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Dallas 2013 122

Friends all told us that the Pacific WWII Museum was a “not-to-miss” site in Fredericksburg, TX.  The internet affirmed this as a top place to visit as well.  At first, it seemed peculiar that this particular museum was in this Texas town.  That was before I learned that Admiral Nimitz was born and lived in this very special town in the Texas Hill Country.

He built the Pacific fleet that kept the Japanese Imperial Navy from invading the USA.  By sheer providence and determination, the American forces were able to come back from the devastation at Pearl Harbor, mount an effective counter attack at Midway Island and change the course of the war.

Every Island in the march to beat back the Japanese was a costly effort both in lives and armament.  Valiant men lost their lives in this intensely strategic theater of war.  Then, the Japanese resistance took on a more intense vigor when allied forces battled their way on to Japanese soil.

Major Doolittle led the way with his heroic attack on the Japanese mainland with his fleet of B-25 bombers.  They did not cause much actual damage but the psychological blow was incalculable.   However, before American forces ever landed on the shores of Japan, they were ordered to halt their advance.

An ominous page in history now turned.

From the brilliant nuclear research of our nations’ best physicists and engineers, a new and horrible weapon was invented.  The Manhattan Project set out to produce a bomb to end the war and they succeeded.  A cataclysmic bomb was created.  It was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  A single bomb evaporated tens of thousands of people in a single blast.

These two bombs have so far been the only nuclear attacks made in human history.  When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and estimated 90,000–166,000 people died.  Half died in the blast and the other half died as a result of the blast in the days to come.

60,000–80,000 died in Nagasaki.  The nation was rocked.  All in the world was aghast at the power in this killing endeavor.  The war in the Pacific ended because of these two forays into modern warfare.

Human history is forever marked by the realities of these two tactical strikes.  The Emperor of Japan surrendered unconditionally.  Finally, the war was over in Europe and now in the Pacific.  Peace had come at such a high price in human life.  May this keep us from going to war again.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Dallas 2013 105 - CopyIn the seemingly endless conflict among countries in Asia, China is almost always involved just due to her sheer size. However, the resources in that great land are vital aspects for interests in China.  This great potential has made her the focus of international domination for centuries.

China covers around 3.7 million square miles of land.  Natural resources make her the envy of many countries.  This is not a new phenomenon but an ancient one.

Before the second world war, China had a longstanding and stalwart relationship with the USA.  In large part due to the aggression of Japan, China sought an ally during the Japanese days of imperialism.  This friendship kept China from falling into the hands of dominating countries.

The decade before the Great War, China was politically weak.  It made her a vulnerable prey to countries who lusted after China’s natural resources.  Some way some how this giant of a nation needed a hero.

General Ho Shai Lai filled the need of someone who loved his country, China.  He could forge international relationships for her benefit and also take up arms in her defense.   Ho was trained in the US Army Staff College in Kansas.  There he learned the skills of warfare and forged friendships for himself and his country.

During the deeply and intensely volatile struggle with Japan, it was Ho who cultivated relationships with the USA in China’s favor.  He gained invaluable experience and national position during China’s War of Resistance.  As complicated as the international struggles were, friendship with the West was China’s insurance against a hostile take-over.

When Japan first struck out with its military might, China was the target.  China was the first nation to be attacked but also the first to fight back.  It was a bloody struggle that counted casualties in the millions.

Not only were the casualties grave, the injustices and atrocities were abominable.  China was embittered due to the vicious and inhumane treatment under the invaders.  Her valiant people struggled to survive deeply appreciative to the USA for its aid in the battle.

General Ho serving under Chiang Kai-shek led, fought, negotiated, served, represented his nation before the world.  His presence is forever a part of the history of China managing to live through WWII.  While millions died, tens of millions survived.  This brave and devoted patriot deserves the credit for many and much of China’s emergence as a nation developing national unity, growing economy and political regard.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Dallas 2013 070Our journey through Central Texas had a morning set aside to visit the LBJ Ranch.  The Hill Country is famous to local Texans and out-of-staters as well.  While a lot of Texas is hot and humid, the rolling hills have a wonderful climate that moderates the summer months of July and August.  Evenings cool off and frequent days of respite mix it up with those sweltering days that drive every living creature into the cool shade of a rock or tree.

There between the towns of Johnson City and Fredericksburg is the family home of Lyndon B. Johnson.  I was curious to see where this “Texas White House” was located and the appeal that it had.  During the Johnson administration, many of our national leaders visited and did their political business on the fields surrounding the home.  National heads of state also came to see the hills of Texas before they fly back to their homes.

At the entrance to the ranch a one-room schoolhouse, where the Johnsons learned to ABC’s sits on a knoll.  The old-Dallas 2013 068fashioned desks and all of the trappings of solid American learning are preserved behind a plate-glass wall.  Fifteen desks all lined up in straight rows fill that classroom.  The teacher’s desk is positioned for the schoolmarm to observe all that is happening in this hallowed hall of education.

Vast fields not only are covered with crops from this working farm and ranch, but the vistas are seemingly endless.  This President knew about hard work, the value of water and innovation as a necessary part of farming.  Black Angus cattle stared at us during our drive-by tour.

Dallas 2013 081LBJ’s presidential jet is retired in a covered hanger for visitors to see.  It is a far cry from the opulent luxury of our modern-day elected official.  The land vehicles are retired here as well.  Their simplicity today is a testimony to how complicated it is to protect that one man in the highest office of the land.

Yes, Texans like to do things BIG.  However, there is something homey, warm and simple about the house where the Johnson family called home.  It is magnificent compared to the home where many of the family members were born.  Yet, it is still humble although historic at the same time.Dallas 2013 084

Then, finally, at the end of the tour is the Johnson Family Cemetery.  Generations of Texas neighbors valued this family.  There is respect for this special heritage.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Dallas 2013 006Not far off-the-beaten track near New Braunfels, Texas are The Natural Bridge Caverns.  It was a great place to experience.    The idea of going underground during a hot Texas day made perfect sense to me.  At least we would be escaping the hot SW sun.

The name of Natural Bridge is self-evident from the rock bridge that spans the entrance to the Caverns.  It was an accidental discovery.  This is one of those splendid accidents.

Cave explorers helped the landowners to map out, give tours and continue the development of this popular tourist site.  They not only offer two different tours for guests but there is also an exploratory adventure for those who want more than a casual underground stroll.  For me the Dallas 2013 015gentle walk with a lot of stairs just about my speed.

After we paid our entry fee, the pathway to start the tour was well-marked.  Warnings were prevalent for those in questionable health to reconsider the tour.  I chuckled that the signs were much more prominent after the entry tickets were purchased.

We entered the cavern following our own pace.  Periodically, they have naturalists who Dallas 2013 053are stationed at key points along the route. There were a lot of people touring this amazing below-the-earth sensational wonder.

It was a wonder to gaze at the live stones around us.  The Stalactites and Stalagmites were slowly creeping to intersect and form columns.  Shapes, colors and darkness were the primary choices on the palette of the Creator.

The deeper we roamed the more amazing the formations.  Column after column looked like stalwart sentries guarding a community of water dripping over centuries.  Artificial lighting gave the scenery just the right kind of highlights to make all of us stop and drink it all into our mind’s eye.Dallas 2013 060

On more than one occasion I could see this backdrop in a major science fiction movie.  Yoda would come waddling out with his wisdom catchy phrase for the day.  Then, strange monsters would rumble through the cave chasing one of the Jedi knights.

Perhaps the path of the tour was designed to save the most amazing for the last.  Just before the exit tunnel led us back into the upper earth, we entered a chamber that had several levels to observe the cave’s beauty.  Like the four-story center of a major shopping mall, decorated for Christmas, with shoppers scurrying about with their packages, this climax was gorgeous.  God took His time setting this up.

photo credit: brucefong photography

There is an old adage that many of us applied during a painful moment with someone that we once trusted. Do you remember enjoying a familiar relationship with someone and then they turned on you? You were blindsided. It was a surprise. You did not see it coming and you were left speechless.

Not only did they abandon you but they hurt you for their advantage. Information that was confidential, they used it in order to better posture their position, satisfy a craving of theirs or got you out of their way for a promotion, advancement for a relative or friend of theirs.

A last minute farewell gathering was thrown together. Your betrayer was there. With a phony choking in their voice, “I love you. I will miss you.” It was hard for you to hear good words used to cover up very bad motives. Others heard and thought good thoughts of them, but you knew the truth. Graciously, you were polite.

You learned an important lesson in life. Watch out for those who are busybodies, those who are nosey and think that they are doing something good by intruding into your life. They may have even quickly justified their hurtful actions dismissively, “I didn’t want to hurt you but I did what I thought was right.”

Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers about brotherly love. While he announces the subject, he admits that he does not need to teach them about it. The reason is that God has taught them about love.

The love that God taught these Christians is agape love while it was brotherly love that Paul identified as the love that he did need to write to them. Some may suggest that the great love was learned therefore the lesser love was unnecessary. Or it may be suggested that brotherly love is included in agape love. Advanced love learned from God directly will naturally demonstrate itself in loyalty, devotion and goodness.

This is one of those fascinating passages where the two kinds of love are really from the same source. They are not to be made so distinct that one is better or higher than the other. Here they are clearly related, one bigger and included in itself.

Anyone in the region of Macedonia knew of the reputation of the Thessalonian believers. They loved others in the name of Jesus. When people were in need this body of Christians did not just talk, they acted. They showed the love of Christ and Paul commended them for it.

This is an occasion where what was being done was very good and the only direction for the apostle to take was to encourage them to keep it up and to do it more and more. These Christians had learned their lesson; it was proven in their performance. They did not just brag about credentials on the wall, rather they demonstrated what they had learned.

When love is displayed it encourages others. The best way to improve it is not just to do the same but do more of the same. More love is all about living a quiet life.

The life that can give true love is a quiet life, meaning a life that is restful. This is not an admonition against talkativeness. The sense of the instruction is undisturbed, settle or not noisy.

Celebration or joyous exaltation was not what the apostle was trying to curtail. Rather it was anxiety, a frantic spirit and certainly the panic that accompanies worrisome concerns.

If there is to be peace in the life of someone who is captivated by true love, then, they will also mind their own business. Nosey busy bodies are the antithesis of true love. Meddling in the lives of others is not love.

Do you remember the person who was anxious about the life of someone else? They were convinced that they had the prerogative to reach in and tell someone else how to parent their child, run their business, and manage their family, how to behave in church, what music all Christians should sing and even who their friends should be.

True love is measured by its reputation. What are people saying? Do others find our life of love attractive, desirable or appealing?

Love is the hallmark of the Christian faith. Help others. Do not hurt them.

When others are blessed by your love, then you are on the right track. Keep doing that and do it more and more. God will impress in your spirit what is beneficial for others.

You will know it when your life is at rest. Any curiosity that you have about the lives of others is something that you keep in check. Mind you own business. Walk properly in front of others and live reliant only upon the Lord and what He has given you to live responsibly.

LAPP (Life Application): Help someone this week. Do it in the name of Jesus out of the love that He has already given to you. Have you hurt someone by being a busybody? Seek God’s forgiveness and do something to right your wrong.

IMG_2333Time on the road is filled with reminiscing over past recent visits, sites that we talk about over and over as well as the standard, “What’s for dinner?”  Food is a fun part of travelling.  It takes that place of shopping, cooking, clean up and doing dishes.

Finding places on the road for an enjoyable meal and a break from the many miles on the road takes a little attention.  Sometimes a recommendation from friends guides us.  Other times it is a local who highly recommends an eatery.  Then, in our wonderful age of communication, there is the internet.

Thousands of foodies send in their opinions on great places to eat.  Or of course visa versa.  Five stars are a common standard for amazing food, service, atmosphere and overall experience.  Three stars is acceptable.  However, when you are looking for a place that you will recommend to others, four stars is a minimum.

In the town of Johnson City, Texas, there is not a lot there.  It is a sleepy town  without a lot of busyness that plagues IMG_2332the big cities.  Essentials like a gas station, market, shops, General Dollar and a few places to eat is par for the course.

Our internet search led us to Ronnie’s Ice House.  It was a peculiar name.  We passed it once.  The name is not precisely correct.  Ronnie’s is actually named Ronnie’s Pit BBQ.

When we stepped inside the aroma was mouth-watering.  We checked the menu and decided that it was lunchtime so we ordered a half chicken plate and we would split it.  That was a decision that we would later regret.

Comfortably seated, we gave our thanks to God for the meal.  Then He surprised us.  Each of us took our first bite, stopped, raised our eyebrows, looked at each and then we looked at each other’s portion of the split lunch plate.

IMG_2343It was wonderful!  The tenderness, juicy flavor was remarkable.  Usually, BBQ chicken can easily dry out.  This one was moist throughout.

Ronnie has a technique to keep the juices in and the delicious BBQ smoke flavor permeating through the meal.  I complemented Ronnie on our way out.  He then invited me to see his pits out in back.  I was overwhelmed with the fragrant smoky signals that the food was about done.

We saw each other for dinner in Fredericksburg later that evening.  I introduced him to our friends.  If you are ever in Johnson City, Texas, stop by Ronnie’s for a sumptuous meal.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2329There is flavorful and then there is flavorful.  There is aromatic and then there is aromatic.  There is succulent and then there is succulent.  However, have you ever had all three in one source?  In fact to limit this even further, have you ever had this in one fruit?

Here in Texas, I have been introduced to the wonder of Texas peaches.  This juicy, fragrant, delectable fruit is grown in Central Texas, the Hill Country and is famous to Texans who are within a reasonable driving distance to this destination.  It is so popular that local growers have built permanent wayside stands along the highway for the convenience of tourists.

As we travelled through the beautiful Hill Country we even spied a couple of farms that have set up nicely built tourist centers, offering antiques, gifts, and other specialty items.  There is no shortage of business along the backwaters of Central Texas.  People from hours away have come to taste and enjoy this specially designed fruit with the Creator’s kiss of perfection on each fruit.

Visually, the color is stunning.  A peach is not a boring single color fruit. Nor is it a combination of just one color.  IMG_2330Rather, it is a combination of red, orange and yellows.

Color lines are not distinct.  The creator blended the colors to drift into another and then another and back again.  In a produce section of the grocery store, you can spot these fabulous fruit as you enter the department.

I can hardly keep myself from picking one up.  The texture is unforgettable and incomparable. It is fuzzy.

Popular familiarity with the surface of this unique fruit is so well-known that it is the nickname for a young man’s earliest signs of whiskers.  It is similar and aptly described.  This is a the stage when a man’s beard is soft and strokeable.

IMG_2331Some peel the skin off to enjoy eating it.  Others dig right in.  It is adaptable to either of a persona’s taste.

When that first bite is taken it is never done with cleanliness in mind.  Dribble and dripping juices seek the path of least resistance.  This reality is not a dissuading factor  rather it is part of the overall peach experience.

Then, there is the expanded pleasure of this peach.  It comes in the form of peach cobbler, peach ice cream, peach salsa, peach preserves, peach jam or any other limitless concoction.  People love their peaches.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2145There is a fascinating topic of discussion.  We have had it with our new neighbors.  Friends who have come to our home have joined our conversation.  None of knows what kind of tree is in front of our house.

We know that it is some kind of palm.  The leaves certainly are palm tree specific.  But, what kind of palm tree it is, we do not know.

Admittedly, we have a lot more on our plates than to discover the name of this tree.  It will not change our lives much to know what species of palm it is.  Nor will it do anything for us other than satisfy a simple curiosity.  Some day I am sure, someone will tell us the name.

In the meantime we are just enjoying it.  It is growing.  The flower is amazing.  It is striking and colorful.

Originally, the flowering part of the palm captured our attention.  The yellow contrasted against the brilliant green leaves.  Then, each day I noticed how much more that flowers were growing.  It was massive growth.

In some ways they remind me of two ears of corn.  They started out yellow and oblong.  Then, each day they grew and grew.  It was fun to watch.

Fruitfulness is a healthy part of growth.  When life demonstrates itself there is fruit.  It is the celebration that life is present and growing.

There is a persistent argument among Christians.  It sometimes pertains to strategy, expansion, facilities, programs or staff.  The topic is always “growth”.  Do we want to grow or not?

IMG_2149A genuine argument does not really exist.  It is just a flurry of words that ventilate emotions and biases.  People get in their minds to dig in their heals and pick an issue to hang it on for all to hear.

The actual word is “change”.  Few will bring it up.  This what the real issue often reflects.  People do not like change if someone else is taking over, they themselves are losing influence or jealousy replaces the true expression of Christian living, namely, love.

Instead, there is something that marks the presence of life.  It is change.  What is growing is never the same today as it was yesterday.  Tomorrow will be even more different from yesterday.  Today’s results will even change, putting greater distance from what occurred yesterday.  Change is a natural consequence or even better a symptom that true growth is taking place.  I like my palm.  It is changing.  It is alive and growing.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Motorcycle to Banff 2008 144It is the birthday of the seasons.  America, it is your special day.  We honor you on the anniversary of your birth.  Each of us is grateful to be a citizen in your great land.

“I pledge allegiance” out of my own thoughtful volition, under no duress or settling for the only option that I have.

“to the flag” as a symbol of the liberty and pursuit of happiness that many have died so that I would have this great privilege

“of the United States of America” where unity is fundamentally protected under our Constitution and Bill of Rights, a people representing every ethnic group in the world, united not because of our differences but because of our common commitment and devotion to freedom

“and to the Republic” to be serviced by our elected officials promoting our values and views, civil servants who know that they are in office because of our citizenship, they represent all who are their constituency, not their own personal political biases

“for which it stands” we are a nation that collectively brings our priority of national exceptionalism without apology, not in arrogance but in joy to live here and to help other people in our world when we are able to do so

“one nation” not just the ruling party, not one person’s personal ideology, not one universally extreme set of values but what all in this nation can say with pride, we are a part of this country

“under God” because there is only One source for natural law that all people can embrace, choose values that work for all, humbly enjoy our pursuits while respecting others, providentially acknowledging our own limitations while trusting by faith for His favor to continue what clearly He began

“indivisible” because unselfish people set aside divisive motives and agendas for the good of the many, demonstrating the best of what man can do for his fellow-man, a strength of united selflessness

“with liberty and justice for all” the pinnacle of our nation’s values and our best effort and means to protect and promote it, no one left out, no one marginalized, everyone given the opportunity to advance their gifts, skills and passions.

This is the allegiance that I pledge to this great nation where I was born, live and serve.  God bless America.  God bless the USA.  Happy Birthday to my Country, land of the free.  This is my country, land that I love.  I’m pledging my allegiance, America!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Austin & San Antonio vacation 2013 569Providentially we were teamed up together for ministry 30 years ago. Together we were a part of growing lives in the church Jr. High Youth Group.  Then, there were decades of virtual silence, except for the annual Christmas letter update.  Surprisingly, after thousands of miles of separation, we ended up in the last quarter of our lives a mere three-hour drive from each other.

Our vacation plans made it possible for us to connect, share a mutual expression of hospitality and build some new memories.  My bride and I stayed in Danny and Becky’s home.  Together we made forays into the San Antonio tourist arenas for unforgettable meals, laughter, reminiscing, encouragement and open plans for more together times.

Danny left for work early.  Becky and Yvonne were locked into a girl to girl conversation.  I sat with them and looked very engaged into the dialogue.

My occasional, “Hmm” or frequent “Ah” or my thrice “Yes” or my one time “I see” did not garner much attention.  I may Austin & San Antonio vacation 2013 571have nodded off once or twice.  I do not remember.  Nor did they for that matter.

I left them and went upstairs.  There I wrote several books and read two novels.  I came back downstairs.  They were still talking.

When I sat down and mentioned, “That makes sense.” they ignored me.  It struck me that they did not even miss me for that last day and a half.  Women really do need to speak several thousand words more than men per hour.

Danny came home and we climbed into the car.  We went to enjoy San Antonio’s world-famous River Walk.  It is every bit as beautiful and relaxing as you would imagine.

Austin & San Antonio vacation 2013 637Together we walked the banks of the river. They were lined with flowers, water features and ducks.  People added the comic relief when it came to variety, languages and fashion.  A Mariachi band gave us plenty of South of the Border entertainment.

Then, we made our way to the symbol of Texas Freedom.  Our path led us to the Alamo.  Its history and memory of those who gave their lives for the freedom of the many who would follow stirs anyone who contemplates the impossible situation that these brave men faced.

San Antonio was fun.  The tourist sites were nice and the food was memorable.  But, when it comes down to it, a great vacation is all about who you are with that makes it special.  These two friends are special.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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