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)

 

Destination: Bethlehem

Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 10, 2017

As recorded in Luke 2, Emperor Caesar Augustus issued a decree requiring people to go to the town of origin of the father in the family and register. He and his council decided this was the only way of knowing the number of his subjects so they could be appropriately taxed. Since Joseph was from the house of David, he and Mary needed to travel the approximately 80 miles south from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They traveled by walking or riding donkeys like these grazing in a field in Nazareth. People often traveled in groups which was safer in case of attack by bandits or wild animals. It would normally take about four days to travel this distance, but because Mary was heavily pregnant, they may have taken more time.

When traveling in Cyprus, we stopped for refreshments at The Buyuk Han (The Great Inn) as shown in my above photo. The upper rooms with octagonal chimneys were originally used for travelers. The rooms on the ground floor were for shops and storerooms. Stables for camels, donkeys, horses and mules were located on the outside. The community water supply was in the round structure in the center of the courtyard. As you can see, inns protected people from danger of wild animals and bandits. It is likely Mary and Joseph stayed at inns on their way to Bethlehem. During that time inns, something like the one shown here or smaller, were located along the roads where people traveled to and from Jerusalem. Many of those inns would have been small, with people sharing a common room where mats were placed on the dirt floor and people slept in their clothes. Once they reached their destination of Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary found many people had gotten there before them. Luke 2:7 states that there was no room for them in the inn. Those knowing the original language think this really meant guest room or space in Bethlehem. Finally, they ended up staying where the animals were kept, at a place possibly belonging to a relative. Check back next week to find out the place that’s thought where Jesus was born. (Parts of this appeared in November 2014)

Communication Breakdown

Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 9, 2017

One Sunday morning late last month, as Shelley and I were making our way home after a long walk, we noticed this scene of destruction. Actually, when we first spotted it there were three girls and a dad present as well. The girls were carefully picking up fragments, and the dad told me that they were collecting clues, as though they were trying to solve the mystery of who broke the street light and their line of mailboxes at one blow.

The father said that the event had happened earlier that morning, at about 2:30 a.m. I don’t remember now whether it was he or a neighbor who had heard a loud noise, but whoever witnessed it said that after the crash, the vehicle had rapidly backed up and sped away, leaving nothing but a smear of green paint on a mailbox post.

Shelley and I instantly empathized with these neighbors who’d lost their mail delivery. Our own cul-de-sac’s mailbox had been knocked over by a Waste Management truck in July, and it had taken 60-plus days for the box to be repaired and righted.

But these neighbors had been robbed not only of their letters but their light. And as of Friday morning of this week, this doleful scene remained the same, as everybody tries to figure out what to do. We’re presuming that the power company will eventually replace the pole, but it’s the neighbors’ responsibility to put the mailboxes back up. In fact this is the second time these mailboxes have been toppled.

Light and letters—two matters of great importance to a group of familes. Light keeps the kids safe, and maybe even the burglars away. Letters—correspondence, bills, other sorts of on-paper communication—keep people current.

In the Bible, light is often a metaphor for wisdom and understand. God’s Word is often called a light. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world,” and later said to His followers, “You are the light of the world.”

Just below you’ll find a Bible Gateway link to some of the places the word “light” is used in the Bible. When you’ve scrolled down as far as you can, look for the little tab at the lower right which gives you the next set of passages. And as you scroll and read, remember to take steps so that nothing will rob you of the darkness-banishing blaze of Scripture.

https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=light&qs_version=NKJV

Alone Together

Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 8, 2017

Thursday morning, while paused on an Interstate 405 on-ramp on the way to the church I pastor, I saw one of Shelley’s and my favorite nature scenes—birds on a light pole. We never fail to get huge enjoyment out of them.

Once I’d downloaded the above photo and enlarged it, I noticed something interesting. Before I took the shot, I had looked around and seen other light poles with other birds on them. So there were lots of birds who wanted a place to sit.

But even though on the horizontal part of this pole there’s probably room for half again as many birds if they’d just bunch up together, they’ve arranged themselves so they don’t get any closer to each other than one bird-width. It’s like they’re not willing to encroach on each others’ social distance.

I’ve heard the phrase “alone together” used to describe how even on a crowded street, or in a busy shopping center on Black Friday, people can still be lonely. This is why—even apart from theology—a church is a marvelous support structure. (And of course Christianity’s theology and resultant love for one another are what have made it so generally safe.)

How about you? Are you currently staying away from church? Are you out there sitting on your chilly light pole, alone together with others of your species? Come to church. Try it out for a few weeks and see what happens. Come a bit early so you can meet the core members, those who’ve sacrificed to keep the group together.

Or maybe you’re already attending a church and feel happy there. If so, keep an eye out for other people in your life you know whose souls would revive like watered flowers within the fellowship. Keep an ear out for the right moment to invite them.

For a couple of screens’ worth of Bible texts about what God’s church is and how it should work, click the link just below.

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

Jump Right In?

Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, December 7, 2017

I offered to take a look at my son’s math problem the other day over a long distance chat session, and this is what he showed me. My eyes bugged out a bit, as I said sure, I’ll take a look. As I was realizing I was a bit over my head without some catching up, he texted and said he got it solved. He just had to figure out one little thing to get it right. Whew, lucky for me!

It reminded me of someone who is realizing their life is not going down the right path, and seeing how much they have to learn to get things right. Sometimes there can be a lot of bad habits to unlearn, and a lot of new and tough things to get right.

Fortunately, Jesus promises to help people come to Him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11, 28-30

It also goes to show that learning the right direction little by little and building up knowledge is a good thing. Then a person does not have to jump right in without preparation. Let’s keep paying attention to the little things God has for us so that we can build up knowledge to solve the hard problems when they come along.

On Santa’s Lap

Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tuesday of this week I spent a bit of time in a public library in a two-story “town center.” As I left, I walked past this get-your-kid’s-photo-with-Santa scene, and saw a little girl racing around having a great time.

Until, that is, it was time for Mommy to plop her on Santa’s lap and grab for the camera. The little girl immediately began to shriek with what sounded like a combination of fear and vexation.

Dad and Mom were unfazed. In fact, they were both getting a kick out of their daughter. Dad was grinning, and Mom was trying to distract her progeny with a bouncing ball and funny faces. Nothing worked. To do him justice, this Santa wasn’t intimidating–he was neither jovial nor a fount of “Ho-ho-ho’s.” Instead, he was as mild as a bookkeeper. So as I ascended the escalator which overlooked this traumatic scene, I just had to snap a photo, which, as you see, was neither carefully composed nor focused.

Is this how we think of God? If someone were to lift you up and land you on the lap of the Deity, how would you react? Would you freeze in fear, or at least respect? Would you shut your eyes and long for when you could get down and retreat to a safe distance?

Christmas—even though the holiday is only a pagan placeholder for what really happened—might be a good time to get to know God better. After all, it was He who loved the world so much that He gave His only Son for our salvation. (John 3:16).

Take a moment and click the link below—and get ready, in a manner of speaking, to meet your Maker! You’ll be amazed, intrigued and comforted. And you’ll realize that He is a marvelous Parent. Jesus called Him little else besides “Father.”

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

Common Tern II

Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A cosmopolitan bird it is, breeding in North America, Europe, and Asia; and then flying south to winter in South America, Africa, and Australia. Like most members of its family, the Common Tern dives into water in pursuit of small fish upon which it feeds. In doing so it will sometimes immerse its head, but seldom goes entirely under water. Its long, pointed wings make it a master of flight, enabling it to hover when potential prey is sighted. But even with these abilities terns must adjust to cope with existing conditions. On very calm days when there is little or no wind, the placid waters allow the fish to see a hovering bird overhead. If the wind is too strong, the birds find it more difficult to launch an accurate diving trajectory. Thus, ideal conditions would be days when a light breeze creates ripples on the water yet not disrupting their hunting accuracy.

It would be nice if every day was ideal: no traffic problems, no computer glitches, and no intrusions by those whose goal in life seems to be to make life as annoying as possible. Nice, but not reality. The wind in our lives is in constant flux. Peter realized it after walking on water. Paul experienced both a calm and hurricane gales while on board ship. (Acts 27) And you and I are no strangers to extremes either. The good news is we can have the same confidence the disciples expressed while going through those extremes. “…He got to his feet and rebuked the wind and the waters and there was a great calm. The men were filled with astonishment and kept saying, ‘Whatever sort of man is this – why, even the wind and the waves do what he tells them!’” (Matthew 8:26,27 J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Time

Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 4, 2017

This photo is of my owl kitchen timer. I’ve never seen a bright red owl but at least I can find it easily!

Doesn’t it seem like we are always measuring time? How much time do I have before I have to leave for work? How much time before I can go to lunch? Is it that time already? How much time before I can go home? How long do I need to leave the cottage cheese loaf in the oven? Do I have time to do laundry before it’s time to go to bed?

We never seem to have enough time to fit everything we want and need to do into our schedules. Thankfully, God is on a different time schedule. He has us stop and fit a day of rest into our busy lives where we can contemplate who He is as our God and our Creator.

We are also told to stop and pay attention to what is going on in current time and not worry about future time:

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.
Matthew 6:34 (The Message)