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

Devotional Photo Blog- July 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.  

Upper Deck Down Below

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 31, 2010

This has to be Shelley’s and my favorite sign on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry Columbia, which transported us back and forth from our vacation in Juneau a couple of weeks ago. It is attached to the wall above a staircase, and indicates that you actually have to go down to reach the upper deck!

The solution to this paradox is that the Columbia has two “car decks” (decks on which you can park your car), a lower and an upper one. This has nothing to do with the number and level of cabin decks, at least one of which is higher than the upper car deck. However, during one of the 15-minute “car deck calls” announced by the purser, you want to make sure that you hustle quickly to your car and feed your pet, or get a book to read from the box in your trunk. Hence the helpful directional sign.

That sign got me thinking about how every true Christian longs for our heavenly home “above” or “over yonder.” “Lord, get me outta here,” is the desperate mutter we often emit as we face yet another crisis or uncertainty, or hear about crumbling world conditions.

But Jesus very clearly teaches that the kingdom of heaven has two phases--the “up there” and the “here and now.” In a very real sense, heaven’s “upper deck” is down here. One day a group of Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?” He replied, “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20, 21  He didn’t, of course, mean that the corrupt  and ruthless Pharisees were part of God’s kingdom, because in Matthew 21:43 He warned a group of religious leaders that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to others. But again and again He tells parables which begin, “The kingdom of God is like,” and then goes on to give some very practical, right-down-here advice we need to follow immediately, even though the Second Coming hasn’t yet happened.

“As through Jesus we enter into rest, heaven begins here,” comments Ellen White, who knew these verses well. “We respond to His invitation, Come, learn of Me, and in thus coming we begin the life eternal. Heaven is a ceaseless approaching to God through Christ. The longer we are in the heaven of bliss, the more and still more of glory will be opened to us; and the more we know of God, the more intense will be our happiness. As we walk with Jesus in this life, we may be filled with His love, satisfied with His presence. All that human nature can bear, we may receive here.” The Desire of Ages, pp. 331-2

So come on down and join Jesus on the upper deck!

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Is Your Faith 2-D or 3-D?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 30, 2010

The Alaska Marine Highway ferry Columbia, which transported Shelley and me on our recent vacation, has a several-hours layover in Ketchikan, and on one of the streets close to the tourist-ship docks I saw this young lady standing outside a jewelry store. She was smiling and talking--her lips and hands moving excitedly.

But there were “pedestrian crossway” marks reflecting from her body, and her voice sounded like it was coming from a speaker. Which, of course, it was. Because as you’ll see in the photo below, even though her slacks were real, the rest of her was two-dimensional. She was nothing more than an image on a flat-screen TV, and you had to be standing directly in front of her to see her.

In other words, this young woman was 2-D, not 3-D. Even though I could see her, and even though her smile was friendly and welcoming, and her eyes stared straight into mine, she could not see me, because she and her chatter were pre-recorded. There was no way she could discover that I was a gray-haired man who wasn’t wearing jewelry and who really couldn’t care less about it. She simply issued the same pre-packaged message to me that she gave to everyone else.

You’re ‘way ahead of me, right? We Christians have an important message about Jesus--but we also need to remember that not everybody is ready at the same moment for the same version of that message. Read John 3, 4 and 5, and in those chapters you will find Jesus meeting with three very different kinds of people--the Pharisee Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and the invalid beside the pool. Jesus doesn’t present the same pre-packaged message to all three, but carefully tries to understand where each is coming from, and--without “watering down” the truth--communicates to each the portion of the truth they need to know at that particular moment. To Nicodemus He said, “You must be born again.” To the woman He said, “I, your Messiah, value you as a woman no matter what your past has been.” To the invalid He simply said, “Get up and walk.”

A good salesperson in any product line follows Stephen Covey’s advice: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Obviously, the 2-D woman on the flat screen didn’t have the technology to do this with tourist Maylan Schurch. But our Creator has made you and I intelligently 3-D in so many wonderful ways. Let’s ask for His Holy Spirit’s wisdom as we treat those we meet as graciously and personally as we ourselves would wish to be treated.

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Sowing Seeds
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Thursday, July 29, 2010

I took a walk the other day, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine and the sound of the tree leaves dancing in the breeze. I went to visit a favorite little garden and found myself zigzagging like a bee from blossom to blossom. But then I saw that some of the flowers had gone to seed and my enjoyment turned sour. 'How sad,' I thought, 'that this beauty has to fade and fall to the ground…how sad to have to say goodbye…sad that summer just got here, but fall is already on its way.'

As I walked, I pondered this idea of fading beauty, and death, and having to say goodbye. I stopped to take a closer look at the beautiful petals and when I pulled away, some of the seeds clung to my skirt. When I went to brush the seeds away, my bitter thoughts turned sweet again. 'Flowers to seeds … to flowers to seeds … to flowers…"

While the flower was with me, I enjoyed its beauty for a season. It brought me joy and hope and encouraged me on my way. And now, even though it's sad to have to say goodbye, I know that because that little flower was here, next yet there will be another flower and another and another and another...

The Bible tells us that under heaven, there is a time for everything - a season for every activity: there is a time to be born, but also a time to die. There is a time to plant and also a time to harvest. There is a time for crying, but also a time for laughing; a time for mourning, but also a time for dancing.

In the garden of Jesus Christ, every Christian is a flower. Visitors to His garden come seeking for Him, looking closely for evidence of His care. The Gardner is hoping that when His visitors brush up against His flowers, that our seeds will cling to them. My prayer is that our knowledge of God's love for us, and the evidence of our love for Him will never be brushed away, but will reap a great harvest in Jesus' name. Amen.

Scripture from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible: Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, and 4.

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Fishers of Men
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interestingly enough, when you Google the phrase, “Fishers of Men,” you see lots of stuff...including a Bass fishing tournament for Christians.  You also see results for books, movies and even the name of a church in Texas.

In Matthew 4 we read, “And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”

Fishers of men.  These four men were called from their boats by Jesus, who asked them to follow Him and gave them the promise that He would make them fishers of men.  In both cases, they left their nets immediately. Immediately.  It’s truly remarkable the quick action these disciples took – no hesitation. They knew they should follow Him, and they knew it would be worth it.

I honestly don’t know what my reaction would have been, if someone would have walked up to me and asked me to stop, the only trade (fishing) I knew, and follow Him.  I hope I would have acted as swiftly as Peter, Andrew, James and John.  I am certainly glad they did.

Next time you find yourself in a situation where you can "be like the disciples" and fish for believers – don't hesitate, cast away.

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Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Scientists often seem to be, by their very nature, pragmatic individuals.  In their search for answers they use that which works for them.  Take for example researchers at Cornell University who wished to study the impact of stellar positioning on bird migration.  While both warblers and sparrows migrate, it’s much easier to work with a group of sparrows which feed on seeds rather than insectivorous warblers, for obvious reasons.  As a result, a number of Savannah Sparrows were raised from eggs to ensure their behaviors were innate, rather than learned from their parents. 
These uninitiated birds were placed in a planetarium where the scientists could simulate spring and autumnal night skies.  The behavior of the birds confirmed what they already suspected; the birds were at least in part, guided by stellar alignment.  The planetarium provided unique opportunities which the creative minds of the researchers could not pass up.  They proceeded to create new constellations of their own making to project on their artificial sky.  Unpulsed, the Savannah Sparrows were true to their “proper” orientation, so long as they had a fixed body around which the other stars seemed to rotate.
As Christians, we have an overabundance of objects which vie for our attention, which claim to be reliable points of focus.  Things other than the Star of David are doomed to lead us astray.  American poet Robert Frost in his poem “Choose Something Like a Star” summarized it nicely:
      So when at times the mob is swayed
      To carry praise or blame too far,
      We may choose something like a star
      To stay our minds on and be staid.

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Heaven and Earth are Praising Thee
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 26, 2010

I remember the first time I heard the song “Day is Dying in the West.”  I was about six and my parents and my brother and I took a Sabbath afternoon drive along the coast near Cape Town, South Africa, where we were living at the time. As it was getting close to sunset, my parents started singing that melody.

I like the words to that song.  I've heard and sung it many times since and I think about it whenever I see a magnificent sunset.

Day is dying in the west;
heaven is touching earth with rest;
wait and worship while the night
sets the evening lamps alight
through all the sky.

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of thee!
Heaven and earth are praising thee,
O Lord Most High!
                 --Mary A. Lathbury

David writes in Psalms 65:8 (The Message):

Far and wide they'll come to a stop,
they'll stare in awe and wonder. 
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, "Come and worship."

I took the above sunset photo from West Beach on Orcas Island.

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Paul in Sicily
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Paul of Tarsus is an important figure of early Christianity. He is often identified with the time he spent in Rome following extensive eastern and central Mediterranean travels and is known for his writings. Studying in Palestine, he came into contact with the earliest followers of Jesus, most of whom were former Jews. After his conversion he was known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and preached far and wide. Around the year 57 he was imprisoned in Jerusalem for two years based on complaints from hostile – and perhaps jealous – Jews. Exercising his rights to justice as a Roman citizen, Paul requested Rome as the place for his trial. This request was granted. En route to Rome, he was shipwrecked on Malta. Around the year 59 he visited Syracuse where he preached, bringing Christianity to Sicily, even though his stay lasted only three days before he departed for Rome.
The description of this journey is found in Acts of the Apostles 28:11-13: “Three months had passed when we set sail in a ship which had wintered in the island; she was the Castor and Pollux of Alexandria. We put in at Syracuse and spent three days there...” NEB
It is thought that Paul preached near the Roman Forum. The photo above shows some of the grottos above the Roman Forum hewn out of rock walls that were present in Syracuse at the time Paul was there. The photo just beow illustrates beautiful tropical plants growing in a nearby garden in Syracuse.

According to Roman law, Christians were not allowed to bury their dead within the city limits. Forced to go elsewhere, Christians conducted their burials in the outlying district and its underground aqueducts, unused since Greek times. New tunnels were carved out and the result was a network of burial chambers.

Saul, a blasphemer and a persecutor was converted. As Paul, he was made an apostle and became an instrument of God in the conversion of many people. Likewise today, God can change the lives of sinners and make them “instruments” of God.

Today, Sicily has the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in Italy. Our Church is officially recognized by the Italian government.

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Let Us Watch and Be Ready
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 24, 2010

Right offhand, I can’t think of an animal whose body language expresses alertness as enthusiastically as a dog’s. A cat may be every bit as alert, but you’d often never know it by studying its lazy sprawl on the couch.

Shelley and I have just returned from a vacation to her home state of Alaska, and this past Wednesday I snapped this telephoto shot in Ketchikan. Three dogs in two side-by-side second-story windows have just spotted what seemed to have been some tourists walking a brown dog about their size. The three upstairs watchers didn’t bark, but as you can see, they were intensely interested.

When I was a kid our family owned a dark-brown dog, smaller than those above, named Poochie. Our parents would drive us to school, but if the day was nice we would often walk home, and Poochie seemed to sense--maybe by the sun’s position--the time of day when we’d be arriving, and we never could catch him by surprise. When he knew the time was close, he was always watching.

At the end of one of Jesus’ saddest and most disturbing parables--the one about the five foolish bridesmaids who didn’t store up enough lamp-oil to help welcome the late-arriving groom--the Savior has this to say: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 25:13) “Watch and pray,” He would say in the next chapter, “for the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak.” (26:41)

Glance once more at the dogs above. They probably make it a habit to watch from those windows, scanning the street up and down, sniffing for unfamiliar scents, ears strained to catch sounds they’re not accustomed to. Watching is their main priority (maybe--aside from their food dishes--their only priority), watching the street, and more importantly, watching their master to understand his wishes.

On a human level, this verse from an old gospel song by F. E. Belden puts it perfectly:

We’ll watch and we’ll pray, with our lamps trimmed and burning,
We’ll work and we’ll wait till the Master’s returning,
We’ll sing and rejoice, every omen discerning—
But we know not the hour.

He will come, let us watch and be ready;
He will come, hallelujah! hallelujah!
He will come in the clouds of His Father’s bright glory—
But we know not the hour.

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Precious Jewels
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Thursday, July 22, 2010

The sun shining over Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The reflection of the rays dancing on the ripples of the water seemed to me like sparkling diamonds. The image reminded me of that wonderful hymn, When He Cometh: 

When He cometh, when He cometh, to make up His jewels;
all His jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own.
He will gather, He will gather the gems for His kingdom;
all the pure ones, all the bright ones, His loved and His own.

Little children, little children who love their Redeemer
are the jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own.
Like the stars of the morning, His bright crown adorning,
they shall shine in their beauty, bright gems for His crown.

In church, we sing this hymn for the children’s story time; a song for and about kids. But actually, anyone who loves the Lord is His child, regardless of age, and He counts each one of us as royal gems in His crown. Something for us to remember when surrounded by the corrupting influences of this world: we are beautiful in the sight of God and He considers us to be His special treasure. 

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another:
and the LORD hearkened, and heard it,
and a book of remembrance was written before Him
for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name.

And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth His own son that serveth Him.

Scripture references from the King James Version of the Holy Bible: Malachi 3:16-17.

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Formed Out of His Own Hands
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When we have the opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature, we really get to know God.  We are fortunate to know the truth about creation and not have to scratch our heads about the “Big Bang” and what sparked ‘soup’ to create us, rocks, plants, animals, color, etc. 

While we were in Alaska, I took every opportunity to capture some of the beauty in order to share, but the lens doesn’t do it justice.  God wants us to see it with our own eyes.  It doesn’t have to be Alaska, it doesn’t even have to be out of the state.  When I think of the song "All Things Bright and Beautiful," I think we can find most of these items in our own yards. 

All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful: 
the Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
each little bird that sings,
God made their glowing colors,
and made their tiny wings. 

The purple-headed mountains,
the river running by,
the sunset and the morning
that brightens up the sky

The cold wind in the winter,
the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden: 
God made them every one. 

God gave us eyes to see them,
and lips that we might tell
how great is God Almighty,
who has made all things well.

This week, try to get out and enjoy all the bright and beautiful creations of God. 

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The Battle: Part II
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The battle for nesting materials--which I began to describe in last week’s blog (scroll down if you'd like to see that entry)--was very real even though each combatant weighed in at less than an ounce.  Both the Prothonotary Warber and the House Wren families gave it their all to see who would claim the right to occupy the ideal nesting cite.  While we can learn much from nature, the nature of man can tell us even more at times.  Hundreds of observers were able to witness this conflict and few remained unbiased.  On one side was the House Wren, a rather drab mite of a bird that blends in well with its forest environment.  They have the reputation for being rather aggressive towards other birds nesting in their area.  I heard more than one observer comment that most likely the wren pair had probably already established a nest elsewhere and simply didn’t want the warblers nesting nearby. 

On the other hand the Prothonotary Warbler is like a drop of liquid sunshine poured out into the dark foliage of the forest.  Its name comes from the yellow hoods worn by prothonotaries, or clerical notaries of the church in ages past which the warbler seems to resemble.  It’s not surprising that almost without exception, the human onlookers sided with the warbler.  Perhaps it was because the wren is more common, but I would guess it has much to do with each bird’s appearance.  While I heard several remarks about the wren’s pugnacious personality, I never once heard anyone make reference to rather unusual habits of the warbler.  It seems that the male Prothonotary Warbler will build dummy nests while the final nest is constructed only by the female.  Since both the male and female were actively involved with this building activity, I’m left to question the validity of their intent. 

It seems as though humans are slow to learn.  Moses, in Deuteronomy 1, set up judges to help administer justice among the people and he reminded them to do so fairly, not favoring the powerful over the weak.  Jesus, some 1500 years later, found it needful to remind His hearers of the same thing, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” (John 7:24 NIV)  Oh, that it were that easy.  Objective as I might try to be, my emotions still found me siding with the ray of sunshine.


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Living in the Light
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 19, 2010

I took this picture of a closed California poppy at Point Robinson Park on Maury Island a few weeks ago.  This is a great little park with a lighthouse and great views of Mt Rainier on a clear, sunny day.

The day I took this picture was not sunny or clear.  Without sun, these poppies tend to close up.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, we do not have access to the sun everyday but we do have access to The Son!  We need to maintain that connection in order to live up to our full potential.

John said, in 1 John 1:5-7:  (Message)
This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there's not a trace of darkness in him.

If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we're obviously lying through our teeth—we're not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God's Son, purges all our sin.

I hope it's obvious to other people that we are living in the Light.

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My God, My Rock
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 18, 2010

Today's photo is of the Barker Dam in the Joshua Tree National Park in California. The nature trail to the dam winds through an impressive series of boulders. Unique rock formations were formed from cooling of magma beneath the surface. The dam was built by homesteaders in a natural rock basin in the early 1900's to store water for their animals and irrigation of crops. Apparently, raising cattle in this harsh area was short-lived.

Today, it's a picturesque lake during the wet season where water collects in the middle of these desert rocks. Desert wildlife including many species of birds and desert bighorn sheep come here for water. “I love thee, O Lord my strength. The Lord is my stronghold, my fortress and my champion, my God, my rock where I find safety.” Psalms 18:1-2 NEB

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“I Love You, Mrs. B”
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 17, 2010

During this past school year I’ve been spending part of my Tuesdays on the campus of our elementary and secondary Adventist schools in Kirkland, volunteering to grade papers and do anything else which could be of help to the teachers.

I have a special empathy for student math papers, since arithmetic was really hard for me as a kid. And I always love it when a student lets his or her personality show through on a sheet of problems. I’ve whited out the student’s name on the above worksheet, but as you can see, she got a perfect score.

And rather than simply finishing the worksheet and going on to other things, this young lady took a few moments to express appreciation to her teacher, not only with a second-grader’s classic stick-figure drawing but with a heart-enclosed “I love you, Mrs. B.”  

This reminded me how Jesus calls us not only His friends but also His “disciples,” which means “learners” or “students.” Our spiritual education would have been much easier if Adam and Eve hadn’t distrusted their Teacher. Because of their failure, we’ve all had to take the class over again, and since Satan the schoolyard bully is always threatening to beat us up, our schoolwork isn’t always easy to concentrate on.

But let’s try to remember that--just as Mrs. B’s heart must have been warmed by this little girl’s message--God appreciates it when we express our love and gratitude to Him even in life’s difficult tests. Because like any good teacher, He will challenge us and stretch us, but will always be there to give us help. 

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[Welcome back, Gene! Master photographer Gene Trent used to be our Friday blogger until new work responsibilities began taking him all over the country. A few days back he e-mailed me this thoughtful blog, along with the delightful photo above. -- Pastor Maylan]

And The Cock Crowed
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Gene Trent
Friday, July 16, 2010

“After a little while those standing there approached and said to Peter, “You certainly are one of them, since even your accent gives you away.” Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I do not know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:73, 74 (HCSB)

“While the degrading oaths were fresh upon Peter's lips, and the shrill crowing of the cock was still ringing in his ears, the Saviour turned from the frowning judges, and looked full upon His poor disciple. At the same time Peter's eyes were drawn to his Master. In that gentle countenance he read deep pity and sorrow, but there was no anger there.” Desire of Ages p.713

I am not a bird photographer like my good friends Darren Milam and Robert Howson down below but I got lucky with this shot. I heard this rooster crowing over and over and over again and I finally gave in, walked over and started taking pictures until I finally got this shot. He is quite a memorable character isn't he? Every time I hear the crow of a rooster I am reminded of the above passage of Scripture. Additionally, I remember the first time as a young teenager that I read the passage from the Desire of Ages. It has touched me deeply every time I have since read it. It touches me deeply for two reasons.

First, I used to wonder how in the world Peter, the close friend and disciple of Jesus, could have been so adamant in his denial of Jesus. Not just once but three times! If he was going to be so afraid of being associated with this Man, why go into the midst of the kangaroo court trial where you might be recognized as one of His associates in the first place? But then, as I moved on in life I have come to fully understand Peter's actions. As a Christian, I can look back over my life and see too many times how I too have denied my Savior by my actions even though I attend church, return my tithes and offerings, read my Bible through in a year and participate in evangelistic activities. How many times have I professed Christianity but I have exhibited a temper, been rude or unloving, or even purposefully refused to share Jesus with someone the Holy Spirit directed to me?

Second, I am so amazed at Jesus' response. He knew and prophesied to Peter that this would happen but even when it did happen, there was no condemnation nor anger in His look or spirit. In the midst of His persecutors and accusers, physically abused, facing a death sentence, abandoned by His closest friends and disciples, one of His inner circle denies Him vehemently within earshot and yet there is not a word or look of condemnation. Only Jesus!

I continue to be amazed by this and I am so glad that Jesus is who He is. I too, am Peter on occasion and it is a comfort to know that when I fail to live up to my profession of being Christ-like that Jesus does not cast me away. Thank you Jesus for showing me a love that is both unfathomable and yet able to be lived out in my life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Draw me nearer Jesus.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Wildflowers growing along the path at Rosario Beach, Deception Pass.
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Have you ever seen the humorous sign that reads: Good morning, this is God. I’ll be handling all your concerns today. Just sit back, relax, and leave everything to me.

It may sound trite, but the large idea expressed in such a funny, simple manner really is true. God does want us to leave everything to Him. Although He doesn’t want us to sit around doing nothing, He does want us to try to do those things that He’s given us the wisdom, ability, and opportunity to do, and when things don’t work out as we had hoped, He wants us to trust Him: He has a plan. In the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible, Jesus reminds us that the creatures of the earth and even the wildflowers of the field take no thought for their well-being, but God tends to their needs. If God cares so tenderly for animals and flowers, how much more does He care for us?

Jesus said, " I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today. "

Scripture references from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible: Matthew 6:25-34 

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Two Thousand People Watching Ice Melt
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 14. 2010

While on an Alaskan cruise, we were fortunate enough to spend two days in the Glacier Bay area.  I say fortunate because, as you can see, it’s amazingly beautiful.  Before leaving, I tried to imagine what it would look like….I envisioned ice….more ice and some really cold water (with ice in it).  When we arrived, I was extremely surprised at the beauty.  I had my camera in hand almost the entire time and we very blessed with the weather.  As the boat slowed to view one of the glaciers, a fellow passenger pointed out the fact that, two-thousand people were collectively watching ice melt.  As true as that was, there was so much more to the viewing. 

In Genesis 1, we read,”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.

In this image, we see the light, we see the mountains, and we see the different stages of water, all in a beautiful setting.  We can follow the trail of the glacier, as it starts high in the valley and as it inches along to eventually blend into the bay.  God is good is good to us and He is always has a plan.

Back to viewing the ice melt.  That’s not what I saw anymore.  What I saw was God’s creation.  He created the clouds that drop the snow.  He created the mountains that collected the snow.  He created the sun to warm the snow and ice, which created the bay, which give fresh life to the creatures of the waters….and as those waters warm and eventually evaporate…they become the clouds that drop the snow.  God always has a plan.

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The Battle: Part I 
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It was quite a battle, observed by scores if not hundreds of onlookers.  It was a struggle played out infinite times before but because of its closeness to the boardwalk, the conflict became almost personal for many of the observers.  Cavity nesters they both were, and each pair was doing its best to ensure such prime real estate would be theirs.  No one knows who discovered the hole in the old tree first, what seemed to matter was who would end up with it in their possession.  Both the male (top picture) and female Prothonotory Warblers made numerous trips to the cavity with their beaks full of moss and other nesting materials.  Almost as predictably, the pair of House Wrens (bottom picture) would remove that material placed there by the warblers.  They would periodically interrupt their efforts to cast dispersions on the opposition, but most of their efforts were directed towards the hole in the tree. 

We are generally quite comfortable with sin and its effects.  It has become a natural part of our life and the lives of those around us.  We read the account of the fall in Genesis 3 and forget how abhorrent and foreign such an encounter would be in a sinless world.  We read how the serpent was cursed, but forget that the rest of the world was impacted as well.  We don’t have to look very far before we can see where Darwin got the idea about the struggle for survival. 

I wasn’t present long enough to see who emerged as the victor.  I could guess, but I’d almost rather not know.  What I don’t want to have happen is for me to become comfortable with sin and its effects.  That doesn’t mean I should police the forest with my machete, making sure justice is administered for creatures great and small.  But it does mean there is a battle to be won. 

May we choose our battles carefully.

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(IMPORTANT NOTE: I won't be getting my hands on a computer for a couple of days, so I'm skipping my own Friday and Sabbath blog entries, and going directly to Bev Riter's and Cheryl Boardman's. Since this blog posts entries in reverse chronological order, Cheryl's--for Monday--is on top of Bev's Sunday entry. So once you've looked at Cheryl's, kindly scroll down and view Bev's. -- Pastor Maylan)

The Upward Way
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 12, 2010

I like the old hymn "I'm Pressing On the Upward Way," written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. 

I'm pressing on the upward way,
new heights I'm gaining every day.
Still praying as I onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
by faith on heaven's table land;
no higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

As I've noted before, hiking trails with elevation gain is not my favorite thing to do.  I do, however, make an exception for Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park.  The trail head is a little ways past the visitor's center at Hurricane Ridge. The trail itself is 1 1/4 miles each way and goes up to a former Forest Service lookout.  There is a 700 foot elevation gain but the climb is worth the effort because of the awesome views, the wildflowers along the way and the close encounters with deer, marmots and chipmunks.

I was feeling pretty good about going all the way to the top with some friends recently (this picture is one of the views from the trail) when a lady came up to us and pointed out her husband and said that he was going to be having total knee replacement surgery the following week!  Actually, there were quite a few people who went all the way to the top that day but a lot had turned around when confronted with the 1/4 mile of snow we had to trudge over as the path wound through some trees.

Sometimes, our life path just seems too hard to handle and we get discouraged and want to turn back.   We need to remember the words Jesus spoke to the disciples in Matthew 28:20  "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

(From Pastor Maylan: Since I had to load two blogs at once, you might have missed seeing Bev’s Sunday entry. It’s just below this paragraph.)

Trust in God's Love
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 11, 2010

When in Tuscany and Umbria, I enjoy photographing olive trees (like in the above photo), among other things. It's amazing that so many uses have been made of olives and olive trees which includes oil, eating and wood carving. In ancient times they had additional uses. I have a small olive tree, some time I hope it will produce olives!

Olive trees are one of the oldest recorded trees in history and can live up to 2000 years. They have been cultivated since ancient times. Of the hundred or so plants mentioned in the Bible, the olive tree is thought to be the most recognized and most sacred. During Bible times, Israel was a center for olive oil production. Olive trees and places related to them were involved in many events recorded in the Bible. We know a dove brought an olive leaf to Noah after the flood. Olive oil was used to fuel lamps in homes and the temple. The Israelites planted olive trees in the Promised Land. It was customary to anoint kings and priests with olive oil. Sometimes soldiers greased their shields with olive oil so arrows would slip. It was also used for medicinal purposes.

The Mount of Olives, so called because of its olive trees, had an important role in the ministry of Jesus. He frequently went there to be among the cool and shady trees. He wept here. He taught his disciples here. He gave prophecies related to His second coming here. After the Last Supper, He went to Gethsemane, which apparently means "oil press," at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus was arrested on the Mount of Olives. “I am like a spreading olive-tree in God's house; for I trust in God's true love for ever and ever.” Psalms 52:8 NEB

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Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Thursday, July 8, 2010

During a recent hike through the island wilderness of Deception Pass, I passed by several caterpillars feasting on the fresh spring grass and dewy flowers. These fuzzy creatures are a wonder of God’s design: for a brief time they crawl upon the earth and forage among the shoots of the soil, but one day they build for themselves a cocoon and having rested for a spell, emerge as beautiful new creations. What a joyful sight: thousands of delicate, painted butterflies dancing in the sun with newly sprouted wings!

Like the caterpillar, we spend our days moving from one place to the next, seeking. Along the way, we encounter death and decay and struggle to resist discouragement and despair. This is because when God planned for us to be born, He did not design for us to be witnesses to a world in suffering. His desire for us was to live an abundant life full of peace, love, and joy. He never intended for a ceaseless battle against an unseen enemy, for flowers fading and falling to the ground, or for friends having to say goodbye. These painful things were ushered in, when the first children created by God chose to abandon their trust in Him. Adam and Eve invited sin to stay and as a consequence, God and His Holy Spirit were asked to step aside.

But our God is merciful and gracious, full of goodness and truth, and is long suffering towards us. He has promised that like the butterfly emerging from its cocoon, one day the suffering of this world will come to an end and sin and its consequences will be no more. God has deemed that the misery of this earth shall only continue for a short period of time and in a little while, He is coming to take us home. Our real home in heaven is a place more beautiful than we can imagine full of brightness and all things lovely, a land free from all hurt. And, after a brief rest in our heavenly abode, God will bring us back to this earth and will make all things new. There shall be no more death, no more tears, and no more pain. Ours will be a world full of butterflies dancing in the sun, and sin will never again be invited to return.

Don't be afraid, My people. Be glad now and rejoice, for the LORD will do great things. Don't be afraid, you animals of the field, for the wilderness pastures will soon be green. The trees will again be filled with fruit; fig trees and grapevines will be loaded down once more. Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the LORD your God! For the rain He sends demonstrates His faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring. The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil.

The LORD says, "I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping cankerworms, the stripping caterpillars, and the cutting palmerworms. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you. Once again you will have all the food you want, and you will praise the LORD your God, who does these miracles for you. Never again will My people be disgraced. Then you will know that I am among My people Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other. Never again will My people be disgraced.

Scripture references from the New Living Translation and King James Version of the Holy Bible: Joel 2:21-27. Additional scripture reading: Genesis 3; Exodus 34:5-7; Jeremiah 1:4-5, 29:11-13, 31:33-4; John 14:1-4; Revelation 21:1-5.

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Bring On the Storm
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In a recent visit to Juneau, Alaska, we saw amazing wildlife and one of my favorites were the Bald Eagles.  As many of you know, the Bald Eagle is our national bird and a symbol of the United States of America.  
As I did a little research I found in interesting that the eagle can detect when a storm is approaching long before it breaks.  In fact it will actually fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm.

As the storm rages far below, the eagle is soaring above. It doesn’t escape the storm; it simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm. What about the storms in our lives? Do we hunker down and try to ride them out, or do we face them with God at our side?

When the storms of life come upon us, we, too, can rise above them. We can lift ourselves above the adversity by setting our minds and our hearts toward God. The storms do not have to overcome us any more than they overcome the eagle. We can allow God’s power to lift us above them.

The next time you see a soaring eagle, remember the amazing gift God has given us – both the beautiful bird and the encouraging hope to face life’s challenges.

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Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

There they were, faced with a barrier which appeared too formidable to cross.  For the Children of Israel, it was the Red Sea.  For the spring migrants it was Lake Eire.  Both had left homes to the south in search of a superior land, a land which offered promise of a better place to raise their families.  Behind them, a formidable army which threatened their existence.  Behind them, miles of dangers already faced. 
A mixed multitude it was, Jews, Egyptians, thrushes such as this Veery, warblers, and an array of others.  Their numbers increased as newly arrived members pushed from behind, while those in the forefront became even more densely packed, pressed up against the pounding waves.  Until, until the waters split, or in the second case, a strong wind from the south provided deliverance.  Promises made, promises fulfilled.  One thing I do know for certain is that both groups sang their praises.  “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”  (Exodus 15:2 NIV)  Just part of the words they sang upon reaching the other side of the Red Sea.  Maybe someday we’ll learn the words to that other group’s song as well.

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Lead Me To The The Rock
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 5, 2010

This picture is of an ochre sea star taken on Vashon Island a few weeks ago.  You can find these sea stars clinging to rocks and pilings at low tide in the Puget Sound area.

Last year, my cousin and I were at the city dock for Eastsound on Orcas Island when we saw a gull come along and, ignoring all the sea stars that were exposed and attached to  to rocks, it took one right out of the water.  It proceeded to fly with it to a safe place where it swallowed it whole!

I was curious about why it would ignore the whole assortment of sea stars that were exposed and take one that was underwater.  When I discussed it with my friend who dives, she said that it was probably because the ones that were exposed were attached to the rocks and the ones that were in the water were not. What I read up on the subject seems to bear this out.  Apparently, as the tide goes out, these sea stars fasten themselves to rocks at low tide so they won't be affected by the waves and they also stiffen up.  While I have seen small boys pry these sea stars off rocks, it would not be easy for gulls to do it and they probably would not be able to swallow the sea stars if they did.

I think there is a good spiritual application here.  If we have attached ourselves to The Rock, we will not be easy prey. 

Psalms 61:1-3  (NIV) "Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I call to you; I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe."

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God's People
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 4, 2010

My photo of figs was taken in the same village, Cetona as the grape photo I shared with you last Sunday. In addition to seeing fig trees in gardens, sometimes they can be found along the roadside. There are many varieties of figs and they can produce several crops each year.

The common fig is the most widely planted fruit tree in Bible lands. Since they can live very long, sometimes hundreds of years, they are often planted with olive trees, which are also long lived. The fig is the last tree to produce leaves in the spring. Jesus refers to this in Mark 13:28-31 as the beginning of summer. The chief use of the fig is for its fruit as recorded in Judges 9, although it is also valued for its shade. Its high sugar content may explain the use of the fig as a poultice as in the case of Hezekiah's boil (2 Kings 20:7). God spoke through Jeremiah to the people, telling them to submit to Nebuchednessar. If they did, they would be blessed; if not, disaster would come. In his vision he saw two baskets of figs in front of the temple to signify two groups of Jews. Good figs and bad figs. Those who submitted to the king of Babylon were regarded as good and would be restored to their land. “They will be my people and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” Jeremiah 24:7 We, today, are God's people and still today, He's our God.

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America’s Other Thanksgiving Day
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 3, 2010

This is the message on our church readerboard over this Fourth of July weekend. I’m writing this Thursday evening, and I know that as the next three days go along, Shelley and I will hear the snap and bang of more and more fireworks. And I’m going to try to remember that whenever I hear each explosion, I’m going to think a thank-you prayer to the One without whose guiding hand this country would never have become what it is.

I am--and always have been--a firm believer in the separation of church and state. I do not require that my president be Christian, and if he happens to be, I believe that he must never force his faith down the throats of those who do not share it. I shudder to think of what would happen if any faith came to power and tried to legislate it--and I shudder knowingly, because that sort of tragedy is happening in too many parts of the world today, and has happened all down through history.

But I am certain that God guided the Pilgrims, and the Declaration of Independence signers, and the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, toward a stance which caused them to look beyond self-interest toward noble ideas of common human freedom. Granted, this freedom has not always been available to all, and some still don’t have it, but much of the world still looks to us as a democratic model, and many still hammer at our door to gain entrance.

So along with our thank-you’s to God, let’s continue to pray for our beloved nation and especially for its leaders.

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Teacher of the Ants?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 2, 2010

Ready for a session of the ID Game? (By “ID” I mean “Intelligent Design.”)

Here’s how we play. Study the photo above. Even though I took this picture this past Wednesday morning on a walk, I would see this same kind of ant construction project as I grew up on the prairie--and it always looked the same: a complete ring of sand-grains around an ant-hole, offering a bit of protection against rising water.

Okay. Now we ask some questions, and we don't let ourselves be intimidated by educated people who think they know more than we do. First, how did the ant--make that a whole team of ants--learn to do this? “Evolution,” says an educated evolutionist. But where did the first ant get the idea to build a circular dike? Assuming an ant has brains enough to think about these things, the most logical survival-of-the-fittest response might be to not bother building things but instead to go live in trees, or at least on bushes, to get above the water. Or maybe they could just build a little hill of sand-grains, so that 50 or so ants would be the survivors. That’s survival of the fittest, right? Why didn’t they stop with the little hill, rather than going on to build a ring around the hole which leads down to their homes?

Now, let’s take it a step further. Why is this little circular dike so symmetrically made? Why is the ring-wall basically the same thickness all the way around? What made these ants stick with the job until it was well-done?

Let’s go still further. Once a group of ants learned to build these circular dikes, how did the exact same construction-information get into the minds of Seattle-area ants, South Dakota ants, Georgia ants, Florida ants, and so on? Because as far as I know, colonies of this kind of ant build these rings pretty much the same. Who taught them?

Do you see what happens the deeper you get into the ID Game? The more you play--the further you study these miracles of nature--the more you sense an Intelligence behind it all. But I have a warning for you: unless you accept the idea of not only a Good Intelligence (whom Christians call “God”) but also an Evil Intelligence (whom Christians and others call Satan) who is at war with the Good Intelligence and is intent on deforming His creation, you will not be able to think correctly about the Good Intelligence.

Another caveat: It would be folly to think that you and I could answer all these cosmic questions by simply playing the ID Game. Let’s stay extremely humble--as honest scientists (whatever their spiritual orientation) have learned to do. The more science comes to know, the more they discover they don’t. And let’s go again and again to what is by far the best-authenticated ancient document of ancient history, the Holy Bible, for even more answers.

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Worth the Wait
Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Thursday, July 1, 2010

Remember how hot it was last summer? Phew-weee!! In 2009, Seattle had more than its fair share of heat (as the picture above attests - thanks to the Times newspaper). Good news for those who like it realllllly hot, but bad news for those who don't; I thought the sun would never grow tired! Unfortunately, when it did decide to fly south for the winter, it went on a rather long sabbatical. It took 272 days, but last Wednesday the sun finally decided to settle again on Seattle and the thermometer sneaked up to the 75 degree mark. Good news for those who were waiting: Summer at last! We thought it would never get here!

Which reminds me, as much as I don’t like extreme heat, what I find even more difficult to weather (hehehe) is extreme wait. And I've been waiting. We've all been waiting! And it's even harder to wait when you know that what you're waiting for is going to be good, extremely good! The young lovers described in the book 'Song of Songs' in the Bible understood this type of waiting very well:

Young woman: Kiss me again and again, for your love is sweeter than wine. Take me with you. Come, let's run. Tell me, O my love, where are you leading your flock today?

Young man: If you don't know, oh most beautiful woman, follow the trail of my flock to the shepherds' tents, and there feed your young goats. How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful! Your eyes are soft like doves.

Young woman: Ah, I hear him--my lover! Here he comes, leaping on the mountains and bounding over the hills. My lover is like a swift gazelle or a young deer. My lover said to me, `Rise up, my beloved, my fair one, and come away. For the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone. The flowers are springing up, and the time of singing birds has come, even the cooing of turtledoves. Arise, my beloved, my fair one, and come away.'

Young man: O my beloved, you are as majestic as an army with banners! Look away, for your eyes overcome me! There may be sixty wives, all queens, and eighty concubines and unnumbered virgins available to me. But I would still choose my dove, my perfect one, the only beloved daughter of her mother!

Young woman: I am my lover's, the one he desires. Come, my love, let us go out into the fields and spend the night among the wildflowers. Let us get up early and go out to the vineyards. Let us see whether the vines have budded, whether the blossoms have opened, and whether the pomegranates are in flower. Place me like a seal over your heart, or like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, and its jealousy is as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love; neither can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with everything he owned, his offer would be utterly despised.

Young man: O my beloved, lingering in the gardens, how wonderful that your companions can listen to your voice. Let me hear it, too!

Young woman: Come quickly, my love!

Since we said good-bye last autumn, nearly a year passed by before our friend the sun found its way back to Seattle. Some folks may think that's a long time. But that same sun has risen and set more than 722,000 times since Jesus went to Heaven and we're still waiting for Him to return, and waiting and Waiting and WAITING!

Like the lovers in the Song of Songs, our hearts are aching for the True Love of our souls. It's hard to wait when you know that what you're waiting for is going to be good, EXTREMELY GOOD! We may not know the day, we may not know the hour, but one thing we do know for sure: when we finally see Him face to face, we will all agree: Jesus was worth the wait.

Scripture excerpts from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible: Song of Songs

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