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

Devotional Photo Blog - March 2009

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

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

Wood Duck
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One of the easiest ways to learn is through imitation.  No one doubts the importance of role models in establishing positive character traits.  Perhaps this is most evident when the going gets really tough.

Fortunately, hurdles we could never imagine somehow seem much less insurmountable once we see that someone else has conquered the obstacle.  Whether or not these baby Wood Ducks have their learning curve mastered, imitation plays a role here as well.

What is true in the natural world is equally true in the spiritual realm as well.  Paul recognized his responsibility to his fellow believers when he addressed the early believers in II Thessalonians 3:9 and stated, "We did order to make ourselves a model for you to follow." (NIV)  Paul is not setting himself up as a paragon of virtue but rather offering a simple example of what it means to live a practical Christ-like life.  Your challenges may not all be small, but isn't it nice to know Someone has already successfully climbed that mountain and reached the other side successfully?

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Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 30, 2009

"But what happens when we live God's way?  He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard - things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.  We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that basic holiness permeates things and people.  We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely."  Galations 5:22-23 MSG

I took this picture of a pear while walking around my neighborhood.  I like the way the above verse states that God brings gifts into our lives when live His way.  We do get a different set of values and a sense of peace that we would not otherwise have.

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Jungle Lamp
Photo and commentary © by Bev Riter
Sabbath and Sunday, March 28 & 29

NOTE FROM MAYLAN: On Saturday night I won't be near a computer to change this photo blog page, so I thought I'd give you two days to contemplate Bev's thoughtful entry below.

While in the Amazon jungle of Peru, away from the conveniences of modern life, our source of light was kerosene lamps. As dusk began to set, young native workers went room to room, lighting lamps for us travelers. Kerosene lamps also provided light to the outdoor showers and latrines. Our lamp (in the above photo) provided just enough light to allow us to see around our room and later to tuck our mosquito nets snugly around us after climbing into bed. Since the window was open, with no glass or covering, my hope was that the mosquito netting would also keep out the jungle snakes!
"The Lord is my LIGHT and my salvation; whom should I fear?"  Psalm 27:1

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The Humble Black Bic
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 27, 2009

This past Monday at church, I walked by the circular counter where our guest-book lies, and saw a heartwarming sight I hadn't noticed before--a humble black Bic resting in the penholder.

That's an amazing pen, when you come to think of it. Back in 1968 when I started attending college, I bought a pack of black Bics which looked exactly like this one. Other pens have changed styles over the years or even disappeared, but this one hasn't. I wrote my first three published books in college-ruled spiral notebooks with black Bics before typing and revising them and sending them off.

Why did I stick with Bic for so long? For one thing, it's cheap, perfect for a college student with limited cash flow--and no great loss if a fellow student borrows it and forgets to return it. Also, it feels good in the hand, like the pencils we all learned to write with in Grade One. In addition, you can look at the Bic and see exactly how much ink you have left--and there's nothing like the satisfying feeling when you actually run out. There, you say to yourself. No matter where else I might fall short, I've accomplished something. I've laid down a whole Bic-full of words or numbers or notes or drawings.

But the chief virtue of the Bic pen was its dependability. If I remember right, its main advertising slogan was "Writes the First Time--Every Time." And that was almost 100% true. And while its ink-flow wasn't as smooth as, say, a gel pen's, it was't far behind--especially during hot South Dakota summers!

Poised patiently in its silver pen-stand, the above Bic stands ready to help someone write his or her name in our guestbook. I'd like the Lord to use me as something like a humble Bic. Even though I'm not very glitzy-looking, I can stand ready for when the Lord wishes to use me to publicize something He wants other people to know. I can pray for dependability, and the readiness to "write the first time, every time" the message the Lord wants communicated. And if I'm steadily, day-to-day faithful, He will use me to write someone's name in the Book of Life! (To read the Wikipedia entry about this award-winning Bic, click here.)

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You Need the Big Picture
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 26, 2009

This past Sunday morning, deliberately unbreakfasted except for a banana apiece, Shelley and I joined a throng of people at VegFest, the annual gathering put on by Vegetarians of Washington in a huge exhibition hall at the Seattle Center. Once inside, we went systematically from sample-table to sample-table seeing (and tasting) the latest in vegetarian food.

On the way there I took the photo above, of the letters "ENA" behind three arches. I really should have snapped the shot from further back, because to the left and right of the arches are wide spans of a blank wall, with no nearby clue as to what "ENA" means.

However, nearly a full block to the left, at the other end of the wall, are three more arches which contain the letters "ARE." You'll notice that the "E" above is only partly visible--and the first half of it appears after the "AR." But you'll only understand the entire word "ARENA" if you have the big picture--either by backing off so you can take in both arches in a sweeping glance, or by remembering the first part of the word as you walk along the wall to the second part.

The "big picture" is so important in anything that has to do with God's will. Vegetarianism, for example. Back when I was just beginning to go meatless, I got fairly familiar with the terms "salad eater" and "rabbit food." But judging from the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds last Sunday, we've come a long way, baby. The big picture--for me--stretches from a vegetarian Eden (see the last couple of verses of Genesis 1) to a New Earth where the lion shall eat grass like the ox.

Just this afternoon I was responding by e-mail to a member who was in conversation with someone who couldn't understand why Adventists consider the seventh-day Sabbath so special. Again, it's a big-picture issue, stretching from a blessed and sanctified day in Genesis 2, through a Savior who kept it as a custom (Luke 4), and apostles who observed the day even with Gentiles (Acts 13:42-44).

The person who had the Sabbath issue was also convinced that God's law has been done away with. Once more, the big picture shows us a God who not only spoke the Ten Commandments aloud (Exodus 20), but who also yearned for His people to have a "heart religion" in Deuteronomy (such as 5:29), and who in Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16 insists that He wants His law in our hearts.

How do you "biggen" and widen your own picture of reality? By studying the Book that spans the centuries with its wisdom!

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Is There Dew on Your Fleece?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You can most likely tell pretty quickly this is not a shot of fleece; however, there is dew on the plant.  My question to you: Are you like Gideon, not quite ready to hear what God has to say or wants you to do?

In Judges 6, we learn about God's request of Gideon and of Gideon's uncertainty.  In verse 36 we see Gideon negotiating with God.  "Look," he says. "I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said."

Great. All God has to do is follow the instructions and Gideon will listen.

Not exactly. 

In verse 37 God did just what Gideon had asked--but in the next verse Gideon says, "Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew." Again, God did what Gideon had asked, and Gideon eventually listen and obeyed God.

Let us think of Gideon when we are listening to God--and decide to obey Him the first time.

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Anna's Hummingbird 
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
We take such pride in our accomplishments: the degrees we earn, the houses we build, those edifices we erect which help identify who we are.  Then come those events that negate our self-esteem: the loss of a job, the crash of the market, the foreclosure.  All too often it's not until then that we remember the words of Hebrews 11:13.  We know those words--we just don't do a very good job of remembering them.  Referring back to the heroes of faith from the past, the author prompts us, "All these people were living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.  And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (NIV)

Many of you have visited or shopped at Molbak's, a local nursery which carries a wide variety of plants.  It was there I saw a perfect reminder of this truth.  In one of the greenhouses was a potted camellia, for sale and ready to pop into bloom.  In spite of the transient state of this plant, an Anna's Hummingbird had built an exquisite nest at eye level within feet of wandering shoppers looking for the perfect shrub for their yard. 

Security?  How many hummingbirds have nests so well protected from the rain?   Warm and cozy?  Judge for yourself.  In spite of all these amenities, this observer couldn't overlook the synthetic container within which this "home" was rooted.  The branches, ideally suited to house the nest, might just as well have prompted a discerning shopper to relocate the camellia to their own yard.  Perhaps that's one of the challenges the Lord has given us as well, to live in two worlds at the same time; to abide till He comes here on this earth without ever losing sight of our real home promised us in heaven.

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"In Every Leaf in Springtime"
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 23, 2009

"Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time."  Martin Luther

I found the above quote in the April/May edition of the Gaither Homecoming Magazine  (yes, I'm a fan!) and decided I needed to find an illustration. I took this picture at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.  I'm not sure what the plant is but it was one of the few with new leaves in early March!

Luke tells us that  after Jesus died,  the women went to His tomb on the Sunday morning and found it empty.  "And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.  Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen!'"  Luke 24:4-6

I love the song "Then Came the Morning" (especially the rendition by Ernie Haas and Signature Sound).  The lyrics are written by Gloria Gaither and the music is written by Bill Gaither and Chris Christian. Here are part of the lyrics:

Then came the morning!
Night turned into day;
The stone was rolled away;
Hope rose with the dawn.
Then came the morning!
Shadows vanished before the sun;
Death had lost and life had won,
For morning had come.

I don't know about you, but I'm so glad the tomb was empty!

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Springtime in Xian
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 22, 2009

"For now the winter is past, the rains are over and gone; the flowers appear in the countryside; the time is coming when the birds will sing..."  Song of Songs (Solomon) 2:11-12  NEB

Yes, spring is here, but I'm not sure that the rains are over here in the Pacific Northwest!  Flower and leaf buds are starting to pop to reveal their brilliant colors and soft green of the new leaves. Flowering cherry trees are some of the first blooming trees to welcome the reentry of spring. 

I actually took the above photo in Xian, China, where the warmth of springtime was welcomed after the coldness of the north. We can thank God for the beauties of creation and the assurance of seasons.

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Patient Education Closet
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 21, 2009

Yeah, I know. I'm having the same confused feelings you are. But this was indeed a literal sign affixed to a literal door in a literal local hospital where I visited a patient this past Tuesday.

For a moment, as I paused beside that door, the hair prickled on the back of my neck. What happens inside this closet? I wondered. Is this where patients are taken when they don't follow the doctor's orders--or when they get on the nurses' nerves? What kind of "patient education" takes place behind that innocent wood paneling? One can imagine standing outside that door and hearing a muffled voice saying,  "There! That'll teach ya!!" 

Makes me want to tiptoe back into the patient's room, give a hasty glance over my shoulder, and whisper, "Whatever you do, don't get out of line."

Coming back to reality (with a reluctant sigh, because the possibilities are so intriguing), I would imagine that behind this door a curious seeker will find not instruments of torture but merely shelves and shelves of informative pamphlets describing not only the rise and progress of kidney stones, and the proper course to take upon discovering that one has contracted mononucleosis, but also a multitude of how-to-stay-healthy materials which, if learned and practiced faithfully, would make most hospital stays unnecessary.

The old King James Bible used the word "closet" three times--twice from the lips of Jesus Himself. "But thou, when thou prayest," He said in Matthew 6:6, "enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." A few of the modern versions use the words "inner room." The Greek word tameion actually means something like a storeroom or pantry. In the previous verses Jesus has warned against praying proudly in public, and what He's telling us here is not to be a spiritual show-off but to humbly seek real communion with God.

And a prayer-closet can indeed be a place of education, if you take God's written Word there with you. The Bible reminds you that there is such a thing as prayer, Whom you're praying to, how to pray, how to handle God's "no" or "wait" answers, and many other truths about how to communicate with heaven. 

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Really Quiet Study!
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 14, 2009

The last week of January I stopped in at the Bellevue library, and noticed this gentleman in one of the very comfy chairs on the third floor. I don't know if you can make out the sign on the small table in front of him, but it says, "This area is designated for Quiet Study." It's like the guy spotted the sign and said to himself, "Quiet study? Oh, right. Snorrrrrrr." As someone who is more and more prone to going into "quiet studies" of my own--and speaking of prone, they often are--I can empathize.

Sometimes studying the Bible sends people into similar "quiet studies." That ever happen to you? Here are some suggestions for not only staying awake--but learning something--during devotional times:

1. Take the Bible you've lovingly marked and highlighted and spend several mornings' worth of your devotional time paging through it and reading only the marked passages. I've just finished doing this, and it's a marvelous review, as well as a reminder about where those favorite texts occur on the page, so I can turn to them more quickly when I need them.

2. Listen to the Bible on recording. I'm doing this right now as well--I'm listening to James Earl Jones read the King James Version New Testament on CD in my car when I drive. If you want to rush out and buy his recording, beware: he reads with remarkably little dramatics. This put me off at first, but then I realized what he was doing: he was deliberately refraining from putting his own "spin" on each passage. He wants to save that pleasure for you. Now that I'm used to that style, I deeply appreciate it.

3. Choose a version you're not well acquainted with, and read that. Last fall I began reading the New Revised Standard Version through. Great translation.

And you may have suggestions of your own for an exciting--and at least an awake--devotional time. Just remember to make it a daily habit.

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Networking to Find a Heron
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Jason Meert
Thursday, March 19, 2009

Matthew 7:7 & 8  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

I recently went out to take photos with a bird enthusiast friend and became interested in getting a good shot of great blue heron. A day or two later, I came across an article that suggested I could find a bunch of them nesting near a park and ride that I've never been to before. The next day, I mentioned this information to another photographer friend, and he gave me clues on how to find a park that was yet another prime location to see these huge birds.

On Tuesday, I found myself near the park and ride I'd read about. The birds were farther away than I'd hoped, but I got a clear view of their nests, which was great. On my way out, I realized I had enough spare time and was in the right area to search for the park that was also suggested. With some effort, I managed to find it. Because I now knew what the nests would look like and where they'd likely be located, I was able to find them easily and got some better, closer photos of the herons, including this one.

Sometimes God likes to use us to reach others. When we let Him work through us, I think we can be powerful witnesses. I hope we can each be open to the opportunities God has for us to help point others toward Him.

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Father and Son
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My best friend, besides Susan, is Jim.  I have been fortunate to know Jim for several years. I have worked with him, I was in his wedding, I've visited him several times (as he and his wife don't live in Washington, currently) and we had the great privilege to go and visit Jim, Sara and their newborn son, Jack.  To watch Jim hold and care for Jack is a true joy.  The love in his eyes is amazing. You can see the bond between father and son; in this image I took on our trip to see the family. Just looking at Jim, you know for a fact he is doing everything in his power never to let something happen to Jack.

God has a love for us that is just as intense.  He created us.  He loves us unconditionally, even when we turn our back on Him.  Now here's what's so incredible.  Take the bond that Jim and Jack have and magnify it a thousand times.  That's the bond that God has with His son Jesus.  As we read in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have ever lasting life."  Read it again - "He GAVE is one and only son...".

When we think of the incredible love God shows to us, visualize the bond that had to be broken, for God to give up His son.  The least we can do is accept God's gift to us.  Thank you God!

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The Pinyon Jay
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Step back a moment and play the art critic. What is the focal point of this photograph?  To what is your eye almost intuitively drawn?  We don't need an avian edition of Gray's Anatomy to tell us something is wrong, that's there is a distortion, a blight upon our sense of well being.  As ugly as this growth is to many of us, perhaps that's not all bad.  In many ways we have become comfortable with the ugliness caused by sin and death.  Because we have become accustomed to sin we almost accept it as being normative, as if it had a rightful place of existence.  Hopefully we never became so comfortable with sin that we fail to be repulsed by it. 

From all appearances this Pinyon Jay, found in the High Deserts of the West,  is doing just fine - except for one reminder that things are not as they should be.  We must be careful to not become too self-righteously critical and suggest that the disease may have been caused by an improper diet or maybe lack of exercise.  While such a response may possibly be fitting for mankind, even there it is often too simplistic and offers us an underhand way of pious self-congratulation that we are glad we are "not like other men".  Sin is much too pervasive for that.  It infects all of humanity and in turn all of the world, at times even the innocent.  The words found in Exodus 15:26 are much more than a health remedy, they are an indication of what the Lord desires for us as our focus switches from ourselves to Him.  "If you will listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and obey it, and do what is right, then I will not make you suffer ...for I am the Lord who heals you."  The Living Bible)

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He Is My Rock
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 16, 2009

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.

Psalms 62:5-8  NKJV

I took this picture of cliff penstemon on a June trip to Mt Rainier National Park a few years ago.  These seeming fragile looking flowers seem to grow right out of the rock.

I had stopped at the Box Canyon parking area and these were blooming just across the road.  If you have always just passed by this spot on your way to Paradise, you really should make a stop here. 

On a clear day, there are awesome views of Mt Rainier and Mt Adams and, if you time it just right, there are really great wildflower displays along the little loop trail. At the bridge, you can look 115 feet down to see the stream at the bottom of the narrow canyon.

Like the flowers clinging to the rock, we need to cling to God because he is our Rock.

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God is Our Light
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 15, 2009

We were driving along the Cinque Terre (Italy) coast to our destination for a few days when we just had to stop and watch the sunset!  As you can see, it was beautiful as it dipped into the Mediterranean Sea.  If you're like me--and you're living in a Pacific Northwest kind of climate as I am--about this time of the year we feel like we need to see more of the sun and take in its warmth!  I'm glad that spring will be here in a few days, at least according to the calendar!
We know that the sun is the closest star to earth and is the center of our solar system.  The light from the sun heats our world and makes life possible. Genesis 1:16 NEV says that on the fourth day of creation "God made the two great lights, the greater to govern the day and the lesser to govern the night; and with them he made the stars."  God desires that His people not live in darkness, neither physical darkness nor spiritual darkness.  He made the sun and moon for our physical light, and He is our spiritual light--always there for us.

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Hurry Up, Spring!
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 14, 2009

Yesterday morning on a walk, Shelley and I saw this plaintive message amid childish chalk-drawings in the next cul-de-sac over from ours. The words may have been written by a child, but the letters are so well-formed that they may also have been written by a mom who (like her kids) may have been getting cabin fever.

If I were scratching sidewalk chalk-messages, mine would probably be "Hurry Up, Second Coming!" I'm grateful that the Lord waited long enough for me to be born (!), but I do know that time can't--and maybe shouldn't--last much longer. All around the planet, Christian hearts cry out, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"  

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The Cross in the Snow
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 13, 2009

A few days ago on an early-morning walk I spotted this evocative scene beside the path--something cross-shaped lying at an angle in the crusty snowfall of the day before. (I haven't adjusted the color at all--there wasn't much light yet.)  When I stopped and studied it, however, I realized that this dramatic silhouette was nothing more than a cardboard box with its sides fully opened. There it lay, totally emptied of its contents.

Which is, of course, what Jesus did at His crucifixion. " . . . Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross." Philippians 2:5 - 8 NRSV  Want to learn more about what Jesus did for you and me on that cross? Click here.

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God's Second Bible
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Back in mid-February I ran across this item in a bookstore. The penny I placed beside it shows you how small it. It's a book with nothing but photos of our planet, and it was so compact, and packed with so much beauty, that I almost bought it.

As I flipped through its pages, I thought, Nature has often been called "God's Second Bible." And even though it is not possible to prove God's existence using the scientific method, nature presents overwhelming evidence that our planet and its vegetation and inhabitants were created by Someone with not only incredible genius but with a sense of humor.

Are you making enough time for you and your family to hurry away from the wires and concrete towers and out to the great, calm vistas where you can almost hear the whispers of the Almighty? If so, you're probably finding your nerves soothed and your faith strengthened. To read four Bible passages about nature and God, click here.

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Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
How's your view of God?  Is it blurry? Cloudy? Twisted?
I took this image, at the bottom of a pool, in Maui.  As you can see, the water changes the shapes and angles of things, and it reminds me of how our own view or our own interpretation of God, can be distorted.  So many times, during the week or day, it's very easy to change our view of God. In Psalms 73:26 it says, "My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." As it says, we can fail, we can "view" things the wrong way, but God is always the same - our strength.
Make sure you keep your eyes on the true "power source" and things will always be crystal clear.

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Pied-billed Grebe
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
 "Whatever you do, give it everything you've got and enjoy it..."  Ecclesiastes 9:10  (The Clear Word Bible)  What great advice!  Even though it came from Solomon, it could just as well have come from Dr. Phil or any other self-help guru popular today.  Advice like this abounds, "Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well."  You don't need to be the wisest man that ever lived or have a PhD in human psychology to know the truth held in such sentiments.  Even those of us watching from afar benefit from observing such living things.  Our body releases endorphins in response to even seeing others live with such gusto.  Doesn't this sound just like a God who loves us and wants us to experience life to the fullest?

Whether this young Pied-billed Grebe, struggling with his huge mouthful, received any of those perks or not, we don't know.  What we do know is the enjoyment we receive from seeing such a Herculean task attempted with such obvious enthusiasm.  Don't try to tell him the job is too big or the task too daunting, just bring it on.  By the way, he was successful in getting it down.  Dinner is served!

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The Twenty Dollar View
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 9, 2009

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul told them, "I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious--the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. . . Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies."  Phillipians 4: 8-9 Message

I took this picture a few years ago on a trip through the Canadian Rockies.  This is Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park in Alberta.  The scene used to be depicted on the back of the Canadian $20 dollar bill.

This has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  The turquoise color is due to reflections from suspended glacial flour in the water.  

Looking at the world around us can get pretty depressing when we dwell on all the negatives.  We need to look for the beauty.

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Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 8, 2009

When you hear the word "house", what do you think?  Do you think of the house where you grew up, the house where you currently live, or another house?  What is its shape and construction materials?  What color is it?  What do you think when you hear the word "home"?  Do you think of your family?  What's the difference between a house and a home?  According to Webster,  a "house" is a building or shelter.  A "home" is a social unit formed by a family living together and/or a congenial environment.
The "houses" in this photo are called bories and are ancient dwellings made with limestone slabs, with walls up to 4 feet thick.  They date from 2,000 BC.  We visited these in the Village des Bories, outside Gordes, Provence, France.  Do you recognize the person in the photo?
In John 14:1-3 KJV, Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."  Don't you think heaven will be a social unit formed by a family living together in a congenial environment, around the throne of God our Father?  I plan to be there, don't you?

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Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 7, 2009

If you live in the Seattle area, you've probably noticed window stickers like these (I snapped this photo in mid-February). Though I've never taken the trouble to find out where you get them, I gather that if you desire to commemorate your family and its pets like this, you go to a store and pick up the appropriate number and sizes of figures to represent your family. And normally these are displayed in a line.

But on this rear windshield is an arrangement I had never seen before. There's what seems to be an average nuclear family with a couple of kids and a couple of dogs (and perhaps for artistic balance, a palm tree). But there's another kid-sized guy standing off to the lower left. Who is he? Why is he not with the family? Has he died? Is he a runaway? I couldn't imagine a family deliberately displacing a kid this way if he were still in the household.

I guess you could say that the displaced kid, out of the family circle for whatever reason, is like Planet Earth, which long ago tumbled out of the happy orbit of God's sinless universe. But since God loves us, we are the "one lost sheep" Jesus came to save, so that one day we could be joyously inserted into the family lineup, home again. If you're feeling isolated from God right now, click here for some Bible texts which tell you how far Heaven came for you.

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Watch Your Loading Dock
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 6, 2009

This sign caught my attention while on my way to visit a church member in the University of Washington Medical Center a week and a half ago. Being neither a physicist nor an astronomer, I'm quite clueless about what kinds of supplies would be arriving in trucks at this dock.

However, it's a fact that modern physics and astronomy are trundling along while laden with a number of philosophical presuppositions (whether or not they arrived by way of this loading dock),  which might deserve another look. Among them: "The universe came into existence through an entirely self-caused Big Bang," or "Unless a concept can be proven using the scientific method, that concept is false," or "There is no place in the universe for a Creator."

As I say, I'm no scientist, but I do have an intense interest in the recent discussion about "intelligent design." Within the past couple of decades a number of scientists who are also Christians have formulated arguments that attempt to prove that even though we can't prove the Christian or Jewish God exists using science, the systems we see in nature strongly indicate that they were designed by an Intelligence.

The above sign reminds me that I need to keep a sharp eye on which presuppositions I allow to be unloaded onto my own loading dock. One thing that frightens me badly is how easily the mind can be fooled, and how gullible we often are. Part of the reason might be that since God created us to never tell each other lies, we may not be hard-wired with automatic lie detectors. But Jesus often warned us to be on guard, such as in the list of texts you'll find here.

Christians, observant Jews, and observant Muslims believe, of course, that their sacred writings are the final authority about the One who engendered the universe. But if you would like to read a detailed recent history of intelligent design concepts, click the Wikipedia article here.

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Oh, For a Real Fish!
Photo and commentary © by Jason Meert
Thursday, March 5, 2009

Seagulls by the Seattle waterfront are well fed, I think. Last summer I took this picture of one as someone tossed it a little snack of what they were eating. It happens to be a little Goldfish cracker. I'm sure the gull was grateful for the goldfish cracker, but I'll bet what it really wanted was a real fish.

That little fish-shaped cracker reminds me of the way Paul describes our less than ideal situation on this earth, compared to the real thing we have to look forward to in heaven, in 1st Corinthians 13:12 "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face."

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God's Creation?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 3, 2009
When I took this picture of a buffalo in Kenya last year, I chuckled to myself.  I am fairly certain, we could all agree, it's not the cutest of animals. Unattractive is a word that pops in mind head...
Guess what?  God created this buffalo and He loves this buffalo.  That's the amazing part of God's love - it has no boundaries.  God's love encompasses all of His creations - ALL.
When we feel we are not worthy of God's love, just think of this "interesting" buffalo.  It doesn't matter who we are, what we have done, where we came from.....God's love is there for us - all we have to do is accept it.

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Townsend's Warbler
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
March 3, 2009
Everyone remembers the sign of God's promise not to destroy the earth with a flood once again as recorded in Genesis 9.  The rainbow offered us a beautiful chromatic cue of His sovereignty and His grace.  But do we remember the promise He gave at the end of chapter 8?  Some have speculated that the earth gained its tilt during that horrific deluge, thereby setting up seasonal differences.  Whether or not that is true, the chaos and resulting insecurity caused by the flood was calmed by God's guarantee of at least a degree of predictability.  "Ás long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."   Gen. 8:22 (NIV)

Isn't it interesting that this normative passage of time has become such a basic part of life that we hardly give it notice any longer?  Fortunately, the routine is interspersed with a few pleasant surprises as well.  While many think of spring and summer as the time when nature flaunts its colors, winter also highlights those drab days with unexpected dabs of color as well.  During the warmer months, the Townsend's Warbler is found at higher elevations, but come the rain and snow, it can be found in our backyards as well.  It's a wise Parent who can so precisely balance our need for security with the joy of the unexpected in perfect harmony.

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Walking Through the Valleys
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 2, 2009

Psalms 23: 1-4  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quite waters, He restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."  NIV

I took this picture on a Cougar Mountain trail this past December.  A friend and I were hiking to a waterfall, and the fog just kept hanging around. 

Sometimes, in life, it seems like we are walking in that valley of the shadow of death, and we can't see where we are going or what is around us.

Psalms 23 talks about how the Lord is our Shepherd, and when we do walk through that valley, we don't need to fear because He is with us.  It doesn't say that there won't be valleys but it does promise that God will be with us when we go through them.

Personally, I find that extremely comforting.

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The Lucky Orphans
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 1, 2009

These children might look cold.  And, yes, they are.  They are standing in the main room of their "home" with melted snow at their feet. If you look closely, some look like they could be ill and others are definitely in need of medical care.  You might ask why so many of them are boys.  Actually about half of them are girls, but their heads have been shaven. 

My heart was touched when I visited these children at the De Ji Orphanage outside Lhasa, Tibet.  These are the "lucky" ones--as orphans, they have been taken in from the streets where they were dumped, and given a home.  They even go to school and when old enough they learn how to work at a respectable job and make money and learn job skills.  Other children are not so fortunate.
These children have experienced much pain and suffering and death of loved ones in their young lives.  Rev 21:4 NKJV says, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."  Look at the children again.  For them, the former things have passed away. Their lives are much better in this, their new "home." It's not like our homes, but it's home to them where they feel loved and accepted and are happy.  This was most apparent when they sang for us, in English, "When you're happy and you know it...."

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