You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2012.

There is something about the road from central California to LA that is unlikable.  It is long, hot, boring, straight, lots of traffic, lots of Chips and the Grapevine.  Of course, who has driven this painful journey and not been shocked by the oder of the Coalinga stock yards?

We loaded up Yoda, did a fun check through our final list and drive two miles to the gas station.  Might as well begin the journey with a short shake down test run.  It would be interesting to see if these Bay Area gasoline prices would be the highest on our journey.

Now, we were really set.  Everything was where it should be.  We set our sights south and blended into the crush of vehicles heading south on 101 to San Jose. 

Even at 10AM the congestion was infamously sluggish.  It was stop and go for miles with no explanation for the slow-downs.  Out of no where the traffic accelerated and we were on our way.

Several times I saw brake lights ahead of me light up like the surprise on a cats face when a dog came into view.  But, there was no canine present, just a patrolling California Highway Patrol car.  Even when we were under the speed limit, people still slammed on their brakes.  There was a sign of a guilty consciences all around me.

Then, we took a country road to head into the valley.  There we would rendezvous with Interstate 5, the big road that poured traffic into the Golden State going North or South.  Along this country highway we paused to look over several fascinating sights. 

One was a local fruit stand.  It had fresh strawberries, multiple types of citrus fruit, cherries of several varieties and plums, nectarines and other varied juicy globes.  We resisted and just enjoyed the color and the aroma.

There were horses grazing in the pasture.  Tiny ponies were what attracted us.  Isn’t there something special about a horse? 

The stallions and mares were out prancing in the fields.  These little colts were in the shade, sleeping and resting away from the hot sun.  Like stars used to the clicking of cameras, our celebrities posed easily for the camera.

A knowledgable Bonsai artist had his creations set up alongside of the road.  His appreciation of these little trees in little pots was self-evident.  Proudly he told of each species and how to care for them. 

If it is the journey that is important, then we are making the most of it.  Stops along the way make for a great memory.  This is starting out to be an amazing adventure of faith and memories.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

The day has arrived for my bride and me to make our long journey to our next divinely appointed assignment.  While we are excited to start God’s new venture, we are also feeling that we “left our hearts in San Francisco.”  There are precious lives that we love so much that are left behind.

The church family gathered for a celebration of God’s blessings.  It was a BBQ with everything Texas.  Even the rice krispy treats were shaped into the Lone Star State.  Several testified of past blessings that were touching.

All of the gifts were very special.  One remarkable gift is an artist’s characature that had us all laughing and marvelling at the same time.  Yvonne and I are travelling to Houston on my motorcycle surrounded by special momentos of God’s rich San Francisco blessings.  That is a very special gift.

My final Sunday was full of smiles, memories relived, special words and lots of hugs.  One brother whispered a word that I will always treasure.  Another, choked up when our eyes met.  Those who have intently studied the Word with us spoke of God’s providence, sovereign hand, divine will and expressions of joy and heavenly reunion.

The next day, Bekins sent their packers to finish what we did not do and to apply their professional care to our fragile items.  They turned a house full of stuff into neatly stacked uniform boxes cradling our prescious worldly possessions.  I was amazed that two men could do so much so fast and so carefully.

Then, there is family.  After all the packing was done we rendezvoused with the Fongs.  We shared a last meal together.  It was more like a feast.  Wow, “delicious” is not sufficient to describe this meal.

The Winter melon soup was superb.  It was served a classy way: the melon itself was the pot.  All of the ingredients were not only in the soup but laid on the edge of the melon while it was served.  Presentation was spectacular and the aroma was surpassed only by the flavor.

The celebration is a memory now.  It has slipped into the recesses of our soul just like the view of San Fran shrank in my rearview mirror.  But, the lives of real people with real episodes of faith adventures are still vivid in my soul.  I love these special people.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

My phone vibrated.   Jeremy, our son, sent me a message asking for a small favor.  Of course we Dads give priority to any requests by our children. 

He had just moved into a new apartment across the street from the campus where he is doing his graduate studies.  Now, he has the delight of populating his new digs with furniture.  Craig’s list has come through for him.

He found someone who was selling their dinette set.  It includes an expanding table and four chairs.  The description and pictures looked good and the price was right.

There was a small glitch that kept him from closing the deal.  He lives in Oakland but the dinette set was in San Francisco, not far from where we live.  Also, he has a sporty little subcompact that has enough storage in it for a grasshopper or two.  I have a pick-up truck.  Do you see a solution in this picture?

So he asked if I could go to the home look over the furniture and make sure that it was accurately portrayed by the picture, pay the owners and deliver the furniture to his new home.  No problem for a Dad to do that.  I heartily agreed and set off on this little adventure.

We met the young couple who were selling the furniture.  They we delightful.  A fun introduction and visit ensued.

They welcomed us into their home and showed us the dinette set.  It looked great.  The price was very fair.  So, we loaded up the five-piece set and set off on our drive across the Bay Bridge.

It took us a while to make the journey to Oakland.  The traffic out of San Francisco was its typical stop and go.  But, this time even the Bay Bridge traffic was very slow.

Finally, we arrived at our son’s new home.  We carried the furniture, food items, soft goods, kitchen utensils up to his pad.  It was fun to see his new home and warm up the atmosphere there with Mom and Dad’s celebratory spirit. 

Now, we were off to dinner.  We had a great meal, laughed a bit, dreamed, reminisced and caught up on all of our plans.  That’s family stuff.  But, then the bill for the dinner came.

It had already been paid.  Our son had taken care of the check.  Afterall, it was Father’s Day.  Yum!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

The entry door at the adult semi-care facility opened easily.  Clearly someone had designed this complex with professional skill.  Everything looked new, maintained well and there were plenty of people and activities going on around me.

Our host waved us down.  With a broad smile she walked with us to the cafeteria where the fragrances were very appealing.  She seated us and the chaplain joined us with enthusiasm.

The menu for the dinner was like a restaurant.  We made our choices when the waitress came up to take our order.  Pleasant conversation followed and continued through dinner.

On our way to the chapel the chaplain introduced us to several of the residents.  We enjoyed their cheerful fellowship.  They followed us to the chapel.

I preached for those who had gathered.  Their response was full of gratitude.  Some walked out with energy.  Others a lot slower.

We paused when several took turns to tell how much they appreciated that we had come.  Often they told us how much they appreciate their new home.  They point to the activities, food but most of all the company of others.

Not everyone was so high on the company.  One elderly woman was alone. She and I struck up a conversation.

She reflected deeply early in our first meeting.  Maybe she knew that it would our only one and it would be over soon.  Experience was her teacher and she lived by the lessons that she had learned.

Her children were scattered around the country.  They had to move in order to chase the jobs that would advance their careers and give them the resources to support their families.  She was not regretful, just realistic about those currents of life in the modern culture.

Yes, she was very grateful for this fine facility to live from day-to-day.  But, she sighed, it was hard to have her friends regularly die off.  Each farewell made her sad that all she had left with so many of those who were once close were now just fading memories.

Loneliness is a tough nut to crack.  Family helps but that is only a limited solution.  Who wants to be a downer for their kids?

But, we can live full and rich lives while we can.  Build into friends and pass on what we have discovered to make life worth living to the younger generation.  Pour into others and that may be the best anti-loneliness investment ever.

photo credit:

Most people have flash in their lives.  They walk into big buildings, do important things and can look back on a full day with satisfaction.  I admire people who are like that. 

My life isn’t so glamorous.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  My profession is honorable and impactful.  I love what I do.

However, when it comes to our necessary errands, I take on a very modest role.  Off to the store my wonderful wife and I travel.

When we get the perfect parking spot, it’s time for me to take up my role.  I know that it is my assignment.  No one has to remind me.

There are plenty from which to choose.  They are all lined up just inside the front door.  It’s a simple choice, but I make it personal. 

All buggies are not the same.  Each one has a personality.  Like finding your own personal avatar and connecting your chi with it is what this search is all about.

Then, my hands grip the handle bar and swiftly I pull it from the rack.  It responds to my directions and accepts the power that I inject into its wheels.  Together we smoothly move into the foot traffic of the throngs that are entering the store as well.

My ease of motion is a product of years of practice.  Dutifully, I follow Yvonne down one aisle and then another.  Stopping on a dime and then turning dramatically with great agility, I never lose sight of the world’s best shopper.

The view from my buggy is limited.  But, deftly I negotiate narrow aisles made tighter by heavy shopper traffic.  Nevertheless, I clip a corner.  Product falls to the floor. 

It’s time for me to pick up, clean up and straighten out.  Yvonne is disappearing up ahead.  With swiftness and quickness I catch up just in time as she turns to add more vital items to our life of hospitality and cheer for others.

Me and my buggy transport all of our items to check out.  Then, it’s time to find our rig, unload and then return our buggy to the collection point.  Of course we pick up two other abandon and lonely carts for deliver to the parking lot “Return Carts here” location. 

I have done nothing heroic.  Simply I have done my duty.  But, I have done it well.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Today is my last Sunday as a Pastor of Sunset Church.  That word “last” is tough when we have to say “Good-bye”.  The days that we shared together over the years in our lives have been filled with treasured moments.

I thank you who have received the teaching of the Word.  In our information-saturation age, listening to a monologue is outdated, old-fashioned and very limited.  Yet, it is God’s way and so many of you have obeyed HIS directive.

I thank you who have received the love that Yvonne and I have brought.  It has been delivered to you in Jesus’ name, honestly, sincerely and with unbiased distribution to all.  No one has been left out; all have been included.

I thank you who men who have received special attention for infusion of spiritual instruction, encouragement and training.  Discipleship is Jesus’ model.  Thanks, men, for joining me in this Christ-like endeavor.

I thank you who went above and beyond the call of duty to find a place of selfless service to the church family.  Watching you give your love, service, time and resources has been amazing.  Your faces are etched in my mind and I know in the heart of God.

I thank you who filled in to do for others what needed to be done.  You did it without seeking anything in return, just for the pleasure of your Lord.  God will bless you for your devotion.

I thank you leaders for serving at great expense of your own time and energy.  You showed up for meetings.  You showed up for service.  You showed up when others did not.  You showed up to demonstrate your faithfulness to your Lord.

I thank you leader spouses for giving up time with your loved one. You understood that this is for Him.  That is unselfish, devoted, humble and godly of you.

I thank you who took extra steps to encourage Yvonne and me.  You took us out, treated us to special attention and gave us words of appreciation.  Those expressions were gifts that made our spirits soar.

I thank you for the privilege of serving as your shepherd in the name of Jesus Christ.  Yvonne and I will miss you.  Always remember, you are loved!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

He is a Fong.  Our family has many special members both human and not-quite human.  One of them is Nemo. 

Nemo is a Lhasa Apso.  The Chinese called them Lion dogs because of their mane.  They are often portrayed in stone guarding the entrance to important places like palaces or homes of dignitaries. 

They are a determined breed.  Diminutive in size, they have a heart that will challenge a foe twice their size.  No, they are not vicious, just courageous.

Once the serenity of life has returned, they are quite docile.  Now, that they have driven off the threat to their family, they soak in the attention, petting and pampering.  They return the affection with deep sighs, comical play and unexplainable personality that beams from their Star Wars Ewok looks.

Their face will melt your heart.  Add antics and individuality to that already winning combination and you have a family member that is a favorite  of everyone.  You have to reach out and hug these guys.

Nemo is one of our family members.  He lives in Oregon with our daughter and son-in-law.  Over the years he has brought many laughable memories to our gatherings.

Now, after weeks of fighting cancer, he has lost the battle.  Yesterday, he was gently put to sleep to end the pain and suffering.  Each of us Fong’s wept at the loss of this special life that gave so much and took so little.   We will miss him.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Good friends invited us out to dinner.  They picked a restaurant that is in a popular area of San Francisco where a number of busy eateries have found a loyal following.  This is one of the attractions of this amazing city, great restaurants.

The meal was great.  Our conversation was also encouraging.  Ambiance is complicated, often defies explanation but is easily recognized when it is present.  It was there that night.

Hours flew by and soon it was time to say “Farewell!”  Our parting was sweet after such a good memory.  Smiles were exchanged as we went our separate ways.

Since this popular location was buzzing when we arrived, it was a challenge to find parking.  That is a San Francisco phenomenon as well.  I started circling the block in ever-increasing concentric circles.

There were precious few spots.  Someone else was better positioned than me to snap those spaces up.  Others wrangled, honked and waved off competitors. 

Like vultures fighting over road kill, someone would win.  Only one would gain the opening spot.  Usually, the first one to stake a claim was given quarter.  Even when doing a three-point turn on a narrow and busy street would be enough of a strategy to gain the upper hand.

I wasn’t in a fighting mood.  Easily I slipped on by and people would duel over a precious parking spot.  Instead, I drove into Golden Gate Park.  There I found several parking spaces. 

It was a three block walk to the restaurant, but it was a beautiful walk.  The park-like setting of this focus of city pride made the walk very pleasant.  I liked the stroll.

What waited for Yvonne and me was an extra special surprise.  As dusk settled over the city, the sunset was a treat.  Amazing cloud formations added to the spectacular scene in the sky.

Light was the show.  Shades of radiant oranges and yellows mixed into an aerial pallet that was breath-taking.  No one could just keep on walking. 

When God shows off His artistic skills in the heavens it is worth a pause.  We stopped just where I had parked.  Looking up we took in the splendor of the Creator’s amazing touch. 

This picture changed as the minutes slipped by.  Shades and hues of color shifted as the sunlight began to disappear.  Beautiful!

We have been blessed to have lived in this wonderful city.  The joys of being here and serving some amazing people will always be with us.  We smiled from deep inside.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

When we moved into to the Daly City house, I noticed that there were a generous number of rose bushes that had been planted in the front yard. They needed attention but I am not a gardener. In fact I think that plants groan when they see me coming.

In fact I am convinced that once I am out of ear shot, the plants have a conference on how to survive now that I will be taking care of them.  They are terrified.  My reputation as a Disaster Gardener must precede me.

When I walk back outside, those rose bushes clam up.  So I pause, turn and walk over to them.  The bushes are shaking a bit.

Naturally, I frown.  But, it’s not because i’m fighting the frightened flora, rather I notice that the bushes are in need of attention.  I like roses plants that look like a bush.  But, these have no shape, the branches are skinny, long and wildly intertwined with other limbs.

Over the next several months I took my pruners and pruned the branches back.  Then, weeks later I would free the tangle of branches.  Whenever a shoot would strike out on its own, I would cut it back.

Little by little I would shape these rose plants into a nice looking bush.  After I pruned them all back and thinned them out, the plants just grew stronger.  The thin branches thickened and grew stronger. 

This Spring an amazing thing happened.  After a year of pampering this plants, the blooms broke out in healthy buds.  There were so many buds.  Then they blossomed, flooding our yard with color.

Pausing I took in the brilliant colors.  The fragrance is amazing.  There is an unmistakable satisfaction to drink in living beauty that you have had a part in making it happen.  

Then, as the gardener who has privileges I took one.  My fingers wrapped around the stem of beautiful yellow rose bud.  I snapped it off and presented it to my personal beauty, my wonderful wife of 35 year.  Too cool.

The Almighty grows the roses.  But, He gave me a chance to participate.  Yes, I had a small part in producing these beauties!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

We had a good reason to celebrate.  This was a special occasion so it was time to try out this highly recommended restaurant.  Over the years of being here in San Francisco, people had mentioned this place to us.

Everyone goes on and on about the crab.  It is a roasted garlic flavor that has given this place its city-wide fame.  Yelp gives it an average of four stars after many have offered their personal review.

Do you like Dungeness crab?  Some who are used to lobster as their favored seafood crustacean feel like crab is too much work.  There is some truth to what they are saying.

But, if you’re not in a hurry and love conversation while enjoying a meal, then crab is a great way to dine together.  No one can eat crab that is still in its shell without being messy.  The splatter and fingers covered with butter, sauce and pepper comes with the territory.

The waiter ties a very large bib on those who venture into the restaurants signature dish.  Everyone laughs and have a great time in anticipation of the meal.  Each of us who entered the dining room had a crab pass by them on its way to another seated customer. 

When a roasted crab passes by, it is impossible not to have a physiological reaction.  I turned and followed the waiter with my eyes.  No doubt my eyes dilated and I easily salivated.

The  aroma alone is astounding.  Generous doses of garlic when part of the roasting process gives off a tell-tale sign for a taste that slowly drop your eyelids and smile deeply.  It is a common reaction.

Usually, when I boil my own live crab at home, my dining experience is all about conversation and fun.  It is always good but it is not the same.  At home I crack the shell and pull all of the meat out and eat it at once.

This kind of crab presentation is different.  I can’t wait until I de-shell my portion of the meal in order to eat it in as a single serving.  Instead, I eat it as I de-shell it; it’s the only way!

I am amazed at how tender the meat is.  It is succulent, filled with flavor.  Their recipe blends the garlic with black pepper, butter and secret seasoning that make the taste explode with each bit.  You have got to try it!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photo

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