Each day, a number of our church members, who are also photographers, post photos and spiritual commentary, following this schedule: NOTE: To see previous blog entries, access blog archives on the right sidebar.

  • Sunday (Bev Riter)
  • Monday (Cheryl Boardman)
  • Tuesday (Robert Howson)
  • Wednesday (Darren Milam)
  • Thursday (Russell Jurgensen & family)
  • Friday and Sabbath (Pastor Maylan Schurch)

 

Religious Liberty?

Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 21, 2018

Our U. S. Constitution‘s religious freedom amendment guarantees people to have a right to religious belief and expression and that the government will not prefer religion over non-religion or favor particular faiths over others. Not all people in the world have this protection. And…people in some countries now have religious freedom where in the past they didn’t.

My image, shown above, is one of 27 crosses in Prague’s Old Town Square (Czech Republic) that represents 27 noblemen who lost their lives in mass execution on June 21, 1621 because they didn’t have religious freedom. They were Protestants who refused to recognize the Catholic Hapsburg heir to the throne which resulted in Catholicism being imposed. The Thirty Years’ War against the Protestants was aimed at restoring Catholicism as the only religion in the empire. Many Protestants fled to other countries, fearing for their lives. This beheading ended Czech independence for over 300 years. (Note: The year 1621 was a century after Martin Luther took his historic stand against the Catholic Church and its teachings.) Even today, Christians and people of other faiths in some countries are being persecuted. We can be thankful we live in a country where we can worship as we choose.

Love that Bumper!

Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 20, 2018

I’ve blotted out the license plate atop this wonderfully-festooned bumper, but I allowed the remaining communications to smite you with all their glory.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I am a champion hypocrite when it comes to auto bumper stickers (or even T-shirt messages). I do not have bumper stickers on my car, and don’t want them there, just as I don’t choose to be the bearer of a T-shirt message (unless it’s the annual VBS staff T-shirt, which I wear proudly). Yet when I’m walking through a parking lot, as I was this past Thursday, and spot a car plastered with passionate opinions, I always stop and study them.

I can count 17 such messages on this bumper, including the little “Fascism is Un-American” sticker just beside the license plate, and I find myself disagreeing with maybe a third of them. But I rejoice in being a citizen of a country where free expression is permitted, where everyone has the right to tell it like they believe it is.

Even a basic knowledge of the Bible makes it very clear that God gave us free choice and allows us to speak freely to Him. Even after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3), God approached them not with condemnation but with questions, allowing them to speak for themselves.

However, as we’ve learned from certain misuses of social media and other parts of the internet, not every message deserves our complete agreement or even attention. We need discernment in order to winnow the good from the bad. To read a few Bible texts on discernment, click the link just below.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/discernment

Creativity in the Cold

Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 19, 2018

I always love looking at the bulletin boards as I walk along the halls at Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School, where I volunteer each week.

What you see above is just a sample of the display I saw a couple of days ago. The teacher provided each of the students with a line drawing of a mitten, and told them to color it however they wanted.

As you can see, no two of these creations are alike, and the same was true for the rest of the mittens I didn’t photograph. And I have a strong suspicion that not a single student peeked at someone else’s design and tried to copy that. Instead, I’m sure that each kid thought, “Aha! Now’s my chance to express myself!” and got down to it. And across that entire bulletin board, nobody colored his or her mitten black, or even gray.

Besides the many-hued creativity, something else touched me about these multicolored mitts—they’re coldweather protectors, and still they’re beautiful. Now these Seattle-area  kids, of course, don’t really know what cold is like. Nor snow. They’ve most likely never felt their fingers freezing even inside their gloves on a twenty-below day. But even if they had, I’m sure this wouldn’t have affected their color-palettes.

Here on this enfeebled and defective planet, you and I are often called upon to get creative even as the chill winds of sin seek out the crevices in our spiritual armor. In our own times of dreariness, we can remember God’s promises. And if we know someone else who’s going through a wintry time, we can provide them with warmhearted encouragement.

For some Bible texts on encouragement, click the link just below.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/encouragement

Friendly Trouble

Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, January 18, 2018

Marmots along with Pikas are favorite friends while hiking in the mountains. They seem to be inquisitive and friendly while keeping their distance. However, Marmots can cause trouble for campers by getting into their food. So that is one good reason to hang food bags out of reach at night and when away from camp. One time someone in our group hung their bag right over their tent on a tight line. This tight line had one end of rope tied to a tree branch and the other end tied to a log on the ground at an angle. The food hung halfway between, right over the tent. A marmot managed to climb up the rope to the bag, much to the annoyance of the people sleeping in the tent. Another time everyone in our group hung their bags straight down from branches. A marmot didn’t get a food bag, but it snagged someone’s garbage bag that wasn’t properly hung. The poor marmot had a whole group of campers following it through the bushes, coaxing it gently, until it finally dropped the bag. Life is not easy for a marmot!

This particular marmot in the image was peeking out of a tunnel at Mount Rainier. I can imagine that right now the tunnels are covered in snow and this little guy is living off the vegetation it collected during the summer.

We are kind of like the marmots trying to make do with the environment we are presented with. Sometimes we make mistakes and get into trouble. Sometimes, like the marmot, it is not our own fault. It is comforting that God watches over us. Jesus said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6,7

Beauty Within the Storm

Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 17, 2018

There are plenty of times where we have a “storm” or crisis in our life and it’s tough to see the positives. When we’re in the moment and dealing with whatever the issue is, we tend to gravitate to all the bad, and that’s where are focus stays. During the challenge is usually not the moment where we sit back and calmly say, “Ah, here’s the silver lining in this situation . . . .” Yet even though we may not see the big picture, or the end of the story – it’s there.

We are at the mercy of a sinful world. We see challenges, sickness, corruption, devastation, etc., each and every day. Sometimes those events touch our lives directly and sometimes they touch others around us. In order to stay sane and keep our eyes on what they should be focused on (because God has a plan for us) we must surrender to Him daily. We must lose ourselves in prayer – at least for a few minutes. If we don’t do this, our minds fixate on the negatives – it’s human nature.

This image was captured in Fiji, specifically from Treasure island. As this rain and wind storm was brewing of shore, God still showed a beautiful sunset to remind me of His beauty.

The next time you are in the midst of a storm, focus in on Him – and He will show you His plan and His beauty.

Black Turnstone II

Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Within the intertidal zone one would find barnacles, muscles, kelp, and the Black Turnstone. It’s there the turnstone spends much of its life searching for marine invertebrates and their eggs as well as other edibles adjacent to the spray from the Pacific Ocean. Its predictability invariably finds it in rocky habitat rather than sandy beaches though it may occasionally search there among kelp that has been washed ashore. Even where it nests in Alaska, it is seldom far from the shore.

Among the earliest to arrive at their breeding grounds in the north, the male courts the female by flying high, followed by a plunge towards earth which produces “feather music”, not unlike that made by the snipe. This concert may continue throughout incubation. Both the male and female have brood pouches which allow both sexes to incubate the eggs. This species appears to have strong mate fidelity when breeding, and may return to the exact nesting site with the same mate year after year.

With so much inconsistency found in the lives of humans, we find it refreshing to see patterns of dependability within the natural world. Although birds and animals serve as a poor secondhand example of the ideal, children who have been privileged to be raised in a home where this is displayed have a great advantage. But even this example is less than perfect. For the perfect Pattern we must go to the Psalms where it speaks of God Himself: “For the Lord is always good. He is always loving and kind, and his faithfulness goes on and on to each succeeding generation.” (Psalms 100:5 Living Bible)

Keeping Watch

Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 15, 2018

This young hawk didn’t seem to be afraid of me. It was high up in a tree and I was obviously not any kind of a threat to it. It did keep its eyes on me though. It knew exactly where I was and was ready to leave the moment it felt threatened.

The Bible has a lot to say about keeping watch. Here’s what it has to say about the return of the Messiah.

If anyone tries to flag you down, calling out, ‘Here’s the Messiah!’ or points, ‘There he is!’ don’t fall for it. Fake Messiahs and lying preachers are going to pop up everywhere. Their impressive credentials and dazzling performances will pull the wool over the eyes of even those who ought to know better. So watch out. I’ve given you fair warning. . .

“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.”
Mark 13:21-23, 32-37 (The Message)