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

Devotional Photo Blog - June 2011

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

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

God Gives the Truest Freedoms
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 30, 2011

This is a truly wonderful time to be an American, or a citizen of any other country whose press and whose people enjoy great liberty. My heart goes out to many around the world who, having seen the possibility of freedom, are sacrificing their time, their safety, and in some cases their lives to throw off brutal oppression.

God, of course, is the Author of all true freedom – including one which no human being dares offer. God gives us the choice and the chance to live forever. If you and I can wake up in the morning and step forth into our world knowing that our lives need not be bound by the time from now till we die, but that we can continue to live and love through the billions of eons ahead, we can pretty much face anything our scanty temporal existence throws at us.

God gives other true freedoms – the freedom to know that He loves us no matter who we are or what we have done, and the freedom to be His ambassadors in the foreign country His planet has sadly become.

So whatever you're doing on the Fourth of July, send up a thank-you prayer to the One who has blessed our land so abundantly, and who stands at the gates of another country, waiting to welcome us in.

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Protection For All
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 39, 2011
Recently, at work, new signs starting showing up on the ceilings.  As you can see, these specific signs are targeted to help those who are wheelchair bound, in case of an emergency.  "Area of Refuge" is a message to those in need of assistance to follow the signs to a specific location, where they will be safe.
It got me thinking, don't we all need an area of refuge?  The good news is that we have it.  In fact the word "refuge" can be found in multiple entries throughout the Bible. Here are two entries from the Psalms which I feel put light onto the true meaning of God's love for us, which is exactly the kind of refuge we need.
Psalm 5:11: "But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you."

Psalm 9:9 "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."
Whenever you are in need of an area of refuge, follow the signs that read: P-R-A-Y.

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Steller’s Jay
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Bible seems to be full of paradoxes:  the first shall be last; he who loses his life will save it; and the list goes on.  I came across another while I was reading Isaiah the other day.  It may be due just to the way a modern translation rendered Isaiah 30:29 but it caught my attention.  “But the people of God will sing a song of solemn joy.”  (Living Bible) 

The terms solemn and joy just don’t seem to belong together in the same segment.  We can understand how the import of an event would be deserving of solemnity; we can understand the emotional expression of joy that can’t be contained, but we seem to have a hard time combining the two. 

However, we can observe the irony of such a mixture of emotions in other places as well.  Have you ever been to a formal wedding with the beautifully dressed bride gracefully walking down the aisle with her father to join hands with her mate to be?  The moment is filled with pride and joy, but what is the mother, and perhaps others doing but crying.  We humans are a strange mixture of components.
We see this improper equation displayed in nature too, and as with humanity, it’s usually at times of transition that it becomes most obvious.  Pictured above is a young Steller’s Jay.  This young bird is just about ready to fledge and leave the confines of the nest for the larger world outside the boundaries of the familiar rose bush. But even though he looks much like his parents, with jaunty crest and emerging blue feathers, he still is an adolescent, with all the excitement and hazards that accompany this time of life.  In his eagerness to see the world, he launches himself into space and quickly discovers he doesn’t really know how to fly. 

Pundit and playwright Thornton Wilder made an interesting observation that may fit here:  “Nature reserves the right to inflict upon her children the most terrifying jests.” Jest it may be, but it’s at this stage of life both man and bird seem to be most vulnerable. Perhaps that’s why it deserves to be considered solemn, but leaving the nest also deserves the joy of spreading one’s wings.  Perhaps that’s why the redeemed are filled with differing emotions: they have escaped the blight of sin with its deadly consequences, and have entered a life of eternal freedom with their Lord.  Yes, after reconsidering, I do think solemn joy was a good choice of words after all.

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For His Eye is on the Sparrow
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 27, 2011

I was flying between Vancouver, BC, and Kelowna, BC, a couple of years ago when I took this picture. The mountains covered in snow and the clouds drifting above and between them were creating a white on white effect - sort of like the china pattern one of my friends started collecting in college.

When I'm flying, I get a whole different perspective on the world, the environment and my role in the bigger scheme of things.  It kind of gives me a small glimpse of how God must see us - as part of a much bigger picture.

From high in the skies GOD looks around,
      he sees all Adam's brood.
   From where he sits
      he overlooks all us earth-dwellers.
   He has shaped each person in turn;
      now he watches everything we do.

   No king succeeds with a big army alone,
      no warrior wins by brute strength.
   Horsepower is not the answer;
      no one gets by on muscle alone.

   Watch this: God's eye is on those who respect him,
      the ones who are looking for his love.
   He's ready to come to their rescue in bad times;
      in lean times he keeps body and soul together.

   We're depending on GOD;
      he's everything we need.
   What's more, our hearts brim with joy
      since we've taken for our own his holy name.
   Love us, GOD, with all you've got—
      that's what we're depending on.
   Psalms 33: 13-22, The Message

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Have Courage
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 26, 2011

With Mt. Aspiring in the distance, our hike started among herds of sheep grazing in the open rangeland. After crossing another swinging bridge the trail zigzagged up the mountainside to our destination of Rob Roy Glacier. Several times we had to find our way around the washed-out trail, often looking straight down to the raging river! (I often wondered “can I do this?) Even though the weather was cool when we started, by late morning it was very hot in the sun! My photo shows my hiking companion as we stopped to look at our destination, while the others in our group hurried on ahead of us. I found a cool spot in the shade of a bush to eat my lunch (and rest) as I enjoyed looking at (and photographing) the glacier and a long waterfall from the melting ice. Going back downhill was much easier than the uphill climb and took half the time! I wondered, “Was the uphill climb and uncomfortable heat worth getting there?”

Do you sometimes wonder if doing something is actually worth the effort? Even though they may be different, we all have trials in our lives. There are ups and downs in all of our lives. The Gospels tell us that while on earth, Jesus had many trials and temptations. He asked His disciples “Do you now believe? Look, the hour is coming, has indeed already come, when you are all to be scattered, each to his home, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that in me you may find peace. In the world you will have trouble. But courage! The victory is mine; I have conquered the world.” John 16:31-33 NEB

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Angels, Unclasp Those Trumpet Cases!

Photo and Commentary by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 25, 2011
During the evening song services at the Western Washington Adventist camp meeting in Auburn, an incredibly talented musician brings his trumpet and plays along with the singing. The other day I spotted his trumpet case parked beside the Rodgers organ, waiting for its owner to unclasp it and fill the air with bright, ringing tones.
I don’t know whether the heavenly angels store their golden trumpets in actual cases, but I do know that I’m longing for the time when they’ll raise those trumpets to their lips and shatter earth’s gloom with the thrilling announcement that Jesus has arrived in the clouds.
Because “the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality . . . .” 1 Corinthians 15:52 – 53 NKJV  Are you ready?

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Art for Art’s Sake
Photo and Commentary by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 24, 2011

While at camp meeting, I help put out the daily newsletter. Across the hall from my office is a windowless room which serves as both a storage room and a restroom. A few years ago, a door in one wall was eliminated, and the space was filled in so that it became part of the wall.

However, the main wall is cinderblock, and the doorway was filled in with something else, so unless something was done, you’d have the cinderblocks, and then the door-shaped part which wasn’t cinderblock would have stood out like a sore thumb.

Enter the Master Plasterer. I don’t know his (or her) name, and don’t even know if “plasterer” is the correct term. This person took on the job of blending the cinderblock part with the former-door part so that nobody would know the difference.

I remember the first time I saw what you see in the above photo. The blending was so perfectly done I actually squinted, thinking I was seeing an optical illusion. Whoever did this not only was an expert, but had lavished loving care upon this particular project. And what’s so amazing is that this isn’t a public place. It’s not the facing on a building. Only a few people per day will be briefly in this room, and most will probably never notice this wonderful wall-work.

The Master Plasterer made me immediately think of our Creator. A week or so ago I heard a radio interview with a scientist who had written a book about the evolution of feathers. I don’t for a moment believe, of course, that feathers evolved, but were created by God. As the interview went along, the scientist was speaking enthusiastically about the perfect design of all kinds of feathers, and I wanted to tap on the radio speaker and say, “Hey, wait a minute. This didn’t just evolve—it was indeed designed by a Designer.”

And what’s so amazing is that like the plasterer, God doesn’t cut corners. A worm digging through the ground is just as wonderfully designed (in its way, and for its purpose) as an eagle flying through the air, or a flower color-bursting from the earth. God takes just as much care with what’s unseen as with what’s seen.

Two things this says to me. First, “worship Him who made heaven and earth, and the sea and all that is in them.” Second, I too need to remember to take pains with the little things, the unseen support structures I’m responsible for, so that I will be “a worker who does not need to be ashamed.” 2 Timothy 2:15

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Between 10 and 2
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Thursday, June 23, 2011
If you have ever read about or attempted fly fishing, you most likely have heard the phrase “Between 10 and 2.” If you were to draw an imaginary clock around you, with 12 being straight ahead, you would want to  release the line between the 10 position and the 2 position.

In 1 John 4:11-19, we read "Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.."  In verse 18, we see that the term 'cast' is referring to separating love from fear -- getting rid of fear.  That is a good thing, as love is so much better then fear.  In verse 19, we see the best part of the text -- we love Him because He first loved us.  What a great thing to have -- His love first.

In fly fishing, when you cast your line, you will eventually pull it back, to cast it out again or if you 'lay' your lure down on the cast, you'll retracting it once a fish is on or when you are ready to cast again.  The good news in 1 John -- when love casts out fear, you don't have to retract it --- leave the cast out forever.

Image was taken on: Blackfoot River, Montana.

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Common Raven        
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Found around the world throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the Common Raven is closely associated with all that is wild and remote. It’s probably no accident that when Elijah was hiding in the wilderness, it was ravens that were sent to feed him.  It produces a wide variety of sounds, probably exceeded only by humans.  Many biologists believe they are among the most intelligent of birds and have been observed at play and are apparently able to solve problems which involve higher levels of thinking. 
Many cultures hold them in high esteem as born out in their literature.  Jewish folklore tells how they behaved disgracefully, as they were the only ones who copulated while on the ark.  Native Americans gave them special spiritual significance, believing they were the bearers of omens or guidance for the future.  Even in England, the superstition started during the reign of Charles II, that England would court disaster should the ravens leave, prompts them to keep six at the Tower of London.
The book of Job speaks of ravens in a much less mythical way.  When the Lord finally elects to respond to Job’s questioning, He does so with questions of His own.  “Who is it that feeds the raven when they fly about looking for food and when their young cry out to be fed?” .No answer is given because the point has already been made.  And Job never really receives an answer to his questions.  Instead, the Lord simply let him know that He had the world in His hands.  And for Job, and for you and me, that is enough.

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A Living Hope
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 20, 2011

I love this time of year when the Oriental Poppies (Papaver orientale) are blooming. They put on an eye-catching display and you can see why they captivate artists and photographers alike.  Locally, I've seen white ones, pink ones, orange ones, salmon colored ones, fringed ones and, of course, the red ones.

Georgia O'Keefe's famous 1927 painting, Oriental Poppies, was depicted on a US stamp in 1995.  It came out on a sheet with 15 stamps and a quote: "Nobody sees a flower really - it is so small - we haven't time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."

These flowers are kind of hard to miss, but like all flowers, the blooms are short lived. 

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
For, All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands for ever.  And this is the word that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:23-25  (NIVUK)

According to the Andrews Study Bible notes, "The point here is that believers have been born through the word into an inheritance (fruit) that is 'incorruptible . . . and that does not fade away.'"

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in heaven for you, 1 Peter 1:23-25 (NIVUK)

That is good news!

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Honoring Fathers
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 19, 2011

Today is the day we especially honor fathers and father figures for the contributions and influences they make in the lives of their children.   Fathers play an important role in a child's development from birth through adulthood. Studies have shown that children whose fathers (or father figures) who talk to them about their school activities and relationships, read to them and are involved in activities with them do better in school than children who don't have those opportunities. Involvement, influence and affection are three keys to father-child relationships. Some parenting experts group most fathers' efforts in the following categories:

• Participator/Problem-solver
• Playmate
• Principled guide
• Provider
• Preparer
Fathers who look for a variety of ways to be involved with their children contribute to a healthier family and better future for their children. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” Psalms 103:13 NIV

What Makes a Dad

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so
He called. It …Dad

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She’s Not a Single Mom!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 18, 2011

The cul-de-sac just west of where Shelley and I live contains at least one delightful family whose parents spare no expense when it comes to sidewalk chalk, and whose kids (and maybe—if we’re to judge by the above photo—some grownups) routinely fill that entire circle of asphalt with creative drawings of everything from hopscotch squares to kids’ body-outlines.

In the above photo—on which I’ve tweaked the brightness and contrast so you can read it better—the subject is “Mother Earth.” Off to the right are some things sons and daughters of Mom Earth experience, such as the sun, a butterfly and some flowers. Evidently one of the cul-de-sac parents wanted to insert among the sidewalk-scrawls a “teaching moment”—care for your Mother.

That’s a good message to shoehorn into receptive young minds, of course. The fewer chemicals these soon-to-be-grownups allow to drizzle down through those storm drains, the fewer fish will die.

However, that’s only half the story. Mother Earth is not a single mom, and any attempt to make her seem so is not only an insult to her Creator but a shockingly self-centered view of human existence. Because if the only reason we cherish our planet is to keep it as clean as possible for the next generation, that’s an altruistic but also pretty pitiful idea.

No, God has destined us for greater things than being cosmic custodians. As Peter describes, Mother Earth is soon to get a major makeover:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:10 – 13 NKJV

“A new heaven and a new earth . . . .” A wonderful promise, isn’t it? Sure, let’s take care of our planet, treating it with the respect it (and its Designer) deserves. But let’s pray for our neighbors, and for tactful opportunities to talk about our Father God and His plans for a wonderful future.

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What Planet are YOU From?
Photo and Commentary by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 17, 2011

In order to decently preserve the identity of the Eastern-religion practitioner who makes the three startling claims in his bulletin board brochure, I have shown you only his left ear. But the caption under his photo gives his even more pompous title: “His Divine Presence, Avatar (and then it gives his name).”

There is no problem, he says. Very interesting, Your Divine Presence, but what planet do you hail from? Certainly not ours. What about the wars and torture and rape ravaging our planet and its people? What about floods and tornadoes and E-coli epidemics and famines?

There is no separation, he says. But Your Divine Presence, how do you convincingly explain this to the mother of a stillborn baby, or to a wife who weeps helplessly beside a hospital bed and watches her husband of forty years drift off to sleep for the last time?

Find out the Absolute Truth. Based on the above two claims, Your Divine Presence, your batting average is oh-for-two. So what makes us believe that you really know the end from the beginning? If your purpose is to explain away any legitimate human emotion and tell us we will eventually be dissolved into the Great Nothingness, then you’re going to have to whip up a better story than that. Because we’re not wired that way.

And the reason we’re not wired that way is that we were wired by the real Divine Presence, Someone who--rather than sitting serenely with His legs crossed, pontificating about our misery and trying to explain it away--created us, acquaints us with truth, and then offered Himself to redeem us into a gloriously fulfilling eternal life.

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Come to Campmeeting!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 16, 2011

If you're one of the thousands of commuters who drive by our church each day, this is the sign you'll see right now. And if you're someone who enjoys good Christian music, great Christian preaching, and wonderful fellowship, I would like to invite you to the Western Washington Campmeeting, June 16-25, on the campus of Auburn Adventist Academy, 5000 Auburn Way South, in Auburn.

Recently the first weekend's schedule was revised, and Shawn Boonstra, formerly speaker-director of It Is Written, will speak Saturday morning at 11 AM and again Saturday night at seven. To see the entire campmeeting schedule, click here.

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“Close Your Mouth”
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As I read Hebrews 11, I noticed that the entire chapter is dedicated to faith--many examples of faith and how that faith either saved someone, freed someone, or proved who and what they believed in. One of those examples was of Daniel. Daniel loved God and would do anything for Him, including face the consequences of being thrown into a dark pit full of ravenous lions.
During our last mission trip to Kenya, we were able to go into the Masai Mara National Park. I asked if we could enter in early in the morning, as you have a better chance of seeing numerous animals, in the cooler part of the day.  We got lucky and we actually came across a lion kill.  We found it at the tail end of their meal, as there were cubs around.  I say that because during 'main course,' lions will battle, challenge and fight with each other over their portion of the meat, and that is not a place for cubs.  This particular image was taken later in the day, of one of the male lions, very content and satisfied, thus not aggressive at all.  It was very easy to have faith, at this moment, that he wasn't going to decide to eat anything else...including me.
In Daniel’s case, his faith had to be little bolder.  He put himself in a situation where his faith might put him in grave danger.  As we know, God delights in that level of faith.  Not that God wants us to be in challenging predicaments or perilous places, but He thrives to see us willing to stand for Him, no matter what the cost.

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Baby American Dipper
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Babies always seem to be hungry, or sleepy.  That’s the way they’re made.  And parents are the ones who usually provide for these needs.  The baby American Dipper appears to be exercising its new-found skills towards informing the parents of its dietary needs.  While it has already been able to capture a small amount of its own food, it is still very dependent upon its parents for survival.  As a result, it puts most of its efforts toward gaining the parent’s attention.
In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus directs His hearers to be aware of the dangers that come from being distracted from one’s major goal.  Matthew 6:22 concludes: “When your eye really focuses on something, your whole body responds.” (Clear Word Translation)  You can see this being put into practice by the baby in this picture.  It isn’t interested in what tomorrow’s weather will be like.  No thought is being given to recent trends in the stock market.  Its sole focus is on its parents.  And that’s not a bad example for us to follow as well.  After all, hasn’t He promised to supply all our needs.

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A Little Pencil
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 13, 2011

"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."  Mother Teresa

I like the above quote.  It kind of distills our role here to the basics!

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said,  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.   This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Matthew 22:37-40  The commentary in the Andrews Study Bible states that, "These are the two great principles of the Decalogue."

Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."  John 13:34

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He's Calling You
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 12, 2011

Have you been enjoying some of our beautiful sunsets lately? This was a recent view of one of the bright sunsets from our house. This outstanding show of color made me think of our Creator and the wonderful things He has given us to enjoy. And, we can look forward to heaven where things will be even more magnificent!

The familiar song, “Do Lord” summarizes this thought for me:

I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun
I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun
I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun – way beyond the blue.

Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me
Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me
Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me – way beyond the blue.

I took Jesus as my Savior, you take Him too
I took Jesus as my Savior, you take Him too
I took Jesus as my Savior, you take Him too
Yes, He's calling you.

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The Marooned Pansy
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 11, 2011

One evening in mid-May when Shelley and I were walking near our home, I spotted this cute little flower gamely growing between the sidewalk-slab and the curb. I get a chuckle out of these flowers – Shelley tells me they're pansies – because each one looks like an angry little Scotchman with bushy eyebrows and mustache.

I don't think anyone would deliberately plant a pansy in the middle of the sidewalk like that, but somehow a little seed had skittered into the sandy soil in that little trench, and lo and behold, a pansy popped up.

Pansies don't think, obviously, but if they could, this desert location might cause a bit of morose Scotch depression. No friends nearby to chat with, just a few miscellaneous and boring grass spears. And every moment there’s be the constant worry that a looming bike tire or skateboard roller might decapitate you.

But pansies in sidewalk cracks are the ones that get noticed. People look at them with interest and gratitude, and see them as nature struggling to overcome what we've done to it. And it was this solitary pansy (not the bed of flowers at the edge of the lawn) who made it onto this devotional photo blog!

Know where I'm going with this? You're probably 'way ahead of me. Sometimes the Lord calls us to serve Him in places and conditions we ourselves wouldn't choose. For centuries, missionaries have left homes and relatives to travel far away to where their skin color and their accent stand out like a sore thumb. But the Lord uses these awkwardnesses in wonderful ways.

Many years ago while I was pastoring another congregation, a relatively new believer came to me and said, "I just can't stand where I’m working anymore. Everybody swears, everybody tells dirty stories. Do you know of a place I can work where I'll have Christians around me?" As gently as I could, I told him that he was probably the only Christian anyone in his current work situation might ever see.

In the words of poet Annie Johnson Flint:

Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in the way
He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men how He died
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.

We are the only Bible the careless world will read,
We are the sinner’s gospel; we are the scoffer’s creed;
We are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word;
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?

What if our hands are busy with other work than His?
What if our feet are walking where sin’s allurement is?
What if our tongue is speaking of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him or welcome His return?

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Why Tarry Here?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 10, 2011

A couple of weekends ago Shelley and I popped over to what used to be called Southcenter Mall and is now (I think) called Westgate Mall. Or maybe it's something fancier than "Mall," like “Centre.”

The Borders bookstore is on the second floor, and this particular day I had finished browsing before Shelley did, so I went and sat on a little couch just opposite to--and exactly like--the one you see above. I couldn't sit there for long because it was so uncomfortable! I have a feeling they deliberately design mall benches to not let their occupants get too comfy, because some people would probably camp there all day.

Anyway, the old spine was starting to weary of that totally inadequate backrest, and I suddenly thought, "Isn't that the way Christians sometimes feel with the current world we're living in?" After all, we are indeed on the "borders" of a new era, where we will finally get to meet our Creator and Redeemer, and where will finally get to experience an environment that He knows is best for us.

So if you're feeling a bit out of place on this planet – if your spiritual spine is aching –that's good. I can't wait until we go home! Here's part of a gospel song that was popular a few years ago:

Why tarry here? Lets cross over.
It's better on the other side.
Why tarry here when we can cross over
With Jesus to abide.

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Double Mail—from Who?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 9, 2011

I couldn't resist a grin when I went out to the church mailbox a few days ago and found these two identical envelopes – with our identical address. This happens every once in a while, but to have the Alzheimer's Association do this?

The reason I show you these envelopes is not to poke fun at either Alzheimer's or the association dedicated to eradicating it. Instead, these envelopes remind me of how frequently we Christians develop amnesia about God's goodness. It's so easy to take Him for granted.

Maybe that's why David began Psalm 103 the way he did:

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
  Psalm 103:1 – 5 NKJV

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Light of God
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The light we see is from God.We know this because we can read in Genesis all about that - (Genesis 1:1-5) "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day' and the darkness he called 'night.' And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day."
How creative is God?  He not only makes light from the sun, that shows as bright white light, streaming through trees, but he also creates amazing sunsets, as the sun passes away from the horizon -- beautiful colors. He doesn't stop there. God creates the light of the moon, a reflection from the sun.  The light is not only for our vision but it gives life to the planet.  Day or night, white or colorful, we can see His handy work each and everyday. 
Of course God is the light of the world.  Let the light of God, from God, shine upon us.

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Symbols are powerful tools helping us remember a reality greater than ourselves.  These symbols may gain or lose significance through usage and time but the reality remains the same.  One of the most widely used symbols of heraldry employed by the French monarchy was the fleur-de-lis.  The nobility used it to signify their sovereignty came directly from God during the period when the divine right of kings was commonly accepted.  Its origins are widely disputed but one colorful legend states that Clovis, looking in vain for a way for ford the river near Poitiers, observed a doe which had been frightened by his soldiers cross in a shallow place where wild yellow irises were abundant.  His soldiers followed suit and thus gained victory over their opponents.  Such is the mythic flavor surrounding Iris pseudoacrous which can be found blooming from June through September throughout Europe, Western Asia and North Africa and more recently in North America. 
The richness of symbols is easy to see all the way through the Jewish ceremonial year.  Paul, in his discussion of marriage even states that we are a representation of the closeness of Christ to His church.  “This is a profound symbol, I mean as regards Christ and the church.”  (Ephesians 5:33 Moffat)  But back to the flowers where the parallels may be extended even further.  The first time the term “iris” was found in French literature was in the 13th century, 600 years after the supposed incident involving Clovis. Here, the name referred to “a messenger of the gods”.  Though we often do so rather poorly, isn’t it amazing that we have also been called to be an iris, a messenger of God.

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The Way
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 6, 2011

I took this photo last week up in Kelowna, British Columbia.  These are bitter root flowers (Lewisia rediviva).  They are each about 2 inches across and there were patches of them all over the top of this high hill called Knox Mountain.  You can also find them in eastern Washington and they are the state flower of Montana. 

Anyway, I have never seen them blooming so profusely before.  There were huge patches of them and the colors ranged from pure white to deep pink.  The flowers come out after the leaves have dried up and they grow in what looks like the most inhospitable places.  The flowers open when the sun is out.

According to my book, Wild Flowers of the Pacific Northwest by Lewis J. Clark, they got their name when Meriwether Lewis found some in Montana, put a plant in a flower press and then planted it when he got back to Philadelphia since it was still showing signs of life; it grew!  He named it rediviva, which means restored to life!

When Jesus was talking to the disciples about going back to His Father's house to prepare a place and about His return one day, Thomas told him that they did not know where He was going and inquired how they could know the way.  Jesus answered, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."  John 14:6

Sometimes it seems like there is no way out of a difficult situation and we need to remember that when things seem difficult or impossible, Jesus is the way and He can restore us!

I like the lyrics to the song, "He Will Make a Way" by Kathy Troccoli and Bruce Sudano.
The first verse and chorus:

I know that you are discouraged
But you're not alone
There is absolutely no situation
Out of His control
One door may close
Another will open
Jesus is healer of all that is broken

He will make a way where there is no way
He will bring His peace where there is no peace

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Puzzles, Part 2
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 6, 2011

How many animals do you see in my photo? Look closely!

You may remember my Photo Devotional Blog on puzzles (May 1) about finding thirty books of the Bible in a paragraph. Some were easy to find, while others were difficult. Some people at church asked me if there really were thirty books of the Bible in the paragraph!

A friend of mine, a third grade teacher at a Christian school, made copies of the paragraph for her students to keep on their desks. They worked on finding the books when they had extra time. One student took it home and with his parents found all thirty books of the Bible.

Congratulations to this student and his parents! The answers are highlighted and underlined below. You might want to compare these with your answers.

There are 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph. Can you find them? This is a most remarkable puzzle. It was found by a gentleman in an air plane seat pocket on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours. He enjoyed it so much he passed it on to some friends. One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat. Another friend studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly news paper column. Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving, she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot. That's a fact. Some people, however, will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalized. Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar to see some of them at the worst.. Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the book in this paragraph. During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alph Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new sales record. The local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen. As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, the books are all right there in plain view hidden from sight. Those able to find all of them will hear lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers. Also, keep in mind that punctuation and spacers in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answers. Remember there is no need for a mad exodus, there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in the paragraph waiting to be found.

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“Which Trail Has . . . ?”
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 4, 2011

I love cartoons, especially the New Yorker ones. A few days back, in one of the magazine's recent editions, I saw this cartoon and couldn’t resist snapping its photo. (If your screen shows the caption as a bit too faint to read, the woman is asking, “Which trail has the best cell-phone reception?”)

The irony, of course, is that this woman has taken a rare opportunity to get away from civilization, and rather than relishing this vacation from the concrete canyons, she’s obsessed about keeping in touch with the clamor she was  evidently trying to escape.

The Sabbath is God’s weekly invitation to come away from the wired-and-wireless world and it’s stresses and worries. Sabbath is a sanity-saver—and if you and I want to maintain mental balance, we need to turn off the devices of the week and walk for awhile in Eden.

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.  (Genesis 2:1 – 3 NKJV)

For more Bible information about the Sabbath, click here.

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 3, 2011

A week or so ago, Shelley and I got a quick bite to eat at the deli on the second floor of a health food store close to where she works. I couldn't resist snapping this shot of our little booth. Looks pretty inviting, right? Especially with the printed invitation on the wall.

Quoting the Old Testament, Jesus once said (into the very ears of the devil, interestingly enough), “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, NKJV) Job also considered God’s utterances edible: “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:21) 

Want some dessert? “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)  Do you think of yourself as still a spiritual infant? “ . . . as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  (1 Peter 2:2).

In other words, “EAT”!

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What’s This?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let's see if we have any good detectives among our blog readership. Study the above device carefully. No, it's not an aboriginal artwork depicting a barking hyena!

Give up? Then here's a hint. The key ring this is attached to is not mine, but is one I keep in my desk at church. Another hint: if you were a custodial person you would have probably already guessed the correct answer. Another hint: on the other side of this device is the word “Bobrick.”

As far as I can tell, this is an all-purpose paper towel dispenser key for dispensers put out by the Bobrick company, who specialize in that kind of thing. Custodians would carry this around with them in case they had to change a roll of paper towels, and the key would presumably work in any of the Bobrick dispensers. I actually used this once in one of the church’s restrooms.

The above gadget reminds me of us—you and me. We have been created by God, who has stamped us with His image (just as the Bobrick company labeled this key with their name). Our Creator has given us specific talents, and we are most useful (and most happy) when we allow Him to guide us to people and situations which exactly match those talents.

The key—and I definitely intended that pun—is to stay on God’s keyring rather than wriggle off and land on some useless stretch of carpet. If you did escape the "ring," of course, you wouldn't have to work as hard—but you would find yourself  feeling dreadfully empty and unfulfilled.

Because God's got great plans for you! "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

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Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
There is a Christian song, by the band Delirious, titled Rain Down.  I am including some of the lyrics as they are powerful to dwell on.  We need the rain, the rain of God to pour down on us.
Looks like tonight, the sky is heavy
Feels like the winds are gonna change
Beneath my feet, the earth is ready
I know its time for heaven's rain, it's gonna rain
It's gonna rain, again

Cause it's living water we desire
To flood out hearts with holy fire

Rain down all around the world we're singing
Rain down can you here the earth is singing
Rain down my heart is dry but still I'm singing
Rain down rain it down on me.

Let's continue to pray for God to send His living water, so we can look up and soak it all in.  Bring on the rain!

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