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

Daily Photo Parable - July 2011

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

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

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

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 31, 2011

“Welcome” signs help people feel they want to be in that particular place – be it a country, city, village, shopping center, factory or church. My photo shows the “Welcome” sign with a smiling ginger cookie at a ginger factory. Did you know there was a “Welcome to the USA” website: It can help people find a class to learn English, find volunteer opportunities as well as obtain civic and citizenship information by getting a “toolkit” to help them.

Our spiritual “toolkit” is the Bible. In John 14:2,3, Jesus said, “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

It seems He's saying, “Welcome to Heaven” - Home of Jesus and (fill in your name and others you want to see there)!

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Knitting Needle???
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 30, 2011

As I mentioned in a recent photo blog, you never know what you’ll see at camp meeting. One morning in late June Shelley and I were sitting side-by-side in the Auburn Adventist Academy church listening to a speaker. Just to my left, in a rack attached to the back of the pew in front of us, I saw a black Bible, a brown hymnal, assorted tithe envelopes and prayer requests sheets—and a long blue knitting needle!

“In church?” I thought. Then a split-second later I changed that thought to “Of course. The most logical thing in the world.”

You see, this was camp meeting, which meant that hundreds and thousands of Adventists and other people were attending classes and hearing sermons all through the week. Somebody had brought her (yeah, it was most likely a "her") knitting with her, no doubt creating a cap or gloves for a grandchild, or maybe even a garment of some type for charity. And while the speaker was reasoning out some topic or other, she was busily at work, fully able to listen and loop at the same time.

Somehow, the sight of that knitting needle standing there grouped with the other more familiar “worship tools” makes me feel good. Because God never intended worship to be far from practical, helpful work . Tentmaker Paul stitched tents in the marketplace while he reasoned with his customers about Jesus. In Exodus 31, God specifically gave Bezaleel the Holy Spirit to enable him to do the best possible work on creating the tent-sanctuary metalwork. Proverbs is filled end to end with practical advice about working hard and intelligently—and doing so with respect toward God. Jesus Himself was born not into a scholar’s but into a carpenter’s home.

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Personalized Truck
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch

Friday, July 29, 2011

Every time my eyes light on a milk-delivery truck (as they did a month or so ago when I snapped the above photo), I think back fondly to my late teens, when I myself had an early-morning milk delivery route in my home down. I’d get to the dairy at 6:30 a.m., load the crates of milk and cottage cheese and other products into my panel truck, and chug through the sleeping town, placing half-gallons of milk into silver-colored insulated boxes on front porches, then checking each of these deliveries off on a little pad.

But the truckdriver in the above photo has something I didn’t have—a personalized truck, his name clearly lettered in red beside the door.

This gives me a deep respect for the dairy which “Jason” works for. The company probably said to itself, “One way to keep Jason encouraged—and maybe keep his mind on his business—is to let it be known to the general public who exactly it is that’s driving this truck. Like a painter signs his paintings, and an author his books, every service this truck’s driver provides is signed with his name.” Pretty good psychology, right? (I happen to know that this particular company is a very successful one—and anytime I have ever interacted with any of its delivery employees, they have always, without exception, been friendly. Must be a great place to work.)

You know where I’m headed with this, right? The most effective ambassador for Heaven is someone who allows his or her own person and name to be closely connected with it. My every interaction with someone else must say, “Here’s a bit of God’s love for you. Signed, Maylan.”

Do you know, oh Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?
Do you know, oh Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?
Jesus calls upon you to spread the gospel news,
So walk it, and talk it, and give it, and live it,
A sermon in shoes!                 

          --Old Gospel Song

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30-second Religion
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When in a bookstore I first caught sight of the above book title (30-second Religion: the 50 Most Thought-provoking Religious Beliefs, Each Explained in Half a Minute), I rolled my eyes.

“Here we go again,” I thought, “one more attempt at dumbing down what’s really important, giving people the false idea that complex ideas can be quickly absorbed and understood without lots of time and trouble.” And religion wasn’t the only subject-area this publishing company had tackled. Just to the right of the religion book you see the half-word “PHILO,” and a very faint “30” just above it, which hints that philosophy was also whittled down to bite-size chunks.

But then I said to myself, “Hey, wait a minute. Doesn’t the Bible itself often do this kind of summarizing?” Talk about 30-second religion--James 1:27 boils religion down even more concisely: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” How many seconds does it take to say that? Six? Certainly not 30.

And how about in Matthew 22:36-40, when Jesus summarized commandment keeping by saying that it all came down to loving God with everything we have, and loving our neighbors with the same intensity we love ourselves. In fact, Jesus made a habit of telling parables which rarely surpassed the 30-second mark.

I’m certainly not recommending that you buy 30-second Religion and use it as bedside reading from now on. What I am recommending is that each time you open your Bible, remember that it was inspired by your Creator, the One who loves you and who has given up everything for you. Just read slowly, gently, humbly, and whenever you come to something you don’t understand, put that puzzling part on a mental shelf and keep reading. Trust me—the Bible will gradually become understandable and incredibly encouraging. 

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Leaving It Behind, or Being Left Behind?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A couple weeks ago, I was "requested" to be part of a crazy run.  The run, including 11 interesting obstacles, was only a 5K course.  These obstacles ranged from: climbing over 20 foot high walls, crawling under barbed wire, scrambling over crushed cars, jumping over pits of fire and lots of mud (crawling through, jumping over, slithering in, running through, etc.).  Along the course you saw several 'solo' shoes, where the runner had lost one of a pair and decided to continue the race without stopping to retrieve the missing footwear.  It wasn't just once or twice we saw these lonely foot companions, it was all throughout the course -- dozens and dozens of them.

As you can see from the above image, many runners (most at the end of the race) chose to take their mud filled running shoes, tie them together and leave them behind.  The purpose was to give to poorer countries, footwear (after they have been cleaned, of course).  It's a great idea and this pile shows you a fraction of the giving, as there were numerous piles.

It got me thinking. Were they leaving it behind, or being left behind?  Is it any different then us humans down on this cold sinful rock?  Are we striving to leave it behind? Or will we be caught-up in our daily lives, crawling along in the mud, muck and mire - only to be left behind? In the race of life, there are a whole lot of obstacles to manage (several more then 11), some are easy and some are very difficult.  Regardless of the number or the difficulty, at the end of the race, as you cross the line make sure you are striving to leave it behind versus being left behind. 

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Western Tanager
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On a recent outing, I found myself talking with an avowed evolutionist about how each of us would explain a certain behavior we were observing.  I enjoyed his response when he justified his reply by stating, “That’s the advantage of being an evolutionist.  No one can prove anything you say is wrong!”  He was probably right, but I’d like to pose a question that he might find a bit of a challenge to resolve.  One of the foundational tenets of evolution is adaptation to promote the survival of the species.   Such coloration modifications usually fall into one of two general categories: attraction or concealment.  Under the flag of attraction, the creature is enabled to find a desirable mate, thereby passing on its genes.  If the path of concealment is followed, predation is prevented, and once again the fittest survive.  Both alternatives seem to provide reasonable and workable solutions.  The problem is, how does “nature” determine which plan to follow?

To the human eye, the Western Tanager shown above seems to have opted for the attraction option.  Unfortunately for him, this lessens his ability to hide.  On the other hand, if concealment is selected, this would seem to lessen the chances of finding a suitable suitor.  What’s a bird to do?

Let’s consider a third possibility.  While not reducible to a test tube equation, we also remember the advice that nothing can be disproved on the evolutionary plate as well.  Could it be that God simply created creatures with qualities such as beauty because He Himself is a lover of beauty, and because He enjoys making things that bring joy to you and me?  Perhaps attraction and concealment have their place, but I personally like a friendly view of the world that has room for the idea of beauty for its own sake and a God who likes sharing it with us.  

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Warning!  Be Ready!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 25, 2011

I was near the beginning of an all day road trip when this warning light came on unexpectedly.  According to my little car instruction book, it means "malfunction" and the book notes that this means that you need to get your car to a dealer.  This has occurred on a previous occasion and I had to go in and they ran some diagnostic tests on the car. 

I think when we look around the world today, the malfunction light is on!  Jesus said, "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.  But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."  Matthew 24:42-44

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mangroves live between the sea and the land where they are flooded by tides. They may be a tree, shrub, palm, fern or grass able to live in salt water as well as fresh water, with their muddy environment constantly changing. The sea floods them with salt water during high tide, whereas rain floods them with fresh water. Mangroves are an important habitat for birds, mammals and fish, providing food and protection. They improve water quality by filtering pollutants and protecting the shorelines from erosion. Often low in oxygen, some mangroves absorb air through the pores in their bark. Others develop “breathing tubes” or “aerial roots” that can reach nine feet long enabling them to take in nutrients from the atmosphere. These root systems in the rainforests of Australia seem very strange to those of us not used to seeing such plants!

Scripture tells us the while on earth, Jesus told people to “follow” Him – to change their lives from being “stuck” in their old ways. “The people which sat in darkness saw great light...He said 'Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'”. (Math 4:16-17). He told Peter and Andrew to follow Him. (Math 4:19) He told his disciples “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”. (Math 16:24) He told the doubting Jews, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. (John 11:27)

If you're “stuck in the mud”, consider a better way and follow Jesus!

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Beautiful Bubbles
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 22, 2011

One of the reasons it’s such a kick to attend camp meeting (as I did the last couple of weeks in June) is that you never know what you’ll see there. One afternoon I was crossing the campgrounds and saw probably fifteen kids and a few grownups creating these wonderfully squishy giant soap-bubbles using a couple of sticks and ropes looped between them.

I was surprised, considering that each bubble had such a huge amount of soap in it, that the bubbles stayed in the air almost as long as tinier ones do. As they floated there, they would rotate, taking different shapes, and each had the colors of the rainbow.

But even as I stared, mesmerized, at one of these wonderful creations, it would suddenly pop wetly, and totally vanish. All the beauty, the sheen, the shape, was gone in an instant.

Are there any fascinating but really unsubstantial “bubbles” in your own life? I can’t suggest what yours are, but Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:19 – 21 how quick our bauble-bubbles can vanish. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” He warns, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

How can you tell what are bubbles and what aren’t? Matthew 5 through 7, Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount,” is a good place to start. 

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It Takes a Structure
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 21, 2011

No use asking me the name (or names) of the flowers in the above pot, since—aside from the dandelion and the prairie wild rose of my South Dakota farm boy childhood—I am a flower-illiterate.

But whoever planted the above flowers evidently understood their souls so completely that he or she sensed that, if provided a frame of some kind, these flowers would twine their vines around them and wriggle skyward.

This scene—which I snapped on the campus of Auburn Adventist Academy during camp meeting late June—reminds me that the God who created you and me knows best how to help us reach our full potential. Without the above frame, the flowers wouldn’t grow any higher than their stems could support them, and would probably just bunch up around the top of the pot, most of the tendrils not getting access to sunshine.

And without the structure of the Holy Scriptures, which tell us where we came from, where we’re going, and the most redemptive way to live in the space between, we too would be unhappily stunted.

Are you reading something from the Bible every day? Maybe a Psalm, or a chapter from Proverbs, or one of Jesus’ parables? Those who do find themselves able to face each day with a God’s-eye view, and make some basic sense out of what otherwise might seem chaotic.

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(Editor's note: a technical glitch kept me from being able to upload Robert Howson's "Bean" blog until later than usual, so since Darren Milam's current schedule didn't permit him to prepare a Wednesday blog, I'm leaving Robert's up a day longer. Thanks to these and our other thoughtful photo-bloggers for their creative work! -- Maylan Schurch)

The Bean
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday and Wednesday, July 19 & 20, 2011

San Francisco has the Golden Gate, St. Louis the Arch, and Seattle the Space Needle.  But Chicago has what locals affectionately refer to as The Bean.  Located in Millennium Park, this 110-ton elliptical sculpture resembles nothing more than a giant kidney bean, hence the name.  Designed by British artist Anish Kapoor, the sculpture is composed of a series of 168 highly polished stainless steel plates which reflect the city skyline.  Completed in 2006, its official name is Cloud Gate, but it is also referred to as “That Big Shiny Thing”.

The reflective quality of this work is what draws people to interact with it in an almost personal way.  It also visually illustrates the words of John the Baptist, words that qualify him as one of the greatest individuals ever.  When asked by his followers what the role of this new teacher, known as Jesus, should be, he replied, “He must increase; I must decrease.”  (John 3:30)  How unlike most of the world, even among Christians.  The visual impact The Bean has upon the observer parallels the words of John.  As one steps just a few paces away from the mirrored surface, the reflection of oneself is reduced to insignificance in the immensity of the skyline.  And isn’t that the way it should be?  We, like John the Baptist and the Bean, would do well to reflect that same quality.

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Answers 24 Hours Per Day
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 18, 2011
I saw this sign on a little tourist information kiosk while I was traveling on the Olympic Peninsula.  Underneath it, there were a lot of brochures and maps containing information about what to do and see in the area.

It reminded me that we do have somewhere to go to for answers to all the important questions in our lives.

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:14-17 (NKJV)

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Ringing for Peace
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 17, 2011

In our travels, we've seen several “peace bells” in various countries. This one in my photo, named “Maria Dolens” or “Bell for the Fallen” seems especially significant. First, it is huge – weighing 22.639 tons, having a height of 3.36 meters and diameter of 3.21 meters; this makes it the largest ringing bell in the world. It's located on a mountain overlooking the town of Rovereto, Trento, Italy. Second, it was cast after World War I with the bronze of the cannons of the nations, including the United States, that took part in that war.

The bells tolls 100 dongs every evening at nightfall in the hope that man, in memory of the fallen of every war and every nation in the world, may find the path that leads to peace. Many nations have put their flags around Maria Dolens to testify to a “Peace Agreement”.

“The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” Psalms 29:11 NEB.

Peace be to you!

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More Signs
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 16, 2011

If you read these photo blogs in chronological order, you’ll have already seen yesterday’s entry—about a yellow garage sale sign that was so “shy” that it wouldn’t let anyone see what its message was!

In the photo above, you see more signs, none of them shy, but all waiting to be posted. “Whoa, isn't that a bit legalistic?” someone might be murmuring. “All those laws, those rules, those ‘do’s and don’t’s’. Isn’t this a free country? And after all, aren't we under grace?”

These happen to be the signs which would eventually be posted on the grounds of the Western Washington Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting, which happened the last couple of weeks of June. Knowing this, we can take another look at these “laws” and see how important they are.

“Location,” of course, gives information, with a helpful arrow. “Speed Limit 5 miles” is a rule that's deeply appreciated by any parent with toddlers scattered over the campmeeting landscape. “Parking Permit Only” makes sure that only handicapped people can have access to the closest parking areas.  “Kids Play Area” gives kids freedom to play—but in the protective confines of a fenced lot.

It’s the same with God’s laws. Don’t let anyone ever tell you they aren’t still important today. Jesus’ close friend John once wrote, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. “ 1 John 5:2, 3 NKJV

So head over to Exodus 20 and take another look at the stone-carved Ten. And as you run your eye down them, try to imagine a world in which every one of them was carefully observed.

Did God do away with His laws? Of course not. (If you want to see what really happens when God's laws are done away with, just turn on CNN or study your local newspaper.) Read Psalm 119--the Bible's longest "infomercial" on the true personal and social benefits of His unchanging law. 

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The Shy Sign
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 15, 2011

I got a chuckle out of this yellow sign attached to an intersection light-pole. Someone early last month had gone to the trouble of choosing an eye-catching color, and cutting the sign’s edges into dramatic sharp points, and posting it where a lot of people would pass by.

But the sign has shyly folded inward, so that even someone who has more leisure to stop and study it (more leisure than the owner of the red car disappearing off to the right) can be certain only that whatever the sign was talking about was happening “Sat 9 – 6 Sun 9 – 5.”

From the “e” and what must be an “l” to its left which are peeping out between the curled folds, we can assume that the creators of the sign were trying to beckon its viewers toward a nearby garage sale, probably with a helpful arrow. But there’s no way to know for sure.

Know where I’m headed? Sure you do. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus tells us. “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14 – 16 NKJV 

Or in 21st-century language—unfurl that sign!

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Umbrella Tree
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 14, 2011

Back in mid-June I snapped this picture while Shelley and I were on a morning walk. She comments on this tree quite often, and maybe you can see why—its wide umbrella shape seems somehow comforting. If a rainstorm were to suddenly cut loose, and if we knew this tree’s owners well enough to risk trespassing, the tree would probably keep us dry until the storm passed (and the water finally filtered down from the upper leaves!).

The God who evidently built into us this occasional love of shade and shadow has a promise for us in Psalm 91.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.” Psalm 91:1, 2 NKJV

Where is this “secret place of the Most High”? Jesus gave one hint, when He talked about how we should pray:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”  Matthew 6:5 - 6

Where’s the “secret place”? At least one answer is, the quiet, private prayer-time we should all engage in each day.

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Before and After
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
A few weeks ago, we had two trees taken down in our backyard.  Neither of the trees was in good health and both were  too close to our house.  Not that I enjoy removing trees--but it has allowed more light into our kitchen, which is welcomed.  As you can see from both images, the before and after views from our backyard are fairly dramatic.
I don't know about you, but I like looking back and seeing the "before and after” image of my life.  I did have the privilege of growing up in a positive Christian home, so the change was not necessarily as dramatic as someone whom didn't have God in their life from the beginning. That said, my "Before God" image will always be less attractive then my "After God" image.
Allow God into your life and see what beautiful image He can create.

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Northern Flicker
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 12, 2011

There were only two characters on the poster carefully drawn by the cartoonist. But the message was clear.  The first was a lovelorn snake whose gaze was amorously fixed upon the second character, a loosely wound garden hose.  The caption under the drawing stated, “You’re not like all the others.”  It’s true, those qualities we share bind us together, but those which are uniquely our own set us apart as special.
An attractive woodpecker-like bird flies past and lands on the ground instead of vertically on the trunk of a tree as woodpeckers are prone to do.  Did this bird have a mental lapse or was your identification just wrong?  Neither. What you’ve undoubtedly seen is a Northern Flicker doing what flickers do.  For unlike most other members of the woodpecker family, it is primarily a ground-feeder bird.  It’s not that it doesn’t feed in the traditional woodpecker way, it simply goes where its favorite food is found.  Seventy-five percent of its food is animal, and nearly half of that is made up of ants.  As a result, it eats more ants than any other North American species.  It also differs from other woodpeckers in that its tongue is only slightly barbed.  All of these differences set it apart from others in its family.
First Peter 2:9 speaks of another group that is special, that is set apart by God.  The King James Version uses the word “peculiar” to emphasize the uniqueness, but newer translations give a slightly different emphasis.  “But you are a special kind of people, a royal priesthood of believers and the spiritual Israel chosen by God.  Praise Him for bringing you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.”  (The Clear Word)  It’s nice to know God thinks of you as special, especially compared to a garden hose.

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Ignoring the Distractions
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 11, 2011

I saw this dragonfly last week when we went looking for mariposa lilies (they weren't out yet) in British Columbia while I was visiting my folks.  I haven't been able to identify it yet but it is one I haven't seen before. 

I think dragonflies are amazing.  They are very colorful and beautiful and one minute they are there and the next, they are gone!  They are sort of to the insect world what hummingbirds are to the bird world in terms of their flying ability as they can fly forwards, backwards and hover.  I personally like the fact that they eat mosquitoes!

Trying to photograph them can be a hit and miss endeavor.  Your best bet is finding one that has perched but they can see you coming!  Their eyes make up the biggest part of their heads.  They have compound eyes and each eyes is made up of 30,000 lenses (as opposed to our one).  This gives them the capability of seeing almost 360 degrees.

It's just as well we don't have those kind of eyes; imagine the distractions!  We have enough to do just to keep our own eyes focused on where they need to be.

Proverbs warns us about this:

Keep your eyes straight ahead;
   ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
   and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
   leave evil in the dust.
            --Proverbs 4:25-27  Message

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God Bless America
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 10, 2011

Did you have a good time celebrating our 4th of July holiday this last week? We went to our town of Everett's parade. This was the longest parade we've seen here – lasting two hours! I enjoyed the many marching groups and bands as well as the antique cars and tractors with their colorful banners. We spent time with family, watching fireworks from our house and the broadcast from our Nation's Capitol. Did you hear the singing of “God Bless America”?

God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home
God bless America, My home sweet home.

“God Bless America” is a form of a prayer for God's blessing and peace for our country. Written by Irving Berlin in 1918 while serving in the US Army, it is often sung before sports events and other special programs. Unsung and unknown for its first twenty years, he resurrected the song for Kate Smith to sing on radio on November 11, 1938, the twentieth anniversary of the end of World War I. It reflected that Americans lived in a blessed land and they took to heart the confident tune and lyric. The song became an immediate hit, and Berlin donated all royalties from the song to the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts of America through his "God Bless America Fund."

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I’ll Share My Faith With Bikers on Life’s Way
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 9, 2011

On June 16, the day the Western Washington Conference Adventist Campmeeting (a big name for a big gathering) began, Shelley and I saw—maybe a mile from the campground—this scraggly biker.

I was about to dismiss this guy as a Hell’s Angels wannabe until I got a close look at what it said across the shoulders of his leather vest. I photographed him with a point-and-shoot camera through slanted window-glass, so you might not be able to read it very well.

The print in the yellow circle says “Sabbath Keepers: Seventh-day Adventists.” Within the blue circle, three cartoony angels blow trumpets, and below them is printed “Revelation 14.” The horizontal yellow band contains the words “Jesus is also Lord of the Sabbath, Mark 2:28.” And white-on-blue just below, “Motorcycle Ministry.”

I saw this gentleman several times at camp meeting, and though I never took the opportunity to talk to him, he seemed a gentle and thoroughly redeemed Christian. He may have previously been a rougher sort of biker, and upon his conversion may have turned that same bravado into a forthright and in-your-face witness among those with whom he probably has the highest credibility.

Let’s pray that the Savior will send us soon--and often--to those over which we too would have the greatest influence for Him.

I'll share my faith with others on life's way.
I'll share my faith; there's no time for delay.
When Jesus calls for volunteers,
I'll hasten to obey.
I'll share, share, share my faith ev'ry day.

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Safety Harness
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 7, 2011

I’ll tell you quite frankly that, to me, this would be one of the most horrifying jobs in the world. My knees turn to water just thinking of what the gentleman in the photo is facing.

First, he had to ascend that lower ladder. Actually, to me that’s no big deal. I would have little problem with clambering all the way up to the edge of the church roof, at which point I would glance quickly around a couple of times and gingerly clamber back down again.

Second, this man—once at the top of the ladder—had to swing his left foot out over the void, plant it somehow on the concrete roof-edge, and then (even more horribly) remove his right foot from the ladder.

Okay, now he’s on the roof. All well and good. (Notice, I said he’s on the roof, not me.) At this point, if I were his advisor, I would suggest that he stall for time by squirting water here and there on nearby rooftiles, and make sure that gutter is the best-cleaned gutter in the Pacific Northwest.

However, eventually he is going to have to hoick himself up onto that other ladder, the one which some fool has laid against the roof. I don’t know why, but for some reason this prospect fills me with greater anxiety even than transferring from ladder to roof. But up he crawls, does his duty by spraying down the part of the roof his hose can reach. Then he shifts the ladder and does it again.

Now, my friends, comes the greatest terror of all: getting from the edge of the roof back onto that lower ladder. If it were me, I would be on my cell phone babbling for a search-and-rescue helicopter, insisting that cost was no issue.

Yet I have a feeling that this daredevil, perhaps whistling a casual tune, made this transfer with the grace of a ballerina, and then went home to a well-deserved supper.

And I’m sure that most of this calmness comes from experience. But maybe part of it comes from that X-configured yellow safety-harness this man has cinched around himself. Take a close look at it. 

Notice how, hooked to a ring where the yellow straps join, is a wider strap, which disappears below the roof-edge? I’m walking by faith and not by sight when I say that the other end of that strap is connected with something solid, but I’m sure that this is the case. And I’m also sure that if there is a wife with kids in this man’s life, the wife anxiously insists that he secure that safety strap, and wear that harness.

You probably know where I’m headed with this. When you think of it, each day is a death-defying experience. A husband and wife in my congregation are parents of twin sons, both of whom are Washington State troopers, and a few nights ago one of them had just pulled over a man driving under the influence, and was about to take him into custody, when a young woman—also a DUI—failed to stop, and plowed into the patrol car, which plowed into the first DUI’s car, trapping the DUI under the car and flinging the trooper 30 feet. Fortunately—providentially—all survived.

The troopers’ parents are pray-ers, and pray for their sons each night before going to bed. They believe their God (according to His plans) creates something of a safety harness (either now or for eternity) for His children. And so do I.

Somehow the Savior seems a little nearer
When I kneel down to pray
And fellowship with Him a little dearer
When I kneel down to pray

I know that He will always hear me
For He is never far away
And yet He seems a little closer to me
When I kneel down to pray

     --Old Gospel Song

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Waiting and Watching
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, July 7, 2011

In early June I caught sight of this patient dog, his leash fastened to a ring on what a century ago could have been a horse-hitching post but now served as a bicycle rack.

I had a chance to watch him for a minute or two, and he just stood there. He didn’t grow restless, didn’t bark, didn’t gnaw snarlingly at the leash. When people walked by he gave them a quick and interested glance, but his head always returned to the same position, looking fixedly to the right—probably the direction he’d seen his master disappear.

I believe that the above dog could give us a valuable tutorial on waiting for Jesus’ return. What seems to have kept this dog so serene was that he knew, loved, and absolutely trusted his master. From past experience he knew that his master loved him, and would continue to feed and care for him. And if—even on a strange street filled with unfamiliar smells--his master disappeared from sight, he or she would always eventually return, and take him home.

O Jesus, my loving Redeemer,
Thou knowest I cherish as dear
The hope that mine eyes shall behold Thee,
That I shall Thine own welcome hear!

If to some as a judge Thou appearest,
Who forth from Thy presence would flee,
A Friend most beloved I’ll greet Thee,
I’m waiting and watching for Thee.

Waiting and watching, waiting and watching;
Waiting and watching, still waiting and watching for Thee.

     --Will H. Pontius

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Christ Church House
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In early June, in the University of Washington neighborhood, I spotted this commemorative concrete block amongst the bricks of an off-campus Christian church. As far as I can tell, "Christ Church House" was created to be a place where college kids could find a spiritual haven.

But, just looking at the words on the concrete, wouldn't it be wonderful if every house, every home, could be as thoroughly Christ-centered as every Christian church ought to be? I don't mean dull and boring and drony, but a place where Jesus would discover joy and humor and deep personal friendship.

I was fortunate to grow up in such a home. Mom and Dad didn't sit us down on the couch and make us listen to spiritual lectures – instead, in natural ways they acted out their absolute love for, and devotion to, God and His Son and the Holy Spirit. They never presented God as terrifying or intimidating, but as Someone who loved us kids even more than they did. And they prayed for us, privately and incessantly.

Happy the home when God is there,
And love fills every breast;
When one their wish, and one their prayer,
And one their heavenly rest.

Happy the home where Jesus' name
Is sweet to every ear;
Where children early speak his fame,
And parents hold him dear.

Happy the home where prayer is heard,
And praise is wont to rise;
Where parents love the sacred Word
And all its wisdom prize.

Lord, let us in our homes agree
This blessed peace to gain;
Unite our hearts in love to thee,
And love to all will reign.

--- Henry Ware, Jr.

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Piping Plover      
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Often described as “the color of dry sand”, the Piping Plover blends perfectly into that environment where it makes its home.  Unfortunately, such camouflage has not been sufficient to stem the tide of decreasing numbers.  It has been estimated that only 4500 remain and as a result, in 1985 it was placed on the Endangered Species List.  Eighty percent of its active nests are found in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia.  The four eggs hatch after 25 days of incubation and the young are flying about 30 days later.  It is during this time period that they are most vulnerable.
Since they nest right on the beach, they are susceptible to stormtides which can inundate the nests.  But even greater man-made adversities have caused their numbers to fall.  Human development of beach-side property has brought increased pets; these developments have also added more food that attracts predators such as raccoons, skunks, and foxes.  If the plover should lose their first clutch of eggs, they will often re-nest, but this has not been sufficient to stop the decline.  Something else was needed.
Man, the detractor, has taken a step towards becoming the benefactor.  Besides posting nesting beaches as being off-limits, scientists have erected wire cages or “exclosures” which offer protection from predatory crows and gulls but allow the smaller plover easy access to their nests.  Too often we see God’s law as a cage, restricting our freedom, limiting our choices.  In reality it comes much closer to these “exclosures” which have been placed there to protect us from that which would harm us.  The result: a good plan for both us and the birds. 
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Don't be Fooled
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 4, 2011

There are a few things wrong with this picture.  If I told you that I took it in Central America, you might not think too much about it but if I told you that I took it at a lily pond in the arboretum in Seattle, you might realize that something was amiss!

As I got closer to the frog, it just sat there and didn't move away.  It sort of looks like a strawberry poison dart frog.  The problem with that is, these frogs typically live in the rainforests of places like Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama! 

This was either a very geographically challenged frog, an exotic pet that someone thought would appreciate a lily pond or - a fake!!!!  I didn't try to pick it up but considering the cost of a real frog and the fact that it wasn't moving, I'm going with a fake!

Deception started for the human race in the Garden of Eden and has been going on ever since.

I've written to warn you about those who are trying to deceive you. But they're no match for what is embedded deeply within you—Christ's anointing, no less! You don't need any of their so-called teaching. Christ's anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught. 1 John 2:26-27 Message

If you want to see some real poison dart frogs, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle has some nice specimens.

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Land of the Free
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, July 3, 2011

Independence Day honors the birthday of the United States of America and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom and democracy. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, a cherished symbol of liberty, expressed the convictions of the American people. Our flag is one of the nation's most widely recognized symbols around the world.

In 2011, as in 1776 and before and after, each year thousands of people leave their homeland to come to the United States, “land of the free and home of the brave” so they can begin their American Dream. Like some of you or your parents or your grandparents, my Dad's family came here so they could fulfill their dream and they became Americans. Every year on July 4 we Americans can think of the sacrifices and stands made by our forefathers and foremothers as we celebrate this freedom and independence we have in our great country.

As God guided those who set the foundation for our country, may He guide each of us and our country today.

Our Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation under God, individible, with liberty and justice for all.

Our National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” (last stanza):

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

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It’s All Greek to Me!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 2, 2011

I couldn't resist a grin back in early May as I took a quick stroll through a used-book store and spotted this little volume. I respect the name of the dictionary company highly, and somewhere on my own bookshelves is a Langenscheidt Latin-English dictionary.

Of course, what makes my Langenscheidt dictionary so useful is that part of it is in English. If I see a Latin word, I can look it up, and the dictionary will give me what it means in English. If I want to find the Latin for an English word, a few seconds more, in another part of the book, is all it takes.

But if you've studied the above book’s cover closely, you will discover that there's not one syllable of English on it. Instead, it's for a German person to use in order to figure out Italian words, and the other way around!

Does the Bible ever seem to you like a foreign book designed for foreign people? A lot of people think that way, mainly because they haven't cracked the covers and spent a bit of time with it. For one thing, the Bible isn't a single book – it's 66 writings gathered into one volume.

For another thing, some of it is history, some poetry, some letters, some prophecy. A lot of it is biography – and the One whose story they tell at greatest length is Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, if you'd like to start reading a lot in the Bible, it might be good to start by reading about Him, in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

And if you'd rather do this with your iPad or your computer, we've got you covered. Click here to find a daily Bible reading plan, and access to several online Bibles.

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They’re Connected!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 1, 2011

Not too long before sunset one evening a couple of weeks ago, Shelley and I were on a walk when she spotted the moon near a large tree. I grabbed for my point-and-shoot camera and positioned myself so that it looked like the moon was attached to the treetop like a Christmas ornament.

A moment ago, as I looked at the photograph again, I thought, They’re connected! Even though the moon is something like 250,000 miles above that tree, and even though it's been barely half a century since astronauts started making boot-prints on it, it's tempting to think of that lunar ball as alien.

When, in fact, it's not. Genesis chapter 1 asserts that God made both maple and moon, lavender bushes and lunar landscapes. Jesus was involved too, because “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:3

So, next time you see a splendid yellow moon rising on the eastern horizon, say, “I know the Artist.” And get to know Him better by reading another of His artistic projects—the literary one.

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