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

 

Always Watching You

Photo and Commentary ©2019 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 16, 2019

When you hear that phrase – “always watching you” – it will either strike a sense of fear or be a comfort. It may make a big difference according to who is saying it, or who is doing the watching, or the purpose of the watching.

In the image above, we see a Northwestern Crow, drinking out of our bird bath. Just behind the crow, you can see the ears of a rabbit, hidden by the flowers and brush. You’ll have to take my word for it, but the rabbit was very much watching this crow. The reason I say that, a few seconds after I snapped this shot, the rabbit jumped toward the crow and chased it off. I don’t know the beef this rabbit had with the crow, but it was enough for this rabbit to track, stare down and then scare the bird off.

On the flip side of  “always watching you”  we have the feeling of comfort. That’s because God is “always watching you,” and His purpose is very different than the one I witnessed in the case of the crow and the hare. God isn’t watching us to scare us off, chase us, or even point out flaws we have. No, God is watching us because He created us and loves us. He’s watching because He wants to be part of our daily lives. He wants to help us, guide us.

Psalm 32:8

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.

So, the next time you hear the phrase “always watching you,” think of the positive and comforting feeling, when we think of our heavenly Father caring for us as He watches over us.

Photographing Warblers

Photo and Commentary ©2019 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Challenges come in all sizes, from the gargantuan to the nearly invisible.  But their size only indirectly affects their difficulty.  David’s was larger than a bread basket, much, much larger, and he went by the name Goliath.  “‘So pick your best fighter and pit him against me. If he gets the upper hand and kills me, the Philistines will all become your slaves. But if I get the upper hand and kill him, you’ll all become our slaves and serve us. I challenge the troops of Israel this day. Give me a man. Let us fight it out together!’  When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine’s challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope.  While they were talking together, the Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, stepped out from the front lines of the Philistines, and gave his usual challenge. David heard him.”  (1 Samuel 17:8b-11, 23 The Message) We know the story so well it’s easy to fill in the missing pieces, easy because we already know the ending.

Go to the other extreme, one of immeasurably less consequence, but one that offered a challenge just the same: photographing warblers like this Black-throated Gray Warbler and the Nashville Warbler.  Any nature photographer would put this family high on the list of challenges due to their diminutive size and frustrating habit of being constantly on the move.  But captured they were, and with it, a certain amount of satisfaction for having met the challenge.

James, in contrast, certainly wasn’t writing about photographic trials, his focus was upon spiritual realities that carry consequences much larger than even any Goliath could offer.  “Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.”  (1:12 The Message)

 

Communication

Photo and Commentary ©2019 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 15, 2019

I recently saw this old mailbox that was being used as garden decor.  It made me reflect on all the different ways we communicate.

I still remember when we got most of our news about distant friends and relatives via letter.  Getting the mail was exciting because you never knew who you would get a letter from.  I remember in academy, I would get the morning mail for the girls’ dormitory and the girls would basically blame me when they came in from class or work and there was nothing in their mailboxes!  The ones who did get mail, thanked me profusely!

Now, basically the only things in my mailbox are bills and advertisements. Everybody now does most of their communicating electronically through their cell phones or computers – e-mails, texts, chats, tweets, calls and I’m sure that there are many more ways that I don’t use and don’t even know about!

One thing hasn’t changed, though, and that is how we communicate with God.  Here are Jesus’ instructions on prayer:

 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites. They love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners and pray so people will see them. I tell you the truth, they already have their full reward. When you pray, you should go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father who cannot be seen. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you.

“And when you pray, don’t be like those people who don’t know God. They continue saying things that mean nothing, thinking that God will hear them because of their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. So when you pray, you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name always be kept holy.
May your kingdom come
and what you want be done,
here on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us the food we need for each day.
Forgive us for our sins,
just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us.
And do not cause us to be tempted,
but save us from the Evil One.’ [The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever. Amen.] 

Matthew 6:5-13 (NCV)

I Like W.O.E.

Photo and Commentary ©2019 by Shelley Schurch
Sunday, July 14, 2019

I like w.o.e.  No, not woe!  I like, and search out, w.o.e. – words of encouragement.  I carry them around with me, and post them where I can see them often, so I don’t succumb to woe.

I’d like to share with you two batches of w.o.e. which share a theme.  The first batch I fished out of my clutch purse, which is why it looks a little worn at the top (see photo above).  Several years ago I was cutting this tag off a shirt purchased for Maylan when I stopped to read it.  (I’m always pausing to read, partly out of curiosity and partly from the conviction that good things come to people who read fine print.)

When I read this tag to the end I burst out laughing and called for Maylan.  Truth found in surprising places needs to be shared.  We both enjoyed the words, forgetting about the shirt, but hearing instead the description of a long-lived, well-lived life:

“The special dye and wash process creates the broken-in comfort you expect.  Apparent deviations should not be considered a defect, but part of the unique character of a well-aged product.  Over time, additional fading may occur, but the quality will never fade.”

My second batch of w.o.e. comes from the Word itself:

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will stir bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, ‘The LORD is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’ “

(Psalm 92:12-15, NIV)

Ah, yes, words of encouragement indeed for those of us who are aging into numbers that surprise us!  Even for those in younger years reading this, how good to know that God will never limit our usefulness.  And that wonderful word, “flourish,” is repeated, emphasizing we can do more than survive as we age; we can thrive!  I know that in order to do this, I’ll need to stay closely connected to God and let Him nourish me, so I can flourish in Him.

Be encouraged with w.o.e. this week!

Dancing Clouds

Photo and Commentary ©2019 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 13, 2019

Earlier this week I snapped the above photo, showing clouds swirling in the sky. In order to make them stand out more, I tweaked a few controls when I was processing the photos. No doubt about it, some pretty wild air currents from different directions are stirring up these clouds so that they look like a ballet company.

The Bible, which is full of literal truth and also with metaphor, occasionally speaks of nature’s response to what will be this planet’s happiest event—the return of Christ. Psalm 96 is one long praise to God, and concludes this way. (Notice why the clouds will be dancing!):

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.
Psalm 96:11 – 13 NKJV

Book Pushers

Photo and Commentary ©2019 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 12, 2019

To me, the above photo is a sad one. You may not know what a book pusher is, and I didn’t until I saw all these boxes stacked up at a local Lifeway Christian bookstore which was going out of business. It was part of a nationwide chain of such stores, and they’d been unable to maintain their profitability. When I snapped this photo, the store had just two or three days left before closing, and the manager had put up everything—bookcases too—on sale.

When I opened one of the boxes, I discovered that a book pusher is a rack or stand you display a book on. (That triangular wire device you see on the second stack of boxes is a book pusher.) A book pusher angles the book so that you can easily see the cover, and can easily remove the volume to look at it.

Sadly, all the book pushers in the store couldn’t keep Lifeway from closing. The store was even matching Amazon prices at the checkout counter, a benefit Shelley took advantage of many times.

Are you a book pusher? That’s what Christians need to be. We aren’t literal display stands for paper copies of God’s Word, but we must be people who understand that we do not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). It was Jesus who quoted that, and it was from the Old Testament. And it was the devil He was quoting that Bible verse to.

So you and I need to (1) discover how important the Bible is, (2) immerse ourselves in it so it can gradually change us, and (3) live our lives by what it says. A good place to start reading is the chapters after Jesus’ wilderness temptation—Matthew 5 through 7. If you live out those principles alone, people will quickly discover that you’re different, in a good way.

To read Matthew chapters 5 through 7 online, click the link just below:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5+-+7&version=NKJV

Loving a Foggy Day

Photo and Commentary ©2019 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, July 11, 2019

I woke up this morning thinking about challenges and maybe looking a little down. However, as I stepped outside, an amazing world wet with droplets, and the sun just peeking through the fog, made my jaw drop open.

I thought just maybe I could capture a little bit of it in the image above.

He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the LORD delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:8

Let’s remember to look for the Lord whenever we are tempted to be down and see how He works on our behalf.