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

All Four Seasons
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 30, 2016

If I had to pick, it would be Spring – that’s my favorite season. That said, I enjoy aspects of all of them. In the summer, nothing can beat the Northwest.  We get sunshine, we have the water, beautiful mountains – what’s not to like? In the Spring – we get to "start fresh" and see all the new growth just starting to come out. In the Fall, all the amazing colors, the colder weather starts to come in. Then there is Winter. IF you don’t have to get out and drive in the snow (commuting) it’s great. Pure white blanket, allowing everything to look cleaner. You can get outside, enjoy the sights and see how quiet it can be.
Did God know what he was doing when He gave us all four of them?  Of course He did. He loves us and wants to give us the variety. What an amazing example of His care for us.
In Psalm 104, you can read all about the examples – here is just a snippet (19-26):
You made the moon to mark the seasons,
    and the sun knows when to set.
You send the darkness, and it becomes night,
    when all the forest animals prowl about.
Then the young lions roar for their prey,
    stalking the food provided by God.
At dawn they slink back
    into their dens to rest.
Then people go off to their work,
    where they labor until evening.

O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
    In wisdom you have made them all.
    The earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the ocean, vast and wide,
    teeming with life of every kind,
    both large and small.
See the ships sailing along,
    and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.

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Snowshoe Hare
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Humans seem to have a particular fascination with adaptations that allow creatures to prosper in harsh settings.  Perhaps this is because we wonder how long we would survive in similar surroundings.  When we see humans making similar adjustments, these modifications tend to stand out in our minds.  For example, even though the Eskimo population may not have used igloos within recent history, these ice houses are indelibly associated with that people in our minds.
In the same way, when we think of Snowshoe Hare, we almost always picture a large, white, rabbit-like creature rapidly moving over snow-covered landscapes in order to keep warm and  avoid the wolves chasing it.  Part of this may be true but a good deal may need revising.  Also known as the Varying Hare, this lagomorph does indeed wear a coat of white during the winter months but changes to shades of brown during the summer.  This camouflage, along with well-turned ears and the ability to change directions rapidly helps to keep it flourishing.  Unlike rabbits, hares live above ground rather than in burrows.  If you’ve not seen one, one reason may be they are primarily active at night, although they can more easily be seen during daylight hours during breeding season.  Certainly one of its best-suited characteristics is its large, fur-covered feet which help protect it from freezing cold as well as preventing it from sinking into soft snow.
But no other creature has the ability to change its surroundings to meet its needs like humans.  This may be one of the reasons we are tempted to consider ourselves self-sufficient, and not really in need of divine help.  But we live artificial lives.  Just consider how dependent we find ourselves when the electricity goes out during a windstorm or the grocery store closes due to a labor strike.  Suddenly things are different.  It’s then we’re reminded of the words of James:  “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.  (James 4:10 KJV)

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Safety and Protection
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 28, 2016
This photo is of one of the typical beach forts you find on beaches in the Pacific Northwest.  They can be fun to build and give you your own little space on the beach.  You leave behind something that says you were there - until somebody else comes along after you are gone and appropriates the driftwood to build their own fort.  
People have been building shelters for centuries.  They help protect us from the elements, wild animals and other people who might like to do us harm but these shelters can still be vulnerable to fire and wind and water and war, structural collapse and a lot of other things. 
We need to remember where our safety and protection actually come from:   
Those who go to God Most High for safety
    will be protected by the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “You are my place of safety and protection.
    You are my God and I trust you.”
God will save you from hidden traps
    and from deadly diseases.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you can hide.
    His truth will be your shield and protection.
You will not fear any danger by night
    or an arrow during the day.
You will not be afraid of diseases that come in the dark
    or sickness that strikes at noon.
Psalm 91:1-6 (NCV)

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

Waiting…. People in the above image are waiting.  Unless you’ve been there, you probably don’t know what they’re waiting for.  Yes, they are waiting for someone to jump off the historic Mostar Bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

No, the person on the bridge isn’t suicidal, he’s just engaged in what I would say is a risky activity.  Young local residents stand at the top of the bridge and wait until they have at least 25 euros (about $27) and then jump into the cold river which is around 131 feet below in the summer.  Visitors can also jump by paying 25 euros, which goes to the bridge upkeep, and being trained by someone in the Mostar Diving Club.  After a few practice jumps closer to the river, the police are notified and someone from the diving club is at the water’s edge to help if any emergency develops from the jump.

If we would have been there a couple of weeks earlier, we could have joined about 20,000 others to watch the Cliff Diving World Series where 21 of the world’s best competitors aimed for the championship.  (I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing!)  And, yes, some people have died from jumping off this bridge while many others have been severely injured.  Jumping from this bridge isn’t a new thing – people have been diving off since the bridge was built, with the first recorded dive being in the year 1664. For more information on this historic bridge see my Daily Photo Parable for last Sunday.

Waiting…. People have been waiting for God to come for many years. Some even wonder if He’s going to come.  Others say His coming is closer. The Bible has many texts about waiting for God including these:  “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”  Psalms 27:14 “Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.”  Micah 7:7   As long as we’re ready to meet God, does the time of His coming really matter?

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 26, 2016

On a walk this past Sunday, Shelley drew my attention to this autumn scene—a tree and a car dressed in almost the same hue. Since I’m an expert in neither cars nor trees, I can’t tell you the name of either, but I know beauty when I see it.

And I’m fairly certain that at the car dealer the householder didn’t say, “Hmm. I know that for a month and a half each year, the tree beside my driveway will be a darkish orange, so I’ll get a car which matches it.”

Back when I was in college, one of the “cool” words going around was “serendipity.” I learned that it’s a real word, and according to my American Heritage Dictionary means “making fortunate discoveries by accident.” I guess we could call the above photo a serendipity.

In a way, the photo creates within me great excitement about heaven. If you’re a regular visitor to this Daily Photo Parable (it’s been in existence since as far back as 2007), you’ve seen how our photographers specialize in serendipities—either by spotting something unusual in nature, or by taking what seems ordinary and mining it for deep spiritual insights.

Thanks to my Daily Photo Parable cohorts—and thanks to an ever-creative Heavenly Father, with whom we will never be bored!

For several Bible verses about creation, click the link immediately below:

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The Empty Throne
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 25, 2016

The other day I was passing through a shopping center, where I noticed this recently-erected but quite empty “Get your picture taken with Santa” display. (At that point it was still pre-Thanksgiving, so the store decently decided not to push Christmas too hard.)

This was the first time I remember ever seeing this kind of display with nobody present. Notice how evocative and efficient it is? It’s evocative because (reading from left to right) it pushes all the Christmas buttons—there are two lavishly-decorated trees, one outside Santa’s house and the other inside. There are presents, and some shelves with toys, a tiny decorated tree in the corner, and a fireplace. A line of greenery borders the room at the top of the wall. And there are two efficient gaps in the white railing—the first so that Santa photos are unimpeded, and the second off to the right so that photographed kids can be herded to the side and off the platform without getting mixed up with new arrivals.

And of course there’s the throne. Notice how the polish on Santa’s black belt has worn off onto his lumbar-support cushion? Notice the helpful steps beside the chair so that poor old Santa doesn’t have to strain his back hoisting kids onto his lap?

To sound a bit Grinch-y here, this whole scene represents little more than the gimme-gimme spirit, and also the “be good and you’ll be rewarded” idea. Santa, it is firmly understood, has no real purpose except to scare little kids into behaving, and then to reward the righteous. Santa himself has no moral backstory. We do not look to Santa as a model for our lives—he just makes toys all year and then shows up on December 25 to give them out. And that throne of his is empty through most of the months, stored in a back room until the merchants dare to drag it out and set it up.

I don’t want to be an old crank about this, but it would be well that kids be taught first and foremost about Someone else who sits on a throne, and who gazes at us day after day, not with a censorious eye weighing our merits and demerits on a scale, but with the fond eye of a parent—and with the resolve to give or withhold according to what would best develop our character.

Someone who has already given His most precious treasure—His Son—so that we can join Him on His throne.

For a detailed Bible bio of God and how He’d love us to relate to Him, click the link immediately below.

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One Minute?
Photo ©2016 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, November 24, 2016

This sign originally said 15 minute parking, but someone had carefully erased the 5 so it now says "1 MINUTE PARKING".  This gas station had only 2 parking spots for its attendant pay station, with both parking spots guarded by these 1 Minute Parking signs.  A Starbucks occupied a much larger portion of the building and apparently its customers had tended to flow over to the two gas station parking spots. Now, what can you do in a minute?

With today being Thanksgiving Day we might take a minute to think about what we are thankful for.  But how much thankfulness can we have in just one minute?  We might be thankful for the location of our country that helps protect it from despotic foreign leaders. We can be thankful for the pioneers who braved so much and created the laws that protect individual rights.  We can be thankful for our families and friends that provide a supportive environment.  We can be thankful that God makes Himself known to us through Jesus.  With the world the way it is, what would we do without Jesus who saves us and gives us a compass on how we should live?

Perhaps our thankfulness should span more than just one minute or one four-day-weekend.  Let's strive to be humble and thankful all year long.

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The Week of Thanks
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I know. Thanksgiving isn’t until tomorrow. Guess what? I think/know, we should be "thankful" a lot more than one day out of the year.
David, in the book of Psalms, loved to thank God and sing/play His praises. I know God loved hearing what David had to say. I also believe God loves to hear what WE have to say. In our church service, we have a tradition to lift up "celebrations and concerns" to God. He wants to hear from us. He wants to hear our challenges we are facing and He wants to hear the joy we have in our lives.
Here is what David had to say, in Psalms 69:30-36:

I will praise God’s name in song
    and glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the LORD more than an ox,
    more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
The poor will see and be glad—
    you who seek God, may your hearts live!
The LORD hears the needy
    and does not despise his captive people.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
    the seas and all that move in them,
for God will save Zion
    and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
     the children of his servants will inherit it,
    and those who love his name will dwell there.
Glorify Him with thanksgiving!  Happy pre-Thanksgiving!

Regarding the image above -- I am thankful God is an artist and gives us the color, the texture and beauty of amazing flowers.

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Sonoran Spotted Whiptail
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Should you happen to be in the extreme southern part of the Southwest United States, you might come across a Sonoran Spotted Whiptail.  It doesn’t look too much different from many others in the family with its six yellow stripes extending down much of its 3 ½ inch body.  In spite of its name, it has relatively few spots and these are absent altogether in immatures.   And like many lizards, it is measured only from the snout to the vent, for the tail, which may be longer than the body, will conveniently fall off should it be grasped by a predator.
The one shown here is a female, which is not particularly out of the ordinary, except for one significant detail.  All of the Sonoran Spotted Whiptails, every last one of them, is a female!  And each female lays unfertilized eggs which hatch into exact duplicates of their mother.  Each offspring is a clone of the mother.  This type of reproduction is known as parthenogenesis, where the eggs are produced through mitosis instead of meiosis.  And here you thought you had the birds and the bees stuff down pat.
The Message translates Ecclesiastes 11:5 in this way:  “Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, so you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.”  Put another way; stay humble.  God will always have more for you to learn.

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The Way of the Redeemed
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 21, 2016

I saw this alligator in the Florida Everglades several years ago.  It was just after a real cold snap and there had been a big fish die off because the temperatures dropped so low.  The cold blooded reptiles (alligators, crocodiles and turtles) were out basking in the sun.  I'm sure that they were quite full from feasting on all of the dead fish but people were walking around them like they weren't even there!  I personally prefer to keep a great distance between me and any sort of predator!

Isaiah describes what it will be like in the Earth made new.  We will no longer have to worry about dangerous beasts.  The chapter heading in the NIV version is called: "Joy of the Redeemed."

A road will be there;
    this highway will be called “The Road to Being Holy.”
Evil people will not be allowed to walk on that road;
    only good people will walk on it.
    No fools will go on it.
No lions will be there,
    nor will dangerous animals be on that road.
    They will not be found there.
That road will be for the people God saves;
the people the LORD has freed will return there.
They will enter Jerusalem with joy,
    and their happiness will last forever.
Their gladness and joy will fill them completely,
    and sorrow and sadness will go far away.
Isaiah 35:8-10 (NIV)

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

The historic Old Bridge in the town of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina (shown above) was destroyed in the 1990s conflict and had to be rebuilt.  Located in the valley of the Neretva River, this Ottoman medieval stone arch bridge was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557 and replaced an older wooden bridge that was suspended by chains. Construction was completed nine years later.  At its completion, it was the largest single-arch bridge in the world.  The bridge stood for 427 years until being destroyed during the Croat-Bosnian War in November 1993. Later, cooperation among the diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities resulted in a reconstructed bridge with use of authentic materials and techniques, built like it was.  Some stone from the original bridge was salvaged from the river below.  UNESCO coordinated the design and reconstruction with several countries involved with the rebuilding. The rebuilt Mostar Bridge was opened by the Prince Charles, Prince of Wales on July 23, 2004.  This “Old” Bridge is the country’s most recognized architectural landmark. (Check in next week to read about what happens on the bridge!)

Just like the Mostar Bridge had to be rebuilt, sometimes people’s lives need rebuilding.  Pain, loss, disappointment, stress and poverty among other things can have a negative effect on one’s life.  You may know that you need to do something to rebuild your life.  Where do you start?  

Some people suggest the following:  take one step at a time, forgive, take time to grieve, lean on friends or make new friends, keep a journal, reinvent your life, change your surroundings and find new interests. Let’s see what’s written in the Bible.  “My brothers, whenever you have to face trials of many kinds, count yourselves supremely happy, in the knowledge that such testing of your faith breeds fortitude, and if you give fortitude full play you will go on to complete a balanced character that will fall short in nothing.”  James 2-4 NEB  Faith in God is definitely needed for this.  Paul’s message to the Philippians (4:13) was “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  If your life needs rebuilding, God can give you the strength and knowledge to do this by helping you discover ways for leading a better, more positive life.

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My Favorite Part
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 19, 2016

Sorry for the greenish tint of this photo. It was taken in a fluorescent-lit school hall by my not-very-fancy camera this past Tuesday. (The white square at the upper left is where I deleted the name of the little boy who wrote it, for privacy's sake.)

This exercise is obviously designed to give the first- or second-grader the chance to learn not only how to print and space handwritten letters, but also to organize a story. (Notice how the “Title,” “First,” “Next,” etc. are pre-printed?) And the teacher has chosen the story of Adam and Eve for this purpose.

There were several such essays posted on the bulletin board. The title was always "A Sad Day," and a number of the other “My Favorite Parts” focused on the intriguing snake. This one is my favorite, though, because it ends wistfully with: “My Favorite Part: When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden.”

Don’t you imagine that this would be God’s favorite part too? After all, He had lavished at least as much love on the Garden as the parents of this little kid had lavished on the environment he would be living in. The Garden was where God could visit as often as He wanted without having to veil Himself because of its occupants’ sin.

Until that “Sad Day.”

We can’t imagine how terribly our Heavenly Parent’s heart was wounded by the choices of His children. But we can learn about His love, and let that love draw us back to Him.

For more of what the Bible says about God’s love, click the link immediately below.

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The Lights are Going Up!
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 18, 2016

This past Wednesday I photographed an intriguing bit of trivia—I learned how Christmas lights are strung in trees. Before, I’d always pictured people climbing up ladders, at peril of life and limb, but in the photo I discover that the above two citizens (if you could zoom in on their faces with better photo resolution you’d see that they were grinning at something one of them has said) are using what looks like a PVC pipe with what must be a large notch at the top to hold the light-strands.

I wonder if those two gentlemen realize what they’re doing. They’re no doubt employees of the city, and that morning they were given the tree-decorating assignment along that busy avenue. When they’ve put in their time they’ll go home to their families.

But once those lights are turned on, and people notice them, their hearts will think of Christmas, and old memories will be stirred—tastes and smells and sounds and grateful hugs. Kids in the cars will be transported with hope.

Jesus insists that you and I never downplay the influence we can have on people around us. In Matthew 5:13 He told those listening to His Sermon on the Mount, “You are the salt of the earth.” Paul switches senses to another metaphor:  "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing . . . ." (2 Corinthians 2:15)

It’s key to remember that those evocative Christmas lights touch the heart not through any action of their own. They shine because of the electrical power coursing through them. It’s the same way with Christians who allow the Holy Spirit to change their hearts and lives. Notice the fruit the Spirit bears:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

For more Bible advice about how to be Holy Spirit powered, click the link immediately below:

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What is real?
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, November 17, 2016

It is fun to see what creative ideas people employ to make their vehicles more interesting.  At first glance it looks like someone is jumping out of the trailer, but I'm pretty sure not many people are fooled by it.  It is more for fun than anything.  Some things, such as political statements, might fool more people.  It is probably good to look more deeply into anything that seems fantastic on the surface.  With a small amount of skepticism and a few minutes on the web, it is pretty easy to find the facts.

Something we can depend on is Jesus.  "Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" John 8:31,32  Let's hold to the truth of Jesus and do our best to discover the truth in other areas of life.

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Proud to Be an American
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Don’t worry, this is not going to get your political juices flowing. In fact, regardless of your views, who you voted for, or what you thought of the outcome last week – this should appeal to you. How can I make a bold claim like that? Well, there’s a 99% chance you are reading this within the United States (for those outside its boundaries, you can follow along as well).
Today isn’t the 4th of July (nor is it the Veterans’ Day just past), but that shouldn’t hold us back from celebrating the country we live in. Based on the rules and regulations of this country, we have freedoms other countries do not. I know there is chatter about some of these rules/laws changing, but I want us to focus on the now. Right now, we do have the freedom. Right now, we do have choices. We should be thanking God we live in a country where we can make lots of choices. I know I am very thankful.
OK – let’s say, for the sake of argument, things do change in the future. What if we start losing those rights, those opportunities to choose?  What happens then? That’s where God comes into play. He’s in charge of all it. He’s the one that sets ALL the rules. He’s the one that gives the freedom – that opportunity to choose – right or wrong, good or evil. He gives us the choice.  Let’s make sure we use that God-given ability. Remember – Heaven’s the goal, not this sinful planet.
Here's the best choice of all – John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

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

I’ve always been afraid to eat the mushrooms I’ve found on my jaunts through the woods.  And it’s not that I haven’t been tempted.  I have books that are supposed to help me correctly separate those that are edible from those that are not, but I still don’t trust my identification skills in that area.  Part of the problem centers around species which look remarkably alike to the uninitiated, and even for those who are well-informed, a microscopic inspection may be needed for correct classification.  The problem is further complicated in that mushrooms like moist, earthy places, and where I live in the Pacific Northwest, there is a fair amount of rain which causes these fungi to flourish.  Even trying to identify this particular backyard species, I’ve come up with several possible candidates that range from choice, to edible, to poisonous.

I feel a bit like the unfortunate individual in II Kings 4:39 who had gathered gourds to make a stew for Elisha and the rest of the group assembled there.  Unbeknown to him, he had garnered some which were poisonous making the food inedible.  I’ve wondered how sick his friends really became before Elisha was summoned.  Needless to say, there’s not a famine in our land at the present time, so I haven’t been pressed to include these in our evening fare.

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Warning Signs
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 14, 2016

I saw this caution tape above the bank on a creek.  I presume it was there because the creek was partially frozen.  If anybody tried walking on it, the ice could break and they would be standing in icy water.  It wasn't that deep but getting out could be difficult and it might take a while to be able to get somewhere warm and dry.

David tells us how God's Word has warnings for us as well. The rules are there, not to make our lives miserable, but so that we can have a better life.

The revelation of GOD is whole
    and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of GOD are clear
    and point out the right road.
The life-maps of GOD are right,
    showing the way to joy.
The directions of GOD are plain
    and easy on the eyes.
GOD’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
    with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of GOD are accurate
    down to the nth degree.
God’s Word is better than a diamond,
    better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring,
    better than red, ripe strawberries.
There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger
    and directs us to hidden treasure.
Otherwise how will we find our way?
    Or know when we play the fool? . . .

 Psalm 19:7-14  (The Message)

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From War to Peace
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 13, 2016

The above image isn’t as colorful as some of mine.  It doesn’t need to be because it shows the remnants of war, which isn’t very pretty.  As in last week’s blog, this is also in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina.  The above image shows holes in a building – bullet holes.  Bullet holes can still be seen in many of the buildings in this town and others.  With the war behind, the community aims for peace.  In fact, the tallest building (107.2 meters) that can be seen from anywhere around is the Mostar Peace Bell Tower built in the year 2000.  Importantly, it’s located on the former separation line between the conflicting forces.

This tower is the first phase of works toward peace.  Next, they plan on building an International Gallery of Peace and then a Peace Education Center.

Jesus can give us peace. As recorded in John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  With God’s help we can have peace in troubled and difficult times. You’ve probably heard the song, “Wonderful Peace” by Warren D. Cornell with the following refrain:

     “Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
     Coming down from the Father above”
     Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
     In fathomless billows of love!”

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Destruction of an Icon
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 12, 2016

As far as I can tell from a quick bit of online research, the Pizza Hut franchise is still going strong (15,000 locations worldwide according to Wikipedia).

However, I felt a nostalgic tug at my heart earlier this month when I saw, near a mall undergoing renovation, the destruction of this Pizza Hut restaurant. I never actually visited this particular one (and increased health-sensitivity has warned me off too much salt and similar things), but I remember the warm, dark-brick interior accented with deep reds and greens. To me it was the perfect little eat-out escape, cozily lit with candles in round red jars at each table.

The Bible clearly reveals that there will come a day when all the world’s Pizza Huts and Dennys and Olive Gardens--and vegetarian and vegan restaurants and everything else--will be destroyed by fire, as God creates a “new heaven and a new earth.” Here’s how Jesus’ disciple Peter puts it (and he’s partly quoting from Isaiah 65:16 and 66:22):

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10 - 13 NKJV)

Have no fear! God is not some emotionless sci-fi alien warlord, heedlessly brutalizing the scenes of our happy moments. He’s simply cleansing this planet of imperfect and sometimes toxic human inventions in order to start over and give us what He’d originally planned.

To learn more of what the Bible says about heaven, click the link immediately below. Then click the one below that, on salvation, which tells you how to get there.  

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Error Button
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 11, 2016

A couple of months ago I was wandering through one of those large antique stores when I spotted this old Victor adding machine. If I had zoomed the lens back a bit, you would have seen a large handle on the right side which, once you had punched in a number up to six digits in length, plus a couple of decimal numbers you’d need for the cents if you were entering dollars, you would then pull that lever firmly. And several little typewriter-like keys would imprint that number on a spool of paper.

The reason I snapped this photo was the large white “ERROR” button to the left of the numbers. I’m assuming that, if you had entered a number incorrectly, the error button would pop all the keys back to their “up” position so you could start over. I’m sure that button has saved many an accountant from a nervous breakdown.

The good news—getting to the parable part here—is that the Bible talks about something like an error button, a canceller, for the sins we might commit. It’s called forgiveness, and Jesus made it possible by taking all our sins upon Himself on the cross. And all we have to do us to turn our lives over to Him and accept His sacrifice for us. After all, when it comes to battling sin, He is the Victor.

To read more about this wonderful, generous plan, click the link immediately below:

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A Spot to Reflect
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, November 10, 2016

With a couple days gone by after the presidential election, we can look back in hindsight, and we can look forward.  I think it is fair to say that no matter how you voted, you wanted your candidate to fix things that are not right in order to make a fairer playing field.

Closer to home, we sometimes want to fix other people's problems that are around us.  These efforts can often be less successful than we want because we forget about fixing ourselves first.  In Matthew 7:3, Jesus said, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

It is hard to feel like we can do more to be better people. It would be easier if other people fixed their problems first.  However, Jesus gives us hope that choosing His way is easy.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Let's follow Jesus and see how He can give us strength to be more like Him and to properly help those around us.

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, November 9, 2016

If this were a picture-quiz, my question would be, “What is this a picture of?”

I’d never seen this kind of thing before. The above brickwork is part of an enclosure containing a large garbage dumpster near a line of strip-mall fast food restaurants. Now that you know this, you can probably guess what the spikes are for—to keep hopeful crows and seagulls from perching on the wall and perpetrating dropping-grafitti.

Wouldn’t it be nice if every Christian had sharp little sin-deflector spikes? Wouldn’t it be nice if every temptation were immediately and automatically rebuffed?

It’s not that simple, of course. But the Bible gives a lot of inspired advice for dealing with temptation. Click the link below and you’ll find the highlights. (And intelligent prayer is definitely a part of it.)

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Pine Siskin III
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 8, 2016

So, how do you know when this picture was taken?   The answer, at least in a seasonal sense, is easy to resolve. It isn’t based upon the plumage of the Pine Siskin, or upon its behavior.  In fact, the bird itself contributes nothing toward finding the answer to the question.  Instead, we find the resolution in the background, in something other than the subject itself.

In a “me-centered” culture we are tempted to think all answers must center around our own self: how we feel about it; how it impacts us; or whether or not it answers our own needs.  But our vision is limited in its scope.  We tend to see only that which is available to earthly eyes, which means we may miss that which is of the greatest importance.

A biblical story which illustrates this perfectly is found in II Kings 6 where an account of a conflict between Israel and Syria is told.  Elisha plays a central role but it’s his servant who awakens to a desperate situation. All he can see are troops, horses, and chariots (all belonging to the enemy) surrounding them.  Panic would not be an understatement, but Elisha’s reaction is entirely different from his servant’s.  For his vision was not centered upon himself.   “Then Elisha prayed, ‘O God, open his eyes and let him see.’ The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!” (verse 17 The Message)  Apparently that which surrounds us is important, maybe even more than that which we ourselves can provide.  But isn’t it nice that the Lord elects to include us in the picture.

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The Glory of the Lord
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, November 7, 2016

According to the USDA Forest Service, Multnomah Falls is the most visited recreation site in the Pacific Northwest. It's located in the Columbia Gorge and is about 30 minutes east of Portland.  The top tier is 542 feet and the bottom tier is 69 feet.  The power and beauty of the falling water is a major draw and you'll find photos of it in just about every calendar of Oregon's natural wonders.

He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
    the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work . . .

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
    may the LORD rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

Psalm 104: 13, 31-32 (NIV)

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He Gave All
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, November 6, 2016

While recently in Croatia, we took a day trip to Mostar in Bosnia-Hezegovina.  Some of you will remember the 1992-1995 war there, primarily due to ethnic differences.  Around 100,000 people were killed and over 2.2 million displaced, making it the most devastating conflict in Europe since World War II.  Even though the country is recovering, signs of the conflict can still be seen.  One example is the above sign on a building in Mostar showing a picture of a man (presumably killed) with the words, “ALL gave some, SOME gave all.”

You can probably think of Someone who gave His all.  Yes, God gave His Son Jesus to come to earth to save us from sin.  Jesus was crucified for your sins and mine.  Thank you, Jesus for saving us! The refrain of the song, “Jesus Paid It All” by Elvina M Hall sums up my thought:

     “Jesus paid it all,
     All to Him I owe;
     Sin had left a crimson stain,
     He washed it white as snow.”

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Light Against the Darkness
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, November 5, 2016

Spiders seem to build their webs so quickly. Last Saturday night Shelley and I had just arrived home from some sort of out-and-about. I’d backed the car into the driveway, and just before going into the house I glanced back and saw this web.    

You can probably see the tiny white bug-wing fragments caught in the sticky strands. Even in the daytime a web is pretty much invisible, but in the darkness its prey is absolutely helpless.

But the light of the bulb at the corner of the garage dramatically illuminates that web, and—to the alert bug whose eyes are able to focus on its strands—the web holds no danger.

If you’re in the mood for a fascinating Bible word study, go to an online concordance (or use a paper one) and look up the occurrences of the word “light” in both Testaments. (You’ll have to watch out for some of the “lights,” which might refer to weight rather than illumination).

You’ll discover, among other fasincating truths, that “The Lord is my light” (Psalm 27:27), and that “the entrance of [God’s] words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130), and that those who claim to be spiritual teachers but who don’t speak according to God’s do not have light in them (Isaiah 8:20).

The Bible provides us with the light we need: “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place . . . .(2 Peter 1:19).

I own a little headlamp that I can attach to my forehead, and I always make sure it’s on before I go up to our unlighted attic. It makes all the difference. God makes it very clear that the Word of God can keep us from danger if we will allow it to light our path.

For three more Bible texts about light, click the link immediately below:

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Sunshine Transportation
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, November 4, 2016

This past Tuesday, on the way to volunteer at our two Adventist schools in Kirkland, I pulled up at a stoplight beside this white car. As you can see, the hopeful logo on its passenger door doesn’t match with the state of the weather.

I immediately thought of childhood church songs like this one:

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
To shine for him each day;
In ev'ry way try to please him,
At home, at school, at play.

Jesus wants me to be loving
And kind to all I see,
Showing how pleasant and happy
His little one can be.

A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam.
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
I'll be a sunbeam for him.

Words: Nellie Talbot
Music: Edwin O. Excell, 1851-1921

Many Bible writers, facing trouble we’ve never experienced, were still able to express joy and confidence in God. To read how important Scripture regards encouragement, click the link immediately below.

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Our Itty Bitty Faith
Photo ©2016 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, November 3, 2016

I had to laugh when my wife texted this picture to me with the caption, "Our itty bitty Pilot."  Normally we think our car is a little on the big side, so it is a bit funny to see another vehicle parked beside it that is so much bigger.

Perhaps our faith could be something like these two vehicles.  Sometimes we think we have big faith, but when the going gets tough it is easy to lose our faith.  

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

The Bible talks about God's faithfulness.  "For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord." Psalm 117:2.  It must be God's strength and faithfulness that makes up for our lack of faith.  So let's stay close to God and his Word in the Bible.  It's good to be itty bitty because instead of relying on ourselves, we can rely on God to give us real strength.

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Romans Reminders
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

In Sabbath School we have been studying Romans. We’ve had great discussions, thoughts and many reminders. One of those great reminders is – God has so much love and compassion for us.
In the 8th chapter, verses 26-30, we can read all about this love, compassion and guidance:
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
If we think about it, this takes a lot of pressure off us. God has given the Holy Spirit to us. The Holy Spirit impresses us, so we can focus and pray on the correct things. God gave his Son to us, and with that gives us His Glory!
If you haven’t lately, take time to read Romans – lots of "pictures" of God’s love in there.

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Information Center 1517
Photo and Commentary (c)2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It certainly wasn’t a new idea, a convenient way to let those in the neighborhood know what was on your mind.  Perhaps it was an upcoming garage sale or maybe a plea for help in finding your lost kitten, but that corner stop sign post offered a perfect place to post your notice.  Testimony of its popularity was left by way of rusted nails, bent staples, and other holding devices which remained long after the written messages had vanished.  Many had used it before, not only because of its convenience, but also because it was highly visible and it offered specific pointers to those interested enough to take notice.
Not that much difference really between the neighborhood post and that church door which received Martin Luther’s attention five hundred years ago minus one.  For it was there in Wittenberg that Luther nailed his 95 Theses and thereby started the Protestant Reformation.  Differences there were, of course.  While we might be interested in divesting ourselves of lawn chairs or pillows that no long fit into our decor, Luther had devoted considerable thought and effort into the issue of indulgences.  He was concerned that financially purchasing forgiveness of sin would cheapen the offer of grace extended by God upon true repentance.  The idea of indulgences was capsulized in a common saying of the day:  "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs".  Others had previously criticized the selling of indulgences, but Pope Leo X felt it economically necessary to finance the building of St. Peter’s Basilica.  Another difference between our “Lost Cat” signs and that on the Wittenberg door is that Luther posted his notice in Latin for the purpose of scholarly debate, not a cursory glance by any passing by.
While the neighborhood post serves its function, five hundred years is a long time.  And while we may miss our cat, it pales in comparison to the clearer picture of God which Luther presented on October 31, 1517.

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