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

Daily Photo Parable

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-- someone from the 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.

Finally Friends
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, April 30, 2015

This is my pet pygmy goat, Elephant, soaking up the sun with our golden retriever, Taffy. When we got Taffy as a puppy, we were worried that they wouldn't get along. The biggest problem was that Elephant would get scared and charge and head butt Taffy whenever she got too close or too excited. Taffy really wanted to play with him, but he has had bad experiences with dogs in the past. Elephant and Taffy eventually learned to not bother each other, and now they like to hang out together. Along with our chicken, they are now good friends. In this picture, Elephant's ears are back because he is relaxed and hears me, not because he is upset.

King Solomon knew the value of friendship.

Proverbs 17:17 (NIV): "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity."

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up."

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Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
You do not need to adjust the setting on your screen, or fumble around for the button that allows you to rotate the picture.  No, this is the correct way to view the image.  Here you will see our new dog (Taima), "attempting" to wake-up, from a night in his crate.  You see, he LOVES to lay on his back, stretch as much as he can, and if you let him, go back to sleep. We have a morning ritual and it’s usually me in a hurry to get moving and him on the other end of the spectrum, stretching and wanting to relax a bit more.
I thought of Taima (and this particular image of him) when I was talking to a friend and we were praying with each other.  Every time I pray for him and his family, he always says I pray really well.  I take the compliment and quickly remind him, when we pray we are praying to a friend.  Our God is our friend.  We can relax.  
Of course I recognize there are different ways to pray and different ways people are raised to pray.  I am a strong believer, when it’s personal prayer, you are talking to your best friend.  We are discussing the day – good or bad.  We are asking for assistance.  We are bouncing ideas off of.  Asking for advice. God wants to hear from us – not as if we are reading a menu but genuine conversation.  How would you talk to a good friend? You’d be relaxed.
The next time you have a conversation with God, be relaxed and converse with Him – that means talking as well as listening.  Of course, laying upside down stretched out, is optional.

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Red-tailed Hawk II
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 28, 2015

You’ve heard the expression, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”.  If you don’t believe it’s true, try moving your elderly parents into a retirement center.  You’ll undoubtedly see the light.  But apparently we humans aren’t the only hoarders.  Consider the pack rat that loves collecting bright, shiny objects with which they decorate their nests.  Or the bowerbirds which are found in the Austro-Papuan region.  As part of their courtship ritual they may build two walls around which they place objects they have collected.  Each species has its favorite items, but they may include hundreds of stones, berries, plastic items, coins, nails, shells, and pieces of glass.  And here you thought your uncle Willard was addicted.

But those examples may seem as far away as they are bizarre.  Or, we may just need to look more closely. Consider this immature Red-tailed Hawk, a species not uncommon across most of North America.  I watched it land in a large deciduous tree, bare of any leaves, before taking off again and circling overhead. What amazed me was what it was carrying in its talons.  This keen-eyed raptor had captured, undoubtedly after a long struggle,  a pine cone, more specifically a Douglas Fir cone.  And this Audubonesque picture caught it looking overhead for an imagined Bald Eagle that seemingly might want to steal its prize!  

We may wonder about why such treasures are held on to, but we know all too well how inclined we are to gather goods around us.  Familiar words they are, but the words of Jesus still ring true:  “Don’t pile uptreasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep yourtreasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!”  (Matthew 6:19-21 J.B. Phillips New Testament)  I still don’t know why the hawk prized this particular cone, but for that matter I don’t understand why Uncle Willard has so many Superman comics.

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Where is Your Treasure?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 27, 2015

This beautiful moth may not be the best illustration for this verse because it doesn't eat cloth (in fact it doesn't eat anything at all in the moth stage)but I thought it was a very cool moth so I'm going to use it anyway.  My sister found it on a building on Orcas Island recently.  I had never seen one before, probably because they are mostly nocturnal and only live 3-4 days (per  This particular moth is a Ceoanthus Silkmoth (Hyalophora euryalus).  It's quite big with a wingspan of three and a half to five inches.  They are found from British Columbia, in Canada, down to Mexico.  

Althought this is not the moth that will damage your treasures, there are clothes moths which lay eggs on textiles and it is actually their larvae which do the damage.  Clothes moths are the type of moths that the following Bible verse is referring to:

Some people store up treasures in their homes here on earth. This is a shortsighted practice—don’t undertake it. Moths and rust will eat up any treasure you may store here. Thieves may break into your homes and steal your precious trinkets. Instead, put up your treasures in heaven where moths do not attack, where rust does not corrode, and where thieves are barred at the door. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthey 6:19-21 (The Voice)

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Mission to Panama – Sharing His Word
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 26, 2015

During our 2 ½ week Mission to Panama in January, some of our Seniors in Action for God with Excellence (SAGE) team members conducted evangelistic meetings at two locations in the town of David. The above photo shows attendees interested in taking photos at one of the meetings!  

At one of the locations, a daily health feature was held at the beginning of each session. As you can see in the photo immediately above, the presenter and an interpreter are talking about the importance of brushing teeth.

The last words of Jesus as recorded in the book of Mathew are, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” v. 28:19-20 Our mission to Panama was an example of sharing the love of God and His Word with them as He commanded.

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In This World of Darkness
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 25, 2015

Not long ago I noticed this circular stained-glass “rose window” on the east side of an old brick church. As you can see, someone has mounted a floodlamp in front of it. During the day, people inside can enjoy the design (which seems to feature the cross), but at night the window looks black unless a light-source is shining from the outside.

I think this is a perfect parable about what Jesus wants the Christian’s role to be until He lightens the earth with His personal return. “You are the light of the world,” He told His disciples in Matthew 5:14, and insisted that this light shouldn’t be covered.

Ever feel like a floodlamp bulb? That’s what you are, if you believe in Jesus. How do you illuminate His cross-centered life in a darkened world? You stay connected to the Power Source, and stay pointed in His direction. You may never know until eternity how many have seen the view of Christian truth you illuminate, but that’s not the point. Your job is to shine.

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Jesus bids us shine, first of all for Him;
Well He sees and knows it if our light is dim;
He looks down from heaven, sees us shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around,
Many kinds of darkness in this world abound:
Sin, and want, and sorrow—we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.
                --Susan B. Warner

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Secret Rapture?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 24, 2015

This past Sunday while turning east onto Maple Valley Highway south of Renton, I was startled to see several items of what look like kids’ clothing scattered across this busy intersection. (In fact, a zoom-up on the pink-and-white item, second from left, seems to indicate that it’s hanging from a black plastic clothes-rack, as though these had recently been purchased somewhere—or stolen from a store???)

I’m not sure how these items could have landed there. Were they on the box of a pickup, and had someone left the tailgate down? They landed close enough together to make me think they fell or were tossed all in a bunch.

Upon seeing clothing on the ground, Christians who are familiar with various ideas about the Second Coming of Jesus might grin, and murmur, “Aha! The secret rapture has happened!” And indeed, the idea that when Jesus returns, the faithful will vanish to heaven, leaving the not-ready-to-go staring around them in bewilderment, is so popular that it’s easy to conclude that all Christians believe this.

However, the secret rapture idea isn’t the only interpretation about what it will be like when Jesus comes back. In fact, when you fix both eyeballs on actual Bible verses which describe the Second Coming, you discover that a lot of writing between the lines has happened in order to come up with the rapture idea.

Want the bare facts about the Lord’s return? (Hint: Say “Yes,” because Jesus warned that there would be many false ideas spreading around before He appears.) Click the link immediately below:

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Oh Yeah?

Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 23, 2015

Forgive my sarcasm in the title, but I couldn’t resist it. I noticed the above quotation on the page of an open book I saw last month in the window of a business. I won’t mention the name of the particular religion which teaches this idea, but it’s exactly the kind of concept which is generated by very well-meaning people who decide not to take the clear statements of the Bible as their guide.

No, dear window-book author, the way to “extract error from mortal mind” is not to “pour in truth through flood-tides of Love.” (And what on earth does that mean, anyway?) First of all, error in the mortal mind isn’t the problem. Sin is. Sin is not bad thinking—it’s spiritual cancer, and has its roots in selfishness. And error is banished by reading about God’s truth in the Bible.

And “Christian perfection” is not won by firehose-spraying the mind with truth and flood-tides of love. It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit, who is the only one capable of giving us “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)

For a few Bible verses which give us God’s perspective on perfection, click the link immediately below:

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Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
If you recognize this view, I can almost guarantee you have been to Germany.  In fact, this image is of the ceiling inside the Frankfurt airport.  As you can see, as you stare up, you can make out the reflections of the items below, but in a distorted sort of way.
It made me think of how we can view our lives and the plans God has for us.  We can see ourselves, but not with exact clarity.  When making big decisions – work, school, health, etc., do we see the full picture God wants us to see? When we take on those big decisions ourselves and attempt to work things out without involving God – we’re going to see lots of distortion. On the other side of that scenario, when we involve God in our daily lives, including the big decisions, He will show us the right way and it will be very clear.
In Matthew 7:7 & 8, we can see what we should be doing, without any distortion: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
When things aren’t as clear as they should be – seek Him, He’ll be there for you.

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Say’s Phoebe
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Perhaps you’ve run into one of them.  Or even worse, maybe you’re one of them.  Those individuals who select a portion of Scripture they think contains the entire truth about God in a single verse and then feel called upon to convince the world their view is the only correct one.  First of all, let’s give them credit for caring enough to say something, but having said that, let’s make sure we consider all the Word of God has to say about the topic before we draw our conclusions.

We can use the issue of dress for an example.  A Scripture that is often quoted which deals with the subject is Luke 12:23.  “He continued this subject with his disciples.  ‘Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion.  There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body.”  (The Message)  Christ then continues to use the Raven as an example of one which appears to enjoy roughing it. If we took just this text we might conclude that our appearance is of no importance at all.

Nature seems to indicate that perhaps this is an overstatement, a simplification, a conclusion too rapidly drawn.  Certainly the Say’s Phoebe appears to act otherwise.  This bird of the West is found in farmlands, plains, and other dry areas.  It may be that its appearance is simply the byproduct of feather maintenance, but having finished its grooming, from human eyes he does appear to be proud of the way he looks.  We could also find Scriptural backing for giving attention to our clothes.  “Happy are those who wash their robes, for they have the right to the tree of life and the freedom of the gates of the city.”  (Revelation 22:14 J.B. Phillips New Testament)  Of course we understand the clean robes referred to are simply signs of Christ’s righteousness, but the analogy puts the symbol in a positive light.  Having made us and then redeemed us, it would make sense that He wants only what is best for us.  It would also make sense to make sure we listen carefully to all He has to say.

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Beautiful Fragrance
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 20, 2015

This picture was taken at the Bellevue Botanical Garden in late March of this year.  Spring flowers like daffodils, camellias, peonies, trilliums, magnolias and skunk cabbage were in bloom and this lilac bush was just starting to flower.  If you’ve ever smelled a lilac flower, you can probably remember the fragrance just by looking at the photo.

Lilacs only bloom for a short period but I’ve seen gardens with whole sections devoted to different varieties of lilac bushes.  The most common colors I have seen are dark purple, light purple, pink and white. While the colors are beautiful, the biggest impression is left by the fragrance.

Not too long ago, I had a co-worker who used to bring to work bouquets of lilacs from her garden.  She would share these out with us and we would be able to smell that wonderful perfume for the whole day.

Paul talks about the “beautiful fragrance” of God’s knowledge in The Voice version of 2 Corinthians 2:14 and how we can help share it:  

Yet I am so thankful to God, who always marches us to victory under the banner of the Anointed One; and through us He spreads the beautiful fragrance of His knowledge to every corner of the earth.

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Mission to Panama – Vacation Bible School
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 19, 2015

The above photo shows children holding up the paper baskets they had just made during one of the Vacation Bible School sessions in the town of David, Panama.  During our 2 ½ week Seniors in Action for God with Excellence (SAGE) mission trip to build and paint churches, Vacation Bible School for local children was held in two locations each day.  

The children eagerly participated in singing and playing Bible characters, as shown in this next photo. They enjoyed crafts which were related to a story from the Bible, different each day.  Some parents stayed to listen to the Bible stories.

Just as Jesus used everyday objects to teach the people during His time on earth, activities in Vacation Bible School taught children of God’s love and care for them.  “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world!”

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Let Them Go?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 18, 2015

Yesterday I noticed this poster on the bulletin board of a grocery store. Its headline, “Stop Thinking!”, got my attention right away, since last camp meeting I taught a class called “The Christian Thinker,” during which I had given no such advice.

The next line puzzled me as well, because as former English teachers like me are trained to say, “It has no antecedent.” “Learn to Let Them Go with Subtraction Method” tells me nothing until I know what “them” represents. (The white boxes--which contain local seminar information which I blanked out because my quarrel isn’t with the seminar presenters or its location but the concept behind it—say nothing about what “them” could be.)

Below the headline we see a hand holding a blue blob with an alarmed expression on its face, and in the tiny white print on the base of the hand’s thumb we finally discover what we’re supposed to let go. Here’s a closeup:

At this point I was satisfied for a moment. Whatever these “thinking bugs” are, they can’t be good, and maybe they should be eliminated. But then I read something which was in the little white box before I blanked it out. It was the word “meditation,” and formed part of a web address. And then I understood.

I can’t claim to be an expert in transcendental or other kinds of non-Christian meditation, but from what I understand, one of the goals is to empty the mind, let it go blank. This frankly sends shivers up and down the spine of someone who has taught a class in Christian thinking, mainly because the Bible’s approach (inspired by the Intelligent Designer who created our minds) is very different.

Want to learn a bit about what the Bible says about “mind care”? Click the link immediately below:

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Concealed Weapon
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 17, 2015

I’m a master at the five-minute thrift-store visit: hurry through the door, head to religious used books, then head to office supplies, where if you’re patient you can find just about every kind of notebook you will ever need.

Two or three months back I discovered the perfect half-size notebook cover—genuine leather, exactly the size I wanted. It probably cost its original owner something like fifty bucks—I got it for $2. I put a small spiral-bound notebook in it, and started using it right away for sermon planning. (You can see it at the top of the photo above.)

I had felt through its pockets to make sure they were empty, and found nothing. But in late March, I happened to turn the notebook upside down, and lo and behold, a knife-blade fell out!

This handle-less dagger made a shiver go down my back. What kind of person was this notebook’s previous owner, anyway? True, there’s not much you could actually do with this blade, since it has no handle. Any attempt to grip it would get you a neat slice in your palm; the blade’s very sharp. But whoever owned this notebook evidently owned a knife too, and when the blade separated from the handle, he (or she?) chose the notebook to store it in. Fortunately, I can’t detect any bloodstains!

Tomorrow (Sabbath) I’m preaching on the book of First John. 1 John 4:1 warns, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Jesus and Paul and Peter and James also warned of seemingly Christian teachers whose deceptive heresies were like concealed weapons whose real dangers might not be apparent at first. In Acts 20:30 – 31, Paul met for one last time with the church leaders at Ephesus, and told them, “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch . . . .”

How can we spot and avoid such false ideas? Another Christian congregation shows us how: “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:10 – 11)

An excellent reason—among many others—to read widely in your Bible!

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Looking Forward
Image ©2015 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2015 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, April 16, 2015

The old, and the new, and the glorious.  That's what I think of with this picture.   Here we see some very old, very dead, remnants of trees.  Yet somehow they retain beauty.   Barren rocks, rugged hillside, small trees eeking out a living.   But it is a lovely scene!   Refreshing lake in the valley floor.   
If there is such beauty in the limited resources here, what is heaven going to be like?   Incredible, beyond comprehension.
1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him..."

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Tough To Say No
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Look at that face.  Could you say, “No” to that face?  It’s tough.  In fact,  I try to correct behavior without saying the word.  This is our newest addition to our family – Taima, our 6 month old Chocolate Labrador.  We have only had him for a little over a week now, and I can say I’m officially attached.
I think of all the things he wants to get into, that I know he shouldn’t, but he doesn’t understand.  When he’s getting corrected, he knows it and you can see it on his face.  It reminds me of how God feels.  We want to do this or that. We want to take control of a situation, do it ourselves, but He knows better.  We pray for something and we see the answer is a, No, and we don’t understand why. He does.  God always has our best interest in mind.  We may not understand it now, but in the long run, it will be clear to us.
Taima may not know why he gets corrected, or steered in another direction (out of harm’s way) but he’ll someday thank me….maybe. I would hope we can be a bit quicker than Taima – instead of asking God for the Yes or No responses, ask God to steer us in the correct direction.  I know we’ll be able to thank Him.

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Pileated Woodpecker  
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It’s a familiar image; Christ standing at a door with His hand poised to knock on the wooden surface in hopes those inside will welcome Him in.  Such a personable picture seems it could have come from the Gospels, but in reality it’s found in Revelation 3:20:  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (New American Standard)
Long before this passage was penned, knocking was used to gain the attention of others.  While woodpeckers certainly do their share of knocking in their pursuit of food, they also do this to attract mates and establish territories.  Both sexes of Pileated Woodpeckers practice this, although the female shown here does so less than the male.  This large woodpecker’s calls and drumming can be heard a half mile away or more.  Perhaps that isn’t surprising since they can chisel out chips of wood up to six inches across.
While Christ’s calls may not always be that loud, fortunately for us, He is even more persistent than they are.  He doesn’t give up easily.  For comparison, the Pileated can strike a trunk 20 times a second with a force equal to you hitting your face against a wall at 16 miles per hour.  This can be done 12,000 times a day!  But can we even give an estimate of how many times God calls us to respond?  Fortunately for us, He’s not counting, only counting on us to respond.

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The Dangerous Road
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 13, 2015

This photo is of tractor tracks in the mud.  It was taken during the tulip festival in the Skagit Valley and, as you can see, getting off the sawdust covered path was not a good idea.  

This is the kind of mud that could suck your shoes off and could even make walking in rubber boots difficult.

Proverbs gives us a warning about getting off the road on which we know we should be traveling:

The perverse travel a dangerous road, potholed and mud-slick;
    if you know what’s good for you, stay clear of it.  Proverbs 22:5 (The Message)

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Mission to Panama--Building Churches
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 12, 2015

In January of this year, I was one of 24 active seniors from Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Canada who traveled to Panama to build and paint churches, hold Vacation Bible Schools, conduct evangelistic meetings and hold medical clinics for the community.  Also, cooks purchased and cooked food for the workers.  The group, Seniors in Action for God with Excellence (SAGE) worked through Maranatha Volunteers International out of the town of David, in the western part of Panama.  

The above photo shows workers adding the final touches to their painting.  First, the steel framing was constructed, then cement blocks added and finally, stucco was applied to the blocks.  This needed to dry for several months before painting.  Therefore, our team painted churches that others had previously constructed.  Our team also constructed the framing of church buildings that other groups would complete. 

This second photo shows the inside framing with cement blocks being placed to form the wall.  Actually, one of our Vacation Bible Schools was held in this outdoor section.  

This last photo shows the inside of a completed church.
The people in Panama are eager to hear the message of God’s love and many are accepting Him into their lives.  At this time, there is a ratio of 1 Seventh-day Adventist to 53 people in the general population of Panama.  Help support missions!

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Handle With Care
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 11, 2015

A little over a week ago in our neighborhood I spotted this box next to a recycle container. The printing on the side signals that something breakable had once been in the box, and presumably the arrows indicate the “up” or top of the object.

But it suddenly struck me that this could also serve as a signboard for the great controversy between God and Satan—with the arrows pointing toward heaven.

Have you ever thought of God as being fragile? Have you considered that if “God is love,” and if His love exceeds even that of our parents, this puts Him in a very vulnerable position? Human children can dagger the hearts of their parents by their choices, so how much more genuine pain must God feel when we make decisions that harm ourselves or others!

So let’s stop thinking of God as a jut-jawed drill sergeant, or a petulant landlord. Instead, let’s remember that heart of the One Above is fragile, and needs handling with care.

For Bible facts about God’s vulnerable love—and how He should be our example in the love we show—click the link immediately below:

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Hide It Under a Signboard?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 10, 2015

Earlier this week I hugely enjoyed the scene in the above photo.  The management of “The Carriages,” an apartment complex, desires that passersby take note that apartments are available. Someone therefore unfolded and placed this informative signboard, and then—to catch the passing motorist’s eye—he or she attached several helium-filled balloons so they could wave back and forth in the breeze.

However, the helium eventually lost its lift, and rather than droop despondently on the sidewalk, these balloons have decided to cower under the sandwichboard frame!

You know where I’m going with this, right? The heavenly Landlord is trying to fill a set of mansions He has constructed. For many years He’s been publicizing His contact information, and He has recruited those who’ve already signed up to catch the fence-straddlers’ attention and let them know how desirable these residences are.

But every once in awhile those human balloons take cover and therefore aren’t very effective. And to push this metaphor even further, it’s often because the helium of the Holy Spirit has been allowed to fade.

Jesus used a couple of other metaphors to get across the personal-witness idea:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13 – 16 NKJV

Same difference, right? To be effective, salt needs saltiness, lamps need lampstands, and balloons need helium to get them out from under that signboard.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

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Friendly Stump
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, April 9, 2015

This old growth stump has been greeting hikers that pass by for years. Its eyes are notches made by loggers around the 1920s for holding boards to stand on while they hand-sawed the tree. Its mouth was probably chopped in at a later date, and it grew "hair" on its own. Recently someone added golf balls for eyes.

We were worried about the clouds and fog on the way up to the stump, but the weather radar had seemed to say that we had enough time. Unfortunately, it started to rain extremely hard right after I took this picture. I've never been hiking in rain that hard before, and the trail that had been completely dry on the way up, turned into a stream flowing down the entire trail. I had a effective coat, but my pants and shoes got soaked.

This reminds me of the story of king Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel chapter 4 verses 10-17:

"I saw a very tall tree out in a field, growing higher and higher into the sky until it could be seen by everyone in all the world. Its leaves were fresh and green, and its branches were weighted down with fruit, enough for everyone to eat. Wild animals rested beneath its shade and birds sheltered in its branches, and all the world was fed from it. Then as I lay there dreaming, I saw one of God’s angels coming down from heaven.

“He shouted, ‘Cut down the tree; lop off its branches; shake off its leaves, and scatter its fruit. Get the animals out from under it and the birds from its branches, but leave its stump and roots in the ground, banded with a chain of iron and brass, surrounded by the tender grass. Let the dew of heaven drench him and let him eat grass with the wild animals! 16 For seven years let him have the mind of an animal instead of a man. For this has been decreed by the Watchers, demanded by the Holy Ones. The purpose of this decree is that all the world may understand that the Most High dominates the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he wants to, even the lowliest of men!’"

In this dream, Nebuchadnezzar is warned that because he isn't giving the glory to God, he will be cut down like the huge tree and eat grass like an animal for seven years. After seven years, his sanity will be restored. This warning subdues the king for a while, but a year later he boastfully talks about his kingdom, and immediately the dream goes into effect. Read the rest of this fascinating story here in Daniel chapter four:

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Guts and Grit
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A week ago Thursday I spotted the above inspiring scene. An elderly gentleman is toiling along pushing a wheeled walker. It’s not level ground – it’s an upward slope. I know, because I was on the opposite side of the street walking the same direction.

Here’s a close-up of this valiant man:

This really warmed my heart. I don’t know what destination this guy is heading toward – maybe it’s just a walk up the sidewalk and then back again – but here’s someone who said to himself, “I’m going to get out and walk, because walking is good for me. Even though my legs aren’t steady and I have to shove this contraption ahead of me, I’m going to do it. Even though it’s uphill, I’m going to do it. Even though teenagers might giggle condescendingly when they see me, I don’t care. I’m doing this because it’s good for me.”

One of the things Christians learn early on is that following Jesus also takes guts and grit. When you work using heaven’s agenda, you’re swimming against the tide, swimming upstream. You are often doing things which everybody else thinks are silly – but they are tasks which focus on long-term rather than short-term goals, and reflect your belief that there is a God and that He must be taken into account, because He has your eternal happiness as His own most important goal.

In this famous passage, Jesus clearly tells us that in a wicked world, the path to God’s kingdom isn’t an easy route:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13 – 14)

In other words, fortitude and persistence—guts and grit.

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Hutton’s Vireo and Ruby-crowned Kinglet    
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Matthew 13 contains Christ’s familiar story where an enemy sows weeds in the field in which the farmer had already planted wheat.  In response to the servants’ inquiry as to whether they should seek to endeavor to remove the weeds, the master instructed them to let the two grow together until the harvest, at which time his reapers would separate the good from the bad and deal with each appropriately.  Christ’s reason given for waiting to separate the groups was that the good plants might be harmed while trying to remove the weeds. To this, others have added the reason that we might not be able to distinguish between the two kinds of plants early in their development.

Most of us tend to think this second kind of logic seems reasonable since we’ve faced the challenge of correctly identifying kinds and behaviors where the distinctions are not all that clear to us.  A good example of this might be found in the same park or even the same tree for that matter.  

For Hutton’s Vireos and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, frequent similar habitat and can be challenging to tell apart.  Both are small, greenish-gray birds which flit around in branches while searching for insects and other food.  There are clear differences, for instance, the color of their legs and feet and the size of their bills.  This sounds fine while looking at the printed page but viewing a bird high up in a tree that won’t sit still can make that distinction considerably more difficult.  Fortunately, there are other clues.  The vireo’s movements are slower and more methodical while the kinglet’s appear more high-strung.  Probably the most reliable field mark is that the darkest part of the wing on the vireo is between the two wing bars while on the kinglet, that is behind the second bar.  Their songs differ considerably so that could be a clincher.

All too often we are in a rush to judgment, thinking immediate assessment somehow elevates our status or position.  We would do well to wait until ample evidence is in, whether looking up into a tree or at our neighbor’s house.

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Of Miracle-Wonders and Falling-Down Barns
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 6, 2015

The Tulip Festival started early this year in the Skagit Valley because the daffodils and tulips started blooming much earlier than usual.  This picture is from a couple of weeks ago.

I love driving by the fields full of blooming flowers; they make a great contrast to some of the old picturesque barns in the area.  

This photo kind of illustrates The Message version of Psalm 119:25-32:

I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
    Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
    train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
    so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
    build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
    grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
    I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
    GOD, don’t let me down!
I’ll run the course you lay out for me
    if you’ll just show me how.

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He Rose
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 5, 2015

Early Sunday morning Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Mary the mother of James went to the tomb where the body of Jesus had been placed.  Bewildered, they didn’t know why the stone had been rolled away and Jesus’ body was no longer inside.  Suddenly, two men in dazzling garments appeared.  One of the men asked why they were looking for the living among the dead and said that He had risen.  Now they were really confused.  After thinking, they remembered that Jesus, while in Galilee, spoke about being crucified and would rise on the third day.  Wow!  He wasn’t dead after all, but alive!  They must tell the others.  And so they did.

The others would not believe the women!  While two of the followers of Jesus walked toward the village of Emmaus and talked between themselves, another man joined them on their journey.  Not looking at the man, they talked about their friend, Jesus who had been crucified. They didn’t realize this man was Jesus!  When they sat down to eat, their eyes were opened.  Finally, they recognized this was Jesus!  He had risen as the women had said.  Then He disappeared.

Astonished, the men quickly returned to Jerusalem to tell the others that Jesus was alive.  They had seen Him!  As they were talking, Jesus suddenly appeared among them.  And the others saw Him, too!  (Luke 24)

The above photo shows a man praying at the empty tomb of Jesus.  Today, we celebrate Easter Sunday, thinking of the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us.

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What You Buy Is Who You Are
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 3, 2015

Like millions of other American kids of my generation, I was a Sherlock Holmes fanatic. This meant that whenever I found a scrap of paper with handwriting on it, I would use it to do my best to deduce as much as I could about what that person might be like.

This past Sunday in a Safeway parking lot, I had another opportunity to employ my “skills.” I could hear the voice of Sherlock Holmes saying, “You know my methods, Maylan. Apply them.” Lying on the concrete was the above piece of paper, a short grocery list. (Want to play amateur detective yourself? Stop reading this blog and study the list for a bit. You understand, of course, that I can’t give you the facts about this person, because--like you--the list is all I have.)

Okay. What did you find out? I see that the handwriting is hand-printing rather than cursive, which suggests young adulthood rather than age. The script is firm and confident.   

I also have a feeling the writer is single rather than married, maybe because of the non-plural form of the words “banana” and “chocolate bar,” unless he or she is in the habit of writing items in the singular form to mean more than one. Certainly there are no children the writer’s responsible for. Otherwise we’d see a whole lot more food listed, including breakfast cereal and treats.

Can we also infer that this person is health-conscious? Even though “chocolate bar” is on the list, it seems to be made of virtuous “breakfast fiber.” “Yogurt” also might be an attempt at more wholesome living. And for some reason, this shopper wants regular toothpaste, with no whitening ingredient added.

I’m thinking this person is a young adult, maybe in the 30s, old enough – or sensible enough – to understand the value of shopping with a list rather than on impulse. And notice the neat, methodical separation between edibles and non-edibles?

Now, whether I am on track or totally off base, we can at least understand more about this person by the actual items he or she has purchased. Because – and this is certainly not original with me – we are what we buy. As I’m writing this, I can look around my home office and see books on three walls. I like books. And if you looked at Shelley’s and my checkbook, and if we could look at yours, we would find that we would know each other extremely well.

Even though God is staggeringly wealthy in materials we consider valuable – gold, for instance, or the cattle on 1000 hills – He has a lot of Bible advice for us on the subject of our purchases and our possessions. For a brief but priority-aligning set of Bible text on the topic of money, click the link immediately below.

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Humble Snail
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, April 2, 2015

I think snails have a certain elegance that may not be obvious at first glance.  If you look at this little guy, it has dirt, imperfections, and a little black dent.  I'm not sure of the scientific name, so I'll call it a common yard snail of Western Washington.  

It is a humble snail.  It did its best to hide while still clinging to the wall.  I think the spiral is elegant and even pretty.  I like that the shell covers its slug-like body.

It is interesting that God wants us to be humble.  2 Chronicles 7:14 says, " if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  David said, " He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way." Psalm 25.

Snails are like slugs with better clothes.  Perhaps the shell is like God's righteousness.  Let's strive to be humble and let God provide the beauty.

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Sitting On A Gold Mine
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recently, while on a very short/fast trip to Germany, I was able to visit a few different towns and sites.  One in particular was one of King Ludwig II’s palace - Linderhof Palace, which is located in southwest Bavaria. If you know much (or anything) about King Ludwig II, you most likely know he was obsessed with building palaces and castles for himself. He eventually started 5 different projects but only saw the completion of this particular palace.

As you can see from the images I was able to capture, when he decided to build and decorate a room, he spared no expense. In fact, the Linderhof Palace has 16 main rooms and 15 of these rooms were completely covered in gold.  The walls, the ceilings, the decorations – covered in gold.  When something wasn’t coated in gold, it was hand painted by an artist, or imported crystal for the chandelier.  Just so you know, the 16th room, was completed decorated in silver.

So much money was spent on each room, or the decorations in the role, and it was all just for show.  In fact, Ludwig II, didn’t like being around people or entertaining at all.  He even had a special eating table built, that lowered to the room below, so the servants put the food on it, raised it back up, so he didn’t have to interact with the servants when he wanted to eat.  He spent all this money, for himself, no other reason.

In Matthew 6:19-21, we can read the true advice of what we should do (or not do) while on earth, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

King Ludwig II’s, story is a tragic one, and all the money, palaces and castles couldn’t help him.

When we start worrying about what we have, or what we think we need on earth, remember to focus on the true treasures.

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