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

Devotional Photo Blog- September 2009

Thanks to all the photographers from our church photo club who have kindly accepted my invitation to provide their photos and commentary. Here's the schedule of those whose excellent, thought-provoking and encouraging work you'll be seeing, and when: SUNDAY--Bev Riter; MONDAY--Cheryl Boardman; TUESDAY--Robert Howson; WEDNESDAY--Darren Milam, 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.








Not From Primordial Sludge
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Of course we can open up the Bible, turn to the first book, the first chapter and read that God is the Creator. On the flip-side, we can read articles discussing how life emerged from primordial sludge.

Since I grew up in an Christian home and have always believed that God was the one and true Creator, it's difficult for me to fathom the thought of life coming from "nothing" and turning into everything. Take this hydrangea, for example. The color of the petals vary from a pure snow white to a hot pink and every hue in between. The plants have uniform stems, able to bring just the right amount of nutrients to each tiny little bud.

All of the parts of this entire, intricate system, have specific and unique responsibilities -- some pulling in the suns rays and turning them into energy through the process of photosynthesis. The roots not only anchor the plant upright to the ground, but hold it firm despite the rain, wind and the occasional bird. All these things couldn't have come together without a master plan, a Master Builder and a Master Creator.

The next time you are out admiring a plant, a tree, a bird or any other creation, forget the sludge and praise God for His gifts.

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Solitary Sandpiper
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our perception of reality is directly impacted by the knowledge we possess and the information we bring to the subject at hand. What's wrong with the above picture? If you were asked to answer this question based upon your biological knowledge of the subject rather than an artistic one, your response could vary widely. There are at least three, and probably many more ways you might respond. Let's look at some possible differences.

If your knowledge of nature was somewhat limited, you might respond that it was just fine. A bird in a tree, what could be more natural? However, if your keen eye identified the bird as a sandpiper, a bird you would expect to find along sandy beaches rather than awkwardly perched on a limb, you might point out how ecologically inappropriate this was.

On the other hand, if you had a special interest in the avian subject pictured here, you might correctly identify it as being a Solitary Sandpiper, the only North American sandpiper to nest in trees. Your response, just like that of the relatively uninformed individual, might be identical, that there was nothing out of place. Strange isn't it, that those with very limited knowledge come to the exact same conclusion as those with the most information.

It's quite likely that anyone reading this has at least some interest in spiritual things and has at least some biblical understanding. When Paul wrote the Love Chapter, he reminded us that we "now see through a glass darkly" or put another way, our spiritual insight is limited. Earlier, in 1 Corinthians 8:2, he reminds us, "The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know." Could it be that our "little bit of knowledge", which we are sometimes so proud of, could lead us to wrong conclusions based upon inappropriate deductions? We might be wise to take to heart Alexander Pope's reminder that, "a little learning is a dangerous thing."

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He's Still God in the Valley
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 28, 2009

I took this picture of the Clearwater Valley while I was up in British Columbia this summer. Unlike this beautiful valley, however, the valleys in our lives are the dark, hard places.

There's a song called "God on the Mountain" which was written by Tracy Dartt and is beautifully sung by Lynda Randle. The lyrics are:

Life is easy when you're up on the mountain
And you've got peace of mind like you've never known
But when things change and you're down in the valley
Don't lose faith for you're never alone.

Chorus:
And the God on the mountain is still God in the valley
When things go wrong, He'll make them right
And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times
The God of the day is still God in the night

You talk of faith when you're up on the mountain
But talk comes easy when life's at its best
But it's down in the valley of trials and temptation
That's when faith is really put to the test

Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) states, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." He's there with us on the mountains and in the valleys as we go through life. Personally, I find that comforting.

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Springs of Living Water
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 27, 2009

This stream is flowing directly from the snowpack and glaciers on Mt. Rainier. It was very refreshing on a hot day. Rev 7:17 states ..the Lamb who is at the heart of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to the springs of the water of life; and God will wipe all tears from their eyes." NEB The song "Springs of Living Water" comes to mind of which the following are the verses:

I thirsted in the barren land of sin and shame,
And nothing satisfying there I found;
But to the blessed cross of Christ one day I came,
Where springs of living water did abound.

How sweet the living water from the hills of God,
It makes me glad and happy all the way;
Now glory, grace and blessing mark the path I've trod,
I'm shouting Hallelujah every day.

O sinner, won't you come today to Calvary?
A fountain there is flowing deep and wide;
The Saviour now invites you to the water free,
Where thirsting spirits can be satisfied.

(Words and music by John W. Peterson)

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Left Behind!
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 26, 2009

Shelley and I did indeed experience something of a "the rapture happened and I wasn't ready" feeling a couple of Thursdays ago. We arrived at the Edmonds, Washington ferry dock, delighted to perceive that we were not among a huge throng of passenger cars. We thought we would make the sailing with no problem, but we'd actually arrived at the tail-end of the loading process. We ended up being two cars too late, and had to park sadly on the dock watching the ferry depart.

As you may know, Adventists take less of a complicated view of Jesus' Second Coming than those who believe in the secret rapture. But the point is the same: "Watch therefore," Jesus warns, "for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:42 NKJV At the Edmonds ferry dock Shelley and I simply had to wait a half-hour for another boat, but when the Second Coming happens, there's no second chance. For some vital information about the Second Coming and how to be ready, click here. To find out Bible texts which respond to the idea of "the secret rapture," click here.

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The Battered Phone Book
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 25, 2009

A little over a week ago, in a lobby outside a Sequim, WA Chinese restaurant, I was delighted to see this Greater Seattle area phone book. Part of its charm for me hearkened back to the days before Google, the days when the telephone directory was still a true lifeline to connect you with the outside world. I remember a phone company advertisement from years ago which showed a dog-eared and doodled-on directory, but it wasn't half as mangled as this one.

When I was in my 20s,my father had somehow managed to get hold of a large-print paperback King James Bible. He owned a couple of leather-covered ones, but those remained safely in a bedroom drawer. That paperback, however, got used. I still remember seeing him leaning back in a chair, the Bible's front cover curled around to the rear while he mused thoughtfully on Jeremiah's poetry.

Think Bible-battering in order to ingest its message is a bit too discourteous? Then you might be equally startled by these chew-the-Bible verses:

Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV

. . . The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Psalm 19:9, 10

How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103

I'd suggest that you find a Bible you can batter (reverently, of course) and dog-ear and underline and carry beside you on the seat of your pickup. Because when is all is said and done--and the final trumpet has sounded and the final conflagration has turned all to ash--what remains are the Words you have hidden in your heart.

You can also read your Bible online! Check out our daily Bible reading plan by clicking here.

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Listening for God's Voice
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, September 24, 2009

The underground tunnel leading to the Temple of Telesphorus at the Asklepion photographed in Bergama (Pergamum), Turkey, August 2009.

The Asklepion was an ancient medical center built to honor Asklepios, worshipped as the god of healing. Considered to be the world's first psychiatric hospital, patients came from near and far to receive relief from their many illnesses, including massage therapies, mud baths, herbal remedies, and the drinking of sacred water. However, the most sought after treatment was the interpretation of dreams. Because patients believed a dream represented a personal visitation by Asklepios, hours of therapy were spent probing their meaning in hopes that through understanding the illness would be cured.

During my visit to the Asklepion, I learned how the interpretation of dreams was facilitated by the center priests. As patients would make their way from one treatment area to another, they would pass through a long, underground tunnel system. Along the arched roof line of the tunnel, skylights allowed air to stream in and provide fresh oxygen to the passers below.

Unbeknownst to the pedestrians, also streaming in through these same vents were the whispered suggestions of the priests, who leaning over the openings would supply greater "understanding" to their charges.

Have you been walking from one point in your life to the next, searching for understanding and peace, looking for an answer - maybe even hoping for a cure? Have you wondered whether it's possible to hear God's voice in your own life?

I've heard it said that to the heart that is sincerely seeking, that opening God's Holy Book and surrendering to Him your heart that every word written on every page is as a personal audience with the Creator of the World. And as if it that Credential were not enough, He is our Father, our Saviour - Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace - the Great Physician who arises with healing in His wings. Jesus said, "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." The Source of Living water is definitely Someone who can help you gain greater understanding. He is guaranteed to have the cure you need and He knows the way in which you should walk. Why not open God's Word today and find out what He has to say to you?

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Flowers Aren't Forever
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Have you ever received a bouquet of flowers for a birthday, anniversary or special occasion? Did the flowers look beautiful and smell great when they arrived? What happened next? Due to the sin in this world, there is death -- including flowers. The image above is of a vibrant and healthy flower, far from death. But as we just remembered, it will eventually dry up and die. When you dwell on that, it can be depressing and sad.

 

 

Luckily there is something better. In Isaiah 40:8, we read about a promise, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.". As much as I would love to see beautiful flowers stay beautiful, I am much more encouraged by God's word standing forever.

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Atlantic Puffin
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We as humans have a strong tendency to identify with creatures that seem to share human characteristics. We speak of the loyalty of a dog, the wisdom of the owl, and the guilessness of a dove. We enjoy pet parrots because we somehow believe that since they can imitate our voice, they in some way understand us. But perhaps no other bird is easier for us to connect with than the Puffin.

Certainly there are multiple reasons which do not lend themselves easily to this identification. They select inhospitable islands upon which to nest. They thrive almost entirely on raw fish. And who in their right mind would want a nose in any way resembling their beak? In spite of this, their mannerisms cause us to somehow connect with them. Maybe it's their upright stance, or their tendency to stand outside their burrow seemingly mulling over the events of the day like two Italian grandfathers reliving the past. Whatever the reason, their form helps us connect.

Identification enables us to see ourselves more clearly. But we also run the risk of being somewhat superficial in our attempt to relate. In truth, do you really have that much in common with an Atlantic Puffin? We may compromise in order to connect. We may fake our identity in order to fit the image we believe is appropriate. Paul's familiar warning found in 2 Timothy 3:5 warns us against "having a form of godliness but denying its power." (NIV) The truth is, many are satisfied with just the form. Alaska Airlines splattered numerous pictures of Atlantic Puffin throughout airports and in their literature, all for advertising purposes. The reality is, while that species conjures up an image of the far north, Alaska generally doesn't fly into that bird's range. May we not be satisfied with form; may we go for the real deal.

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Up, Up and Away . . .
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 21, 2009

Cheryl's Disclaimer: This is not an advertisement for RE/MAX!

I was visiting my parents last year in Kelowna, British Columbia. My mom was in the middle of reading the daily devotional, just before we ate breakfast, when I suddenly saw this sight out of the window. I told her to stop reading for a minute because I had to get a picture!

Mom and Dad have lived in that house for five years, and had never seen a balloon out there before--and they haven't seen one there since. It looks like a good place to fly a balloon but what you can't see (because it's just to the left of the picture) is Kelowna's International Airport. The balloon was flying pretty much in, or very close to, the flight path to the airport!

I don't know if they had permission to make that particular flight and I didn't hear what happened after they landed but they certainly didn't fly very long.

Have you ever been somewhere where you you know, as a Christian, you shouldn't have been? The best thing to do is to leave and not go back there again!

Romans 6: 9-14 (Message) says:

When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That's what Jesus did. That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day. Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time-remember, you've been raised from the dead!-into God's way of doing things. Sin can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God.

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Life Renewed
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 20, 2009

Have you been to Mt. St. Helens recently? It's amazing to see the amount of regrowth that's happened in the 29 years since it erupted, leaving more than 200 square miles of devastation as well as killing many people and animals. I took this photo at the Johnston Ridge Observatory looking at the north side of the mountain. Recently, some family members climbed to the top for a good "workout". Life at Mt. St. Helens is being renewed.

God used Ezekiel to offer the Israelite people a new heart and a new spirit. Ezekiel 36 talks about God's plan for restoring Israel and promise for renewal. John 6:33-35 NEB states that "The bread that God gives comes down from heaven and brings life to the world....Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life.'" God offers a renewed life.

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Good, Inc.
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 19, 2009

Wow. Wouldn't it be nice if goodness could be transported from place to place in a bright silver tanker like the Good, Inc., one above? It could pull into a supermarket parking lot, and you could drive there with several big jugs, open the pipe at the tanker's bottom, fill those jugs, lace the breakfast milk with it, and your whole family would be little angels all month!

I'm not sure what's actually in the above tanker. I Googled "Good, Inc." and found that several companies are using that name, including an advertising agency. But you and I both know that, outside of a science fiction short story, we're not going to find any human "goodness resource" like this no matter where we look.

However, the Holy Spirit promises to change us into "good-er" people if we will allow Him to. "Walk in the Spirit," the apostle Paul says, "and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." He then goes on to list the "fruit" of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . . ." Galatians 5:16, 22-23 And what's so nice is that this change happens gently, lovingly within us as we open our hearts to the Spirit.

Have you asked Him into your heart recently? Why not do this today?

 

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Cat Fight!
Photo and commentary ©2009 by
Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 18, 2009

Well, almost a cat fight. This past Sunday Shelley and I were just starting out on our morning walk when to my great delight I heard something I hadn't heard for years--the loud, meaningful yowl of a cat who has just discovered another cat intruding upon its domain. My faith in my own diagnosis of the yowl was so strong that even though at first I saw only one cat, my farm-boy instincts told me that there had to be two.

Sure enough, there were two, both pictured in the above photo. My zeal to capture them in combat was so great that I actually flung myself down, landing with my right shoulder on the sidewalk, to photograph the sub-SUV view you see. However, another bit of farm-boy experience reminded me that unless one actually picks up one of the cats and tosses it on top of the other, two cats will most often refrain from fighting when humans are watching. Having reached the age when enticing cats to fight each other no longer holds much charm, I sadly got to my feet again and resumed my walk, realizing that I would see no action that day.

One of the most tragic results of sin is the enmity some animals have for others. Cat fights may bring joy to the rural child's heart, but they are no fun for either combatant, and will never happen (except, perhaps, in fun) on the sunlit meadows of Eden restored. We know this not only because we know the true character of God, the fruit of whose Spirit is love, joy and peace, but also because of this heartening promise about the New Earth.

"The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox, . . . .
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,"
Says the LORD.

Isaiah 65:25 NKJV

To read more of what the Bible says about heaven, click here.

 

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Somewhere, God Opens a Window
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beth-Anne took this photo on the Isle of Patmos, Greece, August 29th 2009

What must John have been thinking as he came up on deck and cast his gaze upon the rocky outcrop which would become his home of exile? An older man by now, bones weary with the coming and going of the years, eyes straining against the harsh Aegean sun, arms aching beneath iron fetters, wondering, Is this really God's will for me? To be left in this barren place? Far from the ones I love? Far from my work of caring for and nurturing my little flock? So far away...

We don't know for sure what John was thinking; maybe thoughts similar to our own when we find ourselves penned in by the cares of this world: fear, doubt, pain, loss of hope and joy, weariness... We may wonder, Why is God allowing this pain to come into my life? Why has He left me to struggle with these doubts and fears? Doesn't He know I'm weary? Doesn't He care that to all those looking on it appears as though I've been captured by the enemy and there's no hope for escape? The door has been closed.

 



And then - closing his eyes to the harsh surroundings, reaching out beyond the storm brewing in his heart, straining to grasp the hand of his dearest - in the Spirit on the Lord's day - John's eyes are opened in vision. The Breath of new life is breathed into his soul as the Son of God, the Sun of Righteousness, shines His glory into John's heart and mind and through that open window - a revelation from heaven unfolds.

 

Could it be that God allows closed doors to come into our lives to provide a way for an open window to break upon our hearts and minds, shining forth a fuller revelation of God's beauty and awesome character, and His loving plan for our lives?

[Welcome to Beth-Anne Harvey! She'll be our Thursday Devotional Photo Blogger! -- Maylan]

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Taking A Dip For Jesus
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jesus is the Son of God. He came down to earth in order to show us '"the" example. He was born into our world, did not sin, and ultimately died for us--so that we may have eternal life with Him. Along the way He showed us a few examples which we need to continue to practice: serving others, loving our enemies, showing humility, and one that He wishes all of us to take part in--being baptized.

This last Sabbath, my 14 year old niece Hannah chose to follow Jesus' example, and she was baptized in Sunset Lake (not everyone, of course, has to get baptized in a lake), by her father Bill and two other pastors. She chooses to follow each and every step which Jesus has laid out before all of us.

Whether you are 10 or 100, if you have been considering baptism, get in touch with Pastor Maylan for the next steps. It's never too late to follow is Jesus' footsteps--jump in....the water is fine.

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Parable of the Berry Picker
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We all understand why Christ used a variety of parables. One's personal life experience created a connection not possible for another person. For Peter, the fisherman, the invitation to become a fisher of men resonated, while the impact of the story of the lost coin undoubtedly registered more clearly with Matthew, a man familiar with handling money. For that very reason, it should be noted that this allegory is devoted to the true berry picker. We are not talking about the individual who, on a nonchalant walk notices there are some ripe berries and casually reaches out to pick a couple to sample the sweet flavor nature has provided. No, this is devoted to the hard core picker who ventures forth with purpose, armed with a container equipped with a strap so both hands will be free for picking the succulent fruit. Visions of fresh wild blackberry pie or cobbler may motivate the picker who is not satisfied until his bucket is in danger of tumbling over the already too full container, staining the attire worn on such a pilgrimage. Undoubted, the devotee will carry on his body scares of past battles with the brambles.

The first thing to be noted is that the very best berries are always those that are out of reach, impossible to gather. This is not some imaginary story about cows looking at the succulent grass on the other side of the fence. This is a physical reality to which every experienced picker will solemnly testify. Although inspiration does not directly comment upon this fact, I am certain it must have been part of the curse put upon Adam along with the sweat of the brow idea. In spite of this out-of-reach syndrome, the experienced picker will develop the skill to uncover the finest clusters of hidden berries and reap the two-handed harvest.

Part of the joy of picking has to do with the fact that no effort was put forth to grow this crop. It simply grew up without assistance on our part. Perhaps it is akin to Steinbeck's character, Lennie, in Of Mice and Men, who rather romantically dreamed about ‘living off the fat of the land' or the Children of Israel's hope of inhabiting the land flowing with milk and honey. And that may be the primary lesson we can learn from the blackberry. In spite of its invasive nature and the accompanying thorns, the bounty provided is without cost. The abundance is there whether we decide to pick them or not. As always, the Lord's generosity goes beyond our ability or willingness to accept His blessings. So why not just go to the frozen food section of the local market and pick up a package or two already in the box? First of all, they wouldn't taste as good, and secondly, this illustration wouldn't make much sense, for you would not be a true berry picker.

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You Are Here
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 14, 2009

This map at the trail head of the Asahel Curtis nature trail (just off of I-90) tells us exactly where we are in relation to the rest of the trail. It shows us exactly where we will be going - crossing bridges, going around curves - and how, if we follow the loop and the trail markers, we will end up back at the trail head. We are given the total distance and we can figure out how long the hike will take.

Life is not like that. We can look back and see where we have been but we don't know what is around the next corner. We know our destination but we don't know what the journey will be like.

There is a gospel song I like that is written by Ira F. Stanphill and here are the first verse and the refrain:

I don't know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.

I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Matthew 6:34 (Message) says, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

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Be Still
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Italian hiking friends pictured here were amazed with our huge trees, with this one thought to have started growing in the year 1293. Italy doesn't have trees this big, since the old trees were cut down many centuries ago. My friends got many laughs about dates of Italian scientists and artists listed as markers on the trees.

More seriously, trees give us a lot of information--climate changes, storms, temperatures, rainfall, wind direction. You've probably tried counting the rings on a stump or cross section of a tree. Have you noticed some are further apart than others? And sometimes the rings aren't symetrical. As a tree grows, it produces new layers of wood around the trunk, just under the bark. These circles are known as tree rings. In general, one layer of wood grows each year. Each layer consists of two colors of wood: light-colored "earlywood" that grows in the spring and summer plus darker, denser "latewood" from the fall and winter. Trees from the same region will tend to develop the same patterns of ring widths for a given period. These patterns can be compared and matched ring for ring with trees growing in the same geographical area.

Even though this tree is now still, it continues to tell its story. Psalms 46:10 says "Be still, and know that I am God."

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The Ambitious But Misguided Slug
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 12, 2009

On our Tuesday morning walk this week, Shelley and I spotted this five-inch-long slug making its way up a concrete street-light pole. This sight was a first for me. Normally you see slugs sliming their way along a sidewalk, or curling themselves around a leaf low to the ground.

What this slug thought he would find when he got to the top of that light pole, I haven't the faintest clue. I mean, it's not like he was oozing his way up an inviting wooden tree trunk with the hope of lots of juicy leaves at journey's end. No, this was dry, dreary concrete all the way up, and at the top a great view of all the trees he could have been climbing, but not much else.

Somewhere in his classic book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey urges his readers that, before they begin climbing the ladder of success, they should make sure that the ladder is leaning against the right wall. In fact, in the story of Jacob the fugitive, the Bible describes the most important ladder of all--the connection between earth and heaven.

Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Genesis 28:10-12 NKJV

And as Jacob watched, the Lord appeared at the top of the ladder to encourage him. And what must have been especially encouraging was that the Lord turned out to be nearer than Jacob thought. "Surely," Jacob says in verse 16, "the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it."

So if you're feeling on the run right now--or suspect that you're on a climb as dead-end as the slug's--pull aside and spend time with your open Bible, looking for the Lord's nearness and guidance. Why not step into our Bible reading plan right now, by clicking here?

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Sceva's Sons Attacked!
Drawing ©2009 by Kuyler Lang
Commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 11, 2009

Somehow this drawing--made by Rogers Adventist School teacher Kuyler Lang during my sermon last Sabbath morning--seems appropriate for the eighth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. My sermon, based on Acts 19, contained the story of the seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva and how they tried to exorcise a demon using the name of "Jesus, whom Paul preaches," when they themselves had no personal relationship with the Savior.

Pausing only for a brief, contemptuous comment ("Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?"), the demon caused the possessed man to leap upon Sceva's boys, thrashing them soundly and tearing off their clothes into the bargain. As you can see, Kuyler has dramatically captured something of the chaos which must have resulted.

The Lord alone can judge the motives of the 9/11 terrorists who calmly piloted the jetliners and their passengers toward their terrible fates, but the Archdemon's greasy fingerprints seem imprinted over every part of those horrors. Yet one day the same Jesus whom the Acts 19 demon warily acknowledged will return to put an end to the devil and his angels. For an unpleasant but encouraging look at the life and the eventual fate of Satan, click here.

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Oasis
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 10, 2009

I snapped this photo as Shelley and I took a walk in late July. This has been a hotter-than-normal summer, and this retaining pond shows it. In some seasons of the year the water has been almost up to the little path you see just in front of the white picket fence beyond the pond. But at this point, the only moisture is at the very bottom of the pond--and the bright green vegetation shows it.

The most famous Bible characters--the ones we name our children after--felt a deep thirst for God. David's Psalm 63, which has the title "A Psalm of David When He Was in the Wilderness of Judah," expresses the warrior-harpist's parched soul very powerfully:

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.

--Psalm 63:1 NKJV

Where do we get this spiritual water? Directly from Jesus, as He mentioned to a thirsty, lonely woman beside a well:

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water . . . . " "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 4:10, 13-14

Did you catch from Jesus' words how to obtain that spiritual water? Ask Him, and He will give it to you! As He mentions, this water will itself become a well from which others may drink. Why not ask Him for this spiritual refreshment right now?

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Nothing to Show
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 10, 2009

A week ago I went to my eye clinic to get an exam and upgrade my glasses lenses. In the same building I discovered something new since I was last there--this beautiful glassed-in display case, its interior brightly lit.

But there's nothing inside. The case is not located near any of the offices, so there's no telling who's finally going to put something on view, and what it will be. But for now, people who pass it gaze curiously for a second or two, and walk on, none the wiser.

For some reason, when I spotted this case I got an uneasy feeling. For one thing, as I mentioned above, it doesn't seem to be connected to any of the offices--it's just parked in this lonely hallway. Another reason it spooks me is that I wonder just how much my Christian life is like that display case at times. I may keep myself clean and respectable-looking, but how much of the Son of God my Savior is visible to even the people I meet fleetingly? And I'm not just talking about Jesus the good citizen and Jesus the refrainer from profanity and drinking and smoking, but Jesus the smiler, Jesus the pray-er, Jesus the kind-hearted, Jesus the patient, Jesus the self-sacrificing.

Be like Jesus, this my song
In the home and in the throng
Be like Jesus all day long
I would be like Jesus

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Ten-lined June Beetle
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

 

Peter, in writing his second letter, tells us that "God will provide for all our needs." (paraphrase of chapter 1:3) The context tells us he is referring to spiritual needs, but perhaps we would not be doing a disservice to broaden this to include all our needs. If that is appropriate, this would include our social, financial, intellectual, you-name-it-needs, as well as those in the spiritual dimension. I suspect God may enjoy coming up with rather creative ways of problem solving in these areas as well.

Take for example the Ten-lined June Beetle also known as the Ten-lined Chafer. He is part of the subfamily Melolonthidae, which includes the scarab beetles, revered by the ancient Egyptians of Moses' time. Far from Egypt, this species is rather common in the Pacific Northwest and emerges from its larval form, as its name implies, in June. It is a rather large beetle, growing up to 35mm in length. When picked up, it emits strange hissing and squealing sounds, properly called stridulation.

But what makes it visually exceptional are those lamellate antennae protruding from its head. What possible use could a beetle have for such exotically shaped extensions? Imagine you had just spent most of your life buried underground, you had just emerged, and were interested in finding a mate. What better way than to employ those antennae to detect the pheromones produced by the female. And it works perfectly, as evidenced by all the Ten-lined June Beetles. And once in a while we question whether God can supply all our needs!

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Living Water
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 7, 2009


One of the things I really like about the Pacific Northwest and Canada is the abundance of water. You are never too far from either a creek, a stream, a river, a pond, a slough, a lake, or the ocean.

My folks and I recently took a short trip up to Wells Gray Provincial Park (AKA "The Waterfalls Park") in British Columbia's interior. They've lived in British Columbia for ten years now but this was our first trip up there. Most of the other tourists we met there were from Europe but there are nowhere near the crowds there that there are in the Rocky Mountain parks.

This picture is of Dawson Falls which is also known as the "Mini Niagara." Even though it's not really high, it's a pretty inspiring waterfall in its own right. It is 66 feet high and stretches 298 feet across the Murtle River. (Snoqualmie falls is 268 feet high.)

We tend to take fresh drinking water for granted in this part of the world. Whenever we are thirsty, all we have to do is open a tap and it's there. We seem to have an abundance of water.

John talks about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. She was surprised, that he, a Jew, was asking her, a Samaritan woman, for a drink. Jesus said, (John 4:10 NLT) that, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water." He went on to say, (John 4:13 NLT) that, "People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life."

We also need to ask Him for that living water.

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Singing Trees
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 6, 2009

The trees in this photo have been "singing" for almost 1000 years - that's a long time. Now if these trees could "talk", they would probably have many very interesting stories to tell! My hiking friends stopped for lunch at these trees in the Grove of Patriarchs in Mt. Rainier National Park.

"Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the Lord." 1 Chron. 16:33 NIV When I hear about "singing trees", I think of Christmas time when singers stand to form the shape of a tree. But this text talks about the trees of the forest singing. Even though I've not really heard trees singing, they might have a message for us if we listen. Have you listened to the many sounds in a forest? Forests sound different from one another. The sounds we heard in the Amazon jungle forest were quite different from those around the Pacific Northwest. A gentle breeze or a strong wind blowing through the trees creates a "song" as if the trees sing praises to God their maker. The next time you're in a forest or near trees, listen to the song of the trees and think about our Creator.

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Diseases of the Ear, Nose and Throat
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 5, 2009

Attention all you book-lovers out there! HalfPrice Book stores are having a 20% off Labor Day sale through Monday night! That's twenty percent off the already fifty-percent-off books! (Whoops, was that a commercial? I assure you I own no stock in the company--I merely support it the way every other right-thinking citizen does: I go there regularly!)

Anyway, Friday of this week Shelley and I were in one of the several local HalfPrices, and I wandered over to the "classics" (really old book) section. And there I saw the above medical manual, impressively bound and titled in gold leaf.

As I stood there staring at it, I said to myself, "You know what? I already own a Book that talks about diseases of the ear, nose and throat!"

For example, the Lord gets vastly annoyed at people who don't have a connecting-muscle between their ears and their actions. He growled about such people to the prophet Ezekiel: "So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain." Ezekiel 33:31 NKJV In His parable of the sower, Jesus mentioned how important it is to hear the truth and follow through with deeds: "But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience." Luke 8:15

Then there are the people with nose problems--they go about with their noses elevated in pride, imagining themselves to be slightly better and more deserving than other people. Pride is another thing that gets the Lord really steamed. "When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom," says Proverbs 11:2. "Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly," says Proverbs 16:19, "Than to divide the spoil with the proud."

And finally, the Bible provides warnings for those with throat problems. James, shocked at the profanity and other oaths he heard coming from the lips of Christians, wrote: "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so." James 3:10 The sometimes-impulsive David begged, "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3 "Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles," echoes Proverbs 21:23.

Fortunately, there's one Master Medicine who can help us with these diseases--the Holy Spirit. Listen to all His positive "side effects": "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . . ." Galatians 5:22-23 To learn more about the Holy Spirit and how to receive Him, click here.

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Spud the Cat
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 4, 2009

 

 

 

Every morning that Shelley and I take a walk in this particular neighborhood, we look for Spud the cat. Spud (whose name I discovered by looking at the tag around his neck) warms our hearts, because unlike most cats, he seems very hungry for human companionship, and when he sees us coming, he hurries across the road to us. After a brief rub of his head along one of our ankles, he proceeds to roll luxuriously in the gutter beside the sidewalk, purring loudly, evidently quite happy in our temporary company.

We hadn't seen Spud recently, and we missed him, fervently hoping that his absence wasn't a sign that he'd been run over or his owners had moved. But a couple of Sundays ago, there he was, meowing urgently and coming over to do his familiar gutter-roll.

Two simple joys--the joy of a cat to see two familiar people, and the joy of two people to see a familiar cat. With God-engendered joys like this enhanced a hundredfold, won't heaven be fun?

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He'll Carry You
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wednesday morning of this week, as I was driving up I-5 to visit someone in the hospital in Everett, I came upon this great little parable, and managed to take this photo one-handed through my windshield.

Perched on the back of this long flatbed trailer is a ridiculously small pickup, the kind of pickup made by companies who later discovered that pickups that tiny probably aren't that useful, which is why you don't see a lot of them putzing along your neighborhood streets. (Google "mini pickup" in the "Images" section and you'll see some other cute ones.)

Anyway, here's this Chihuahua-size pickup catching a ride on this trailer, pulled by a full-fledged semi truck. Does it get any better than this? That little pickup doesn't have to deal with intimidating road-monsters who might tumble it off the highway with mere wake-turbulence. The pickup is saving gas too--it doesn't have to travel under its own power. Also, it doesn't have to trouble itself about navigation, because the bigger truck knows exactly where it's going.

Isn't that the way God promises to protect us? It was a bit of a climb up the ramp for that pickup to make it onto the flatbed, but it was worth it. In the same way, it sometimes stings our pride a little to admit our dependence on God. But it's the only way to survive a numbingly overwhelming world, and make it to a happy eternity.

Here's the chorus of one of my favorite songs:

If He carried the weight of the world
Upon His shoulders
I know my brother that He will carry you
If He carried the weight of the world
Upon His shoulders
I know my sister that He will carry you
I know my sister that He will carry you

      --"He Will Carry You" by Scott Wesley Brown, 1982

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Light of The World
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I am pretty sure we all know what a lighthouse is used for -- giving safe passage to boats. This particular image, is of the lighthouse on Cape Neddick, named Nubble Light. It can be found in York Maine. I have only been to this specific lighthouse once, but luckily it was a beautiful sunny day.

When I think of the use of the lighthouses, I can't help but apply that to my daily life. God is the light that provides me with the safe passage, throughout my daily walk. In the song "Here I Am To Worship", the words describe exactly what God chose to do for us -- I am so happy He did.

Light of the world you step down into darkness
Opened my eyes let me see
Beauty that makes this heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You

So here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that your my God
Your altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

King of all days
Oh so highly exalted
Glorious in Heaven above
Humbly You came to the earth you created
All for loves sake became poor

So here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that your my God
Your altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me


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Wandering Tattler
Photo and commentary ©2009 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Names can say an awful lot about us. Sometimes we wish our name wasn't quite so descriptive, like Jacob's for instance. His colorful name was far less than complimentary. Even in our language, "heel-grabber" doesn't seem to carry any positive connotations. While names today may not carry the depth of meaning they once did, there are times when they may still provide us with insight.

Try out the name Wandering Tattler. Maybe not a name we would pick for ourselves, but one, when combined with the picture above, tells us quite a bit about this species. The species' name, Wandering, belies its far-ranging habits. It has been found along the rocky shores of our area in North America as well as similar habitat in South America, Australia, and New Zealand. The rather negative name Tattler, was presumably given by unhappy hunters who were upset by its annoying alarm call which warned other birds of human presence.

The good news is God has promised to give us a new name, one that fits the remade man. Isaiah 62:2 states, "...you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow." (NIV) We don't know what that name will be, but the very fact that God Himself will give it to us is assuring. Who knows, maybe even the Wandering Tattler will have a new name that pinpoints its finest qualities. One given to you by your Maker just has to be better than one given by someone who would like to shoot you for dinner or use your feathers to make a fatter pillow.

 

 

 

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