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

Devotional Photo Blog- January 2010

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

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

Having Patience
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 31, 2010

Recently we were in the Anacortes area and included a walk in their 220 acre Washington Park. Our three-mile hike was refreshing on this sunny but cool day. It's located in a lovely area with many trees where you can look out to various islands and waters of the sound. While on a cliff overlooking the water, we spotted this Bald Eagle on a limb below us. It kept looking at the water and occasionally at us. Thinking it might fly away, I kept my camera aimed to get a shot of it in the air. After about a half hour, I gave up, but the eagle kept patiently waiting to get its dinner (so I assumed). Since the eagle was in the tree when we first saw it, I don't know how long it actually sat there--but it seemed to be very patient.

This last week, we've been studying patience. Learning to be patient can take a lifetime to cultivate - both patience with ourselves and with others. We have many opportunities to develop this virtue. Patience is referred to in several books of the Bible. Ecclesiastes points out that "the end of anything is better than its beginning; better patience than pride." (Ecclessiastes 7:7) Thessalonians states that we should live at peace and "be patient with all." (I Thessalonians 5:14) In Galatians, patience is listed as one of the "fruits of the Spirit": "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness and self-control". Galations 5:22-23 NEB

As the eagle waited patiently for its reward, let's be patient with things in this life and as we wait for our eternal reward.

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The Mysterious "J" on My Monitor
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 30, 2010

Earlier this week a mysterious thing happened to my flatscreen computer monitor. I suddenly discovered that the letter "J" had somehow become burned into the viewing area, about two inches from the top edge and four inches from the right edge. It's always there, and you can even see it when the black-background screensaver is on.

It's eerie. As I say, I have the screensaver set so that it activates if the display goes idle for something like five minutes, so this shouldn't have happened. And for the life of me, I cannot remember viewing an image which would have had a letter "J" which looks like that--and anyway, why would only the "J" and not the rest of the letters have been burned onto the screen? I even Googled "Letter J burned onto computer monitor" to check if it was some kind of malignant virus. I found general articles about "LCD image persistence," including some ways to try to fix it (which I will try) but nothing about a "J."

Until that "J" disappears--if it ever does--I'm going to let it stand for "Jesus." I'm going to try to consciously remember that everything I do on this monitor, every site I search, every document I prepare, should be one of which Jesus can approve.

Might be a good new years' resolution, even if your own monitor is absolutely okay, right?

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The Only Standard That Means Anything to a Dog
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 29, 2010

Our church's annual White Elephant Party looming near, my wife Shelley foraged through the one-dollar used books at our local library, and came up with a heavy volume called Visualizations for the Dog Standards. Published in 1962 by the editor of Popular Dog magazine, it seems to be a how-to manual for judging dog-show competitions.

As I flipped through it, I became so fascinated that Shelley insisted that I keep it rather than donate it to the White Elephant event. I was particularly intrigued by one of the two-page spreads. On one page was the photo you see above, which describes in detail all the finer points of the perfect Belgian Tervuren. I'm not sure how well you can read the print, so let me list some of the qualities which will give your Belgian first prize: EARS equilateral triangles . . . NECK round, muscular, rather outstretched, slightly arched, tapered head to body . . . TAIL strong at base . . . HINDQUARTERS powerful without heaviness . . . FEET round, catlike (Whoa. Don't tell that to the dog.) And notice some DISQUALIFICATIONS: Ears hanging. Tail cropped or a slump . . . . Teeth -- pronounced undershot.

What's so actually humorous is that as that happy dog stands there getting his picture taken, he has absolutely no idea that he is being judged to such exacting standards. The chances are that if his mind could somehow grasp all these details, and if he could sense that he was being examined in the light of those crucial qualities, I have a feeling that all that pressure would immediately send his ears into an a dejected "hang" and his tail into a slump. And his teeth might even go into a pronounced undershoot.

Would you like to see a photo of the only standard that means anything to a Belgian Tervuren or most other dogs? Here's what's on the other page of that two-page spread:

There you are. The only thing most dogs need to know for emotional health is Does this little human love me? A "yes" answer, and he's blissfully happy.

In my nearly three decades of pastoring, I have met a few human beings who have not yet learned that God is really, truly, honestly, thoroughly, completely love. It's as though these people imagine themselves in the center of a dog-standards photo, with little arrows pointing to every part of them, and at the other end of those arrows impossibly high standards from which, if these people relax for an instant and let their ears hang down or their tail slump, they're disqualified.

Can't we just snuggle into the warm hug of a loving God, and allow His encouraging Holy Spirit to fill us with such joy and power that--through the death and resurrection and indwelling presence of Jesus--we will grow more and more to think and act like Him? For more of what the Bible says about God's love and our response to it, click here.

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The Promise
Photos and commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, January 28, 2010

I had gotten up early that morning, having spent a difficult night of wrestling with the Lord. A storm of doubt and grief was brewing in my heart.

Some recent events in my life had taken an unexpected turn and the situation had left me with doubts and unanswered questions. Had God been leading me? Was I following His will for my life? Had I done something to cause Him to move away from me? Had He brought me this far just to leave me - or was this just a test? I needed to be alone with my thoughts, so I headed down to the beach.

The sun was just beginning to rise and the dark clouds from the evening storm were fading over the horizon. Seagulls were wandering up and down waiting for the waves to bring them their breakfast and little insects were bouncing off the foam washed upon the sand.

As I walked among the rocks and pebbles, I poured my heart out to the Lord. I cried, Why God? Why? Can't you see how much I'm hurting? Can't you please do something about all of this hurt? Why can't you answer my questions now? Why must I go on waiting? Why are you so silent?

A few raindrops touched upon my face and I looked up. The fading storm clouds had suddenly regrouped against the shore and were signaling to soon release. The drops became a shower and I made a dash for the shelter of the trees. As I neared the bank of the cliff, the sun broke through and cast its rays out towards the ocean. I turned and looked and then I saw it - the promise - and I started to laugh.

Silent? Indifferent? Unfaithful? Never.

Here in this place, I may not hear God's voice directly; I may not know the answers to my questions and I may not see Him face to face, but someday I will. In the cry of a mother dear calling out for her young, in the laughter of young children at play, in the earnestness of one sharing the gospel, and in the sighs of those dreaming of days gone by - I hear His voice. He is always with me. He feels all of my pain. In every sorrow, He is holding me. He will wipe away every tear, every doubt will be erased, every question will be answered, and I will know Him. He says,

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

Therefore, let us -

...approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. ...Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

Scriptures from Hebrews 4:16, 15, 10:22-23; Revelation 3:11, 21:3-5

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"Let the Waters Rise"
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

There is a song I recently heard by the band "Mikeschair." The song is "Let the Waters Rise," and as you can read in the lyrics, God is always there for us. As you view the image and read the words, may your heart be open enough to accept God's plan.

Don't know where to begin
Its like my world's caving in
And I try but I can't control my fear
Where do I go from here?

Sometimes its so hard to pray
When You feel so far away
But I am willing to go
Where you want me to
God, I trust You

There's a raging sea
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise
If You want them to
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will follow You

I will swim in the deep
'Cuz You'll be next to me
You're in the eye of the storm
And the calm of the sea
You'll never out of reach

God, You know where I've been
You were there with me then
You were faithful before
You'll be faithful again
I'm holding Your hand

There's a raging sea
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise
If You want them to
I will follow You
I will follow You
I will follow You

God Your love is enough
You will pull me through
I'm holding onto You
God Your love is enough
I will follow You
I will follow You

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Purple Martin
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What do Kevin Costner, the Purple Martin shown above, and Noah have in common? Need another clue? How about, they all in one way or another are involved in building something. Don't you just hate it when someone takes three random subjects, like the three just listed, and tries to generate an imaginary bridge between them - a link so obscure only they could possibly come up with the connection?

Long before Hollywood discovered the line, "Build it and they will come", biologists understood this concept. Purple Martin, the largest member of the swallow family in North America, has been extirpated from much of its former range by the cutting down of dead trees near bodies of water. As cavity nesters with rather specific requirements, martins need such for successful nesting, or as an alternative, manmade substitutes placed in similar locations. When these were erected, the Martins returned to nest.

That leaves us with Noah. He too bought into the idea of "build it and they will..." But here unfortunately, the story takes a different turn. Noah was faithful in building the ark as he had been instructed, but regrettably, only seven other members of his family accepted the invitation to enter into the safety it provided. Numerically, he would be considered a failure. The good news is, God's way of measuring success is quite different from ours. Hebrews 11:7 says, "Noah is another example of this kind of faith. God told him it would rain, which it had never done because the earth had always been watered by mist. But he believed what God said and went ahead to prepare for the flood by doing what God told him to do. As a result, his whole family was saved." (Clear Word Bible) Success? I'd say so. If you had to choose between a fictitious ballgame in a cornfield or God's "Well done", it's a pretty easy choice. As for the Purple Martin, I'm glad they're back too.

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Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 25, 2010

When I was visiting my sister and family in Guyana a couple of weeks ago, I was able to see a pair of blue-and-gold macaws (through the mosquito net around my bed!) on a dead palm trunk just across the road from their house. They would get there just after sunrise and would pick away at the trunk and then fly off for a bit and come back again. It was a pretty awesome sight as I had never seen wild macaws before.

One day we went to a nearby market town where the bi-weekly ferry comes in. We saw the above beautiful red-and-green macaw in a cage. It was going to be taken on the ferry to the capital city and I don't know what fate awaited it there. It's possible it was going to become someone's pet. It was sad to see this bird caged after seeing the other ones flying freely.

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) who would like to trap and capture us:

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

David, in Psalm 31:1-4 (NIV) lets us know how we can turn to God for deliverance:

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
     let me never be put to shame;
     deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
     come quickly to my rescue;
     be my rock of refuge,
     a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
     for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Free me from the trap that is set for me,
     for you are my refuge.


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The Right Way
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 24, 2010

This last week, the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), America's fifth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier came into Everett, its home port. It's always amazing to watch this huge ship as it comes and goes a couple times a year. Once, when I was on board the Lincoln, often referred to as "Abe", I realized it was just like a highly protected city, with its 1,092 feet length and flight deck of about 4.5 acres. Fellow-cooks, can you imagine preparing 15,000-20,000 meals a day that is required on board?

We can tell when a military ship is coming in because four tug boats go out and wait to guide it into port. When close to the port, the tugs turned the Lincoln around. You might think this is not much of a task, but once you've seen the size of the Lincoln, if you're like me, you'll change your mind! In a matter of minutes though, the turning is complete and the ship is eased into port by the leading tugs.

Life is something like this. Sometimes, we need to get turned around to get where we need to go! Or to be led and shown the way. Psalms 25:4-5 reads, "Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. KJN

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Is the Message Getting Through?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 23, 2010

In early September I was pumping gas into my Honda at an Arco station when I spotted this car paused at a traffic light. I snapped its picture, and have zoomed it up a little (which is why it's a bit grainy).

No doubt about it--as this car scoots from street to street in the Puget Sound area, the message it's trying to spread is going to be severely limited only to people who can understand the language it's written in. I don't even have a clue about what that language might be--if I had a Gideon Bible I could probably work my way through the translations of John 3:16 in the front and maybe hazard a guess. But I don't, so I can't.

That indecipherable car reminded me how Christians (and in my congregation's case, Seventh-day Adventist Christians) must be extremely careful when answering questions about their faith. To a non-Christian, the following sentence will be almost as incomprehensible as the exotic print on the side of the car:

"Well, I'm born again--though I'm sad to say that I'm not yet a man after God's own heart. So as many giants of the faith have done in the past, I had a season of prayer last night, asking the Lord to lay a burden on my heart for the lost ones, and for traveling mercies as I go on an outreach mission to hopefully reap and harvest many precious souls."

In 27 years of pastoring I've discovered how obscure my sermons can sometimes become if I don't constantly remember that there may be someone in the pew who's never been in an Adventist church before. And the same goes for Sabbath School classes. Let's speak and teach and converse in language that everyone can understand, and we'll model this necessity to those who hear us.

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Men and Women . . . .
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 22, 2010

On my way to a patient's room, I couldn't resist snapping this photo near a set of restrooms in Bellevue's Overlake Hospital in October. It reminded me of a woman who once told me about a gender-equality experiment she'd tried with some very small boys and girls, so young that my friend couldn't see how they could ever have "gotten the word" on stereotypical gender roles. She gave dolls to the boys, and toy trucks to the girls, and encouraged them to play with what they'd been given. Guess what. Soon the boys had commandeered the trucks, and the girls had rescued the dolls!

If you're married, you know that--at least at first--the differences between men and women can be rather frustrating. Guys are "fix-it-now" creatures ("Hey, Marge, cut to the chase. Just spell out your problem in fifteen words and we'll get to work on it.") Women are verbalizers, and of course often do an excellent job of solving issues through conversation.

But if you can just be patient, you'll most often see beyond the differences' annoyances to their tremendous value. It's only the very foolish (just in time I caught myself or I would have said "the rednecks") who demand that the man always have the last word in every issue. The truly intelligent marriage partner treasures the other as not only as a beloved companion but as a storehouse of wisdom and instinct which can be extremely valuable. As a pastor, I've watched many a devoted Christian couple, and I've discovered that their joint ministry to others goes far beyond the "one-believer + one-believer" equation. Instead, their service is multiplied many times in its effectiveness, simply because they decided to approach each other in humility rather than let their necks get red. For some Bible perspectives about marriage, click here.

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The Key
Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Do you have something on your mind? A question that seems to have no answer; a concern that seems to grower bigger by the day; a worry or fear that just won't go away? Are you looking for someone to talk to, hoping for some peace?

When you need someone to talk to about a burden on your heart, who do you turn to? Do you have a really good friend, the kind that can listen to you talk for hours? Someone, who no matter what the subject is and no matter how many times you've brought it up, always listens and always knows just what to say. Like, "Uh huh. Mm hmm. Yes. I see. I understand. I hear what you're saying. Have you considered..."

Sometimes, I have such a heavy thought on my mind that I have trouble even putting it into words. I become overwhelmed by my emotions and start to feel boxed in and scared. The more I keep it to myself, the worse I feel, and I'm just confident that there isn't anyone who would understand. What if I did share; what will they think of me then?

At times like these I hear a whisper in my ear:

Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend....When Jesus was on earth, He taught His disciples how to pray... to cast all their care upon Him. He gave them the assurance that their petitions would be heard. This assurance is also for us.

Jesus was often in prayer ... He identified with our needs and weakness ... He endured struggles and torture of soul in a world of sin... He found comfort and joy in communion with His Father. And if the Savior of men, the Son of God, felt the need of prayer, how much more should we feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer.

Our heavenly Father waits to shower upon us the fullness of His blessing ... What a wonder it is that we pray so little! God is ready and willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of His children, and yet we are so reluctant to make our wants known to Him. What can the angels of heaven think of poor helpless human beings... when God's heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready to give them more than they can ask or think, and yet they pray so little and have so little faith?

Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse?

When I think upon these words, I'm encouraged by their promises. I remember the giants of faith who bore witness to the fulfillment of these promises in the Holy Scriptures. God is faithful and prayer is the key. Giants like Daniel:

Daniel so distinguished himself that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Because of this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel, but they were unable to do so. So they went as a group to the king and said: "The king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den." So King Darius put the decree in writing. 

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king: "Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions' den? Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day." 

When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Then the men went as a group to the king and said to him, "Remember, O king, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed." So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions' den. The king said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?"

Daniel answered, "O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."
The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 

Wow! Daniel's life is such a testimony to the power of prayer and what it means to know God as a Friend. Because of prayer, God was able to raise Daniel to a position of great influence in a kingdom where he had been taken captive and forced to become a eunuch slave. Because of his faithfulness in prayer, God was able to draw several powerful leaders to worship Him and to promote His goodness throughout their kingdoms. And because Daniel knew God as His Friend, Daniel wielded the key of faith to unlock the storehouse of God's great power. The lion's mouths were shut and the tongues of the wicked that had set their faces against Daniel and God were silenced.

What would have happened to Daniel if at any point in his life he had decided, I think I've prayed enough; I don't think God would want to know about this; God must not be listening because if He were, He would not have brought me to this place...

Sometimes in this dark world that we live in, it's easy to get lost in our own thoughts. We can get carried away by fears and doubts and forget that God is near, very near, and that He wants to be our Friend. We grow weary, careless, and unaware of how far away we have removed ourselves from God. It's sad, but true that the further away we are from God, the closer the devouring lion is to us. When I'm feeling this way and I find myself ignoring the urging whisper in my ear, after a while I start to hear something else:

The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray.

What's on your mind? There is a Friend who would really like to know.

Scriptures from the book of Daniel chapter 6; 
Daniel in the Lion's Den painting by Briton Riviere (1840-1920)

Quotes excerpted & edited from Steps to Christ: Chapter 11 - "The Privilege of Prayer"


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Choices, Choices
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A few weeks back we were able to go and visit Long Beach, Washington. We walked on the nice sand, enjoying the waves pouring in. During the winter months, it's allowed to drive your vehicle on the beach. This is somewhat abnormal, as we think of beaches usually only accessible to foot traffic. As we walked along I took this shot and, of course, it got me thinking.

God created our planet, added people and animals to the mix and gave us the ability to choose. Right or wrong. Left or right. Good or bad. He gave us the choice. Two paths - they both appear to be reasonable and at times, each having their own interesting characteristics. Both have their own unique appeal. Unless we are diligent in our studying, our prayers and our Heavenly relationship - we may not know which is the ‘true' way.

In Psalm 16:11 it reads, "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." While everyone can find pleasures on Earth, only those that choose the correct path will find pleasures "forevermore".

Two paths each appear to be real, but only one is correct. Which way are you headed? Need a course correction? No worries, just give a call to life's ‘triple A' - 1-800-Prayer....God is standing by.

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Hermit Warbler
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Many words, like perishable items in a grocery story, have a shelf life. They become obsolete, or their meaning changes over a period of time. For example, few of us today commonly use the word hermit to refer to antisocial members of society. Today it seems, that term is reserved for telling mythical stories of the long ago. In that setting these individuals often possessed deep insights into life which they kept hidden away from the rest of society. Occasionally, they enter into the mainstream of history, and play a significant role therein. Peter the Hermit, who popularized participation in the First Crusade, is a good example of this. While they ware sometimes associated with mystical powers, more frequently they are simply viewed as social misfits, unable to adjust to the changes brought about by the social order.

While change can be good, and even necessary, it if often associated with breakdown and decay. It's used that way in I Peter 1:4 where God gives us the assurance of eternal life. "And God has reserved for his children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change or decay." (Living Bible) A realistic view of heaven is almost impossible for us. How will we be able to recognize those we have loved here on earth without the ravages caused by sin placed upon them? Will Hermit Warblers be there, as beautiful as ever, yet without the stigma their name carries? Found high in the mountains of the western United States, these warblers spend much of their time out of our sight in the upper limbs of tall conifers. If they are in heaven, will they be more accessible to us? I'd like to think maybe they will be, but of course don't know. What we can be assured of is, not only will the scars of sin be removed from the physical world, but even more importantly, from our thinking as well.

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Don't Be Slothful
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 18, 2010

I took this picture of a three toed sloth on a trip I just took to visit my sister and her family in Guyana, South America. (Guyana is above Brazil and between Suriname and Venezuela.) They are missionaries with Adventist World Aviation and I think some of you met them at Oshkosh this past summer. My brother-in-law, Jud Wickwire, is one of the pilots of the yellow Pathfinder plane.

We passed a boy at the side of the road who was holding the stick that the sloth is on. It was apparently recently captured and I assume that is why it has a cut between its eye and its nose. You can also see the collar around its neck.

Three toed sloths are apparently the world's slowest mammal. They sleep from 15-20 hours a day! (The dictionary definition for slothful is lazy, inactive and sluggish.) While they can climb trees and swim well, they can not move well when they are on the ground and that is when they are the most vulnerable to being caught.

We should not be looking at sloths as examples of how to live our lives! There are a lot of warnings about laziness in the Bible, such as this one in Proverbs 18:9 (New Living Translation): "A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things." God wants us to have productive lives.

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Peace in God
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 17, 2010

As a child, were you told to not run in the house because you sounded like a herd of horses? That's unlike this photo I took of a colt next to its mother at the Lipica Horse Farm in Slovenia. The beautiful Lipizzaners are thought to be the finest riding horses in the world. It's interesting that they are not white when born, but dark colored.

Yes, a herd of running horses, a big truck or even trains can cause the earth to move - not cause "major" earthquakes, but just very local earth movements. In these cases, the earth shakes in response to a local shock. Most earthquakes are caused by an abrupt shift of rock along a fracture in the Earth, called a fault. The plates grind and scrape against each other creating seismic waves. Earthquakes can also be caused by volcanic activity, landslides, mine blasts and nuclear explosions. Did you know there are also quakes on the moon and quakes on the ice of Antarctica? Advances in seismograh technology have greatly increased the understanding of both earthquakes and the Earth itself. As recently witnessed in Haiti, earthquakes can be very devastating and are among the most powerful events on earth. Their results can be terrifying, causing landslides, tsunamis and flooding. Deaths and injuries usually from falling objects and collapse of buildings and other structures can wipe out entire populations.

As many of you know, I spent a number of years (eleven to be exact) as a volunteer nurse and mental health worker responding to disasters around the world. In addition to caring for the health needs of people, sometimes we addressed spiritual issues as well. I was on a mental health team that was sent to India after the Gujart earthquake where we were asked to teach the people about the cause of earthquakes and to teach them about a loving God. They believed that God was punishing one group of people for their actions toward another group. As it turned out, both groups were "blaming " God. If you look back in history various groups of people, including the Greeks had a "god" of earthquakes who they thought caused the earth to quake when in a bad mood and to punish and inflict fear upon the people as revenge. Today, some say earthquakes and other natural disasters are caused because people have strayed away from God or because they worship the devil. Others believe that Satan causes earthquakes.

No matter what you might believe causes earthquakes, our hearts go out to the victims of the massive Haiti tragedy. God loves us because of who He is and not because of anything we did or didn't do. "The peace of God, which is beyond our utmost understanding, will keep guard over your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7 NEV

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Was This Run By Management First?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 16, 2010

The above poster, from which I have cleverly photoshopped all the identifiers, stands in a very well-populated Puget Sound area setting, enthusiastically advertising a local Christian megachurch.

However, the hearty promises to teach people sure-fire tips to living a successful life smell a bit strange to any believer who has actually read the words of Jesus. Admittedly, the book of Proverbs--also inspired by the Spirit of Christ--does contain a lot of common-sense "live well and prosper" statements, but the Savior Himself often issued warnings that even if someone perfectly follows Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, there is still a hostile devil who's bent on doing damage to anyone created by the King of Heaven he hates so much. Which is why Jesus made statements like these:

"And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved."
Matthew 10:22 [NKJV]

"He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." Matthew 10:39

"Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:23-24

"But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation." Luke 6:24

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." Matthew 10:34

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33

By all means, follow the Golden Rule. And the Seven Habits are certainly very Christian guidelines to a happier life. But don't let the devil trick you into imagining that if you're not "flourishing" you're not in God's favor. On the contrary--listen to Jesus again:

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:10-12

It seems to me that those who preach or imply (whether by poster or pulpit) a "health and wealth" gospel that ignores or suppresses Jesus' above statements should run their ad campaigns by Management (capital M) first!

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God's Guernica
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 15, 2010

When I look at this tangle of twisted tree-trunk roots I photographed this past July at Rialto Beach on Washington's Pacific Coast, I think of Pablo Picasso's famous war-protest painting Guernica, in which people and animals and buildings react with agony to a bombing during the Spanish Civil War. To see Guernica, click here.

If you carefully study the first two--and then the last two--chapters of the Bible, you'll clearly see that terrible natural destruction (like the recent earthquake in Haiti) wasn't a feature of Eden past, nor will be a feature of Eden restored. Picasso intended his agony-filled painting to cause the viewer to vow, "If I have anything to say about it, this will never happen again!" And one of the positive results of observing nature in agony can evoke the same response in the Christian's heart.

Ever wonder what role God plays, or doesn't play, in killer earthquakes or hurricanes? For a thoughtful Scriptural discussion from The Voice of Prophecy's website, click here.

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CHRIST In Action Now
Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, January 14, 2010

The graphic above is the logo for ADRA - the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. ADRA is a Christian organization. Christian because it names Jesus Christ as the model for its relief efforts around the world:

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? ...So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you..."

The members and supporters of ADRA are Christ In Action Now as they strive to follow His example:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' ...'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

ADRA is on the ground in Haiti responding to the disaster created by the 7.0 earthquake that occurred on Monday. From their web site:

We know from our long experience in relief and development that in a disaster of this magnitude ADRA will program at least $1 million in the long-term; however, we urgently need $500,000 in the next 7 days [that is, by this Sunday, January 17th]. We have already procured millions of water purification tablets; however, we are still procuring food, generators, tents, and medicines that are desperately needed. Will you help?

The world is dying for want of seeing Christ In Action Now. God is looking for those who are willing to be co-laborers with Him. The reward is great for those who will answer. Not only will they be counted as servants, and even better, recognized as disciples; they will also be received as sons and daughters of the Most High, and best of all, God will call them His friends.

Are you willing?

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on."

"Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Before you decide how much to give, remember how much you have received.

Help ADRA provide immediate emergency response to our friends in Haiti

Scriptures from Matthew 7; John 15; Mark 12; Matthew 6

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Spotlight From God
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 16, 2010

Every once in a while you see a spotlight in the sky and, if you wish, you can follow the light to some spacial event or a limited time sale. I don't think businesses use the spotlight tactic, attempting to attract customers, as much as they used to.

One early morning, while sitting at my desk at work, this image caught my eye. The sun was rising it seemed as though God was using His spotlight. This got me thinking, what would it be like, if every time God needed us to focus on something special or wanted to get our attention, He used the spotlight approach? We can read about this very technique God used when He was working with the Israelites. As they were being led through the wilderness, not only did God use the spotlight, in the form of a column of fire at night, but he used the cloud during the day. God believed that light was so important He created it in the very beginning, as He needed to separate the dark. We also know, when He is ready to come back to Earth and take us home with Him, He will return with beautiful, brilliant light from Heaven.

Today, it may not always come as a beam of light, it may not be as noticeable as a column of fire or attract us to the latest grand opening, but God's "spotlight" can be viewed each and ever day. Whether in the form of scripture, an answer to a prayer or even a thought that just happens to pop into our the exact time we need it. God continues to show us His spotlight. Let's pray we are ready to know it when we see it.

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Rhinoceros Auklet
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It appears as though this Rhinoceros Auklet has been fishing from the right side of the boat, or the right side of the pier, or at the very minimum, in the right place. You remember the story found in John 21 where the disciples had been following their familiar task of fishing? After a fruitless night of toil they returned empty-handed. That's when the Master dramatically "changed their luck". "Throw your net out on the right side of the boat," he had said. I'm amazed they did so; it's such a banal suggestion. Remember now, they did not yet recognize Jesus at this point. Whatever the reason, they did so, and they, along with the Auklet, had so many fish they couldn't handle them all.

Rhinoceros Auklets come better prepared than the disciples. Inwardly pointing projections along the roof of the mouth and tongue allow them to hold numerous fish lengthwise while continuing to fish, necessitating fewer trips back to its burrow to feed their single chick. The young are fed almost exclusively on sand launce, shown here in this picture.

You might question how apt the comparison between us, the disciples, and the Auklet really is. After all, what are you going to do with a mouthful of sand launce? Maybe nothing, but then again have you ever really tried following His directions and fished from the right side?

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It Won't Rain Always
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 11, 2010

I took this picture while I was waiting for a friend in the visitor's center parking lot at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. We were planning on going for a walk* and I was trying to capture the mood of the rain. This photo was the result!

I love the Gaither/Wilburn song, It Won't Rain Always (especially sung by Cynthia Clawson):

It Won't Rain Always
(Gloria Gaither, Bill Gaither, Aaron Wilburn)

Someone said that in each life some rain is bound to fall
And each one sheds his share of tears
And trouble troubles us all
But the hurt can't hurt forever
And the tears are sure to dry

And it won't rain always
The clouds will soon be gone
The sun that they've been hiding has been there all along

And it won't rain always
God's promises are true
The sun's gonna shine in His own good time
And He's gonna see you through

The sun's gonna shine in God's own good time
And He will see you through

Sometimes, we think the clouds and the rain are never going to go away. Jesus said, in John 16:33, that, "Here on this earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." Now that is good news!

*Yes, we still went walking - with umbrellas!

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A New Beginning
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 10, 2010

Seattle gave us another spectacular beginning on January 1 with lots of colorful fireworks. Don't know about you, but especially in January some people make resolutions to start or stop something in order to try having a new beginning. Throughout our lives, most of us have had many "beginnings." If we look back in history, again, we see many beginnings. The Bible is full of beginnings. Even the book of Genesis starts with "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Gen 1:1 KJV John recorded, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." John 1:1-2

Genesis 3 tells of another beginning, when sin entered the world. However, God sent his son Jesus who lived, died and was ressurected so that we on earth can have another life, a better beginning. Many examples of Jesus giving new beginnings to people are recorded in the Bible. Examples include the man with palsy brought to Him on a bed. Jesus said, "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." Luke 5:20. The man walked again. Jesus healed the woman with an issue of blood for twelve years, when He said, "Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole: go in peace." Luke 8:48 Women, can you think how she must have felt? A new beginning for her! When the ruler of the synagogue's house heard his daughter was dead, once Jesus heard it, He said, "Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth..." He took her hand saying, "Maid, arise." Luke 8:51-54 And she arose to a new life, another beginning.

Are you ready for a new beginning? We all know the familiar text in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoseover believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This new beginning is available for all of us.

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Your Time Is Now
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 9, 2010

Earlier this week I saw this clock on the desk of a friend who's recently received a doctorate. It was a gift commemorating the degree, and I love what it says on the front:

Carpe diem is Latin for "Seize the day"--in other words, make the most of time, especially the current moment.

Jesus talks about this. While He also inspired the book of Proverbs and its teaching on prudence and hard work and planning long-term, He also said:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34, NKJV

Why not get out your Bible and read all of Matthew 6 to get the context? It will really encourage you as you gaze into an uncertain year, and help you seize each moment and make the most of it. And remember, as the old Christian couplet says:

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past;
Only what's done for Christ will last.

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Eat, Sleep, Read, Shop Indie
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 8, 2009

This is the front door of Third Place Books, a very successful new-and-used bookstore in north Seattle. I have a feeling that the white-on-red words attached to the glass mean, "In addition to other essential human activities like eating, sleeping and reading, you should also shop independent bookstores."

However--as a member of a denomination who understands how God values the whole person (mind, body, spirit), I understand this sign differently. I think that we should eat independently (not like the world eats but the way our Creator wants us to eat), sleep independent of a faith in the supposed "security" the world offers but thoroughly dependent on a caring and loving God, and read independently--not primarily the bestsellers, not only the "buzz-of -the-moment" blogs which will vanish like breath off a mirror, but that which will elevate our minds to the vast heights of eternity. So crack open the world's best-selling yet often least-read (and most radically independent!) book--the Bible!

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Oh Yes It Is.
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 7, 2010

On Tuesday of this week I walked out to the mailbox and returned with the usual mix of bills and unsolicited mailings. Among the latter was this envelope, which stoutly proclaimed that it had the right to rise above the rest of the advertisements.

Well, well, I said to myself, ripping it open. Maybe it's legit after all. Maybe it's not like the envelope I received last week which sternly said "Do Not Bend or Fold" on the outside, and contained what turned out to be a cardboard "credit card."

Wrong. The envelope pictured above was junk mail--this time an offer for some kind of cable TV service, as I remember. I snapped a photo of the envelope, and pitched it and its contents.

Now that I think of it, of course, junk mail is in the eye of the beholder. I'm sure that to the owner of that cable company, and people who hold stock in it, this piece of direct mail was not junk at all, but part of an ad campaign upon which many hopes and dreams were resting. And to someone looking for a cable TV connection, this company's services might be exactly what they wanted.

A lot of people consider anything to do with God--such as the Bible, religious literature, religious broadcasting, tracts--as so much junk mail. But to someone who's reached the end of the rope, Heaven's hopes and dreams sometimes come as incredible good news. Nearly two and a half decades of pastoral ministry have convinced me that God has incredibly effective ways of reaching the heart which has allowed itself to be softened by the Holy Spirit--even though that heart might not know who the Holy Spirit is.

Keep praying for your loved ones and friends and anyone else who needs to hear from God. And pray that when the time is right you can be that warm, tactful, personal, non-junk-mail letter from the throne of grace.

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1001 "Mad" Pages You Must Read Before You Die
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It was inevitable, I guess--Mad magazine has joined the long line of books, movies, paintings, and so on which somebody or other decides that you must experience before you leave this mortal vale.

If you're of my generation, you got a genuine kick out of glancing into Mad from time to time. It was pretty clean in those days, and the satire was always biting--and there was always something or someone new to poke fun at. Often humor is the most devastating way to expose hypocrisy.

Nowadays, of course, I never read Mad. I no longer have the vast, largely carefree leisure of a prairie childhood, and I frankly have many better things to do with my time--including a Book with ‘way more than a thousand pages, a Book which is quite seriously a very important one to read before you die. If you will forgive me, I will direct you once more to our "Bible Reading Plan" website (click here) which will get you started reading your Bible through in 2010. Don't worry if it isn't January 1 any more--just pick up with today's reading. You can always go back and catch up, and anyway, there's no Bible verse that says you have to read the Bible through in a year.

But you will find, surprisingly, a good deal of Mad-like pomposity-popping, ego-deflating, hypocrisy-spurning material, especially in the "prophets" section. In fact, the scathing ironies of Jeremiah would make a Mad-reader's hair curl.

Check it out. Before you die.

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Melissa Blue
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Very few physical entities have received more attention from those who wrote the Bible than water. It's found in Genesis 1 as part of the creation narrative; it's included in John's account of Eden restored and the Earth Made New in Revelation 22. Forty-five of the 52 books employ that term in the King James Version and others use synonyms for hydrogen dioxide. Many speak of it in the tangible, physical sense, while others apply it symbolically. Why all this attention? For those who lived in the arid Middle East, they knew its importance. For them, water meant life. Numerous were the famines mentioned because of a lack of life-giving rain. This was not an abstract theory their readers had to ponder deeply before it sank in; this was reality. No wonder the woman of Samaria was so deeply interested when Christ spoke to her about living water He would give her, water which would cause her to never be thirsty again! (John 4:14)

Nothing has changed. I've heard it suggested the next world war won't be fought over oil, but over a much more valuable commodity, water. We send exploratory bodies into space seeking evidence for the existence of water. Why? The reason is still the same. In order for there to be life, there must be water. This appears to be true for the smallest organism to the most complex creature; from the Melissa Blue pictured here, to you and me. One of the greatest paradoxes imaginable is found in Revelation 22:17 as John closes the inspired canon. "The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."(NIV) Doesn't it seem strange that the most valuable article one can imagine is being given away, free of charge? So what makes it so priceless? Two reasons: it offers us life without end, and the price it cost Him to give it to us.

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The Garden
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 4, 2010

I Come to the Garden Alone
by C. Austin Miles

I come to the garden alone
While the dew* is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

     And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
     And He tells me I am His own;
     And the joy we share as we tarry there,
     None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I'd stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

I remember singing this old hymn often at assembly when I was in elementary school. At the time, gardens weren't something I particularly cared about but I've come to appreciate them more as I've gotten older--especially when I see how much work goes into them!

I don't know if you have a special place where you feel particularly close to God, but the important thing is to keep the lines of communication open. He speaks to us through His Word (the Bible) and we speak to Him through prayer.

Psalm 145:18 (Message)
God's there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it.

*I took this picture in the rose garden by the zoo in Seattle so the water drops are more likely raindrops than dew!


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Gifts for the New Year
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 3, 2010

The celebrations of Christmas have ended and we have memories of many good things and family activities. My photo shows the beautiful lights and people enjoying the lighting festival in Leavenworth. Now, it's time to turn our thoughts to the new year where we can look forward to the future. Even though I don't know the author, I'd like to share the following words with you: "Gifts I Wish For You in the New Year":

Happiness. Deep down within.
Serenity. With each sunrise.
Success. In each facet of your life.
Family. Beside you.
Close and caring friends.
Health. Inside you.
Love. That never ends.
Special memories. Of all the yesterdays.
A bright today. With much to be thankful for.
A path. That leads to beautiful tomorrows.
Dreams. That do their best to come true.
Appreciation. Of all the wonderful things about you.

And the last wish: May you find that the
Lord will bless you and all your loved ones with
Peace - Joy - Love.

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If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home!
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 2, 2010

This past Monday I drove up to Seattle's Harborview Hospital to visit someone, and while paused at a stoplight I couldn't resist taking a picture of this green sign attached to what must be a set of apartments or condos. The message is clear: you're tired of fighting Seattle traffic to make it all the way out to where you live now, so why not live here?

This reminds me of one of the most startling and yet encouraging concepts Jesus preached while He wore a robe and sandals. He Himself, of course, owned no home and had no official headquarters building, but He made it very clear that the Kingdom of God was "right now" just as much as it was "not yet." Listen to some of what He said:

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!' or ‘See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20, 21 NKJV

In other words, God's kingdom of eternal peace and love still hasn't arrived politically, but it has arrived spiritually. If I accept Jesus as my Savior--allow His death to atone for my sins, and confess and renounce them--I have become a member of His kingdom, and my role is then to act as an official ambassador from that kingdom to others who might like to emigrate from theirs to Christ's.

In other words, if I have chosen to live under the rulership of Jesus my Lord, I'm already home! All that's left are details like the Second Coming and the re-creation of the new earth. To learn how to join Jesus' kingdom, and "be home now," click here.

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Finger-reading the Bible
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

One New Year's resolution some Christians make is to read their Bibles through in a year, starting January 1. (If you're interested in doing this, click here to get started.) I'm going to be going through this plan this year.

But imagine what a challenge this would be if you were totally blind. There are, of course, Bible recordings you can listen to, but if you wanted to read a verse and then pause and meditate on it, then go over it again, or skip back quickly to a spot in a previous chapter, you'd probably want it on paper--in Braille.

In the photo above, which I snapped in mid-December at a Half-price Book store, are several green volumes of the Braille Bible. I don't know if you can read the small print on the spines, but the first volume on the left covers only Genesis through the first eleven chapters of Exodus. The first seven volumes are consecutive, and take the reader up to Second Chronicles, and the last volume is Number 12, which contains the book of Jeremiah. Imagine the shelf-space you'd need for the entire Bible! And imagine the years of practice--and the patience--you'd need to be able to brush your fingers across a page and gain some meaning from it.

Yet many devout Christians do this. A young woman who has been blind from birth phones Shelley and me regularly to share encouraging songs and scriptures--it's her ministry to many pastors and church leaders. And each time I hear her quote scripture, I think to myself, Am I using my eyes in as worthwhile a way as she's using her fingers?

Happy New Year! Here's to a deeper understanding of our loving Heavenly Father through the Word He has created and preserved for us!

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