You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2013.

Do you remember the feeling of being totally blindsided by the perception that others have had of you?  It was particularly unsettling when these were people who should know you well enough that miscommunication would be far from the realm of possibility.  Startled we have to quickly reverse our direction and realign our discussion to set the record straight.

Paul was very good at altering his direction.  His discernment skills with people were keen.  When he was in dialogue with the believers at Corinth, he was teaching forthrightly.

Yet, suddenly he realized that these Christians were misunderstanding his intent.  They heard his words and saw his life, but they were interpreting his intentions completely incorrectly.  It was time to arrest that thinking with a rhetorical challenge.

A well-formed inquiry sets the context to realize the foolishness of an invalid assumption.  Under duress accusations or gossip always seem accurate and necessary.  However, once freedom returns, it is clear that ideas taken for granted are plainly foolish.

Paul plainly places all of his words under the scrutiny of God.  He is confident that his integrity before Christ is pristine.  Furthermore, his objective is not to serve himself but in fact to edify the believers.

Good leaders anticipate the impact of their leadership on the lives of those who follow.  Paul’s concern was for the Corinthians, who might not be as spiritual mature as he would like them to be.  The potential for disorder makes the apostle nervous.

Eight problems are listed by Paul.  The Corinthians could be involved with any or all of these terrible descriptions of human interaction.  None of these aspects are novel, they are comprehensive in that they complement each other and share in common lists in various parts of the Bible where these features are often seen together.

Quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder are symptoms of lives that do not submit to the Lordship of Christ.  These habits divide people.  Expressions of these aspects of life hurt relationships, destroy loyalty and  distract from the true Gospel presentation.

There is no question that a pastor feels close to his people.  Whether there is outward success or not, a tie is formed among those who spiritually grow together.  Spiritual success is not necessarily guaranteed.  In fact mourning and even embarrassment might be the description of the day.

If there is no repentance from sin, Paul will be disappointed.  Should there be severe sexual sins, Paul will be saddened.  Past indulgences should be allowed to have a resurgence.

 2 corinthians 12:19-21

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IMG_1609Can America keep on course with vital issues even during the political turbulence of the day?  When those in position of leadership flip-flop, grab for headlines and spin every decision to shift the blame to others while taking credit for projects started by their own adversaries?  How great is the USA really?

When I left the theater after viewing the world’s most intense manhunt, I believed that America is great because of the Americans who make up this amazing country.  It is the individual who is sold out to the cause for which they have been chosen.  The average citizen who dives into duty, performance and obligation makes this nation superb.

Maya is a CIA officer is given the task to focus solely on tracking down Osama bin Laden following the 9.11 attack on the USA.  She is initiated into the world of interrogation where waterboarding and humiliation are tactics used to break prisoners suspected of harboring vital intelligence.  Slowly but surely she and her colleagues are able to piece information together after years of sorting out facts from lies, clues from distractions and follow a trail.

Tragedy looms large as colleagues are murdered by terrorists.  Political procrastination gums up the efforts to move quickly, costing more lives of loyal Americans in harm’s way.  Maya escapes a bomb blast and a machine gun attack.

Unfortunately, not all of her colleagues were so fortunate.  Close coworkers died at the hands of the terrorists violence.  This emboldened Maya to increase her ferocity to find her target.

Political changes in America were merely shifts in the world above the intelligence community.  They carried on their tasks with determination.  Only political appointments of egotists more interested in personal glory than facilitating the good work started previously to their term threw a glitch into the system.  Veterans tolerated the tirades of these politicians, then went about continuing their work.

Maya not persevered in her quest to hunt down the world’s most heinous terrorist, she doggedly reminded her superiors when the foot-dragging by headliners in Washington.  With brash and brazen forthrightness, she pressed her supervisors to act on her intelligence of where Osama bin Laden was staying.

A large compound in Pakistan was targeted.  The President wanted more confirmation, refusing to act until the evidence was certain.  His slow response lasted months.  Finally, approval was given and Maya witnessed the SEALs launch, execute and bring back the remains of bin Laden.  Maya is the heroine.  The SEALs were the heroes.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_1591It was the weekend.  We both had a tiring week and were ready for some easy entertainment.  That meant the movies.

Yes, I had been paying attention to the trailers.  When Arnold popped up and some funny scenes made me chuckle, I made a mental note and thought that when I needed some funny bones tickled, I would go and see this flick.  There is a place for just plain fun.

Secretly, when I watch a film starring an aging action hero I perk up.   That’s my generation, after all.  I can relate with these guys on the cusp of stepping out into the pasture.

This movie was just what I expected.  There was nothing about it that was epic, nor historic, nor Oscar-esque.   What I expected is what I got.

Chase scenes, explosions, gun fire and swashbuckling battles that tantalize the imagination.  The bad guys were really bad.  Of course the good guys were endearing and quality dudes at their worst.

A very bad drug Lord from South of the Border is being transferred by the US authorities from one location to a maximum security lockdown.  Something goes very wrong.

The police caravan ready and waiting for clearance.  In the middle of the pack is the van holding the high value prisoner.  All of the chase cars are carrying a full complement of heavily armed officers.

Suddenly, the prisoner van levitates and climbs rapidly into the air.  A lot of bad guys fill the morning with bullets and rockets.  The chase is on for the rest of the movie.

In a sleepy US border town, life is disturbed by the presence of unseemly outsiders.  Our hero sheriff, Arnold, is wylie and suspicious.  His gut is right.

Very bad guys are building an escape route to Mexico.  They are preparing the way for their boss to drive to freedom.  The path to this remote passage leads through the small sleepy town where Arnold is the Sheriff.

Our hero prepares to stop the fugitive with his small staff of deputies.  Their creative mobilization is stunning against the massive arms and personnel that the drug cartel boss can buy.  But, the resiliency of the good guys is the movie.

I don’t like it when police look silly, nor do I like it when violence is borderline gratuitous nor is blood and gore easy to overlook.  Yet, if you can and you like it when the good guys win and the bad guys lose this is an entertaining film.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography


IMG_1593It was a common day-off.  Our schedules corresponded for the same 24 hours of R&R.  The start was simply sleeping in with no alarms being set.

I was in the kitchen and cooked up a traditional family breakfast: corn beef hash with poached eggs.  The recipe is easy.  Making the dish with the right amount of crispy hash sprinkled on top of the serving is the trick.

Together we dined on this wonderful dish while taking in the morning news.  Pleasant conversation and not so patient political comments spiced up our morning.  Then, I finished up the dishes and made a mental check list of our day’s activities.

Then, we had our individual projects to occupy the earliest hours of our day. It felt great to knock those off one at a time.  Soon, my goals for the morning were completely met.


IMG_1594Now, it was time to head out for a drive and handle our together errands.  We discussed how we would dress, depending on the temperatures and weather conditions.  With a jacket on I stepped outside and shouted into the house with glee, “It’s gorgeous out here!”

During the afternoon, I drove from one objective to the next.  Sometimes we went into a shop together.  Other times, we were solo with our entries.

When I stayed and waited in the car, I drank in the warm sunny rays.  I pushed the open button to our sun roof and enjoyed the opening cover and welcomed the warmth of the sun into our car.  A smile beamed from my face when I realized that it was January and there was no reason to be wearing a jacket.

My seat reclined for a perfect view of the skies above.  Puffy clouds eased their way from one horizon to the next.  Blue

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skies were the backdrop to these bearers of atmospheric moisture.

The blazing sun was cooled to a wonderful 71 degrees Fahrenheit.  My body relaxed in the warmth of our solar system’s only star.  It felt so good.

I remembered the many cold winters in places where I have lived in the past.  Here these was no need for a snow blower, no reason to carry traction devices in the vehicle, my down jackets were getting lonely in the closet, my snow boots, snow shoes and gloves were put away in storage.  Now, I just wallowed in the heat of God’s wonderfully created sun.  I am blessed.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_1599News of the Tsunami that devastated Thailand on Boxing Day 2004 reached around the world.  One of the worst recorded natural disasters had the good will of nations pouring out their aid and the people of the earth passing on their deepest sympathies to the grieving families.  Stories of tragedy, heroism and mercy filled the air waves for weeks.

From the hardships of this cataclysmic event emerged an incredible story of a family of five.  They were swept up in the horrific waves of the Tsunami.  In a matter of minutes, the five were separated and struggling to survive.

Terror and death surrounded them.  Each one narrowly missed fatal wounds from the massive amounts of racing debris, snags under the swift currents that would have sucked out their final breath mounted with each moment.  When you think that there was a reprieve, there was only more horror.

Another wave would mount its onslaught on the survivors.  More would be swept into eternity.  Children would be orphaned and parents would no longer see their children.

Disaster movies must be believable.  There are too many features in this genre that make a film corny or phony.  This was not either.

Here it wasn’t about heroics.  It was about blessing.  How incredulous would it be for a family of five to be hit by one of the most devastating giant waves with thousands dying around them, yet each one survived and then discovered each other?  Getting back together after the pain and trauma is the story.

Why them?  What should they consider about their good fortune?  Their lives could never be lived the same no matter how hard they tried.

Some things give life pause.  We need to consider our fortune.  Comparison to others is often unhealthy, meaningless or detrimental.  The story calls on all of us to count our blessings.

I wanted a hero.  To add one would have made this an action flick.  It was certainly not that.

Family devotion and loyalty was at the heart of this amazing story.  Resiliency against pain, impossibilities and hopelessness are at every turn in this stunning account.

Out of great loss there is wonder when a blessing can be counted.  Their story is one of those that can be counted.  There were enough tears and wailing that followed in the aftermath of this monster of a wave.

Prepare to be exhausted.  Start counting your blessings when it is done.  Wonder at the power of family.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_1575This was a different kind of plane ride for me.  Usually, I’m winging my way to some distant city to speak or teach or serve as counsel.  Those “ministry” trips are focused and filled with a large measure of responsiblity.

Our plane was zipping through the skies at 500 mph heading for a destination 4 hours away.  But, I was relaxed, in fact, I was excited.  This was not a trip where I was the focus.

The youngest in our family was finishing up his academic rigors as a Physician Assistant (PA) and getting ready for his rotations.  He and his graduating classmates were getting ready to put into practice on real people with real health issues all that they had learned in books, lectures and discussions.  As a rite of passage, each graduate was presented a white coat with their name embroidered on the front.

IMG_1574Our family and friends came from Portland, Burbank, Sacramento, San Francisco, Fremont, Brisbane, Oakland, Walnut Creek, Hayward, Detroit and Houston.  Smiles were displaying deep family pride and personal joy.  We were ready for a party!

On the night of the ceremony our collection of eleven filled up a row in the auditorium.  Others were gathering to cheer on one special life as we were, just a different life.  What we experienced and witnessed together was astounding.

This was not the typical pomp and circumstance of a boring, dull and dragged out academic ceremony.  Instead, there was a camaraderie and collegiality that these 64 graduates genuinely shared with each other and with their faculty.  It was electrifying.

They knew each other and celebrated with each other.  Fist bumps, hugs, high fives and verbal commendations were collectively poured out, returned and shared.  There was a community that was electric in the graduates.

The director of the school began with his remarks that were meaningful and reminiscent of fond times together.  Spontaneous laughter and raucous teasing did not dominate or distract but added to the celebration mode.  When the official speaker climbed the stage, students knew her, cheered her on and you could see these students absorbing her challenge.

IMG_1576There were two awards given.  One was the highest academic achievement.  She was applauded and no one seemed surprised.

A second award was presented.  It was the Outstanding Service award.  They gave it to my son, Jeremy, the president of the class.  Again, the students gave their collective approval with enthusiastic sound.  It made us proud.

Galveston 2012 021God’s creative beauty is breathtaking.  The  colors, shapes, movement and endless variety in the world that He has made is astounding.  It makes sense to me that what we all see around us bears witness to His hand in making out of nothing the world where we live.

We wandered around the canopy of the rainforest.  It is not just on the ground where life thrives.  Above the ground, in the tree tops, where the sun meets the umbrella of lush foliage, life abounds.

Birds of every shape and color capture your attention.  Some stand out like a bright neon sign.  Against the backdrop of rich greenery, these birds are a show.

Galveston 2012 141Besides brilliant colors, some birds add a large dose of comic relief.  The parrot struts its stuff with colors that brighten up the basic colors around the pool.  Not many would ever put those colors together in one outfit but these birds are dressed up for a show.

They have a personality that dares anyone to make a comment.  The opinion of observers just seem to give these old birds more reason to increase their attitude.  Can you sense it?

For a fleeting moment, you may get eye contact with one of these characters.  These birds just seem to want you to know that they know what you’re thinking.  Their reaction by body language, is “I don’t care what you think.”

Galveston 2012 032While some of the feathered friends stand out, the Creator made other birds subtle, almost invisible to those who are not looking closely.  Texture and movement gave away this interesting bird.  He looked streamlined and ready to cut through the air with blazing speed.

It was amazing how it perched gracefully on the trunk of a tree that matched its grey colors.  I glanced away and then returned my glance.  Not surprisingly I had to look closely; the bird seemed to have disappeared.  Then, it moved and I saw it again through the natural camouflage, amazing!

Galveston 2012 025Pigeons are everywhere in the world.  They are incredibly adaptable.  They vary in their colors and appearance from one environmental stage to the next. 

Yet, they live and entertain with their cooing.   Sounds of flocks of migratory pigeons always make me smile.  As long as they are not above me, I enjoy their contribution to the wonder of life that they add to any place they happen to perch.  Birds always capture my attention.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_1555Those who are of Chinese descent hunt out the stores that sell their delectable ingredients.  These stores are by no means limited to ethnic origins.  People from all over the world, who simply love Asian food, shop for the magical additives  for their next meal.  Different and unique food stuffs line the shelves.

Of course there are common items that are present in every type of cuisine: vegetables, meats, canned goods, bottled goods, et cetera.  Yet, what marks a store that is ethnically identified are the products unique to the ethnic flavors of the cuisine.  Spices, vegetable variations, special cuts of meat, dairy and of course sauces are in the minds of cooks and specialty chiefs who flood the aisles of these bustling markets.

In every department of the grocery store there are warmly familiar features, comfort foods and the ingredients that transform basic food stuffs into Momma’s cooking.  Those items are the target for us shoppers.  Languages from all parts of the world can be heard up and down the aisles.

Familiar tones of Cantonese dialects and of course Mandarin tones are most common.  Words directed toward store employees of customers looking for specific items become repetitious.  It all adds to the experience, the fun of shopping at an Ethnic store.

I chuckle in the produce department.  Some of the green vegetables are popular among the gatherers.  “Yum” is a word that connects my brain with some of the choices in the bin.

Then, I laugh out loud when I wander into the fruit section.  There is a menagerie of fruit not common to the Western palate.  One has a fragrance that gives a long distance announcement that it is present.

The Jack Fruit is both unforgettable in its fragrance and visual impact.  Most who have never had the opportunity to taste its distinct flavor will give pause.  Amazingly, it tastes much better than it smells.

IMG_1556Its size is stunning.  The Jack Fruit competes with the watermelon in girth and weight.  However, it wins the contest when it comes to rugged outside rind.

A coconut is a fun distraction.  With the outside husk removed, the fuzzy inner hard shell has markings on the end that look like a monkey’s face.  Occasionally, the hairy surface and facial similarities gives this department some comic relief.  The Almighty gave His creation variety, a trademark of an infinite God who also has a sense of humor.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_1471Yup, that’s me.  Me and my cowboy hat in a major mall trying to find a comfortable spot to wait for my bride to finish her foray into the wonderful world of women shopping.  There’s not a lot for a guy to do here.

I can’t push a shopping cart.  That’s something that I do with gusto when we are out grocery shopping.  No matter how tight the aisles, I negotiate my way through tightest of corridors.

Nor can I find interesting things to look at like a hobby store.  There the unique, the clever or the novel can distract my attention for a long time.  At least in those specialty shops I can pretend to be interested for a length of time.

However, when it comes to a department store, I’m stuck.  Women’s fashions don’t leave me with a lot of options.  That’s when I look for a place to sit down, pull out my i-phone and entertain myself for a long time.

This time I scanned the department for a sitting place.  There were none.  I have been here before so I knew that pickings would be slim.

That’s when I was in for a surprise.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was a chase lounge!

At first I was suspicious.  Maybe this was part  of a display.  Interior decorators were taking a break and wanted this feature to be the center of their creative presentation.

Nevertheless, I boldly drew closer to examine the possibilities.  Nothing seemed to suggest that this lounge chair was for anything other than sitting.  Sitting was exactly what I wanted to do.  So, I  sat down.

Next, I kicked my legs up and leaned back to take full advantage of what a chase lounge affords.  I was relaxing.  The test came when several clerks walked by. 

These department store employees did not even give me a sideways glance.  They went about their activities.  So, I enjoyed my relaxation.

Yes, there were several customers who gave me a startled look.  However, out of sheer politeness they looked away once we made eye-contact.  Now, I was feeling self-conscious.

No, it wasn’t that women were surrounding me.  That was expected in a Women’s Clothing department.  Nor was it the surprising stares by women who were shopping.  That was somewhat unique since few things actually can distract a woman from her shopping.

I was in my cowboy gear.  My manliness was clear.  What was unusual and capturing attention was that I was lying on a chair lounge that was bright pink.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

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My youth was marked with deep regard for the astronauts of the Apollo program.  Whenever there was a flight our family gathered around our television and watched the coverage.  It was exciting, patriotic and unifying for our entire nation.

From the Mercury program to the Apollo program, it was surreal to think that Americans were actually planning on landing on the moon.  Could it be done?  How can we avoid the dangers?  What would happen if something went wrong?

With every successful launch we cheered.  The conversation of how powerful that rockets were to propel a capsule into space.  We often talked about the brave men who volunteered to go into space and explore that vast reaches of the heavens.

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When Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong stepped on to the moon, we joined those around the world in holding our breath.  Then, when his foot stepped on to the surface of the moon, we cheered.  It was an unforgettable national experience. 

Everyone talked about it.  The year was 1969 and became uniquely special for so many reasons.  It is forever etched in my mind.

Along with every other young man, working for NASA as a scientist was a dream.  But, only the best, never the minimum could hope to be a part of that team.  Calculus left me behind and the slide rule was never very friendly, but a young man can still dream.

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Then, the novelty of space travel wore off quickly.  We took the success for granted.  It was now a routine of casual proportions. 

At least that is how it felt until the next year in 1970 when from Apollo 13 James Lovell reported, “Hey Houston we had a problem here.”  We all dropped what we were doing and again were riveted to the television. 

Each report we inhaled and held it until the next.  We prayed.  We hoped.  We worried.

The relief from welcoming these space explorers back to earth was heartfelt by every American.  Subsequently, the ingenuity of the NASA team made all of America proud.  The space program was again huge on the radar of some many studying for a career.

At the Johnson Space Center in Houston I reflected deeply over those years.  The lives of those lost in the space program, the close class and the achievements all brought great memories back to me.  God’s image in man is a wonder to behold.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

 

 

 

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