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.







Deep Water
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, December 31, 2015

This is the little creek that runs behind our house and into our neighbors' property. The perspective makes it hard to tell, but here the channel is about two and a half feet deep, and other places are deeper. In past years its shape has always been fairly consistent, but this year it has majorly started to cut a deeper channel. I know there is a layer of clay-type stuff under the top soil, so I wonder if the creek has finally worn through that and into some softer material, which would explain why it is eroding faster.

Proverbs 20:5 (NKJV): "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out."

I was looking for relevant Bible verses and this one caught my eye. It seems like every Bible version translates this verse slightly differently. Specifically, where the NKJV says "counsel," NASB says "a plan," NIV says "the purposes," and the NLT says "good advice."

The NKJV is saying that counsel or advice is often hard to get out of someone (maybe even they don't know they have it), but like deep water (which is presumably water in a deep well), it can be procured by a smart "man of understanding."

The people around us are like deep wells of knowledge, so let's be open to what they have to offer.

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Freedom
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
 
We recently discussed the fact of our freedom to attend church and worship, as we see fit.  There are plenty of countries where that is not the case.  Many people around the world do not have the same level of freedom that we do – and that we take for granted sometimes.
 
The image above is a bald eagle, in the Skagit Valley, north of the Seattle area. The bald eagle is one of the symbols for our great nation, signifying our freedom. Besides the size and the unique markings of this bird of prey, I love the fact it’s one of the only birds that will fly in the middle of a storm. It’s tough and majestic, yet it enjoys riding the air currents. This combination of strength and joy may have been one of the reasons our forefathers chose this large bird as a symbol of our nation.
 
In Psalm 146, David praises the lord and speaks about God’s ability to give each one of us, that freedom we long for.  146:6 & 7,
 
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.
 
Given the fact, we are all prisoners of this sinful world, I know we ALL can read these verses and cling to that hope. I know we all long for the day, when God’s second coming, will provide freedom for all of His children.

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White-headed Woodpecker
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Feast of First Fruits was celebrated during the Jewish ceremonial year in conjunction with Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  They were collectively thought of as one of the seven significant high days or sabbaths celebrated by a devout Jew.  While it was given during their forty years of wandering, it was not celebrated until they reached the Promised Land and established an agricultural economy.  The specific intent of the Feast of First Fruits was to remind the believer of God’s goodness in providing not only sustenance, but doing so with generosity.  By their returning to the Lord the first part of their barley harvest, they acknowledged their dependence upon Him.  For the earthly minded, it might have seemed wiser to give these offerings at the close of the harvest, after they were assured their needs were met for the coming year, but this wasn’t God’s plan.  It was a way to show their belief in the goodness of their God, a God who was capable of giving much more should they recognize His desire for their best good.  While many contemporary Christians have lost the significance of this high day, its meaning should not be forgotten.
 
Of all the woodpeckers of North American, the White-headed Woodpecker is perhaps the least studied. One of the reasons for this is its limited range in the montane coniferous forests of the West Coast with mature trees, an open canopy, and limited undergrowth.  Both living and dead trees are needed, the living to provide seeds for consumption and the snags for nesting.  It is one of the most tree-specific woodpeckers, with fully 50 percent of its diet consisting of ponderosa pine seeds, and the remaining half being made up of seeds from other evergreens, spiders, ants, beetles, and scale insects. These woodpeckers will probe needle clusters and loose bark for their food and seldom resort to drilling since their skull is less dense than other woodpeckers’.  The specific requirements of this species are probably the greatest factor limiting its range, even though they are the most abundant where more than one type of pine is dominant.
 
Which brings us back to the First Fruits. While the White-headed Woodpecker must have ponderosa pine in order to survive, its life is fuller and more productive when other pines are also present.  In the same way, believers don’t give their best back to the Lord in order to get a bountiful return on their investment; they do it because it’s a way of reminding themselves of how good the Lord has been to them already.

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Wait on the Lord
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 28, 2015

I don't know about you but waiting in line is not my favorite thing to do.  I don't like lines at the airport (see photo), the grocery store, the gas station, the bank or even Disneyland!  

This past summer, my folks and I were stuck in a long line to go up on a ski lift only to find out that we had to go to a different line to get our tickets before we could get in the line for the lifts to take us up to the top of Whistler Mountain.  We did eventually get to the lifts and had an amazing view on the way up and from the top of the mountain.

David, talks about a wait that is much more important and worthwhile:

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Psalm 27:14 (KJV)

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Come
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 27, 2015

“Come to the Manger” was part of a poster I saw in Bethlehem. It seemed to be very appropriate to be on a wall in this town where Jesus was born.  Also, at this time of year when we celebrate His birth, “Come to the Manger” could be an invitation for people to go to Him, worship Him and claim Him for their Savior.

When Jesus was born, many people were joyous.  Shepherds and wise men were excited and honored Him.  Likewise, Christmas season can be a time for joy and thankfulness, thanking God for His love for us.  

Why did God send His son to this world?  The Bible says (John 3:16) it was to give all of us salvation.  No matter what happens in the world, we are assured of God’s love and everlasting life in heaven.  Christmas is a celebration of His incredible act of love.  He says, “Come.”


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Explicit Language
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 26, 2015

Every year Shelley and I present a Christmas worship service in which she narrates and I sing. I was hunting online for the lyrics of “Christmas Hymn,” recorded some years back by Amy Grant, and I was startled to discover that those lyrics carried a warning label:

Advisory: The following lyrics contain explicit language.

I was mystified, and figured it was just another computer misunderstanding—the machines I’ve owned have been good at that!

But then I scrolled down through the lyrics and read this:

For by the sin of man, we fell
By the Son of God
He crushed the power of Hell
Death we fear no more

Evidently, “hell” must have been programmed into the explicit-language checker, prompting the warning.

“Explicit,” of course, has become a euphemism for obscenity, profanity or blasphemy, but my American Heritage Dictionary tells me that its primary meaning is this: “Fully and clearly expressed; leaving nothing implied.”

Which is exactly what “Christmas Hymn” does. I’ve seen few more explicit statements of the gospel, in music or otherwise. Here are the complete lyrics:

Praise to God whose love was shown
Who sent his Son to earth
Jesus left his rightful throne
Became a man by birth

The virgin's baby son
All creation praised Him
God incarnate come
Come to Bethlehem

Still a higher call had He
Deliverance from our sins
Come to set all people free
From Satan's hold within

For by the sin of man, we fell
By the Son of God
He crushed the power of Hell
Death we fear no more

Now we stand with strength, with power
The sons of God on earth
Faithful to the final hour
Christ's righteousness our worth

And now all praise is given
For the babe, the Son
The Savior King is risen
Christ is Lord indeed

For the babe, the Son
The Savior King is risen
Christ is Lord indeed
     --Gill, Amy Grant/Smith, Michael Whitaker

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History in Wood
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 25, 2015

Tuesday, after concluding a Bible study east of Woodinville, I drove over to pay a visit to a used book store in Duvall. Attached to the end of one of the bookcases was a wedge cut from a fir tree. At the top of the display it says, “Fir wedge from 5,000 foot elevation on Mt. Persis near the town of Index Wa.”  

As you can see, someone has used the tree’s rings to calculate its age, and has drawn pointers to indicate the tree’s size when various historical events took place. Here’s a closeup:



Looking at a timeline like this always chills me into near-immobility. To be able to stand and stare at an object which has witnessed the passing of the centuries fills me with wonder, and makes me regard the trees I walk among with a deeper respect, for each is a “history in wood.”


On this Christmas day, many are celebrating Jesus’ birth, and the knowledge that God became a human being can also fill us with wonder. But Jesus never suggested that we celebrate His birth—instead, He insisted that we celebrate His death. Listen as the apostle Paul quotes Jesus and adds some Spirit-guided commentary:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23 – 26 NKJV)
 
Jesus’ cross is the truest and most important “history in wood” we will ever learn. That’s because when Jesus died for our sins, and rose triumphant from the grave to unlock death, the lives of those who accept His sacrifice and His daily presence can look ahead to an unending history!

To review some of what the Bible says about salvation, click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/salvation


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Peace in the Storm
Photo ©2015 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2015 Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, December 24, 2015

Our dog took the opportunity to escape the snow outside and relax in a warm kitchen.  (Although she does this every day anyway.)

With the Christmas season here it can be stormy outside and a hub of activity inside.  Sometimes it is nice to find peace and think about Jesus.  Here is a story I have found comforting in the past from Mark 4:35-40 (NIV):

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

We know how Jesus looked after the disciples and how He promises to be with us.  Let's take the opportunity this season to renew our desire to listen to Him and follow Him.


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A Chance of Snow
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
 
I know it’s not everybody’s favorite but I happen to love the idea of a white Christmas.  When I think of snow on the ground and the flurries are falling from the sky, everything seems more peaceful and clean. The image above is from a couple years ago in our back yard. The trees were covered, the sky was full of flakes and the ground had several inches of the fluffy stuff.  Over the next couple of days, my fingers will be crossed .
 
In Isaiah 1:18, it talks about the sin and wickedness of this world, and what our God can do, with our sins:
 
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
 
Maybe that’s another reason for my desire of a white Christmas – it reminds me of a fresh start, a new beginning.  Our “dark” planet could use a fresh start and I know that will happen when our Savior returns for us. In the meanwhile, we can hope for those pure white, cold, flakes to fall on us….reminding us of God’s power.


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Christmas Lemonade
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Christmas season with its celebrations and cheer is also often a time of challenging weather conditions.  This was confirmed as we crossed the bridge onto the island where our friends lived.  Winds had toppled a tall evergreen across the road, effectively preventing traffic from either accessing or leaving the island.  Crews had promptly removed the obstacle and movement had returned to normal.  But someone involved had gone beyond that which was just required.  Call it Christmas spirit, or whatever title seems appropriate to you, but they didn’t just remove obstacles, they created joy.
 
One might question the positioning of the tree as nature had deemed appropriate, but the effect was delightful.  Lemons were given and lemonade was returned with a bit of humor tossed in for good measure.   A fireplace was added and even if the Christmas greeting was misspelled, that didn’t erase the overall effect.  Or to use another metaphor, just the amount of spice was added to the holiday mixture to produce a savory response.  
 
And so it is in our everyday life, a need for that which brings out the best.  Paul gives us a gentle nudge in that direction: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  (Colossians 4:6 New American Standard Bible)

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Studying Nature
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 21, 2015

This young boy was fascinated by these mallards.  I think it is great when kids can get out in nature and see what all God has made.  

As adults, it helps to go out and connect with nature as well.  There is so much to learn and in learning about the natural world, we learn more about God.

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. Romans 1:20 (NLT)


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Looking Forward
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tasting the many flavors of gelato is one of the many things I look forward to each time I return to Italy.  We often say that we have to have a least one gelato a day when there.  The only problem is that sometimes we’re in the mountains and no gelato stands are nearby!  Those of you who have been to Italy probably know about the many delicious kinds of gelato.  I’ve seen that gelato is even being sold here in the USA.   My favorites are nocciola (hazelnut) and coconut. Yum!  Fellow-travelers, what to you look forward to when you travel?

What do you look forward to in this life?  In heaven?  Have you thought that God promises us a resurrected life in a resurrected body, with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected earth?  Jesus spoke these words as recorded in John 14:2-3: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”  That’s more important than looking forward to gelato!



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Elements of Heaven
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 19, 2015

One of the creative teachers at Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School, where I volunteer each Tuesday from 9 to 1, mounted this delightful poster on his bulletin board. The abbreviations for three elements (beryllium, nickel and cerum) spell out what is surely one of the basic elements of heavenly citizenship.

Some people think that always being nice can be taken for cowardice, or an invitation for other people to take advantage of you. (35 years ago when I was at seminary, a woman I worked with told me flatly, “You’ll never make it as a pastor. You’re too much of a nice guy.”)

But being nice (while standing up for your principles and setting proper boundaries) is the essence of spirituality. Notice how many parts of the “fruit of the Spirit” deal with positive relationships:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . . . Galatians 5:22 – 23 [NKJV]

Have you checked your “kindness quotient” recently? Are you kind at home, to the kids on the way to school, to your fellow-workers? For three Bible texts on kindness, click the link immediately below.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/kindness

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I Pledge Allegiance
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 18, 2015

Shelley and I have been noticing an ominous Christmas-decoration trend in our neighborhood. Though I don’t yet have a photo of it, we have seen several homes who have replaced their traditional red-and-green edge-of-the-roof-gutter lights with staunchly loyal Sehawks blue-and-green ones.

The above house, which doesn’t seem to have gone that far, is nevertheless clearly inhabited by Seahawks die-hards. In a move that seems almost unpatriotic, a manufacturer has morphed the very Stars and Stripes itself into Hawks colors, and though some sense of decency caused them to retain the stars in the flag’s corner, the Hawk and “12” logo cover most of them.

Oh, well. At least Old Glory is also being displayed, and is elevated above the lesser pennants. Devout worshippers of the game as they are, these householders know where their true patriotic allegiance lies.

And you don’t need me to tell you that knowing whom to pledge allegiance to in spiritual matters is not only a life-or-death matter, but even more importantly is an opportunity for us to raise high the banner of the King of Kings. This King’s name has been defamed by the arch-accuser, but He is truly a God of love, whose actions will one day be vindicated.



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Support
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, December 17, 2015

I had never seen a stump quite like this one before. It's normal to see new seedlings sprout out of stumps, but in this case the stump started rotting out from under the new trees. Eventually, the entire middle of the stump rotted out, leaving the new trees holding up the layer of moss and roots that used to be the top of the stump. Fortunately, the trees had developed strong enough roots to support themselves despite their "chair" being pulled out from under them.

In 2 Timothy 4:16-17 Timothy says: "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength...."

Maybe sometimes it seems like nobody is there to help you, but God promises to never leave us.

Deuteronomy 31:8: "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

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Helping Hand, or Trunk
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A couple of weeks ago you may have seen this scene of a baby elephant being stuck in a mud hole and finally being rescued. (you can watch the video at this link:).

http://nypost.com/2015/12/02/baby-elephant-rescue-is-just-too-adorable/
 
The photo I have included above this blog isn’t of the same elephant but it is of a baby elephant I saw in the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya. As with human babies, the mother is always protective of her young. The interesting part of the video is that as much as the mother wanted to help her baby, she couldn’t do it by herself.
 
Whether you have kids of your own and can relate to this situation, or you don’t have kids but can still relate to attempting to help yourself – the outcome is the same . . . we can’t. We can’t do it alone.
 
In Philippians 4:13, we can read about the promise – “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Notice it doesn’t stop in the middle of the sentence…”I can do all things, period.” No, there is no such thing. We find our ability to accomplish things, through the power given to us by God. Just like the mother elephant, she couldn’t help her baby by herself – she needed help from the rest of the herd, like we need help from our Creator.

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Swamp Sparrow
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
                               
You can hardly blame them, those individuals like David who seemed to have a strong dislike for swamps.  Listen to his words from Psalm 69:14, 15:  “Rescue me from the swamp. Don’t let me go under for good.  Pull me out of the clutch of the enemy; this whirlpool is sucking me down.  Don’t let the swamp be my grave, the Black Hole swallow me, its jaws clenched around me.”  (The Message)  John Bunyan leaves little doubt as to his feeling towards this setting as Christian finds himself mired in its grip:  “It is the low spot where collects all the scum and filth that goes along with conviction for sin, and that is why it is called the Swamp of Despond (Slough of Despair).  When a sinner is awakened to his lost condition, then doubts, fears, and discouraging apprehensions swell up in his soul, along with other miseries, which all get together and settle in this swamp.  And that is why the ground is so bad in this place.”  (Pilgrim’s Progress)  And if we substitute other terms like quagmire or bog, the feeling hardly improves.

But not all of us have those same negative feelings toward swamps, especially if we use more socially acceptable terms like marsh or wetlands to describe the area.  For it is in these areas, rich in wildlife, that such creatures as the Swamp Sparrow live.  As its name implies, these sparrows are usually found on the ground, feeding at the water’s edge, foraging among the cover of aquatic vegetation.  Their long legs allow them to wade in the shallows and they will sometimes even stick their head under water while pursuing an especially desirable delicacy.   They have learned to live successfully among what others might consider obstacles.  There is another group that has learned this same lesson, to not be deterred by difficulties, those who make up the Army of God.  “They’ll be a workforce to be proud of, working as one, their heads held high, striding through swamps and mud, Courageous and vigorous because God is with them, undeterred by the world’s thugs.”  (Zechariah 10:5 The Message)

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Exploring God's Creation
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 14, 2015

On a recent trip to Portland, OR, I stopped in to do the four mile auto tour at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. I would highly recommend this short detour as it is a great place to see wildlife.  

While you aren't allowed to get out of your car, it serves as a good blind.  I saw a lot of birds and a lot of different species of birds in the short time I was there.  I even saw a lot of nutria (above photo), which is a semi-aquatic rodent that is smaller than a beaver but larger than a muskrat and has a round tail.

This beautiful common egret (below) was searching for food.  I did see one catch and eat a vole a short time later.



Take a good look at God’s work.
Who could simplify and reduce Creation’s curves and angles
To a plain straight line?
Ecclesiastes 7:13 (The Message)

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Was Your Message Received?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 13, 2015

Do you see anything strange in this photo?  Nicely arranged plants are outside a stone house with shutters.  A mailbox is embedded in the concrete on a small entryway.  By looking closer, you’ll see that the mailbox reads US Mail.  This might not be so strange, but this is in Italy, in a small village in Tuscany!  Do you think this family actually receives and sends mail in this box?  I’m really not sure, but if they put a letter in this box, it just might not get to the intended person or place.

In a spiritual sense, how do you communicate with God?  Do your messages get to Him?  Does He reply?  Prayer is a way of communicating with God.  Tell Him what you’re experiencing and feeling, thanking Him for what He has done for you. Ask Him for the help you need.  As recorded in Jeremiah 33:3, we can call on Him and He will answer.  In order to hear what God says to us we need to listen for His message.  How has God communicated with you?  In addition to speaking to us through prayer, He has other ways of talking with us.  He can speak to us through His Word, the Scripture, through nature, through other believers and through music. Maybe God speaks to you in other ways.  No matter how, the main thing is for Him to receive your message and for you to receive His reply!

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Accountability
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 12, 2015

A couple of days ago, in slow traffic on northbound I-405, I was crawling side-by-side with a semi truck. The above is an enlargement of my photo of its right rear door.

Can you spot what caught my attention? Take it from the top down. The company, in order to motivate its drivers to be safe, has begun by striking a positive note by implying that it employs “Award Winning Drivers,” and that they are “Safe and Courteous.” But then comes the “teeth”--the familiar “For Comments on My Driving” box.

But then, instead of a 1-800 number plus a truck ID code, we see several square inches of black spray-paint.

We don’t know the full story, of course. Maybe the number is no longer valid. Maybe the company has stopped subscribing to its services. But if indeed it was one of the truck’s drivers who wielded that spray can, it’s clear that he (she?) would rather not be held accountable.

But accountability is crucial when you’re the pilot of an 80,000-pound vehicle moving among cars that weigh less than 3,000.

And accountability is far more than a “gotcha!” process. Accountability says, “You and I are responsible beings. We can be trusted. We are honest enough, and our world-view is wide-angled enough, to want to do right, and we’re willing to face the consequences of our choices.”

God is pro-accountability too, because He’s the one who gave us truly free choice. And He’s the one who has final responsibility for an eternally safe and happy and free universe.

For 12 Bible passages which give a comprehensive summary of God’s judgment, click the link immediately below.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/judgment


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Watch Your Step
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 11, 2015

A few weeks ago I dropped in at a University area bookstore and noticed the above sign at the door. And sure enough, as you thread your way among the bookcases on the first floor, especially back in the far left corner where the Religion section is, you come across some definite dips.

I’m thinking that a sign like this could be posted prominently around our planet itself. Every life journey has its ups and downs, its highs and lows. Just when you think things are going well, life surprises you.

As Jesus the Messiah entered His ministry, all four Gospels quoted from Isaiah 40 to refer to John the Baptist, who was sent to “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3 NKJV). But the very next verse creates an intriguing image:

Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed . . . .”  Isaiah 40:4 – 5

What a wonderful new world, where God’s family won’t have to walk warily, wondering what crisis lies just around the corner, wondering what pit just might gape before them and swallow them up!

To read Isaiah 40 in its entirety, and bask in the glorious promises of God’s Son, click the link immediately below.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isaiah+40&version=NKJV



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Overflowing
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Russell Jurgensen
Wednesday, November 11, 2015



The flooding in Western Washington and Oregon may not come close to the flooding in Chennai, India, but it makes things interesting.  My parents in Forest Grove, Oregon live about a mile away from the Tualatin river but currently can see it approaching their back yard.  This picture is of our small creek which is normally much smaller.



2 Corinthians 9:12-13 talks about a different kind of overflowing.  When we help each other and are generous it provides many benefits: "This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else."



Perhaps this is in contrast to some theories that only the strong survive.  When we help others we become stronger.  I'm glad that Jesus provides a logic that we might otherwise miss in this world.  Let's look for the right kind of overflowing, and stay dry out there!


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Cacti, Rocks and More
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Just a few days ago, I was hiking on Camelback Mountain, just outside of Scottsdale Arizona. It was the perfect temperature (for those of us from the Seattle area) – 65 degrees, with just a few clouds in the sky. We didn’t get to the top but we were able to take in the scenery on the mountain, the rock formations and the variety of cacti and other plants. There several types of cacti and I didn’t have the chance to check to see if I could identify this one (my guess is that it’s pretty common--but remember, I’m from Seattle).
 
Even with the lack of identification, it was a perfect contrast in color and texture. The large rock formations you can see in the distance, have a “smooth” look to them. This is from (among other reasons) that over time the water has eroded their edges. The brown- and red-colored rocks and dirt you can see in the fore- and background, were a great contrast to the green and yellow “pricklies.”
 
When I looked around, all I could see was more and more of God’s creation.  I know I have mentioned my love for the outdoors in previous blogs and that is certainly one of the reasons – being in and around God’s creations.  It also made me stop and remember, I (we) are God’s creation as well. He created us, after Him.
 
Genesis 1:26-28: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
 
It’s easy to forget this concept – “made in His image” – when we live around so much sin. When we are down on ourselves, or perplexed about the world, it’s very easy to forget that our Creator made us to be like Him. He’s perfect, so we try to be more and more like Him.
 
My “ask” of you…Get outside (bring an umbrella if you are in the Seattle area) and see what He has made.  When you’re looking all around, remember YOU are one of those creations. You matter to Him.

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Yellow-Pine Chipmunk           
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 8, 2015

When seeking to draw moral lessons from nature it is wise to not paint with too broad a brush.  For instance, God gave instruction to Noah following the flood:  “Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”  (Genesis 8:17 NIV)  But in the following chapter He gave similar counsel to Noah himself and encouraged him to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis. 9:7)  However, similar instruction does not necessarily mean identical behavior should ensue.  For example, the female Yellow-Pine Chipmunk is in estrous only one day each year.  Just prior to this day, she will use vocalizations to attract mates which will then pursue her in what has been called a “mating chase.” During this period she may mate with multiple males and 30 days later give birth to four to eight young.  It works for chipmunks but not for humans.

And take Jesus’s own words about not worrying about what you will eat:  “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26NIV)  Again, it’s wise He didn’t refer to the Yellow-Pine Chipmunk to teach this lesson for they use their cheek pouches to carry food to their nest where they store up food for winter.  One such cache weighed 190 grams which would equal the weight of four chipmunks.  These 68,000 items will be needed as they awake from a torpid sleep every five to seven days during the winter to feed on the supplies which have been stored.  This large supply may be needed for they may spend four to five months in this nest.

Fortunately, since our Maker made each one of us, He knows our every need and exactly what is best for us.  We certainly can learn lessons from nature, but that must be filtered through His wisdom which should include common sense.


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A Better Season is Coming
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 7, 2015

My favorite season is spring!  With all the blustery and wet with some sunny but very cold weather we have been having recently,
I thought a reminder that spring is coming is appropriate.

 I think we go through seasons in our lives as well.  Sometimes things are going well and sometimes everything seems to be going wrong.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

When we get discouraged, it is good to remember what Jesus said:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 (NIV)

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The Good Old Days
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 6, 2015

I’m sure you’ve heard, or maybe talked about the “good old days.”  Yes, life and living was certainly different some years back! No smart phones, computers or the latest technology.  And if we look back even further, it was even much different from that - no electricity, telephones, running water, indoor plumbing. And no nearby market to buy food or clothing. And even no automobiles.  Even though harder, life was simpler then.  Parents weren’t concerned about the number of hours their children watched some kind of a screen, but only if they could provide enough food for them and keep them warm in the winter.  Yet, today, children have so many opportunities for learning.  And, we adults have an easier life with so many modern conveniences.  Would you prefer living in the “good old days” or today?

This is a photo of a photo I took at the small museum in my ancestral village in the mountains of northern Tuscany.  As you can see, the women worked hard.  Their homes were built with local stone and thatched roofs and I’m sure was very cold in the winter.  Life was simple, but hard.

Have you thought about what life in heaven will be like?  We don’t have a full answer to this, but a glimpse.  God intended for man to work.  He placed man in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15)  God Himself works and didn’t retire after he created the world.  (John 5:17)  In Luke 23:43, Jesus said the man on the cross will be with Him in paradise, which means a park or happiness.  Also, people in heaven will worship and serve God (Revelation 22:3).  Since sin will not be in heaven, curses like pain, sickness and hard toil that came with sin won’t be there.   Work there should be a pleasant and fulfilling experience. Are you looking forward to heaven, seeing and serving God?  Think of the refrain:

“When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!”

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Jehovah’s Witness
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 5, 2015

Last Sabbath when Shelley and I arrived home from church, we saw a leaflet from the Jehovah’s Witness organization inviting us to study the Bible with them, either at their meeting hall or in our home. After studying the leaflet, and – while disagreeing with their theology – admiring their desire to share their faith, I discarded it.

Then, this past Thursday as Shelley and I returned from our morning walk, I discovered on our doorstep not a leaflet but a leaf. I mentioned to Shelley that this could also be “Jehovah’s witness.” In other words, if someone with a truly open mind picked up this leaf and subjected it to close scrutiny, he or she would have to conclude that there has to have been an intelligent designer behind it.

The Bible backs me up on this. It confirms that while nature may not tell us the whole story about God, we can see glimpses of His love and power there. Psalm 19:1 insists that “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” Romans 1:20 lists more truth that we can extrapolate from nature: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead . . . .”  Acts 14:17 says, “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

To read more of what the Bible says about our creative God of love, click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/creationwhere-did-i-come

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Powers
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 4, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I was having some spare keys made at a car dealer’s. As I sat in the lobby, I snapped this photo of a dad and his son.

As you can see, dad is tall, and seems muscular enough to protect his boy. To dad’s right is a brand-new car, whose pristine engine also has a lot of energy.

But you’ll notice that the boy himself is wearing an ankle-length robe. I’d seen dad and son walking around the lobby a few minutes before, and I recognized the garment as a Harry Potter wizard’s robe. And that blue shaft just to the boy’s left is a magic wand he’s holding.

So here’s this kid, surrounded with power – a loving father who would readily die if it meant that his son could live, and a machine which dependably and predictably operates according to a rational scientific pattern.

Yet the kid wants more. He wants (at least in his “play” mind) access to a power he can control, which will help him do amazing things, or maybe simply ward off bullies who might be harassing him at school.

Several years ago, at the request of one of our denomination’s publishing houses, I wrote a kids’ mystery story about a boy who was fascinated by Harry Potter and magic. In the plot of that story I tried to get across the idea that the mythical Harry Potter magic promised power without accountability. In other words, it would be like putting the kid in the photo above behind the wheel of that brand-new car. It’s far better, I pointed out in the book, to put ourselves in the care of our Heavenly Father who, even more than the dad in the picture above, has not only the power but the wisdom to dispense it judiciously, and who longs to protect us from life’s true dangers.

For a comprehensive list of Bible texts on God’s protection, click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/protection

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First Day
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, December 3, 2015

After a dismal day of bird watching, this was the best I could do. I still remember begging for this "chick" pillow back when I was about five years old. It has a few interesting features: When a UV light is shone on it, the wings glow orange but the body is dark purple. It has a big pom-pom for a tail. There is a zipper on the back that can be opened to make a nice pouch for carrying things such as cats.

Have you ever heard the saying, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life"? Sometimes it is pictured with a newly hatched chick.

Isaiah 43:18-19 says: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

It's important to move on from bad choices and anything else that is holding you back, and remember that each day can be a fresh start.

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Changing Seasons
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The other day, while walking between buildings at work, I came across this image.  The early morning sunlight, bathing these long blades of grass, covered in frost. Yes, it was chilly (around 25 degrees). You can feel the cold in the picture, and at the same time you feel the warmth of the sun as well.

About an hour after taking this image, it looked very different. Most of the frost was gone, the light wasn't low any longer and the grass was standing higher. Things change. As I witnessed, the weather can change for sure. In fact, when we think about what we have in this world, it's more difficult to focus in on the things that stay the same.

In Isaiah we read about things changing, but we also see the promise of one thing that stays constant.

Isaiah 40:8,
"The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”

As we see the weather turning more cold, the falling leaves, the colors turning to a brilliant white, it's nice to know God's word is always there.

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Brown-crested Flycatcher                                                                                                  
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In the early 19thcentury a German naturalist and ethnologist who was exploring America gave his name to a new species discovered there.  His name was Prince Maximilian of Wied and the new species was called Wied’s Crested Flycatcher. Subsequently the name was changed and today it is known as the Brown-crested Flycatcher.  While it is found in the dry areas of the Southwestern United States, its range extends southward all the way to Argentina and Bolivia.  It is part of a closely related group known as Myiarchus flycatchers which can be difficult to separate, but the problem is much more challenging in South America where there are many more members represented.

One of the species with which it might be confused is the Ash-throated Flycatcher which is about 10% smaller while the bill of the Brown-crested is close to 25% larger.  But the best way to separate these confusingly similar species is by their call.

Humans too can be identified by their call, or more appropriately, by what comes out of their mouths.  Notice what Jesus Himself had to say about this:  “A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; and a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  (Luke 6:45 GNT)


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Support

Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen

Thursday, December 17, 2015

 

I had never seen a stump quite like this one before. It's normal to see new seedlings sprout out of stumps, but in this case the stump started rotting out from under the new trees. Eventually, the entire middle of the stump rotted out, leaving the new trees holding up the layer of moss and roots that used to be the top of the stump. Fortunately, the trees had developed strong enough roots to support themselves despite their "chair" being pulled out from under them.

 

In 2 Timothy 4:16-17 Timothy says: "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength...."

 

Maybe sometimes it seems like nobody is there to help you, but God promises to never leave us.

 

Deuteronomy 31:8: "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

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