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

Devotional Photo Blog- November 2009

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

NOTE: To see previous photos from this current month, simply scroll down. To see previous months' blogs, click here, and follow the instructions.

Baby Marsh Wren
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How do you know that this is a baby bird? You may not even know what species it is, but you know that it is a baby. Why? Maybe it's the short tail. That certainly would be a good indicator for the tail is unquestionably abbreviated, but then so is that of the adult Marsh Wren, not quite as short as this baby's, but still short. Maybe it's the remnants of downy feathers still seen around the eyes. That would certainly be another indicator of its age. The list could go on, but what we're finally left with is, it just looks like a baby. We may find such qualities endearing in baby birds, but when it comes to fellow Christians, we often aren't as generous.

Paul recognized the young, or the less spiritually mature, would have a lot of growing to do. He also was aware of how those who had already had opportunity to grow might forget there were people who had helped them in this process. For that reason he gave a little nudge to the church members when he wrote, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." Romans 15:1 (NIV)

The first part of this verse is quite clear and understandable to most of us. It is easy to understand why babes in Christ would need time and assistance in helping them grow into what He wants them to be. But the end of the verse presents something of a paradox. Does it seem strange that the spiritually mature Christian would take pleasure in not being of assistance to these new believers? Maybe the verse is simply reminding those of us who have been walking the walk for some time, that we too may still have a few tail feathers that aren't quite as long as they should be.

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Missing Armor?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 30, 2009

I saw these abandoned shoes while I was walking around Green Lake earlier this year. They were sort of odd things to find but I did see a woman who I presume was their owner rowing a boat out on the lake.

Ephesians 6:11-18 (NLT) has an analogy which compares what we need for the Christian life to armor:

Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Are you missing any armor?

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Seeing Through the Fog
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 29, 2009

The fog seemed to engulf everything. Then, all at once, it started to clear and the sun rays were shining though. At last, the fog lifted and everything was visible.

Is your life a bit foggy at times? Is it hard to see what God has in store for you? In Isaiah 44:22 (NEB), we read "I have swept away your sins like a dissolving mist, and your transgressions are dispersed like clouds; turn back to me; for I have ransomed you." God gave himself in the person of Jesus. Through Him, we have power, love, strength and righteousness to live each day. Through Him, we can grow spiritually and see through the fog. Through Him, we have salvation.

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A Message of Hope
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Gene Trent
Sabbath, November 28, 2009

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Happy continued Thanksgiving! I am one who loves the season of Thanksgiving. It is not just a day for our family. It starts days before the actual Thanksgiving Day and goes for days to a week afterwards. This is because the Lord, each and every year, blesses us in so many various ways. As we look back over the year the blessings show up in so many different ways from health, family, achievements or dreams realized, or employment. Most of all thanksgiving is a time and message of hope. Realizing how God has blessed in both good and difficult times gives us hope for the future. He is always there.

That is one reason I love the gospel so much, because it is a message of hope. It helps us make it through the sometimes very difficult times of life today but most importantly it points us to the future when sin will be eradicated not just from this planet but throughout the entire universe. The message of hope shows me a God of supreme love and the same God is also Jehovah Jireh - God provides.

I am reading a book by Joel Osteen entitled "It's Your Time" and he talks throughout the book of becoming "prisoners of hope." I like that. As we move out into our surrounding circles s of influence, we as Christians must be prisoners of hope leading others to look up and look forward.

The above text shows us the Lord has blessed each of us with a destiny. Like Joseph, we may know that the Lord has something special for us but before we are able to realize its fulfillment, life happens to us. Either we are misunderstood," imprisoned," forgotten, or see a number of bad breaks come our way. Like Joseph, things are not coming together as quickly as we had imagined. But like Joseph, we must be prisoners of hope knowing that God is there working it out. Because He has destined it, it will come to fulfillment. Sometimes it takes a while but it will happen because He gave us His Word and His Word is good as gold.

My family is experiencing that right now. This Thanksgiving we are all together in Southern California enjoying being together, enjoying sunshine and warmth, enjoying a new adventure unfolding. The recession hit my business particularly hard and the last 13 months have been very difficult. But, the Lord had plans for us. Jehovah Jireh provided in the lean times enough for us to keep things going and we thank Him profusely for this and now a new adventure has opened for me in a new position with a great company of people based in Southern California. We don't know how things are going to work out but the future is very bright. 13 months of darkness and wondering when God was going to move on our behalf has broken through to the dawn of a new opportunity from an avenue I could not have anticipated. God does still work miracles. We can testify to that and we give Him BIG praise this season.

Become a prisoner of hope, stay in faith and watch God work.

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Somebody Cares
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 27, 2009

On a Sunday morning walk earlier this month, Shelley and I spotted something quite extraordinary--this huge, carefully-constructed plywood sandwichboard sign. In the midst of the lettering is a large photo of a cat slipped into a plastic sheet-protector and carefully glued to the board. (As you see, I've smeared out the phone numbers with Photoshop to preserve the family's privacy.)

In our neighborhood we often see such photos of lost pets, stapled to light poles or to the sides of mailboxes. In fact in the past few weeks we'd actually seen this very cat photo many times attached to those usual places, accompanied by a paragraph saying that the cat may have been injured by raccoons, and imploring the viewer to call the phone numbers if the cat was found.

But we've never seen anyone go to the trouble of sawing two pieces of plywood to make them identical, and bolting hinges to the edges, and even reinforcing those hinges with strips of wood on the inside of the A-frame, all to publicize a lost cat. It's obvious that this sign was constructed for this one purpose, because the lettering was done on the plywood itself. And notice (in the side-view just below) the chain and cement block which anchor it against wind-gusts.

What's so intriguing to me--and I've been in the position to see the cat photo up close, which you haven't--is that this cat does not (at least to a stranger's eye) appear to be all that special. When I gaze into its photographed face, I see simply an ordinary cat, eyes half-closed as though it has just been unwillingly awakened for the photograph, its body flopped languidly across what looks like the arm of a sofa. It's not doing tricks, not playing with a toy, not lecturing on Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, not doing anything which would elevate it above the average feline.

Yet somebody cares. A lot. Maybe it's a cat belonging to a child whose inconsolable grief has impelled Mom to photocopy the scores of color photos (all in plastic sheet protectors) we've seen elsewhere in the neighborhood. Maybe the sounds of desperate sobs drove Dad to the garage and the table saw, where he feverishly prepared this sign, maybe even feverishly praying while he sawed and bolted and lettered.

Need I say more? God cares-- a lot. And since His missing creatures can read, He has provided not a signboard but a Book which calls them back to Him.

You may not think you're anything extraordinary--but He does. Hurry up. Call His phone number immediately. He wants to hear from you.

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Let It Rain
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thanksgiving, November 26, 2009

A friend of mine had a dream awhile back. Rain was pouring down and beating against the roof of her church. Little buckets in the lobby were collecting drops falling in through the skylights, and inside the sanctuary, buckets in the pews were catching drips from the ceiling. People in the church were doing their best to avoid the drops and the buckets.

The picture of the pouring rain in this dream reminds me of God's promise in the book of Joel to send forth an abundance of rain to prepare His ripening wheat for harvest:

Be glad then...and rejoice in the LORD your God for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you - the former rain, and the latter rain...the threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow...

In God's Word, rain is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. When God says He will send forth the former rain, He is describing the daily work of the Holy Spirit in converting each Christian's heart. In sending forth the latter rain, God promises to empower His people with the special strength and divine gifts of His Spirit to equip them to serve as laborers in His harvest. Jesus describes this in the gospel of Matthew:

Jesus said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

When I heard my friend's dream, I was sad about the people trying to avoid the dripping rain and the drops collecting in buckets. I thought, Is God telling us that the rain is coming and many will refuse its influence? What will happen to God's harvest if His people avoid the refreshing from above and are unwilling to join Him in the labor?

To those who are willing, God has made many and exceeding great promises, such as the restoration described in the book of Joel:

"I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you."

The guarantee of His constant protection, invincible strength, and final victory as recorded in the Psalms:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with its swelling... [God] will be exalted among the nations, [God] will be exalted in the earth!

And an invitation to the wedding feast celebrated in the Revelation of Jesus Christ:

Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.

And as for the labor, Jesus himself promised in the gospels of Matthew and John that the work will be light, satisfying, and full of joy:

"My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!"

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

When you sit down to eat your supper this Thanksgiving and pause to praise the name of the Lord who has dealt wondrously with you, think about this: At what table will you be sitting next year and by whom will you be sitting? What food will be served at the supper and will you be tired from all your labors?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Scriptures references from Joel 2; Matthew 9 & 11; Psalm 46, Revelation 3 & 19; John 4

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Pick Up That Trash
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This past summer we were able to take a quick trip to the New England area. One of our stops was Boston. We chose to complete the Freedom Trail and see all we could see along the way.

While we were in Boston, I admired how clean the city was, considering the amount of tourists that visit each and every day during the summer. I thought the city officials should be very proud of the cleanliness.....until we came closer to red light at a cross walk. I looked down and saw all this trash, but once my eyes adjusted, I realized it wasn't trash at all. It was art--literally.

I presume a local artist was commissioned by the city to create an interactive work or art, which in this case was going to be walked all over. Yes, this was the cross walk and as the light turned green, you began your journey across the trash - from a smashed pineapple to a candy wrapper, from a dozen broken eggs to half a head of lettuce. Yes, there was even a banana peel (and everything in between). This "art feature" went on a couple more cross walks and with each step, I thought, "How ironic." Prior to seeing and interacting with this artist expression, I thought of the city as very clean.

What happens if this is our life. How disappointing it would be if someone around us saw our life as great, until they got to know us and saw something completely different. When we fill our lives with good, we show others the same. Using God as our example, we should be able to show His love to others in every facet of our lives. No, I am not saying we will be perfect, but attempting each and everyday will give us the opportunity to choose right and show others around us why we are Christians. In John 13:15, we find one of many times where Jesus sets the example for us, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."

Instead of looking great from afar, but not so great when you get up close -- let's make sure there is no trash around at all. Let's make sure we focus our eyes on God and allow the mirror image to shine out.

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Marsh Wren
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Psalms are full of praise. Many are attributed to David, while others come from a different pen, but many of these have praise as their theme. And that's the way it should be. Too often our prayers are about ourselves, our needs, our wants, our joys and sorrows. And God has asked us to share these with Him. But how much more should our prayers be centered on Him, of the good He has done, of the power He has shown, for the love He has freely given.

The whole of Psalms 148 is praise to God. It begins with "Praise the Lord" and ends the same way, and the constant theme of the verses between repeats this refrain. Verse 10 becomes even more specific, "wild animals, and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds" are included in their acclaim.

There are many appropriate ways to offer praise, from a deep reverent silence to the thundering roar of Niagara, but none offer it with more enthusiasm than the Marsh Wren. The male's song seems to constantly bubble out during breeding season, sometimes continuing throughout the night. Some would argue that this is simply a biologically driven mating mechanism designed to preserve the species. Of course they could be right, but what they couldn't argue with is my response upon hearing it. When the wren's notes reach my ear, I have just one more reason for offering Him my praise.

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Good News
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm an Anne Murray fan from way back. (Growing up in Canada it was almost inevitable!) Here are part of the lyrics to a song she sang called "A Little Good News." It reached #1 on Billboard's country music chart in 1983 and was written by Charlie Black, Rory Rourke and Tommy Roscoe.

There's a local paper rolled up in a rubber band
One more sad story's one more than I can stand
Just once how I'd like to see the headline say
"Not much to print today, can't find nothin' bad to say", because

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town
Nobody OD'ed, nobody burned a single buildin' down
Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain
We sure could use a little good news today

I'll come home this evenin'
I'll bet that the news will be the same
Somebody takes a hostage, somebody steals a plane
How I wanna hear the anchor man talk about a county fair
And how we cleaned up the air, how everybody learned to care
Whoa, tell me

Nobody was assassinated in the whole Third World today
And in the streets of Ireland, all the children had to do was play
And everybody loves everybody in the good old USA
We sure could use a little good news today

I think that the reason it reached #1 is because so many people could relate to it. Nothing has really changed since the song was written - except that maybe more people get their news from the Internet now. (I had to drive around a bit before I found this newspaper box.)

We could go back in earth's history to when sin first entered the world and, with just a few minor changes to the lyrics, this song would still be relevant. (In her latest rendition of the song, which she sings with Indigo Girls on her Duets album, Gaza has replaced Ireland.)

We have needed good news since the Garden of Eden. Fortunately, God had that in mind all along. As Christians, we know about the Good News! When the angel was talking to Joseph about Mary in Matthew 1:21, he said, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

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Give Thanks
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 22, 2009

Even though they were cold, some sick and with many family members deceased, they paused to give thanks to God for what they did have. We are told that the winter of 1620-21 was a hard winter for the Pilgrims. As with them, the real test of thankfulness is whether we can give thanks for what we do have, despite the wounds and pains of yesterday's difficulties and challenges. Since the Pilgrims lived close to the edge of survival, is that why they were able to be thankful for the little things?

How about you and me? Let's not let our material bounty cause us to neglect giving thanks as we celebrate our Thanksgiving Day. What are you thankful for this year? Psalms 95:2 NEB states "Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving, and sing him psalms of triumph."

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The Creator's Calling Card
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 21, 2009

One day toward the end of October I happened to catch sight of this sunlit yellow leaf lying on the carpet in the main aisle of our church sanctuary. It had obviously been tracked in by an unsuspecting foot, but as it lay there it seemed to be a tiny message of good cheer from its Creator.

The week's seventh day is when this particular carpet is trodden by the greatest number of people, and, like the leaf, the Sabbath itself is a reminder of the Creator. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy!" God announced in a loud voice from Sinai thunderclouds. "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates!" Exodus 20:8-10

And then He gave the reason: "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." Verse 11

Are you taking advantage of your Maker's weekly visit? To learn more about what the Bible says about the Sabbath, click here.

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Fans--or Worshippers?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 20, 2009

Back in mid-September Shelley and I made our usual mini-getaway trip to the little coastal town of Forks, Washington--a trip we've been taking since the late 1980s, long before the Twilight author picked Forks as the setting for her stories. Stephenie Meyer (who was a Phoenix, Arizona preteen when we first started visiting this town) sold 29 million Twilight tomes in 2008 alone.

Amid all this publicity, it's been a kick watching Forks do its best to remain the down-to-earth logging village it's always been. However, since a steady stream of high school girls, generally in little bunches of three or four, arrive almost daily, some concessions have to be made. In the above photo, which I took on the sidewalk leading past the Forks high school (where in novel-land the heroine Bella attends), the girl on the left is gazing adoringly at a lifesize cardboard-backed photo of the vampire Edward standing partway behind the bush. The other two girls gleefully compare digital camera photos. The A-frame sandwichboard sign to the right helpfully informs passersby that yes, this is indeed a sacred Twilight spot.

Obviously, none of these maidens believes that Bella or Edward really exist. But it's also obvious that the three have devoted much time to reading the books, and they've spent real cash on a pilgrimage (who knows across what vast distance?) to the Twilight shrine. And though you couldn't necessarily call Edward's cardboard image a "graven" one, these gals are all but bowing down to it--and probably would be bowing if Bella had set them the example in the saga.

To me, all this sounds reasonably close to worship--or at least the motions people go through when they think they're worshipping. Pilgrimage, shrine, funds expended,writings which are read and treasured, "deities" to adore and emulate.

This makes me wonder about how fervently we worship God. Are we in the habit of spending as much dedicated and self-sacrificing devotion on Him? Have we fallen deeply in love with His 750,000-word adventure saga? Are we making regular pilgrimages to where He's promised to be present even though just two or three other worshippers might show up? Are we dedicating at least as much of our resources to His cause as Twilight or football or baseball or soccer or movie fans devote to theirs? And most importantly, are we trying to be like Him?

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Where It's Bright and Cozy
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sunday evening I waited in the car while Shelley popped into a drugstore just to the left of the scene you see above. It was just after sunset, and the golden light of the Subway sub shop caught my eye. Its reflection in the rain-soaked parking lot made it seem even more warm and cozy, and I found myself wistfully wishing I were one of the people sitting at those little tables.

This scene reminds me of the famous Edward Hopper painting, "Nighthawks" (below). Though its light is more garish than the Subway's, and its inhabitants fewer and probably less cheerful, it's still a shelter from the darkness, and still cozy in its way.

Hopper painted "Nighthawks" in 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the very start of a time in our nation's history when the threat of planes and bombs made city nights no longer safe. Who these people are, and why they're up so late, we don't know. But at least they're together.

So what do you need for "cozy"? Warmth, probably, and a lighted place protected from the elements and the darkness, a place where you can gather with others to take courage from them before you have to leave. Food, too (and in the Nighthawks' case, coffee).

"In My Father's house," Jesus commented in the first few verses of John 14, "are many mansions." More modern translations say "rooms" or "dwellings." While some people might want ornate three-story pillared palaces, I'm hoping for cozy. But whatever these dwellings will look like, they'll have been created by the One who knows what would satisfy our individual hearts the best.

Tell you what. My dad always wanted to operate a little diner, but never got the opportunity here on earth. Chances are, he'll get his wish in heaven, and knowing him, it'll be cozy. Join me there one day, won't you?

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Straight and Narrow Path
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

While visiting family back in Maine, we went for the day to a weekend cabin on Pine Lake. The spot is beautiful, tucked away in the woods, with a lake a few steps from the deck. Part of their property ends, when it meets these railroad tracks. As we were taking a walk on them, this scene struck me and I felt I needed to capture it -- in black and white. The tracks seemed to go on forever, even though it was only about a mile or so, before the took a gentle left-hand turn. One of the biggest reason we find long, straight stretches of railroad track is due to the fact that it's best for the trains to stay as straight as they can -- both for safety reasons as well as efficiency.

This image got me thinking - How many times in our lives do we find ourselves "veering" off track? We quickly ask God to forgive us, so we can assume the correct course of action...the right path. In Psalm 27:11, we read David asking for God to keep him on the direct road, "Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path". If you have studied David and the life he led, you know his track was not always straight. In fact, there were times where he was downright derailed. But, we also know how much he loved God and ultimately wanted to do the right thing and have a life, following the path God laid before him. With his devotion and loving heart, God did reward David and continued to guide him along.

No matter where you, in your walk with God, He is ready to show you the truly straight path. If we choose to follow Him, someday in heaven, we can look back at the zig-zag life we lived and thank God again for His loving mercy.

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Common Yellowthroat
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Which is it, the carrot or the stick? If you wished someone to comply with your wishes for them, which would be more effective in gaining your objective?

I suppose arguments could be made for both approaches, but in my way of thinking, the carrot almost always wins out. Take for example the Common Yellowthroat seen in the picture above. It is a common warbler found across North America, including a park not far from my home. It was singing loudly, hidden in the grasses of a field bordered by a row of wild roses. I could have waited until the second Tuesday of next week before the bird might have flown up and perched next to the roses, but instead, I placed a recording of its song next to the blossoms and, voila! The bird magically appeared! I suppose it is remotely possible I might have been able to thrash about through the field and drive the warbler into the rosebush. But even if I had been that fortunate - no picture - I'd still be standing out in the middle of the field with grass up to my earlobes.

Jesus understood this concept when He said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." John 12:32 (NIV) So what about our witnessing efforts? Christ Himself gave us the answer to that question. Lift Him up. If we do that, the Rose of Sharon will do the rest. If not, we may find ourselves standing out in the field tripping over our own stick.

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He Shall Direct Thy Paths
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 16, 2009

This picture was taken a few years ago when I was up at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park. It was kind of a serendipitous shot because I've lost track of how many times I've been to the park (including this past summer) and not even seen the mountain. This is on the way to Myrtle Falls which is just a short hike from the visitor center.

There are so many different trails heading off from the visitor center that it is sometimes hard to make a decision on which one to take.

Life can be like that too. There are always choices to make. I like the texts in Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV) that say, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."

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Finding Safe Pasture
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 15, 2009

Some of you might recognize this old farm north of Ellensburg. I've stopped to photograph it during the various seasons. Elk can sometimes be seen in the upper field. Other photographers also like it, because it has appeared on various calendars with photos of Washington state. Having grown up on a farm, old barns have a special attraction to me. If one could take a peek back in time, there's a lot of history in farms and old barns.

We chose to raise our children in the country on our little farm near Carnation so they could have a better understanding of country life and an appreciation of animals. Some families move to the country to try to get away from various temptations of city life. Psalms 37:1-3 NEB says, "Do not strive to outdo the evildoers or emulate those who do wrong. For like grass they soon wither, and fade like the green of spring. Trust in the Lord and do good; settle in the land and find safe pasture." My prayer is that God will help each of us, whether we live in the city or the country, to find a "safe pasture" by trusting in Him.

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The Glimpse and the Glory
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 14, 2009

One of the bonuses of taking a morning walk is the occasional beautiful sunrise. A couple of weeks ago Shelley and I saw these pink-bottomed clouds, and they looked so pretty that I snapped the above photo. Over the next 9 minutes (I have a camera which attaches the time as well as the date to its shots) the sky burst into the blaze below.

As I look at these photos, I can't help thinking about how much more magnificent heaven will be than the faded earthly glimpses we sometimes get. Heaven's brilliance will outshine anything we know on earth--even a glorious sunrise--and will make even this planet's most stunning beauty look like the faint pink clouds in the first photo. Doesn't it make you feel like the songwriter who penned these words:

I'm homesick for heaven
Seems I cannot wait
Yearning to enter Zion's pearly gate
There never heartache, there never a care
I long for my home over there.

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Musical Miriam!
Drawing ©2009 by Kuyler Lang
Commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 13, 2009

Last Sabbath, Puget Sound Adventist Academy's "Impact" chorale presented our worship service, and principal Linda Taber preached a short sermonette on the subject of music.

In the congregation was Kuyler Lang, who teaches at Rogers Elementary School in the Walla Walla area. If you've been visiting this devotional photo blog for awhile, you'll have seen his work before. As always, Kuyler arrived with his sketchbook but without knowing the theme of the worship service. And while Impact sang and Linda preached, Kuyler drew--and presented this drawing to me afterward.

God loves music. We know He loves it a lot, because He implanted in every culture a love for song. If I remember right, the Bible's first mention of a song leader stars Moses' sister Miriam. Immediately after the Red Sea closed over the Egyptian army who were hotly pursuing the wilderness-bound Israelites, here's what happened:

Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them:

"Sing to the LORD,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!"
Exodus 15:20, 21

The Bible's longest book is a songbook--the Psalms--and Psalm 119 (a 176-verse "infomercial" for the law of God) is the Bible's longest chapter. God loves music!

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The Dove
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Captured by the lens on Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Peninsula, 10/5/2009.
Thursday, November 12, 2009

When pressed in by the world and struggling with life's challenges, I often flee to the song of spiritual battle found in Psalm 55 and take refuge in its promises. Like a bird seeking for her nest built up high in its branches, I find peace in the strength of God's embrace and the courage to just be still.

Give ear to my prayer, O God. Do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Give heed to me and answer me.

My heart is in anguish within me.

Fear and trembling have come upon me.

I said, Oh, that I had wings like a dove! Then would I fly away and be at rest.

Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness.
I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest.

As for me, I shall call upon God, and the LORD will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice. He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me.

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you.
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

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Light It Up
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One of my favorite times of day is dawn. Yes, I enjoy sleeping as well, but most weekdays I am at work prior to dawn so I look forward to watching the sun rise above the Cascades. The image above happened to be captured at Reflection Lake, at Mt. Rainier National Park. With sunrises, I enjoy the various vibrant colors. Some days there are clouds and some days their absent. l believe another reason I enjoy dawn is that it's likea fresh start--just as the first stream of light peaks over the mountains, it's a brand new day.

Usually we read in the Bible all the different passages about light as it pertains to: God creating light, He shines on us, or that Jesus was sent to earth to push away the darkness of sin with His glorious light. There is nothing wrong with any of these passages, in fact they are amazing promises and gifts we gladly accept. In Matthew 5, it's a bit different. In this passage, we see Jesus referring to His believers as the light of the world. Staring with verse 14, it reads, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house." In verse 16, Jesus calls to action His believers, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

In these verses, Jesus doesn't ask us to light up our lights and hide them somewhere. Instead, He asks us to do the opposite -- light 'em up and show EVERYONE! One thing we need to keep in mind when we are getting ready to shine our lights, is the power source we use. The power doesn't come from a couple of AA batteries. We can't even power up with a quick charge to an electrical socket. No, the only way we have enough juice to light it up and keep it lit, is to stay plugged into the only true source of power--Jesus. Get ready, another day is just around the corner.

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A Grove of Trees
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You can almost taste the frustration in Isaiah's mouth as he pens the words in chapter 44 where he describes the stupidity of his fellow countrymen. "He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak, He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is man's fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread, But he also fashions a god and worships it." (vs 14 and 15 NIV)

How can man be so dumb that he would worship something he himself had just made out of a piece of firewood? It's the exact same hunk of wood. It makes no sense! Still, groves of trees are often associated with pagan worship throughout the Old Testament. No one could deny that location could contribute to a worshipful setting. Perhaps it's just another example of man's tendency to confuse the Creator with the created. But that inclination is not limited to the time before Christ; it follows a long and winding train of thought in various forms of Pantheism down to today where it is found in New Age thinking.

But back to Isaiah and back to us. Is Isaiah supporting a campaign to abolish Arbor Day or encouraging us to buy stock in chainsaw companies? Quite the contrary. His aggravation is directed towards the foolishness of man, not the beauty found in the forest. God's good gifts to us can always be used, either for good or for evil. Instead, maybe a word of thanks might be in order for the words of Isaiah reminding us where the battle really lies. And while we're at it, a word of appreciation for those trees that provide us with beauty and shade might be appropriate as well.

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Can Grapes Be Picked From Briars?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 8, 2009

While in Oregon last weekend, I was close to a vineyard so had to stop for some photo shots. The early morning fog had just lifted and the sun had come out. The grapes seemed ripe, some even looked over-ripe, resting on the green and gold colored leaves of their vine.

The thought I'd like to bring you today comes from the words of Jesus as recorded in Mathew 7:15-20 NEB: "Beware of false prophets, men who come to you dressed up as sheep while underneath they are savage wolves. You will recognize them by the fruits they bear. Can grapes be picked from briars, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a good tree always yields good fruit, and a poor tree bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a poor tree good fruit. And when a tree does not yield good fruit it is cut down and burnt. That is why I say you will recognize them by their fruits."

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Give a Compliment!
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 7, 2009

Recently I was in one of the classrooms at Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School. Just beside the door, where kids could see it on the way out to recess, was this poster.

Having shuffled to and fro across a certain portion of the earth's crust for several decades now, I found myself thinking, Wouldn't it be nice if every classroom, every workplace, every home had a poster like this--and even orientation and training classes in how to encourage?

And talk about cost-effective. Two sincere sentences of appreciation can last someone for an entire week. And depending on who you are and what you do, a heartfelt compliment can keep its recipient fired up for a whole lot longer. The other day I heard a radio interview with a Seattle-area composer who says that once in a great while after a concert, someone will come up to him and say softly, "Your music made me cry." He says that such a compliment, which shows that an effect he had built into the music actually touched someone's heart in the way he'd hoped, can keep him going for six months.

Anybody in your life need a thank-you? Write ‘em a note--handwritten if possible. It won't matter how bad your scrawl is, that note will be kept in a place of honor. Make your compliments genuine, and you'll make the world whirl with happiness for that person.

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Watch Your Step!
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 6, 2009

While my car was being worked on recently, I visited a university-area HalfPrice Books store, and as usual meandered back to the religion section. The building is an old one, and there's always been a weak spot in the floor just in front of the Bible commentaries. And since my last visit, a diligent worker had laid down some duct tape, along with a red-and-white warning sign: "Watch Your Step!"

I got a bittersweet chuckle out of that juxtaposition. You'd think that in the presence of anything having to do with the rock-solid Word of God you could expect the firmest footing--but sadly, in the presence of commentaries on the Word, you're apt to slippy-slide sideways according to each commentary-writer's biases.

But maybe things are changing. Recently in a similar bookstore I paged watchfully through The NKJV Study Bible, whose editors included so much material that its pages often contain half-Scripture and half-commentary. As I always do with study Bibles, I hunt up the verses which deal with beliefs the Adventist church has focused on, such as the Sabbath, the prophecies of Daniel, and what happens when you die. I was immensely delighted to see that the NKJV scholars were very careful when dealing with these topics, which is to say that they didn't speculate any further than what the Bible actually said--and therefore came very close to the positions our church holds. So I bought that study Bible and brought it home.

However, when I actually read Scripture for my devotional times, I do not use a study Bible. I use just the plain Scripture, and keep my eyes focused on its words and phrases, asking the Lord to implant its truths firmly in my mind and heart.

Here are just a few ground-rules for Bible understanding.

First, read every text in its context. Don't just mentally rip a verse off the page and tape it to your bathroom mirror without understanding who said it to whom, and what were the circumstances. The classic example of this is Laban's comment to Jacob: "May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another." (Genesis 31:49) Seems like a tender text to memorize while shaving, right? But when you read the whole story you discover that it's actually a cynically suspicious challenge: "Hey. Don't you try to cheat me when my back is turned. The Lord will getcha if you do!"

Second, don't treat the Bible like a salad bar. If you run across a text that seems to say one thing about a topic, and another text that says something just the opposite, don't pick the one you like and discard the other. You must study both those texts in the light of still other Bible texts about the same topic. Only then will you come closest to the truth. The good news is that 95% of the Bible--including the Good News which is the most important part--is crystal clear on the first read-through.

Third, keep looking for God's character. What is He like? How patient is He? What makes Him glad or gets Him mad? Why? And most importantly--what does God look like through Jesus' eyes? Because the most important question in the universe is not, "Will I be saved?" but "Is God the kind of person I'd like to spend eternity with?" (Hint: He is.)

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Watch for the Signs
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, November 05, 2009



Three weeks ago, I went for a drive with some close friends and my nephew, celebrating his return from Iraq and enjoying the change of seasons. By providence, one of the friends was able to join us on our journey although his residence is several hundred miles away. As we drove along enjoying the scenery and our fellowship, I thought to myself, Thank you God for my dear friends who love You and who encourage me in my walk with You. What a blessing it is to have this time together.

A week later, one of the friends was at an early morning meeting and as the event was drawing to a close, my friend had a heart attack. By the end of the following day, he had had three more. That evening, the doctors implanted a device to perform the function of his heart saying that if they did not, they doubted he would make it through the night.

This past Monday at about 3am, another friend was awakened by a large bang. As her husband ventured out to investigate, my friend dialed 911 and placed her finger on the call button. They had only been in bed for about an hour, as they had returned home at midnight and had been on the phone with family and friends in India calling to congratulate their little boy on his second birthday.

"Come out and see this", her husband hollered. Walking onto the landing that looks into their living room, she saw a large crack extending from their roof line and reaching to the place on the floor where their couch used to be. The picture window was gone, several pieces of furniture broken, and the couch now disfigured was pushed into the middle of the room, along with the large bush that had been in their front yard.

A drunk driver had driven into their living room, after first hitting a car, and then hitting another after exiting the house. The police found the driver hiding in a nearby house, and all were amazed that the driver was able to walk away from the scene. Not many knew of the other miracle that had taken place.

You see, my friend's weekend trip was unusual, and because of the trip and the lateness of their arrival, her husband was in bed rather than on the couch making business calls to India; a common practice of his early in the morning.

Last night, I spoke with my other friend who has just awoken from his medically-induced coma. He does not remember what happened. He is grateful to be alive and is looking forward to seeing his family and friends.

In a field of wildflowers, planted along the side of the road, the sign sat close enough to catch my attention as we drove past on our journey, but just far enough away that the choice remained with me to not avert my eyes. I could have chosen to ignore the sign, caught up in the happiness of spending time with family and friends. I could have been focused on the driving or in a hurry to get to our destination. I could have been consumed with the thoughts and cares of my heart and blind to the sign that was standing right by my side.

Three weeks, two weeks, one week - have there been signs in your life? Jesus said, Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!

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Rogaine for Dogs?
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First off, I never intended to publish an image of our Siberian Husky - Nanuk....after the incident. As you can see, in the above photo he looks great. However, about 4 weeks ago I took Nanuk in for his annual fur trim. Needless to say, things went horribly wrong. Even after a very specific conversation with the groomer, on the topic of why you NEVER shave a Siberian Husky. As I have owned 4 Siberian Huskies in my life time, I know you never shave a husky, as the fur will not grow back the same and they can have skin issues, while it's growing back...over the next 12+ months. Unfortunately, the image below shows the results of the "mishap."



This incident reminded me of another story about hair and the bad idea of cutting it. Samson. We can read about his story starting in Judges 13. God promised a special baby boy to a Nazarite couple, and as long as they followed the rules of his upbringing, he would begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines. As we know, one of the "rules" Samson's parents had to follow was --- "No razor may be used on his head". The promise was that Samson would have amazing strength as long as his hair was not cut.

We know the rest of the story...Samson strayed from the following God's guidance and eventually lost his strength, was tortured and ultimately died as a prisoner of the Philistines. Even so, we know it wasn't Samson's hair that gave him the strength, but Samson's trust and obedience of God, that allowed Samson to have his God-given strength.

As we can see, it's about trusting and listening to God, our heavenly father. He knows what's best for us and wants us to listen and obey. As long as we listen and obey God, everything will turn out the way it's suppose to and we can eventually live with our Savior in Heaven.

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Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 3, 2009


If we were to conduct a class covering the book of Joshua we might title it Israeli Warfare 101, because conquering the Promised Land and the division of this territory makes up the content of this historical book. The author of the book was wise enough to recognize it wasn't about Joshua as much as it was about the Lord who led them. It starts with the Battle of Jericho and continues through numerous conflicts and bloodshed. As exciting and inspirational as this might be to a young Jew, it's what is missing that we'd like to focus on for a moment.

There was neither pillar of cloud by day or any pillar of fire by night. Let's backtrack. The first time we see mention of these is at the end of Exodus 13 where the Children of Israel are about to cross the Red Sea. In the next chapter it states that this cloud moved behind them and protected them from the Egyptian forces intent on returning the slaves to their former tasks. While this divine GPS is mentioned several times in Exodus as well as Numbers and Deuteronomy, the only reference to it in Joshua is found in the last chapter, citing a former historical event, not something that was ongoing during the conquest of Canaan.

While entering the Land of Promise was of major importance, it makes me wonder what their attitude towards this visible sign of God's presence and leading really was. Did they miss it? Perhaps it had become so familiar to them they just took it for granted in much the same way church members in the Seattle area regard clouds comprising our microclimate. I'm glad after they had wandered for forty years they were finally able to receive their inheritance. I'm also glad we have been promised an even greater reward. While I look forward to that day, I just want to make sure I don't miss the signs of His leading and love along the way.

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Defying Gravity
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 2, 2009

I saw this leaf hanging upside down the other day and it wasn't until I got closer that I could see that it was hanging by a thread--literally. Apparently it was hung up on some spider silk.

One of my favorite Kathy Troccoli songs is called "Stubborn Love." It was written by Amy Grant, Gary Chapman, Sloan Towner, Brown Bannister and Michael W. Smith and talks about how God hangs on to us despite everything we do.

Here are the first verse and chorus:

Caught again
Your faithless friend
Don't you ever tire of hearing what a fool I've been
Guess I should pray
What can I say
Oh, it hurts to know the hundred times I've caused you pain
The "forgive-me's" sound so empty when I never change
Yet you stay and say I love you
Still forgiving me time and time again

Stubborn Love
You never let go of me
I don't understand how you can stay
Perfect love embracing the worst in me
How I long for you - stubborn love

Never let me go
I believe I finally know
I can't live without your stubborn love

Psalms 139: 7-10 (NIV) puts it this way: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."

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Think On These Things
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 1, 2009

This path through the fall colors reminds me of choices. When we come to a fork in the path, which way do we go? We all make choices every day - some minor and others major. Some of these thoughts, choices or actions affect only us; whereas, others affect other people. I like to look at the following words for guidance: Philippians 4:8-9 (KJV) "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. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."

I'd like to share the following quote attributed to Mother Teresa which was painted on the wall of the children's home she operated in Calcutta, India:

"People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, It is between you and God; It never was between you and them anyway."

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

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