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

Devotional Photo Blog- June 2010

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

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



Back of The Line, Buddy!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Have you ever waited in a line and wondered if it was worth the wait?  I know I have.  If you ever have been to an amusement park or waited for a table at your favorite restaurant, I am sure you have asked yourself that very question – Is it worth it?  In a recent trip to Skagway, Alaska, I couldn’t help but snap this picture.  Here I was in the middle of town, waiting in line for the restroom (yes, I was taking the picture AND waiting to use the facilities).  I am sure our very own, Skagway (or close by) native – Shelley, could tell us a little more about the lack of restroom facilities, but either way there were very few public restrooms.  With the general population (892 – according to the latest census), it most likely doesn’t cause for much concern.  As we were part of a cruise ship, with more than 3,000 passengers and crew….and we weren’t the only ship in port, I thought the line-up for public restrooms was interesting.
 
Is it worth it? 
 
This last Sabbath in the Junior class, we were discussing the importance of prayer and how that keeps us connected with God.  We discussed, when praying, we should remember were talking with our best friend.  We can tell Him anything and He has important things to tell us, so we need to listen.  It’s so very important to stay constantly connected with God, in any way we can.  As we face daily challenges, we may not be in a literal line for heaven, but we are in a figurative line.  As we know from history, this line has taken a while and we don’t know exactly when it ends, but we do know the end result.  We know for a fact, when we get to the front  it means we get to spend eternity with our heavenly Father, and that makes this line absolutely worth it.

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Camouflage and the Semi-palmated Plover    
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Children start learning about it in the primary grades or even earlier.  It’s one of those lessons from nature that’s so easy to teach because even a child can see it; camouflage.  Those of us that are older enjoy pointing out cryptically colored creatures to the younger set as examples of this type of protection.  But it’s not the only type of concealment offered.  Another form, disruptive camouflage, depends upon dynamic visual markings that prevent the observer from identifying overall characteristics such as size and shape, the exact opposite of what we usually think of as camouflage.  But it works. At least sometimes. 
 
Observe the two pictures of Semi-palmated Plover; same species, different setting.  The bird’s coloration remains essentially the same, but as the surroundings change, the result is also altered.  Is this bird really protected by camouflage as the press release touted?  Put another way, is God’s protection absolute?  That all depends upon what you mean by that question.  Have we ever intentionally placed ourselves in a situation outside of God’s will and then complained He didn’t deliver as He had promised?  I like the way the old King James Version renders 1 Peter 1:5 referring to those who abide in Him, “Who are kept (guarded) by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  On our own, and in the wrong setting, that protection might not be apparent.  But when needed, this text assures us that His protection will be revealed.  And isn’t that what is really needed, His power to be seen and self hidden?

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Trust in the Lord

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 28, 2010

I took this picture a few years ago on a trip down to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California.  This place has awesome views and abundant wildlife and lots of interesting wildflowers. 

The trails take you to amazing viewpoints where you can see birds, seals, sea lions, sea otters, deer, rabbits, beaches, sea and sky, You have the option of going on several different trails to get to different areas of the park.

We have options of going different directions in our lives but we need to remember we can trust God to show us which paths to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

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United With Him
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 27, 2010

Today's photo shows grapes drying to become raisins. We don't see this kind of thing here in the Pacific Northwest, but one can in Tuscany. We happened upon this scene in the beautifully preserved medieval village of Cetona, south of Siena.

Grapes and their products, mainly wine, raisins and vinegar, are mentioned more than any other plant in the Bible. In Bible times, grapes were allowed to spread across the ground. Pruning is essential if the vine is to produce grapes. Protection is important when the vines are producing their fragrant flowers. Isaiah 5 talks about singing a love song about his vineyard. John 15:1-4 states, “I am the the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every barren branch of mine he cuts away; and every fruiting branch he cleans, to make it more fruitful still. You have already been cleansed by the word that I spoke to you. Dwell in me, as I in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, but only if it remains united with the vine; no more can you bear fruit, unless you remain united with me.” NEB Yes, we must remain united with Him!


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Be Stil
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 26, 2010

This license plate (which I saw in mid-April at a stop light) is an appropriate one for the Sabbath day, isn’t it?

If you’re like me, your “be still” moments are few and far between, and maybe almost nonexistent. Because I’m not talking about the “pause for breath” you take after a busy day or a stressful situation. I’m talking about true stillness.  I had such a moment this past Monday, and I couldn’t remember when I’d had that kind of experience before. Here’s what happened.

On Sunday, Shelley and I had made a quick trip to Walla Walla where I officiated at a wedding, and Monday we drove back, not even stopping at home, toward Night One of our church’s Vacation Bible School, which would host 104 kids that first night!

I know what you’re thinking--“How could a hurried weekend trip, which ended with a drive straight toward a VBS, contribute to this moment of stillness?” Well, the answer is that none of those things contributed to it. What happened was that Shelley was driving, and I took a nap for the last few miles, and I was vaguely “coming to” when she parked in the lot of a QFC grocery store to get a couple of things.

As I sat there in the passenger seat--still a bit woozy from my nap--I sensed a real peace, a real moment of stillness. I just sat and looked out the window at people walking by. I looked at parked cars. I just let life flow past me. And it suddenly reminded me of childhood, because kids have to do a lot of waiting, in a car or elsewhere. And during that waiting--especially if the historical era didn’t provide them with thumb-operated electronics--those kids were forced to either be bored to tears or learn to experience stillness, watchfulness, a close study of what might otherwise pass one by.

I thought, “Okay. How can I ‘do’ that stillness again? How can I get myself positioned so that I can just relax, turn off the brain a bit, escape from having to constantly fumble for my to-do list and search for the next item?”

Maybe it’s easier to move toward this stillness when we remember that, in a very important way, we who are looking for the Second Coming are “waiting in the car” for our Parent to take care of a few necessary things. Soon He’ll come back to where we are. Until then, let’s rest in His love and His promises.

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Wet Sprinkler?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 25, 2010

Back in late April I was strolling along a Bellevue street and spotted this puzzling sign. I am not of the generation for which the word “Duh?” readily springs to the lips, but I will confess that this time it hovered perilously near the vocal cords. 

I tried to apply logic to this scene. “Okay,” I said to myself. “We have a big pipe coming up out of the ground. That signals that something might potentially come through that pipe--probably some sort of liquid, most likely water. This pipe has been painted red, no doubt so that it will be noticed by those who might need to access it. The sign seems not to be a joke, because it is both professionally printed and professionally attached. So we are to assume that those responsible for the pipe wish to inform those who might access that it is possible to obtain sprinklable material from it, most likely water. But since water is already wet to start with, why need the sign say this?” I bent my brain to the task of trying to visualize dry sprinklable material coming from this pipe, but could not succeed.

There’s no doubt some perfectly sensible explanation, which would immediately replace my “Duh” with a knowing “Aha.” And as I look at that sign I can’t help but thinking of the way modern science tends to label humanity and the natural world. To me, the most obvious “duh” label would be “Creations of an Intelligent Designer.” But it’s really tough for mainline scientific thought to surrender to this (again, to me) quite self-evident description. Instead, we supposedly are “evolved organisms” which have kicked and murdered and eaten our way past less survivable species to get where we are today.

But I get the feeling that thoughtful, intelligent people are starting to distrust the presuppositions they’ve been taught, and that they’re feeling their ways back to Square One, or as close as they can get, and rethinking life’s major questions. We Bible-believing Christians need to know what we believe, and why, in case they ask us.


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Longing
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Thursday, June 24, 2010

As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for You, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and stand before Him?

Come here and listen, O nations of the earth. Let the world and everything in it hear My words. The heavens above will melt away and disappear like a rolled-up scroll. The stars will fall from the sky, just as withered leaves and fruit fall from a tree, and when My sword has finished its work in the heavens, then watch!

Search the book of the LORD, and see what He will do. He will not miss a single detail. His Spirit will make it all come true. Even the wilderness will rejoice in those days. The desert will blossom with flowers. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! There the LORD will display His glory, the splendor of our God.

With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those who are afraid, "Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you."

And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will shout and sing! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the desert. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.

And a main road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. It will be only for those who walk in God's ways... Lions will not lurk along its course, and there will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will follow it…singing songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with joy and gladness.

Through each day the LORD pours His unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing His songs, praying to God who gives me life.

He who is the Faithful Witness to all these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon!"

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

Scripture references from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible: Psalm 42, Isaiah 34 and 35; Revelation 22.


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Power . . . Sleep . . . Previous Channel
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Shelley and I stayed in a Walla Walla Best Western motel Sunday night (I’d performed a wedding that evening), and while in our room I noticed this TV remote atop the television, parked in a little cardboard holder.

What first caught my attention, of course, was the remote’s color. Every other remote I have ever seen in my life has been a solemn and almost funereal black, the color of old dial phones before the dawn of the Princess Phone era. I stared at this remote. “Is this thing real?” I wondered. “It looks like a kid’s toy.”

And the next thing I noticed was that its cheery blue-and-white hue let me see the buttons better. And suddenly, standing there in that motel room, I felt a certain longing. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought wistfully, if we could operate our lives with a remote something like this? Wouldn’t it be nice to get a jolt of POWER by just pushing a button? Tossing and turning on the nocturnal mattress, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to thumb SLEEP and immediately doze off? And when the here-and-now became too much to bear, how wonderful it might be to hit PREV CH, and change to an earlier and maybe more happy channel of memory.

The box which keeps the above Best Western remote propped up and ready for use has interesting lettering: “Making your world a CLEAN WORLD.” This reminds me that one of these days our Creator is going to fulfill His promise and engineer new heavens and a new earth, because the old will have passed away. And despite our fantasies of being able to control people and situations because of our superior power, God’s eternal kingdom will be based not only one human being manipulating another, but a universe full of sinless, selfless, loving beings whose greatest joy is service. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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Gray Catbird             
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The names at first glace seem so contradictory, so out of place to us.  Two examples will suffice.  The first is that of the Gray Catbird pictured above.  The name just doesn’t fit together properly, cat and bird.  You would get the same reaction to a Catdog or any other combination of traditional adversaries.  No inference of out of place amalgamation is intended here of course.  The name simply comes from the bird’s mewing call that reminds us of our feline friends.  It does tend to stay hidden in the undergrowth so some careless observer might be confused.
 
Confusion might also come to the casual reader of the book of Judges where one of the leaders selected by God to deliver the Children of Israel is given the name Jerubbaal.  Baal, the chief god of the Canaanites, doesn’t exactly mesh with one chosen to protect the followers of God from falling into idolatry.  But the name Jerubbaal was a name that was earned by way of experience.  We probably remember him better as Gideon, the man with the torches and trumpets.  But before he ever got to that point in his life he was awarded the name Jerubbaal.  It happened after the fleece experience when he showed he was serious about following God’s call on his life.  He took up the challenge and destroyed his father’s idols, including one to Baal.  He did so at night because he realized what the neighborhood reaction would be.  And of course he was right, they wanted to kill him for destroying their idol. 
 
His reaction contains more irony than the afore-mentioned Catbird.  “You are the ones who should die for insulting Baal!  If Baal is really a god, let him take care of himself and destroy the one who broke apart this altar!”  From then on Gideon was called “Jerubbaal,” a nickname meaning “Let Baal take care of himself!”  (Judges 6:31, 32 Living Bible)  It’s likely his protagonists weren’t particularly impressed with his logic, but it does make sense.  Sarcastic it may have been, but I rather like his new name.  It fits, maybe even better than the title for the one mewing in the bushes.


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Are We Connected?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 21, 2010

On my recent visit to my parents up in British Columbia, we were out looking for wildflowers. We stopped at one of our regular spots and saw a whole lot of good specimens of larkspur and death camas. I was framing a great shot of some larkspur when my camera suddenly died. It would not do anything and was not showing any signs of being on even though my battery had recently been charged and I had not taken that many pictures with it, I switched out to my other battery. Still nothing. It was very frustrating!

After we got back home, my dad discovered there was a problem inside the camera where the battery terminal was not connecting properly. He managed to fix it and so far, the camera has been working fine. I found this larkspur on the way back home.

We need to keep connected to God or we also will not be functioning properly. We can do that through prayer and Bible study. God reveals Himself to us through scripture and we communicate with Him through prayer.

Matthew 6:5-13 (Message)
"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace."The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what's best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes. 

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The Promised Land
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Joshua Tree, a type of Yucca can be seen in the Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert of California. They can live hundreds of years, with some known to live up to a thousand years. Cream-colored clusters of flowers, as in the above photo, are produced in the springtime. Like most desert plants, their blooming is dependent on rainfall at the proper time.

The unique shape of these trees reminded early settlers of the Biblical story of Joshua reaching his hands up to the sky in prayer or waving his upraised arms on toward the promised land. Thus, they named them “Joshua Trees.” As God provided a “promised land” for the Israelites, He has offered a “promised land - heaven” to us. Have you accepted His offer?


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Solar Accent Lighting
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 19, 2010

Back in mid-May, while on an emergency trip to Ace Hardware for bolts with which to repair a backyard fence gate, I paused beside these little units, whose display box proclaims them to be “Solar Accent Lighting.”

Hasty logic might cause the uninitiated to say, “Solar lighting? Why would you need these things to light your way if the sun’s shining?” But the seasoned householder, especially one who with his wife tends to take late-evening walks once in awhile, replies, “You don’t. You need those lights when it’s dark outside. Because inside each is a battery, which absorbs energy during the daytime and steadily releases it at night.”

Back in Jesus’ day, the only time people saw solar accent lighting was in the daytime, directly from Old Sol himself. But they did have little oil lamps--the one in the picture below looks and works pretty much exactly like the First Century ones.

As I mentioned, those little lamps were oil-powered, and the way to make sure you had late-night illumination was to have a good supply of oil. Listen to Jesus’ story about bridesmaids and lamps in Matthew 25:1-13 [NKJV]:

Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

In the Bible, oil is sometimes used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. And there’s no doubt that as we gaze ahead into what will probably be the darkest period in earth’s history, we need His presence more than ever. How do we receive Him? By asking for Him, and by prayerfully reading the Book He inspired.


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“Five Measley Bucks? Is That All I’m Worth?!”
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 18, 2010

The last Sunday in May Shelley and I discovered a garage sale on our morning walk, and while browsing the items I came upon this apparently agonized face. Let me share a little secret with you: if I were in the mood for statues or busts about the house (which I’m normally not) I would definitely choose those with expressions less like the grimace one might display upon being bitten by a Black Mamba.

In an effort to move this tortured face off the garage sale table and into the home of someone whose mood might resonate with its message, somebody in charge of the garage sale has slapped a yellow price-sticker on its brow. Talk about a “self-esteem” buster . . . .

Seriously, how much do you think you’re worth? I’m not talking about those purported scientific analyses of the elements in the body (which range in estimate from ten dollars to several million.) Probably--as in a garage sale--you’re worth what someone will pay for you. And that’s where the news gets good. Because if you put a capital “S” on “someone,” you remember that Someone did indeed pay everything He had: Himself.

So. How much are you worth now? Let’s have no more “self-worthlessness” talk, okay? That kind of chatter causes Someone to wince. Instead, let’s read our Bibles--start with the book of John--and discover how valuable we really are.


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He Ever Loves and Cares for His Own
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Did you ever get hurt when you were a kid and go running to your parents? Probably a silly question; I know I did. Back then, a Band-Aid helped to stop the bleeding, but what felt even better were the comforting hugs, loving words and wiping away of my tears. When we grow ‘big’, getting help can be more difficult because often our hurting happens on the inside where it's not so easily noticed. We may really need help and yet not ask…

Well, the Bible has good news for us kids, big and small. When others don’t’ notice that we’re hurting God does. He sees everything. There isn’t a sparrow that falls from the sky that He doesn’t care about and that promise gives me great comfort. I know that no matter what I’m going through, Jesus knows too and He’s longing to help me. The spiritual hymn ‘I Must Tell Jesus’ sums it up very nicely:

I must tell Jesus all of my trials, I cannot bear these burdens alone
In my distress He kindly will help me, He ever loves and cares for His own
I must tell Jesus all of my troubles, He is a kind, compassionate friend
If I but ask Him, He will deliver, make of my troubles quickly an end

Nothing ever happens in our life that God doesn’t know about. Although He has the power to prevent us from feeling pain, sometimes He allows us to suffer hoping we’ll seek to be closer to Him. He wants to comfort us; He wants to give us strength and healing in our time of need. All we have to do is run to Him and He will throw His arms open wide.

Everything in creation is open to God’s eye. He sees everything we do. He gave us a wonderful High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, who came to live with us and who has now gone up to heaven into the very presence of God, ministering there on our behalf. So let’s hold firmly to the faith we profess. We don’t have a High Priest who doesn’t understand us or who’s incapable of feeling our pain. He was tempted in every way more powerfully than we will ever be tempted, yet He never sinned. So let’s approach our Father’s throne with confidence, asking Him for mercy and grace to help us, especially in our time of need.

Scriptures references from Paul's letter to the Hebrews 4:13-16 as presented in The Clear Word - an expanded paraphrase [of the Bible] to help build strong faith and nurture spiritual growth - written by Jack J. Blanco.


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Even This Little Bird?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This last week we noticed our tree, outside our window, had an extra amount of robin activity.  When I did a closer inspection, I noticed every time the robin entered the branches of the tree, a few more heads popped up from a nest.  These heads were getting close to the same size as the adult birds’.
 
Two days later, as I walked to my car, I noticed one of these babies out of the nest and sitting very still on the branch.  Then I noticed another one, and another one, three in all, and I knew they were getting close to leaving the nest for good.  I quickly took a few photos, and within an hour or two, they were gone.
 
God takes care of us and everything He has made.  The song “All Things Bright and Beautiful” always comes to mind when I have the chance to stop and enjoy God’s creations.
 
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful: 
The Lord God made them all.
 
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
God made their glowing colors,
And made their tiny wings. 
 
The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.  

The cold wind in the winter,

The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden: 
God made them every one. 
 
God gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.


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Rain
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

 
Our unusually wet spring and early summer has gotten me thinking about Noah.  We might joke about forty days and nights but in doing so we run the risk of forgetting Noah was inside that floating zoo for a lot longer than that, for at least twelve months.  That’s a long time to be confined with the same people in a crowded area, on top of having to deal with a bunch of smelly animals.  We may not often think of that trip in terms of miracles, but a miracle it was. 
 
While Seattle has the reputation for having more than its fair share of rain, those of us that live in the area understand its not like many people think.  Most, for instance, would not believe that Atlanta has more rain each year than does our fair city, but it does.  So when we do get unseasonably large amounts of rain, some of us tend to complain.  I wonder if Noah ever complained?  We would be speculating, but I’m pretty confident that he was more than glad when those doors finally opened and he, along with his family, finally stepped out onto terra firma.  I understand that he had confidence in God, in His leading and protection.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t have the emotions that go along with the changes that life brings.  But for Noah, underlying all of those feelings was the realization that he was where God wanted him to be.  In reality, it was a rather simple question for him.  In spite of all the things that made life difficult or even downright miserable, was there any place on earth you think he would rather have been than in that ark?  That does make some of those annoyances fall into perspective, doesn’t it, for both Noah and you and me. 

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That's How Much I Love You
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 14, 2010

I took this photo of Mt Rainier a few years ago from the Reflection Lakes area of the park.  It was a serendipitous shot as that's the only time I've seen that combination of the mountain out and calm water. 

Whenever I see mountains, I can't help feeling insignificant beside them.  Yet, I know that Jesus would have died to save just me.  I really like the words to the song, That's How Much I Love You, sung by Kathy Troccoli:

That's How Much I Love You
Words and Music by Dawn Thomas

I died for you
I'd do it all again if I had to
To show you what you really mean to Me
I cried for you
I hung on the cross so you wouldn't have to
I made a way to set your spirit free

That's how much I love you
That's how much I want you
I gave up my own life that you might live
That's how much I love you
That's how much I want you to see
You are My child and you mean so much to Me

I gave you the stars
The sun, the moon, yes I went that far
So no matter where you go you think of Me
The mountains fair
The beautiful oceans are there
To remind you that I can satisfy your every need

John 3:16-18  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.


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Ransomed
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 13, 2010

This Jacob's Staff or Ocotillo plant grows in rocky deserts in the SW where it has adapted to its dry environment. Mature plants can have as many as 75 branches that can reach 20 feet tall. The beautiful clusters of brilliant flowers bloom after rainfall. Hummingbirds pollinate them as they travel from Mexico to the mountains of western U. S. When domesticated and planted in rows, the plants are used as fences because the spines keep animals away. Holy Land climates, hot and dry, are similar to Arizona where I took this photo in the Sonoran Desert. Although severely restricted by shortages of water, most deserts are really not deserted. Life is there, even though it might be hidden from our sight.

The Jacob's Staff or Ocotillo plant is named after the Biblical figure, Jacob, referring to Genesis 32:11 when Jacob crossed the Jordan with nothing but the staff in his hand. Isaiah 48, starting with verse 17, tells that the Lord ransomed his servant Jacob, leading him through desert places where they suffered no thirst. Likewise, He has ransomed us – you and me. Let's rejoice!


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The Rusty Head
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 12, 2010

A little over a week ago I did another of my thrift-store sweeps, looking for used books. While trolling the aisles I saw this hammer, which caught my attention because its handle and head seem to be made of two different metals. The handle is shiny, but the head is rusty! I hung it on a display rack and took its picture.

Over the last several decades, America and probably a good portion of the rest of the world have become very interested in getting and staying healthy. This past Thursday I heard that even Egypt--a nation of dedicated smokers--is starting to decree its public places smoke-free. People everywhere are jogging, joining health clubs, and generally getting trim.

But what about our minds? We can tighten up our abs and our pecs and everything else below the jawbone, but if we’re not similarly disciplined mentally, we’re in even more dangerous shape than if our heart were to give out. Because while aerobics strengthens the physical heart, our minds govern our spiritual hearts. The devil has prepared a number of deadly fallacies which he and his agents put forth as absolutely true: You are (or can become) your own god; the God of the Bible is a liar; the God of the Bible is a tyrant; everybody is naturally immortal and will not really die; the God of the Bible did not create us--we created ourselves by evolution, and on and on.

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and in all your getting, get understanding,” Proverbs 4:7 urges. And Proverbs 9:10 tells us what both wisdom and understanding are: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

“Fear,” of course, is the healthy respect we must have for both parent and Parent. As we mature, this rapidly develops into love for Someone who loved us literally to death.

So while you’re tightening your torso, don’t forget to develop your mental and spiritual muscles too! You do this by exercise--reading the Bible and talking it over with your Personal Trainer!


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Exit Through the Gift Shop
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 11, 2010

Monday I spent some time in the University district, and spotted this movie marquee. “201Z” must mean “2012” (2’s must be in short supply in the letterbox). I was startled by how these three lines of print express the gospel message:

“2012 A Time for Change.” I don’t know what this film is about--its title makes it sound like a documentary. But I happen to know that you and I aren’t having to wait until 2012 for a time of change. Change is happening now, as this old world gets more weary by the hour. Tuesday afternoon I heard the first of a four-part public radio series on how dangerous the Seattle earthquake fault line really is.

“Survival of the Dead.” Again, I don’t have a clue as to this movie’s content--sounds like a zombie flick, but you’d think its title would be a bit more gory. But I do know that in the midst of the heart-shuddering changes the time of the end is ushering in, God’s Holy Word predicts survival for even those of His faithful followers who have died--those who have accepted His Son’s sacrifice for their sins. Which leads directly to the marquee’s third line:

“Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Unless I miss my guess, this isn’t a movie title but an invitation to do a bit of shopping after the film is over. And if you happen to be worried about end-time changes, and are concerned about the frailty of life and your chance of surviving after it’s over, then definitely visit the Jesus’-gift-of-salvation shop. You do this by clicking here.

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Press Together
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Thursday, June 10, 2010

A few weeks ago, I snapped this photo of white wildflowers nestled along a trail at Rosario Beach. As I passed by, I noticed the flowers were growing from the same plant, but were in different stages of bloom: some were little peak-a-boo sprouts, some had grown into adolescent buds and several had fully opened into fragrant blossoms. I thought, ‘That’s just like God’s children. We’re all grafted into the nurturing vine of Jesus Christ and members of His family; we’re all walking the same road towards heaven, yet each one of us is at a different place in our relationship with Him: some are just beginning, others have walked for a little way and others have been walking for awhile. Although we may hold different convictions and display varying degrees of spiritual wisdom and grace, we all share the same love for God, His Word and our Savior.’

In His sermon on the Mount of Olives, Jesus taught His disciples that in whatever manner they would like to be treated, this is how they should first treat others. Today, we call this the golden rule. Jesus later expanded on this theme by saying that when we truly love each other as He loves us, then all men will know that we are His disciples. When I paused to meditate on this idea, I had to ask myself, ‘How would I like to be treated?’

If someone were to see sin in my life, what would I want them to do? Gossip behind my back? Loudly inform me of the splinter in my eye? Pray that God would show them if there were some act of kindness they could do for me to help me overcome?

If I were to feel convicted by the Holy Spirit to step out in faith and act on His bidding, how would I want someone who disagreed with my convictions to act? Make their work the tearing down of mine? Strive to put stumbling blocks in my way? Pray that God would guide in my life and theirs and show each of us our work to do?

If I were to feel convicted to speak, would I want others to listen respectfully?

If I were called upon to listen, how would I want the message to be delivered?

And when, not if, I make mistakes, do I want to be forgiven?  And if so, how many times?

When I see sin in someone else’s life or if I disagree with their act of faith; if I am called to be in the position to listen or am given the opportunity to speak, I need to remember: God said that whatsoever I sow I also will reap. I want to reap a harvest of blessings, a bouquet of friends that will be as close to me as brothers and sisters and not just for today, but for all eternity. Friends who will know me as I know myself and yet love me.

God does not want us to push each other aside, nor does He want any one of us to pull away; He wants us to press together. It’s only by pressing closer and closer together, by seeking to be united, by supporting each other in the work God has called each one of us to do, it’s only then that Gods’ Holy Spirit can rain His blessings upon us. And then, only then, will the world know that we are truly His disciples: when we have love and show love one for another. This is what God is waiting for. This is what the world is waiting for. This is what we need.

Be humble, patient and gentle with each other, showing tolerance and love. Worship God in peace, stay united and be guided by the Holy Spirit. Make every effort to preserve the unity given to you by the Holy Spirit, and you will be at peace with one another. There is one Lord, one faith and one baptism. There is one God and Father who is over everything, works through everything and now is in all of you.

In addition, Christ has generously given each one of us special gifts of grace. The gifts He gave were varied. The gifts are to help us press together, to treasure our mutual faith and to grow up into mature believers, becoming more and more like Christ. These gifts will lift us out of our childish impulsiveness and keep us from being tossed back and forth like a cork on the waves of the sea, or from being spun around by every wind of doctrine that comes along. We have spoken the truth in love which will help you grow to be more and more like Him. We're Christ's body which is only as strong and healthy as its individual muscles and sinews. So as we work together according to our abilities, the church will grow and build itself up in love.


 

Scriptures references from Paul's letter to the Ephesians 4:2-7, 11, 13-16 as presented in The Clear Word - an expanded paraphrase [of the Bible] to help build strong faith and nurture spiritual growth - written by Jack J. Blanco.

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OK, Kids – Light Up The World!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I had the privilege of joining the Kirkland SDA 5th grade class on an outing to the Mt. St. Helens area.  One of our stops along the way was the Ape Caves. In actuality, these caves are lava tubes, formed by….yes, lava. 

The name of the caves has nothing to do with the banana-eating, swinging-from-branches type of primate.  In fact in the 1950’s the tubes, or caves, were discovered by two members of an outdoor club that called themselves the “Mt. St. Helens Apes.”
 
As the 5th graders and the chaperones hiked through the darkness, with only flashlights to show the way, the kids began to sing.  Down under the surface, in darkness, voices rang out.  I took the above picture of the kids with their flashlights, and as you can see, it was very dark.
 
The more I thought about this, the more I heard this song in my head.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Won't let Satan blow it out.
I'm gonna let it shine.
Won't let Satan blow it out.
I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Let it shine til Jesus comes.
I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine til Jesus comes.
I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel - NO!
I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel - NO!
I'm gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Let it shine over the whole wide world,
I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine over the whole wide world,
I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

That is exactly what these 5th graders are excited about doing…letting their light shine.  I took one more shot (with a flash this time) so you could see their smiling faces.  Let’s take a lesson from these kids – let your light shine for Jesus!


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Whooping Crane    
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What causes us to place worth or value upon something?  Why is one article held in higher esteem than another?  These are questions of axiology, the third branch of philosophy.  The issue of ethics would also fall into this category.  Following that line of thought, what make this bird portrait prized more highly than the picture of the robin taken yesterday in the backyard?  The answer is simple, scarcity.  It’s the same reason the stamp collector is willing to pay thousands of dollars for a stamp that is inverted, not because it’s perfect, but precisely because it is imperfect.  Its uniqueness sets it apart; it makes it special. 
 
In 1941 the world population of Whooping Crane reached an all time low of 15 or 16, depending upon what authority you are citing.  With a very low reproduction rate, this species was in big trouble.  Through intense conservation measures and captive breeding programs, this population has now risen to over 300, still not a great number, but a substantial increase.  Imagine my surprise to discover two of these large birds grazing in a remote valley in Yellowstone National Park, far from where they would be expected to be seen.  Further study revealed this was an effort to establish a separate breeding population in a new area.  Unfortunately, the experiment failed, perhaps due to the fact they placed two females at the new site.
 
Psalms 49 speaks of an even more valuable contribution, precious beyond belief because of its singular uniqueness.  “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him – The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough – that he should live on forever and not see decay.”  (verses 7 and 8 NIV)   Dead end, extinction, no hope.  The solution?  Verse 15 offers the only possibility, “But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.”  A rescue plan far more unique and far more successful than any we might devise for stamps, cranes, or man.


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Sharing the Good News
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 7, 2010

Last weekend, I went up to visit my folks in Kelowna, British Columbia.  They took me on a walk to see these lovely mountain ladyslippers that that they found last year in their nearby regional park.  I happened to be there at the right time for them to be blooming.  From what I was reading, it takes 12 to 15 years for the plant to mature enough to produce flowers.

These orchids were just off the trail, but if you weren't looking for them, you could easily walk right by them.  They were so beautiful, my dad wanted to share the discovery with other people.  He told one couple about them and when I mentioned that if they told anyone else about them, they needed to make sure to tell them not to pick them or try to transplant them, the girl said she wasn't going to tell anyone else about them.  We told another group about them and one of the ladies immediately picked one before we could give them the warning.  When we told another lady where to look for them, she was appalled we would even think she might want to pick them!

We generally like to share our good discoveries: a great author, a great bargain, a great park or travel destination, a great concert, a great conference or whatever we have found to be awe inspiring or attention grabbing or too good to keep to ourselves. or attention grabbing.
As Christians, we have Good News of a different sort to share.  Jesus was and continues to be THE Good News.

Matthew 24:14 (KJV) And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

The Gospel Commission:
Matthew 28:16-20  (Message)  Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. JEsus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."

We need to remember to share the good news about Jesus every day.  (If you come across any wild orchids, however, you may want to be discreet about who you tell!  I'm hoping these mountain ladyslippers will still be there next year!)

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Poppies, Olive Trees and Trust
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 6, 2010

Today's photo was taken outside the wall of the medieval village of Monteriggioni just north of Siena, Tuscany. When in Tuscany, I'm always looking for poppies to photograph! These Tuscan or corn poppies are actually weeds that like to grow in fields of grain and alongside the roads. (Herbicides and pesticides are not used in the fields, so the poppies grow freely.) Here we see them growing among the olive trees as well. You've probably seen photos or paintings of a picturesque Tuscan landscape with fields of poppies, rows of cypress trees or an old olive tree and a farmhouse on a hill – the idyllic picture.

Today, poppies fill the fields in Palestine. It's likely they also did during Bible times. It's known that olive oil was used at that time. The Song of Songs 2:12 states, “The flowers appear on the earth. The time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land.” Psalms 52:8 says, “But I am like a spreading olive-tree in God's house; for I trust in God's true love for ever and ever.” May you trust in God forever!


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The Best of O’Henry
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 5, 2010

Earlier this week I drifted in to a thrift shop to do a quick used-book scan. I couldn’t repress a smile when I saw the spine of this book, which I’ve opened so that you can see its title page. Let’s study it from the top down.

At the top you will notice a classy little “CL” logo, followed by the phrase “Classic Library.” So far, so good. We are being introduced to the concept that the editors and publishers, from a background of careful scholarship and thoughtful discussion, have decided to include O’Henry in their library.

Then we have the title: “The Best of O’Henry,” by, simply, “O’Henry.”

But right there, the Wilco Company (publishers of “Outstanding works of universal interest), reveal to us that while they may possess a certain facility in book publishing, they are sadly lacking in literary knowledge, at least when it comes to “O’Henry.” We know this because his name isn’t the rollickingly Irish “O’Henry,” but “O. Henry.”

And as I flipped through the book’s first couple of pages--which contained several pompous shovelsful of praise for O’Henry’s masterful talent--I discovered that the Wilco literary scholars had totally blown by another vital fact (which other Henry collections always include): O. Henry’s name wasn’t really O. Henry, but William Sidney Porter. Which means, of course, that in the future I don’t plan on considering the Wilco company my source for dependable literary information.

This is something like the feeling I get when I come across writing by people who pontificate about Christianity but whose works quickly reveal that they’ve not taken the trouble to gain a clear picture of the God the Bible really describes. It’s so important, when assessing religious ideas, to go back to the Bible again and again, reading it carefully and in context, and using its truths to evaluate pontificators’ ideas, and not the other way around.


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I’ll Bake You Cookies
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wednesday night, just before a personnel committee meeting at our Adventist high school in Kirkland, I strolled the halls and caught sight of student politics in action. Posters lined the walls. One poster said that its candidate was full of “enthusiasm, motivation” and several other qualities. Another, if I remember right, claimed “experience.” But Alexandria, featured on the poster above, went right to the heart--or the stomach: “Vote Alexandria Social Vice [president]--I’ll bake you cookies.”

For a moment my own countenance resembled like the smiley face in the poster. This gal gets right to the point, I thought. “Vote for me, and you can ignore the loftier qualities,” she seems to be saying, tongue firmly in cheek. “I deliver. Cookies!”

Alexandria, of course, would be the first to tell you that even though the candidate may make the cookies, cookies don’t make the candidate. The loftier qualities (like experience, enthusiasm, ability and so on) do count. And during her term of office, if she wins, she’ll sometimes urge her social committee recruits to undertake projects which force them to think beyond quick results and instant perks, chocolate chip though they may be, all for the common good.

Back in Eden, Satan seduced Eve into thinking short-term. “Bite now,” he said through his ventriloquist dummy the serpent, dangling the Garden’s equivalent of a Chunky Chocolate, “and godlike knowledge will be yours.” Eve bit--in both senses--and the rest is hiss-tory.

And down the centuries since then, God has been patiently trying to teach us to think long term, really long term. Good thing to remember the next time the devil tempts you.


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Daisy Angels
Photo and Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Do you remember what made you really happy when you were a kid? Whiskers on kittens or dresses with sashes? Snowflakes that stayed on your nose and eyelashes? These were some of Maria von Trapp's favorite things (according to Rogers and Hammerstein). The things I remember that made me really happy are all connected to the people that I loved, and still do.

I loved the smell of my grandmother - Chanel No 5. I loved playing cards with her and working together in the kitchen. I remember that as we worked and played I would pepper her with questions, "Why do you do it this way?" "Why not try it that way?" "Gram, do you know this?" "Grammy, do you know that?" Eventually she would come to the edge of her patience and breathe out a sigh, "Bethie, Why do you have to ask me so many questions?" I would think for a moment and reply, "I don’t know why Gram, but if I don't ask questions, how will I know the answers?"

I loved being with my Papa, walking in the woods with our dog Jackie, watching him do his woodwork in the basement and visiting him in his office. (He was an Optometrist.) I remember feeling a little jealous of some my cousins who wore glasses; they got to spend extra special time with him during their appointments. During my visits, I would squint and squish my eyes and pretend that I couldn't read all of the lines so I could wear glasses too. But Papa would laugh and chide me with a smile, "Bethie, I know you can read that!"

I loved how my Mom would rub my tummy at night and sing me lullabies to help me fall asleep. I loved spending time with my Daddy, watching him create pictures with metal or driving out to visit Gram and Grandpa Keith and their beagles. I could go on and on - my sister, my brother, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my great cousins, my great aunts, my great uncles …. there have been so many people in my life who have brought me joy and I thank God for each and every one of them. It's funny, there were many problems and difficulties in my life when I was kid, some were even very serious, but when I think back, it's the memories of the things that brought me great joy, feelings of love and family, that remain in my heart. I wonder if it's because when you're a child, you're more able to remove yourself from the pain that surrounds you and take refuge in the comfort of what is good.

Papa is gone now, so are Gram and Grandpa Keith, but my memories of them remain. When Papa passed to his rest, I went down to the basement and ran my fingers over the many tools he had used to create his woodwork. He had been working on a piece when he fell ill; the wood still lay where he left it and the shavings sat neatly in a pile. I gently scooped some into my palm and when I arrived home, I placed them in a little treasure box. Smelling the wood and touching the shavings remind me, 'This is something my Papa touched while creating something from his heart for someone he loved.' I feel connected back to that time and that place when I was a kid, and the memory of my love for that person brings me great joy.

I wear glasses now - progressives if you please - and I still ask a lot of questions (sorry Gram). I love the smell of Chanel No 5 and often sing myself to sleep. And whenever I see metalwork I think of my Dad, and beagles, Gram and Grandpa Keith. So, what's my point? See my friend Makayla in the picture above? She's swooping her arms back and forth in a field of miniature daisies at Rosario Beach. This shot was taken about two weeks ago. Praise the Lord we didn't have snow for our annual church retreat! Instead, we had a beautiful sunshiny day with the smell of fresh spring grass and just enough scattering of white flowers for lying down and making daisy angels. Daisy angels? Yes. If life gives you snow, make a snow angel. If life gives you daisies, make a daisy angel.

Are you having a rough time lately? Do you feel surrounded by difficulties? Go find a field. Lie down. Make an angel. Think back to when you were a kid: when you first became a Christian. What made you really happy? Was it because you finally realized that God exists? Or, was it because you learned that what you had heard about His not being interested in the details of your life was not true - that in fact He cares so much about you that He numbers every hair on your head? Or, maybe it was the beautiful simplicity of the gospel message:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it."

Or maybe it was even more, His promises to forgive, to heal and to restore:

"Come now, let us argue this out," says the LORD. "No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool."

"And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command."

Whatever it was that made you happy then, remember it now and don’t forget. Claim the promises, hold fast to the joy and peace of those memories and keep them safe in your treasure box. And if you think that time in your life is just too far back to remember, then think about this: something amazing is just about to happen; it's even at the door: the Lord is coming soon!

I wonder what it will feel like to lie down in heaven and make a cloud angel. Cloud angel? Sure. But what will the Angels think? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again--rejoice! Remember, the Lord is coming soon! Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Scripture references from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible: John 3:16-17; Isaiah 1:18; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Philippians 4:4-7

 

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Best Line of Defense? Cinnamon of Course
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First of all, I need to apologize for the second-rate bird photo (in comparison to Mr. Howson on Tuesday's blog). That said, this image is of two Cinnamon Teal ducks. While hiking on a trail only a few miles away from Mt. St. Helens this past week, I was lucky enough to spot these birds and get a shot or two before they hid themselves amongst the reeds. When I returned from my trip, I did a little research on these particular ducks (after identifying them) and here are a few facts I discovered.

1. The Cinnamon Teal is the only duck with separate breeding populations in North America and South America
2. A group of cinnamon teal are collectively known as a "seasoning" of teal
3. Young ducklings hide in the vegetation surrounding the water. If the adult senses danger, it performs a "broken wing" display to lure the predator away the nest before flying off.

It's this last fact that struck me. This last Sabbath, Pastor Schurch chose a verse in the Bible that dealt with the story behind this very selfless act. God did this very thing for us. As the mother duck is willing to put herself in danger by acting like she is injured to lure away any dangers that are getting to close to her ducklings, God sent His son to Earth and allowed Jesus to take all the dangers (Sin) away from us and ultimately save us forever.

In Luke 23:46, we read the account of Jesus dying on the cross, "And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.'" Having said this, He breathed His last." At this moment, Jesus was absorbing the world's sins – literally taking on the "broken wing", so we could have eternal life with him.

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Pitcher Plants
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What do the two plants pictured above have in common, or more pointedly, what sets them apart from other plants? Yes, they are both angiosperms, producing flowers used for reproduction, but be even more specific than that. They are both examples of what are loosely called Pitcher Plants, the name coming from the fact that the leaves of the plant form a tube or pitcher. But what really draws our attention to them and sets them apart is that they are carnivorous. While this characteristic is found among many in the animal kingdom, it is unusual enough among the plants to deserve particular notice. Both examples shown above are found in coastal areas, the first in Maine and the second in Oregon. They are generally found in bogs or swamps which are acidic in nature and lack many of the nutrients plants demand for survival. This deficit is supplied by insects which are trapped in the tube created by the leaves and are then digested by enzymes produced by the plant. Unusual, even bizarre, but this is what causes us to given them notice. Most of us have heard about this, perhaps fewer have actually seen it.

So, what sets the followers of Christ apart from the rest of humanity? Christ's response to this question seems rather unusual to us because His answer seems so commonplace. John 13:35 states: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV) That is a quality that seems almost universal and we are inclined to look at its absence as being more unusual than its presence. But in Matthew 5, Jesus defines more completely the type of love that He is talking about: "But I tell you: Love your enemies..." Now that type of love is unusual, worthy of distinction. And impossible. Impossible, that is, unless it comes from Him. Perhaps that's why He selected this quality as being the identifying mark of His followers, an attribute that can only be possessed if there is genuine friendship with Him.

And isn't that what He wants from us, an intimate relationship. Such a rare commodity demands the world's attention, even more than unusual dietary habits – in either plants or animals.

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