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 Highest Mountain

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 21, 2020

At 14,411 feet, Mount Rainier is Washington State’s tallest mountain. It’s the mountain on the state license plates and when it is out, you know it’s out!

I happened to catch it on a day when it was out in this picture. (I’ve been to the park before when I was lucky to get one tiny glimpse of part of the mountain for just a very brief amount of time for a whole day!) At certain times of the year, you can go for weeks without seeing it from the Seattle area.

If it’s out when you go there, it is very likely that you will be awestruck with the beauty of the mountain and its surroundings and its vegetation. You feel that you are part of something that is so much bigger than you.

I like this psalm about our Creator:

Come, let’s sing for joy to the LORD.
Let’s shout praises to the Rock who saves us.
Let’s come to him with thanksgiving.
Let’s sing songs to him,
because the LORD is the great God,
the great King over all gods.
The deepest places on earth are his,
and the highest mountains belong to him.

The sea is his because he made it,
and he created the land with his own hands.
Come, let’s worship him and bow down.
Let’s kneel before the LORD who made us,
because he is our God
and we are the people he takes care of,
the sheep that he tends.
Psalm 95:1-7 (NCV)

Page Turner

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Shelley Schurch
Sunday, September 20, 2020

This was not my favorite week. Parts of it were challenging, and one part really bothered me. I thought about it a lot; a more accurate description would be that I stewed about it. The fact that I couldn’t see how to improve the situation made me fret about it even more.

One of my favorite ways of dealing with stressful situations is to get out of the house and take a walk, especially on our neighborhood trail which is close by. To be out where God’s creations are green and growing, and you can hear the birds and breathe the fresh air – that’s good.

However, due to the wildfire smoke and exceedingly poor air quality, getting out and breathing the air was not a healthy option. All week I was smoke-bound and stewing.

Then Thursday night I turned the corner. The Lord surprised me with the opportunity to talk with two coworkers I hadn’t had the chance to visit with for a long time, since I’ve been working from home for six months (and very grateful to be employed). Our conversation lifted my spirits and I went to sleep that night in a much better mood.

When I woke the next morning, though, before I even opened my eyes, I started rehearsing and replaying my unhappiness from the week. Ruminating, like a cow chewing her cud over and over.

Suddenly I “heard” the Lord speak to me. I put the word “heard” in quotation marks because I didn’t hear an audible voice speak loudly in my bedroom. Perhaps you know what I mean because you’ve experienced this, too, at times. I believe that it was an inner impression from the Holy Spirit, speaking clearly and directly to my need.

I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit doesn’t use flowery language, full of extra words. He got right to the point with three small words: “Turn the page.”

He could have shouted, “Cut that out!” — three small words that are also clear and direct. But His message was kind as well as clear: “Turn the page.”

As I started my day with prayer, I told the Lord I was grateful for His words, thankful that He stopped me in my tracks of going down a useless, harmful road with my thinking. I also told Him I would need His help to turn the page.

This was Friday morning, a day filled with anticipation of Sabbath coming, a day to get ready for the blessings it would bring. At sundown I turned another page, the Sabbath page. Exhale the week, inhale the Sabbath! Truly fresh air for our souls!

We all look forward to the day when we can turn the pandemic page, when we can relax not only our restrictions, but our shoulders. But the best page turn of all will come when God turns the page on this world’s history, when He comes again, when He says it is time to write the final words: No more tears, no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain.

I know this is more than wishful thinking. I know it is true because I read it in the pages of my Bible, His Word, in Revelation 21, where God joyfully promises all those “no more’s.” Then He says, “Behold, I make all things new.” And just in case we doubt, in case it all sounds too good to be true, He adds, “ . . . these words are true and faithful.”

As we turn the page to a new week, if you’re feeling weary or worried, look to Jesus and ask for His help. Ask Him to turn any necessary page for you, and He will. He is true and faithful.

The Accessorized Crow

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 19, 2020

This Thursday morning I had just emerged from a Goodwill store in my perennial quest for the best in used books (I found a couple, by the way), when I spotted this crow walking across the parking lot. Under his right wing was what looked like a Q-tip with a dark blue or black tip.

I grabbed for my smartphone, of course, and started following him trying to get a shot of the wing with the object. What you see above is very enlarged, because once he saw me following him, he stayed at a safe distance. You can just barely see the white object, as though tucked under his wing.

I’m assuming that the crow would prefer that this object not be under his wing, or (sad thought) impaling his wing. If it was his choice to carry it, it would probably be in his beak, and he would be flying away to take it to his nest. As it is, he looks a bit like a formally-clad aristocrat strolling down a boulevard, carrying a cane. An accessorized crow.

God’s original design for this crow, of course, was to build into it everything it needs so that it didn’t have to carry around accessories. He even clothed it so it wouldn’t need to shiver nakedly through the air!

As I’m typing this, I pause to consider the accessories I carry around with me. There’s a Fitbit on my wrist (which sends data on how many steps I take to my smartphone and from there to my health plan, impelling me to stay active and therefore healthy.) My shirt pocket contains two pens and my phone. In my left pants pocket is my reading-glasses case. In my right pocket I normally carry a notebook. In my left rear pocket is a comb.

And around me in my office I see many books, several notebooks, a computer, a printer, a banjo, and on and on. I’m accessorized!

At the same time, I know that I can’t take any of this with me when I die. And eventually, in our planet’s final conflagration, computer and Fitbit and banjo and books will melt or burst into flame, and even the ashes will vaporize.

Whoa. Sobering thought, right? There’s nothing wrong with accessories, of course. Jesus the Carpenter created chairs and tables for His customers to use. Paul made tents.  The eternal Holy City is created out of the best and most durable building products, and is aesthetically pleasing.

But it’s healthy to remember from time to time that the only thing we’ll be taking with us into eternity will be our personalities and our characters. Even our bodies will be new.

Want to read a few Bible passages which talk about the end of the world and what will happen then? Click the link just below:

https://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/millennium

Listening Devices

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by
Friday, September 18, 2020

When Shelley and I bought a couple of smartphones a few years back, our energetic young salesman presented us with a couple of free Bluetooth speakers, one to go with each phone. That’s mine which you see on the right—a manly black in color. Shelley chose blue for hers.

On the left you see a section of tree-trunk which someone gave to Shelley, and which she once in awhile uses as a base for one of those little votive candles at our table.

I look at both of these objects as listening devices. The one on the right is high tech. But the one on the left is higher-tech.

Why do I make this distinction? The Bluetooth device plays whatever sound you feed into it from your phone or laptop or whatever it’s paired with. You and I and our questing fingers can summon up what we want to hear, and only that.

But the wooden listening-device is far more amazing. It communicates to us the awesome components which God put into it, and which testify to His genius and His genial generosity.

Did you know that a tree is most alive in its outermost ring or two, closest to the bark? The further in you go, the drier the wood. In fact, a tree could even be quite hollow in the center but still perfectly healthy.

Did you know that if you carve romantic initials into a tree’s bark, those initials will stay the same height forever? They won’t ascend as the tree grows, because a tree grows out from the top.

Did you know that a tree’s exposed roots are sensitive, and don’t like it when people trample on them and damage them?

Birds harvest seeds from trees. Did you know that jays can remember up to 10,000 locations where they’ve hidden acorns or beechnuts? Jays only need about 2,000 such nuts to make it through the winter, but tend to collect and bury thousands of nuts more than they need. This helps new trees to grow. (Squirrels, on the other hand, tend to collect only what they need—but they’re forgetful, and will often not be able to remember where their stashes are. Which also helps new trees to grow!)

Crows collect nuts too, but will first test each nut to make sure it’s fresh—which means that healthy trees will grow from a crow’s neglected stash.

The above information came from a fascinating book Shelley checked out of the library: Can You Hear the Trees Talking? Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest by Peter Wohlleben

I have no idea whether the author believes in a Creator, but as someone who does, I found myself staggered with awe as I consider the amazing facts about trees.

The same God who created trees created us. Listen as Jeremiah quotes the Lord as saying:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7, 8 NKJV

Amen? Amen!

 

Pace of Life

Photo ©2020 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2020 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, September 17, 2020

In this small-town store, the pace of life must be slow and casual for this cat to be sitting on a shelf at the center of the image. It is not the most comfortable spot, but it must afford a good position to watch people come and go. It is also a good position to get pets from passing shoppers. Maybe some people find it therapeutic to meet this cat who reliably offers a warm greeting. I doubt if this cat ever criticizes anyone. This old-fashioned store also has a spacious front porch with benches where the locals (and the occasional visitor) hang out to catch up on the town news.

Whether our pace of life is fast or slow, let’s remember it is not just about the things to do, and we can offer warm greetings and encouragement to those we meet.

God Is Love

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Sin is everywhere we turn, and we can see it in the form of hatred. The world is full of this hatred, and that’s why it’s so refreshing to know we are loved. We can know this even without being able to visibly see our Creator.

1 John 4:12-16
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

God IS love – that’s the part I cling to. Pray for the future and thank God for His love!

This symbol of love was found on the fence of a small house in the Cotswold area of south central England.

Gas Lamps

Photo and Commentary ©2020 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Nature is filled with replications, sometimes offered to provide concealment through camouflage. At other times this mimicry furnishes an advantage to the hunter. But it appears as though humans are the only ones to employ this tactic for the sake of vanity. Consider a case in point. In a city that has more than its fair share of tourists, Dublin, Ireland takes special care to ensure its residents and visitors alike enjoy the green that is Ireland. To that end, a huge park is maintained within the parameters of the city. Thus, Phoenix Park is lighted in a manner that recalls the ambiance of yesteryear, a bit of nostalgia if you will. But this bit of the past is in appearance only, for the gaslights have been reworked and now are operated by conventional electricity. I’m sure the city fathers of the long-ago gave careful consideration to the economic factors dictating such a change, but I found this lack of authenticity a tad disappointing.

Have you found yourself biting into something, only to discover what you thought you were getting was only desirable in appearance? Maybe it was that first bite of the pink cotton candy at the fair that looked so inviting to a seven-year-old. Or, you can fill in the blank for the attraction that fits your current stage in life.

As a committed Christian, have you ever wondered, after you’ve blown it once again, if you really are genuine? If you’ve committed yourself to Christ, then why do you keep making the same mistakes? It’s a valid question, one that deserves an answer. 2 Corinthians 1:22 provides us with the assurance that God will complete the work He has begun in us. “God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he as stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.” (MSG) That’s great news for those of us who live in a world where certainty is under suspicion. God never gives up on us. Our task is to never give up on Him.