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I have a new hat.  My kids sent me some money for Christmas and let me pick out my next lid.  It wasn’t a shopping spree, it was a major hunting adventure.

I stopped in at a couple of shops and took a look at what they had to offer.  Stetson is such a great hat company.  You can feel the quality from the moment you pick up one of their hats to the time it settles on your head.

But, I couldn’t find a style that I wanted to add to what I already had.  Then, something caught my eye.  It was a Stetson in the traditional Gambler’s style.

It looked fabulous.  The weight was good.  It was also made in a crushable felt material. 

When I put it on, it was too small.  The store didn’t have any other sizes.  All of the big sizes had already found noggins to keep warm.

Months went by as I casually took a look now and then.  The money was still unspent even though Christmas was months ago.  Suddenly, a whisper came to my ears.

“Bullhide” was what I heard.  “Styling” was also what I heard.  Then, I saw it. 

In the style of fatigued cowboy hat style, this lid was made from bullhide, tough, heavy, perfect.  Even the fragrance of manly leather called for me to take this cover piece home.  With two hands I settled it on my head. 

I was smiling when I went to look in a mirror.  It was the one!  After shaking my head to make sure that the fit was just right, I laid down the money that had been patiently waiting to spring loose a captive into the freedom of the Fongster’s crown.

I love my new hat.  My kids are terrific to let good ol’ dear dad have his stylistic liberties.  Keep your campfires burning brightly, your hospitality on the range open to weary travelers and your canteens filled with the freshest water that the Good LORD has rained down on earth for our refreshment.  Yehaw!

photo credit: brucefong cell phone photography


60 used to be a scary number.  No, if it is a speed limit, that is, mph, then it is too slow.  Nor if the number represents my number in a wait line for the local butcher, it’s boorish not scary.

However, 60 is frightening if this number represents a person’s age.  When I was a long way away from this number, I thought that it was equal to OLD.  Now, that is a scary idea!

In my youth I would gladly hop two stairs at a time.  Leaping up or down a stair case was the joy of locomotion for my early years.  Now, I bless the builders who decided how to measure steps to be similar and have a handrail along both sides of the staircase.

When 60 was a long ways away, I used to eat what I want and whenever good friends wanted to eat.  Fun was the name of the game in my youth.  Now, I thank the LORD for my meal filled with vegis, modest meat portions and supplemented by a variety of horse pills.

There was a time when my career was so busy that 60 seemed like it was off in the distance, separated by the matters of life that would never allow much thought about the later years.  Now, I’m well on the other side of the mountain.  Life is no longer a distant mystery but a real memory and a precious privilege each time the sun rises again.

No doubt that the youth the rush around me think that 60 is really old, as I did when I was their age.  But, now that I am there, it is NOT old.  Instead, it is an honor that the LORD has bequeathed to me the astounding honor of living for Him, teaching His Word, discipling His men and caring for my family.

My children are adults.  They make me very proud.  Each one is not a child to me but someone who has grown and matured into respected productive people. 

This year my bride and I will celebrate 35 years together.  We have made it through good times and bad.  Together we have deepened a devotion and love that defies explanation but clearly defines life.

60 is no longer scary.  Instead, it is a welcome moment to keep on with the richness of blessing.  His grace has been fabulous and at this age I feel outstanding!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

There are two words that airline travelers just do not like very much.  One is “Delayed” and the other is “Cancelled”.  When those very expensive Arrival and Departure boards announce one of these hiccups in someone’s schedule, there is an uproar in the crowds that populate the equivalent of a small city otherwise known as an international airport.

Today was one of those days of national travel that was one rousing “oh oh” after the next.  Everything went smoothly to get me away from the comforts of home, options to bail and return home or rent a car and head home.  Instead, once I was 1500 miles away from home waiting for a connecting flight the bad news started with a gate change.

A large number of humanity rose from their seats, all shared in a common suspicion worn on our faces and then we moved across the waiting room at another gate.  Soon another flight gate was changed.  That one too was just one gate away.  Someone whispered, “They’re giving our plane away to another flight.”

That plane left and our flight was announced as a “Delay.”  Hmm…the speculation around the waiting room went into high gear.  A senior lady was next to cussing under her breath. 

She whipped her head toward me and told me her troubles through an entire day of waiting and delays.  I humored her and she laughed. Then I listened some more.  Her cussing subsided and soon disappeared.

It’s telling when the agents behind the desk are stone faced and shaking their heads.  One of my neighbors gasped, “They cancelled our flight!”  She saw the news on her I-pad.

Without panic I rose from my seat and walked to the Customer Service counter.  There were only five people in front of me.  But, behind me there were over 40!

I was scheduled to be in Ft. Meyer, FL for a ministry beginning at dinner.  Instead, the airlines flew me to Charlotte, NC and there I had fast food.  Now, I’m waiting for another three hours to board a plane and hopefully land at my final destination just after midnight.

Patience, cheer and trust in God is the only way to travel.  People get grouchy all around me.  It would be easy to get swept up in the craziness but it is much more satisfying to find peace even in messed up circumstances in life.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

During breakfast at Cannon Beach, along the Oregon coast, we were all laughing at the table.  We all shared in common that we had left our rooms to make our way to the dining hall, then turned around and went to retrieve our rain jackets.  It was raining in Oregon.  Big surprise.

We adults were shrugging our shoulders in common experiential belief.  Afterall, there are only two kinds of weather in this Beaver State.  One is that it is raining.  The other is that it is raining some more.

Yes, the old saying is that Oregonians never die, they just rust away.  For those in Portland, the beauty is not the downtown skyline but Mt. Hood majestically standing in the Eastern horizon.  She is beautiful.

But, she is also practical as a weather barometer.  If you can’t see Mt. Hood it means that it is raining.  If you can see her, it means that it is about to rain.

Of this is more apocryphal than factual.  We Christians have a pass on complaining about the weather.  It is a release valve for the pressures of life.

The actually does shine in this state most suited for a vast quantities of ducks and other water fowl.  When it does, Oregonians relish it.  They celebrate it by closing their umbrellas, peeling off rain slickers and passing the sunblock.

Warm sunrays have a way of invigorating the soul.  Anxieties take a more realistic view.  The heart can slow its pace and the blood pressure can subside.

The smile that wants to erupt from our face finds an open invitation.  Soothing sounds of the ocean lapping on to shore crescendo and melt away anxieties.  Seagulls caw melodically into the brightening sky.

A single day of sun in Oregon makes everyone forget the countless days of rain that have preceded it.  What was once a seemingly endless series of precipitation have been set aside with a forgiving sun-soaking few hours that wins the vote of every tourist on the beaches and streets of Cannon Beach.

Behind us all is a full day of beach walks, surf splashing and sand castle building.  A wonderful meal, great worship and a concentrated time of being in the Word lead us all to the spectacular moment of all.

Throngs move toward the beach once more.  Total strangers stand shoulder to shoulder to ooh and ah at a common favorite event.  The sunset on the Oregon Coast is spectacular. 

photo credit: brucefong photography

We make it a habit to check the weather forecast before turning in for the day.  Here in San Francisco the meteorologists don’t have a lot to do.  At least they don’t have a lot to do from day-to-day that is very different from the day before.

Yup, from an atmospheric science perspective the weather here in the Bay is moderate, temperate and steady.  It doesn’t change much.  I laughed at the TV meteorologist the other day.

She announced that there was going to be a major temperature swing in the next day.  We would shift from a balmy 62 degrees down to 54.  That 8 degree drop in temperature was supposed get us braced for a winter blast.  Yah! It’s a tough life.

Now, just as it was forecasted we are in a rainy spell.  The storm that is blowing through dumped a lot of rain on our fair city.  The wind kicked up big time as well. 

I donned my parka.  It sheds water well.  Furthermore it has a warm fleece lining that keeps me comfortable.

From a selection of hats I chose myBailey felt gambler’s hat  with the custom Wyoming leather band.  This had will shed water without staining.  It will also bend with the wind so it won’t fly off doing the frisbee thing during most situations.

For lunch I left my office.  I zipped up my parka, tightened up my scarf and pulled my hat tightly over my head.  Then, I stepped into the weather.

It was blustery out there!  The wind sent in gusts that threatened to rip my hat off and send it into orbit.  Holding it on kept my head warm and dry.

My scarf took on a life of its own as it flapped in the breeze like a danger pennant.  Carefully, I crossed the street and made it into our neighborhood coffee shop for a break.  It was cozy warm and I enjoyed a breather to dry off and warm up before walking back with my take out lunch.

It’s a far cry from my winters in Michigan’s frigid Great Lakes snow storms.  We enjoy all year-long motorcycle riding weather, bicycle riding days that stretch long into the months that once only entertained ice fishing, snow mobiling and cross-country skiing.

It’s temperate here.  I love it.  But, I’ll pretend through occasional rain storms that we are suffering through winter.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

In my mind I rehearsed each phase of my Tuesday schedule. It was going to be a hairy journey but it was also filled with promise.  Chicago was my destination.

With a busy schedule my best choice was to fly into O’Hare, spend my day at a meeting, finish up my training and then hop back on a plane and head back home to San Francisco.  My Assistant, my smart phone would keep me on schedule and keep straight at each of my transition points.

First, I set my telephone alarm clock for an early morning wake up call.  She was precise and completely dependable.  Right at the appointed hour, she gently roused me from a deep sleep. 

Next, I grabbed all of my essentials for this day in the air.  Each of my electronic gizmos were charged and ready to keep me engaged during the long hours in the air and on the ground.  My phone had the details of destinations, contacts, options and connections stored on today’s date. 

It’s amazing that my travelling assistant never mixes up the facts, never injects opinions, never questions the arrangements, never forgets what she is assigned to do and never gets emotionally involved with the fast-paced life that I have to live.  All she requires is a little juice now and then to keep her charged up for the day.  She is also very slender and slips into any open space for storage without any cumbersome accommodations. Slick!

Long term parking made sense on this trip.  It would be just one day.  This was new to me but made for the perfect solution.

I have Fast Trax which provides my truck with tracking unit to charge my account with whatever services I happen to be using that day.  When I pulled into the parking garage, my Fast Trax beeped to my surprise.  The reader told me that I was now validated and welcome to enter, without a ticket.  Slick!

At check-in, a long line of people stood still in the switch back lane.  There were many kiosks that stood ready to check people in but no one budged.  I asked each one in order if they would like to use one of the empty self-serve check-in units, but they each said, “No.”

I had my pick of automated agents to register me into my flight.  Within a matter of minutes I had my boarding pass, put all of my clothes back on after security and even had time to do this blog.  Slick!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

First, there are spiritual priorities that should never be violated.  God gives to His children guidelines that help us protect ourselves from dangers and disqualification from His blessings.  If we are unaware, then we may make life changing errors.

The Scriptures are not telling believers to never be in partnership with unbelievers.  Instead, the message of 2 Corinthians points to having no mergers with false apostles.    At the heart of fellowship is a connection that must be consistent with what is most important to us, namely, righteousness.

Unbelievers are not the object of this prohibition.  Rather, the focus is on false teachers.  These are those who know better but do just the opposite. 

Light and darkness cannot contribute to each other.  The only influence is to take over or contaminate the other.  God dwells in us therefore we cannot be comfortable with false teachers who deliberate oppose the living the God.

Embracing God down to the deepest levels of our spiritual intimacy is enough to guide our good choices.  He watches over us and the decisions that He has led us to make.  God not only saves us He also keeps us safe.

We have a responsibility to choose according to His standard of righteousness.  It is not self-proclaimed human self-righteousness.  There are plenty of those kinds of people who feel above others in plucking out splinters. 

God has exclusive rights over His domain.  We who are in His domain, must glorify Him in all of our partnerships, choices and fellowship.  Choose to link up with those who are devoted followers of Jesus; they will make decisions according to His standard of the Word.

He will be our protective Father watching over our lives.  Enjoy the thrill of what connections with others living according to the truth.  It will be a thrilling ride!

2 corinthians 6.14-18

photo credit: brucefong photography

Since the mid 90’s I have made several forays into the history of Rwanda. The shocking genocide that bloodied that nation and its people is very difficult to understand. Each time I have felt a troubled spirit when trying to decipher how it happened and what could have prevented it.

In a period of three-month 800,000 people were murdered. Even in a country that was experiencing so much unrest and internal conflict, this massive killing was shocking. People who lived in the same neighborhoods, spoke the same language and lived according to a same culture turned on each other.

Mostly Hutus who were the majority of the people, they killed Tutsis, the minority group. I listened as one of the killers recounted his remorse of killing one of his neighbors while that man’s daughter looked on in horror. With clubs and machetes life was violently brought to an end because of political pressure that pushed class distinctions making it an issue of ethnicity.

But, the grace of God began the long road of healing. People who lost loved ones found community and hope in their faith. Prisoners who had done the killing were also given the message of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Overcrowding forced the nation to release 10’s of thousands of convicted murderers back into their communities. No one knew what would happen when the criminals met their victim’s families. Yet, those who brought the good news of Jesus were praying for a miracle.

One after the next found life in their faith. When the eyes of the killers met the eyes of their victims, there was a change. Lives that knew what God wanted them to do happened over time.

Peace has come to thousands. Forgiveness has wiped away the horror and restored joy. Communities are building together again.

The task is not yet done. Many still have to sort through their own bitterness and anger. It is not human to forgive; rather, it is divine.

But, the love of Jesus for all of us gives us a reason to be so gracious to those who have hurt us. Even our Lord forgave those who lied against Him, falsely accused Him and crucified Him. His love and forgiveness is our model. We can show the world what He has done for us as we do in kind to the world.

photo credit: brucefong photography

The weather report suggested that I might have a window of opportunity to be outdoors on my day-off.  That made me smile.  After a deep cleansing breath I made a mental check list in my mind of the things that I would do to fill up my day of rest and recreation.

Once my morning personal commitments were complete, I donned my bicycle riding gear.  The clouds of precipitation were promising to be else where in the country but the cool temperatures were still blanketing the coastline.  My cold weather riding pants would be perfect.

Sir Fuji, my road bike was already loaded in the back of my pickup truck.  Each of the two tires had been pumped up to 110# and felt as solid as a rock.  I was sure to be rolling tightly over the asphalt today.

There was more sunshine than clouds.  I liked that picture as I rolled into a convenient parking spot.  Fluffy clouds, my precise meteorological terminology, slid overhead.

I pushed off and felt the pedals settle into a cadence that would carry me for miles.  The gears shifted smoothly and again I reminded myself that the upgraded components on a bike were worth the extra cost.  Others ride further and faster, but, I ride for the exercise.

Then, a discovery brightened my day.  Barricades blocked the entrance to the Great Highway.  Of course that barrier is for cars.  My bicycle had no problem slipping through the steel gates.

This would be amazing to ride where usually only cars and motorized vehicles drove.  The view of the Pacific Ocean was breath-taking.  In addition the air was filled with the powerful sounds of the surf pounding the beaches.

My steady glide was eventually abruptly cut short.  Up ahead, sand drifts had stretched across the road.  I dismounted and portaged my bike in the air over the particles that love to grind away at bicycle parts.

Once that twenty-foot blockade was crossed it was time to mount up again.  My pedals were spinning, my lungs were filled with fresh sea air and no seagull could land a direct hit on my person.  It was a very good, spectacular and scintillating ride along the Grand Pacific.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Several years ago I rode with some great friends to a beautiful destination.  After a long hard ride, the hotel was a refreshing sight. Dismounting with a few groans and winces from specific aching body parts, I took in a deep breath and sighed with relief.  That’s when my eyes found new life.

Surrounding our little resort area were a ring of mountains.  These are real mountains, not artificial hills created from mountains of garbage.  Tens of thousands of feet at their peak and rugged ridges tracking over miles of impassable terrain, they are sentinels of the Rocky Mountain Range that force every eye to gasp in wonder.

The valleys and gullies that carve great contours in the mountain side play constant games with the setting of the sunlight.  Shadows make the beauty of this pristine landscape and ever changing canvas of God’s continuous artwork.  The Creator carpets the mountain with acres and acres of evergreen forests.  They drape the rugged terrain with a splash of vibrant shades of green

These forests hide those two bear that galloped across the grounds that we entered on our way into the resort.  Deer, Elk and Big Horn Sheep also call these special areas home.  I stood by the shore of a lake and marveled at the majesty of these immovable sculpters of rock and earth.

Even the weather shifted to accomodate these mountains.  The night engulfed these giants of the land.  In the morning I would see them again.  They would go no where.  Yet, their appearance changed again with the light of the sun decorating these moutains from yet another view.

The road of our next day wove through a course that these mountains dictated generations ago.  We followed the route that they permitted pioneers who first explored this beautiful land to make headway.  Now, these terra giants engulfed me; it was grand!

photo credit: brucefong photography