FullSizeRender-4My alarm clock rang early. No, it did not jump the gun and spring to life earlier that I had programmed it. It sounded its melodic piano music precisely when I set it the night before.

Today was a fishing day. I had to meet 9 of my fellow workers and friends for a half-day fishing in Galveston Bay. This would be my first Texas charter.

We have been planning this trip for months. The busyness of the summer had us all gasping for air. Honestly, the anticipation of this adventure was a common conversation; it kept us smiling!

Now, the clock read 3:15AM. Yes, you read that correctly. Both the numbers and the time of day are accurate.

Getting up early was part of not wanting to disappoint anyone. I would not want to be late and hold up the adventure of others who were eager to make a memory out on the waters of the bay. Nine others were counting on me to be on time for our team adventure. I would not disappoint them.

At 4:30AM all ten of us showed up at the rendezvous point and we were off to our destination. Our three guides were waiting for us. Our group dispersed and we were off at the break of dawn, headed for secret fishing spots known well by our professional guides.

Anticipation is one thing. Past memories of great fishing adventures is another thing. But, actually motoring out to the fishing spots of a guide that I have never met is a completely different thing.

Then, the boat slows down. The captain is scurrying about his boat. He is giving us instructions.

I am paying attention. He is speaking with confidence and professionalism. My expectations morph into excitement rather than skepticism. Fishermen are always optimists.

With rapt attention I was attuned to my rod. Feeling the slightest movement, staring at the rod tip for any unusual action and trying to imagine what that first strike would feel like. Then, “SLAM!” something violent took my bait, line peeled of the reel, the rod bent into the shape of a giant comma. “Fish on!”

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderAn Egret is a common bird with a comical gait and a splendid posture that is unique among feathered friends.  There have been a number of times when I was comfortably enjoying the woods and a pond.  Then, the sound of fluttering wings gave notice to an Egret landing in the water.

Its long legs would slowly and carefully lift, stretch and walk into a better position.  Then it would crane its neck, adjust its posture and tilt its head.  When the sun, water reflection and shadows were just right a special event was about to take place in lightening speed.

The bird would strike.  Its beak and head would dart into the water.  Very little splashing would follow.

Like an expert in spear fishing, the Egret would emerge with a tiny minnow in its beak.  Carefully, it would lift up its head and lean back at just the right angle, manipulate its catch, and swallow it whole.  Then, it was back to fishing again.

It is a graceful bird.  When it functions it is clear that it has a flexibility which serves it well by the Creator’s design.  This is another creature of creation that makes far more sense as an intentional design rather than a happen chance  result of trial and error.

On a bike ride through the George Bush Park in Katy, Texas I chuckled at these funny birds.  Usually, I see them by themselves. One bird fishing a territory of water.  This time there was a whole convention of birds.

I was far enough away that they did not spook.  Instead, they went about bathing, chattering to each other or fishing for food.  Some had their heads up looking for danger.  Others took on a posture as if spoiling for a fight.

Maybe it was a convention.  Possibly like people this might have been a technique consortium on the best fishing techniques for the next generation of birds.  Goofy thoughts made me chuckle.

Funny birds made me chuckle out loud. Isn’t life grand when we can enjoy what we see, think lofty thoughts of theology and science, treasure the privilege to watching wildlife teach us about life?  Don’t you agree that this is quite a fascinating bird?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-1My bike ride took me along the Buffalo Bayou.  The sun was beating down, rising higher in the easter sky and intensifying its heat.  There was reason to finish up the ride just to beat the Houston heat but something made me slow down and make an unscheduled stop.

From a distance I saw something that was not a normal part of the landscape.  My scanning the horizon and enjoying the views stopped short.  Like radar locking on to target I automatically started to slow down.

There on the grassy field was a lump standing higher than the freshly cut lawn.  It was the only protrusion making for an obvious oddity.  Over the hill was the water in the Bayou.

Now, I was close enough to identify the surprise.  It was a turtle.  I looked at him and he made me smile.

Its tiny head was protruding from beneath its very strong shell.  I don’t know how well a turtle’s eyesight is but it was definitely having some eye contact with me.  Maybe I was intimidating like most humans who tower over these amphibians.

Slowly but deliberately it drew in its legs.  Its head shrank back a little too.  Now its house of defense protected most of it if I was a real threat or danger.

Someone must have cut the grass recently.   Shavings were sprinkled over its back.  The design on its shell was now decorated with foliage and giving it a comical appearance.  I smiled even more.

I got closer.  My movements were slow.  I did not want to scare, just photograph it.

Now, its image is tucked away in my phone.  I left it alone never having touched or disturbed it.  From a distance on my bicycle I could just make out its slow and deliberate movements.

This turtle was heading some where.  It wasn’t in a hurry.  It couldn’t be even it wanted to.

Maybe as it crept along, it reminds all of us Houstonians to take our time in the hot humid summer days.  Moving at a turtles’ pace may have the merits of making life in the hot south much more manageable, don’t you think?  It was a least worth a long smile, right?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_0278High School graduation was part of life.  It was filled with my classmates who were putting their stamp on a season that we shared together.  This special year would be a stake in the ground that we could all look back and remember our beginning, a commencement into life.

Different kinds of classmates were all around me.  My music buddies amazed me at their talent.  When they sang, I was stunned at how well they could captivate an audience.  Others could pick up an instrument and be judged among the best in the state.

Marching Band occupied a lot of my time.  Friendships grew when times were tough.  A new High School opened up and hived off so many of our musical talent.

We were left with a corporal’s guard.  But, we gave it all we had and enjoyed it.  We could not change much about our size.  However, the quality that we produced was memorable.

Some of my history was in sports.  I wrestled in High School.  We had one stand-out who went on to State.  All of us were proud of his achievements.

Athletes wore their block letter “M” on jackets and sweaters.  Winning may have been a rarity among our sports enthusiasts but spirit could never be questioned.  Our cheerleaders were the best.

Spirit at C.K. McClatchy High School was always on a high level.  Cheering together gave us an identity with this special year of a special class.

There were a lot of smart people around me too.  In Elementary Functions, pre-calculus, our brainy math wizards solved impossible problems.  Collaboration on the black board with options to finally solve a problem were a blast.

Science club gathered another kind of “smart” students.  Philosophy and experiments launched us into a world already too big for young lives to tackle.  But, we chased our chemistry, physics and engineering dreams with youthful energy and exuberance.

When Pomp and Circumstance was played for us, we marched in gowned up and eager to head to college.  A world was waiting for us to conquer, serve and make it better.  Since that special year of 1969, my classmates have made a difference in the world.

It was a special year with special people and amazing dreams.  Do you remember that year?  The world has never been the same since, don’t you think?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-3They remind me of Twinkies.  I hope that isn’t an insult.  Health choices aside, Twinkies were a favorite treat when I was a kid.  They tasted great, smelled great, never got wasted and were like a reward for finishing my bag lunch.

Now, add eyes or eye, inject a massive amount of personality, add a generous dose of mischievousness and the collection of movie screen characters is born.  Bib overalls give them a personality that is lovable.  Goggles over a pair or cyclops eye is adorable.

Feed in a sound track for their fast talking completely non-understandable dialogue but let interpretive gestures and episode contexts give meaning then something magical happens.  I can’t forget the laughing.  When the minions chuckle, I chuckle with them.

Despicable Me movies add charm to this supporting cast of wonderful movie background supporting characters.  I do love it when they laugh.  Smiling is a natural reaction.

There have been an abundance of trailers for the Minion Movie.  But, it is one thing to be a hit as a supporting actor or cast.  It is totally another thing to be the star.

Most animated movies leave a lot to be desired.  Even when the highly appealing trio of Bob, Kevin and Stuart lead the way.  Maybe the critics will win me over this time.  They are not kind about the movie.

For the time being I will be content to have snuggled up to the trio of Minions during one their promotional trailers.  I got down to their level and could only smile.  You must be a Minion fan too, right?  Are you going to see the movie?

GProCongress Flyer

There is going to be an amazing gathering in Bangkok, Thailand in June 2016.  Pastors and those who train pastors around the world will gather for a world wide congress focused on training pastors in countries that are underserved with quality pastoral training.  Many of these are some of the poorer countries of the world.

If you know someone who is burdened for some of these countries or a specific country and would love to see pastors better trained to lead churches, advocate for the lives of the oppressed and serve those who have very few options for living a fulfilling life, then take a look at this flyer and pass it on to those you know.

Pastors who attend will undoubtedly make new colleagues from their own country and return home with a network of support and cheer.  Others who are desirous of training pastors will find new avenues to apply their skills and trades.  Come, send or encourage.  This will be a catalytic event in the lives of God’s appointed shepherds around the world.

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I stopped and looked at the gorgeous morning of a new work week.  It was Monday and my responsibilities were piled high in my computer inbox.  But, I stacked the deck in my favor before the diligent work began.

First, I hopped on my bicycle and wheeled through my neighborhood.  The temperatures at 630AM are welcoming and pleasant.  Meteorologists predicted that the warmer weather would grip our city with 100 degrees in a matter of hours.

Right now just as the sun is climbing its perch to scorch our city, I was taking in the 71 degrees and allowing my legs to burn off some energy and get my blood circulating freely.  My lungs were inviting me to stretch their capacity.  Keeping ahead of all of the physical limits was my smoothly beating heart.

Houston never allows a July morning to be anything but predictable.  Humidity was stripping away the ease to breathe and feel cool.  Sticky weather was starting to fill up every cubic foot of air space.

Sweat was pouring down my face.  It dripped off of my chin soaking my helmet strap.  A good spot lay ahead and I paused to rehydrate.

Now, the sun was making its grand appearance.  It was a welcome sight this early in the morning.  The quiet pool reflected the light and enhanced the beauty of trees, shadows and puddles in the pond made by hungry fish looking for breakfast.

Tranquility and peace marked this stop.  Cool water reinvigorated my tired body.  But, this was home, my neighborhood.

A smile crept across my face.  For a brief moment, although surrounded by thousands of neighbors and even more commuters getting ready to flood the streets, I was alone.  Serenity was mine to claim and I was relishing in the thrill.

I climbed aboard my road bike, wiped the sweat from my brow, checked my time and knew that I could easily make it home for a shower and then the commute to the office.  God had reminded me that when I take a moment to reflect a His good Word that I had read before my ride, let Him hear my personal worship on the road and relished in what He would privilege me in doing in the hours ahead, then the day, even a Monday, was going to be a grand day.  Do you like Mondays?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderThousands of visitors crowded on to the grounds that served as the entryway to one of the Northwest’s most popular tourist destinations: Multnomah Falls.  East of Portland, the city of many bridges, “Rip City”, “Little San Francisco” or other popular monikers, roughly forty minutes down the beautiful Interstate 84, there is a left exit to the parking lot.

It was time to do what we did when we lived in Oregon for twenty years.  Natural shade and misting waters from cold waterfalls popped into our minds.  The drive was fast, short and easy.  Just like many visits when we were locals, now we repeated the familiar journey as tourists.

When we emerged from the pedestrian tunnel, clearly this idea to escape the city heat was shared by many people.  Every piece of shade was crowded with people clutching snow cones, ice cream and heavily iced beverages.  The creek that followed the trail had little children splashing in the clear shallow refreshing water.

But, the real draw is beyond people.  People-watching is fun but something far more fascinating is waiting for any and all who stop at this destination.  Drinking in the natural beauty of this “wide-spot on the road” is beyond memorable.

The sound of water crashing after a tall drop telegraphs the presence of a water feature.  When God carved out the steep cliffs of this mountain side, He knew He was creating a chance for many waterfalls to be formed.  He really took some extra time to make this place special.

My steps on the main trail stopped. I looked up and saw the falls through the trees.  Wonderful!

Cradled in the Douglas Fir trees, the mighty Multnomah Falls sent thousands of gallons of water pouring over the cliff.  The cascading water takes two jumps.  The first step is a 542 foot drop while the second is 69 feet.

Statistics aside, these falls always bring relief from the unrelenting heat of the summer days.  The sun takes its toll on uncovered heads, but if a pilgrim finishes the short walk into the shade of the forest, the cool mist from the never-ending falls feels like a refreshment from the heavens.  The power of gravity and the thunderous sound of crashing waters adds to the wonder of this special place.  Relief and refreshment from this divinely creative design has blessed many heat weary traveler.

Do you have favorite spots to escape the heat?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2958My life has officially registered decades of revolutions around the sun.  In the my mind I am experienced with life and wise to a shyster.  My heart is guarded, calloused from the past episodes of friction from undesirable lives.

Yet, in the presence of an innocent life, I am shockingly vulnerable.  She cannot even utter a single syllable that is understandable.  There is no talent or skill or knowledge that would endear her to my field of expertise.

Any sound that she makes is unintelligible.  When I speak to her she shows no interest or awareness of what I am saying.  She has no connection with titles, position, education or achievement.

No, this is not a case of disrespect.  There is no arrogance on her part.  Nor does she hold to a contrasting political or values position.

She is my granddaughter.  This summer she was born and as I held her in my arms she was a mere two weeks old.  That is a legitimate reason for her detachment from any words that I was using.

Nevertheless, while she not winning any debate or nudging me off-balance with her arguments or mesmerizing me with a well-formed speeches she did already have me wrapped around her little finger.  Maybe it is a good thing that she was able to utter a conversation that was understandable. Whatever she could have or would have asked I would have granted it or worked to make it happen.  That is the power of love, a love that melts the heart of a grandfather.

Her older brother is two years old.  He was the first newborn that competed for my heart and won it easily as well.  Now, he is old enough to affectionately hug me, run into my arms and cuddle with me when he wants a moment.  He prepared me for the “Grandparent-effect”.

I wondered when I held him in my arms as I am still wondering while I hold his sister in my arms.  How is it that I can melt into a love bonding so fast, so deeply with a human being with whom I have not even had one single understandable conversation?

It is inexplicable.  This is a phenomenon that defies explanation or reason.  Yet, I love it, embrace it and completely welcome it into my life.

Are you blessed with such innocent love?  Have you ever tried to explain it but given up and just surrendered to it?  Is it so wonderful forever?

photo credit: fong-bailey cellphone photography

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