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

Daily Photo Parable -  September 2013

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

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

Felling a Tree
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Our ideas of permanence and stability are often brought into question, not only by inspired words but by our own experience as well.  Carolyn and I had a large spruce tree which had occupied our back yard years before we moved into the area.  It was undoubtedly planted by someone who envisioned its widespread limbs offering shade and texture to the suburban setting.  And that’s exactly what it did for many years, only now its size had increased until it dominated the area necessitating its removal. I hated to see it go, but once the decision was made, the process was quite interesting.  Five men worked together to remove the limbs, climb to the top, and then piece by piece, remove the trunk.  The base of the trunk was close to 36 inches in diameter so this was no small task.  Even after the felling was accomplished, another individual worked nearly two hours to grind out the stump. 

It’s no wonder that Isaiah used this terminology to describe God’s act of removing powers that in His wisdom He recognized as being too strong or too corrupt.  “See, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will lop off the boughs with great power.  The lofty trees will be felled, that tall ones will be brought low.”  (Isaiah 10:33 NIV)  Our human bias tends to equate strength with correctness, as if our power somehow vindicates our policies. But God is not impressed with our might and He certainly can see through our thinly disguised plans.  Politicians may view a landslide victory as a mandate to carry out their plans, but God’s ways are not those of man.  

While we should take seriously our responsibility to act wisely in the democratic process, we must never be so presumptuous as to assume we have a monopoly on understanding.  If we should ever doubt this, just check out what Nebuchadnezzar had to say about the timber industry.  His eventual understanding might be of benefit to us as well.

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If My People . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 30, 2013

This bird has many names.  Its scientific name is Perisoreus canadensis.  Its more common names include grey/gray jay, Canada Jay, camp robber and whiskey jack.  It's slightly smaller than a Stellar Jay and a bit larger than a robin.

Even if I hadn't included a picture, you would be able to tell some things about this bird just from its names.  In the online article about this bird on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, it is described as "deceptively cute." 

Last summer, my dad was walking along a sub alpine trail while eating trail mix and suddenly these jays started flying in and were taking the trail mix right out his hand!  I was hiking with some friends up to Talapus lake a few years ago and as soon as we stopped for lunch, the birds appeared.  They are a beautiful soft gray color but certainly live up to their name of camp robber; if you left food unattended, it would soon disappear.

I've been reading some books by thru hikers on the Appalachian Trail.  This is a hike that goes from Georgia to Maine or Maine to Georgia depending on which end you start at and thru hikers are hikers who tend to hike the whole trail in less than a year.  Most of the hikers wind up with some kind of trail name that usually has nothing to do with their real name but may have something to do with their likes or dislikes or certain behaviors or physical characteristics.

It's one thing to choose whimsical names for ourselves or to have other people come up clever nicknames for us but calling ourselves Christian is one thing that we really need to take seriously.    As it is written in Chronicles, it was important enough for God to appear to Solomon and to be included it in what He had to say.  At that time, He was talking about the nation of Israel but I believe that it is just as applicable to us today.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Friday through Sunday, September 27 - 29, 2013

The Flamsbana Railway in Norway winds its way along thundering waterfalls and snow-capped mountains in its 20-kilometer long ride from Myrdal to Flam. Known to be one of Norway's most popular and spectacular tourist attractions, people from all over the world go there to ride on this train. At a gradient of 5.5 percent (1:18), it's known to be the world's steepest railway running on normal gauge without cable. Twenty tunnels, some of them twisting, cut through the ground, zigzagging on the mountainside. A rough train support and maintenance road zigzags along the mountains as shown in my second photo, just below.

For many of us, our lives seem to have zigzags too. Some times all seems good. Then something happens and things shift and times can be rough. An illness, loss of a job, problems with relationships and many other things can change the way our lives function. It's easy to get discouraged. It happens to all of us at some time. At times it helps to talk with a friend or counselor. Also, you might want to open God's Word – He's always there. Mathew 18:20: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen”

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Fresh Troll
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 26, 2013

I know I’ve lived a sheltered life, what with growing up in a small prairie town in South Dakota. And I also know that people are treating fantasy almost as reality nowadays—consider all the stories about vampires and zombies and superheroes.

So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this sign I saw at a grocery store earlier this month. Fresh troll?

On the other hand, this is actually another of those Daily Photo Parables in which I remind you to “get the bigger picture” about life and faith. Back away with the camera, and here’s the entire sign.

In your Bible reading, try for the big picture. That means reading sizeable chunks of both Old and New Testaments. You’ll never get the whole story on Jesus being our High Priest until you read what the Old Testament priests went through. You’ll never figure out the Old Testament’s rather cryptic prophecies about the Messiah unless you read Matthew, who gives his Jewish readers helpful footnotes.

So put that wide-angle lens on and start reading!

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Take a break from your concerns
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

“Take a break from your concerns –“ 

This isn’t the title of my blog--it’s a request for you, as you read this blog.
Take a moment to read Psalm 42 (below), as you lose yourself in this tranquil scene of a gently flowing creek.
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”
When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
Remember – no matter what, God has not forgotten you.  He has not cast you aside.  He has not turned against you.  He does, and always will, love you.

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Red-faced Warbler
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beauty abounds all around us, so it seems a bit unusual that Scripture seldom uses this term.  Of course there are scattered references which employ the term.  Esther and Vashti are both referred to as being beautiful as are Absalom and his daughter Tamar.  And it doesn’t seem out of place to refer to Moses as being a child of remarkable beauty but a bit unusual to use this term to refer to the fallen warriors of Israel.  There are references to the temple, precious stones, the moon, hair and other parts of the body as well as inner beauty; but Romans 3 uses it in its highest form when referring to the beauty of God’s plan.  What make His plan so perfect is its completeness and all-encompassing wholeness.

When looking at the Red-faced Warbler it’s easy to see why this term might be used.  Its name directly calls our attention to its most outstanding feature, and yet its crimson face is not what draws the most attention from the female.  Strange as it may seem, this resident of the high mountains of Arizona and New Mexico uses its white rump patch to catch the attention of the female during its courting dance.  Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, and it may be that we are drawn to the bright red since only one other North American warbler sports this color, but such social blunders are easily forgiven and we are not the one left with the red face.

Holiness can also be understood as completeness or wholeness.  I Chronicles 16:29 uses it in this way.  “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”  (KJV)  When we approach the Lord in this spirit, with our complete self surrendered to Him, we are counted by Him as holy, and that is beautiful to the Lord.

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Living Water
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 23, 2013

Have you ever been really thirsty and you didn't have any access to water?  This is not something we encounter too often in the Western world, but I remember driving through Las Vegas on my way to college in California at the end of July one summer and it was really hot.  My little Datsun B210 didn't have air conditioning and in fact I still had the mock sheepskin seat covers on the seats which gave an illusion of warmth on cold prairie winter days and nights!

I was thirsty and didn't have any drinking water in the car with me.  I stopped at the first gas station I could find and they didn't even have regular bottled water.   Pop and juice didn't even appeal to me.  It seemed nothing could quench my thirst but cold, pure water.  All I could find was some French mineral water which I'd never had before.  I took a big gulp expecting it to taste like regular water but it tasted salty from all of the dissolved minerals in it and I couldn't drink it.  I had to go to another store to find just regular cold drinking water.

This same thirst for water can be applied to our thirst for God.  As the psalmist writes:

As a deer thirsts for streams of water,
    so I thirst for you, God.
I thirst for the living God.
    When can I go to meet with him?  Psalm 42:1 (NCV)

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Conquering the Dragon
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 22, 2013

Stave churches, once common all over northern Europe, today mostly exist in Norway. Some say they are Norway's contribution to world architecture. Dating from the Viking age, these ornate churches are some of the oldest surviving wooden buildings on earth. Their name is derived from their vertical supporting posts used for construction. Of the approximately 2000 original stave churches in Norway, only 28 remain. While in Norway, we saw several of these historic sites. Pictured here is the 12th c Borgund Stave Church, thought to be the best preserved of it's kind. The outside decoration of stave churches is an interesting combination of Christian designs and pre-Christian Viking characters such as carved dragon heads, similar to the prows of Viking ships. According to ancient legend, good can be found after overcoming evil or the dragon. Christianity brought these early people a new faith and the principle of forgiveness. It was thought that every person battled with the dragon and that he could be conquered through their faith in God. Thus, teachings in these Stave churches helped people overcome evil. The dragon at the doorway of their church reminded them that the dragon must be conquered and through Christianity, they could gain victory over the dragon, Satan.

In folklore history, dragons are usually crafty creatures that represent evil. In early Christian history, the dragon represents sin. Christian art sometimes shows a dragon at the Jesus' feet, representing His victory over sin. The Bible refers to dragons several times, especially in the Book of Revelation such as in 20:2 “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.” Thanks to God's grace, we can have victory over sin! “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 7:7

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Life’s Football
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 21, 2013

Earlier this month I was in the University of Washington bookstore, a whole section of which is filled with garments designed to give the wearer a chance to testify to his or her devotion to the Huskies football team.

I nearly laughed out loud when I spotted what you see above. It’s a baby outfit which, when the youngster is inserted, gives the impression that the little guy or gal is a football! I suppose that one way to devote your children to football from Day One is to dress them as one.

But as I looked at this photo a few minutes back, a sobering thought came to me. Don’t all kids—almost as soon as they emerge into the daylight—become life’s footballs? If they’re fortunate to be born into families who wanted them and cherish them—and not all kids have that advantage—they may be protected for a time from life’s chronic cruelties. But sooner or later the truth hits home.

Though it might feel that way sometimes, humans aren’t footballs. We get to choose our team, and we need to make that choice over and over again. We get to choose to stay in the arms of the Heaven’s Quarterback, who will hang onto us while shouldering His way through the bad guys toward the Goal.

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Sequester Fear?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 20, 2013

Thursday night of this week I changed our church readerboard sign to what you see above. If you’ve paid any sort of attention to the news, you’ll have heard that the country is being pushed toward the edge of another "sequester" financial cliff.

I thought it would be helpful to the drivers of the thousands of cars which daily pass our church that God is in the money-managing business. He knows that it’s best for us to trust Him, and He knows that if we ignore Him, the next thing we trust is our money. So He claims some of it for Himself—and promises to reward us in ways that are most important.

For encouraging Bible teachings about this subject, click on these links:


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Don’t Let Your Balance Fade!
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 19, 2013

You know how, when they have a bit spare time, some women go through their purses and clean them out? Back on September 1, I was sitting in our car in a Forks, Washington parking lot waiting for Shelley. So I decided to do a bit of culling in my own “purse,” actually a zippered passport case which I use for money, cards and my cell phone. And I came across the piece of paper you see in the photo.

With a sinking heart I knew exactly what it was. It was one of those sales receipts which aren’t printed with ink but with some sort of heat-sensitive method. And over time, even in the darkness of my billfold’s interior, most of the numbers had faded, and even though I studied the paper from top to bottom, I could not make out what it was a receipt for, or what store had issued it.

Normally, I would have shrugged my shoulders in resignation and said, “No biggie,” and pitched the receipt. But my eyes were caught by the scrawled circle, and I knew what it meant. It meant that I had used a gift card to buy whatever it was I bought, and when the sales clerk handed me the receipt, he or she had pointed to where the card’s remaining balance was printed. I had drawn the circle around the amount so I could easily find it next time I wanted to use the card. Except now the balance had faded.

As Matthew 25 begins, Jesus tells the story of ten bridesmaids (the NKJV calls them “virgins”) who each lit a lamp and went out as a welcoming committee to meet a bridegroom. Five of the girls were smart—they brought along extra lamp-oil. The other five just lit their lamps without checking the remaining supply.

It turned out that the bridegroom was delayed, and all ten girls drifted off to sleep. The lamps were burning low when someone shouted, “Behold, the bridegroom is coming!” The girls woke up and and started adjusting the lamp-wicks, and the five empty lamps started winking out. But the five smart girls with the five oil-supplied lamps got to join the wedding procession.

“Don’t let your balance fade,” Jesus might have said today, maybe even using the sales receipt like a parable. “I have given you much, but you need to take care of it rather than allowing it to be depleted. If you ignore it, you may never truly understand all that I have given you.”

How do you keep your “balance” fresh? One way is to spend time prayerfully reading your Bible, asking the Holy Spirit to apply those of its precepts which you need at the moment.

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

From Greek – historia – meaning “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation” (according to Wikipedia). From Merriam-Webster: the study of the past, events of the past, past events that relate to a particular subject, place organization, etc. Whether you like it or not, history is the story of our lives – yesterday is history. A week ago is history.  Fifty years ago is history.  Speaking of 50 years ago….the Bellevue SDA Church recently celebrated our 50th anniversary.  Over the course of 3 days, we celebrated, remembered and discussed the past 50 years – in one way or another.
The image above, is not related to the Bellevue SDA Church, with exception of the fact that it’s a historical monument.  Specifically, it’s the Tower of Pisa.  You can find this famous structure, in the Pisa Cathedral Square, in Pisa, Italy. Of course it’s also named the “leaning” tower, as one side of the base is about 3 feet lower than its opposite side – due to soft ground on one side of the foundation, recognized during early stages of construction.  The reason I decided to use this image, is based on its historic value.  I think its human nature to think of something old and/or well known, when we think of ‘history’.
In the New King James Version, when you search for the word “history” you come up with 5 specific texts – 3 in Genesis, 1 in Psalm and one in Hebrews.  When you think of the Bible and the history it includes, it’s ironic the word is only mentioned 5 times.  That said the bible itself IS history and is the reason we believe what we believe.  I know of other religions that tend to utilize other forms of references for their beliefs.  As Christians, we take the recordings/stories of the bible and draw our beliefs from those.  Throughout time, the writings in the bible have been proven by way of cross referencing other historic books/writings, archeological digs, etc.  History proves itself.
In Genesis, we can read one of the texts referencing ‘ history’ (2:4) “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,…”.  We are living proof of this specific history.  I look forward to learning more history, from the direct Source.

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Wood Duck
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Many of us think of scientific names as something written in Greek or Latin which are put in italics and just get in the way.  Maybe they are helpful to those cloistered among dusty museum shelves, but never to ordinary people.  But, should we take the time, we might find that they actually enrich our understanding.  The male Wood Duck, for instance, is among the most beautiful of waterfowl.  Its common name simply tells us it nests in the woods in cavities of trees.  A functional name, but not very descriptive.  In contrast, its scientific name is Aix sponsa, or “waterfowl in wedding raiment”.  What a wonderful description!

The Apostle John used similar terminology to describe the New Earth as God gives this gift to the redeemed.  Listen to his words in Revelation 21:2:  “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”  Both the taxonomist and the apostle wanted to impress their readers with the beauty they saw before them and they did so in an eloquent way.  And wouldn’t you guess the groom would agree with them?

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Decisions, Decisions
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 16, 2013

There is a hike off the Mountain Loop Highway called Big Four Ice Caves.  It takes you to an avalanche debris pile at the bottom of 6,135' Big Four Mountain.  As the snow and ice melt later in the summer, ice caves form at the bottom of the pile.  These caves become bigger and bigger and can eventually collapse through flaking which, according to the sign at the trail head,  is "typically evidenced by blocks of ice lying on the floor of the cave."  

This picture shows one of the many people who made the decision to get close to the caves, walk on the snow above the caves, walk into a cave or pose for pictures just inside a cave.  As you can see, a big chunk of ice has already fallen outside the cave and there is a lot of ice that has fallen inside the cave. 

There are warnings at the trail head, there are warning signs on the trees close to this section of the trail and there are warnings carved into rocks beside the trail and viewpoint.  The warning carved into the rocks, reads:  "People have died beyond here.  The environment is forever changing.  Your awareness and decisions can be the difference between life and death.  This area is not patrolled on a regular basis."

"Your awareness and decisions can be a difference between life and death."  Where have we heard that before?

We started making wrong decisions in the Garden of Eden.  Thankfully, each of us has a choice to change the course of our lives.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 6:23 (KJV)

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.  John 3:16 (NCV)

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Looking Down
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 15, 2013

Because of the deep snow the Snovegen, or Snow Road from Aurland to Laerdal (Norway) is open only in the summer. This very narrow path leads to a high plateau with ponds, tarns and boulders. As we started climbing up the steep mountain, we stopped to take photos which I'm sharing one with you today. Farms along the winding road at the lower elevation provide interest. The village of Aurland is in the cove on the left with Flam in the distance. We are looking down on the Sognefjorden, the world's second-longest (203km) and Norway's deepest (1308m) fjord with it's many waterfalls. We had spent several days along the water, but this time we were looking down to where we had been.

Most of you have been on the top of high mountains and in airplanes where you could look down where things seem so small below. Have you thought about what God sees when He looks down on earth? What does He think of our country? Our church? Our home? Us? God loves and cares for us. He loves us not because of anything we've done, but because of who we are – His children. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

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Twilight Menu
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 14, 2013

A couple of weeks ago Shelley and I traveled to the little town of Forks, Washington. Forks is our mini-getaway place, and no, it’s not because it’s the fictional setting of the “Twilight” vampire novels.

When the Twilight phenomenon hit Forks, it was amusing to watch what happened. Even though tourists—mainly teen girls—flooded into town, the majority of the townspeople shrugged shoulders and raised eyebrows and pretty much went on with their lives as they’d done before.

A couple of weeks ago during our visit we discovered that Twilight fever had abated somewhat. However—and I don’t remember whether this was a café or some other kind of eatery—one place offered a “Twilight Menu.”

I would imagine that the eatery’s owners would also have gone to a bit of trouble to re-label menu items, maybe “Bella’s Burger” or something like that.

But as I snapped the photo, I thought, “This earth is definitely in its twilight. History is about to end, and Christ is about to return. What should be my own ‘twilight menu’ as I wait for Him?”

Fortunately, we don’t have to guess. Jesus gives the answer in Matthew 4:4. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And even faithful old Job, in the midst of his tribulation, firmly asserted, “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:12, NKJV)

When’s the last time you sat down to a meal of Holy Scripture?  Like food you don’t eat often, it might take getting used to a little. But be patient with yourself, and you’ll feel the nourishment taking root in your soul.

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Welcome Home!
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 13, 2013

This is the weekend which for many months our congregation has been planning and praying about. The Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded in November of 1963, and this is our Golden Anniversary year. For the last two years we’ve been engaged in a major makeover of our church facility, with new carpet and pew coverings, exterior and interior painting, total restroom re-do’s, lighting enhancement . . . the list literally goes on and on and on.

And just as important as the visible renovation is what’s invisible—drain piping under concrete, new electrical conduits laid in a trench down the sanctuary’s center aisle, automation for the landscape lighting . . .

Friday, Sabbath and Sunday more than 130 past members will join us, in addition to our regular congregation (last week’s attendance was 192). The place will be packed, and we’ll listen to music, sermons, memories, and we will rededicate our church and ourselves to the service of the Savior.

If you’re not able to attend, please take this opportunity to rededicate yourself, the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, so that He can lead you more strongly to do His will in the days ahead.

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, September 12, 2013

Recently our family was backpacking at Glacier Lake along the PCT near Stevens Pass. We came across some very thick mud with cracks in it. I took some pictures and we went on our way. (Sadly the stickmen weren't there. I drew them later.) Although the cracks were only about 1 inch wide, they look like huge ravines in the pictures.

The ravine can represent how we can easily get separated from God. If we get distracted like the stick man in the picture, we start to drift away, letting a bigger rift develop. So keep listening to God and He will help keep you close to Him.

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A Table Before Me
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Today is September 11 . . . 9/11. You probably remember where you were when you heard about the horrors.


Nestled in amid trees on the shores of the Pacific Ocean west of Forks, Washington, are a number of weathered picnic tables. On a recent visit there I noticed a yellow metal sign firmly nailed to the top of each one. Here’s what it says:

As you see at the bottom of the sign, the focus seems to be to protect wildlife, but a glance at the hulking bear at the upper right corner makes me want to obey the rules for a different reason—to protect myself!

During our visit there, I noticed several groups using these tables for picnics, and I thought of Psalm 23, where our Shepherd Lord promises to prepare a table for us in the very presence of our enemies.  If we, like faithful sheep, listen for His voice and carefully follow Him in everything He asks, we too can claim that inner serenity--as Jesus did--amid even terrifying outer turmoil.

The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
--Psalm 23, NKJV

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California Condor
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It’s a numbers game.  At least that’s what an outsider might be inclined to think.   And the numbers were critical, down to 22 - in the world.  Their numbers had continued to decline through the 20th century due to habitat destruction, lead poisoning, and poaching.  1987 was the low point and that was when it was decided to capture the remaining California Condors living in the wild and begin a captive breeding program.  The plan was not without its detractors. 

This largest North American land bird with a wingspan of 9.8 feet had definitely seen better days.  Lewis and Clark reported seeing them near the mouth of the Columbia River and some of the 49ers during California’s Gold Rush even kept them as pets.  Even before that time, the Wiyot tribe of California taught that the condor recreated mankind after Above Old Man wiped out mankind with a flood. 

The Judeo/Christian account of the flood of course differs, but is not without some similarities.  Mankind’s own foolishness led to the destruction, and deliverance from outside was the only solution.  Just as with the condors, a captive program began, but this time with only eight participants who volunteered.  The recovery cost was great.  With one it meant the life and death of God’s own Son.  To date, the other’s expenditure has exceeded $35 million since World War II. 

And the results: the cross with the accompanying assurance of redemption.  For the condors, their numbers have increased from 22 to 417 with 233 of these living in the wild as of July, 2012.  The final chapter of course has yet to be written, for free California Condors still suffer from lead poisoning obtained from bullets left in shot carcasses.  And mankind – still free to choose life or to choose death.

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Deep Roots
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 9, 2013

I saw this root system that was at the bottom of a tree that had fallen over.  As you can see, the roots were quite shallow and were not able to support the tree during a storm. 

When Paul was writing to the Colossians, he told them that they needed to let their roots grow deeply in Jesus and to let Him build them up on a firm foundation.  We too should follow that advice and we will then be able to weather the storms of life without being knocked over.

Now that you have welcomed the Anointed One, Jesus the Lord, into your lives, continue to journey with Him and allow Him to shape your lives. Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.  Colossians 2:6-7 (The Voice)

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A Quick Glimpse
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 8, 2013

Have you had a quick glimpse of something that remains in your memory for a long time? I have many such visual memories! While traveling west on the train from Oslo, Norway, near the village of Finse one reaches a high snowy plateau. The scenery is spectacular! I managed to take this photo as the train sped onward, and get it without a blur! This was a quick glimpse of a special sight I was able to capture with my camera.

Having a quick glimpse of something special in nature can remind us of heaven or God. It can be a starry sky, a beautiful flower, a colorful sunset, a delicate snowflake or an expansive panoramic view. The list could go on and on. We know that nature is not God, but God reveals himself through nature. David wrote as recorded in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” When you have a quick glimpse of something really special, God might be revealing Himself to you!

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Harvest Time
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 7, 2013

Last weekend Shelley and I retreated to our favorite local getaway, the town of Forks in Washington’s peninsula. While we don’t actually spend most of our time in the town itself—our main goal is to go sit on the Pacific Ocean’s shore and read—we do take walks through the streets in the morning.

Three long blocks south of our motel we saw this little Hispanic church which—if my rudimentary Spanish serves me well—is the “Church of Christ, Final Call Ministries.”

What struck us first, as it probably has you, is that a dedicated gardener has been surrounding the church with a variety of plantings. Not only are there flowers, but those two slender stalks with tassels on them just to the right of the purple flower are actually corn stalks, with young ears on them. I at first thought that the immense plants to the right, one reaching above the roof, were sweet corn too. But since I could discover no ears on them, nor any evidence that ears had been broken off, I’m assuming these are plants which never grew on the prairie soil of my home state. To me, all this vegetation gives the church a homey, “alive” air.

“I am the true Vine,” Jesus said as John 15 begins, “and My Father is the vinedresser.” The Savior used crops and other plants many times in His parables—the sower and the seed, the wheat and the weeds, the mustard plant, the lily of the valley, the fields white for harvest, and probably more.

By using these comparisons, Jesus is saying that the nurture and growth of the Christian also needs proper soil, enough irrigation, frequent weeding, and timely harvest.

How about you? Why not pray that God’s word will bear fruit in your life—and that you will open that Word and read it daily so that its seeds can be sown in your heart?

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A Place for Books
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 6, 2013

Seeking to take frugal advantage of the annual Labor Day sale at Half Price Books, this past Monday night Shelley and I traveled to the Redmond store. (See the bookshelves through the double glass doors?)

It had been some time since we’d been there, and we were thunderstruck to see—crowding right up against the eaves of the lean-to addition to the bookstore—a towering, still-under-construction apartment or condo building. We’d known in a vague way that construction was happening in that area, but had no idea that it would threaten to crush an establishment dedicated to books.

So, what’s more important—apartments or bookstores? You know as well as I do that it shouldn’t be “either-or,” but “both-and.” And you also know as well as I do that e-books are finally starting to truly replace paper books. (On the morning of the day I wrote this—Thursday—I downloaded a book from iTunes, and it cost me only 75% of what the paper version would have.)

I guess that the conclusion I’ve come to (as someone who’s had something like 20 paper books published) is this: What’s important is not whether a piece of writing is made of paper or pixels. It’s how successfully its readers continue to be able to read and ponder at length. Tweets have their place (in fact, there’s at least one writing book which teaches you how to “write short” to conform to paragraph-long units of communication), but nothing beats the ability to think long and hard about something.

Including, of course, the Bible. When’s the last time you read an entire Bible book, then started over and read it again? You will definitely be very surprised, and stabilized, if you do this. That’s because you will have torn away the filters of well-meaning people who make it their job to explain those passages to you.  

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Summit Lake
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, September 5, 2013

A friend of ours says Summit Lake is one of his favorite spots on Earth. I'm starting to learn why. Sometimes it offers great views of Mount Rainier like in the picture. It has blueberries in the fall, and snow in the winter. Legend has it that when the conditions are right there might be a glory. That is when a full circle rainbow is visible with your own shadow directly in the middle. That might be the subject of a future photo blog!

Summit Lake is about an hour drive past Sunset Lake Youth Camp near Wilkeson. Then, it is a three mile hike to the spot in the picture. Once there, it seems like the work to get there was nothing compared to the reward.

Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven. I'm sure that once we get there it will feel like the trip was nothing. I often think it must be possible to have a little bit of the kingdom of heaven while we are on Earth. John the Baptist said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 3:2). He was talking about Jesus. I'm sure the people felt like the kingdom of heaven was near when they listened to Jesus.

We can still listen to Jesus' words and have the kingdom of heaven. When we follow his command to love each other (John 15: 17) we can lighten our burdens to make things more like the kingdom of heaven. With all the challenges we face, sharing God's love makes the trip more enjoyable.

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

There are plenty of promises made in the Bible.  Some from God directly to His children of Israel - like the promise of bringing them out of captivity. Some from God to Moses and his family, like the promise of the rainbow -- never to flood the earth again.  Many different promises.  

A few weeks back, in the Young Adult class, we studied another promise.  This one was given to the disciples.  The promise of help.  As Jesus was returning to Heaven, after fulfilling the promise of taking away our sins and sacrificing all for us, He promised the Holy Spirit.  The 3rd of the trinity, to help us get through the challenges of living on a sinful planet.  To help us build the fire, that needs to spread across this planet, readying those that will ultimately choose God.  

God promises a lot.  In the end, those promises are fulfilled as we continue to do show others the love of God.

Acts 1:4-7: "And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;  for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  here fore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

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Water Lily
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

There’s something within each of us that longs for balance and consistency; for the seen to agree with the unseen.  We wish to find that within ourselves just as we wish to see it in others.  Perhaps that’s why we enjoy reflections so much.  They allow us to see a mirror image of reality but from a different perspective.  So often we are disappointed when we fail to find that consistency, but when we do come upon it, we feel reassured.

There were many reasons people were drawn to Christ, but one of those reasons must have been that what He did and said always were in agreement.  There was never a public visage that conflicted with the private face.  Apparently this quality was important to Him, for some of His harshest words were directed toward hypocrites, those who said one thing and did another.  But His own life was what spoke most clearly on the subject.  One of the wise sayings of Solomon mirrors the same idea: “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” (Proverbs 27:19 NIV)  We’ve all seen pictures of a reflection so perfect, that we find it difficult to determine which is real and which is the reflection.  When people see that same consistency in us, they will be drawn to the One who modeled that behavior perfectly.

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Get a Grip!
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 2, 2013

I was with my family a couple of weeks ago in British Columbia and we stopped near Salmon Arm to see Margaret Falls.  None of us had been there before and we had a short hike through a canyon where we walked alongside and crossed over a creek.  At the end of the trail was Margaret Falls which is quite beautiful and you can view quite well from a bridge near the bottom of the falls.  According to, the waterfall is a "two stepped waterfall dropping close to about 90 feet."  Naturally, I forgot my wide angle lens!  (You can Google Margaret Falls BC to get a view of the waterfall.)

The unique thing about this waterfall is that there is a hidden cave, which goes back about five feet, behind the lower part of the falls.  Some people, locals especially, like to go into the cave.  I'm not sure who this guy was but he came prepared with his swimsuit and a towel.   The cave was a ways up from the base of the falls and there were some jagged rocks at the bottom.  One would need to make sure that the water flow was not too powerful - like in spring runoff.  A fall would not be a good thing!

The trickiest part seemed to be exiting the cave and getting out of the waterfall.  In the picture, the man had just exited the cave.  You can see how he was making sure he had firm footing before moving from that spot.  As it was, he was able to get safely back to dry ground and in the meantime provided a fair amount of entertainment for the other hikers lining the bridge. 

What we all need to have is firm spiritual footing.  In The Message version of 1Corinthians 2, Paul talks about the wisdom (God's wisdom) that they had to pass on once people got their feet on firm spiritual ground. 

You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text:

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,

Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.
But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you. 

1 Corinthians 2:1-10 (The Message)

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Alone in the Wilderness
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 1, 2013

While “exploring” rugged scenery along a remote road north of the Sognefjorden in Norway, we came upon this little cabin located in a beautiful setting. A glimpse of the huge Jostedalsbreen, Europe's largest icecap can be seen through the valley to the left. Icy cold water flowed from the glacier, forming a stream with waterfalls in the foreground. Birch trees, crooked from the weight of snow and ice, dotted the rocky landscape. This little red cabin seemed perfectly set so people who occasionally come here can enjoy the beauties of nature – alone in the wilderness.

I'm reminded of John, the Baptist, forerunner of Jesus, who lived in the wilderness. Unlike the scenery in my photo, John's wilderness was in the desert with heat and sandstorms. Nonetheless, he called people away from the comforts of their homes out to the wilderness where they might meet God. (Mark 1:3,4) This was the place of religious hope for Israel. Do you find God when you're in alone in the wilderness?



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