Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Daily Photo Parable 2017

Thanks to all the photographers who have kindly accepted my invitation to provide their photos and commentary. Here's the schedule of those whose excellent, thought-provoking and encouraging work you'll be seeing, and when: SUNDAY--Bev Riter; MONDAY--Cheryl Boardman; TUESDAY--Robert Howson; WEDNESDAY--Darren Milam; THURSDAY-- someone from the Jurgensen family. I handle Friday and Sabbath, generally using photos from the point-and-shoot camera I keep on my belt.-- Pastor Maylan Schurch


NOTE: To see previous photos from this current month, simply scroll down. To see previous months' blogs, click the month you want on the menu at the
left.






Harris’ Hawk
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The year before the “Great Disappointment” of 1844, John James Audubon made a trek up the Missouri River, accompanied by Edward Harris, an amateur naturalist and gentleman horsebreeder.  Although neither Audubon or Harris ever saw a Harris’ Hawk in the wild, Audubon elected to name this species after his friend, describing him as “one of the finest men of God’s creation.”  This buteo, which is also known as a Bay-winged Hawk, resides in the Southwest where it is found in arid desert regions. Because of its attractiveness, Hollywood included it in a film about Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, even though they aren’t found in the Pacific Northwest.
 
Their distinctive hunting technique sets them apart from all other North American raptors for they are the only hawk observed hunting in “packs” where two or more birds will work communally to capture prey.  Their diet consists almost entirely of rodents which one bird will drive into a mesquite thicket or similar habitat.  It will pursue the prey into the bushes from which the rodent will emerge from the other sideand into the talons of the waiting partner.  The bounty of the hunt is then shared by all which were part of the chase.  Cooperation pays off. 

Even if it weren’t inspired, the words of Ecclesiastes 4 make sense to us:  “Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively.  If one of them falls down, the other can help him up.   But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him.”   (verses 9 and 10 TEV)  So, here’s to the Harris’ Hawk, and all those who have learned to work together.  Aren’t you glad there are some people like that in your part of the country?




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The Way
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 30, 2017

This picture is from the trail which winds along Bowman Bay in Deception Pass State Park.  I like the way the planks on this bridge are worn from the passage of thousands of feet over the years. .

As we travel this road called life, it helps to remember the purpose and the final destination:

You will show me the way of life,
    granting me the joy of your presence
    and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Psalm 16:11 (NLT)
 


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Tree of Life
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 29, 2017

After visiting the Great Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary, we spent time in the adjacent Hungarian Jewish Museum and at the Holocaust Memorial.  Leaves on the weeping willow “Tree of Life” (shown here) contain names of some of the hundreds of thousands Hungarian Jews killed during the Holocaust. It is situated above a mass grave of 5,000 victims. Traditionally, a willow tree symbolizes mourning. While atrocities were being committed, other people created an underground network, saving the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews.  Those who saved the lives of others are also recognized here.

Millions of lives have been lost to war in more recent years. Reports of the on-going Syrian Civil War claim that hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. Do you, like me, look forward to a time when war is no more?  While in vision, John saw a tree of life. “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s street.  On either side of the river stood a tree of life, which yields twelve crops of fruit, one for each month of the year; the leaves of the trees serve for the healing of the nations.  Every accursed thing shall disappear.”  Revelation 22:1-2




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The Mind is a Pattern-seeker
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 28, 2017

Earlier this week—and I can’t remember where I was—I happened upon this strange little patch of painted wall. I was so intrigued by it that I pulled my camera from its belt case and snapped this photo.

Even though what you see looks like pen-and-ink drawings from the mind of Salvador Dali, it was nowhere near an art gallery or display, and it’s not posted in a way that a work of art would be. It seems to simply be patterns made by cracked paint.

But the more I study it, the more intrigued I become. It’s like the old Rorschach ink-blots which psychologists used to ascertain a person’s level of thought-disorder. I can look at one of the above patterns and see something, and if you haven’t been “programmed” by knowing what I see, you will probably see something totally different.

For example, the figure at the lower left looks to me like the rear view of an elephant standing on his hind legs and drinking the last drops from something like a watering-can. The figure at the far right seems like a discarded mask used by someone performing as Casper the Ghost.

Isn’t it interesting how the mind works? I believe that, totally aside from any “thought disorder,” the photo shows how quickly our minds try to bring order from disorder, sense from nonsense, design from randomness. And I think that this is a reflection of the Creator who made our minds, because He too brought order out of chaos.

It might be a good idea to get to know Him better, right? For several Bible texts which create an interesting “bio” of God, click the link immediately below.

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


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The Whole Creation Groaneth
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 27, 2017

A couple of days ago I pulled up beside this car which, I think, was parked in a library lot. The quick impression I got as I glanced at the car seat was that it was slumped forward, its headrest tipped down dejectedly.

Obviously there’s no human emotion here—this is a two-door car whose rear-seat passenger had jumped out without bothering to raise the seat to its upright position (and probably made a habit of leaving it forward like that so as to make re-entry into the back seat easier).

This supposedly discouraged car seat reminded me of the King James Versions’ phrasings of Romans 8:22: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Paul’s context in that chapter describes how we’re all waiting in agony for the Lord to return and to release us from the captivities of sin. The tragedy of evil has stricken us all.

God’s Word provides many promises as we wait for Jesus’ return. Here’s some encouragement about the new life we can have right now. Click the link immediately below, and pray your way through these steps.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/new-life


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White-Out
Photo ©2017 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2017 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, January 26, 2017

It was only a few weeks ago we had snowy conditions.  In some places it looked like almost everything had turned white.

Maybe in our regular lives we need a "white-out" sometimes.  Perhaps some things are not going well and we need to change things around.  Jesus promises to forgive us and give us strength to find positive alternatives when we are tempted to follow our own way.  Isaiah 1: 17,18 says,

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool."


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God Is Good, All The Time
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Many of you may have heard this saying, “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.” Besides being a true statement, there is a song that goes along with it. The song is written by Don Moen. Don’s story is – he’s Christian song writer and pastor, working for Integrity Music. I know there is more to Don’s story and his career as a performer, pastor, etc. (I’ll let you look that up and hear the song) but I am concentrating on the phrase itself.
 
As I mentioned earlier, it’s true – God is good, all the time. We face challenges, crises, joy, sadness, throughout the day, week and year. How do we get through the tough times? We remind ourselves – God is good, all the time. The fact we have sin to deal with and muck through, doesn’t change that amazing hope we have – All the time, God is good!
 
Over the last 3 days, we were dealing with a family member, not feeling well and a trip to the hospital. Until today, we weren’t sure how serious. After a few tests, a procedure and lots of prayers, the results are good – no major issues. God is good, all the time! It truly is a phrase that you can tell yourself all day long and share with others.
 
How to show, God is good, all the time? Pink plumeria – of course!


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Round-tailed Ground Squirrel       
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
                                                                           
Funny, isn’t it, that we seem to have no trouble quoting Scripture that contains a passage from one who may have been less than the perfect advisor.  But we do so, because we assume that at least part of what they have to say seems to be correct.  Such is the case with Elihu’s counsel to Job.  “Do you have any idea how God does it all, how he makes bright lightning from dark storms, How he piles up the cumulus clouds— all these miracle-wonders of a perfect Mind? Why, you don’t even know how to keep cool on a sweltering hot day, So how could you even dream of making a dent in that hot-tin-roof sky?”  (Job 37:15-18 The Message)
 
Maybe Job hadn’t figured out how to stay cool but it appears that this Round-tailed Ground Squirrel has it mastered.  At least that’s the assumption made by biologists observing its actions.  To begin with, it limits its activities during the hottest part of the day, and when that isn’t possible it will flatten itself out, maximizing contact with the ground which is cooler than nearby air.  And there are plenty of days when that seems necessary, since they live in the desert areas of the Southwest U.S. and Northern Mexico.  When the days turn colder, they retreat into their underground burrows where they go into a torpor, but not full hibernation.


 
And their water needs?  This is largely supplied by the foods they eat like the pods of this Velvet Mesquite.  Such foods have an average water content of 80%.  Elihu may not have had it all right, but he was right about our need to stay humble before our creator God.
 


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The Journey
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 23, 2017

This photo is from Washington Pass Overlook looking down at highway 20 as it climbs westward.  From here you can see the peaks of Liberty Mountain if you look in the opposite direction.  

I like the way the trees grow in a spiral.  There seem to be many opinions as to why they do that on exposed ridges like this but it seems to do with having more flexibility which is helpful in wind and snow.  
Psalm 84 compares our lives to a road that God travels. I think flexibility is a good thing because nothing ever stays the same.

And how blessed all those in whom you live,
    whose lives become roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
    discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
    at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!
Psalm 84:5-7 (The Message)


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Let’s Not Forget
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 22, 2017

One of the most moving memorials I’ve visited is the Shoes on The Danube, shown above.  A quick look might make one wonder what’s so significant about this – just shoes.  During World War II, the ruling Arrow Cross Party rounded up people from the Jewish ghetto and other areas.  Forcefully, they were taken to the bank of the Danube River in Budapest and stripped naked.  They were also forced to take their shoes off since shoes were a valuable commodity.  A firing squad shot them in the back at close range where they fell into the freezing river and floated away.

Sculptors created this memorial of this Holocaust atrocity that sits near the Hungarian Parliament building.  Sixty pairs of rusted shoes cast from iron represent the 20,000 Jewish men, women and children whose lives were lost on the bank of the river.  Mass murder – how sad.  Some lost their lives because of their ancestry, others because of their beliefs, including religious beliefs. Let’s not forget what happened here and elsewhere.

A long time before this, there was another man, also innocent.  The people wanted Him crucified; and He was.  He, however, died to save you and me.  Let’s not forget Him.


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Adventure Awaits!
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 21, 2017

Back in mid-September Shelley and I took one of our mini-getaways to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The first leg of the journey always involves taking a ferry ride, and once underway, I paused on an upper deck to snap this photo.

When boarding the ferry, motorcycles are always allowed to park in front, no doubt to avoid catastrophic inter-vehicle tangles when disembarking. And once the boat’s prow hits the destination dock, and that plastic-netting fence has been pulled aside, those cyclists can roar away on their adventures (which, as you see from the sunlight sparkling on the water, will probably be unhindered by rain).

Though the chances that Shelley and I will ever tour the peninsula or anywhere else by motorcycle are so slight as to be statistically impossible, I can catch the excitement. No car chassis separates you from the sun and the breeze and the joy of the open road.

In one sense, that ferry is like the Christian family, moving inexorably through the uncertain waters of earth’s final history, seeing the encouraging sunlight of God’s love, and positively aching to burst out into the happy adventures of heaven, from which we’ll never return to the uncertainties and shackles of today’s existence.

Want to learn how to get on the boat? Once you’ve sampled some of the lyrics of a beloved Christian song, click the link below the lyrics.

Storms may rise on seas unknown
While we journey towards our home
Surely we'll learn what grace is for
As we sail to heaven's shore

Send us strength, oh, Pilgrim Guide
Sin would drown us in its tide
Be close at hand and go before
As we sail to heaven's shore
     --Greg Nelson, Phil McHugh

For several Bible texts on salvation, click the link immediately below:

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


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My Amazing Bird Photo!
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 20, 2017

If you’ve kept up with these Daily Photo Parables for awhile, you will have noticed that we have several expert bird photographers. Actually, though Robert Howson is (as far as I know) the only formal “birder” in the group, meaning he is dead serious about it, and has a “life list,” all the other bloggers are pretty knowledgeable as well.

Except me, of course. The number of birds I can identify without fear of contradiction is probably ten, and that counts the great blue heron and the ringneck pheasant.

Therefore it comes as a gratifying shock when I spot what (to me) is a truly exotic bird, the Pileated Woodpecker in the photo above. (A search online tells me that this bird is actually not that rare in the Pacific Northwest. So much for my amazing photo.)

But notice what happens when I happen upon a truly decorative bird? I don’t have the right camera! My little belt-camera, great for normal uses, can’t zoom in with the crispness of the lenses used by the Howsons of this world, or the Riters, or the Milams or the Boardmans or the Jurgensens. What you see is my best effort, but . . . .

Looking at the uncertain photo-resolution of my own exotic bird, above, and comparing it with the prize-winning work of my fellow camera-snappers, reminds me of a sentence from Paul’s great “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. The context shows that it’s speaking about how what now is unclear will in God’s future become clear. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (Verse 12, NKJV)

Won’t heaven be wonderful? Not only will all my worries and fears and questions find satisfaction, but I’ll be able to walk right up to a pileated woodpecker and ruffle that little crown on his head!

For some fascinating Bible facts about heaven, click the link immediately below. And once you’re there, check out the related links as well.

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


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Remembering the Present
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sometimes winter sunsets are amazing because they last a long time.  At the equator the sun sinks rapidly, but farther north it dips at an angle and provides longer light for sunsets.  We might feel like winter is something to be endured and not much good happens outdoors.  So it is nice to see amazing things not available at other times.

Our lives might be kind of like that.  We think of the good old days, and how wonderful they were.  The present might seem fairly drab.  But, if we take a look around, right now the good old days of the future are happening around us.  Despite bad things happening in the world, we can adjust our mental attitude.  We can look for ways to do special things for the people in our sphere of influence.

Let's remember the present to share God's love and make our own corner of the world a better place.


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Colorific
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The last couple of days, I’ve been re-reading about Joseph (maybe some of you have been doing the same? If not, check it out in Genesis 37). One of the great stories about Joseph is his amazing, colorful coat. As we remember, Joseph’s father favored him and that’s why he made this special coat just for him. Unfortunately, Joseph’s brothers didn’t take too well to this favoritism. Actually, they didn’t like him at all--to the point where they sold their brother as a slave, just to get Joseph out of their sight. The good news – God had a different plan for Joseph and it would be incredible, bold and surprising….somewhat like his coat.
 
If we take a look at where Joseph’s life started and where it ends up, it’s absolutely amazing. God is with him each step of the way. Opening some doors and closing others. In the end, God is in control of each one of us. There are times we may not feel it, but He’s there. In the good times and the bad, God is with us.
 
We may not know exactly what Joseph’s coat looked like, but these tulips, in the image above, have to be a close representation. Maybe each color represented each of God’s miracles in Joseph’s life. Take stock of your life and the work God has done in it. What does your “coat” look like?


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Great Horned Owl
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It may not be a fair comparison, but I’d like to equate the life of Elijah with the Great Horned Owl.  Few people in the biblical record were as direct and unswerving as was Elijah.  Life found him in a variety of places, from the court of Ahab, to a wilderness stream near Cherith, east of the Jordan; from a mountaintop to Zarephath, not far from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. In each of these settings he was a staunch supporter of the true God, no questions asked.

 The Great Horned Owl, our most powerful and aggressive owl, is found in a variety of habitats as well, from deep forests to open farm land; in wilderness areas as well as city parks.  They will take on almost any prey including skunks, domestic cats, hawks, and other owls and have even been known to attack porcupines, sometimes with fatal results.  In one of these less than successful attempts, the owl was found pierced with 66 quills imbedded in him.
 
One of the qualities which both Elijah and the Great Horned Owl share is their tenacity and endurance.  We remember Elijah’s breakdown following threats from Jezebel where he ran and hid himself, for that very reason.  It was so out of character for him.  In every other account, he stands firm no matter what the odds.  This exception shows us his very human side, where even the strongest have feet of clay. The account is told of a farmer who caught one of these large owls in a trap.  With great effort the owl broke the chain and flew off with the trap dangling behind.  A week later the owl returned and was once again ensnared; only this time his other leg was caught.  But once again the bird broke the second chain and escaped with a trap still attached to each leg.  In this condition it managed to hunt and survive for several weeks until one of the traps became entangled in a fence where it ultimately died of starvation.
 
Maybe it’s just a matter of temperament or personality, for some of us excel as peacemakers while others of us shine in the heat of conflict.  Whatever our gifts, the earth is varied enough to find a place where those talents are needed.  Our challenge is to stay in touch with the One who invariably knows when best to use them.


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Thin Ice
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 16, 2017

I was passing a lake near where our church meets for their annual camp out when I saw a whole lot of people walking on this lake!  As you can see, there is  a sign that states, "Caution:  Melting Ice."  

Temperatures have been just slightly below freezing at night for several nights and have been up above freezing in the daytime.  (It was about 38°F when I stopped to get the picture.)  There were people out of the picture who were even further out toward the center of the lake but I didn't want to show any faces.

The ranger showed up just as I was leaving and most people started heading back to their vehicles. While I didn't see anybody fall in while I was there, I'm  not sure why people thought that ignoring the sign would be a good idea!  

The Bible gives us a lot of advice.  We would be wise to heed it.

Dear friend, take my advice;
    it will add years to your life.
I’m writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way,
    I’m drawing a map to Righteous Road.
I don’t want you ending up in blind alleys,
    or wasting time making wrong turns.
Hold tight to good advice; don’t relax your grip.
    Guard it well—your life is at stake!
Don’t take Wicked Bypass;
    don’t so much as set foot on that road.
Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth.
Make a detour and be on your way.

Proverbs 4:10-15 (The Message)


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Our View
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 15, 2017

I’ve shared views of Budapest, Hungary with you for the last two Sundays.  Today’s image is an overview, showing the central part of Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River.  I took this photo at the Citadella fortress on Gillert Hill.  It was a great view to look down and locate where we had been and where we planned to go.  Some of you enjoy hiking to the top of mountains to enjoy the views below and maybe even get inspired!  Looking at the big picture can help us understand the smaller parts.  By traveling in many countries around the world, experiencing different landscapes, cultures and people gives me a better understanding of my little part of the world where I live.

For a moment, let’s think about how we view God.  People might have different viewpoints.  Some might think He is authoritarian and judgmental.  Others see Him as critical or distant.  Still others believe He is a loving God who listens to them, blesses them, protects them, cares about the sick and needy, and gives people hope and peace. What examples of views God can you think of in the Bible?  Our view of God affects how we perceive the world, what we think about salvation and the way we live our lives. What is your view of God?   I view God as a loving God, giving us hope and peace. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” I John 4:8



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Anointing Oils
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, January 14, 2017

Several months back, Shelley and I were in a Christian bookstore in another state when I noticed this dazzling array. Coming closer, I discovered that these were vials of anointing oil, prepared in different flavors or aromas. Zooming in on my own higher-resolution image of this, I can confidently tell you that—reading from left to right—the aromas (all bearing the umbrella title of “Oil of Joy”) are as follows: spikenard, frankincense/myrrh, just plain myrrh, rose of Sharon, unscented (the blue vials), and a set of vials whose aroma name I cannot make out.

Since they’re offered for sale, I’m assuming that there may actually be pastors or priests or lay ministers who, when contemplating anointing someone, say to themselves, “Well, since Jesus was the Rose of Sharon, why not anoint people with that scent?” or, “Since Wise Men brought the Baby gifts of frankincense and myrrh, why not use those aromas?” and so on. And there may be sufferers of various ailments who, knowing the significance of spikenard (Matthew 14:3 says that this was what a woman anointed Jesus’ feet with after a meal), might feel a surge of psychosomatic healing just from that.

For me, this makes my eyes roll. It’s like putting frosting on the unleavened communion bread, or spiking the communion wine with Gatorade. When He walked the earth, Jesus always moved away from the spectacular toward the simple. He wore no crown or lavish robe, and traveled in no gilded carriage. He had no multimillion-dollar ministry center, and rarely knew where He would be spending each new night. He spoke from no platform or throne; He stayed on the ground, walking and talking with the people.

Since Jesus is to be our example, let’s take a moment to study this aspect of His character—His humility. Click the link below for seven Bible verses on that topic.

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



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Bookends
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, January 13, 2017

I don’t remember exactly where I was when I snapped the above photo last September, but it may have been in an antique shop Shelley and I visit once in a while. What you see is a little batch of books, including “Chinese Wit and Humor,” “Modern Chinese Acupuncture,” and some slimmer volumes including one titled “Walt Anderson,” clamped firmly together with two “Holy Bible” bookends. It’s hard to see from this angle, but it looks as though each Bible is being clasped and supported by gold-colored hands in a posture of prayer.

It struck me as I saw that little collection that it’s a great metaphor for life. Whatever we gather around us—books, dreams, plans, other kinds of belongings—are bookended by Scripture. The Bible describes Earth’s beginnings, and predicts Earth’s ending, and the wise human being will remember this, and allow the Bible (studied with prayer) to help us decide what we fill our lives with.

As you may have seen on this website’s home page, I’m encouraging our congregation to read their Bibles through this year, according to a specific plan. If you’d like to follow along, simply click the following link. You’ll never regret entering the Bible’s fascinating pages--and seeing more clearly into your Maker's mind!

http://www.bellevueadventist.org/bible-reading-plan-2017


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Boundaries
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, January 12, 2017

Recent snow makes for fun perspectives on everyday objects.  We don't often think much about this fence.  You have probably heard the saying that good fences make good neighbors.  It is interesting to think about why that is true.  We know that God's ten commandments are based on two concepts: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40.

If there are really only two laws, we might wonder why there are the ten commandments and other laws.  I think they are like fences or boundaries that help us remember where the limits are between loving our neighbor and being unthoughtful.  Sports need rule books, marriages need boundaries, and roads need laws or things would quickly become chaotic and unhappy.  Some rules require some deep thought to understand why they exist.  So it is good not to throw out a rule too quickly, like the fourth commandment.

And, it is okay to understand when a rule can be broken, such as talking in the library when it won't hurt anyone.

Mostly it is good to be thoughtful and use those good old boundaries to make your life happier.



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Gates, Word and Wheat
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In Psalms, David takes a lot of time thanking God for all He does. David praises God about the little things, as well as the big ones. Sometimes these praises are about God’s protection and guidance for His children. Here’s an example –
 
Psalm 147: 12-20
“Extol the Lord, Jerusalem;
    praise your God, Zion.
He strengthens the bars of your gates
    and blesses your people within you.
He grants peace to your borders
    and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
He sends his command to the earth;
    his word runs swiftly.
He spreads the snow like wool
    and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
    Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them;
    he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.
He has revealed his word to Jacob,
    his laws and decrees to Israel.
He has done this for no other nation;
    they do not know his laws.
Praise the Lord.”
 
This is great – right? Of course, we should always praise God for all He does for us. That said, it’s not always about a list of things God has done for us. This is a relationship, and a relationship is a two-way street. What are we doing for God? What is He asking us to do and whatever that is, are we?  Are we giving back and sharing like we should?  These are questions we can only answer ourselves. Regardless of the answer, we should never stop praising our God for His protection, guidance and provisions – strengthening the bars of our gates, sending his word or giving us the finest wheat.  Praise God!
 
The photo image – more than likely it’s grass, not wheat specifically. However, it’s not a shot from my backyard! It was actually a shot I took near the Masai Mara National Park, in Kenya.
 

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Olive Ridley Sea Turtle   
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Even though they have been considered the most abundant sea turtle in the world, the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle is currently classified as vulnerable. This is because their numbers have dropped 28 to 32% in only one generation. Widespread in nature, these turtles can be found in the coastal waters of over 80 nations but nests primarily in the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  And it is here they face their greatest threat, a diminishing number of nesting sites available, as human expansion continues to usurp areas where the females used to come to deposit their eggs in shallow depressions made in the sand.

The adults, which weigh around 100 pounds, have few predators except for sharks, Orcas, and humans.  But the hatchlings, which emerge from eggs weighing only an ounce, face numerous challenges as they scramble to reach the relative security of nearby tidal waters.  Iguanas, snakes, raccoons, coyotes, and crabs along with vultures and frigate birds prey upon the young.  But an even more subtle factor threatens their survival – light.  As tourist facilities have grown, so too has the effect of light pollution. Traditionally using light clues to orient themselves to the sea, hatchlings can become confused and tricked into heading inland where they die from dehydration or are killed by traffic on the roads.  

While Scripture most frequently speaks of “light” in positive terms, it does offer this caution: “But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.”  (Isaiah 50:11 NIV) So, apparently it’s not only sea turtles that can be misled and as a result perish.
 


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Spring Will Come Again
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 9, 2017

For those of you who have had enough of winter in the Pacific Northwest, here is a good reminder that spring will return!
The psalmist was writing to Jerusalem but I think it applies to us as well.

Jerusalem, worship GOD!
    Zion, praise your God!
He made your city secure,
    he blessed your children among you.
He keeps the peace at your borders,
    he puts the best bread on your tables.
He launches his promises earthward—
    how swift and sure they come!
He spreads snow like a white fleece,
    he scatters frost like ashes,
He broadcasts hail like birdseed—
    who can survive his winter?
Then he gives the command and it all melts;
    he breathes on winter—suddenly it’s spring!
Psalm 147:12-18 (The Message)


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The Connecting Bridge
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Szechenyi or Chain Bridge over the Danube River, above, connects Buda and Pest, the capital of Hungary.  When construction was completed in 1849, it was considered one of the world’s engineering wonders.  Destroyed during World War II, it had to be rebuilt. While in Budapest, we walked over this bridge a number of times.  Its massive structure and the protective lions give people a sense of protection and safety when on it now.

Bridges connect us across rivers and to other areas.  Today, with our heavy cars, trucks and other heavy methods of transportation, bridges need to be strong, with a good foundation.  Likewise, we need to build our lives on a firm foundation – a foundation based on Jesus. As the Szechenyi Chain Bridge connects Buda and Pest, Jesus is the bridge connecting us to heaven and God, the Father.  Since sin separated us from God, by coming to earth and dying for us, Jesus bridged the gap to save us.  In reply to Thomas, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  John 14:6 Thank you, Jesus, for Your Important Connections!


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God Provides
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, January 5, 2017

Holly berries may not be a bird's favorite food, but these berries are plentiful and easy to find when other food is scarce.  Holly berries are toxic for people, but it is nice some birds can eat them, and they do eat a lot of them.  Cold weather and snow make a great time to reflect on what is important in life.

We often talk about how God provides for us, and He does.  Some scientists will argue that we all evolved from a single first cell, although they have not been able to demonstrate a cell originating from raw conditions.  It is interesting that the possibility allows some people to honestly pursue their own way of living without God.  With so many ways to live and treat each other in the world, what is the right way?  The Bible tells us that ultimately God's way is the only one that works.  Because it boils down to a very simple law of love, I am convinced it is the right way.

Here is an example from 1 Timothy 6:17-19 that describes a thought on how to live and how God provides for us:

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."


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Flakes of Frost  

Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, January 4, 2017

We still have a little snow and frost all over the yard at our house. The temperature during the day isn’t allowing it to go away. This gives me a chance to capture a few unique shots of different “types” of ice and frost. This one is pretty unique – on a broken branch, it appears to be growing and taking on the shape of feathers.
 
The children of Israel dealt with ”frost” in the middle of the dessert while they were wandering along. It wasn’t like the frost in my yard – far from it. It was straight from heaven and it was a food for them. It was one more example of God’s promises. In Exodus 16, it says, “That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’” (13-16).
 
As you can read in the whole chapter, you can see not only was this a promise from God – taking care of His children--but it was also a test for them to listen to His instructions. As we start a new year, let’s remember to listen to Him AND cling to the promise of Him taking care of us, as well.



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An Ovation for Consistency – Black-capped Chickadee
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Migration time is a season looked forward to with great anticipation within the birding community, due to the promise it holds for new discoveries and renewal of old friendships.  But there is also much to be said for consistency and reliability.  I can go outside my house in any season and expect with reliable certainty to encounter a Black-capped Chickadee, jauntily carrying on its affairs of day to day life.  Weather doesn’t seem to affect its pattern or disposition, whether there is snow on the ground or the air conditioners are going full force in nearby houses.  It matters not.
 
This is also one of the qualities that draw us to God.  He is dependable.  He is consistent.  He is absolutely reliable.  I like the way The Clear Word Bible paraphrases this idea in Jeremiah 31:3.  “I have loved you with an everlasting love and have been faithful to you in the past, and I will continue to love you and be faithful to you now.”
 
And the really great part is their predictability, both the chickadee’s and God’s, doesn’t depend upon my personal performance.  The chickadee doesn’t wait until I come out of the house with my parka around my ears before it starts singing its song.  Nor does God wait until I measure up before He reaches out to me.  And because I can depend upon them, it makes me more willing to venture outside the comfort of my personal apathy, and do something of value myself.


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Physically and Spiritually Fit
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, January 2, 2017

Three years ago, on New Year's Day, I went on a hike to Bridal Veil Falls. The trail head, which is just off of Highway 2,  is also the trail head for Lake Serene but I didn't have any inclination to go that far; just getting to Bridal Veil Falls was enough exercise for me!  

Amazingly, there was no snow.  There were, however, many, many stairs.  



I don't know if exercise is one your New Year's resolutions but in the Bible we are told about the importance of spiritual fitness which is even more important than physical fitness.  

Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers.

1 Timothy 4:6-10 (The Message)


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City of Gold
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, January 1, 2017

Even though the ancient city of Budapest, Hungary, straddling the Danube River, has seen many wars, today it’s a very beautiful and interesting city.  The striking architecture of the many buildings, even the baths, was amazing.  The image I’m sharing with you today is Hungary’s Gothic Revival style Parliament Building.  It is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, one of the oldest legislative buildings in Europe and with its 691 rooms, the largest building in Hungary. Wanting to get some great photos of the parliament building, I went across the river.  As the sun set, lights on the building began coming on as the sun left its afterglow.  As darkness set in, the building seemed to be a mass of gold – almost a city of gold!



This second photo shows the Parliament Building and its gold reflection in the Danube on another night as we entered Budapest by boat.

A city of gold!  John’s vision as recorded in the last two chapters in the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22 describe the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven.  The wall was built of jasper and the city itself was of pure gold. (21:18). Later on, it says the streets of the city were of pure gold.  The glory of God gave the city and the people light so no other light was needed.  The last chapter concludes with “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.”  Revelation 22:21  And I wish the same for you as we begin 2017!






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