You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2011.

Sunday is a day for church.  It’s the first day of the week and we honor our Lord with worship.  For our family it is a habit of life and a delightful routine that we all love.

Our daughter and son-in-law have found a church home.  We joined them to experience the excitement with them.  It’s an unusual name for a church but a very memorable name.

The name is actually Latin.  How weird is that?  It means Image of God.

When were getting ready we talked about the normal dress code.  We are adaptable and will do what we should do when we are in Rome. 

My son-in-law reflected that he would be wearing shorts and a shirt.  That sounded wonderfully relaxing to me.  So, I joined him and went very casual.

Nearly a thousand filed into the auditorium with us.  Many stopped to picked up a cup of coffee on their way in.  Smiles abounded.

The gathering place is a horseshoe shape.  All of the seats wrapped around the stage.  Musicians climbed the stairs on to the stage as they showed up.  There was no formal entrance of the whole group at once.

There was a mixture of electric and acoustic instruments.  The music was mellow, understated so as to draw worshippers into their own expression.  I was moved.

The speaker delivered a thoughtful message from Acts 2.  He explained the Scriptures and applied them witha personal challenge to all of us.  That was followed by a climax with observing the Lord’s Table, Communion.

After we were dismissed old friends came over and greeted us.  It was fun to enjoy a long overdue reunion, catch-up with blessed lives and hear of faith adventures.  Worship was a sheer delight.

Then seven of us went out to lunch.  Healthy brunch with vegetarian selections enhanced great conversation.  It is a wonder how the channel of intercession could get any busier as we lift up good friends and family before the throne of grace.

We relaxed with a new release movie.  It’s a family tradition that is always fun.  We love the adventure of a great story on the silver screen.

Day 7 ended with an amazing rendezvous.  Great friends gathered for a meal at a local eatery.  I lost count of how many came.

But, the years of friendship represented by these faithful colleagues.  Our families have grown.  Each of our lives have been marked with blessing.

photo credit: family portrait


We slept in on Saturday.  It felt good to get up when we wanted to greet the new day.  I felt rested and eager to begin our day’s adventures at a very late 6:12AM.

Yes, I was up blogging.  I want to keep the memories alive by composing into words what life experiences we had tucked away in our vulnerable human memories.  Personal photos sharpened up what was already fading in our relaxed time away from work.

Today we put on our hiking gear.  Our goal was to put foot to trail in the Lava Valley on the SE side of Mt. St. Helen.  This beautiful gorge with a racing cavernous waterway was unknown before the mountain blew its stack. 

Hot gases and mudslides shaved the earth above an underground river.  Now, what was previously unknown was revealed for all to enjoy.  Examples of volcanic and water erosion throws a variety of scenic features for the curious hiker to photograph and test the extent of their wonder.

The path descends down gentle switchbacks.  Warning signs great you at the trail head.  Fatalities have already been registered by people who left the trail, fell over cliffs and drowned in the rapid water falls below. 

We regard the cautions as obedient citizens.  There is plenty to see along the way.  Massive rock formations form the perfect backdrops for photos.

Vistas give us pause to enjoy the expanse of the valley ahead.  They also amplify the rush waters in the narrow river below.  White water smashes against massive rock formations, pool in deep holes then cascade in great volumes over cliffs to the next level below.

This hike is filled with both splendor and gentleness along the way.  Blue skies give the evergreen trees a contrast in colors.  But, the bright sun keeps threatening to drive the temperatures up higher and higher.

Beads of sweat are already dripping down my collar.  Temperatures fluctuate broadly between the trail in the open and sections covered by the shade of forests that claim the sides of the mountains.  It is all very inspiring.

The highlight of our hike comes at the furthest end of the loop.  It is a foot suspension bridge going across the valley.  I volunteer to go first. 

I call it a wiggle bridge.  It bounces with every step.  There was some swaying too.  I liked it.  So few get to enjoy this spectacular area; it is worth the hike.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Travel days on a vacation road trip can’t be avoided.  Getting from point A to point B are required.  But, they can be enjoyable too.

For us the 5 plus hour journey to Portland was a highlight.  That was are farthest destination north on this trip.  Our daughter and son-in-law live there.

But, there are more lives in the NW that spark our interest.  We have a bit of an extended family in that largest city of the Beaver State.  There is more than blood that connects; love has knitted our hearts together as real family.

So we shift from natural wonders to delightful fellowship.  Laughter emerges as we reminisce with those who are close to us.  We share matters of the highest level of intercession.

Lives that began a parallel course decades ago keep fueling that amazing phenomena of joy and family.  Can you love someone who is not blood so much that you simply acknowledge what is true, you are family.  That’s how close we are to some, a very select few who mean that much to us.

With the notion of family comes loyalty, faithfulness, devotion, celebration, shared life moments, dreams, hopes and longings.  From meal to meal we meet with special lives that mean that much to us.  They always will mean that much to us.

Social mores will not commonly approve of this kind of musing.  But, we arrange our family by sovereign design.  That is the beauty of real family.

God gave us that the word fellowship.  It is more than a party spirit.  This connective tissue of life and love is resilient, a product of an attachment that is true.  Since it is real, acquiescing to its presence leads to a joy in life that is a glimpse of what heaven in eternity will be like. 

Do you have earthly connections that are this tight?  Can you pick up fellowship after long spells of absence as if you had never been apart?  Does interest in each other’s lives grope for news, moments of rejoicing and longing when an embrace, a handshake filled with meaning and a realization that food was just an excuse?  The wonders of creation have been spectacular.  Whether it is a vast natural marvel or a hidden underground treasure, they are mere distractions on the way to lives that mean the world to us.  God’s greatest gift to us is life.  This is a genuine unending joy.

photo credit: brucefong photography

The midmorning atmosphere promised to be warm.  Meteorologists had posted a forecast of temperatures in the low 90’s.  For us San Franciscans, that is very hot.

Providentially, this 3rd day of our Oregon Adventure would be taking us into the soul of the earth.  The Oregon Caves was on our schedule.  This national monument would lead us under ground to a depth of over 200 feet.

The good news is that the temperatures of the cave plummet to the low 40’s.  That means we will be taking a couple of layers of clothes with us.  It beats sweltering in the blazing sun on the surface.

Our guide was humorous and informative.  He had us laughing , guessing and enjoying ourselves.  My geology class of yesteryear found someone to awaken that knowledge that had been long placed on a shelf.

We were surrounded by tight quarters, different kinds of rock and stunning formations.  The national park service had dependable lights wired along the tour.  Concrete pathways led us from chamber to chamber. 

God’s finger of creation etched itself into remarkable beauty along the way.  Stalactites and stalagmites were growing before our tourist eyes, one inch every thousand years.  It is a marvel for surface dwellers to catch a glimpse of this “life” underground. 

A long ago adventure of a hunter, his dog and an angry black bear began our tour.  This yarn kept unfolding as our guide wove it in and out with the geology lessons of the day.   

We edged our way through tight passages, ducked below rock outcroppings that were very unforgiving to soft heads, and marvelled whenever we entered a room that the Creator carved out of stone with the simple tool of running water.  There is something to be said about the patience of an artist who carefully reveals the remarkable beauty rock art.  This is an out-of-the-way place but worth the effort for an amazing show.

Maybe it’s the newness of our surroundings but our guide gave us notifications on our progress.  He told us when we were at the “point of no return.”  During our tour he told us when we were at the half way point, the lowest point on the tour, how much time we had left as we neared the conclusion of our visit.  It all gave us surface dwellers comfort that while the darkness welcomed us in it was just a matter of time before we were released back into the light.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Klamath Falls faded into the background of our rearview mirror.  The road ahead was clearly marked.  Crater Lake was our destination.

We skirted the shoreline of the Klamath Lake.  Slow 18 wheelers made the morning journey agonizingly sluggish.  But, a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast made up for the typical two lane highway snail pace.

Not far out of the city, the trucks kept going North and we peeled off to the West.  It was time to climb the mountains and head into Crater Lake National Forest.  Lush forests were appearing all around us.

Just before we were engulfed in the armies of pines, cedars and aspen trees a massive valley opened up.  Like a carpet of rich pastures, large herds of cattle and horses and perimeter walls of mountains standing like guardians to the flat lands I marvelled at the vast fertile lands around me.  This was a stunning introduction to the sights that were awaiting us just on the ridge top above.

At the visitors center we jumped in to see an introductory movie about the park.  I love taking advantage of these informative clips.  It gives me a heads up on how to enjoy the best of the highlights.

The ranger recommended that we head to the small visitors centers just passed the Rim Shopping Center.  A trail leads down to an observation point.  She promised that we would get some of the best picture opportunities from that site.

We wound our way to the rim route and turned right.  We parked the car and walked up to the rail overlooking Crater Lake.  It was spectacular.

The depth of blue in the water was stunning.  It was even better than Disneyland’s theme park man-made lakes.  The name of this national treasure was perfect.

It looked like the aftermath of a crater made by a massive meteor strike.  Yes, the collapsing volcano was the real culprit but the image of the name speaks volumes.  Steep walls surround the pristine lake of uncommercialized visual clutter.

This was wilderness ideally preserved for people to enjoy together.  Those in our past who had the foresight to make this reserve possible have the unending gratitude of us all.  It is an unforgettable experience.

Filled with images in our minds and cameras, we made the two-hour drive to our Rogue River hotel.  Through tubes of forest canopy highways, we smiled with our AC room.  Outside it was 93 degrees.  Ah, shower, sleep and rest.

photo credit: brucefong photography

We finished a wonderful day 1 on our Oregon adventure.  After a few glitches with our GPS and wandering around in Klamath Falls we found our hotel.  Sight unseen and internet information only I had booked a place by faith. 

Have you ever had the fun of trusting the providence of God with the best decision-making experience from your past?  This was one of those times.  Yvonne and I kept looking and wondering, is that the place?
“Oh, good, that’s not it.” 
“Hey, maybe that’s it!”
“Nope, that’s a bowling alley.” 
“Hmm…what’s that address again?” 
“Should we ask for directions?”
“There it is! Eureka!  We found it.  Wow, that looks very nice.”

We checked in, got settled and realized that we were very hungry.  To find a place we cruised the main thorough fare.  Automatically, we crossed all of the “fast food places” off the possibilities. 

 A restaurant flashed a sign that immediate seating was available.  There were a lot of cars outside.  The eatery advertised BBQ and steaks.  I had a strong pull and Yvonne agreed.    

When we sat down I felt the ease of a body tired from hours of driving to enjoy the relaxation of the moment.  Our waitress was friendly and helped us identify their premier dishes.  Next, a spiritual awakening occurred.

I am a huge fan of BBQ beef ribs.  Sure, I like pork ribs too, but beef ribs are not a common offering.  But, there they were on the menu and highly recommended by our waitress.

Explaining the physical, spiritual and psychological  rejuvenation is not possible with mere human words. Instead, it was a touch of providence that blessed our first day of vacation.  My order was sealed.

We waited for our food with pleasant conversation, rehearsing our days adventures.  But, I talked and listened only to contain my mouth from watering in anticipation of tonight’s special treat. To our surprise and our waitresses, the food arrived swiftly and the aroma alone made me smile.

The sight of BBQ beef ribs is a feast for the eyes as well as for the palate.  Like connoiseur of beef, this delivery is as much common art as it is culinary experience.  No, I’m not exaggerating.

My memories of this meal are fixed.  The first taste was as delightful as the last.  Yvonne laughed at my face full of BBQ sauce and accented with a huge smile.

photo credit: brucefong photography

We stayed at my sister’s place.  That is where we begin our vacation.  We have a vague timetable for our time off from work.

Four days will occupy our attention until our first engagement with our daughter and close Portland friends.  Our planning is easy just so that we relax and slow down our normal high-speed pace.  On day 1 we will head toward Klamath Falls, OR.  To get there we might stop at Bernie Falls, Lava Flow National Monument and Tule Lake.

To get there we will need a good night’s sleep after a long day of preaching.  Opening up the Scriptures and feeding His flock is a passion of mine.  But, it is physically demanding.

Yvonne and I were discussing how much we have been looking forward to this trip.  That’s unusual for us since we can’t remember when we last took two weeks in succession for a vacation.  I admit that I did bring some work with me.  Bad!

Of course I will attempt to keep my blog queue flowing with words describing this part of our spiritual pilgrimage.  It helps my memory.  Details fade quickly when I don’t put them down in a composition for posterity.

Our car has been serviced by our faithful mechanic.  That part of the journey is one that I have great confidence.  Furthermore, our trusty car is filled with snacks, cooler with cold beverages and a GPS to get us from here to there.

I have done something unusual.  The hotels that we need along the way have all been contacted, they have received my money and now a room awaits us at key stops along the way.  It’s no fun being on a trip and not having a place to spend the night.

When we left the house after church, I ran back into the house because I remembered something that I wanted to bring.  It happened so many times that I was laughing out loud at myself during my last run into the house.   My memory is as sharp as a blunt pencil.

But, in earnest we start driving in the morning.  We don’t have an ETD.  After all, we are on vacation.  The route for our trip is more general than it is specific.  That’s what vacations are all about, right?

Time will fly by as we journey from one stop to the next.  But, I hope that my spirit will be rejuvenated along the way.  That’s what vacations do, right?

photo credit: brucefong photography

Our home was prepared to welcome our evening company.  It has been months of trying to find a common date for all eight of us.  We protected this date.

The carpet was happy and clean.  Yvonne and I shared in picking up our stuff.  She dusted and I moved furniture.

She happily arranged the food for the night.  I carried our portable BBQ grill from the garage to the backyard.  Then, I lugged the propane tank over the same route.

Then, while Yvonne plied her culinary skills in the kitchen I set the table.  I had to un-set it when Yvonne saw me putting out paper plates and plastic ware.  She laughed at me and directed me to put out the stoneware instead.

The door bell rang.  Laughter and fun began right away.  Our little grill fired up right away.  The sizzle and aroma wafted through the house, making us all very hungry.

For many more times the doorbell rang.  Each time happy guests came in, increased the decibel level and gave us more reasons to laugh.  We laid our dishes on the table, decorating it with the fare for the evening.

We billed the evening as a pot-providence meal.  Everyone could bring whatever they wanted and we would simply trust God, thanking Him for the result. 

It was to sit down.  Everyone grabbed a seat.  Someone then announced what we had all observed.  Everyone had brought a meat dish!

This was a meal that would make any MAN grin.  There was pork, chicken, lamb and beef.  The chicken came in three different flavors.  All were delicious.

To be fair Yvonne and I added canned corn to the piles of meat.  It was consumed completely.  We all joked at the absence of the color green.

Of course several people simultaneously pointed to the green peppers that were a part of the kabobs.  We were soothing our oversight.  That’s when I pointed out that we had plenty of variety in our anticipated dessert.

Dessert had plenty of variety.  We had strawberry cheese cake.  To that we also had apple pie. 

Who can have pie without ice cream?  In addition we had almond jello and oatmeal laced cookies.  Surely, there was some kind of balance in this feast.

Food aside Yvonne and I love this staff.  We enjoy the ease of conversation, the natural discussion of dreams and the openness that we share with each other.  Too much fun!

photo credit: google image

My ride swings by to pick me up at 6AM.  It’s a late start but it works for everyone else.  The sun won’t be up yet but a dozen of us guys will be raring to go.

We are going fishing.  The Pacific Ocean has a cluster of rock fish just waiting to accept our invitation to dinner.  Our rendezvous point is the harbor in Half Moon Bay.

Each of us is to bring our own tackle.  That consists of a pair of shrimp flies.  They are colorful lures made of feathers, plastic and thread. 

There are customarily two flies per set.  This is a length of fishing line about 15 inches long.  It has a loop on one end and a snap swivel on the other end.

The loop attaches to the fishing rod line.  An 8 ounce weight is connected to the snap swivel.  It’s most effective when live bait is attached to each of the flies.  Both the movement of the bait, the smell of the bait and the color of the flies are a great means to attract fish. 

We are going out with an experienced Captain.  He knows where the fish are congregating.  When tells us to drop our lines, it will be the beginning of eager anticipation.

Before that happens, I must get my tackle ready.  All that I need must be compact and easy to carry.  Each piece of equipment is tested and prepared for that moment to haul in the catch.

My clothes are versatile.  It will be wet out there.  The ocean always has a way of baptizing the seafarers. 

I will bring two rods.  One is a spinning reel on a medium weight rod.  It is fun to fight a big fish on that rig.

Then, I will bring a heft rod with a level wind Penn reel.  That one will bring the bruisers.  To start I will use the light weight set up.

With a sensitive rod tip I can tell if I get a hit much better than on the stiff rod.  The strikes are definitive and my reaction time can be timed perfectly to bring home the evening meal.

Most important of all is my scop patch.  It will keep me from getting too sick on the rolling waters of the Mighty Sea.  Gotta keep fishing.

Everything is together on the garage floor.  I can grab it and go in the AM.  This is going to be fun!

photo credit: google image

My vocational transition has taken me from one challenge after the next.  One of the most disheartening ones was the need to sell our Michgian house.  God was taking us to the Left Coast, that required us to unload our house in the mitten state.

With little time and limited financial resources I interviewed a few Real Estate agents.  One of the agents came with a very impressive visual presentation.  He had a number of recently sold homes, homes that are currently on the market, and he had pictures, data, and comparisons to introduce me to the current market struggle. 

This introduction into the real estate market was a reality that was even worse than my annual medical physical exam.  There are no easy ways to see all of your financial investments from that last thirty years evaporate in less than an hour’s time.  It was all bad news.

We have all heard of sticker shock when we are in the market to buy a new automobile.  This is just the opposite of that kind of experience.  Here it is not just a matter of not being able to purchase a house.  This is a scary moment when we sell our house but have to pay extra to unload it.  There is no profit in the current depressed market.

My story is sad enough.  But, after talking to several agents the stories in just our neighborhood are even more disastrous.  Several of my neighbors had ended up in an upside down financial mode, realized that their homes were worth far less than what they owed.  For them it forced them to simply walk away from the homes of many family memories.

My wife and I have cheered each other on through this difficult challenge in our lives.  We are packing, discarding, setting aside items to give away, and piling up stuff that we can’t quite yet decide what to do.  Many are facing this difficult struggle.

The great bottom of our world housing market has fallen.  Greedy people, bad people and evil people took advantage of good people for their own selfish gain.  But, while the timing was bad, it was a decision that needed to be done.

It was a choice between sickness and death.  The only other choice instead of a short sale was foreclosure.  For us that agonizing sale was painful, but it could have been a lot worse. 

photo credit: brucefong photography