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--either Russell or Caleb Jurgensen. I handle Friday and Sabbath, generally using photos from the point-and-shoot camera I keep on my belt.-- Pastor Maylan Schurch


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






Black-tailed Gull
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I had never seen one before, but then again, neither had any of the others who had gathered along a stretch of the Washington Coast for a glimpse of a Black-tailed Gull, a rare wanderer that nests from Southeast Siberia to China.  It had been seen among hundreds of other gulls gathered at the egress of an estuary that emptied into the Pacific.  Eyes peered through binoculars and scopes looking for those field marks that would set it apart from the usual West Coast gathering. And those marks were such that they probably would have been overlooked by the casual observer: a slightly smaller size, a darker mantle, red on the tip of the beak, and when visible, a black band on the tail.

This was my second trip in search of the gull.  The previous week’s effort had turned up nothing but dampness from the persistent rain.  And for that reason I kept doggedly searching through the constantly changing flock assembled on the beach.  After several hours of waiting, an excited, “I’ve got the bird”, came from my throat and others quickly turned their optics to the location described.  Vigilance had paid off with a “lifer”, something that can only be truly appreciated by someone of a kindred spirit and like passion.

Matthew is the only gospel writer to include Christ’s parable of the Ten Virgins, but we often tie that story into Luke’s account of Jesus’ words:  “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.”  (Luke12:35 NIV)  It may be hard for us to stay constantly “awake” when we’ve heard the word “soon” repeated so many times, but if we’re really excited about seeing that day, that expectation should keep us focused.

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Stay Awake
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 30, 2015

These photos are of a northern saw whet owl.  Usually when I see them, they are fast asleep because they are nocturnal and I normally go birding during daylight hours!  I saw one recently, however, and it was later in the day on a cloudy day and it suddenly flew off its perch in a holly bush and went down into some low brush.  I didn't see it catch anything but soon after that, it hopped over to the base of the trunk of the bush and then flew up to a branch near the trunk.  

This time, it had its eyes wide open so I was able to get some shots.

The Bible tells us that we need to be alert and watchful.  It doesn't mean that we should never literally sleep (God built rest into our schedules by giving us day and night and the weekly Sabbath) but we are told that Jesus will return one day and we need to be ready.

For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. . . But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief.  For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. . . For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.  Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.  1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4-6, 9-10    (NLT)

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He Died
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 29, 2015

When death overcame Jesus, He and the others who were crucified needed to be quickly buried before the hour of Sabbath came.  Joseph from Arimathaea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin but a secret follower of Jesus, was granted Pilate’s permission to take the body of Jesus.  In haste, he and Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin and a Pharisee, took the Body from the cross, placed it on a rock slab, washed it and wrapped it with linen and spices according to Jewish burial custom, as grieving women looked on.   The above photo shows the Stone of Anointing (also called Stone of Unction), where Jesus’s body is said to have been prepared and anointed before burial.  (The original, but similar stone may have been replaced by this stone.)  Where were the disciples of Jesus?





Stooping low, the two men then placed the body of Jesus in the nearby new tomb that belonged to Joseph and rolled a large stone to block the entrance.  This second photo shows a man bowing over the stones in this tomb, replaced after previous ones were destroyed.  Concerned that followers might steal the body of Jesus or that He might rise from the dead as He said He would (Mathew 16:21), Pilate posted guards to watch over the tomb. (Mathew 27:55-66, Mark 15:40-47, Luke 23:40-56, John 19:38-42)  Sabbath came while Jesus rested in the tomb. Today, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem protects these sites. 

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Hiding Place
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 28, 2015

This past Monday, on a brisk walk to our local library, I spotted something white scurrying along in front of me at the bottom of a ditch to the right of the sidewalk.

Luckily, my belt camera case has a Velcro flap, and I was able to rip it open, wrench out the camera, and snap the above photo just in time. Here’s a closeup:





Unless the photos I used as reference on Google Images are leading me astray—and if so, any of you naturalists reading this are welcome to guide me into the path of truth—this is a humble opossum seeking shelter. This is the first live ‘possum I have ever seen.

This ditch is a short one, maybe 30 feet long. At the other end is a similar tunnel, but this one has been firmly cemented shut.





No shelter possibilities here, right?

Fortunately, this opossum knew exactly which direction to head to find protection from the human menace he saw approaching on the sidewalk.

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? In a spiritually dangerous and unpredictable world, where “ . . . your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NKJV), we need to find protection that’s dependable.

For an encouraging set of Bible passages that answers this need, click the link immediately below:

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


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Bread Perfected
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 27, 2015

A week ago today (Friday the 20th) I was heading north to give the last in a series of “week of prayer” talks to students in the Adventist elementary school in Everett, Washington.

In the lane to my right was this Oroweat bread truck toiling along, no doubt transporting its tasty cargo to grocery stores, to be received by the hungry multitudes.

What caused me to do a double-take was the photo of the slice of bread on the back door:





In the lower center of this bread-slice which looks luscious enough to eat is an iron door-handle. It makes me giggle to think that the addition of the handle (everybody needs more iron, don’t you think?) would cause this slice to be proudly labeled “Bread Perfected.”

Actually, the only real “Bread Perfected” I know of is Jesus. He wanted so badly for us to understand how much we need Him that He constantly used down-to-earth parables.

“ ‘. . . My Father gives you the true bread from heaven,” He said. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” John 6:32 – 35 NKJV

Here are two links to Bible passages which talk about life and the Bread of Life.

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/lords-supper

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

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Giant Stonefly
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Several months ago while I was moving rocks in our little creek, I kept finding insect larvae/nymphs under the rocks that looked similar to dragonfly nymphs (a nymph is a larva except it doesn't go through a pupa stage). I was surprised to see them because I hadn't seen anything like them in our creek before. After some googling, I found out that they were giant stonefly nymphs. These nymphs live under rocks in streams and rivers and generally eat dead leaves and plants. At night sometime during the spring, the nymphs crawl out of the water and molt, becoming adult giant stoneflies. In our recent case, they crawled up our tool shed's wall to molt, leaving a bunch of shells stuck to it. The adults are completely harmless because they don't have any mouth parts and live only for about a week.

In the picture above, you can see a giant stonefly next to its freshly molted shell and my index finger for scale. The adult looks bigger in person; it was just under two inches long from head to wingtips (I have big hands).

In Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul gives instructions for Christian living: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

So like the giant stonefly, lets "put off our old selves" and let God help us put on the new.


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Love Is . . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Passing by a school bulletin board not long ago I saw these expressions of love. The above heart combines both the sweet-tooth and mercenary motifs (the “money” seems added as an afterthought, or additional incentive!). Below, another student vows nothing more than heartier nutrition.





So, are the above evidences of true love? They could be, in the right circumstances. What is courtship besides rewarding the other’s sweetness in tangible ways? And certainly, providing nourishing food is essential for parents in love with their kids.

But what is love as defined by God? Click the link immediately below to find Bible passages which show true love’s multifaceted beauty.

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

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Wheelchair Accessible        
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 24, 2015

We recognize the signage and appreciate the concern that goes into making provisions for those who need assistance in reaching their goals.  Public awareness in this area has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years and we generally give our support to such efforts.  Generally.  The exceptions come when we can’t find a parking space in the crowded Costco parking lot yet there are 15 open handicapped stalls close enough to the entrance so you can read the name tag of the worker checking your card for admittance.
 
And there are other times, like out on the open prairie without a car in sight for miles, when you come across the familiar sign.  The initial reaction is a positive one, realizing the Department of the Interior has made special effort to make viewing platforms available to all.  Positive until one takes a closer look at the platform . . . .





The only way this viewpoint is handicapped accessible is if the participant is an orangutan, and even then it would be questionable.  In their defense, it does appear that at one time a ramp was attached by four brackets, but that was in ages past.
 
It’s easy to become skeptical, to question the provisions offered by others and by God.  Jacob’s Ladder, is it really all it’s talked up to be?  Can Christ be trusted to enable a broken sinner like me to be able to reach that higher plane when all the evidence surrounding me seems to indicate that is an impossibility?  Fortunately for you and me, the wood used to build that particular ramp was made out of two lasting timbers shaped in the form of a cross.
 

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Far Away from the Garden of Eden
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 23, 2015

I took this picture of magnolia flowers in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle a few years ago.  I think magnolias are beautiful and I look forward to their bloom time each spring.

The Bible tells us about God’s original plan for human habitation in a garden which supplied everything we could possibly need.  Sadly, because of sin, the human race lost access to that perfect garden and we are now living in totally different environments all over the planet. 

Then the LORD God planted a garden in the east, in a place called Eden, and put the man he had formed into it.  The LORD God caused every beautiful tree and every tree that was good for food to grow out of the ground. In the middle of the garden, God put the tree that gives life and also the tree that gives the knowledge of good and evil.  Genesis 2:8-9 (NCV)

I’m glad that beautiful trees do still survive despite all of the turmoil and trouble in the world today.  We are told that beautiful trees and trees that were good for food were created in Eden.  I think God loved us so much that He created things just so that we could enjoy their beauty.  Perhaps we also understand the Artist a little better after seeing some of the Artist’s masterpieces.

Our current situation is not the end, however.  In Revelation 21, we are told that there will be a new earth:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and there was no sea anymore.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It was prepared like a bride dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Now God’s presence is with people, and he will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone.  Revelation 21:1-4

In addition to looking forward to the elimination of all sorrow, sickness and death, I can’t wait to see what the trees look like in the new earth!

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Nailed to the Cross
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sound was hushed as we slowly made our way up the narrow, winding, old rock steps.  We were inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem built over the place thought to be Calvary or Golgotha – the place where Jesus was crucified. People were speechless as they stood on Christianity’s hallowed ground, some were in tears.

(The above photo shows a 12th century mosaic of Jesus being nailed to the cross.   This artwork is in a chapel next to the Rock of Calvary.) They offered Him a drink of wine mixed with gall, nailed Him to the cross and divided His clothes among them. As was the custom, a sign with the name of the person and his crime was nailed on the cross so people would know the reason for the crucifixion.  A sign meaning “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Mathew 27:37) was placed over Jesus’s head.  Two bandits were crucified with Him, one on His right side, and the other on His left.  Passers-by, chief priests, lawyers, elders and the bandits hanging beside Him mocked Him.  The day became dark until about three in the afternoon when Jesus cried out meaning “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) After moans from pain and difficulty breathing, He gave another loud cry and breathed His last breath.  





(The rock behind the glass shown in this photo is believed to be the actual Rock of Calvary, where the cross of Jesus was stood.  Notice the place where the cross was mounted and the crack in the rock.) The curtain of the temple tore, the earth quaked, rocks cracked, graves opened and many of God’s followers were raised. When those keeping watch over Jesus saw what was happening, they were filled with awe and said “Truly this was the Son of God.” (Mathew 27:54)  “Beyond all doubt, this man was innocent.” (Luke 23:47)  Yes, an innocent man, Jesus, died for you and me!


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Spilled Sweets
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 21, 2015

I often find that walking is a good mental stimulus for me, and since this week has been a busy one (a daily Week of Prayer series at an Adventist elementary school in another town, and a sermon to prepare) I took a thoughtful walk on Wednesday afternoon.

On the sidewalk, melting in the warm sunshine, I saw this pitiful sight. A little kid—I’m sure it was a little kid—had been munching away on a chocolate-covered ice cream treat, and part of it had fallen off. I can picture the bereaved child leaning down to retrieve what was left, and a horrified mother (conscious of the hundreds of contaminated heels which had trampled that concrete) grabbing the little wrist and towing the lamenting youngster firmly away.

Do you know what that melting vanilla with its chocolate crust makes me think of? God’s weekly gift of the seventh-day Sabbath. He handed it to our first parents with joy, and blessed it and made it holy and even rested on it Himself. In the Ten Commandments, sensing we might forget, He said, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. Six days you shall do your work, but the seventh is the Sabbath.” Yet so many of us have let it drop carelessly, to be trampled on.

Those who have practiced Sabbathkeeping come to greet Friday’s sundown with relief, knowing that that weekly segment of eternity is a wonderful sanity-restorer. After all, how can you celebrate the Creator’s day without remembering that the Creator is the one who’s really in charge?

Want to read more about this wonderful day? Check out the link below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/sabbath-observance

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This Old House
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 20, 2015

Early this past Monday morning, as Shelley and I were on a walk, I snapped this photo of a birdhouse. It reminded me of “This Old House,” one of the first popular songs I remember hearing—mainly because my Dad sang it so much around the house. It was written more than 60 years ago by songwriter and radio personality Stuart Hamblen (who also wrote “It Is No Secret What God Can Do” and “Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine In.”)

The song begins as a tale of an aging house, but as the lyrics continue, it becomes clear that it’s referring to a human being on the point of death. The good news is that Jesus has the keys to death and the grave, and if we surrender our hearts to Him, He will give us eternal life. (See Bible link below the lyrics.)

This old house once knew my children
This old house once knew my wife
This old house was home and shelter
As we fought the storms of life
This old house once rang with laughter
This old house heard many shouts
Now she trembles in the darkness when the lightnin' walks about

Ain't gonna need this house no longer
Ain't gonna need this house no more
Ain't got time to fix the shingles
Ain't got time to fix the floor
Ain't got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend the window pane
Ain't gonna need this house no longer
I'm getting ready to meet the saints

This old house is getting shaky
This old house is getting old
This old house lets in the rain and
This old house lets in the cold
Oh my knees are getting chilly
But I feel no fear or pain
'Cause I see an angel peeking through
A broken window pane

Ain't gonna need this house no longer
Ain't gonna need this house no more . . . .
        --Stuart Hamblen

Check out these links to Bible passages about eternal life:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/eternal-life
http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/salvation


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Forgiveness
Photo ©2015 by Chelsea Jurgensen
Commentary ©2015 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 19, 2015

This view is at a ranch near Snoqualmie and North Bend with Mt Si in the background.  Rainbows can provide a unique perspective to a scene, framing things with a new light.

God must have chosen the rainbow to represent His promise to us because of its beauty and timelessness.  His covenant or promise is that He would not destroy us by flood ever again.   See Genesis 9:8-17.  I think His covenant covers more than just floods, and is probably related to other covenants mentioned in the Bible about God's forgiveness.  Rainbows and light are also mentioned several other places in the Bible.  I wonder what else they can tell us about God.  

On the first day of creation God created light.  Water drops split and reflect light into distinct color frequencies because shorter wavelength colors like violet refract more than longer wavelengths like red.  So a rainbow is a natural spectrometer showing us the beautiful colors in light.  Some scientists have proposed that all matter is made up of the same thing as light.  It is far from proven, but perhaps Genesis has some fundamental science that we are still learning.

More importantly, God is the light of the world, showing us the best way to live together.  Forgiveness is an important theme in the Old Testament and throughout the ministry of Jesus.   For example, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister?  Seventy times seven in Matthew 18.  Let's take this light and apply God's forgiveness regularly with others as we go about our lives.

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Busy Busy
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
 
Life can get very busy. Along with that extreme feeling of tasks being overwhelming, we start to forget things.  We start to push things aside and narrow our focus.  We tend to relegate things that should be a priority down to "nice to haves" or even non-existent. I can, without a doubt, point to my life over the past couple of days and know I have pushed things aside that I shouldn’t have.  Yes, life is busy and it can feel overwhelming when we try to do it all by ourselves.
 
A couple weeks ago we were at a park that had a huge dog "off-leash" area.  As you can imagine, when you have 60+ dogs of all ages and varieties in the same vicinity, it can quickly become crazy.  All these dogs running around, barking at each other – dog pandemonium. Keep moving down the trails and now we crank it up a notch (from pandemonium) as we add water and mud to the mix (see above). It reminded me of how I was viewing the last of couple of weeks, with all the pushes and pulls of work and life: chaotic, noisy, and not easy to wrangle.
 
How do we bring sanity and calmness to our lives, when things can get out of control with all the responsibilities?  Trick question – right?  WE don’t.  Only God can bring that to us.  In Philippians 4:6 and 7, Paul writes some amazing advice to the church, that we can absolutely listen and adhere to today:
 
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
 
Easier said than done, but if we keep telling ourselves "Be anxious for nothing," we will get the peace of God.

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Marbled Godwit II
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

We as a people are so easily deceived.  We may use the proper terminology, even go through the right motions, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t mixed up.  As Moses winds up his address to the Children of Israel, he reminds them of this fact and how easily their forefathers fell into this trap.  “They sacrificed to gods that are not real, new gods their ancestors had never known, gods that Israel had never obeyed.  They forgot their God, their mighty savior, the one who had given them life.”  (Deuteronomy 32:17-18 GNT)
 
We may mouth the right words, but that doesn’t mean we have made a proper connection.  Take the Marbled Godwit for example.  This long-legged shorebird, which breeds in the grasslands in the middle of the continent and then winters along both coasts, has a name that incorporates the terms we most frequently use for deity.  The term “godwit” however, has nothing to do with its Maker, but was employed simply because its two syllable call sounded like “god-wit”.  Perhaps in our secular society today, those syllables might not even be thought of, but that’s the way someone used phonetic transcription to help us connect to this species.  We do the same thing when we tell our toddlers that the rooster says “cock-a-doodle-doo”.
 
In an effort to persuade others we’re on the right track we may even adopt a religious vocabulary that signifies our right-standing.  But such jargon does little more than fool ourselves.  Notice the spiritual tone of collective terms that are used for a group of godwits:  an omniscience, a pantheon, and a prayer.  Perhaps we should be grateful for the spiritual orientation placed upon this bird, but just like life, that isn’t what really counts.

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Trust in the Lord
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 16, 2015

I was in the Skagit Valley a few weeks ago and I came across a small, muddy field with a whole lot of swans on it.  There were a number of photographers who were standing around taking pictures as this field was right beside the road.  Usually, when I see swans in the Skagit, they are in the middle of a distant field and there is no road to even get close to them.  

A tractor came by on the road and that seemed to spook them and they all rose up in flight (including one I thought was dead!) into a wedge (I had to look that term up on the Internet!).  The mountain in the photo is Mt. Baker.

I don't think they were actually headed for the mountains but were probably going to land in a nearby field that was not close to a road.  Psalm 11:1 tells us where we should be looking for safety.

I trust in the LORD for protection.
So why do you say to me,
    “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!"
Psalm 11:1 (NLT)

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The Path of Agony
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 15, 2015

When morning came, the chief priests and elders met to plan the death of Jesus.  They turned Him over to Pilate, the Roman Governor.  Remorseful, Judas admitted he had sinned and brought an innocent man to death.  He threw the thirty pieces of silver on the ground, went out and hanged himself.  Since Pilate didn’t want anything to do with putting an innocent man to death, he turned the decision over to the people.  Being persuaded by the chief priests and elders, the people chose to release Barabbas.  That meant death for Jesus.

Pilate’s soldiers mocked Him, spat on Him, beat Him and placed a crown of thorns on His head.  They led Him away to be crucified, as shown in the artwork in the photo above. The painting is located on the traditional site of the judgment seat of Pilate.   





Simon from Cyrene in Libya was told to help carry His cross. Today, many people reenact this by carrying a cross. 





This photo shows the Via Dolorosa, the path where it’s said that Jesus was led to His crucifixion.As the original witnesses followed the Calvary-bound Jesus, they mourned. (Mathew 27, Mark 15, Luke 22, 23, John 18, 19)





I thought about the beautiful, but sad song, “Via Dolorosa” as I slowly walked the length of Via Dolorosa.  The chorus is below.

Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King,
But He chose to walk that road out of
His love for you and me.
Down the Via Dolorosa, all the way to Calvary.


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Space Available!
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 14, 2015

Earlier this month on a walk I took from our neighborhood to a business district I saw this line of cheerful signs beside an apartment complex. Each sign proclaimed a benefit of living there.

The first sign (at least when you approach from this direction) insists that the complex is not off-limits to pets. And here’s a closeup of the three signs in the distance:





The one furthest away lets me know that I have a choice of apartment sizes depending on my needs. The one in front of it says there need be no delay in my inquiring. And the front sign says I can move in right away!

Isn’t this the way it is with heaven? Heaven is certainly pet-friendly—on its meadows you will find lions and lambs cuddling peacefully. And its accommodations will certainly be flexible enough for single individuals or large families. Furthermore, we can take out an occupancy “lease” right away.

But what about “Immediate Move In”? Do we have to wait for Holy City citizenship until Jesus’ return? Not according to Jesus and His friends:

1 John 5:11 – 13 [NKJV]: And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Do you get the Savior’s point? Eternal life, which will be enjoyed by the residents of that City, can begin right now.  You and I can immediately “move in” to the same kind of secure condition we will have in the “place” Jesus has gone to prepare for us (John 14:1 – 3).

So, what do you and I need to sign the lease? Faith. The obvious next question—to those really concerned about eternity—is, “What is faith and how can I find and use it?”

For six key Bible texts on faith, click the link immediately below.

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


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You Just Never Know
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 13, 2015

Tuesday morning I was on my way north to our two Adventist schools in Kirkland to do a bit of volunteering. Traffic was a lot slower than normal, and I soon found out why.

It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that here we have a triple-rear-ender (or maybe we should call it a double). Some high-set vehicle (no longer on the scene) smashed into the SUV on the left, and propelled its lower frame into the sedan just in front of it. Incredibly, there were no ambulances present, and from the fact that the collision-chain-starting vehicle was gone, there must have been enough time to get them there if they’d been needed. A police car, out of sight to the left, was protecting these two vehicles. I just managed to snap this photo before I had to keep going (see the corner of my little blue camera in the rear-view mirror?).

What chills me when I see or hear about accidents like this is how without-warning so many of them are. One second everything is fine, and the next second it’s BANG-BANG.

I’m assuming that the lady looking into the back seat (I’d seen her walking around earlier, so I’m assuming she’s the driver of that car) will not be held at fault, since she was the “sandwich filling” of the collision, nor will the driver of the rightmost car be at fault. But I’m sure that their first thoughts after the jolt was, “Insurance. Whose insurance will cover this?” Because you just never know when something like this will happen.

In Matthew 24:44 [NKJV] Jesus give us sobering news about the day when Heaven will collide with earth. “Therefore you also be ready,” He said, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. From this point on and into Matthew 25, Jesus gives us suggestions about how to position ourselves for that event. You might want to read both chapters. You’ll find them at this link:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+24&version=NKJV

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Sharp Eyes
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, March 12, 2015

Recently, I spotted this hawk perched in our maple tree staring towards our bird feeder. We've seen it several times before, but I'd never gotten a picture of it. I think it is probably a Cooper's Hawk because it had a rounded tail and was about the size of a crow, unlike the very similar looking but smaller Sharp-shinned Hawk. After a little while it flew away and the birds eating under the bird feeder lived to see another day. Here is a cropped picture of the hawk:





In Job 28, Job is talking to his friends about wisdom and how hard it is to find. Despite the sharp eyes of birds of prey, in verse 7 Job says, "No bird of prey knows that hidden path, no falcon’s eye has seen it."

Later in verse 28 Job answers his own question on how to find wisdom: "And he [God] said to the human race, 'The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'"


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Spring Has Sprung
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
 
I know we aren’t officially in the Spring “window'--that won’t happen until the 20th of March.  That said, when you look (or even better go) outside, you would think we have arrived.  Disclaimer--I am writing this from the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  If you are reading this from another part of the US (Northeast) or other parts of the world, it may not be the same for you. Around our parts, here in the Seattle area, we have been enjoying lots of sunshine and temperatures in the high 50’s, low 60’s.
 
This last weekend I went to the Warren G. Magnuson park in Seattle.  While walking around the trails and the various “off-leash” areas for dogs, this leaf caught my eye. As you can see, all that is left of this leaf is this intricate “skeleton.”  As it eventually didn’t have enough life left, it dropped from the tree above and floated down to rest on the lush, contrasting, green grass – I see the start of new life.
 
Spring is, by far, my favorite season of the year.  To me, it signals the start of life.  The end of a cold, wet, season (at least in the PNW).  It symbolizes a new start.  God continually gives us this.  Sometimes we ask for it and sometimes He knows we need it, before we know we need it.  Either way – I welcome the start of Spring and any new start God is willing to provide me.

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Lungwort
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I’m not suggesting I’d like to be one, a lichen that is, but they do display certain qualities that I do admire.  For one thing, they thrive in the most inhospitable environments where little else seems to be able to subsist.  By their very nature they flourish by working together, for without this cooperation, they would cease to exist.  Lichens are made up of symbiotic organisms from as many as three kingdoms.   The major associate is a fungus, but fungi are unable to make their own food so they must utilize the skills of other organisms.  I like the way one expert described this.  “Lichens are fungi that have discovered agriculture.”  This is where the other partners come into play.  Both of these are able to use photosynthesis to manufacture food.  Sometimes this is done by algae which are part of kingdom Protista.  But cyanobacteria from the kingdom Monera are also cultivated by the fungi to accomplish the same thing.

In the case of this specimen, Lobaria pulmonaria, also known as lungwort, it uses both of these producers.  It was called lungwort due to its superficial resemblance to lungs.  Medieval herbalists used the Doctrine of Signatures to come to the conclusion that it must be good for treating lung ailments.  The green you see on the top is a colony of algae.

Paul wrote to the Galatians about the wisdom of working together.  Notice how his counsel is carried out in the natural world of the lichens as well.  “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.  Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.”  (Galatians 6:4-6  The Message)

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The Joyful Mountain
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 9, 2015

This is a photo of Mt. Baker with Boundary Bay in the foreground. The picture was taken just as a beautiful Sabbath was drawing to a close.  The mountain was definitely out!  (I've been in this same spot on a cloudy day and you wouldn't even know the mountain was there.)

There was a meadowlark singing nearby and short eared owls and Northern Harriers were flying around hunting for their supper. It felt like the earth was making music and this short psalm seems to capture the moment.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
    because he has done miracles.
By his right hand and holy arm
    he has won the victory.
The LORD has made known his power to save;
    he has shown the other nations his victory for his people.
He has remembered his love
    and his loyalty to the people of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    God’s power to save.
Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth;
    burst into songs and make music.
Make music to the LORD with harps,
    with harps and the sound of singing.
Blow the trumpets and the sheep’s horns;
    shout for joy to the LORD the King.
Let the sea and everything in it shout;
    let the world and everyone in it sing.
Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the mountains sing together for joy.
Let them sing before the LORD,
    because he is coming to judge the world.
He will judge the world fairly;
    he will judge the peoples with fairness.
Psalm 98 (NCV)

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In the Garden
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 8, 2015

Silence fell over us as we entered the Garden.  It seemed like we were in a holy place.  We looked at the very old olive trees with a scattering of flowers under their branches as shown above.  We were in the midst of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus and His disciples went after they finished eating their Passover meal.  He told them to sit while He went nearby to pray, taking Peter, James and John with Him. When He returned, He found His disciples asleep – not only once, but three times.  He prayed, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”  (Mathew 26:42)  An angel appeared giving Him strength, “and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”  (Luke 22:44)

The hour had come. Judas along with many chief priests and elders appeared.  Judas kissed Jesus, the sign of whom they were to arrest.  He asked why they came with swords and staves when He sat with them teaching in the temple.  They took Him.  His disciples fled. (Mathew 26)

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Four Impending Disasters!
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 7, 2015

I’m not going to give you even a hint about where I found the above mural, but I have seen it several times, and each time I grin.

(However . . . read the input from a real motorcyclist below . . .)

As you can see, the artist was commissioned to portray a hotly-contested motorcycle race. I’m not sure if you can see the people in the stands clearly, but many of them have their mouths open, probably cheering on their favorite cyclist.

But if you will study the positions of those motorcycles for a moment, you will see a very interesting thing. Each one of the cyclists is leaning to his left, banking into a turn. But – and this must horrify anyone who has actually piloted a motorcycle – each of the front wheels is turned the wrong way. So if this were a photograph rather than a mural painting, the next photo frame would show a terrible accident, as four motorcycles tipped over, hit the dirt, and tumbled crazily together.

(Now, here's a correction from someone who has really piloted a motorcycle. Will, who saw this blog, emailed me with some facts I didn't know. According to Will, this picture is correct after all! Evidently what happens is that when you're coming around a turn, your rear wheel would be skidding to the biker's right, and so the biker turns the front wheel in the same direction as the rear tire is skidding. I remember driving a rear-wheel-drive car on ice, and having to do the same thing. Thanks, Will!)

If these cyclists were indeed in danger, I believe they could symbolize what’s happening to our planet. How tragic it is to read news stories, such as accounts of oppressed nations struggling toward an “Arab Spring” of democracy, only to have their dreams crushed by a new set of oppressors.

And even in our personal lives, who hasn’t twitched the wheel of his or her spiritual life in the wrong direction from time to time and “wiped out”?

Isn’t it wonderful that, no matter how large or small the scale of our mistakes, our Creator is also our Redeemer, the One who died to pay for those sins? When is the last time you asked for His forgiveness and re-consecrated your life to Him?

To review the steps to salvation, click the link immediately below:

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

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The Horned Altar
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 6, 2015

Probably the only downside to visiting a bookstore is that right next to the Christianity section you will often find the occult books, such as the one (in the photo above) which I discovered on a recent trip to a Half-Price Books establishment.

Anybody with even just a nodding acquaintance with the Old Testament understands very clearly that one of God’s chief objectives was to sternly wean His people away from anything Canaanite. Yet here in the 21st century, a publisher evidently believed that taking a chance on a book about Canaanite religions would generate at least break-even sales.

A few months ago on another visit to another Half-Price store I saw a young woman who seemed to be in her 20s wander thoughtfully into the Astrology section, sit down on the floor, and bury her nose in one of those books for a long time. She was dressed normally – no pointy hat, no witch’s cackle, no broomstraws clinging to her outfit – yet she was seeking guidance from sources which were forbidden with horror and loathing in the Bible.

Now, I understand that the likelihood of any of this blog’s readers getting hooked into studying The Horned Altar or similar volumes is probably pretty remote. However, I think it was C. S. Lewis who said that there are really only two kinds of religions in the world – those who teach that we can be saved by our works, and those who teach that we can’t. I’m sure that a bit of digging in the Canaanite book would immediately direct the reader to spells and incantations and maybe even sacrifices which purport to give  power or control in some way.

What’s so delightful about the Bible and its Author is that, with a loving Heavenly Father in control, you and I needn't bother trying to master every detail of our lives. Scripture’s many promises point to a God who, though He has given us free will, longs to have us consult Him for wisdom, and ask Him for appropriate supernatural intervention.

To read some of those powerful promises, click the link immediately below:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/bible-promises

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Moon and Planets
Photo ©2015 by Caleb Jurgensen
Commentary ©2015 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 5, 2015

In late February some heavenly bodies and good weather combined to provide wonderful views of Venus (the lower bright light), Mars (the little dot), and Moon.  This picture was taken on February 20.  According to NASA, the dark part of the moon is visible because it is lit by earthshine, which is light reflected by the bright side of Earth.  (See http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150228.html)

There are many theories about how the moon got there and how the planets formed.  I like to think about how God in all His wisdom designed a universe to provide a habitat for people.  Without gravity that holds the moon in orbit around Earth, and holds Venus and Mars in orbit around the Sun, we would just float away.  We couldn't walk to a neighbor's house or stand at a friend's side when in need.  Although sometimes I battle with gravity when getting up in the morning.   

Jesus looked up at the same moon that we see as He showed us a true picture of God.  He would have known He was there at the beginning and produced all things. (See John 1)  I don't know why, but we are important enough to Him that He came to do this for us.  Let's use our knowledge and opportunities that come our way to follow Him.

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Knock, Knock
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ever heard the door and cringed at who could be on the other side, and more importantly, what they could be selling?  We get asked to buy or give (to worthy causes) all the time.  Sometimes it's challenging to figure out who's worthy or where we will spend some of our money.

Does God feel the same way?  Does He hear our prayers and decide to pick-n-choose where He answers and where He doesn't?  No.  He gives and provides, where we need it.  That doesn't mean all our prayers get answered, the way we want.

In Matthew 7, we can read all about the knocking and opening of doors.  When we read verses 7-12, we see that this passage isn't about us asking God for things and Him coming through for us, instead it's about our Father's commitment and promise of taking care of us -- so we should do the same for others.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Remember, when God provides us with our needs, He wants us to give back to others the same way.


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Flowerhorn Cichlid
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 3, 2015

It’s been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  That may be true, but at least in part the beholder’s vision is conditioned and shaped by the world around him.  What might be considered an abnormality and even ugly can become a desired trait over time.  Take for example the  Flowerhorn Cichlid.  It came into existence in Malaysia through crossbreeding in 1996.  As a hybrid, created from parents originating in Central and South America, it has no scientific name, but is also known in Malaysia as rajah cichlasoma.

Of special interest is the “kok” or lump on the head of the male.  In the Far East it is believed the ownership of a Flowerhorn will bring good luck, especially in business and gambling.  The black horizontal markings along the side are known as flowers and are said to resemble Chinese characters.  Those with the largest koks and most defined flowers bring the highest price.  The record sale of such a fish came about in a Malaysian exhibition in 2009 where a particularly outstanding Flowerhorn sold for $600,000!

The Wise Man understood the value we place upon beauty.  He also comprehended our inability to fully appreciate the scope of our Father’s gift to us.  “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)  The writer of one of the apocryphal books added this facet:  “When we realize how vast and beautiful the creation is, we are learning about the Creator at the same time.”  (Wisdom 13:5 Good News Translation)  While we may have eternity to grow in our appreciation of our Maker and His gifts, today is a good time to open our eyes and start in that discovery process.

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Like a Crocus in Spring
Photo and Commentary ©2015 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 2, 2015

The Skagit Valley is starting to bloom!  A couple of daffodil fields were blooming last week when I was there and some of the other spring flowers, like this crocus, are blooming in gardens.

In a small way,  we can picture the restoration that comes with salvation.

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously,
    the badlands will celebrate and flower—
Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom,
    a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift.
    Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon—gifts.
GOD’s resplendent glory, fully on display.
    GOD awesome, GOD majestic.
Isaiah 35:1-2 (The Message)


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