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)

 

Prickly Pear

Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, September 29, 2022

I don’t recall seeing prickly pear cactus before, and I thought this display looked nice. After reading about prickly pear, I understand that both the leaves and the pear fruit are edible after removing the spines. It is one of the most common edible varieties of cactus along with dragon fruit which also grows on a cactus.

The spines made me think about difficulties in life. I think we can agree that life today is more complex than life was perhaps thirty years ago. With greater complexity there are more ways we can have difficulties. On the other hand, we have more opportunities now than in the past. There are more ways to travel, more varieties of food, more entertainment options, more ways to communicate, etc.

In all of our complexity and difficulties we can still look for ways to follow God and help each other. We can take a lesson from the prickly pear cactus, which lives in difficult circumstances. It may put up a few defenses with its thorns to make its life simpler, but it also provides a lot of good with its fruit.

Calming The Storm

Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Whether we are talking about literal storms (ones with fierce winds and torrential downpours) or the figurative “storms” of life (turmoil, conflict, challenges), either way, we long for our Creator to get us through safely. Most of us know the story of Jesus and His disciples caught in a storm while traveling on their fishing boat. The waves and winds began to pick up violently, while Jesus was fast asleep at the back of the boat. The disciples panicked and didn’t know what to do. So they woke Jesus up. Here’s how the story continues. Mark 4:39-41 (NIV)

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? ”They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Of course there are multiple amazing aspects to this story. One I find interesting is that during the days (and hours) leading up to this event, the disciples were still getting to know Jesus and still grasping the magnitude of His powers. He had recently conducted a few miracles – calling out evil spirits, healing of a paralyzed man — and while disciples were witness to all of these things, they were still trying to fathom all they were seeing. Now, when they find themselves on a boat, in a storm, they still seem to be lost. Jesus even calls it out – “Do you still have no faith?”

You have to feel for these guys – they are traveling around with the Son of God, having front-row seats to miracles, and hearing teachings that only the chosen King should know. With all that, they still don’t see the big picture. I feel we can learn from the disciples’ experience, and their reactions. We have the benefit of history and the recorded stories that we can use to make different choices. We can use this information and when faced with a challenge, or an impending storm, we can have the confidence and faith that our God will bring us through the other side.

This image – not during a storm – was captured on Whidbey Island, specifically looking out into Saratoga Passage and Camano Island (to the right).

Regarding the southeast part of the United States, our thoughts and prayers are with those facing the imminent storm approaching/hitting Florida. May God bring you safely through.

Beach Volleyball

Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Do laws ever change? After a moment’s consideration most would answer “Yes, of course they do.” The empty field on the outskirts of town which was populated by a jumble of weeds and a host of creepy-crawly creatures is now the site of a new middle school, and the speed limits paralleling the area have been changed accordingly. What was not long ago posted as 50mph has been lowered to 20mph, and for good reason. And even that restriction may have variable conditions such as “When children are present.” But well-made laws have a purpose and any rational person can understand why that speed limit was lowered.

Still, there is also something to be said about consistency, about being able to depend upon the rules of life which permit you to play the game at its best. Imagine you were one who took the game of beach volleyball seriously. You played consistently, entering as many tournaments as time and opportunity could provide. You understood that wind and sand conditions might vary but the parameters of the court would remain constant. This in turn would allow you to gauge the angle your spikes would need to land inbounds, to use your abilities at their best. Now imagine playing on the court shown here. It’s not as the maker originally intended, but external forces such as tides have altered the boundary lines. Would you want this to be the location of your pre-Olympic tryouts?

I have no idea how a youthful David would have done at these tryouts, but I do know what his ideas were about the laws of God. “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. (Psalm 19:7-9 NIV) The Living Bible summarizes it this way: “God’s laws are perfect. They protect us, make us wise, and give us joy and light. God’s laws are pure, eternal, just.” Now, if the game is a really important one, that’s the kind of court I’d like to play on.

His Faithful Love Endures Forever

Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 26, 2022

I saw this squirrel on a fall trip to Wells Gray Provincial Park in British Columbia a number of years ago where we saw a number of the amazing waterfalls to be found there. We also saw salmon jumping right out of the water as they tried to swim up rapids on their trip upriver, lots of butterflies and other small insects and this squirrel enjoying a meal.

I like these verses that talk about how God is faithful and loves us and will provide for us in our need:

“He remembered us in our weakness.
His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies.
His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living thing.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.”
Psalm 136:23-26 (NLT)

Singing By the Dumpster

Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Shelley Schurch
Sunday, September 25, 2022

First there was one, then two, then three. Big blue dumpsters started cropping up on our neighborhood walking route recently (if something as large and heavy as a dumpster could be thought of as simply “cropping up.”)

The one in my photo sat in a driveway for only a week or so, then disappeared. The other two remain in their driveways. One of them is very large and long and seems to have taken up residence. Judging by all the windows having been replaced in the two-story home behind it, and a Porta-Potty added to the driveway, and the dumpster filled to overflowing with a vast variety of objects, I think it’s safe to say the house is undergoing extensive interior renovation.

And sometime when we weren’t watching (which is 23 7/8 hours of each day) this huge dumpster was emptied and is now being filled a second time. Or perhaps the first one was hauled away and a second one brought in for round two.

One day last week as we were walking by this dumpster a song popped unbidden into my head. It’s a brief chorus you may be accustomed to singing when life gets heavy:

I cast all my cares upon You,
I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet.
And any time I don’t know what to do,
I will cast all my cares upon You.

(Author Kelly Willard, © 1978, Maranatha Praise, Inc.)

I like having enough songs stashed away in my cerebral storage that they can emerge whenever they spy a possible connection to my surroundings. And I can see the link easily enough here: people have been casting a lot of stuff into this dumpster and the end is not in sight!

How good it feels to spring clean/autumn clean, to clear out clutter, to remodel, renovate, start fresh – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. What a relief to cast all our cares on Jesus, to throw off our backpacks of burdens. Especially when we have the assurance He will take care of them and us:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (I Peter 5:6, 7 NKJV)

As we continued our morning walk I thought, still humming the Cares Chorus, of other things I’d like to toss in a dumpster:

“ . . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . .” (Hebrews 12:1b NIV)

Yes! Throw off anything that weighs me down, especially my sin. Anything that gets in the way between me and Jesus.

One of my favorite quotes from Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom is about God’s forgiveness. In her book Tramp for the Lord she says: “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever . . . . I believe God then places a sign out there that says No Fishing Allowed.”

Or, in my case, No Dumpster Diving!

I don’t know what the interior of the dumpster driveway house looked like before work began on it, but I’m sure it’s going to be lovely when the renovation is complete. I smile just thinking about it, although I will probably never see it.

HOWEVER (written in caps because it is so much more than) I smile wider and am also moved to tears when I think of God doing His renovation work in me – day by day as I invite Him in and give Him the key. And then . . .

. . . being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 NKJV)

As we step out into this brand-new week, we can rejoice that as we’re walking, He is working!

Guitar Pick

Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 24, 2022

This Wednesday morning I was striding through a parking lot and saw this familiar little object—a guitar pick.

Did you realize that this is a tiny chip of courage? I’ve been playing guitar since I was 19, and like every other beginning twanger, I went through the stages of sore fingers, learning chords, realizing that the F chord is at first impossible to play with crystal clarity, and finally building up some finger calluses.

But there’s one more step to learning basic guitar—using a flatpick. Some guitarists chose to stay at the string-brushing stage, or the thumb-thumping stage. Nothing wrong with this, of course, but if you’re hoping to thrill the multitudes with your country-western sound, you’ll need to make a noise loud and sharp enough for them to hear.

That’s where the pick comes in. When you grip a pick between thumb and finger, you are telling the world that you’re confident enough in your chord-playing (including the elusive F) that you don’t mind the masses hearing you perform, even though you’ll flub once in awhile.

I’ve taught a few group guitar classes to beginners, as well as people who are returning to the instrument after several years. It’s great fun to hear all those guitars playing at once. I always bring a baggie full of picks, and hand them out, along with chord charts and chorded songsheets.

Toward the end of the course, I tell the students, “Now. What you’ve just learned or reviewed is going to mean exactly nothing unless you get some performance opportunities.” I tell them to volunteer to play a couple of songs for children’s Bible school classes at church, or ask to play along with the church’s praise team (not miked to start with, just standing up there playing.)

Did you know that, in many cases, “spiritual gifts” are simply talents or propensities you already have, enhanced by the Holy Spirit? God has given people different abilities, and He knows that once we’ve put those gifts prayerfully to work, we’ll be incredibly happy and fulfilled.

To learn more of what the Bible says about spiritual gifts, click the link just below.
https://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/spiritual-gifts

Diploma in Automobile Running!

Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 23, 2022

Back in July Shelley and I visited a small antique shop. I noticed this impressive and impeccably-calligraphed diploma from International Correspondence Schools. It asserts that Roland F. Curtis has “satisfactorily completed” a course in “Automobile Running,” including “Gasoline Automobile Engines,” carburetors, electric ignition, bearings and lubrication, tires, and even “troubles and remedies.”

The date? 1912.

Want to see the kind of cars Roland would have worked on? Click here:

https://www.google.com/search?q=ics+automobile+running+course+1912&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwiiw_6ewqf6AhUFIH0KHYdYDdgQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=ics+automobile+running+course+1912&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQAzoECCMQJ1CcB1i6EWCAE2gAcAB4AIABVIgB-QKSAQE2mAEAoAEBqgELZ3dzLXdpei1pbWfAAQE&sclient=img&ei=gN4rY6KDLIXA9AOHsbXADQ&authuser=0&bih=567&biw=1120&hl=en

Do you sense where I’m going with this? You probably do. Let’s say that Roland Curtis, clutching his 1912 diploma and radiating an entrepreneurial grin, suddenly showed up for a job interview at the local Toyota dealer. Let’s say they popped the hood on a Tundra for him. I would love to be able to watch his expression. “Where’s the carburetor?” he would whisper. “The radiator? And how on earth am I going to get to the spark plugs, and the pistons?”

And on the way out, he would probably cast a sorrowful final glance at his 110-year-old gold-stickered diploma, and allow it to slip sideways into the nearest trash can. I’m definitely out of my league, he would think.

“For the wisdom of this world,” Paul says, “is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 1 Corinthians 3:18 NKV

Bottom line: God is wiser than I am, and I need to be careful not to try to second-guess Him, no matter what the subject.

For more of what the Bible says about wisdom, click the link just below.

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