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

Devotional Photo Blog - November 2010

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 in the "Devotional Photo Blog" on the dark blue menu to the left. 


Ring-necked Pheasant
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It must have been hard being a prisoner far from your homeland, living in the land of the enemy.  On top of it all, God asked Ezekiel to speak words of rebuke against his fellow countrymen still living back in Jerusalem.  These words of warning extended to drawing maps of battle plans, plans describing exactly how the Babylonian enemy would overcome the holy city’s defenses, resulting in a total collapse of the Seat of David’s government.  Not exactly the way to endear yourself to the hometown crowd.  But then again, messages of warning are seldom mistaken for romantic poetry. 
 
Another transplant from a far distant land, the Ring-necked Pheasant, is one of a family which originated near the Black Sea at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, the same location where the mythical Jason was supposed to have sought the Golden Fleece.  The Greeks and Romans brought them back to Europe from the river Phasis, from which we get the bird’s genus name and the English name, pheasant.  The bird pictured above, undoubtedly a descendent of these, was photographed on the broken walls of an old castle in Scotland.  Their introduction to the United States occurred in 1857 followed by the liberation of several dozen in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in the early 1880s by Judge Owen N. Denny.  A decade after this release, the species had become so abundant in Oregon that a 75-day hunting season was declared.  On opening day, hunters killed 50,000 birds. Perhaps that could help us understand why the Jews still celebrate Purim!
 
While their plumage is undoubtedly beautiful, the male’s loud, harsh territorial call is far from musical, what the human ear might equate with a warning call.  Which brings us back to Ezekiel and his warnings from God.  Apparently the pheasants can detect slight tremors that may precede a major earthquake, thus providing an early-warning alarm for the Japanese who also imported this cosmopolitan bird to their country.  So, which is more accurate, the prophet or the pheasant?

Fortunately, we don’t have to choose.  What we do have to do is listen.


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Everyone Welcome
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 29, 2010

I saw this sign the other day at the start of a trail.  Hikers were banned from this particular trail because it was actually a test trail for mountain bikes.  The sign is there to protect hikers from being run into by bikers intent on checking out their potential new wheels!

It seems like wherever we go, there are signs banning this person or that person from certain areas.  There are signs that say, "Personnel Only, No Admittance," and some signs that say, "Members Only."  I've even seen signs that say, "Don't Even Think of Parking Here."

The good thing about heaven is that there is an open invitation to everyone to come.  Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our salvation.  There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation.  The price has already been paid with Jesus' blood.  We do have a choice, however; we can accept the invitation or reject it.

John 3:17-18 (Contemporary English Version)  "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them!  No one who has faith in God's Son will be condemned. But everyone who doesn't have faith in him has already been condemned for not having faith in God's only Son."

It's a choice.  Life or Death.  Have you chosen your destiny?


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Yield Not to Temptation
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 28, 2010

We were told to always be on the lookout for snakes and leeches while in Australia. While hiking in the Lamington Rain Forest, I looked ahead and a large snake was near the trail. Before getting too close, I looked at it and took a couple of photos. Someone said it was a python and would have stretched out to between 14 and 16 feet. A large “lump” in it's body indicated it had recently found food. Fortunately, it was relaxing in a warm spot in the sun and wasn't interested in us. Earlier, someone had commented that they wondered if the Garden of Eden was similar to a tropical rain forest. I hadn't thought of that before, but agreed with them that it could have been possible. In the tropical forest, we were enjoying the wonderful songs of birds, interesting trees with their beautiful flowers and colorful fruit and an occasional animal or their sound. When I saw the large python, I thought, yes, just like the Garden of Eden! However, unlike the serpent in the Garden of Eden, this python didn't talk and try to trick us.

Genesis 3 tells the story of the serpent tricking Adam and Eve in believing it rather than obeying God. I'm not aware of any “talking” serpents today, but we do have many temptations. Let's make good choices for our lives and for those that might affect other people.


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Take It To Make It!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 27, 2010

At selected streetcorners in Kirkland, Washington, you’ll see these innovative do-it-yourself safety devices. Plastic flags mounted on wood dowels rest in buckets bolted to metal poles. If you want to cross the street, you have a choice. You can ignore the flags and cross on your own, hoping that the oncoming cars will see you and slow down. Or you can grab a flag and display it prominently as you stroll across.

And if you need any more convincing, read the other side of the bucket:



Maybe starting your day with prayer is something like taking a flag from the bucket. If you’ve consecrated your day to God, asking Him to guide you and protect you -- and you take common-sense precautions in what you do -- He will be by your side.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Forever.
    --Psalm 23, NKJV


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God’s Second Book
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 27, 2010

On one of our Sunday morning walks in mid-September, Shelley spotted this rolled-up length of tree bark. I’m no arborist (if that’s the correct term) so can’t tell you what kind of tree it comes from. But it looked so much like an old-fashioned Scripture scroll that I held it partly open in one hand and snapped its picture with the other.

Someone has called nature “God’s second book.” Of course, whether or not you see nature as a revelation of the Creator depends on which pair of glasses you habitually wear. If you’re wearing “All this evolved from a slimepool” glasses, you’re apt to say, “How wonderful this springy tree-bark is, and how amazing that it has evolved from the slime.”

But if you’re in the habit of wearing “God created this” glasses, your mind goes almost numb with fascination as you see--through the warps and stunting of sin--a brilliant Mind.

The Bible tells us of His power
And wisdom all way through;
And every little bird and flower
Are testimonies too.

It took a miracle to put the stars in place;
It took a miracle to hang the world in space.
But when He saved my soul,
Cleansed and made me whole,
It took a miracle of love and grace!
  “It Took a Miracle,” John W. Peterson

You alone are the LORD;
You have made heaven,
The heaven of heavens, with all their host,
The earth and everything on it,
The seas and all that is in them,
And You preserve them all.
The host of heaven worships You.
  Nehemiah 9:6


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Thank You Blank Inside
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

About a month ago I accompanied Shelley to a store, and while she was scouting for cards I caught sight of this category: “Thank You Blank Inside.”

I know what this means of course--this is a thank-you card which has no pre-fab message in its interior, but is blank so you can write a personal message to your “thank-ee.” But the category-title got me thinking about our gratitude to God.

“O give thanks to the Lord,” say various Psalm-writers, and most Christians do this. Many of us sense that it’s only polite, before plunging into our “Help, Lord!” prayer lists, to offer a few expressions of gratitude. But if we don’t put some thought into these, they can degenerate into the same-old same-old perfunctory mentions, like life and shelter and food. And this can build up a spiritual callous which will make us insensitive to blessings we may never think about--making our "thank-you cards" to God woefully blank inside..

Have you ever thought of developing a “thanks list” to go side-by-side with your prayer list? Such a list isn’t only a grateful bow to a gracious God--it’s also a great faith-stabilizer and fear-banisher. Because when you remember how God has helped you in the past--to paraphrase Ellen White--you won’t be nearly as afraid for the future.


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Who's The King of The Jungle?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
 
Books and movies made from the stories of C.S. Lewis have caused the idea or symbol of God being a lion (or The Lion) to become famous.  In C.S. Lewis' stories, Aslan is the good king, and happens to be a lion.  Aslan is mighty, powerful, the king of the jungle -- able to save the good form the evil.
 
When we had the opportunity to serve in Kenya, we were able to view several lions.  Each time was from the comfort of our a safari vehicle and we felt relatively safe. And each time the male lions were doing more lounging then the female lions. The female lions did most of the caring for the young, as well as the hunting.  That said, the male lion is more powerful, and all other animals fear and respect them.  God is the same -- powerful -- and sinners fear and respect Him.
 
Even with the lack of "work" that the male lion shows, he stills cared for his family through the sheer power, respect and love.  This is exactly how the true King of King's, the true King of the Jungle cares for us.  God cares for us through His love, His Power and His protection.

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A Remnant        
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A number of Bible writers speak about a remnant, but none do so more eloquently than Isaiah.  This theme reoccurs throughout his book for he knew his people would be taken into captivity.  There, far from their homeland, it would be easy to become discouraged and forget God’s promise of redemption.  Perhaps that is why he even named one of his children Shearjashub, which means, “a remnant shall return”.  Isaiah was able to see beyond the immediate and visualize fulfillment of God’s promise. 
 
Gleaning was a common practice employed by the poor of Isaiah’s time.  That which could be easily harvested would be picked, but some fruit was to be left for those who were in need.  The story of Ruth includes mention of such a practice.  And it is this practice referred to in Isaiah 17:6:  “Yet some gleanings will remain, as when an olive tree is beaten, leaving two or three olives on the topmost branches, four or five on the fruitful boughs, declares the Lord, the God of Israel.”  (NIV)   While climate conditions do not encourage the growing of olives in our area, the same idea could also be applied to apples.  Unless you always keep your tree pruned back severely, there invariably seems to be some fruit just out of reach, no matter how tall your ladder.  It’s probably permissible to use apples to illustrate this verse since a number of translations use the term “berries” to signify the produce being discussed. 
 
Some would limit the term “remnant: to describe a specific church, while others would insist it only refers to a general group of people who are faithful to God.  Whichever the case, it seems clear that the remnant is a relatively small group, a group which remains connected to the tree, a group that will hold on.  Lastly, it is a group that held special significance to Isaiah, to you and me, and most importantly, to God.


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Timing is Everything
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 22, 2010

I saw this Swiss Army watch at the Seattle downtown REI.  Outside the store, they actually have a display with different watches set to different times around the world.  I thought that this one of Everest was particularly interesting because of the 45 minute time difference from the world clock.  According to Wikipedia, Nepal is one of only two places in the world where the time difference is not in hour or half-hour offsets.

We all live our lives according to the time; we generally get up at a certain time, eat at a certain time, go to work at a certain time, come home at a certain time, go to church at a certain time and frequently check our watches or cell phones to see where we are with our time.  Sometimes we run out of time!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8  (NIV)
 
There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:
 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

The Andrews Study Bible calls the above, "A poem about diversity within life's order."

God's time is not always our time but He always does things right on time.  Based on all the references to time in the Bible and the fact that during the creation week, a 24 hour chunk of time was set aside for posterity, time is very important to God.  He never runs out of time.  Jesus was born on time, He died on time and will return on time. 

Birth:
Luke 2:5-7 (NIV)
He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.


Death:
Romans 5: 6-8 (NIV)   "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Return:
Matthew 24: 36-37 (NIV)
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man."

I'm looking forward to that time.


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A Safe Shelter
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 21, 2010

What animal's head looks like a deer without antlers, stands upright like a person and hops like a frog?

I've already given you a clue with my photos! Yes, it's a kangaroo, a national symbol of Australia. We were privileged to see many kangaroos eating grass in the fields and other areas when we were in Australia. They are the only large animal that uses hopping as a means to get from one place to another, traveling up to 44 miles per hour. Their powerful hind legs help them balance. Grass is their food of choice and they can go for long periods of time without drinking water. Being endemic to Australia, there are over 60 species and some of them can weigh up to 200 pounds.

Like the koalas I talked about last week, kangaroos are marsupials, meaning the females have a pouch on their belly in which their babies, called joeys, continue to grow and develop after they are born. When a joey is born, it is about the size of a lima bean. It stays in the pouch for about nine months before starting to leave for small periods of time. They are fed by the mother for about 18 months. My second photo shows a joey nibbling on grass while “mostly” in it's mother's pouch. Yes, even mother kangaroos get tired!  Even though asleep, this mother was providing a safe and secure shelter or refuge for her joey.

The book of Psalms tells us that God is OUR shelter and refuge in time of trouble. (46:1) God is the shield of all who take refuge in him. (18:30) God is my rock of refuge and my shelter. (62:7) The Lord is my safe retreat, my God in which I trust. (91:2) The Lord is a safe retreat. (91:9)  Yes, He's there when we need Him!


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Remember the POWs 
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 20, 2010

I snapped this photo on September 14, while taking a back way north to Bellevue. This man is often seen standing on this overpass above Interstate 405, holding this tall flagpole to which is attached the US flag and the Prisoners of War flag (full view shown below).



Usually veterans are the ones who keep alive the POW cause, and the gentleman waving his flag on the overpass looks like he might be old enough to have served in Vietnam. At this point it was just before 9 a.m., when the I-405 rush hour still slows the cars enough so that they can have several seconds to meditate on what these flags mean.

Online, I wasn't able to find a definitive prisoners-of-war website which could tell me details about how many missing in action American soldiers there are, but perhaps the overpass flag-holder was reminding us to remember POWs all over the world, from whatever country.

This got me thinking that for thousands of years, Heaven has been deeply absorbed in working for the release of the POWs on our planet. And that's all of us. We are living in a blue-and-white spherical prison camp, and much as we would like to escape to our heavenly homeland, it's impossible at the moment.

But the camp has been infiltrated – a long time ago the Commander of the hosts of heaven embarked on a one-Man mission, risking danger to rescue His one-lost-sheep planet. And right around 3 p.m. on one spring Friday afternoon, He won the war. However, it's not just a matter of waiting for the Marines to arrive – we also need to spread the word to the other prisoners the good news about our Rescuer! Do you have a prayer list? Are you asking the Lord for opportunities to introduce Him to those who don't know Him?


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Juvenile Storage
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 19, 2010

Don’t you sometimes get an absolute kick out of unintentional sign-humor? I saw this one at the Southcenter Target store in late October. It makes me grin each time I look at it.

But as you know, there’s a serious side to "juvenile storage." Because what we do with our children from day to day is vastly important. We choose babysitters, day cares, kindergartens, and elementary schools--with as much care as our bank account will allow--and we’ll keep making choices for our kids as long as we can get away with it.

Sadly, there’s sometimes a “black hole” in this carefulness, and I’m talking about our kids’ spiritual education. Parents who turn their wallets inside out to provide their kids with the best of everything, yet who remain strangely uninterested in finding the best and most Biblically nurturing church family, are making a ghastly mistake.

Maybe a good re-prioritizing tool is the simple question, “Where do I want my child to be in AD 4010?” And then turn to that child’s Operating Manual, the Holy Bible. Start with the advice of Jesus in such chapters as Matthew 5 through 7--and make sure you regularly attend a church which has good children's Bible instruction. And a Christian school as well--you might want to check out the Kirkland SDA Elementary School or Puget Sound Adventist Academy.


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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, November 18, 2010

I hope the Half-price Bookstore chain will forgive me for temporarily borrowing their delightful Christmas-season advertising phrase which I saw in the window of their Capitol Hill (Seattle) bookstore. Reusing and recycling is, of course, the essence of used bookstores. And “reduce” was the reason I was there--I’d just brought in some books I had used, and had decided to recycle them into the hands of other booklovers.

I like to think that the “Rejoice” raises us all above the let’s-take-care-of-the-environment-because-it’s-the-only-one-we’ll-ever-have idea. I am emphatically not one of those Christians who say, “Hey--Jesus will be here in a few years, so who cares about how we treat the planet?” I believe that from the very beginning we were supposed to be good stewards of our environment.

And maybe getting better acquainted with the Reason for the Season--who gives us cause for ultimate Rejoicing--can give us the best of all possible motives for doing the first three R’s. Because our planet is more than just our habitat--it’s a work of art by our Creator.


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Thanks For Giving
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
 
This time of year is filled with request, suggestions and pleads for items that others are in need of.  Sometimes, when we read, see or are asked directly it can seem a bit overwhelming.  Yet when we stop to think of what we have been given, over the years or just this week, it's the least we can do.
 
In Matthew 5:42 "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away."  We also read in Psalm 100:4, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name."
 
As we can see, we not only have the best gift still to come -- Heaven -- but each and every day we are blessed beyond belief.  So, the next time you are asked to give - give with your heart as God will bless you more then you can imagine.  Whether you give far away, or right here at home, I know for a fact He would say, "Thanks for giving!"

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American Pika      
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
 
It’s only mentioned a few times in the Bible, and then primarily as a reference to foods prohibited by Jewish dietary laws  It’s known by a variety of names, the coney, the rock badger, the pika, and Hyrax syriacus.   In America its closest relative is the American Pika which lives in rocky talus slopes high in the Western mountains.  Some have affectionately described it as a tennis ball with ears.  Biologists place it in the group of animals known as lagomorphs which also includes rabbits.  A diurnal creature, it spends its days gathering grasses and other plants which it dries and stores for winter consumption. For unlike marmots, it does not hibernate. 
 
So, why would this vegetarian be listed in Leviticus 11 as one of those creatures prohibited for human consumption?  For most of us, the question has no relevance.  To begin with, it would take grizzly-bear-strength to overturn the rocks where it makes its home, and after all that exertion, you might end up with a few ounces of pika, if you’re lucky.  Some see these dietary prohibitions as an arbitrary test set up by God to see if His children would obey Him.  Somehow this doesn’t fit my picture of the loving God I worship.  It may be naïve, but I prefer to leave the issue at rest, believing that God had His reasons, and though I may not understand them all, my faith should not rise or fall upon restriction involving this Disney-like alpine resident.  Instead, I have a better suggestion.  The next time you find yourself high in the mountains in the company of a pika, pull over, or take off your backpack.  Spend a few moments enjoying its tin-horn “eeping” call and watch as it works in its hayfields.  It’s a win/win solution.  You’ll be enriched and the pika will live to see another day.

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Fill My Cup, Lord
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 15, 2010

We tend to take fresh water for granted in the Pacific Northwest.  (This picture is of  Wells Creek which flows into the Nooksack river just below Nooksack Falls.)  With all of the snow on the mountains, the rivers, lakes, streams, creeks and ponds, we are surrounded by water.  All we have to do is turn on the tap and we have cool, clear, drinkable water to refresh us.  (I wouldn't advise drinking surface water without treating it first, however!)

There are some parts of the world, though, where, because of drought and desertification, if you're lucky, there is a well to draw water from and if you aren't, you may have to spend hours going to the nearest place where there is water and then toting it home on your head or lugging jugs in your hands and sometimes even using your hands and your head. 

In addition to making sure we have enough water to satisfy our physical needs, we also need to be concerned about satisfying our spiritual needs.  If you were around in the 70's, you probably heard the the song "Fill My Cup, Lord" written by Richard E. Blanchard, Sr.

Like the woman at the well I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy;
And then I heard my Savior speaking:
"Draw from my well that never shall run dry".

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more.
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

There are millions in this world who are craving
The pleasures earthly things afford.
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.

So, my brother, if the things this world gave you
Leave hungers that won't pass away,
My blessed Lord will come and save you,
If you kneel to Him and humbly pray:

This song was based on the description in John 4:13 and 14 where Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well.  He said, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.  But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."  John 4:13 and 14


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God Cares
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 14, 2010

Koalas are so cute! And their fur is very soft. They live in the coastal regions of eastern and southern Australia. A baby koala is called a joey and is only about ¼ inch long at birth. It remains in it's mother's pouch for about six months, feeding on milk. It remains with it's mother another six months, riding on her back or belly, feeding on milk and eucalypt leaves. Because leaves of the gum trees are very low in protein and high in indigestible material, koalas spend about three of their five active hours each day eating. It was exciting to see many “babies” clinging to their mothers and the mothers caring for their babies, as in the photo below.

My thought goes to how God cares for us if we “cling” to Him. We are assured our heavenly Father will always be with us, caring for us. In I Peter 5:7 we read that “casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” You're probably familiar with the song written by Civilla Martin with the refrain: “God will take care of you, Through every day, over all the way; He will take care of you, God will take care of you.” Yes, God cares for YOU!


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Light from the Word
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 13, 2010

Several months back, hurrying through a small thrift shop on the way to the used-book section, I caught sight of this delightful lamp. No, that stack of books isn’t in front of the lamp, it’s the lampstand!

If you stare at that lamp for a moment, you begin to form a picture of its creator. This lamp obviously isn't from a store. Instead, someone gathered a few old books (maybe he or she read about how to do this in a magazine), glued them together and lacquered them, and then drilled a hole for the lamp rod. The creator of this lamp, therefore, must be a lover of books and even of of books-stacks. And it must've given him or her great joy to use this method of supporting a reading lamp!

The Bible, of course, is a "stack" of books – 66 writings in all. And together they form a column, from the top of which flashes light from the mind of God. Aren't you glad that He preserved His supernatural wisdom not in oral form, which could be forgotten or selectively remembered, but in words on vellum and papyrus and paper (and in one case, stone)?

“Your [God’s] word,” says Psalm 119:105, “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." And verse 130 echoes the same idea: “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

Why not make it a daily habit to bask in the wonderful light from the stack of books which make up God's Word? If you’d like to do this online, click here for our Bible reading plan.


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Snores Amid the Conflict
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 12, 2010

On the last Saturday night in May, in the downtown Bellevue Barnes and Noble bookstore, I came upon this made-for-a-Devotional-Photo-Blog scene. Neither the exciting Tron Legacy movie magazine preview nor the luscious-looking burrito-style “wrap” in his fist could keep this gentleman awake. Entranced, I fumbled quietly at my belt for my point-and-shoot camera.

This week, thirty seconds of Googling brought me to enough of the Tron Legacy plot to discover that it is not only a Walt Disney film, but it's vaguely reminiscent of the great controversy between God and Satan: a father creates a video-game world whose characters turn against him, and he sends for his son to help fight the evil forces.

I guess it’s understandable if, under the restful influence of a bookstore and a portable lunch, a man feels the need for a few Z’s. However, when it comes to real Christians confronting the last spasms of the real cosmic conflict, it’s best to stay awake. ““Watch therefore,” Jesus tells us soberly, “for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 25:13) 

How do we stay alert? One way is to study the “preview”-- not the Tron Legacy mag but everything the Bible says about the end of all things. Good starting chapters are Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Another way is to click on this link, which gives you some of the Bible signs that Jesus’ return is nearing.


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How Long’s Your Line?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, November 11, 2010

On an early morning walk in late July, Shelley and I came upon this mysterious chalk drawing. Normally we see sidewalk chalk-marks which are more complicated--staggery hopscotch squares or stick figures--but this design was starkly simple. Just the boxed word “Start” and a line that trailed away in the distance.

The only thing I can figure is that it must have been some kind of racecourse. Maybe you’re supposed to crouch at Start and then see how short a time it takes you to get to the end of the line.

Not to be morbid, but isn’t that sort of like human existence? We start out fresh and young, full of energy, and pump strenuously along the line for awhile. Then toward the end of the line we slow down, and finally we’re really dragging. And then the line stops.

But enough of the morbidity! I happen to be acquainted with the One who holds in His hands the hugest, fattest piece of sidewalk-chalk you’ll ever see. It’s so big it’ll never run out, and if you’d like Him to, He’ll draw you a lifeline that’ll stretch forever.

Sound good? Of course it does. Get more details in the Gospel of John, Chapter 3. And then just keep reading.


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Rainbow of Promise
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
 
This past Friday evening, we were fortunate to hear Christian artist Jeremy Camp.  He played a few songs for a Christian gathering, in Key Arena.  One of the songs Jeremy sang was "There Will Be A Day."  The song talks about longing for a day when there is no pain, no tears, no more hurt.  What a hope that is.  What a day to look forward to.
 
On my drive home on Monday evening, as I came close to the Woodinville area, I saw a gorgeous rainbow and in the stop-n-go traffic, I was able to get this image (albeit not the best shot I have taken).  I remembered what God promised with the rainbow -- He would never send a flood like He sent when Noah (and family) were in the Ark.  That was God's promised and it reminded me of this song.  I know, the song doesn't have to do with a rainbow or a flood --- but it does have to do with another of God's promises.  God will return and take us home with Him, and that is a wonderful promise.
 
So, the next time you see a rainbow (no guarantee's for the rest of fall/winter) think of God's promise(s) -- that's right, PLURAL.  Let's look forward to that day!
 
 
I try to hold on to this world with everything I have
But I feel the weight of what it brings, and the hurt that trys to grab
The many trials that seem to never end, His word declares this truth,
that we will enter in this rest with wonders anew

But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering

There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always

I know the journey seems so long
You feel your walking on your own
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting

I can’t wait until that day where the very one I’ve lived for always will wipe away the sorrow that I’ve faced
To touch the scars that rescued me from a life of shame and misery this is why this is why I sing….

There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face

There will be a day, He’ll wipe away the stains, He’ll wipe away the tears, He’ll wipe away the tears…..there will be a day.


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Female Hooded Merganser
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)  Peter wrote these words in reaction to those who were growing impatient for the Lord’s return.  Some were questioning the reliability of His promise that He would come back.  They chose to cite the predictability of history, how “everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”  They had personal experience to substantiate their own views.
 
Unfortunately, there are serious limitations to our own perceptions.  That which we see with our own eyes may not be as dependable as we might like to think.  Take a look at the picture above.  It is a photograph of a female Hooded Merganser and has not been altered or manipulated.  What’s going on in the picture?  What was too quick for my own eye to capture was recorded by the camera.  After catching the fish, the merganser was flipping it over to facilitate a head-first consumption of said meal.  Due to the position of the fish and the posture of the bird, it appears the timing would make it impossible for the transfer to take place successfully.  Wrong again, it was a piece of cake for the duck.  My experience, my physical limitations, all limit my ability to picture reality outside of my own world view.  Perhaps a daily experience from nature will help me better understand these time limitations and trust God’s timing to be perfect. Dinner is served.


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Wake Up!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 8, 2010

I saw this sleeping sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium a couple of weeks ago.  Believe me, this was just a very brief power nap! There were three otters and they were constantly rolling, somersaulting or interacting with one another. 

Jesus told us that we need to watch and be ready because nobody knows exactly when He will return.  The comments in the Andrews Study Bible for Mark 13:37, state: "Watch!  Because we don't know when Jesus will return, we are to be faithful and constantly alert, ready to meet him at any time."

Mark 13:32-35 (The Message)
"But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven's angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don't know the timetable. It's like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don't want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I'm saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch."


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The Master Artist
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 7, 2010

Have you taken time to enjoy the beautiful autumn colors – the many shades of gold and red? I took the above photo a few days ago of the colors on the Wenatchee River west of Leavenworth. It seemed to be a “perfect” setting: golden autumn leaves, bright blue sky dotted with white clouds, fresh snow on the mountain top, sparkling cold water all framed by the needles and cones of a pine tree. There were actually many other scenes, but I chose to share this one with you today! I thought that God is certainly a Master Artist, creating all of this beauty for us to enjoy.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that “He hath made every thing beautiful in His time.” You've probably heard the song, “In His Time” that I'd like to share with you now.

In His time, in His time,
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord my life to You I bring,
May each song I have to sing,
Be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.

In Your time, in Your time,
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord, my life to You I bring,
May each song I have to sing,
Be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.


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Whoops
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 6, 2010

This photo is a bit grainy because it’s a blowup of a zoom shot (I snapped it surreptitiously in late September from afar). The story seems clear--at some point a car, perhaps this same one, came in contact with the garage door, leaving it slightly crumpled.

Something else also seems clear--whoever rammed that door probably did not awaken that morning with the thought, “Hey! I think I’ll run into our garage door sometime today!” No, this was most likely an accident, due maybe to inattention or lack of expertise.

And if, in this house, lives a grown-up besides the driver who owns or has a stake in both car and door, a discussion no doubt occurred. Hopefully by now any animosity has blown over, and all is forgiven, and maybe even forgotten.

If I do something which damages myself or someone else whom God created, how does He react? Brow-lowering fury? An indulgent “That’s okay” chuckle? Total indifference? The best way to think of God’s reaction is as the reaction of a mature parent. Let’s say you get a call from the police saying your daughter has overdosed on cocaine. Your overwhelming emotion is probably “Where is she? Is she okay? I’m coming to see her.” Naturally you’re agitated, but your agitation comes not from an emotion like, “All right. That does it. She’s no longer my daughter. I’ll disinherit her,” but from a hunger to be with her and comfort her and help her get better and face any future temptations with all possible tools.

That’s how God reacts when we sin. Don’t you love Him for it? Don’t you want to give His heart only happiness and never sorrow?


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A United Family
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 5, 2010

This past June the above SUV stopped at a traffic light, with me (and my point-and-shoot camera) just behind it. I grinned when I saw the “this is our family” decals. Normally such decals include Mom and Dad and the kids and maybe the pets standing passively, with no additional labeling. But not only are the photo’s decals clearly imprinted with the University of Washington Huskies’ “W” symbol, but each of the decal figures is actively rooting for the team. Dad and the boys pump their fists skyward, Mom waves a pennant, and little sister sports a “We’re Number One” glove.

God, of course, loves families whether or not they’re united--but it warms His heart when they’re joined in love and respect for the guidelines He has created for their good. Here’s family-unifying advice, still vital today, which He gave through Moses 3500 years ago:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:4 - 7 NKJV


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In Autumn Colors
Photo ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 6, 2010

But He was wounded for our transgressions
He was bruised for our iniquities
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him
And by His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray
We have turned, every one, to his own way
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted
Yet He opened not His mouth
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent
So He opened not His mouth.
       Isaiah 53:5 - 7 NKJV


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Rock Solid
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
 
Last summer I was at the Japanese Gardens, in Seattle.  The grounds are beautiful, with flowers, ponds, waterfalls and Koi.  The sun was shining and I couldn't have asked for a better day to enjoy the sights.  As I walked along the edge of a large pond, I saw this scene and it reminded me of the verses in the Bible as it compares God to being our rock.  In Psalms 18:31 it reads, "For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?".  In 1 Samuel 2:2 it says, "No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God." In both examples, the authors make the point to show that there is no one else, and God is who we always need to turn to. 
 
The image above shows a snapshot example of our lives. The lower half of the image shows this dark, murky water.  This can be a low light of our day or a really tough time we are going through in our life.  When we are in that dark place, look at what is right there beside us--our Rock.  The top portion can represent the greener pastures of life -- things are good, pleasant.  Life is good, we feel we can take on the world and at times, we attempt to. Those are times we need our Rock as well and He is right there.  So, no matter where you are in your day, week or life, God is there as your refuge and your strength.

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Autumn Leaves         
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We are as familiar with the cycle as life itself, for it’s become part of our very existence.  Birth, youth, maturity, death.  But that’s not the way it was intended to be from the beginning.  That last step wasn’t part of the original equation.  Sin entered the picture with all the ugliness it incorporates, all the hurt, all the separation, all the death.  Those two, sin and death, were brought together in the words of Isaiah as he described our fate:  “We are all infected and impure with sin.  When we put on our prized robes of righteousness we find they are but filthy rags.  Like autumn leaves we fade, wither and fall.  All our sins, like the wind, sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6   Living Bible)  He paints a pretty dismal picture, doesn’t he? But one of the amazing things about our God is that He is never caught by surprise.  He finds a way to transform even the ugliest blight into something beautiful. 
 
As the days shorten, the growing season for plants comes to a close and the chlorophyll responsible for photosynthesis and the green of the leaves stops being produced.  In part, this is because of an abscission layer which is formed between the leaf and the stem.  It is then that the fall colors which have always been there become apparent, when the chlorophyll is no longer present to hide them.  When death is finally conquered and its stain removed, do you think we’ll miss those fall colors that used to brighten our lives?  Something tells me the One who devised such an intricate design in the first place may have an even better plan just waiting for us to discover and enjoy.

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Rescued!

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 1, 2010

Did you ever find yourself somewhere you shouldn't have been, whether in a certain situation or at a certain point in you life, and couldn't quite figure out how you got there or how you were going to get yourself out?  If so, you could probably identify with this poor fish I saw last Sunday. 

I was at the Seattle Aquarium looking outside when I saw it; it was not part of an aquarium display.  The wall above the window said, "Salmon Ladder" but it was clearly not a salmon (I think it was a striped perch).  The water was rushing down the ladder and the fish was about midway up the ladder.  From the bewildered expression on its face (I know, fish really don't have expressions!) the illiterate fish seemed to be wondering how on earth it was going to get back to its normal life in the Sound.  I hope some of the aquarium staff were able to rescue it and set it free.

Everyone here on earth needs a rescuer.  The amazing thing is that we have already been rescued.  When Paul was talking to the Colossian believers, he told them that, "God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons.  He's set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating."  Colossians 1:13-14 (The Message)

"This is how much God loved the world:  He gave his Son, his one and only Son.  And this is why: so that no one need to be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.  God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was.  He came to help, to put the world right again.  Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing.  And why?  Because of the person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him."  John 3:16 (The Message)


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