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

Daily Photo Parable - September 2011

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

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

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 30, 2011

This past Tuesday, I was thankful – for once – for slow traffic. My Honda’s torpid pace enabled me to wrestle my point-and-shoot camera out of its case and focus it on the above car’s license plate.

But snapping the photo was only the start. What does that license plate mean? At first I thought, "Hey--here's someone from another country who has just taken the oath and become a citizen of the United States. Maybe this license plate was a gift from someone who knew how much citizenship would mean to him or her." In fact, this was the "spin" I was going to put on this photo when I wrote its blog this evening.

But then, just for the fun of it, I looked up the website on the bumper sticker just above the license plate. I discovered that "InfoWars” seems to be one of those sites whose creators have an intense distrust of the US government. I didn't dig any deeper into the site than a couple of scroll-downs on the homepage, but if the license-plate buyer and the bumper-sticker applier are one and the same person, then "Citizen" takes on a whole new layer of meaning. Far from being a proud citizen of this country, this person may be claiming to be a "citizen" in the truest sense – someone who is proud of his or her freedoms and is not going to allow a power-hungry state to take them away.

The apostle Paul talks about a citizenship we can possess not only with pride but with full confidence that in--that country--we will have true freedom. Speaking to fellow-Christians, he wrote: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ . . . .” Philippians 3:20, NIJV. How do we become a citizen of heaven? “Most assuredly, I say to you,” Jesus once said to a Pharisee, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

And how to you become born again? A good way to read some  of the Bible’s most important verses about salvation is by clicking the link below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 29, 2011

If I have time, I make it a habit to do a five-minute swoop through thrift stores I come across, hoping to find that perfect used book or office supply item. I did this on Tuesday, and as I turned a corner in the store I was stopped in my tracks by the above “blast from the past.”

I mean, there was actually a point when the 8-track tape was the wave of the future. It was several steps more advanced than the simple cassette. I never actually owned either 8-track tapes or a player, but my brother and brothers-in-law did. From what I hear, the sound was glorious.

The right front tape on this rack is a Helen Reddy album, headlined by her famous women’s-lib anthem “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar,” which hit the airwaves just as 8-tracks were in their prime. The tape on the left contains a pops orchestra playing popular songs from musicals such as “The Sound of Music” and “Camelot.”

I think what fascinates me about the above photo is that even though the medium  (the 8-track tape technology) is hopelessly out of date, the message (the struggle for women’s rights, and the eternal nature of really well-written and evocative songs) is still fresh.

Who knows, maybe it’s one of the devil’s secret devices to allow Christianity to become so cloaked in the mold of a past which is so venerably ancient that busy people won’t bother with it. But many busy Christians have discovered that, whatever the medium, the Bible’s message is as crisp and fresh as tomorrow’s CNN news broadcast. And the more widely and deeply they read Scripture, the more wisdom they find to help them cope.

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Hop, Hop, Hop to Heaven

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
No animals (or insects) were injured in the making of this blog.
Yes, that there is a grasshopper.  I would go as far to say a "common grasshopper" as I am not able to identify it as anything but "common."
There are eight specific times the grasshopper is mentioned in the New King James Version  of the Bible.  Many of the entries have a negative spin to them – speaking of destruction of crops, pestilence, burden, etc.  In Isaiah 40, a chapter titled “God’s People Are Comforted,” it speaks of God’s prevailing power and protection.  It speaks of the reward of believing in Him, the ability to be with Him.  In verses 21 & 22, it reads: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?  It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” It continues to talk about, God ruling over the masses--and in the end, His chosen people will be victorious.
We live in a world full of people, running (or hopping?) around like grasshoppers.  Sometimes it feels they are going in all directions, with no purpose or direction.  They are all over place.  As Christians we have the hope that God has a plan, He plans on saving us from a sinful world.  There is a goal and something to aim towards.  We see this world as a transition, not a destination.  Unlike a grasshopper, hopping around aimlessly, we can point our sites heaven bound and start hopping to the ultimate prize – eternal life with God.

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Western Bluebird

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Bluebirds aren’t like other birds, they’re nicer.  So goes the thinking of many Americans.  And it’s easy to see why they have gained that reputation.  Their wide-eyed innocence makes them a perfect match for flying over rainbows in an idealized Wizard of Oz setting.  Someone has even referred to them as “American idealism personified.”  It is true, they are not nearly as aggressive as introduced species such as House Sparrows and Starlings, and as a result their numbers dropped drastically as the more assertive species gained control of nesting sites.  It was at this point that man stepped in a made a positive difference. Alarmed at seeing his beloved bluebirds disappearing, groups formed for the sole purpose of erecting bluebird houses which in turn multiplied until they formed bluebird trails.  Once again bluebirds are flourishing.
The Western Bluebird is one of three bluebird species in the U.S. It’s difficult to say which, the adult or the juvenile, is more appealing.  The colors of the adult and those large eyes of the young are both engaging. Unfortunately, we’re not always as patient with immaturity in our fellowman as we might be with bluebirds.  Paul recognized the need for patience when working with new believers and adjusted his message to fit their particular circumstances.  “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it… (1 Cor. 3:1,2 NIV)   It’s true, he eagerly awaited the day when they would be more spiritually mature, but he helped them grow towards that goal.  Personal involvement does have its own rewards, whether it be the return of bluebirds to your backyard or the joy of seeing another grow in Christ.

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It's Not What is Visible That Counts
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 26, 2011

I was visiting the Bellevue Demonstration Garden, where different people have small plots and can grow flowers or fruits and vegetables, when I saw these tomatoes.  If we were selecting tomatoes to purchase in the grocery store, we would probably pass these over.  I'm not familiar with this particular variety but even though they have some blemishes, I am sure that the fruit is tasty and good to eat.

We tend to judge fruits and vegetables and people by how they look on the outside and don't take into account the most important thing - what is inside.  We had "Fruit Day" at work this week and we were given a selection of different fruits to eat.  The strawberries were perfectly shaped and were a deep shade of red; the problem was that when you bit into them, they were sour. 

When God told Samuel to go and anoint one of Jesse's sons because he was to be the next king, Samuel saw one man and thought he had found the perfect candidate: 

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the LORD sees into the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

How is your heart doing?

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Where is Your Heart?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 25, 2011

The many names of the geysers in Yellowstone National Park amazed me!  Mostly, they described that particular geyser's characteristics. For example, the above geyser is named “Heart Spring Geyser” because its shape resembles a heart with brilliantly clear blue water. Even though it is classified as a geyser, it is actually a hot spring (closely related to geysers) where its underground channel system is not constricted. Water circulates to the surface where heat escapes through evaporation or runoff. The cooler water returns to the underground system, keeping it in equilibrium.

Let's think about hearts. Being about the size of our closed fist, our heart is vital to living. It pumps about four ounces of blood with each beat or about three thousand gallons a day, supplying our cells with needed oxygen and nutrients.

The Bible speaks about “another” heart, the capacity to think or believe, to choose and to feel – the center of a person's inner life where moral, spiritual and intellectual issues are considered. Proverbs 4:23 reads, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” These are the words of David in Psalms 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Even though David was a sinner God used him and he can do the same for us. Where is your heart today? Have you given it to God?

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Name in the Sand
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 24, 2011

Several months ago I received a postcard in the mail with the above photograph (I have cleverly cropped the advertising information off the bottom of the card). I don't know what sort of Photoshop magic was used, but this seems to be a photo of two feet belonging to someone who has just written my first name in the sand! (The grayish-white smear on the "y" was a scratch on the card's surface.)

After a five-second “What will they think of next?" stare at the card, I went and got my camera. The card, incidentally, was mailed to me from – I think – a travel agent or an airline or something, who were offering me the opportunity to travel to where I too could make footprints in the warm sand of a sunny beach.

Resolutely ignoring this tantalizing possibility, I instead became philosophical. If the above name were indeed to be hand-drawn into a real beach, it wouldn't last long. The next wave would slosh it into oblivion. The next gust of wind would start filling in the troughs which outlined it, and the heedless trampling of a group of playing children would obliterate it.

If you look at it from a purely human standpoint, our lives are like that. Shakespeare, in his famous lines, used several different metaphors:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
 --Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5

But now let's hear the truth, and the venerable words which were translated probably 20 years after the above lines were written. This is the patriarch Job, speaking in King James English, telling us what he knows about what will happen to God's friends who died.

For I know that my Redeemer liveth,
And that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body,
Yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself,
And mine eyes shall behold, and not another;
-- Job 19:25-27, The Cambridge Paragraph Bible: The Authorized English Version (KJV)

Want to learn more about the truth Job knew so well? Click on the following link:

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Farmboy Paradigm Shift
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 23, 2011

Back when I was a South Dakota farm kid, if you had asked me to define a “paradigm shift,” I would have hazarded the guess that it meant switching the positions of two ten-cent pieces. (Get it? “Pair of dimes”?)

And if, back then, you had hinted to me that one day (two weeks ago) I would see on a store shelf proof that alfalfa was being consumed by humans, I would have scoffed in disbelief. Alfalfa was for cows.

Well, times change, and alfalfa sprouts have been showing up in restaurant salad bars for at least a couple of decades – though it's wise to be careful, because word has it that they can be notorious harborers of certain kinds of disease.

You don't need me to tell you that, thanks to an increasingly interlinked world, you and I have had to get used to a whole lot more change than we may have thought. And it's the same way with religious beliefs. Voices which question long-held Christian traditions are growing louder, and this forces conscientious believers to turn – not to the sermons of their favorite pastor or to the books of their favorite theologians, but to the pure print on the Bible page.

Sure, the Bible is a bit tough to understand at first – which is why devotional writers and televangelists and theologians have felt called upon to rush helpfully toward us with their explanations. But more and more people are discovering that the focused and patient layperson can truly figure out the Bible by simply reading the Bible.

About a week ago I discovered a great Bible-reading plan which – and hear me out on this – gets you through the Bible in a year, but does not require that you read it straight through from Genesis to Revelation. Instead, every day of the week you read chapters from a different Bible section, thus greatly reducing the possibility of boredom.

I myself have printed off this Bible reading plan, and have pasted it in the back of one of my Bibles. I'm truly enjoying it. If you'd like to try it out, click the following link.

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Beat UW
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 22, 2011

 As I snapped the photo of the above license plate a couple of weeks ago, I was wishing I had had the leisure to wait around and see who owned this car, or at least who had had this personalized license plate created.

But actually, like Sherlock Holmes, we can deduce a few facts about this person without even knowing him (let's assume it's a he, though it could be she as well).

For those of you who logged on to this website from someplace besides the Pacific Northwest, I need to tell you that “UW” stands for the University of Washington, and that the little red logo which looks like a snarling cougar is actually made up of the artistically-drawn letters “WSU,” which stand for Washington State University, whose sports teams are indeed called the Cougars.

So what can we say, Watson, about the purchaser of this license plate? We can definitely say that he supports the Cougars, and may even have attended college at WSU. His car is a Mercedes, which argues a bit of wealth, so perhaps he is an alumnus who donates generously to his alma mater.

However, his "support" for his team goes far beyond the mere rah-rah-rah, team-pennant-waving level. This man not only supports the Cougars but despises the University of Washington Huskies, and the “BEAT UW” may refer most earnestly to the annual game known as the Apple Cup, when the two football teams meet (normally around Thanksgiving) to fight it out. I Wikipedia’d “Apple Cup,” and discovered that the teams have been competing since 1900, and that in the intervening years the Huskies have won 66 games to the Cougars’ 31, which probably explains the frenzied hope expressed by the above license plate.

Maybe you are suspecting where I'm headed with this. The above car’s license plate was purchased and mounted by someone who feels absolutely no embarrassment in proclaiming not only his belief in the Cougars but his contempt for the Huskies. We know where this person stands. If we knew the Cougars’ colors – red, I would guess, – we know what color of sports jacket this person will wear to the next Apple Cup, and we are pretty certain that he will not miss that event.

Wouldn't it be nice if every Christian was equally zealous about his or her beliefs? I'm not saying we should all go out and buy fish-symbol emblems to put on our cars, nor that we should stand in line at the licensing department for first chance at a “BEAT SATAN” plate. What I’m saying is that we need to carefully study Jesus’ interactions with people for clues about how to understand those in our lives, and how to tactfully introduce them to Him.

This of course means that we must become at least as zealous about Jesus’ agenda as the above license-plate purchaser is about his football team’s.

Want a mini-biography about Jesus (and the Father and the Spirit)? Click on this link:

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Hang On

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
It’s magic!  It’s an optic illusion! It’s Photo-shopped? No. No. No.  This leaf must have been in the act of falling and was “caught” by a single thread of a spider web.  The way I took the shot, you can’t see this tiny translucent thread, but it’s there.  Just like God’s love. Always there.
There are plenty of times throughout the day, week, year….lifetime, you will feel alone.  Sometimes it’s a quick passing thought and sometimes it feels it lasts longer than it should.  That’s sin.  Sin allows us to feel alone.  God never intended us to be alone – ever.  In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve made their decision, they felt ashamed, afraid, alone and ran away, to ensure they couldn’t be found.  God knew where they were but called out to them, asking where they were.  That’s because He wanted them to be near Him – not alone. There are numerous more accounts in the bible, where someone felt alone, only to realize later, God was there the whole time.
The next time you feel alone, hanging on by a translucent thread, raise your eyes to the Creator of all and know He is with you. Always.

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A Clash of Flowers

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
A wise man once observed, “Nature never clashes” and much of what we see bears that out.  An even wiser man countered with, “Never say never.”   Unfortunately, neither of these wise men has ever been in our backyard.  If they had, they might have to reconsider their pronouncements.  While it is true that there is a depth of harmony throughout all of nature, there are times when that balance is disrupted, and frequently that disruption involves man.  Case in point: the planters on our back deck were filled with annuals producing a riot of color.  We had selected flowers we thought would complement each other, which they did until volunteer pansies sprouted from lasts year’s plantings.  The result, while vibrant, wasn’t exactly complementary.
The seventeenth century produced a number of brilliant men, but none more astute than the French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal.  His insights are often succinct yet contain volumes of truth.  An example of this is the following from Pense’es XXIV:  “Nature has some perfections, to show that she is the image of God, and some defects, to show that she is only His image.”  Maybe the two sages mentioned earlier should have considered Pascal’s words, or at least visited the backyard.

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He Loves Us!

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 19, 2011

Did you ever play the game as a child where you pick one petal at a time from a daisy while alternating with saying "He loves me, He loves me not?" Of course, if you wound up with the last petal and it was "He loves me not," you could always get a fresh daisy and start over until you got the "right" answer!

God is not whimsical when it comes to loving us.  We don't have to wonder if he really loves us even though we may be experiencing highs and lows in our lives.  There are times where he may not like our actions but he does always love us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  1 John 3:1

I like the last verse of the song, "The Love of God:"

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 18, 2011

Erupting about every 90 minutes, Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park spouts around 8000 gallons of water up to 180 feet into the air. The average eruption lasts around four minutes. This geyser has been faithfully erupting for over 75 years. Would you agree that “Faithful” is an appropriate name for this old geyser?

The Bible tells us that God is faithful:

“Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:9

“But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” II Thessalonians 3:3

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

We can be thankful that we have a faithful God!

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On Time
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 17, 2011

For several days leading up to last weekend, Shelley and I were in Walla Walla attending a gathering of pastoral families from all over the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska.

We were both impressed at how well-organized everything was, from the delicious and quickly-served meals to the classes and other presentations. Being a sermonizer myself, I was doubly amazed at how everyone in the main sanctuary stayed strictly on time. I mean, some really important people addressed that gathering, and many were probably not used to being held tightly to a time-limit. But they stayed with the plan.

During a break, I happened to stroll up near the platform, and in the above photo you see what I saw, leaning against the backrest of the front pew – a hand-clock and a digital clock! As the speakers held forth on their topics, always before them was the evidence that soon, "time shall be no longer."

Isn't that the way you and I should be living our lives? After all, which of us isn't one car-crash, one cerebral hemorrhage, one heartbeat away from our eternal destiny? Jesus is our ultimate "live for the moment" example, with the difference that He lived his moments for other people rather than Himself. And He wants His followers, His disciples, to do the same.

If you’d like to see a brief set of Bible texts which talk about Jesus' return, click on the following link.

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A Cry for Justice
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 16, 2011

One day earlier this month as Shelley and I were taking our morning walk, we came upon this newly-mounted plastic banner. (To protect privacy, I have blanked out the phone numbers.) Even though this sign has only recently appeared, you can see that the date the accident happened was more than a year ago. Someone – probably the injured pedestrian – has been hoping all that time to find witnesses to be able to bring the bicyclist to justice.

To me, one of the innumerable proofs of the existence of a righteous God is humanity's earnest search for justice. All cultures on the planet, whether or not they have ever heard of the Ten Commandments, have a concept of what is right and what is wrong. And the ways these cultures seek for justice, while varying in complexity and sometimes in brutality, signal that we all long for a reckoning-time.

The good news – and yes it is good news – is that there is a divine judgment, and since the Judge not only knows everything but is the One who planted the cry for justice in each human heart, it will be done fairly.

For more Bible facts about God's judgment, click on the following link:

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back in mid-June I happened to spot this intriguing license plate in a parking lot. I'm not sure what message the plate-purchaser was intending – "I'm as wise as a serpent"? "I'm a snake in the grass"? "I'm catty – watch out!”? Since the car itself is a witchy black, maybe the owner had something roguishly satanic in mind.

On a serious note, anyone with even a moderate familiarity with the Bible knows that “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan . . . deceives the whole world.” (Revelation 12:9, NKJV) And those who read all the way down to verse 12 discover that “the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

In secular circles – and even some religious circles – it has become fashionable to chuckle indulgently at anyone who believes that Satan exists. This skepticism, however, begins to evaporate the more one studies the problem of evil, especially evil which causes human beings to do horrifying things to other human beings.

It might be a good idea to review some Bible verses about Christ's archenemy. You can do that by clicking on this link:

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Valley of Healing
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back in March I was visiting someone in Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, and while crossing an enclosed walkway between two buildings I stopped and snapped this photo.

If you ever become badly burned, or suffer any other severe, life-threatening trauma, this hospital is where you want to be. In fact, according to its website, Harborview is “the only Level I adult and pediatric trauma and burn center serving Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.” In other words, since the buildings on both sides of the street above are Harborview buildings, this is truly a “valley of healing.” Here is the safest place to be, physically speaking, in the entire Pacific Northwest.

Did you know that the New Testament Greek word for "salvation" can also be translated "healing"? Salvation isn't simply a “you’re forgiven” permit which grants you a free pass to eternal life. Salvation is restoration – starting here and now. Salvation is tied in with everything you do or say or even think. We were created in God's image, and He wants to restore us to that image.

That's why in Romans 12:1-2 Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies [not just mind and spirit] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

But how is this renewing to happen? Where can I find this “valley of healing”? John gives us the answer in 1 John 1:9 [NKJV): “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So Jesus truly is the answer. He is our “valley of healing.”

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Spotted Towhee and Blackberries     

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September13, 2011
One of my childhood fantasies involved having to flee from home. While the circumstances varied to give variety to the plot, the real core of the story remained constant.  Sometimes I was forced to flee from an invading enemy nation while at other times oppression from corrupt local officials forced me to flee.  The central part of the story however remained the same, the challenge I faced of having to live by myself off the land.  Fortunately for me the timing of my adventures always occurred during the late summer when the balmy weather made sleeping under the stars agreeable.  Providentially, this also coincided with the ripening of the myriads of wild blackberries which grew in our neighborhood and thus amply met my dietary needs. 
I was reminded of my flight of fancy as I watched this Spotted Towhee gorge himself on the banquet provided among the protective cover of brambles.  Solomon prompts us in his allegorical words of Song of Solomon 2:4 that God’s love not only provides for our needs but He does so with abundance, a veritable banquet of blessings given to us in love.  As an adult I recognize the plenty we now enjoy may not always be at our doorstep.  But I also recognize my security rests on something more than the blackberries being in season.

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Good News
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 12, 2011

I took this photograph on a recent hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I've read through hikers' accounts of their treks from Mexico to Canada on this trail and it was great to do just a little part of it the other day.  There are northern and southern trail heads up by Snoqualmie Pass and the southern trail head goes up and across the ski hill and then through the woods on the other side. 

My friends and I stopped at Lodge Lake and had a picnic lunch and enjoyed the peaceful lake and views.  A few other hikers stopped to enjoy the lake as well but there were not many and everyone was just out enjoying the beautiful weather and the warm day.  By the time we were ready to leave the lake, my water bottle was nearly empty and I was starting to ration the remaining water.  By the time we reached my car, after a short stop to pick huckleberries along the trail, the main thing that I wanted was cool, clear water to drink.  Luckily there was a little store not too far from the trail head and it had a good supply of drinking water.

Have you ever been that thirsty that the only thing you can think about is a drink of cold water?

"Good news from far away is like water to the thirsty."
Proverbs 25:25 NLT

Just after Jesus was born, an angel appeared to shepherds who were out in their fields.  At first they were frightened but the angel told them not to be afraid:

"I bring you good news of great joy for everyone!  The Savior - yes, the Messiah, the Lord - has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the City of David."
Luke 2:10-11 NLT

That was good news back then and it is still good news for us today!

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sabbath & Sunday, September 10 & 11, 2011

This weekend, ten years after the terrible September 11 attacks against the United States, we think of the victims and their families as well as the importance of our freedom. We know that four passenger jets were hijacked. Two crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pensylvania when passengers attempted to take control. There were a total of 2,996 deaths, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. Many others were injured.

That morning, my phone rang. It was my friend who lived in Brooklyn, overlooking Manhattan. She told me to turn on the TV, which I did. As she watched out her window and I watched on TV, the second World Trade Center building tumbled to the ground. We were being attacked!

Once planes were allowed to fly again, I was assigned to work in NYC as a volunteer Red Cross nurse. My primary assignment was the triage manager at the Casualty Care Unit where teams of nurses, mental health workers and family service workers provided services to the hospitalized and the families of the deceased and missing. Much time was spent listening to the stories of each family – of their tragedy and loss – remembering their loved ones. Those lost and missing became very real to us as we saw photos of them and heard about their lives and families.

I think of another person's death – His name is Jesus – who died so we can have everlasting life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch

Friday, September  9, 2011

I snapped the above photo a little over a week ago. It's an Asian restaurant of some kind, specifically from a culture where – to indicate welcome and greeting – people place their palms together. Looking at that graceful posture through Western eyes, it’s as though they’re praying.

However, it suddenly struck me that, even though there are three women with their eyes closed and palms together, only one of them has the bright neon word "OPEN" above her.

Can you tell where I'm going with this? A lot of people – especially in today’s perilous, uncertain times – are no doubt praying for help. But how many of us who pray are willing to be totally open to the answers the Lord might want to reveal to us?

You might remember Jesus' Luke 18 parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector. Both men went to the Jerusalem temple to pray, but while the Pharisee prayed loudly and proudly about how glad he was that he was better than other people (especially the tax collector!), the tax collector humbly told the Lord that he recognized his own sinfulness, and begged for mercy.

Notice how Jesus summed up the story: “I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14 NKJV) The bottom line—the tax collector was totally open to what he knew about himself and about how the Lord is willing to show mercy. God gave the humble tax collector forgiveness, but ignored the Pharisee—who, after all, had closed his heart to heaven and was only praying to himself. 

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The Harvester
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 8, 2011

A warm, nostalgic feeling flooded over me this past July as Shelley and I drove along a South Dakota highway. Chugging along, its right tires off the road to give passers as much space as possible, was this huge John Deere combine, no doubt on its way to a field somewhere to harvest a crop.

My dad never owned a combine, and I've never driven one, so I can't tell you which specific crop this machine will be processing. Actually, different attachments can be added to it to customize it to deal with different crops. But wherever it's headed, and whatever it's going to do when it gets there, it's clear that this machine is on the move, and there will be a harvest.

A harvest was one of Jesus' favorite metaphors when He talked about His Second Coming. “The harvest truly is plentiful,” He once said to His disciples, “but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”   Another time, as He was watching the entire population of a Samaritan village approach Him to hear what He had to say, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” Matthew 9:37 – 38; John 3:35 [NKJV]

But there is a sobering side to the harvest as well. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable of the wheat and the weeds. A farmer planted wheat kernels in his soil, but one night his enemy scattered weed-seed all over the soil. When the crop came up, guess what – the good plants were surrounded by weeds!

The farmer's servants ask him if they should go out and uproot the weeds one by one. But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” Matthew 13:29-30

Just as in other parables – such as the sheep and the goats – Jesus is very clear that when the harvest happens (when He returns at the Second Coming), there will only be two classes of people: those who are ready for the harvest, and those who aren't.

How do you get ready for the harvest? You immerse yourself in the words and deeds of the Harvester, and discover everything He has done to help you be ready. Then you surrender your life to him, offering Him full control of your future. You'll never regret it.

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Lily of The Valley…..or The Pond

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
You know how God has many names? Just to list a few - I AM, Lord of Lords, The Way, Redeemer, Almighty, Savior, Holy One and the list goes on.  In fact there are several more "names" or sayings that reference what God is for us, and one of those is “lily of the valley”.  In Song of Solomon 2:1, it reads “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”  I read some commentary about how this represents the pureness and holiness of God.  You see the white lily being used as a symbol of Him, around Easter time. 
In the picture above, I can guarantee 3 things – number 1: this is a lily (in my pond), number 2: this is NOT a “Lily of the Valley” and number 3: I will NOT be able to identify it for you! Regardless of its genus or species, I do know it’s beautiful and hasn’t bloomed in 2 years. I spotted it, just a couple of days ago and the bad news is, it only lasts a few days.  The lily pads will be there for months, the Koi continue to swim around, and there is lots of algae (let me know if you need any) but the beautiful flower goes away in a matter of days – maybe to return next year and maybe not.
The best part of God being the Lily of the Valley?  He is always there.  Always.  We don’t have to concern ourselves about Him just being around for a few hours/days during the summer months, or if He’ll be around next year.  He is always around us and always providing for us. 
As we know, God has many fitting names we can interchange with God, Jesus, Messiah, etc.  There is one I would like to add to the list as it is most encouraging – "Constant." Love God constantly and He’ll constantly surprise you with His blessings.

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Emperor Goose
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Raising a child is an expensive proposition.  Based upon current economic figures, the cost of raising a child in a suburban home in the Western United States from birth to eighteen years of age comes to a whopping $310,262!  And that doesn’t include the cost of private Christian education or music lessons!  Fortunately, this can be distributed over those eighteen years but nobody suggested it was going to be cheap. 
Then again, it never has been.  Back to this Christian education thing.  With excellent public schools in many areas, why should this additional expense even be considered?  At this point there will be no effort to quote SAT scores or the advantages of low student/teacher ratios, all of which may be pertinent.  To me the strongest argument in support of Christian education is one that would be difficult to measure, but significant nonetheless.  Children may not have a clear understanding of economics, but they do understand values.  If I as a parent elect not to put my child in a Christian school, yet tell them how important they are to me and how important it is for them to follow Christ, am I sending them a mixed message?  What is of most import to me should be reflected in the hard choices I make, for them and for the family as a whole.  Nobody ever said that was easy either.
To illustrate that even further, take the case of North America’s rarest goose, the Emperor Goose.  This is a strictly maritime species and tends to keep far away from human habitation.  It breeds on the open tundra, often near pools, or just above the high tide line.  The characteristic which has relevance to us is that once incubation begins, the female seldom leaves the nest, but guards it against any would-be predators.  During this time she may leave the nest for only ten minutes, once every two days.  As a result, she may lose 20% of her body mass during the incubation period.  Now no one is suggesting Christian education as a new alternative to Jenny Craig, but one reason we do have as many Emperor Geese as we do has to be a reflection upon the care given their young.  In our own hostile environment, shouldn’t we be taking extra care to offer protection as well?

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He Is With Us Even in Troubled Times
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 5, 2011

This photo was taken at Kaiteur Falls in Guyana, South America.  The waterfall drops 741 feet and is a powerful and amazing sight.  There are no barriers, such as guard rails, anywhere around the top of the gorge it plunges into.  While some people have survived going over Niagara Falls (173 feet - Horseshoe Falls) in various contraptions, a slip over this falls would not be survivable.

Have you ever been body surfing in the ocean and experienced being tossed about and turned over in the waves?  It feels like you are in a washing machine and you can wind up with permanent scars after scraping along on the sand. 

Sometimes we feel that life is treating us this way.  It is at these times especially, that we need to remember that God hears us and is with us in good times as well as in bad. 

 My soul is downcast within me;
   therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
   the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
 Deep calls to deep
   in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
   have swept over me.
  By day the LORD directs his love,
   at night his song is with me—
   a prayer to the God of my life.
Psalms 42:6-8 NIV

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 4, 2011

As you look at my photo, you might be wondering about this strange tree! That's what I thought when I saw these Bearded Mossman Trees lining the road through the village of Mossman, Queensland, Australia. Being in the world's oldest rainforest, ferns were growing on the branches and trunks of these huge trees. Their name of “bearded” seemed very appropriate. They were clinging to the tree for their strength and life and growth.

Likewise, if we “cling” to God, He can give us strength and life as we grow! Think of the lyrics in the chorus “I Cling to the Cross” (Paul Baloche):

I cling to the cross and everything it means
I know it's the only hope there is for saving me
For without Your great mercy
I would be forever lost
With a thankful heart I come
And cling to the cross

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Angel of Comfort
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 3, 2011

The final Sunday evening of Shelley's and my vacation to South Dakota was spent with my two sisters and some of their family at a delicious Chinese restaurant. After the meal, we walked next door to the local Walmart.

My brother-in-law Ken had suffered a jolting six-foot fall on his farm the day before, so he decided to maneuver through Walmart’s aisles on one of their electric scooters. In the crook of his left arm sat his little granddaughter Adelynne, and it was impossible to tell who was prouder of whom. Addy had been a bit fussy during the meal, but now she was almost reverently quiet, staring with big eyes at the passing merchandise. And Ken was “blissed out” by being close to his little angel.

And that’s when I grabbed for my camera and zoomed in on their two arms—his so tanned and muscular, and hers so delicate. And their bond so strong, their love for each other so utterly complete.

When, oh when—and more importantly, how—is our suffering world going to finally learn that we are all Baby Addys, fussy and incomplete until we’re safely in the arms of a Grandpa-Ken God?

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God Reads Bulletin Boards
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 2, 2011

Back in mid-July, during a trip Shelley and I took to my South Dakota hometown, I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this “Community Bulletin Board." (That's what it says on the wooden sign just above the thermostat.)

Out of a decent respect for people's privacy, I won't zoom in any closer on these posted items. But I can give you a flavor of what they contain. If you were to follow up on some of these postings, you could take advantage of "low budget" drywall and painting services. You could study the photographed features of a lost cat named Shadow in case you happened upon him later. You could find out when to attend a dance with music provided by a local accordionist who is "back by popular demand" and who plays “polkas, waltzes and a variety of other music for your dancing and listening pleasure.”

You could avail yourself of the services of a “singer, songwriter and pianist” to play for your wedding (that’s the little gray business card tucked up beside the thermostat). You could buy a used chair and rocker for a total of $40. You could stand in line to purchase what is purported to be an “antique Victorian lamp” for $50. And though the event has passed, you could visualize what must have happened July 30 at “Clark’s Potato Day,” including what it might have been like to engage in a feature so popular that they bolded and capitalized it on the poster: “MASHED POTATO WRESTLING.”

Why do I show you this bulletin board? Partly to give you a slice of the kind of small-town Americana I grew up in. But mostly to tell you that an awesomely attentive God cares about each person this bulletin board represents – the singer/songwriter, the drywall guy, the accordionist, and even the assorted mashed potato wrestlers, not to mention Shadow the cat.

God loves these precious people, and is earnestly hoping that they will find in Him their truest happiness, that happiness which will cause them with greater fervor to sing songs in praise of Him, build things for his glory, and even roll around with great delight in 200 pounds of mashed potatoes.

Do you believe that? If you do, good. Because it's the truth. The God who is able to keep track of our current supply of hair follicles, and the fortunes of various sparrows, is so deeply interested in you that a heaven without you would be tragic to Him.

When's the last time you told Him that you loved Him? When's the last time you read some of His love-letter to you?

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 1, 2011

Not long ago I sat down at a little table in a shopping center to outline a sermon. When I glanced up, I discovered that I had parked myself just outside the entrance to a fitness center.

Through the doorway I could see that there were a lot of empty machines, but there were three people exercising. One of them was a woman who was in a more distant part of the facility walking on a treadmill. Closer to me were the man and woman in the photo above, both using stairclimbing machines.

Every once in a while I glanced up to see how they were doing. Those two stair climbers must have walked "upstairs" for 20 or 30 minutes straight. They were dedicated – they were putting in the time, toning the muscles, working up a sweat.

You see, these folks cared about their health so much that they were willing to take the time to work on it. Maybe one or both of them had been told by a doctor to change their lifestyle, get some exercise. Whatever it was that motivated them, they recognized that they themselves had a part to play in their physical well-being. They knew that good health was far more than taking pills their doctor had prescribed.

If you’re an Adventist, you know that for more than 100 years we’ve been championing—among other important ideas—the truth that good health is important. However, you may also have observed that in the last couple of decades,  the secular world has actually overtaken a lot of supposedly health-conscious Adventists, and they are now giving us pointers on how to be healthy! We're not exactly leading the charge on this anymore. Some of us probably let ourselves start believing that those health guidelines were pretty legalistic, so we slacked off. But the rest of the world is rushing past us, like faster marathoners overtaking the sludgier ones!

Let’s get back to where we came from—not only come back to being a church who believes that our bodies are indeed temples of God’s Holy Spirit and thus to be carefully maintained, but let’s go back to where we really came from, the Garden of Eden. Let’s remember that God plans for us to inhabit “new heavens and a new earth”—Eden restored. Best motivation in the world, right? Let's live--as much as possible--as though our hometown is Eden.

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