You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2014.

FullSizeRenderMy backyard is relatively unused.  During our first few years as homeowners I have used the backyard a few dozen times.  Most of the time those were spent on our small 8×10 slab where my smoker/grill is parked.

The grassy well-irrigated lawn does not have my foot prints on it much.  Occasionally, I have ventured out there to play around with archery.  But, the range is limited to 20 yards so it is not really adequate to that hobby.

Our gardeners use the yard much more than we do.  Their use is limited to cutting the grass.  Twice we have had them clear out and straighten up our flower beds.

Aesthetic values are first for our yard.  We like looking at it from inside of our house.  Everything is neat, attractive and pleasing to the eye.

Now, make no mistake, I can imagine a more useful backyard. Move us into the country and take down the wall and fencing and we have a positive improvement.  Back up our property line to a massive forest or thousands of acres of undeveloped woods.

Make sure that there are plenty of Oak trees scattered about that will drop innumerable acorns and give the flocks of turkey a place to roost for the night.  Allow for groves of low hanging bushes so that the deer have a place to call home.  Lease enough acres for gentlemen farmers to plant crops that give pheasants good habitat.

Make sure that there are enough ponds scattered to attract waterfowl, sustain several species of warm water fish and give the beavers challenges to build their dams.  Once the dams are built and the lush water grasses flourish, maybe moose will filter into the region.  Allow a few deep ravines to carve out a place for elk to roam.

This is a backyard to thoroughly enjoy.  God’s creation at its best is just outside of my porch will give decades of entertainment.  Living off of the land will not just be a hobby but a choice of life.

On a brisk Autumn day, I could see bundling up, rocking on a chair with a cup of hot cocoa in one hand.  Movement catches my eye.  Slowly, I bring up my binoculars to my line of sight.

A herd of deer are grazing through the woods.  The dominant doe is alert.  Behind the herd is a massive buck looking for love.  I smile and my dream breaks off because it is time to go to work.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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Travel for ministry is not uncommon in my schedule.  Most of my time is spent in my home town but air travel is very visible in my calendar.  Yet, I still make mistakes.

Sometimes I forget to pack some necessities.  Once I forgot socks.  At other times I have forgotten toothpaste, toothbrush, razor or comb.

Now, I have a bag with travel items that I keep handy for all of my journeys.  So far I have not forgotten that bag.  However, I have forgotten to refill several of those important dispensers or replace those empty containers.

I have a check list that helps me.  A busy schedule keeps deadlines and departures on the edge.  The routine is getting honed to something that is common.

Nevertheless, no matter how hard I try there are danger zones primed for a mistake.  When I arrive at the airport parking, my individual world turns into an instantaneous stressful moment.  In front of me driver is unsure of where to park, slowing down an entire line of cars.  We all are waiting to move into a slot and jump on to the airport shuttle.

Finally, I get to pick a spot while the shuttle moves up.  Now, the shuttle and all of its passengers are waiting for me to climb aboard.  I grab my bag and don my backpack.  Then, I hit my remote to lock the truck and climb into the shuttle and we whisk off to the terminal.

The terminal is ahead while all of us are jostled around the tight turns to enter into the drop-off zone.  We are all reaching for our cellphones to check our gates.  That is the moment when shock and awe grip my heart.

I forgot my phone.

It is back in my truck.  When I left from home I connected it to the power cord to ensure a full charge for the journey.  The rushing around to catch the shuttle distracted me.

How can I survive without my cellphone for four days?  How would I double-check my schedule, call up my confirmation numbers, make appointments, send text messages to key people or take pictures of the weekend adventure?  This was a very unsettling discovery.

Yes, I prayed.  I asked God to calm my spirit and sort out this travel wrinkle.  Just like the Word promises, He gave me calm.

I smiled.  This would be an adventure.  He would be there for me and He does not need a cellphone to stay in touch.

IMG_4727Moping around for days about my smashed I-pad glass seemed right to me.  Remorse calmly tempers my foolish actions that caused the broken control panel on my high-tech machine.  It was that similar feeling that comes when repenting from sin.

On my next day-off I stopped in the nearest Apple store for a repair estimate.  This branch store was located in the middle of a major shopping mall.  Parking was the biggest challenge.

The crowds in the store the store were shocking.  This was a week day and in the middle of the day.  Does everyone get a Friday off from work?

Patiently or at least appearing patient I waited my turn.  Besides the drive into town, the parking, the long walk and now the standing in line, my day-off had lost nearly two hours.  Finally, it was my turn.

The associate or whatever they call these triage workers in blue shirts had a mini-i-pad in hand and had to be a least a decade younger than my own children.  She smiled and asked how she could help.  I showed her my broken screen.

I was taking it out of my messenger bag to show her but she asked a horrible, terrible most despicable question, “Sir, do you have an appointment?”  My heart sank.  That thought had never even crossed my mind.

“No.”  Undeterred, she made several motions on her screen and said that the earliest appointment that was open was in two hours.  Rather than spend my entire morning chasing down options, I asked for an appointment at the end of the day so that I could come back on my way to run my afternoon errands.  We settled on a time.

Of course I was prompt for my 4pm appointment.  They whisked me right into the shop and seated me at a table.  A young, very young associate called my name and I raised my hand.

She assessed the condition of my broken glass screen all of the time entering data on her own mini I-pad.  “What’s the cost for the repair?”  After I picked myself off the floor, I then asked how much a new unit would cost.  It was the same cost as a repair!  I thanked her for her help and left the shop.

A google search led me to a repair shop near my office.  They repaired my I-pad for a third of the cost.  I also bought from them a protective case, easier to hold and set up.  Now, I am back in action.

IMG_4725My splendid I-pad was serving me well.  It comfortably perched on its keyboard with Blue Tooth connectivity humming like a top.  My aching back, weary brain and fatigued fingers were all pushing for an immediate break.

That suggestion sounded wonderful to me.  Flopping back on the sofa and reaching for the TV remote seemed to rejuvenate my spirit.  A weekend football game would be just the right elixir for a weary body nearing the completion of several writing projects.

A good game popped up on the screen.  The score was close so the game looked competitive.  My interest was sealed.

Then, I made a critical error in judgment.  My I-pad was still set up for work.  It was on a TV tray.

The thought popped into my mind that I did not want to accidentally kick it should an exciting moment occur on the gridiron.  My plan was to push the TV tray out of harm’s way.  Instead of sitting up and moving the tray carefully with my hands, I thought that I could deftly achieve that objective by pushing the it with my foot.

Slowly, carefully I pushed.  Our floor is tile.  One of the legs got stuck in one of the grout joints between tiles.

The TV tray came to an abrupt halt while my foot kept pushing.  Physics took over, especially the law of gravity.  My I-pad took a tumble.

Life went into slow motion.  Nothing I could do was fast enough to catch my falling technology gem.  It flipped several times in the air and smashed face first flat on the rock hard tile.

There was a smashing sound from the slap on the tile simultaneously accompanied with the ugly sound of shattering glass.  Before I ever saw the damage, I shook my head.  Carefully, I picked up my treasured tool of the modern world of technology.

Like rolling over a human body involved in a horrendous accident, I slowly turned my I-pad over to see its face.  Eew!  Lightening might look like this when splattering across the night sky.  Or a root system of a massive tree would look just like this jagged pattern of cracks, breaks and splinters.

Sinking into the sofa with the I-pad in my hands, I felt so sad.  It was a dumb move on my part.  Now, the consequences were self-evident.

Life is like that.  Stuff gets broken.  No one lives a flawless, mistake free life.  Thank God that He is merciful when foul up like this.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

FullSizeRenderGetting up and getting going to depart for our workday commute takes a lot of gumption.  There is the inevitable magnetism of a comfortable bed that is tough to escape.  The ease of staying put all curled up and tucked in is very inviting.

Nevertheless, will power and responsibility win the day and soon we are washed up, fed and loaded up for our 24 mile commute.  Rolling into traffic reminds us that we are glad that we did not procrastinate.  Already, traffic beginning to build up.

The vast majority of Texas drivers are polite and safe.  Usually, there are a few who got up late and are in a big hurry.  They take advantage of everyone else as they zip in and out lanes.

So, the rest of the courteous drivers, shrug their shoulders and drive on to their destination.  Maybe that is why the Lord blessed so many of us with a sensational sunrise.  It began slowly but steadily.

In the East there was a glow on the horizon.  Someone could have mistakenly thought that a massive fire was lighting up the sky.  In some ways the sun is a fire-ball but off of our planet and orbiting in space far away to keep us from burning but close enough to provide light and warmth.

The Creator was amazing in the proportions of distance and angles to best show earth how His design was stunning.

With more and more miles falling behind us, the glow ahead grew and splashed against the dark sky of the receding night.  Like the dismissal of an undisputed champion, the night is not even missed.  Instead, the crowds of commuting humans have to smile at the free light show that is capturing the skies.

Bright yellows lick away the night.  Then, glowing oranges take the broad brushstrokes of the low hanging clouds.  Reds trim the front assault of the orange strokes.

There is nothing human about this display.  Everything about it is heavenly.  Both in expanse as well as in dynamic shifts the hand of God shows off His creative display.

For all that we commuters tolerate for the sake of life and duty, we do get this occasional treat.  The Texas skies seem to be prepared canvas for the intricate creative strokes of the Almighty.  It both takes your breath away and gives you a reason to keep on breathing at the same time.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4434There is a recognizable and unmistakable morning sound that disrupts the deepest slumber.  Each one of us has customized that sound with the advent of cellphones and programmable sounds.  Nevertheless, we all know the wake-up call of our personal alarm clocks.

Mine sounds loudly at 5:00AM in the morning.  Admittedly, there are times when I am awake, waiting for the sound to start my day.  But, there are just as many days when the sleep spoiler jars the most peaceful moments of a deep repose.

Now, the fast-paced routine begins.  My shower, shave and clean-up climax with my wardrobe selection for the day.  Breakfast and lunch are checked off and it is time to climb into our commuter machine.

My bride and I have been  alone since we climbed out of bed.  Now, we enter the road system at 5.55AM and we are no longer the lonesome duo.  Instead, we are mixed into the masses on their way to work into Houston.

Seriously, there are thousands of vehicles merging on to the freeway system.  The sky is still dark. Even the sun does not want to rise this early.

Headlights illuminate the black asphalt.  Reflectors built into the roads and strategically call attention to road signs.  Mostly, it is dark outside, very dark.

Stop-and-go is the best description of the daily commute.  Some drivers have their radios blaring.  One guy with his custom exhaust system loves to fall back then accelerate quickly so that everyone else can hear the rumble of  his loud pipes.

I have a different practice.  My bride and I carpool together.  We have wonderful conversations on the way into work.

Sometimes we laugh. Other times we discuss an important national or world issue.  Many times we are discussing the meaning behind a particularly interesting passage of Scripture.

Of course we have a running commentary on the driving habits of those who are around us.  We like the majority of drivers who obey the law and are courteous to others.  There is also our common dislike for the impatient driver who is zig zagging in and out of traffic because they are in a rush.

Perhaps the best part of all is the traffic lightens up for us after a brief two mile stretch.  That is when we are allowed to enter the HOV lane and dispense with the traffic jam and reach nearly posted speeds all of the way into work.  It is more than a small blessing and we are grateful.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Cannon Beach Parade 2011 007 Everybody loves a parade.  That age-old adage of Americana does not need proof from statistics or polls or historical analysis.  Instead, it is a phrase that describes a universal truism; this country has a pride about it that is felt by the citizens who line the streets of parades in rural USA and major metropolitan cities.

When the drums start their rat-ta-tat-tat and the brass blare out a Souza march and the sirens of the local fire engines sound their presence, the people along the parade route rouse themselves with expectation.  Children began to dance naturally.  Sweets are rationed out by parents.

There is plenty of applause from the adoring crowd.  It is an American custom to enjoy a parade.  Traditions flourish with the marching units all directed by the parade marshal.

One such tradition is the lead unit escorts the color guard.  The American flag leads the parade.  Veterans carry the stars and stripes.  We honor them and they honor our national symbol.

In the days gone past, the people often stood when the colors marched by.  Some covered their hearts with an open hand.  Other marching units waiting for their turn to enter the parade stand at attention and salute the honor guard as it passes in review.

Grey hair spills out from the hats of the veterans.  But, they are not just the elderly doing what no one else wanted to do.  They are the heroes of the past who risked life and limb to fight an enemy who threatened to take away our freedom.

Now, as survivors and veterans, they meet with fellow soldiers.  They encourage each other through life.  For the rest of their lives they are lifted up as the best representatives to carry the flag that they carried in battle.

Does everyone really love a parade?  I do not know any hard percentages or numbers validated by one of the Big 5 accounting firms.  However, the notion that a parade is filled with the cheer of fellow Americans who risked everything so that we could have a parade is enough for me.

I marched in my share of these grand displays.  Some were small town homey gatherings.  Others were filmed in front of a live audience for national television.  In every case it was a privilege to feel that we are a nation under God who appreciate our liberty won and protected by our veterans.  Thank you to each and every one of you.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4420

Every Thursday morning at 6:30AM I need to be at church for a gathering called Warrior’s Heart.  Several men volunteer to do the parking signs, breakfast food, coffee, table setup, name tags, registration and greeting.  My part is to teach the Bible lesson.

Since I live a good distance away, I have to leave for our gathering point by 5:25AM.  That means I need to wake up by 4:45AM.  If I do not go to bed early the night before I am going to suffer.

Many times I go to bed at the proper time but I experience a restless sleep.  My mind is going a mile a minute thinking about the lesson and making sure that I have all of my thoughts clearly sorted out.  Of course my computer for projecting the lesson on the two huge screens is essential.

When I choose to use my computer, I have to remember my power cord, my projection adapter, my remote control. Of course I need to bring my reading glasses along as well.  I wake up periodically in a fitful fog wondering if I have forgotten something or worse, if I have overslept.

Finally, I am wide awake at 4:40am waiting for my alarm clock to start its early morning chiming.  Impatient, I just reach over and shut it off.  The next thing that I realize is that I am in the shower and do not remember getting into it.

Glancing at the clock I smile.  At least my routine has me on schedule and ready to fend off the anxiety from running late.  My wonderful bride is ready to go.  We enjoy the commute together.

We carry on a great conversation on the way to work.  It is a 23 mile drive.  Neither of us remember what we talked about but it was fun while we drove into town.

I am the first to stumble walking across the street.  No, neither of us have ever been drunk but this is what it must feel like.  That is when I tell myself to pick up my feet, point my body in the direction of choice and then I can begin putting one foot in front of the other.

No one in my situation even bats an eye at this sleep walking.  We catch up on at least three extra winks before engaging people for the day. God helps me to forbid myself from signing any important papers until the weekend.  Are my eyes open or closed?

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

IMG_4620Pastor Gregg Matte sensed a deep-seated burden from the Lord.  He has been challenged by the Spirit to make prayer a reality in his personal daily practice for over the last year. In his intercession God impressed on his heart a rallying of the pastors of our city to gather and to pray.

He sent out an invitation for pastors to meet for prayer in his office on a Thursday in November.  The simple agenda was to prayer together for the city of Houston.  Remember this gathering for pastors and ministry leaders was planned a month and a half in advance.

The week of the pre-planned event, the city of Houston became world news.  Houston’s mayor had sent out a subpoena to five local pastors.  Each of these ministers were ordered to hand over all sermons that spoke on homosexuality or mentioned the mayor.

The Christian community was shocked.  But, they were not shocked into compliance or frightened into submission.  Instead, the pastors rose up and stood together.IMG_4619

Senator Ted Cruze joined the pastors who gathered in Pastor Gregg Matte’s office.  He never knew that this was part of God’s providential plan.  But, the time was perfect.

The media came to cover this galvanizing event, historic in American church history.  Pastors normally humbly compliant and supportive of our God-ordained governmental officials, drew a line in front of their pulpits.  No governmental intimidation or control over the message of God delivered in the name of His Son would be tolerated.

IMG_4621Over 50 pastors packed into Pastor Gregg’s office.  He directed the prayer session to pray for our mayor, protect the church and move on the local government to rescind their directive of control over the pulpits of the city.  We broke up into groups of 4-6 and prayed up a powerful time of intercession and supplication.

After an hour of prayer we moved downstairs to stand in solidarity before the news cameras as Senator Cruze addressed the media.  Clearly he spoke courageous words of freedom, liberty and religious autonomy. God’s servants had a right to speak the words of God without governmental oversight or control.

God’s calling was the sole directive in the words spoken in American pulpits.  Furthermore, it was a liberty written in our own Constitution.  The scene of pastors from different denominations, various ethnic backgrounds and multi-generational was powerful.

They stood together with the common bond of Christ among them.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4474Meet Norm.  He is a St. Bernard.  When he lumbers into a room, he goes wherever he wants to go.

Most of the time Norm moves very slowly.  He is a big dog and if he moved quickly there would be a lot of stuff that would go flying.  More than once I was whipped by his tail.

If something excited Norm and he launched into a frenzy, anything that was not nailed down would be in orbit.  Reclining across the room was no problem if Norm thought that I would grant him a good scratch behind the ears or a massage down his ticklish lower back.  In a matter of seconds he could close the distance between me and his  rug of choice.

Getting to see Norm was a bit of a journey.  United Airlines put me on a puddle jumper from Denver to Laramie.  It was a dependable aircraft but it moved faster than any dog, even faster than one as big and long-legged as Norm.IMG_4455

At the Denver airport I climbed aboard an Embraer 120 Brasilia.  It is a twin-engine  turboprop.  This spiffy commuter plane seats up to 30 people.  It has a top speed of 378 mph.

When the Pratt and Whitney engines fired up, the noise in the cabin bordered on being uncomfortable.  The vibration inside the cabin became very noticeable.  But, once the powerful engines lifted us into the atmosphere, the noise and shaking calmed down.

Swiftly the ground fell away.  From a stand still we were racing over the Wyoming prairie with speeds that would take us Laramie in just over 30 IMG_4447minutes.  That is very fast.

What is even faster is the Airbus 319 that whisked me away from Houston.  Crowding 134 passengers aboard and winging away at a blistering 511 mph, this jetliner left no doubt what speed is all about.  The comfort was splendid and the views were above the clouds.

From the bustling world-class city of 6 million people, to the quiet prairies of Laramie, Wyoming to the cabin where Norm rustled around, speed became less and less of an issue.  If Norm could shuffle around on occasion just to get more comfortable, then there was a lesson for me.  It was time to take a break from the busy life.

A fast-pace was no longer in order.  My heart rate seemed to enjoy the pace of the 8,400 foot elevation just fine.  This is relaxation at its finest: slower, more relaxed and restful…ah!  Thank you, God.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

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