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

Devotional Photo Blog - January 2011

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

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




A Future and a Hope
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 31, 2011

I was recently up at the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, British Columbia, when I saw this lady hold out her hand with sunflowers in it.  It wasn't long at all before a black-capped chickadee landed and helped itself to a seed.

The incident made me think of Jeremiah 29:11, where Jeremiah sends a letter to the exiles in Babylon to remind them of how God feels about them: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

While comparing the lady with the sunflower seeds to God and what he has for us is just a pale comparison, it does reflect how God has our best interests at heart.  He does not want us to come to harm and wishes only the brightest future for us.  We need to trust in Him like the chickadee trusted the lady and accept what He has to offer.


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Sweet As Honey
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 30, 2011

Do you like the taste of honey? We all know that bees produce the honey that's used in cooking or for a sweetener. But, did you know that some plants produce honey on their own? The Xanthorrhoea or Forest Grass Tree, shown here, produces a sweet honey-like nectar that's delicious. While hiking in the bush of Australia, we came upon many of these interesting plants. By rubbing a finger on the tiny flowers, our leader showed us how to get a sample of the tasty nectar. We noticed that the birds and bees also thought the nectar was good!

A stem develops in these plants forming a trunk that turns into a spike. Tiny white flowers form around the spike. Since the Forest Grass Trees are very slow growing, perhaps an inch a year, some of these taller Trees, like the one just below, are hundreds of years old.

 

The Indigenous Australians used this plant for many purposes. A sweet drink was made from the nectar by soaking the spikes in water. Nectar resin was used as an adhesive. The Aboriginal People also used the spike as a fishing spear.

Just wondering – but could some of the “honey” mentioned in the Bible have been directly from plants rather than through the bees? Honey is mentioned in the story of Joseph, the children of Israel, offerings and sacrifices, Moses, Saul and John, just to name a few of the many times. This does show us that honey was a valued commodity during the Bible times!


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Open?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 29, 2011

Tuesday, during a break in my volunteer work for our Adventist elementary and high schools in Kirkland, I strolled over to Northwest University, a Christian college next door.

I couldn’t help chuckling at the above scene. A bright, welcoming “Open” sign flashes cheerfully above this door, and two iron-pipe railings steady the visitor’s progress toward it. Through the window we see silhouettes of people already inside, apparently taking part in whatever the interior has to offer.

But there’s no knob on the door! Here—take a closer look:

 

Obviously some remodeling must have happened, making a former entrance now only an emergency-exit door. But I wonder if that’s how some people feel about Christianity. Church readerboard signs announce weekly welcomes, and cars in parking lots signal that people are inside taking part in the church's program. But where’s the “knob”—where’s the clear “how to” in order to take advantage of what God has to offer?

That knobless door made me think seriously about my faith. Do I know it so well from the inside that I can relate it clearly and simply to those who might be cautiously interested in it? Or to put it a better way, do I know my Savior and Redeemer so completely (through study of His words and actions and through allowing the Holy Spirit to teach their meanings to me) that I can be the “knob” for others to turn and enter?


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Money to Burn
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 28, 2011

Earlier this week I stopped in at a Goodwill store to check out the used books. On my way to the store’s literary corner, I got a chuckle out of the product you see in the photo above.  Since you might not be able to read everything on the box, here’s what it says: “Feel like a millionaire with MONEY TO BURN fire starters. No need for paper when you have money to burn!” In the upper left-hand corner are the words, “6  $100 bill fire starters.”

I opened the box and got one of the rolls of “bills” and set it in front and took the photo. The roll had been dipped in some sort of waxy—and probably very flammable—substance.

This naturally got me to thinking about money and the role it plays in our lives. A lot of people will “burn” many things in their lives—their health, their family happiness, their mental and emotional and spiritual balance—in order to hoard currency and what that currency can buy.

But the Bible trumpets a note of caution about the effect money can have on us. “For the love of money,” Paul wrote the young Pastor Timothy, “is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10, NKJV)

There’s no record of money ever being used in Eden, and no Bible descriptions of heaven imply that currency will be needed there (up yonder, gold and precious stones are used for paving and building materials).  So it’s important to develop a balanced view of money down here. We do this by reading our Bibles, and absorbing God’s priorities into our souls.


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“I Can Make You . . .”
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 27, 2011

I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this high-powered display in a Barnes and Noble bookstore about a week ago. As you’ll notice, I’ve cleverly smudged the name of the author, since I don’t wish to promote him. No doubt the methods he describes in those volumes are wonderful and motivational, and he has probably helped many.

But what caught my eye—as it may have caught yours—was the, “me-to-you” connection the author was trying to make in the titles of most of the books: “I CAN MAKE YOU . . . .” Instead of implying, “This book has many powerful principles which, if you read and practice them, will give you success,” the author—or whoever wrote the titles—gets far more personal: “Let me be your personal coach. I’ll come alongside you and help you get the most out of this. Let’s do this together!”

This is, of course, what Jesus has done for us. Rather than remain in heaven with His Father and urge us to read the Bible’s principles and apply them, Jesus came down to this planet, and walked alongside us. And not only did He “coach” us with His teachings and example, He also took our sins and failures upon Himself, and died to redeem us from them.

So with Jesus, it’s not “I can make you,” but “I did make you—at Creation—and I can remake you so that you will be like Me. Just allow Me into your life every day.”


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Trinity
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
 
When I was out taking images of Bald Eagles up in the Skagit Valley, a couple weeks ago, I came across this image of 3 trees right beside each other.  It was so peaceful and calm (and cold) that I could tell that God had a hand in what I was looking at.  To me, it symbolized the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three-in-one.  What a comfort it is to know that we have three-in-one, on our side. No matter where we are, what we need, we have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, right there with us.

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Black-bellied Plover
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
 
The two birds pictured above are the Black-bellied Plover and the Gray Plover.  From all appearances, both are appropriately named.  But things are seldom as simple as they seem, for both are the same species.  In North America we use the former name, while in England, the latter name is applied since it is generally in its winter plumage when in residence there.  This is because it is dimorphic, having two different plumages.  The term can also be used to designate species where the male and female differ radically in appearance, such as in most ducks.  Since the bird’s appearance differs drastically, how can one correctly identify what species it is?

The simple answer is to go back to basics, depend primarily on features that do not change such as beak, feet, body size, and form.  These are general guidelines rather than absolute rules.
 
The same question might be applied to Christians.  How can you recognize who is a genuine believer and who is not?  There is certainly a great deal of variation among individual Christians  around the world.  Different cultures, ages, and personal style all create an infinite number of possibilities. The Apostle John must have been faced with this same question and his answer is recorded in 1 John 2.  To summarize, he says to be a true follower of Christ, one must abide in Christ.  So what does it mean to abide in Christ?  Verse 6 provides the answer: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”  This answer spawned a myriad of pins, buttons, and other accessories with the initials WWJD, or “What Would Jesus Do?”  If you’re looking for a static answer to that question, you’re out of luck, because there’s not a one-size-fits-all-answer.  As you spend time with Him, you’ll grow to know what Jesus would do, and isn’t that what Jesus wanted in the first place, for you to spend time with Him.

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One Way
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 24, 2011

This one way sign is a good reminder that there is only one way that counts. 

Acts 4:12 tells us that, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Jesus said, in John 14:6, that, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."


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Waiting
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 23, 2011

While in Juneau, Alaska we happened upon a dog. Well, you might say, so what – a dog!   This dog, however, caught my attention because he was waiting patiently AND looked like he was the driver waiting for his passenger/s! He seemed very serious in is waiting – nothing would distract him – even me taking his picture.

In a spiritual sense, we are waiting – waiting for the coming of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Are we waiting patiently, like this dog is waiting for his master. Are any distractions getting in your way? Sometimes, people are disappointed and anxious because Jesus has not returned even though Revelation 22:7 says “And, remember, I am coming soon!” “And what of ourselves? With all these witnesses to faith around us like a cloud, we must throw off every encumbrance, every sin to which we cling, and run with resolution the race for which we are entered, our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom faith depends from start to finish.” Hebrews 12:1,2 NEB

Let's keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and wait for the return of our Master.



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Coming Soon . . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 22, 2011

A couple of blocks south of where I saw the braid and twig in the previous blog's photo below, I came upon this store with the interesting name. At first I thought that “Coming Soon” was the usual temporary announcement that a new store or tavern would soon be filling that building. But suddenly I realized that this was the name of the business itself: “Coming Soon . . . .” (Notice how the periods trail off and spill down to the right?)

You probably can’t read the print on the window, so here’s what it says (complete with the interesting capitalization and punctuation ): “we are coming soon . . . . . a space [dedicated] to a concept that redefines the idea of a conventional gallery + the common retail store environment. this exploration is an experimental journey which will evolve with each new [pop-up] installation. expect complete silence, an unusual song, the “it” bag, neon lights, rustic seats, intoxicating fragrances, thought-provoking words, a live performance you won’t forget.” And the words continue faintly down the white window-sill.

In other words, this is probably a combination art gallery and poetry-reading space. And even though part of me wants to grin reminiscently about when I was young enough to be enchanted by such an idea, another part of me longs for another Coming, when our minds and lives will be flung open to a happy, creative, deathless eternity.

Jesus, we long for Your return!


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Intelligent Designers
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 21, 2011

On Martin Luther King Day, Shelley and I were walking along a street in Seattle’s Fremont area, and something on the sidewalk caught my eye. It was the braided cord you see in the bottom half of the photo. Nearby was a twig whose bark had a patterned design, and I picked it up and dropped it near the braid.

As I bent over and snapped this photo I thought, “To me, it’s clear that both the twig and the braid are the products of intelligent design. No amount of wind-whipping is going to braid three strands of leather into that long, tight cord, no matter how many millions of years you allow. Instead, an intelligent designer worked for maybe two and a half minutes, and the braid was done."

So however could a twig of incredible complexity—even given many millions of years—so arrange atoms, molecules and whatever else into cells which grow to produce such predictable beauty, even in death? Intelligent Designer. No-brainer, right?

So next time you’re out on a walk, look all around you. Everything from twigs to leaves to trees to crows to clouds to the moon to the evening stars shouts Design! Design! Design!


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I’m Gonna Survive—Even If . . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 20, 2011

I snapped the above bumper sticker this past Tuesday afternoon in the Bellevue (WA) library parking lot. I grinned with delight, because (spiritually speaking) surviving by “dying” is going to be the topic of our weekend seminar presented by Dr. Clarence and Dianna Schilt. (Click here for more information.)

If you’re in or near the Seattle area this Friday evening (7 p.m.) and Sabbath morning (11 a.m.)  and afternoon (2:30 p.m.), I would earnestly invite you to come hear this retired pastor and his schoolteacher wife tell how they have joyfully discovered how to fully claim the promise of “the exchanged life.”


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Blessed Be Your Name
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
 
Every time I hear this this song, by Matt Redman, I think of all the glory God has created.  The image above is a perfect sunrise, God painted across the sky, near Mt. Rainier.  Below are the words to the great song.
 
Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing you pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing you pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord Blessed be your name


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Diablo Lake
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
 
The headlines proclaimed, “A Little Slice of Heaven at Diablo Lake.”  While I wouldn’t disagree with the travel editor who wrote these words, it might be well to recognize this is not exactly a new line.  It’s as old as the fall of man recorded in Genesis 3.  There is profiled Satan’s (Diablo in Spanish) deception of Eve with the attractive offer that she could have access to that which God was intentionally withholding from her.  Eve succumbed to the trickery and the rest of human history contains the account of God’s effort to restore man back to that relationship they lost with Him there in the garden.  
 
Just like the lake, the Devil presented an attractive front that drew viewers to his beauty.  The jade-green color of the lake is due to glacial flour or glacial polish, small particles of rock which have been pulverized by the rivers of ice feeding the lake.  But unlike the Deceiver, the lake retains its color year around.  One of the summits whose streams feed into the lake is Mount Forbidden, a name which also finds its place in the Genesis account.  This 8,845 foot peak contains the largest glacier in the North Cascades National Park. While Diablo Lake is man-made, the purpose of which was to create energy for the Seattle area, Satan’s plan was not so benign.  The separation from God which resulted from that choice is responsible for all the heartache and pain man has experienced.  God’s plan to reestablish that lost relationship centers on the cross, and it’s here we see ugliness and beauty in its infinite portrayal.  The next time you overlook these waters high in the mountains, remember the evil that put Him on the cross, but even more importantly, remember the love that held Him there.


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Top Up Here
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 17, 2011

I saw these signs all over the place when I was visiting Guyana, South America.  I asked someone if it was advertising a bar (I saw a lot of those too!) but was told that it was actually advertising for a place that sold cell phone minutes. 

People like to stay in touch and communication is key in any relationship. Without communication, we can lose touch with people and no longer even have a relationship with them.

The sign reminds me of how we need to "top up" spiritually.  The gospels are full of examples of Jesus going off to pray.  He knew that He needed to keep the lines of communication open with His Father in order to get through what He had to do.

You would only want to buy cell phone minutes if you owned a cell phone but praying is not exclusive.  It is open to all and we need to keep in touch to maintain our relationship with our heavenly Father.

Jesus told us how to pray:

"For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:

      Our Father in heaven,
      Hallowed be Your name.
      Your kingdom come.
      Your will be done
      On earth as it is in heaven.
      Give us this day our daily bread.
      And forgive us our debts,
      As we forgive our debtors.
      And do not lead us into temptation,
      But deliver us from the evil one.
      For Yours is the kingdom and the power 
            and the glory forever. Amen."

                    Matthew 6: 8-13

While praying may seem kind of one sided, we can read the Bible to find out what God has to say to us.  Keep topping up!


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The Place to Be
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 16, 2011

When traveling, do you sometimes find car license plates interesting to read or to try figuring out the meaning? Or, if you have children (or grandchildren) with you who can read to find license plates from all the states. Letters on a license plate might be a clever saying or word, sometimes giving the reader a chuckle. Victoria claims to be the “Place to Be!” As you can see, they spell that out, for everyone to know!

The Bible talks about many “places to be.” First there was the Garden of Eden which must have been a very beautiful place with gorgeous plants, animals, fruit and flowers. But sin marred the Garden and changed the lives of everyone on earth at that time and thereafter. God didn't just leave us all here with no hope, but sent his Son, Jesus to live on the earth, to die to cover our sins and to return to heaven. “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....And if I go and prepare a place for you, I shall come again and receive you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.” John 3:16; 4:2

Heaven – that's the place to be!


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Spiritual Screwdrivers
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 15, 2011

A few nights ago Shelley and I drifted into a Christian bookstore. As I passed by the kids' section, the above display caught my eye – two pencils with screwdriver-handle erasers. And printed on the "screwdriver's" shafts are the words WORK FOR JESUS.

I spent a few seconds mulling over a couple of really excellent messages communicated by these "tools." One of them is, You can work for Jesus using carpenters' and all sorts of other tools. In other words, working for Jesus isn't only telling people about the Bible and its Author. Working for Jesus is helping people in tangible, practical ways. Wayne Brown, one of our church members who recently passed away, used all kinds of tools and his many skills in creating and repairing things for people. And many of those benefactors of his work for the Lord were at his memorial service last weekend.

Another message the above display communicates is, You can work for Jesus with a pencil—or a computer keyboard. We've all heard the news stories about "cyber bullying" – where kids or even adults target each other with threatening e-mails or text messages or social networking site posts.

However, the immense power of the written word should be used for good, not evil. After all, God preserved His "text messages" in a 750,000 word book. And His servants are working for Him when each of their communications – vocal, written, and through body language – treats the recipients with respect due fellow-children of God.

That means, of course, no hurtful gossip, no nasty "zingers," no grudges fueled by e-mail campaigns, no threatening gestures, no cold looks. Instead, we need to allow the love of God to allow us to work for Jesus by acting out His earnest Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9 NKJV


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Twelfth Man!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 14, 2011

On my way back home from a pastors’ seminar this week I paused behind this pickup (can you spot my headlight-reflections on either side of the Chevy emblem?). Mounted at either side of the truck’s cab are proud, new-looking flags with the huge white number 12 and the Seahawks logo.

Those with even a nodding acquaintance with the Seattle Seahawks are thus enabled to identify the owner of this truck as a “12th Man,” or to be more gender-inclusive, “12th Fan.” And the more you know about the Seahawks, the more you understand that it’s not enough for any aspiring “12th Fan” to merely sport the flag on a truck or a t-shirt. Instead, it is the ideal duty of every red-blooded Seahawks booster to go to the stadium and stand ready to scream bloody murder at certain psychological moments, thus sending a shock-wave of sound down upon the enemy to confuse and discomfit them.

Christians, of course, are called to be a bit more subtle, but it’s the same principle. Jesus had 12 disciples (and many more besides), so you and I could call ourselves 12th Men or 12th Women. And being a disciple is far more than just wearing the t-shirt or the fish-symbol on the rear bumper. When the Adversary shows up to try to do damage, either to us or to others in our lives, we need to show up – sometimes our presence and always with our prayers. We need to not scream bloody murder but pray a bloody cross over each person and each problem.


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Power Source
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 13, 2011

Earlier this week I attended a pastors’ seminar at our church camp near Mount Rainier. I knew that the rustic lodge where we met didn’t have a lot of electrical outlets for all those pastoral laptops, so I brought along an extension cord and the white power strip you see in the above photo.

As you can see, my power source was hungrily pounced on by several other pastors. One even plugged in the green three-way device, and if you look closely you’ll see that someone else has plugged a thick white cord into the far end of the three-way, and on the other end of that cord, dangling over the edge of the table, was another white power strip like mine, into which two more pastors had plugged computers!  And as I sat there clicking away on my own laptop, I felt a bit of modest pride at having helped several of my colleagues in this way.

One of the topics discussed at that meeting was the extreme importance of prayer. “Pray for the people on your prayer list out loud,” one of the presenters said. Many Bible writers insist that prayer is supremely important. It’s heaven’s vital “power strip” which you and I can bring with us wherever we go. And when we pray for specific people or situations, it’s like we’re offering them a power strip which can get them through—or see them through—any crisis the devil throws at them.

So don’t forget to plug in your power strip every day! And then offer it--through prayer--to those who need it!


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Mistakes
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
 
Have you ever made a mistake? Of course you have - we all have.  There are so many men and women in the Bible, whom God believed in and blessed even though they made mistakes.  What does this have to with the image in the photo, of a Bald Eagle sitting above the Skagit River?  Well, did you know that Benjamin Franklin lobbied for the Wild Turkey to be our nation's symbol instead of the eagle?   Personally, I think that would have been a mistake.  Luckily for me (and others) the beautiful Bald Eagle was selected to represent our nation and go on to be the nations symbol of, freedom, power and strength.  Yet even with Mr. Franklin's near-mistake for our country, we still look at him as one of the great founding father's of our nation.  His ideas and inventions continue to be building blocks of many generations.
 
Just like God believed in the men and women of Bible times, even though they chose wrong paths or wavered from their faith, He continued to love and cherish them -- and guide them (if they let Him) to where He wanted them.  Regardless of the mistakes we have made in our lives, big or small, God forgives, forgets and believes in you.

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Common Eider
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jerome Kern wrote the original score for a popular song that skyrocketed to the top of the charts in the 1950s called “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.  In a falsetto voice the singer reminded young love that romance and circumstance can often get in the way of clear vision, especially when relating to matters of the heart.  With all deference to the song writer, such moments are not the only time when our vision is clouded.  A walk down the rocky coast of Maine supplied another example.

The cold offshore marine waters serve as the home for Common Eider, a bird renowned for the insulating quality of its down; a fact not lost on the makers of sleeping bags and down jackets.  A group of females with their young were hauled up on the rocks, providing an ideal photographic opportunity, except for one fact.  A thick blanket of fog enshrouded the entire setting, limiting the visibility and in turn any chance of obtaining a decent picture.  With less than high hopes, the shutter was pushed repeatedly, following the adage of “Shoot now and ask questions later”. Enter the age of digital manipulation.  Upon returning home, the photographs were submitted to the indignities of Photoshop, and wonder of wonders, with minimal effort on my part, the fog vanished, leaving me with the image originally envisioned. (See photo below)

Revelation 21 contains the promise that Christ will perform an even more miraculous transformation, one far beyond our understanding.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (vs. 4 NIV)  Not only that, but those sins and imperfections which are only too obvious to our own eyes will be erased as well.  I confess, I have no idea how the technology behind the  magic of Photoshop works to help me arrive at desired ends.  Even less do I understand the astonishing transformation that has been promised by our Lord.  But that will be some image, to see ourselves and others as only He can, with all that distorts and destroys eternally removed.


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Passing On the Blessings
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 10, 2011

I took this picture of these young kids while I was in Guyana.  They look pretty healthy and happy and I don't know their exact circumstances or even their names but I am pretty sure that their families do not own a car, a refrigerator, a computer or a television.  There is no hospital or dentist in the town where they live.  They are fortunate in that they will have access to a school when they are old enough to go.

You may have received the following in an e-mail (I know I've received it more than once!) but I think it is worth looking at again.  Those of us living in America have so much in the way of material goods and we tend to take so much for granted.  It is an event when we don't have electricity (instead of a daily occurrence).  We take for granted that we have a place to live, access to clean water, indoor plumbing, garbage pick-up, food to eat, medical care, religious freedom, schooling and even that we have Internet access. 


Blessings

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won't survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 20 million people around the world.

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.

You are so blessed in ways you may never even know.

by Stephen Eardley

There are so many needs around the world and even in our local communities that will only be met by volunteers.  We may not feel that we can give money but we may be able to give of our time, our talent or our possessions.  Acts 20:35 (NLT) tells us that: "You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'It is more blessed to give than than to receive.'"


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Joy
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 9, 2011

Most of you have heard about the late Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter” whose family established the Australia Zoo. With over 1,000 animals, it's listed as Australia's Number One Tourist Attraction. Even though Steve lost his life in the sea, the Zoo has several photos of him showing his exuberance. As you can see in my photo, Steve was extremely enthusiastic and joyful about his vision and passion-animals.

We've heard people make an acrostic with the word “joy.”

J is for Jesus
O is for others
Y is for yourself

J is for Jesus, who we should put first in our lives. O for others, means giving or sharing – maybe even a small deed or greeting. Y for you, taking care of yourself and honoring God in the way you live.

Psalms 16:11 states “Thou wilt show me the path of life; in thy presence is fullness of JOY, at thy right hand pleasures for evermore.” NEB

Are we as joyful about Jesus as Steve was about his passion? Maybe he has a lesson for us!


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The Reducing Glass
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 7, 2011

Have you ever seen a "reducing glass"? It's an essential tool for anyone who paints or draws. It works exactly opposite to a a magnifying glass – instead of bringing the image closer so that you can see more details, it pushes it away so you can see a wider perspective. Often when an artist makes a sketch, and then looks at it through a reducing glass (he or she can get the same effect by simply stepping back, but a reducing glass is more efficient), he or she discovers that what had looked like a perfectly-proportioned drawing actually has some deformities.

I think that one of the most important habits a Christian should develop is the habit of learning to see each Bible verse within the wider perspective of its chapter and its book. It's not that the details are important – they are – but the old saying "you can't see the forest for the trees" is often true in Bible study as in other areas.

How can you improve your perspective while reading the Bible? It's not rocket science. You simply read the Bible in fairly large chunks. Rather than just reading two verses, read an entire chapter. If you're reading from one of the smaller books which may have only four or five chapters, read the whole book. As you do so, you will find many of your puzzlements vanishing as your mind becomes accustomed to what God's wonderful Word really has to say.


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“The . . . of . . .”
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, January 6, 2011

Not long ago in a used bookstore I saw this book's spine. Curious, I pulled it off the shelf and took a look at it. Evidently it had been in someone's living room bookcase near a window pointing south or west. The constant sunshine has pretty much totally faded the essential words of the title.

I got a chuckle when I looked at the cover:



How humorously appropriate it is that the spine-title of a book about nonsense faded in the clear light of day!

I own another book which contains nonsense, but unlike the book in the above photos – which clearly is written in a humorous vein –  this other book contains some very serious statements made by some very serious people who turned out to be entirely wrong. The book's title is The Experts Speak (written and edited by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, Villard/Random House, 1998), here are some of its gems of wisdom:

"Space travel is utter bilge." Dr. Richard van der Riet Wooley, British Astronomer Royal, January, 1956.

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” Jim Denny (manager of the “Grand Ole Opry”), who fired the young Elvis Presley after one performance, September 25, 1954.

“Direct thought is not an attribute of femininity. In this woman is now centuries behind man.” Thomas Edison (American scientist and inventor), October 1912

[About the possibility of a telephone] “Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.” Boston Post editorial, 1865

You get the point, right? Just because an influential person makes a statement in a serious tone of voice doesn’t make that statement true. Down through the centuries, many a smear of egg has had to be wiped off many a sober, scholarly beard as subsequent facts came to light.

It’s the same way with the Scripture. A lot of “great” thinkers, especially in the past 200 years, have considered the Bible to contain a lot of well-meaning nonsense. Yet the great thinkers have passed to their rest and have been mostly forgotten, their reputations having faded in the sunlight of clearer truth. And each new generation purchases and reveres the Work the “scholars” reviled. Are you prayerfully reading your Bible every day?


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New!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Late last month I caught sight of this LP album cover mounted on a wall. “What’s an LP?” some of my readers are asking. “For the matter of that, what’s an album?”

“LP” stands for “Long-play,” and it was indeed a new thing when it was invented. Before LP, phonograph records rotated very rapidly, which meant that you couldn’t get many songs on a side. But the LP records rotated quite slowly, so that classical music listeners could settle back in the armchair and hear a pretty huge chunk of a symphony before having to get up and turn the record over.

I’m sure that the owners of those first LP albums, especially the ones able to be played on “ANY phonograph,” may have thought that this latest-and-greatest invention was the last word in recordings. If somebody could have time-transported a CD back to the early 1950s, people would have stared at it uncomprehendingly. “What’s this—a plastic mirror?” they would have said. “It’s pretty, but what’s it for?”

 And even if explanatory instructions had been sent along with it, people would have still found their minds boggled. “But where are the grooves? You can’t play music without grooves and a needle.”

You and I as Christians need to be careful that we don’t fall into the same fallacy about God’s future heavenly wonders. Maybe that’s one reason He hasn’t time-transported a whole lot of information about heaven to us. We probably wouldn’t “get it.” And not only that, we would probably try to understand that information in light of the knowledge-ceiling our heads are currently bumping up against.

So let’s allow God to be God. Let’s give Him permission to be smarter than we are. Let’s settle back and not try to tie all the loose ends together, but be content to let Him prepare us for entrance into that afterlife, where minutes and hours and years and lifetimes will lose their meaning after awhile.

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Harris’ Sparrow
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 4, 2010
 
Now for a lesson on grammar.  Luke 15 contains three familiar stories of something that had been lost: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.  In each of these accounts, the story has a happy ending, for whatever was lost was found.  But if we were to speak of “the lost”, this expression carries with it a solemn finality of those who have forever rejected God’s grace.  Most dictionaries however do not recognize this usage.  They emphasize its use primarily as a verb (I lost my keys.) or as an adjective (the lost coin) While I don’t question the seriousness its use as a noun denotes, let’s consider its more familiar usage.
 
To do so, let’s resort to a picture of a sparrow.  Not just any sparrow, mind you, but a Harris’ Sparrow which nests in the northern provinces of Canada and winters in the southern Midwestern states.  As a result, when one was found ten minutes from my home in Western Washington, it would be correct to conclude it was lost.  This does not mean it was doomed to an early demise.  True, it would not have the advantage of association with others of its species, but at the point I photographed it, it looked quite at home in the newly fallen snow, something also rare in our area.  Still, if it could not find its way back to its normal breeding grounds, its chances of having grandchildren would be nil. For our purposes however, it might be most beneficial to think of its condition best expressed by a state of being verb.  As humans we may be said to be in a state of “being lost” or “being saved”.  In other words, choices still need to be made that will determine our final destiny.  Having taken a wrong turn in the course of our life doesn’t generally close our record book immediately.  Just as important, when we make right choices, this enables us in the process of “being saved” and makes our life more rewarding. 
 
One other parallel might be drawn between the sparrow and us.  It was interesting to see how much attention this single sparrow drew from the birding fraternity.  People flocked to see this lost sparrow, simply because it was lost and out of place.  Maybe the lost sparrow, the lost sheep, and lost humanity should be grateful they share this in common, that they have someone who cares about them.

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The End of Sin and Death
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 3, 2011


I don't know if you've ever been stung by a bee or a wasp but I can attest that the sting can be very painful!

I took this picture last year when I was visiting my sister and her family down in Guyana, South America.  We were out on a breakwater in Georgetown, the capital,and there were lots of these Portuguese Man-of-Wars floating on either side and some had even washed up on the beach. 

Don't let the pretty color fool you into thinking it is a nice, benign creature.  The tentacles can average 30 feet in length and can even grow as long as 165 feet.  The sting from these can kill fish and while a sting from one of these is rarely fatal to humans, it can be extremely painful. 

Ever since sin first came into this world, death came in too.  We are told that sin is what gives death its "sting."  That is all going to change at the Second Coming of Jesus when the righteous dead will be raised. (See also 1 Thessalonians 4:16)

I will explain a mystery to you. Not every one of us will die, but we will all be changed. It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so that we will never die again. Our dead and decaying bodies will be changed into bodies that won't die or decay. The bodies we now have are weak and can die. But they will be changed into bodies that are eternal. Then the Scriptures will come true,
   "Death has lost the battle!
    Where is its victory?
   Where is its sting?"
Sin is what gives death its sting, and the Law is the power behind sin. But thank God for letting our Lord Jesus Christ give us the victory!  1 Corinthians 15:51-57  (CEV)

I'm looking forward to that day.  Aren't you?

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Wintertime

Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 2, 2011

While we were in Leavenworth the snow fell for several hours letting us know that winter weather was indeed here! As you can see in my photo, the village was glittering with holiday lights. Sounds of happy children floated through the air as they sledded and played in the snow. The scenery was very beautiful as we watched the huge snowflakes drift to the earth. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with having definite seasons to enjoy. It's hard to imagine living somewhere where the weather was the same the year round. After our recent storms, some probably think we have too much rain (or snow or ice, etc), but compared to some places, our weather is relatively mild.

Bible writers wrote about winter and snow. Genesis 8:22 states that God said to Noah, “While the earth lasts, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall never cease.” Psalms 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Let's thank God for the seasons he gave us – even winter – and rejoice!


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Happy New Year!

Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 1, 2011

Pruned trees like the ones in the above photo (which I took this past Tuesday, and on which I tweaked the contrast so you could see the effect more clearly) always fill me with joy. Against the sky you can clearly see where large branches were sawn off, but from those injured stumps have sprung whiplike new shoots as though to say, NO! I’m not discouraged by what’s been done to me! Instead, this pruning will simply help me grow stronger!

These trees are a good reminder that no matter how 2010 may have tested or even ravaged us spiritually, the Lord is ready to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and help us go on from here. “His compassions fail not,” says Lamentations 3:22, 23. “They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.”

“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 says. If God can fill a tree so full of the desire and potential for renewal, how much more will He do so for us!


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