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My destination is West Palm Beach, Florida. No, it’s not for recreation or a vacation. Yeah, it’s work.
But, it is also the best kind of work. It isn’t for money. I do it as a volunteer, as a service for the King.
Four good friends and I collect our hearts and dreams for a distant country. We have all been there and our hearts have been broken for a people who have been brutalized, abused and oppressed by some of humanity’s worst. We love the gentle people of Cambodia and believe that the peace of God that has been given to us in Christ can also be a huge blessing to this fragile country.
To get to my buddies and for us to engage in this labor of love I must make a long journey. I live in San Francisco. It is a long way to the west coast of the state that hangs off of the southeastern seaboard of the lower 48.
My flight is at 6AM. Yes, that means the plane leaves at 6 in the morning. I must arrive for boarding that starts at 530AM.
Do you work backwards with your schedules too? If I must be at the gate by 530AM then I know that I have to set my alarm for 300AM. Yup, who gets up at that hour?
I know some who go to bed at that hour but I don’t know a soul who gets up at that time. Of course I set two alarms but as usual, I am awake waiting for each alarm to trigger itself. A hot shower wakes me up by a few percentage points. Is this the beginning of a great journey?
My bags are mostly packed from the night before. Last minute items are tossed in and I load up my rig. Quietly, as my engine starts I think through my route, measure my itinerary in my mind and then start the drive to Long Term Parking.
With my rig parked in a secure garage I settle into a mental rehearsal of what I need to do to get ready for the plan ride. My ticket has a glitch. My agent used their company credit card so my card was not accepted. Rats!
A very pleasant agent helped me through this tiny bump in the road. Soon I had my bag checked and I was now waiting in the security line. Oh, boy, this is going to be an unforgettable trip.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Once we press send in the middle of a busy day, we all notify our respective family members. Mentally, we reserve the time and schedule the route. Afterall, it’s family.
Yvonne and I squeezed in our last-minute work between getting home and getting ready to leave for the family gathering. We waited for the clock to run past our planned departure time. Hurriedly we raced out of the house and jumped into our chariot for the night.
I punched into our GPS the address of the restaurant. By now the rain was falling. Easily we slipped into the local streets and made our way through vaguely familiar territory.
Our GPS failed. Or at least I blamed it for taking to the wrong address. Yeah, operator error was likely the culprit but I bought the thing so I can take out my flaws on it, right?
I reprogrammed it by another formula. We arrived last in our family. They cheered when we walked through the door.
All of the food had been ordered. Just as we took our seats the food began to roll in. First, the soup came.
It was piping hot. Mixtures of cilantro, minced pork and rich broth made it very comforting food on a chilly San Francisco night. The tender melon chunks gave it a hearty healthy satisfaction.
The first entrée of the night captured my attention. I was not alone. Everyone was serving themselves a nice helping without any kind of shyness.
Walnut Shrimp was the moniker for this dish. Glazed just right and carmelized walnut pieces made for a succulent serving. The colors, the aroma and the flavor were stunning.
This was just the first dish. Sure we were all hungry but there was a lot more food coming. Like a typical family, the last piece of shrimp stayed on the plate. But, unlike other families, several of us were unafraid to reach for the final helping.
The first to call got it. No one challenged the claim. But, there were a lot of eyes following it as we passed it across the table.
Family times are happy times. Food is just an excuse. Delicious food is made better with dreams of being together.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
We are people who rest so much in our lives on the promises of others. For some of us failed promises have scarred us for life and our skepticism in others looms over every human connection that we have. Yet, we still cling to hope that we may be able to find those who are trustworthy and restore our joy in believing in the promises of others.
The Apostle Paul tells the church at Corinth that they can count on the promises of God. In fact he doesn’t argue the point or try to defend its validity. Rather, he simply states it as a fact and admonishes believers to act on the truth of it.
God assures us that He will be present in our lives. Knowing that God is always there for us is an incomparable comfort. Instead of cowering in fear, we live by faith assured that He is watching over us.
To maximize our connection with the LORD we must live a life of purity. Both physically and spiritually we must live wholesome lives free from sin. Our passion must tenaciously pursue our perfecting of holiness out of a deep respect for God.
Paul reminds us of his qualification to admonish all believers so personally. His intentions are honorable and humbly based on a fellowship with us as equals not as superiors. Joy is his delight when he contemplates his relationship with other believers.
To highlight his encouraging motive to edify believers, Paul lets some of his own personal troubles leak out. He was exhausted and buried under troubles when he began his ministry in Macedonia. Harassment, conflict and fear pressured the Apostle as he did God’s work.
In contrast to the hardships, almost as a means to dismiss those painful challenges as inconsequential, Paul points to the encouragement that God gave to him. Titus was a blessing. His presence, fellowship and ministry of encouragement was very effective.
Will believers ever learn that the effect of their words have a great impact on those in the ministry? To them they are simply expressing their opinion. But, it comes across as critical and drains those in His service.
But, while the critics and the opinionated may never come to their senses, there are always the encouragers who make up for their shortcomings. These special lives breathe life into the weary servants of the LORD. They give strength to those on the frontline of service. Praise the LORD for them!
2 corinthians 7.1-7
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
No one got up to protest. In our little twin prop commuter plane we had precious little room. There was only one row of seats on either side of the plan.
Tall people would not straighten out until we landed and disembarked from the plane. The head room was a mere few inches above my head. But, once you folded yourself to board, you were half way to finding a seat to buckle in for the 40 minute flight.
When we landed the airport was small. The luggage cart passed me and entered the terminal. Baggage pick up was just inside the door we entered.
My buddy had his truck parked at the curb just outside the exit door. We walked a mere dozen steps to load my gear. The jet way in SFO is longer than my walk from the plane to his waiting pickup truck.
You have to love the quaint feel of a down home airport like this. People were friendly, no one was pushing, there was an ease about everyone who was now in Laramie, Wyoming. But something else was missing too.
There were no massive crowds pushing and shoving. No one was more important than others and running for their next plane, taxi or limousine. Traffic jams just were not around.
But, what was also missing was oxygen. We were a mile high in elevation. My lungs were sucking in deeply, milking what was available in the mountain atmosphere.
When we arrived at the cabin, we were another thousand feet higher. I paused just to breathe. My average time to acclimate is 3-4 days, at least.
Before arriving I walked the hills of Daly City trying to prepare myself for this week of outdoor activity. I’m glad that I did what I could but it was not enough. But, slow and easy was a great way to move in this thin air of the great Wyoming wilderness.
The great part of the elevation and sparsely populated area is that the air is clean. I’m a San Francisco resident, more used to impaired vision, air-filled with particulates, gasoline exhaust and diesel fumes are the norm in the city. Come to the country and pause just to breathe and treasure that simple blessing of fresh air; God gives it to us for free.
photo credit: brucefong photography
Yvonne and I were driving home from work, both weary from our long day. It was productive and satisfying but we were also very tired. Neither of us was eager to volunteer our energies to do the cooking.
Instead, we wondered how we could throw something together for a meal. Silence followed our limited conversation. It was time to take the bull by the horns.
I turned off of the freeway early. We headed down a side street or two. Even though I wasn’t quite sure where the diner was located, I wound down the window and followed my nose, literally!
There it was! But, traffic was piled up. Around the block I went scouting for a parking spot.
Inside the little shop I took my place in line. Locals were ordering in the local Filipino dialect. I tried to look confident but only succeeded in looking hungry.
I didn’t even know what to ask for. Instead, I just pointed. Whatever looked good and smelled amazing was good enough to me.
Dinner was served once we rolled into our driveway. Our debrief of the days events filled our evening. It was fun and after all of that I volunteered to do the dishes!
photo credit: brucefong cell phone photography
The wait at SFO was typical. My flight was scheduled to leave at 7.30AM so I was dutifully present at 5.30AM. I park in long-term parking, grab a shuttle to the terminal, check in, make my way through security and find my gate. It was going to be a very long day.
Once at the waiting area, hoards of people crowded into the waiting area. It always strikes me as an odd contrast when the streets of a major USA city are void of traffic during the early hours of the day but here at the airport it is bustling.
This was going to be a different trip. I had decided to only take carry-on luggage with me. Two trips ago in March I flew to Florida and my luggage didn’t make it.
That’s got to be very close to the definition of inconvenience. After travelling all day long in the same clothes, I was ready for a shower and a change into some fresh duds. But, the bad news would prevent that.
When I went to the carousel that displayed everyone’s suitcases, mine wasn’t there. Rats! My only recourse was to check with the lost luggage clerk. She was amazing.
I produced my luggage tag. She tracked my bag on her computer. It was still in Atlanta, my stop-over on my way to South Carolina.
All of our information was exchanged. I was assured that my bag would be on the next flight from Georgia. Once it arrived a delivery company would personally deliver to me in Spartanburg, SC.
Have you ever had strangers make promises to you? On the outside I was smiling. But inside I was dubious.
Once in my destination city I was ready for some fresh clothes and to wash up. But, all of that stuff was in my suitcase in another state. Rats!
I try not to clutter my life with worry. It’s no fun fretting about anything that I can’t change. Those who are the pros are doing all that can be to correct the problem.
So, I go to dinner with my hosts. Yes, I’m still in the clothes that I put on at 4AM and it is now evening. Near midnight I get a phone call from the desk clerk.
My luggage has arrived! She delivers it personally to my room. It’s so nice to see an empty luggage rack now filled with something very familiar.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photo
It was risky, but I was willing to give it a try. On my trip across the nation I did not want to be separated from my luggage. This was one trip where I just didn’t want to take that chance.
My journey was a short one of two nights. If I packed judiciously, then I could try making my trip with carry-on luggage only. It would be a challenge.
Carefully, I thought through all that I would need for my speaking engagement. Clothing would have to be purposeful and packed compactly. With Spartan-like determination I didn’t pack ”just in case” items.
Smiling down at my selections, my carry-on bag closed easily. It is well-worn after decades of service when I have mercilessly sent it into the cavernous checked luggage option at countless airports around the world. On a recent trip my luggage went one way and the airlines sent me on another. It caught up with me after a day and a half .
The signs at security reminded us that we had to have all of our liquids out in a see through bag. Groan! I had forgotten.
All of my liquids were in 3 oz containers or less but they were buried in my luggage. I had to open up my case, dig them out and close my bag all while sliding my stuff along the stainless sterile steel counter. The agent announced, “If you’re the first one in line at the counter, please slide your items ahead of you to make room for other passengers.”
Yes, that announcement was done for me. Have you ever felt the eyes of many impatient people burning holes in the back of your head? Yup, I started sweating up a storm.
It so discombobulated me that I sent my stuff through the x-ray machine but forgot all of the stuff still in my pockets: cell phone, wallet, money clip, wrist watch, pen. Groan! I felt like a rookie on my first airplane trip.
Of course as I stepped up to the scanner with hands full of the forgotten items, I had to rip off my belt at the last-minute. Naturally, that gesture made me drop my ID on the floor. I bent to pick it up and again slowed down the line for everyone else. More groan!
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Fog has a way of diluting smiles. Cheer is always challenged by the heavy humidity that fills the air. Like a mind that is bewildered by a metaphorical cloud, the real thing is just as disorienting.
Massive clouds roll in off the Pacific Ocean and sit here over our part of the city. From our house to the highway it is a steep climb that only thrusts us deeper into the limited visibility. I can feel the delight of my heart beginning to drain away.
The good thing is that this inclement weather is not immediately dangerous, unless of course you have to drive through it. Yes, Yvonne and I have to drive through it. My truck can handle the fog fine, but it’s the other drivers that give me great concern.
My normal commute route climbs hundreds of feet in a short one mile to the highway intersection. I’ve driven it enough times to feel confident that I know where I’m going. But, I can’t see who’s coming from behind or what lies ahead. That uncertainty is nerve-wracking.
I drop my speed from my normal good weather drive. Now, I am straining to look through the cloud. All of my senses are keenly dulled from years of over-use.
My fog lights are on but I can’t tell except that the dashboard light indicates that they are. They do not help in this thick atmospheric soup. My speed is deliberately reduced.
Suddenly dim lights appear in my rearview mirror. Whoever that nut case is they are driving too fast for the conditions. In a matter of seconds she is tailgating me.
I slow down even more as I wade through the brackish cloud bank that has me firmly in its grip. My tailgater is still hanging tight. Again I slow down for the signal light that is coming up on the highway.
Caution pays off. The signal lights don’t come into view until you are right on them. They are red and traffic is pouring through the intersection.
Once through the signal light our descent into the valley is rapid. Almost instantly the visibility is restored. We have dropped below the low hanging clouds.
My tailgater who used me as a personal guide is now free. She picks up speed and passes me quickly. I catch up with her at the next light.
“Sibling” is a funny word. Oh, now wait. I don’t find humor in the meaning of the term. I just chuckle at the word itself; isn’t it odd?
I am blessed with three siblings. My sister leads the way and in many ways has been the “leader of the pack” from our childhood and continues on into our adulthood.
After her we three brothers follow. She is still the top dog. Always has been and always will be.
This time, however, I would have to make an accommodation. The drive into the Capital of California from San Francisco is a two-hour drive. Both ways would suck up four hours.
Emails flew between my siblings. I jumped in and committed Yvonne and me to the plans. We would rendezvous to spend some time together.
First, we would gather at my sister’s place. Then, we would head out for lunch together. After lunch we would head over to the Funeral home.
My older brother hitched a ride with Yvonne and me. We had an endless conversation on the way into the city. It was a pleasant time to reminisce.
At my sister’s house the five of us joined in on some fun conversation. We caught up with our busy lives. Then, it was time for lunch.
Together we headed out for a local BBQ eatery. We didn’t have any preplanned routine but I chuckled. Four of us ordered Beef Ribs.
Take note of the kind of ribs we ordered. Most are familiar with pork ribs. That is the common fare when chomping away on bone in meat.
This, however, was beef. It’s a totally different kind of dining experience. The flavor is distinct, the quantity is unique, that texture is tender and the fragrance is out of this world.
Our waitress could see that this was not just about food. There was something deep involved here. It was a family swarm taking on a culinary challenge together.
No one said, “Go!” But, I did say grace. After thanking our Heavenly Father for His bounty, I concluded with “Amen.”
The chomping began in earnest. Napkins were piled high at the center of the table. They were gone in a matter of minutes.
When the wind died down and the clanging of utensils were silenced, only bones lay on our plates. We looked up and laughed. The family had entered, overcome and were now satisfied.
It is Saturday. This is an unusual one for me. Normally, this is a work day.
Yes, I am a preacher therefore, since Sunday is a big work day, I have to use a lot of the hours on Saturday to prepare. There is no way to take Saturday off when I need to speak on Sunday. Everyone who makes a living as a speaker understands this demands of the mind and soul.
But, a habit of life is hard to change. I was up and wide awake at 5:30AM. My mind was racing with all that I wanted to do on my rare sixth day of rest.
No, I don’t think that I have to physically rest, sleep in or take a nap. It’s what I don’t do on this day that will make it a day of rest. What I do with enthusiasm for days on end, I now take a break and refresh my mind, soul and spirit.
Yvonne and I don’t talk about the ministry at all. Mental rest is important. That actually is very challenging because the lives of the people we love and serve are always on our mind.
Then, I don’t open my books to study. Research and reading fill up every day of my life. Thinking has to be redirected today.
Quietly I let my bride enjoy her rest. I began my day washing up and enjoying some entertainment. It’s a treat to curl up in a comfortable seat and open up my e-book, knocking off a couple of chapters of my Western adventure.
I heard Yvonne stirring as the sunlight flooded our bedroom. We smiled at each other to start our day. While she washed up, I stole out to bring home some breakfast.
Yvonne and I love to have a breakfast of rice porridge when we get a chance to relax. It is juiced up with ground pork and duck eggs. It’s a cultural thing, and what a wonderful cultural treat it is.
We like to call it comfort food. It is piping hot. After a casual breakfast of sharing this kind of inexpensive simple food, we feel ready to start our day with stirring anticipation.
I especially like this unique meal because the clean-up is so easy. After rinsing two bowls and two spoons, I toss them into the dishwasher and we are out of the house to enjoy our day of rest!