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

Devotional Photo Blog- July 2009

Thanks to all the photographers from our church photo club 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 generally handle the rest of the days using photos from the point-and-shoot camera I keep on my belt.-- Pastor Maylan Schurch

NOTE: To see other months' blogs, click here, and follow the instructions.

 


Worried?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 30, 2009

My wife Shelley works for Washington Conference Vice President of Education Lon Gruesbeck, and in his office a couple of weeks ago I noticed this clay sculpture which he'd picked up while on a Peru mission trip a few years back. This figurine's expression was so unusual that I took off my glasses, plopped them on his nose, and snapped a picture. And the glasses just intensified that alarmed stare!

I don't know what was going through the mind of his Peruvian creator, but this goggly-eyed guy looks for all the world as though he has spent an entire week watching nothing but CNN Headline News. There's that same "Oh, what terrible things are happening to people! Am I going to be next?" expression. Have you ever felt that? I know that I have--and usually after an overdose on the world's bad news.

Jesus once made a comment which showed that He understood this panicky feeling. After listing some of the signs of His return, including "distress of nations and perplexity," He talked about "people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world." (Luke 21:25, 26 ESV) But almost in the same breath, He urges those who are looking forward to His return to not be afraid:

"For the powers of the heavens will be shaken," He says. "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Verses 26-28)

Want to read some Bible verses which tell how you can face the future confidently--and be one of those looking joyfully for the coming of Jesus? Click here.

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Stuck in the Mud?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Do you ever find yourself stuck in the mud? I don't mean in literal mud, but the symbolic "mud" of life - holding you back or pulling you down? Think about your daily routine. Does it start and end with you spending time with your Heavenly Father? If not, maybe you are 'stuck in the mud'.

A couple of months ago, we went with our parish group to Kelsey Creek Park, just a couple miles away from the church. This park has a great farm, including this big ol' pig. I forgot to look at its name and any other information they had about him/her, because I was too fascinated with its fascination with the mud. As you can see in the picture, the pig liked the mud. I know pigs like mud for a couple of reasons - keeps them cool on the hot days and protects their skin from the sun and bugs. That said, I'm glad I am not a pig. The mud would stink and seems it would slow you down - but then again, I don't think the pig was too much in a hurry to go anywhere.

I don't know about you, but I think I can learn something from this scene. I want to make sure my daily life involves a lot more of God and a lot less of the things that get me stuck in the mud.

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Bees

Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'm sometimes sympathetic with those ancient Children of Israel. Yes, they did mess up a fair share of the time, and yes, they were a rather stiff-necked people. And more often than not they seem to have missed the forest for the trees as they became involved in the ritual of their worship. But then again that sounds like a pretty good description of us at times. Have you ever asked yourself why you worship the way you do? Are there some motions we go through without having the slightest understanding of why we do it?

Let me share one of the guidelines to the ancients that I don't understand. In Leviticus 2:11 and 12 God sets forth procedures for worship. The part I'm interested in is why He prohibits them from using honey as a burnt offering but states it would be perfectly appropriate to offer it as a firstfruits offering. While we are on the topic of honey, consider the producer of it shown in this picture. I know enough to recognize it is not the typical Italian honeybee from which we get much of our supply, but I don't recognize the species. I like to know these things: the species name, the reason for the appropriateness or inappropriateness of honey as an offering, the right answers.

But wouldn't it be a shame if, in my quest for correctness, I missed the vibrancy of the flower and the complementary colors of its pollinator? What if I came to understand the reasons for the details of the sacrifices and missed the joy of worship God wants me to experience when I come to worship Him? I still want to know, but I also don't want to miss out on His greater gifts.

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A Day Hemmed in Prayer
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 27, 2009

I bought this ceramic tile a few years ago because I thought it was a good reminder.

Prayer is the way we communicate with God. We need to keep communication open in order to maintain a relationship with God.

Jesus tells us how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13:
"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." (NKJV)

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A Bear's Sense of Smell
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Bev Riter
Sunday, July 26, 2009

Does a bear smell good or bad? Well, it depends what you mean! They can smell "bad" to people, but their sense of smell is "very good." Some experts think that bears have the best sense of smell of any animal. For example, a dog's sense of smell is about 100 times better than a human's, whereas a bear's sense of smell is 2,100 times better than a human's. Their acute sense of small helps them find food and mates, keep track of their cubs and avoid danger. It is said that a bear's sense of smell is so acute that they can detect some smells from a distance of 20 miles away. That's a long way! If you go camping or backpacking in "bear" country, do you store your food in a bear-resistant bag or canister away from your tent?!

Isn't it marvelous that God created animals so different from each other. Colossians 1:16 reads "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth... all things were created by him, and for him." KJV

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A Refreshing Sound
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 25, 2009

The last Sabbath afternoon of our Washington Conference Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting, Christian singer and songwriter Michael Card presented a nearly two-hour-long concert before 3,000 people in Rainier Auditorium.

Card, the composer of popular Christian songs like "El Shaddai" and "Immanuel," deliberatelly distances himself from the glitz and glamor of most popular music, and instead writes thoughtful compositions and sings them with extreme clarity. During that afternoon's concert, he told us he was going to sing through the Bible, starting with songs about the people in Genesis, and concluding with material drawn from Revelation. And we left the concert that afternoon feeling filled--not only with good music, but with well-interpreted Bible. To see Michael Card's website, click here. For the Wikipedia article about him, click here.

 

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Angel for Sale
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 24, 2009

Earlier this month I saw this cheerful angel statue standing in the window of a Christian supply outlet store. No doubt to hasten its departure -- and free up a bit of valuable floor space -- somebody had slapped a "Sale" sticker on its chest bearing the news that whoever was carrying spare cash in the amount of $149.97 could enjoy round-the-clock angelic presence!

Within the last couple of days I've received e-mail news that a man in California who had claimed to receive dreams and visions from God (including one in which angels descended on an Adventist Book Center and not only removed every Bible translation except the King James, but also replaced most of the books with one which the dreamer considered worthwhile) has now admitted that no, his dreams were not from God after all. He apologizes, and promises to pay people back for support-money they have sent him.

Evidently this man was, for a while anyway, sincere, and he does seem to be trying to make amends for his errors. But it's a pity that any of those donors was deceived at all. I have seen many strange things in my quarter-century of pastoral work, and what frustrates and frightens me most is how willing some people are to believe what they want to believe, in spite of clear reasoning or even plain Scripture teaching.

Please, can't we be humble? Can't we rest in the Bible promises of God? Can't we relax our shoulders, confident that the Bible and the Bible only is our rule of faith and practice? Why must we hunger for the new, exciting, the questionable, when what we really need to do is rest in the Lord? The gift of prophecy is valuable, of course, and has indeed -- and will indeed -- be seen in these end times. But every utterance of a supposed prophet must be carefully evaluated by the print on the Bible page. Remember, Jesus warned about prophets who would claim to be true but were truly false! (Matthew 7:15; 24:11)

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The Broad and Narrow Way
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 23, 2009

A week ago today I snapped this shot looking northward along 140th Avenue a few blocks north of the church. A gracefully curving sidewalk swings to the left under some shady trees, but a humble footpath cuts through the grass straight ahead, even though it’s under the hot sun.

I used to see this same phenomenon on my college campus. Landscapers plotted sidewalk routes to conform to a beautiful design, but if the paths weren't straight, college kids would ignore them and make their own walkways.

Time and time again, Jesus reminds us that the kingdom of God is reached by ways which are straight and narrow. “Enter by the narrow gate,” He said, “for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” (Matthew 7:13 NKJV) To change the metaphor slightly, the Christian needs to be prepared to constantly swim against the current. That's not easy to do, especially since we weren't originally created to naturally resist peer pressure. To read more about perseverance and victory, click here. 

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Mirror, Mirror On The Wall....Who Do I See?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
 
This last Sabbath, I was teaching in the Junior class and one of the topics was about "mirroring" someone, or something.  First we literally had to "mirror" the person standing in front of us, as an exercise and discuss the challenges of that.  Next we discussed all the people we may
want to mirror - athletes, actors, successful people, etc.  Finally we discussed who we should be mirroring on a daily basis.  The beautiful part of the teaching process - the students knew who they should be mirroring and it mirrored who they want to mirror - Jesus.  Good job class!
 
In your daily lives, through the grind, the traffic, the errand running, the work, the cleaning....who do you look to, in order to mirror your life?  If your quick response wasn't "Jesus"....say a quick prayer and take another look.

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Swallowtail and Flower
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Let's try a slight variation on the old work-association game.  What's the first thing that comes to mind when you look at this picture?  For me it was beauty.  What's not to like, a beautiful butterfly on an equally beautiful flower.  But as I look more closely, a second, less affirmative prospect come to mind.  Running the risk of being branded psychologically maladjusted, I'd like to focus briefly on the second alternative.

Isaiah picks up this theme in chapter 40, verses 7 and 8.  There he refers to the frailty of man and compares him to grass that withers or flowers that fall.  Peter quotes this passage in his first letter, chapter 1, verses 24 and 25, so if we continue with that line of thought, we're in pretty good company.  The flower is not the only thing in the photograph that shows evidence of decay.  The wings of the swallowtail show signs of deterioration and loss of their original exquisiteness.

So what's the best way to scrutinize what we have before us?  Maybe this just illustrates the challenge God places before us when He challenges us to live in two worlds at the same time.  On one hand we are asked to abide until He comes; while on the other, to not lose sight of the promise of perfection with Him.  Help me not be so naive as to overlook the consequential results of sin on one hand, but equally important, help me personally see the splendor, marred thought it may be, in the world around us.

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Wiser Than An Owl
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Monday, July 20, 2009

Western Spotted Owls, like the one in my photo, live in dense, old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest.  This non-migrating bird is an endangered species with their numbers decreasing because of a loss of habitat.  They are nocturnal and hunt at night.  Their keen sense of sight helps them find their prey, like rodents, insects, frogs and smaller birds in the dark.

Spotted owls are one of the few owls that have dark colored eyes.  Most of them have yellow or red to orange colored eyes.  Owls are associated with Roman mythology which gave the owl the reputation of having wisdom and thus the saying, "wise as an owl". 

In Romans 16:25-27, Paul's closing statement is, "To Him who has power to make your standing sure, according to the Gospel I brought you and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of that divine secret kept in silence for long ages but now disclosed, and through prophetic scriptures by eternal God's command made to all nations, to bring them to faith and obedience - to God who alone is wise, through Jesus Christ, be glory for endless ages!" (NEB)

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I Will Give You Rest
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Sunday, July 19, 2009

I was on a short hike (made even shorter by the abundance of mosquitoes and lack of repellant!) in early July when I saw lots of swallowtails flying over a small meadow. This one looks like it has seen better days. Look how ragged the edges of its wings are. It even seems to be missing one tail!

Don't we sometimes feel as weary and worn as this old butterfly?

Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 NLT)

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The Humble Bobby Pin
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 17, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I'd just visited a patient in Bellevue's Overlake Hospital and was back in the parking garage heading for my car, when I spotted this bobby pin on the concrete floor.

I grew up in a house with not only a brother and a dad but three women--Mom and two sisters. This meant that I encountered bobby pins almost daily. I remember being vaguely annoyed with them, because I couldn't use them for anything fun. With safety pins you could chain them together and even do magic tricks with them. With a paper clip you could not only hold papers together, but you could also twist the wire into the shape of alphabet letters or human facial profiles. 

But bobby pins stubbornly held their shape, and refused to let you bend them to your will--and they were even useless as paper clips. Yet in spite of their existing for only one purpose, they've survived as a hair product--and one of them was still doing its best to clip someone's hair together in a hospital parking garage on June 30, 2009.

Do you ever feel a bit doltish in our celebrity culture? Do people race past you to take part in American Idol auditions? Did a bad back keep you out of high school football? Do you feel like a one-trick pony, someone who can basically do only one thing well, and who otherwise must help swell the cheering crowds as others' multifaceted talents sparkle in the spotlights? Jesus knows who you are, and was talking about you when He said, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things." Matthew 25:21 NKJV Throughout the happy, carefree years of eternity those who've let themselves be rescued from this earth, with its ludicrously deformed ways of exploiting talent, will get a chance to start over and exercise their creativity under their Creator's happy guidance.

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The Light of the Cross
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 17, 2009

During June's last two weeks, the Washington Conference camp meeting was held on the campus of Auburn Adventist Academy (AAA), one of our denomination's boarding high schools. Late one afternoon I was in one of the classrooms, and noticed that the position of the west bank of window blinds caused the sun to cast these cross-shaped lightbars on a whiteboard at the front of the room.

AAA is a Christian school, as are Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School and Puget Sound Adventist Academy, which are closer to the Seattle area. This spiritual focus means that every subject is taught from a Christian mindset and worldview. In other words, whatever is written on that whiteboard--a math equation, a list of history dates, a couplet of poetry--is put into its proper perspective when the students realize that Someone died for them, and longs for them to say yes to Him and spend eternity with Him. 

If your child isn't in a Christian school, I'd invite you to check out one or more of the following websites:

http://ksdaschool.org/

http://www.psaa.org/

http://www.auburn.org/

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What Do You Want Me To Do With All The Kids?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apologies from Pastor Maylan--the whirlwind of Vacation Bible School has addled my brain! I absentmindedly inserted my own blog in the Wednesday slot rather than Darren Milam's. So I'm inserting his for Thursday.

If you weren't aware of it, here at the Bellevue Church we are currently having our annual Vacation Bible School.  Basically it's a chance for the church to focus on the kids.  All week long there are evening Christ-centered activities, just for the kids.  This not only gives our congregation's youngsters something fun to do during the summer, but it also gives children who've never gone to church, or don't know about Jesus, to get acquainted with Him.
 
The image above was taken at a "VBS", but not this week's. In fact it's not close to Bellevue at all--it's in Kenya.  In 2008 and 2009, my family and I were privileged to serve in that country.  During our stay, we helped with various projects including a VBS.  For one of the crafts, we took cardboard crowns and gave the kids stickers to add to their crowns.  Not only did the kids wear the crowns all week, the adults wanted them as all.  When you stop to think about it, we are ALL children of the king.  We ALL should beg to where the crown that labels us correctly.
 
In Matthew 19, you can read about a time when Jesus was speaking, and all of a sudden a flock of children come running toward Him.  Acting as bodyguards, the disciples told them to go away and not to bother Jesus.  When Jesus saw this, (I can picture him telling the disciples - "Hold on!") He says exactly what the children want to hear, verse 14, "Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
 
Whether we talking about the Bellevue Church or the far reaches of Kenya.  Whether we are talking about age 3 or 103....we are ALL Children of the King!  Wear your crown with pride!
 
If you are interested in bringing your child to the last couple of days of Vacation Bible School - we start at 6 PM every evening this week - see you there!

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Rocky Road
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On a walk early Tuesday morning I couldn't help snapping the above picture. I've noticed more than one bit of landscaping like this in our neighborhood. In fact, one homeowner has actually created an entire "river" of rocks stretching from the front sidewalk all the way around one side of the house. I guess it's tempting to go this direction--it sure cuts down on lawn care!

Seeing the above rocky path leading to the pleasant lawn and home beyond reminds me that Jesus never promised us an easy path to heaven. "In the world," He said, "you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33 NKJV  And Psalm 46:1-2 says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear . . . ."

Christian songwriter John Peterson once wrote:

It's not an easy road we are travelling to heaven
For many are the thorns on the way
It's not an easy road, but the Saviour is with us
His presence gives us joy every day

No, no, it's not an easy road
No, no, it's not an easy road
But Jesus walks beside me
And brightens the journey
And lightens every heavy load.

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Red-necked Phalarope
 
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Scripture covers a wide range of topics.  While it focuses on Christ's central role providing for us the gift of salvation, it also deals with the rest of human life as well. This implies God is interested in the whole person rather than just select parts of us.  We sometimes struggle finding ways to apply these guidelines to our own lives because our current culture seems so different from those of long ago.  But the deeper we read, the more we discover we really aren't that different from those who lived in biblical times.
 
Take for instance the courtship of Ruth and Boaz.  In chapter 3 of the book bearing her name, Ruth, with a little encouragement from her confidant, Naomi, finds a way to catch the attention of the one she eventually marries.  She, the woman, takes the initiative, and in turn becomes a vital part of the lineage of the Savior.  The details may vary, but the overall game plan isn't that much different from many courtships today.  It may be that God even enjoys watching as we discover the many facets of the gift of love He has given us.
 
If you're looking for more variety in the way courtships are conducted you might consider the Red-necked Phalarope.  In this family, there seems to be a departure from the norm as well, as traditional roles are reversed.  For one thing, the female is more brightly colored than the male.  She is the one who does most of the courting and while both sexes start finding suitable scrapes in which to build a nest, it's the female who makes the final selection and leaves the male to finish the job of lining the nest with moss and grass.  Mom still has to lay the eggs but it's the male who incubates the eggs and does most of the raising of the young.  And here you thought you had nature all figured out and packaged into nice tidy boxes.  Maybe we humans just need a few reminders to stay humble and keep an eye open for the surprises God has in store for us.


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Sinking Sand

Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 13, 2009

"On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;  All other ground is sinking sand . . ." 
          Refrain from the hymn: "My Hope is Built On Nothing Less:"

As I was traveling on highway 97C (the Connector) in British Columbia recently, I started seeing these white bog orchids blooming in the ditch at the side of the road.   I took the next exit (since you can't photograph or smell them very well while you're flying by at 70 mph).

There were several of the fragrant (while these are not the most beautiful orchids I've ever seen, they have a wonderful scent) flowers blooming in the stagnant water covered gravel in the ditch.  Of course, the view looked like it would be better from the other side and the ditch was a bit too wide to jump.

I did notice that there was a patch of dry gravel halfway across so I stepped out on that and suddenly found myself ankle deep in the water!

Life can be like that sometimes.  We think we are on solid ground (in our jobs, relationships or health) but then find out our footing is really precarious. We need to remember that God is our only firm foundation.

As David wrote in Psalms 62:1-2  (Message): 

"God, the one and only - 
I'll wait as long as he says.
Everything I need comes from him,
So why not?
He's solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul,
an impregnable castle:
I'm set for life."

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Listening to the Wolves 
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 12, 2009

During a recent visit to NW Trek, I took this photo of a wolf nestled amongst the plants.  We discovered that wolves use a variety of sounds to convey messages.  They communicate with each other through barks, growls, whines, whimpers and squeaks.  They keep in touch when far way from one another by howling.  They howl more frequently in the evening and early morning hours and do so to communicate with their companions and to strengthen social bonds, and also to make their presence and territory known to neighboring packs. When they howl together, each one joins in at a different pitch so they can harmonize together.

Maybe the wolves can teach us a lesson about communication.  In Hebrews 1:1 we read, "When in former times God spoke to our forefathers, he spoke in fragmentary and varied fashion through the prophets.  But in this the final age he has spoken to us in the Son whom he has made heir to the whole universe." NEB  Are we listening?

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This Little Light of Mine
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 11, 2009

One afternoon last month I walked out the front door of my beloved Bellevue Barnes & Noble bookstore and noticed a strange glow in the parking lot -- it was afternoon, but the light was shining from the east. Then I glanced up, and saw that the perfect mirror-glass on the skyscraper in the next block was reflecting the sun.

That got me to thinking. It doesn't seem like lot of people are facing in Heaven's direction these days--they've turned their backs to the Sun of Righteousness. Yet even more than ever, they need the kindly light from God's throne. It's up to you and me to allow the Holy Spirit to polish and burnish our personalities so that even if some in our lives have no current interest in spiritual things, they can't help but notice when we lovingly reflect our Savior's light onto their path. For some Bible teaching about love--God's love and the love He wants us to show--click here.

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"Okay, Class. Listen Up!" 
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 10, 2009

A week ago today as Shelley and I took our morning walk, we spotted this young deer on the other side of the chain-link fence which surrounds Lake Youngs, a source of Seattle's water supply. I actually took several shots in sequence, and in this one his mouth is open as though he is saying something to us.

That reminded me of the verses in Job which urge us to watch and listen to nature for hints of the genius of our Creator. "But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you;" Job suggests, "and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?" Job 12:7-10 NKJV  I like to think of this deer giving Shelley and me a genial classroom lecture on Who made him!

I was raised in a Christian home, but attended a state college for my bachelor's degree and the first of my masters degrees. In that secular setting, I often heard about evolution -- and the evolutionary mindset which says that since -- in their thinking --we evolved ourselves up by our own bootstraps, we alone are responsible for our fate. But over the years, I've learned how true the above verses are, and one of my hobbies is studying nature's beautiful complexity and discerning the hand of God. To learn more about what the Bible says about creation and its Creator, click here.

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Defaced Image

Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 9, 2009

A couple of days ago as I was going through my pocket change I discovered the quarter on the right--except that it had almost no traces of a 25-cent-piece left. Both sides were brutally battered, and it makes me wonder just what kind of fate it suffered. Only around the rim can you tell that it was even a coin in the first place.

You know where I'm going with this, right? "Let Us make man in Our image,"  God said in Genesis 1:26 - 27, "according to Our likeness;  . . . So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." God placed two newly-minted human beings into a beautiful garden, and on their--or at least Adam's--very first full day of life the Creator gave the Sabbath, a day of rest and renewal and remembrance.

Are you feeling pretty battered by life? Who isn't? That's why the Sabbath is such a beautiful day--it's a time when our Creator can soothe us, and gently burnish our rough edges to begin to restore His defaced image. And as we move out to the week ahead, those looking at us will notice God's image more clearly week by week. To discover some heart-calming facts about God's special day, click here.

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Figment of my Imagination?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
 
Have you ever seen something, but couldn't believe your eyes?  There have been numerous instances of this in the Bible, specifically with the disciples. Matthew (14:26) records the time when they were out in a boat, at night and saw "something." "And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear." Of course when Jesus got closer, they realized it wasn't a "ghost", it was Jesus. 

Also, Thomas had trouble believing Jesus had risen from the grave, even when the other disciples had seen Him and were explaining this to Thomas.  In John 20:25, we see that Thomas was looking for more proof, "The other disciples therefore said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' So he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.'" If only the disciples would have had the faith and the knowledge that Jesus is "the life"--and not a figment of our imagination.
 
I am sure by now you realize the image above isn't a mysterious hallucination or a ghost - it's just 3 boys bouncing on a trampoline, captured with time-exposure.  As we continue to bounce through life, let's make sure we remember who Jesus truly is and why He gave up everything to save us.  Let's make Him real each and every day, less we fall into the trap of thinking He doesn't really exist or we can't believe what He is. In John 14:6, it's crystal clear who and what Jesus is..."Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."


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Pygmy Nuthatch
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Passiformes, or perching birds, build two general types of nests, though of course there are many variations on these two themes.  The first of these are the cavity nesters like the Pygmy Nuthatch seen in this picture.  They nest in holes created by themselves or by others such as woodpeckers.  The second group builds more traditional spherical nests such as those made by the Robin.  The eggs of cavity nesters tend to be white, while the spherical nesters' are often colored; some have suggested adding an element of camouflage for protection.

Christians periodically reveal a view of God which we share with the world view of the cavity nesters.  We come into the world with a limited understanding of God's desire for involvement in our lives.  He offers warmth and security provided by the confines of the sheltering walls of the tree trunk.  Perhaps we gratefully thank Him for providing our daily bread which we gladly accept with open mouths.  We may even look forward to a life in the hereafter, implied by the bright light at the opening of our nest cavity; but that's about all.

Think how much more our Heavenly Parent desires for us.  II Peter 1:3 seems to include both the temporal and spiritual promises which He wants to give to us.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (NIV)  Notice His promise includes "everything we need for life" as well as "godliness".  We can't even imagine the adventure and beauty that awaits beyond our self-imposed limitations.  And those promises don't apply just to the sweet by and by.  God desires us to experience the fullness of life with Him today.  Let's remember to thank Him for the provisions He supplies to us each day, but let's also experience the richness of that life which comes from abiding in Him.

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Have You Looked at a Flower Lately?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 6, 2009

Luke 12: 25-28 (Message)  "Has anyone by fussing before the mirror gotten taller by so much as an inch?  If fussing can't even do that, why fuss at all?  Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers.  They don't fuss with their appearance - but have you ever seen color and design quite like it?  The ten best dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.  If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never seen, don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?"

I was up at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park recently and went on the trail that goes up Hurricane Hill.  It was a cloudy overcast day so the views were not the greatest (which is why I didn't feel the need to go all the way to the top!) but the flowers were awesome.  There were avalanche lilies, glacier lilies, phlox, mountain wallflowers, purple violets, yellow violets, clover, silky phacelia, moss campion, lupines, chocolate lilies, larkspur and paintbrush just to name a few. 

I took this picture of a paintbrush growing alongside the trail.

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Independence Day

Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Bev Riter
Sunday, July 5, 2009

This weekend holiday we're celebrating Independence Day, our national day in the U.S.  It commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 when the U.S. declared independence from Great Britain.  Thus, the 13 colonies were on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation.  It's also a day to think of the courage and faith of our founding fathers in their pursuit of liberty.

In a letter to his wife, Abigail, John Adams wrote in a letter dated July 3, 1776, "...this will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

Most of John Adam's thoughts have been carried on through the years.  We've chosen to delete the guns probably because of safety concerns and bonfires now for environmental concerns.  My guess that "illuminations" could mean fireworks, as my photo shows.  Fireworks have seemed to become more spectacular as time goes on.

I liked his thought of thinking of Independence Day as a day of deliverance and thinking of God.  Psalms 33:12 reads, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he had chosen for his own inheritance." KJV

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Blocks
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
July 4, 2009

Even though the above photo doesn't feature red-white-and-blue, it's a freedom scene nonetheless. I snapped this shot a few days ago just inside the foyer doors of the Auburn Adventist Academy campus church halfway through our annual Western Washington Campmeeting.

What you see on the floor--next to my athletic-shoe-clad foot, which I inserted to give you the scale of their size--are several curiously-shaped blocks. A glance tells you that not only have they been carved from good-quality wood, but they've also been lovingly sanded and polished. A second glance suggests that because they're not carved to represent animals or cars or alphabet letters, they're probably not kids' toys. Then what are they?

They're door-blocks. Across the front of the foyer are several glass doors, each opened from the inside by a waist-high "crash bar." And even though the this kind of door is securely locked, it's relatively easy for someone with a stiff coathanger and a few minutes of privacy to thread that hanger between the doors and hook one of those crash bars and pull on it. However, if these pieces of wood are inserted between the crash bars and the door glass, that bar can't be budged, and whoever's outside can't get in.

Revelation 3:20 describes Jesus outside the doors of our lives: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," He says. "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Kick out your doorblocks, He says, and give Me the freedom to enter. I love you.

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The Empty Banquet Hall

Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 3, 2009

Actually, this "banquet hall" is nothing more romantic than a Country Buffet restaurant which recently closed its doors in the Kirkland, Washington area. The strip mall of which it was a part is inconvenient to get to, and has lost nearly all its stores. It's sad to think that this all-you-can-eat restaurant, which must have hosted many a happy family gathering, stands silent.

This scene reminds me of one of Jesus' most dramatic parables about a rich man who invited his friends to a lavish banquet. One by one, they dismissed their host's hospitality with the most grievous insult possible: We've got more important things to do.  "But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.'"  Luke 14:18 - 21 NKJV

Each of those excuses was supremely silly. Examining a piece of ground or a yoke of oxen can wait. You're just married? Bring your wife along. But by all means, don't hurt the heart of the One who has so widely opened His to yours.

Have you accepted Jesus' banquet invitation? Why not do it--or renew it--right now? Here's how.

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Secondhand Saints

Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 2, 2009

I don't know if the above photo's resolution lets you make out the website on the poster, but if it does, don't bother checking it out. Not only does it suddenly surprise you with pop-ups you hadn't expected (and probably shouldn't look at), it also doesn't give any clue about why this organization--which seems to be some sort of cooperative--calls itself "Secondhand Saints."

But I do like the idea of "secondhand saints" and "junk into art." Hasn't that been God's most delightful pastime for several thousands of years--rescuing, redeeming, polishing, turning those who once were useless into treasured workers for Him? Paul rejoices in this miracle. "For you were once darkness," he said to the believers at Ephesus, "but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord." Ephesians 5:8 - 10 NKJV

Remember--God is an expert at creating secondhand saints!

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New Start
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
 
When you see this image of the cherry blossoms, what does it symbolize to you? Spring? Sunshine? Bees? Allergies?  I am sure there are several symbols that can mean several things to all of us.  One of my best friends' wife LOVES cherry blossoms because it symbolizes a new start.  She looks at the blossoms and sees the new beginning. 
 
It's great to know that God is willing to give us that same "new start."  In the book of Deuteronomy (The Message version) it says, "And you will make a new start, listening obediently to GOD, keeping all his commandments that I'm commanding you today. GOD, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you: you'll have babies, get calves, grow crops, and enjoy an all-around good life. Yes, GOD will start enjoying you again, making things go well for you just as he enjoyed doing it for your ancestors." (Deuteronomy 30:8,9).
 
Do you need a fresh start?  If so, seek God and He will give it to you.


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