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)

 

The Gentiles

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

When the disciples were just starting out, with the “early church,” there was a lot of discussion (most likely heated debate) on the acceptance of non-Jews, which would be the Gentiles (or Greeks). The Gentiles were definitely known as the “outsiders.” During that early formation of the church, which would be the platform where the Gospel would be shared out to the world, the discussion was if the non-Jews would need to conform to the symbolic and ritualistic acts of the Jews. You can certainly read all about the discussion in Galatians 2.

Paul was given the responsibility to go forth and spread the Good News to the Gentiles. The Message version reads this way, (2:6-10):

As for those who were considered important in the church, their reputation doesn’t concern me. God isn’t impressed with mere appearances, and neither am I. And of course these leaders were able to add nothing to the message I had been preaching. It was soon evident that God had entrusted me with the same message to the non-Jews as Peter had been preaching to the Jews. Recognizing that my calling had been given by God, James, Peter, and John—the pillars of the church—shook hands with me and Barnabas, assigning us to a ministry to the non-Jews, while they continued to be responsible for reaching out to the Jews. The only additional thing they asked was that we remember the poor, and I was already eager to do that.

With all the discussion of diversity in today’s world, we can see that “groups” and “cliques” have existed for a long time. We also know God, not only loves diversity, but He created it! We know God wants ALL of His children to know the Gospel and to know the Truth. It’s our job to help that happen, just like the early church and the disciples stepping out into the world, with the help of the Holy Spirit – we can do the same.

If you are looking at the image and trying to figure out what it has to do with the written words – may someone caught the writing on the boat. Sure enough, it’s Greek, and the image was captured on the Greek Island of Mykonos. I could see Paul and Barnabas, moving around the islands via boat (maybe a bit larger), meeting those that would listen. Sharing the Message.

Tits

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

We call them chickadees, but the Brits refer to them as Tits, undoubtedly because they have been placed in the titmouse family. Americans insist upon naming them after what they believe their call sounds like, while the rest of the English-speaking world follows more conventional logic. As in America, there are several kinds of tits, and just like those in the “colonies” they are generally equally as friendly and personable. Here they are in order, all found feeding in the same apple orchard: Blue Tit, Coal Tit, and Great Tit. Not only do their appearances resemble each other, but their behavior is very similar as well. There are, of course differences, but those qualities that separate are minimal compared to those things they have in common.

And isn’t that true of mankind as well? While you might think there’s no common ground between those in the red states and those in the blue, truth is, those differences are negligible when compared to those attributes shared in common. Joseph’s brothers echoed this same thought when Joseph tested them when they sought to obtain grain in the middle of the famine: “We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.” (Genesis 42:11 RSV) All the sons of one man indeed. This same inclusiveness is reflected in the words of Paul in his letter to a Gentile convert: “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men.” (Titus 2:11 RSV) That’s an important part of the Good News offered to us with such generosity, that it is given to all of us.

I’m glad for the differences, those things that make each one of us unique, but I’m even more grateful for those things that bind us together. Consequently, the next time I find myself questioning the sanity of that irrational individual who has the temerity to disagree with me, maybe I should take a second look in the apple trees and remember what I saw there.

Finding the Path

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 19, 2020

This picture was taken on the path to the viewpoint at the Washington Pass Overlook which is on Highway 20 just east of Cascades National Park. The path is actually a nice paved path but that was all covered up in snow! Fortunately, it was about 47° when I got there and the sun had been shining for some time so it was more of a snowy slush than an icy trail.

Caution was still required, however, and some people were having a hard time in footwear that was more geared to an office or a party! I found my hiking pole with a spike on the end to be of good use!

I like these verses about God showing us the proper path:

Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O LORD.
The LORD is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
Psalm 25:7-9 (NLT)

Plans, Plans, Plans, Plans!

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Shelley Schurch
Sunday, October 18, 2020

We saw this planner/calendar in a store recently and my immediate reaction was derisive laughter: “PLANS, PLANS, PLANS, PLANS” – Hah! No matter how large and colorful those letters, what good would it do me to make plans for the time frame specified, July 2020 – June 2021?

I remembered one of my coworkers telling me how many months ago she sat down with her 2020 planner and erased and erased and erased – conventions, family vacations, workshops, an overseas tour . . . if it involved gathering with people, or traveling any distance, it had been cancelled. Most of her erasing was done with a sigh; some with Kleenex.

What does the Bible say about plans? If you’ve been a Bible reader for some time, or someone who has spent time browsing in a Christian gift shop, I suspect this verse leaps to mind:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

This verse is featured on all manner of Christian products, including mugs and bookmarks and water bottles and wall art and graduation cards. I’ve heard someone say that this verse is so popular that it’s become this generation’s John 3:16.

And that popularity really riles some people! They plead with us to consider the context of the verse before being so free with its distribution. I’m all in favor of context, so when I sat down and carefully read all of chapter 29 I discovered that it was a letter the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the Jewish people and their leaders who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

The Lord is speaking in this letter, telling the exiles to settle there in Babylon – build houses, marry, raise families, and “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” I doubt this was what the homesick Jews wanted to hear – obviously there was no quick return to Jerusalem in the Lord’s plans for them.

Then the Lord tells them that when seventy years are completed, He will keep His promise and come to them, and bring them back home. This prophecy and promise is immediately followed by verse 11, the words that have become beloved by so many.

Is it wrong to latch on to these verses, take them out of their original context and apply them to our 2020 individual lives, lives which long for comfort, a future, and hope?

Sometimes I am so firmly entrenched in an opinion that I can barely see any sense in an opposing view, but this time I can see why some caution against misappropriating Scripture, ignoring its original intent, and also why many gladly embrace this verse as a promise to cling to when our futures seem precarious at best.

I am not a Bible scholar nor theologian, but I humbly tiptoe into this debate to suggest that if I read the verse in context, and understand and grant its original intent, perhaps I can, in addition, also apply its meaning to my life – if doing so does not contradict other Scripture.

I immediately think of one of my favorite Bible verses, brimming with the same good news that Jeremiah 29:11 brings:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, so that you may overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

He is the God of hope, and His Son Jesus risked everything to secure our future, so I believe the message of Jeremiah 29:11 can spill over into my life, reminding me that God is not out to harm me, but has done everything possible to give me an eternal future.

Keeping the importance of context in mind, let’s read the two verses that follow Jeremiah 29:11:

Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.

I believe that I, like those Jewish exiles, am invited to call on the Lord, to come to Him in prayer, and He promises to listen to me, as He planned to listen to them. If I seek Him with all my heart, He promises I will find Him.

Call, come, pray, seek, find – now, that’s a plan!

Waiting

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 17, 2020

A few days back, we went through a spell of really foggy days. While on a morning walk I noticed two crows atop a light pole. The atmosphere was almost Gothic, with the sun barely visible through the mists. The crows seemed to be glancing uneasily over their shoulders as if waiting for something portentous to happen.

Know where I’m going with this? You probably do. Don’t you once in awhile feel the emotions I’m projecting on those crows (who were probably perfectly fine)? Isn’t it easy to look around us and see scarcely any hope in any direction? Doesn’t God’s glory seem dismally faint?

But those days of literal fog are gone now. The literal sun shines brightly, though the days are chillier. And the same thing will happen as the return of Jesus draws near. One day—and in all likelihood it will be soon—the sky will blaze with a glory not from the sun, and the Savior will descend. You won’t miss it—so don’t miss it!

To learn or review what the Bible says about Christ’s return (including direct quotes from His own lips), click the link just below:

https://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/second-coming-jesus-christ

The Hedge

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 16, 2020

On a morning walk this past Monday, Shelley and I strolled by this long and healthy hedge. I was so fascinated by it that I went back and took the above photo, and the ones below. What fascinated me wasn’t the hedge’s length (which I later stepped off as 58 feet) but how carefully it had been trimmed.

Take a look at this:

And here’s a view from the opposite end:

To me, this is positively jaw-dropping. Though not an experienced hedge-trimmer myself, I can make a five-foot-long hedge look pretty good on the sides and the top. But to pull off that smooth-shaven, arrow-straight look for almost 60 feet without making it resemble a crinkle-cut French fry . . . . How did they do that?

I mean, think it over. Unless they had some type of guide-string stretched between stakes at either end, I don’t see how they made it look the way it does. But there are no stakes at the ends of the hedge.

And if you don’t have a guide-string, what you have to do—or at any rate what I would have to do—would be to trim a little, then back off and scan down the line and look at what I’d done and what I still needed to do, and come forward and snip some more, and back off and get perspective again, ad infinitum.

So where’s the “parable” in this? I believe there are two—depending on whether there was a guide-string or not. If there was a guide-string, it could represent the Holy Bible, humanity’s unfailing straight-as-a-string guide for centuries and centuries.

And if no guide-string was used, this could be a parable of how carefully we need to keep checking and re-checking the correct perspective on life’s pathway. The Bible, containing the record of thousands of years of humanity’s interactions with its Creator, can provide that perspective.

For a wealth of Bible texts on making wise decisions, click the link just below:
https://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/decisions

Big Jobs

Photo ©2020 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2020 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, October 15, 2020

This wheel loader looks like it is heading out to do a big job. If it were returning from a big job it would not look so nice and shiny. A wheel loader usually has a giant bucket on the front for scooping material and loading a dump truck, but the bucket must be on another trailer for transportation.

While this machine is great for big jobs, I would not want to use it in my yard for small jobs. It reminds me that God gives us all jobs to do. We usually have small jobs to share the good news about Jesus to others. When we have big jobs to do, we know that God is there to work through us with his power.

Let’s give God the credit for the big and little things he helps us accomplish in life.