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

Devotional Photo Blog- June 2009

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

Thanks for visiting our blog page! If you'd like to see previous entries for this month, simply scroll down. 

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

Eastern Red Squirrel  &  Nutria
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Do you remember being in Junior High and thinking someone in your class was really cute?  What was it about them that made them so appealing?  We'll leave that one for Dr. Phil, or a real expert, someone still in those grades before High School. 

Emotions are a tricky thing.  We can't always explain them, even to ourselves.  Try this for example. Which of the above rodents would you classify as cute?  Would it be the Red Squirrel, photographed in Maine (top photo), or the aquatic Nutria found in our own local lakes but imported from South America?  Are you one of those who is put off by yellow teeth but loves bushy tails?  Or maybe I ruined the whole question for you by referring to both of them as rodents.

Aren't you glad that God isn't big time into whiskers, or bushy tails for that matter?  While nature does seem to reveal His sense of humor, the value He places upon us goes way beyond the externals.  Remember the Lord's response to Samuel when he went looking for a prospective king there in 1 Samuel 16 - something about the Lord looking on the heart rather than externals.  We can have the same assurance that was given to Zerubbabel when the Lord told him, "On that day, declares the Lord Almighty, I will take you...for I have chosen you."  Isn't that good news to know that we are already chosen by Him - in spite of our yellow teeth and bushy tails?

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Not Abandoned
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 29, 2009

I wish I could say I found this little black-tail fawn on my own, but it was pointed out to me by a park ranger on a recent visit to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.  It was actually quite close to the visitor's center and was conveniently lying under a little evergreen tree right next to the trail. 

Just after the ranger showed it to me and a few other people in the area, another ranger came by and said that the powers that be thought it was a good idea not to point it out as they didn't want the mother to be afraid to come back to it since we were starting to draw a crowd

Apparently, the doe will leave the fawn like this and go off to eat - sometimes for long periods of time.  The fawn will just lie still and wait.  People sometimes find the fawn and will take it home or to a wildlife shelter because they think it has been abandoned.  The mother is actually usually nearby.  If you find a fawn like this, the best thing is to just leave it.  There were several deer in the area and I never did figure out which one was the mother but I'm sure she was close by and knew exactly where her fawn was.

Sometimes we feel abandoned by God but we are not.  Our heavenly Father knows exactly where we are.  Hebrews 13:5 (Message) states: "Since God assured us, 'I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,' we can boldly quote,

God is there, ready to help,
I'm fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?"

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Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Were you ever lost when travelling on an unfamiliar road?  Have you ever tossed the map and just wandered, seeing where you'll end up? 

That's what we did one day in southern Tuscany, south of Siena near Montalcino.  We were wandering on a small road amidst olive trees, vineyards and golden rolling hills when all at once we spotted a cluster of beautiful buildings a short way ahead.  We had discovered the Abbey of Saint Antimo.  Inside, the friars, clad in their white tunics were beginning their noontime prayer and Gregorian chants.  Sunlight beamed inside as I stood behind a pillar taking a few photos, this one included.  (It was only afterwards that I saw the sign, "No photography!")  Even though the short worship was much different than I was used to and I couldn't understand the chanting, the atmosphere provided a sense of peace and a closeness to God.
As the light shines in this photo, Mathew 5:14, 16 says that "Ye are the light of the world....Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

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Sunset or Son rise?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Gene Trent
Sabbath, June 27, 2009

"The city does not need the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." Revelation 21:23

Which do you prefer? Sunset or sunrise? Photographers especially love them equally since they are the two best times to take photographs. Whether it is the rosy pink blue of early morning light or the golden orange brown of sunset, the light is premium. This quality of light, that is so dramatically different, makes for some of the most beautiful photographs one might want to take.

This photograph is of the sunset over the Puget Sound in Edmonds, WA. It was one of the rare evenings when the sky was full of the westward sun in all its glory. The water picks up this light and becomes a perfect reflection pool of the evening canopy. There in the distance is the Edmonds ferry making its way into the sunset. People often wistfully comment that they want to "sail off into the sunset" since it symbolizes a life free from the cares, worries and trials of normal life.

Well, let me throw in a third option. How do you feel about the Son rise? That is, the day when we will see Jesus coming in the clouds of glory, with all the hosts of Heaven accompanying Him. Unlike the sunset where we fade off into the west, the Son rise will be the dawning of a new day throughout the universe. Not only will there be no more tears, pain or suffering but even more important will be the quality of the light which will emanate from the Presence of God Himself.  As the Scripture above states "for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp".

Oh, what a wondrous experience that is going to be! Just imagine the pure light from a pure God for a people who have been purified by the blood of the Lamb.  All we have now is anticipation, just as we anticipate the rising or setting of the sun, but soon and very soon anticipation will meet reality as we see our Lord and Savior at the Sonrise.

Happy Sabbath!

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Ready for the meeting
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Gene Trent
Friday, June 26, 2009

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

On a recent early morning walk I happened upon this scene. All the chairs lined up and ready for whatever event was being efficiently planned for. I could just imagine the people later coming together to chat, make important decisions, fellowship, discuss important events or maybe just have a good time.  I wondered who the people might be, business people strategizing, friends getting together to relax and unwind, or maybe a family on vacation in the PNW for the first time. Would there be something good to eat and drink? (Lemonade, of course!) What would be the main topic of discussion? Would it be a serious or festive time? Well, there was no time to wait around and see but I sure was curious. Curious enough to take this photograph.

 My mind ran forward in time to my own schedule for later that day. I, along with many others, would be coming together around a table and chairs, with light refreshments, in Christian fellowship to study the Bible. This "Studying Together"  Bible study activity happens on a weekly basis each Wednesday evening at Bellevue SDA, just before prayer meeting. The discussion is always invigorating, challenging, and enlightening. Fellowship is a key feature of this gathering with humor and laughter sprinkled in amidst the deep thoughts and explanations on inspired Scripture. Yes, you read right...a Bible study with humor, laughter and fellowship. Why not? There are a lot of humorous passages in the Bible. If you are curious to what they are, you might decide to come out and join the group one Wednesday evening. It is open to all.  The next few topics will be:  "Salvation", "Confession and Forgiveness", "The 2ndComing of Christ". For more information see Gary Salsman.

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Oh, to Be a Child Again
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 25, 2009

Earlier this month on a morning walk, Shelley and I saw this woman walking vigorously along the sidewalk, obviously out for the same reason we were--exercise. But suddenly she left the sidewalk, glanced back at us shyly as though to say, "I know this is silly, but I'm going to do it anyway," and hopped up on these rocks, balancing herself while leaping from stone to stone.

This looked like such fun that I jumped up and tried it a bit myself, only to discover that my bony old knees began to strongly disagree with my grade-school-kid cavorting.

Back in the late Sixties I remember hearing a nostalgic folk song about the joys of childhood viewed from the bittersweet perspective of someone who's seen too much grownup grimness:

I remember when every day began
Strawberry jam and laughter
And every story ended
With "happily ever after."
I remember feeling I'll never be safe
If I don't step on a crack
The days when the sun is up ahead
The wind is at my back . . .

Oh to be a child again
Oaks from acorns grew
One and one make two
I believed it all
Didn't you?

If you're at all familiar with Jesus' words, you'll remember that not only did He treasure children and severely threaten anyone who prevented kids from approaching Him, but He urged us all to become like little children in our faith, our instant forgiveness, and our love. To find out more about what it means to be God's child, click here.

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Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I am not sure there is a day that goes by that I don't feel a little buried.  When I say 'buried,' I am not talking about my son at the beach under the sand.  No, I am talking about being buried with all the things we face on a daily basis: work, traffic, house repairs, errands, family, and life in general.  I realize it's a juggling act but since I don't juggle and even if I did, when I see the balls dropping . . . it weighs on you. 

Unfortunately, that is life on earth.  Sin is all around us, and Satan wants nothing more than to keep us focused on our burdens and how we can overcome them on our own.  Of course we realize that the only way we get un-buried, is to not focus on what we can do for ourselves, but to focus on the only power that can assist us--God.  The next time you feel buried, take a quick timeout and sing the chorus to Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, and let the world's burdens disappear:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

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The Limpkin
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some of you may have engaged in a small group workshop activity where you were asked to select an animal with which you most closely identify.  The exercise may be expanded to include a Bible character with which you may share a number of characteristics.  If Jacob were to engage in such a game, I can imagine him selecting without a moment of hesitation the bird shown in today's photograph as his avian counterpart.  Animals and birds are given names for a variety of reasons.  Some are named after the individual who first discovered them while others are given a descriptive name, pointing out a specific part of their anatomy.  But theLimpkin is named after a behavioral characteristic, its rather unusual limping gait it employs as it makes its way through Southern swamps of the U.S.
Jacob had a limp too, one that he acquired later in life.  Genesis 32 tells the story of how on his way home to confront his estranged brother, Jacob became engaged in a night wrestling match in which his assailant touched his hip, throwing it out of joint.  It appears it was so severely damaged that he retained that limp for the rest of his life.  Jewish dietary laws forbid eating the sciatic muscle as a perpetual reminder of Jacob's fateful encounter with the Angel of the Lord that night. 

I've wondered how Jacob reacted to his enduring liability.  Did he complain about how much it hurt as he climbed the steps to his house?  Or did he thank God for his face-to-face encounter that left him forever changed?  Somehow I think the physical pain was secondary to the joy he felt over the internal alteration that took place that same night so long ago.
Back to the game we started out with - while we might be tempted to select a lion or an eagle, or maybe even our loyal Golden Retriever, maybe a Limpkin might not be a bad choice for us as well.

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Roses Will Bloom Again
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 22, 2009

Marcia Henry wrote a song with the above title and Sheri Easter has a wonderful recording of it.  The lyrics in the chorus are:

"Roses will bloom again,
Just wait and see.
Don't mourn what might have been.
Only God knows how and when
That roses will bloom again."

Sometimes we get depressed and discouraged (this can happen just reading a newspaper!) and in those times we need to remember what Jesus said in John 16:33:  "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."

It helps to remember where our real peace comes from - and that the hard times are not going to last forever.

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Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rainbow-colored flags and banners can mean different things.  In Italy, it represents PEACE or PACE (in Italian).  There, we see many pace flags hanging from windows and buildings, children carrying them, sewn to backbacks.  While hiking in Italy, we sometimes see the word PACE written on a mountainside with white dolomite rocks.  Pace is a very common word in Italy - I guess I rather like it.  In our world of unrest and conflict, it would be good if more people and countries thought about pace or peace.  Mathew 5:9 says, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

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Let's Cut God a Little Slack
Photo and commentary ©2009 by name of photographer
Sabbath, June 20, 2009

Isn't that the truth? Glance back along the Bible timeline and ask yourself, "Where have we made things easy for God?" From Eve's Eden choice to distrust her Maker in favor of a serpentine ventriloquist dummy, to a negative ten-to-two vote among the Canaan scouts, to an idiotic and hardnosed lust for idolatry, to the decision to worship the law rather than love the Lawgiver, to the eventual murder of the Son of God, how could we ever have the temerity to question God's motives?

Yet God loves discussion--just like a parent of a rebelliously silent teen. "Talk to me," He says. "Let's hash things out. Come now and let us reason together."

Have you ever considered really being honest with God in your prayers? Far from being annoyed or enraged, the One whom lukewarmness disgusts will listen to you with the deepest interest, and eventually answer back, in ways He knows would be most effective for you.

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Hold On!
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 19, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I snapped a photo of this poster on the ceiling of one of Seattle's Metro buses. To make it a fairly accurate Christian parable, pretty much all you'd have to do is substitute "Jesus" for "Metro." "Help Jesus help you . . . Hold on!"

In other words, if you want to get to your heavenly destination, you don't have to drive the bus. You don't have to navigate. You don't have to get out and push. You don't have to keep air in the tires or gas in the tank. Just reach up and hold on--your Bus Driver knows where He's going, and He's going to get you there right on time!

Having trouble holding on? Here's where the parable gets even better than a bus ride.  Switching to a metaphor more familiar to His audiences than buses, Jesus insisted that God is actually the one who's holding on--and that we shouldn't try to wiggle out of His grasp. "My sheep hear My voice," Jesus said, "and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one."  John 10:27-30 NKJV  So don't let go!

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You'd Best Not Go Where God Says "No."
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm not quite sure what was the plan behind this scene I shot in the University District recently. Here we have what to all appearances looks like an iron fence with a clearly-defined gate. But just behind that gate is a tall hedge.

Maybe that hedge is a bit like our conscience, if we've allowed the Holy Spirit to have access to it. Our sinful human nature opens wide gates into forbidden territories, but the Spirit patiently gives us reasons not to enter. Don't go there,  says the still small voice when we peer through one of the Ten Commandments at the inviting green grass on the other side. Yet notice that the hedge in this photo isn't made of iron. Ten minutes with an electric hedge trimmer would probably carve you a decent-sized hole in it, one you might even wiggle through. God always gives us free choice, though He does His best to speak to us through what He hopes will remain our sensitive conscience.

Heavenly Father, I welcome Your Spirit into my heart. Keep me humble and teachable.

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Seems Heavy
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This last Sabbath, we arrived about 30 minutes before Sabbath School started, so I wondered around the church grounds with my camera.  I snapped this shot of the steeple, with the cross at the top.  It got me thinking.  Prior to Jesus' crucifixion, He was asked to carry the actual instrument that would ultimately kill him, up a long hill.  This was certainly not a light object, and He was already drained of His energy from being beaten, ridiculed, as well as mentally and emotionally abused.  This was an incredibly difficult task as He faced all of our sins, for us!
What does God ask of us? Not much.  In fact Jesus has done all the heavy lifting already.  When Jesus was speaking with his disciples, He asked them to do something for him and we can read it in Matthew 16:24, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."  As we know, Jesus wasn't referencing an actual wooden cross, but instead the symbolic cross - the things in our lives dragging us down, keeping us from following Him.  When you think of all the things He has done for us, His request isn't that heavy after all - is it?

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Mountain Goat
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
June 16, 2009

Bible writers often used objects in nature to describe qualities or attributes they wished to illustrate. The Mountain Goat is a good example of this.  It is not by accident that we find David fleeing from the irrational wrath of King Saul, running to the most inaccessible place he could imagine.  He knew his hiding place would be difficult to find in such an inhospitable location.  Thus, I Samuel 24: 2 states that Saul went looking for him near the Crags of the Wild Goats.  Later, this location was also where David cut off a piece of Saul's robe while he slept.  The obvious inference is this was "way out in the boonies," far distant from the security and familiarity of the throne room.
The book of Job uses this same imagery to impress the reader with the inaccessibility of comprehending the all-knowingness of God.  After Job has offered a rational defense for himself, God responds by helping him recognize the limitation of his personal world view.  "Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?  Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?  Do you count the months till they bear?  Do you know the time they give birth?"  Job 39:1,2  (NIV)
In our enlightened world we are tempted to respond, "Of course we do" and miss the whole point of God's question.  He is not testing us to see if we can score well on the "nature" category in a Jeopardy game; He is wanting us to recognize the infinite chasm between creation and its Creator.  As we continue to learn more, may our appreciation of that disparity also grow.

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Appearances Can Be Deceptive
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 15, 2009

I found this dragonfly (Eight-spotted Skimmer) posing nicely for me at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge near Cheney, WA.  I was so thrilled to finally get a close up shot of a dragonfly that I didn't even notice until I got home and saw the picture on my computer screen that it was a less than perfect specimen.  There is a chunk missing out of one of its wings (possibly representing a narrow escape from a predator)!  

When the prophet Samuel was looking for a replacement for King Saul, God told him to go to Jesse of Bethlehem because God had chosen one of Jesse's sons.  Samuel was to anoint the one God had chosen.  When Samuel saw David's brother, Eliab, he thought that he would be the one.  1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that: "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'"

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has a definition for heart as: "The emotional or moral as distinguished from the intellectual nature."

We tend to make judgements on others (and ourselves) based on physical appearances.  What we should be more concerned about, is what God is concerned about--what is in their/our hearts.

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Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 14, 2009

While on the Yangtze River in China, we stopped to visit a family that was relocated due to the Three Gorges Dam project.  From their back deck I took this picture of a farmer plowing the rice paddy with his water buffalo. Jesus said in Mathew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all whose work is hard, whose load is heavy; and I will give you relief.  Bend your necks to my yoke, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted; and your souls will find relief.  For my yoke is good to bear, my load is light." NEB

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Creation Comes to the University
Commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 13, 2009

Earlier this week, while getting my car serviced at a north Seattle Honda place I've been going to since 1983, I took a bus down to the University of Washington. On the glass windows of the large University Bookstore, facing the main avenue and very visible to passing students, I saw several posters containing this poem. Some showed the whole sonnet, others just a few lines.

I don't know how many students stop to stare at these posters, but I hope that the youthful vigor of these lines, and the interesting way they have been constructed, would cause them to find out who the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was. He died a month before his 45th birthday, and devoted his life to religious studies and teaching. But his most important influence was through his poetry.

Here's the whole sonnet, and also three tips for reading it: read it slowly, read it three times, and read it aloud. And then thank Hopkins' creator for him, and for spring's eternal hope.

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as spring --
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. -- Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

To see the Wikipedia entry on Hopkins, click here.

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Humility Where Foot Meets Water
Drawing © 2009 by Kuyler Lang
Commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 12, 2009

Artist and elementary schoolteacher Kuyler Lang attended church last Sabbath, and created this evocative drawing while listening to my sermon about communion. I mentioned how Peter, one of Jesus' most impulsive and outspoken followers, at first refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet.

However, Jesus patiently explained that those who have been fortunate enough to be close to the Lord's blessings should adopt the Lord's servant-like manner, being willing to do even menial tasks so as to smooth the path between sinner and Savior.

I heard a news report this week about how India--the world's largest democracy--is in danger of becoming ruled by a certain class of leaders. It seems that many of the highest governmental officials come from families who've ruled the country for decades, whereas the true purpose of democracy is to open these opportunities to anyone willing to serve. The situation is obviously too complex to discuss in a paragraph, but Jesus does indeed want us to serve Him, and others, from only the best motives.

When's the last time you asked the Lord for a servant's heart?

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I Am Overlake Hospital
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 11, 2009

On Monday, June 1 I stopped by Bellevue's Overlake Hospital to visit a patient. A couple of therapists were putting him through his paces, so I waited across from this nearby office. The nurse you see was carrying on a thoughtful conversation with a woman I couldn't see, but whose hand I could see gesturing from time to time. From occasional phrases I heard, it seemed as though they were talking about patient care.

As you see, several items are tacked to the bulletin board, but the poster in the upper left-hand corner is one I'd seen elsewhere in the hospital. Beneath the horizontal logo at the top are four words: "I AM OVERLAKE HOSPITAL."

I don't know whether these two nurses consciously had that slogan in mind as they were talking, but from what I could tell, they had internalized it. They seemed to understand that in order to make Overlake a successful hospital, they needed to get beyond the idea, "I work at Overlake Hospital." Instead, they needed to understand the very real truth that, to patients and others who entered this facility, these nurseswere the face of Overlake. Visitors would judge the hospital by how genuinely these women smiled, how empathetically they spoke, and how carefully they listened.

I've seen a version of this slogan in religious circles. "I AM THE CHURCH" means exactly the same thing. Regardless of whether I "go to" a church, or am a "member" of a church, I AM my church to people I meet. Yesterday morning I got a haircut, and because my barber is not a professing Christian, I tried to be the kind of person who would reflect well on what I believe. Are you the kind of person whose church someone might someday wish to attend?

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Look Up And Find Shelter
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In the last 12 days, I have spent more time in the ER and hospital than I care to.  The first trip was with my daughter, and the following week's was with my wife.  All are fine now, but it got me thinking.  When we were waiting for tests, or waiting for the doctor, we heard and saw so many ill children and adults.  Some of the illnesses were extremely serious, while others were minor.  Though I was very concerned with my daughter's and wife's illnesses, I realized they could be much worse.

Whether we're facing huge issues in our life or just minor ones, we still need the healing hand of God. We know God is the Master Healer when we are physically ill, but we need to remember He is also the Master Healer when we are facing any challenge in everyday life - physical, mental, spiritual - anything and everything.

In Psalms 9:9-10, we are reminded of just how easy it is to give our concerns to Him and find refuge in Him:

"The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble.
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You."

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The Horn
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What do you think of when you see the word "horn"?  If you have just navigated through a busy downtown intersection it is more likely your answer will be based upon what you've heard, rather than what you've seen.  On the other hand, if you're in the high Arctic, an entirely different concept will likely come to mind, like the horns seen here on this Musk Ox.  But if you were to open the pages of your Bible, a third possibility might arise. 
Scripture seems to combine the audio safeguard offered by your blaring automobile horn with the physical defense mechanism placed strategically on the head of the Musk Ox.  In both cases, protection is the objective.  Notice how II Samuel 22:3 uses this term to describe the security offered.  "The God of my rock; in him will I trust; he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence." (KJV)
To Adonijah, one of David's sons, this wasn't just symbolic; this offered a tangible reality.  I Kings 1:50 tells how he ran to the altar after trying unsuccessfully to usurp the throne and grabbed hold of the horns on the four corners of the altar to obtain asylum from the wrath of Solomon.  Solomon honored this until Adonijah showed himself to be less than totally honest.  You may remember a similar incident involving Thomas á Becket and King Henry II of England some two thousand years later.

The security that is offered is only as good as the source of that salvation, be it protection from an angry king, a pack of wolves, or our own frailty.  Thanks be to God, our Horn, our Rock, our Salvation, the only one who is truly trustworthy.

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No More Tears
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 8, 2009

I saw this checkerspot butterfly lying on the side of the road. It seemed to be in really good condition so I'm not sure what led to its demise; perhaps it glanced off someone's windshield. 

I don't know about you, but I'm sure looking forward to heaven where we won't have to contend with all of the death and dying, fear and sickness, pain and suffering and trauma and abuse that occurs down here.  The news headlines are the same day in and day out and rarely are they about good news.

The Bible, however, does give us good news.  It tells us in Romans 6:23 that that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  We are all living in a sinful condition and that is the bad news.  The good news is that when Jesus died on the cross for us (because He loved us and so that we would not be condemned to eternal death), He (who was without sin) paid the penalty for OUR sin and we now have the promise of eternal life. 

Revelation 21:3-4 (in describing heaven) says that "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  I'm looking forward to that day when Jesus will return to take us back to live with Him.

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An Ancient, Invisible Power
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 7, 2009

While in Provence, France, we walked on a stony hill in a pine forest to the Moulin de Daudet, a literary landmark.  This windmill is the setting where Daudet wrote stories about Provencal life of everyday people.  For over a century it used the wind to grind wheat and other grains, staving off starvation during war time. You may have seen pictures of this windmill.

Today, we hear about the importance of renewable energy. Some say that wind energy is one of the world's fastest growing sources of power.  We can see modern-day windmills (or wind turbines) on the hills close to Walla Walla and other areas of the Pacific Northwest. 
We can't see the wind, but we can see the effect of it--trees moving, boats sailing, kites flying.  We can feel it on our faces. This is something like faith. We can't see it, but it can be present in our lives. "And what is faith?  Faith gives substance to our hopes, and makes us certain of realities we do not see....By faith we perceive that the universe was fashioned by the word of God, so that the visible came forth from the invisible."  Hebrews 11:1, 3 NEB   Is faith in God present in your life?

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He's Not Complete Without Us
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 6, 2009

This week a long and wearying heat-and-humidity wave affected more than Bellevue, Washington humans. It finally got to a couple of letters attached to the wall next to our Beginners' Sabbath School classroom.

Another prayer meeting attendee and I noticed them this past Wednesday night, and he propped them up against the baseboard. I shifted their position a bit to tell a true Bible parable: Jesus not only loves me, but as long as "us" are separated from Him, He doesn't feel complete. The Savior has identified Himself with us so completely, taking on our human form and suffering our human death, that the only decent thing to do is to open our hearts and lives to our Creator and allow Him to welcome us into His heart. For more of what the Bible says about salvation, click here:

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A Part of Puget Sound You'll Never See
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 5, 2009

I've always loved the group of 19th-century artists known as the "Hudson River School." These men--and there were probably women among them as well--specialized in huge landscapes which showed nature in all its intimidating power. I especially enjoy Albert Bierstadt's paintings, and can actually get a bit dizzy as my eye ascends the sides of his craggy, magnificent mountains.

Late last month Shelley and I were in a Seattle Half-price Bookstore. I'd finished looking around and was sitting on a couch at the front of the store, paging through an art book I'd found on a nearby shelf. My eye, resting on the painting in the above photo, was grabbed by the familiar Bierstadt "look," but I was intensely surprised by the work's title, which you might just be able to make out at the photo's lower right corner: "Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870."

My eyes narrowed. "Hold on there, Albert," I muttered. "I've been moseying around this very Sound since 1982, and I ain't seen no scenery like that!"

I wish, as I held the book in my left hand and snapped the photo with my right, that I'd included another paragraph of text in the view. Because the sentences just out of sight below  tell me that our good buddy Al had never been to Puget Sound when he painted this picture! Instead, the 50-year-old master artist had just stretched a seven-foot-wide canvas onto a frame, and simply painted every dramatic device he knew how to portray: sunlight blazing through stormclouds, wild lashing waves, Indians in canoes--and that awesome ascending mountain in the background, which is the Washingtonian's main clue that Al wasn't dealing with reality here. Sure, Washington has lofty mountains, but they're not crowded right smack up against the seashore.

This reminds me of what people sometimes do--and do chillingly well--with the Bible. An alarming number of otherwise intelligent people spend a lot of time spinning yarns about the events and the characters' motives in Scripture, causing a lot of amusement among careful Bible readers (like Bierstadt's "Puget Sound" causes chuckles among Sound-dwellers.) Only in the case of the Bible yarnspinners, it's not funny. It can be deadly, as the Jim Jones and the David Koresh cults have shown. Are you following some kind of Bible reading plan? If you don't have one, jump into ours, by clicking here.

To see a clearer view of Bierstadt's "Puget Sound," click here, and to see the artist himself at his Wikipedia entry, click here.

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Hide It Under a Bushel, No!
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 5, 2009

This past Tuesday on our morning walk, Shelley and I spotted this reversed license plate on the front of a car. This plate's only readers would have to be the occasional bug who crawled behind its shelter to escape a 60-mph windblast!

We naturally checked the back plate, and it was mounted correctly and visibly. Incidentally, it was an Arizona car, and either  its owner likes to live dangerously, or Arizona requires only the rear plate to be shown, and he put the front plate on backwards as a joke.

This got me thinking about how some Christians sometimes conceal who they really are, and to Whom they belong. Like this car, whose state and number you'd never guess when approaching it from the front, they don't "put their best faith forward." Peter was the classic New Testament example: "You're one of His disciples." "No I'm not! I swear I'm not!"

Jesus has some serious things to say about how important it is that we be true to Him. "You are the light of the world," He says. "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."

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Where You At?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
A few years back, the "Where's Waldo" books were fairly popular.  In the books, you searched around for a sketched drawing of a little guy named Waldo.  The catch? He was hiding in amongst hundreds of other sketched people, many of which had very similar appearances - he was basically a needle in a haystack.
About 8 years ago, before we headed out on a trip, a friend of mine gave me a plastic wind-up toy crab with "Seattle" printed on the front of it.  I quickly named him "Crabbie" and thought it would be fun to take him around to all the places I visited, taking pictures along the way.  Crabbie has been lucky enough to visit not only several US states but also Kenya, Amsterdam, Fiji, Australia and many places in between. 

After a few trips, I created a photo book - Where in the World is Crabbie?  Some of the images are very easy to determine where Crabbie is and some of the images take a few clues, before you can figure out where he is (need a hint on this picture?: Think Utah....Arches...).
I certainly do not want anyone to need a clue or a hint when they look at me and are asked the question "Where in the world is God?"  My hope is anyone could look at me and my life and know exactly where God is--in me.  Just as the children's song says, "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine....down in my heart, I'm going to let it shine..." 

Make it your promise today, that you'll let God's love shine through you --- so no one will even need to ask the question but instead will be able to answer right away, "Oh, there's God!"

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The Western Meadowlark
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Western Meadowlark is a bird of the open prairie and grasslands.  While it was observed by Lewis and Clark on their 1804 adventure into the American West, it wasn't recognized as a separate species distinct from the Eastern Meadowlark until Audubon classified it as such in 1844. He then gave it the Latin name Sternella neglecta, since it had been overlooked or neglected for so many years.  While it looks nearly identical to its Eastern cousin, its liquid song, familiar to many a farm boy, sets it patently apart.
Its diet, as the above photo indicates, consists largely of insects which it is adept at catching.  As unappetizing as that might seem to us, it perfectly fits the needs of this species.  Our stance on what may be appealing to us as individuals goes far beyond the realm of food.  But even in this area, one's outlook on life and relationship with God impacts our view as to what is desirable. 

Jack Blanco in his Clear Word translation. underscores this in his paraphrase of Numbers 11:10 in speaking of the food given the Israelites from Heaven.  "When they were content in the Lord, the manna tasted sweet, but when they were dissatisfied with the Lord's leading, the manna was loathsome."  Notice--the makeup of the food didn't change; what changed was the attitude of the people towards the Lord and His generosity towards them.  May we have the wisdom to appreciate all of His gifts and taste the sweetness of life He gives.

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Diamonds or Squares
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 1, 2009

I saw this billboard on a recent trip to Canada.  (Shreddies is a type of breakfast cereal.)  Actually, I thought this advertisement was pretty funny. 

It does remind me though how we can easily be deceived by new packaging or a a clever spin on things.  Doesn't a diamond sound more exciting than a dull, boring square?  Give it a little turn, though, and it's still the same old breakfast cereal.

The devil started with the human race in the Garden of Eden and has been trying to deceive us ever since.  We need to be aware that this is happening.  In Matthew 24:4-5, the disciples had asked Jesus what would be the signs of his second coming and the end of the age.  Jesus said, "Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."

We have to have a personal relationship with Jesus so we will recognize false advertising or we too will fall into that trap of deception.

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