You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2011.

My choice of bicycle rides is my road bike.  It is light weight, geared with a smooth shifting and derailer system.  There’s much about my road bike that I don’t like.

However, in the past month I have had two flat tires.  That is annoying.  Riding is severely hampered by having a flat tire. 

I haven’t fixed a flat tire on a bicycle since I was a youngster.  As an adult, I brought my bike in for a regular professional service and tune-up.  They had always advised me to have new tires with tubes installed at regular intervals.

But, now, I’m living on a budget.  It was do-it-yourself time.  Before I got started I checked my schedule, booked a time to work on the project and then watched a couple of YouTube videos on “How to fix a bicycle flat tire.”

One video shows the bike mechanic with the bicycle upside down.  The other one is right side up and there the mechanic said NOT to turn the bike upside down.  I put the bike sideways on the floor.

First, I was supposed to disconnect the brake.  That doesn’t work on my bike.  But, there is a lever that releases the brake pads so that the wheel passes through them.  I felt very good about that discovery all on my own.

Then, I shifted the gears to the smallest or highest speed on the rear gear cluster.  That would make the release of the chain easier.  It was!

Next, I pulled the quick release lever and the wheel came right off of the bike.  There was a great sense of accomplishment even though I hadn’t really done anything yet.  Nevertheless, successful moments are worth relishing!

All of the air was out of the tire.  I pulled out my tire levers.  They are a great little tool to break the bead from the tire rim.

Once the tension disappeared, I pushed one lever that lifted the entire side of the wheel off of the rim.  Now, I was able to pull the entire inner tube out.  The rest of the tire was easy to separate from the wheel.

I ran my thumbs along the inside of the tire.  With three rotations I was convinced that there was no sharp object that caused the flat.

Finally, I put it all back together with a new inner tube.  The repair was done.  Hey, poof…I’m a bicycle mechanic!

photo credit: google image



Wednesday is our normal staff meeting day. Recently, however, we replaced our normal staff meeting with an entire day dedicated to a staff retreat. Our objective, build stronger bonds with each other.

Together we made the two-hour journey South to the Redwoods along the Pacific Ocean. Rain clouds threatened. They finally soaked our retreat but not until we arrived and were safely indoors.

Like most people, we were polite to each other.  Soon we explored each other’s lives a little deeper.  It was fascinating!

Teasing started. Laughter followed. Silly actions fed the lowering of the walls.

Goofy actions made us chuckle. We joked. We posed for a photo that preserved the results of bonding.

We prayed, studied and reflected.  That led us to talk, explore, analyze and discuss.  With communication we grew closer together.

Team building is an art form.  It is impossible to force people to open up.  Trust is not something that can be forced, fabricated or demanded.

Instead, time and opportunity are measured out in generous forms.  Then, a large dose of patience and dependence on divine provision work out what our objective desires.

We began with worship.  There is something about singing words that reflect the soul of each one that draws us together.  The Spirit stirs the new life that lives in each of us.

Then, we hear a devotional thought that gets our minds reflecting.  Prayer gives us a chance to all enter into the world of what is spiritual. 

We took a respite from our brain stretches.  It was time for lunch.  Everyone wondered what kind of food we would enjoy. 

A quick climb up a single flight of stairs answered our curiosities.  Two tables were set for us to enjoy our meal.  On the serving table we roast beef sandwiches with bountiful servings of beef.

Then, there was au jus for dipping, french fries for munching and an amazing seafood salad that was amazing.  Dessert was selection of sumptuous cookies.  Fresh fruit was available too.

After lunch and a quick walk we began the meat of our purpose.  We all took a spiritual gift assessment inventory.  Together we contemplated that amazing combination of talent that God had put together in our team. 

As darkness fell and our familiarity with each other had grown, we headed back home.  Memories of a day together are now sealed.  We are more of team than we were 12 hours earlier.

photo credit: brucefong photography

There is a photo opportunity for everyone who visits Universal Studios Hollywood.  It is the planet just outside of the main  entrance.  This landmark has sparked more smiles in every possible language of the world.

Opening time was 10:00AM.  We had 30 minutes before the magic hour.  We had time to visit some of the shops outside of the gates, snap a few pictures and study the map for our debut visit.  Movies are a big part of our family entertainment.

So much of my life is wrapped up in story-telling.  Today and in days-gone-by, some of the very best story tellers have been the movie makers here at Universal Studios.

Outside of the park the posters of classic pictures produced by this famed studio lot are legendary.  Some of my favorites: E.T., Apollo 13,  Jurassic Park, K-Pax, The Bourne Identity, Tokyo Drift, The Bourne Supremacy and more.  Connecting to the production side of these great stories fascinated me.

My on-line searches gave me a clue.  There were several previews of hit movies from the past that weren’t favorites on my list, nevertheless, they were blockbuster movies in the industry.  King Kong wasn’t a favorite but it was such an epic production, that it is a showpiece of the theme park ads.

Jaws was not a favorite either on my list. But, it was an early promise of Spielberg’s movie-making potential.  Every highlight that I have been viewing on the internet makes this a star attraction.

The Mummy wasn’t a favorite of mine either.  Yet, it is one of the featured rides at Universal Studios.  It promises to be a quick, fun roller coaster thriller. 

Water World wasn’t on my list of movies that I chose as past favorites.  But, the show is an anchor in the theme park.  I am looking forward to seeing the stunts, action and live performance.

For now, we were ready to meet our guide.  She brought us to our morning brunch.  Surrounding us were other guests: from around the world and the Western half of the USA.

When we stepped out of the parking lot, we were thrust into a menagerie of neon signs, shops, restaurants, chic displays and a monstrous guitar that caught my eye.  It was all very fun.  The anticipation of loud noises and crowds of people seemed to be an accurate picture of what was to come.  I looked forward to entering this entertainment bastion for the very first time.

photo credit: brucefong photography

“Come on, Cooper, give Grandpa a smile!” 


“Aw, you’re still not holding it against me, are you?  I was just goofing around when I threw you in the pool.  Besides, that was four years ago.  Aren’t you ever going to let that go?”


“What a poor sport.  Cooper, the water snakes were so slow.  You out-swam them easily.”


“Well, I didn’t know that the alligator was sneaking up on you.  Besides, it only got a little bit of your tail.  It looks fine now, except for that little crooked part in the middle.”


“Oh sheesh! If you keep on frowning like that your face is going to freeze that way.”


“Yes, it’s a scientific fact.  My mother told me that many times when I was growing up.”


“Just try to look cheerful.  What starts in your mind travels to your heart and pops up out of your face.”

“lick, smack, lick”

“There you go, Cooper.  I knew that you had it in you.  Yeah, there you go, boy.  Look happy and life will be happy.”


“Yup, people haven’t learned that little lesson, yet.  Cheerfulness is a choice.  If you can’t change the circumstances, then don’t let what you can’t change but a cramp in your style.  God’s providence is in charge.  We can trust Him to do what is best for us.”


“Atta boy, Coop.  Now, you’re starting to sound more like you should.  Chill, Dude!  Might as well take life as the Good Lord gives it to us.  Do the best you can and keep on doing it with excellence in mind.  Let God handle the results.”

“Besides, we’re into giving Him all the credit so we might as well REALLY leave it in His hands.  When we worry and fret, we are taking responsibilities that God NEVER intended for us to have.”


“I’m glad that you are starting to see it too.  God wants us to enjoy this life.  He gave us life as a gift.  He alone gives it and takes it away.”


“Well, I’ll take care of you.  Or at least my Just and Bre will.  Then, God takes care of them.  It’s one big cycle of Providence.  This is called first and second cause.  It’s all sort of philosophical but it makes perfect sense.”

“No more growling, now.  Let’s play another game.  Come on, Cooper, let’s go down and play by the pool.”


photo credit: brucefong photography

The human mind is an amazing machine that processes data, stores information, assesses details and anticipates possibilities.  But, as amazing as it is, it forgets.  Our memory has its limits.

Paul utilizes the need for reminders with the  most important truth to Christians, namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Corinthian believers heard the Gospel preached to them.  That is how they came to faith that transformed them.

Furthermore, these believers have been living their Christian life firmly built upon convictions that embrace this same truth.  This “gospel” is the basis of personal eternal salvation.  However, it requires a faith that is committed.

This gospel is described in detail.  It begins with Christ’s death for our sins.  The Scriptures are consistent with this historic event.  In addition the burial of Jesus is listed as a part of this good news. 

Then, also in accordance with Scripture, Jesus was raised from the dead.  This occurred in history on the third day after His death.  Peter, the twelve and five hundred others saw the Resurrected Jesus.  More witnesses testify to the historical Resurrection.  This includes James, the apostles and to Paul.

It should be noted that the veracity of the historic Gospel is comprised to two momentous elements.  They are the death for sin and the Resurrection of Jesus.  The truth of the burial and eyewitness accounts serve as a validation of the two featured parts of the Gospel.

Paul injects his humble assessment of his status.  He modestly admits that he is not on the same level as the apostles who walked with Jesus.  Instead, he sees his birth as a unique in its timing.

The testimony of Paul is his history of persecuting the church of God.  It was only by God’s grace that Paul accepts his new identity.  This is in fact a showcase of how powerful the Gospel is; it can transform the worst.

Contrast, nevertheless, has a remarkable potential.  As bad as Paul was, he reverses his life because of the transformation of the Gospel.  Now, he works harder than others in his service to the King. 

Paul’s service is not personally generated.  Rather, just like his salvation,  God’s grace is the difference in his life.  As far as Paul was into the dark world of being a persecutor, he praises the grace of God that has transformed him into an ardent advocate and preacher of the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus Christ.  It is worth anyone’s personal faith.

1 corinthians 15.1-11

photo credit: google image

Today I did not set my alarm. After all, I’m on vacation. At the very least this is one of those times during the year when I can enjoy “a bit of a lie-in”, as my Scottish friends are fond of saying.

Ahead of me lay a six-plus-hour drive. Most of the trip is not enjoyable. If the drive were appealing then it would be a different story.

This is a one-day drive. At least we are not on the road for days on end. There was a day in my distant youth when I enjoyed driving.

Yeah, I admit it. When I was young long drives on multiple days was not a problem for me. I liked it. But, things have changed over the years.

Now, the destination is more important than the journey. Poo on the old adage “It’s not the destination, but it’s the journey.” I love that philosophy as long as I’m not having to drive a car.

Wait! Rewind! If the journey is through beautiful country, I’m game. But, if it is through desolate, boring and extremely HOT arid terrain, I’m open for other options.

This trip is to see our son and daughter-in-law. So, the destination is well worth the process of getting there. Behind the wheel we set out on our journey.

First, we need to safely escape the Bay Area. Congested traffic through the busy freeway of the Southern Peninsula are our first challenge. We make it through unscathed.

But, before the day wears on too long, I call for our on-board attendant. She fixes me a custom beverage: Dr. Pepper in a cool bottle to quench my thirst.

Next, there are the honey-roasted nuts to munch on while washing them down with my specialized soft drink. These nuts are yummy. Whoever came up with the recipe of honey roasted nuts hit on a winner.

Then, it was time to try a new selection. Jerky is not new to us. But, the pepper blend is too spicy for me. Teryaki is our prefered blend.

In the past we have tried beef and turkey. Both are fine. They keep your jaws churning and that keeps your mind off the mundane part of driving.

Now, the tricks are starting to wane. The terrain is becoming barren, boring, redundant and tiring. Turn up the radio, turn up the AC and start singing every song that I know. God, “Are we there yet?”

photo credit: google image

Suddenly everything will stop.  The work, the appointments, the studying, the phone calls and the meetings will come to an end.  It will be time for our first vacation!

Life has been tiring.  I love doing what I do but the body is in need for a recharging.  It will rev me up for another run at the ministry that God has called me to do.

This vacation is one that I am looking forward to with relish.  It’s time to visit our son and daughter-in-law.  They live in SoCal.

We will have fun times with food, fellowship and memory-making.  There  will be stuff for us to laugh at, restaurants to visit and shows to see.  But, more than anything it will just be fun to get together.

Universal Studios is on our agenda.  This will be a first for me.  While it is a major destination for so many, I have never made it to this theme park. 

Movies are a big thing to our family.  Some times our tastes in movies vary from each other but still movies are a favorite source of entertainment.  This means that seeing the behind the scenes at Universal Studios will be fascinating for us.

Animations don’t rate real high for us.  But, the characters do.  I’m eager to say, “So that’s how they do that.”

We checked out the options on-line and chose the “go to the head of the line” ticket.  Yup, we don’t enjoy the long lines in theme parks.  This expeditious way to enjoy a vacation is a great choice in my book.

Food will be a big part of our vacation.  There are endless restaurants in SoCal that we need to explore.  It’s time to feast.

Knoxberry Farm might make it on our list.  I have fond memories there as a child.  Visiting there will be for old time’s sake. 

Neither Yvonne nor I are big fans of wild rides.  But, we love to take in the shows.  We love to watch performers do their professional entertainment routines. 

My Kindle will come along on this trip.  I have a few novels to read.  Yeah, I may never get to them but there is always hope.

There’s always room for my camera.  Maybe a few shots here and there will fill up a memory card or two.  I should bring one of my digital camera books to read on the trip and learn some photo techniques.

photo credit: google image

My life is surrounded by the city.  But, for a while I put that world on hold and went back into the woods.  There I recaptured a part of the world that I love.

The road in was winding, steep and often narrow.  It was surrounded by hills, streams and meadows.  Occasional signage on the road promised that civilization lay ahead.

Most of the time I kept my eyes on the ever-changing road ahead of me.  But, there were moments when the road straightened out and gave me a chance to drink in the beauty of the rural region that was pushing man’s world into the background.  Now it was God’s creation that welcomed us for a respite from the busyness of life.

After 45 minutes of winding through the country, a large stream caught my eye to the right.  That finger of water looked inviting.  Maybe it had fish in it.

Soon as the miles drifted underneath us, that stream turned into a wide inlet.  It was one of the coves of Lake Berryessa, our destination.  With steep embankments on both sides, the depth of the water had to be similar. 
After another 20 minutes we were on the water.  Two boats launched.  Six of us were holding on to our hats as the 200HP motors sped our craft to points where the fish were concentrated.  A mere 10% of the water holds 90% of the fish. 

We approached the shoreline.  Our host taught us a technique as we fished for bass using plastic worms.  I gave it a try. 

Cast after cast yielded nothing for me.  But, he caught one.  That encouraged us all.

Not long after the live well was baptized with a fish, I caught one.   It was exhilarating!  That tug on the line, the fight, the splashing, the violent yanking of the sensitive rod and finally, the scoop of the net lands a nice small mouth bass.

Our boat was starting to sing with success.  Another bass was landed, then another.  A salmon was added to the live well along with a bright lake trout.  Then, another bass was added.

This kind of success was exhilarating.  Smiles were all around.  A new technique and shared knowledge gave our boat more knowledge and great results.

The clock struck noon.  It was time for me to drive home.  Everyone else stayed.

My long drive home was satisfying.  The experience of the day was now a fond memory.  My return to the water in the woods will not be last.

photo credit: google image

My google maps gave me a snap shot of where I needed to drive. It was an unfamiliar part of town to me. But, that’s not unusual since I’ve only lived in San Francisco for a year.

Nevertheless, the adventure of seeing and old friend, meeting new ones and joining in a discussion of high interest to me was all very scintillating. It wasn’t easy to protect this time. There are a lot of very good demands on my schedule, it’s just a matter of finding the right balance to get them done.

My drive to this meeting gave me a chance to think. Over the past year there have been a number of outbursts of racial tension in the Bay Area that have caught my attention. They were in different part so town, reflected a varying set of circumstances but all were a result of friction between the Black African-American and Chinese communities.

One episode was the fatal beating of an older man by two older teens. It occurred in broad daylight on a busy street. For a while it dominated the news and was the buzz of talk shows.

In another episode an elderly woman was mugged as she was walking home after a long day at work. There was no physical contest between the assailant and the victim. It was just a brutal act of robbery and domination.

Also, during broad daylight a “tricked-out” car pulled up to a stop light. The driver his passenger gestured threateningly to the driver next to them. It was racially charged. Discretion by the accosted driver took over, he rolled his window up and ignored the juvenile antics and let the green light launch the angry lowlife to drive off laughing, leaving scratch and feeling like they did something worthy of life.

Like any big city there is crime here. Hatred, greed, selfishness, laziness, inferiority, ignorance and sin is at the root of many acts of crime. But, it doesn’t have to be the winner.

I sat around a table with nine others who want to make a difference in this city. Together we shared our experiences, dreams and hopes to make our diversity a positive for the people of San Francisco. In the name of our one Lord and one Savior, Jesus Christ, we want to reach out in love, mercy and hope. We believe.

photo credit: google image

The state of my birth, California, has fallen on very bad times.  No one in my home state are ignorant of the troubles that are surrounding us.  Most are just hoping for a turn-around.

Economic hits are all over the sunshine state.  Businesses have been steadily moving out to friendlier parts of our great nation.  With the loss of business is the loss of countless jobs.

When the jobs leave so does the talent.  Both experience and potential follow the jobs.  When the jobs leave along with the bright people who do those jobs, there is a steady drop in the revenue that runs the state.

Illegal immigration plays into the Golden State travail.  Many lives make it to the “Golden Mountain” with hopes of finding a better life.  Their numbers strain the public system, vie for political loyalties and divide reasonable people desperate for a solution both for freedom and sensibility.

All of these stresses fuel the crime problem.  While Silicon Valley keeps pumping out some amazing productivity and creativity the Central Valley leads the nation in vehicle grand larceny, home foreclosure and gang-related juvenile offenses.  Both extremes are here in the state of California.

Government agencies are running out of money to throw at the problem.  Law enforcement officers are doing double and triple watches as their numbers are dwindled by shrinking political revenue.  Pundits for political, special interests and social agencies are crying gloom and doom.

But, quietly, systematically and miraculously there are pockets of light in the darkness.  Men who have convictions firmly rooted in the truth beyond this earth are making a difference.  They gather openly and without fanfare to cheer each other on. 

These men form a remnant of sorts.  They still believe.  Men of like commitment and generosity live beyond their own comfort and channel their success to impact the cities that they call home.  Instead of blaming others they take responsibility themselves. 

I have met many of these men.  Together they gather with fresh ideas.  Creatively they take a bite that is reasonable for their time, energy and resources. 

By example they touch the lives of people at risk.  One by one they turn lives that are on the wrong path and they show them how to live significant lives.  Instead of chasing limited appetites or fallacious dreams, they set them on course to find true satisfaction.  Together they are doing something good and their prayers are being answered.

photo credit: google image.