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

Devotional Photo Blog - March 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.






What Does Your GPS Say?

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Thursday, March 31, 2011
 
Back in the day, when we were headed to a destination via car, we might have looked at a map or ask for directions to ensure we got to the right spot.  Now we have more options - Global Positioning System (GPS), mobile phones, traffic cams, etc.  These new technologies can come in very handy and save lots of time, when there is lots of traffic, bad weather, we just don't know where we are going or just plane lost.  Speaking of, the image above (as you can see) is of the Washington State Department of Traffic's website, where you can check specific traffic cam's and see what the weather or traffic is in that exact location. The problem on this particular day, there was lots of snow all over the area and I wanted to see just how much, before I headed down a certain path.  Unfortunately, I couldn't see a whole lot -- my path was not clear at all.
 
Life is almost exactly like that. There are times we try to find the right path and check the roads ahead, by ourselves. Sometimes it works and ssometimes it doesn't. I would suggest a couple of things: Pray for guidance - in every decision you plan on making, use your Bible as the "traffic cam's" before you head out in the morning and finally - trade your GPS in for a GPSS (God Please Save System).


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Nene

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
 
It’s pretty obvious where the book of Numbers got its name.  The primary focus of the book was a record of the numbering or counting of the people.  For us today it makes rather repetitious reading, but for an ancient Jew, it was important to be counted among those descendents of Abraham who came out of Egypt.  The expression “numbered” is used 77 times in the book as the results of the tabulations were recorded.  Another group is also numbered in Scripture, a group that should have much more significance to us today, that is, the 144,000 referred to in Revelation.  Whether symbolic or literal, this is given as the number of those who have the Father’s name written in their forehead and are redeemed.  It seems like such a small number when contrasted with the innumerable throng of humanity.  I hope it’s figurative. 
 
Somehow or other we seem to dislike being tagged or given a number; it’s all so impersonal.  Your draft number, social security number, credit card number, library card number, and the list goes on and on.  But there’s another way of looking at being numbered and we’ll use the Nene to illustrate this.  The Nene or Hawaiian Goose was in big trouble.  In 1952 its total population numbered 30, and was on the veritable edge of extinction.  It’s endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and today is found only on Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai.  This specific bird was seen on Mt. Haleakala in the scrublands where it nests.  Intensive domestic breeding programs have raised their numbers in the wild to over 800 birds but they are still on the Endangered Species list.  For this reason, each bird is tagged or given a number.  This one is #153 and biologists have a detailed record of its life.  In this case, being numbered has the exact opposite impact of being depersonalized.  Those responsible for the species’ survival want to do all they can to ensure their well-being, and this tracking is one way to accomplish this.  It’s unlikely that #153 has given much thought to its number since the day that band was placed around its leg.  It also seems very unlikely that those among the redeemed will be taking roll cal based upon numbers.  What is important is to make sure our number is written there.  
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Seeking the Lost
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 28, 2011

I saw the above poster when I was waiting to meet up with a friend for a walk around Green Lake in Seattle.  The little piece of paper attached to the poster states that an AM/FM radio and cassette player was found and was turned in to Evans Pool where it could be picked up by its owner.

Don't you feel a big sense of relief when you locate something valuable that you thought was lost for good? Luke 15 has three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. 

We are all sinners and, therefore, without intervention, we are all lost.  That's why Jesus had to die in our place.  "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 6:23) 

We still have the power of choice, however.  We can choose to accept what he did and follow him or we can choose to ignore what he did and stay lost.  In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus said that, "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."  (Luke 15:7)

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see."
"Amazing Grace," lyrics by John Newton


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Black Swans
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thousands of black swans lined Golden Bay on New Zealand's South Island, foraging on the lush plants in the water. We had never seen black swans before. Here they were – by the thousands! Apparently, biologists had declared that all swans were white – that is until the 17th century with the discovery of black swans in Australia. The stunning unexpected happened – spotting black swans when they thought swans were only white. Thus, the term “black swan” was coined to mean surprise effects of improbable and unexpected events. Black Swan events, even though rare and seemingly hard to predict, can have a high impact on the world.

Black Swans are dangers we tend to view as remote and thus don't dwell on, but that can prove incredibly difficult to handle when they do occur. In recent times they seem to be occurring with greater frequency. A book, “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” was written after the financial crises to describe what is happening in the global economy. Other recent Black Swans include the tragic earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan with resulting tsunami and nuclear crises with the later. Now there's much unrest in the Middle East. Black Swans.

While here on earth, Jesus talked about "Black Swans" as recorded in Mathew 24:7,8 (NEB)“”For nation will make war upon nation, kingdom upon kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes in many places.” He doesn't leave us all alone in this devastation. We read in John 14:1-3 (KJV), where 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.” No more Black Swans!


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“I Love You, Teasher!”
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 26, 2011

A couple of weeks ago (March 5, actually, if you’d like to scroll down) I used as my blog photo a student drawing done on the back of his math assignment.

The above expression of love for a teacher was from that same batch of assignments. Obviously the spelling needs a bit of tweaking, but the emotion is clear. This child, of her (or his) own free will, carefully and legibly printed this message of esteem all across the page, and then drew attention to it by shading it with a green crayon.

What’s so interesting is that on the other side of this sheet are probably 25 math addition and subtraction problems. This meant that, just prior to penciling this love-note, this child had had to work through these problems, carefully checking to see whether the calculation signal was a “+” or a “-”  before calculating. I wish I’d remembered to see what score this kid got—was this note entirely altruistic, or was it an attempt to generate good feelings against later low scores?

Like any other good Parent, God is a teacher, and His Son became a teacher too—the world’s most famous and influential one. And the exercises They assign us bear incredibly higher consequences than whether we’ve learned to compute with numbers. And sometimes these assignments are really tough, and with some we’re thoroughly baffled.

However, down through the centuries God has had faithful followers who, even in the midst of the most difficult trials and tests, have still been able to turn their assignment-paper over and write a fervent “I Love You, Teacher” message on the back. Paul was one such student, singing in (and writing encouraging letters from) prisons he occupied. Miserable Job could assert his “though He slay me” trust when the future looked pitch-black. The hotly-pursued insurgent David could huddle around the campfire in his hideout cave, grab his harp, and create songs of confidence and joy.

Want more “I Love You, Teacher” courage for the days ahead? The Psalms—those gritty, no-holds-barred hymns which measure reality against the hope of a happier future and the eternal love of the Creator—might be a good place to start.


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Are You Alive?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 25, 2011

This pleasant young man posed for me a couple of nights ago in the QFC grocery store about a mile south of our church. From his outfit, it looks as though he’s some kind of race car driver.

Actually, he didn’t have a choice as to whether to pose for me or not. And as pleasant as he looks, he totally ignored me. You’ll see why when I show you what he looked like from behind.



This guy—whom I’m sure I would instantly recognize if I were more in touch with auto racing—is cardboard! From the front, he looks so real that it would be tempting to jump right into a discussion about auto racing. But there's really no depth or substance to him at all. He's lifeless.

One of the startling facts you learn by reading through the New Testament is that anyone who has not established connection with God through Jesus Christ is like that young auto racer—very lifelike but truly lifeless. Listen to Paul:

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:6 [NKJV]

Notice that Paul doesn’t say “to be carnally minded will eventually lead to death.” He says “to be carnally minded is death.” Here’s Paul with some encouragement:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  [Romans 6:23]

And from the disciple John:

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. [1 John 5:11-13]

So how do you go from cardboard-thin death to 3-D life? Believe in Jesus. Read the rest of First John, then the Gospel of John. At each step, pray that the Holy Spirit will open Scripture to your eyes and teach you what it means to really live!


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Yeah. Right.
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 24, 2011

I've never been one for crossword puzzles and other mind-testing games, preferring to use my moderate brain power for other things. I do make an exception for sudoku, however – but I set firm guidelines. Any sudoku game I play must be ranked at the easiest possible level. It needs to be so easy that I will not have to descend to writing tiny potential numbers inside the little boxes and arriving at the correct ones by the process of elimination. No, the sudoku games to which I apply my pencil have got to be klutz-level.

You can imagine my annoyance, then, when I turned to the above page in my sudoku book. Notice the clearly-printed "Light and Easy" at the top? Notice the frightening lack of numbers in the grid? Light and easy? Yeah, right. Even I can tell that this is not going to turn out to be one of those supposedly-difficult but actually-easy games. As you can see, I simply skipped that game and turned the page to the next one.

Maybe this is kind of like life. You start out as a young person, imagining that, if given a bit of time, you will eventually change the world and make a name for yourself. When I was 25, a lot of things were black and white which in the intervening decades have changed to shades of gray.

Because every once in a while, you turn the page of a new day and up pops a really puzzling dilemma you haven't the faintest idea of how to deal with. And here's where the comparison with sudoku ends. In a sudoku book, there are answers in the back – completely filled out-out grids you can peek at if you need a hint. Sadly, you can't do that with real-life problems.

However, God has not left us helpless. He's a Grand Master at not only sorting out life's puzzles, but at bringing good out of bad. So next time you are facing a baffling problem you see no solution to, asked Him about it. Tell Him that you want His agenda to happen, and His reputation to be enhanced, through whatever happens. Ask Him, "Lord, close doors I shouldn't go through, and open ones I should – and push me through them if necessary!" Don't forget to read Life's Operating Manual as well, the Holy Bible.


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Promise of Lightning

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
 
I believe everyone has heard of the "promise of the rainbow."  God promised not to destroy the entire earth again with a flood, and used the rainbow as His promise. I had not heard of the "promise" of lightning, until recently, but it's just as good -- if not better.
 
The image above is of lightning strike over the Masai Mara, in Kenya.  There were a few different evenings we were fortunate to witness these impressive light shows God performed for us.  Of course the location was pretty impressive as well.
 
Some may not look at a lightning strike as fondly as the colorful rainbow, but both are promises.  In Matthew 24:27 it says, "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." As we read, we can be encouraged by the fact Jesus is describing the second coming - His return. It is His promise to return and save us from the evils of a sinful world.
 
By day we can see God's promises in the rainbow.  By night we can see God's promise in lightning strikes.  All the promises we need!  Be on the watch for all of God's promises.


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Laysan Albatross
       

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
 
If you were to survey a number of people with the question, ‘Which sense would you most dread losing?’, eyesight would certainly rate at the top of the list.  And yet this condition is repeatedly spoken of in both the Old and New Testaments.  Lewis and Clark on their journey west in 1804 took along with them eye salve, recognizing this offer of aid would be seen as a valued proffer of friendship, thereby engendering much goodwill with the Native Americans. 
 
Nor is this condition limited to humanity.  This young Laysan Albatross has temporarily lost its vision due to an avian pox.  In most cases the condition is mild and the young birds develop immunity to the pox.  In severe cases, the bird will die if it cannot see to feed.  The maturing process is an extended one among albatross.  The young are fed by adults until they weigh more than their parents.  At a given point, feeding stops, and the young are forced to venture into a life of self-sufficiency.  This ideal scenario takes place only if the young are able to survive the conditions brought on by their encrusted eyes.
 
Vision problems seem to be a recurrent problem during Isaiah’s time for he repeatedly refers to this condition.  One of these passages is quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18 and 19.  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lords’ favor.”  (NIV)  After reading this piece of Scripture, Jesus announced that this was the day that prophecy was to be fulfilled.  I don’t know how many really appreciated the importance of what He was saying, but among those who did, some of the most grateful had to be those who, because of Him, could now see.

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How Are You Preparing For Tomorrow?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 21, 2011

I saw this question on the rear window of a vehicle with a credit union logo on the side.  Considering the source, I'm sure they were talking about our financial future.

Jesus is not as concerned about our financial future here on earth as He is about our eternal future with Him.  In Mark 10:17-22, we are told about the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to have eternal life.  Jesus told him, "Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow me."  Unfortunately, the man went away "sorrowful" for he had great possessions.  In Mark 8:34-38, which also talks about taking up the cross and following Jesus, Jesus said (in verse 36), "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  (The footnote in the Andrews Study Bible on this verse states that "soul" is a metaphor for eternal life.)

Let's make sure we are preparing for ALL of our tomorrows.


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Think On These Things
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lake Matheson (pictured above) with reflections of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman is one of the most photographed spots in New Zealand's South Island. Having seen photographs of it, I knew this was one place I “had” to go when in New Zealand last month. I had read that it was best to visit in the early morning or when the sun was low in the late afternoon;  however, clouds often covered the mountains. Since the sky was fairly clear the day we arrived in Fox, we decided to go there that evening. As you can see, some clouds were present, but only a few. Even though I had hoped to get some early morning photos, we were fogged in the next two mornings. We walked around the lake, but could see only the water near us because of the thick fog. Therefore, my many shots taken during that first evening will serve as a reminder for me to think of the beautiful reflections on Lake Matheson.

With so many devastating things going on in the world, sometimes it's hard to know what to think about. One thing to think about is making a donation to a reputable organization that is helping the people in Japan affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians, who were having a rough time thinking about what was important in their lives. In 4:8, he said, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” He encouraged them to think on things that would be good for their lives. Today, let's focus on the good things God has given us. How should you and I live our lives?


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“Thanks for Writing!”
Commentary ©2011 by Shelley Schurch
Sabbath, March 19, 2011

One of my dear friends and co-workers often cautioned me, “Never assume anything!”  I try to remember that admonition, but often find I’ve goofed again.

That happened to me Monday night as I stood at the Shakeys pizza parlor counter in the Fairwood area of Renton.  I had just asked the young woman behind the counter if I could rent their reader board for a message, and was surprised at the surprised look on her face.

Because, driving by their reader board for several years, I had assumed that people rented their reader board all the time.  Not so, I discovered.  Then why all the Happy Birthday and congratulatory messages to individuals, and the frequent posting of sports teams?

The young woman explained that whenever people had birthday parties in their pizza parlor, or sports teams gathered there, they put their names on the sign.

Well, I wasn’t having a party, but I was celebrating, so I told her the reason for my request:

Thirty-four years ago this Tuesday, March 15, a young college English teacher named Maylan Schurch sat down at his little gray Remington typewriter in Nebraska and, as a favor to a friend, composed a three-page letter to a young woman teaching in a one-room schoolhouse on a Southeastern Alaska logging camp island.  That would be me.

When I opened the letter four days letter, I was highly entertained by his sense of humor, and enjoyed writing back, describing life on the island I loved so much.  In subsequent letters he made it clear that he was an independent young man who was not interested in anything more than a cheerful correspondence, just as I made it clear that I planned on teaching in the logging camp until I was 90!

However, the Lord had other plans, and as our letters flew back and forth on the Alaska- Nebraska route, our hearts and minds began to understand that His plans are magnificent.

Fast forward to March 14, 2011, with the young woman at the pizza counter recovering from both my request and my explanation for it.  She brought another co-worker into the conversation and they agreed that even though my request was unusual, they would be glad to fulfill it.  They would need final approval from the manager the next day, and, after checking a notebook, discovered they already had a sports team scheduled for the sign.  I was happy to share.

Which is why, as I drove home the next night, I read with tears in my eyes the sign you see at the beginning of this devotional photo blog.

“Devotional?”  Yes.  I’m devoted to the God who is fully devoted to me--and to you.  When I think back over these 34 years, I’m brimming over with thankfulness for the way He has led us, from the teaching ministries we loved through the many years of pastoral ministry we’ve also loved.

Several years ago I bought a card that sums up my gratitude so well:  “I wonder where the years have gone, but never how else I could have spent them.”

Thank you, Maylan, for writing.  And thank You, God, for writing Your Letter, Your Holy Bible, so that all of us could know how well-loved we are, could learn to trust Your plans for us, and could know Who to thank for our blessings.


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The “Willingly Homeless” Camp
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 18, 2011

Last Friday I hurried into a computer store to buy an adapter. As I approached the door, I passed this line of people.  It wasn’t an especially pleasant day—a bit chilly in fact—but these folks seemed to be parked pretty permanently, some with stools or lawn chairs, some with blankets around them.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “Looks like they’re homeless.” But then I observed that a good number of them were working with electronic devices. “Upscale homless?” I wondered. “Or are they just huddling outside to get access to a store’s free wireless? Or is it some sort of genteel Seattle-style protest sit-in?”

I remained clueless until I entered the computer store which was my destination, right down there just beyond the end of the people-line. (Some of you may know where I'm going with this.) It was an Apple store, and it was 9:45 a.m. so the store wasn’t officially open for business yet. A stocky security guard stood just inside the door.

“Who,” I asked him softly, “are those people out there?”

He smiled a bit sardonically. “The iPad 2 is going on sale at 5 p.m. this afternoon,” he said. “And some of these folks have been here since before 6 this morning!”

So they weren’t homeless after all. Or rather, they were homeless, but willingly so. They could have remained in their warm beds until a decent hour, but instead they had tossed stools and lawn chairs and blankets—and maybe even earlier edition iPads—into their cars and rushed over to the Apple store just so they could be ready for an event they had long anticipated.

Down the centuries, faithful Christians have been waiting for the arrival of Jesus Christ. One difference—“we know not the hour.” “Watch,” the Savior warned in Matthew 24:42, “for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”

As I mentioned, the iPad 2 seekers knew the day and hour of the iPad’s coming, but they still got in line early. Maybe we should follow their example. Rather than keeping one cautious eye on world conditions while heedlessly pursuing our own pleasures, maybe we too should get up early in the morning and spend time waiting for the Lord to speak with us through a Communicator far more wonderful than an electronic one: the Holy Spirit. Are you spending time in some kind of devotional worship every day?


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Inspirational Pillboxes
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 17, 2011

A week and a half ago Shelley and I popped into a neighborhood drugstore to pick up a few essentials, and back near the pharmacy I spotted this delightful display of “Inspirational Pill Boxes.” You can probably read the “God is Love” ones, but the print on the two green ones might be fainter, so I’ll clue you in: “Live By Faith.”

Once I’d gotten over my “What will they think of next?” phase, I quickly snapped this photo for later study. Having contemplated it in repose, my first question is, “What does faith have to do with pills, or vice versa?” Answer: Probably nothing, spiritually speaking.

Second question: “Why, then, does this display have seven empty slots, showing that customers willingly removed over half of these inspirational pillboxes from the drugstore’s inventory?”  Answer: Who knows? Most likely, seven devout pill-takers wished to combine a rather mundane but necessary daily ritual with a moment of spiritual thought. Meditate while you medicate.

Whether or not you take pills, are you making time every day for the therapeutic presence of God in your life? You do this by opening the lid of your Bible, and allowing the Holy Spirit who inspired its words to refresh your soul with them. And sure enough, two of the Bible's main messages are "God is love" and "Live by faith."

Where to start? Try the book of John, then First John. Then why not read the first two chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1 and 2) and the last two chapters (Revelation 21 and 22). The first two tell about God’s perfect world which once existed, and the last two tell how that perfect world will one day be restored. Everything between those two “bookends” tells how sin began, and how Jesus came to redeem us.


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3 in 1
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I enjoy playing and watching team sports.  When there is true teamwork, it’s so much more successful.  In fact if there is a lack of teamwork, success will be very difficult to obtain.

Life is no different.  Teamwork in the workplace, teamwork at home and teamwork at church is key.  There are many examples of successful teams and teamwork in the bible, but no one more important than the Trinity.  The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – 3 in 1.  The beauty of this team – they are working for us and they are teammates of us! In fact, they are Players, Coaches and the Team Owners – winning is the only option.

This symbol is in the front cover of my Bible and I am not sure if it has a name or even an official meaning.  I know what it means to me, when I see it.  If you look, it appears to be 3 separate parts but with careful examination, it’s one never-ending loop – a true: 3 in 1.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus’ last recorded words are, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Just like a great coach, He had a plan.  He has discussed it and formed the plan with the Trinity.  He realizes we need another coach, another teammate, to assist us in our portion of the plan.  The Trinity is truly 3 in 1 – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – working as a team, with us and for us.  Let’s not let the team down.


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The Blue Pool of Maui
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It sounded almost too good to be true: a tall cascading waterfall falling far below into a fern encased pool before finally entering into the blue waters of the Pacific.  But that’s what the tourist pamphlet loudly declared.  We had twisted and wound our way through a myriad of tiny roads only to be confronted with the sign.  There it was, boldly written in black letters against a red background:  “So called Blue Pools Does Not Exist”.  Our frustration caused us to even overlook the bad grammar.  We could understand the rest of the message.  We could understand how locals might grow tired of tourists wandering through their backyard.  But to deny its very existence, this was too much.  We might have turned around out of respect for property rights had it not been for the blatant denial of something in which we had come to believe.  Hadn’t we seen pictures in our travel brochure?  Hadn’t we talked with friends who had actually seen it themselves with their own eyes? 
 
Peter writes about those who willingly deny the truth.  “First of all, you understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised?  Ever since our fathers died everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”  (2 Peter 3:3,4  NIV)  For their own reasons they reject what is true, and in addition, seek to promote this same belief to others. 
 
We continued down the path, until--there on the shores of Maui--appeared the tropical vision we had looked forward to experiencing.  Contrary to the sign, the Blue Pool does really exist.  So too does the reality of His return.


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When Disasters Happen
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 14, 2011

I took this photo a few years ago on the Washington coast. There is a plan and an escape route to follow in case of a tsunami.

If you've read or seen any news at all over the last month, you will have read about the earthquakes in New Zealand, China and now Japan.  The earthquake in Japan triggered an enormous tsunami.  We have never before seen the kind of news footage of a tsunami in action causing such widespread damage as we have seen coming out of Japan in the last few days.

While we cannot all go over and personally help out in these places (not to mention that they don't need additional people using up precious resources), one of the best ways we can help out is by donating money. 

We are told in Acts 20:35 that Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

If you can help out and are looking for a place to donate money, here is the link to ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).  You can pay online, by phone or you can download a form and send them a check. 

http://www.adra.org/site/PageNavigator/about_us


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Be Ready
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 13, 2011

My above photo is of the Christ Church Cathedral in the very center of the town of Christchurch, New Zealand. Consecrated in 1881, it was the most visited church building in New Zealand and was were locals and tourists met. That is until 12:51 pm on February 22, 2011 when an extremely destructive 6.3 earthquake hit the center of Christchurch. The spire collapsed and part of the roof caved in. Dust filled the sanctuary. People ran for their lives. It was reported by some inside the cathedral that as many as 22 people might be buried in the rubble. However, after the site was cleared, no bodies were found. Fortunately all had made it to safety.

(To seek before-and-after photos of Christ Church Cathedral and other buildings, go to this link: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/4713590   NOTE that on the frame which divides each photo is a little box with left-and-right arrows. Simply click, hold, and drag the frame either direction to see more of each photo.)

Not so fortunate was the nearby Canterbury TV Building which housed TV studios and offices and a private language school as well as a nursing school that collapsed and burst into flames. At this point, the death toll from that building stands at 113 with another 100 people suspected to have been trapped and now dead in that building.

This next week the center of Christchurch, which has been cordoned off, will be open for residents of the city to see the heart of their earthquake-ravaged city up close. This earthquake was much more destructive than the one that hit last September. My heart goes out to our friends in Christchurch and those who lost family and friends. We had left Christchurch three hours before the earthquake hit but felt it where we were.

We never know when something might happen to us – a car accident, a heart attack, an earthquake or something else that could take our lives. Like those lost in the Christchurch earthquake, the next thing to be seen is the face of our Savior. (Rev 22:4) Are you ready for Jesus to come?


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Unknown Shirk?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 12, 2011

Earlier this week I went out to the church mailbox and discovered these two identical postcard promotional fliers advertising a non-denominational Christian youth event. I’ve trimmed one so you can see the two addresses close together—one absolutely correct and one (I hope) totally off-base! (Wouldn’t you hate to be an anonymous “shirk”?)

Seriously, along with increasing maturity comes the overwhelming knowledge of just how worthless our human efforts are toward advancing the kingdom of God. That’s why Bible encouragement (such as Jesus’ promises of the Holy Spirit’s presence and an incredibly wonderful unity with Heaven in John 14 – 17) is so precious to me. We are not anonymous nobodies to God, and with His Spirit empowering us, we can do brave and vital work for Him.


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The Complete Poems of ???
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 11, 2011

Moseying through a used book store last month I came upon this half-titled volume, The Complete Poems of . . .  At first I thought that the poet’s name had been printed in a different kind of ink—one which faded in the sunlight. With such books you can often see the faint remaining outline of the missing words—or in most cases, it’s the ink on the spine which has faded, while the cover (protected from sunlight by adjacent books on the shelf) remains clear. But with this book it was impossible to spot any clues as to who the poet was. I held it up to a strong light, I tipped it this way and that way, and I was no wiser.

What must have happened was that the printers ran the cover through the press for the black ink, and then forgot to run it through again to lay down the ink with the poet’s name.

And what’s so intriguing is who the poet is. A glance inside told me that the full title was The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. And when you come to think of it, there’s a sort of—pardon the pun—poetic justice here. For most of her life, Emily wanted anonymity. She was a recluse, rarely leaving her home, and in her final years spent most of her time in her upstairs bedroom. People who visited her often didn’t see her, but just heard her voice from behind the bedroom door.

And since only about a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems were published in her lifetime, the only way most people can find out what she was like was by opening a book containing her complete poetry.

See where I’m going with this? The Bible, with its intimidating bulk and often somber, anonymous binding, contains a remarkably complete portrait of God—but it’s a portrait which is mostly invisible unless you open the Book’s covers. Sadly, many people who’ve failed to do this have come up with some grotesque ideas about who He is. It’s only by reading widely in that Book, starting with the life of Jesus and working backward, that we’ll discover Eternity’s creative Genius.


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When I Trust . . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here’s the readerboard message hundreds of commuters are seeing as they pass our church this week. Phil Dunham, a retired Adventist pastor living in Oregon, assures me that this statement isn’t original with him, but a good portion of his ministry and writing have been focused on this concept, and he uses these words as part of the “signature” on the e-mails he sends out.

Here’s just one verse of Bible backup for Phil’s idea: “ . . . it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 NKJV.  Notice that God has both halves of righteous living covered. His work within us makes us want to do good, and He will help us do good, if we surrender our wills to Him each day.

Here’s some more precious encouragement: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.” Hebrews 10:16  In other words, God takes responsibility for working our spirituality out through our deeds.

That’s how to take the “puzzlement” out of verses which urge us to keep God’s law: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 They’re not burdensome because it is God who works within His willing children to do what He knows they’d be happiest doing.


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Praise the Lord!

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
 
Take 5 minutes to meditate on Psalm 113.  As you can see it's all about praising God, for all He does for us.  The image above was captured as the sun was setting on Rosario beach and it shows yet one more reason to praise God.  Thank you God for all the beauty you have given us.
 
"Praise the LORD!
        
         Praise, O servants of the LORD,
         Praise the name of the LORD!
 Blessed be the name of the LORD
         From this time forth and forevermore!
 From the rising of the sun to its going down
         The LORD’s name is to be praised.
        
 The LORD is high above all nations,
         His glory above the heavens.
 Who is like the LORD our God,
         Who dwells on high,
 Who humbles Himself to behold
         The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?
        
 He raises the poor out of the dust,
         And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
 That He may seat him with princes—
         With the princes of His people.
 He grants the barren woman a home,
         Like a joyful mother of children.
        
         Praise the LORD!"


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Brown-Capped Rosy-Finch
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

High in the mountains lives a group of birds known as Rosy-Finches.  Currently they are divided into three separate species, but all breed above timberline except in the high Arctic.  In fall, they may retreat to lower elevations in what is known as an altitudinal migration.  Of the three species, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch has the most limited range which is confined to the Rocky Mountains, but within that range it is reasonably common.  Interestingly, males outnumber females 6/1, a pattern that is maintained throughout the year.  They also differ from most other species in another way.  While most male birds will select a territory which he believes to be desirable, one that will attract a female and provide for the nestlings, the male Rosy-finch goes about it in a different way.  Instead, he will display before a female, hoping to win her attention.  If he is successful, he follows her, defending her from any other males.  The territory he defends centers upon her, wherever she may be.
 
And isn’t that what each one of us would want, a relationship based upon caring about us personally?  Not our net worth or achievements, but something much deeper.  The Apostle John in his first letter to the church repeatedly describes that type of connection between Christ and His people.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!... This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  (1 John 3:1 and 4:9 and 10  NIV)


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Like a Tree
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 7, 2011

I think my favorite tree in the Pacific Northwest is the Pacific Madrone (also known as the madrona or arbutus).  The scientific name is Arbutus menziesii.  I like it because it's distinctive and beautiful.

This evergreen tree is apparently very difficult to transplant successfully and has very widespreading roots.  The leaves help protect the soil underneath it from rain so it is very good to have where you don't want soil erosion. 

Native Americans used the berries for food and the bark for medicine.  The tree provides food and habitat for birds. 

David compares a righteous person to this kind of tree in Psalms 1:1-3 (NIV):
 "Blessed is the one
   who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
   or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
   and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
   which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
   whatever they do prospers."


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Beware of the Devil
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tasmanian devils, marsupials that live in the wilds of Tasmania and parts of Australia, are about the size of a small dog. Their large heads and necks give them the strongest bite per unit of body mass of any living mammal. They make especially loud noises when feeding together. Sounds can be barks, snorts, growls and screams. This screaming and fierce looks gave them their name, “the devil.” As you can see in my photo, signs warn people about this “devil”.

The Bible also warns people about a “devil.” His name is Satan, and he tempts us, trying to pull us into sin. We know he pulled Adam and Even into the original sin in the Garden of Eden. He even tempted Jesus while He was here on earth. And, of course, we have sinned. God says “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 Thanks to Jesus for forgiving our sins!


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Tornado—No Big Deal
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 5, 2011

Tuesdays I spend a few hours at our Adventist elementary and high schools in Kirkland, helping the teachers. Grading is something they eagerly hand over to me, and I actually enjoy it. (I am also tremendously impressed with what young people are being required to learn these days!)

This past Tuesday I discovered that, on the backs of a number of first- and second-grade math assignments, artistic creativity had broken forth. In the drawing above, an unidentified person wears an intrepid if slightly nervous smile. To the right (I cropped the picture) are lots of swirls, evidently representing the “tornado,” which according to the smaller print that follows it, is “no big deal.” What the red object just below signifies I have no idea.

Kids of that age, of course, have no real conception of how dangerous a tornado can be. But there’s a kernel of spiritual truth in that reassuring “No big deal.” Bible promise after Bible promise tell us that when we place ourselves under God’s care, whatever might threaten us (or happen to us) is not as big of a deal as it would be if there were no Protector and Encourager.

“Don’t let your heart be troubled,” Jesus says in John 14:1.

“Cast all your care on Him,” 1 Peter 5:7 says, “for He cares for you.”

“Be anxious for nothing,” says Paul in Philippians 4:6, 7. “The peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

“You will keep him in perfect peace,” Isaiah 26:3 says comfortingly, “whose mind is stayed on You.”

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” says Philippians 4:19.

And on, and on, and on . . . .


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Who Crossed First?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 4, 2011

February’s final week gave snow-starved Seattle-area kids a chance to build a few rudimentary snow people, and also provided (in the photo above) an interesting little interaction between humans and birds, which Shelley pointed out to me on a morning walk.

Who walked across this snow first—the bird or the human? I have a feeling it may have been an early-rising crow, out to see what he could forage for breakfast. One thing is sadly certain, however: crow and human weren’t in this scene at the same time. Since Noah’s flood, God has placed a fear of humanity into the hearts of most animals (Genesis 9:2), probably for their protection.

I’m looking forward to the New Earth, where that fear will no longer exist. I’m looking forward to the time Isaiah speaks of:

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” Says the Lord.  (Isaiah 65:25 NKJV)


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All About Me
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, March 3, 2011

Standing in line at a bookstore a couple of weeks ago, I got a chuckle out of this book’s title: All About Me. Since you can’t read the faint print within the red dot just above and to the left of the title, it might be easy to jump to the conclusion that this is a pop-psych book on learning to love yourself and to focus on your own needs.

However, the red-dot print contains a subtitle which offers more explanation: “A Unique Question and Answer Book: The Story of Your Life.”

What happens, from what I’ve discovered by peeking into other such books, is that the book's compiler will ask a question (such as “What was your scariest memory as a child?”) and will provide several blank lines on which you can write your answer.  It’s an easy way to record, topic by topic, your own biography, and create a valuable possession for those who will eventually survive you.

At first glance, the Bible itself might seem to be a ragged, tragic account of massive human failure and rather limited success. But Scripture is really God’s biography. It’s as though He knew people would be interested in questions like, “Did You have a role in the origin of humanity?” or “What’s Your response when people rebel against Your guidelines for them?” or “Have You made some sort of coordinated effort to communicate Your agenda to this planet?” or “Are You eventually going to bring justice and truth to Earth?”

And God has faithfully responded to these and many other questions, making sure to use human beings to do the writing, so that we can better understand His answers. The Bible truly is All About Him, not in an egotistical way, but in a way which reveals His character. Because, after all, the most important umbrella-question of all is “What is God like? Is He fair? Would it be safe and pleasant to spend eternity a kingdom ruled by Him?”


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Fisher King
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Well, technically this image is of a Belted Kingfisher.  I captured this shot while out looking for Bald Eagles, in the Skagit Valley area.  Belted Kingfishers, by nature, eat small fish for their diet.  The name is fitting, don’t you think?
In Matthew 4:19, we read Jesus calling disciples by saying, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Up to this point, many of the disciples knew how to be like the Kingfisher but hadn’t, yet, been around the ‘Fisher King’ long enough, to know what He truly meant.

Just as the disciples were called to ‘fish’ for people, so are we.  Each and every day we ‘fish’ whether we know it or not – at work, at home, at the store, in the car, everywhere – we are continually fishing for Jesus.


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Northern Fulmar
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
 
For Christians of this age the words of Revelation 3 should carry special significance, especially those directed to the church of Laodicea.  But a quick reading of the passage could lead the reader to wonder whether God was unduly severe with those church members described as being lukewarm.  After all, they aren’t really that bad, they just don’t get carried away with their religion.  However, the problem is apparently more serious than first suspected for God clearly says, “I am going to spit you out of my mouth.” (verse 16)  Why would such moderation be cause for God to get so upset?  I would speculate it’s a matter of protection. 
 
An analogy from the sea may help clarify.  The Northern Fulmar looks superficially like a gull, but is a member of the same order as the albatross and is generally found out of sight of land over offshore waters.  It comes in two color phases, light and dark, with the light phases being more common in the Atlantic while the dark phase predominates in the Pacific.  Nests are generally constructed on inaccessible cliffs bordering the sea.  What makes them unusual is their method of protection.  If approached or threatened, they will spew out odorous stomach oils on the intruder.  If this is sprayed on another bird, it can result in permanent wetting which can cause waterlogging and lead to drowning. 
 
Back to the Laodicean church.  Apparently, though quite comfortable for the members, God recognizes this blasé condition to be lethal for the church.  Such a condition requires radical action and John’s words seem to indicate just what lengths God will go to protect His people.  It’s a rather unpleasant picture, God vomiting out members that would otherwise endanger His church; certainly much less pleasant than a nice, tepid country club gathering.  Almost makes you wonder if maybe John made a mistake in his transcription, but something tells me he got it exactly right, and it’s you and I that are in danger of making the mistake.


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