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

Eternity in Their Hearts

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 30, 2016

This past weekend Shelley and I made one of our getaways to Washington’s coast. I was across the street from this tourist couple when I snapped this photo (sorry it’s so grainy—I was not close, and anyway I don’t want their identities to be clear, because who they are isn’t the point).

The point is that they had paused beside a gigantic log-slice from an awesomely old tree. The vertical whitish sign behind the man gives dates in history which correspond to how old the tree was when they happened, and this couple--whose lifespan could probably be represented by a mere half an inch of tree rings—was fascinated with something so ancient.

And that’s not surprising. Ecclesiastes 3:11, speaking of God and humankind, says, “He has put eternity in their hearts.” Many millennia of deaths haven’t driven immortality from our minds—the young are just as apt to think they’ll live forever, and the elderly often wonder if there is a life beyond the grave.

Have you reviewed the Bible’s teaching about death? Read these surprisingly comforting words at the link immediately below:

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God's Care

Photo ©2016 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen

Everyone needs to be held, and this cat found a good spot with a teddy bear.  We may not be able to see God, but we can appreciate the warmth that God shows us through the people and circumstances in our lives.  In this world where sin is allowed to run its course it may sometimes seem hard to find God.  However take a thoughtful look around to see.  In some cases, you can be the person who provides warmth to others.

Psalm 95:6,7 says, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care."

Since we are God's servants, let's show care to others even if it is through a bear hug.

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Don’t Say Goodbye

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How many times have we had to say goodbye? A friend moving away . . . a child going off to college . . . an elderly family member succumbing to a disease. Whatever the circumstances, it’s sad. Maybe in some cases it’s goodbye only for a short time, and in other situations it feels much more permanent.

Can you imagine not having the faith and promise a Christian has? Each one of these goodbyes would be ten-fold heartbreaking. Not knowing if you’ll ever be reunited? Thank God we DO have a promise, most of these “goodbyes” are temporary.
John 3:16-21, “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
God said goodbye, and sent His only son to our sinful planet. That goodbye, allows us to say “until we meet again” to all our loved ones.  Here’s to an amazing homecoming and reunion!

The image above is of a fading sun, off the beach of Rosario - at the Walla Walla University Marine Laboratory - Anacortes, WA.  

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Collared Aracari  and Lilies
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Beauty is one of those terms we have difficulty defining, yet we know it when we see it.  Of course, not everyone’s idea of beauty is exactly the same, yet there seems to be a high degree of consensus.   For example, all of the contestants in a Miss Universe pageant, no matter what their ethnicity, seem to possess qualities which make them physically attractive to us.  

In Luke 12:27 Christ was not contributing to a philosophical discussion on beauty, but rather counsel on placing our attention on the proper things.  And yet we can use this to gain an idea of His appreciation of what makes something exquisite.  “Consider the lilies how they grow; they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (KJV)  Qualities displayed by these lilies in my backyard (above) might include: rich color, balanced symmetry, lush contrast between leaves and flowers, and attention to detail.  All would seem to add their support to making these flowers beautiful, even if one’s favorite color isn’t orange.

Now consider a second contestant in this beauty contest.  How does the Collared Aracari rate in your estimation of beauty?   Does it seem disproportionate, imbalanced, and awkward?    Or did you recognize it to be a member of the toucan family and see its lightweight bill as a wonder of nature which it skillfully uses to reach out and gather tropical fruits from branches too small to land upon?   The color and detail are certainly there in abundance.  If it doesn’t meet your personal criterion for beauty, maybe that’s okay too.  After all, isn’t there something to be said about this quality being in the eye of the beholder?   

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How Excellent is Your Name
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 25, 2016

I went whale watching recently and learned that one of the things that the boat crew looks for in spotting minke whales is what is called a "bait ball."  This happens when smaller fish are been pursued by a large predator.  They form a big ball where they swim in circles and less fish are exposed to the predator at any one time.  If the predator is directly underneath them, they may come up to the surface and that is when the birds take notice!

We did get a couple of very brief views of minke whales.  It was just a quick glimpse of a small part of their black backs with a very small (compared to orcas) dorsal fin. We got better views of some inquisitive Stellar sea lions that popped up to get a look at us.  It was still great just to be out and to get a look at what is going on in the natural world.

What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:4-89 (NKJV)

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A Safe House

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 25, 2016

The hamerkop (also known as hammerhead) lives south of the Sahara in Africa near bodies of water.  It gets its name from the shape of its head and long bill, something like a hammer.  A hamerkop’s behavior is different from other birds.  They have a ceremony or ritual where up to ten birds run circles around each other, raising their crests and fluttering their wings while calling loudly.

Another unusual thing about the hamerkop is that they build huge nests, up to five feet across with up to 10,000 sticks.  As you can imagine, it takes months for them to build such a huge nest which ends out being so strong, it can support a man standing on it!  A hardened mud entrance at the side or bottom leads to a nesting chamber for both parents and their young.  Being compulsive nest-builders, they build three to five nests a year even though they don’t need that many!  They want to make sure they have a safe “house” for their family.  The photo below shows one of their nests supported by forked branches high in a tree.

Like the hamerkop, we like to live in a safe place, too, where we and our children are safe from harm and danger. Have you thought that God is like a safe house?  He tells us we can go to him for protection.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Psalms 46:1 “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.  And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”  Psalms 9:9-10. You might be familiar with the song by Frances Crosby, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” with the refrain: “Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast; There by His love o’ershaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest.”

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Winged Devices

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 24, 2016

A week ago Friday Shelley and I took a walk in our neighborhood. On a stretch of sidewalk, barely 20 feet apart, I discovered these two winged devices. I’ve always been fascinated with both. The vanes on the seeds enable the wind to catch them and float them to ground at a distance from the tree. And the engineering in a feather humbles engineers willing to acknowledge the presence of a supernatural Creator.

One of my hobbies is keeping a lookout for natural objects like the ones above, and contemplating God’s staggering handiwork. And each time I make such a connection, my faith grows stronger and my worries weaker.

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Intelligent Design

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 23, 2016

What you see in the photo above is part of the building which houses the headquarters of the Western Washington Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Federal Way, Washington. The building, a very serviceable one, was created by a well-known Adventist architect.

A little over a week ago I arrived at that building to pick up my wife Shelley, who works there. As I walked across the parking lot toward the entrance, I glanced up, and was fascinated to see that the thin strip of sky between the portico above the entrance and the edge of the roof further back showed that the portico and roof were exactly parallel.

To me, someone who has no clue about how to lay out and construct a building, this is pretty miraculous. But to workers who keep their minds on the job, and who translate the blueprints faithfully, it’s probably a no-brainer.

There’s more than one parable buried in that photo, right? The Bible is God’s blueprint for living, and more closely we align our lives with it—and the more we understand and respect the character of the Architect—the  better off our souls will be. (Notice the coincidental bright glow on the numeral 3 to the left of the photo? The Bible makes it clear in verses like Genesis 1:1, 2 as well as John 1:1-3 that all three members of the Trinity were present at creation.)

Another parable is, of course, that the building’s clean edges, not to mention those parallel lines, announce “intelligent designer.” As does the marvelous molecular structures of the wood and metal in the materials.

Want to learn or review some Bible passages which tell what God is like? Click the link immediately below.

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trail signs and markers have always interested me.  I like this sign because of its rugged but friendly appearance.  It provides an important role in guiding hikers to the right trail, which can be confusing at some intersections with multiple choices.  Let's see, is this Icicle Ridge Trail or is it Frosty Creek Trail?  They both sound like they would be cold places in the winter.

The Bible provides rugged but friendly guidelines for living in this world.  What would it be like if we had no true directions from our Father and were just left to randomly struggle on questions about how to treat others?  The Lord does not leave us to despair.  However, He does give us free choice on how we use the information.  

When I read the words of Jesus I hear two things.  1. There is something so wonderful that it is just bursting to get out.  That something is Jesus loves us and saves us just by believing in Him.  See John 3:16-18.  2.  It is still very important to love others in all our dealings.  For example, in Matthew 5: 25,26 Jesus says, "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."  In other words, it may be much more difficult on you to selfishly demand your own way rather than working things out.

Let's take advantage of the road signs Jesus provides to guide us on our way.

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Too Hot?

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It’s funny – lots of people in the Seattle area, this time of year, will complain when it gets too hot (80-plus). Yet, once we get back to the “rainy season” and it’s dark, gloomy and colder (50 or so) – more complaining. Now, I am not sayomg ALL Seattleites do this, but there’s a decent amount.

I try not to complain about the temperature, as I enjoy the seasons we have in the Northwest. We have all four, and with each comes weather changes – heat, cold, dry, rain, etc.

Speaking of REAL heat – a few weeks back, in Youth Sabbath School, we re-read the story of Daniel and his 3 friends, and the level of bravery they showed. In Daniel 3, we can read the full story, but the part I want to remind you of happens in verses 22-27,

The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

You see, the furnace was SO hot, it had already killed the strong soldiers that took the 3, tied them and threw them into the fire. Now THAT is hot.

The good news – there is always good news – is, whether we find ourselves in a ‘hot’ spot (figuratively or metaphorically), guess who shows up when we need Him to?  Yes – God. Just like the furnace – the king threw 3 brave young men, to be consumed by fire, for not bowing to him. When the king looked – there were – 1, 2, 3…..4! Nebuchadnezzar, knew he was looking at the TRUE God.

The image above was taken in the HOT desert of Arizona, about an hour north of Phoenix.

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Porcupine Eggs

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

As kids, we used to call them porcupine eggs.  Maybe not a biologically correct term, but at least not a bad way to describe those nasty, thorny, prickly things that would catch in your socks and shoes if you walked anywhere close to them.  But when you think about it, they really are a very efficient way of dispersing seeds across the land.  Still, that’s not what concerns me.  I just don’t like getting stuck and jabbed by those stickers.  And apparently that’s the way most of the Bible writers felt about it too.
It seems that whenever there is a reference to thorns, thistles, weeds, and the like, it’s making reference to something undesirable.  The botanist may have great admiration for their capacity to distribute seed to remote parts of the earth, but for most of us, these weeds are thought of as having no place in Eden.  And I suspect the loudest “Amen” to that notion would come from the corner which housed the farmers.  Few of us would be as accommodating as the plant-lover, Luther Burbank, when he wrote, “A flower is an educated weed.”

Ezekiel, who if not a farmer himself, still must have had a tender place in his heart for those working the soil.  The Lord gave him a message of encouragement to pass on to those who would return to Him containing that line of thinking.  “On the day I scrub you clean from all your filthy living, I’ll also make your cities livable. The ruins will be rebuilt. The neglected land will be worked again, no longer overgrown with weeds and thistles, worthless in the eyes of passersby.”  (Ezekiel 36:33-34 The Message)   And that’s great news, not only for the farmers among us, but also for any wearing socks and shoes.

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Treasures in Heaven

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 19, 2016

I was on a short hike last month when I came upon this old bench that was in major need of replacement.  As you can see, the moss has taken over but worse than that, the wood is rotting and a rusted metal spike is sticking up above the wood.  

I think that this old bench represents our things on earth.  Sometimes we place a high value on our "stuff" when, if given enough time and without any preservative effort, it will end up looking similar to this old bench.  

Jesus tells us that we need to be more concerned with our "treasures in heaven."

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."   Matthew  6:19-21 (NKJV)

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Witnessing in Zimbabwe

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 18, 2016

As we approached the rain-forest-like park for exploring Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, hundreds of women were in line ahead of us.  After our leader made his way to get our tickets, he led us though them to the entry gate. Some of the women can be seen in this first image. Our tour leader told us that the Seventh-day Adventist women in Zimbabwe were having a conference in the town of Victoria Falls and some of them had time off to visit the falls the same time we did.  While walking on the paths to the various lookout points for viewing the falls, we chatted with some of the women.  Several had young children on their backs, as seen in the next view.  Many of the women were dressed in uniforms indicating Dorcas, Community Services, Women’s Ministry and Seventh-day Adventist.  Emblems were on their dress fabric, hats and bags.

Many women wanted me to take photos of them, which I enjoyed doing.  Some wanted photos taken of our fellow-travelers holding their babies.  Everyone enjoyed this experience.  The people in our group of travelers were greatly impressed with the friendliness of the Adventist women in Zimbabwe!

We learned that our tour leader for our three weeks in Africa is a Seventh-day Adventist.  He has used his money earned as a tour leader to build a school in the town of Victoria Falls.  Currently he provides Christian education for 187 children with a staff of seven teachers, three to four student teachers, an administrator and another helper. (Around 50 of the Adventist women attending the conference were staying at his school!) He wants to expand his school so he can provide education for more children.  He told us that Christian education is very important to him because another family provided funds so he could attend a SDA school starting when he was 14 years old.  He thought that perhaps one in eight people in Zimbabwe are Seventh-day Adventists.  He continued saying that many have joined the Church because of the emphasis on Bible truth and healthful living.  These are some examples of how we saw people in Zimbabwe witnessing for God!

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Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 17, 2016

Every Tuesday morning I spend a few hours volunteering at our two Adventist schools, both located on the same campus in Kirkland, Washington. I read to kids, teach drawing to a couple of classes, and grade a lot of papers.

As a former English teacher, I’ve seen my share of misspelled words, but I get a special kick out of ones which are unintentionally wise. In the exercise depicted in the photo above, the students were given Bible books and were asked to write the book which comes before them and after them.

On the first line, for example, is the word “Exodus,” and the student very properly wrote “Genesis” before it. And on the second line, since Leviticus was given, the student should have written “Exodus” (it was already spelled correctly on the line above), but he—the handprinting seems male—seized the book’s name in both fists and revised it from memory.

And really, wasn’t the Exodus an “exit”? When you get a chance, read or review it in Exodus chapters 1 through 14. Through a series of miraculous events, God liberated His people, not in a quiet and secretive way, but in a way which caused the nations in that part of the world to hear and shudder.

And the final exodus of God's faithful friends will be even more dramatic. To learn more about Jesus’ planet-shaking return, and how you can be ready for the rescue, click the link immediately below.

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The Great Controversy
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 16, 2016

On a Friday afternoon just two weeks ago, I was parked in the shade of our neighborhood library working on my sermon while Shelley was checking out books. The day was warm, so I’d lowered the car windows.

Suddenly, something fell through my window and glanced off my left knee—a leaf, loosened from a branch above. That’s the leaf you see in the photo above, snapped a few seconds after it fell. As you can see, it still has its green, but it’s a bit worse for the wear. Something has been eating holes in it, and tiny brown death-spots are visible.

That was a Friday, and I took it home and tucked it between the pages of the Bible I use to preach with, because I’d thought of a way to use it as an illustration. The next morning in the pulpit, when I pulled it out of the Bible, I was shocked to see that the brown stain had crept a third of the way up the leaf.

And Sunday morning, when I checked it again, the leaf was fully brown:

For this shot I turned the leaf upside down so its veins could be visible.

Here’s what I said about this leaf in my sermon, preached on the occasion of the baptism of a young lady named Chelsea:

“To me, this leaf is a perfect parable of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. As I look at this leaf I see its stem and its little veins. As you move up from the stem, a vein goes to the left, and a little further up the next vein goes to the right, then a little further up, to the left. And all the way up the leaf, it’s first one side, then the other. Somebody – somebody with a capital ‘S’ – planned that out.

“And that Somebody also planned out a wonderful system where this leaf takes in bad air and gives off good air, again and again throughout its entire life.

“But as I look at this leaf I can see evidences of an evil destroyer as well. There are holes in this leaf, probably the result of some kind of destructive insect. There are brown death-splotches on this leaf. As I sat below that tree in my car, this leaf was dying, which is why it broke loose from its branch and came spiraling down.

“God has plans, and Satan tries to thwart those plans. Chelsea has seen this happen again and again. She’s seen nature live, and nature die. Satan’s plan is to separate Chelsea and the rest of us from God. But God’s plans are different.”

Then I quoted Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Want to read more about the hope God has planned for us, and how to make it yours? Click the link immediately below.

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[Note from Maylan Schurch: If you're a close and careful follower of the Daily Photo Parable, you'll have noticed that Darren's and Russell's blogs were switched this week. It's my fault--I let my mind wander while uploading. Next week things'll be back to normal!]

God’s Dogs

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Thursday, September 15, 2016
I am an animal lover. At one point, I got pretty serious about becoming a veterinarian. I worked at a vet hospital when I was in middle school. But things turned out differently, and that’s OK. Over the years I have had several pets, from fish to ferrets, cats to hamsters, frogs to dogs, and a few others in between.

A few weeks back, it was National Dog Day (8/26). I am not sure what all is involved in that particular day, but it includes: awareness of dogs as pets, and specifically how to go about adopting a dog, as there are so many that go un-adopted.

I’m sure you have all heard the saying, "A dog is a man’s (or woman’s) best friend." It’s interesting that, obviously, dogs were created by God and God is our ultimate "best friend."

Now, I can almost hear all the cat lovers out there, clawing to ensure their meows are heard as well. I understand. Remember, I said I am "animal lover"; AND I have had my share of cats, growing up. But this day, it’s about the dogs.

Genesis 1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light…”

God created dogs. He created all living things. Clearly God cares for them all. It’s a blast having a dog (or another pet) on earth, but how much more fun will it be to have all the animals we want, in a place where sin won’t be able to touch us, or them?  I look forward to that day.

The dog pictured above, is our Chocolate Lab – Taima. He is almost 2.

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Getting Energy
Photo (c)2016 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary (c) 2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Something we don't see everyday in town is a farm tractor at the pumps getting fuel.  It seemed surprising that just a few miles out of Seattle a farmer was actually driving his huge tractor to the station.   It takes energy to work the fields to grow food.  Just behind the right pump, the farmer is getting a little rest while the tank fills.

I'm not sure what this farmer grows. But, it makes me think about the wheat fields when I was a kid in Oregon.  Jesus relates bread to the kingdom of heaven.  One of my favorite promises is in John 6:35-40:

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

Let's look to Jesus for the right kind of energy day-to-day.
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A Matter of Style

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We all recognize there is no accounting for personal taste.  You wouldn’t be caught dead wearing what the person you just passed had on.  And for that reason, I must apologize ahead of time to whoever owned this Buick.  But follow, if you will, my distorted thinking as I gazed upon this beauty in the parking lot.
Rightly or wrongly, I tried in vain to imagine what the owner of this car looked like.  Perhaps it was a teenager who in a creative moment decided to customize his car in the cheapest way possible, with a roll of blue duct tape.  However, this seemed somewhat unlikely since most teens aren’t drawn to this particular model with which to impress their friends.  Or maybe a senior citizen found himself reverting to times gone by when he longed to personalize his ride but couldn’t afford to do so.  But now conditions were right since he had the Buick and a roll of tape.  The possibilities were endless.  Why this particular design was chosen is beyond reasonable thought, but then again I can remember drawing my dream car as a child, with flames emblazoned along the side doors and extending for five feet beyond the four exhaust pipes.
While it’s unlikely I’ll be seeking a ride home in this particular vehicle, isn’t it nice to know that we have a God that loves not only people, but loves their idiosyncrasies as well.  If you doubt that, just step outside and look at the world around you: fish shaped like horses, furry animals that lay eggs and have a bill but don’t quack.  The list is endless.  And the good news – that means there is room for you and me and those qualities that make us unique.


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What is the Condition of Your Heart?

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 12, 2016

I was up at the viewpoint for Liberty Bell, near Rainy Pass on Hwy 20, last week.  This tree had been cut down and was lying beside the path. 

I'm not sure what led to it being cut down because it looked pretty good on the outside from what I could see.  However, you can see that on the inside it was rotting and was a danger to anybody walking by as it could have fallen at any time.  For all I know, it did fall and it was just cut up in pieces to get it out of the way.

Just like you can't judge a book by it's cover, you can't judge a person by an initial glance.  When Samuel was looking for a new king to replace Saul, he thought he had found the perfect candidate but God told him that this man was not the one.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORDlooks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

While we try to look our best outwardly, we can't ignore the condition of our hearts.

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The Importance of Water

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 11, 2016

Some of you will probably recognize today’s image.  If you think it’s Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River which borders Zimbabwe and Zambia, you’re right!  I took the photo shown above from a helicopter as we were flying over the falls, one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders.  The African name (Mosi-oa Tunya) means “smoke that thunders”.  When the water is high, this “smoke” (really water), can be seen from 50 miles away on a clear day.  

This second image, showing the falls in the distance, was taken while in an airplane approaching the Livingstone airport.  The spray from the falls creates a rain forest lush with much vegetation.  Native tribes knew of the falls for many years before the first European, explorer David Livingstone saw them in 1855.  He thought the large amount of spray in the distance was a fire, but the local people told him it was water.  He named this mighty falls after Queen Victoria, ruler of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at the time. 

This last image  (below) is of from one of the many viewpoints in the rain forest park, showing the spray as water tumbles over the cliff and hits the rocks.

Water is essential for life.  In fact, around 60 to70 percent of our body weight is water.  It’s critical to many functions of the body.  There are various opinions on the amount of water we should drink a day, but experts generally say between six and eight, 8-ounce glasses. All living things require water.

Water is mentioned many times in the Bible – apparently over 700 times! This includes at the very beginning and the very end of the Bible.  The beginning:  before creation water covered the surface of the earth. (Genesis 1:2)  Now, about 2/3 of the earth is covered by water. The end:  “Come forward, you who are thirsty; accept the water of life, a free gift to all who desire it.”  Revelation 22:17 NEB  Throughout the Bible, water is linked to God’s creation, blessing and salvation.  We can be thankful we live in an area with an adequate supply of water for drinking and other uses AND we can be thankful that God offers us the water of everlasting life!

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Ten to Measure With

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 10, 2016

This past Sunday Shelley and I used part of our Labor Day weekend to spend some time in an Issaquah antique shop. There I spotted this sturdy canvas fisherman’s bag. As you see, it not only has the requisite pockets for lures and hooks and sinkers and other tackle, but it also has a ten-inch ruler printed on the top pocket-flap. I’m no fisherman, but I’m assuming this ruler is helpful when deciding which fish to keep and which to release—or provide validation for later bragging (assuming you had a witness along to vouch for you)!

When I saw that this ruler had ten inches, guess what I thought of. Yup, you’re way ahead of me—the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20 tells us that they were spoken from the very mouth of God, in the hearing of what might have been a million people at the foot of Mount Sinai.

And these commandments are a way to measure your soul. If you’re breaking one or more, your soul is stunted and you’re doing yourself (and/or others) great damage.

Want to review these commandments (and watch a video that lasts a minute and a half) and see how you measure up? Click the link immediately below:

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What Harry Potter Means to a Whole Bunch of People

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 9, 2016

Thursday of this week I visited a patient in the University of Washington hospital, and while on campus I stopped in at the University Bookstore. The poster you see in the photo above was posted on a wall partway up the stairs to leading to the children’s book area.

As you can see, there was no shortage of poster-commenters. Here are a few enlarged entries:

Sprinkled over the poster were a few brief comments to the effect that “Harry Potter means nothing to me,” but the overwhelming majority were mostly unbridled adulation.

As I stared at this poster, I thought what you might be thinking.  “Wait a minute. How can this fictional character get all this utter devotion when Jesus Christ, Creator and Savior, might get feeble praise in comparison? Could there ever be a poster with Jesus’ name in place of Harry’s which would garner such fan support?

For the record, I have actually read the first three or four Harry Potter books, because several years ago (just after the fourth volume was published) I was assigned to write a Christian kids’ book responding to the Potter phenomenon (Beware of the Crystal Dragon). Ms. Rowling’s stories are very well-crafted, and I could easily see why kids were attracted to them, because they fulfill many childhood dreams and fantasies. However, toward the end of Volume Four the story turned so dark that I got uneasy and couldn’t keep reading. And from what I understand, the books get worse from there.

But back to my point about Jesus. Why doesn’t His name evoke such colorful scribbles of enthusiasm? What are we missing? What have we done wrong?

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Living Water
Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pictures of alpine lakes are never quite as impressive as being there.  The trees seem a little scrubby and there are lots of rocks.  How could it be a wonderful place to be?  Well, once a person pitches camp in a nice grassy opening with rocks making natural tables for eating, the natural beauty of the place takes over.  Up close the lake takes on its own character and charm.  The lake also offers important water for drinking and cooking.

It might seem like that with God.  What does God offer against the attractions of the world?  When a person chooses to accept God and put his word into practice, a new world opens up.  John 4 is a study on what the Lord will do when we search Him out.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Let's drink the water Jesus offers by studying and doing the things He says.  Let's learn close up what wonderful things the Lord offers us.

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Put Your Hands Up

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
There are lots of ways to worship. I’ve been in congregations where people choose to raise their hands up to God. I understand the concept, and I am certainly not judging in any way. In fact, when I took this shot of these tall alder trees near our house, I can imagine the branches attempting to get closer to God. They are shooting skyward, just to be close to Him.
In the book of James, chapter 4, it talks about submitting ourselves to God. In verse 8, it reads:
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
I like that – “come near God and He will come near you.” Does that mean we need to be on the next Space-X rocket ship, to get a few miles closer to Orion’s belt?  No. Does it mean, that any chance we get, we should get in a hot-air balloon or take a trans-continental flight, in order to touch the clouds? No. I believe all it takes to “come near to God” is to quiet our minds and listen. He will speak to us. We may not have the ability to hear God like Moses or Abraham did, but He still can speak to us. He puts impressions on our heart and mind.
The next time you have the chance, I encourage you to find some trees, look up, and just like they are reaching up to their Creator – quiet your mind, open your heart, and listen.

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Bumblebee and Flower

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I find it difficult to live in two worlds at the same time and appropriately value each.  But that’s the task God has given us, to reside in the temporal while looking forward to the eternal.  And we find it easy to become absorbed with the tangible, earthly world, for it promotes itself with that which can be seen, felt, and heard, while the eternal seems hidden or at least relegated to a subtle, still small voice.  One can be so overwhelmed that we can feel compelled to lose sight of that which is truly important.
Paul understood this tension we face and writes about it in II Corinthians 4:18.  “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (NIV)  In this verse he appears to have resolved things for himself, so that the transitory had lost its grip on him.
But perhaps we have it all wrong.  The implication here is that the earthly is by its very nature somehow malevolent, evil, with the tendency to detract us from the everlasting which God has prepared for us.  After all, wasn’t God the creator of this world and all that is good in it?
Maybe it’s a matter of seeing with spirit-filled eyesight.  Thomas a Kempis wrote this commentary in his 15th century The Imitation of Christ: “If your heart were right, then every created thing would be a morrow of life, and a book of sacred doctrine.  There is no creature so small and worthless that it does not show forth the goodness of God.”  I like this perspective, for it brings those two worlds into a synchronized orbit where I can see God’s will more clearly.

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Peace Like a River

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 5, 2016

I was walking down by the Sauk River a couple of weeks ago with a friend and we stopped at a small access point to look at the river.  It was really peaceful this time of year.  

I like the verses in Isaiah that talk about peace like a river. Although Israel was being addressed here, I think the message applies to us today as well.

This is what the LORD, who saves you,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“I am the LORD your God,
    who teaches you to do what is good,
    who leads you in the way you should go.
If you had obeyed me,
    you would have had peace like a full-flowing river.
    Good things would have flowed to you like the waves of the sea.  
Isaiah 48:17-18 (NCV)

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Free Bread

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 4, 2016

Travelers to the Chobe National Park in Botswana had taken sandwiches out of their sacks for lunch when this Vervet monkey thought it was time for his lunch!  He jumped down from the tree, grabbed a sandwich and quickly scampered high in the tree where he quickly devoured the tasty sandwich. In this photo, he was looking down at us, possibly wondering if we were going to do something or maybe thinking he might be able to get more food from people.  Other monkeys in this troop looked on, wondering if they had a chance of getting “free food” too.

God provided “free food” to the hungry Israelites in the form of manna. (Exodus 16)  Even though you or I may have never been really hungry, some people in the world are.  Sadly, some even starve to death because of lack of food.  Likewise, if people don’t receive “spiritual food” they are apt to die spiritually.  People were looking for Jesus the morning after He had multiplied the five loaves and two fishes that fed about 5,000 men plus women and children.  He told them to work, not for the perishable food, but for the food that lasts eternally.  The people wanted a sign so they could believe in Him like their fathers received manna in the desert.  (John 6: 5-12, 27-31)  “Then Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world’.  Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.  And Jesus said unto them, ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst’.”  John 6:32-35.  Yes, let’s thank Jesus for being our free bread – of everlasting life!

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Thirty-six Shelves of Bibles!

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 3, 2016

This past Monday, during a two-day getaway, Shelley and I spent several hours wandering through Powell’s City of Books in Portland, which BuzzFeed Books calls “the largest independent used bookstore in the world.”

Whenever I enter a bookstore, I make sure that the religion section is one of my first stops. What you see above are nothing but Bibles – four sections, each nine shelves high, a total of 36 shelves of used copies of Scripture.

But how used? As I glanced along those shelves, I noticed that probably only one out of a hundred of those Bibles looked well-worn. Obviously, the Powells staff wouldn’t shelve anything that was falling apart or had a lot of internal marking, but most of these Bibles looked fairly untouched.

And then I got to thinking. If, down through the centuries, everyone had devoted a close and careful study to God’s Word, how would that have changed the one million other books (literally) in Powell’s? Just imagine the change in tone, the humility, the subject matter, which would have resulted!

How biblically literate are you? Can you find Bible books without looking at the table of contents? Can you find the time to read through an entire Bible book, starting perhaps with the Gospel of John (a computer tablet might be a convenient way to do this)?

The best “Bible orientation” is to first of all find out what the Bible says about itself. You can discover this by clicking on the link immediately below. Do it now!

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Add an Hour to Your Day!

Photo and Commentary ©2016 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 2, 2016

Normally I don’t giggle when I see junk mail in our mailbox. I keep a straight face, glance through it, and cull out those which have our address on it (so I can tear off the addresses and feed them through the shredder).

But right around once a year I get an envelope which gives me a chuckle. It contains several pieces of paper, one of which you see above. Come on – who wouldn’t be thrilled to add an hour to his or her day?

So, even though on this Tuesday I knew exactly what I’d find, I spent a moment or two paging through the familiar promotional material. What it’s advertising is a calendar planner which claims to be able to tame the proliferation of all your little yellow sticky notes containing to-do items, and give you spaces to record those to-do’s where you can get at them when you need them, right there on the two-page week-at-a-glance spread.

But here’s the kicker: this is a paper planner which fits in a three-ring notebook, to which you need to apply a real pen or pencil. And I haven’t used a paper planner for probably more than a decade. I use Google Calendar, which I can pull up on my PC at home, and on my laptop or iPad or smartphone on the go. And amazingly, this program has always functioned perfectly. I have never lost a to-do item or calendar appointment (though I’ve sometimes forgtten to actually look at the calendar!).

And I know with the utmost certainty that if I were to abandon the Internet calendar and switch to this paper one, I would indeed add a chunk of an hour to my day – an hour of pencil-listing those to-do items, and then re-copying them the next week, and again the next week, etc. And I would be chained to that notebook wherever I went!

So, every year I do the same thing. I flip nostalgically through the promotional brochure. I even read the little supposedly handwritten note which the CEO of the company has supposedly scrawled directly to me, and which he (or maybe it’s a she) hopes will tip me in the direction of ordering one of those very seductive fake-leather notebook binders.

But then I tear off my address on the order form, feed it into the shredder, and drop the rest of the packet into my recycle wastebasket. Because I already have something better, far better, far more efficient, far (if you want to think of it this way) less wasteful and therefore less destructive to the environment. In short, I don’t need “second-best,” because I have “first-best.”

Over the centuries, Satan has discovered that persecution of God’s people often backfires. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church,” as someone once said. So where persecution doesn’t work, the devil will try an even more effective tool – keep a Christian so busy doing what’s second-best that he or she will short-change what’s first-best, a growing, deepening relationship with the Trinity.

How can you develop this relationship? An easy way to deepen your knowledge of what the Bible says (and what God thinks) about various topics is to go to the website such as the one I often refer you to at the end of many of my Daily Photo Parables. If you click the link directly below, you’ll be taken to the “topics” list. When you click on a topic, you will be taken to a series of questions which are directly answered by Bible verses. Check it out! The few minutes a day you invest here may not add a whole hour to your day – but it will add eternity to your lifespan’s end!

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The View from Here

Photo ©2016 by Amber Jurgensen
Commentary ©2016 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sometimes wilderness box toilets are a bit scary because with no walls, things could get a bit dicey if other people are around.  Other times, they can be wonderful.  This wilderness toilet was on the wonderful side.  It was remote enough that no other people were around, and the views were perfect for contemplative thoughts.  We also admired the folks that carried the materials for it on a two-day hike into the mountains to install it.

In case you are wondering how it works, you lift the lid using the wooden handle and sit down.  It is probably under two feet wide -- just right.  The view is from Doelle Lakes looking towards White Pine creek near Steven's Pass.  

Mountains are great places to praise the Lord.  Psalm 65:5-8 says,

"You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
    God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
    having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy."

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