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

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--either Russell or Caleb Jurgensen. 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.

The Passover Meal
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 1, 2015

 “Go and prepare for our Passover supper,” Jesus told Peter and John. (Luke 22:9 NEB)  They asked where it should be held.  Jesus told them that once they reached the city (Jerusalem), they would meet a man carrying a jar of water (this was women’s work, so he would be easily identified).  They were to follow him to a large room. (Verses 9-13)  The above photo is the room, called the “Last Supper Room” and is thought to be the site where the Passover was held.  It is located on the second-story or “upper room”, directly above the Tomb of David on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. They were to prepare the room for the feast and buy a lamb for the temple sacrifice. Jesus had observed many Passover or Pesach meals before, but He knew this would be His last.  

Their Passover meal could have been a Seder meal consisting of roasted lamb, salad from five types of bitter-tasting plants (to remind them of the bitter bondage in Egypt), red wine mixed with water, charoseth (a combination of almonds, figs, dates, wine and cinnamon), and unleavened bread (when they fled Egypt, the bread didn’t have time to rise). “And as they were eating (possibly like in the above picture in the “Last Supper Room”), Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” (Mathew 26:26-28)  There was tension in the room because the disciples didn’t understand Jesus’s talk of His impending death. They didn’t understand what He meant that one of them would betray Him.  Who?  Who could it be?

This Passover would mark the death of Christ, releasing us from sin (Romans 8:2).  The “real” Passover lamb would be sacrificed.  We celebrate the “Christian Passover” as a memorial of the death and sacrifice of Jesus.  Partaking of unleavened bread and wine (or grape juice) is a remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and shed blood (I Corinthians10:16) for our sins.  Thank you, Jesus for your sacrifice for us!

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Be Both—He Was!
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 27, 2015

This past Wednesday while waiting at a red light I spotted this gently admonitory bumper sticker on a car well supplied with them. Broadcast news offers daily shovelsful of evidence that humans often aren’t kind, and those who are kindest are often not human, but loving and faithful dogs or cats.

But God designed human beings to be humble, gracious servants. And when we didn’t “get it,” He sent His Son to give us a real human example.

If you’d like to read a Bible bio about Jesus and how to relate to this divine-human Man, click the link immediately below:

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Chicken vs Squirrel
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ducker, my pet chicken, will turn 11 this spring but she is still going strong. Ducker and the squirrels at our house have a strained relationship at times. When we let Ducker out of her pen, she likes to go eat bird seed under the bird feeder, which is the exact same thing that the squirrels like to do. Sometimes they get along, sometimes Ducker gets spooked and leaves, and sometimes if the squirrels get too close what you see in the above photo happens. Ducker was watching the squirrel and it went one hop too far. Ducker almost completely lowered herself to the ground like an Olympic sprinter and took off with her wings flapping. Luckily for the squirrel, it was able to beat Ducker to the tree with a few inches to spare. The picture is blurry because the lighting wasn't good and this is a frame from a video, but I think the abstract look helps to show the speed at which things happened. Here is another frame from about a second before.

In Matthew 18:13, Jesus told his disciples this: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother."

I don't know why Ducker chases the the squirrels because they usually don't bother her, but this would be a good thing for them to remember if they could understand it. It's a powerful lesson for us, too. If someone wrongs you, kindly tell them how you feel you've been mistreated. If the problem is resolved, you could gain a friend.

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Feeling Tired?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
What you see above is the message currently on our church readerboard.  Even though the bright sun cheers the heart, many driving by feel the pressures of life.

Want to read four Bible texts about stress? Click the link immediately below.

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Being Ready – Bobcat
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I’d seen them before, but only briefly as they sprinted into the brush after crossing the road or out of the corner of my eye as they slipped behind a tree in the forest.  But this was different.  He just lay there, basking in the early morning rays of the sun, undoubtedly satisfied with the morning’s hunt.  Their crepuscular nature is another reason they are seldom seen, being most active in the early morning and late evening hours.  The Bobcat (Lynx rufus) should not be confused with Felis silvestris, the wildcat which is found throughout much of Africa, Europe, and Asia.  Still, the names are confused as is evidenced by the name of the of the mascots of the athletic teams of Princeton, Arizona, Kentucky, and Northwestern.
We had arrived at the edge of the park early in the morning to avoid having to deal with the intense desert heat.  This same pattern was also followed by the fauna which called this home.

Upon seeing the Bobcat my instinctive reaction was to reach for my camera which was resting in the back seat.  Unfortunately, being in the driver’s seat made reaching and retrieving the bulky setup difficult and I was sure our subject would vanish into the shadows before I could even get a shot off.  But much to my delight, he remained quiet as I struggled to mount the large lens on my wife’s shoulder for support.  While not perfect, I was ready.  The camera was available and not stashed in the trunk; the batteries were charged; the card was in the camera with the ISO already set.

Christ had a good deal to say about being ready for His return.  “You must be on the alert then, for you do not know when your master is coming.  You can be sure of this, however, that if the householder had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been ready for him and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.  That is why you must always be ready, for you do not know what time the Son of Man will arrive.” (Matthew 24:42-44      J.B. Phillips New Testament)  He continues along these same lines in chapter 25 with the parable of the Ten Virgins which also stresses the importance of being ready.  It’s clear He wanted us to see how critical it is to be prepared.  I’d like to think He might like my parable of having your camera ready to go too.

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Infinite Numbers
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 23, 2015

This picture was taken at Pfeiffer Beach on the California coast and one of the things that this beach is known for is its purple sand.  The water forms some amazing patterns.

The Bible talks about the thoughts of God being more than all the grains of sand.   We can't even begin to imagine the vastness of this number on one small beach, let alone the ocean floor and deserts and other beaches around the world.  

We can, however, know some of these thoughts by reading His Word, the Bible.  

God, your thoughts are precious to me.
    They are so many!
If I could count them,
    they would be more than all the grains of sand.
Psalm 139:17 and 18 (NCV)

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The Sermon
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 22, 2015

A slight breeze drifted by, spreading the sweet fragrance of flowers around us.  We were on the Mount of Beatitudes, a hillside overlooking the northern end of the Sea of Galilee where it is believed that Jesus gave his famous sermon, known as the Sermon on the Mount.  Today, the gardens are beautiful in this otherwise almost barren land.  A group all dressed in white was involved with a religious service under a canopy.  Plaques of the many lessons or “blessed are” line the paths leading to a chapel.  Scenes, like one shown just below, depicting the life of Christ were mounted on the inside walls.

Early in His ministry, Jesus gathered his disciples on a hillside near His home in Capernaum to talk with them.  Others from nearby villages also gathered to listen. He began by teaching morals - how to live and how to treat others. (Mathew 5, 6 and 7) This “sermon” is His longest recorded message and includes what we know as the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule among many other topics.  The people were amazed with His teaching and authority.  You might want to read these chapters thinking of Jesus, His disciples and the multitude sitting on this hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee and thinking of the many important principles for living He addressed.  God, help us to live a life pleasing to You full of love, charity, grace and wisdom.

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Do Not Enter?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 21, 2015

The above photo is a poignant one for at least a couple of reasons. First, I took this picture in April of 2011, the month that the Alderwood Mall Borders bookstore closed (notice the empty shelves beyond the elevator to the left?). Any time a bookstore closes is a grieving time for Shelley and me.

The second reason this photo is poignant is the sign in front of the “up” escalator: Do Not Enter. But upstairs in this Borders were my favorite departments—theology, writing, art technique, reference (and also the “clearance” section, where you could occasionally find real treasures). And now, to be barred from even going upstairs to say goodbye to my favorite sections—an maybe even snag a reduced-price item—was like a dagger to the heart.

As I look at this photo now, another thought comes to mind. What if this escalator what if this escalator what if this escalator were the path to heaven? What would block my access to that path? What could I do – or leave undone – which would cause God to put up a "Do Not Enter" sign as I approached?

No doubt about it, this is a question which needs both asking and answering. When's the last time you read through some Bible texts on salvation? Take a moment to do this now, at the link immediately below:

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Limited Library
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 20, 2015

Shelley and I both like books, but she is the one who uses our local library the most. Over the last couple of years, our Fairwood Library was closed down so that a much larger building could be built. During that time, the library was “housed” here in a little strip-mall space. As you can see, there wasn’t room enough for all the books. Patrons checked out books online, and picked them up here.

A couple of months back, to Shelley’s great joy, our brand-new library opened for service. It is a splendid place, and judging from the parking lot, there are easily three times as many patrons visiting as there were before.

When I look at the above photo, I think of how different heaven will be. Back in Eden, God was present and available to discuss wide-ranging and cosmic subjects with His children. But because of our distrust, we distanced ourselves from Him. Right now we can “order” resources from Him through prayer, and He is present through His Holy Spirit. And of course He’s provided us a 66-book library for study. But won’t it be wonderful to enter the home He is preparing for us in heaven – and to ask Him questions face to face?

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Photo ©2015 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2015 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The warm temperatures this winter in the West has brought some unusually nice weather.  Sometimes it makes me want to stop and contemplate.  In today's world we have so many distractions with entertainment and knowledge as close as our pocket or hand bag.  While generally useful and good, it is hard to have a complete thought before going on to the next bit of information that is readily available.  It is nice, however, when a person has a chance to stop and admire something and think and praise the Lord.   

Philippians 4:8 reads, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

I wonder what thoughts would be worth thinking?  Perhaps I could think about what I can do that will genuinely improve someone else's, or my own, life?  Whatever it is to think about, have fun with your creative thoughts that rise above the ordinary.

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100% Certainty
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Few things in life can be counted on. I bet if we had to make a list of people or things we could count on, with 100% certainty, the list would be fairly short. Of course in our first stab at the list, we’d mention friends, spouse, children or parents, etc.  But if we REALLY think about what it means to "count on, with 100% certainty," we’d have to remove some of these people, if not all.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t count on them, or that they don’t want to be there for us, it just means that 100% certainty may be out of their hands.
While spending a little time in the "wilderness" between Phoenix and Los Angeles (just East of Palm Springs), I had some time to stretch my legs and see what the landscape offered.  (For more detail of this adventure, scroll down to the February 4th installment). As you can see, the land is a bit bare and not a ton of vegetation grows.  That didn’t stop me from snapping a few images.  This shot caught my eye.  A large boulder – wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.  In fact, I bet I could "count on" that same giant rock being there a year from now, maybe two, or three.  Could I count on it being there 10 years from now, or even 40 years from now, with 100% certainty?  Nope.
OK, if we can’t count on our loved ones, or even the big rock, who can we count on?  That’s the easy answer.  Just turn to Psalms, chapter 18 and read verses 1-3:

I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

God’s there, with 100% certainty. He’s our Rock.  He will be there.  He promises.

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Evening Grosbeak
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

One of the challenges of living in the digital age is the need to separate the false from the true.  This, of course, is nothing new for man has been confronted with that task from the beginning.  Only today, the volume of information surrounding us has multiplied exponentially.  True, we can check out the validity of the story on Snopes or similar sites, but even this source was charged with being biased since owned by a “flaming liberal”.  So who can you trust?
The world of natural science is not immune to this type of misinformation either.  The Evening Grosbeak is a victim of such. The “grosbeak” part of its name is well-founded, for all you have to do is look at the size of its beak to determine the appropriateness of its name.  But the “evening” portion doesn’t fare so well.   For some reason early observers came to the conclusion that this bird dwelled only “in dark retreats and leaves them at the approach of night”.  If that were true the title “evening” would fit.  But all that would be needed to disprove this would be to go out during the daylight hours, look up in places where grosbeaks might be found, and if you sighted your bird the theory would be invalidated.  There is much to be said for firsthand observation.
Many of the churched have touted the Bible as being authoritative, a source which can be absolutely trusted, but how do you really know if this is true or not?  Ideas such as internal consistency and the fulfillment of prophecy have been offered as proof of its validity, but I think there is an even better test.  It’s the same test you would use to test the story about the Evening Grosbeak.  Go out and look up.  To do so, begin by reading the document to see what it has to say about God, not the trivial stuff like how many people ran out to meet Him, but the material of real substance.  This may take some doing for Scripture says a lot about who God really is. Probably the easiest place to start is by reading the Gospels for there you have Christ responding to another who had the same question, “What is God like”?  “Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?   Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”  (John 14:9 NIV)   Look for evidence that supports or contradicts Scripture’s description of what God is like. And by all means, enjoy the search, because that’s just another quality of what God is like.

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I Will Trust in You
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 16, 2015

Last year I went on a hike to a small lake in the woods.  I was enjoying the view and the sun when I suddenly heard what sounded like a gunshot.  When I looked around to see where it could be coming from, I saw someone floating down with a parachute.  I think the sound was actually from the parachute opening.  

The lake happened to be at the bottom of a mountain that I found out later is used by BASE jumpers.  BASE or B.A.S.E. jumping is (according to Wikipedia) "parachuting from a fixed structure or cliff.  'BASE' is an acronym that stand for four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump:  building, antenna, span and Earth (cliff)."  (This is not a sport I would advocate and I could probably write another blog on that subject!)

It takes a couple of hours of hiking to get to the jumping off point and then they have a very rapid descent by first using their wing suits and then their parachutes.  The day I was there, there were three jumpers and they all landed safely.  BASE jumpers don't stick around so by the time I finished my lunch and got to the other end of the lake, which was around a corner, they were gone.

BASE jumping is not a safe sport.  These people put their trust in their gear and in themselves.  All kinds of things can go wrong and have gone wrong with these jumps.  

As Christians, we need to put our trust in Someone who has already saved us:

Hold me up, and I shall be safe,
And I shall observe Your statutes continually.
Psalm 119:117 NKJV

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
Psalm 56:4

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Come, Follow Me
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 15, 2015

During the last few months, I’ve shared many Daily Photo Parables about Jesus in the area around the Sea of Galilee. There are a lot of fish in this Sea.  Fishermen can be seen catching fish from boats and along the shoreline. Many symbols of fish can be seen in the area, like the design made with rocks as shown above at Mount Beatitude.

Even this bench at the historic town site of Capernaum has two fish on the back.  

After Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights and was tempted by the devil, He settled at Capernaum, which is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee where He lived among the fishermen. (Mathew 4:13) Once He began proclaiming the gospel of God and the message to repent, He realized He needed “helpers”.  

He first invited Peter and his brother, Andrew, fishermen, to “come with me, and I will make you fishers of men.” v.20  NEB  Next, He saw another set of brothers, James and John, also fishermen, and called them to go with Him.  Sometimes, He preached from their boats as they sailed in the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  Later, he chose others until twelve were chosen – His twelve disciples.  

The profile of a fish was used by early Christians as a secret symbol indicating followers of Jesus.  In the first few centuries under Roman rule, persecuted Christians used the fish symbol to indicate they were Christians.  Today, that same symbol can be seen on stickers or backs of cars. He invited people to “Come, follow Me”.  Have you accepted His invitation to follow Him?

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The World’s Craziest Language
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 14, 2015

On Tuesdays I volunteer for four hours at our local Adventist elementary and secondary schools. This week I was in a room containing the wall chart in the photo. My first training was as an English teacher, but I’d never seen a chart like this—mainly because I’d never needed to teach English as a second language.

As I stared at this chart, I was appalled. This has to be Exhibit A to make the case that English is truly the craziest language in the world. For one thing—and the chart doesn’t even cover this—an English vowel can have at least two different sounds (“I live in that house,” “I saw a live band last night,” “Ron bought a ton of coal.”)

But it must be the top third of the above chart which gives first-time English learners the most grief (you can tell that by the teacher’s marker-drawn circles and squares). In almost half of the vowel-combinations, there’s a slash through one of the letters, which means, “When you’re saying this, ignore the slashed-out letter.” For example, in the word sheep you don’t say “Shee Eep” but “sheep.” In the word key you don’t say “kee-yuh” but “kee.”

And that’s just the top third of the chart. The next section shows you how “th” has two sounds, feather and thimble, and how the letters “gh” either have the “f” sound (rough), or simply vanish: high, thigh, right.

How did English get to be so crazy?  From what I understand, it’s mainly because so many other languages have gotten dumped into it and stirred around, mainly the Germanic-style Anglo-Saxon as well as Latin-leaning French. And the rest is linguistic history—as well as tooth-gnashing annoyance for those who didn’t learn it naturally as kids.

Isn’t it wonderful that we have a Heavenly Father, and a gracious Savior, and a gentle Holy Spirit, whose ears can lovingly decipher prayers made—and thoughts thought, and sobs sobbed—in guttural German and liquid French and musical Chinese?

We know that Heaven understands and treasures the different language of the world because of what happened to Jesus’ disciples on the Day of Pentecost:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:4 – 11 NKJV)

Get the point? God cares for you—and Jesus died for you—no matter where you’re from, no matter whether your language seems to others like an indecipherable code. God understands. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” He says, every day, to everyone.

For helpful Bible texts on how to pray, click the link immediately below.

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To Your Health?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 13, 2015

Yesterday morning on the back door of a soft-drink delivery truck I spotted the words you see in my photo above. (If you study the brown and white photo-sliver in the lower left of the frame, you just might be able to guess the name of the soft drink. Hint: For well over a century it's been the most famous soft drink in the world.)

Okay, let’s break the ad copy down. “No artificial flavors.” Yeah? Since when did this soft drink ever have a real flavor—a real nutritious flavor, that is. And “no preservatives added”? Is it possible that this is because there’s nothing organic (and nutritious) that needs preserving? Motor oil doesn’t need preservatives, nor does weed killer.

And how about “since 1886”? The presupposition behind this line seems to be, “This company has been in business for a long time. Businesses who have managed to last a long time offer products that generation after generation must want to keep buying. Generation after generation of people can’t be wrong. If you buy our product you’ll be joining and sustaining a venerable tradition.”

Over the last few weeks I’ve heard on the news that the profits of the big soft drink companies are taking a dive—down 25 or 30% if I heard right. One of them is actually doing a survey to find out why this is.

I have an idea that people are waking up to the fact that these empty-calorie sugar-bombs are doing appalling damage. And maybe because there are better options in convenience store cold-cases.

How’s your healthstyle? Because it does make a difference—especially to your Intelligent Designer. The Bible says that He not only created you as a marvelous machine, but as a temple for His presence.

For two screens of Bible texts about health, click the link immediately below:

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Above the Clouds
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, February 12, 2015

During the winter where I live, it is almost always cloudy. On most days, the hill behind our house is either below or in the clouds. But sometimes on days when it is foggy and gloomy for everyone else, the top can be above the clouds. It's really cool to be hiking through the fog and mist and then see sunlight on a day when you least expect it. I normally get annoyed when the power lines get in the way of the view, but this time I thought it was cool how they disappeared into the clouds. In the distance I could clearly see the Olympic Mountains (although they are really small in this picture).

Sometimes life might be cloudy and seem like there isn't any sunshine, but remember that the clouds don't go forever, and there is always sunshine above them. Just keep hiking until you get there.

Proverbs 17:22: "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

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Bouquet of Flowers
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In Isaiah 40:1-8, it reads:
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the LORD’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
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,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
The voice said, “Cry out!”
And he said, “What shall I cry?”
“All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”
I love the last paragraph – ‘All flesh is grass…like a flower of the field.’ But we continue to read that the ‘grass withers’ and the ‘flowers fade’, yet ‘…the word of our God stands forever.’!
If you have ever gone to Pike Place Market, among other things, I am sure you saw the hundreds of bouquets of flowers you can purchase to take home.  They brighten up any room and/or home.  But that ‘brightening’ is for a short time.  A couple days later, the colors start to fade, the green starts to wither and eventually the, once beautiful arrangement is no longer.  What a promise to have God’s word stand FOREVER! We don’t have to worrying about any expiration date on His words and His promises.

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Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It’s not a Rorschach test designed to discover your hidden personality traits or anything of that nature.  What it is, is much more mundane than that.  Put in simplest terms, it is ants, and our efforts to get rid of them.  For all his wisdom, Solomon must not have had ants in the palace when he wrote Proverbs 6:6 advising the wise to “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” (KJV)  I can admire their industry, their organization, their tenacity; just not in my house.  By some means or the other they had found a way into our abode.  Fortunately, they were not carpenter ants that might devour our dwelling, but they were none-the-less bothersome.

Enter the scene one of the commercial products designed to eradicate such visitors.  After reading on the internet about a variety of household remedies that promised desired results, we succumbed and purchased a solution off the shelf.  And it worked.  Sort of.  The ants were unquestionably attracted to the sticky substance but for some reason they felt it necessary to bring an offering of appeasement to their newly discovered god.  Tiny bits of sand, enough rocks to build a small-scale rock garden, miniature slivers of wood, anything their ant-minds felt of value were transported from somewhere and left for us to wonder at.  Why this transaction?  I have no idea.  Perhaps they were simply busy doing what ants do and were distracted by the lure of the poison.

Sin definitely has a drawing card, otherwise we wouldn’t be so drawn to it.  Things that we value highly are frequently offered in a foolish exchange for just a taste of the poison.  We may even see the effect that poison has on others around us, but that doesn’t prevent us from taking a nibble as well.  It’s likely this is not what Solomon had in mind when he advised us to consider the ant, but it did provide a reminder of my own psychological weakness, my own susceptibility to sin.  So, maybe it was a Rorschach test after all, and it just took me longer to figure it out.

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Avoiding Roadblocks
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 9, 2015

I was walking in a bird sanctuary when I came across this "No Entry" sign.  I don't know why the path was blocked beyond that point but it was.

Don't you find that we often come to roadblocks and detours as we try to navigate the highways of our lives?  We don't know why they come up and sometimes we think that there is no way around them or through them.  

In another of the great I AM statements in the Bible, we are told that, in our spiritual lives, there is a WAY through.

Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.
John 14:6 (NCV)

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He Was Tempted, Too
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 8, 2015

After a short cable car ride in very hot weather, we were on Mount Temptation, also known as Mount Quarantania, meaning 40, the number of days in Christ’s fast.   Located about 7 miles from Jericho, it looks out to the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab and Gilead.  The Monastery of the Temptation (shown in the above photo) clings to the mountain face where it’s believed that the Devil appeared to tempt Jesus away from his 40-day fast Monks have inhabited caves on the mountain since the early centuries of Christianity. Today, three monks live in the Monastery.

The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the Judaean desert where He had nothing to eat and at the end was famished (Mathew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13). 

The photo immediately above is of artwork in the monastery depicting the Devil tempting Jesus. First, the Devil told Him to turn the stones into bread, then to pay homage to him and finally told Him to throw himself down.  Jesus told the Devil that he was not to test the Lord his God.  When the Devil left Him, angels appeared and were with Him.  Thank You, Jesus, for overcoming temptation, suffering and saving us from our sins!

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Waiting and Watching
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 7, 2015

While out on errands this past Sunday, Shelley and I stopped at a Trader Joe’s store. She went into get a few things, and I stayed in the car.

Parked next to me was this beautiful blue car with an alert little dog inside. I always love it when I’m parked next to a car with a dog. It seems like the smaller the dog, the more alert and watchful it is. And if a small dog is alone, it always seems to be peering toward the store’s entrance, which is where it last caught sight of its owner.

Sure enough, that’s what this dog was doing. As I usually do, I knocked sharply on my own window, and the dog swiveled his head around toward me. But instantly he resumed his scrutiny of the store’s doorway.

Shelley, take your time, I thought. I want to see the end of the story. I began to watch the store’s entrance as closely as the dog was doing. As shoppers emerged, some headed in our direction, but there was very little change in the dog’s alertness until a man who seemed to be in his 70s approached.

Suddenly, the dog stood totally upright, and as the man approached the car the dog began to wiggle. The man opened the door, dropped a bag of groceries in the back, and settled in behind the wheel. And the dog didn’t do any barking or face-licking or leaping about. He just settled down in the passenger seat. Everything was back to normal. The Master had returned.

We know not the time when he cometh,
At even, or midnight, or morn;
It may be at deepening twilight,
It may be at earliest dawn.
He bids us to watch and be ready,
Nor suffer our lights to grow dim;
That, when he may come, he will find us
All waiting and watching for him.

Waiting and watching,
Waiting and watching,
Waiting and watching,
Still waiting and watching for him.

I think of his wonderful pity,
The price our salvation hath cost;
He left the bright mansions of glory
To suffer and die for the lost.
And, sometimes, I think it will please him,
When those whom he died to redeem,
Rejoice in the hope of his coming,
By waiting and watching for him.

O Jesus, my loving Redeemer,
Thou knowest I cherish as dear
The hope that mine eyes shall behold thee,
That I shall thine own welcome hear.
If to some as a judge thou appearest,
Who forth from thy presence would flee,
A Friend most beloved I'll greet thee;
I'm waiting and watching for thee.
        --Lyrics by Sarepta Henry

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How Are the Mighty Fallen!
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 6, 2015

Early this past Tuesday morning Shelley and I launched out on a morning walk. Along the way, we spotted this forlorn object lying in the middle of the street. If you live in the Puget Sound area, or even anywhere in the state, you’ll recognize what this is – it’s a Seattle Seahawks car-window flag, and it and its clones have been fluttering above thousands of vehicles for the last several months.

Now I am very sure that the Hawks fan who owned this flag did not wrench it from its moorings in disgust and fling it here. Hawks fans are too loyal for that. But there’s no doubt about the distress and disappointment this whole region feels after what happened in the last couple of minutes of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Those who watched the game know, of course, that the game wasn’t a blowout. We were neck and neck with the Patriots down there at the end, close to their goal line, ready to punch that ball through. But it didn’t work out that way. And over the last few days, Washingtonians are ruefully licking their wounds and starting to whisper, “After all, it’s just a game, isn’t it?”

Every day, of course, we are flooded with war bulletins about a greater Contest, the great controversy between Christ and Satan. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember any time in my life when this planet’s news has been uglier. Maybe part of it is that we simply know more – we have greater access to a knowledge of what is really happening in the world.

However, the Bible very clearly says that the contest will soon be over. We may be down there at the end of the final quarter, with maybe just two “minutes” left. And what’s at stake is not a silver trophy in the shape of a football, but life itself – who gets to live eternally and who doesn’t. That’s the game that’s really important.

Want to study two screens’ worth of Bible verses which talk about the last days of Earth’s history? Click the link immediately below:

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Photo ©2015 by Chelsea Jurgensen
Commentary ©2015 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, February 5, 2015

This young horse is in training to become a Seattle Police Department patrol horse.  At first glance, I thought it looked a little scruffy.  Fortunately for the horse, its owners know what it will become with training, grooming, food, and time.  

I think it is a little bit like that with us and God.  God chooses all people to be His children while they are still sinners.   In John 3:16, Jesus says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

Romans 5: 6-9 says, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  

God must think everyone has special potential.  Let's take that encouragement as we learn to follow God until He comes.

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Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Just a couple of days ago I took this picture about 10 miles east of Coachella, California (not a lot around there). The reason I know exactly where I was, besides it being just a couple of days ago, is because it’s on the side of the freeway where I was stopped in traffic for nearly 3 hours.  Near the exit of Coachella, earlier in the day, 2 semi-trucks collided and burst into flames (both drivers were fine) but neither the frozen chicken (turned to cooked chicken) nor the truck full of bees made it unscathed. – Full story can be found at the link immediately below:
As traffic moved 30 feet and then sat for 15 minutes, moved 100 feet and then sat for 25 minutes, it gave me a few different opportunities to get out, stretch my legs and find a few things to take pictures of.  The image above isn’t the most amazing shot, but it reminds me of how we feel sometimes – alone, deserted, away from anything or anyone. That’s a bleak way of looking at life, or a given situation in life, but we do.  There are times (at least for me) when I feel isolated and sometimes hopeless. We glance around for something to cling to. As Christians, we know that there is only one thing do.  Cling to Him.
It reminds me of the song "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less"
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness seems to veil His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath His covenant and blood
Support me in the ‘whelming flood:
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When the last trumpet’s voice shall sound,
O may I then in him be found.
Clothed in his righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before his throne.

Words by Edward Mote (1797-1874) and others
Music by Francis Blight (PRS)
The next time you feel alone, left behind and deserted, remember, He is ALWAYS with you!

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American Bittern
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Even though we may think of members of the heron family as being long-legged, beautiful birds which grace Chinese paintings with their elegant posture, not all in the clan fit so easily into this description. The American Bittern is one such example.  Appearing rather short and stout, and without the attractive plumes worn by others, this wader spends much of its time concealed among the reeds where it makes its home.  When a potential intruder enters its domain, its protective camouflage is further enhanced as the bird will freeze with its bill pointed skyward, even swaying  back and forth in rhythm with the wind-blown reeds to make the illusion complete. But as ordinary as its looks might be, its call or song is extraordinary.  The male gulps air into the esophagus and produces loud “oog-ka-chuk” sounds which vaguely resemble the sound of a stake being driven into the mud with a wooden mallet.  While this guttural sound may not be exactly musical, it certainly is unique.
These unusual sounds have caused people to associate the bittern with evil, believing they were warnings of doom and desolation.  Shortly after the American Revolution in New England, bitterns were believed to be an “affront to the Sabbath” and as a result, ten years after independence was declared, large numbers were hunted to cleanse the New Nation of this evil.
Not exactly an ecologically sound move, but even worse, what a distortion of thinking towards the Sabbath.  Notice Isaiah’s attitude towards this day:  “The LORD says, “If you treat the Sabbath as sacred and do not pursue your own interests on that day; if you value my holy day and honor it by not traveling, working, or talking idly on that day,  then you will find the joy that comes from serving me…” (Isaiah 58:13,14  GNT)  Rather than the Sabbath being a day of restriction and superstition, it should be a day filled with joy from close association with the Creator and His creations.  And that would include bitterns and the rest of His gifts to us.  How sad that we should associate offers of His love with the negative and repressive instead of celebrating His goodness and love toward us.

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The Importance of Staying on the Path
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 2, 2015

I went on a guided hike to see elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park in California a few years ago.  The Northern Elephant Seals are the second largest seals in the world with the males achieving a length of more than 13 feet and weighing up to 4,500 pounds.  

These seals were hunted almost to extinction for their blubber but the population has rebounded and they have expanded their range.  They are still a protected species, however.  They haul out mid December to March to mate and give birth.  We saw lone males quite a ways from the water (pictured) as well as a harem much closer to the water with lots of females and pups (including one that had just been born). We were not able to get very close to the harem but were able to get some good views with binoculars.

The parks and recreation website notes that these seals are "dangerous wild animals" and if you do see a seal, you have to stay at least 25 feet away from it. In order to protect seals and people, you have to walk with a guide and stay with the group in the park.

The Bible tells us that we have a Guide who will keep us on the right paths:

Show me your ways, LORD,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

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Into the River
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 1, 2015

I was amazed at how narrow the Jordan River (shown in the photo above) is today as it flows for 156 miles from Mount Hermon through the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea with Jordan on its east and Israel and Palestine on the west.  It is considered to be one of the world’s most sacred rivers.  We had come to the area of the Jordan River called Yardenit, the point where the Jordan River flows out of the Sea of Galilee and the place where Christian pilgrims can be baptized.  

A “Wall of New Life” at the exit depicts verses telling in many languages about the baptism of Jesus. Just above is the English version. It’s so called because we Christians believe that baptism changes one’s life, bringing us closer to Jesus and therefore, becoming a new person.

John the Baptist went throughout the Jordan valley encouraging people to get baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  He baptized large crowds of people in the Jordan River. (Luke 3:3,7)   He told them that he will baptize them with water, but a mightier One is coming. (V.16)  It was here that Jesus went to him for baptism. (Mathew 3:13, Mark 1:9, Luke 3:21)  “During a general baptism of the people, when Jesus too had been baptized and was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove; and there came a voice from heaven, ‘Thou art my Son, my Beloved; on thee my favour rests.’”  Luke 3:21, 22 NEB

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