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

Daily Photo Parable - August 2011

(Have no fear--the only thing that's changed about the "Devotional Photo Blog" is its name. We figured that "Daily Photo Parable" better expressed what these daily entries try to do!)

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.




Take A Break

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
 
Take a break. Literally.  Stop for the next few minutes and view this image.  It may not be your favorite, but that’s OK.  I want you open your heart and mind, and listen for the voice of God – speaking to you.


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House Finch
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

If you were to look at a range map to determine the distribution of the House Finch, you would find nearly the entire lower 48 would be colored.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  A common nester near human dwellings, this colorful finch resided only along the West Coast.  But in the 1940s, sensing a lucrative opportunity, pet dealers in Long Island captured and imported these birds, selling them as caged pets under the name Hollywood or Holly Finches.  Government agencies quickly intervened and fearing prosecution, the dealers released their charges to fend for themselves.  And fend they did.  They will frequently raise two broods a year.  To facilitate this, the male will take charge of raising the young following hatching while the female immediately starts another nest.  As a result, the House Finch has expanded its range, spreading towards Middle America from both coasts. 
 
Jabez has something in common with these finches.  We know almost nothing of him, and it’s only been in recent years, following publication of a book about him, that most of us have even become aware of him.  He is just another name in a long list of names as a member of one of the clans which was a part of the tribe of Judah.  We are informed that he was given his name because his mother had a difficult delivery.  Not exactly a way you’d like to be remembered.  The thing that sets him apart is his request to God.  It’s a simple prayer but one worth emulating.  “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!”  (1 Chronicles 4:10 NIV)  Apparently this wasn’t requested for selfish reasons, for God answered his prayer.  Just like the House Finch and Jabez, we too would do well to expand our influence for God.
 


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Are You Ready?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 29, 2011

I was just about to fall asleep one evening when I heard a loud banging on my front door.  I got up and peered through the peep hole and although I didn't see anyone, I must have seen flashing lights because I opened the door.  A couple of men in uniform were heading down the stairs and told me to get whatever I needed as I needed to evacuate!  What does that mean--what I needed in the next half an hour? What I needed for overnight? Or what I needed in case I couldn't get back in, ever? 

I grabbed a few documents I thought would be very hard to replace, grabbed my purse and my camera and was contemplating taking my computer as well but decided I should probably get outside and assess the situation since they hadn't given me a timeline on when I had to be out. 

As I headed for the stairs, I saw three fire trucks down below and my neighbors at the bottom of the stairs.  There was a ladder extended from one of the trucks but no obvious flames or smoke and just a slight whiff of something burned.  Nobody was in a panic and people were just standing or sitting around calmly. 

It turned out that there had been a fire in one of the units a couple over from mine and a couple of floors down.  The people living above that unit had smelled smoke and seen flames when they looked in the window and had called the fire department.  The residents of the unit were not home and I never did find out the cause of the fire but the whole incident brought into sharp focus the fact that I was not really prepared for an emergency.  I didn't really have a good plan for what was most important to grab if I had to get out in a hurry.

It takes an emergency to really distill what is important in your life.  This old world is in a state of emergency.  Have we determined what our priorities are?  Is that what we are spending our time and energy on?

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.  Matthew24:42-44 (NKJV)

There is a gospel song sung by the King's Heralds that speaks to this.  I couldn't find out who wrote the lyrics, but here is the song:

The Lord Is Coming, Are You Ready?

"Let not your heart be troubled,
Ye believe in God and in Me;
In my Father's house are many mansions,
I go to prepare a place for thee." *

The Lord is coming, are you ready?
The Lord is coming, are you ready?
Would your heart be right if He came tonight?
The Lord is coming, are you ready?

Why will you wait my brother?
Promises of God are all true;
Jesus bought your life on Calvary's mountain,
And soon He will come again for you.

The Lord is coming, are you ready?
The Lord is coming, are you ready?
Would your heart be right if He came tonight?
The Lord is coming, are you ready?
 
*John 14:1-2


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New Life
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, August 28, 2011

This Jeffrey Shooting Star, a member of the primrose family, was coming out just as the snow at Paradise on Mt. Rainier was cleared along the road. Some people think it looks like a rocket or jet-propelled missile. Its name “Shooting Star” refers to the way the stamen (lower part of the flower) shoots from the turned-back petals, flowing like the trail of a shooting star. Each flower nods with its mouth pointed to the ground when new--and unlike us--becomes more erect with age. Isn't it wonderful to know that all those wildflowers are waiting to bloom when the snow melts and the condition is right. They come back to life – a new life. (We know they weren't dead but dormant!)

God sent His Son, Jesus to live, to die and to be resurrected so that we (you and I) can have a new life – an everlasting life. As recorded in John 3:16 NEB, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life. It was not to judge the world that God sent his Son into the world, but that through him the world might be saved.” By His act of love, He made it very simple for us to have a new life, an eternal life, an everlasting life – just accept Him as our Savior and have faith in Him! When you see alpine flowers, like the Jeffrey Shooting Star, blooming as soon as the snow melts, think of having a new life with Jesus!


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Half of My Heart . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, August 27, 2011

I snapped this picture last month in my hometown of Redfield, South Dakota. I pulled up at a convenience store and discovered this large pickup-SUV parked right next to me.

As you see, South Dakota pheasant hunting evidently plays a big part in this person's life. He or she seems also to be a proud member of the South Dakota Elk Breeders Association, an organization I'd never heard of before.

However, the real heart-tugger is the third sign: “Half of My Heart is in Iraq.” With the US military being an equal opportunity employer, this sign could refer to a wife as well as a husband.

I'm sure that God the Father – while maybe not succumbing to the bumper sticker or magnetic sign habit – felt the same way during His Son’s 33-year regime-change mission to our world: “My Whole Heart is on Planet Earth.”

When you stop and think of it, what Heaven has gone through for us! Have you thanked the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for their unutterable, self-sacrificial love?

For God so loved the world
He gave His only Son
To die on Calv’ry’s tree
From sin to set me free!

Someday He’s coming back—
What glory that will be!
Wonderful His love to me!


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The Conscientious Christian’s Cover Crease
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, August 26, 2011

A couple of weeks back, in the religion section of a used-book store, I came across this always-delightful sight – a creased Bible. And what made this crease so impressive was that it’s on the cover of a Greek New Testament – I studied from one like this in seminary. Whoever owned this book (maybe a seminary student, maybe a parish pastor who liked to keep fresh in the original Bible languages) opened it often.

Every Sabbath after my sermon is done, I stand at the sanctuary door shaking hands with people. I always keep my eye out for the Bibles they carry, and when I see a creased or ragged or battered Bible, I always complement its owner. Sometimes they chuckle and tell me it belonged to a parent, and that they are not totally responsible for its wear and tear!

But when you come right down to it, what is more important than a frequently-consulted, heavily-creased Word of God, especially when it's you who have done the consulting and creasing? Maybe you've had the same experience I have – listening to a conversation, or a radio interview, where someone gives opinions about the Bible. It's easy to spot who has creased the sacred covers and who hasn't. And knowing that there is a deceptive and desperate devil roaming around, my heart trembles for those who haven't planted their feet on the solid foundation of the Word of God.

Want an easy way to connect with Scripture every day? Even though it's not January 1, step into our online Bible reading plan. Simply click on this link and follow the directions.


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Work for the Night is Coming
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, August 25, 2011

Directly across the street from where Shelley and I live stands a house whose second-floor windows are exactly even with ours. In fact, at night when our neighbors have their lights off, we can see our window lights reflected in the glass of theirs. And I know that, if I position myself properly, I could wave my hand and see myself wave!

One evening around sunset couple of weeks ago I was standing on our front porch and glanced over at that house. This time the angle was different, so rather than seeing our reflected lights, I instead saw a beautiful sunset – or rather its reflection, since I was on the wrong side of our house to see it first-hand.

As I snapped the photo above, I decided that this was something like what Christians – especially Christians who understand something about end-time Bible prophecy – can do for others. A lot of people haven't had the opportunity, or maybe the interest, to study chapters like Matthew 24 for themselves (it's like they're on the wrong side of the house and simply aren't aware). The people who’ve had this opportunity (like the window glass) look at life from a slightly different angle. Their eyes are focused upward, out into the future their Creator has told them about in His Word. And with their lives as well as tactful answers to questions, they can reflect not only the truth that time is indeed short, but also that beyond the end is the possibility of a wonderful re-creation by the Heavenly Father loves us so much.

Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ’mid springing  flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done.


Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the sunny noon;
Fill brightest hours with labor,
Rest comes sure and soon.
Give every flying minute,
Something to keep in store;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man works no more.


Work, for the night is coming,
Under the sunset skies;
While their bright tints are glowing,
Work, for daylight flies.
Work till the last beam fadeth,
Fadeth to shine no more;
Work, while the night is darkening,
When man’s work is o’er.

Lyrics: Anna Coghill, 1854.   Composer: Lowell Mason, 1864.


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Clouds, Fire & Water
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

God is good. Duh.  Of course that’s a true statement, but the point I want to make is – God is good to everyone.  As humans it’s very easy to be good or nice to those that are good and nice back to us.  What about those that are the complete opposite?  Someone at work? Someone you see, driving in traffic? How easy is it to be compassionate to someone that is the farthest from that?  I’ll answer for you – not very. 

God is always good, nice and compassionate….to all.  I’ll give you an example – the Israelites were called the Children of God, God’s chosen people, yet there were several occasions when they did not treat Him well at all.  In Psalm 78: 12-16 we read all that God gave to His chosen people, even when they didn’t deserve it – 

 
“He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
He divided the sea and led them through;
he made the water stand up like a wall.
He guided them with the cloud by day
and with light from the fire all night. 
He split the rocks in the wilderness
and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
He brought streams out of a rocky crag
and made water flow down like rivers.”
 
Unfortunately, we live in a very sinful world, where Satan attempts to showcase the bad, the ugly and the suffering.  The good news is, God is good, to all, all the time.  Amen.


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Petroglyphs
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Along the north-facing canyon wall were these petroglyphs, their origin separated by millennia.  The first, done by a member of some ancient civilization carries for most readers today no meaning.  Their symbolism is shrouded in the passage of time.  The second inscription which undoubtedly has contemporary origins, informs the reader of at least two specific pieces of information. 

(Editor’s note: Our website photo-resolution isn’t the best. Can you spot “TP + DP” in faint white chalky letters? If you can’t, check inside the black square in the photo below.)

The more modern inscription lets us know that whoever "TP" was, he apparently wished to inform "DP" of his deep love and devotion.  And the second thing it tells us is that TP appears not to have had a great deal of respect for the contributions of cultures from the past.  To him, the canyon wall was simply a utilitarian writing board without any historical significance. 
 
Are we ever inclined to respond in much the same way?  Are we tempted to bypass those parts of Scripture that are hard to understand in favor of a practical, workable solution offered by modern science or the current educational philosophy? I hope the two lovers lived happily-ever-after. Even more, I hope we don’t undervalue that which has real worth.


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Don't Be Afraid to Ask
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 22, 2011

The picture is of a golden orb-weaver spider.  The "golden orb" refers to the web and not the spider.  Females can reach 1 1/2 to 2 inches; the males are a lot smaller.  While it is not likely to hurt you, it's probably not something you want to stumble into in the dark!

I don't mind looking at or photographing spiders but I would not want one crawling on me.  My nephews like scaring my sister-in-law with a fake rubber spider.

Luke 11:9-13 talks about how we don't need to be afraid to ask God for what we need.  He is not going to play tricks on us and try to scare us.

  "Ask and you'll get;
   Seek and you'll find;
   Knock and the door will open.

Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider?* As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing—you're at least decent to your own children. And don't you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?"  The Message

Per the notes in the Andrews Study Bible, "God provides mercifully for the needs of his friends, though not always with an immediate 'yes.'" Regarding the Holy Spirit, it states that: "The greatest and most essential of gifts.  The Spirit brings close guidance and power of God."

*Other versions have "scorpion" instead of spider but the idea is the same.


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Let's Move!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, August 21, 2011

Usually at this time of the year, our hikes to Panorama Point above Paradise on Mt. Rainier are to view the beautiful wildflowers in the meadows as well as the magnificent mountain scenery. This year, however, the wildflowers were still dormant, hidden under their deep cover of white snow. The only wildflowers were a few along the cleared road! Thus, we got to do some walking on snow!

Our First Lady Michelle Obama has started a “Let's Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity. Leaders of faith communities have been invited to get involved with this worthwhile campaign. The July 2011 issue of Adventist World featured an article on “Let's Move! Adventists Get Active”, pp. 11-13. Childhood obesity is one of the most pressing health threats in the U. S. In addition to better food choices, most children (and adults) would be healthier by increasing their level of physical activity.

It seems that some people (maybe you) really enjoy exercising, be it at the gym, biking, walking, running, hiking, etc. They get a “high” in exercising. Well, others of us are different – we don't get a “high” and it takes effort to exercise! So, if you're in this latter group with me, let's work on being a little more active and enjoy the beautiful weather we've been having. I enjoy walks and have a large garden to work in this summer. What are you doing?


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Coming Soon—Rapid Ride!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, August 20, 2011

Owning, as I do, a 1999 Honda Civic with 170,000 miles on the odometer (in other words, a car just emerging from adolescence and nowhere near retiring) I rarely need to keep a close eye on what's happening in metropolitan transit. However, while taking a walk not too far from my church a couple of weeks ago, I passed this brand-new bus stop. As you see, it promises a “RapidRide.”

At first I thought this meant faster buses, but when I searched online, I discovered it really means more buses along certain routes. In fact on some lines, you won't even need a timetable – the next bus will be along in 10 minutes during peak hours. So even though you won't actually be traveling faster, you'll have a lot less wait time. At least that's the idea.

If you know anything at all about Bible end-time prophecy, you definitely get the feeling that far from winding down like an old clock, earth's final events are going to go more quickly than ever. The simple fact that much of the world is connected by wireless communication devices has already made such things as Middle Eastern revolutions devastatingly effective with lightning-like rapidity.

Ready for the ride?

Starting October 7, our congregation will be presenting a prophecy lecture series entitled "Unlocking Revelation," which will reveal in dramatic detail what the Bible has to say about the end of the world and how we should prepare for it. Because there’s no doubt about it—the “bus” will be leaving, and you want to make sure you’re on it! We’ll be getting you more details, but for now, mark your calendar for Friday evening, October 7, at 7 PM.


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The Holy Bible—Fashion Edition

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, August 19, 2011

It's sometimes hard for me to keep a straight face as I think about the vast and creative flood of Christian products being produced. For example, I chuckle every time I see a mug or a plaque bearing the verse "The Lord watch between me and the when we are absent from one another." (Actually, it's been a while since I've seen this particular verse printed on anything, because marketers have probably discovered that rather than being a kindly sentiment of farewell, it's actually a deeply suspicious, challenging threat uttered by Laban to Jacob as they were parting for the last time!)

Be that as it may, I confess that my eyes rolled slightly in their sockets when I saw the Bible pictured above. “Fashion edition?” The Holy Bible—a fashion accessory?

Yeah, brace yourself for a brief pastoral sermonette, because here it comes. There have been relatively few times in human history when the Bible has been in fashion. Moses descends from the mountain holding God's handwritten words, only to find that the people are already breaking those commandments in the valley. In Jeremiah 36, the prophet writes some pointed words from the Lord and has them delivered to the King, whereupon the monarch takes out a knife, slices up the letter, and tosses it piece by piece into the fire.

Prophet after prophet warn both Judah and Israel, and are either ignored or punished. Jesus arrives, and is martyred, as are His followers when they go forth to spread the gospel.

I suppose there's actually nothing wrong with someone manufacturing a pretty Bible – after all, Scripture itself says nothing mandating black leather covers – just as long as we remember that “ . . . the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12 – 13)

This is good news, of course. Just as a surgeon's scalpel must be extremely sharp and expertly wielded to give the patient the best chance of recovery, the Bible – in the hands of the Holy Spirit – can heal our souls.


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I’ve Got a Mansion?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, August 18, 2011

A little over a week ago, as my car was being serviced in North Seattle, I hopped a bus down to the University District and happened to walk by this elegant old building. I love its beautiful wooden doors, inset with stained-glass, and especially the name "Carol" at the top.

A quick search online lets me know that these are probably the Carol Roberta apartments (no vacancies, in case you're interested), but it's fun to fantasize that maybe there is somebody named Carol who has this magnificent building all to herself. I believe there is something within us that is charmed and satisfied by well-built, permanent architecture.

We probably have the Latin Vulgate Bible to thank for the idea of heavenly "mansions." The first part of John 14:2 reads, “in domo Patris mei mansiones multae sunt.” Literally, “in the house of My Father there are many mansions.” The King James translators simply scooped up the word “mansiones,” removed the “e,” and thereby tantalized generations of Christians with the idea that each of us will live in something like our own personal Monticello.

Sadly, the original Greek word lets us down with a bit of a thud. It’s mone, and simply means “dwelling place” or “room.” It’s used only twice in the Bible, both times in John 14. Down in verse 23, Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” That word “home” is the same Greek word translated “mansions” in the King James and New King James in verse 2. So there’s nothing in mone which indicates pillars or turrets or even our names over the doorways.

However, there is a golden city, which Revelation describes. And we can be sure that our Heavenly Father, who loves to give good gifts to His children, will provide us whatever truly satisfies our hearts, in that happy eternity into which He longs to welcome us. And for those of us who want mansions, no doubt He’ll give us resources (and certainly time) to build them, exactly the way we want!


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Youth on a Mission

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
 
A couple of weeks back, we had the pleasure of hosting a weekend youth gathering in our backyard.  Over 10 youth camped with us.  We worshiped together, we played together and then on Sunday, we served together.
 
It’s great to see a group of people, taking time out of their weekend to help others.  To see teenagers do this – is amazing.  It not only shows their true character but it also shows their dedication to serving God and showing His love to others.
 
The next time you are around a young person in our church, encourage them, pray with them, give them the love and praise they deserve. They're not only the future of our church--they're the NOW of our church!


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Red-winged Blackbird
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What does it mean to show your true colors?  For most of us it would mean taking a stand for those things in which we really believe, to show what we’re genuinely like.  That’s not a bad thing, in fact most of us long for more credibility.  It’s also a way of establishing personal boundaries, of letting others know what’s really important to you.  The picture above shows a Red-winged Blackbird establishing his breeding territory by showing off his epaulets, the red shoulder patches on his wings.  Studies have shown a positive correlation between the size of these epaulets and reproductive success, which in turn could lead us to conclude that is why he is furling his colors with such fervor. 
 
Scripture also talks about showing your true colors as a way of determining if you are a genuine follower of Christ.  “But whoever obeys his word is the one whose love for God has really been made perfect.  This is how we can be sure that we are in union with God.”  (1 John 2:5 TEV)  Those who follow what Christ has told them not only validate their claim to be a Christian, but they, like the blackbird, also make the world a much more beautiful place. 


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Rescued
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 15, 2011
 
I went on a scenic boat trip a couple of years ago up in Wells Gray Provincial Park in British Columbia.  Nobody fell overboard and we didn't have to use the rescue equipment but it was available and ready for use. 
 
David writes about how he felt after God rescued and delivered him:  
 
   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!

   GOD made my life complete
      when I placed all the pieces before him.
   When I got my act together,
      he gave me a fresh start.
   Now I'm alert to GOD's ways;
      I don't take God for granted.
   Every day I review the ways he works;
      I try not to miss a trick.
   I feel put back together,
      and I'm watching my step.
   GOD rewrote the text of my life
      when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
Psalms 18:16-24  (The Message)
 
God can do the same for each of us.


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Danger!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, August 14, 2011

“Danger – Keep Out” warns people to stay away from Reflection Lake because of the snow and ice. Someone could take a wrong step and slide into the cold, icy water. It could be a challenge for them to get out if they were under the ice or for others to try to help them. Signs – trail signs, road signs, speed limit signs – are there for our protection.

Sometimes we think we know better! Right? For example, I sometimes think the speed limit should be 35 mph instead of 25! How about you?

God gave us “danger – keep out” signs. You can read about them in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Like our trail, road and traffic signs, they are there for our protection. He said we should not--

--Have other gods
--Make graven images or their likeness
--Bow down or serve graven images
--Take the name of the Lord in vain
--Not work on the Sabbath
--Kill
--Commit adultery
--Steal
--Bear false witness
--Covet anything that is our neighbor's

Even though these commands are in the negative, they are based on God's law of love – love to God and love to your neighbor. Think of it in terms of you being the neighbor!


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Trinity Clinic
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, August 13, 2011
 
Did you know that in the original New Testament Greek the word we translate “salvation” (soteria) also means “healing”? For example, in Matthew 1:21 an angel used the verb form of soteria to tell Joseph that Jesus will “save His people from their sins,” and in Matthew 9:21, 22 that same word is used to by Jesus to promise that the woman who touched His garment will be made “well.”

Maybe if we thought of salvation as a healing, it would be easier for us to respond naturally to it. Whenever I get physically sick to such an extent that I can’t treat my symptoms myself it’s a no-brainier--I ring up the scheduling desk of my clinic and sign up for my primary care physician’s next possible appointment.

The other day I drove by the clinic above, and actually turned around and parked so I could get a photo of it. Because if sin is a spiritual illness for which we need professional help, then there’s only one Team who has the resources to restore us to health. God the Father “loved the world so much that He gave His only Son” to die for us, and His Son reminds us that the Holy Spirit is our “Counselor” (John 14:16, NIV). The Heavenly Three have all we need for spiritual healing, right there in the “Trinity Clinic.”

And here’s just one of Their prescriptions: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NKJV)


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Credit Card
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, August 12, 2011
 
Not long ago I found the above magnetic-stripe card, its other half snipped away, on the concrete in a parking lot. I didn’t pause long enough to try to figure out what kind of card it was—phone card, gift credit card, or maybe someone’s regular credit card. But something had caused this card’s owner to (a) resolve to cut it in half, (b) find a scissors and do so, and (3) do it outdoors rather than indoors. Maybe this indeed was a valiant resolve to live with cash-on-hand rather than borrow from the future.
 
As you know, major nations all around the planet are wondering when and how to reach for the scissors and trim their national deficits. As the globe rotates, stock markets in various time zones react to what happened just to the east of them. And normally solemn, confident pundits are clearly rattled. And gold is up to over $1,800 per ounce.
 
This, of course, is the perfect time to hurry to the side of the Heavenly Father, who not only owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), but whose priorities are so different from ours that He uses gold for pavement, not payment (Revelation 21:21).
 
And it’s the perfect time to discover how we can put ourselves under God’s protective umbrella. Here’s what the Bible says. “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Luke 12:29 – 31)

How do you seek the kingdom of God? You do it the way you’d seek an literal earthly kingdom. Get a map which tells you where it’s located. A good map for the kingdom of God is found by reading the biography of that kingdom’s King, which is the Bible. A starter suggestion is to read the book of John, in which the King’s Son talks about His Father's love, and then dies to make eternal life possible for us.


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“Are You Not of More Value than Many Costco Birds?” 
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, August 11, 2011

Last Friday Shelley and I were in the Alderwood Mall area (she’s been going to the same hairdresser since we lived in Bothell), and while waiting for her, I sat at an outdoor table in one of the mall’s courtyards. Around me were several smallish black birds, chirping competitively at each other and foraging for dropped food. The bird in the above photo landed on the table behind me, looking for all the world like an impatient restaurant customer: “Waiter! Where’s my meal?!”
 
I e-mailed this photo to birder Robert Howson (who provides us with thoughtful, often bird-themed “Daily Photo Parables” on Tuesdays), asking him to identify it. This he of course did with consummate ease. It turns out that this fierce-looking little guy is a male Brewer’s Blackbird, but we get a clue about the kinds of places it most often frequents from its nickname: “The Costco Bird.”
 
In other words, it’s a common bird, something like the sparrow, or like the barn swallow of my prairie youth. It’s not rare or exotic, but plentiful. If this little guy died, no endangered-species order would be legislated; no environmental group would dress up in blackbird-costumes and parade back and forth in front of logging trucks.
 
Yet if this particular Brewer’s Blackbird died (and we have this on Jesus’ authority), God would notice. And Jesus also says that you and I are valuable to God too—far more valuable than “many sparrows.” Luke 12:6, 7 What a wonderful, creative, loving God we serve—a God who died for us! Are you returning love to Him?


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Thank You Notes

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
 
Let’s say it’s your birthday.  You receive a gift or two (maybe 3).  You normally say “thank you” and possibly send a thank you note to the person that gave the gift to you. Now, it’s not your birthday.  Yep, the 364 days out of the year that you don’t celebrate your birth.  Do you say ‘thanks’ or send a thank you note to God, that gave you life and everything else you could imagine – every day of the year?
 
Take the next 5 minutes thinking of all that God has blessed you with. Thank Him for these things.  Feel free to write a thank you note--I know He would love it.

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Connecticut Warbler
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It was a bird I had never seen before.  That already piqued my interest.  But more than that, I was doing a program for the Audubon Society on birds named after geographical places, and what would be more appropriate than a picture of a Connecticut Warbler

Its name is something of a misnomer in that it seldom appears in Connecticut except during fall migration. But that was where it was first seen by Alexander Wilson, who named it. That was in 1812. However, little was known about it for the next seventy years. What I had learned was the nearest one to me was an 800 mile drive to the northern part of Alberta. 

Some would call this a wild goose chase, but I had help on this wild warbler chase.  It came in the form of one of the regional bird finding guides.  These printed volumes cover a specific part of the country and give directions as to where to go to find specific species. Do they work?  Let’s just say after spending a number of hours on the road we arrived at our general destination.  We turned onto a gravel road. I rolled the windows down and slowly headed down this side road. Within ten minutes we heard its distinctive call.  I jumped out of the car and spent the next half hour trying to locate the songster.
 
Oh, that it were always that easy!  But of course it is not.  The same is true of our spiritual life.  Even though the psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105 NIV) , we recognize that life involves more than just reading a piece of Scripture then floating down the river of life together.  Life takes living, and living is complicated.  But consider the alternatives.  What do you think the chances of me finding the elusive warbler on my own would be, by just randomly driving 800 miles in any direction?  I’d have to say our chances of being successful increase tremendously by using a good guide book, whether you’re looking for a rare bird or looking for a better life.


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Consider the Lilies
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 1, 2011

Whenever I am in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, I like going on the nature hike around Tubb's Hill.  The trail head is located by the marina of the Coeur d'Alene Resort.  Spring is amazing with the sheer number and variety of blooming wildflowers, the views of the lake and the smell of the ponderosa pine forest. 

Last time I went, I met up with a friend and we found these beautiful sego lilies.  They belong to the genus calochortus which means "beautiful grass."

And which of you by worrying, can add one cubit to his stature?  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? Luke 12:25 - 28


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Reflecting God’s Love
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, August 8, 2011

It was a perfect day with blue sky!  In my photo you can see Mt. Rainier reflected in Reflection Lake.

Reflections – How do we see ourselves in the mirror? How do others see us? How do we WANT others to see us? Even though we all fail and at times are a poor reflection of God's love, how can we better reflect His love?

God's love: perfect, unconditional, eternal. God, the Father showed His love to us by giving us His Son, Jesus. While on earth, Jesus showed His love to mankind through His teaching, healing and compassion as well as dying on the cross for our salvation. By example, He showed us how to live. He empowers us to love, that we might live through Him.

I John 4 starting with verse 7 talks about loving one another because love is from God and that God dwells in us if we love one another. “If a man acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he dwells in God.” (verse 15 NEB)  As Reflection Lake reflects Mt. Rainier, can we reflect the love, joy, beauty and peace that God has given to us? Can we reflect the goodness God has blessed us with and demonstrate our love to others in kindness, generosity and service to others? We CAN reflect this love He has blessed us with by what we do and what we say. Then, we will be reflecting His image!


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Wearing the Robe
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, August 6, 2011

This past Monday I was at a busy intersection and spotted something that always sends my heart into my mouth with concern—a batch of little kindergarten kids within a few feet of passing cars. But usually, if I have time to study the scene more carefully, I see that the accompanying adults have put safeguards in place.

Most often, these kids are given a rope of some kind and earnestly commanded to keep hold and not let go. That way you can “tow” a line of kids along a sidewalk, and as long as everybody’s gripping that rope, they're protected. And in the above photo I can spot, intertwined among the kids, a bluish plastic cord that seems to be serving that purpose.

But I noticed that this particular group of teachers had added an additional safety-feature I hadn’t seen before—over his or her  regular clothes, each child has on a green fluorescent garment. That way, especially in a crowd, if one of the young sprouts takes it into his head to flee, he’s easily spotted, pursued, and herded back to safety. The “robe” identifies him as part of the group--and of course is also an eye-arresting warning to passing cars.

Hold on to the rope and wear the robe—two keys to kindergarten security. Isn’t that also a great parable of the Christian life? Hold onto the rope—God’s great commandments which will guide you toward happiness and not regret, servanthood rather than selfishness.

And wear the robe—the robe of Jesus’ righteousness which is a symbol of the righteousness He gives to those who believe in Him. Here’s how Revelation 7:13-14 describe these robes:

Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 

Here’s one of the Bible’s most wonderful promises:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Have you done that? Would you like to do that right now? If so, you’ll be given that wonderful spiritual robe which identifies you as one of Jesus’ saved ones.


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Mud-splattered Family
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, August 6, 2011

My camera’s date feature tells me that it was July 20 when I took this picture, which means that Shelley and I were in Montana. Over the years I’ve seen many sets of these “this is our family” decals on the rear windows of SUVs. But never have I seen them so mud-splattered.

But then, no human family is perfect either. I remember when I reached my mid-twenties, my Mom would start brooding about her parenting skills. “Maylan,” she would say solemnly, “I was pretty green when I had you. You were the firstborn, and a lot of times I just didn’t know what to do.”

I would look at her incredulously. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Mom,” I would insist. She would smile ruefully at that, knowing differently. But truly, I could not remember anything she or Dad had done wrong. What I did remember were the smiles, the love, the tenderness, the careful listening, the feeling that—in a proper and balanced way—I and my brother and sisters were our parents' very highest priority, and that we all were constantly and thoroughly prayed for.

Notice how—though mud-splashed—the family above is smiling? This very evening as I’m writing this, I was at a church board meeting where one of our church’s grandmas was taking care of her three-year-old grandson until daddy got there. The kid had just woken up, and wore a grumpy frown. But when Dad showed up with his big grin—guess what? Sonny grinned back, and happily scampered toward him.

Remember that old song . . .

You can smile when you can't say a word,
You can smile when you cannot be heard;
You can smile when it's cloudy or fair,
You can smile anytime, anywhere.

Kids need smiles. Lots of them.


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Oh, What a Beautiful City . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, August 4, 2011

One Sunday early last month, along about sunset, Shelley and I had just emerged from the Bellevue Barnes and Noble bookstore when I spotted this rather breathtaking sight (and my Nikon point-and-shoot doesn’t come close to doing it justice).

For a moment, it could have been one of the skyscrapers in the Holy City, built near the Sea of Glass. (In the interests of full disclosure, that’s not a reflecting pool but the top of my silver Honda, on which I was bracing the camera .)

The Bible says relatively little about heaven. I have a feeling this is because we wouldn’t be able to understand much of what we would hear if it could be told. It might be like traveling back in time and trying to explain a smartphone to Benjamin Franklin! What his ears would hear would be true—but he would have no way of understanding how such a thing could be.

While most of the Bible is relatively mum on what heaven will be like, Revelation shows no such shyness:

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb . . . .

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.  (Revelation 21:10 – 14; 22:1 – 5, NKJV)

In the words of a country song written in 1970 by Joe South,

Don't it make you want to go home?
Don't it make you want to go home?
All God's children get weary when they roam
Don't it make you want to go home?


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"IM TRYAN"
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I don't know if you could call me two-faced, or a hypocrite, or what, but even though I would never mount either a bumper sticker or a novelty license plate on my own car, I am deeply interested in those on others'.

Shelley and I just returned from a trip to the Great Plains, and in a Montana parking lot on July 19 I saw the plaintive message above. There was no surrounding bumper sticker to give me a clue as to what this car's owner was endeavoring to do. Who knows – maybe become more worthy of "Big Sky Country" itself!?

Christian pastors like me are in a unique position to hear people say that they are "trying" to be better Christians. Most people seem to think that if they do their best to live a moral life (and there's a great deal of flexibility in how different people define “moral”), God is somehow obligated to follow through with a home in heaven.

But that's not how it works. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?” asks Jeremiah 13:23. “Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.” Paul drives this point home again and again: “ . . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” he insists. And “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 2:23;  Romans 6:23)

There’s good news, though—in fact, let’s capitalize that: Good News (which is what “gospel” literally means). Read this carefully:

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4 – 7)

Now then—what's next for someone to whom this glorious salvation happens? Does he or she utter a grateful thank-you and then resume a life of ignoring God’s revealed will, or breaking His laws? Of course not, as Paul clearly says: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” (Romans 6:12). 

But how can sinful people develop the willpower to resist sin? Paul has an answer for this too: “ . . .for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. “ (Philippians 2:13)

So stop “tryan” to be a better person. Get on your knees, confess your sins to your Creator and Redeemer, and ask Him to work within you to want to, and have the power to, please Him.


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Cactus Wren
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The largest member of its family in North America, the Cactus Wren, is also the state bird of Arizona.  As its name implies, it frequently builds its nest among the thorns of the cholla cactus or other thorny bushes which may offer protection from predators.  A second means of protection is gained by the construction of numerous dummy nests nearby the one actually used.  As with most wrens, it is extremely vocal, the male singing its bubbly song from a prominent perch.  When searching for food, it will approach a leaf or other movable object on the ground, and proceed to lift it up or turn it over to look for anything edible which might have been hidden.
 
A passage of Scripture which has also been put to music and speaks of searching is found in Jeremiah 29:13.  The American Standard and King James Versions render it identically:  “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”  I like both songs, the one that includes Jeremiah’s words and that of the Cactus Wren.  I also like the promise that our God wants to be found when we genuinely seek after Him.


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Dehydration
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, August 1, 2011

I was driving back from Hope Camp Meeting last week and saw this old car wash that is no longer in use.  It reminded me of what happens to us without pure living water going through us. 

John tells the story of the Samaritan woman at the well:

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, "Would you give me a drink of water?" (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)  The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" (Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.) 

Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water."

The woman said, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?" 

Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life." 

The woman said, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!"
John 4: 7-15 (The Message)



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