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

Daily Photo Parable -  September 2012

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

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


Ani, Once Home to 1,001 Churches

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 30, 2012

The ruins of Ani are landmarks of a once stately walled Armenian capital that rivaled Constantinople, Cairo and Baghdad in power and glory and was home to between 100,000 -200,000 people. Some say it may have been the most important city in the world 1000 years ago. The windswept plateau overlooks the current Turkish-Armenian border on the once popular east-west silk trade route. Once known as the city of 1,001 churches, it never fully recovered from the devastating earthquake in 1319 and has been completely deserted for over 300 years.

As an archaeological site of great significance because of its technically and artistically advanced structures it has only been open to the general public since 2004. Even so, some parts are still off-limits and patrolled by the military as is the entire border with Armenia and Iran to the south. Of the ruins of several churches on the site, the dome of the “Church of the Redeemer” (shown here) supposedly was built to house a portion of the 'True Cross” brought here from Constantinople.

The Akhurian River in the ravine below separates Turkey from Armenia. Remnants of an old bridge can be seen when people could pass from one country to the other during friendlier times. The number of churches and sacredness of Ani was largely due to the Armenian culture, the first to convert to Christianity. By comparison, a quick search found that Bellevue has a population of around 129,277 – within the range of Ani. I couldn't find the number of churches in Bellevue, but I don't think it's close to 1,001!

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The Color Purple

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Thursday, September 27, 2012

[This is Robert's photo parable from Tuesday, when our server froze up and I couldn't upload it. -- Maylan Schurch]
Author Alice Walker wrote in her book The Color Purple, “I think it annoys God if you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice.”  Her actual wondering was somewhat more irreverent but the idea is still the same.  When God gives us gifts, He likes us to take notice and appreciate them.  Walker falls into the trap many of us do of making God in our own image in order to justify the particular position we hold.  As dangerous as that may be, I still have to believe her original premise is appropriate; God does want us to be grateful for the gifts he so abundantly gives us.
Two passages from the book of Exodus remind us that the Lord is the one who provides what each of us needs, and He does so generously. The first comes following Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush.  It is there God asks him to be His spokesman and Moses doesn’t have to fake his stammering, for he truly is slow of speech.  God then assures him that He would teach him what to say and how to say it. (Exodus 4:10-12)  Ten chapters later in Exodus 14 we have the account of God providing manna for His people.  And once again, each was given what he needed.  That’s not to say the people didn’t get tired of their repeated blessings, they of course did.  Don’t know how many ways you can fix manna, but I suspect creative Jewish mothers tried every possibility, putting even Betty Crocker to shame.

But if we’re ever tempted to think just maybe they were justified in complaining about the monotony of their diet, just take a closer look outside.  Perhaps you’ll see a sea of purple stretching towards the distant mountains.  Instead of complaining about the monochromatic view, revel in its richness and look a little closer.  You may discover more than you originally perceived, for God is generous beyond belief.

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Bear Witness at Rome
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
(Our apologies for the missing blog and photos by Robert Howson. Our website's server was balky and barely communicative Monday night. We're going to put his blog entry in this Thursday's slot. Let's hope Darren's blog gets us back to our usual trouble-free experience!)


DARREN WRITES: We recently had the privilege of visiting a few cities in Italy, one of them being Rome.  The image above is the Colosseum – built in (72-80 AD).  It’s amazing to me to see something this old, and have the ability to walk around (and in) it.  Back in its day, it had a seating capacity of 50,000 and was used for a number of things – not all were good.  Of course we know that gladiator contests were held inside, along with animal hunts, dramas and even re-enacted sea battles, as they were able to fill the “stage” area with water and have boats floating on the water.  To think of the horrific “contests” or the executions, while so many spectators cheered, is kind depressing.  It got me thinking of Paul and what he was sent to do, for the Romans.
In Acts 23, we can read the account of Paul going to Rome to spread the great news of God’s love and what that meant for their salvation.  We can read how difficult it was for Paul. In fact he was singled out and plotted against.  Through all the hardship and challenges, he trusted in God and knew there was a plan.  In verse 11, it says, “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”.  Paul had been taken into the barracks for his own safety, as a mob of men were more than ready to kill him.  God was protecting him, every step of the way.  He had a plan for Paul to go and share the great news, even in an area of the world that Satan had a very strong hold on.
The freedom we have because of what Jesus sacrificed for us, is unimaginable.  The opportunity we have to bear witness, in our homes, in our schools, at work, in our neighborhood, or even all the way over in Rome, like Paul – is something we shouldn’t take lightly.  Be the witness Paul and God would want us to be.

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Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 24, 2012

I was driving between Lynden and Sumas a few weeks ago and stopped at this set up where they were selling fresh corn.  By the time I got there it was late in the afternoon but I was able to get some of the last ears left in the bin. 

There wasn't anyone monitoring the corn or making sure people paid the right amount; the prices were posted and you deposited the money into the post on the left, took your corn out of the bin in the middle and you could shuck it and leave the husks in the red cart. 

It was a very simple set up but the people who were selling the corn were totally relying on the honesty of their customers to make sure that they paid for what they took.  There must have been enough honest people to make this operation profitable.

The integrity of the honest keeps them on track;
    the deviousness of crooks brings them to ruin.
          --Proverbs 11:3 (The Message)

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Sharing Hospitality
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 23, 2012

While in Eastern Turkey we had a home-hosted lunch with a Kurdish family living in a small cluster of homes on farms in the countryside near the Armenian border. Our hostess had lunch ready when we arrived – table set and food prepared. We removed our shoes outside and sat on tapestry-covered chairs around a table in the main room of their simple home. The village children were anxiously waiting to see us and listen to us talk which seemed to sound strange to their ears! When it was time for us to leave, everyone in the tiny village came out to bid us goodbye.

The man in the photo immediately was proud to show us his horse! The man of the house where we had lunch owned a tractor for working the fields. No one in the village had an automobile. Warm hospitality was shared, even though we couldn't speak the same language!

Hospitality is mentioned several times in the Bible, giving tips on how to show it. Jesus accepted the hospitality of others. While He was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so He went in and reclined at the table. (Luke 11:37) Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. (Luke:10:38) Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2) How do you show hospitality to others?

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The Great Controversy Between Bug and Moth
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 22, 2012

A week and a half ago I stopped in to grab a bite to eat at a strip-mall restaurant. I was sitting next to a floor-to-ceiling window which looked out on a cement sidewalk/patio with tables and chairs for the people who like to eat outside when the weather is nice.

A tiny but agitated flurry of motion caught my eye, and I found myself observing a fight between what looked like a moth and what looked like a beetle. I mean, it was vicious. Neither backed off. The moth beat its wings frantically, but the bug was too heavy and hung on too tenaciously.

Several seconds later I recovered the presence of mind to grab for my camera, arise from my chair,  and snap the above shot (sorry it's so fuzzy--my belt-camera isn't as fancy as a Canon with a fast zoom lens would've been). A few seconds later the battle had moved further along the sidewalk. The moth lay prone on the cement, and I discovered that what I thought was a bug was actually some kind of wasp or bee, hovering like a helicopter a few inches above.

I returned to my meal in a thoughtful mood. For the last few months I've been preparing a series of messages called "Understand Prophecy," and on Night Two my topic will be "Good God, Bad World – Why?", which deals with the great controversy between Christ and Satan. It was chilling to think that the battle-to-the-death which I had just experienced was a microcosm of that immensely larger conflict.

If you're not accustomed to thinking in terms of Heaven’s battle with Lucifer, you might give it some consideration. For one thing, it's the only way to think about why evil exists. If you eliminate Satan and the hosts of darkness from the equation, all you're left with is God and humanity. And if it's just God and us, that brings up two crucial questions: (1) Where did the kind of evil come from which causes Holocausts and 9-11? and (2) If God is as good and as overwhelmingly powerful as He is made out to be, why doesn't He make the badness go away right now?

A huge topic, right? If you'd like to walk through a wide-ranging Bible study about this, click the link below.

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Bumper Bickers
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 28, 2012

A little over a week ago I was delighted to get near enough to this very opinionated SUV to take a picture. (I have blotted out its license plate to protect its owner's privacy.) I know I'm a hypocrite--I would never put bumper stickers on my own car, but I love them on someone else's! Even though my little camera had just enough pixels to make these "bumper bickers" legible, your computer monitor probably doesn't, so let me share some of them.

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. (Probably true, if your pre-suppositions are sensible.)

Dare to legalize drugs. (Not sure I want to go that far. By the way, this is the sticker you see just below the rear window, to the left of the keyhole. It's a visual parody of the old "DARE to Keep Kids Off Drugs" bumper sticker.)

One nation—undereducated. (Maybe so. Maybe not.)

Prevent crime—kill your television! (A lot of truth in that one, no doubt.)

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”—Voltaire. (This may be the truest sticker of them all.)

One of my great current burdens is how to think properly. Even though (as I said) I love bumper-stickered cars, I realize that a lot of people – and I, unless I watch myself – seem to be thinking in bumper sticker slogans rather than using more dependable ways. I think that before we allow any ideas into our mental "backpacks," we need to filter them through sensible "thinking rules."

Fortunately, the Bible gives us some essential ground rules for proper thinking. Click the link below to learn more.

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Change Every 30 Days
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 20, 2012

This past Sunday I was in the laundry room in our home, and I noticed these two new boxes of Arm and Hammer baking soda. Though a novice, I am acquainted enough with housekeeping to understand that baking soda boxes now occupy proud positions of service in refrigerators.

The Arm and Hammer people, as you can see above, combine their solicitude for refrigerator-caretakers with a natural desire to generate more revenue for the stockholders, with the result that they have taken to insisting that these boxes be switched out every 30 days. They even provide a helpful space on the end of the box for one to pencil in the starting date.

The moment I saw these boxes and their labels, I thought about being a Christian. A lot of emphasis is rightly given to the act of accepting Jesus as our Savior. However, every New Testament church leader from Jesus to Peter to Paul to John to James remind us that being a saved person is not a one-time experience. Instead, we must grow. A month from today, I should be a better Christian than I am right now.

Just two quick examples, and then I'll give you an in-depth Bible study link.

In John 5:14, after healing a paralyzed man by the pool of Bethesda, Jesus told him, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." And in John 8:7, after an adulterous woman’s accusers fled from Jesus, He forgave her—and told her, “Go—and sin no more.” In other words, sinners who take advantage of Jesus' forgiveness need to cooperate with Him in their reformation.

Take a few minutes to absorb this truth more deeply by clicking on the following link:

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God's People
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
It's easy to get stuck in a rut.  Day in, day out, the same thing . . . sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes it's not.  I am guilty of it, and I presume a lot of the rest of us are as well.
As I have mentioned before, a few years back, we had the opportunity to serve in Kenya on two separate trips.  In the image above, a Masai mother holds her smiling child, wrapped in traditional Masai colors.  As you can imagine, this African adventure was completely outside of our “rut”-- and I would highly encourage anyone to do this if given the opportunity. 

That said, I realize that most of us will never have the opportunity to serve ‘way over in Kenya.  I say that because the location doesn't matter -- serving for God is, SERVING FOR GOD.  It can be in your home, it can be in the state, in can be anywhere on the planet.  It can consist of singing to someone, painting a church, taking food to a loved one or providing shelters for the homeless in Brazil. 
God asks us to serve Him.  He asks us to use our hands for Him.  Near, far it doesn't matter.  We all have gifts and those gifts can (and should) be used for serving our God.

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Black-footed Albatross
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

You’ve probably never seen one unless you’ve been at least ten miles offshore, for the open ocean is the home of the Black-footed Albatross.  It, along with other members of its order, rely on long, stiffly held wings to maneuver the wind currents of the Pacific Ocean.  With a seven foot wingspan, it would hardly be consider diminutive, but even a bird this size is dwarfed by the immensity of the sea where it spends the vast majority of its time.  The only reason it returns to land is to nest which it does on the Hawaiian chain and islands off the coast of Japan.  It has the longest incubation period of any North American bird, 67 days.

Two characteristics set birds of this order apart from most others.  The first is unique to the order Procellariiformes or the tubenoses.  The nickname comes from the two tubes located on the top of the beak.  These tubes are used to eliminate excess amounts of salt obtained while feeding in the marine environment. Unlike other birds which have very limited or no sense of smell, the tubenose rely upon keen olfactory perception to find food.  This is easily observed on pelagic trips where “chum” is tossed overboard and within minutes, albatross magically appear to feed where previously, none were in sight.

The Creator seldom demonstrates a one-size-fits-all approach.  He specializes, giving each person, each object of His creation, the very things needed in order to be successful where He has placed them.  The author of Hebrews put it nicely:  “May the God of peace provide you with every good thing you need in order to do his will…” (Hebrews 13:20,21 TEV)  Eugene Peterson in The Message phrased it this way:  “May God, who puts all things together, makes all things whole,…Now put you together, provide you with everything you need to please him…”  It’s reassuring to know that if God gives us a task, He also provides us with the tools needed in order to be successful in accomplishing that task.

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No More Death
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 17, 2012

My sister-in-law pointed out this butterfly to me as we were walking around a park on Lake Okanagan, BC, looking for a good spot to have a family picnic a couple of weeks ago.  It's a Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiope, and it is the only large butterfly with cream colored borders found in Washington.  Their wingspans can be just over 2 1/2 inches.

It was named Mourning Cloak because during Victorian times, people used to wear dark clothing when they were in mourning. Today, dark clothing is typically worn for a funeral or memorial service but back then there was a whole protocol, depending on your relationship with the person who died, of what you should wear and for how long.  A widow at that time, might be in mourning for two years and would have to wear black clothing without any sheen or shine for over a year. Gradually trim and other colors could be added into the wardrobe.  There were even etiquette books to consult on the appropriate progression.  Anyway, it was thought that the dark color on the wings of the butterfly was similar to the dark color of a cloak, or sleeveless outer garment, worn during this time.

Won't it be great when we no longer have to deal with death?  John had a vision about the new heaven and the new earth:

I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and so had the sea.  Then I saw New Jerusalem, that holy city, coming down from God in heaven. It was like a bride dressed in her wedding gown and ready to meet her husband.

I heard a loud voice shout from the throne:

God’s home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. Yes, God will make his home among his people. He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone forever.

Then the one sitting on the throne said:

I am making everything new. Write down what I have said. My words are true and can be trusted. Everything is finished! I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give water from the life-giving fountain to everyone who is thirsty.  All who win the victory will be given these blessings. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Revelation 21:1-7 CEV

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Mt. Ararat
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 16, 2012

We first had a sight of Mt. Ararat (5137m), Turkey's highest mountain, as we traveled north near Turkey's border with Iran. We stopped for lunch at Dogubayazit, base for most climbers going up Ararat as well as the main kick-off point for hikers on the overland trail through Iran. A permit and guide are mandatory for climbing the mountain. Since we weren't doing either, we continued north on the road with periodic stops to look at the snowy mountain. Heavy clouds hovered over the twin peaks. For awhile the shorter summit was in view, then other glimpses, but never a good view like I wanted.- the whole mountain! There was just the valley, dotted with sheep (like in my photo) or small Kurdish villages, between us and the mountain. Like some of our mountains here in the U. S., sometimes clouds hide it for days at a time. So, I suppose we were fortunate to see at least part of Mt Ararat!

Mt Ararat has been in many legends and traditions, notably as the supposed resting place of Noah's Ark. Genesis 8:4, states “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.” Historians have disputed exactly where this might be, Mt Ararat or other mountains in the area of Ararat. Even though many explorers have claimed to have found fragments of the ark, none have been scientifically proven. However, that doesn't mean the ark didn't land on Mt Ararat or other nearby mountains.

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Duh . . . ?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 15, 2012

I don't remember where I snapped this photo in early August, but it must've been in some kind of grocery store or farmers market.

As I studied the message on the poster, I remember narrowing my eyes. "Am I missing something?" I kept asking myself. "Are there really other ways of picking apples besides ‘right from the tree’?" Actually, as I was preparing this photo for this blog, I did a quick Google search on "apple picking methods" to make sure I had all my bases covered. Sure enough, I found no other way of picking an apple except "right from the tree."

To me, another "duh" statement is, "God the Intelligent Designer created the world and everything in it." Someone who says that we evolved from lower life-forms, and eventually from a lightning flash in pool scum, not only bears the burden of proving from whence came pool, scum, and enough electricity for a lightning flash, but also must explain away the exponentially mounting evidence that, no (to cite a recent bit of scientific rethinking) there is no "junk DNA" after all, and no, even the simplest cell in the simplest fruit fly is so staggeringly complex that the good old Darwinian standby, natural selection, just couldn't possibly be the answer.

I mean, 160 years ago science simply didn't have the high-powered electron microscopes and other tools to understand how fearfully and wonderfully complex living things really are. Darwin could perhaps be excused for developing his natural selection theory. But would he do the same today? If he had been able to take a truly close look at the delicate sensitivity of the muscles which focus our eyes, and the rods and cones which transmit color signals through our optic nerves only to reassemble them into images within our brains, would he still say we bootstrapped ourselves up from a bit of microwaved scum?

I believe that Paul's statement in Romans 1:20 is becoming more and more true every day: “For since the creation of the world His [God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse . . . “  (Romans 1:20).

If you're interested in doing further Bible study on this topic, click the link below for several lines of Bible reasoning.

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I’ve Got Your Back
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 14, 2012

Back in early August Shelley and I slipped away to spend a few days on Washington's coast. While sitting on the beach and reading, we saw these two companions approach and take a seat on the log. For a while, the dog sat beside his master gazing out at the Pacific, but then he seemed to sense the need to get even closer. So he walked behind the man's back and just leaned up against him for several minutes, "pressing the flesh."

Even though the man looks friendly, and even though a golden retriever is (as a retriever owner once told me) "a friend of all the world," I have a feeling that if either man or dog had seen danger approaching, danger that threatened his companion, either would have sprung into protective action.

One of the Bible's clearest messages is that God "has our back." The presence of a "great controversy" between Christ and the fallen angel who has been working to defame Him makes life tragically complex, and not every believer is always spared the effects of that controversy. But if we place ourselves under God's protection, we are eternally secure.

For a very encouraging Bible study on this topic, click the link below:

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Hot Wheels
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 13, 2012

Almost exactly a month ago, Shelley and I were in the checkout line at a Fred Meyer store. As you know, the products positioned there to provide last-minute temptation to the shopper are of specific varieties – breath mints, chewing gum, little bags of candy – things Mom or Dad would find useful.

Plopped on top of the display in the photo above, however, is a large plastic-wrapped batch of tiny cars known as Hot Wheels. No need for a phone call to Sherlock Holmes to figure out the mystery – the intense little drama thus portrayed is easily reconstructed by anyone who has stood in checkout lines.

A little boy (or perhaps a motorcar-conscious little girl) is accompanying Mom through the store. Mom, intent on getting her shopping over as quickly as possible, is focused on piling paper towels, breakfast food, milk, butter, and other household staples into the cart. The child, of course, has other objectives, and what should Mom find while unloading her purchases on the to a rolling rubber conveyor belt?

Mom emits a surprised snort. The child wheedles. Mom hoists the package out of the child's reach. The child protests. Mom stands firm. A duet ensues, the child beseeching in a high soprano and Mom threatening in a guttural contralto, as the ensemble dies away in the distance.

Isn’t that the way it sometimes is with God? He moves purposefully through history, focusing on the big picture, while you and I scuttle along behind, grasping for the gew-gaw of the moment. Sometimes He lets us have our own way—and reap the consequences. But if we have let Him know that we consider ourselves not orphans but His children, He will often forbid us a toy, or take it out of reach. Later, of course, we will realize His wisdom.

For three Bible texts on discipline—one on God’s discipline of us, and two on disciplining children—click the link below.

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God's Glory
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
I love when a image and a Bible verse come together so nicely. And it's even better when it hits me without me having to search. This is one of those times. I was recently reading in the Psalms, and I came across Psalm 91: "The Glory of God in Zion"
The first few verses are as follows:
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God,
In His holy mountain.
Beautiful in elevation,
The joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King.
God is in her palaces;
He is known as her refuge.

And it reminded me of a trip I took, a few years back, when Jim, one of my best friends, took me on a flight around Mt. Rainier. This was a incredible journey. Jim needed more flying hours, and I jumped at the chance to get the kind of shots of Rainier most people don't have the opportunity to get.

As you can tell, it was a crystal clear morning, and we timed the flight just right in order to still get the morning light on the mountain. When we rounded the corner, there it was - the beauty, the power, the light of God -- shining over the edge of another amazing creation. 

Like it says in Psalm 91:1-3, we need to praise Him in the city, in His holy mountain -- the whole earth. What an awesome God we serve and He certainly deserves our love, devotion and continual praise.

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Roses – Perfect in Their Time
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Book of Nature provides us with an inexhaustible pallet of reminders which bear out the truth that “All truth is God’s truth”.  A walk in the late summer sun provided such an example on a single wild rosebush.  There on its branches were blossoms that spoke with an intensity of color that couldn’t be ignored.  But not far away were rose hips containing seeds which had once been part of earlier flowers.  These too provided anyone who was willing to see a feast of color.
Ellen White uses plants to illustrate the need for constant growth and development, but she also incorporates a promise of the ideal.  Speaking of both plant and character she writes, “At every stage of development our life may be perfect; yet if God’s purpose for us is fulfilled, there will be constant advancement.”  (Education page 106)  Here, on the same bush, were displayed examples of that perfection.  Perhaps the two stages of growth might illustrate different aspects of our own character.  For it’s only too obvious that in some areas we show more development than in others.  
I wondered if my reaction to the plant would have been the same if my walk would have been taken in February when the branches were bare, with only thorns being visible.  Would I have looked at those unadorned branches in the same way?  While nature’s book may be comprehensive, our understanding of it is still woefully limited.  But is it possible that even our inadequate spiritual eyesight might be considered perfect if it is surrendered to our Maker?  Maybe a walk down that same path in the cold winter months might not be a bad idea.

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Future Predictions
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 10, 2012

I actually saw this sign in front of a furniture store that was going out of business but at first glance, it looks like a prediction made by some of those people who try to tell us specifically when the world is going to end.

With all of the troublesome things that are going on in the world lately, some people are wondering if they are leading up to something.  There have been wars and famines, illness and drought, economic downturns and countless other disasters. 

Jesus tells us that we cannot know exactly when He is coming back but he does tell us to be ready!

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only . . . Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:36 and 42-44 (NKJV)

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Reflections of 9/11
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 9, 2012

When I think of New York City, I think of my time there as a volunteer Red Cross nurse after the attack on 9/11. During a stop-over there earlier this year, I wanted to go to the World Trade Center site and Ground Zero, the single most historic site in the U. S. You may know that the entire 16-acre site is being rebuilt as a memorial to those who lost their lives. The photo above shows one of the buildings being completed, reflecting the clouds and a nearby building. Names of the nearly 3,000 individuals on the twin reflection pools are arranged in a way that reflects the lives of the individuals they were associated with – companies where they worked, on the airplanes and first responders.

This flag containing the names of those same individuals can be seen near the entrance to the Memorial. To me, the entire 9/11 Memorial site was a place of reflection - of lives lived and of lives lost - a reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history.

Did you know that September 11 is now known as Patriot Day, designated in memory of those who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks? This is another time we can proudly display our American flag. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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Credibility Gap
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 8, 2012

Late last month while waiting at a stop light I glanced to my left and saw what you see above. It was a decal poster stuck to the side of a white pickup, and once your eyes adjust to its unusualness you will see that it is a picture of a kitchen, complete with "island." But there's an ugly stain at the top of the picture.

A sign on the passenger door informed me that this pickup is owned by a company which remodels kitchens and does granite work. But as I gazed at the sign – and as I gaze at it now in photograph form – I found myself wondering, in case I wanted to re-do my own kitchen, about the level of workmanship these people would provide me if I hired them.

I'm sure that at one point the decal poster's photo was crisp and dramatic, just as the dust-smeared pickup at one time may have been washed gleaming white. And it's just possible that the workman who drives it and the company who owns it are so fixated on providing wonderful new kitchens that they have no time to spare for vehicle upkeep, or poster maintenance.

But how am I to know?

This might be a good time to step in front of a metaphorical mirror and examine just what our lifestyles – our words, our actions, our possessions, our passions – reveal to others about the God we say we serve. Decades ago I remember meeting a man in a post office. He and I had gotten acquainted a month or so earlier, and he had spoken fervently of his love for Jesus. There in the post office he greeted me with delight, again talking about how close he and his Savior were.

But while we were talking, I noticed that his front shirt-pocket showed the square bulge of a cigarette-pack, and I wondered if indeed he had presented his body as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1), and if indeed whatsoever he was doing, he was doing for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). If so, I wondered how he could reconcile his piety with his puffing.

I think the problem may have been that whoever had been teaching the man the gospel had neglected to tell him about the last half of most of Paul’s letters. During those epistles’ first parts Paul often talks about the gospel and the resulting freedom in Christ. But then he turns to matters of practical living, and reminds us of the need to behave in a holy manner.

For a four-verse minicourse on Christian holiness, click the link below:

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The Love Walk
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 7, 2012

This past Sunday when Shelley and I were on a walk, we came across this single “flip-flop” sandal. As you can see, it's a bit worn, but you can still make out the word "Love" in white letters.

Judging from the colors, this is the property of a girl, and I hope she gets it back. I don't know whether, as she’s been flip-flopping through the neighborhood, she’s given much thought to the message she was carrying, or whether she actually did behave in a loving way to the people she met.

I do know that Christian love isn't so much a warm, rosy glow as it is a walk. Every happily-married couple knows that the honeymoon glow is gradually replaced by a series of self-sacrificing days when you toss out the idea that each person should bring 50% to the relationship. Instead, you both learn to give 110%, and that’s really when love starts to deepen.

I have had the privilege of going on a 34-year “love walk” with my adorable wife Shelley, and my heart turns to ice when I think of what life would have been without her.

How’s your marriage doing? Or are you thinking of getting married? For a detailed, straight-from-the-Bible tutorial about this crucial subject, click the link below:

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“Is Here!”
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 6, 2012

Since this past Monday was a holiday, Shelley and I had some free time to drive around. We were just about to turn into a parking lot which contained a Trader Joe's grocery store when I spotted the above sandwich-board sign and burst into laughter. “Is here’?” I asked Shelley. "What's here?"

Shelley, who had been paying closer attention, told me that this was actually the final sign in a row of several. If I also had been more observant, I would have understood that the "it" was the Fearless Flyer, the store's occasional newsletter.

I don't know if you have been in conversational circles where December 21, 2012 has been mentioned in connection with the end of the world. Supposedly, a Mayan calendar comes to the end of a 5000-plus year cycle on that date, and – also supposedly – this signifies some sort of Great Change.

Beginning October 5, our church – and several other Adventist churches in Western Washington – will be offering a series of Bible prophecy presentations under the umbrella title "Understand Prophecy." That’s because Jesus wants His disciples to do whatever they can to make sure that the true end of the world catches as few people as possible by surprise, as that final sign caught me by surprise. We need to put up a whole “row” of Bible “signboards.”

In other words, we need to get the word out about exactly what the end of the world will look like, feel like, and sound like – and more importantly, how God would have us live until that day comes. That way we won't have to ask in astonishment, "Is Here? What’s here?”

I invite you and your family to our Understanding Prophecy series, which begins Friday evening, October 5, at 7:00 p.m., here at the church. There will also be programs for children ages birth through 10. Keep an eye on this website’s homepage for more details as they become available.

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Under His Wing
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Well, I am attempting (again) to step into Rob Howson's (resident birder) shoes and identify this bird . . . Great Horned Owl.  If I am incorrect, you can call it an "owl" for the purpose of this message.  A couple summers ago we were able to visit the great state of Alaska, and on a stop in Ketchikan I visited a Bald Eagle education center.  In this center, you obviously got to see many eagles, but also other fowl.  This owl was posing quite nicely for me, which allowed me to capture all the detail of the feathers, the horns, the eyes, all of it.
God not only takes the very tiniest of details to heart in His creation. He also gives us the promise of protection -- described in this passage:
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
                   --Psalm 91: 1-4

I love reading that line, "He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge . . . ."  What a great promise of God's protection.

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Orchard Oriole
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Having recently been delivered from the influences of pagan worship in Egypt, the Children of Israel were given specific instructions regarding the purity of God and how they should honor Him.  Such guidelines included the exclusion of what the King James Version calls “bastards” from entering the Sanctuary.  This restriction was to extend to their descendents for ten generations. (Deuteronomy 23:2)  Newer translations convey the idea of those children coming from forbidden marriages to pagans.  It’s easy to see how God’s desire for holiness could be twisted by human thinking into racial bigotry.  We humans seem to be very good at confusing things.  Fortunately for us, God desires all who come willingly to enter into His proffered grace.

Another case of confusion centers around the Orchard Oriole or the Bastard Oriole as it was once known. An early observer apparently mistook a female Baltimore Oriole for a male Orchard Oriole resulting in the nickname, spurious or bastard oriole.  Even today this misidentification is remembered in its scientific name, spurious.  Unfettered by human misunderstanding, the Orchard Oriole continues its life among scattered trees, eating a few tree blossoms and nectar in addition to insects which make up the majority of its diet.  Attention to detail is also part of its life.  Its long, hanging nest is constructed of grasses.  One strand of grass thirteen inches long was found to be woven through other nesting materials 34 times.  Such details may add to our enjoyment of watching these creatures. But there is an even better reason for opening our eyes, one suggested by the French scientist, Louis Pasteur:  “The more I study nature, the more I am amazed at the Creator.”

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Are Your Burdens Heavy?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 3, 2012

I was on short hike on the eastern side of the Cascades a couple of weeks ago and wasn't paying too much attention to individual trees until I came to an interpretive  sign which pointed out the fact that the trail ran across a slope and that a number of trees had a curve in the base of the trunk.  This was because snow has a tendency to move downhill and while trees have a tendency to grow straight up, sometime the pressure of the heavy snow can cause them to bend.  I would imagine that this happened when they were young saplings because after the bend in the trunk at the base of the mature trees, the rest of the trunk went straight up. 

I think the same thing can happen to us.  We can get so weighed down with life's problems, its busyness and the multi-tasking that we do, that we can forget that we don't have to struggle with this load all by ourselves.  As we mature in our Christian walk, we realize that we can relinquish our loads to the One who has offered us relief.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

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The Judas Tree
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 2, 2012

A wild Redbud or Judas Tree producing white flowers in the spring can be found in the forests of Turkey. The flowers don't stay white but turn deep pink or red. Later, long pods develop that hang from the tree. Other types of Redbud trees are domesticated and can be found in gardens in many places around the world.

This is the type of tree that supposedly Judas Iscariot hanged himself after betraying Jesus. The flowers are thought to symbolize blood or shame and the pods hanging from the stem represent this act. A legend says that the Lord caused crimson blooms to burst out along the branches of the Redbud trees like drops of blood to remind us of the blood Christ shed for the sins of the world. And after the flowers drop, the leaves grow in the shape of hearts to remind us of the God's abundant love for us.

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Take Off the Wrapping!

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 1, 2012

A couple of weeks ago Shelley and I stopped at a Fred Meyer store, and while maneuvering our cart through the aisles I noticed these large wrapped objects. If you’re a bit confused about what they are, look at the unwrapped ones on the right edge of the photo.

These are sofas, of course (what we Great Plains prairie people call “davenports”). They’re wrapped up, to protect them until a family decides to plunk down the cash and take them off the store’s inventory.

Fortunately, any potential sofa-buyer can walk up to one of the unwrapped “demos” and settle into it, assessing just how comfortable and restful it is.

As I snapped the above photo, I got to thinking about God's seventh-day Sabbath. He capped off a six-day creation week by crowning the Day Seven with His blessing. In fact, the first few verses of Genesis 2 tell us that He not only blessed it, but also made it holy, and even rested on that day Himself.

Then, in Commandment Four, directly in the center of the stone-carved Ten (and giving more detail and using more words than any of the other commandments), He urged His people to "remember" it. Jesus faithfully kept the Sabbath, and so did His disciples in the book of Acts. And no Bible verse either urges, or even hints at, any change.

Yet for a variety of reasons, most people are still ignoring this divinely-instituted, sanity-restoring, evolution-baffling Day. They have a idea that keeping the Sabbath God asked us to keep would be about as comfortable as sitting on a sofa swathed in plastic.

But that doesn’t make sense—because the same God who created all the beautiful and delicious and nourishing features of that first Garden would not conclude His creation by giving us an unpleasant rest day. No, it's we who have ruined it--and now we ignore it.

What say we rip the plastic off and try it out again?

For a brief but intriguing Bible study on how to do this, click the link below.

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