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

Devotional Photo Blog - May 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.




Barn Swallow
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It was Aristotle who stated that “One swallow does not make a summer.”  And he of course was right.  It’s also true that the occasional good deed does not a Christian make.  This is not to minimize the importance of daily decisions, for it is the sum total of those choices that make up our character.  But character development is a long-term process. That should be good news for those of us who feel the need to once again kick ourselves for blowing it one more time.  You may have noticed, most of us aren’t particularly creative in finding new ways to sin, but we have all too much practice with those that habitually cause us to stumble.  It would be easy to become discouraged if we focused upon our own track record, but fortunately that’s just part of the equation. 
 
You may remember that Aristotle had more to say about swallows.  He was a careful observer of natural history, but his view was limited.  He along with others of his time correctly observed that the insectivorous birds, like this Barn Swallow, left during the winter time.  A large part of their diet became dormant and unavailable, hence they left.  Where he erred was in his belief that they submerged themselves in the mud at the bottom of the lake until they reemerged in spring along with the warmer weather. 
 
We may scoff at Aristotle’s foolish conclusion but as Christians we run the risk of making the same kind of mistake, of seeing just part of the picture.  While we need to be aware of our failures and seek to make changes, our primary focus should not be on those mistakes but upon the One who promised us deliverance from our mistakes.  The old adage is still true, we become like that upon which we focus.  Paul left us these encouraging words:  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3:18 King James Version)


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Be Careful What You Brush Up Against
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 30, 2011

I took this picture on a recent trip to Vashon Island.  The story goes that a kid was riding his bike and didn't like it so he left it leaning against this tree and the tree just grew up and around the bike!

The bicycle kind of reminds me of sin.  We can think that sin is not affecting us.  We feel we are just brushing up against it but we're not incorporating into our lives and then we find out some years down the road that it actually did affect us and even other people can see how it has affected us.

Of course, we are all sinners down here on earth and Jesus has paid the ultimate price for our sin (John 3:16).  The best way we have of avoiding sin is to keep in God's word and to pray:

This is how we have been taught to pray:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"This, then, is how you should pray:

'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'"
         Matthew 6: 7-13 (NIV-UK)


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Peace
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 29, 2011

These words, “Peace, Perfect Peace” on the harbor in Picton, NZ caught my attention when we were checking out our ferry crossing through the Queen Charlotte Islands and Cook Strait to Wellington. This memorial was placed to commemorate all New Zealanders killed in war as well as to honor returned servicemen and women.

This Memorial Day Holiday is a special time for us, in the United States, to think of those who've died while serving in our military – those who've protected our country so we might live in “peace”, even though it might not seem “perfect peace” at times. It has been extended to also include visiting the graves of our loved ones who've died and are waiting in peace for our coming Savior.

Peace is mentioned many times in the Bible. Jesus said, as recorded in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” We're familiar with these lines in the song:

“Peace, peace, wonderful peace
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love.”

God can give us peace, perfect peace. Have you accepted this gift from Him?


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Free Comic Book Day!
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 28, 2011

A few weeks ago I stopped in at our local library, which puts displays behind glass in the lobby. I grinned when I saw that Saturday, May 7 was "Free Comic Book Day."

The reason I was so amused was that when I was a boy (he said, his bony old hand trembling on the knob of his cane) the formidable librarian in my home town would have turned up her patrician nose at the very presence of any kind of comic book within the sacred halls of the Carnegie Library over which she ruled. Knowledge came from books, and the occasional serious magazine, she would have said, not comic books!

If you've kept your pulse on recent publishing, you'll have noticed that the tide has definitely turned. Graphic novels and manga books can now be found in great profusion in large bookstores, and they're making their way into libraries as well. Librarians have long since realized that comic books come in all sorts of subjects--some of them very historical and informative. So the guard is down, and "Free Comic Book Day" probably drew a large number of people who may not have been regular library visitors.

And Christian publishers have been turning to comic books to get the message out. Because as you know, there's nothing wrong with the comic book format--it can contain a variety in content and style. Just as the organ was once considered a theater instrument but was brought successfully into church sanctuaries, the Lord can sanctify and use anything and anyone He wants to spread the everlasting gospel.


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Layers of Progress

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 27, 2011

A few weeks ago I had just settled into my chair at a school personnel committee meeting, when I caught sight of this delightfully iconic scene. There on the table was a thickish stack of copier paper, on top of which someone had plopped a slightly thinner Mac computer! I quickly snapped a photo.

Now, staring at that scene, I think about how--before there were computers--paper was all we had. Remember handwriting? Remember manual and portable typewriters? What a jump from 20-pound bond to words on a screen.

And there was a time, of course, when white paper hadn't been invented, and scribes had to use papyrus sheets or vellum or clay tablets. But the human spirit has probably always wanted to write--to record the past, ruminate on the present, and speculate on the future. And the Holy Spirit guided more than 40 authors over 1600 years to put in dependable print (not oral history, where memories fade or become tinged with sentimentality) the deeds and words of the Creator and the people He loved.

Are you taking advantage of His writings? You probably have a Bible at home--and if you don't, you can access one online. In fact, if you go to this link, you'll find a daily Bible reading plan. Check it out.


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Troubador?
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, May 26, 2011

Last Friday Shelley and I stopped at our favorite farmer's-market-style grocery store in Renton's Highlands area. Our usual modus operandi is for Shelley to go in and shop, leaving me in the car to do some intense final outlining on my sermon.

Or, in the above case, to catch sight of a Puget Sound Energy truck parked next to me. I gave it a glance, and then did a double-take. Here's what made me look again:




If you're at all familiar with musical instruments, you'll have spotted what's leaning against the passenger seat of this work vehicle--a six-string country-western style guitar.

I don't know the story behind this, but I like to think that the driver of this truck--during the 15-minute breaks he (or she) takes from earning the daily bread--grabs for this guitar and sings a bit.

What makes this such a charming thought to me is that this must have been what the teenage shepherd David did. Once the sheep were munching away in a new pasture, and once he'd scanned the horizon to make sure that lions and bears were absent, he probably grabbed for the harp and worked on that lyric line he'd been composing on the way out from home.

And when I remember that each of those Psalms he sang is something like a prayer, expressing his emotion-of-the-moment along with fervent praise to God, it reminds me that our workplaces or daily routines are the ideal places from which to send up our own praises and prayers, with or without a six-string!


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Heaven

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
 
According very quick research, I found that the word "Heaven" (yes, including heaven(s), (ly)) is mentioned 551 times in the King James Version and 662 times in the NIV.  It seems important.  In fact it is.  Heaven is our goal.  Yes, this seems very basic and not worth mentioning, but in fact it's very noteworthy and it's what gives us hope while we plough through life on this sinful planet.  Heaven is the destination we all are longing for, the place where we can meet Jesus, sit at his feet and spend eternity with Him.  The place where sin doesn't exist and love reigns.
 
Everyone has a different view of heaven and what it will be like, look like, what we will do, etc.  The image above is ONE of my spots, in heaven.  This location, on earth, happens to be on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.  The ocean, the beach, the palm trees.....so peaceful, so amazingly beautiful.  Don't get me wrong, I have several spots, I plan on hanging out in heaven.  Some places have snow, some have sand, some are mountainous with wolves and some are flat with lions.  Out of all the locations, they have a common connection -- all of them include the presence of God.  That's the beauty of our final destination, it's not what it looks like, but who we will be with.
 
Whatever your 'spot' in heaven looks like, I look forward to sharing it with you and most importantly, with God!

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Henslow’s Sparrow           
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

There is a strong tendency in our modern society to follow a pattern of reductionism, to analyze and dissect the reality around us into its smallest parts.  It’s part of the scientific methodology that has enlarged our boundaries in our quest to understand the world.  Which is all well and good, but in exchange we run the risk of abolishing the mystical, the magical, that which cannot be tested by empirical methods.  Faith becomes obsolete since it can’t be quantified. There is an old Chinese proverb that states: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.” 
 
The current tendency in biology would be to assert this Henslow’s Sparrow is singing its song to form or defend its breeding territory, which is undoubtedly true. But it does little to explain why this sparrow will sing at night while other species of sparrow will remain quite.  For those in search of this uncommon grassland species, it’s a fortunate thing they do sing from exposed perches, for at other times they are notoriously difficult to see as they sulk in the matted grasses where they make their home.  Their distinctive, buzzy call was first observed by John James Audubon who named the bird after his friend John Steven Henslow, a professor of botany at Cambridge University who had helped him sell subscriptions to his Birds of America.  Interestingly enough, it was Henslow who recommended a bright, young student by the name of Charles Darwin, to accompany Captain FitzRoy on his ship, the H.M.S.Beagle. 
 
It’s easy to understand why we desire to gain more information and a better understanding of any subject we encounter.  Understanding the bird’s behavior and background of its history may even help us appreciate it more.  What we must not do is deny its existence because our comprehension is limited.  Sometimes it’s simply enough to enjoy its song.


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I Can Do All Things Through Christ
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 23, 2011

I saw this worn-out exercise equipment at the edge of the road that connects Vashon and Maury islands.  It's just kind of parked there and looks a bit too rusty to be functional. 

I used to have an exercise bike that met a similar fate.  It didn't become rusty but it was no longer used for the purpose for which it was designed and sort of transformed into a clothes horse!

We all have different ways of getting exercise.  Some of us get enough with housework and yard work, walking the dog or looking after small children!  Some have gym memberships and attend regularly.  Some of us have exercise equipment sitting around unused in our homes. 

I would recommend that if you aren't getting any exercise and you don't have any physical limitations, you should at least get out walking.  It's free and it's good for us and it has all kinds of benefits to our health and our well-being.

When we lack motivation, we need to remember this verse:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13


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Reach Up
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 22, 2011

This golden elm tree, among many others in New Zealand's Christchurch Botanic Garden, was beautiful – the huge size and its many branches reaching toward the sky and heaven. And it even had a bench under it for those who wanted to sit for awhile in the welcoming shade it provided.

Now, here’s a different view:



By turning this photo upside down, we can think of God reaching down to each one of us. Sometimes people may think they don't need God, but He's always there, patiently waiting. Like He reached out to the people of Laodicea in Rev 3:14-22, he reaches out to people like us, standing at the door and knocking. God “reached out to us” by giving us His Son, Jesus so that we might have eternal life (John 3:16). Today He is reaching down to take your hand. If you haven't already done so, reach up and take His hand!


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Sin Sells
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 21, 2011

Yesterday I saw an online article which ranked each state according to which received highest percentage of its income from "sin”-- things like tobacco, alcohol and gambling. I was jolted to discover that my home state of South Dakota ranks fifth in the nation. In other words, it receives the fifth largest percentage of its total revenue from the sin taxes.

Which of course makes sense, because sin sells. In each of the photographs above (which I took within 25 feet of each other in a mall store a couple of weeks back), you can see how some marketers are using this ploy. (The fuzzy enlargement reads "Dior Addict.”) The idea seems to be that the greatest amusement and satisfaction come from what's naughty.

This has always been the devil’s most powerful deception. As far back as the Garden of Eden, the serpent tempted Eve with the delicious prospect of knowing evil as well as good (Genesis 3:5), and Eve – quite literally – bit. Ever since then, wholesome and pure have taken a backseat to raunchy and salacious.

Jesus will have none of that. “Blessed are the pure in heart,” He says, “for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” He says in verse 6. And verse 48 sums it up. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

How do you wean yourself away from sin and back to innocence?  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9.  “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9. “Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Verse 11. In fact, read all of Psalm 119. It's the longest chapter in the Bible – and it's a lengthy infomercial on how the Bible and the Spirit who inspired it can point us—and pull us--in God's direction.


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The Stick and the Carrot
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 20, 2011

A couple of days ago, between appointments, I paid a quick visit to the downtown Bellevue branch of the University of Washington Bookstore. Every year about this time I notice that the store must conduct some kind of “design a bookmark which promotes reading” contest among local elementary schools, and a hundred or more bookmarks were posted on the walls in the store’s entryway.

I got a kick out of the contrasting messages of the two bookmarks pictured above. One says sternly, “I am the red Ninja. If you don’t read I’ll hunt you down.” The other approaches reading from a more positive direction: “Books are brain food.”

You know where I’m going with this, right? These two approaches have also been used to encourage Bible reading. The stick: “You’d better open this Book, sinnah, or you’ll burn forever!”  The carrot: “. . . I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:12 NKJV (By the way, I can’t remember any “sticks” in Scripture which coerce us into Bible reading. But there are plenty of “carrots.” To take one example, Psalm 119, the Bible’s longest chapter, is one long infomercial about the importance of God’s Word.)

Take a bite on the carrot—and as you open your Bible, remember another carrot, this one from Jesus: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4.


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“I Live in Binosor Land”
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, May 19, 2011

I think I've mentioned from time to time that I volunteer on Tuesdays for our two Adventist schools. Math was never my favorite subject, and so when I correct first and second grade math assignments, I am always deeply impressed when – after finishing an entire page of subtraction problems – a student still has enough energy to turn the paper over and produce an unsolicited work of art.

I got a special kick out of the above illustration a couple of Tuesdays ago. Here we have a dome-shaped creature with spikes on his back and a smile on his face. With a cheery wave, he informs us "I live in binosor land.”

Months of looking at the work of young writers has taught me that some kids at this age still write their letters backward, so "dinosor” is the correct reading, though still slightly misspelled.

And after my first grin, I found myself thinking, "Sometimes I myself think I'm living in ‘dinosaur land.’” After all, this weary old planet has suffered for thousands of years from ancient and very unhealthy ideas. These "dinosaurs" include "I have the right to steal part of your country from you if I'm strong enough," or "I must always defend my personal honor to the death," or "I have the right to plunder any and all natural resources without thinking about their replenishment." It's a pity these ideas didn't die out with the real dinosaurs!

Have you read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount recently? If not, go to Matthew chapters 5 and 6 and study through Jesus' ideas. You'll find them quite different from the "dinosaurs." They are ideas that lead to life and happiness, not conflict and death.


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New Start
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One of my best friends (Jim), recently found out that his mother-in-law (Linda) has stage 3 cancer.  While the news was a shock and is terrible, it gives God an opportunity to heal miraculously.  I don't know the outcome that will take place but I do know that it will be God's will. Obviously that is a little easier for me to say, as I am not the one with stage 3 cancer. That said I know Linda and I know she believes in the miracle that can take place, as she puts her faith in God's healing hands.


One of the best parts of our relationship with Jesus, is the ability to 'start fresh'.  He tells us if we sorry for our sins and we confess, He forgets about them -- burying them, allowing us to have a new start. if we stray from Him, He welcomes us with open arms -- a new start. Life doesn't always seem fair and we certainly don't always get the option to hit the reset button, but with God, we have the chance to have a new start and that is very encouraging.

I have been told that the cherry blossom is a symbol of a new start. It is God's gift to us, as spring arrives--and I always think of spring as the start of something great, another year of life.  My prayer for Linda and anyone else facing physical, mental or spiritual trials -- give your concerns to God, allow Him to take control and trust in the outcome.

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Common Tern      
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Instinct is strong, very strong.  It sometimes acts beyond reason, at least from the human perspective.  The nesting behavior of the Common Tern is a good example of this.  Like many species, the tern possesses brood patches, patches of bare skin on the breast which allow the parent bird to successfully incubate the eggs.  In the case of the Common Tern, it has three, and three is the common clutch size, even though all three seldom fledge successfully.  What is unusual about the tern’s behavior is that should the clutch size be less than three eggs, it will roll one or more rocks into the nest to make up the “correct” number of eggs. 
 
We could debate the degree to which man is programmed, but most would agree that more is expected of us than simple instinctive behavior.  Still, many times we go through the proper actions, believing that is what God desires from us.  The Lord had something to say about the dangers of habitual religion through His prophet Hosea.  “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offering.”  (Hosea 6:6 NIV)   Our actions may be exemplary, our doctrines canonical, we may have the correct number of eggs in our basket, yet in spite of all these things, we could still miss what it is the Lord desires from us, mercy and making Him the Lord of our Life. 


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Will Your Anchor Hold?

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 16, 2011

You find this seaweed on the local beaches.  You can see that it is firmly attached to the rock.  When the tide is out, it is just lying on the beach but when the tide comes back in and a storm comes up, it is able to float without drifting away.

It reminds me of the words to an old hymn:


Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

It is safely moored, 'twill the storm withstand,
For 'tis well secured by the Savior's hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, thro' strength divine.

It will surely hold in the Straits of Fear
When the breakers have told that the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o'erflow.

It will firmly hold in the Floods of Death
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the Veil.

When our eyes behold through the gath'ring night
The city of gold, our harbor bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav'nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.

Chorus:
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.
               (Lyrics: Priscilla Jane Owens)

Apparently the inspiration for the hymn was Hebrews 6:17-20:

God wanted to prove that his promise was true to those who would get what he promised. And he wanted them to understand clearly that his purposes never change, so he made an oath.These two things cannot change: God cannot lie when he makes a promise, and he cannot lie when he makes an oath. These things encourage us who came to God for safety. They give us strength to hold on to the hope we have been given. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and strong. It enters behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place in heaven,  where Jesus has gone ahead of us and for us. He has become the high priest forever, a priest like Melchizedek.

According to The Andrews Study Bible notes on these verses, the appointment of Jesus as our High Priest and His full access to the presence of God were given as a guarantee for us.


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Bridges
Photo and Commentary ©2011 Bev Riter
Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mount Cook (Aoraki), New Zealand's highest mountain at 12,349 feet, beckoned us on as we walked on the swinging bridges over the rushing water from Hooker Glacier. (Note one of these bridges in my photo, and the closeup just below it.) While hiking, many swinging bridges were easy to cross - but not this one! It was not only narrow, but it swayed a long way up and down, back and forth! On top of that, the cold wind surged down the canyon like a strong downdraft, known in New Zealand as a Nor'west arch.

There are many kinds of bridges some of which include steel bridges, wooden bridges, covered bridges, log bridges, stone bridges, floating bridges, single-lane bridges and in New Zealand – swinging bridges! Some bridges are well known: the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francesco, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence just to name a few.

The Bible is full of “human bridges” - people with steel and stone, ambition and drive, helping people transition from one place to another. Led by faith, Abraham, his descendants and the Israelites developed a strong relationship with God leading them to the Land of Canaan, their promised land (I Chronicles 16:18). Moses, respected by both the Israelites and Egyptians, provided a bridge between the two groups of people (Exodus 3). John the Baptist, sent as the forerunner of Jesus, assisted the people of God in making the transition from what we know as the Old Testament to the New Testament (John 3:28). Last, and foremost, is Jesus who stood with one foot on earth while God waited on the far side of His final bridge (Luke 22:42, John 18:37; 20:17). Jesus is our bridge to heaven. Want to go there?


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Safe in the Arms of Daddy
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 14, 2011

A week ago, during a post-worship-service potluck, I happened to perch at the table where first-time parents Chris and Shelly were sitting. When I sat down, cuddly baby Isaac was gazing mildly around at all the  potluckers.

"Is he always this good?" I asked.

"Oh, it's getting close to his naptime," Shelly said. "Right about now he gets really mellow." Sure enough, mom was right. It wasn't long before Isaac's little head lolled over.

As I grabbed for my camera and asked Chris and Shelly for permission to use this sweet scene for our Devotional Photo Blog, I was thinking, Now here we have a picture of perfect faith, perfect trust.

For one thing, Isaac is in a large, unfamiliar room. Who knows what dangers lurk within it? Who knows if several strange people are going to come close and stare at him and make cooing noises? For another thing, who's to say that daddy isn't going to get distracted while talking with someone, and drop Isaac on the floor?

Yet here's this dozing little charmer, totally dependent on the kindness of the grown-ups in his life. As long as his chubby little arms feel the familiar strength of Dad's arm, he knows he's safe, and feels no fear.

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest . . .

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations;
Sin cannot harm me there . . . .
   Fannie J. Crosby


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Glow Where You’re Glued
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 13, 2011

Remember the saying, "Bloom where you're planted"? It's the idea that rather than always seeking greener pastures, you should try to thrive just where you are.

This past Tuesday afternoon in our church’s neighborhood, I spotted the little yellow reflector you see on the edge of the sidewalk at the bottom of the photo. It's made of a highly reflective material, and had at one point been glued firmly to the pavement out where the cars are passing. However, somehow this reflector had become dislodged, and was now cowering safely out of harm’s way!

That reminded me of what Christians are called to do. The purpose of a road reflector is to act as a guide for cars, and by doing so keep the occupants of each car as safe as possible. And if it stays on the sidewalk, its influence where it's needed is missing.

In the same way, Jesus called His followers out into the world to be guiding "lights" to others, and He says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. “ Matthew 5:16 NKJV

Not looking forward to a challenging work situation next week? Ask the Lord to let you be a reflector of His character, even though it seems sometimes as though people are rolling over you like tires over a road reflector. Because even though they may never say so, people are watching you. If you're a Christian, they know it. And consciously or subconsciously, they are watching to see if your life and lifestyle match up with what you believe.

Glow where you're glued!


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“Nor Any Date We Know”
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, May 12, 2011

Newspeople are shaking their heads and trying to hide their grins as they report on the prediction of Harold Camping, Christian radio broadcaster and president of California-based Family Radio.

Camping and a surprising number of earnest followers are causing more and more eyebrows – Christian and non-Christian – to raise, as he blandly predicts that the "secret rapture" will happen on May 21.

National Public Radio has picked up the story too. The other day I heard NPR's religion correspondent play clips of an accountant who said he's "crunched the numbers" and they are correct. Another Camping follower asserts that at 6 PM on the Pacific Rim, a giant earthquake will begin that will sweep around the globe. Several billboards in Seattle – and many more across the USA – proclaim the date, and teams of believers move resolutely into shopping malls trying to warn the crowd that their days are numbered.

Now. What about it? Is this going to happen, or isn't it? Are born-again car drivers and airplane pilots going to vanish, leaving the unconverted in chaos? Or aren’t they?

How you respond to Harold Camping's prophecy depends on at least two factors: (1) how well you know Bible prophecy facts, and (2) how good a feel you have for the Bible's own "ground rules" for how its predictions  should be interpreted.

I poked around on the Wikipedia entry for Camping's end-time ideas. I'm not going to give you the link, because I don't want to distract you from what I say next.

What you need to know is that the Bible contains its own prophecy-interpretation ground-rules. So that means we needn't – and shouldn't – make up our own ground-rules. If you do finally wend your way to an Internet site with Camping's reasoning, you'll discover that his prediction is not based on clear Bible time prophecies (the Bible doesn't even hint about when Christ will return), but upon ideas which aren't found in the Bible, such as that the number five signifies "atonement," and the number 10 means "completeness." I’ve been studying my Bible for decades, and I’ve never heard of those ideas.

And that's the point. How valid are your ground rules? The accountant can crunch all the numbers he wants, but even if his bottom line equals that of Camping, it means nothing if the ground rules are worthless.

Here are some Bible texts which share a more dependable view of Jesus' return. Click here.


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Transformation

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
 
God has made some amazingly delicate and beautiful creatures.  A few weeks back, I was able to view a few of these creatures at the Pacific Science center.  Just looking at the intricate detail, the bold vibrate colors, the creativity God shows in His creations.  As we know, butterflies don't start out looking this way, in fact they don't look anything like they end up becoming at all.
 
How is that any different then us?  We start off in a sinful world, we struggle, we sin, we ask for forgiveness.  Of course the story doesn't end there, it actually just begins.  God takes what we are, what we look like and changes us into a beautiful creature, He wants us to be.  This transformation is a work in progress but we know it happens, because we know how much He wants us to be like him.
 
The promise of this 'changing" is found in 2 Corinthians 3:18 "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

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Blue Grosbeak        
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Some have pointed out an apparent tension between justification and sanctification.  While there is nearly universal agreement on the issue of justification, that we are made righteous through the gift of Christ’s death, the role of sanctification is not as clear.  They point out that if we are made perfect by Christ’s gift, what can anything we do add to it?
 
Two passages, both from II Corinthians may be used to establish those differing positions.

II Corinthians 5:17 states: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!”   If that is really true, I am a totally new creation, then why do I still struggle over some of the same sins I had trouble with before I accepted Christ?  In other words, am I saved by degrees? 
 
The second text is II Corinthians 3:18 where the same author writes:  “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (NIV)  This passage points out that there will be growth, yet, even that growth or glory, comes from the Lord.
 
An example from nature provides an illustration which may help us better understand this question.  The Blue Grosbeak is primarily a blue bird during the breeding season, but during the winter it molts into an overall brown tone.  These colors are produced by two very different types of feathers.  The brown is caused by pigmentation while the blue is a result of the structure and reflective quality of the feather itself.  What the above picture shows is a bird in a transitional stage.  Some of the bird’s brown feathers are being replaced with blue ones, but the transformation is not yet complete.  None of the feathers are a mixture of the two types, yet as feathers are lost and replaced, the color of the bird changes as well.  So, is the change total or gradual?  Based upon the grosbeak, and based upon our own lives, it appears to be both.


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Big Leaves and Falling Branches
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 9, 2011 

According to Wikipedia, there are about 100,000 species of trees on the planet.  It is thought that trees make up 25% of all living plant species. 

I took this photo last year at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.  The leaves belong to a bigleaf maple which is one of only three maple trees growing in the Pacific Northwest.  This is not like the showy maples you find in the eastern part of the country in the fall.  The tree is huge and can grow up to 100 feet.  The leaves are also huge and can grow up to 12 inches across.  They turn yellow mixed with brown in the fall.

This tree makes a great shade tree in the summer.  Apparently the wood is used for piano frames.  It even produces a sap that can be made into syrup but it is apparently not rated as highly as that of the sugar maple.

This tree does have the reputation of big branches occasionally falling down.  This can be very hazardous depending on whether it is in the middle of the woods or growing in your yard with its branches above your house!

We are told that trees originated in the very first garden - Eden:

Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Genesis 2:8 and 9

Won't it be great to be in the garden in the earth made new where everything is restored back to the way it was originally intended - without danger, hazards or sin?  "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells." 2 Peter 3:13


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Caring
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 8, 2011

What fun – watching three newborn horses with their mothers! Two of them were miniature horses while the other was full-sized. Their mothers would let the babes scamper a little distance while keeping a watchful on them. However, if another mare tried to get close to sniff her youngster, she would pull her ears back and chase it away. It was really interesting to watch these mares care for and protect their colts. This reminded me of God caring for us.

In Mark 6:30-34 we can read that God cared about the apostles and their need for rest so they sailed off toward a secluded place across the lake. However, the people ran around the shore of the lake and were waiting when they arrived on the other side. Many people would have been angry if their plans for rest were interrupted, but not Jesus! He was moved with compassion toward them – He saw the individuals in that crowd, realized their various needs and wanted to care for them. Additionally, they were all hungry. With their five loaves and two fishes, five thousand men with additional women and children were fed with some food left! (v 41-44). He cared for those with ailments and disease (Math 9:36). He cared for the sorrowful (Luke 7:14). Jesus cared for all, regardless of color or ethnicity or lifestyle or social status. He cared for them. And today He cares for you and me.


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“Thank You, Mom!”
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, May 7, 2011

My mother was five when the stock market crashed in October, 1929. This means that she spent her formative childhood years as a dirt-poor Great Depression prairie kid, as did my dad, a year older and 40 miles south.

Fortunately, she didn't let poverty embitter her – in fact, her happy memories far outnumbered her sad ones. And like many other  "Dirty Thirties” girls, she grew up to become a totally normal mom who--while she never lost her “Don’t buy anything you can’t pay cash for” thriftiness--would have jumped resolutely in front of a freight train if that's what it would have taken to save her children from danger.

Which of course is one of God's most motherly qualities as well. Some people – mainly guys – get a bit annoyed when God-as-a-mother is mentioned. True, the Bible consistently refers to the Deity as "He," but Genesis 1 says that God created both male and female in His image.

So tomorrow, when you cherish your mother – or her memory – thank God not only for her but for the way her love reflects His heart.


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Rorschach Test
Photo and Commentary ©2011 Maylan Schurch
Friday, May 6, 2011

The other day I happened to follow a Metro bus long enough to be intrigued by this strange shape on its rear panel. I don't know whether the paint had flaked off, or whether this was an attempt to sand off a bit of graffiti.

Remember the "Rorschach Blots"– those strange-looking inky splotches on the pages of college psychology textbooks? If you were the patient of a psychiatrist, he or she would sit you down and show you one of these black blots, and would say, "Okay, what do you think that looks like?"

The idea was that your mind would get involved in the experiment and "fill in the blanks," creating images which reflected your state of mind. If you were depressed, you might say, "I see a dark cloud," or if you were feeling cheerful you might say, "It’s a carnation."

I don't know how valuable this kind of psychoanalysis is, but the first thing I see on the "bus blot" above is someone crouched down in prayer, facing left. See the head resting on the folded hands, and the arched back? The person might be kneeling on a thick mat or prayer rug.

Or it could be a dinosaur's skull, this time facing right. See the mouth, and also the little brain-bump at the upper left?

I've known people who can look at life and immediately spot the sinister, even when they have no cause to. Several years ago, when I was attending the Western Washington Conference campmeeting, I was walking down the sunny sidewalk, enjoying a delightful summer afternoon. A helicopter was flying high overhead.

A grim-faced woman was approaching me. "Wonderful day, isn't it?” I asked her.

She flicked a suspicious glance skyward. "Black helicopter," she muttered. "They're watching us."

I still remember having to tighten my jaw muscles so they wouldn't sag. What must it be like, I asked myself, to travel through your days dreading conspiracies?

What image this black-helicopter lady would have seen in my bus-blot I don't know. But I do know that there is a God, and He already knows the truth about every conspiracy. And if we humbly bow in prayer from time to time, asking His guidance and protection, we can see in each new day not fear but opportunity.


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Banner Headline
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, May 5, 2011

Only rarely do sedate newspapers like the Seattle Times break out the big font for the front page, but this past Monday was one of those times. Shelley and I heard about Osama bin Laden’s death Sunday evening, and sure enough, on our Monday morning walk we spotted the banner headline, "BIN LADEN KILLED."

I had mixed feelings, of course. The death of one human being is tragic. But so were the deaths of 3,000 in a few horrifying minutes. And anyone who reads the Old Testament with any degree of thoroughness senses that even God--especially God--wants justice done.

I couldn’t help but think of that day which Revelation 20 talks about when, at the end of the millennium, the real “Great Satan” will lose his power and will be destroyed in a lake of fire. Though traumatic, that day will be an essential one in the annals of the history of the universe. May the Lord sustain us till it comes.


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Vision Test

Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
 
No, your eyesight is fine (not that I am a doctor) but it's the image that is blurry.  I captured this shot just as the wind started to blow and I was looking for an interesting "look" to this ordinary daisy.  When I look at it, it reminds me to stop focusing on my views and vision and to focus my eyes on Jesus.  When doing a search on the popular song "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," there are a few examples of text that may have been inspiration for the song by Helen H. Lemmel - who was born in England and passed away in Seattle, at the age of 98.  Here is one of those texts:
 
Hebrews 12: 1 & 2: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
 
Whether we are looking at flowers or focused on our daily tasks, in order to see clearly -- remember to turn your eyes on Jesus.

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Savannah Sparrow and Tulips
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Think back to a time when the ebb and flow of your life was definitely on the ebb part of the cycle.  Chances are you felt isolated and all alone in your trials.  Those apparently were the feelings of the afflicted man who wrote the poetic words of Psalm 102.  His whole being is affected, not just one part of his existence.  He speaks of his physical agony.  His social well-being is at an all-time low for he is surrounded only by his enemies.  Those with whom he would traditionally find comfort are nowhere to be found.  Verse 7 contains this imagery:  “I watch, and am become like a sparrow that is alone upon the house-top.” (ASV) 
 
This of course does not mean the sufferer is physically alone.  He may be dwelling in a city of ten million people yet still feel cut off and estranged.  Nor does this mean his surroundings are bleak and barren.  In fact, beauty can accentuate the seclusion the individual may feel. 
 
This contrast was brought into focus by a lonely Savannah Sparrow swallowed by a sea of red in the endless rows of tulips.  In truth, I of course have no idea of the sparrow’s sense of well-being.  Its distinctive song was what first alerted me to its presence in a very unlikely setting.  A bird of grasslands and shrubs, the flower fields, while beautiful, seemed to have little to offer this species.  To its credit however, that did not prevent it from singing its song.  And that’s what the writer of Psalm 102 did; he too called out to his Maker.  Not a bad example for anyone, be they together or alone, in a field of flowers, or in a rocky wasteland.


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For the Beauty of the Earth
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, May 2, 2011

Do you remember the first verse of the old hymn, "For the Beauty of the Earth" by Folliott S. Pierpoint?

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies;
For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise This, our hymn of grateful praise.

Will all the disasters and catastrophes filling the news headlines everyday, we often miss the beauty that is all around us. This is not to say we can ignore the plight of the people affected by these events but we also need to look up every now and then and see the beauty that is around us.

I took the above picture on a recent trip to Pike Place Market in Seattle.  The flowers were just amazing!  The people putting together the bouquets were doing an awesome job as well. 

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" Philippians 4:4-8


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Puzzles
Photo and Commentary ©2011 by Bev Riter
Sunday, May 1, 2011

Do you like puzzles? How about a Puzzling World? Since I had read about this, when in Wanaka, NZ we went for a visit to check it out!

Notice the crazy architecture in the photo above. Inside, they have a hologram hall with illusions, another hall has photos of people whose faces turn and follow you around the room. In the Tilted House rooms are sloped at an angle of fifteen degrees, but our brains tried to straighten them up making displays seem to be hanging at impossible angles.



This second photo shows water that seems to be running up hill, but is actually running down hill! My favorite was a forced perspective room which gave the illusion of creating tall people and small people even though when viewing the room through a window, the room seemed to be a normal size. I agreed they had created many puzzling things!

Some people enjoy doing crossword puzzles. Recently, this Books of the Bible Puzzle was sent to me. How many books of the Bible can you find in it? Note that the name of a book might be in two different words and you just might want to grab your Bible!

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

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