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)

 

Sunlight Hunger

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, July 31, 2021

I grew up on a South Dakota farm, surrounded by civilized plants (such as corn, wheat, alfalfa, carrots and radishes), and uncivilIzed plants (weeds). My duties sometimes included hoeing rows in the soil so that Mom could plant the carrots and radishes, and whacking away at the weeds with the blade of a manual weed-chopper (think of a golf-club swing and you’ll get the idea).

Consequently, never having been emotionally starved by the absence of growing things, I have never been what you could call tender-hearted toward flowers or plants. I let them alone, and if they survive, good for them.

However. On Wednesday of this week I was pausing at our kitchen window, pursuing some culinary goal, when I noticed the above flower nudged up against the wooden slats of the window-blind. This window faces west, and what with our recent spate of warm weather (including June 28’s 108 degrees!) I’ve tended to close those slats to fend off the fierce sunlight.

With a bit of mental effort I remembered that this flower is growing from a plant which was a gift. And I think I remember the donor, someone whose thumb is as green as a piece of broccoli. And I felt a pang of pity for this bloom, struggling gamely toward the slit of sun it could see. In fact, just after I finished typing the sentence before this one, I went over and opened the slats wider, so that now the flower is bathed in sunlight. You’re welcome, flower.

Want to read three key Bible verses about light? There are many more, but these sum up how the Trinity have used it as a key symbol for spiritual growth. Check out this link:

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

In-utero Architecture?

Photo and Commentary (c)2021 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, July 30, 2021

Not long ago Shelley and I took a trip up north to show my sister the sights. In one of the towns we stopped at, Shelley and Onilee were checking out some of the shops, and I wandered off by myself.

I don’t believe I’ve ever been as startled, and temporarily confused, by a sign on a building as I was with this one. My initial “read” yielded the following information: This building was built in 1884. The builder was James Powers. (So far, so good. But then . . .) James Powers lived from 1885 to 1937!

Wait a minute. (In fact, if this hadn’t been a post office but a textile operation we might say, “Wait a cotton-pickin’ minute.”) Either James Powers was an extremely early starter, already designing rudimentary buildings from within the womb, or something else was going on.

You’ve probably figured out the solution. It wasn’t James Powers who lived within the bracket of those years. It’s simply that the time-bracket describes the length of time the building served as the home of the Puget Sound mail. The origin and demise of James Powers himself remains shrouded in mystery.

You see the problem, right? Whoever designed this sign should have called in focus group to check it over, because normally when you insert a set of years after a person’s name, you’re describing the dates of that person’s birth and death . Just a simple wording-adjustment would have cleared things up.

Where am I going with this? Here’s where. When we read the Bible, we need to be super-careful to understand it the way its original readers did. We need to read it “in context.” How do we do this? Do we need to shut down every other project for a couple of years and get a Masters in theology?

Nope. Not necessary at all. Instead, we need to read a lot in the Bible. Don’t just read a verse a day—read a chapter or two. Linger over what you read. Maybe set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes and allow that time to become your virtual study-closet. Switch out your Bible version once in a while. When I study for a sermon, I print out side-by-side passages from four different English versions (NKJV, NIV, ESV and NRSV), plus the original language (I did get a degree in theology).

As an orientation to this careful way of Bible-reading, you’ll find several Scripture texts which talk about what the Bible is all about, when you click the link just below:

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

Getting a Picture

Photo and Commentary (c)2021 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, July 29, 2021

Sometimes it is hard to get a picture. We have seen bears at different times near our house or on the trail, but it is always difficult to get a picture. If the bear is too close, the last thought is to get my camera out. I’m too busy stepping away. Or it might be too dark or too far away. This picture is not a good one, but I managed to snap one off near our house. By the time I snapped a second picture, all I got was his rump.

Another picture that God wants us to get is a clear image of his character. It may seem hard, but with reading and prayer it is possible to develop an image in our minds. Here is a verse that offers an interesting perspective.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:10

While it might be hard to photograph a bear, we can take advantage of God’s word to learn more.

Above The Clouds

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, July 28, 2021

I can almost guarantee we have all had a moment where we’ve been under pressure or felt a bit of gloom, as though all the dark clouds were hovering over us. Whether we were facing uncertainties, or dealing with a loss, in that moment we just couldn’t see past the darkness. When this happened to you, what did you do? Did you pray? Did you seek God in that moment and ask for the strength to get you through that trial? We know He wants us to ask for help. He wants us to put those burdens at His feet and forget about them. I’ll be the first to admit, it takes work to do that. We, as humans, like to do things ourselves and when we are faced with adversity, we tend to bare down and try to “power through it.” Clearly this isn’t God’s plan. In fact His plan is vastly different.

God’s plan is: we come to Him with our issues/burdens/concerns, we give those to Him to take care of, and then we have much more strength and energy to focus on the important things, like a relationship with our Father.

Matthew 11:28-30,
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Isaiah 41:13,
“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’”

These are just two verses reminding us of God’s real plan when it comes to our concerns and issues. When I think of the way my mind attempts to hold onto these burdens, I can visualize the dark clouds overhead. What I fail to see is the beautiful sunlight above those clouds. That sunlight can represent the calming peace of our Creator, taking our burdens and clearing those clouds away.

The image here is above the clouds on the way down the Pacific Coast.

Lilies

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, July 27, 2021

To paraphrase another, “Lilies are like other flowers, only more so.” Their rich hues, their silky petals which retain richness found few other places, their fragrance that is almost addictive, perhaps all of these were reasons why biblical authors chose to use them to point out specialness. Varieties growing in both our front and back yards share these qualities with wild varieties found in an assortment of places around the world to enrich the lives of people who find them there.

Two Psalms were written to the tune of “Lilies”, Psalm 45 which was a wedding song, and Psalm 80 which was a covenant song. I’m certain those songs, could we hear them today, would sound foreign to our Western ears, yet I suspect even our eight-note-ears could come to appreciate the beauty found therein. But in my narrow way of thinking, they should sound like something from Debussy or Ravel and if asked to select an artist to paint them I’d pick Monet. Fortunately we don’t have to. We simply need to step outside and revel in their unpicked beauty.

And if appropriate appreciation was forthcoming, I’d be in good company. For I have no doubt that Christ was in that setting when He uttered those famous “King James Words” found in the gospels: “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Luke 12:27) I do differ from those who gave us that well-worn translation. Somewhere in that sentence they needed to have included an exclamation mark.

Pasture

Photo and Commentary (c)2021 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, July 26, 2021

I drove past this pasture where the grass was green and long. I didn’t see any animals in there at the time but there was a fence and presumably a gate somewhere.

I like this story comparing us to sheep with Jesus as the Gate to good pasture.

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep rustlers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
John 10:6-10 (The Message)

 

Busy

Photo and Commentary ©2021 by Shelley Schurch
Sunday, July 25, 2021

The origin of the phrase “busy as a bee” is no mystery to me. Trying to keep up with this big burly bumble bee as he zigged and zagged through our neighbor’s garden was a challenge; his busy almost made me dizzy! I finally captured a photo when he paused long enough to burrow a third of his body into this nasturtium.

I kept thinking about that word “busy” and even though it’s such a familiar word, I wanted to see how a dictionary defined it. That’s when I realized there were different kinds of busy. The first definition was one I think of most often, the adjective meaning “having a great deal to do.”

The second definition was the verb, “keep occupied.” An example popped to mind, “She busied herself in the kitchen.”

Was Jesus ever busy? I don’t see Him hurrying and hustling through His days on this earth; not that kind of busy.

And from what I read in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, He was never “too busy.” He slowed down and paid attention to a repentant tax collector perched overhead in a tree, a woman crawling through a crowd to touch the hem of His garment in hopes of healing, children and their mothers seeking His blessing, ten men plagued with leprosy (result: 1 grateful, 9 not so much), the dusty feet and stubborn hearts of His twelve closest companions . . . and so many more.

If I were to ask if you were busy tomorrow night, you’d know what I was really asking was if you were available, if you had time for me. Jesus was always available. His time was your time. Never too busy.

But in another sense, Jesus was busy. He “kept occupied.” After He spent nights in prayer, I think His days were filled with this one item on His to-do list: “My Father’s will.” He kept the cross in sight, always walking toward it, knowing that must be His destination in order for heaven to be our destination.

I kept thinking about “busy” and reading about bumble bees. I like how they’re described as such helpful, valuable pollinators, and some of the most social creatures in the animal kingdom. I don’t like how short their life span is, with the entire colony dying each fall, except for the queen.

And brooding about the latter tied in with a verse I discovered when I searched the New King James Version for the word “busy.” I was surprised to find only eight verses in the entire Bible. Four of them were used in a negative sense (with three of them referring to “busybodies”), three in a neutral sense, and only one in a positive light.

The cheerful verse is Ecclesiastes 5:20: For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. (NKJV)

The New Revised Standard Version reads like this: For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.

Along with this verse, I think I’ve discovered a new prayer: Father, please keep me occupied with your joy. Leave no room in my heart for brooding or worry or distrust. Help me to be always available for the people you place in my path, and never too busy to listen to others, especially You.