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

Daily Photo Parable -  September 2014

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

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

Philosophy 101--Lakes and Mountains
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It’s a challenge to reduce your philosophical beliefs about life to three, because life is often so complex we assume we need a lengthy list to cover all eventualities, but this was what I was challenged to do.  At least in my dream, that was the challenge the teacher had placed before us.  I was startled when I saw the assignment written on the board for I had been sleeping during the class – something I thought excusable since this was a dream after all.  I liked my answer so much that I must have awakened and determined to write my response down.  Here it is.

1. God is sovereign.  His rule is not only absolute but it is also benevolent.  Even in those situations which make no sense to me, His will is being carried out for my best good and for the fulfillment of His plan.

2. There is randomness.  On the surface this seems to go contrary to the first statement, yet it provides me with a way to deal with those experiences that are beyond my ability to comprehend and make any sense out of why they happened.  Christ’s response found in Luke 13:4 seems to support this idea where He pointed out that the eighteen people that were killed when the Tower of Siloam fell on them had nothing to do with their goodness or lack of the same, it just happened.   It’s a way out, a way to handle life when the pieces of the puzzle just don’t add up.

3. What I do does matter.  On the surface this also seems contradictory to position #1, but when we look at the extreme effort God has made to win our support, I have to believe it is true and matters to Him.  The philosopher/mathematician Blaise Pascal referred to this as the “dignity of causation”, that what we do does make a difference and that God and Satan are not just engaged in some cosmic chess game where you and I are mere pawns, manipulated by external forces beyond our control.  If you ever doubt this, just consider the price Christ had to pay to ensure our freedom to choose Him and the way of life He offers us.

I liked my answers and assumed the teacher in my dream would as well.  Now, if I could just think and act as rationally when I’m awake, that would be a true accomplishment.

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Caught Red-handed
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 29, 2014

I took this picture of a Douglas squirrel just a couple of minutes after it had raided a nearby bird feeder.  When it was at the feeder, it was stuffing seeds into its mouth as fast as it could and then took off.  When I saw it again, it came out from under a bush and it had seeds in its one paw.  

Do you think we ever look like that to God?  We are found not only sinning but holding the evidence!

I was looking in Bible Gateway for  a text to match this picture and 1 John 2:1-2 showed up as sort of a verse for the day.  I thought it went well with the illustration (as well as a few verses before).  

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.  1 John 1:8-10 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2 (NIV)

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Parable of the Good Samaritan
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 28, 2014

The desert monastery of Mar Saba, shown here, is one of the world’s oldest monasteries.  Founded in AD 478, this Greek Orthodox monastery remains active today with about 20 monks in residence, down from the 300 monks who once called this home.  These hermits seek an austere life of solitude and prayer as they seek God in the wilds of the Judaean Desert.  Before the monastery was built, the hermits lived in caves in the valley wall.  Some also have lived in the caves in recent times.  If you look closely, you can see caves in all of these photos.  

Women are not allowed in the monastery, but can view it from the nearby tower in my photo immediately above.
Mar Saba clings to one side of the Kidron Valley, the valley that runs between Jerusalem and Jericho. This valley was the route people traveled between these two towns.  As you can see in the following photo, the valley is very narrow beyond Mar Saba toward Jericho.

At the time of Jesus, Jericho was a city designated for the residence of priests and Levites who had temple duty in Jerusalem. With about 12,000 of them living in Jericho, they were a familiar sight on this road. This is the spot where bandits would hang out in olden days.  Also, pirates took this route as they escaped to the Mediterranean Sea with their bounty of salt.  Our guide told us that the “valley of the shadow of death” described in Psalm 23:4 referred to this section of the old road.  People were afraid of this dark, gloomy, dangerous place where they feared for their life. The place on this road where high cliffs were on both sides of the narrow road or path was actually called the “shadow of death.”  Shadows would come in the valley as the sun went behind the rocks early in the day and it became dark.  As David walked through this dangerous valley with dark shadows, he did not fear evil, but walked in peace because he knew God was with him and would bring comfort to him.

Luke 10:30-36 describes a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho in this area who was attacked by thieves who stripped him of his clothing and injured him.  A priest came along (he was going to the temple and felt he couldn’t touch blood because he was clean) but passed on the other side, as did a Levite.  But, a Samaritan (Samaritans were despised by ordinary Jews) who came along had compassion on him, bound his wounds, fed him, set him on his beast (probably a donkey), took him to an inn and took care of him.  The Samaritan asked the innkeeper to care for him after that and he would pick up the tab during his next journey along that way.

May we all know that God can be with us and comfort us no matter how dark our path may be and may He help us to be compassionate and charitable to those in need.

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Traveling Companions
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday-Sabbath, September 27, 2014

This past Sunday as Shelley and I were driving along in traffic, we spotted this little group of traveling companions. The reason that the photo looks so white and washy is that I had to really brighten it to catch the expression on the face of the larger dog, whose face was a very dark brown. This dog was obviously the dominant one—it’s possible that the other dog would have preferred to be the one with his (or her) nose out the window, but has obviously had to settle for second place.

It wasn’t until I actually pulled this photo up on my computer monitor that I realized that I’d snapped the driver too. Instantly a “profile” of this profile comes to mind: single, mid-30’s, lives in a place which through some miracle can also accommodate these two big dogs, and—if you can judge by his expression—at peace with the world, and happy to take his two best friends along for the ride.

How much do you treasure your traveling companions on this globe as together we hurtle through the black vacuum of space? And by companions I don’t mean just our pets. Do you pray for your spouse? Your siblings? Your parents? Your grandchildren? The little mom trudging along the city sidewalk with a fully-populated two-baby stroller and an older kid in tow? The guy with the “Anything will help” sign?

In the midst of a lot of two-fisted, spunky, rubber-meets-the-road advice, James has this “mouthful” to say: “Confess your trespasses to one another,” he insists, “and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16 NKJV

A mouthful, right? Notice the key to true healing—spiritual, emotional and maybe in some cases physical: Confess your faults. Make things right. Pray for each other, effectively and fervently.

In other words, follow the example of the One who became Earth’s ultimate Traveling Companion.

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Beauty Out of Destruction
Photo by Amber Jurgensen, text by Russell Jurgensen, both ©2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

The views of Spirit Lake from Harry's Ridge offer an amazing study of regrowth from a devastating eruption.  Mount Saint Helens is to the right, just out of the picture.

Scenes of nature like this remind me how God can bring beauty out of destruction by giving us new life.  We make mistakes that can make things pretty bad.  But when we give our hearts to the Lord and follow Him, things begin to change around.  Baptism symbolizes a new life in the Lord.  I ran across this verse I thought was good advice:  "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." Acts 22:16.  So let's not wait to give our lives to the Lord and have a new and beautiful life with Him.

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Three In One
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
I was reviewing a folder of images and stumbled across this black and white image of a Trillium, from a camping trip a couple summers ago, near Lake Kachees. As many of you know the big broad leaves are a vibrant green and the single flower in the middle is pure white.  So, why didn’t I show you the vibrant green and stark white?  Keep reading.
First, a few facts – The Trillium has over 40 species, found in North America and Asia. It’s in the lily family of plants and comes in different variants of colors, heights, etc. What stays common is the “tri,” or 3.  Nearly all parts of the plants come in a set of 3 – 3 broad leaves, 3 small green sepals and 3 large white sepals (the petal like leaves).  In fact, they also has three-sectioned seedpods.
The trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Three, but all part of the same.  They have separate tasks and purposes, yet they are one in the same. Does one out shine the other? Or do they work harmoniously with one another?
So, vibrant green and stark white OR black and white to have less focus on the separate parts, versus more focus on the overall subject?  As you view this image, and you focus on the 3 parts, feel free to pray, meditate and/or do your own study on the trinity.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Weighed in the Balances
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A few years ago another one of the popular self-help books hit the market entitled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it’s all small stuff.  While I’m sure Dr. Carlson’s book offered much good advice, I’m not sure I agree with his major premise, that the details just don’t matter all that much.  Undoubtedly, we often make too much out of things that really aren’t all that important, but then again, the details can make the difference between success and failure.

A recent trip to the Gold Country of California offered an illustration of this point.  There in the old Wells Fargo office stood the original scales used to measure the 67 million dollars’ worth of gold taken from the region surrounding the upstart town of Columbia between 1850 and 1870. That’s a lot of gold considering it was selling for $20 an ounce at that time.  By 1852 such wealth had drawn 30,000 residents to the town, each desiring an accurate measure of their day’s findings.  The aforementioned scale was deemed to be so accurate that should a miner bring his deed into the assayer’s office, place it on the scale, and then sign his name to the claim, the scale could measure the difference before and after the signature was affixed to the document!   

John mentions a signature far more important than any placed upon a gold claim.  And accompanying that signature will be written in the most exact detail the record of my life.

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” (Revelation 20:12)  “The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” (Revelation 3:5 NIV)  Then again, having one’s name written there is a kind of gold claim, a right to walk on streets of gold forever.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 22, 2014

I saw the following warning on a sign by Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park.  The writing was in French and English and it said:

Step off the trail and you risk your life.  The rocks, covered by spray year round, are as slippery as ice.  The water is glacial-cold, swift and deep.  Within minutes of slipping into the water hypothermia takes over - you cannot pull yourself out of the river.  Once over the falls death is swift.  

Is it worth the risk? Stay on the trail. 

The photos just above are posted on a sign, and show pictures of people getting a safe picture taken vs people risking their lives on the edge of the clif for a photo op.

We need to pay attention in our daily lives and heed the warnings.  Bible study is the best way to be prepared.  

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.
    The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
Proverbs 22:3 (NLT)

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Parable of Discarded Salt
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Masada fortress site overlooks the Dead Sea and is in the area between the northern and southern sections with Jordan is in the distance.  At more than 1,300 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the earth’s lowest elevation on land.  With an average of 34.2% salinity, it is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water.  It is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean.  The Dead Sea “water” felt like a gel-like solution!  The Dead Sea, actually a lake, is completely land-locked. Evaporation occurs rapidly because of the extreme heat, leaving salty minerals behind.  At least 35 different mineral salts are present including potassium, bromine, calcium, magnesium and iodine.

Salt evaporation pans have diked the southern end of the Dead Sea for the purpose of producing potassium magnesium chloride which is processed into potassium chloride (table salt).  Due to the sea’s therapeutic and healing properties, the salts are raw materials for body and skin care products.  Sadly, the Dead Sea is endangered.  It has been rapidly shrinking primarily because of diversion of incoming water, mainly the Jordan River, for irrigation, storage reservoirs and dams. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the water level of the Dead Sea has decreased 40 feet.  This drop has been followed by a drop of ground water level causing large sinkholes as shown in the photo just below.

Salt was very expensive in olden days, actually the same value as gold and used for trade.  Roman troops were paid in salt.  The names “salary” and “soldiers” come from the name for salt.  Because of its value, pirates operated around the Dead Sea stealing salt.  Salt was also very valuable for preserving meat in this hot climate. 

My last photo of a large pile of a reddish salt was taken out the window of our moving bus. It has been discarded.  Jesus used salt to describe how His disciples are to live in the world, purifying, preserving and penetrating society for the kingdom of God. Jesus said in a parable, “You are salt to the world.  And if salt becomes tasteless, how is its saltness to be restored?  It is now good for nothing but to be thrown away and trodden underfoot.”  Mathew 5:13NEB   A little salt can do wonders for food.  What affect has “spiritual” salt had on your life?

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The Slug and the Cell Phone
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 20, 2014

I actually took this picture on the last day of August specifically to “gross out” the youngest of my two sisters. She and I both grew up on the flat South Dakota prairie, and she still lives there. Like me, she had never seen a live slug in her life, and once when she came out to visit us, it was my pleasure to introduce one to her personally. She was horrified.

And sure enough, when I emailed her the photo above (with cell phone included to show the scale), she was deliciously grossed out, and said so emphatically by return email.

As I came upon this photo a few seconds ago, a fragment of Scripture came to my mind:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8 – 9 NKJV

Here's this slug, squishing sluggishly along a trail, and suddenly someone sets a smartphone beside him. Would this slug be able to dial or answer a call? Look up "slug" on Wikipedia? No, the slug's thoughts are not high enough for that.

This isn't quite fair to the human race, of course. We're created in God's image and the slug isn't. But each of us, no matter how brilliant, needs tohumbly lower our eyes in the presence of a Mind far beyond ours--yet who is still able to empathize with us.

For some thrilling biographical information about your Creator, click the link immediately below.

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Accident Scene
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 19, 2014

A bit after 9 p.m. back in mid-August, Shelley and I discovered we needed to run a quick shopping errand. But just as we turned on to the main highway a few blocks from our home, we discovered a line of stopped cars. We had arrived at the scene of a hit-and-run accident. We weren’t witnesses, but it had been so recent that the police and fire hadn’t even arrived. We watched them roll up just a minute or two later.

A man—who in my photo above had been removed to the Medic One ambulance in the background—had been crossing the street with two German Shepherd dogs. Out of nowhere a speeding driver knocked him down and kept on driving. (The dogs were in shock but were okay, and since we haven't heard anything further on the news, the man has almost certainly pulled through.)

What you see on the street in the photo is an array of lifesaving devices brought hurriedly from the ambulance and the fire truck, and attached to the man. What’s especially poignant is the little girl, who is staring fixedly at the accident scene. I heard her dad apologizing to someone else nearby: “I wasn’t quick enough to cover her eyes,” he said. “She saw the whole thing.”

Isn’t our planet an accident scene? Aren’t children often not only observers but sufferers? But hasn’t Heaven sent powerful resources to rescue us—the most powerful being Someone to take our injuries and death upon Himself?

Careful Bible readers of many denominations are convinced that it won’t be long before the final rescue mission will happen. To read about the final days of Earth’s history, click the link immediately below.

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Abandoned Trail
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Several weeks ago we were backpacking somewhere along the PCT out of Salmon La Sac. To get to the lake we were going to, we hiked along an abandoned section of the PCT. Before it was re-routed years ago, the trail went by a swamp/lake and then up a steep ridge to another lake. We followed an old, mostly rotten board-walk before it disappeared completely into the swampy meadows. The new trail takes a much dryer and more gradual route.

We weren't lost, but sometimes we might feel lost on our walk with God. Even if we lose track of God's trail, He will always try to bring us back.

Jesus says in Luke 19:10:
"For the Sun of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

Jesus really wanted to emphasize that fact, so He told the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, all of which are found. You can read these stories in Luke chapter 15. You won't be abandoned.

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All In a Row
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

You know the saying, ‘having your ducks in a row’?  Well, here I have a bunch of pigeons in a row. These particular pigeons were on the Santa Monica Pier, in California.  The picture itself is nothing special, but it reminds me of how we (maybe it’s just me) can feel things are exactly the way they should be – all lined up.  We have everything under control, nothing out of place – our life is exactly where it should be.  When things are going well, we (again, it may be just me) tend to take our gaze away from our Father.  We don’t do it on purpose, but we see things are great and it’s easy to think we are in control of that goodness, that WE are doing just fine.  
What happens when things go wrong?  Typically (unless it’s just me) we run to God for help.  Please get us out of this jam! Please help us in this situation!  Please deliver us from this danger! When things aren’t perfectly going the way we would like or feel they should be, we are begging God to intervene.
Let’s make sure, during the good times and the bad, we involve our Creeator.  During the times everything is lined up perfectly, or nothing is lined up at all – our focus is on God. 

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Cactus Wrens
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It’s all in the family.  Whether the reference is to Archie and Edith Bunker or a gathering of Cactus Wrens, the basic unit of orientation is the family.  Around the world and through the passage of time, this component has taken many shapes and forms, but whatever its structure, the core remains the same.  Perhaps that is because, at least in most cases, the young members of the family are so dependent upon those with more experience and maturity.  This seems to be especially true when complexities of skills needed for survival are many.  
We may think all these young wrens need to know is how to catch food and avoid predation, but life for them is probably much more involved that we realize.  Just watching a group of four young Cactus Wrens interacting with each other made that obviously clear.  Not only was there a clear hierarchy or pecking order among the siblings, but the way they responded to their parents also differed.  Teaching by example was easy to observe, although the young frequently resisted instruction and seemed to rely more upon the loudness of their calls for food than upon learning how to gather nourishment for themselves.  Undoubtedly this skill came about at the proper time.  Certainly each creature is designed to provide that which is needed so that their young might grow and develop into productive adults. And while we might question how other societies might choose to raise their young, it seems that each subculture has developed successful ways to accomplish this.

It appears as though Paul took for granted this common denominator which we share across humanity, and in turn, with all living things.  And it begins with an acknowledgement of God.  In his own words:  “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being…”  (Ephesians 3:14-15 NIV)

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For the Beauty of the Earth
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 15, 2014

There's an old hymn called "For the Beauty of the Earth," written by Folliott S. Pierpoint.  Here are a some of the lyrics:

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our
hymn of grateful praise.

We've come a long way from the Garden of Eden but there is still much beauty to be found around us. While we can enjoy this beauty and praise God for it, sadly, it is a transient thing.  

The Bible tells us that there is only one thing that lasts in this world.  Do we find beauty in it and how well do we treasure it?

The grass withers, the flower fades; nothing lasts except the word of our God. It will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8 (The Voice)

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Parable of Two Builders
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 14, 2014

More than 2,000 years ago, King Herod chose a site on the Mediterranean, about 40 km north of Tel Aviv to develop a large harbor to boost trade and commerce. This grew into a walled-city with a temple, a large theater, a stadium or hippodrome and public baths. Fresh water was brought to the city via an aqueduct.  The city was named Caesarea, in honor of Caesar Augustus.  And, of course, the king had to have a palace here, as shown in this artist’s drawing.

Construction of his palace was an engineering landmark as it was built on a promontory jutting 100 meters out into the sea.  The base was sandstone bedrock and his pool (foundation shown in my next photo) was coated with hydraulic plaster or pozzolana. (Volcanic ash reacting with calcium hydroxide in the presence of water forms a type of cement. Today, this same substance in used in Portland cement.) Herod’s elaborate pool was bordered by various rooms, some of which the columns still remain as shown in the photo immediately below.  Smaller rooms had beautiful, geometric mosaic floors.

Caesarea played an important role in early Christian history. Pontius Pilate governed from here during the time of Jesus. Simon Peter converted the Roman, Cornelius, the first non-Jew to believe in Jesus. Paul set sail for his eastern Mediterranean journeys (Acts 10:1-5, 25-28).  Agrippa I died here (Acts 12:20-23).  The apostle Paul stood before Antonius Felix for a hearing here (Acts 23:35).  Agrippa II and his sister Berenike visited governor Porcius Festus and heard Paul’s self-defense (Acts 25:23).  Paul was prisoner here for two years and then sent to Rome from here for trial (Acts 23:23-24).  However, during the 3rd century, Caesarea became a center of Christian learning.

Back to the building of the palace - it was built on solid rock enabling us to see the foundation today, shown in the photo just above.  Jesus told a parable known as the “Parable of Two Builders.”  “What then of the man who hears these words of mine and acts upon them?  He is like a man who had the sense to build his house on rock.  The rain came down, the floods rose, the wind blew, and beat upon that house; but it did not fall, because its foundations were on rock.  But what of the man who hears these words of mine and does not act upon them?  He is like a man who was foolish enough to build his house on sand.  The rain came down, the floods rose, the wind blew, and beat upon that house; down it fell with a great crash.”  Mathew 7:24-27 NEB  Do you practice what hear or read from the Word of God?

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 13, 2014

Earlier this week on our morning walk, Shelley and I spotted this nice home with an iron “Welcome” sign at a corner of the yard near the sidewalk.

The only problem (and this is not a “flipped” photo) was that the sign reads backward to visitors! When Shelley pointed this out, I gave it another look, and sure enough, the only people who were coherently welcomed were those leaving the house, not arriving there. Here’s a closeup if you can’t quite see it in the first photo:

So what’s the message of the sign? I’m not sure. I would hope that the householder would give a glance at the sign and say, “Wait a minute! I mounted that backward!” My photo doesn’t go quite all the way to the bottom of the iron mounting rods, so I don’t know whether or not they’re mounted in cement and therefore difficult to remove and remount.

Or maybe it’s deliberate. Maybe the householder wants to emerge from his or her front door, stroll down the sidewalk toward the car, and feel welcomed into the waiting world.

I don’t know. But I do know that when you and I understand that the world beyond our front doors contains billions of God’s cherished children, and that in most cases the only way for them to get acquainted with God is through those who know Him, then it’s understandable why He called us “lights” in the world (Matthew 5:14). It’s as though He’s saying, “Welcome to the ones I love. Welcome to many opportunities through which My Holy Spirit can use you!”

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Real Food
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 12, 2014

A few days back I uploaded a photo of a kitchen magnet Shelley spotted in a health food store. The above photo is of another magnet from the same shelf. Its wry humor points up a very real truth—science and technology have seduced us far from what’s natural.

Thinking of “natural” reminds me of Eden. In Genesis 1, God muses over what He has made, and has to admit that it’s “good” and then “very good.” And so, of course, was the strictly vegetarian diet of both man and beast, in the chapter’s last couple of verses.

For well over 100 years, Adventists have insisted that better living comes from approaching Eden’s lifestyle as closely as possible. Up until the last 30 years, the rest of the world snickered. But then everybody woke up, and presses are pouring forth hundreds of vegan cookbooks with recipes that far outclass normal American fare in flavor as well as nutrition. I myself am a joyful convert from a three-hamburger-a-day college student to a nearly total vegan. I took it slow, enticed in that direction by a wife who really knows what she’s doing. Thanks, Shelley!

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Trinity Strength
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Not far from where Shelley and I live is a neighborhood park, which includes a playground where this climbing dome stands. Even big kids crawl all over it, but it doesn’t sag.

That’s because it is constructed entirely of equilateral triangles bolted firmly to each other. I once read somewhere  that the triangle is the strongest structural pattern.

I’m sure there’s probably no connection other than metaphorical between a climbing-dome and the Trinity, but there’s no doubt that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit form an interlocking Team who stand ready to strengthen us in whatever we go through.

For several screens’ worth of Bible verses about this heavenly Triad, click the link immediately below.

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Watch That First Step
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 10, 2014

While traveling through Glacier National Park in Montana, I came across a few mountain goats.  This particular guy was moving a bit slower and more methodically.  He didn’t seem timid about his steps, just a bit more calculated and cautious.  It’s incredible to think of how these goats travel around on the side of a mountain with loose rocks, brush and predators around, all the while quickly moving from point A to point B.  
With this little one, he has to trust his legs, and the training he has received from his parents.  He doesn’t know another life – the side of this mountain (and other hills) are what he knows the world to be.  That said, it still takes the courage to put one leg in front of the other.
Every day of our lives we take steps, in our journey.  Sometimes we ask for God to be there, sometimes we just leap.  Either way He is there.  In a great song by Casting Crowns, "In Me," the lyrics depict the fact, as humans (or goats for that matter) we have been place on this planet with very little.  We actually don’t amount to a whole lot.  Not trying to depress us, just humble.  Now for the uplifting part – go read these lyrics (or better yet – go listen to the song) and recognize, we are nothing without God, but with Him….we are everything.
If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves
I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that you want me

So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me
If You ask me to run
And carry Your light into foreign land
If You ask me to fight

Deliver Your people from Satan’s hand
To reach out with Your hands
To learn through Your eyes
To love with the love of a savior
To feel with Your heart
And to think with Your mind
I’d give my last breath for Your glory

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Purple Finch
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

If you’ve ever looked very closely at the patterns of action people adopt to make it in this world, you may question the likelihood of their survival.  For those behaviors sometimes convey to us a message probably not desired by the figure on stage.  Should a child beyond the age of two  appear at the dinner table resembling the Purple Finch seen above, a parent would be likely to suggest a change in dinner manners unless the child was involved in a pie eating contest.  Then again, the finch probably wasn’t trying to impress anyone with proper etiquette; it was probably just trying to survive while the eating was good.  

More complex behavior is even harder to explain.  One observer watched a male Purple Finch pick up a straw, execute a jubilant little dance, then roll over like it was dead.  He remained in that position until a female came over and aroused him with a peck.  We continue to try and understand the actions of both man and animals, but sometimes even our own personal conduct is beyond comprehension.  Why do we act the way we do?  Undoubtedly, much is picked up from the culture surrounding us, but that isn’t always a good model to follow.

Paul writing in Romans gave this counsel: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2  New Living Translation)  If we followed this advice, our life might look quite different than the little dances we sometimes do.

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Never Be Thirsty Again
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 8, 2014

I crossed a bridge over this mountain stream a few weeks ago on a hike up to the overlook for Cavell Pond at Mt. Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park.  This whole valley has been shaped by ice and water.  From the trail, you can look across and see Angel Glacier which is a hanging glacier and from the overlook, you can see icebergs floating in the pond in August!

I wouldn't try drinking this water untreated but there's nothing as refreshing as water when you are hot and thirsty.   

You send fresh streams that spring up in the valleys,
    in the cracks between hills.
Psalm 104:10 (The Voice)

When Jesus was talking to the woman of Samaria at the well, He told her:

Jesus: Drink this water, and your thirst is quenched only for a moment. You must return to this well again and again. I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.
John 4:13-14 (The Voice)

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Parable of the Mustard Seed
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 7, 2014

While traveling on the road near Jericho, our guide hopped out of our minivan and grabbed a weed growing alongside the road.  It looked rather straggled with its small yellow flowers.  I wasn’t very impressed.  Then, he said this is a mustard plant like the “Parable of the Mustard Seed” in the Bible!  I perked up and listened as he talked about this lowly mustard plant and its tiny seeds we could barely see.  A fellow-traveler and I carefully took it back to our hotel so we could photograph this weed with very tiny seeds (magnified here) that looked like specks of dust, because I knew I’d be sharing it with you.

Jesus gave many messages by using parables.  He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we describe it?  It is like the mustard-seed, which is smaller than any seed in the ground at its sowing.  But once sown, it springs up and grows taller than any other plant, and forms branches so large that the birds can settle in its shade.”  Mark 4:30-32 NEB    God wants us to know that understanding and living a God-like life is done is small steps, growing a little at a time, like the mustard seed.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 6, 2014

What you’re looking at in the photo above is what I think is a kitchen magnet, about the size of an index card, which Shelley spotted in (I think) a Whole Foods store a little over a week ago. And even though it’s a cute bit of wordplay in which this particular meaning is possible only in the English language, I think that it’s overwhelmingly true.

Anybody who is willing to accept that there is an Intelligent Designer will soon come to the conclusion that the Designer is also an Artist. Human artists will often limit themselves to a few styles they become competent in, so that one can glance at a painting or sculpture and say, “That’s a Rembrandt,” or “That’s a Rodin.”

But God’s virtuosity is so headspinningly broad that He can not only design an incredible range of flowers, but His media-of-choice encompasses every created thing, so that Genesis 1:31 can rightly say, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

If God were merely a functional creator, He would not have bothered about color, and music, and aroma. Everything would be a serviceable gray, and would operate with serviceable squeaks and clicks. And we would say "eh," or "blah."

Aren’t we fortunate—make that Providentially blessed—to be able to worship a true Artist?

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Some Things Never Change
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 5, 2014

A few weeks ago—and I can’t remember where I was at the moment—I saw this bobby pin. What with one thing and another, I had not seen one of these in a long time, and when I set eyes on this one I was amazed to see how little they have changed from when I was a kid. There’s that same straight shaft, and the wavy shaft, and the way the wavy shaft suddenly bends off at an angle down toward the open end. And there were even the little rubber tips on those ends, which as a kid I would peel off and chew on, much to the annoyance of my sisters, when they next used those pins and didn’t want split ends.

Somehow it was comforting to see that--though typewriters have changed to computers, wall phones to cell phones, cameras from film to digital, TV tubes to flat screens, paper maps to GPS—the bobby pin has stayed just the way it was.

Change is good, and is often for the better (ever tried to write with a dip ink pen?), but it’s comforting to know that God doesn’t change. Sure, He has had to adjust His plans to human rebelliousness, but His redemptive purposes remain the same. I take comfort in the following scriptures:

But You are the same, And Your years will have no end.
Psalm 102:27 NKJV

“For I am the Lord, I do not change; . . .” Malachi 3:6

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

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God's Chipmunks
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, September 4, 2014

We were at the Mt. Saint Helens visitor center when this little guy ran up to us, obviously used to getting handouts. It seemed really friendly, but it just wanted nuts. When I held out a piece of bread, it came over and sort of tried to chew on my fingers, ignoring the bread. It was happy when I finally gave it a pecan to add to its already bulging collection. We were about to drive away, but the chipmunk wouldn't get out from under the car. I had to keep scaring it away while we backed out of the parking spot.

If this chipmunk acted like a normal chipmunk and avoided humans, it wouldn't have gotten a pecan. But it actively asked, and it received.

Matthew 7:7-11 says:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

We are kind of like God's chipmunks. All we need to do is ask God and He is waiting to give us many good things.

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The Promise
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Have you ever broken a promise to a friend?  What about to your child?  What about to a parent?  It never feels good – does it?  It all depends on the specific circumstances but, some broken promises are easier to get out of then others.  With a friend, there is going to be some jabbing or razzing, but at the end of the day – in most cases – forgive and forget.  With children, it can be a little trickier.  Completely depends on the age of your child and what was promised.  The same is true with your parents.  When we were younger, they may chalk it up to our age and we’re bound to disappoint them in one way or another.
I couldn’t guess how many times I have forgotten or flat out had to go back on my promises.  That said none of my promises included floods – at least I don’t think they did.  In the case of God’s promise to Noah, his family and the rest of planet earth – this one, was a huge promise.  In fact, the actual promise was to never cover the earth again with water, to destroy it.  In Genesis 9:8-11, we can ready the promise from God - “Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
I can’t imagine a better way to make a promise – a beautiful, colorful rainbow.  This particular rainbow was captured with Snoqualmie Falls in the background.
As God keeps His promises with us, let’s try to keep our promises with each other.

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Common Red Soldier Beetle
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Common Red Soldier Beetle is found throughout Europe and more recently has been widely introduced into North America.  While many of the soldier beetles sport different colors, this common species apparently derived its name from its overall red color, reminiscent of the Redcoats of Revolutionary War fame.  It is also known as a leatherwing, reflecting the softness of its chitin armor.

The adults hunt for small insects primarily during the daylight hours but will also consume small amounts of nectar and pollen.  The larvae which over-winter in the soil live off of snails and small insects and their eggs.  Because they feed on many harmful insects such as aphids, they are considered highly desirable by gardeners as a biological control agent against such pests.  Even though they are closely related to lightning bugs or firefly, they are not able to produce the bioluminescence for which these insects are known.  Another member of the family native to Southeastern Australia can be seen by the thousands hanging from trees.  It is being studied in detail in hopes the wax-like substance that protects the beetle’s eggs from infection will lead researchers into insight for anti-biotic and anti-cancer fighting agents.  

While no one questions that we should continue to look for answers that will improve the quality of life for mankind, and while solutions may come from unexpected places, we should always remember where the real battle lies, be it against foreign despots or lethal pathogens.  Ezekiel speaks of a time when our best efforts will prove fruitless, where our military prowess or accumulated knowledge will be ineffective.  “The trumpet blows, and everyone gets ready.  But no one goes off to war, for God’s anger will fall on everyone alike.”  (Ezekiel 7:14 TEV)  As the song says, the battle belongs to the Lord.

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Stories to Tell
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 1, 2014

I didn't see a whole lot of wildlife on my recent trip to the Canadian Rockies but there was a creek running through one town where I stayed and it was full of chinook (a.k.a. king) salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) returning from the ocean to spawn.

The chinook are the largest of the Pacific salmon and some of the ones I saw had their dorsal fins sticking out of the water in the shallow stream.  An  average size chinook can weigh between 10 and 20 lbs.  

These fish hatch in fresh water, migrate down to the ocean where they mature and then come back to the place where they hatched to spawn and die and the cycle is then repeated with the next generation. The whole process is amazing.

But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or ask the birds of the air, and they will tell you.
Speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish of the sea tell you.
Every one of these knows
    that the hand of the LORD has done this.
The life of every creature
    and the breath of all people are in God’s hand.
The ear tests words
    as the tongue tastes food.
Older people are wise,
    and long life brings understanding.
Job 12:7-12 (NCV)

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