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)

 

God’s Wonders

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 25, 2021

This is a view of Mission Creek in Kelowna, British Columbia. It runs for 47 miles and provides 25% of the water in Okanagan Lake.

In the spring, during the thaw, it is more like a raging river. In the summer, people float on parts of it. In the fall, there is a spawning kokanee (land-locked sockeye salmon) run. We saw a couple of struggling fish which were at the end of their life cycles.

When I went, a little over a week ago, there were a lot of signs of fall. The weather was cooler, the color of the leaves on trees and shrubs was turning or had turned and some trees had already lost all of their leaves. Even ferns had turned yellow. The fish run was almost over. There were signs about looking out for bears. The water in the creek was about the lowest I have ever seen it. There seemed to be fewer varieties of birds. (I’m sure some had already flown south,)

Take a good look at God’s wonders—
they’ll take your breath away.
Psalm 66:5 (The Message)

Glowing and Knowing

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Shelley Schurch
Sunday, October 24, 2021

We’re fond of books. We own several. Many. Lots. Dear friends who knew this about us gave us this ornament years ago; we keep it near one of our bookcases.

Sitting up in bed, pausing in my reading to look with deep satisfaction around the room at our bookshelves, full of friends, I thought again of a favorite What If.

What if each book on our many bookshelves had a little light on its spine, and when we clicked a remote control button, all those lights would start glowing – different colors to match different categories.

For instance, books I’ve read more than once would glow with a little green light, books I started but stopped reading for some reason would glow red, books I haven’t read yet would shine blue. Maybe books I should give away because I will never get around to reading them could signal that with an orange light. Books given to me could glow lavender, books I loved in childhood and still love could shine aqua, library books that have accidentally joined my personal books on the shelf and are overdue at the library could have rapidly-blinking lights! And my nighttime bookshelf browsings could be helped along if the just-right book to read next would gleam a dazzling bright, inviting white.

I grin, just thinking what our bedroom, living room, study, family room, dining room, and kitchen would look like when I clicked that “on” button – what a colorful light show! For a few moments, I would have a clear view of my reading history and perhaps a path forward.

It’s comforting to have a clear view, to know with certainty. At time of great uncertainty I have sometimes muttered to myself, “Where are the Urim and Thummim when you need them?” Not that I know that much about the Urim and Thummim. They’re mentioned only five times in the Bible – once each in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

They’re introduced in Exodus 28:30, as the Lord instructs Moses on how to build the sanctuary and all its furnishings, detail after detail:

And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.

Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s mentions of the Urim and Thummim are identical to each other:

And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim. (Ezra 2:63 and Nehemiah 7:65)

So it seems that for at least a short time in Israel’s history, the Urim and Thummim were used to give counsel when the high priest was approached with a dilemma. Some commentators suggest they were large gemstones; one glowing with a bright light to signal a divine Yes, and the other clouding over to indicate a No.

And that’s what I sometimes yearn for, that quick, clear signal from God that would stop me in my tracks or give me the go-ahead whenever I’m perplexed.

The fact that the Urim and Thummim are not mentioned prominently throughout the Bible tells me that God must have His reasons for not wanting us to rely on that kind of guidance nowadays.

But He has not left us without – after all, the name Emmanuel means “God with us.” One of the ways He is with us is in His Word; another is with the farewell gift He described to His friends before He died, rose from the grave, and ascended back to heaven:

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)

And a few verses later, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the Helper, Teacher, and Memory-Jogger.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:26-27)

We may not have the Urim and Thummim to turn to, but we have what is infinitely better – God’s living Word to reveal His character, our need, and His provision; the Holy Spirit to teach us and to live within us; and a resulting unearthly peace.

The Game of Life

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 23, 2021

This past Monday afternoon I spent a few minutes in a waiting room, and noticed this child’s toy on a table by the window, placed there so that little kids could have something to occupy themselves while mom or dad did what they came to do. The object of the toy is to slide a series of large colorful beads along stiff wires to stack them at the opposite end.

I don’t know what this toy is called, but as I pondered it, I suddenly came up with a name: “The Game of Life.” You could think of each of the beads as a person. Take the wire at the left, for example. To go through “life,” the beads on this wire will experience some ups and downs before joining their buddies at the end. Isn’t that what happens in the human experience? There are highs and lows, and sometimes the lows get really deep.

And look at the circular wires on the right half. A bead traversing this path goes around and around in circles, and if it were conscious, it might wonder if it were really getting anywhere. But finally it too comes to the end of the journey.

And then there’s the third journey, a humpy wire which goes right through the middle of the circular wires. This person might be living with a “circle-er,” and must stay on track with their own life without getting unhealthily distracted.

Anyway, we could sit here gazing at this game and spinning philosophies about it, but life is truly complicated, isn’t it? What gives me some tranquility is knowing that Someone created life’s “game,” just as a toymaker fit the above assembly together. And even though you and I are not racing along predetermined wires, God can guide and comfort if we give Him permission.

Here’s a link to one Bible verse which can give us courage. Why not learn it by heart?

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

Old Friends

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 22, 2021

Whenever I drop in at a Half-Price Books store, one of the first places I go is to the Religion section. I’m mainly looking for Biblical reference books I might not already have.

A week or so ago I came upon this shelf of “old friends.” I own about half these books, and they’re ones that people attending seminary during the era I did would have added to their library if they were interested in the languages of Scripture. I naturally wondered whether this glut of familiar volumes meant that a pastor had retired, so I opened a few, and discovered the same person’s name inside each. Sure enough, retirement—or possibly death.

Anyway, let me introduce you to a few of my helpful friends. There are two thin ones on the far left, and though they’re different shades of blue, they’re the same book: Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum, which means “Synopsis of the Four Gospels.” As you probably know, several stories show up in more than one gospel, and if you’re familiar with Greek, you can read these parallel stories side by side, to notice their slight differences.

The big maroon one is Concordance to the Greek Testament, which works like a regular concordance except that it skips the English and goes straight to the Greek. The very thin and delightfully used-looking bluish book next to it was compiled by Adventist professor Dr. Sakae Kubo, and is called A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. As you’re spelling your way through a Greek chapter, it tells you what the hard words are.

Two-thirds of the way across the photo is the pale, tan Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, about which I can guarantee you that if you own it, you never crack it open. Too, too tough. A couple of books to the right is a wide black volume with gold print—a side-by-side Hebrew-English Bible. Then comes the familiar maroon Greek testament many students have used, and the green Dana and Mantey Greek grammar.

Excellent as these resources are, however, I go to them only occasionally. Instead, when I study for my sermons I first of all print out my Scripture passage in four well-established and fairly literal English translations (NKJV, NIV, ESV and NRSV), plus the original language. Most of the insights I discover in my study come from the English versions.

And that’s my point. You don’t need Hebrew and Greek to study your Bible and gather real meaning from it. The Holy Spirit stands ready to help you deepen your knowledge of God and your love for Him as you read it carefully and prayerfully in your own language.

Want to review what the Bible has to say about itself? Click the link below:

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

Weather Gauge

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, October 21, 2021

A few years ago, my son read in a book that Mount Rainier is a reasonably accurate weather predictor. The rule of thumb is if the mountain has clouds over it, there either was rain in the last 36 hours or there will be rain in the next 36 hours. In this picture there is a small cloud over the mountain. Sure enough, it rained the next day. The color in the leaves also predicts that cooler weather is coming.

The Bible gives us valuable information about the social weather in the world. It is disheartening to see greed and deceit so strongly embedded in the world, but we know that God predicted it and has a plan.

As we head into fall let’s remember to have warm hearts, positive attitudes, and gratefulness.

Fungus Among Us

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Indeed this time of year, at least in the Pacific Northwest, when it gets a bit more chilly and wet, we see all sorts of mushrooms popping up all over. This particular fungi is the Amanita muscaria, also known by the common name fly amanita. The details I read about on this one say that it’s classified as poisonous. Good news–I wasn’t going to try it either way. In fact, when it comes to fungus in foods (or by themselves), I’m not really a fan at all. Of course, I didn’t take the image because I enjoy the earthy taste of them; no, I took the image for the bright colors and interesting markings.

In fact when I saw this mushroom while out on a walk, I saw this bold red and saw the stark contrast of the white spots and it reminded me of the verse in Isaiah.

Chapter 1, verse 18:

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

What a promise this verse reveals – our sins being portrayed as this red, yet God will make them turn pure white. You can see this contrast and you can visualize the meaning of that contrast. One moment our sins are very visible and the next moment, they are all gone – disappeared. What does it take to have our sins wiped away like this? It takes us asking God to do this for us. He’s willing, but we have to initiate that. We have to ask Him to do this for us, as we cannot do this for ourselves.

I can’t say I’ll have a different feeling about finding mushrooms in my salad or in a casserole, but I will tell you that every time I see this particular fungi – this red with white spots, I will thank God for His love and care for me – and for you.

Long-billed Corella

Photo and Commentary (c)2021 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Security, or the lack thereof, can have a dynamic impact upon the individual. Consider Linus and his famous security blanket that Charles Schulz securely wrapped around this worried character. This cartoonist recognized we all have fears that can shape our being and destroy us if we allow them to do so. Fear of abandonment is one of those phobias that affect many. But rejection or abandonment does not automatically destine one to failure. Quite the contrary. We will use an avian example to make our point.

Parrots in general, and Long-billed Corellas, in particular, can be demanding pets. Native to the extreme south-eastern portion of Australia, these cockatoos can make remarkable pets as they are easily tamed and have endearing personalities. Many regard it as being among the best “talkers” in the family and are able to mimic entire sentences with perfection.

But not all are qualified to be good parrot owners as they require a good deal of attention and can live many years in captivity. Consequently, some are released back into the wild, abandoned as it were, and thus their urban populations have grown. In this setting some consider them to have become pests due to their practice of tearing up pieces of asphalt along highways and damaging power lines. Greens keepers consider them a menace as they can dig holes in the fairways three inches across and six inches deep.

As Christians we can cling to the promise made to Joshua when he was given the responsibility of leading the Children of Israel: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5 NIV) Our security need not come from carrying a blanket or chewing on asphalt. It can come from Christ.