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

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 31, 2016

A little over a year ago Shelley and I bought a used car sufficiently advanced to include a tire-pressure warning light on the instrument panel. It came on a month or so ago, and after making the rounds with a pressure gauge I discovered that the right rear tire was slowly losing air.

So I began keeping an eye out for gas stations such as the ARCO above, where air (and if needed, water) are offered for sale. I learned that to activate the air pump you will need 75 cents in quarters, unless you go to a station with a fancier air pump, which costs $1.50. However, as you fill your tire with this pump, the pressure is displayed on a bright screen, and as soon as the pressure gets up to 32 pounds, the pump will turn off automatically.

Of course as soon as I discovered that the leak was a serious one, I took it in to the dealer for them to fix it. They discovered that a small nail had worked its way into the tread, and now it’s repaired, and I no longer have to keep nervously scouting for air-and-water dispensers.

To me, one of God’s most heartwarming qualities is how He uses simple ways to explain Himself to us. In both Greek and Hebrew, the “spirit” originally means wind—moving air. And Jesus constantly urges us to refresh ourselves with the “water of life,” and to take part in water baptism. And He considers this as crucial as our physical needs for air and water.

When’s the last time you read through a series of Bible texts on the Holy Spirit and baptism? Here’s your chance, by clicking the links immediately below!

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 30, 2016

About a week ago I had just dropped Shelley off at work and was driving north through a route I didn’t normally take. While stopped at a red light I was startled to see this brightly-illuminated sign offering a fantastic price per gallon.

As you study this photo, you find yourself fluttering back down to reality. First, you notice that there is no gas station company’s logo above the letters. Behind the sign there doesn’t seem to be a functioning gas station (otherwise the owners would certainly have done something about the false advertising).

The main thing that strikes me about that photo, and maybe you’re with me on this, is that there’s no earthly way that gasoline can be offered at that price. If this were true, people would be lining up at that station like there was no tomorrow.

Salvation—God’s eternal-life energy—is offered at staggering cost to Christ but freely to you and me. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:8 NKJV.  And for 2,000 years  incredulous people have been lining up to take advantage of it. How about you?
To read more of what the Bible says about salvation, click the link immediately below.

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Revisiting the Spring
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, December 29, 2016

Almost a year ago, in January, I wrote about this little spring-fed stream.  Here is a new picture.  It still looks about the same. Once again, it reliably kept running all summer while some other nearby streams went dry.  Likewise, Jesus is reliable to work in our lives if we choose.  We can also try to be reliable for other people.

The fifth commandment says, "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12.  Jesus also talked about this commandment in Matthew 15:

I like how this commandment describes how families should treat each other.  Paul says in Ephesians 6, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Let's try to reliably treat our family members with respect and kindness as God intends so that year after year our families can be a source of strength.

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Dip Your Toe In
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On second thought, you might not want to – it’s a tad chilly.  This is a shot I took last year, about the same time, on the Skagit River, near Marblemount. As you can see, the ice buildup on the rocks are a sure sign of just how cold the water temperature is.
The timed exposure gives a sense of ‘flowing” to the picture, and it makes me think of this passage in Revelation:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. Rev. 22:1-5
As we get closer and closer to the end of the year, let’s continue to pray for the end of times – when we’ll be able to be with God, at the river of life! I am pretty sure THAT river will be much warmer.

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White-nosed Coati
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Community is important, not just for physical survival but for spiritual well-being as well.  The writer of Hebrews seems to recognize this fact and comments on it: “Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.”  (Hebrews 10:25Living Bible)  Here, the author reminds the early church believers that they have an impact upon each other, and it’s their responsibility, as well as their advantage, to continue meeting together.  Salvation is a personal matter, a personal choice, but our choices are impacted by the group with which we associate.

This social advantage is used by a number of creatures, among those the coatimundi, a member of the raccoon family which lives in North, Central, and South America.  While I have seen single individuals in Arizona, I had never observed them in a band of a couple dozen until I saw them like this in Costa Rica.  About the size of a large house cat, female and young White-nosed Coati travel together for much of the year, while the males, which are nearly twice as large, forage independently, except during breeding season.

One of their primary methods of communication is through their tail. It is often held erect to keep the band together, especially when searching  through tall vegetation.  The erect tail is also used to inform others in the group of territorial or food claims.

We may smile at the collective display of this appendage, but for us as church members, our smile is much more effective as a part of our worship services.  While the book of Hebrews doesn’t mention this specifically, couldn’t we incorporate this into our thinking when we are told to “encourage each other”?  Seems like a good idea to me.  

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Praise the Lord
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 26, 2016

Winter is not my favorite season but I like going to look at shallow creeks after a freeze to see what sort of ice sculptures have been formed.  

These verses seem appropriate at such a time and actually all of the time!

All creatures on earth,
you obey his commands,
    so come praise the LORD!
Sea monsters and the deep sea,
fire and hail,
snow and frost,
    and every stormy wind,
    come praise the LORD!
Psalm 148:7-8 (CEV)

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Being Protected
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 25, 2016

While walking on the wall surrounding Dubrovnik Old Town, Croatia, I took this image showing the Ploce Gate into town and the Revelin Fortress.  This fortress was built in 1463 to provide additional protection to this eastern city gate. Today a permanent stone bridge connects the gate and fortress; however, in earlier times, a moat on the outside of the city walls was armed by more than 120 cannons and a draw bridge occupied that space. The main city wall is 13 feet to 20 feet thick and up to 80 feet in height.  This major fortification protected the people from invaders.  People need to feel protected.

In Bible times, people also needed to feel protected.  Moses told all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, or forsake thee. Deuteronomy 31:6 As God was with the children of Israel, He is with us today, protecting us.

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Dog with Chicken
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Sabbath, December 24, 2016

Here our golden retriever is sharing her prime real estate with her chicken friend.  Our animals love this inside back corner of the house because the two walls catch the winter (and summer) sun and heat up the mat.  Taffy willingly shares her mat with both the chicken and goat.  Frequently the chicken and goat take up the whole mat when they are let out into the yard, but Taffy seems not to have the least resentment and happily shares part or all of it, and lies in the grass if needed.

It is interesting to think about how the Ten Commandments can be applied when people get in conflicts.  When someone feels wronged with or without cause, how should it be handled?  The sixth commandment says, "You shall not murder." Exodus 20:13    Without remembering that the commandments are a law of love, we might misunderstand the command to think it allows us to beat the other person without killing them.  

Jesus brings us back to the real meaning by saying, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment." Matthew 5:21,22.  And, of course, with God's love, we would go out of our way to be kind to those with whom we are in conflict.

When she was a puppy, the dog needed a little training to know it shouldn't bother the chickens.  (We used a squirt gun when she chased the chickens, and it only took a few times.)  Now, everyone is happy to get along together.  I hope we can learn from animals and from the words of Jesus.

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Taking Stock
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 21, 2016

This time of year, we get caught-up in a lot of things. We tend to cram a lot of things into a short amount of time. Obviously, there is plenty that makes the season and reminds us of the TRUE meaning of the season. Christ should be at the center of all celebrations, gatherings and cheer. In addition, we have to take stock in what we have. Family and friends are going to be near the top of the list. Freedom to worship freely, another big one. Our relationship with our Creator is such a gift. What about where we live? I personally, can’t imagine a more beautiful spot. Before you yell too loud , I know there are other amazing locations around the world, so I am not trying to start a competition or argument, but for me, the Pacific Northwest is breathtaking.
Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
He did this for us. He made this gorgeous mountain (Mt. Rainier, for those that are viewing this image from far away). He created our families. He did it all out of love for us. Do we deserve it? I think you know the answer to that. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it. In fact, He wants us to. He also wants us to, long for a life with Him, where He has created even more amazing things for us to enjoy.
So, my ask of you, during the next few days – enjoy family and friends, talk to God and consider how blessed you are. Have a great Christmas!

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Mountain Streams
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Have you ever noticed how generous the Lord is with His gifts?  The gifts He lavishes on us are untold without number. It’s likely that He does so because it’s intrinsically part of His nature in much the same way parents get joy from giving good gifts to their children.  But He continues to give long before we are even aware of His generosity.  This joy is, of course, increased when we discover these gifts and in turn show appreciation.  I like to imagine it being like parents who arise long before Christmas morning to take the packages which they have already prewrapped, and then skillfully hiding them throughout the house.
Part of the joy is derived from the search and discovery of these gifts, not only for the receiver but for the Giver as well. And, of course, it’s possible that not all of the gifts will be discovered in one morning, but that doesn’t bother the Giver, for He has made them in such a way that the passage of time doesn’t cause the batteries to run low or the shine to diminish.
David seems to have caught the joy that comes from putting God first and then delighting himself in the abundance with which the Lord has blessed him:  “The Lord himself is my inheritance, my prize. He is my food and drink, my highest joy! He guards all that is mine.  He sees that I am given pleasant brooks and meadows as my share!  What a wonderful inheritance!  I will bless the Lord who counsels me; he gives me wisdom in the night. He tells me what to do.”  Psalm 16:5-7 Living Bible)

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Keep Your Balance
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 19, 2016

This photo is of a Sandhill Crane doing a balancing act on one leg.  These big birds manage to look elegant no matter what they do.
The following verses talk about what we should be doing while waiting for Jesus to return (including not losing our balance):

My friends, while you are waiting, you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless, and living at peace. Don’t forget that the Lord is patient because he wants people to be saved. This is also what our dear friend Paul said when he wrote you with the wisdom that God had given him. Paul talks about these same things in all his letters, but part of what he says is hard to understand. Some ignorant and unsteady people even destroy themselves by twisting what he said. They do the same thing with other Scriptures too.

My dear friends, you have been warned ahead of time! So don’t let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance. Let the wonderful kindness and the understanding that come from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ help you to keep on growing. Praise Jesus now and forever! Amen  2 Peter 3:14-18 (CEV)

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View From Above
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 18, 2016

During the last two Sunday Daily Photo Parables, I shared about our special dinner in the countryside on the mountain above Dubrovnik, Croatia.  This is the image of what Dubrovnik Old Town looked like while taking the cable car to the top of Mt Srd and then during our walk to the village for our dinner.  What a view from above!  If you closely look, you can see the wall completely surrounding the town, the beautiful harbor dotted with boats and all the red-tiled roofs covering the buildings.  (More about these later)

Have you wondered what God sees when He looks down on earth?  I have.  Does He see each one of us and what we’re doing?  Does He even know what we’re thinking?  Proverbs 15:3 states, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”  Let’s pray that He sees the “good” in our lives and hearts!

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Out of Reach?
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 17, 2016

I couldn’t resist snapping this photo in a bookstore Shelley and I visited last Sunday. The sign is at my eye level, and since I’m a tick over six feet tall, any books above the sign will be hard to reach for anyone shorter. This bookstore has a few sturdy wooden chairs scattered about, but I noticed that they all bear signs that say, “This chair is for sitting, not standing!” This is followed with instructions urging the book-hunter to find a staff member to help retrieve upper-shelf books.

The Bible is very clear that since all of us have been stunted by sin, eternal life is out of our reach. But Scripture is equally insistent that we ask for help. Please click the link below and carefully read through the Bible texts, because they give you crucial details about how to be finally rescued from this dying planet.

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Like Father, Like Son
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 16, 2016

Thursday, while waiting for my ailing home computer to be repaired, I settled down at a local community center to make some notes on this Sabbath’s sermon. Right in front of me, a couple of tables away, I noticed this endearing scene—dad and son sitting across from each other, both immersed in their separate screen devices (if their faces look funny it’s because I have rather inexpertly tried to hide their identities).

Dad’s holding a standard smartphone, and he appeared to be texting someone. His son’s device seemed to be a squarish game player, and the boy was earnestly thumbing it, muttering an occasional militaristic “boom.”

After a few minutes, the son tired of the game and started whining about something. And it was fun to watch Dad. First he benignly ignored the boy while finishing up a text. The boy began artificially weeping, pausing a couple of times to closely observe Dad’s reaction. Finally Dad got up and led the little boy away.

What was so fun was to see how the dad knew his son so well that he didn’t descend to his son’s level, and get angry or petulant or fretful himself. He behaved like “the grownup in the room,” which is exactly what he was. And though they disappeared from my view, I am certain that he was going to carry his progeny safely home. And chances are, his son will grow up to be a pretty close copy of him.

When Jesus spoke about God, He called Him nothing but “Father.” This is a strong signal to consider God not so much as King, or Conqueror, or Almighty, though of course He is all of those. Instead, Jesus wanted us to think of God as a Heavenly Parent, who loves to be in our presence, and knows us far better than we know ourselves, and is able to deal with our tantrums, and who will finally take us safely home if we stay close to Him.

Want to read five Bible texts about being God’s children? Click the link immediately below:

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Following Footsteps

Photo and Text ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Recent snow in the hills made hiking more interesting by reading tracks.  By comparing the size of foot prints and the length of the stride you can guess the size of who walked there.  You can tell if they were dragging their feet or possibly running.  Sometimes you can tell how many people were there ahead of you.


It is fun to walk in other people's steps.  Sometimes when I am taking steps in fresh snow, I like to take extra big steps so that if the next person is walking in my steps they will get a little surprise.


In everyday life we can walk in Jesus' footsteps.  By pondering His words and looking for what it really means to keep the law in our hearts, we follow Him.  Also, when things seem cold and dark, God promises to lead us.  "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them."  Isaiah 42:16

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Game Over
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Back on November 13 Shelley and I were listening to the Seattle Seahawks game with the New England Patriots. Since we don’t have a TV, we listen to the radio broadcast, and sometimes I’ll pull up on my iPad, where you can see the successive plays diagrammed out on the football-field graphic you see in the photo above.

On that day, I had kept the diagram going, but forgot about it. The next morning when I turned on the iPad, the above photo shows what I saw. I grabbed for my camera and took the shot.

As you can see, the field is now empty. The teams’ insignias have vanished from either end of the field, and gone are all the signs of struggle (except the little orange stop-sign-looking icon at the left, with the word “FUMBLE” on it). No more arrows or dotted-line arcs, nothing to indicate the titanic struggle during which the Seahawks beat the Patriots 31 – 24.

At the top is the smiling photo of Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson, who evidently made the final play of the game. Under his photo it says, “(:08) R. Wilson up the middle to SEA 1 for no gain. (M. Brown.)” Who M. Brown is I have no idea, but it seems that with eight seconds left, Russell made that last play, and perhaps even “took a knee” to end the game.

Do you know what makes this a photo parable for me? Above the football field it shows the tabs I'd opened. Here are a few:

First comes “Woman stabbed . . . .” Evidently this was a news story I’d checked on earlier. Next comes “How Did Democ . . . ,” which means that I must have clicked on a link discussing why the Democrats had just lost the election. Both these are examples of real struggles in the real world.

But then, after “youtube – Goog . . .” and “Seattle Sports,” comes “Isaiah 26:3 NIV.” In the New International Version, the verse goes like this: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Peace is what I need as I contemplate this crazy old planet.

Do you see where I’m going with this? The Bible tells us that life is a battle, and though Scripture says nothing about football, Paul used Olympic sports allusions such as this one:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.  (1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27 NKJV)

Quarterback Russell Wilson (who’s also a Christian) is devoted to the physical training necessary to being a great athlete. He’s often first to the training center in the morning, and inspires the rest of the team toward this attitude.

One day, of course, it will be “Game Over” for this planet. Gone will be the stresses, the temptations, the bullies. The field will be clear again, and we’ll be able to take up wonderful creative pursuits with no time limits, under the fond and joyous gaze of the Father who has longed for our company.  Until then, trust the "perfect peace" promise, which comes from trusting God! How do you deepen your trust in God? Click the link immediately below:

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Wilson’s Phalarope and Northern Shoveler
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Apostle Paul was more than a little concerned about disunity within the early Christian church in Corinth.  While the members there were particularly gifted, they were also somewhat spiritually immature and in danger of letting their differences pull them apart.  It was for this reason he wrote the familiar illustration found in 1 Corinthians 12 concerning the body and its many parts.  In this passage he mentions the foot, hand, and eye and their respective functions.  He concludes this way: “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is there are many parts, but one body.” (verses 18-20 NIV)  It’s an easy illustration to understand but it’s not always an easy image to put into practice.
Perhaps another illustration may provide reinforcement.  Biologists use the term commensalism or symbiosis to describe the working together of two organisms to provide mutually beneficial results.  A good example of this would be the Wilson’s Phalarope (top photo) and the Northern Shoveler.  They have little in common except they both feed in freshwater marshes and wet meadows.  The anatomical differences are readily apparent. The phalarope’s dainty bill allows it to pick up mosquito and crane fly larvae along muddy shores or while wading in shallow water.  The shoveler, named for its large spatulate bill, uses is beak as a sieve, forcing water and mud through it to strain out animals as small as diatoms and copepods as well as other plant and animal matter.  Yet these two are often seen closely feeding with each other.  The reason for this is that they are three times more effective when working in tandem than when feeding alone.  Not a bad reason for cooperating with that class member who can’t seem to remember he used that same illustration last week.  Or that alto that thinks she is a soprano.  Who knows, it might make you, with your own peculiarities, even more effective.

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Splendor and Beauty Mark His Craft
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 12, 2016

I saw this male wood duck earlier this year as I was walking around Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in British Columbia. I see them almost every time I go there (except when I went earlier this month and didn't see one).
I think they are one of the most beautiful birds in our area.  Even the female has distinctive markings which is unusual in the bird world.

I give thanks to GOD with everything I’ve got—
Wherever good people gather, and in the congregation.
GOD’s works are so great, worth
A lifetime of study—endless enjoyment!
Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial—
This GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love.
He gave food to those who fear him,
He remembered to keep his ancient promise.
Psalm 111:1-5 (The Message)

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Our Daily Bread
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 11, 2016

If you missed last Sunday’s Daily Photo Parable, go back and read it now!  Last week I shared a photo of food being cooked over and under hot coals, or peka cooking.  Our group’s Farewell Dinner on the mountain above Dubrovnik, Croatia also included bread cooked by the peka method, which you can see above.  This bread was very hearty, rustic and wholesome as well as delicious!  Although I usually bake bread during the wintertime, I’ve never baked bread by this method.  Another great experience!  

Did you know that Jesus said He was the bread of life?  John 6:35 reads, “I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

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Exercise Caution!
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 10, 2016

I couldn’t help grinning a month ago when I came up behind a car sporting this bumper sticker. I myself actually have a 20-minute voice practice CD in my car player which I sing along with two or three times a week just to keep the vocal cords fresh.

But there’s a good chance the above car’s songster-driver wasn’t doing anything as mundane as vocal scales. Instead, he or she is probably communicating to us that this car is often filled with the joyous belting of pop hits.

The Bible contains several verses about singing praises to God, praises which erupt from a heart full of joy for who God is and what He has done.

Want to read Bible verses which give us motivation to sing? Check out the three links immediately below.

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Oh Yeah?
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 9, 2016

I’ve decently concealed the name of the company who sent the Schurch household the above advertising flyer. But you can understand the “Oh yeah?” which—at least in my mind—was my response.

They got the first phrase right: “’Tis the Season.” You can’t escape it. Christmas carols became the soundtrack for our lives even before Thanksgiving. A drive through our neighborhood after dark reveals which neighbors are making do with a string of lights along the roof gutter, and which neighbors are mega-obsessed with Ho-ho-ho. One memorable lawn features an inflatable nativity scene, an inflatable Santa sitting on his throne waving his hand, an inflatable travel-trailer from whose doorway Santa lunges and then retreats every twenty seconds, plus enough Christmas lights to guide a returning astronaut.

So yup, ‘Tis the season. But the second part is dead wrong: “Fun is the reason.” Fun was not the reason Jesus came. Utter, self-sacrificial love was. Fun smacks faintly—and even frankly—of selfishness. For God so loved the world . . . .

For several Bible verses which give a full bio of the Christ Child, click the link immediately below.

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Photo ©2016 by Chelsea Jurgensen
Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, December 8, 2016

Dogs are intelligent creatures, and it is fun to see a dog happy when exploring outdoors.  It is also remarkable to see their attachment to their owners.  This dog rarely wanders far from us while hiking.  She even "counts" the members of the group periodically to make sure no one is missing.

I sometimes think about the role intelligence plays in forming attachments with other people and creatures.  People might satisfy a concrete need--such as food, job, or shelter--and there is a dependence on them.  But, I'm thinking more along the lines of intelligently caring for someone and wanting them to be around.  It seems like a true mark of intelligence to form attachments for a variety of reasons.  In computer artificial intelligence, perhaps this could be one of the measurements of how smart the program is.  If it makes friends and desires people to be around, that is a good thing--much better than if it plotted against them!

Jesus desires to form very close attachments with us. "On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." John 14:20,21  God's logic defies our understanding no matter how haughty and smart we think we are.  He wants us to be very close with Him--I think a very desirable indicator of God's supreme intelligence.

Hopefully when we wander from God, we can use our intelligence to head quickly back to Him.  

Now if I can get my dog to come back from chasing some sound in the woods... And, when she does come back she will rush to me at breakneck speed!

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A Gift For Me?
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I would venture to guess we all enjoy receiving a gift, now and then. As kids, we LOVED specific events that would involve some sort of surprise and/or a reward. As adults, the luster may not be there as much, but we still can enjoy the excitement to some degree.
In Romans 12, Paul describes a type of gift (or multiple gifts), God has given to each one of us:
Verses 6-8: In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
In the image above, we see the greatest gift God could have ever given to us – His only Son. This particular gift, allows us eternal life, away from sin. In Romans, Paul is describing a particular gift we can use, to show others the love of God. I am sure most of you know what gifts/talents you have that you are (or should be) using on a daily basis. Other gifts, are something you develop over time. Still others may be something, that are pointed out – you may not have known you had. Regardless of the discovery phase, or full blown knowledge – use them. Ask God to give you an opportunity to ‘open up’ your gift and show others what an awesome God we serve.

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Pearl Harbor Flag
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

It had a different number of stars on it back in 1941, but the one that flies over Pearl Harbor today carries much the same message now as it did back then.  Just like individuals, countries too have ebbs and flows in their lives, and the day Admiral Chester Nimitz arrived at that location, emotions were at an all-time low.  That was Christmas Eve and Nimitz had just assumed command of the Pacific Fleet.  The following day he was given a tour of the destruction so he could see firsthand the damage that had been inflicted.  Upon returning to the dock he was asked for his reaction to the desolation. His response surprised many, for he was reputed to have said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America.  Which do you think it was?”
Mistake number one:  The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning when nine out of every ten crewmen were ashore on leave.  If not, we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.  Mistake number two:  They got so carried away with all those battleships lined up and never once bombed our dry docks.  If they would have, we would have had to tow every one of those ships back to America to be repaired.  As it is, we can have them repaired and at sea by the time it would have taken us to tow them to America.  And mistake number three:  Every drop of fuel in the Pacific Theater is on top of the ground in storage tanks five miles away.  One plane could have destroyed our entire fuel supply.
You have to admire Japan’s optimism in the face of such adversity, but I believe they did miss one vital point.  It probably wasn’t an either/or proposition.  Isn’t it altogether possible that Japan did make three vital mistakes AND God was taking care of America as well?  Very seldom does God appear to work in a vacuum.  Instead, He uses our mistakes and failures, our successes and wise choices, to accomplish His purposes.  And that too is true of individuals, as well as nations.

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Look at the Birds
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, December 5, 2016

As I was driving into the Skagit Valley the other day, swans were flying west over the highway with their long necks outstretched.  Above them, and looking very small because they were so much higher, were strings of snow geese heading east.  The geese were coming in waves with more and more birds appearing in the distance and disappearing into the horizon.

This is the time of year when you can find huge flocks, consisting of thousands of snow geese, which have migrated to the Skagit Valley for the winter from Alaska and Siberia.  This picture is from several years ago and shows snow geese flying up from this field in preparation to flying over to another field nearby.  

 If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
Matthew 6:25-26 (The Message)

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Special Food
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, December 4, 2016

When planning for our hiking group’s trip to Croatia, I wanted our Farewell Dinner in Dubrovnik to be really special.  I discovered a traditional Balkan method was cooking peka, food cooked under a bell-like dome, as I’ve shown above. Once there are enough hot coals from a fire, the covered bell (container with food) is placed on hot coals and more coals are placed on top of the bell.  The food is slowly cooked from below and above.

I made reservations at a country restaurant on the mountain above town.  After taking the cable car to the top of Mt Srd (two of our group hiked up), we walked to a small village.  We waited for a flock of sheep and their shepherd to cross the road, and then reached the restaurant.  Stepping inside the hot “cooking room” we saw our food being cooked.

This was a glimpse of another way of cooking, a taste of food cooked in a different way.  Have you thought of “tasting” God?  Psalms 34:8 states, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”  Yes, we need to trust in God during these times!  (More on “food” for next week’s parable.)

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My Home’s in Heaven
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, December 3, 2016

A week ago Friday morning on our morning walk, Shelley pointed at the tree you see in the photo. She wasn’t pointing at the birdhouse but at the nest high in the branches. Naturally, I tugged my little camera from its belt-case and snapped a couple of shots.

The more I look at this scene, the bigger the kick I get out of it. The birdhouse wasn’t new to me—over the years Shelley and I have observed it getting older and more moss-covered. Still, it’s a pretty fancy little domicile, with two stories even, and two little side-porches.

But the sight of the nest, aloofly above the human-built house, gives me a chuckle. Birds do use birdhouses, of course, otherwise people would have stopped building them long ago. And maybe the nest-builder was created larger than the holes the builder had cut. Whatever the reason, the bird had opted for the natural over the artificial.

You’ve spotted the meaning behind this parable already, right? Probably saw it coming a mile away? Here on earth—since the Fall—we humans have always been tempted to hedge our bets against heaven. Sure, God loves us (or we hope He does), but we tend to desperately devise over-the-top security for ourselves, forgetting Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount advice for not getting obsessed about “tomorrow”-based things we have no control over. It’s a good idea to remember that God not only cares for us but has prepared us a custom-built paradise, far above anything we ourselves could ever provide.

Do you want—or need—a set of Bible texts on trusting God? Click the link immediately below:

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The Makers
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, December 2, 2016

On my way between two hospitals this past Wednesday, I made a brief stop at the University of Washington bookstore. I originally trained to be an English teacher, so I was moseying through the poetry section when I saw the above scene out the window.

Actually, what I saw looked a lot better than the photo above. The reason it’s so whitish and out of focus is that it’s only a small part of the whole scene which my camera captured. Here’s the full photo, below:

You probably are aware that as you snap a digital camera’s shutter, the camera’s internal computer is “averaging” the  exposure. It says to itself, “Aha. Here’s a scene. What’s that whitish part at the top? Well, it can’t be that important, because it’s not toward the center of the photo. The picture-taker must think all those books and Christmas decorations are the most important, so I will calibrate the light to make that happen.”

Take a look at the first photo, which is the zoomed-up top part of the whole scene. A construction project is happening, and the yellow blob in front of the tree is a construction worker, waiting to capture and guide the huge angled beam at the upper right, which a crane is lowering toward him.

And the lower photo shows books of poetry. So what’s the connection? Both photos show the work of “makers.” The construction crew are making a building, and the word “poetry” comes from the Greek word poietes,  which literally means “maker.” So poets make, or construct, poems.

To me, these photos show creativity in action. Buildings need to be created (envisioned) and then built. Poems need to be envisioned, and then written out so other people can read them.

Both these kinds of making are what God does. He envisioned and then created our planet, and then created people like King David whose heart poured forth poetry of praise.

So next week when you’re at work or school, thank the Lord for every evidence you see of makers—creators and builders. Thank the Lord for the gifts He’s given you. And then, consecrate your work to Him.

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What is Our Message?
Image by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, December 1, 2016

My wife and daughter were on their way home on a one lane road and followed this car in stop and go traffic for miles, getting many good looks at the message!   The bumper sticker reads, “SAVE A COW, EAT A VEGETARIAN.”     Being vegetarians, initially it was startling and then amusing.   They had fun wondering if the person was really quite disgruntled with vegetarians, or just had a more extreme sense of humor.   After noticing the bumper sticker on the other side read, “ Disfunctional   ______, LEAVE ME ALONE,” they decided that perhaps the person had indeed had some unfortunate experiences with vegetarians.  
Hopefully we are as anxious to share Jesus as we are to share health tips.  Perhaps the bumper sticker is a good reminder that in our zealousness to share Jesus, we must always do so with love and kindness and friendship first, so we don’t cause people to want to make a bumper sticker out of us.  
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Colosssians 4:6

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