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

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

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

Present Truth?
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 31, 2017

One of the highlights of my week is the three-and-a-half-hour time block I spend Tuesday volunteering for our two Adventist schools in Kirkland. The elementary grades actually occupy my time completely, partly with in-class teaching I do, plus grading papers.

This past Tuesday I was working my way through a stack of math papers when I came upon the delightful statement in the photo above. The math curriculum often insists that students explain the reason for computing an answer the way they did. Since since question “g” had to do with money, the student shared with us the relationship between dimes and dollars.

All would have been well had not he or she added the thoughtful qualifier “today.” It’s as though the student was under the impression that there might possibly have been an era when a dollar contained more than ten, or less than ten, dimes!

Some truths do change. Once upon a time, the truth was that telephones had to have cords, or that typing had to be done on a typewriter, or that writing ink could be applied to paper only with a dip pen. Those are no longer true.

Even in the Bible truths changed. When Jonah preached to the citizens of Nineveh, “God will destroy your city in 40 days unless you repent,” the impending destruction was as certain as anything else in the Bible. But the people repented, and God relented, and the impending doom didn’t happen. It was true for the Israelites that they needed to bring animal sacrifices to make atonement for their sins, but Christ’s death canceled out that truth.

How do you decide which Bible truths haven’t been superseded by other truths? You simply keep reading the Bible, in order to get the entire context.

Here are some Bible texts about truth which will be very helpful:

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Opening Eyes
Photo ©2017 by Chelsea Jurgensen
Commentary ©2017  by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 30, 2017

Eyes are incredibly complicated and wonderful.  They have convinced many that there must be a creator.  There is an interesting story in John 9 related to the Creator and eyes.  Jesus and his disciples saw a blind man, and here is part of what Jesus said:

"As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  “Go,” he told him,“wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.  John 9:4-7

It seems like the mud itself was not necessary to heal the man's eyes.  In other places Jesus didn't use mud.  So the mud must have some important symbolic meaning.  I'm not sure, but maybe we all have mud on our eyes that we need to wash off to see clearly.  Maybe one way to do that is to read God's word and really try to see what Jesus is all about, and how He can change our lives.

Let's open our eyes and minds to the words of Jesus.

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Psalm 65
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

God gives us soooooo much! He fulfills our every need. Talk about providing for us – He does and we praise Him for this. Here’s David praising for God’s provisions in Psalm 65.

What mighty praise, O God,
    belongs to you in Zion.
We will fulfill our vows to you,
    for you answer our prayers.
    All of us must come to you.
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins,
    you forgive them all.
What joy for those you choose to bring near,
    those who live in your holy courts.
What festivities await us
    inside your holy Temple.
You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
    O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
    even those who sail on distant seas.
You formed the mountains by your power
    and armed yourself with mighty strength.
You quieted the raging oceans
    with their pounding waves
    and silenced the shouting of the nations.
Those who live at the ends of the earth
    stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
    you inspire shouts of joy.
You take care of the earth and water it,
    making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
    it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
    for you have ordered it so.
You drench the plowed ground with rain,
    melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
    and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
    even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
    and the hillsides blossom with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
    and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
    They all shout and sing for joy!
Image was captured on the Wallace Falls river.

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Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

However you look at it, this species wandering around in a swamp has a colorful name.  Seldom seen in North America, this Old World species periodically wanders our way to the delight of those looking for rarities.  Although it doesn’t appear appropriate here, the Ruff received its common English name from its similarity to the lavish collar which was in vogue during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  For during the breeding season each male has ornamental feathers around his neck which are erected and displayed at a lek, a place where males gather to impress all who are interested.  These embellishments range from black to white to rufous, some barred and some speckled.  Interestingly enough, this is one of few lek species where the presentation is directed at other males rather than to the opposite sex.  This exhibition is accompanied with the fluttering of wings, jumping, and lunging at rivals.
Their Latin name, Philomachus pugnax, is equally descriptive of action taking place at the lek.  Originally from the Greek, philo meaning loving, and mache referring to battle, are combined with pugunax, from which we get the word pugnacious. Thus, all of the terms naming this species refer in one way or another to some form of combat.
Contrast this talk of ostentation and conflict with the simple promise God gives to those who choose to follow Him:  “The mountains and hills may crumble, but my love for you will never end; I will keep forever my promise of peace.  So says the Lord who loves you.”  Isaiah 54:10 (Good New Translation)

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Bloom Where You're Planted
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 27, 2017

There's a flower garden called Roozengaarde in The Skagit Valley which is filled with tulips, camelias, rhododendrons, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, daffodils and more every spring.    Each year they plant a few tulips up in a tree.  This, of course, is not where you normally expect to see tulips but they seem to thrive in their arboreal habitat!

In life, circumstances are constantly changing.  There is a verse in the Bible which basically tells us to bloom where we're planted or to be content where we are.  There's only one way to do this:

I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

Philippians 4:10-14 (The Message)

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Reaching Up
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 26, 2017

The 400-meter limestone cliffs in Paklenica National Park in Croatia are a destination for hikers and rock-climbing enthusiasts.  Not being a climber, I was satisfied with staying on the trail, photographing a variety of climbers from the beginner to the expert as they kept reaching up slowly as they inched their way up the rock cliffs.

Watching rock climbers made me think of reaching up and making our way closer toward God.  The climbers undoubtedly had some kind of instruction before they started up the rocks.  We can find spiritual instruction from the Bible, church, Sabbath School, other church groups, family and friends.  The climbers also needed special climbing equipment such as ropes, harnesses, helmets, carabiners, special gloves and shoes, chalk bags, etc.  The Bible and its teaching along with prayer is important “equipment” needed for reaching up to God.  The climbers reached a hand up then pulled their bodies up as they went along.  We can lift our hand to God and admit that we need Him in our lives.  Because God reached down to us, we are able to reach up to Him.  Keep reaching up to our Savior and Redeemer!

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Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 25, 2017

Those of you who are more naturally naturalists than I am could probably give me the name of this squirrel. It had such an orange-ish hue to its underbelly that I figured it was a red squirrel, but a search for “red squirrel” on Google Images showed smaller squirrels with longer ears.

Shelley and I watched this little guy (let’s call him a “he” for convenience’ sake) play hide-and-seek with us behind a couple of trees in a riverside park near our hotel in Portland a few weeks back. I’m pretty sure that when he spotted us he wasn’t considering us friendly tourists who wanted to pet him. Instead, that look in his eye was hope—hope that we would give him food. (Later I saw a middle-aged lady heading purposefully toward the same area with what looked like a bag of food scraps.)

This has been a pretty wild news week. A man plowed a vehicle into a line of tourists on London’s Westminster bridge, killing two and then stabbing a policeman to death. Another Russian dissident was murdered in cold blood. Congress agonized over a new health care plan which seemed destined to collapse the hopes of many.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking anxiously upward toward a returning Savior. Are you with me on that?

At the link below, you’ll find at least 15 Bible verses on the topic of genuine hope—what it means and how to receive it.

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Carpe Librum
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 24, 2017

According to the Roman numerals at the base of this pillar, it’s been 17 years since it was erected, but this was the first time I’d noticed it.

If I have my directions right, this pillar stands at the northwest corner of Powell’s City of Books, a three-story used-book store in Portland, Oregon. I snapped this photo a couple of weeks ago when Shelley and I were on a mini-getaway down there.

Carpe, of course, is Latin for “seize,” as in Carpe diem, “Seize the day.” Except in this case, it’s “Seize the book.” And on the left is says “Sell the book.” A couple of witty and very appropriate commands at the corner of a used-book store.

God, who always does things well, gave us a wonderful gift when He decided to have us transmit His words in writing rather than by oral tradition. Imagine how “smooshed” the Bible’s stories would become if they depended on human memory alone.

Carpe librum, says the pillar—which is exactly what the store’s hundreds of customers do each day. Vende librum, says the pillar—and according to one website, people sell 3,000 books a day to the megastore.

“Seize the Book,” God says to us in many places in His Word. “Then ‘sell’ the Book—share with others what you’ve learned from it. Act it out. Behave like its Author.”

Want to review what the Bible has to say about itself? You’ll want to seize each of the verses you read at the following link:

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Saving the Lost
Photo ©2017 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2017 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 23, 2017

Part of the description on this lost dog poster says, "She is deaf, nearly blind, has some dementia, and is weak in the hind quarters, but she gets around on the trail fairly well."  The dog does not sound like a prize winner, but the owner clearly loves her and is working hard to find her.

Jesus is even kinder to us.  He could compare us to lost dogs who don't listen, don't understand, but run around a lot.  Instead, He compares us to sheep.  In John 10:14-16 He says, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheepthat are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."

If we care about our pets, how much more God cares about us.  Let's listen to His voice and follow Him.

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Lots of Rain
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I know there has been some extreme weather, this past winter, but here in the Seattle area we’ve seen a TON of rain. Standing water, overflowing rivers, etc. The great news about lots of rain?  We get lots of gorgeous plants, trees, flowers and fields of green grass.
God is everywhere. You can see His handiwork just about everywhere you look. He sends the rain (and sunshine) and gives us needed amount of everything.
Psalms 72:5-7
They shall fear You
As long as the sun and moon endure,
Throughout all generations.
He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth.
In His days the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more
Enjoy whatever weather you are experiencing right now – it will change pretty soon (not sure if that is good or bad) AND whatever it is, rain or shine – it’s from God!

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Trumpeter Swan in Flight
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Goals are needed to help us move ahead.  Without goals our efforts may lack focus and prove to be ineffective.  The more difficult the challenge, the more specific goals are needed.  And becoming airborne is no small task for America’s heaviest bird.  The Trumpeter Swan, which weighs around 38 pounds, must use its feet to gain enough speed for a liftoff.  But once in the air, its eight foot wingspan makes it a powerful flyer. Those who worked to bring it back from the brink of extinction also faced a formidable task.  In 1933 its total population numbered 66, but today there are more than 15,000 of these majestic birds.

When conservationists first began working towards their goal, that number must have seemed almost unreachable.  But Christ set an even more challenging goal for His followers.  He, Himself, is speaking in John 17:20-21.  “I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.”  (The Message)  One heart and one mind?  It does seem more than a bit out of reach, doesn’t it?  But remember who it was that set that goal, because that makes all the difference in the world.  We might also do well to remember the effort needed for the swan to take flight when we find ourselves at odds with someone in our own church or even our own family.  But don’t leave it there; take a moment to remember the swan in flight as well.

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Growth Comes From God
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 20, 2017

I took this picture of tulips and the old barn in the Skagit Valley a number of years ago.  The current tulip fields are not quite to this stage yet.  I saw some crocuses in bloom and daffodils were ready to be picked for market but were not yet in full bloom.  I did see skunk cabbage in bloom this past week, however, so I think Spring is officially here.  

I like Paul's description of how we can plant seeds and water them but God is the one who actually causes plants and people to grow.  Paul was writing here to the Christian community in Corinth and some people were apparently not playing well together in the sandbox.   As he reminded them, God is the one who can mature people whether it's spiritually, emotionally or physically.

But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally infantile?

Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.  1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (The Message)

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The Taste Test
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 19, 2017

When did you first eat pizza?  If you’re younger, you’ll probably say you’ve eaten pizza as long as you can remember.  Those of us with a few more years can remember when there were no pizza restaurants or fast-food pizzerias.  Even though many cultures have made flatbread for centuries, what we know as pizza was developed in southern Italy more recently. Immigrants from there introduced pizza to the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century.  However, this was mostly on the east coast where most of those immigrants settled.  Even though I grew up eating Italian food, my family emigrated from northern Italy so pizza wasn’t part of their diet…and we lived on the west coast.  In the mid 1960’s I spent a summer traveling throughout Europe, staying in hostels and using my Eurail pass to get from place to place.  When I was near Naples in southern Italy I had my first taste of pizza!  And it definitely hasn’t been my last!  Now days, pizza can be found in many countries around the world as well as many pizzerias in most towns.  When recently in Croatia, I sampled several of their pizzas which I found to be delicious!  They passed my taste test!  

Psalms 34:8 says to “taste” and see that the Lord is good.  Have you thought of “tasting” God?  What does this mean?  It seems that God not only wants us to mentally know Him, but to take Him within us so He becomes part of us.  When doing this He and His word nourishes us.  Like pizza and other physical food we eat help our physical growth, His word enhances our spiritual growth. The more we’re nourished by God and His word, the more we’ll grow spiritually.  Has your “taste test” of God changed your life?

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Books of Record
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 18, 2017

This past Sunday Shelley and I spent three enjoyable hours in Powell’s City of Books (Portland, Oregon), the world’s largest independent used-book store. Powell’s three stories occupy one full city block, and the store even has its own parking garage. If you’re looking for a particular used book, Powell’s probably has it.

However, in the photo above, every one of the books you see is blank. They’re journals, and this isn’t the entire supply. To the left, against the wall behind the card rack, are still more journals.

Every bookstore I’ve ever been in has a supply of journals. I would imagine that pretty much everyone who likes to read also likes to think that he or she would have something worth writing about. There’s something almost magical about all those blank pages, waiting to be filled.

The Bible gives a more serious use for certain books—the heavenly books which record what we have done with our lives. We can’t be sure if they’re actual paper journals written with pen and ink, or something more, but those journals are being written as we speak.

If that sounds a bit worrisome, you need the full story, which ends with good news. You’ll learn that story by clicking the link immediately below.

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Your Choice
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 17, 2017

Shelley and I spent three great (though rainy) days in the Portland, Oregon area recently. One of our stops was the Portland Adventist Medical Center—not because of any ailment either of us was suffering from, but because we had heard very good reviews about their vegan Living Well Bistro restaurant.

You heard right. Vegan. No meat, no dairy. To an ol’ South Dakota farm boy like me, no-meat-no-dairy used to mean, “Okay then, where’s the food?” My dad, after all, worked at a dairy, and to nourish his family of four kids he would bring home a metal crate filled with nine half-gallons of full-bore Vitamin D milk. Every week.

Ten years ago, maybe even five, I would have been very nervous about plunking down money for vegan food. I would have thought, Virtuous but bland. Boiled. Gray and beige. Good for you—but also great training for the gag reflex.

But thanks to a vegan wife who not only keeps her eye out for new vegan cookbooks but who has also developed a virtuoso’s ability to improvise on existing recipes, I had no fear. (Every time Shelley tweaks a recipe, it tastes better than if she hadn’t. And every time I tell her, “Write down how you tweaked it. Don’t change a thing.”)

And sure enough, the Living Well Bistro lived up to its reputation. The food was “presented” very attractively, and tasted the way it probably will in the restored Garden of Eden.

As we left, I photographed the signs you see in the photo above. Modern medical science has finally caught up with the last three verses of Genesis chapter 1. Even though you might not live in Portland, the more you eat the Living Well Bistro way, the less you’ll most likely need to occupy the Medical Center’s rooms! It’s your choice.

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

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A Real Illusion
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 16, 2017

This is a stream I have written about before and is featured in a WTA trail guide.  The funny thing about this creak is it is dried up maybe half the year, so it might be disappointing for waterfall seekers.  Steady rain this winter has made it a nice stream recently, but the biggest part of the "falls" is about 12 inches high.  A pleasant but not spectacular destination.

In nature, it is easy to know what is real.  In physics (a study of nature), however, some scientists wonder if our universe is a mirage or a projection.  Recently, USA Today published an article titled, "Mind blown: The entire universe could be a hologram."  This is not a new concept.  In the 1700's, Samuel Johnson famously refuted Bishop Berkeley's argument for the non-existence of matter by kicking a stone and saying, "I refute it thus."  Jonathan Edwards later felt that Johnson lacked imagination.

Colossians 1:17 says, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."  So depending on how you understand this verse, the concept that God continually sustains all things was around a long time ago.

Whether you believe reality is a hologram or not, let's treat our world as very real to take care of it and follow God's law of love for our neighbors.  And next time I see a cute little one-foot-high waterfall, I will appreciate it very much.

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Mission Field    
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wait, that’s just a house in Washington…that’s not the “Mission Field!” Or is it? If you have ever served as a missionary, traveling to faraway places, sharing the love of Jesus – thank you for your service! I myself am about to embark on a trip, headed to a faraway land and work with some people that are less fortunate than I am. I will be able to physically help them and, more importantly, hopefully help them spiritually as well.
What about those that haven’t had an opportunity to travel halfway around the globe, can you be a missionary as well? YES! In fact, sometimes there is just as much work to do, close to your home. What about those folks that are in any church congregation that need you – they are ill and need prayer, they are shut-in and need food or just a quick visit. What about your neighbors and/or co-workers? People you see every day--and they need to see God’s love?

That, my friends, is the Mission Field – just as much as Kenya, Cuba, India, Palau or Fiji. You don’t have to get on a plane, train or boat to find mission work. Don’t get me wrong – if you are able to go and get the chance – travel and experience a different culture – show God’s love that way. If you can’t or don’t want to travel, stay home – get on your knees and allow God to show the work that’s needed right here and now.
We all can pray for our own individual missions. Open your hearts and minds, for God to lead us in the direction we are supposed to go.

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Amanita muscaria           
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

While some older books may list the Amanita muscaria as deadly, there were no reliable reports of any dying from ingestion in the twentieth century.   Still, it is listed as poisonous but since the toxins are water-soluble some believe it may be eaten after parboiling.  In spite of these considerations, over one hundred offerings could be found on eBay for around $20 for 15 grams of powder.  The attraction is that the mushroom contains psychoactive substances which produce hallucinogenic reactions.  This may have been why Lewis Carroll included mushroom consumption in his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Fly Agaric or Fly Amanita, as it’s sometimes known, can be found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere and has been unintentionally introduced in many countries in the southern half of the world, so it can now be considered cosmopolitan.  The common name was derived from the belief that it could be used to kill flies if sprinkled in milk and then distributed as an insecticide.  This, in turn, was based upon the idea that flies were attracted to it for its intoxicating qualities.
Strange, isn’t it that we should be drawn to something we know is harmful, even poisonous.  Articles about it are found under the titles of "Dancing with God" and "Something Compelled Me to Pick It."  Sounds almost like it could have been plucked, along with the fruit, from the 3rd chapter of Genesis.  And even though it may appear attractive, especially when pictured along with elves, the warning “not to pick,” was given for good reason.  

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Be Prepared
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 13, 2017

I was planning to go out for a short drive and grabbed my camera and binoculars and figured that I wouldn't need my camera bag as my long lens would probably be sufficient. 

After I had taken several "pictures" in a couple of different locations, I discovered that I had no card in my camera so there was no record of any of those scenes.  Then I remembered that I had taken the card out so that I could get the previous pictures onto my computer. 

If I had taken my camera bag, I would have had other cards I could have used from that point forward.  The other scenes were lost unless I retraced my journey.

The Bible tells us that we need to be prepared:

God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. 
Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Message)

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Great Value
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 12, 2017

Most of you probably wonder what this person is holding since these objects are not found here in the Pacific Northwest!  When on the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia, I visited the tiny hill-top village with the same Italian name as my maiden name. Its industry:  truffle hunting!  The moist soil in the forest along with oak trees provides ideal conditions for the growth of several species of truffles.  The Istrian white truffle, named Tuber Magnatum Pico, above, is the priciest and is considered one of the best in the world.  It is usually eaten fresh.

Black truffles, in the photo just above, should be cooked briefly before serving.  A person in the group of travelers I was leading purchased one of these black truffles which I grated into a large omelet the next morning for all to taste.   Early every morning around 250 people in the surrounding area go truffle hunting with their truffle-hunting dogs.  Since truffles need to be immediately used after harvesting, most of these truffles are flown to exclusive restaurants that focus on gourmet cuisine in major cities in Europe and New York.  I asked the man holding the white truffle what was the price of that truffle.  He said $750! It was of great value!

What do you value in life?  Does it include God?  We can be thankful that God includes us!  And He values each one of us!  In fact, God gave His Son, Jesus to be born on earth, live here and show us how we are to live.  Jesus gave His life so each one of us can have eternal life in heaven.  Thank you, God for placing great value in us!  Thank you, Jesus for valuing us so much that You gave Your life for us!  And we value You!

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Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 11, 2017

A couple of weeks back, while waiting at a red light, I glance to my right and saw these three flags on a single pole. At the top, of course, is the Stars and Stripes, and below it the Washington state flag. Seahawks fans already know what the third flag is. Even though its “12” is only half unfurled, it honors the fans who honor the Seahawks.

Okay. Very good. The company whose employee ran those flags up the pole has its priorities patriotically straight. And if you and I had flagpoles in our yards, and bought these flags to fly, we’d probably raise them in the same order.

But wait. Is it possible that, even though our flags are in the right order, our follow-through might be different? For example, I can name several Seahawks players, but I have never read through the United States Constitution (though I have friends who have). I have only the vaguest idea as to which state district I am in, and who represents me in the state capitol building in Olympia. I do vote every year, but I know people who don’t bother. And I know that I spend much, much more concentrated attention on the Sunday Seahawks games than I do on any kind of political nitty-gritty.

And what about our spiritual priorities? When I was a kid attending an Adventist elementary school, one of my teachers taught me the recipe for JOY:

Jesus first
Others second
Yourself last

A good place to start, right? And putting Jesus first means that I get thoroughly acquainted with Him by reading His Bible biographies, and other parts of Scripture. I then behave the way He would to others in my life. And when I finally get around to thinking about myself, I find that I am deeply and delightfully happy. (Not trouble-free, not pain-free, but happy.)

What to get to know the One who should be at the top of every Christian’s flagpole? Click the link immediately below (and then click through the “Related Links” once you’ve read through the Bible verses:

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Agitator Problems
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 10, 2017

On a walk in our neighborhood this past Sunday afternoon, Shelley and I passed this gleaming white washing machine parked beside a homeowner’s driveway. I paused to take a photo, and noticed the sign on the front giving the reason it was free for the taking: “Agitator problems.”

Sure enough—no matter how gleaming and undamaged its exterior, no matter how swiftly and unleakably it might fill itself with hot or cold water, this machine is useless without an agitator. And the owner probably did some mental calculations, weighing the cost of repair against the benefits of buying a new unit with maybe a longer-lasting agitator.

When He walked the earth, Jesus insisted that we all need an Agitator—the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works with our conscience, troubling us until we repent of our sins and ask forgiveness from both God and those we may have hurt. In John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus that the “new birth” doesn’t happen without the Spirit, and then told His disciples that when He went back to heaven, they would not be friendless because the Holy Spirit would come to be among them.

Want to read some of what the Bible says about the Holy Agitator? Click the link immediately below—and then ask this heavenly Friend to come to be within you.

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Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 9, 2017

At first glance, this may just be an ordinary culvert.  When it was put in several years ago, my wife and I thought it was ridiculous to put in a ten foot diameter culvert where there was previously a 2 foot wide pipe for the little stream that ran through.

We were fortunate to talk with a state forest ranger who explained the significance of such a large culvert.  The wide ten foot width not only eliminates the possibility of plugging up, but it also provides a natural travel path for wildlife.

On further inspection, we noticed that the construction crew laid down a path of rocks and dirt through the pipe to provide a natural walkway.

Not many cars use this road, so it seems a bit like overkill, but I can see that it is nice for animals.

It is a good lesson that sometimes being thoughtful may seem unnecessary, but if it helps just one person (or animal) it is worth the extra effort.

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Wet Or Dry?
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In the beginning, in Genesis, God was creating the Earth and He separated the dry ground “land” from the wet areas – “seas.” Verses 9 & 10, “And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.”
We have two scenarios in the images above. The first shot is of a living, healthy Saguaro cactus. The second--which looks like dry ground but itsn't--is a dried up Saguaro (including a little lizard friend). It reminds me of what it could be like, with God and without God. One image we see the effects that God can have on our lives – providing the living water and nutrients we need to be healthy. The opposite is true, when we break that connection and we "dry out" – we become lifeless and dead.
God knew what He was doing when He created the dry and wet areas of the planet. I hope we are all connected with God, while we are on this "dry" earth, and we stay close to God to be close to the TRUE water.

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Bighorn Sheep
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Bighorn Sheep of North America have a somewhat storied past and continue to face new challenges in the 21stcentury.  Lewis and Clark could have heard rumors of their existence before they personally encountered them.  But on their return trip they both made special effort to obtain specimens for further study and classification.  Clark recorded his frustration in doing so by writing, but “the Musquetors were So noumerous that (he) could not Shute with any Certainty.” That must have been a good day for the sheep, but on other days they were not so fortunate.  The same might be said for Major General George Custer who met his end at Little Big Horn, a tributary of the Yellowstone River which owed its name to the sheep.
Still valued as a big game trophy, the males are prized for their horns that can weigh up to 30 pounds.  The ram pictured here is relatively young for it takes seven or eight years to develop a set of horns with a full curl.  In Washington State you can enter a lottery for $11.50 per ticket to win a chance to obtain the rights to shoot one of these animals.  The official source states: “One winner and two alternates will be drawn for each hunt. Each winner must be eligible to purchase a hunting license and will be issued the appropriate license and tag at no cost.”  At the point when I checked this report, 2,531 tickets had been sold.  Had the sheep read this, I would think they might head to higher ground which would be less accessible to those hunters.
For the high mountains do provide some security, but they prefer drier slopes since they can’t move through deep snow. This means they must subsist on little water and sedges which provide only a marginal quality of nutrients.  To do so, they must employ a complicated 9-stage digestive process. Besides the danger of facing natural predators, the Big Horns are now subject to pathogens that transmit pneumonia which can wipe out 90% of a herd.
Such a litany of hardships is reminiscent of Paul’s list of adversities he faced, both from natural and man-made causes.  But in spite of these difficulties he takes courage in God’s promise:         “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (II Cor.12:9 NIV)

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Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, March 6, 2017

I was at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island recently and saw several deer grazing on the grass.  People were walking right up to them and taking their pictures with cell phones and they just kept on eating or looking around and didn't seem to mind at all.

I think these deer may have been born there and are used to people and are not afraid like normal wild deer as they are in a protected area and haven't been subjected to hunting.  Ultimately, they show a high level of trust in humans.

The Bible tells us that we need to trust God:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

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Being Authentic
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Bev Riter
Sunday, March 5, 2017

The First Strudel House of Pest claims to provide patrons with authentic strudel and other authentic locally-made traditional Hungarian delicacies. Strudel, a traditional pastry of Hungarian cuisine dates back to the 15th century.  Being a “foodie”, making a stop here was on my “to do” list while in Budapest.  I chose warm, freshly baked apple strudel which came with vanilla gelato and warm cinnamon sauce, as you can see in the above image.  I wasn’t disappointed!  After thoroughly enjoying this delicacy while seated in their sidewalk café area, I went inside to watch the bakers making various kinds of strudel.  Eating strudel made from an old, authentic recipe was a real treat!  I now know what authentic strudel is like.

What is an “authentic” Christian like?  The Bible tells us that authentic Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. (I John 4:13-16) They have a living and trusting relationship with God.  Paul taught that authentic Christianity included faith in Jesus, love for others and hope of heaven. (Colossians 1:3-8) 

Do you need to throw away a mask you’ve been wearing and no longer hide from God or other people?  As a follower of Christ, whom have you become?   Are you living an authentic life?  God, help us to grow in the knowledge of You, showing love to one another and being more like your Son, Jesus, our standard for being authentic.

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The Good is the Enemy of the Best
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, March 4, 2017

When I paused beside this grocery-store shelf and studied these two packages of potato chips, I was puzzled. They’re both from the same company, and are both called “Ridges,” but one is “salted” and the other “perfectly salted.” So what’s the difference? Both are “gluten free,” and the one on the right insists that it is also “non-GMO.” And what’s the advantage of “perfectly salted” over simply “salted”?

The only answer I can come up with (and I did no research whatever) is that maybe the “perfectly salted” sack is a more recent product, and will eventually take the place of the “salted” version, and they just happened to be placed together by accident.

Have you ever noticed that, in the words of some sage thinker or other, “The good is the enemy of the best”? Often our lives are crowded by many opportunities, many of them worthwhile. And we need to resolutely choose the best over the good.

Now it happened as they went that He [Jesus] entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38 – 42 NKJV)

This is a tough story to swallow, especially for conscientious, hospitable householders. But maybe sister Mary remembered how their Guest fed thousands of people on a hillside, and decided that perhaps a hectic clatter of kitchen pots and pans was less of a priority than it usually might be.

Are you choosing the best over the good?  

Want to read four Bible verses which are great motivators to choose God’s best for His children? Click on the link below:

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Satanic Music?
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, March 3, 2017

Our 2011 Toyota’s radio has the above screen display (sorry for all the little dust-specks, but I had to photograph quickly and didn’t see them). When set to the classical music station, the display lists the song currently featured. The number of character-spaces isn’t large, so the title is displayed in segments one after the other, which repeat for as long as the piece is playing.

I got a kick out of the above display. “98.1” is the FM setting for Seattle classical music station KING. But next to it is the sinister, broken word “s at an.” I think I was stopped in traffic at this point, so I grinned and kept watching the display. It turns out that the piece being performed was Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Get it? “PictureS AT AN Exhibition.” And I grabbed for the camera—and didn’t think to brush off the screen dust.

Getting serious for a moment, isn’t Satan’s chief role to only give us part of the picture? Ever since he lied to Eve in the Garden, he’s been twisting and partially obscuring the truth. When he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4), he even quoted real Bible (out of context) as part of his deception.

That’s why you and I need to immerse ourselves in the Bible. Satan is first mentioned in the Bible’s third chapter (Genesis 3), and in the third chapter from the Bible’s end (Revelation 20). And all the chapters in between deal in some way with Satan’s deceptions and God’s heroic responses to them, the most powerful being Jesus’ death on the cross to take the penalty for all those times we’ve acted at Satan’s bidding.

For more of what the Bible says about God’s adversary, and how to resist his influence, click the link immediately below:

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Pattern of Following Jesus
Photo ©2017 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2017 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, March 2, 2017

With pristine new snow this week there were great opportunities for spotting tracks.  The tracks in this image were made by our dog as she walked ahead.  It was surprising what a neat and orderly pattern of tracks she made.

Our lives can take on a beautiful pattern when we follow in the steps of Jesus.  Each person's pattern is unique and special.

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Solid Roots
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In our Youth Sabbath School class, we’ve had several conversations around making good decisions, hanging out with like-minded friends, being a witness for God and ultimately – with anything we do, using Jesus as an example. When we have these discussions, I always think of "having a good root system." Now, we know that doesn’t mean we need to act like a tree (and leave – sorry, had to make the terrible pun). No, instead it means, having a solid relationship with God, a good set-up of friends that will keep us grounded and if we’re fortunate – a great home life, with our family. Our "roots" start at home but certainly don’t end there. There are all sorts of ways to ensure that our grounding, our support system, is connected to God at all times.
This past weekend, I had a chance to hike the Wallace Falls trail and I always end up spending more time down on the lower part of the trail then I do closer to the falls. This lower section keeps me close to the river and I love capturing images of the water. This particular shot, shows the river melting over the rocks and flowing downstream. All the while, passing inches underneath this strong cedar – with some of its roots exposed. We can see how some roots are well above the ground, holding fast to various rocks and other parts of ground. The water continues to ‘sneak’ right under the roots, but the tree stays strong and spreads its roots out farther, gaining more strength.
Do we continually spread out our roots to ensure we have a strong hold of our faith? Do we pray, daily, to ensure our relationship with our Father is strong and will allow us to weather the storm, rain or river that tries to tear us down? If not, we should be. Take time – each day, to build your relationships stronger – friends, family and most important God.

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