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

Devotional Photo Blog - April 2011

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

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

It’s Where You’re Standing . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 30, 2011

The above poster in a store window caught my eye back in mid-March. As you see, a partition cutting off part of the word "culture" makes it read "cult."

Is it possible that you are I could be so steeped in our culture, so familiar with it, so un-shocked by it that we might not realize its cultlike tendencies? The latest (11th) edition of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “cult” (in its religious sense) as: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious.” Such a spurious religion can be quite dangerous, involving as it often does a charismatic leader who demands absolute loyalty from his or her followers (including financial loyalty) and who sometimes even isolates them from the rest of society. Mind control and brainwashing play a large part, as well as the willing acquiescence of people whose personalities long for authority figures to tell them how to run their lives.

Now—how can we tell when a part of the culture has become a “cult” for us? One way is to compare our allegiances. What takes up a lot of our time or our money? Are we sometimes uneasy or worried about the loyalty we are offering to this or that philosophy or group? Do we tend to become defensive when someone who cares about us starts quizzing us about what they consider our obsession?

The best objective measure, of course, is the Bible. Jesus once told a parable about two men who built their houses on different foundations. Only the house built on the foundation of "these words of Mine," Jesus said, would stand firm. So it's where you stand that makes all the difference. Even if you read the Bible through only for the stories, you will find a surprising number of instances of cultism and its damaging results--yet how standing firmly on Scripture can protect from these dangers.

In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about how you can discover truth. Click here to find many verses that discuss this.

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Putting It All Back Together
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 29, 2011

On the last day of February I was visiting someone in a Seattle hospital. In the waiting room I noticed this half-assembled Noah's Ark puzzle. Just to the puzzle's right is a helpful photo of the completed scene.

That puzzle was a great parable of the hospital itself, whose beds were filled with people trying to put their lives back together. And the puzzle's subject itself is significant – an entire world fragmented by unbridled atrocities having to be put back together again after the flood.

Ever since sin began, God has been in the business of putting lives, and churches, and countries, and cultures back together. "Our whole being,” Christian thinker C. S. Lewis says in his book The Four Loves, “by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for him who can untie things that are now not said together and tie up things that are still dangling loose."

And one day—and it will be a cataclysmic day indeed—God will put our planet back together one more time:

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  2 Peter 3:10 – 13 NKJV

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Earth Mover
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 28, 2011

Almost exactly a week ago I was in an Issaquah parking lot when I spotted this delightful scene. Parked neatly between a demure black SUV and my humble Honda Civic was this tough little earth mover.

There was no construction project nearby – and from the scoop, it looked like what this machine had most recently been hauling was rust – but there it was, parking in a civilian parking spot waiting for its operator to return.

I think the reason this juxtaposition tickled me so much was the contrast. The two other vehicles are simply designed for smooth and comfortable transportation, while the earthmover exists to powerfully and effectively adjust the world around it, as long as the operator knows what he or she was doing.

This made me think of how often God and His Son Jesus insisted – and demonstrated – that just one person, just a few people, can make an awesomely unbelievable difference in a whole planet's future. Young Joseph, first a household slave and then a convict, stayed true to God and eventually became Egyptian Prime Minister, rescuing his country from the effects of a devastating famine. "Only a boy named David" asserted his faith in God, whirled his sling, killed a giant, and turned an entire Philistine army into wailing, escaping cowards.

Jesus Himself was one against many, and as He was captured by His enemies, His 12 closest friends scattered in the darkness. Yet, at His encouragement, they regrouped and spread His message of salvation over much of this planet.

If you choose to surrender your life and your talents to your Creator, be prepared to be different from those around you, like the little earthmover in the photo above. Sometimes quite frankly, you'll stick out like a sore thumb. But if you refuse to blend in, refuse to go with the crowd, refuse to be part of the plain-vanilla culture like everyone else, soon you'll see the earth begin to move around you.

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Pray—and Pay Attention
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A friend of ours—who’s in the habit of uttering pithy comments about life—included this gem in a recent e-mail. “I’m going to use that as a devotional photo blog,” I warned her. And Tuesday afternoon of this week I put it up.

I have an idea that my friend didn’t start out to create a cosmic statement when she said this, but that’s what it really is. “Pray,” of course, comes first, and it should. But praying doesn’t mean our role is over. We need to be vigilant observers of life, and especially of people, as Jesus must have been. Jesus paid attention—to the sick, to the fearful, to the ashamed, to the furtive seeker for truth, even to the hard-shell Pharisees He often ate Sabbath dinner with.

In other words, Jesus cared. And because He cared, we need to care too. Not gullibly or “enablingly,” but wisely and humbly.

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Grace: it was a favorite topic for the Apostle Paul.  He couldn’t say enough about it.  Typical of his statements is, “But through His grace, we are acquitted before the law because Jesus Christ paid for our sins.”  (Romans 3:24 Clear Word Bible)  He concludes most of his letters with a reminder to his readers to remain in this grace so it’s not surprising that for most Christians, the theme of the grace of God is a pillar of their belief system as well.  In spite of this, I wonder how often we are willing to extend this same grace to our fellowman, especially with the same generosity God has offered it to us.  Let’s look at a few similarities between this quality Scripture talks about and a town less than twenty miles from our home church.  The comparisons however may not always be complimentary.
Even though the town of Grace is nearby, I would venture to guess the majority of our church members are unaware of its existence.  Hopefully we do better about extending Christ-like grace to one another.  With a population of only twelve, one might question the impact of the community upon surrounding areas.  Is our graciousness so restricted that it also has a limited influence upon those with whom we come in contact?  The geographical Grace has a mayor-for-life according to its sign.  One is left to wonder if our confidence in the One who offered us grace is so complete that we are willing to extend this unconditionally to others. I’ll refrain from trying to draw any parallels about the chief of police.  The town appears to be proud of its history, being around since 1906 and passing the one hundred year mark.  Has our time with the Master caused us to grow in grace and willingness to share it?  The last comparison for us to consider is the fact that the sign has two sides, each proclaiming the boundaries of Grace.  While God always offers us access to the riches of His grace, He still grants us the option of leaving His protection.  Just like Paul’s letters, the road sign serves as a reminder, a wake up call if you will, of the reality and significance of grace.  While we may not be planning an immediate move, I hope all of us are living in His grace.

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What's In A Name?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 25, 2011

I recently had to replace a hubcap that came off shortly after I got a new set of tires put on my car.  I'm not sure if it wasn't put on correctly or if it was just old and worn out.  Considering the mileage of my car, it could have been the latter!

I looked online to see what was available for a replacement.  The one website I found had the brand name hubcaps but they also had "no name" hubcaps that were about $20 cheaper.  Some people would be appalled at going with a "no name" car part but I just wanted a hubcap and didn't really care if it had the brand name or not.  (It looks just like the brand name hubcaps but does not have the manufacturers logo.)  The price convinced me to go with the "no name" hubcaps.

A name can have a good reputation or a bad reputation.  When it comes to value, a name can have a huge effect on something like a surname, a lamp, a medication, a car or even a violin.

When it comes to being a Christian, the name is very important.  While we are not saved by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), our actions (as Christians) are important also. When the Lord appeared to Solomon after Solomon built the temple, Solomon was told that, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

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Making Contact with Jesus
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 24, 2011

This church sign, caught my attention while we were traveling through a town in Canterbury, New Zealand on our way to Mt. Cook. When logging on to this website, I found it belongs to a technology firm. However, people are likely to think of Jesus and the cross when they see it, which I'm sure was the purpose. I thought it was rather clever so thought I'd share it with you this Easter Sunday – the time of the year we especially think about the resurrection of Jesus after His crucifixion on the cross – the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. He became one of us to die for all of us.

After His resurrection, when Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, they didn't recognize Him (Luke 24:13-33) even though they were talking about Him and with Him. Jesus was making contact with them, but they didn't know it at that time. Later, Jesus appeared to all the remaining disciples. Thomas said that unless he could touch Jesus physically, he wouldn't believe He was alive again (John 20:25). Thomas thought he needed physical contact to know it was really Jesus. Has Jesus made contact with you? Did you recognize Him? Have you made contact with Him?

If Jesus was here on earth today, would He have email or a website; be on Facebook or Twitter? He definitely wanted to make contact with people and they wanted to contact Him! Even though it was two thousand years ago when He was here on earth physically, today He is alive in heaven. And today we can make contact with Him. He is waiting to listen to us and talk with us. So make contact with Him today!

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Newsweek: “How to Live ‘Forever’” -- Be Adventist!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 23, 2011

This past Wednesday night at prayer meeting, one of our church members showed me a full-page chart in a recent Newsweek magazine. The chart was titled “How to Live Forever,” and subtitled “Plucked from scientific research, here’s what it takes.”

According to the research, Newsweek found that the first criterion for a long life is to be female. But the second—notice that familiar little logo?—is to be Seventh-day Adventist!

Check out this link for the full chart, then come back here and read what’s below:

Back in the mid- and late-1800s, better health became an obsession for many Americans. An immense smorgasbord of ideas, developed by people with various levels of education--and none with the high degree of training our doctors have today--were promoted and tried. Sufferers walked around with heavy magnets strapped to where they felt pain. Health spas featured treatments which today would horrify doctors. Drugs considered illegal today were offered over-the-counter as remedies.

Seventh-day Adventists believe that one of the church’s founders, Ellen White, was directed by the Lord to choose the best of these ideas and discard the others. He guided her toward living habits which as close as possible mimicked those practiced by humanity’s first couple in the sin- and pollution-free Garden of Eden.

Years ago, someone coined the acronym NEWSTART to summarize these Eden principles. Here’s a link with more information:

The bottom line, of course, is that our bodies’ Creator knows how we should treat these wonderful engines we inhabit. The theory of macroevolution says, “Hey, humanity! Since you’ve been evolving for millions of years, it’s up to you to devise ways to evolve yourself to better health.” But those who believe we were created perfect by a loving Intelligent Designer will look to Him—and His 750,000 word “owner’s manual”—for guidance.

For a bit of Bible counsel about health, click here.

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Beside the Vacant Chair
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 22, 2011

I’m normally not a nosy person—until it comes to books. Last Saturday night after a meeting at the church, Shelley and I motored over to the large Barnes and Noble bookstore in downtown Bellevue.

Shelley’s book-looking interests are wider than mine, so I’m usually done browsing first, and I always hope I can find an empty green-and-white striped armchair. Usually they’re already occupied with contented readers, but I found an empty one this time, and plopped myself into it.

Just before I descended into its depths, I noticed that the previous occupant had left a pile of books on the floor. Like a shameless old busybody, I peered over the arm of the chair and scrutinized the titles. Then I arranged them in a tasteful bouquet and brought out my camera.

I can’t say for sure, of course, whether all three books had been browsed by the same person, but look at the titles: Conquering Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, The Self-esteem Workbook, and You are a Spiritual Being Having a Human Experience

Each of those books was written to respond to some kind of cry for help. And as any pastor—or for that matter probably any Christian—would do, I immediately thought of the Book which is the most dependable heart-cry-answerer. The Bible doesn’t claim to be a PTSD manual of course, but it’s certainly a “self-esteem workbook,” because its 750,000 words clearly detail not only how much God loves us, but how far He went to express that love, and to make sure we had an opportunity to live forever.

And though I think God created us in a more unified way than the You Are a Spiritual Being book might assert, we are indeed composed of body, mind and spirit, and the Holy Spirit longs to enter us and draw us lovingly and powerfully to God.

Come, Holy Spirit, I need You,
Come, sweet Spirit, I pray;
Come in Your strength and Your power,
Come in Your own gentle way.

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That’s Using Your Head?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sorry for the reddish tint to the above photo—I’m not an expert in digital photography, especially with a little point-and-shoot camera.

But I couldn’t resist getting a shot of these two headless golfers in a clothing store a little over a week ago. There they are, dressed in the height of golfing fashion (though their duds are marked down to $24.99), each having just whacked a ball to who-knows-where. If you look closely at their left hands, you see not four fingers but three, which means that the missing one must be interlocked in the best approved golfing grip.

I’m no golfer, but I am fairly certain that to make it through a round of 18 holes one needs to depend on more than mere musclepower. Eyes are needed to check the required distance, ears need to stay tuned for the unexpected “Fore!” from another golfing group, even one’s head of hair is needed to help sense how much wind, from whichever direction, to allow for.

I hope it’s not too irreverent a stretch to compare these golfers to the Christian church. Just as a body requires a head, a church—to be called Christian in the truest sense—needs a Head. Listen to Paul first of all give Jesus’ credentials, and then tell us how He relates to the church “body.”

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:15 – 18 NKJV)

So what do we do with this now that we know it? We church body members need to make use of His eyes, to see people the way He sees them. We need to speak to people through His lips and using His gentle tones. We need to listen with His ears--carefully and empathetically.  We need to prepare ourselves to taste the joys and sorrows of those Jesus told us to love.

And just as a body without a head is useless, so is a head without a body.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body . . . 
  --credited to Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582

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Rock Or Roll
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We read Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” 
I am sure we all have read his, we have even have sung the song that follows the story.  We may have read a poem that was written about it and possibly even seen a play performed about it.  With all that, do we base our lives on it – and when I say ‘lives’ I mean our daily lives? I believe it is far easier to say, “Yes, I will build my life, my foundation, on God’s word.  I will structure my life around Him being the Rock. Because of this, I will be able to spend all of eternity with Him.” 

However, I feel it gets more challenging when we are in our daily routine and we are faced with one of life’s many decisions.  In those moments, do we pray and ask for guidance to ensure our decision is being built on the Rock?  If not, we will quickly roll away from God’s desired path for us.  Let’s make sure to build our lives – our daily lives, on the true ROCK.

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1929 Pierce-Arrow
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

1929 was a great year to be a stockbroker or maker of fine American luxury cars, for money flowed freely during those boom years.  Great, that was, until The Crash sent the country spiraling downward into the clutches of the Great Depression.  Among the finest of those cars was the Pierce-Arrow which came out with a straight-eight engine that year, a year that marked the company’s high-water mark of production.
Time has a way of being unkind to the physical world.  Age, rust, and decay are often found embracing each other.  Perhaps that’s why the exceptions are so notable.  In a local workshop a workman is carefully restoring his 1929 Pierce-Arrow into mint condition.  The running board which once came too close to a curb has been straighten and re-chromed.  The engine has been completely reworked and restored to optimum specifications.  The interior has been redone to complement the original gauges.  No effort was spared to bring back the previous luster of this status symbol.
What would motivate a person to expend limitless hours in his workshop laboring over a bucket of bolts and the glory of yesteryear?  There are numerous reasons, but one has to be the pride of ownership, and of knowing that he had a part in restoring the beauty which was given to it by its maker.  Another reason for placing such a high value upon his project might well be the cost involved.  This particular model sold for over $5000 in ’29, in contrast to a Model T which could be purchased for a mere $260 at its lowest price.  While the original cost must have had some bearing on the value he placed upon it, the restoration process hasn’t been a cheap one either. It’s a costly project.
One could hardly blame this restorer if moments of impatience slipped in, of a longing to see the project completed.  The repainted fenders hang from walls waiting to be installed.  The gleaming headlights await placement in their proper prominent position.  The spiritual parallels are obvious.  We are infinitely valued by our Lord who is not only our creator but our redeemer as well.  The price He paid to restore us to our sinless condition, beyond measure.  The car is being returned to its original perfection, with one exception, an exception that was intentional.  The ID plate remains as it was found before restoration began, perhaps a reminder of how much was done to bring it to its perfected state, the same kind of reminder as the scars in our Restorer’s hands and side.

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 18, 2011

In a recent Sabbath School class, we were discussing the last few verses of the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark where people were so wrapped up in keeping the traditions of man that they lost the whole point of the Sabbath.  So many man-made rules and regulations were in place that basically all that people could concentrate on were the rules and regulations!

Jesus told them that, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2: 27 (NIV)

We were not made to work twenty-four hours a day seven days a week!  A day of rest was incorporated right in the very beginning of time on this earth during the creation week.  "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." Genesis 2:2-3

I use rechargeable batteries in my camera.  If I don't recharge them, the energy will totally drain out of them and they won't be able to function.  People also need to be recharged, and that is why Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for us.  I don't know about you but I really look forward to being able to "recharge" every seventh day!

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Making Good Choices

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 17, 2011

Have you seen colorful mushrooms while walking in the woods? Recently while walking in the woods in New Zealand, I came upon many colorful and different mushrooms. I'm sharing photos of just two of them here. Since I'm not an expert on mushroom identification, I don't eat mushrooms I find. In fact, I don't even like to touch them for fear that some poisonous substance might get on my fingers. I know that toxic wild mushrooms can be very dangerous. I've read that some of the characteristics of poisonous mushrooms include

1. A sack-like cup surrounding the base of the stem
2. A ring on the stem
3. White gills

Even though very colorful, from the criteria listed above I think the blue mushroom (Blue Pinkgill) is probably poisonous. I know the large red/orange one (Scarlet Flycap) is very poisonous. Other than taking photos, I choose to stay clear of them!

The Bible has guidelines for making good choices. God told Adam to not eat from a particular tree in the Garden of Eden because it would make him die (Gen 2:17,18). They made a bad choice and we experience death. We have the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and the two commandments in Mathew 22 to give guidance for making good choices in our lives. The Bible records examples of people who made good choices, such as Daniel (Dan 1:8). God created us as human beings capable of making wise decisions. Our salvation depends on how and what we choose in our lives. I Cor 10:31 states that “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Now that's a good choice! Have you chosen God? He's chosen you.

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Who Can You Trust Your Future To?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 16, 2011

The human race is “programmed” to worship Someone higher than themselves, which is why—if they haven’t come to know the true God--they come up with all sorts of substitutes.

Back in Old Testament times, the nations located around Palestine were no different. Baal was the storm god, the one you needed to keep happy if you wanted a good crop in the fall. Marduk was the main Babylonian god, though there were others. The list goes on and on—both Rome and Greece had their pantheons (god-groups), as did the Scandinavians and Germans and other tribes in Europe, and of course every other culture around the planet.

Not surprisingly, a lot of these gods were described the way the Old Testament described the true God—all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, and in some cases even creators of mankind. Some gods were even said to die in the winter and come to life again in the spring.

But there’s one difference that sets the true God apart from the false ones. The true God sent His Son (also the true God) to earth to live among humans, not to incite them to war against other gods in the pantheon (as so often happened in Greek and Roman myth), but to teach them that the true God was a loving Father.

And then the Son did something which greatly puzzled and astonished the pagans: He gave Himself in death so that human beings could have the opportunity to live forever.

Thursday afternoon I put the following sign on our church readerboard:

Who can you trust your future to?
Go with the God who died for you.

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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  John 3:16, 17 NKJV

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Should I Escape?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 15, 2011

Last Friday we happened to be up at Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood. This U-Haul truck was parked ramp-down in front of the Borders bookstore, which would close in a couple of days.

But what caught my eye was the huge statue of the horse just outside the PFChang’s Chinese restaurant. Energetic lettering on the side of the truck said “U Can Do It!” The horse stands with his head cocked, staring at the ramp, as though saying to himself, “Hey, maybe I SHOULD take the dare! Maybe I should jump up that ramp, hide in that truck box, and let the driver take me far away from my boring life to wonderful new worlds of adventure!”

Isn’t it tempting once in a while to just cut and run? Every era, it seems, has had its escape mechanisms—the workaholism of the 50s, the hippie communes of the 60s, the drugs of the 70s, the transcendental meditation of the 80s, the virtual reality role-playing games in recent years.

Fortunately Paul—and in reality the Holy Spirit Himself—offers us some wonderful resources to help us survive where the rubber meeets the road: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness . . . “, Galatians 5:22 NKJV

As you’ll notice, “love” is mentioned first. Love shows us how to look beyond our personal pain to the spiritual welfare of others. “Joy” is a deep, settled feeling of inner happiness that comes from knowing that God truly loves us and has gone—and will yet go—to amazing lengths to finally rescue us. “Peace” keeps us from responding in knee-jerk, negative  fashion to bad news, insults, annoyances, whatever else the devil tosses at us. “Longsuffering” is patience—the ability to take the long view. “Kindness, goodness, faithfulness” are our Spirit-led ways of showing others what the God we serve is really like.

So, no need to jump ship—or clatter up the ramp into a U-Haul truck and hope that the driver takes you to a happier place. Ask the Lord to grow His Spirit-fruit within you so that you can be His influencer.

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I Love Mankind, But . . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 14, 2011

I couldn’t resist hauling out the old Nikon point-and-shoot and snapping this sunlit license plate last Friday. Haven’t you met people who fall into both categories—those who love mankind but hate people, and others who are so easily hate-able?

I worked fulltime in secular workplaces even before I taught in an Adventist college. I found that most people are fairly easy to work with, and a few are actually fun.

But then there are the others. These folks seem to save up all their rage, all their sarcasm, all their pent-up frustrations, and let them loose on their co-workers. It’s bad enough if they’re your peers, but it can be excruciating if they’re your boss or manager or supervisor.  And trying to console yourself with a muttered “Well, I’ll bet he or she came from a bad home,” or “Wow. Glad I’m not married to that person” goes only so far.

Jesus—who said that His yoke was easy and His burden was light—also said that even though dealing with your enemies is neither easy nor light, you’ve got to “Christian up” and treat them as He Himself would.

How do you do that? Click here for a screen and a half of Bible instructions.

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Free and Wild

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I love animals.  I enjoy going to the zoo and seeing all of God’s creations.  It’s even more exciting when you can see these creations in their natural environment, free and wild.  Of course that isn’t always possible but it was definitely God’s original plan.  Living in a sinful world doesn’t always allow us to see what was supposed to be.
In Genesis 1:1 we read, “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.”. All of it, not just a part of it or a piece here or there – all of it. He created everything.  Soon thereafter, sin was in the world and things changed. The promise we have is found in Revelation 22:20, “….’Surely I am coming quickly.’ “. It almost feels like we are reading the beginning and the end.  The great part of it is, the end is not the end, in fact the end is the just the beginning.  The new beginning of the New Earth. 
I can’t wait to see and live on the New Earth.  Our new home will be exactly the way god originally had planned for us, before sin entered.  We will be able to see all the animals, all His creations, the way God intended.  All the animals, in their natural setting, free, wild and peaceful.

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Perhaps no other bird is mentioned more frequently in Scripture than the dove.  The story of its release from the ark and subsequent return with the olive branch has established it as a symbol of peace.  This same terminology was employed during the Viet Nam War to describe those who were against the war effort.  Doves were accepted as both sin and burnt offerings for those who could not afford to bring a lamb.  This practice continued down until Christ’s time as mentioned in His cleansing of the temple.  At the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, God elected to make Himself visible at Christ’s baptism in the form of a dove. 
While there are over three hundred different doves or pigeons in the world, two from North America will suffice.  The Mourning Dove (top photo) is found throughout the lower 48 states and is frequently hunted as a game bird.  The White-winged Dove has a range confined to the desert areas of the Southwest.  Both build rather flimsy nests and live off of grains and other plant materials.  Desert populations of the White-winged Dove depend largely upon cactus fruit for their supply of water.  With hostile environments, the danger of being shot, or killed by a predator, life can be difficult for a dove.  It seems only fitting that Christ should allude to them as He sent his disciple out into the world:  “Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves; be wary as serpents, innocent as doves.”  (Matthew 10:16 New English Bible)

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 11, 2011

I liked this old photograph I saw on a sign at Snoqualmie Falls.  The little sentence underneath the picture states that people came here and enjoyed photography, sightseeing, fishing, reading and relaxing. I would say that the reasons people go there now are still the same. 

I don't know what year this picture was taken (before the railings were put up, obviously) but I liked the fact that the women in the front were being daring and leaning out to get their photos and their friends were hanging on to their skirts so that they didn't fall over the edge!  I presume the woman standing at the back was a back up for whoever started to slip first!

While it is great to have friends and family who can be there for us and who will try to keep us from falling into the chasms we encounter in our daily lives, it is even more important that God is with us when we do fall in.  David writes about this in 2 Samuel 22:17-20 (The Message): 

  But me he caught—reached all the way
      from sky to sea; he pulled me out
   Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
      the void in which I was drowning.
   They hit me when I was down,
      but GOD stuck by me.
   He stood me up on a wide-open field;
      I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

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The Master Teacher
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 10, 2011

Olivia, my 15-year old niece, comes from the southern part of the state to Sultan for lessons with miniature horses. In my photo above, she is having a lesson with a mini pulling a roadster cart. Miniature horses are known to be friendly and interact well with people. Though small, they are still “horses.” Depending on the specific breed, their height is between 34-38 inches as measured on the last hairs of the mane. However, horses registered with American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) cannot exceed 34 inches. Even though it takes my niece's family several hours to drive from their home to this stable where around 65 miniatures are boarded, they come this distance because the trainer is a “Master Teacher.” Not only do people come from many countries for lessons from her, but she travels to various countries to teach people about miniature horses. She is an international trainer, a “Master Teacher.” Olivia wants the best teacher so she can learn the knowledge and skills necessary for AMHA shows.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was a “Master Teacher”. The Book of Mathews tells us He went about Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing people (4:23). Multitudes followed him to the mountain and he taught them who was blessed (5:3-11). He taught them how to pray (6). He taught the apostles where to go and what to do when they got there (10). He used many parables to teach lessons (13,18,20,21,22,25). He taught people what was most important – to love Him and love others (22:37-39). He said He had come to save the lost (18:11). In His last lesson as recorded in Mathew (28:19-20), Jesus said “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” KJV Yes, Jesus was a “Master Teacher”! He expects us to become teachers, too – teaching others about Him - His life, death and resurrection - and that we have salvation through His grace.

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Philosophy—80% Off
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 9, 2011

Shelley and I dropped by a soon-to-be-closed Borders bookstore recently. Only a day or two remained before the final closure, and signs like this were posted above the remaining categories.

As I glanced at this sign, and then at the books below, I thought about how many thoughtful attempts at explaining life rapidly lose their truth-value when the thinkers ignore the reality that there really is good and evil, and that there really is a God and a devil who are currently locked in mortal combat. It is only when we understand these truths that we can even begin to move toward an understanding of the old evangelistic brochure title: “Good God—Bad World—Why?”

Take a moment to watch one very important scene in the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Watch who finally wins, and why. Click here.

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Re-learn Boredom
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 8, 2011

Earlier this week I caught sight of this large illuminated public-service ad inside a mall. It touched a chord in me because when Shelley and I were at the Shoreline church, we and several church members conducted three stop-smoking classes every year.

Normally we would have anywhere from 20 to 30 participants, and what I remember most about those dear people was that they were the most sociable and fun-to-be-around folks you would ever meet. No doubt their shared challenge created a bond, but I treasure the memory of these people.

Our stop-smoking manuals did indeed cover the question of what to do in place of smoking. “Take a 15-minute walk,” we would say. “Drink a couple of glasses of water. Take your work break somewhere new. Read a book on your break. Read the Bible.”

“Re-learn boredom” was not one of our strategies, but maybe it should have been. You don’t need me to tell you that we’ve surrounded ourselves with so many boredom-banishing devices that maybe we don’t know what boredom is any more.

But we do need to learn to “be still.” Here’s some Bible backing:

In Exodus 14, when the Israelites were on the shores of the Red Sea, watching the Egyptian army thundering toward them from the west, Moses said, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today.” Exodus 14:13 NKJV

“Sit still, my daughter,” said Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi, “until you know how the matter will turn out.” Naomi was referring to Boaz, the man who would become Ruth’s future husband. Ruth 3:18

“Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord,” said Jahaziel the prophet as King Jehoshaphat faced a major battle. “You will not need to fight in this battle.” 2 Chronicles 20:17

And of course Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Re-learn boredom? Maybe so—if it means relaxing and enjoying moments of peace when you realize that God is in control.

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Welcome Home?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Yesterday during a brisk walk to the library I spotted these two very contradictory signs outside a series of housing units. Both signs are round, and both display beautiful bouquets of cartoon flowers. The one closest to the camera gives a warm "Welcome Home" – but the one further away chills the coziness with an icy "Now Leasing." In other words, this isn't really "home" – as in the Great American Dream. It's just a way station, a base of operations, that you rent for a while.

It's extremely interesting that when the Son of God left His Nazareth boyhood home, He deliberately did not establish an earthly headquarters. There was no walled compound He could retreat to when discouraged or endangered, no mountain castle which would elevate Him safely above the people.  “Foxes have holes,” He once commented to someone who volunteered to follow Him everywhere He went, “and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58 NKJV)

That's probably a fairly sensible mental stance to maintain in Earth's final days. As the people of Northeast Japan tragically discovered, a living structure on which you have spent a lot of money and on which you have lavished quite a bit of attention can vanish under a tidal wave belched from the sea by an earthquake.

In 1836 a man named Thomas Taylor wrote the following poem, which Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert-and-Sullivan fame) later set to music:

I'm but a stranger here,
Heav'n is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heav'n is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on every hand;
Heav'n is my fatherland,
Heav'n is my home.

What though the tempest rage,
Heav'n is my home;
Short is my pilgrimage,
Heav'n is my home;
Time's wild and wintry blast
Soon shall be overpast;
I shall reach home at last,
Heav'n is my home.

There at my Savior's side
Heav'n is my home;
I shall be glorified,
Heav'n is my home;
There be the good and blest,
Those I love most and best;
And there I, too, shall rest,
Heav'n is my home.

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Spring's Spring Has Sprung
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
This is my favorite time of the year.  Not that I don't appreciate all four season, but spring is my favorite. It gives me the feeling of starting fresh.  Around here, we go from fall, which can be quite wet and cold and dreary, into Winter....usually wetter, colder and drearier.  When spring rolls around, I am begging to see the sun, have the grass grow and just start fresh.
In the Bible there are several passages that refer to a spring. Of course this isn't the season of the year but instead a flow of water from the ground.  In Isaiah 35:7 we read, “The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water;” and then in Psalm 85:11 we see another meaning of “spring”: “Truth shall spring out of the earth, And righteousness shall look down from heaven.”

But in John 4:14 we hear from Jesus.  We hear Him talk about the spring that makes all the difference in the world.  In fact it makes all the difference in our own eternal life.  While He speaks these words, He stands at a literal well, where the spring far below gathers in a pool ready for the drinking. Jesus mentions that those who drink from this spring will continue to thirst, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Now that we know Spring’s spring has sprung – drink up!

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Anna’s Hummingbird at Feeder         
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It seems as though we human beings have a difficult time understanding our role and responsibility.  We swing from pole to pole, quoting James and then Paul as our temperament and moment demands in hopes or reaching that perfect balance.  Even in matters as simple as maintaining our physical well-being, we at times seem uncertain.  We give thanks to God for providing for our needs, yet have trouble really believing this when we dutifully punch in the clock, realizing if we fail to do so, the check will not be in the mail.  The simplest of illustrations was offered to me outside my living room window the other day.
The bird feeders hanging from the maple and evergreen draw a variety of visitors but on those days when the mercury in the thermometer dropped well below freezing, their numbers seemed to increase.  I have no idea of whether they make any connection between my role of filling the feeders with black oil sunflower seeds and the easy availability of food is comprehended or not.  Perhaps the gap in time and space is too big for them to comprehend.  Even more abstract is the challenge facing the Anna’s Hummingbirds which frequent the hummingbird feeder. 
The range of the Anna’s Hummingbird has expanded considerably in just the few years since I obtained my first bird book.  Most notably, it now winters over in the Pacific Northwest making it a year round resident.  Professionals who deal with such matters are divided as to the cause, with some contending it is directly related to the widespread use of hummingbird feeders while others see human involvement as negligible.  My role is simple, fill the feeders with a 4/1 ratio of water and sugar and when the temperature falls below freezing, bring the feeders indoors briefly to allow the mixture to thaw out.  When the feeder is returned to its proper place, the hummers are often found trying to extract the energy supplying liquid even before I have finished the job.  It’s doubtful they give much consideration to the care I took to provide the proper ratio, and even less likely to appreciate my thoughtfulness in bringing the feeder inside to thaw.  Such concepts are probably too far removed for them to comprehend.  But just maybe it’s something I should rethink the next time I withdraw some assets which have been previously frozen in the bank or when I cash that check my work provides.  Just maybe there’s someone else involved besides me in looking out for my wellbeing. 

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God is My Strength and Power
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 4, 2011

I was walking along a path near the visitor's center up at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park a couple of years ago when I photographed this deer munching on glacier lilies.  The deer up there are pretty tame around park visitors but it was keeping a close eye on me in case it needed to take off in a hurry! 

If you've read anything of David's story in the Bible, you know that he fought  many enemies (including animals trying to attack his sheep, Goliath and Saul) and had many escapes.  He praises God for his deliverance in 2 Samuel 22:31-34 when he says:

As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven; 
He is a shield to all who trust in Him

For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?

God is my strength and power,
And he makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
And sets me on my high places.

No matter what difficulties we may find ourselves in, we need to remember that God is available to us in the same way he was available to David.  He is our strength and power, He makes our way perfect and makes our feet like the feet of deer and sets us on high places.

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Obeying Commands
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 3, 2011

In addition to hiking and enjoying the beautiful scenery during our recent trip to New Zealand, one of the highlights was spending time at a sheep station or farm. After seeing the many fields of grazing sheep on the farm, we were treated to watching one of the farmer's Border Collies demonstrate how they work the sheep. Once the dog was in the field with the sheep, it was “all business”! The dog carefully listened to the whistle commands of the farmer and herded the sheep in obedience to those commands. As “commanded” to do, the dog took the sheep from one end of the field to the other and then brought the sheep in front of us, lined up. It was amazing to watch!

Border Collies are considered to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds and have an intense desire to work closely and obediently with a human handler. A lowered tail (note that's the case in my photo) indicates the dog is focused and listening to the commands of the sheep herder. The dogs stare directly at the sheep to intimidate while herding. Recently a Border Collie was reported to have learned the commands of 1,022 words and acted on them according to the commands of it's handler.

Many “commands” are written in the Bible. Some for specific people at a specific time. We're all familiar with the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus 20. Later, when Jesus was on earth and the Pharisees had gathered, a lawyer in their group asked Him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'” Mathew 22:36-40 KJV Aren't you glad you don't have to remember 1,022 commands!

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 2, 2011

Before our blog readers go on a protest march, and maybe even start one of those newfangled Middle East-style revolutions, rest assured that the above photo of a paper towel dispenser does NOT mark the bottom-of-the-barrel-scraping point of this photo blog.

No, humble and self-effacing as the above device appears, it was greeted by wholehearted cries of joy from those who frequent the Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church. Our similarly humble and self-effacing (but prodigiously gifted) head deacon Greg happened to be in a Subway some months back and spotted a dispenser like this, and immediately made a note of the brand name. And now these units are installed in all our restrooms, and above other sinks as well.

Our previous dispensers (the general consensus is that they were allowed into our lives to test us and make us more patient) were made of semi-transparent plastic, so that any towel-seeker could closely observe their tortured workings. Like the operator of some unproductive Vegas slot-machine, one pulled down on the handle, setting in motion a convoluted mechanical process featuring rotating gears, tensing springs, and even two black suction-cups which came together for a few seconds and then popped apart.

If fate allowed, a grudgingly small strip of paper towel appeared below—maybe an inch, maybe four inches, and sometimes even nine. If nothing appeared, your instinct was to keep pumping down on the handle, in which case you were actually jamming the machine even further, and creating a little wad of accordion-pleated brown paper, which the deacon would retrieve when he responded to the distress call and arrived with the key.

What a glorious relief, now that the old dispensers have been banished to outer darkness, to approach this new dispenser and simply grab for a towel. No handle-pumping, no fervent wishing, no subdued oaths. Deacon Greg’s particular delight is the shrewdly curved design at the bottom which makes it impossible for these individually-folded towels to all fall out in a clump, as sometimes happens with other brands.

I told Greg that the above dispenser is “elegant”—because one of “elegance’s” definitions is: “scientific precision, neatness, and simplicity.” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition.)

One of the battles the apostle Paul had to constantly fight was with two different kinds of salvation-dispensers. There was the old and clunky type, filled with all sorts of rules upon rules upon rules, mostly man-made, which when you got right down to it, never dispensed salvation at all. Then there was the “elegant” way of salvation—which had always existed and which the Lord constantly tried to get people to switch over to.

But most people liked the old one. They liked to imagine that this put them in control. They held tenaciously to the hope that if they created more rules, and lived by those rules, God would be obligated to save them. And they wouldn’t need to form a relationship with Him at all. Or so they thought.

But then Jesus showed up with His crowbar and started prying those old dispensers off wall after wall. And once the new ones were up and people tried them out, they were amazed. Salvation was so much easier than they’d thought! By grace are you saved through faith, and not of works! And in their gratitude they humbly allowed the Holy Spirit to work within them so that they began to automatically want to keep God’s laws.

Read through the gospel of Luke some day soon, in big chunks. You’ll see Jesus in action to simplify salvation!

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Watch the Signs!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 1, 2011

No, the above sign is NOT an April Fool’s joke. Interstate 405 is indeed going to fully close in both directions, from Northeast 8th Street in Bellevue to about a quarter-mile north, Highway 520, Friday through this coming Monday morning. This means that people who don’t know about this and who don’t plan for it will be greatly inconvenienced.

Fortunately, the highway department has provided not only the lit-letter signs above, but also the yellow “Traffic Advisory” sign as well. Notice that the right-hand lightbulb above it is blinking, and if this had been a moving picture you would see that the bulb to the left blinks too. And if you turn to 530 on the AM frequency you will hear a scratchy recording giving you more details about the closure. (Seriously, if this is at all going to affect you, click on the link below.)

Those two signs are pretty important, aren’t they? But they’re useless unless people pay attention to them. When Shelley and I arrived in the Puget Sound area back in the early 80s, we quickly learned that whenever we saw a yellow “Traffic Advisory” sign with blinking lights, we’d better tune our radios to the suggested frequency. And one of our radio buttons is set to KOMO AM 1000, whose “Traffic on the 4’s” broadcasts have saved us from many a traffic jam.

And you not only know where I’m going with this, but you’re there already. “And there will be signs,” Jesus said in Luke 21:25-28,  “in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
Shelley and I are already planning an alternative route to church this Sabbath morning, and you should too if you want to avoid the crunch. And if other signs are causing you to suspect that the end of the world can’t be too far away, check out this link:

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