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.

Evangelism 101
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 30, 2016

A month and a half ago Shelley and I were working on a music-narration program where she would speak (and I would sing) about Jesus’ death and resurrection. I was looking online for song lyrics, and after I’d discovered those for a song called “Remember Me,” a little black box popped up.

I’m assuming the box has something to do with Facebook (which I’m not on), and that if you click “Post,” you can send the selected material to your Facebook account.

But I have no clue as to what the “Explain” button does. Does it open a little window where you can write an explanation about the material you just posted?

When you think of it, aren’t “Post” and “Explain” what we’re supposed to do with the gospel? Post it—get the message out—and then explain it (through your attitude, through your reality-based optimism, and if necessary with words).

Want a Bible-verse refresher course on the gospel? Click the link immediately below.

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Uplift for Everyone!
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 29, 2016

This past Tuesday, after a volunteering stint at our Adventist elementary school in Kirkland, I stopped off at a food store which makes a conscious effort to sell healthy items. Near the front door is this large rack of magazines. As I glanced at them, I thought, “Probably every one of these magazines is devoted to uplifting the health or the mind or the heart in some way.”

As I snapped the photo, I remember thinking that I probably wouldn’t agree with every single idea or philosophy presented in the above periodicals. But they’re all trying to help.

Isn’t that something like the 66 books of the Bible? (And by the way, I DO believe everything written there!) Each book has a purpose—history, poetry, prophecy, biography, exhortation—and each book has something uplifting to say.

Want to read some Bible verses telling what the Bible has to say about itself and its purpose? Click the link immediately below.

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The Future
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sometimes we wonder what the future holds.  We can see near term fairly well, and it become less clear down the road.  Sometimes it has bends in the path.

Paul has the following to say about the future in 1 Corinthians 13:9-13:  " For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

I like how this verse matches some elements of the picture.  We may not be able to see very far ahead.  But as we get there, things will become clearer and we will become more mature.  As long as we follow the law of love that God has written in our hearts, we are headed the right direction.

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Promises, Promises
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
We know the story of Noah – the world was so sinful, God needed to start over. He needed to cleanse the earth. He needed Noah to appeal to the wicked – in hopes there would be even a few that would be willing to change their evil ways.  While he did this appealing, God asked him to build a big boat for a lot of animals and his own family, so they could be saved while the rest of the world was destroyed. Noah did what God commanded.
Now, we can look at this story as an amazing act of faith and courage (and it was). We can also look at as, God saving Noah and his family (which it was as well).  Just think about that. The world was so evil, God is going to flood it – all of it. God gives Noah the heads-up and tells him to build a very large life raft. Noah, smartly, agrees.
After the Earth was engulfed in a flood – covering the entire planet, God allowed the waters to slowly subside. He had saved Noah’s family and a whole lot of animals. God wanted to ensure that Noah, his family, and his descendants in this “new” planet, would know that He wouldn’t do this again. God did this by way of a covenant – an agreement, a commitment, a promise. This covenant was a way God could bless Noah’s family, and in return they would obey and honor Him. Since God wanted to make sure that all living things knew of the covenant, He used a visible symbol – the rainbow.

Genesis 9:8-17, “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
The image above is a summer-time Snoqualmie Falls, accompanied by God’s promise.

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Standing For Something  - Western Bluebirds        
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What does it mean to you to take your stand for something?  Is it like the line that was drawn in the sand at the Alamo?  Or is it like the two Western Bluebirds, standing in line, one on top of the other to wait their chance to get a drink at the local watering hole?

If our position is more like the bluebirds, it would be easy to see why others could become frustrated with us.  It might seem like we are intruding on their rightful position, like someone else cutting in line after we had waited for hours to get the tickets.

Paul seems to be referring to the first meaning in two texts where he uses this expression.  The first is 2 Thessalonians 2:15 which says: “So then, brothers, standfirm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” (NIV)  The second is found in 1 Corinthians 15:58 where he repeats this same idea. “And so brothers of mine, stand firm! Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the Lord’s work. Be sure that nothing you do for him is ever lost or ever wasted.”  (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

It’s likely the two young birds were siblings, both from the same brood.  Our brothers and sisters that Paul refers to may not be of the same biological family but we are part of the family of God.  This might mean that there may be times when we feel like one of our “family” has cut in line, or has usurped our place.  It’s then we especially need to remember what we are standing for.  If we can do that, we might not even mind being stood upon.

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Creatures of the Sea
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 25, 2016

I was able to go on a whale watching trip last summer with a friend who was visiting from out of state and we saw orcas and humpback whales.  Everybody on board was pretty excited to be able to see these creatures.  Unless you happen to be on the shore at the right time and place, this is one of the few ways to be able to view them.

There were a couple of orcas (also called killer whales) and we had the privilege of observing them for some time.  Other whale watchers heard about the whale sighting and came over to have a look as well (photo).  (In order to avoid harassment, there are rules and regulations as to how close you can approach the whales and also rules that you can't intercept their travel path.)

There is such a huge variety of life in the waters just off our shores.  If you can, go on a whale watching trip or take a walk along a local beach at low tide and see how many different species you can find.

How many are your works, LORD!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number—
    living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
Psalm 104:24-26 (NIV)

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 24, 2016

While in the Caribbean during Christmas time, I photographed this lone sailboat in the distant horizon.  When reviewing my photos after I returned home, I thought this shot seemed almost like a painting.  Non-the-less, the boat is alone in a vast amount of water – no other boats were nearby.

Do you sometimes feel like you’re alone in this world – or workplace, community or even church?  Have you thought of reaching out to someone else?  On the other hand, sometimes people need to be alone - to think, plan, relax or heal.  Also, it’s important to spend time alone with God.  As with all relationships, it can only grow as we spend time with Him. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your hearts.”  (Jeremiah 29:13) We spend time with Him when we pray, read His Word and meditate on His message.  Seek God when you’re alone.  Then, you won’t be alone again!

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Human Blood! Rush!
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 23, 2016

Last Sabbath afternoon Shelley and I went to visit one of our church members who was in the hospital. Later, as I walked along a hallway leading to the parking garage to retrieve the car, I snapped the above photo of a box. In bold block letters it identifies the box’s contents, and insists that those contents be delivered without delay.

Isn’t that a powerful parable of what Jesus did for us? Read these two passages from Paul’s writings—and then thank the ultimate Blood Donor! Divinity had joined with humanity, so it was human blood which Jesus spilled!

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. (Ephesians 1:7 – 10 NKJV)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:8 – 11)

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 22, 2016

Somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. this past Monday I stopped by our church to pick up something. I parked on the south side, and happened to glance toward the twilit west.

And there, across the street, I saw something I had never seen before. I’ve been pastoring this very church for two and a half decades, and I had never noticed this absolutely symmetrical tree. I’m embarrassed to admit that my eyes are not normally drawn to the beauties of nature, so what happened Monday night that made me spot this tree?

I think it was the twilight. The sun had already set, and it was only when the tree was in silhouette that I could see its perfect shape.

Could it be that some of the Lord’s benefits can best be appreciated when distractions are removed? During the few times when my normal routines have been interrupted by hospital stays, I’ve found myself thanking the Lord for dedicated medical professionals and the marvelous machines they operate. Overall, the longer I live, the more able I am to see through the distractions to a God who has plans for me.

To read four Bible principles about gratitude, click the link immediately below.

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A Solid Anchor
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, April 21, 2016

The anchor pictured is maybe 4 meters tall and really gives the sense of an immovable object.  The chain is lying on the ground and is free to move, but no one really tries to move it.  Each link is about all that one person can lift, and since each link is connected to the next, it is nearly impossible to budge the chain.

In Hebrews 6:19, Paul says, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."   Paul's point is that God's promises are solid and sure.  Reading further in Hebrews Paul says that Jesus provides perfect forgiveness to set us free from our sins, and He will return to bring salvation and be with us eternally.

I think Paul would have liked this anchor.  It gives a nice grounded analogy for God's promises.

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Bouquet of Beauty
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
I would presume most, if not all, enjoy flowers. This time of year, you can see them growing in gardens, alongside the road as well as in every grocery store. People like the freshness they bring and all the amazing colors. We know they don’t last very long, but we still admire their beaut,y and in some cases their fragrance.
I had the chance to get up to Skagit Valley a couple weeks ago, and was not disappointed at the rows and rows of amazing tulips. As you can see in the first image, it felt like the rows went on for miles – each row bringing a different color, like a floral rainbow.  Then I got my knees dirty. I leaned down and got close to a single tulip.

While the beauty of the colorful tulips, hundreds deep, is amazing – the specific (and deliberate) detail in a single flower is even more astonishing.

When God created the earth, He knew it would be temporary. He knew it wouldn’t last. Did He throw it together on a whim? Or did He create incredible color, texture, fragrance, taste for us? I believe we can agree on the latter. We know that God doesn’t want us to get accustomed to, or complacent with, our living here, but He certainly wants it to be as enjoyable as it can be. As we see this beauty, let us not forget what awaits us at our Creator’s side.

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Rock Pigeon
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
While the terms pigeon and dove are virtually interchangeable, for some of us, the substitution is not an easy transition.  For instance, are you comfortable reading Matthew’s description of the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ following His baptismin the form of a pigeon?  It sounds almost irreverent doesn’t it?  In spite of that, the name Rock Dove has now officially been changed to Rock Pigeon by those in charge of such things.  Its common name is derived from its favored nesting sites in the wild, but it seems equally at home in the barnyard or nesting among towering skyscrapers mid-city.  This Eurasian native was apparently the first bird to be domesticated and was introduced to American as early as 1606 by the French in Nova Scotia, one year before Jamestown was settled.
They are among the swiftest birds in flight, and this, along with their strong homing instinct, has made them valued as message carriers.  The Romans apparently used them to bear the news of Caesar’s conquest of Gaul as did the British to convey Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.  As a result, some thirty-two pigeons have received medal citing them for “brave service”.
It would be beyond the realm of speculation to conjecture why God chose to use the dove as a physical representation of the Holy Spirit.  Many reasons could be offered as to why it seems inadequate.  But it does share one quality valued by the Psalmist, for Rock Pigeons can be found on every continent except Antarctica.  Listen to David’s words found in Psalm 139:  “Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence”   If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of thesea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”  (verses 7-10 NIV)

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Living Water
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 18, 2016

Water is one of the necessities of life and we cannot live long without it.   Most importantly, we need it to drink but we also use it for bathing, washing, cooking, agriculture and recreation.   I love the way it keeps everything looking green around here in Western Washington.  We sort of take it for granted as we live on or close to Puget Sound and there are fresh bodies of water everywhere: lakes, ponds, rivers and creeks.  

On the this side of the Cascades, there are huge watersheds and whole ecosystems depend on a steady supply of fresh water.  People start to panic if there is  a low snow pack like last year and the lack of water can lead to drought and horrible fires on the eastern side of the state.

Because we are close to the mountains here, there are a lot of waterfalls in this area.  Last weekend, I went to Twin Falls, which, judging by the number of people out and about, is one of the most popular waterfall hikes around.  It's a relatively short hike, it's close to Seattle and the parking lot at the eastern trail head was full and overflowing!  Wildflowers were blooming and the falls were beautiful.  The photos are of the upper and lower falls.

Jesus talks about water in the Bible.  There is a story about him approaching a Samaritan woman, who was drawing water from a local well, to ask for a drink of water.   

Jesus: You don’t know the gift of God or who is asking you for a drink of this water from Jacob’s well. Because if you did, you would have asked Him for something greater; and He would have given you the living water.

Woman:  Sir, You sit by this deep well a thirsty man without a bucket in sight. Where does this living water come from? Are You claiming superiority to our father Jacob who labored long and hard to dig and maintain this well so that he could share clean water with his sons, grandchildren, and cattle?

Jesus: Drink this water, and your thirst is quenched only for a moment. You must return to this well again and again. I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.  John 4: 10-14 (The Voice)

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Come and Rest
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 17, 2016

On a recent family vacation that included the island of Barbados, West Indies some of us hired a driver for the day.  The highlight for me was spending time in the beautiful and relaxing Hunte’s Garden.  Mr. Hunte, whom we met while there, created picturesque mini-gardens with walking paths in what was a sink-hole gully.  One small area is shown in the above photo. Our experience was highlighted by listening to classical music as we walked the paths, taking many photos of flowers and plants in this amazing garden.  The many benches and chairs throughout the garden invited visitors to come and rest.

As recorded in Mathew 11:28, Jesus said “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Have you felt weary, overwhelmed, disappointed or discouraged?  I think most of us have had these feelings.  Have you thought of taking your cares to Jesus?  He’s waiting to hear us.  The above verse is a promise to all of us.  That includes you and me!  Come and rest!

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 16, 2016

This past Sunday Shelley and I dropped in at a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Once inside, Shelley noticed this patient bulldog tied up just outside one of the store’s front windows.

I know next to nothing about bulldogs, so I don’t know if younger, trimmer bulldogs run around and bark a lot. But this one just sat there. It shifted its position once in awhile, and gazed thoughtfully in different directions. But even though it had been left alone, its keeper buried in the bowels of Barnes, it doesn’t seem to have worried. It had faith that, no matter how long the delay, the master would return.

To read five Bible passages about patience, click the link immediately below.

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God’s Jewel    
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 15, 2016

My little belt-camera isn’t a very professional one, especially when I want to focus on something specific. This might explain the fuzzy light-reflection on this tulip. But the shot was so dramatic—the twilight sun glinting off a lone flower, and glowing through its translucent petal.

To me, that flower shows a design that is not only intelligent but also filled with love. That stem need not have been green. That flower could have been a dull gray. But color surrounds us in nature.

Want to read four Bible verses which talk about God and nature? Click the link immediately below:

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A Celery
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, April 14, 2016

This is a piece of celery that my mom ordered from a store that offers grocery delivery. They usually sell celery by the bunch, and charge by the pound. My mom ordered "1." Whoever was in charge of collecting the produce must have been new because they picked only one "rib" of celery. Then they charged for an entire pound. Mom got a refund and we all got a laugh out of the situation.

Enjoy the humor in your everyday life wherever you can find it, even if it means no celery soup.

Proverbs 17:22: "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

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Hope For Tomorrow
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I know there are times when we come across someone in a situation and we want to share hope with them.  We want to tell them - it’s going to be OK and we have hope for tomorrow.  We want to help them get through the specific situation, but it’s not easy--not easy to tell them that, at the moment, and it’s not easy for them to hear it. In the end, we do want to have hope beyond what we are struggling with but it’s never easy to process that, when we are hurting that much.
A few weeks back, I attended a 'celebration of life," for a sweet little boy. Any service like that is tough, but when we are talking about a kindergartner, it hits you like a ton of bricks. We realize how precious life can be.  We also recognize how sinful this world is. We LONG for the "tomorrow" to come today.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reads, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
I love the ending of this – “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” It’s so true. Anything we have on this planet isn’t built to last but what we have hope IN, is eternal. I know Noah’s family is clinging to this and longing for the day. We should do the same.
Since Noah enjoyed animals (all kinds) - the above photos are for him.

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Parakeet Auklet
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

If you’ve ever watched a caricature artist at work, you know their modus operandi.  They select whatever aspect of the individual that seems most distinctive, which they then exaggerate to ridiculous proportions.  Jimmy Carter’s teeth and smile have beenimmortalized by more than one such artist.  We enjoy seeing how others are thusportrayed, but fear how we might fare at the artist’s hand.
But fairly or not, that’s the way many of us tend to remember those with whom we have come in contact.  Something stands out: a mannerism, a tone of voice, or perhaps a physical attribute cements itself in our mind.  The Parakeet Auklet is a victim of such thinking.  Living in the Arctic, usually out at sea, this largest of the true aukletshas absolutely no connection with tropical parrots or parakeets.  Yet it is so named because of the distinctiveness of its bill.  To add to this insult, imagination was used to inform the reader that this colorful beak was used to pry bivalves off rocks, something not substantiated with fact.
Wouldn’t it be nice, if when people met us, our lives would cause them to identify us with those Paul described as the saints of his day, those who were “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as light in the world… (Philippians 2:15 English Standard Version)  Wouldn’t it be nice if our character would produce a caricature of Christ.

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Don't Let Your Hearts Be Troubled
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 11, 2016

These beautiful flowers are called bleeding hearts and they really do have the conventional heart shape as you can see.  
Per my Pocket Oxford, one meaning of “heart” would be as the center of thought, feeling and emotion.  We use terms such as heartbroken, heartsick, heartless, heart-warming, heartache, heartfelt and heart-rending to describe emotional conditions.  

Per the Bible, Jesus can provide the cure for any heart condition - physical or emotional.  As long as we are living in this world of sin and until Jesus returns, there will be sorrow and death but there is also incredible news about Him conquering death and coming back to take us home to live with Him:

Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me.  There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you.   After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am.   You know the way to the place where I am going.”
John 14:1-4 (NCV)

We tell this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 (NLT)

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Don’t Touch
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Munchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella), leaves shown in the above photo, may be the most dangerous tree in the world.  Its small fruit is known as the “little apple of death”. While hiking in the mangroves of St Thomas, our guide pointed this tree out to us and told us not to touch it!  Every part of the manchineel is toxic and ingestion can be fatal – that includes the leaves, fruit, milky sap and leaves.  Even being close to the tree can cause severe burns.  Native Caribbean people used the manchineel sap to make poison arrows.  

This second photo shows the bark with pockets of the deadly dripping sap.  It was one of these poison arrows that struck Ponce de Leon during the 1521 battle, leading to his death.  

It’s not hard to think of a place in the Bible where people were warned to not touch or eat something.  Yes, at the very beginning – in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).  God had told Adam and Eve to not eat or even touch the one forbidden tree and its fruit, for it would lead to death.  We know they ate this fruit which led to their death and ours, as well as leading to a world filled with sin.  Have you thought what it might be like if they had not eaten that forbidden fruit? Might it be something like heaven?  There shouldn’t be any trees there with the warning, “Don’t touch”!

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The Car Solomon Drove
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 9, 2016

Earlier this week I pulled up behind the car above. Glancing at the license plate, I at first thought it was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the owner’s greed. But then I looked up at the barely-visible letters which spell out the name of the car, and I got it: get smart.

Which was exactly the priority of the Bible’s wisest king. Watch the stunningly sensible request he made of God.

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”

And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.
” (1 Kings 3:5 – 14 NKJV)

Solomon didn’t always drive a "smart car," sadly. But the Lord gives us the same basic challenge, mainly in the first few chapters of Proverbs: Choose to follow Me, and you’ll avoid a lot of heartache.

For more of what the Bible says about wisdom, click the link immediately below:

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Imaginary Animals
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 8, 2016

Actually, despite the title of this blog, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are real. Take a look from a lower angle . . . .

Can you see the crumbs on the bill of the duck on the right?

Earlier this week I had stopped in at Third Place Books in the Lake City area. As I approached the north doors I saw a mom and her little boy (out of range of the photo, to the right) watching these ducks. The birds were sitting absolutely still—and the little boy was sure they weren’t real until they got up and walked away!

What was so cute was that these ducks had decided to settle in below a poster advertising a book called Imaginary Animals.

(Glance back at the first photo, above, and you'll see this sign at the top.)

Obviously, this was a living, breathing and incredibly tame duck couple, several blocks away from water or meadow. Yet at one point they had been indeed imaginary—mere plans in the mind of a supremely creative Creator before He spoke their ancestors into existence.

Want to read some Bible verses about how wonderful God’s handiwork is? Click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, April 7, 2016

I love Astoria, Oregon because my dad grew up near here, and I regularly visited my grandparents here.  Astoria has an interesting history with pilings along the waterfront.  There are some buildings on pilings, but the waterfront is dominated by lots and lots of unused pilings.  Pilings are logs driven into the mud to provide a foundation for buildings or roads.  However, people are hesitant to build on pilings these days because of the history of fire fanned by wind off the Columbia river.

In 1883 almost all the Astoria waterfront businesses were destroyed by fire.  The town was rebuilt using the same kind of construction, but in 1922, the new buildings fell to another fire.  Now, the pilings remain for the owners to continue their claim to the land.  Otherwise, it will revert back to publicly owned land.

Foundations are important.  If we just do whatever the people around us do, it can lead to trouble.  Let's follow Jesus' advice in Matthew 7:24-27:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

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Photo and Commentary (c) 2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 6, 2016

It’s something we all need constantly, whether to get through our day or to fight a terrible disease.  Strength to care for a loved one, or strength to be a witness to others.  Whatever the need – we need that strength.
There are few things (that I have seen) that are stronger than this enormous glacier – Mendenhall Glacier, outside of Juneau Alaska.  The glacier, according to Wikipedia, is 13.6 miles long. When I shot this image, I zoomed in on the crevasses, so the size of the full glacier is lost – but trust me, it’s big.  Glaciers in general are big pieces of ice constantly moving under their own weight. Basically, it's an accumulation of snowfall (think of building the base of a snowman – rolling up all the snow on the ground), that hasn’t had a chance to melt. It moves it bit, gathering more and more snow, and the cycle continues over many years.  In the Mendelhall’s case, the glacier has a negative glacier mass balance and will continue to retreat (become a bit smaller) in the future – based on rising average temperatures.  That said, it doesn’t make the massive chunk of ice, any less powerful, as it can push things out of its way.
 Being close to this glacier, you feel very tiny. We witnessed big (small in comparison to the overall size) pieces fall into the bay, with enormous force splashing into the water. Just seeing/hearing that type of strength is mind-blowing. In Psalm 76, we read how God is good to Israel and how the wicked, and their views, are very different from believers.  In verse 26, it says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  I like this verse, as it show, we as humans can fail, but God is our strength.  No matter what the situation, God is there to provide the strength for us to push on through – like a big chunk of ice….moving along its path.

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Peregrine Falcon
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Its name means ”wanderer” or a pilgrim.  And that it does.  One Peregrine Falcon was known to have covered 1350 miles in twenty four hours.  On long, pointed wings it cuts through the air with almost effortless ease.  It is a favorite among falconers, because of the tremendous speeds it achieves when it goes into a stoop or dive.  Such speed and agility make it more successful than most raptors, managing a kill rate of one out of every three attempts.  While it has few natural enemies, dealing with man is a much different issue.  Their numbers dropped drastically due to the use of DDT and thePeregrine Falcon became the symbol of the struggle against such pollution.  Today, the Peregrine Falcon has returned.  Not only to the wilderness areas where it nested in cliffs but also to the cities where it nests on ledges created by skyscrapers and feeds on feral pigeons.

Peregrines aren’t the only wanderers.  Following the first murder, Cain had a curse placed upon him as a result of his sin.  “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:14 NIV)
But God is a God of forgiveness as well as justice.  When Solomon dedicated the temple to the Lord he included those who had previously been ostracized.  “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name …when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you…”  (1 Kings 8:41-43 NIV)  Just as man was instrumental in nearly wiping out a species of bird, and then equally involved in reestablishing it, so too we may include those we may have estranged in the past.  God likes success stories even more than we do.

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Everything Beautiful In Its Time
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 4, 2016

I was visiting VanDusen Botanical Gardens in Vancouver, British Columbia, recently.  Someone had put multiple hellebore blossoms into this water filled pot.  Hellebore plants are not that exciting except for the fact that they bloom early and add some color to your garden when not much else is blooming.  The blossoms are usually pointing down so that you generally just see a rather bland looking plant.

Seeing them this way gave me a totally different perspective as the blossoms floating in the bowl were all facing up and you could really see all of the color and variety in the individual flowers.  

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NKJV)

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Keeping Guard
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Castillo San Cristobal in San Juan, Puerto Rico has sentry boxes, shown in my photo along its fortified outer walls.  In years past, a person on guard duty stood in these small “boxes” to keep watch while protected from the weather and enemies.  After attacks in previous centuries, this fortification was built by the Spanish and wrapped around the city of San Juan.  Before fortification, the English attacked more than once, then the Dutch.  Next, there was the Spanish-American war, after which Puerto Rico became a US territory.  World War II was the last time this fort served as an active military base.  

This second photo is one of the views from a sentry box, looking toward the other fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro which guarded the San Juan Bay.  Keeping guard is important in protecting a city, a place or its people.  Today we have bank guards, parking lot guards, shopping mall guards and even guards at some schools.

In a spiritual sense, we need to keep guard to keep ourselves safe.  As recorded in Genesis 3, God told Adam and Eve that they could eat the fruit of the trees of the garden, but not from one particular tree.  They let their guard down and the serpent tempted them.  And they ate fruit from that forbidden tree.  The rest is history of which we are a part.  Let’s keep guard and make good choices in our lives!

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 2, 2016

A couple of nights ago Shelley and I were in a nearby Target store when I caught sight of the above canister. Reading from the top down, we first see an orange tag with a website on it: Below it, composed of reflective block-letters which are a bit hard to read, is the word “ESSENTIALS,” and below that is “Helping you prepare.”

And then comes the slab of chocolate cake, thickly frosted and containing what looks like several luscious layers.

Okay. What’s going on here? Are the “be prepared” and “essentials” messages tongue-in-cheek? “You’ve just GOTTA have a slice of this cake.”

Only one way to find out. I checked out the website, and it is an absolutely dead-serious survivalist site, offering emergency readiness kits and military food rations and so on. But whoever was responsible for putting together these food canisters must have thought, “Hey, we need to loosen up. Sure, crackers and hardtack and dried fruit will keep body and soul together after a disaster, but what’s going to warm the heart? Chocolate cake!”

Want to learn about an extremely sweet Bible essential? Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 when He said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”

But where’s the sweetness? Psalm 119:103, speaking of the Word of God, says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

For more about this crucial “essential,” click the link immediately below:  

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 1, 2016

Last week at a stoplight I found myself just behind a Volkwagen “Bug.” As a college student in the 1970s, I often saw—and envied—what I consider to be the real VW Bug, the classic, puttery little car whose style never changed from year to year.

The 70s was also the era of “muscle cars,” who could and often did blow by the Bugs with many a contemptuous muffler-snort. Those were the cars who proclaimed “Turbocharged” in chrome letters on their trunks. I don’t ever remember seeing a similar boast attached to the modest Bugs.

But lo and behold, nowadays we have Turbo Bugs! I am no auto expert, and am therefore abysmally unqualified to say what results you get when you turbocharge a Bug, but it gave me a chuckle to see that someone has tried.

These days Christians often feel powerless. So much bad is happening to so many powerless people. Maybe this is why action movies are so popular—we want the good side to win, and win decisively.

The smart Christian, of course, goes to the Bible and discovers a God who is powerful, but who dispenses and disperses it wisely. This is no April Fools joke--to read the documentation, click the link immediately below.

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