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There is a fascination in my spirit for exotic beauty.  It is not just the mystique of the Hawaiian Islands or the lure of the Caribbean Islands.  Both locations are amazing.  The people, the history, the stunning sights, the ever presence of water giving contrasts of the blues against the greens.

Fauna is unique.  The wild pigs of the Hawaiians or the feral cattle of the Islands.  Some would even claim a herd of wild horses roam the mountains on these exotic locations.

Of course the colorful fish below the surface of the waters intrigues every skin diver or snorkel buff in the world.  I did swim in both waters and will never forget being ushered into the underwater world of God’s creative hand in fish shapes, sizes, colors and peculiarities.

Yet, the exotic places on this planet always include the flora of the warm tropical environs.  In particular I am always fascinated with the orchid.  They are like no other flower on the planet.

My camera never finds many dull moments.  The shutter is rapidly lining up frame after frame. Delicate petals and gentle blend of colors never ceases to amaze me.

Quietly, I thought that if I could raise these amazing plants of stunning beauty I would.  Yet, my green thumb never did appear.  However, I live that dream vicariously through my bride.

A number of orchids live in our home.  They are under the watch care of my better half.  She has learned how to nurture and cheer on these hardy yet particular plants.

The great test of success is the second bloom.  Once an orchid has lost its flowers, keeping the plant happy so that it will bloom again is like a new birth.  My wife has lost count of how many successful second births we have witnessed.

Each time buds appear we are thrilled.  More buds pop and soon a line of future blooms line a branch.  In anticipation we are always pleasantly surprised when a new day dawns and several blooms greet us to start a new day.

On Valentine’s Day I did not shower the love of my life with long stem flowers.  They are wonderful.  Instead, I paraded in four new additions to her orchid collection.  Both of us gazed at the gorgeous blooms and look forward to watching those plants reproduce again and again.  That is beauty of the blooming kind.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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IMG_3365When I checked the weather forecast, the temperatures would start out in the low 50’s and climb to the mid 60’s.  No precipitation was coming our way all week.  The winds were mild.  It was a perfect day for my first motorcycle ride of the year.

Early in the morning I pulled my bike out of its parking spot in my garage.  With a can of cleaning and polishing spray in one hand and a clean rag in the other I set about bringing a gleaming shine to my faithful riding stead.  It take long before the pride of ownership made me smile over my Kawasaki Nomad.

All of the fluids were topped off.  My air pressure in the tires were spot on.  All of the lights and signals worked.

Next I pulled up my chair and positioned myself at the back of the bike.  It was time to update the plates and tags.  After tightening a few bolts and nuts, I was ready with a legally registered motorcycle.

Finally, I gathered my riding clothes.  My jacket was ready to go.  Boots were shined and very comfortable.  Gloves fit like they should.

My helmet went on and cinched up perfectly.  Of course my sunglasses added to the safety of riding into the sun.  Then, the all important ignition.  My Silver Dragon roared to life.

Bikers feel the eagerness of their machines.  It is like they have a life of their own.  Pulling, growling and pushing forward, they are ready to ride.

My garage door closed behind me.  I put the machine into gear and rolled on the throttle.  Power under control with the lean into the curve ushered me out of our neighborhood and on to the interstate.

An 18 wheeler rumbled by.  I did not feel any danger next to such a menacing brute.  Instead, I throttled up and roared past the road hauler.

A BMW scooted on to the freeway at the next interchange.  He was in a hurry.  Dodging cars he was merely glancing at slower cars around him.

My thumb was on the button of my air horn.  I was ready to press it if that driver swerved into my lane.  It must have been the first time he actually used his rear view mirror.

His RPM’s dropped dramatically.  That Beemer fell behind quickly.  I was glad that I had my fluorescent green safety belt on for this early season ride.

The road opened up in front of me.  24 miles later I pulled into the parking lot of our DTS-Houston campus.  It was an exhilarating ride.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3343My body shivered.  It reminded me that the morning in the desert in February was chilly.  Since I was sitting down there was no movement to warm me up.

I zipped up my jacket a bit tighter.  It helped.  Then, I pulled my hood over my head and snapped it up.  That helped a lot.  Whoever designed these jackets knew how to retain body heat for just this kind of moment.

A coyote howled.  It was not that far away.  Then, another one joined in the chorus.   It was a pack of carnivores within a mile of where I sat.

I do not speak coyote but their song sounded like a victory yelp of a successful hunt.  A pack of desert dogs had their morning meal and they were celebrating.  After they were done filling their bellies, flocks of buzzards would make short work of any leftovers.

Birds began chirping.  Doves began cooing.  The swift whoosh of the wings of a powerful owl moved quietly through the night.  No doubt he was returning to his daytime refuge.

All the signs of the sunrise were moving like a mighty vanguard to usher in a new day.  But, this moment was more than just about the morning.  I was looking for something far more tangible.  I wanted to get rid of the shivers.

Then, the horizon lit up like an orange splash of color.  Shapes in the desert were given definition.  Textures of cactus, mesquite and grasses surrounded my chair.

A whitetail buck appeared out of the scrub and stared at another competitive buck.  They did not know I was there.  I did not move a muscle.

Each handsome animal pawed at the ground and grunted at each other.  Then, a bigger, more powerful buck stepped into the arena.  It stared at each of the younger pretenders.  Just as quickly, the dominant buck moved off silently, quickly into the brush.

The orange and red sky had bleached away, swallowed up by the bright blazing ball of the rising sun.  It was now a stunning orb in the Eastern sky.  However, the beauty of and grandeur paled in comparison to the warmth that it was showering down on my morning watch.

I unzipped my jacket.  Then, I pulled off my hood.  My legs crossed and I welcomed the comfort that the sun had offered.  It was going to be a grand day.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3342Not everyone is comfortable walking into the desert while it is still night.  The darkness that shrouds the vast expanse of Southern Texas can be hazardous for the unaware.  A pack of howling coyote can erupt the panic and fear in the life of even the bravest of men.

It was not a time to be careless or naive.  My walk was with the right equipment and my destination was planned with precision.  I was confident that I would not only be safe but the expectation of my objective kept me on track.

The double-track was clear.  I had clipped a light on the bill of my hat.  It lit  my way so that I would not stumble or take the wrong path to my destination.

A chair waited for me.  It was just in time.  Early morning light was starting to highlight the trees around me.  The darkness was being challenged by the sky that was starting to glow with a new day dawning.

Over the next 30 minutes the light of the morning sky grew brighter.  It was just a simple contrast with the pitch black grounds around me.  Then, the sky began to show up in bright yellows and orange hues.

A distinct tint of purple fled the fiery ball that was rising in the East.  Like a blazing spotlight surrounded by the spectacular blasts of a sky that looked like it was ablaze, the sun was taking center stage.

Now, the night had lost its grip over the land.  The threat of danger from what the darkness hid was being overtaken.  Instead, of looking left, right or behind, my eyes were taking in the rising of the sun.  It was amazing.

No matter how tough life gets, gazing at the erupting of a sunrise of a brand new day is an elixir available to anyone who gets up to watch it for free.  While the light flooded over my small plot of land, I felt warmer, happier, satisfied and hopeful.  Mix this experience with the joy of prayer, strength from contemplation and the cleansing of meditation for the beginning of a great day of recharging my energy.

I found myself smiling.  It was an involuntary physiological response. Beginning makes us all hope again.

A few strands of high clouds was the canvas for God’s painting a new portrait of the day.  It captured the stunning mixture of colors.  Those features are simply the features that make up what is beautiful.  Take in a sunrise soon.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Austin 2013 109The Apostle Paul does not take issue with instructions given by Jesus regarding marriage. Instead, He is giving wise advice.  This lesson is consistent with what Jesus taught and trustworthy.

The subject that is given to the Corinthian believers is for virgins, those who have not had a sexual experience. Circumstances that make life dangerous influence Paul to advise virgins to consider a celibate life, that is, remain single. Equally, he urges the married to remain married. The common denominator is to not change. Stress levels are high enough and don’t need to be aggravated during trying times.  Marriage is difficult, so to add this to troubled times is not a wise choice.

A spiritual perspective points to how short life is. Investing in eternity should be our priority. If our interest is divided we will lose focus on what is eternally important.

True to his shepherding spirit, Paul’s primary interest is concern for the people of Corinth. The distinction is simple. If a man is married his first concern is to please his wife. The affairs of the Lord will not have the same amount of attention.

Someone who is a virgin can direct all of her interest and energies to the things of the Lord. If she is married she naturally will give her attention to pleasing her husband. There is no intent to impose a restriction with this lesson but to highlight a very good option.

Practical matters can indicate what direction someone should choose. If the urge to marry is overwhelming, then, marriage is a right choice. There is no sin when this choice is made.

Some people have a gift to remain single.  They choose not to marry.  For them that choice is right for them.  Marrying or not are both good choices.

Marriage is a durable institution, dissolved by death.  If someone loses a spouse due to death, they are free to marry again.  However, they should choose wisely and marry someone of faith.

However, once single again, the option to choose singleness is a good one.  The cares of life in difficult time allow a single person to be more efficient and effective as they live for the Lord.  It is not better but it is a very choice.

Those facing a decision to marry or remain single should do so with spiritual wisdom  How can they best serve the Lord?  This is as important to consider as the feelings of the heart.

1 corinthians 7.25-40

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3331It was time for a break.  Life has been full for weeks.  There have been long nights, longer days and no days off.

Nevertheless, I have also learned to pay attention to my inner voice telling me when it is necessary to recharge my batteries.  Providentially, I was invited to join a friend and head south.  We would hang out in the deserts of South Texas.

Many would scrunch up their face with the thought of retreating into the desert.  To the uninitiated the desolate world of brown and faded green might be more frustration than refreshment.  But, I have done this before and I have found such a journey like a fountain of revitalization.

I did not need an alarm clock.  Life’s burdens had been waking me up early, before the sun warmed the earth.  Donning my outdoors clothes I began my walk.

The sand was plentiful and gave way under my boots.  Each step found solid ground after the surface was compressed.  There would not be much speed on this stroll.

There was no reason to hurry.  An easy pace gave me the chance to absorb my amazing surroundings.  Life was popping up all around me.

A road runner scampered across the road that I was following.  Then, a pair of jackrabbits hopped into the middle of the road, stopped, looked at me, then leaped off into the scrub brush of the desert.

Doves in large flocks of 20 or 30 would flush and soar through the sky with blazing speed.  A covey of quail flushed and flew off to the West.  But, they had given themselves away with their chirping and bobwhite calls.

Something ahead on the road made me pause.  Holding very still, I focused on the unusual shapes on the road 400 yards ahead.  A trio of whitetail deer were staring back.

A dominant doe lowered her head.  Her big brown eyes never diverted away from me.  Then, she popped her head up trying to discover some movement to assess my threat level to her and her friends.

She stomped her front hoof.  Neither perspective, sound or time gave her reason to flee.  Then, she relaxed.

Between us a small herd of Javelinas walked out between us and began feeding on corn scattered on the road.  Their grunting and snorting was entertaining.  This is not a desolate wilderness but a land filled with life and variety if you pause to drink it in and refresh your soul.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3314It is Stephen’s 50th birthday.  Being a half centenarian means maturity, experience, impact, establishment, success, promise, hope and joy.

Very special gifts must be carefully planned.  No one “needs” gifts when they turn 50.  Adding to the collection of other stuff does not need to be the focus.  However, what’s a party without gifts?  This day calls for a personal work of creation that is fitting of the new season of life.  It is that special.  Such a gift must be thoughtful, fresh and full of meaning.

I had those inspiring stimuli in my mind when I visited our local discount store.  There I roamed in the various departments collecting items that would form into a sculpture worthy of this once in a lifetime landmark.  If an item lit up my face, added to the vision forming in my mind, and especially made me laugh, then it passed the sniff test and went into my shopping cart.

“Back at the ranch” I unpacked my discoveries and went to work on the assembly of the unique presentation.  First, the heart and soul of this sculpture was the cane.  It was a red, white and blue telescoping deluxe model.  Certainly, it would depict the patriotic spirit of this newly minted 50 year-old.

Close to the cane’s handle was a combination bell and compass.  The bell can easily be operated with his thumb.  It serves as a friendly sound to signal friends and neighbors, a cheerful “Good-day!” sound.

Next, a rear view mirror is attached.  Of course it is multi-directional with unlimited adjustments.  The glass is a fish-eye style to help aging eyes focus on oncoming traffic.  Hanging on the stem of the mirror is the headlamp.  It really is a “head” lamp.  With the elastic band, he can strap his light around his forehead for night-time walking.

Just below the mirror is the advanced emergency warning system.  Some might think that it is just a horn.  But, they would be wrong.  When traffic is slowing him down a single blast of this instrument will clear the obstacles for a clear hobble home.

Finally, there is a sports bottle for a single dose of Ensure.  A bear bell hangs in a sack on the bottom of the stack.  Once it’s popped out it will jingle with every movement so that his wife will always know where he is.  The combination chain lock will keep this unique and practical sculpture safe for his own secure use.  Happy Birthday, Stephen!

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