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

Daily Photo Parable -  October 2012

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

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

Power Tools
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I got a chuckle out of this little "tool" display earlier in October. No, I didn't see it at a Home Depot or Harbor Freight Tools. Instead, it was on a shelf along with pens and pencils and markers. Because, you see, those three tools are actually ballpoint pens!

That means that the true "tools" are the words someone might write with these pens. And when you come to think of it, words have power. Words can be like a hammer – they can be used to demolish someone, or to nail someone's good reputation more firmly in place.

Words can be like a screwdriver – and a screw itself – anchoring themselves (for good or ill) so tightly to our hearts that we may never forget them. I can remember when my fourth grade teacher (later discovered to be mentally disturbed) told me in front of the rest of the class that I was mentally retarded. If I had not, that morning, come from a home where my mom and dad constantly let me know that they loved me and supported me and had never uttered even the slightest sort of slur like the teacher had, I might have let those words fester in my soul.

Want to read some important words about words, written by some really ancient pens? Check out this link:

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California Quail

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Hillary Clinton’s statement a few years back about it taking a village to raise a child created quite a stir among both supporters and detractors, their positions often falling clearly along party lines.  Whatever your political leanings, it’s obvious that raising a child is a monumental task and while that first responsibility falls upon the parents, the wider community also plays a vital supporting role.  When Paul wrote his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, he began by reminding the believers there how he, along with Silas and Timothy, had worked diligently to make the new converts feel they were truly part of their new Christian family.  “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (2:11,12 NIV)   The Bible Reader’s Companion restates this obvious truth in another way: “The Gospel is communicated most effectively in a context of relationships in which you share yourself and come to know others intimately.”  It’s quite apparent that Paul and his friends took this to heart.
The California Quail offers us another example of this same concept.  A gregarious species, they appear to work well together and exhibit cooperative behavior.  If one should discover a good source of food, it will frequently call others to it.  While the parents generally raise their broods alone, there are clear examples where this task is done collectively.  The benefits to both the parents and their offspring were apparent.  Firstly, the parents of communal broods lived significantly longer, 3.1 years in comparison to the 1.9 years of single broods.  Studies also revealed their productivity over a lifetime was appreciably greater, 36.3 chicks were hatched compared to 15.7 for those parents who worked independently. 
While we are not advocating support of a specific political party or joining a hippie commune for that matter, the advantages of working cooperatively should be apparent.  As social creatures, we live and grow best when surrounded by those who genuinely care about us.  It’s not by accident that the Christian community has been called The Family of God.  After all, doesn’t our Heavenly Father want all of His children united with Him around the throne?  

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A Peaceful Kingdom
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 29, 2012

I took this picture of this man and his great photo op up at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park this summer.  These blacktail deer are not at all afraid of people and will walk right beside you as you hike up to the top of Hurricane Hill. 

These animals are far enough into the park that they have not been hunted by humans for I don't know how many generations and the innate, life-preserving fear of people seen in most deer outside the park seems to not be there.  The people these deer encounter are only there to admire them not to hunt them down for their meat and hides.

I think that this gives us just a glimpse of what it will be like in the earth made new:

Leopards will lie down
    with young goats,
and wolves will rest
    with lambs.
Calves and lions
    will eat together
and be cared for
    by little children.
Cows and bears will share
    the same pasture;
their young will rest
    side by side.
Lions and oxen
    will both eat straw.
Little children will play
    near snake holes.
They will stick their hands
into dens of poisonous snakes
    and never be hurt.
Nothing harmful will take place
    on the LORD’s holy mountain.
Just as water fills the sea,
    the land will be filled
with people
who know
    and honor the LORD.

Isaiah 11:6-9 CEV

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A Structure?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 28, 2012

What is this? You might say a rocky hill or cone. Well, you're sort of right. If you look closely, you'll see holes in the rock. Would you believe this is actually a church? This is the Domed Church or Kubbeli Kilise in Soganli in southern Cappadocia, Turkey.

Early Christians in this area carved their homes and churches in these chimney rocks. Think of the effort using a crude hammer and chisel to create this place of worship. Some of these carved churches have frescoes showing the life of Christ and other early Christian scenes that date back to the 9th and 13th centuries. This secluded valley is filled with numerous cave churches.

Try to imagine what it would be like to worship in a cave church, sitting on a rocky ledge! Aren't you glad that our church is more comfortable than a cave church! Check next week's parable to see what else can be seen in this valley.

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They’re Shorter!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 27, 2012

No, I do not have the hand of the giant. And no, since I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, I did not realize until I spotted an empty carton on the sidewalk the other day that nowadays there are shorter cigarettes.

Companies still sell the longer varieties, which according to a quick online search are 100 centimeters (just shy of 4 inches) long. The ones that fit in the carton above are 72 cm.

I don't have the time to do exhaustive research on why the above tobacco company would create shorter cigarettes, but I have an idea that it might have something to do with how toxic cigarettes have come to be perceived. Maybe revenue is starting to fall off a bit, and the smaller size might palliate a smoker's conscience ("Well, these aren’t quite as long, and therefore not quite as dangerous”).

My wife and I had the privilege of leading three stop-smoking classes a year in the church where we previously pastored. We look back on those times with great affection. The overwhelming majority of the dear people who attended those classes were united in their desire to rid themselves of nicotine forever. They would tell us stories of how, when passing a gas station and longing for one of those individually-wrapped cigarettes, they would resolutely turn the wheel of their car into a lane further from the station, making it impossible to get there without a lot of backtracking. I often wondered whether I, afflicted with that habit, would have had the fortitude of these brave people.

Sin was probably the first ever addiction. Lucifer became proud and selfish in heaven, and this led him to rebel against God, and to lead many angels into that rebellion.

God's plan, into which He has poured much time and the costly resource of His Son, is to eradicate evil forever. For a very complete Bible study on sin and how to protect yourself from it, click this link:

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No Skid Marks
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 27, 2012

Almost exactly two weeks ago, late in the afternoon, I was driving toward our home in South Renton, several blocks away from a major intersection. But suddenly the traffic came to a standstill, and cars actually started turning around. And what was so eerie, there was absolutely no traffic coming from the opposite direction.

So I, too, decided to swivel around and find another way home. But the new way was incredibly traffic-jammed as well. Finally, I gave up and parked my car at a library about a mile from our house, and walked to the major intersection to see what was going on.

What I saw was what you see above. (By the way, the white object below the car door is not the driver's foot. The driver – who amazingly survived the crash – had been taken away by an ambulance by the time I reached the scene.) The car struck a pole which supported a horizontal arm of traffic lights, and bent the pole at quite an angle.

A couple of things were truly puzzling about this crash. First of all, the impact was horrendous. You might expect to see this scene beside a freeway with high speeds, but the speed limit along this street is 40.

The second puzzling thing was that I could not see any skid marks on the street leading up to the impact. The chilling supposition is that for whatever reason, this driver did not step on the brakes.

Since there was no fatality, it didn't make the evening news, and I still haven't heard why this crash happened. It's incredible that someone might fall asleep at the wheel on this stretch of road – after all, he or she would've had to have stopped at, or at least noticed, another traffic light a block to the rear. Maybe his or her right foot slipped off the brake and slammed onto the accelerator.

As I study the photo, and see the autumn sunset behind it, it reminds me about the unexpectedness of Jesus' return. Several times He spoke of it as happening abruptly, without warning, without notice. We won't spot it coming--so we won't be able to make skid marks!

To those who are fearful about the end of the world, this comes as disconcerting news. But to those who have studied about the character and purpose of God and His Son and His Holy Spirit, and who have aligned themselves with Him, Jesus' return will be wonderful news.

To find out more about Jesus' return and how to be ready, click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, October 25, 2012

I can't remember where I was when I took the photo above, but I snapped it a couple of weeks ago. I think what you see here is a display of calendars--quirky ones.

What struck my attention as I passed this rack was that the more sedate "Words to Live By" and "Love" are boxed in, above and below, by "Zombies.”

Have you noticed an increase in interest in both vampires and zombies recently? I suppose if I had done more college coursework in psychology, I could figure this out. I mean, I'm certain that the average reader of a zombie or vampire novel knows for certain that there ain't no such things, just like the majority of the readers of the Harry Potter books probably had the same grip on reality.

I actually wrote a kids’ book – in response to a publisher's request – about the Harry Potter phenomenon. To prepare for the assignment, I read two or three of the Potter books, and I could see their fascination. To me, what was so gripping was probably the same thing that grips any other young person reading any other adventure story – by opening the book, you can enter another world for a time, share in the adventures of the put-upon heroes and heroines, and then safely retreat back to the present by closing the covers. (Also, the further you got into the Potter saga, the more genuinely disturbing the stories were.)

Jesus, in a far loftier discussion, is only one of a number of New Testament people who spoke about spiritual zombie-ism. A central Christian doctrine which arose from their teachings is that, no matter how steadily our heart beats, no matter how normal we look from the outside, if we have not surrendered our sinful natures to our Savior, and have been "born again," we are spiritually dead, and our eternity is measured only by how many heartbeats we have left.

Jesus' earnest, almost fierce, conversations with the Pharisees and priests in the book of John are so hair-raising because He knew that unless He could get through to their hearts the way He got through to Nicodemus', these leaders would greet His Second Coming with screams of horror and regret rather than cries of joy.

Because Jesus cares. He cared for them, and He cares for us.

To find out how to make our long-suffering Heavenly Servant incredibly happy, click the link below.

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Here, Kitty, Kitty . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This past weekend, one of the topics in our Understanding Prophecy meetings, was about what will and what will not be in Heaven.  One of the verses we read described what the new Heaven will be like, Isaiah 11:6-11:
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea."
What an amazing promise we can look forward to.  We can see that sin is one of the items that WILL NOT be in Heaven.  That in and of itself is all we need.  A place without sin gives us the world that God had intended for us, from the very beginning.  It means that when I captured this image of a playful lion cub, if this same scene had been in Heaven (instead of the Masai Mara, Kenya) I could have gone right up and picked up this cub.  Instead, I had to stay in the safer area of a truck, while out on safari.
Let's continue to pray for the second coming of our Saviour, so we can finally live in our home.  If you want to learn more about these promises of eternal life, be sure to check out more information at our next Understanding Prophecy meeting at 7PM on Friday night.

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Cedar Waxwing
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The words stylish and refined seem to perfectly fit the understated elegance of the Cedar Waxwing.  These highly social birds are frequently seen in flocks year round.  Named after the colorful wax-like appendages at the end of the flight feathers, this colorful adornment is actually flattened extensions of the feather shafts which derive their color from astaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment.  The function of this ornamentation is unknown, but speculation suggests it may serve as a sign of social status employed in pair formation.  Seen here gathering nesting material, the female may take five or six days to construct her nest which may require more than 2,500 separate trips.
While their appearance is noteworthy, their behavior is of even greater interest.  Berries make up the largest part of their diet, but unlike gulls and many other birds, waxwings go about feeding with the same refinement as shown in their appearance.  They seem to have a certain generosity or unselfishness seen in few other species.  Should a twig hold a supply of berries that only one bird can reach at a time, members of the flock may form a line and pass berries, beak to beak, down the line so each bird gets a chance to feed.  Even baby waxwings will display this sharing quality.  When pair formation is taking place, part of courtship may involve passing a flower petal back and forth between the two.
We appreciate such behavior, perhaps because it is so seldom seen.  But God’s generosity has been shown in an infinitely greater way.  The Apostle John, writing about the words of John the Baptist, gives us these words he used to describe Jesus’ big-heartedness:  “…Indeed, every one of us has shared in his riches – there is a grace in our lives because of his grace.  For while the Law was given by Moses, love and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16,17 J.B. Phillips)

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 22, 2012

I drove by this old phone booth the other day and noticed that there was no door and no phone in it!  It used to be that these were everywhere and most were in good working order.  If you were out and needed to make a call, you would head to the nearest gas station, convenience store, public transportation hub, mall or restaurant, all of which would be sure to have a pay phone.  You could ask a stranger where the nearest pay phone was and you would be directed to the right place.  You hoped you had enough change or may have had to make a small purchase in order to get some.  Per Wikipedia, "Between 2007 and 2008 the number of pay phones in the United States in operation had declined by 58 percent."

Before people started carrying their own personal phones around with them, a pay phone was your best option when you were away from home.  Now there are so many choices: from simple phones that are nothing but a phone (mine!) to smart phones that have GPS and cameras and Internet access built right in.   We are hardly ever more than a few clicks away from connecting with a friend, a loved one or our boss.  Sometimes I think we are too connected but that's probably a discussion for another photo parable.

Sometimes we can get so busy with all of our daily tasks that we don't take time to connect with our Creator - the most important connection we can make.  For this, we don't need a pay phone or a cell phone or a smart phone.  We can pray anytime and anywhere.  We can thank God for what he has done for us, we can praise Him and we can ask for his care and guidance as we go about our lives. 

In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.  Matthew 6:9-13 (NKJV)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)

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Gathering Food
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 21, 2012

Last week I featured the Armenia Church on Lake Van in Eastern Turkey. If you missed it, you might want to take a look. To my surprise, as we were getting off our small ferry to go onto the island to see the church, groups of women from villages on the lake were getting off other small boats. They were carrying empty bags and knives. I wondered, “what were they going to do!”

They soon started to work - stooping down and digging up plants with their knives – all on the grounds of the church! In all, there must have been about 100 women – stooping and digging. When I worked up enough bravery (remember they all had long knives!), I, with a smile, approached them and pointed to my camera, saying “photo, okay?” Some of them allowed me to photograph them and I'm sharing a couple of those photos with you today.

One handed a plant for me to smell. It smelled like garlic! Later, I learned this wild garlic, an ancestor of modern garlic, is used in much of their cooking. A specialty is to use it to flavor cheese, which we enjoyed sampling. Sometimes an unexpected discovery can be as good as or better than the reason for going somewhere! This was the case when meeting these villagers.

Those of you who are historians may know that Van was one-time capital of the ancient Urartu Empire which rose to power in the 9th century B. C. The Bible states that for 400 years, while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and possibly being forced to help build some of the pyramids, garlic as well as some of the other herbs in the same family, was part of their diet (Numbers 11:5). The women I saw digging wild garlic are today's Eastern Turkish village women, they but looked like they could almost fit in some centuries back, perhaps even in Biblical times!

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Hey, Freshman!
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 20, 2012

During the last couple of Daily Photo Parables I've been featuring pictures I took when I spent a couple of hours in the University area while Shelley's car was being worked on.

While walking along University Avenue ("The Ave”), I spotted this sandwich-board sign outside a pizza place. Isn't this a catchy piece of advertising? Freshmen (and -women) probably still feel a bit of homesickness, and this mention of Mom might evoke a bit of nostalgia.

And then, of course, there is the pizza – most likely a favorite food of most freshmen. I'm not sure to what degree the concept that mom wants you to eat better might influence the freshman’s dining choice. But anyway, this is catchy and creative, and definitely sets this restaurant apart from the other pizza places.

I happen to belong to a denomination who believes that our Father has "called" – and that He wants us to eat better also. It's possible that He has set His sights a bit higher than “100% whole milk Danish mozzarella from grass-fed cows,” but He does want our bodies and minds functioning at their optimum levels.

The first three or four topics in the following link make very clear how interested God is in our good health:

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Notice of Proposed Land Use Action
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 19, 2012

In yesterday's Daily Photo Parable, just below, I mentioned that I'd spent part of the day in the University of Washington area while getting Shelley's car serviced.

I happened to walk by this sign attached to a wire fence. It was the usual "Notice of Proposed Land Use Action" sign, in this case printed large so people could read it from a distance.

As you see, however, graffiti spray-painters have attacked it with a number of different colors and cryptic messages, so that it's no longer possible to discern what the proposed land use action is.

I think I can probably figure out what they're trying to signal. Let me show you a blow-up of the building you can see to the right of the picture above through the fence.


What you see through that fence is an entire abandoned building which over the last couple of years has been thoroughly covered in graffiti. (A month or so ago I showed a picture of that building in one of these Daily Photo Parables.)

Evidently, the land use action is announcing that finally the owners of this property are going to retake control of it and put it to a different purpose. The graffiti artists are naturally aggrieved by this, and this is the way they have chosen to express their emotions.

When I saw that defaced sign, I immediately thought of our precious planet, created by God and designed for a particular "land use." Sadly, the devil has taken it hostage, and has defaced and distorted God's wonderful works to the point where it's sometimes difficult to discern its original purpose or even Deity Himself.

However, just as in the photo above – a "proposed land use action" sign is official. Is a statement from the owner about his or her intent. God owns this planet, and one day He will assume control of it and return it to His original purpose.

Want to see some official documentation? Check out the link below:

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What's Your Story?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, October 18, 2012

A week or so ago, while getting Shelley's Honda serviced at a North Seattle repair shop, I hopped a bus down to the University of Washington bookstore. There I saw the book rack you see above, and I gazed at it with interest.

The reason was that because the rack was placed directly in front of a book printing machine – and the sign at the top of this rack (out of view of the camera) said that these were books which had actually been printed on that machine.

The machine – and I'm sure there is a more specific name for it – is about the size of a large copier you would find at a workplace. But this book printing machine is designed to make you an instant author. As I understand it, all you have to do is to bring a disk or a thumb drive which contains your manuscript and maybe even a photo for the cover, and the machine will do the rest.

I have a feeling that certain amount of additional formatting has to go into it, but the bottom line is, the machinery will start to turn, and you'll hear shuffling sounds from inside, and out will pop a book – your book! (I actually saw it printing a book on a visit to the store several months ago. After being collated and glued and trimmed, a book popped out a little chute, and landed with a clunk out where you could pick it up and take a look at it.)

As it happens, the two left books displayed above are by the same author. The subtitle of Dude, the one on the left, is "Part dog adventure, part crime novel, all love story." The center book is called Mars Versus Maple School, and is subtitled "When you're an overweight Little League batboy, science fiction can save your life."

You can't easily see it, I'm sure, but peeking up from the rack below is a book called The School Years: The Emotional and Social Development of Children.

To me, seeing that that book rack was a rather tender experience. Here are several people who wanted to write a book badly enough that they could taste it. Perhaps some or all of them had tried to go the traditional route – submitting the book to a publisher through an agent. But if that was the case, there had been no takers.

Then one day they heard about this wonderful machine at the University Bookstore – this marvelous device which gives them total control, and which would enable them (after paying whatever fee the U Bookstore charges) to actually hold in their hands a book they have written.

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul mentioned his belief that his gospel message had had a deep personal effect on those Corinthian Christians – such an effect that they were living it out in their lives. “Clearly," he insisted, "you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." (2 Corinthians 3:2 NKJV)

Wouldn't it be wonderful you and I could live such a transparent Christian life that Jesus could consider us a book revealing the truth about Him?

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Wings of A Feather….

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
God has created some amazing things and it’s always fun to capture a few on film (unique or common).  This particular shot was taken at the Woodland Park Zoo, in a ‘birdhouse’ where I shot this (most common) parakeet – the Budgerigar or “Budgie” (AKA English Parakeet). As God is the creator of all, it’s fun to read Psalms 148 as it describes several things He has created.  --- Thank You for creating the amazing gifts You have given us.
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!

Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all you stars of light!
Praise Him, you heavens of heavens,
And you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For He commanded and they were created.
He also established them forever and ever;
He made a decree which shall not pass away.

Praise the LORD from the earth,
You great sea creatures and all the depths;
Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
Mountains and all hills;
Fruitful trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle;
Creeping things and flying fowl;
Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and maidens;
Old men and children.

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above the earth and heaven.
And He has exalted the horn of His people,
The praise of all His saints—
Of the children of Israel,
A people near to Him.

Praise the LORD!
            -- Psalm 148


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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Even its name intrigued me as a kid.  The lavender- shaped petals seemed to provide the ideal covering for the paws of the imagined Red Fox in the back yard.  They also fit my small fingers rather well, and were almost as much fun as olives at the dinner table.  The tubular flowers also allowed me to capture, at least briefly, bees which were gathering nectar in the inner recesses of the blossoms.  Just a pinch on the outer portion of the petal and the wild animal was now under my control.  What to do with my trophy was a different issue.  I rather felt like the way Abraham Lincoln described the uneasy position of the United States during the Mexican-American War; like having a wolf by the ears – afraid to hold on and afraid to let go.
Foxgloves were everywhere.  This introduced species which had found its way into American gardens and countryside found its way from Europe and had become deeply entrenched in American soil.  Only later did I learn its benefit to mankind as a cardiac glycoside.  Digitalis, which is also the genus name of the plant, was used to treat cardiac failure by increasing the blood output of the heart intensifying the force of contraction of the heart muscles.  Many lives have been saved through use of this common flower.
In our day and age it has become popular to minimize the importance of small things in favor of seeing the “big picture”.  Both views are needed to gain a holistic view.  Paul seems to support this view in 1 Corinthians 5:6:  “Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me.  You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that.” (The Message)  May the Lord give us the wisdom to view broadly while not losing sight of the details which make up the fabric of our lives.

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Joined to the Vine
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 15, 2012

I love this time of year when the local farmer's markets have lots of fresh produce that has just been harvested.  There are all sorts of fruits and vegetables:  plums, corn, lots of varieties of squash, apples and greens.  The tomatoes are my favorites; there is nothing that compares.  I like looking at the heirloom varieties but they are usually too expensive to purchase. I just got a couple of red, ripe, juicy tomatoes from a friend who had grown them in her garden and the one I had in a salad tasted wonderful!  The mass produced tomatoes in the grocery store just pale in comparison.

Tomatoes are technically fruits which grow on vines although we tend to use them more like vegetables.  Jesus had a very interesting illustration about vines and fruit:

Jesus said to his disciples:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts away every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already clean because of what I have said to you.

Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me.  John 15: 1-5 (CEV)

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Medieval Armenian Church
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 14, 2012

Located on the Akdamar Island on Lake Van, Eastern Turkey, the Akdamar Kilisesi or Church of the Holy Cross is significant because it's the only surviving medieval Armenian church (now a museum) with frescoes still intact. It is located in a beautiful setting overlooking Lake Van and the high mountains, still with snow when we were there in April. The almond trees in the foreground were just beginning to bud. The church's 10th century masterwork of Armenian art tells many biblical stories. Even though the frescoes inside are faded, the exterior is decorated with well-preserved reliefs depicting many biblical scenes. What biblical story do you think the relief below depicts?

Sadly, the Armenian Genocide during and after World War I resulted in the elimination of most of the Armenians in Turkey with a large population in the Lake Van area. Even though the Turkish government had started to destroy this church in the 1950's, people interested in its preservation won out. Some of the church exposed to bullet holes and vandalism has been restored, showing a respect for the Armenian history and culture in Turkey.

Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, and is therefore one of the most ancient Christian communities. They claim to trace their beginning to the missions of Bartholomew and Thaddeus in the 1st century.

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The Buggy Lineup
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 13, 2012

This past Thursday I spent a few minutes at the Honda repair shop which I have been patronizing for nearly 30 years, in order to have them install a new battery.

Directly across the street from the Honda shop is a store which sells used children's items. During my previous visits to the Honda shop, I've once in awhile glanced over at the children's store and seen little trikes and play stations, but this was the first time I'd seen this immense quantity of baby buggies. And you're seeing only part of the lineup.

I've never had kids, so my experience with baby buggies has been from at-a-distance observation rather than hands-on. I have seen moms standing at the rear of their open hatchbacks in parking lots, holding a baby with one hand and collapsing a buggy with the other, and with the same hand deftly hoisting it into the vehicle.

The above buggy lineup seems filled with still-usable vehicles, probably all of them checked out for safety and reliability. That sight got me to thinking about other needs which children have. How about spiritual nurture? We can drop a lot of cash on a great baby carrier, or a top-of-the-line prep school, but how much of a priority do we make preparing the child's soul for eternity?

I'm acquainted with several parents who are indeed taking great care with, and sacrificing deeply for, their children's religious education. And it's paying off.

If you're looking for a quality Seventh-day Adventist Christian school, check out the following two websites:

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Pretty Tricky . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 12, 2012

Almost exactly a week ago, while gassing up at my favorite station near our home, I actually read the instructions on the gas pump. I grinned at sly psychological trick this display's designers had pulled.

"1-- Remove Nozzle" is blameless. It simply shows a hand removing the nozzle from its holder. “3 -- Operate [something out of view of the camera]” is also innocuous, because even though we can't see the entire instruction, it appears to depict someone squeezing the nozzle’s handle and successfully pumping gas.

But it was “2 -- Select Grade” that caused me to smirk. Notice that there are three square buttons, and these correspond to three real buttons on the gas pump. However, the little hand is pointing seductively to the button furthest to the right – and at my gas station, that button dispenses the most expensive gasoline!

I don't actually know, and there's no way of knowing without hidden cameras and post gassing-up interviews, whether or not the average person is swayed by this subtle suggestion. Chances are, regular customers at the station blissfully ignore the instructions the way I do.

I'm wondering, however, how often you and I fall prey to other and more powerful suggestions. The other day I heard a radio interview about how insidiously food companies advertise to children, advertise so effectively that soon the kids are beseeching mom and dad for the latest snack or cereal or toy.

It might be a good idea to keep an eye out for messages you and I might be receiving, messages which lead us to actions or ingestions or inhalations which are less than healthy – physically or spiritually.

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Stick With Him . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, October 11, 2012

This past Tuesday afternoon as I was driving home, I spotted this car, wrestled my camera from its pouch on my hip, and snapped this picture.

I frankly have no clue as to what message this window-painter was trying to communicate. It seems to be addressed to someone who, in the view of the painter, might be in danger of not "sticking with" some unknown "him" until some mysterious "homecoming."

Granted, autumn is normally the time that colleges have their homecoming celebrations, and it is autumn now. Could this be referring to a young woman – perhaps a recent college student – who might be attending her college’s homecoming celebration? If so, why is it so important that she stick with "him" until homecoming? Why shouldn't she stick with him forever? What would homecoming have to do with their association?

As I always try to do with photos of legible car license plates, I have blotted this one out. And, unless you yourself can offer me some kind of clue, I have no further data on which to decide what's going on here.

You may, however, be suspecting why I snapped the photo in the first place. Jesus promised in the Bible that He would return to this earth – which for Him is a homecoming – and His fervent desire is that we remain close to him until that dramatic but joyous event.

And if that's what He wants, that's what I want too. How about you?

If you like to learn how to draw closer to Jesus, click the link directly below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On  a recent trip to Europe, one of our favorite spots was Avignon, France.  I snapped this shot from our bus as we were moving along.  I don’t speak French (hard enough time with English) so I can’t tell you what the other signs say, or if they are the names of other towns.  I can’t imagine driving in another country and attempting to read the signs, decipher and make sense of it all.

Life is full of signs – some are very straightforward, while others are not as easy to read or understand.  In preparing for this write-up, I did some searching for the word “signs” in the Bible. I found lots of uses,  but this particular one in 1 Samuel seemed appropriate for the context. Here we have a message to Samuel, which he is relaying on to Saul, the young man who is to be the first king of Israel. Notice how Samuel explains specifically what Saul should do:

“Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you. You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.”  (1 Samuel 10:6 – 8)

We don’t always this full disclosure. Sometimes we have to dig for the signs and the truths about those signs.  The good news is – if we want to find the answers, God will allow us to.  We might be able to discover the meaning of these signs, through prayer, through study, through the help of a friend, or a combination of all.  If you are seeing signs and aren’t sure what they mean, feel free to visit our church during our current meetings – “Understand Prophecy" seminar – learn more about the meetings here:

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Spider on Berries
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One way or another it had managed to catch a ride from the berry vines onto the bowl on the kitchen counter.  I was glad I had found it, but somehow an earlier discovery would have seemed better.  It appears it may be a Goldenrod Crab Spider.  Small as it was, and with as many hiding places as were provided by the mound of sweet fruit, it’s possible it might have gone undetected. 
Christ’s words as recorded by Luke use the spider to convey the idea of something that is out of place.  "Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing—you're at least decent to your own children. And don't you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?"  (Luke 11:10-13  The Message)
We can have confidence that the Lord desires only the best for us, and the very best comes through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the case of the spider.  It found its way down the drain as the berries were being washed.  But briefly it provided, in a reverse way, a reminder of the goodness of our Gift-giving God.

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Living Water
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 8, 2012

I was up in Hope, British Columbia, this past summer and one really hot afternoon I decided to to to the Othello Tunnels (part of the old Kettle Valley Railway line that has now been turned into an amazing trail through the Coquihalla Canyon).  The walk includes going through tunnels and crossing over bridges with great views of the canyon and the Coquihalla River.

There were a lot of people taking advantage of the coolness of the shade, enjoying the sounds of the water and watching and cheering on the steelhead which were struggling through the rapids. 

One lady, who I didn't know, had an empty water bottle and told me she was planning to go fill it in the river.  I advised her against it as even though the water looked clear and was nice and cold, who knows what kind of microscopic water borne pathogens were in it.  I'm not sure if the river runs through any agricultural areas above the canyon but I saw people swimming up above where she was proposing to fill her water bottle.

There is nothing like a nice cold refreshing drink of water when you are really thirsty.  We need water to survive.  According to the NASA website, 70% of the human body is water. 

The Bible tells us about something much more important than mere physical water.  In John 4, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman, who was getting water from a well,  if she could give him a drink of water. 

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)  Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”  The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.  John 4:9-14  (Message)

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Hagia Sophia: A Christian Church For Almost 1000 Years
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thought to be the single greatest architectural achievement of the Byzantine Empire, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (formerly called Constantinople) was first a church, then a mosque and now a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A Christian church for almost 1,000 years, this magnificent structure then served as a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottomans, who added minarets and fountains. Being amazed with all the beautifully decorated tiles, mosaics, frescoes and fine marble as well as grandeur I'll have to agree that it's one of the most impressive structures in the world. In 1934, the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, designated it a museum to be shared with the world.

Its first church service was in December of the year 537 after five years of construction and draining the treasury. More than 5,000 architects, stonemasons, bricklayers, plasterers, sculptors, painters and mosaic artists along with the greatest scholars of physics and mathematics of the time, worked around the clock to get it completed, its design influencing architects for centuries. For a thousand years this church had the greatest dome in the world.

The Hagia Sophia was built on the site of two earlier churches. The first one was inaugurated in February of the year 360, but burned down after riots in the city. The second church, with a wooden roof opened in October 415 but burned to the ground in January 532, after which design and construction of the the Hagia Sophia began.

Several marble blocks from this second church remain on the grounds. The one in my photo immediately above shows reliefs depicting 12 lambs representing the 12 apostles and the Lamb of God. It was originally part of the monumental front entrance. In Mathew 10, Jesus called his twelve disciples saying “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” v. 16

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Book of Reflection
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 6, 2012

Late last month Shelley and I visited the downtown Bellevue Barnes & Noble bookstore, and since the display of fancy blank journals is shrewdly positioned near the center aisle down which the bookish person travels toward the rest of the store’s treasures, I did as I always do – stopped and looked at the fancy journals.

It's been years since I actually bought a fancy journal. I have discovered that when you buy a fancy journal, your (or at least my) brain freezes up, because I assume that since it is a fancy journal, I must record within it only fancy thinking, or at least fancy writing. Decades of writing experience have taught me that I do not think “fancy” right off the bat. Instead, I make little scrawly notes and outlines, and after a good bit of buffing I'm satisfied with the results. So any fancy journal I own contains perhaps a page and a half of cautious and unnaturally neat handwriting, and then nothing. Why waste good paper on ratty-looking notes?

Anyway, as I discovered during our recent Barnes & Noble trip, the latest and greatest innovation in fancy journals is this suitably leathery and well-worn-looking volume with a mirror on the front. I guess the idea is that, assuming one has the courage to put actual ink to actual paper in this fancy journal, one first stares into his or her own face, communing with one's soul. I did actually stare at my own image in the mirror, and found nothing excessively inspiring there, so I didn't buy the journal.

But after all, don't most of us already own a Journal which can show our soul’s true appearance? True, somebody else has already written in that Journal – 750,000 words worth – but the more I study its pages the more I see myself.

Just a week ago, one of our Sabbath School feature presenters (Robert Howson, incidentally, whose Tuesday “photo parables” on this very page are enjoyed by many) suggested that rather than simply reading a text here and a text there all the time, we Christians need to study Bible books as a whole. He actually gave us a quiz, reading summary descriptions of smaller and less-known Bible books, and asked us to guess which book we thought each described. An intelligent young woman in the congregation got them nearly all right, which flustered us gray-heads not a little!

Why not make it a practice to read – for example – the tiny books which the "minor prophets" wrote? You'll be surprised at how they reflect what might be going on in your own heart.

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Heaven Through the Haze
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 5, 2012

Those living in the Puget Sound area will agree with me that the weather the last two months has been wonderful. However, in mid-September we had a few foggy mornings, as you'll see in the photo above.

Whoever owns this house in our neighborhood has lavished much time and care and expense in turning their front yard into a paradise of roses and other flowers. On our morning walks, Shelley always pauses to gaze, and often to sniff.

But as you can see, the autumn haze in the photo above has dimmed the display into little more than shapes and shadows. Even a closer photo (below) doesn't do the flowers their full justice.

For whatever reason, the Bible doesn't have a whole lot to say about Heaven. Maybe if God tried to describe Heaven to us in detail, it would be like us going back to the late 1700s and trying to describe the iPad to Benjamin Franklin. In that sense, using what little we do know about our eternal home, it is indeed something like viewing Heaven through a haze.

However, the Bible does contain 750,000 words which describe God and how much He cares and how He was willing to sacrifice His Son (with with the Son’s complete agreement and participation) so that we might have eternal life. So, after all, who really cares about what Heaven is like, when we know that the God who created the real Eden, and who so effectively rescued us from our sad wandering outside its gates, will provide for us a place of unimaginable joy?

To read some of what the Bible does say about heaven, click the link just below:

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Thousands Will See It
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I don’t have actual statistics on exactly how many cars pass our church readerboard every day. Hundreds, at least. I put the above message on the board on Tuesday, so by this Friday night—when “Understand Prophecy” begins, there could be a potential thousand people who will have viewed it. And of course more will catch sight of it next week, and all through October.

Our head deacon Greg also put up two large and well-lighted banner signs advertising the meetings. While he was putting those signs up Sunday, a passerby stopped and expressed interest.

“Thousands will see it” could also refer to Jesus’ return, about which this prophecy series will speak in detail. If you’re in the area, I warmly invite you to experience “Understand Prophecy,” which starts Friday evening, October 5, at 7 p.m. There are kids’ programs ages birth through 10 as well.

To learn more about each night’s topics, click the link just below:

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Flying With a Purpose

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
This last weekend we had the opportunity to hang out in of one the great spots of the northwest – the Deception Pass area.  The specific location is perfect for some (or all) of the following: hiking, bird watching, tidal pool exploring, and just relaxing completely.  As you can see, I took some of my time capturing this particular bird.  I had watched him all afternoon and witnessed him (or her) making a few attempts at a seafood lunch.  Finally, in the late afternoon, persistence paid off.  As you can see, the fish was on menu. 
I love photographing Bald Eagles.  Any chance I get – at the zoo, in the wild – anywhere.  For me, it’s the beauty and majesty of the bird, the power it symbolizes, and of course the “hunt,” as they aren’t as abundant as a robin, crow or sparrow.
We know from our U.S. history that the Bald Eagle was established as our country’s symbol of freedom.  We see its head on government seals, our money, and just about anything patriotic.  For our country, it’s a symbol of power and strength.  In the New King James Version, of the Bible, the word ‘eagle’ is mentioned 33 times.  In many of these verses, the context is a positive one: freedom: (Ex. 19:4, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.”.  In other context the eagle is mentioned in speed/swiftness, (Deut. 28:49, “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand…”.  Still another is about safety, (Deut. 32:11) “As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, Spreading out its wings, taking them up, Carrying them on its wings…”
I would venture to guess, that not all (if any) of these verses were specifically referencing the North American bird we see in the image above, but I do believe that as God created all things, there is a purpose for all things.  There is certainly a purpose for each one of us.  Maybe we are on earth to be: power, strength, swiftness of protection – regardless, we have a purpose.  Ask God what your purpose is – He would love to show you.

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Mount Rainier
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A recent trip to Mount Rainier got me thinking how the various Bible writers looked at mountains.  Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that their perspectives were as varied as were their backgrounds and purposes in writing.  For many, the term was used to depict a specific geographical location such as Mt. Carmel or Nebo. Then there were those who used the term more symbolically to represent a place of refuge and healing while for others it symbolized fire and destruction.   For some, mountains represented a source of life-giving water and a place of abundance, while others envisioned only wilderness and desolation.  Some saw mountains as a place of exultation or a holy mountain while for others it was a place of pagan worship.  It provided a vantage point, both literally and symbolically.  Many used it to represent a place of stability and permanence, something that was immovable, but when compared to God’s power it was relegated to a mere pile of dust.

Typical of this last usage is the Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 40:4 which says, “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.”  (NIV)  These words were repeated by John the Baptist, referring to the work of the Coming Deliverer, Jesus Christ.  (Luke 3:5)

The words of a more contemporary writer, John Muir, reflect those of earlier writers who drank in and were enriched by the rich beauty of mountains.  You can almost picture him waking up after spending a cold night beside a glacier-fed stream: “How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!”  And he continues, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  I’m sure among the various biblical writers there were some who would give their second to that observation.

While we might be tempted to digress into a lengthy diatribe about volcanism, the Old Testament prophet Amos gives us a fitting summary:  “God is the one who made the mountains and created the winds. He makes his thoughts known to people; he changes day into night. He walks on the heights of the earth. This is his name: the LORD God Almighty!”  (Amos 4:13  GNT)

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A Falling Down Barn
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 1, 2012

I saw this old barn this past summer when my folks were showing me a new (to me) part of the British Columbia interior.  There was a nearby house that was equally run down and we couldn't help but think about the people who used to live here; why did they leave and where did they go?   

Sometimes we get discouraged with our circumstances and we can feel that our lives are just like that old barn.  We need to pray, no matter what is going on in our lives, but when we are discouraged, we can look for inspiration from the psalmist's prayer which is paraphrased in The Message:

I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
    Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
    train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
    so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
    build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
    grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
    I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
    GOD, don’t let me down!
I’ll run the course you lay out for me
    if you’ll just show me how.  Psalms 119:25-32  (The Message)

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