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

Devotional Photo Blog- April 2010

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--Beth-Anne Harvey, FRIDAY--Bob and Carrol Grady. I handle 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.  




Anticipating His Coming!
Photo ©2010 by Bob Grady
Commentary ©2010 by Carrol Grady
Friday, April 30, 2010

"Waiting for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of out Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." Titus 2:13

Our son Paul, who directs two choirs at his Catholic church, was out every night during Holy Week, and then busy getting his tax return ready the next week, so we hadn't seen them for a while. But we were excitedly anticipating a promised visit on Sabbath afternoon. Most of all, we could hardly wait to see our youngest grandson, Samuel, who, at seven months, is changing every day! As soon as we heard a car door slam, we hurried out to meet them. We were thrilled to see his new tooth and his almost-successful efforts at crawling. We took tons of pictures. We were totally absorbed in his precious little person.

I wonder if I'm looking forward with as much anticipation and excitement to Jesus' coming? Can I hardly wait to see the dear, loving face of my Savior, my older brother, my best friend in the world, the One who has stayed with me through every trouble and trial? Oh, yes! Are you?


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For The Beauty
Tulip Town in the Skagit River Valley, Mt. Vernon, Washington, April 2010.
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, April 29, 2010

In 1864, awed by the beauty of the surrounding countryside, Folliott S. Pierpoint penned the well-known Christian hymn ''For the Beauty of the Earth'. His ode was first published in a book of poems entitled 'The Sacrifice of Praise' and was later set to music composed by Conrad Cocher. The words of his poem bring to mind something said by Paul of Tarsus as recorded in the book of Hebrews in the Bible, chapter 13 and verse 15:

With Jesus' help, let us continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming the glory of His name.

Paul was encouraging his listeners, as well as himself, to always remember to thank God for His great gifts: to look back and remember how He has worked in the past, to look forward to how He has promised to work in the future and to look around to see the evidence of His working in our lives every day. By our praise and in our remembrance, we offer to God a well-pleasing sacrifice that lingers like the sweet fragrance of a freshly opened flower. While other gods may demand unpleasant, even unreasonable sacrifices of their worshippers which over time yield little to no reward; our God - the One, True living God - desires the sacrifice of our praise and the love of our obedience. Neither of these is unreasonable or unpleasant, yet both yield great rewards.

Reading the words in Mr. Pierpoint's poem, one can easily see that the author was freely and eagerly offering his sacrifice of praise. It was his blessing to remember God, his joy to thank Him and his reward to praise the One from whom all blessings flow:

For the beauty of the earth and for the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth over and around us lies,
For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light,
For the joy of ear and eye and for the heart and mind's delight,
For the mystic harmony linking all sense to sound and sight,
For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild -
Lord of all to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

When we look around our world today, even though we are surrounded by much suffering as a result of sin and selfishness, we don't have to look very hard to see the many evidences of God's creative power, His immense love for His creation and His faithful, sustaining grace. There are so many reasons to praise His holy name!

In the animal kingdom, we see beauty

In science, we see beauty

In humanity, we see beauty

Even in mathematics, we see beauty

1 x 9 + 2 = 11
12 x 9 + 3 = 111
123 x 9 + 4 = 1111
1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111
12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111
123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111
1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111
12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111
123456789 x 9 +10= 1111111111

I find it strange that those who claim that there is no God base their belief partly on the premise that our faith is not based on facts or visible data. Why is it so hard to see what is plainly set before their eyes? The careful watchfulness of a mother deer towards her young calve. The startling exquisiteness of a single-cell organism. The unselfish affection of one human being for another. The elegant design revealed in a mathematical equation. I once read that there are none so blind as those who are not willing to see.

Let us always be willing to see all that God chooses to reveal to us about yesterday, tomorrow, and especially today. And let us always remember to offer the sacrifice of our praise and the love of our obedience! Our joyfulness in praising His Name and our faithfulness to His great pattern may just be the evidence that will help someone else to see, and in seeing, to believe.

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Watch Out!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Don't be fooled by Satan. He is watching and waiting to see where he can trip us up and make us stumble away from God. If you were surprised by the image above, that was the point. It appears that something is headed your way at light-speed. In fact, it's a stationary object -- a bronze statue of an owl, placed in the forest at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens. Here's a shot of it in "slow motion."



There are times Satan tries to come at you at thousand miles an hour and then there are times when it's the exact opposite. To be ready for whatever you face, you need to have a relationship with God. A daily walk with God will help you be prepared for all of life's daily pitfalls and trip-ups.

The next time you want to take a walk and talk to God, try the Bellevue Botanical Gardens...and say hi to my feathered friend!

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Common Snipe
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A word study of terms used in the Bible can reveal some rather interesting ideas. Take any word you find used, then using a concordance or search engine, see what turns up. I did that using the word "goat." The results tended to fall into three or four main categories. The first usage referred to livestock, often used as a measure of wealth. The second way the word was employed, especially in the book of Numbers, involved animals used as sacrifices. Of particular interest were the references made to the Scapegoat and its symbolism as it was employed in the sacrificial system on the Day of Atonement. Interestingly enough, biblical scholars can't seem to agree on whether this represented Christ or Satan. Quite a contrast, wouldn't you say? Daniel utilized "goat" in a different symbolic way as did Christ in Matthew 25:32 when He spoke about separating the righteous from the unrighteous at the final judgment. Multiple meanings certainly can lead to confusion, especially when the word is used symbolically.

It's important to remember the difference between a symbol and what that symbol points us toward. Words themselves are symbols and can thus lead to ambiguity. This lack of clarity was not limited to eschatological writings of long ago. It finds its way into modern scientific thought as well. Take for example the effort on the part of Carolus Linnaeus, the eighteenth century father of binomial nomenclature. He began using Greek or Latin names for living organisms in order to avoid confusion among scientists from various countries using a variety of languages. Great idea, but imperfect execution.

The Common Snipe pictured above should illustrate this well, and yes, there really is such a thing as a snipe. It was given the scientific name, Capella gallinaga, which literally translated means goat-like chicken. Chicken maybe, but who can see any semblance to a goat? So, what do we do, give up on words and symbols altogether?

I like the way the old King James Version renders Paul's reminder to us in I Corinthians 13:12 that, "Now we see through a glass darkly..." Our understanding and communication skills are limited, our use of symbols, imperfect. Still, you can improve your odds. Careful, prayerful study can lead to better understanding. And by the way, your chances of finding a Common Snipe increase considerably if you go out to a marsh with a pair of binoculars rather than wandering around in the dark with a paper bag.

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Peace
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 26, 2010

I saw this log when I was walking along the boardwalk at Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland not too long ago. Of course, the carving is known the world over as the peace symbol.

On researching it's origins, I found it was drawn up in 1958 as a symbol of nuclear disarmament. It has had other uses over the years but most people recognize it as a peace symbol.

Everyone has their own concept of what constitutes peace. My Oxford dictionary defines it as having quiet or tranquility, mental calm or serenity, freedom from or the cessation of war, a treaty of peace between two countries at war, a freedom from civil disorder, freedom from quarrels or dissension between individuals or a state of friendliness.

We are never going to be without trouble in this world but we can still have peace (at least the mental calm or serenity aspect of peace). When Jesus was talking to the disciples in John 14:25-27, He told them, "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

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Animals in the Bible--7
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 25, 2010

ESPECIALLY FOR THE CHILDREN

I'm sure you've seen ants, but have you stopped to really look at them? If you do, you'll learn they are very busy creatures going about their work. If you've had an ant farm, I'm sure you've spent time watching your ants. Ants can be found almost anywhere in the world. There are many different kinds of ants, like more than 10,000 types. Ants build many different types of homes. They can be mounds made with dirt and sand. Sometimes they mix small sticks in with this. Other times, it can be just a hole in the ground to their tunnel, as in my photo taken in the Anza-Borrego Desert in California. Underground tunnels lead to many cells, apartments or chambers. Ants make specific chambers for nurseries for the young, for food storage and other chambers for resting.

Ants live in communities that are headed by a queen or queens, whose function is to lay eggs. Worker ants get food, care for the young, work on the nest and protect the community. Leaf cutter ants are farmers, cutting pieces of leaves they carry back to their nests. They chew the leaves into a pulp that a special fungus grows on. The ants can't digest the leaves, but can eat and digest the fungus. So, in a way, they grow their own fungus gardens!

My second photo is of these leaf cutter ants in the Amazon jungle of Peru. (Look for the pieces of green leaves with ants beneath them.)

Here's a project for you to do today, along with a parent helping you. Get on a bathroom scale and check your weight. Next, with your parent's help, see how much you can comfortably lift and carry a short way. A ten pound bag of flour? If you've learned fractions, figure the amount you can carry compared to your weight. My six and eight year-old granddaughters can carry almost 1/3 of their weight for a short distance. How much do you think an ant can carry for a LONG distance? They can carry between 20 and 50 TIMES the weight of their body! If you could carry 50 (or even 20) times your weight, how many pounds would that be? That makes me think ants are very strong!

In the Bible, the ant is a symbol for wisdom and hard work. Proverbs 6:6 says, "Go to the ant, you sluggard (or lazy person), watch her ways and get wisdom." God gave the ants specific knowledge and skills to work in their family or community. Likewise, he has given each of us special knowledge, talents and skills. What things to you do to help your family? And your classroom and school? And your church and community?

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He Knows My Name
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 24, 2010

Under the rather dubious theory that "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," I have always considered that growing up with unusual first and last names has probably been good for me, forcing upon me an individuality I might otherwise have been too shy to step into.

So I've cheerfully gone through life correcting the mispronunciations. When people call me "Mylan" I tell them it's "Maylan," like Waylon Jennings the country singer. When they surname me "Skurtch" or "Shrush" or even "Scrunch," I tell them it's "shirk," as in "shirk your work."

That's why I am carefully hoarding the above delightful envelope-fragment I received a few weeks ago. I've shrewdly photoshopped out our mailing address--foiled you again, you identity thieves!--but you can see very clearly from what remains that whoever sent us this to try to interest us in some product or service didn't really know us personally. "Schruch" is a fairly common misspelling, but I'd never seen "Mayten" before. And to add insult to injury, they callously ignored Shelley's second "e."

That's why when the Bible insists on a God who knows us personally, it makes me feel good. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you," He said to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6). Glance back at that statement again. Notice that God is personally claiming to be the one who formed Jeremiah in the womb--and if He was that intimately involved in Jeremiah's growth and development we can assume He was in ours too. And notice that God is also claiming to have known Jeremiah's personality before his conception! Doesn't that make chills go up and down your spine? Doesn't this raise your estimation of the worth of every human being--including you?

In 1996 Tommy Walker wrote the words and music to the beloved song, "He Knows My Name":

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in His hands

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call.

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Putting Down Roots
Photo ©2010 by Bob Grady
Commentary ©2010 by Carrol Grady
Friday, April 23, 2010

One of the world's largest, this banyan tree grows in Lahaina, Maui, covering two-thirds of an acre in Courthouse Square. A tropical tree, the banyan is considered sacred in Hindu mythology. It is thought of as a symbol for eternal life because it is always expanding. The banyan's long, horizontal branches put down long roots to support themselves. Over time these roots may grow so large they appear to be secondary trunks.

The banyan tree reminds me of the church. It can only spread out, spread the good news of God's love, if each of us, as branches, personally has a root that goes deep into the ground of our own experience of God's love. And the only way to have that personal experience is to spend time with God each day.

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Be Still, My Soul
Rocky outcrops off the shore of Rosario Beach, Deception Pass, WA, July 2009.
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, April 22, 2010

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's cross to the other side of the lake." He was already in the boat, so they started out, leaving the crowds behind. Soon a fierce storm arose. High waves began to break into the boat until it was nearly full of water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat. Frantically they woke him up, shouting, "Teacher, don't you care that we are going to drown?" When he woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, "Be Still!" Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. And he asked them, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?"

Sometimes when a storm breaks into our life, only the sweet melody of the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ can calm our hearts and bring peace to our souls. Though we lack the faith to weather the storm without fear and anxiety, in our weakness His strength is made perfect. He has told us that His grace is sufficient for us and His mercy endures forever.

The love of God for His children reaches down from heaven and gathers us into His embrace. Near to His heart is where we find the strength to return to our feet and the courage to take the next step. His unfailing mercy and abundant grace encourage us to seek for greater faith in His name, that the mountains of difficulties that surround us may be removed and cast into the very depths of the sea.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! The LORD Almighty is here among us. He says, "Be still, and know that I am God!"

Is there any sweeter melody than to simply be still and to know that He is God?

Be still, my soul - the Lord is on thy side
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
in every change, He faithful will remain

Be still, my soul -
thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul - thy God doth undertake
to guide the future, as He has the past
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake
all now mysterious shall be bright at last

Be still, my soul -
the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone
sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored

Be still, my soul -
when change and tears are past all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Click here to listen to this beautiful hymn as sung by Libera (St Philips Boys Choir)

Scripture references from Mark 4 & 11; 2nd Corinthians 12:9; Psalms 136 & 46

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Surf's Up
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I love the water. I especially love watching waves crash. There is something special about the sound and sight of powerful waves breaking on shore or on rocks. It actually makes me feel small and insignificant in one way but at the same time, it brings me closer to God. He cares for the huge powerful wave, just as much as He cares for small, insignificant me.

On a recent trip to Hawaii, I was able to sit and watch the waves crashing onto the North Shore. As I sat and watched these powerful waves, one after another, I was reminded of the Casting Crowns song "Who Am I?" As you read through the lyrics, remind yourself God does care who you are and is listening to you....whenever you call.

Who am I?
That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Who am I?
That the bright and morning star,
Would choose to light the way,
For my ever wondering heart.

Not because of who I am.
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done.
But because of who you are.

Chorus:
I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord you catch me when I'm falling,
And you told me who I am.
I am yours.
I am yours.

Who am I?
That the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again
Who am I?
That the voice that calm the sea,
Would call out through the rain,
And calm the storm in me.

Not because of who I am.
But because what of youve done.
Not because of what I've done.
But because of who you are.

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Gray Jay
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Theologians, sociologists, and zoologists might each offer a different answer to the same question because of their different starting assumptions. The question at hand: Why are certain animals more easily domesticated or tamed than others? Job 39:5 asks the same question in a different way" "Who makes the wild donkeys wild?"

The theologian might draw from his understanding of Genesis 3 where sin brings about separation between man and animal. But Scripture doesn't really address the issue as to why this gap is greater in some creatures than others, except maybe the reptiles. The sociologist might fabricate an answer centered around the concept of propinquity and distance. The animals on the Galapagos Islands might be cited as an example since their remoteness from human contact prevented them from developing this fear. And the biologist might get on that same bandwagon, and if an evolutionist, offer some speculation about connectedness to the phylo-genetic tree. Somehow, each of these answers seems to fall short of offering a satisfying answer.

Case in point. The Gray Jay pictured above is a familiar visitor to the picnic tables of vacationers in the northern part of the continent. Their nickname, "camp robber," is well deserved, and with the right tidbits, these jays can be induced to feed out of one's hand. They certainly are a far way off from the primate branch of the evolutionary tree. Jays in the wilderness which have never seen a tourist are equally as bold as those who hang around the leftover picnic delivery venue. Other members of the jay family are not nearly so confiding. We just don't have an answer why this species should be so trusting.

It almost sounds like James might have been one of those picnickers who enjoyed the personableness of a "camp robber. In chapter 3 of his book he compares our lack of control of our own tongue to wild animals. "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue." (vs 8) Fortunately, Isaiah paints a much more promising picture in chapter 11 where the wolf and lamb in the New Earth are no longer at odds but coexist in peace. And while it doesn't say so, I'm guessing that in that earth-made-new-setting, maybe even the theologian, sociologist, and zoologist might find themselves finally in agreement.

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Like a Tree
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 19, 2010

I took this picture of a flowering Pacific dogwood at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle a few years ago. I still remember the first time I saw one of these trees in bloom in the mountains of Southern California. They really are beautiful and it's that time of year again because I saw one blooming last week when I walked over to the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

The flowers are actually in the middle of what looks like white petals. The "petals" are actually bracts or specialized leaves.

In Jeremiah 17:7-8 (The Message), God's message compares men and women who trust Him and have confidence in him to trees:

"But blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They're like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers-
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season."

I think that is a beautiful picture of the sort of relationship God wants to have with us and wants us to have with Him.

 

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Animals of the Bible--6
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 18, 2010

ESPECIALLY FOR THE CHILDREN

What is the worlds largest bird? Does my photo gives you a clue? Yes, it's the ostrich! As you can see compared to a man, an ostrich is very tall. They can be between seven and nine feet tall. How tall are you? An ostrich can weight up to 350 pounds. They have wings but can't fly. They use their wings to shade their chicks and to fan themselves because they normally live in the desert where it's hot. Their wings also help balance them when running. Talk about running - ostrichs can run up to 45 miles per hour and maintain that speed for about 30 minutes! That is fast!

Here's a project for you to do in the dirt or sand. You might need a parent to help you. You will need a measuring tape. Measure your step length when walking or running. After you have made your steps, move to the side and measure the length from one footprint to the next, measuring at the same place on the prints (ie toe). Compare yours with a parent or brother or sister. Can you guess what this measurement is for an ostrich? It's an amazing 10-16 feet!

Ostrichs have few nature enemies. Their legs are very powerful and can kill a human or lion. Each two-toed foot, as you can see in the second photo, has long, sharp claws that can greatly injure other animals.

In ancient Egypt, the ostrich was sometimes used for riding or pulling chariots. They are mentioned a number of times in the Bible, usually in a negative way like in Job 39:13-18, saying that God has denied her wisdom and left her without sense. Let's be thankful that God gave us a big brain so we can think to make good choices and decisions.

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The Human Touch
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 17, 2010

This past Monday we received this envelope at the church. It contained a reference form for a church member who is seeking a government job which requires security clearance.

Once I'd filled out the form, I took another look at the envelope it had come in, and amid all that intimidatingly official print next to the grim government seal, I spotted the chirpy "HAVE A NICE DAY."

I grinned, and my heart lifted a bit. My upbringing has taught be to be respectful of those in authority, and an envelope issuing from the "Federal Investigative Services Division" strikes a bit of a chill into even a law-abiding heart. Yet even though the envelope's contents were of a very serious nature, someone had decided to program a government-issue printer to splash a bit of civilian humanity across the paper.

Depending on your religious background, your view of God might range all the way from fearsome tyrant to implacable judge to doddery Heavenly Santa to absentee landlord. Some denominations, for example, portray God as so totally sovereign--with everything so totally planned out in advance--that it doesn't seem very worthwhile to try to find out what's in His heart.

However, Jesus has changed all that. Even before our sins had driven us from Eden, He planned to get us back together with His Father. "God is love," He had John say twice in 1 John, verses 4 and 16. "He who has seen Me has seen the Father," He said in John 14:9.

And Jesus--God's human-as-human-was-meant-to-be image on earth--walked through each of His days with not only the desire but the power to bring a true, deeply-settled heart of faith and love to each one of us, a heart which will regard each day (though pock-marked with devil-caused blemishes) as a truly redemptive one. Have you asked your Savior (and His Father) into your life recently? Why not do it right now?

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Spring, Gardens, Heaven . . . .
Photo ©2010 by Bob Grady
Commentary ©2010 by
Carrol Grady
Friday, April 16, 2010

"Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed." Genesis 2:8

We saw this sign as we were driving along the Road to Heavenly Hana (Maui), where scenes of spectacular beauty unfolded around each of its 620 curves! Although we didn't have time to turn off to see the "Garden of Eden" (maybe next time), it did get me to thinking about Eden.

I recall seeing pictures on TV of the spot Iraq claims is the original site of the Garden of Eden, because it is the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 2:10-14). I've wondered why these two rivers remain identifiable, although the other two mentioned, the Gihon and the Pishon, are not. Ellen White suggests that God removed the Garden of Eden from this earth before the Flood, and will restore it in the New Earth (Patruarchs and Prophets, 68).

At this springtime of the year, as gardeners everywhere are planting tiny seeds and new life is springing up, I wonder how many dream of making a beautiful garden to rival the Garden of Eden. Have you ever tried picturing it in your mind?

Many years ago when I was a leader in the children's Kindergarten, I remember one quarter when the program helps were written by Virginia Cason, daughter of Elder HMS Richards. She pictured a heavenly garden of perfect and beautiful symetry, where one side of a tree was a mirror image of the other side. Other gardeners might picture a more spontaneous, free-flowing garden.

I want to see that fabled garden someday, don't you? "Next Right." That doesn't sound very far away.

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It's Almost Midnight!
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Midnight, April 15th. Citizens of the USA know what that means: time to pay Uncle Sam. Someone once said that in this life there are only two things that are certain: death and taxes. Well - I guess that could be a true statement, but it sure seems to paint the journey as a bleak trek to nowhere. I'm grateful that as a Christian, I believe that the end of this life leads to a peaceful rest and a resurrection into a better experience. As for the taxes, is there any good way to look at those? Is it right that we should have to pay up? What does the Bible say?

Watching for their opportunity, the religious leaders sent secret agents pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest Jesus. They said, "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You sincerely teach the ways of God. Now tell us--is it right to pay taxes to the Roman government or not?"

Jesus saw through their trickery and said, "Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?" "Caesar's," they replied. "Well then," he said, "give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God."

And in the book of Romans, Paul echoes this theme:

Pay your taxes. For government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing the work God intended them to do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and import duties, and give respect and honor to all to whom it is due.

There you have it. Jesus said we have to pay our taxes. Paul said it too. But did you catch what else was said? Not only should we pay the government what we owe them for taking care of this country we live in, we should also pay God for what we owe Him. But what exactly do we owe God? How about - Everything! How can we pay for that?!

Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God's law.

How can we pay God what we owe Him? By loving Him with all of our being and loving everyone else too. And God doesn't want us to love as the world loves, by treating with kindness only those who are first kind to us, or by giving only to those who can return the gift. God also does not desire us to love others simply as we love ourselves, which can be selfish and fall short of His perfect example. The love that God wants us to show others is more pure, more beautiful, and more selfless; something this world has rarely if ever seen - to love others as God has loved us.

This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

God's children don't know the exact date of His second coming, but we know it's soon. We're looking forward to His coming back and to finally going home. Yes, home. This world is not our home; we're renters here. But sadly, to most of the inhabitants of this planet the return of Jesus will be as a thief in the night. His arrival will be to them like the stealing away of their hopes and dreams - the end of their plans for a long life in this world of sin. If you thought that someone was coming to take away everything worth living for would you be happy about it?

What most people don't realize is that a life lived in sin is not really living, but dying. If you think that this world and this life are all that there is, then there is no looking forward to something better, no hope for something lasting, and you will cling tightly to what you have here and be afraid of losing it. That's why God calls those who do know Him to pay it forward for others in love. He tells us to spend all of the love we can in this life in the hopes that someone else will receive our payment and allow it to lead them to a better life in the next.

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to everyone else.

When paying God what you owe Him, don't be afraid to spend all that you have or even to lose it all. Secure your future by making an investment for someone else. In terms of Jesus's soon return it really is almost midnight. The time to pay up is now!

At midnight there was a great cry, Behold, the bridegroom is here! Go out to meet him!

What can I offer the LORD for all he has done for me?

I will praise the LORD's name for saving me.
I will keep my promises to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
I will offer Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
Praise the LORD!

Scripture references from Matthew 22; Mark 12; Luke 20; Romans 13:6-8; John 15:12; 1st Thessalonians 5:15; Psalms 116

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God's Tree
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Not sure if it's true, but God might have a favorite tree (besides the Tree of Life). If He does, it might be the palm tree. They are found all over the world; there are over 2,000 varieties; and over history they have been used as symbols or peace and victory. Palm trees have also been mentioned throughout the Bible (over 30 times) and over thousands of years have been used in many different ways -- from oils to food, from shelter to doormats, from syrup to cosmetics.

Chapter 12 of the Gospel of John describes Jesus' "triumphal entry." In verses 12 & 13 we hear about one of the best uses of palm tree branches: "The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! The King of Israel!'"

Of all the uses of palm trees, I think this one's at the top.

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Speculum of a Black Duck
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's called a speculum, a small patch of feathers on the wings of many ducks. Often they are of a metallic or iridescent color which contrasts with the color of feathers surrounding them. They come in shades of purple, blue, green, and even white and are employed by the male in ritualized courtship displays intent on attracting female admirers. For those seeking to identify the specific species sporting such color this can also be helpful such as seen on this Black Duck. Its speculum is similar to that worn by the Mallard but differs from it in that it shows no white edges fore and aft.

In biblical times the term speculum carried a different yet related meaning. The ancient usage referred to a looking glass or mirror. It is used this way in Exodus 38:8 where it states that the bonze basin used the sanctuary service was constructed from the mirrors of the women who donated them. Elihu employs this same image when he asks the question in Job 37:18: "Can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?" The question was intended to humble Job and put him in his place for the obvious answer had to be "no." During that time the very best mirrors were coated with silver and the thicker the plating, the more accurate the reflection.

We all understand our own imperfections. Paul understood his as well and while this may not have been what he was referring to in I Corinthians 13:12 there's no reason we couldn't apply it that way. "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face." Wouldn't it be more appropriate to use our speculum to reflect Him more clearly rather than to exhibit our own out of place feathers?

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The Common Denominator
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 12, 2010

This picture is of a couple of boys I saw one morning in Guyana. I'm not sure how well you can see this in the picture but the boy on the left is holding a bird cage in his left hand and his cell phone in his right. The other boy is holding three bird cages. I was quite amused to see people in Guyana taking their caged birds for walks. I'm sure they'd be equally amused if they came over here and saw people taking their dogs for walks! (I didn't even see any collars on any dogs while I was there and certainly nobody was taking them for any walks!)

I find it fascinating to see how things are done in other cultures. Sometimes, we tend to think that the way we do something in our culture is superior to how it is done elsewhere when in reality, the way we do something is not necessarily better - just different!

Wouldn't it be boring if everyone looked alike, thought alike, dressed alike and did everything in exactly same way? I certainly appreciate the diversity in people, plants, trees, animals, birds, flowers and everything else that God has created.

When it comes to being Christians, however, it is what we have in common that holds us together. While we all bring our own unique personalities and perspectives to the table, Paul states in Galations 3:28-29 "In Christ's family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ's family, then you are Abraham's famous "descendant," heirs according to the covenant promises."

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Animals of the Bible--5
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 11, 2010

ESPECIALLY FOR THE CHILDREN

Have you been hearing more bird sounds lately? Some birds that fly south for the winter have returned to our area. (I hope they don't decide it's still winter here and return south!) The Mourning Dove in my photo is the most common type of dove in the United States. It's called "mourning" because of the mournful or soft, drawn-out sounds it makes. When it starts to fly, its wings make a whistling sound. Doves are in the same family as pigeons. There are around 300 different types of birds in this family. The Bible mentions doves many times. I'll share just a few with you.

In Genesis 8, Noah sent out a bird to see if the water was going down. It returned. Later, he sent out a dove and it returned with a fresh olive leaf, meaning the water was receding. Later, he send the dove out again and it didn't return, indicating it had found a place to land. After a short time Noah, his family and all the animals left the ark and went to establish their new homes. Wouldn't you be happy to leave the ark after having been in it for several months wih all those animals?

After Jesus was baptized and got out of the water, the Spirit of God descended like a dove on Him. A voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, my Beloved on whom my favour rests." Mathew 3:16-17 Jesus spoke of the innocence of the dove when he said to his disciples, "Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves; be wary as serpents, innocent as doves." Mathew 10:16

Have you ever wanted to fly? Not in an airplane, but really fly like a bird? David in the Bible thought about that too. In Psalms 54: 6-8, he said, "Oh that I had the wings of a dove to fly away and be at rest! I should escape far away and find a refuge in the wilderness; soon I should find myself a sanctuary from wind and storm."

Would you like to be like the gentle, peaceful dove?

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The Concrete Monster
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 10, 2010

Last month while on a walk near our home I spotted this little pictorial parable. To my maybe-too-imaginative eye, it seemed as though the sidewalk's closest "cutout" was a mouth, about to devour the thin, defenseless tree, while the more distant cutout was a cruelly squinting eye. Do you see my concrete monster?

I don't think I'm taking this too far when I say that this is a miniature version of what happens to the human soul every week. Man-made objects and objectives continually chomp away at anything of Eden we might have left in us. Much of our native serenity has been systematically paved over with short-term, dead-end goals with which the Joneses have goaded us to keep up.

Aside from escaping to an unmapped tropical island--and even there our human natures would continue to destroy us from within--we can't do much about the above. But there is one thing we can do--we can escape to Eden on the seventh day of every week. God gave His Sabbath (see the first couple of verses of Genesis 2) to our original Mom and Dad even before Satan began pouring his Redi-mix across our paradise. Let's claim the hope and happiness of God's seventh-day sanity-saver for ourselves immediately--and let's remember that the Sabbath is a symbol of redemption as well as rest (Exodus 31:13).

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God's Question
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bob Grady
Commentary ©2010 by Carrol Grady
Friday, April 9, 2010

"Who shut up the sea behind doors...and said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt?'" Job 38:8, 11

What is so peaceful, so relaxing, so tension-reducing, as listening to waves pounding on the shore and then receding? Or as invigorating as standing chest-deep in the ocean and jumping the incoming waves? And when you add the magnetic beauty of blue surf crashing against black lava rocks, what a feast for the eyes!

Meditating on the waves of the sea also reminds us of our Creator's unimaginable power in dictating the limits of the ocean. Read all of Job 38-41 and listen to God's magnificent poetry as He challenges Job to explain the intricacies and mysteries of this planet's birth.

Job answered, "I put my hand over my mouth." At last he understood that God, who knows, creates, and sustains all things, will surely treat us with love and justice. We can trust Him!

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The Walk
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Last month, I spent a weekend with my sister on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. I happened upon two starfish clinging together on a rock exposed by the low tide. It looked to me as though the pair were dancing, or that the larger, purple sea star was doing his best to rescue his timid, orange companion from the nipping foam. In either case, the picture reminded me of our walk with Jesus. Jesus wants us to cling to Him, to follow where He leads, to trust His leading, and to not let go. He wants to rescue us from the dangers of this world and to lead us to a place of perfect rest.

There's one problem though and it's BIG. Jesus won't make us cling to Him and He won't make us follow. While He can put suction cups on the bottoms of our feet and even the palms of our hands, He will not force us to attach ourselves to Him and to follow where He leads. At any moment, we are free to let go; free to return to the nipping foam.

The sad thing about our world is that to many people God's commandments and the lessons of true love expressed in the life of Jesus seem more like tentacles than promises. People fear that God wants to control them, to tie them down, to restrict them, and to withhold everything good. It was this same fear that caused the angel Lucifer to fall from Heaven and to become the dreaded enemy of souls, Satan.

Many today, even Christians, are deceived by the sparkling foam and the sweeping waves. They trick themselves into thinking that the foam represents the real jewels of this life and the swirling water is true freedom, when in fact the foam is simply iridescent pollution and any time spent playing in the swirling waters is not swimming, but drowning.

Can two walk together without agreeing on the direction?

Jesus said, "Follow Me."

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

"You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light."

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The man who says, "I know Him," but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

God is calling us to take a good look around our watering hole and to be honest with ourselves and with Him. Are we swimming in the foam? If we are, there is still hope. God is in the rescue business. All we have to do is call out to Him and believe He will answer.

"I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking to me about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!"

"I am the LORD, I am the LORD, the merciful and gracious God. I am slow to anger and rich in unfailing love and faithfulness. I show this unfailing love to many thousands by forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion."

"I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you are not already completely destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my laws and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty.

God loves to forgive. If you look around today and find yourself deep in the foam, call out to Jesus. He will come to you. Take hold of His hand and start that walk again. It could just be that with each passing day, you just might find that your walk turns into dancing.

Jesus said, "They shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy."

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Scripture references from Amos 3:3; Matthew 4:19; John 8:12, 12:35-36; Galatians 5:25; 1st John 2:4-6; Isaiah 65:24; Exodus 34:6-7; Malachi 3:6-7; Revelation 3:4; 2nd Corinthians 5:7

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Dedication & Sacrifice
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On a recent trip to Hawaii, we came across a sleeping Hawaiian monk seal. I knew monk seals were endangered but I didn't know much past that, until I returned home and did a little research.

According to the National Geographic, Hawaiian monk seals live in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They are unusual compared to other seals, as they enjoy the tropical warm waters versus colder (in some cases frigid) waters most seals thrive in. They eat all the "normal" seal food: fish, lobsters, octopuses and eels. They are an endangered species and there are as little as 1,000 of them left.

As I continued to read about the monk seal, the section about mother monk seals was the most interesting. Mother monk seals are dedicated and remain with their pups constantly for the first five or six weeks of their lives. They don't eat during this challenging time, and may lose hundreds of pounds. This period of voluntary starvation actually endangers the mother's life, which means that she could potentially give her life for her young pups. Talk about dedication and sacrifice!

This reminds me of the gift God gave us--His only Son. I don't think there is any greater dedication or greater sacrifice than God's. As we all know (and have read several times) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." - John 3:16.

Never forget the gift God has given us and the dedication and sacrifice which went along with it.

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Warbling Vireo
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
April 6, 2010

In one of the most poetic descriptions of spring, the King James Version records these words in Song of Solomon 2:11,12: "For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." The setting in which these words appear is the lover's request to his true love to come away with him. It's doubtful that the idea of spring as a romantic time started with Solomon, but certainly this idea has enough support today to give credibility to the notion that this season is an especially amorous one.

We don't know whether Solomon recognized the "time of the singing of birds" as an occasion when birds were establishing nesting territories and attracting mates with their melodies. It is likely he did, for he was a keen observer of nature. Even the name of the Warbling Vireo, shown above, belies its penchant for filling the woods with song. In fact, it has been estimated it sings more than 4000 songs a day during breeding season. Maybe it shouldn't surprise us that a God who loves love, takes delight in creating a limitless number of species whose songs we can delight in as well. If that's true, then it would stand to reason that Song of Solomon and the song of the Warbling Vireo are both truly love songs.

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Were It Not For Grace
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 5, 2010


I saw this sign on a Baptist church in downtown Tacoma recently. I really like the name. Although I know I often fall short, grace is what we should be showing to other people because grace is what was shown to us.

I really like the song "Were It Not For Grace" (lyrics by David Hamilton and Phil McHugh) Sandi Patty sings on her Songs for the Journey album:

Time measured out my days
Life carried me along
In my soul I yearned to follow God
But knew I'd never be so strong
I looked hard at this world
To learn how heaven could be gained
Just to end where I began
Where human effort is all in vain

Were it not for grace
I can tell you where I'd be
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me
I know how that would go
The battles I would face
Forever running but losing this race
Were it not for grace

So here is all my praise
Expressed with all my heart
Offered to the Friend who took my place
And ran a course I could not start
And when He saw in full
Just how much His love would cost
He still went the final mile between me and heaven
So I would not be lost

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2: 4-5

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Animals of the Bible -- 4
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 4, 2010

ESPECIALLY FOR THE CHILDREN

Three kinds of goats lived in the countries where the Bible was written; one was something like those we know about; another kind had very long ears and the third was a wild goat or ibex. The goat in the photo above is a young wild goat or ibex. When hiking in the mountains of northern Italy, in an area known as the Valle D'Aosta we saw many of these wild goats. As you can see, their horns are very long - sometimes up to three feet in length and have interesting rings and ridges on them. They live on very steep mountains. But God has given them a special kind of foot that is hollow underneath to keep them from slipping. The ibex or wild goat is spoken of several times in the Bible. In I Samuel 24, "Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats." You probably know the story, but you might want to read it again.

My second photo is of a domestic goat in a field in a valley close to where we saw all the wild goats. Goats are very curious, intelligent and playful animals. For kids (young goats), play is very important because it helps them develop skills useful later in life. They can gallop, jump very high into the air, leaping on their mother's backs! Unlike sheep, goats have beards and pointed black horns. Solomon says in the book of Proverbs, "Thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance of thy maidens." This might seem strange to us, but at that time and in those countries, goat milk was commonly used for drinking and making cheese. Jacob sent a present of two hundred and twenty goats to his brother Esau. A part of the curtains for the tabernacle were made of goat hair. The bottles mentioned in the Bible were usually made of goat-skins.

The Israelites had a custom which you may read about in Leviticus 16. God commanded it be observed once every year. On this appointed day, the high-priest washed in clean water and put on clean white linen clothing. Two young goats were brought to him. Lots were cast to see which goat was to be killed. The high-priest put his hands on the head of the remaining goat and confessed the sins of the Israelites.

Later, Jesus came into the world to suffer and die for our sins. The Easter holiday is celebrated today so we can remember Jesus' ressurection. Let's be thankful that Jesus lived, died and rose again!

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The Only Way to Keep the Heart Alive
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 3, 2010

Almost exactly a month ago I saw the above saying in a shop window: "The only way to keep the heart alive is to be unafraid to use it."

This reminded me of one of C. S. Lewis' most famous quotes, from his book The Four Loves:

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."

I'm thankful that we have a Heavenly Father, a Holy Spirit, and a self-sacrificing Son whose love allowed themselves to be supremely vulnerable, and to pour out that love for our redemption. Can we, in turn, open the caskets which surround our hearts, and give those hearts to Them?

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"Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters"
Photo ©2010 by Bob Grady
Commentary ©2010 by Carrol Grady
Friday, April 2, 2010

"Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:23-24

We saw many beautiful waterfalls like this on the Road to Hana in Maui. They reminded me of God's call for justice through the prophet Amos. God told Israel that He could not hear their songs of praise, that He despised their religious feasts and assemblies, and would not accept their burnt offerings. Why? Because they oppressed the poor, crushed the needy, and deprived the poor of justice in the courts.

Today we again hear God's challenge to help the poor and oppressed and give them justice. Only when we treat the "least of these" as we would treat Jesus, can our worship be accepted by God.

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The Fool
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, April 1, 2010

Have you heard the story about the atheist who filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination by the government and commercial establishment in recognizing and promoting the religious days of believers in God, such as Easter and Passover? The atheist was incensed that there was no special day especially for non-believers.

The case was brought before a wise judge who listened with great patience to the long and passionate presentation of the atheist's lawyers. At the end of their prosecution, the judge banged the gavel upon the desk and declared, "Case dismissed!" The lawyer immediately stood up and objected to the ruling saying, "Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? Surely the Christians have Easter, Christmas, and many other observances. And the Jews likewise have Passover, Hanukkah, and Yom Kippur. Yet my client and all other non-believers have no such day!"

The judge leaned forward and replied, "The case is dismissed because there are no grounds for prosecution. The atheists do in fact have a day." The lawyer and client were stunned, and the lawyer retorted, "We are aware of no such day for atheists. Just when might that be, your honor?" The judge answered, "The observance happens every year on exactly the same day - April the first - April Fool's Day".

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
"Return to me, and I will return to you," says the Lord Almighty.
"Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'"

Today is the first day of the month of April, commonly referred to as "April Fool's Day." If you choose to be a fool today, be a fool by preaching the foolishness of the gospel - the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Go and tell others of the love of God for a world that did not love Him in return.

Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. "They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."

Scripture references from Psalms 14, 53; Malachi 3; Ezekiel 33:11

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