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

Daily Photo Parable

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

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

Western Wood-Pewee        
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The book of Judges paints a stark picture of what a people, even God’s chosen people, become when they follow their own inclinations.  Chapter 12 tells the unpleasant story of internal conflicts erupting into a civil war.  As was frequently the case, places where the river was shallow and offered suitable places to ford became the focal point.  And it was there that local dialects played a role.  The Gileadites who controlled this passageway asked would be travelers to say the word “Shibboleth” which probably meant flowing stream, a term appropriate enough for those wanting to pass over the waterway.  But the Ephraimites, due to their accent, couldn’t pronounce the “h” and this gave them away.  The account concludes stating that forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.  (Judges 12:4-6)  Obviously, their differences ran deeper than their ability to pronounce certain letters, but that articulation became a means of identification.
Most observers would agree the Eastern Wood-Pewee and the Western Wood-Peweeare visually inseparable, but can be easily distinguished by their songs.  This is helpful since they may continue to vocalize up until fall migration begins.  There are a few areas along the western edge of the Great Plains where the two species overlap without interbreeding.  This offers conclusive evidence that even though they are very similar, they are indeed distinct species.  What is not addressed is how anyone would know if hybridization did occur, but that is another question for another time.
As Christians, what we say and how we say it should identify us as followers of Christ.  Paul clearly points this out:  “Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone.” (Colossians 4:6 GNT)  The Message gives a slightly different emphasis:  “Be gracious in your speech.  The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.”  That should be true of us whether we are crossing streams, lanes of traffic, or just coming across those with whom we differ.   

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God Sees The Little Sparrow Fall
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 29, 2015

I was walking in the Union Bay Natural Area recently when I stopped to see what was in a small pond.  This baby sparrow went running past me and then stood very still in front of some low growing vegetation.  Soon after that, a parent came and fed it.  It looks like it should be able to fly but it wasn't making any effort to do that and finally ran off into some bushes.  

I like the Bible verses that talk about how much God cares for us:

Look, if you sold a few sparrows, how much money would you get? A copper coin apiece, perhaps? And yet your Father in heaven knows when those small sparrows fall to the ground.  You, beloved, are worth so much more than a whole flock of sparrows. God knows everything about you, even the number of hairs on your head. So do not fear.  Matthew 10:29-31 (The Voice)

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Importance of a Guide
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 28, 2015

Guides are needed or even required in some places - from mountain guides, river guides, canyon guides to cave guides.  The photo I’m sharing today shows canal guides!  Yes, see the tiny vehicles under this huge ship on the Panama Canal?  They are guiding this ship carrying about 4000 cars through the Culebra Cut, the Canal’s narrowest part. With this cut on the Canal at 110 feet wide, the 106 to 107 feet wide boats don’t have much clearance! Yes, a guide is very important to the ship, its cargo and the Canal!

Who do you look to as a guide - your parents, teachers, friends, relatives, or your pastor? And what do you look to for guidance?  How about the Bible!

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Nary a Dribble
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 27, 2015

Earlier this week on our morning walk, Shelley and I decided to check out a placid water-retention pond several blocks from where we live. We had noticed in late spring that the water level—normally quite high—had diminished too drastically for mere evaporation to account for it, so we assumed that a water-engineer had manipulated valves and drained it for some reason.

Since then, we’ve been watching that water level anxiously. The level has continued to sink, but until I took the above photo on Monday, there had always been a tiny stream of water drizzling from the grated pipe above. But now there’s nary a trickle. The stones below the opening are stained with minerals from the previous water flow, but now they’re dry. And what’s left of the water is getting scummier and scummier.

The Bible occasionally uses dryness and drought to describe the spiritual condition of those who are far from God:

O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1 NKJV

“The poor and needy seek water, but there is none, Their tongues fail for thirst. I, the Lord, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
Isaiah 41:17

In John 4, Jesus has a private conversation with a woman who came to draw water from a well. He challenged her with these words, and they turned her into one of His most effective evangelists:

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.
” John 4:10

And later He made the invitation general:

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink
. John 7:37

Right now I’m praying, “Lord, give me that living water too!”

The water, of course, is life-giving salvation. If you’d like a refresher-course (water is refreshing, right?) on how to be saved, click the link immediately below.

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The Lord God Made Them All
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 26, 2015

Earlier this month I discovered this little feather in a bush near our front steps. In the photo you can see the hundreds of tiny “barbs” (their technical name) which spring out from the “rachis” (the central stem). If you magnify part of each barb, you see little “barbules” springing out of it, and all along the length of each barbule you’ll see “hooklets” on both sides. These hooklets grip the hooklets on the barbules on either side, so that the bird can get lift from the feather. Yet the barbs can be easily separated from each other if the bird wishes to clean itself. (Check out the Google Images link below.)

Once I’d snapped the first photo, I held the feather up against the sun just to see what would happen. And a few minutes ago, looking at this photo, a phrase from a song popped into my mind: The Lord God made them all. Both sun and feather. The Lord God made them all.

Tell me, please, macroevolutionists, how all those wondrous ranks and ranks of barbs and barbules and hooklets came to be, all by themselves? Talk fast—and it better be good.

Anyway, here’s a Google Images link which gives you feather terminology. (Or just go to Google Images and enter “parts of a feather” without the quote marks of course.)

Google search for "parts of a feather"

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Do Not Be Dismayed
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, June 25, 2015

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

I saw this little sign in a bathroom stall at Auburn Adventist Academy. At first I thought it was just another Bible verse people put places, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized how fitting it was for when you're in a bathroom. Sometimes they are scary and gross; sometimes you might be dismayed by various sights, sounds, or sensations; and sometimes you just need a little more strength.

I doubt God had this particular setting in mind when He told this to Isaiah, and that is what makes it such a great verse. It applies to almost every situation in life.

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Not a Mystery
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When we were in Tokyo, we acted like tourists (Oh, that's right. We were.) and went up the Tokyo Tower.  This tower overlooks the downtown portion of Tokyo and has a 360 view.  One of the "attractions" at the observatory was this "mystery" ball that was found at the top of the tower, inside the external antennae 306 meters in the air.  I presumed it's some sort of "petrified" buildup from a lightening strike.  It looks kind of like a strange baseball or an oversized golf ball with all the divots. So, they say it's a mystery, since no one was able to properly identify it.

When I think of God, He's not a mystery (thank goodness).  He's exactly who we think He is. All powerful, all knowing, all wonderful. He is our Rock. He is our shelter.  In John 14, verse 6, we find out just who God is, "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

No more mysteries. No more secrets or unsolved stories. He  Is  Our  God.


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Nesting Bushtit
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It’s one of our favorite parables that Jesus told because it’s easy to understand and His word picture paints a vivid image in our minds.  From childhood we sang about it. We knew the hand motions and when to stand up and when to sit down.  It’s a great story.  The two builders, one of them wise, and one of them foolish, play out their roles for all to see.  Perhaps as children we enjoyed the crash too much, but maybe that’s just part of being a child.  Here are Christ’s words:  “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  (Matthew 7:26-27 NIV)

As a bystander, I was able to see this parable played out in real life.  The builders cannot be morally faulted, but the result of their inappropriate action still met with dire consequences.  A pair of Bushtits was just beginning to build one of their beautiful nests.  The long, pendant enclosure can extend to ten inches long, offering a soft and warm place for the clutch of eggs.  Both male and female worked diligently with the nesting materials, weaving lichens and moss together with cocoon silk to secure the nest.  Unfortunately, this pair came across what they must have believed to be a bonanza.  It was incredibly soft and extremely easy to incorporate into the other building materials.  And for these tiny birds, a roll of toilet paper must have offered limitless possibilities.

But then the rains came.  And we know the rest of the story without having to be told. Here, the Creator offered another reminder of how we should be building.  And the most amazing thing is that He has already paid for all the construction materials.  May we all be wise builders.

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White as Snow
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 22, 2015

This beautiful clematis plant was growing in my friend's garden.  The flowers must have been 5 1/2 to 6 inches across.

They remind me of the verses in Isaiah regarding how our sins are compared to being a stain as "red as crimson" but God can remove the stain to make us as clean as snow.

Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!  Isaiah 1:18 (TLB)

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Hang On Tight
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 21, 2015

This spider monkey at the El Nispero Zoo in El Valle de Anton, Panama was tightly holding on to its cage with both hands and feet.

Spiritually, what is important for us to hold on to tight so we don’t lose it?  Think about it for a while.  What would your list be?  Would it be to accept Jesus as your Savior?

What biblical texts would you chose?  My texts are from Paul’s writing.  The first text is Philippians 4:8:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Next, is I Corinthians 13:13, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

Find what is important to you and hang on tight!

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Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 20, 2015

‘Way back at the beginning of June, Shelley and I were in a grocery store when I noticed this heartwarming scene. (It’s fuzzy because I had to photograph it quickly and surreptitiously.)

It’s the photo of a man lifting a little kid either into or out of a grocery cart. No, that’s not the kid’s face—it’s the brawny, muscled, weightlifting-workout elbow of Dad. But what’s so sweet is the baby bottle parked in Dad’s back pocket.

Whatever goals and dreams and objectives this man started out with, wherever he planned to ramble in those cool-blue sneakers, he has now added “Daddy” to his resume. And judging by the presence of the holstered bottle, he seems okay with it.

You may have read in some of my earlier Photo Parables that Jesus spoke of God using only the word “Father.” As far as I can tell, He called Him nothing else. Some people wince uneasily when they hear the word “father,” because their own dads may have been neglectful or absent or worse. But Jesus insists that we allow God the courtesy of redefining that term for us.

In other words, we are God’s kids. As someone said, “God has no grandchildren.”

Want to read five Bible verses about being a child of God? Click the link immediately below.

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Pow! Bam!
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 19, 2015

A week and a half ago I happened to be passing through a library lobby and saw this poster. Its colors and lettering, of course, are designed to speak to the hearts of kids who love reading superhero comic books, and once the young attention-spans have been caught, the word “READ!” smites them with emphasis equal to the POWs and BAMs. The point being, of course, that if kids learn to read and even enjoy reading, they’ll be given fantastic powers to understand and imagine and create.

You may suspect where I’m going with this. The Bible has several verses which proclaim that God’s Word has immense power. Here’s a sampling:

Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: “Because you speak this word, Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, And this people wood, And it shall devour them. Jeremiah 5:14 NKJV

“Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:29

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes . . . . Romans 1:16

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Get the point? POW! BAM! READ!

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Cool Pyramids
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, June 18, 2015

I have been fascinated by the Smith Tower in Seattle ever since I first saw it.  It is a relic built in 1914, over 100 years ago.  I heard that when it was built, it was the tallest tower on the west coast and was possibly the fourth tallest building in the world.  It was modern architecture at its best.

Now, it seems antiquated.  At first glance people might wonder why it doesn't get replaced by a newer more modern building; sort of like another thing that some consider antiquated.  That is the Bible.  Some say it is old and written for a different era with unrealistic tales.

As I read more about the Smith Tower I learned that it contains one of the most highly sought after properties in Seattle.  It houses a popular observation deck for tourists.  But, if you look at the very top there is a pyramid with a little glass ball perched at the peak.  Inside the pyramid is a two bath apartment.  A ladder extends up into the glass ball where there is a ten foot wide room.  It is the coolest and most desirable apartment 35 stories above Seattle.  

Getting to know the Bible has an even better effect than getting to know a building.   The Bible has something very special that has been the most highly sought after property in all of history.  It is Jesus.  Jesus has been the desire of ages since history began.  As we study the stories, the principles, and core concepts, we appreciate and love Him more.  Jesus is the architect of the world and architect of the plan to bring us to Him.

If you look closely at the Bible concepts, there is a pyramid sitting on top of everything.  The base of the pyramid is the teachings of Jesus and the prophets.  Mid-way up the pyramid are the ten commandments.  The peak of the pyramid is the commandments to love the Lord and love your neighbor as yourself.

Then, there is the one most important thing.  That is Jesus standing on top who forgives us and gives us strength to keep going.  Without Jesus, the pyramid would be impossible. To me, that makes Jesus the coolest and most desirable in my book.

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A Glimpse of God
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 17, 2015

You may not even be able to tell which mountain this is, due to the cloud cover I saw it in last week.  It’s Mt. Fuji--yes, that Mt. Fuji, in Japan. I was fortunate to see it in person but as you can see, there was a lot of cloud cover. In fact, we had been walking and driving around the mountain all morning, without a hint of a view. We took a gondola ride up, which was supposed to give us this amazing view of the mountain, the crater lake below and the surrounding valley as well.  When we got to the top we could barely see 50 feet in front of us – no mountain, no lake, no valley – lots of thick clouds.  Suddenly, the wind blew away the top layer of clouds for a few brief seconds – Mt. Fuji. We could see it.  The cameras snapped briskly and you could hear the oohs and ahhs.
It was interesting to me to hear the reaction from some of our tour members as the mountain made itself visible. Granted, we were on a tour for Mt. Fuji, and up to this point we hadn’t seen it yet, but it felt like some of these folks thought of this mountain as something more than a beautiful mountain.  In fact they did see it differently. Almost 80% of Japanese practice the religion of Shinto, which basically makes all nature gods (sacred essence). This "divinity" comes from rocks, animals, trees, rivers as well as mountains. So, the fact that Mt. Fuji was not visible, wasn’t just a lost picture opportunity, it was a missed opportunity to worship their god.
I saw it a little differently.  I get into nature and see my God’s creations. I see an opportunity to show my gratitude and respect to the one true Creator. A Creator that not only hand sculpted Mt. Fuji but made it for you and me, to marvel over and experience the beauty. Indeed, it was different for me. I was up on this hillside, in amongst the clouds and wind, with my God all around me. This wasn’t a glimpse of a sacred essence, it was a glimpse of my God and His awesome power.

Psalm 68:4:
"Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
Extol Him who rides on the clouds,
By His name YAH,
And rejoice before Him"

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Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Osprey has one of the widest ranges of any species of bird.  It is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, except for the Arctic, as well as Africa, the East Indies, and Australia.

Surprisingly, it’s not found in South America even though it migrates south in winter. Osprey live mostly on fish which they catch by plunging into the water after a dive of up to 100 feet.  In pursuit of its prey it will often completely immerse itself, after which it will shake the water off like a dog and carry the fish headfirst to a perch to be consumed.
A characteristic which is unique and sets it apart from other raptors is its feet.  They are specially adapted to catching and holding their slippery prey.  Their feet are covered with scales and spiny tubercles.  The outer toe can be swung either backward or forward, again a feature unique among the raptors.  The claws are of equal lengthand greatly curved which sets them apart from hawks and owls.  A quality shared withsome of the other raptors is a locking mechanism which prevents prey from escaping once the talons are locked on.  This may mean that occasionally one may grasp a sturgeon or salmon which is too large to capture and may drown as a result.
Isaiah 52:7 uses language unfamiliar to contemporary readers but familiar to those of his own time.  ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God Reigns!’” (NIV)  This phraseology was apparently familiar in New Testament times for Paul quotes this verse in Romans 10:15.
Though obviously not intended by biblical writers, the female Osprey would be qualified to grasp this phrase literally. For she is fed entirely by the male from the time the pair bond is formed, through egg laying, and until ten weeks after hatching when the young fledge.  A brood of three requires six pounds of fish each day.  That’s a lot of fish to be dropped off from the feet of the attentive father.  If we looked forward to our daily spiritual nourishment as much as the Osprey chicks do their food, we too might have greater appreciation for this phrase and the feet of the One who delivers it.

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Shallow Roots
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 15, 2015

I found this tree stump washed onto the beach near Point Robinson on Maury Island.  It wasn't good for much anymore.  It could be used as decorative driftwood or firewood I suppose and I did see a pileated woodpecker on it at one point.  However, it was no longer a productive tree.

The psalmist compares people to trees and describes the type of tree we should be like.  

     Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stands in the path of sinners,
    Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.  Psalm 1 (NKJV)

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Remaining Safe
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Mimosa Pudica, pictured above, is a touch and heat sensitive plant that reacts by folding its leaflets inward.  It does this to defend itself from harm, reopening its leaves a few minutes later.  The leaves also close during darkness and reopen in light. Said to produce healing properties, this plant has been used medicinally for centuries.  Other names for this are touch me not plant, live and die plant, sensitive plant, shame plant, humble plant and action plant.  There are over 300 species of Mimosa which belong to the legume family and are native to South America and Central America. We happened upon these during a walk north of the town of David, Panama during a break from our mission work.

Like the Mimosa closes its leaflets for defense, by accepting God as our Savior, we will be given His free gift of salvation.  “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.”  (Psalms 16:1)  I’m reminded of the old song by Fanny Crosby, “Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast; There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.”

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Threatening Skies
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 13, 2015

A little over a week ago in a Safeway parking lot I noticed this angry-looking sky, a cloud-configuration which in my home state of South Dakota might have caused people to glance uneasily around them for tornados. (This particular sky, however, produced little more than a few diffident raindrops.)

Anyone with even a vague interest in world events can sense the figurative stormclouds gathering overhead. In distant lands and right at our doorsteps there are dangers we couldn’t have predicted even a couple of decades ago. Thoughtful people from every culture are wondering how mankind can be so frightfully inhuman to itself, and how long all this can last.

Mercifully, Jesus didn’t leave us to our worries. He frankly predicted such unrest, but also showed us the hope beyond:

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:25-28 NKJV

If you’d like to read several Bible passages about Jesus’ return, click the link immediately below:

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Hold Fast!
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 12, 2015

Just around the corner from where Shelley and I live stands this covered mailbox stand. A week ago on one of our morning walks, I noticed something I hadn’t before—one of these boxes is lockable, the other isn’t.

Ten years ago when Shelley and I moved to this neighborhood, we hadn’t been here two weeks before someone in our cul-de-sac came around with a paper asking us to sign if we wanted a locked mailbox. I immediately put down my signature, and since then our mail has been secured on a little shelf behind a tough metal door which we unlock with a key.

The Bible often makes the point that it’s not enough to receive something—it’s also necessary to hold onto it in case Satan tries to snatch it away. In Jesus’ parable of the sower, He mentioned the sobering potential fate of the good seed (the Word of God): “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” Luke 8:12 NKJV

In other words, hold on to what you’ve received. “Hold fast what is good,” Paul advises in 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Hebrews 3:6 says, “but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” And “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Hebrews 4:14  Revelation 3:3 sums it up this way: “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.”

Think of God’s Word like a passport. My own US passport is tucked safely in a file in filing cabinet, ready to get me places I wouldn’t be able to go without it.

Want to read about what the Bible has to say about itself? Click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, June 11, 2015

Today I noticed that in one of our flower beds there were maybe eight of these holes in the sandy dirt. The larger ones were about two inches wide and about one and a half inches deep. I vaguely remembered seeing a National Geographic video about bugs that made pits like this.

The bug larvae that makes these are called ant-lions (aka doodlebugs). They borrow down an inch or two while throwing dirt out of the hole. When the hole is deep enough they cover themselves at the bottom of the hole and wait for an ant or other bug to fall in. The sides are steep enough that any ant or bug that walks into it falls to the bottom of the pit and gets eaten. I dug a few holes up, but didn't find any bugs so I can't be sure that what made these holes was an ant-lion, but I don't know of anything else that does this.

Psalm 140:4-6 (NIV): "Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trip my feet. The arrogant have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path."

Matthew 6:19-20 (NIV): "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."

Let's watch out for the ant-lions in life, especially when we go to store up our treasure.

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Special Parking Spot
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
I snapped the above photo a week ago. I was driving through an unfamiliar area, and had to turn around in a parking lot, when up against a fence I saw this sign.

It’s obviously referring to the large Holy Family Catholic church I saw just to the left, but it got me to thinking about Heaven’s “holy family,” the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Even a cursory knowledge of the Bible reveals that They are delighted to be invited into our hearts and lives. Do you have a “parking spot” saved for all Three?

To learn more about what the old King James Version called “the Godhead,” click one or more of the links below:

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Brown Creeper
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 9, 2015

It works its way through the deep forest so unobtrusively that it is easy to overlook entirely.  Yet the Brown Creeper effectively carries out its responsibilities with a high level of effectiveness.  As it creeps up the tree searching for insects and other delicacies, it uses its long, decurved beak to probe into almost inaccessible crevices which other birds might overlook. 

Nest building time presents challenges which seem Herculean in nature.  Carrying a strip of cedar bark longer than itself, this creeper struggled to insert its package into a narrow opening in the bark that was to become its nest.  The task was not accomplished without a struggle, but the bird was finally successful in adding this component to the growing nest.

Nature is a great teacher and provides us with an almost endless supply of material for our consideration.  John Milton, writing in his famous work, Paradise Lost, includes these words which reinforces this idea:

In contemplation of created things,
By steps we may ascend to God.                                            

All too often our lives are filled with concrete and office cubicles.  All too often the sounds of congestion and demands of our time draw us away from a still, small voice that has much to say to us.  Perhaps a walk in the deep forest might help us refocus our attention.  

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One Way
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 8, 2015

Have you ever tried to get to a specific destination and you realize that nothing matches your map or your GPS led you down a boat ramp into a slough at night and your vehicle is now submerged and you are not where you should be?  (The incident with the GPS actually happened in Bellevue a few years ago.  The three people involved were able to get out of their SUV and were okay.)

This can also happen to us when we have a life plan with specific goals and expectations and then we find out that we are way off course from where we wanted to be. This happened to the prodigal son.  He was very lost but finally had to stop and take a look at his situation and then made the sensible decision to return to his father's house.  You can read this parable in Luke 15.

When Jesus was talking to the disciples and telling them that he was going to leave and then come back again, He clarified which way we should be going:

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

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. So how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me. John 14:1-6 (NCV)

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Bumps and All
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 7, 2015

This is another “different” tree I saw in El Valle de Anton, Panama. (Look at my May 24 blog to see others)  I’ve not been able to definitely identify this tree with bumps.  It might be a Silk Floss Tree (Ceiba speciosa) that is native to this area.  The studs of thick conical prickles store water for dry times.  After fruiting, pods develop on the Silk Floss Tree to produce silk-like fibers.  Apparently the spiny trunk makes it a favorite of masochistic tree climbers!  

Have you thought that people might be something like trees?  Some are tall and slender; others short and stocky.  Some are attractive - people with their looks and personality; trees with their special flowers, leaves or bark.  Some trees, like the one pictured, have bumps or thorns on their bark.   Some people have warts, moles, acne, wrinkles or other blemishes on their skin. If you’re concerned about how you look, read Isaiah 41:10, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” No matter how we look, God loves us – bumps and all!

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Will You Be My Friend?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 6, 2015

A week ago Friday while Shelley and I were running errands together, she went into our local library while I waited in the car. Next to where I’d parked was the car in the photo above, whose owner had left the front window open so that the family dog could get some air.

I could see just the top of the dog’s head, so I made a chirping sound with my lips. Usually what happens at moments like these is that after the first chirp, such car-enclosed canines give me one alert glance, and then serenely ignore me.

But not this dog. Maybe its owner had been in the library too long, and it was really lonely. One chirp (maybe two) and he was wedged tightly between the steering wheel and the folded-forward seatback, his head thrust through the generous window-crack, longing for my society.

Whoa, I said to myself. That window-crack is wide enough for this dog to wriggle through. I don’t want to be responsible for its escape. I stopped chirping, deliberately didn’t make eye contact, and when he still didn’t withdraw into the car I drove away to another parking space.

Isn’t it heartwarming how animals can show affection, and—in the case of dogs—even a deep social interest, in humans they have never met? What amazing hearts and minds these creatures have—hearts and minds which couldn’t have resulted from survival-of-the-fittest macroevolution. (Tooth-and-claw survival, it seems to me, has little time or room for altruism.)

This is my Father's world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father's world,
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their maker's praise.
This is my Father's world:
He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass I hear him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.
            --Maltbie Babcock

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Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 5, 2015

Earlier this week I was on my way to an undergraduate library on the University of Washington campus when I saw something which caused a wave of nostalgia to wash over me.

What you see in the photo is Red Square, a large plaza near the center of the UW campus, named either for the reddish tiles which pave it, or (some say) to honor and maybe keep alive the rebellious spirit of revolution.

Whatever the source of the Red Square name, its tiles were the scene of a good-sized crowd of students that day. I didn’t drift any closer to see what the occasion was, but someone on the raised platform at the right seemed to be speaking to them. The scene took me back to when I was in college, smack in the middle of college protests about the Vietnam War.

As I look at this photo now, I notice several things. First, these students have been allowed to gather freely. There are no armed guards standing by, no armored personnel carriers in the background. Second, some students are choosing not to attend this rally but walk calmly past—nobody stands by to force them to listen.

I know that people from all over the world read our Daily Photo Parables. Many of you live in countries which permit and even encourage public assembly. Maybe some of you don’t.

But the good news is that God is a God who loves to work in groups. He loves people to gather for good purposes, whether it’s a weekly church meeting or that grand and glorious gathering on Revelation’s sea of glass.

So don’t forget to gather for mutual encouragement at your church this weekend! God is present where people gather.

For several Bible passages on assembling for worship and why it’s so important, click the link immediately below.

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Lost Treasure

Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, June 4, 2015

On a hike last weekend near Highway 18, we came across this rake left by a trail work crew.  I'm not sure if some other hiker found it and stuck it in the ground so the owner could easily spot it, or if a trail worker stuck it there and forgot.  By the rust, it looks like it has been silently standing for years.

It makes me think of lost treasure.  While a rake isn't incredibly valuable, maybe there are some seemingly lost things that are very valuable.  Jesus told this story:  "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

Jesus has a secret so wonderful that if He just told us, we wouldn't believe it.  He does actually tell us that it is the kingdom of heaven.  He tells us what it is like and how we can get it by following Him.  So it isn't really secret.  But, obscured by our world views, it can seem like a secret.  We need to discover the kingdom of heaven which is really in plain sight.

It is kind of fun to find something man-made when out in the woods, like the rake.  Let's also find joy in find God-made treasures that Jesus provides for us.

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Beautiful Artistry  
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
This past Sabbath in Youth class, we discussed the ‘mobile’ tabernacle the Israelites used in the wilderness. We read in Exodus 26 all about the specifics God had asked, when creating this structure. The dimensions, the wood to be used, the color of the threads on the curtains, which furs and animal skins were to be used.  There are very specific instructions.  In the class we discussed if we thought this was about making sure the tabernacle was super ornate and ‘royal’, so the Israelites would respect it, or if it was to appease what they were used to, while living amongst the Egyptians and all their idols.  We agreed, God wanted this structure to be special.  We also agreed, the fact that the Israelites were not only constructing the building with their own hands but also potentially using items from their own collections – furs, skins, jewels, ornate carvings, etc., was part of God’s plan to ensure they were involved in the process and were invested.   
The above image is from Rome, Italy.  If you know much about this part of the world, you’ll recognize Trevi Fountain. As you can see, this is a very intrigue and ornate public fountain. The fountain, created by Nicola Salvi, took 30 years to construct. The stonework is great to view and you can see the artistry and craftsmanship that went into its construction.
I bet the work that went into the tabernacle was magnificent as well.  The stonework, the wood carvings, the tapestries, all of it to God’s specification.  When we look at the Trevi Fountain and we think of what the tabernacle looked like, we can appreciate the worked that went into both of them.  They are, of course, very different.  It’s all about the purpose. For Trevi Fountain, this was a public display of ‘art’ that was commissioned by one of the Popes in the 1600’s (Urban VIII to be precise) to mark the spot where Romans found a source of water for some of their aqueducts. The tabernacle, of course, was requested by God. He asked Moses to instruct specific individuals to create a masterpiece, that was notto be worshipped nor adored from afar.  No, the purpose for this building was to allow God to be in His children’s presence. Cloud by day and fire by night.  God wanted to be with his people – to be as close as He could be.
There’s lots of amazing things in this world. But nothing compares to what we will be able to feast our eyes on, when we are in the presence of God. Long for the day when we are away from this planet and instead, walking on streets of gold with our guardian angels.

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Nashville Warbler
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 2, 2015

It’s really not into country music; in fact it seldom shows up in Nashville except when passing through during migration.  But that’s where Alexander Wilson first discovered it and gave it the name Nashville Warbler, and the name has stuck ever since.  Besides its name, there are several other areas of confusion which surround this wood warbler.  Books often describe it as having a dull red cap, yet this is seldom seen since it is generally concealed.  It is divided into two distinct subspecies which are geographically separated.  The western subspecies was once known as Calaveras Warbler and differs from its eastern counterpart by having duller plumage and the fact that it frequently wags its tail.  That could be helpful except those in the East have been observed wagging their tails too.  So much for field marks.

One other area that has led some to feel this bird was confused as well, is that they sometimes use porcupine quills as part of their nesting material.  This behavior does seem a bit strange, but it probably isn’t the warbler that is confused, for every year there are more baby Nashville Warblers being hatched.  

Paul understood confusion as well and described it in less than complimentary terms.  “People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.”  (Romans 1:21-23  The Message)  It does seem a rather poor tradeoff, the eternal for stick figures.  Yet many still insist this is a better way to live.  No wonder Paul had a hard time understanding why mankind could be so foolish.

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Are You Ready?
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 1, 2015

This statue in Anacortes is called "Lady of the Sea" and was sculpted by Deborah Copenhaver in 1994.  The plaque beside it states that it is "Dedicated to those who work and play in the sea, and the families and friends who wait for them."  

I like the way she is holding up her lantern while hoping to guide her late or lost mariner back to shore.

I think that this is a good illustration of the Bible parable of the bridesmaids who were ready when the bridegroom came to get them.  The lady portrayed by the sculpture is obviously prepared and is waiting expectantly.  

The following verses also tell us about those who were not so ready:

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to wait for the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The five foolish bridesmaids took their lamps, but they did not take more oil for the lamps to burn. The wise bridesmaids took their lamps and more oil in jars. Because the bridegroom was late, they became sleepy and went to sleep.

“At midnight someone cried out, ‘The bridegroom is coming! Come and meet him!’ Then all the bridesmaids woke up and got their lamps ready. But the foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ The wise bridesmaids answered, ‘No, the oil we have might not be enough for all of us. Go to the people who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“So while the five foolish bridesmaids went to buy oil, the bridegroom came. The bridesmaids who were ready went in with the bridegroom to the wedding feast. Then the door was closed and locked.

“Later the others came back and said, ‘Sir, sir, open the door to let us in.’ But the bridegroom answered, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t want to know you.’
“So always be ready, because you don’t know the day or the hour the Son of Man will come.
Matthew 25:1-13 (NCV)

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