Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church

Daily Photo Parable -  April 2014

Thanks to all the photographers who have kindly accepted my invitation to provide their photos and commentary. Here's the schedule of those whose excellent, thought-provoking and encouraging work you'll be seeing, and when: SUNDAY--Bev Riter; MONDAY--Cheryl Boardman; TUESDAY--Robert Howson; WEDNESDAY--Darren Milam; THURSDAY--the Russell Jurgensen family. I handle Friday and Sabbath, generally using photos from the point-and-shoot camera I keep on my belt.-- Pastor Maylan Schurch

NOTE: To see previous photos from this current month, simply scroll down. To see previous months' blogs, click the month you want on the menu at the left.

Standing on the Promises
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Two things come to mind when I see this image, I captured of Snoqualmie Falls.  Number one, God is the ultimate Creator. Number 2, God never fails.  Both, are very true and both are critical.

I am sure we could argue that beauty may not be a critical aspect but I could argue back, an ultimate Creator, is not defined just by the beauty. Of course that's part of the equation, and as we live in this 'ugly' sinful world, having creations to dwell on, is a big help.  Our ultimate Creator, is our Father.  He made us. He cares for us.  He never fails.  Which brings me to point number two.  He kept His promise with the rainbow.  An amazing reminder of His love for use and His constant care.

Just in case it's been a while, here's a reminder of the song (verse 1), that gives us the hope to always stand on God's promises:

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
through eternal ages let his praises ring;
glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
standing on the promises of Christ my Savior;
standing, standing,
I'm standing on the promises of God

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Deception Crags Climbing Area
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Christian walk sometimes seems more like a challenging climb than a leisurely stroll through the park.  Choices must be made, and the rightness of the alternatives is not always apparent, even to the most conscientious.    Duplicities abound everywhere seeking to derail true followers from the right path.  We find ourselves longing for a “sign”, similar to this one in the Cascade Mountains that would direct us, that would warn us of impending danger.

The Apostle John, writing to the believers in the early church, must have recognized this tension among the followers and addressed them this way:  “My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world’s language and the world eats it up. But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.  (1 John 4:4-6 The Message)

It appears that God, in His wisdom, has not given us a spiritual GPS that does the thinking for us.  Instead, He asks us to study the map already given, and then prayerfully follow that path that will take us home.

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He Will Take Care of You
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 28, 2014

These tulips aren't wild but they are beautiful!  A quick Internet search shows that they belong to the Liliaceae family.  It seems that the purple grape hyacinths (also pictured) did at one time belong to the Liliaceae family but may or may not currently belong to the family - depending on what you read. 

Regardless, it's still tulip season in the Skagit Valley and this picture was taken at the Roozengaarde Display Garden about a week and a half ago.  The weather wasn't all that great when I was there but the flowers more than made up for it. 

I know I use this verse (or a variation of it from Matthew) quite a bit but I like what it says and there are a lot of lilies (both wild and cultivated) out there!

Think about those beautiful wild lilies growing over there. They don’t work up a sweat toiling for needs or wants—they don’t worry about clothing. Yet the great King Solomon never had an outfit that was half as glorious as theirs!

Look at the grass growing over there. One day it’s thriving in the fields. The next day it’s being used as fuel.

If God takes such good care of such transient things, how much more you can depend on God to care for you, weak in faith as you are. Don’t reduce your life to the pursuit of food and drink; don’t let your mind be filled with anxiety.  Luke 12:27-29  The Voice

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Iguassu Falls – Part 1
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 27, 2014

Iguassu Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Located on the border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, we found this subtropical region very hot and humid. (I've drawn a black arrow on the map so you can see where it's located.) The 275 waterfalls make it the widest waterfalls in the world. The best panoramic view is from the Brazil side, where we spent the first day taking in the majesty of the falls as we walked along the paths and boardwalk into the falls, as seen in my photo of the falls. The falls roar over a 270 foot high and 3 mile wide precipice. The majesty of the falls, the majesty of our Lord:

“Majesty, worship His majesty
Unto Jesus, be all glory, honor and praise
Majesty, Kingdom authority
Flows from His throne
Unto His own, His anthem raise.”
-Jack Williams Hayford

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Since He’s the One
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 26, 2014

What you see above is the current message on our church’s reader board. The reason I put it there was to remind passing schoolbuses and everyone else that even though Easter weekend is over, our loving response to the Savior’s self-sacrifice should be ongoing. Because the “final breath” is final only in a mortal, earthly sense:

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.   1 Corinthians 15:51 – 53 NKJV

To read more thrilling Bible facts about the resurrection, click the link immediately below.

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From “I Love Her” to “No One”
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 25, 2014

Just a bit of advice from a veteran hunter-for-notebooks-in-thrift-stores. If you’ve decided to pour out your heart onto the pages of a journal, and you eventually toss that notebook into the “Give to Goodwill” box, first make sure you rip out the pages you’ve written on. However, in the photo above (which I snapped earlier this week) the guy who owned this journal forgot to do this.

I wish I could assure you of a happy ending for this young man, but here’s what I found two pages later. His despair actually caused him to become vulgar, so I have blotted out a word:

(Lest you be worried that this might be a suicide note, have no fear. On the following page was the final poem in the journal, and it was a fairly chirpy one on a neutral subject, signaling that the young man’s wounded heart had recovered. But his literary output dropped. No more angst, no more journaling, I guess.)

Next time you read through the Old Testament’s prophetic books, such as Jeremiah or even the smaller ones, notice how often God pours His own personal agony into print through the prophets’ pens. Because God, too, could have written lines to His Bride like, “I love her/ I need her.” And isn’t “No one loves me/ No one wants me” simply another way of saying the following:

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, Who eat up my people as they eat bread, And do not call on the Lord?  Psalm 14:2 – 4 NKJV

Maybe the young journaler did indeed get together with the young lady he wrote about. Maybe he’s a happily married guy by now. But his yearnings and longings are merely a faint echo of the love God has for you and me, His adored ones.

To learn more about God’s love and how we can respond to it, click the link immediately below.

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Got Scripture?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, April 24, 2014

One of the modern marvels of cell phones and tablets is the ability to carry a Bible wherever you go.  It holds not only one Bible, but as many versions as you want.  The benefits don't stop there.  Font size can be large, searching is fast, it has bookmarking, and inserting a note is easy.

Adventists believe that the Bible is the written word of God who moved the writers through the Holy Spirit.  It is essentially God's message to us.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible, and I think one of the most popular, is John 3:16-17. Here Jesus says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

While reading the Bible we can see God's character, learn of His intelligence as built in his laws of love, and see his mercy as mentioned in the verse above.  In reading the Bible, something starts to build inside a person.  It is a knowledge that God has something in store for us that is wonderful and trying to burst out even now.  By following God's laws of loving others and trusting in his forgiveness we can start receiving the benefits of the kingdom of heaven now.

So I encourage you to take advantage of your cell phone, tablet, or regular Bible to read it and let it infect you with God's word.

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Be Strong
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I feel there are some days that we just need a vote of confidence, a pep talk, a few words of encouragement.  If that’s one of those days for you, here’s a great one.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Whether you are Joshua, being called to be the new leader of Israel (as Joshua was ), or simply just facing life’s daily challenges, take these words and know that God is with you.

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Horned Grebe
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What do the two birds shown here have in common?  It appears they are both water birds and both have red eyes and a pointed beak.  Beyond that, the differences are greater than those things they have in common.  One sports russet and gold colors while the other is attired in somber shades of black and white.  But the truth be known, they are the same species, Horned Grebes, only one is dressed in winter plumage while the other is garbed as it would appear during the breeding season.  Still, it seems difficult to comprehend how such diverse subjects could really be the same thing.  And it would certainly be difficult to fault anyone who identified them as different species who had not observed them over a long period of time.

And perhaps that’s just our problem.  We judge people based upon random acts, and usually ones that affect us personally in a negative way.  God, on the other hand, sees the complete individual, the reasons why they act the way they do, the things unseen by the rest of us.

Paul, writing to the Romans cautions:  “Now if you feel inclined to set yourself up as a judge of those who sin, let me assure you, whoever you are, that you are in no position to do so.  For at whatever point you condemn others you automatically condemn yourself, since you, the judge, commit the same sins.”  (Romans 2:1-2  J.B. Phillips New Testament)  Hardly a new idea since Jesus Himself said the same thing.  But it’s hard for us to remember when those vivid colors, those scarlet sins, are right before our eyes.

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The Homecoming
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 21, 2014

I saw this statue, called "The Homecoming," by Nathan Scott when I was in Victoria, British Columbia.  It was put up to celebrate the first century of Canada's Naval Service.  I like the expression on the returning sailor's face and you can see the joy at his return in the posture of his young daughter as she runs to meet him. 

The Bible talks about a wonderful celebration at the homecoming of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).  The prodigal son made a lot of mistakes; he squandered his inheritance, he left his family to pursue his own way and he only returned because he was desperate.  He didn't deserve a celebratory feast and reinstatement as a loved member of the family. 

In this world of sin, we too make mistakes and are undeserving of God's mercy and great love for us.  Despite all of our failures, we have hope.   For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16(KJV)

As great as our earthly homecomings are, there is a greater reunion ahead:

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words. 

1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 (The Message)

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He Is Risen!
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 20, 2014

Local village women came to the tomb in this cave-like crypt under a church in Larnaca, Cyprus as shown in my photograph. Likewise, women (Mary of Magdala and the other Mary) went to the crypt of Jesus on the Sunday after he was crucified. There was a violent earthquake and an angel descended from heaven and rolled the stone away. The angel said to not be afraid, that Jesus has been raised as He said He would. He invited them to see the place where Jesus was laid, then told them to go quickly and tell His disciples, “He has been raised from the dead and is going on before you into Galilee; there you will see him.” Mathew 28:7 NEB When the disciples found Jesus, He said, “Full authority in heaven and on earth has been committed to me. Go forth therefore and make all nations my disciples; baptize men everywhere in the name of the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And be assured, I am with you always, to the end of time.” Mathew 28:19-20 NEB

Because of the resurrection, we have a Christian church.

Because of the resurrection, we have assurance of salvation.

Because of the resurrection, we are reborn to living hope.

Because of the resurrection, we know we will live anew!

Yes, Christ is risen!

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Magnetic North
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 19, 2014

I snapped the above photo in the same Christian outlet store where I saw the figurines in yesterday’s Daily Photo Parable below. What you’re looking at are the top ends of six wooden walking-sticks. Each has a compass set into it so that in your wanderings you can orient yourself.

If you stop and think about it, earth’s magnetic core is truly amazing. These six sticks are clustered together, yet their proximity doesn’t affect their readings. A huge outlet mall encloses them, with electric wires and auto traffic surrounding it. Radio waves of many frequencies saturate the air.

Yet all six compasses are pointing in basically the same direction (they’re inexpensive, and not all the magnets may have been attached properly). And as long as they’re not near a stronger magnetic attraction, they’ll keep pointing north.

You’re ‘way ahead of me, right? The Holy Spirit’s presence steadily draws us in heaven’s direction, and the more we divest our lives of countering attractions, the more strongly and directly He will be able to draw us.

To find out more about who He is and what He wants to do for us, click the link immediately below.

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Fragile—Please Ask for Assistance
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 18, 2014

A week ago I was in a Christian outlet store near Auburn, and I happened to notice, at eye level, this little display. These are very popular figurines, and often portray family members who obviously care for each other.

However, it was the message on the white card in front of them which powerfully affected me. Its primary meaning is of course to remind the shopper that these figurines are breakable. But if each of these carvings were actually a real person, the card’s words would assume eternal significance: “Fragile—please ask for assistance.”

Every morning of this week (I’m writing this on Wednesday, April 16), I’m telling what I hope are faith-building stories to 160 kids aged from kindergarten through 8th grade. And this week it hit me again—every one of those precious youngsters is a unique person whom God absolutely adores. No matter what background each boy or girl comes from, no matter what heritage or family birthed them, they have heaven’s starlight in their eyes. They are the ones whom Jesus compared with the citizens of God’s kingdom: “Unless you become like children . . .”

Fragile. Please ask for assistance. If you’re a Christian parent, you don’t need me to tell you to do this. You’ve done it often, and will do it many more times. But whoever’s reading this, a childless single person, married couples without kids, grandparents who don’t get to see their grandkids often enough, don’t forget to pray for these little ones.

For a screen’s worth of Bible texts about children, click the link immediately below:

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In the Temple
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sometimes I see people stopping to look at this piece of art, so I decided to check it out.  At first it seemed a bit childish with bright colors and seemingly random decorations.  It perhaps represents some of the tall buildings in Seattle.  At the bottom, there is a block with a stone-like object for a head, resembling a person.

It somehow reminds me of God's presence in our hearts.  In the Bible, God's presence physically visited three buildings of worship.  The first building is the Tabernacle that the Isrealite's carried through the wilderness.  Exodus 40:34 says, "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle."

The second building with God's presence is Solomon's temple.  1 Kings 8:10-11 says, "When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple."

Interestingly, the rebuilt second temple never had the glory of the Lord fill it as did the previous temple and tabernacle.  However, something very special happened there that the temple ceremonies had pointed towards.  Jesus himself entered the temple. Matthew 21, 12 says, "Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there."  and Luke 20:1 says, "One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news..."  In a much better way, God entered the temple to actually talk with the people.

We can keep Jesus in the temple of our hearts as well by listening to God's words and putting them into practice.  Perhaps this is not what the artist originally had in mind, but that is the joy of interpreting modern art.

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A What Version?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yeah, I know. A 750,000-word Bible is not only intimidating but bulky. That’s why most Bibles have very thin paper and sometimes very tiny print. And the reason most use two columns is that after reading all that small print in a single line, you’d have a tough time targeting the next line to read.

But mention “shortened version” to pastors and most Christions, or the Reader’s Digest Condensed Bible, and ears prick up. “What did they leave out?” I ask. “And why?” Several years ago I saw something called a KwikScan Bible, which had different font sizes depending on what part of the Bible it was. The Levitical laws and the genealogies, for example, were in very tiny print, while the words of Jesus were big.

But again, a judgment call, right? Who gets to decide?

“All Scripture,” says Paul firmly in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And Paul, the New Testament author, was talking about the Old Testament!

Are you reading something in your fullsize Bible every day? Great exercise—mental and physical!

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Hairy Woodpecker
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Words are funny things.  They are our most effective way of communicating complex ideas, yet frequently they are totally inadequate.  Take the bird pictured above.  It, along with its smaller counterpart, the Downy Woodpecker, share plumages which are mirror images of each other.  Downy Woodpecker, a reasonably adequate name it would seem, but for some reason, the larger of the two picked up the title, Hairy Woodpecker.  Now you don’t need a PhD to know birds don’t have hair.  We picked that up shortly after learning to tie our own shoes.  Yet the name remains. Somehow we think of science as being a precise study, but think again.

We find those unanswerables in the field of religion as well, where we politely call them paradoxes.  The Bible is full of these: when I am weak, then I am strong; happy are they that mourn; and our list could go on and on. We do our best to explain how these apparent contradictions can be true, but sometimes we just have to accept them at face value.

Perhaps the best example of this is the greatest paradox found in Scripture.  It’s located in Revelation 7:13 and 14.  There we find a description of the redeemed gathered around the throne of God, and particular notice is given to what they are wearing, for it’s their clothing that qualifies them to be there.  Each one is attired in a spotless, white robe.  But here’s the real clincher, what makes them pure white is they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.  That’s not the way science works down here!  Immersing a garment in blood does not render it spotless.  But that’s just the point; the miracle of salvation is beyond our understanding because it’s way beyond us.  It centers in the One who made us.  And as for the woodpeckers, maybe we should just enjoy their attire too, whatever it’s called.

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Where Is Your Treasure?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 14, 2014

I saw these kayaks piled up on a pier on Whidbey Island this past winter.  They were obviously quite valuable to the little shop that rents them out because they had taken care to tie them together and had put locks on the cables as well. 

The question is, what do we do with what is valuable to us?  What is important to us and how much time and money do we spend on it?  Are we putting all of our time and money into acquiring more things?  Does the person who dies with the most toys really win?

The Bible tells us a different story. Jesus said:

Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will always be where your treasure is. Matthew 6:19-21 (CEV)

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Being Faithful
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 13, 2014

The many South American black-headed swans got my attention while in Patagonia and Terra del Fuego of southern Chile. Being there in February, we got to see them carefully guarding their young, as shown in my photo above. It was hard to get a photo of a whole family of them on the water – most often, one or more had their heads down and bottoms up searching for food! 


While most swans are white like the Coscoroba Swan in the photo immediately above, these are white except for their heads and necks, which are actually a dark velvety seal brown. As you can see on the adults, their bills have rose-colored knobs on them.

These beautiful birds can have a long life span – up to 20 or more years. Swans can teach us about loyalty to each other because they are faithful and usually mate for life. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Some of you might know the song “Forever” with the chorus as follows. May this be our motto.

     Forever God is faithful

     Forever God is strong
     Forever God is with us
     Forever and ever, forever

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Prayers Falling to the Floor?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 12, 2014

Okay, maybe this is one of the farthest-fetched Daily Photo Parables I've ever done, but hear me out.

This is, of course, a paper-towel dispenser with some helpful diagrams to show you how to use it. The first drawing shows how you’re supposed to wave your hand in front of the sensor so a motor can feed you a length of towel, and the next drawing shows you how you’re supposed to grip that towel and tear it off.

But to me these diagrams could also be demonstrating a key step in getting answers to prayer. Doesn't the first diagram look a little like praying hands, and couldn't the downward arrow be a prayer offered by the suppliant, a prayer which doesn’t seem to be going much higher than the ceiling?

And couldn't the second diagram be something the Christian can do in response—read the Bible (which descended through inspiration from above) to discover why and why not and how God responds to prayer?

Farfetched? The comparison might be. But its supporting truth isn't.

To guide you toward some Bible answers about prayer, click the link immediately below.

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Don’t Believe . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 11, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I spotted this revolutionary statement on the back bumper of an otherwise ordinary Toyota. It goes beyond “Don’t believe everything you hear,” and “Don’t believe everything you see.”

What makes this so sobering is that I know that what I “see” and “hear” are external to me. Advertisers and other tempters have gotten really good at trying to manipulate me, and I need to be constantly on guard. I’ve known people—and you’ve known people—who have been viciously scammed online, because what was seen and heard there was too good to be true.

But what I “think” has crossed the threshold from external to internal. Once I “think” something, I own it. It’s no longer an idea I am evaluating—it’s an idea I’ve accepted.

So it’s a good idea from time to time to listen to your thoughts. Listen to the concepts you repeat to other people. Can you really back all those concepts up with valid arguments from solid sources?

My by-far favorite college class was General Semantics. It taught us to think and speak specifically and cautiously. Rather than say, “Congress is corrupt,” the good general semanticist would say, “On July 13, 2006, Congressman John Doe did something I perceive to have been corrupt.” In other words, avoid tarring whole institutions—or even people—with a broad brush.

Being cautious about believing what you think becomes incredibly more important when it comes to spiritual matters. For some Bible facts about what’s truly true, click the link immediately below.

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That Great City
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, April 10, 2014

A few weeks ago, we rode the Great Wheel in Seattle. It was fun because you get to see the waterfront from higher up than you would from a boat. The Space Needle is behind the gray skyscraper on the far left. The aquarium is on the bottom left with all the blue solar panels on the roof. The Argosy cruise ship is on the bottom right.

Even man-made cities can look beautiful and impressive. Imagine how this will be nothing compared to the beauty and glory of the New Jerusalem, which will be way more beautiful than we can comprehend.

In Revelation 21, John describes what he saw in vision:

Verses 2-3: I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."

11: It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

18-21: The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.... The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

23: The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A couple of months ago we were able to visit ground zero in New York City.  The tower you see in this image is One World Trade Center, also known as Freedom Tower.  After 9/11, the city of NY vowed to rebuild what was destroyed.  In the footprints of the Twin Towers are memorials of the destruction.  In their place Freedom Tower was built. As it stands at an impressive 1,776 feet (symbolic of the year of America's independence 1776), it is the 4th tallest building in the world.  It shows the resiliency of our country and honors the memory of those that lost their lives in the terrorist attack.

The name of the tower gives hope as it's meant to be a symbol of America's willingness to do what it takes to be free from fear, never backing down from challenges.  As Christians we can take this even further and fight against the challenges of this sinful world.

In Psalms 146: 1-7, we can read of God's promise of freedom -- praise God!

Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
While I live I will praise the LORD;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Do not put your trust in princes,
Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
His spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
In that very day his plans perish.
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.

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Chinook Salmon
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pacific salmon are famous as anadromous fish, those that hatch in freshwater streams, migrate to the salty ocean where they mature, and then return to their place of birth to spawn.   The largest and least common of these is the Chinook or King Salmon.  The time they spend in the ocean may vary from one to eight years during which period they may travel 2,500 miles from their home stream.  They appear to be “driven” to return to this location and there is evidence that indicates they are guided by a strong sense of olfaction or smell.  Once they leave the ocean they cease to feed, meaning some will die on their way home since they haven’t stored enough body fat to provide the energy needed.  

Only a small percentage actually reaches their native spawning grounds for they face many hardships along the way.  And the few that do arrive safely frequently bear evidence of the difficulties they faced as seen in their battle-torn fins and white patches of skin due to bruises.

The author of Hebrews gives us a list of the heroes of faith that looked forward to their true country.  And he mentions that none of them actually saw fulfillment of what they looked forward to.  Instead, they regarded the One who had made the promise as a guarantee or assurance that the promise would be fulfilled.  “No, the fact is that they longed for a better country altogether, nothing less than a heavenly one.  And because of this faith of theirs, God is not ashamed to be called their God for in sober truth he has prepared for them a city in Heaven.”  (Hebrews 11:17 J.B. Phillips New Testament)   The Chinook may be driven by biological forces we only partially understand, but our driving force should be found in the Promise Keeper who said He is waiting for us.

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A New Creation
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 7, 2014

I was walking through the Butterfly Gardens in Victoria, BC, recently and saw a number of chrysalides (plural for chrysalis according to the online Merriam Webster dictionary) in a small room.  There were hundreds of chrysalides in the display box and hundreds of butterflies in the indoor garden. 

The first pictures is of the chrysalides of the White Tree Nymph (Idea leuconoe) and is from the Phillippines.  The second picture shows the butterfly with its with its wings open.  I think this particular one is still getting its thorax and abdomen straightened out after being compacted in the chrysalis.

The transformation from the caterpillar stage to the butterfly is truly miraculous.  A totally new creature comes out of the chrysalis to what went in.  We are told that something similar can occur in us:

If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!  All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself, and God gave us the work of telling everyone about the peace we can have with him.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NCV)

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Rugged Mountains
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 6, 2014

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” Psalms 121:1, 2 It is thought that when the psalmist and other pilgrims traveled on the road up to Jerusalem they felt tired, thirsty and needed to rest. Because this psalm doesn't mention the city of Jerusalem, perhaps it's meant to be universal – applying to any place, time and person. Our relationship with God is also something like a destination. When we have difficulties and the path seems hard, He's there to help us along the way no matter what our struggles might be. He's our powerful God and Savior!

Cuernos Principal and Este, large granite spires in the Torres del Paine National Park of southern Chile are very rugged, as you can see in the top photo. A nearby mastif, the Cerro Paine Grande (bottom photo), with clouds wisping over, has fresh snow. You might think this isn't so strange in February – but remember this is in the southern hemisphere and in the midst of their “summer”! Trekkers come from all over the world to hike among and around these mountains. They, too, get tired and thirsty. But, the reward is being in these beautiful, rugged mountains -- and feeling closer to the Lord who made them!

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I Love Someone With . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 5, 2014

Friday of this week Shelley and I had stopped briefly at a Christian bookstore, and while waiting for her to emerge, I noticed what was written on the window of the SUV next to us. Some of the writing material has faded, but the same message was written on the driver’s side window as well, so I could piece it together.

It says I love someone with autism.

I’m no expert on autism, but what I do know tells me that its presence in a child requires a great deal of patience from anyone else in the household. I’ve also heard the happy news that in an increasing number of cases, autistic kids can be taught to live productive lives. It involves a lot of re-learning on their part, but it’s worth it.

The window-printing reminded me that, in the patient eyes of heaven, sin has bent our natures sharply toward selfishness. God, who has never had a selfish bone in His body, can’t think this way. But His patience, and that of His Son and of the Holy Spirit, has been truly saintly. If They drove SUVs, they would certainly write “Love Someone Who’s a Sinner.”

Doesn’t this soften your heart toward Them? I know it softens mine. It makes me want to surrender my sin-sick soul to Their care.

How do we do this? Salvation is the first step. Read about it by clicking the link immediately below.

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Healing Garden
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 4, 2014

This past Monday as I was making a hospital visit, I caught sight of this sign in a first-floor hallway. Outside this door is a quiet courtyard with a few metal chairs and some thin green-leafed trees.

The “Healing Garden” part of the sign is welcoming, but the “Authorized Use Only” brings the casual garden-stroller to a stop. I would imagine that the warning is designed to keep people with sleeping bags from sheltering there, which would eventually cause security problems for the hospital.

But as I snapped this photo I thought of another Garden, the one which existed just after this planet was created, and from which its first two human inhabitants were banished because their distrust of God had made them no longer safe to have near the Tree of Life.

The good news, however, is that those who come to know their Creator and Redeemer and accept what He has done to save them and change them into people who can use the Garden in an authorized way, will be admitted there.

How do I know the Garden will be inhabitable again? Because of texts like this one, which mentions the Tree of Life, which was originally planted in the Garden of Eden:

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1 -1 5, NKJV)

For other Bible passages, which show heaven as a very real place, click on the link immediately below.

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A Playful Puppies What????
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 4, 2014

Nothing against puppies, of course, nor playfulness. Both benefit humankind immensely.

But, dear friend of mine, do we really need a Playful Puppies Bible

No, I am not kidding. I snapped this photo in a Christian bookstore a week or so ago. That photographed thumb you see gripping the cover is my own. Note—interestingly—how in the title, the “Playful Puppies” is easier to read than the word “Bible.” And even more mindboggling is this promo paragraph I found on a site advertising it:

If you love puppies, you will love this Bible! Inside you will find 12 color pages of adorable puppy photos with inspirational thoughts that will encourage you day after day. The Playful Puppies Bible is just the right size to take along wherever you go. Features include: * Presentation page for gift giving * Ribbon marker * Words of Christ in red * 12 pages of adorable puppy photos, Scripture references, and inspirational thoughts * The entire Bible in the New International Version (NIV)

Well, I suppose that if 12 pages of adorable puppy photos provide motivation to read the Bible, good for the puppy photos. Yet even though God created them in all their precious cuddliness, no Bible verse I know of speaks favorably of dogs, big or small. Or cats, or hamsters, or gerbils.

The key Bible issue, of course, is that the love God has for us is definitely not “puppy love.” It is an all-the-way-to-death love. And if puppies do get someone started on the path toward learning more about this love, great. To study this love in all its wonderful complexity, click the link immediately below:

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
We’re just a few days into Spring but in the great Northwest, that doesn’t always mean a drastic change in the weather.  Yes, the weather will eventually change but sometimes it can take a month or two.  A couple years back, I took this shot in our yard, well into Spring.  As you can see, it’s a mix of Spring and Winter - quite the opposite.
I wonder how many times, in my life, I have basically gone the opposite way God wanted me to go.  There are numerous examples we can read in the bible, where God loving people, decided to go in a different direction.  Think of Jonah.  He was directly asked to carry out a mission for God. Very clear. Go and preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah had a different plan.  He chose to get onto a ship, going in the opposite direction.  Even so, God has a very unique way of ‘course correction’.  Storm, overboard, whale and Jonah was back on his way.  The way God intended on him going in the first place.
If we’re talking about ‘opposite’, in referenced to a shot like this – OK.  If we start talking about ‘opposite’, when it comes to the choices or direction we are choosing, versus what God is choosing for us – Not OK.  If nothing else, try to imagine what it would be like to be swallowed by a whale.  Listen to God and follow His path.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I’d read about it before but never observed it firsthand, that is until a warm day in February.  There in an open meadow was a mound of western thatching ants, busily going about activities appropriate to their kind.  I probably would have overlooked them but the sharp eyes of American Robins and European Starlings did not.  Several birds of both species paid repeated visits to the mound but the starlings’ activities created the greatest interest.  They were actively engaged in what is known as anting.  This occurs when birds collect insects, especially ants, and rub them on their feathers.  While both robins and starlings are among the most commonly reported in North America to engage in this activity, I never saw the robins actually perform this.  The starlings, on the other hand, seemed to be thoroughly engaged in the process.

As always, it’s relatively easy to observe behavior, but much more challenging to determine why such action occurs.  The best guess is that they do so as a means of self-medication.  Ants secrete liquids that contain formic acid which can act as an insecticide, possibly discouraging feather mites or even harmful bacteria or fungi.  In support of this theory, birds have also been known to use millipedes in the same way.  Millipedes also release defensive chemicals. Another suggestion is that this action forces the ants to release their distasteful fluids onto the feathers, which in turn makes them edible.

The term anting-anting is also used in the Philippines to refer to a charm or amulet which is believed to keep away sickness, harm, or even death through its supernatural powers.  While usage of the two terms is totally unrelated, I find it interesting that my Western mind is willing to accept the possibility of one belief while totally rejecting the other.  Perhaps it would be wise to keep 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 in mind: “On the other hand, don’t be gullible.  Check out everything, and keep only what’s good.  Throw out anything tainted with evil.” (MSG)  That may take some time since I’ve only seen birds so engaged once.

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