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.

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, March 31, 2016

These Easter eggs were made and given to us by one of our neighbors. They made the eggs by tightly wrapping them in pieces of silk neck ties. Then they boiled the eggs, causing the color from the ties to bleed onto the eggs.

Proverbs 13:20 (ESV) says, "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm."

The way we act rubs off on others, kind of like the color of the ties transfers to the eggs. So try to be a wise influence, or learn from someone who is.

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Holding Each Other Up
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

This is an old tree--I don't know for sure the exact age, but over 100 years old. It's in South Carolina, at a park outside of Charleston. As you can see, the caretakers saw the need for one of the large branches to be supported. Once supported, the branch (and the rest of the tree) continued to flourish, now stronger than ever.

That's the same concept God had/has for the church. We can read specific details in Paul's writings to the Church of Ephesus. The same is true (maybe even more) today. God's plan is a sound one and it's based on a body of people working together.

In Ephesians 4:11-16, we can read all about the plan of God's gifts to us and the whole church:

Christ gave gifts to men. He gave to some the gift to be missionaries, some to be preachers, others to be preachers who go from town to town. He gave others the gift to be church leaders and teachers.  These gifts help His people work well for Him. And then the church which is the body of Christ will be made strong.  All of us are to be as one in the faith and in knowing the Son of God. We are to be full-grown Christians standing as high and complete as Christ is Himself.  Then we will not be as children any longer. Children are like boats thrown up and down on big waves. They are blown with the wind. False teaching is like the wind. False teachers try everything possible to make people believe a lie,  but we are to hold to the truth with love in our hearts. We are to grow up and be more like Christ. He is the leader of the church.  Christ has put each part of the church in its right place. Each part helps other parts. This is what is needed to keep the whole body together. In this way, the whole body grows strong in love.

What a plan! God gives us gifts/strengths, that are best used together with others' strengths and talents. Working as a unit - stronger together than apart.

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Belted Kingfisher
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

It’s a sound always associated with water, for it’s only around water that the staccato-like call of the Belted Kingfisher is heard.  It would be easy to overlook this hunter as she sits motionless on a branch, watching with keen eyes for any sign of prey flirting below the surface.  This particular bird is clearly a female, for the male doesn’t sport the rufous-colored breast band found on his feminine counterpart.
Even the Latin species title for this bird comes from an aquatic setting by way of classical mythology.  The name alcyon comes from Alcyone, the daughter of Aeolus, who was so grieved when her husband died in a shipwreck that she cast herself into the sea, a rather melodramatic but not totally inaccurate way of describing the kingfisher’s hunting technique.  This same story gives us the term “halcyon days” to describe placid weather on the open sea brought about, according to legend, by the nesting of these birds.
The spiritual tie in also comes from the sea, but this time, inspired reality takes the place of legend as two equally undesirable alternatives await.  Moses and the Children of Israel are trapped on the shores of the Red Sea, the Egyptian army looming behind them, and death by drowning waiting before them.  It’s at this point the Lord steps in and offers deliverance:  “The Lord will fight for you, and all you have to do is keep still.”  (Exodus 14:14 The Bible in Today’s English Version)  The next time we find ourselves facing a problem that has no visible solution, or perhaps we just hear that raucous, machinegun-like call of the Belted Kingfisher, maybe we can remember that battle outcome long ago on a foreign shore, and prod ourselves to keep still and put our confidence in Him.  

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Creatures of the Sea
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 28, 2016

I took this picture of a California sea lion a few years ago in Monterey, California. Males can reach 850 pounds and 7 feet in length and females can reach 220 pounds and 6 feet in length according to  You can usually hear these sea lions before you see them.   If you want to hear what they sound like, you can go to the preceding link and scroll down to the sound feature.
I think the sheer amount of sea life in the world is truly amazing.  The beauty, variety, complexity, colors and patterns all point to a Designer.

So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  Genesis 1:21

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 27, 2016

When traveling, it’s interesting to see how food options are marketed.  This first photo (above) displays the posters outside a sandwich shop in Tivoli, Italy.  

The poster on the right (shown immediately above) advertises “The Original Italian Potatoes” they offer!  That’s interesting, since they’re more commonly known as “French” fries!  But…maybe it’s the options one can choose to go with the “potatoes” that make them Italian. Notice all the sauce choices, including gluten free and limited edition sauces that are hand made with love.  If I was in to French fries, this choice might be hard to make!  

The other side of the doorway advertises their toasted sandwiches or “toastissimi” options, describing the ingredients.  This might be a good idea so visitors from foreign countries would know what kind of sandwich to order.  Can you read their descriptions? How would you like to have a sandwich that is irresistible, excellent, creative, elegant or gentle?  Choices, choices!

All of us face choices every day, even though it might not be as simple as the sauces to go with French Fries or sandwich choices.  Even though some of our daily choices might be insignificant, others could be life-changing.  Our sins separate us from God (Romans 3:10, 23).  Jesus came to pay the price for our sins (John 3:16; Isaiah 53:5-6).  Those who choose to accept Jesus Christ will be saved (Romans 10:13).  Now, THAT’S an important choice!

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Taking It On Faith
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 26, 2016

I grew up as a meat-eating, ketchup-glugging, candy-craving farm kid. My mom didn’t love to cook, but she loved her kids, and found out what foods we liked and gave them to us in generous helpings.

This was well before the general trend toward vegetarianism and other kinds of healthy eating. Over the years, Shelley has guided me away from the grease and sugar, and toward some astonishingly tasty foods, based largely on Asian and Hispanic cuisine. Now, I’m a confirmed vegetarian, and am within reaching distance of being a total vegan—and I honestly am enjoying this kind of food better than what I grew up with, and would never switch back.

Nevertheless, I found myself experiencing a slight gag reflex when I caught sight of what you see in the photo--the lower left corner of the cover of a magazine for vegetarians. “Garlic’s Health-boosting Powers” gave me no problem—I love garlic, and must remember to use it in moderation before attending social occasions.

But “Best-Ever Cauliflower Pizza Crust”? Swallowing nervously, I tried to imagine what this would be like. Normal pizza crusts are made from dough, and I had no clue as to what outrage could be perpetrated upon a cauliflower to make it dough-like. This means that if someone were to serve me a pizza slice with a cauliflower dough crust, it would frankly take an act of faith for me to bite into it.

However, mature faith grows beyond the mindless, reflexive “Yuck’s” of childhood. Most grownups have learned that “different” does not always mean “bad,” and to reserve judgment until after giving what’s new a fair try.

Isn’t that something like what happens when our long-cherished but un-Biblical beliefs come up against clear statements in God’s word? Sometimes it takes faith to venture out and try to understand the Divine plan.

For more of what the Bible says about faith, click the link immediately below:

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More Mailboxes
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 25, 2016

Mailboxes figured largely in my consciousness last week. One of my Daily Photo Parables shows a line of mailboxes we saw many miles to the north of us. But the boxes above are barely two blocks from our home.

Later that week on our morning walk, Shelley and I spotted the scene you see above. Evidently a vehicle of some kind had smashed into the posts of this covered mailbox lineup, even smashing some of the shingles off. Both Shelley and I enjoy getting mail—in fact, that’s how we met!—so we viewed this wreckage with concern. The mailperson, of course, would not be putting mail in these boxes until they were repaired.

Later that day I saw a couple of men laboring away at the repair work, and the next morning Shelley and I saw the scene below.

Know what this made me think of? To me, this line of mailboxes could represent a family. God wants to get through to this family with His agenda, because He is a parent too. The wise parent will make sure to do whatever possible to make sure that the entire family can receive "mail" from God--such as bringing Jesus' words and actions into family discussions, and taking the family to church and other activities involving other Christians. Involving children in Pathfinders (the Adventist co-ed scouting program) is an excellent activity for kids.

To read our Heavenly Parent’s advice about children, click the link immediately below.

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Mediterranean Pizza
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 24, 2016

In this photo, kids in the Pathfinder youth club work together to make a pizza from flour clear through to the final garnishes.  It is often said there is strength in diversity, and also that many hands make light work.  Sometimes it seems more convenient to push people away, ignore them, or take advantage of their difficult position.  Jesus asks us to stop and be thoughtful about how we treat each other.  

In Romans 12: 14-16, Paul says, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."

What if the flour thought it was more important than the yeast, or the tomato thought it was more important than the basil leaves?  If one or the other were excluded it would not be the same tasty treat.  Let's do the same thing with people and value those around us.

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
There are lots of reason to celebrate. In the case of the image above – a wedding cake – the reason is the joining of two people, guided by God’s direction. A birthday means another year of life. A reunion is being able to meet and communicate with someone you haven’t seen in a long while.  Lots of reasons to celebrate.
As I get older, I think about the past. I think back to birthdays, my wedding, vacations, all the good things in life. As time ticks by, we know we are getting closer and closer to the end of this sinful world. Closer to our Creators’ return. A time where we don’t have to look back, but instead look forward. We can dream of what we were told about heaven and multiply that by 100.
John 14:2-4: “There are many rooms in My Father’s house. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going away to make a place for you. After I go and make a place for you, I will come back and take you with Me. Then you may be where I am. You know where I am going and you know how to get there.”
We truly do have a reason to celebrate.

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Loggerhead Shrike
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 22, 2016

There are some that steadfastly seem to refuse our tendency to neatly categorize into orderly boxes that fit our paradigm.  For example, we have songbirds, those colorful residents that occupy our gardens and help us by consuming harmful insects and weeds.  In contrast with this are the birds of prey, which we may admire for their superb flight and hunting skills, but we tend to marginalize because of their predatory nature.  Convenient categories, but somewhat artificial.
Take for instance the Loggerhead Shrike, which does not deftly fit into either category.  Shrikes are considered to be the only truly predatory songbirds for their diet is made up solely of meat.  But even that definition has challenges for the primary dietary items on their menu are insects, and some would hesitate to classify insects as meat.  Also included in their diet are lizards, birds and small animals which they stun with a blow from the bill, then finish the victim off by severing its vertebrae with several bites.  It is nicknamed “butcherbird” from its habit of impaling its prey on barbed wire or thorns.  It will then return at a later time to consume the stored food, sometimes as much as eight months later.  Our idea of a songbird is beginning to crumble.
Fortunately for us, the Lord doesn’t categorize us in the same way we’re inclined to do.  And that’s good news.  Paul seeks to make this abundantly clear:  “If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled “chosen of God,” they’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by personal selection. God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus, people are.  (Romans 9:27, 28 The Message)

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A New Song
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 21, 2016

I took this picture last year of daffodils growing out of the mud in the Skagit Valley. It's amazing to see such beauty growing out from a tiny bulb that was planted in the dirt.

I think we can take hope from such a sight.  It shows us what God can do with our lives when we turn our brokenness over to Him.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
    and put their trust in him.
Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 20, 2016

I like seeing olive trees when I return to Italy or see them elsewhere – especially the old, gnarled ones that have been around for centuries.  My little olive tree here in the Seattle area doesn’t compare to those that have stood the test of time and weather conditions elsewhere.  Also, this isn’t the ideal climate for growing olive trees!  The old olive trees would have many stories to tell if they could!  Previously I shared a photo of one of the old olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (March 8, 2015).  I took the above photo of an old, crooked olive tree in Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli (east of Rome).  This villa was built for the Roman emperor as a summer retreat between the years AD 118 and 134.  What stories could olive trees tell about Roman rulers and the early Christians?  

Olive trees are hardy, drought and fire resistant.  Some in the Mediterranean area are thought to be between 2,000 to 6,000 years old.  They’ve withstood through the years because of their extreme hardiness.  What else comes to mind as withstanding the tests of time through many years?  If you guessed the Bible, you’re thinking the same thing as me!  A collection of 66 books, many authors, and thousands of years in the making, the Bible tells the story of God and the message of Jesus.  It has withstood the test of time!

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 18, 2016

A few weeks ago, Shelley and I were at one of our favorite spots, the Rosario Beach Walla Walla Marine Station, right next door to Deception Pass State Park near Anacortes, Washington. We’d been asked to provide the worship service for one of the local Adventist churches, who were having a family retreat there.

Across the road from our cabin was this striking lineup of snow-white mailboxes. As you can see, the one on the left is numbered “10,” and the rest count down from there, like a space launch announcer. (And yes, there are ten boxes.)

In fact, the reason I snapped this photo—apart from the mailboxes’ picturesque uniqueness—was that it reminded me of another outer-space event, this one an arrival rather than a departure. From several “mailed” messages in the Bible we can learn a great deal about the countdown to Jesus’ return, and even though we don’t know the exact date, we can discover that it’s getting close.

Want to read some of God’s most important mailings about this approaching event—many filled with direct quotes from Jesus—including how to be ready for it? Click the link immediately below. 

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, March 17, 2016

A few days ago, there were several crows making a commotion in a tree near our house. They had spotted this barred owl and weren't happy with it. It just ignored the crows and only briefly glanced at me when I went to take a picture.

Solomon says in Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

This didn't quite work for the owl. The crows never actually pecked the owl, although they sure looked like they wanted to.

Maybe these verses fit better:

Ecclesiastes 7:9: “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

Ecclesiastes 10:4: “If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great offenses to rest.”

The owl was always calm, and didn't leave his post. The crows just made themselves look like fools trying to provoke him.

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We All Need Hope
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
This past weekend, I was able to attend a performance called Journey To The Cross, at the Auburn Adventist Church. It is a musical performance of the life of Jesus and His miracles, trials, and relationships. The performance ends with this amazing visual representation of the second coming. The message is about the hope we have in a better life then we have on earth, the hope we have to be reunited with loved ones that have passed. The hope we will see on a day when the word “pain” isn’t in our vocabulary.
Reading Psalms, I came across a time where God is speaking to the Israelites – showing them what’s right and what’s wrong. God tells them He doesn’t need their sacrifices but He wants them to always come to Him when they are in need--in need of protection, of deliverance, and—and these are true for all of us--of hope.
Psalms 50:15: “Call on Me in the day of trouble. I will take you out of trouble, and you will honor Me.” Call on HIM, when we need anything. He asks us to do this.  What does He expect in return? He wants us to honor Him. I would say that’s a pretty good deal.
We long for the day of Jesus’ second coming – it can’t arrive fast enough.  While we wait, we have the hope for the better days to come.  We always have hope and we always have Him, to call on.

The photo above is a shot, from inside the Imperial Palace Gardens, in Tokyo, Japan.

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Most of us seem to like our names.  Oh, I know, there are those who want something more up-to- date or more stylish, but for most of us it’s part of our identity.  I’ve wondered how important the word "name" is in Acts 4:12.  There it says: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (NIV)  The name Peter is talking about in this passage is of course Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Most of the modern paraphrases include name in their rendering of the verse, so I’m led to believe it’s not just through Christ’s life that we are saved but through recognition of that Individual’s life.  That may not be right, but it’s where I am for now.

It’s easy to become confused with multiple meanings of a name or term.  When I see the word Merlin, I think of a small, compact falcon known for its rapid flight.  Others may have a second image brought to mind, like the legendary wizard associated with King Arthur, even though the Merlin was considered the falcon for a lady during the medieval period.  Still others may think of a video game or the Rolls-Royce engine that “won the war”, powering such planes as the Spitfire, the Mustang, and others.

Those involved in the war effort were right to employ such a name for its avian counterpart relies on speed and agility to hunt down its prey.  Unlike the Peregrine Falcon that captures its prey through a stoop or dive, the Merlin pursues its prey from behind and captures it by accelerating while matching the twists and turns of the terrified bird being pursued.

But back to Peter’s sermon.  I find it interesting that he doesn’t refer to Him as just the Christ (the Messiah), of which there were many.  Nor does he just use the name Jesus, a name not unfamiliar in Jewish society.  He wants his readers to have no uncertainly about whom he is speaking; it is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  For Peter there was no question about where his salvation rested.  The same should be able to be said for us.

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The Lost Sheep
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 14, 2016

I like this parable about the lost sheep.  I think it's a very positive and hopeful story showing God's concern that nobody is left out of his kingdom.  

According to the Bible, we all have a free choice about whether or not to have a relationship with Jesus.   The fact that the God of the Universe would actually take the time to individually seek us out tells us a lot about God's love for us.

"A shepherd in charge of 100 sheep notices that one of his sheep has gone astray. What do you think he should do? Should the shepherd leave the flock on the hills unguarded to search for the lost sheep? God’s shepherd goes to look for that one lost sheep, and when he finds her, he is happier about her return than he is about the 99 who stayed put. Your Father in heaven does not want a single one of the tripped, waylaid, stumbling little ones to be lost."  Matthew 18:12-14 (The Voice)

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cats.  Those of you who have or have had cats know they like to sleep, especially in a warm, peaceful place, like this Italian cat is doing in my photo.  Do you sometimes wish you were a cat and could curl up and let the worries of the world go by?  Just sleep and eat.  If you were lucky enough to have a good home, your family would provide you with enough yummy food, water and even a treat of milk.  If you were on-your-own for getting food, you’d have the challenge of finding the neighbor’s food or searching for mice or other delectable animals you might find.  When you felt satiated, you would find your favorite place to curl up and take a nap.  Oh, wonderful sleep!

Unfortunately, we don’t have lives like cats.  We have responsibilities and challenges…and school or work!  Even if retired, we find “work” by volunteering.  Sometimes, we have “storms” in our lives and things can become very stressful. Think of the situation when Jesus was asleep in the boat while waves broke over Him and His disciples. (Mark 4:35-41) When awakened, He told the wind and waves to be still and they were.  He asked His disciples where their faith was.  Do you sometimes feel you’re in that boat in the storm?  We might feel that God isn’t there, but He is!  We might simply need to curl up next to Jesus and go asleep!

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Proud Supporters
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 12, 2016

A little over a week ago I gave a chapel talk to over 100 students in grades K-8 at Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School. Before the kids trooped over to the gym, I had some time to myself, and I noticed this wall display. The “Sharks” is the name of several athletic teams for this school, as well as for the high school connected with it.

And below the “Proud Supporters” sign are some of the proud supporters. I’ve been affiliated with this school for nearly a quarter of a century, and I know the vast majority of the people represented by these signs. I know that they simply didn’t donate money. The people I know have not only served on the school boards, and helped make difficult decisions, but they have sent their children to this school, year after year. They’re not ho-hum supporters, not grudging supporters, but proud supporters.

It’s been fun watching these people use their talents to help their school thrive. The Bible has quite a bit to say about using our gifts in God’s service. Here are some Scripture passages which might help you discover and use the talents God has given you.

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Charging Station
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 11, 2016

Strolling through a mall last week I saw this charging station for electronic devices. Assuming you have a cord with you, you plug it into the station and then into your phone, tablet, or whatever. And you linger nearby, waiting until you think it has enough of what my dad used to call “juice.”

Perfect little photo parable, right? Here’s a source of power. But in order to tap into that power, you need to come close to the power source and spend some time while you’re getting recharged. And since the overwhelming percentage of what gets charged here are communication devices, the time you spend at the charging station helps you communicate more clearly.

Want to take some time to read and ponder 12 Bible texts about real power? Click the link immediately below:   

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The Narrow Path
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 10, 2016

Have you ever come across a trail and wondered where it goes?  What is it that makes a trail so interesting?  In the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington from I-90 to up north of Highway 2 there are many lakes that are very difficult to access.  Yet there are little fisherman trails that lead to them.  There must have been some very dedicated fisherman to make some of those trails.  The trail pictured is part of the Tiger Mountain Trail.

Sometimes trails that are not commonly followed are the most rewarding.  Jesus invites us to follow the narrow way. In Matthew 7:13-14 He says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

So don't be afraid to try a new trail to do things like volunteer to help others, choose a career in service, or just go the extra mile for something good.

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Spring Has Sprung
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
We’re close.  Maybe not quite there, but really close. With the weather the way it is in the great Northwest, we have plenty of rain and wind as well as sunshine. The flowers are just starting to come out and show off their colors.  This shot was taken at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens – last year (haven’t been there in 2016 – yet) . It invites you outside to take in the weather and enjoy the colors.
I always think of the Garden of Eden, and the fact that it’s the first spot to have the seasons.  I’m a huge fan of spring and what it means – a fresh start, after a cold, harsh (in some cases) winter. I feel like it’s a clean slate we receive.   

Very similar to sin.  Spring is like the forgiveness we receive from God. We slip and we repent – asking for a “do over.” God gives us that restart – the ability to put the things we aren’t proud of behind us and start over. God is VERY good to us.
When we’re outside, enjoying the weather, the flowers, the colors, the Spring – remember who gives us all of it – God does.

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Rocky Mountain Juniper
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The pendulum swings, and for some it travels in a wider arc than for others.  Elijah must have been one of those individuals who lived in the realm of those emotional extremes.  One day he was riding high following his experience on Mount Carmel where God confirmed his faithfulness with undeniable evidence; the next day he was fleeing from Jezebel’s angry threats, running for his life, and it’s in this context we read the words of I Kings 19:4.  “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree:  and he requested for himself that he might die…”(KJV)   Die, he wanted to die.  That’s not just a bad day, that’s serious depression.  The juniper spoken of in this passage may not have been the same species pictured here, but the fact that it was a juniper indicates it must have been a less than hospitable location.  For juniper seem to have the ability to survive where more “sophisticated” trees might not.  It also seems to fit the emotional setting in which the discouraged prophet found himself.  Not the lush, tropical foliage that could symbolize abundance, but the gnarly, twisted, weather-beaten collection of roots and branchesthat indicate a life pummeled with adversity.
Jeremiah 17:5, 6 uses this same botanical metaphor to describe one who rejects God’s love.  “The Lord says; Cursed is the man who puts his trust in mortal man and turns his heart away from God.  He is like a stunted shrub in the desert, with no hope for the future; he lives on the salt-encrusted plains in the barren wilderness; good times pass him by forever.”(Living Bible)
But true to His nature, God does not leave us without hope.  He holds out promise of change for the better to all who will accept that change.  “I will plant trees – cedars, myrtle, olive trees, the cypress, fir and pine – on barren land.”  (Isaiah 41:19)  The amazing thing about this passage is that He assures us of what is seemingly impossible; that “elegant” trees will grow in places where they would not normally survive.  Not a well-watered plain, but a desert.  Leave it to the Great Gardener to bring life where there is no life; to bring beauty to what was once a waste land.  To save people like you and me.   

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At the Right Time
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 7, 2016

For those of us living on the west side of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest, we can see that things are starting to bloom.  Daffodils are out now and there are trees in full bloom.  Snowdrops have been out for a while and there were camellias and rhododendrons blooming at our church this past weekend.

I took this picture of these crocuses a few years ago but they should be out now as well.  The Bible reminds us that God makes everything happen at the "right time" or "in its time" (depending on what Bible version you read).

God makes everything happen at the right time.  Yet none of can ever fully understand all he has done, and he puts questions in our minds about the past and the future.  I know the best thing we can do is to always enjoy life, because God's gift to us is the happiness we get from our food and drink and from the work we do.  Everything God has done will last forever; nothing he does can ever be changed.  God has done all this, so that we will worship him.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 (CEV)

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 6, 2016

We were hiking in the mountains of Umbria near the village of Castellucio di Norcia (see the January 31 parable) when we came upon a shepherd, his flock of sheep and his three Great Pyrenees guard dogs.  We watched them for about an hour.  The shepherd and his dogs kept the many sheep moving along as the sheep munched on the dry grass.  Even though Great Pyrenees dogs sometimes sleep during the day, they work all night protecting their flock, often barking to warn predators to stay away.  Having a natural guarding instinct, they have been used to guard animals for centuries.  We watched them watching their flock of sheep.

Watching.  If you’ve watched any news lately, you know that things in this world are rapidly changing.  There seems to be so many issues facing people today:  terrorism, shootings, economic struggles, government turmoil, joblessness, global warming with some people starving and being forced to flee their homes or country, just to name a few.  Does this point to the soon return of our Lord and Savior?  Are you watching (and ready) for His return?

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 5, 2016

I volunteer from 9:30 to 1:00 pretty much every Tuesday at Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School and Puget Sound Adventist Academy, which occupy two halves of the same campus.

This Tuesday I paused beside a bulletin board in the building which houses Grades 1 – 4. A teacher later told me that this heartwarming display was created to celebrate the 100th day of school this year. Students were evidently asked to write something nice about fellow-students.

Since the little scraps of paper are small, you’re probably not going to be able to decipher the earnest young scrawls, so I’ll quote a few. (I covered students’ names with white boxes to preserve privacy.

“(Name) is so funny and he is so nice he is the best in the world.”

“(Name) is a good sister.”

“(Name) is nice and gentle.”

“(Name) is so butteful.”

“(Name) is a beautiful girl.”

“(Name), you are special.”

“Mrs. Nelson is a nice teacher.” (Lucille Nelson teaches kindergarten.)

“Mr. Mohr is the most good looking person on earth.” (Craig Mohr, who is indeed quite handsome, is the school’s music director.)

Wasn’t that a great bulletin board idea? And isn’t that an excellent example for God’s children of any age—look for the best in people, and compliment sincerely when possible?

To read three Bible verses describing how essential kindness is to the Christian life, click the link immediately below:

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 4, 2016

Wednesday night after prayer meeting Shelley and I stopped at a grocery store south of the church to stock up on food. Shelley always pauses beside this display, which contains fruit and vegetables which aren’t as cosmetically perfect as those on the bigger tables, and are bagged together and reduced in price. Quite often we’ll take advantage of this just-as-good nutrition.

Do you ever feel “slightly blemished, undersized, or misshapen”? When He walked the earth in human form, Jesus paid special attention to people like that. In those days people thought that if you were healthy and flawless and well-fed and rich, God loved you—but if you were defective, He didn’t.

Jesus proved this wrong, again and again. He associated with society’s outcasts. He healed blind people, the lepers, the deformed, the chronically ill. He ejected demons from sufferers they’d captivated. He came to seek and save those who were lost.

Do you believe that? There’s abundant Bible evidence for it. Click the link immediately below:

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Snow Doughnut
Photo and Commentary (c) 2016 by Caleb Jorgensen
Thursday, March 3, 2016

I spotted these interesting snowballs on the hillside next to the road that goes up to Paradise, Mt. Rainier. After a little googling, I found that they are called snow doughnuts or snow rollers, which are a rare natural phenomenon that only occur under certain conditions. The surface layer of snow has to be wet enough that it can stick together and also bend, and it also has to be sitting on a lower layer of ice or powder, so that it can peal up without sticking. These snow doughnuts probably started when pieces of snow fell from a tree and started rolling.

I think this is a great reminder of all the wonders of God's creation.

Amos 4:13: "He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is his name."

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T, F & B
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
This last Sabbath we we’re learning about Elijah in Youth class. I’m sure you know the story but it’s worth looking at again. When you break down the story, Elijah had to have the trust, faith and belief that God would take care of him as he delivered a message to the king – something the king wasn’t going to be happy hearing. Elijah also had to have the trust, faith and belief that God was going to protect him, as he had to run and hide after delivering that message.  The story moves on – Elijah, hiding near a brook, waiting for birds to bring him food.  When the water dries up, Elijah once again has to have the trust, faith and belief God is going to continue to take care of him and provide for his needs.
To me, each step it felt like Elijah was being tested. But maybe that’s not the way he looked at it.  Maybe, instead, Elijah viewed it as one more opportunity to put his life in God’s hands and truly have the trust, faith and belief it would all work out – one way or another.
The image above is a visual representation of having that trust, faith and belief.  Here is a wing of an airplane we flew on. It doesn’t look like a whole lot, but it was keeping us high above Iceland (yes, lots of ice). You can visualize that same thought process when you get behind the wheel of a car, or accept a new job.  Whatever it is that we put our trust, faith and belief in, we should always put the most into our God.  He’s there to provide, sustain, protect and guide us – each and every day. Just like He did for Elijah.

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Barrow’s Goldeneye
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 1, 2016

None of us are one-dimensional beings for we all live our lives on several different levels.  To one we may be seen as a parent, to another we are their child.  Still others see us in the context of a work setting while others only know us from shared recreational experiences.  Should we learn information about another from a setting other than the one with which we are familiar, we sometimes have trouble even believing the news because it doesn’t fit our tidy construct we have built for them.
The bird pictured above is one of two goldeneyes living in North America.  These birds can be identified by thecharacteristic whistling their wings make while in flight.  The first of these nest in tree cavities found in western alpine forests and tend to winter along coastal shores.  The second, the Barrow’s Goldeneye, is less widespread than the Common Goldeneye, but this is really more about the individual after whom the species was named than the bird itself.
Sir John Barrow joined a whaling expedition headed for the coasts of Greenland at the age of 16.   He was good at math and found that helped him with navigational skills which in turn increased his value to the crew.  Later in life he was knighted and became a founder of the Royal Geographical Society in 1830.  He used this position to promote Arctic exploration but his interests were not limited to the far north.  Barrow authored a number of books and articles including The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of the H. M. S. Bounty.  Notice, in this brief account nothing was said about his personal or family life; that belongs to a different dimension.  Only eternity will reveal a picture of our whole self.

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