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

Daily Photo Parable -  October 2014

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

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

Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 31, 2014

I sometimes wonder if advertising executives ever wake up screaming in the night. I think that I would strongly be tempted to do so if I had been responsible for a little letter I received earlier this week.

The first thing that hits your eye in the photo above (which was enclosed in the envelope) is probably the wincing woman who has just fallen on the floor. Fortunately she is wearing around her neck the product that an advertising executive is trying to sell. A good product, I’m sure, and nothing wrong with trying to place it in the hands – or around the necks – of as many people as possible.

However, I was astounded at the envelope it arrived in, part of which you can see at the right of the photo. I have received mailings from this company for many years, first addressed to my mother (long deceased) asking her if she would like to sign up for a prepaid cremation. Not hearing from her, these folks started approaching me directly about my own wishes.

Up to this week, they have always done this quite tastefully. But why they ever decided to include a Life Alert advertisement in the same envelope, I don’t know. I’m probably not the first to arrive at the black-humor message this juxtaposition is communicating: “Did you fall on the floor, Grandma? Too bad! Might as well cut to the chase and get cremated!”

This “you’re a throwaway” message was of course far, far from the advertiser’s mind. But the chilling result of a belief in macroevolution from lower life forms and eventually from an electrical discharge in swamp-water is to convince the believer, consciously or subconsciously, that there’s nothing more to life than one’s last breath.

But the truth is far different, and not only that, but a far better fit to the intelligent design with which the mind was created.

Want to read a great set of Bible assertions about where you and I and everything we see come from? Click the link immediately below.

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Powered Up
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, October 30, 2014

A couple days ago, I was sitting at my computer when suddenly the power went out and my computer made a sad little click as the monitor went black. A second later, I heard an explosion that I assume was a transformer blowing. I looked out my window and the power line going to our neighbor's house was shaking quite a bit. Up at the road everything looked normal (except the lines were shaking there, too), but close to half a mile down the road a tree had fallen on the lines and snapped the top of one of the poles off. The shock from the power lines snapping must have traveled down the lines and around a couple corners to where I saw them shaking. Fortunately, the power company had it fixed in about 24 hours.

The Bible talks frequently about God's power:

1 Corinthians 2:5:
"That your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

2 Timothy 1:7:
"For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

Let's try to be as excited about getting God's power in our lives as we are about getting our electrical power back on.

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Going, Going, Gone
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
I recently read that an extremely rare white rhino died in Kenya, leaving only 6 in the world. The above picture is not of a rare white rhino but of a black rhino, I was able to photograph while in the Masai Mara National Reserve.  The black rhino is not nearly as close to extinction as the white rhino but still not the easiest animal to get a good image of, as they tend to be more ‘shy’ around vehicles.
I realize this wouldn’t be the first species to become extinct, but when we hear of stories like this, we are reminded of how sin takes lives.  It got me thinking about how we currently live in a world where there is a finite amount of time.  During that time, we can see and feel pain. That said, as believers, we have the hope that there is something much better waiting for us. We have the hope of eternal life, with our Creator. Without that hope, the world looks very dark and completely depressing.
We can base our hope on an amazing passage found in John 14, “Let not your heart be troubled; 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, thereyou may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”. We can cling to that promise. Instead of focusing on the "ugly" time we have left on this planet, let's focus on the eternity we have in Paradise.

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Acorn Woodpecker
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Acorn Woodpecker, seen here hollowing out a nesting spot, is the most social of all of our woodpeckers.  They live in family units of up to 16 individuals, store food in communal granaries, and even raise young cooperatively, with young birds assisting adults in rearing a new brood.  It’s been suggested that Walter Lantz, the creator of Woody Woodpecker, may have patterned that famous call after the raucous laughter of the Acorn Woodpecker.

Their practice of storing up a supply of acorns, which makes up fully half of their diet, provides them with sufficient nourishment throughout the winter season when insects and sap are less available.  But all efforts, even those agreed upon by the group at large, do not always end productively.  An example of this occurred when a group of these woodpeckers in Arizona worked diligently to store up 490 pounds of acorns which they deposited in a wooden water tank.

Maybe these birds can be excused, but we have Christ’s words to remind us about establishing proper priorities.  “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or - worse! - stolen by burglars.  Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars.”  (Matthew 6:19,20 The Message)

For a brief but fascinating video from Cornell University on the Acorn Woodpecker,  click the link immediately below.

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The Covered Bridge
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 27, 2014

This photo is of the Grays River Covered Bridge in SW Washington.  The bridge was built in 1905 by a family who owned land on both sides of the river and it was covered in 1906 because the planks became too slippery for livestock to cross the bridge safely when they got wet.

Sometimes we find that our paths become slippery when we encounter the storms of life.  These are the times when we need to remember Who is directing our paths.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:6  (NKJV)

We are also told that God will take care of us.

He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Psalm 91:4 (NLT)

We can pray with David:
Uphold my steps in Your paths,
That my footsteps may not slip.
Psalm 17:5  (NKJV)

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Parable of the Lost Sheep
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 26, 2014

On our way to visit a Bedouin family in the Judean wilderness, we traveled out of Beersheba into the Negev Desert in Israel.  It was hot and the desert seemed bleak except for a settlement here and there.  Mounds of shifting sand settled in some areas. In other areas, rocks and sun-loving small bushes dotted the landscape.  A few camels grazed on the dusty terrain, searching for a few blades of dried grass. A number of shepherds and goat herders watched over their animals. I took this photo of a goat herder and his goats through the window of our moving mini-bus.  

Each shepherd makes hs own particular whistle sound so his sheep follow him.  At nighttime, shepherds herd their sheep into a rock enclosure for safety.  The opening is just large enough for one sheep to go into the enclosure at a time, thus, allowing the shepherd to count them as they enter. Seeing the shepherds and goat herders reminded me of the Parable of the Lost Sheep as recorded in Luke 15:4-7.  Tax-collectors and other bad characters were crowding in to hear Jesus talk while the Pharisees and doctors of the law began grumbling among themselves and said that Jesus welcomes sinners and even eats with them!  Jesus answered them with this parable:  “If one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the missing one until he has found it?  How delighted he is then! He lifts it on to his shoulders, and home he goes to call his friends and neighbors together.  “Rejoice with me!’ he cries.  ‘I have found my lost sheep.’  In the same way, I tell you, there will be greater joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.” NEB  Yes, let’s rejoice!

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Playland Activities
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 25, 2014

Last Saturday night Shelley and I stopped by our local Fred Meyer store (if you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, think Walmart or Kmart or Target but on a slightly smaller—and I think classier—scale).

I almost laughed out loud when I spotted this current-month calendar at the play area, where parents can safely drop off their kids while they shop. Wouldn’t you like a life like this? A whole week of “story time,” then the next week filled with “card games,” then “candy land,” then something that looks like “chutes and ladders,” and finally “color time.”

If I remember right, the play area had a little doorway for children. The idea was that if you were small enough so that your head didn’t touch the top of the frame, you would be young enough to enjoy the activities, and likely wouldn’t get bored and start bullying kids a lot younger than you.

Heaven of course isn’t going to be one long round of coloring or story time. From all that the Bible says, it will basically be picking up where Eden left off, and we’ll be even be able to “build houses and inhabit them.” And, truth be told, wouldn’t a week of only “story time” get a bit old after awhile?

If you’d like a thoughtful Bible study about what heaven will be like, and why you won’t want to miss it, click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 24, 2014

On a walk this past Sunday noon (if you live in the Seattle area you’ll remember it was a wonderfully sunny day), Shelley and I spotted this dramatic sight. On its way to the ground, this autumn leaf had somehow become caught in exactly this position in a woven wire fence. (Nope, we didn’t adjust it.)

Do you sometimes feel like this leaf? I do. Knowing that we were created for eternal life and not gradual decay, it’s hard to endure youth’s departure.

What’s so heart-clutching about the photo above is that even though this leaf is trapped in this awkward place, it still glows gloriously with a light from above, a light which reveals the leaf’s wondrous structure and thereby the warm enthusiasm and power of its Creator.

Feeling trapped and useless? You aren’t—if you let God’s love glow through you.

For a mini-course of Bible verses on love (God’s and how we can reflect it), click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, October 23, 2014

I was sitting in line for the ferry from Whidbey Island when I snapped this picture.  I wondered, what does it mean?

Happy...what? Was a word missing? Happy Birthday? Happy Anniversary? Happy holiday? Happy sightseeing? You'll be happy if you drink our coffee? Or just a reminder to be happy?

In Ecclesiastes 3: 11, 12 Solomon says, "He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live."

Be happy, and do good.  A good reminder!

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Strength In God
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Most of time, when I sit down to write one of these photo parables, I attempt to get the right image for the right write-up. I get inspiration from something I’ve recently experienced or discussed with someone. Sometimes my inspiration is from the image I find.  This one however, came directly from scripture – doing some reading in Psalms and it just popped.  We can always use more strength, in fact, all the strength we need is from God.
Read this and don’t worry about the image – just focus on the words (if you must know – the shot was taken in the Japanese Botanical Gardens in Seattle).

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

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Life in a Tide Pool
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
We live in a world compounded by a mixture of truth and error, of partial truths and hidden agendas.  So it might seem unlikely that a Christian devotional would cite a writer on Celtic mythology, but let’s let the words speak for themselves. Catlin Matthews writes: “Keep your sense of proportion by regularly, preferably daily, visiting the natural world.”  Because of the company she keeps, it would seem right to be careful in quoting her as an authority, but at least on the surface, her words seem to have a ring of truth.
In our temporal world we have so many things of little importance that distract us.  Even things that are true have the tendency to take on greater import than they deserve.  Nature, on the other hand, offers a way of bringing things back into balance.  Look into a tide pool and what do you see?  Sea urchins and a Giant Red Chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri) among other things.  Like the other 900 to 1000 chitons of the world, it has a shell composed of eight pieces called valves.  But unlike many others in its group, this one’s leathery flesh, called a girdle which holds the plates together, is apparent externally.
But perhaps what we don’t see is of even more importance.  Without eyes or tentacles, the chiton is still able to live successfully in an environment to which it is perfectly suited.  Like all the other organisms in that small pond, both visibleand invisible, their very existence offers praise to their Maker.  Should we be tempted to worship the complexity of nature itself, the Apostle Paul helps us put this into the correct perspective.  “Oh, what a wonderful God we have!  How great are his wisdom and knowledge and riches!  For everything comes from God alone.  Everything lives by his power, andeverything is for his glory.  To him be glory evermore.”  (Romans 11:33,36  The Living Bible)

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Dress Code
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 20, 2014

Have you ever been somewhere and you were dressed all wrong for the occasion?  One time, my sister and brother-in-law and I were visiting Vancouver, British Columbia, and we went out for brunch at a restaurant.  We were dressed casually in jeans and t-shirts or sweatshirts.  The restaurant was very nice and any other time our casual attire would have been just fine but it happened to be Easter Sunday and everybody else was dressed in their best!

The photo was taken up near Mt Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia. That's Mt Robson in the background.  As you can see, the people on the raft trip were dressed appropriately for their adventure with life jackets and survival suits and helmets in the event they fell into the icy river. Here’s a closeup.

 I didn't go rafting myself but it was interesting to see the rafters load up and unload further downriver when they had to portage around a waterfall.   

As Christians, we need to dress appropriately and the Bible gives us the following instructions:  

Finally, brothers and sisters, draw your strength and might from God. Put on the full armor of God to protect yourselves from the devil and his evil schemes. We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powersand demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.

And this is why you need to be head-to-toe in the full armor of God: so you can resist during these evil days and be fully prepared to hold your ground. Yes, stand—truth banded around your waist, righteousness as your chest plate, and feet protected in preparation to proclaim the good news of peace. Don’t forget to raise the shield of faith above all else, so you will be able to extinguish flaming spears hurled at you from the wicked one. Take also the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how! And keeping all this in mind, pray on behalf of God’s people. Keep on praying feverishly, and be on the lookout until evil has been stayed.   Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Voice)

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Parable of the Closed Door
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 19, 2014

The main door of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem is very short.  In the photo above, you can see that one has to bend over to get through it!  One of the previous doors, marked by a pointed arch was reduced to the present 4-foot size and called the “Door of Humility.”  The goal was to keep riders on donkeys, horses and camels from entering this place of worship and looting.  (It must have worked, because we didn’t see any animals inside!)  Also, it forces visitors entering to bow in reverence.  This church was built over the grotto or cave where Christian tradition teaches that Jesus was born.  It has been there for over 1600 years and is said to be the second oldest surviving Christian church in the world. Later on, I’ll share information with you about what’s inside this holy site.

My second photo shows a family leaving the Church.  Note how the stone inside has been worn down through the many years.

The door of the Church of Nativity is something like the closed door in the parable Jesus told, except instead of being short, it was narrow.  Luke 13:24-30 tells of Jesus traveling toward Jerusalem, realizing His earthly mission was coming to an end.  As the crowd followed Him, He taught them through the parable of the closed door.  Someone had asked him “Sir, are only a few to be saved?”  His answer was: “Struggle to get in through the narrow door; for I tell you that many will try to enter and not be able.” When the master of the house has locked the door, many will stand outside, knock and want to get in.  The response:  “I do not know you.”  People will come from all around. “Some who are now last will be first, and some who are first will be last.” NEB  The narrow door represents salvation.  It’s difficult to get through because you can’t take any baggage along.  He is saying that the only way to heaven and salvation is through Him. Have you accepted Him as your Savior?

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Danger! Keep Out!
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 18, 2014

Earlier this week while inside a store, I studied this X-shaped “caution tape” display on a glass door. I’d actually noticed it when I approached from the outside, and at first was puzzled to see that the words read backward from that direction. But when I saw it from inside the store, I also saw the black skulls between the warnings, and realized that it was a humorous Halloween decoration. (Whoever put up the display had shrewdly not made the letters face outward, because it might have driven away alarmed shoppers!)

However, from inside the store – especially if you didn’t have the telltale skulls on the tape – it might seem as though whoever put up the display was warning people to stay inside and not venture out! “It’s a dangerous world out there – stay in here where it’s safe.”

Sometimes that’s tempting to Christians. One of the facts of life about deciding to align your life with Jesus’ objectives is that this immediately puts you at odds with the culture in general—and the devil in particular. Because of this, there’s something about a faithful Christian which sometimes arouses a snake-ish animosity among nonbelievers. I actually had a newly-converted Christian tell me some years ago, “I’m looking for a job with a Christian company, because I can’t stand it being with people who drink and smoke and swear.” I did my best to gently remind this person that that’s why we are in the world.

Yesterday (Friday) I gave the chapel talk at the Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School. I basically told the story you’ll find at the following National Public Radio link. As you read, think of LAPD Officer Deon Joseph doing basically what Jesus did when He walked the earth—despite the danger, being with people, listening to them, and working to change their circumstances for the better. (Note—when you get the link, click on the “transcript” for a word-for-word version of the audio interview.)

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Are You Write-ready?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 17, 2014

Every Tuesday I do a four hour volunteer stint at our Adventist schools in Kirkland, grading papers, teaching elementary drawing, and doing anything else that’s safely within my skill set.

This past Tuesday I received a folder of material from a teacher, and before I began to work on it I noticed what was on the folder’s cover. I would imagine that the smaller circles at the upper left were the first attempt to get the pen working, and when it didn’t work, the frustrated would-be writer took a fresh grip on the pen and bore down harder, without much greater success. There is a little blue showing, which means that the pen had had potential at one point, but as a communication device its days are past.

As I look at those deep grooves, I wonder how ready a spiritual “writer” I am. Over a period of 1600 years, approximately 40 Holy-Spirit-guided authors readily took up their pens and recorded what they had personally observed about God’s words and actions.

Nowadays, as you know, the Bible rarely gets the reading it deserves. Instead– and maybe this has always been the case – thoughtful spirituality is inspired first by people who know the Lord because they have spent time in their own Bibles, and are ready to tactfully and thoughtfully share what they know about Him, and about His attitude toward a number of current issues.

Every morning, why don’t you pray – and I’ll join you in this – “Lord, please lead me to someone who needs me today, and give me wisdom about when and what to share about You.”

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Catching the Wind
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, October 16, 2014

I recently had the opportunity to go sailing with a group of Pathfinders on the Adventuress, a 133 foot gaff-rigged schooner. It has two masts, each with a gaff-rigged sail (squarer sails with another boom, or gaff, on the top), and two more sails in front. To take the picture above, I was sitting in a net under the pole at the front of the ship. All the rigging and sails are much more impressive in person, but it is hard to capture that from the boat.

The Pathfinder leaders taught us that in Hebrew, the word for "spirit" is the same as the word for "wind."

John 3:8 says:
"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Just like a sailboat in the wind, the Holy Spirit can guide us and help us in the journey of life if we let Him.

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Faith in Prayer
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Before anyone asks (maybe you already have) Where’s the picture of the mountain? The river? Where’s the flower? We can get back to ‘normal’ next week but this week’s edition is for my friend Jim.  The handsome guy on the left is one of his sons – Aiden.  If you guessed the guy in glasses is Jim you are correct..
This last Sunday I got a call from Jim’s wife – Sara.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a call she wanted to make or I wanted to receive. Here’s the Readers Digest version – While on business, in South American, Jim had started not feeling well and ended up fainting in a store in Santiago. Chile. As he fainted, he hit his head hard enough to fracture his skull. He was taken to a nearby hospital, and a CT scan showed bleeding on his brain. The next step was emergency surgery to release the pressure, building on his brain. Scary head trauma. In a foreign country. Away from his friends, away from his family. Horrible situation.
In situations like this we pray. We pray to God to help in the process.  We ask, God willing, to guide the surgeon, and to heal as quickly as possible. We pray for peace, as family and friends await news from afar. The actual act of prayer is based on faith, right?  In our prayers, we say “thy will be done.” We have to.  We know that it’s not God choosing to have bad things happen to good people and for that matter, not choosing good things to happen to bad people.

So, how do deal with this, in our daily lives?  How do we comprehend horrific events and tragic events to amazing people?  I wish I had the one answer that feels good to everyone.  We can start with this – we live on a sinful planet. God created this planet specifically to allow free-will.  This free-will and freedom of choice shows everyone God’s fairness to allow His creations not to be forced into loving Him, but to willfully love Him.

I personally, lean on “things happen for reasons.” This is always easier said when we’re not dealing with one of those tragedies.  That said I really do believe things happen with a specific reason – maybe it’s not the results, or reason we want to go through or experience but I believe God can always make something good, out of a bad situation.
As Paul Harvey used to say, “…and now the rest of the story.” Fast forward 2 days later. The surgery was successful. Jim is resting and recovering in the hospital.  He’s still in Santiago and very eager to get home. The surgeon has given a very good prognosis of 100% recovery.  Jim  has a ways to go but it’s a complete answer to prayer! We can celebrate God intervened and made sure he got the correct care, in time.
Clearly, it doesn’t always end this way for every situation. However, it did in Jim’s case. Do we focus in on determining why it “works” sometimes and doesn’t other times, or do we celebrate this and pray for Jesus’ return, to take us away from a sinful planet, where we don’t have to experience the times the story doesn’t end positively?

I vote for the latter. To that end – “God, thank you for caring for Jim and his situation. Thank you for caring for his family, feeling helpless, thousands of miles away. We look forward to the day when we can sit at your feet and not have to worry about sin, ever again. Amen.”

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Robber Flies
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We tend to think too small; eating an apple from a forbidden tree – not that big a deal.  But it was.  In fact it’s probably impossible for us to comprehend the change that this one act brought into a perfect world.  We understand being cast out of the garden, the fig leaves, and the rest of the story, but do we really grasp the enormity sin brought upon the world?  Let’s leave the moral issues aside for a moment and focus on the natural world today in contrast with a perfect, sinless world where sin and death did not exist.
Certainly it’s not unique in the realm of insects but Robber Flies, also called Assassin Flies, provide an interesting example.  Even though there are over 7000 species in this group, I’d never really noticed them before, those rather elongated insects just basking in the sun.  But as their common name implies, they live less than exemplary lives as they prey upon other insects.  Predatory in nature, they frequently capture insects larger than themselves in midair by stabbing their victims with a dagger-like beak designed to attach it to the wound it has created.  It then injects a neurotoxin which paralyzes the prey and liquefies its flesh.  This “soup” is then sucked out through the proboscis.
It’s impossible for us to reconcile this gruesome picture with the Edenic setting.  How sad the Creator must have been as He saw the carnage sin brought upon a perfect world.  How much He must long to restore His whole creation to the way He originally made it. How much He must yearn to see you and me unencumbered by the weight of sin.

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The Lighthouse
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 13, 2014

If you were at sea and were looking for the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (pictured on top of the cape) to orient you, you would be able tell it was the right one because you would see alternating red and white flashes every 15 seconds.  Other nearby lighthouses would have different light and flash sequences.

This was something new I learned on a recent trip to Cape Disappointment State Park which is located on the north side of the Columbia River mouth.  (The river is on the other side of the cape shown in the picture.)  Not being a nautical person, I'd never really thought much about how a sailor would know which lighthouse he or she might be looking at.  I just assumed they'd see a light flashing and know to avoid the area because it could be dangerous.

The Columbia River mouth can be very treacherous because of a bar or shoal which is formed where river sediment meets the sea.  There are hundreds of identified shipwrecks in the area.  Today, there are specially trained bar pilots who guide ships safely through the bar so that they can reach their destination ports upriver.  

We have been given the Word of God to illuminate the way for us and to show us where we are and where we need to be. The Bible is a guidebook for us to use to safely navigate our way through life.

By your words I can see where I’m going;
    they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back
    from living by your righteous order.
Everything’s falling apart on me, God;
    put me together again with your Word.
Festoon me with your finest sayings, God;
    teach me your holy rules.
My life is as close as my own hands,
    but I don’t forget what you have revealed.
Psalm 119:105-112 (The Message)

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Parable of the Woman at the Well
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jacob’s Well, shown in my photo, is in the city of Nablus in the West Bank.  Today, a monastery surrounds the site.  We descended the steps to the well, overseen by a faithful watcher.  The well is about 150 feet deep and our guide showed us the water is still drinkable by drinking some from a community cup.  He poured some water from his cup back into the well and it took a long time to reach the bottom, where it created a splash.  We were told that this well provided water for many people in past times, starting about 3700 years ago!

While traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee, Jesus and his disciples took the quickest route, through Samaria.  Thirsty and needing to rest, Jesus sat by Jacob’s well while His disciples went to Sychar, a short distance away to get food.  It was mid-day and hot when a Samaritan woman went to the well to draw water. 

My photo immediately above shows artwork of Jesus and the woman.  (Note:  Other women went to the well in the early morning.  Being of questionable character, this woman avoided the others – or maybe she was shunned by them – by not getting her water at the same time as the others.)  Jesus broke three Jewish customs.  First, he spoke to a woman.  Second, she was a Samaritan woman, a group the Jews despised and usually avoided in conversation.  Third, by drinking from her jar or cup He would have become ceremonially unclean. 

The woman couldn’t believe what she was experiencing!  Jesus told her He would give her “living water”, meaning eternal life.  She, of course, didn’t understand what He meant.  Jesus revealed that He knew she had had five husbands and wasn’t married to the man she with whom she was living.  She wondered “How did He know that?”  The woman expressed her faith that the Messiah was coming.  Jesus answered, “I am He, I who am speaking to you now.”  John 4:26 NEB   What was the response of the Samaritans from Sychar and how did Jesus respond?  Read the full story in John 4.  Jesus treated people as individuals with value, accepting them with loving compassion, regardless of their ethnicity, background or gender.  Our salvation comes only through Him, the Living Water.

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Maintenance Options
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 11, 2014

Ten minutes before I took this photo this past Tuesday, I discovered that my little 1999 Honda Civic, the proud donor of 202,000 miles of service to its various owners (including two pastors of which I am one), had developed clutch problems in its manual transmission. So I stopped in the parking lot of a thrift store and called my Honda guy to tell him I was bringing it in.

Since I love thrift stores, I wandered inside for a bit, and was charmed to see the above scene featuring various maintenance options for the human body. The closest to the camera is the Nordic Track, a unit which does its best to simulate cross-country skiing, thereby giving the lower-body muscles a major workout (and making your hip-sockets hurt. I used to have one.)

Next to it is a Bowflex device which simulates weightlifting, which works the upper-body muscles. And next to the Bowflex is the third body-maintenance option—the padded deck recliner! Sure, I guess you could rest there briefly after working your lower and upper body, but a lot of people choose the recliner and totally ignore the other options which might produce temporary discomfort and a faster heart rate, but will stave off future problems.

Long before the Industrial Revolution and its labor-saving devices and its refined-foods capabilities, the Bible had a surprising amount to say about the importance of maintaining good health. The ideal my denomination has tried to shoot for is living as much as possible as though your hometown is Eden.

Want a Bible mini-course on healthful living? Click the link immediately below.

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So Who Are the Banners For, Anyway?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 9, 2014

‘Way back last May as Shelley and I walked in our neighborhood, I noticed these two football banners hanging from the back porch of someone’s home. Their red-blooded enthusiasm was natural, of course. The big white “12” is—as any Pacific Northwesterner knows—the symbol for the “12th Man” (or “12th Fan” if you want to be gender-inclusive)—those hoarse-throated screamers who spend many devout hours at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field helping the Seahawks by drowning out the signals which the opposing quarterbacks are trying to communicate. The “W” on the left refers to the University of Washington Huskies, whose followers are almost as rabid.

But do you notice something interesting? The banners are backward to viewers like Shelley and me gazing over their backyard fence! (Nope, this isn’t a “flipped” photo.) Shelley and I had to do the reversing in our heads, while those inside the house can see the “12” and read the “Huskies” perfectly fine.

Mixed message, right? The banners say, “We love our teams,” but not so much “Read these banners, neighbors, and be ye converted to loving our teams.”

Jesus constantly had to try to jostle the navel-gazing Jews in the culture through which He walked. These were the people who were supposed to be lights in the world, reflecting—and not reversing—the love of God to others. But instead, they kept themselves to themselves, while assuming that they were God’s chosen people, caring little about introducing their God to their world.

Good lesson, right? “Let your light so shine before men,” Jesus insists in Matthew 5:16, “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Amen? Amen!

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Sunset Wires
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, October 9, 2014

This sunset was taken near South Tiger Mountain overlooking Renton and the Olympic mountains on the far right.  I often see sunsets from this location and I used to be annoyed that the power lines mar an otherwise wonderful view.

Then I got to thinking.  The rest of the trail has very little view of the sunsets because of the thick trees along the way.  I began to realize the only reason this particular spot has a view is because the power company keeps clearing the trees away from the lines.  So this view is here because of the lines.

Maybe it is like that in life.  Some things that annoy us are actually providing a good thing in our lives by clearing out the bad.  I looked for a verse that talks about clearing things out, and found this one:

Jesus says "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful."  (John 15: 1-2)

So maybe the sunset wires are a good thing, and perhaps you can find similar things in your life.

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Corn or Maize
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Depending on the country you are from and the specific plant you are referring to, you can use either name.  Regardless how you say it, it’s the stuff in this image. There are thousands of varieties, each with different colors, texture, sweetness, and purpose. In fact, the type of corn we go to grocery store for--or to the local farmer--is going to be different than the variety that is raised for cattle feed, or popcorn, or many other uses. 

When I took this image, I happened to be about half way through a 10 acre corn maze. I saw the blue sky above, contrasting the green stalks and white fluffy clouds.  After taking the image, I notice the rest of the corn stalk – about 9 feet tall – but at the bottom, I noticed the root system.  I didn’t get an image of it (I want you to go walk through a corn maze and notice it for yourself) but, I’ll described it.  It looks like tiny Mangrove tree roots (more research for you).  Now that you have that image in your head, take 5 of those roots, sticking out of the ground and only a couple inches in length, holding this tall stalk, eventually getting very heavy with several mature ears of corn.  One of the reason corn is planted so close together, is that the stalks are holding each other up.

Hold each other up?  Hmm.  Do we do that?  Do we, as fellow Christians, stay close together and when the wind and the rain and whatever else is thrown our way, let others to lean on us?  If we don’t, we should.  Satan is everywhere and our ‘roots’ into this world aren’t very deep.  God watches out for us and gives us the strength, but He also gave us each other.

Call it corn, or call it maize – now that it’s autumn, check out a (wait for it) 'maize maze' at a farm near you, and look at the small root system.  Look at the height of the stalk, feel the weight, and when you are done with that, pray to God that He gives you an opportunity to be close to someone that isn’t able to stand as straight as they would like.

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Willow Ptarmigan
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Probably no other Bible story is as well encrypted into the hearts of young boys as that of David and Goliath.  What’s not to like by a child ready to face danger and brave the forces of evil while defending the truth.  And on top of it all, you got to use a sling, or even a BB gun if you were really lucky.  Parents, of course, hope other biblical admonitions will come to mind when their child is forced to deal with an older sibling but one thing is certain, victory can be accomplished no matter what the odds.  And that is one of the primary truths found in this story; with God on our side we have a majority of one.
The same confidence is seen displayed by the state bird of Alaska, the Willow Ptarmigan.  Like the other two members of its genus, it is famous for turning white during the winter, thus providing an effective means of camouflage.  During this season it will bury itself in the snow and avoids predation by flying directly into the snow bank, thus leaving no footprints. Here they will dig out chambers and passage ways which provide roosting places.  Unlike the Rock Ptarmigan, the maleWillow Ptarmigan helps to raise the young.  Both sexes undergo the process which turns them white in the winter, but the late molt of the male in spring makes him more conspicuous during the nesting season, perhaps drawing attention away from the female who does all the incubating.  

The eggs, which are bright red when laid, change color as the pigment soon rubs off in places and dries to a blackish-brown color with creamy patches showing through.  Meanwhile, the male will stand guard and defend the nest against any and all intruders that should venture too close.  Gulls, intent on stealing the eggs, are knocked over to prevent such thievery.  Humans who seek to catch one of the chicks have been assailed and even Grizzly Bear, looking for a tasty morsel, have been attacked.

Something tells me that David would have liked this grouse of the Arctic and Subarctic regions.  After all, he had some experience with caves as well as giants in the land.  They seem to have a lot in common.

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Tenuous Threads
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 6, 2014

I was planning to go on a whale watching trip recently but it was cancelled at the last minute due to the weather.  I went down to the dock anyway a little later in the day and visibility was so poor, I couldn't even see a nearby building.  

The moisture in the air and the fog did help show up all of the spider webs that were attached to the railings.  

The Bible uses spider webs to illustrate what happen to us when we forget God:

Can papyrus grow tall without a marsh?
        Can reeds flourish without water?
Even if they are hardy and unbroken,
        without water they will dry up before any other plant.
So it goes with any who forget God.
        The hope of the godless soon withers and dies.
His confidence breaks,
        for he trusts in the tenuous threads of a spider’s web.
When he leans into his house of silken threads for support,
        it won’t hold;
    Though his arms grab to steady him,
        it will break—he will fall and never get back up.

Job 8:11-15 (The Voice)

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Parable of the Tax Collector
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 5, 2014

We stopped by a small park to see some huge, old trees in the center of Jericho.  This photo is of one of those special trees – a sycamore tree at least 1000 years old (some people even claim this is the actual tree that Zacchaeus climbed up)!  Being on the main road of the Jordan valley, Jesus passed through Jericho on His way from Galilee to Jerusalem several times.  A detailed account of one journey is given in Luke 19.  

As Jesus was passing through Jericho, a tax-collector, a very rich, short man, wanted to see Jesus so he climbed up a sycamore tree.  (Tax collectors were hated because of their greed and collaboration with the Romans.) When Jesus reached the spot, He saw him and said, “Zacchaeus, be quick and come down; I must come and stay with you today.” He climbed down from the tree and welcomed Jesus into his house.  The people muttered that Jesus had gone to the house of a “sinner!”  Zacchaeus exclaimed he would give half of his possessions to the poor and four times the amount to anyone he had cheated.  Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house today – for this man too is a son of Abraham, and the Son of Man has come to seek and save what is lost.”  Luke 19:9-10 NEB

Jesus told a parable aimed at those who were sure of their own goodness and looked down on others.  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-gatherer.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed this:  “I thank thee, O God, that I am not like the rest of men, greedy, dishonest, adulterous; or for that matter, like this tax-gatherer.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all that I get.’  But the other kept his distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his breast, saying, “O God, have mercy on me, sinner that I am.”  It was this man, I tell you, and not the other, who went home acquitted of his sins.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  Luke 18:9-14 NEB   Thank You, Jesus, for coming to this world to save us.  Help us to be humble like this last man.

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Spill Kit
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 4, 2014

A couple of weeks ago in the paint section of our local Home Depot store, I spotted behind the counter this large yellow plastic trash container with a black lid. Highly-legible marker printing on the top forbids trash from being tossed inside, and communicates the container’s role: “Spill Kit.”

I remember being quite impressed. Normally in a store when you come across something spilled in the aisle and you alert a worker, they hurry off to get a mere mop bucket or a roll of paper towels. I don’t know whether this “kit” is used only on paint spills, or whether since the store’s paint section is in a central location and this was thought to be a good location for a unit which could deal with general spills—whatever the case, here you have the equivalent of an ambulance or medical aid car—serious spill-cleaning power.

You know where I’m going with this, right? Sure you do. One day in Eden, the dark and almost indelible stain of Divinity-distrust spread rapidly, contaminating heart and hand.

“But God . . . .” Those two words could be marker-printed across Heaven’s splendidly-equipped “spill kit.” Notice how willingly and completely God is able to restore fallen sinners.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:5 – 10 NKJV

Complete cleansing and restoration!

For more Bible verses about salvation, click the link immediately below.

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Nothing But the Wind
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 3, 2014

This past Sunday was the final day of our weekend church retreat, and Shelley and I lingered to take a hike to Bowman Bay, which is not far from the Deception Pass bridge.

As we were walking along, I glanced out onto the water, which was quite misty, and saw several white triangular shapes. I remembered that someone else who’d been on our retreat mentioned that he’d seen a gathering of people who owned model remote control sailboats.

Shelley and I decided to walk out along the pier and get a closer look. Here’s what we saw on a platform at the end.

Each man – and I believe all the boat owners were men – was holding a large remote control unit in his two hands. Sometimes the units were within clear bags, and the owners’ hands were inserted through rainproof sleeves.

The mist began to burn away, and Shelley and I got a chance to watch a couple of races. When the contest was over, the boats’ owners came down to a lower platform to guide their boats in and retrieve them.

As I watched the boats, I could tell that the slight breeze was what was powering them. The sails would suddenly swivel, and the boat would abruptly turn and go the other way. I found myself wondering if each one contained a small electric motor to operate a propeller in case the wind became calm.

I got a chance to satisfy my curiosity when the first man to depart carried his boat past us on the pier. “Do those boats have little motors in them, just in case?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Nothing but the wind, then?” I asked.

“Nothing but the wind.”

After having pastored for more than three decades, I am more and more convinced that nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished for God except through His “Breath” – His Holy Spirit. And God Himself bears me out: “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6 NKJV

To learn more about the comforting Holy Spirit and His work, and how to invite Him into your life, click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, October 2, 2014

Dragonflies are probably one of my favorite bugs. About a month ago, we were camping by a little lake, and it was fun watching the dragonflies avenge me by catching mosquitoes and other little annoying bugs. While I was standing by the lake, a lot of the dragonflies would pause directly in front of me and look at me for a second.

It seems to me that a lot of bugs look a lot nicer and friendlier up close (e.g. the moth from my July 17 photo parable). Take this dragonfly, for example:

When you zoom in on its face, it looks like it has a smile and happy little eyes.

Proverbs 17:22 says:
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

Next time you aren't feeling cheerful or happy, try thinking about the little things like dragonflies that help make life enjoyable.

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Architect, Master Builder and Creative Genius
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Whether you’ve been to Paris and seen the real thing or not, you could visualize an image of the Eiffel Tower if asked.  I had the privilege to see the real thing (yes, this is a recent shot - just added a little filtering for an 'older' look). Took a few shots of it and went up in it.  I heard the story of how it was imagined, architected, designed and built (with a few others to help) by Gustave Eiffel. The structure is the equivalent of an 81 story building (just over 1,000 feet).  It was completed in 1889 and was the tallest man-made structure in the world, until 1930, when the Chrysler Building was completed. Later, an antennae was added to the Tower in 1957, to once again regain the title (by 17 feet), though it has since been surpassed by a number of buildings in the world.
Construction on the foundation started in 1887.  To complete the construction process, it took 1,700 general drawings, 3,600 detailed drawings and over 18,000 parts riveted together by 2.5 million rivets.  The erecting process, involved over 300 workers, to finish the process in time for the 1889 World’s Fair, celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution.
While the design, construction and overall assembly of this structure was a marvel, nothing compares to the one TRUE designer and master builder.  God created the entire planet, in 6 days.  He didn’t need a crew, or several drawings.  In fact, He didn’t have to use a single rivet and when you think of just us humans – there are a well over 18,000 parts in all of us.  God created us from nothing – just thought us up, in His amazing creativity.

I'm glad to be one of those amazing creations - aren't you?

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