloting the destinies of His children (unless they wriggle over, grabbed the door handle, and leap out). But for safety reasons, we cannot see God (anybody in the Bible who was allowed close to God went into sensory overload, so God has to be careful).

However, even though we can't yet see God face to face, He has helpfully installed several mirrors so we can catch glimpses if we are patient. I've made it a personal habit to study the world around me, looking for evidence of Intelligent Design. And the more I read that complex and warmheartedly messy collection of books known as the Bible, the more I sense the presence of the God who is closer than we think, and – just like Mom -- has His ears perked for the sound of our voice. Which makes me want to talk to Him more than I already do.

In the words of the old gospel song,

Somehow the Savior seems a little nearer
When I kneel down to pray
And fellowship with Him a little dearer
When I kneel down to pray

I know that He is always near me
For He is never far away
But yet He seems a little closer to me
When I kneel down to pray.


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Itsy, Bitsy Spider
(2 of 3 in a “mini"-series)
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
 
Well, if you were looking for a quick scientific lesson about spiders of Washington . . . you’re in luck.  The above image is a shot of a European Cross Spider, commonly found (if you are reading this within the state of Washington) in and around your garden, in your garage, possibly in your house. It’s not very big, maybe the size of a quarter, and is classified as an “orb web” spider, one which builds webs up off the ground. 

These spiders re-create their webs daily, since each night they eat not only any captured prey but their webs as well.  Once the web is built, they will either hang (head down) in the web’s middle, or on a nearby leaf with a “signal thread” attached to one of their legs. When they feel the tug of their victim, they will quickly wrap it in silk, to eat later.

The spider’s intricate color patterns are phenomenal.  Each leg has an alternating color pattern, each with longer hairs that stick out. The legs don’t stick to the web, even though smaller bugs are easily caught in the same sticky trap.  This particular spider has a truly remarkable design, resembling a white cross, on the back of its abdomen, as well as armor or scales underneath.  

As I mentioned in last week’s blog – this attention to detail is the work of a master craftsman.  If we saw this same detail in something ‘man-made’ we would be amazed and in awe of the artistry and skill.  As Christians, we are in awe and marvel at the incredible craftsmanship from our Heavenly Creator.  We know He created the Earth and all that is in it, in six days, but how much fun He must have taken in contemplating the designs and awesome details.  As a novice artist myself, I look forward to the day when I can discuss with Him the thought process He put into design of His work.  Maybe after we talk, God and I will go take some mental pictures of a few European Cross Spiders.


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Mountain Quail
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In spite of the increase in knowledge and learning, we still find ourselves at a loss of how to explain the reasons behind actions, both human and nonhuman.  We do our best; we make guesses based upon our own actions and seek to relate them to the past or differing circumstances. 

A good example of this is found in Ruth 3:9 where Boaz awakens and finds Ruth lying at the foot of his bed.  “Who are you” he asked.  “I am your servant Ruth,” she said.  “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” (NIV)  We understand, at least in part, the idea behind the concept of the kinsman-redeemer.  What we probably don’t understand is the significance of her request to cover her with part of his garment.

Natural science also contains behaviors which are beyond our comprehension.  A good example of this can be found in the behavior of the Mountain Quail, a bird of diverse habitats: of mixed desert scrub and chaparral, of cut-over lands and the edges of clearings, and of timberlands which are covered in snow until the snow melts and the quail can return.  One of these actions involves what is known as “straw tossing” where the participants engage in throwing small bits of plant matter into the air as part of their ritualized nesting display.  This largest of North American quail also performs a curious display in which both the male and the female crouch low at the feet of a potential mate.  It appears that both genders assume this role of ritualized deference. 

If our interpretation of this action is correct, this would directly coincide with Paul’s advice to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Submission is not always an easy thing, especially for ego-saturated humans.  But it seems to work for the quail and human families alike.  And besides, as humans it’s another way for us to honor our God as well.


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Never Look Back
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 17, 2011

I'm not a sports fan at all so I'm not sure exactly what meaning this license plate has, if any, to the Seahawks but I would guess it has something to do with looking for a brighter future. 

The words remind me of Philippians 3:12-21 (Paul was apparently in prison when he wrote this and it would seem he is talking about the Christian life):

I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above.

All of us who are spiritually mature should think this way, too. And if there are things you do not agree with, God will make them clear to you.  But we should continue following the truth we already have.

Brothers and sisters, all of you should try to follow my example and to copy those who live the way we showed you.  Many people live like enemies of the cross of Christ. I have often told you about them, and it makes me cry to tell you about them now.  In the end, they will be destroyed. They do whatever their bodies want, they are proud of their shameful acts, and they think only about earthly things.  But our homeland is in heaven, and we are waiting for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven.   By his power to rule all things, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his own glorious body. New Century Version


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Transformation
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do you enjoy watching beautiful butterflies flutter through the air and land on colorful flowers like I'm sharing with you in my photograph? With my garden being a Certified Wildlife Habitat, I've planted flowering plants and created an environment to attract butterflies as well as other wildlife. Butterflies use two different types of plants – those that provide nectar for the adults to eat and those that provide food for their offspring.

You may know that butterflies and moths have four separate stages in their life cycle. It starts with the egg the female lays and often attaches to leaves that are intended for caterpillar food. Next, is the caterpillar, or larva which is the worm-like stage. As it grows, it molts or sheds its skin several times to enclose its rapidly growing body. The crysalis or pupa is the transformation stage where tissues are broken down and the adult insect's structures are formed. This is the stage when many species overwinter with their brown or green color blending into the surrounding background. Finally, the beautiful adult butterfly or moth emerges, reproduces and its life cycle continues.

The Bible speaks of man being transformed through an experience called “the new birth.” “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” II Corinthians 5:17 God created the caterpillar to become a beautiful butterfly, but more wonderfully, His power can transform sinners to become saints! Do you want God to “transform” you?


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Natural Numbers
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 15, 2011

A teacher friend of Shelley's used to say, "The brain is a pattern-seeking device." In other words, we are wired to try to make sense out of what we see.

Take for example the two photos above. Both were taken during this past week. In neither case did I adjust the objects, but snapped the photos of what I initially saw. Someone who knew nothing of numbers would see neither the “4” nor the “8.” But you and I spotted them both immediately.

The people I know who are truly solid Christians are ones who have made a habit of keeping an eye out for God's presence amid Earth's chaos. You can spot it if you try, and with practice it becomes as easy to see as the “natural numbers” above. The Bible says it best, of course, but it is also summed up in the final stanza of “Once to Every Man and Nation”:

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
--Words by James Russell Lowell

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Paper Sculpture
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 14, 2011

Several years ago I got acquainted with an illustrator whose major specialty was paper sculpture. I remember being deeply fascinated by the evocative images he created.

I was therefore delighted, a couple of weeks ago, to discover a bit of "found" paper sculpture on my very own desk! I immediately grabbed for my camera, and – without adjusting the paper in any way – snapped the above picture.

What you're looking at, on the right, is the bottom of the cover of the "Week of Prayer" issue of the Adventist Review. The words you see express the theme of the week's readings: "God's Saving Grace: The Heart of Adventism." To the left of the magazine are a few sheets of copier paper which happen (at least to my mental eye) to resemble the profile of a person looking to the left. It’s like God’s grace is covering his or her head with a colorful hood or shawl.

My first thought on seeing the above image was, "Isn't that the way it should be for every Christian? We should move through our days conscious that, if we accept it, the grace of God can accompany us everywhere we go." Grace is "unmerited favor," which means that by no means do we deserve God's approval, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, we have it if we accept it.

A personal footnote: The above magazine cover – and many of the illustrations inside – have special meaning for Shelley and me. Ours was the second wedding in the brand-new College View Seventh-day Adventist Church on the campus of Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I was an English instructor. The front of the church features a long, continuous stained-glass panel by artist Maureen McGuire which depicts scenes from Creation to Eden restored. At the very center of the panel—seen at the end of the church’s main aisle—stands Christ with His arms outstretched (see the photo below), and it was toward His outstretched arms that Shelley and I walked as our wedding service concluded.


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Facing the Sun
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ever since I was a boy on the South Dakota prairies I've been intrigued with sunflowers. It fascinated me how, as the summer sun arced across the blue sky, all the sunflowers in a field would keep their faces toward it. If I had had more patience, I would have leaned against a fence and stared for half an hour to see if I could actually see one move.

As Shelley and I took our morning walk the last day of September, we discovered this giant in a neighbor's yard. Sure enough, its face was turned toward the morning sun. And its faithfulness rewarded it with enough sweetness to attract the bees.

You're ‘way ahead of me, right? Keeping our faces pointed in the direction of the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) – and our backs to deeds of darkness – will cause us not only to grow spiritually but develop all the sweet and wonderful qualities of our Savior. And others, who were also created by Him and who consciously or unconsciously hunger for His presence, will be drawn to us.

We face in Jesus' direction, of course, by reading about Him and praying to Him. Read the book of John. Read Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Pray that each of Jesus' wishes for you will be completely fulfilled.


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It’s In The Details (1 of 3 in a “mini-series”)
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Some of my favorite images to take are landscapes – big open scenes of mountains, lakes, fields, etc.  I think of God being big and so powerful, so maybe that’s one of the reasons I am drawn to that type of photography.  Of course God is indeed huge and powerful, but He also is very concerned with the small details.  We know from Luke 12:7 that every single hair on our heads are numbered.  If God knows that type of detail, surely there are life-lessons in the details of the world He created.  With that I decided to focus on the up close and small objects for my next few blogs.

The image above was taken in my backyard – a blade of grass, with tiny water droplets clinging to the veins of the grass.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend a lot of time inspecting my yard's blades of grass.  In fact, besides mowing weekly, I don’t spend much time viewing the grass that makes up my lawn. 

God does.  God knows the lawns of the world, He knows the blades of those lawns and He knows the veins of those blades in which the water sits upon.  Think about that for a second (or two).  It’s unbelievable, first of all, that God cares at that level of detail and second of all, that people believe the earth was created by accident.  I am not going to go into a lesson of creation vs. evolution, instead I want us to focus on the level of LOVE God shows us.  As I focused my lens on the tiny drops of water, on the tiny width of a single blade of grass, let’s focus on the level of love God shows us.  Maybe, just maybe, we can reflect that love back onto others, showing the detail of God’s amazing creation, His heart (big enough for all) and the care He has for every single one of us – big or small. 


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Snowy Plover               
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 

Paul must have felt the fledgling Christian church had much in common with the Snowy Plover as he traveled from place to place to visit the small, emerging churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire.  For just like those newly developed churches, the Snowy Plover’s distribution is described as scarce, living in widely separated places around the world. 

While its common name used here in America could be employed to describe any light-colored sandy beach, its Latin species name alexandrinus, is a reference to Alexandria, Egypt from which the first collected specimen came.  In England it is known as the Kentish Plover, another clue depicting its distribution.  In Washington State there was a mean of 43 adult birds, with all nesting records coming from just two locations.   

Jesus’ own words in Luke 12:32 could seem to be applicable to both groups.  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (NIV) Another parallel between these birds and the early church might be the collective names used for a group of plover.  While such terms as brace, wing, and deceit are employed, the one most fitting in this context is a “congregation of plovers”.  During periods of persecution which the early church endured, the term “endangered species” would also seem to have relevance for both birds and the church. 

Today, when the term Christian is so widespread, even if it only nominally true, it’s hard for us to visualize a small group of faithful believers holding on to what they believed, whatever the cost.  It might be well for us to remember that God isn’t impressed with numbers.  He’s impressed with individuals who are faithful.


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What Time Is It?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 10, 2011

I saw this clock while I was driving by a bank the other day.  I have no idea what happened to the hands or why they weren't replaced.  Perhaps the people at the bank felt that there was no need to show the time since almost everyone has their own timepiece or carries around an electronic device which displays the time. 

Time is a precious commodity.  For children, time may seem to move slowly but as adults, we seem to never have enough of it.  We are always running out of time or trying to meet timely deadlines.

We are taught to tell time at quite an early age.  Children's watches even have digital displays for those who cannot tell time by a clock.  We always want to know when something important is going to take place. 

The most important upcoming event is the return of Jesus to this earth. You will hear all kinds of people stating that they have worked out exactly when this will happen or have had a revelation and know the exact date and time that this event will take place.

We are told in Matthew 24 various things to watch for to tell when this event is near but we are also told that no one knows the day or the hour that it will occur: "But of that day and hour no one know, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.  But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be."  Matthew 24:36-39.

Maybe, in the bigger scheme of things, we don't really need a clock telling us the exact date and time.  We need to be living every moment as if this event is imminent.  "Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."  Matthew 25:13


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A Good Life
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 9, 2011

I enjoyed watching herds of Pronghorn or American Antelope grazing in the fields near our vacation rental house just north of Yellowstone Park. Capable of running speeds up to 60 mph, they are North America's fastest land animal. No other land mammal can keep up with the Pronghorn over a long distance. Their eyes are located far back on their head so they can keep watch even while their head is down during feeding. If we kept our distance while watching them, they continued to eat but remained on alert, keeping an eye on us. When I tried to get closer to get a better photograph, they would dash away remaining close together as a herd. It's amazing that they can pick up movement as far as three miles away! The Pronghorns' speed and remarkable eyesight help keep them safe from predators. They definitely kept alert for anything they perceived that might mean danger. They seemed to be living a good life!

We need to be alert for dangers facing us and preventing us from living a good life. As recorded in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were not as obedient and alert as God had requested and the serpent tempted and tricked them. They were driven from their good life in the Garden of Eden. How can we live a good life today? Let's look at Philippians 4:7,8, one of my favorite texts. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”


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Can You See the Scratches?

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 8, 2011

They’re not easy to see in this hastily-snapped photo, and the above concrete barriers probably aren't the most dramatic examples, but there are long horizontal scratches on these dividers. I've seen others even more scraped and scarred, and you probably have too.

These barriers remind me of God's law – which, interestingly enough, was once engraved into a substance even harder then concrete. Sometimes the Eternal Ten are ignored or even ridiculed by Christians who assume that Christ did away with them on the cross.

Far from it. Think: If "Don't worship idols" and "Don't defame God's name" and "Honor your parents" and "Don't commit adultery" truly have been done away with, we are all in deep trouble.

No, God's laws are barriers between safety and disaster, keeping us on the road and out of the canyons and chasms below. No wonder Psalm 119 – the Bible's lengthiest chapter – is one long infomercial about the benefits of God's law. Check it out:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%20119&version=NKJV

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“Let Me Out of Here!”

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 7, 2011

Back in early June, Shelley and I were taking our morning walk down the trail which borders our neighborhood. I'm always amused by the dogs behind their backyard fences who hear us as we pass. Often their barking seems not to be so much defending their territory as saying, "Let me out of here! I want to be your friend, and join you on your walk!"

Behind the fence in the above photograph was a dog who had discovered a hole between the boards. Out came a little white paw, followed by as much of a black nose as could possibly fit.

Don't you sometimes feel like that little dog, held captive behind the confining fences of this weary, sinful planet? Don't you long to escape to where your Friend is strolling through a happy Eden restored, and wants you there with Him?

The good news is that Jesus is returning to take His friends to a place He has prepared for them. “Let not your heart be troubled,” He says. “You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1 – 3 NKJV

How do you become a friend of Jesus? First, remember that He was your Friend before you even considered becoming His. “ . . . God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 

Then, follow the advice in the final verse of a song I learned not too long ago:

Long ago and far away upon a cross
My friend died for you
So if you'd like to meet Him
And don't know what to do
Ask my friend into your heart
And He'll be your friend too

He's my forever friend
My leave-me-never  friend
From darkest night to rainbow's end
He's my forever  friend
Jesus is my best friend
     --by Charlie Landsborough



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OK?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, October 6, 2011

A little over a week ago, paused at an intersection, I saw a sign I had often seen before, but never with quite the meaning I suddenly thought of.

At first glance, you see an arrow which after a promising start heavenward, has suddenly wilted and plunged to earth. But beneath the point are the letters “OK.” It's like the “OK” is saying, "That's all right. Try again."

Conscientious Christians, as they examine their souls, sometimes feel like this defeated arrow. They know how Jesus wants them to act, speak, and think, but they suddenly find themselves failing.

What the above traffic sign, of course, literally means is, “U-turn OK.” In other words, if you find yourself suddenly going a direction you didn't want to go—such as down toward perdition rather than up toward heaven--it’s okay to turn around. And whoever configured the human traffic intersection where these signs appear has most often provided a helpful wide space in the road so you won't run over any curbs.

Can you spot the spiritual “U-turn OK” in the following verses?

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.  (1 John 1:8 – 2:2)

“Jesus Christ the righteous . . . .” He’s the one who made our U-turns possible, by His sacrificial death on our behalf. Have you surrendered yourself to your Creator and Redeemer? Have you given Him permission to turn you around?


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Cover It Up
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 5, 2011

If this tree represented sin, the lichen covering the branches is love. As it reads in 1 Peter 4:8, "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins." 
 
I have taken images like this before, some like the one above in Eastern Washington, and some in the southern states where you find the "Spanish Moss." I like these images because if you get the right light, it illuminates the moss/lichen and it makes the tree "glow." However, while these images are beautiful, the truth is that the tree is being strangled. The lichen has taken over the tree and it will eventually die, unless something takes care of the lichen.
 
Life is full of things that can easily "strangle" us. God has the power to take care of those things in our lives and turn it around. As I mentioned, if we look at this tree as the sin, we can picture the love of God blanketing us with love. Allow yourself to wear a 'snuggie' of God's love.


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Finding God in Nature  
          

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Many of the photographs on the church’s devotional photo blog site are pictures taken directly from nature.  Seventh-day Adventists seem to have bought into Martin Luther’s ideal that “God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.”  We at least parrot the idea when we talk about Sabbath afternoon nature-walks.  I’ve often wondered how often we actually see God better after having put ourselves in this setting.  I can picture a rolling of the eyes by youth as parents repeat well-worn moralisms they believe tie in directly with the evidence around them.

So, how then do we actually see God in nature?

Generally speaking, I believe it has to be an attitude that has already been developed, a turning towards God with the desire and expectation of seeing Him.  While Henry David Thoreau may have had some transcendental leanings, I believe we can modify slightly his thoughts and apply them to our own seeking.  As a person who intentionally put himself in nature, he expressed it this way: “My profession is always to be alert, to find God in nature, to know God’s lurking places, to attend to all the oratorios and the operas in nature.”  If I understand him correctly, this would mean we should probably leave the iPhones home while we are on our walk lest we miss out on some of those compositions He has in store for us.  And that principle wouldn’t be limited to seeing Him only in nature.  It could be applied in all walks of life, simply being alert to finding God.

And it shouldn’t really be that hard.  After all, doesn’t He want us to find Him?


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Temptation

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 3, 2011

I saw this sign on a stake in the Bellevue Demonstration Garden.  In this garden, people have small plots where they grow flowers and produce.  Apparently, this measure had to be implemented because other people were coming in, seeing the wonderful fruits and vegetables and harvesting them for themselves.

Temptation for the human race on this planet started a long time ago.  We can read in Genesis 3 the account of the temptation in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve had been told that they could eat fruit from any tree in the garden - except one!  They had been told not to eat or touch it "lest you die."  After a discussion with the serpent (the Andrew's Study Bible states that, "Eve's first mistake is to enter into a dialogue with the 'cunning' serpent."), Eve and then Adam ate of the forbidden fruit.  That decision changed everything: their relationship with God, I'm sure their relationship with each other, the loss of their garden home and the introduction of death into this world. 

Sometimes we forget that we are under surveillance and that there are consequences to breaking the laws of God - and man!

There was still hope for Adam and Eve despite the consequences that resulted from that fateful decision.  We also have that same hope (for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23):  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3:16.

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Sunshine
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Recently while in the Tetons, we got up early each morning to watch the sun rise and cast its light on the majestic mountains. The first morning we went to the top of Signal Mountain to watch the sunrise. Since our cabin was located at the edge of Jackson Lake, we decided to stay near the cabin to watch the sunrise the next morning. This is what we saw! I especially enjoyed watching the tallest mountain, Grand Teton at 13,770 feet, the peak shown in my photo. The mountains seemed to “come alive” with color as the sun came up.

There's another light, from another son - Jesus Christ, Son of God. “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.” Psalms 130:6. He can help our lives “come alive” by believing and trusting in Him.

You probably know the words of “There's Sunshine in My Soul Today” written by John R Sweney. The first verse and chorus are as follows:


There's sunshine in my soul today,
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky,
For Jesus is my light.

O there's sunshine, blessed sunshine,
When the peaceful, happy moments roll;
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in the soul.

Is there sunshine in your soul today?


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The Devil in the Hymnal
Photo and Text ©2011 by Maylan Schurch

Sabbath, October 1, 2011

On a Sabbath morning three weeks ago, Shelley and I were in Walla Walla. We had just finished three days of pastors' meetings, and were worshiping at the huge and beautiful Walla Walla University Church. The organ was magnificent, and the Oregon Men’s Chorus was awesome – and inside the front cover of the hymnal in the pew-rack in front of us was this roguish little devil, drawn no doubt by a little human with a devilish light in his eye! 

Seriously, from the first dreadful Day One when Lucifer began to allow selfishness to rule in his heart, Satan has indeed done his best to intrude on, and to disrupt, the true worship of God. In Eden he defamed God's veracity. In the book of Job, he tried to defame humanity to God. And in the wilderness with Jesus, he tried to extort worship from his very Creator.

How does God want us to worship so as to keep the devil out? Jesus has an answer in John 4:24, where He told a woman that "those who worship Him [God] must worship in spirit and truth."

Some Christians seem to act as though worshiping God involves only "spirit." But that's only half the story. Truth must also be present too – in other words, finding out from the Bible just who God is, what He wishes from us, and in what way – and on what day – we should worship Him.

Food for thought, right? Here are some brief Bible studies which reveal truth about true worship:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/church-attendance

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

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


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