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When very bright people are placed in a room with many other bright people of a different opinion, what does it take for a healthy discussion to occur without sour attitudes emerging or animas erupting?  Can men and women, who are scholars, also exercise enough restraint to consider the argument or hesitation of a contrasting view without rude comments, subsequent slander or derisive conversation once the differing personalities are back home and separated by thousands of miles? Isn’t ot normal for people who are highly educated and heavily credentialed to find themselves in cheerful unity when minority views of obscure topics test their ability to be gracious?

I was at a gathering of very bright people.  The credentials and awards and publications are a lot like a who’s who among Christian scholars will take your breath away.  The most noted ones are featured as presenters either on a small seminar scale or on a larger plenary platform.

Others have their books on display and for sale by the major Christian publishers.  A cadre of fans follow their favorite teachers around the large conference grounds.  The conversations are frequently too deep for me to follow with clarity.

There were a lot of future scholars present. Many listeners who were curious to see sparks fly were in the room as well. It ended up being a standing room only crowd.

The conversation started off bland and polite. Then a notion was suggested. An awkward silence ensued. Someone opined and finished off with a facetious flurry. It wasn’t at a loss of effect. A tart retort took a noticeable increases in volume. There was a low level buzz in the audience.

As if on cue, the moderator broke in with a cheerful admonition to the audience. They were not to disturb the conversation of the panel with partisan cheers. It got a laugh from the peanut gallery. Each of the panelists shifted to a more comfortable posture in their seats.

Our balance of time returned to a bland presentation. There was no more animation in tone or volume. I thought to myself, we never decided anything in the time that we invested in joining this seminar.

Can’t we be respectful and peaceable but also move the ball down the field? Some of life issues need much more from our scholar leaders than merely sounding out the germane terms. Definitions are fine but hopefully there will follow decisions that eliminate poor options and energize the resolve to embrace and practice good options. Choose.


IMG_5080There were too many close calls on my freeway commute this afternoon.  Each time a wild and crazy moment verged on turning into an emergency, my knuckles were white while my hands strangled the steering wheel.  I ripped one hand off the wheel to hit the horn.

While I was driving just under posted speeds, I noticed that the traffic up ahead was lighting up their brake lights.   I came up to the car in front of me just as it dramatically weaved to its right on to the shoulder of the interstate.  Appearing right in front of me and taking the entire lane was a riding zero-turn-radius mower.  My brakes groaned vigorously.  Thankfully, I dodged the blockage with a jump to the freeway shoulder.

Someone is going to be very surprised when they get to their destination and look into the back of their trailer.  While most of us who deftly sidestepped the obstacle found that thought humorous, I am sure that someone is going to be very sad.  At least that light thought made me regain my composure, return my blood pressure to normal and clear my head for the rest of my long drive back to my office.

The freeway split ahead with a gentle and wide opening for destinations north and south.  Good signage gave traffic plenty of time for merging into the correct lanes.  But, well-designed traffic patterns do not make up for distracted drivers who make decisions at the last-minute.

A pickup truck heavily laden with a bed full of construction equipment was lumbering along slowly, well below the posted speeds.  No doubt its slow speed was complicated by its payload. Just as I was approaching its driver abruptly pulled into my lane while his truck bobbed and weaved under it strained suspension.

I had to braked vigorously to keep from rear-ending him.  Traffic to my left was heavy preventing any quick lane change.  My horn was sounding the alarm of both an emergency situation and a very irritated driver.  When it was safe to pass him, he was hiding his face in embarrassment.  I was just trying to catch my breath and push my heart back into my chest.

Can you imagine how many close calls fill up all of our lives?  What do you think your guardian angel would say to you when recounting how many times we were protected on any given day?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

2116161This is not just another major disaster film.  At first I was nervous that it would be and the loud music, sound effects would overshadow any human interest story.  Or I did not want to see a movie that portrayed a half a dozen lives of strangers suddenly thrown together and becoming friends after surviving a terrible ordeal.

My dubious skepticism was allayed from the start.  During the first fast-paced sequence, The Rock did not disappoint me.  That is when I concluded that this was NOT a disaster flick rather it was an action film.

Ok, I admit also that I am a Dwayne Johnson fan.  When a man can look fit, strong and act also, that is a winning combination.  He is an action film hero.

The opening scene is nitro.  Maneuvering a helicopter into a narrow ravine in order to rescue a girl trapped in a car that is about ready to plunge into the valley below is harrowing.  Yet, the “cool” in our hero’s demeanor sets the stage for the movie.

Special effects add to this sensational rescue.  It is a nail-biter and very satisfying.  Then, the real story starts.

Yes, the big screen gives you your money’s worth on the unforgettable scenes.  Those who know the city of San Francisco wrench with the destruction of favorite sites.  It adds to the personal nature of the film.

The common fear of the Central California region plays right into the hands of the movie director’s takes.  Intense moments are eased with family dynamics that are wonderfully portrayed by the talented cast.  Some times it is very clever dialogue.  At other times it is the interchange between and among the actors.

Rescue and close calls are all a part of this story.  Iconic views of the city give empathy.  Overcoming past demons gives strength for current obstacles.

Can an action star portray the deep devotion that pours out of a father’s soul?  Can a man stout with muscle and reputation let his love for a child be his drive?  Johnson did all of this in this film.

Carla Gugino was excellent.  Alexandra Daddario was perfect for her role.  Paul Giamatti was a winner.  Art Parkinson was a memorable feature.  Will Yun Lee showed great promise and was dispatched far too early.

It was a very entertaining film.  I liked it so much, it might be on the list to see again on the big screen theater.  What did you think?

photo credit: google image

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There is an insatiable appetite among humans.  No, it is not about food or possessions or achievements.  Neither is it about money or position or power.  It is about grandchildren and the unending joy that they bring to the experience of a grandparent.

We have been overwhelmed with the love that is generated in our hearts for our first grandchild.  He lives 2,000 miles away and makes for rare hugs and kisses during the year.  Yet, the fountain of desire never ceases.

Now, we have been ready and eager to welcome our first granddaughter into our lives.  She was not like her brother who came five weeks early.  Instead, she pushed the limits of her due date and made her grand entry just two days before her designated day for her birth.

I have not yet met her in person.  That will happen soon.  So far it has been text message announcements, videos and of course pictures sent through cyberspace.

Yes, the objective observer no doubt sees a newborn picture is like every other newborn picture.  But, through the guys of grandparent, the view is much different.  This child is perfect.

Like an angel sent directly from God to bless our family, we celebrate the stewardship of this precious life and welcome her into our hearts.  The love is welling up in a reservoir waiting to be lavished on this little life whenever we can make the pilgrimage to her home.  In eager anticipation we look forward to filling up our grandson’s life and our granddaughter’s life with all that good grandparents are supposed to give.

How can we be so much in love with another human being with whom we have not yet met and one with whom we have never exchanged a single word of a conversation?  This is the mystery of grand-parenting.  It is a wonder yet it is clearly an indisputable reality of life.

When God designed grandparents, He used that season of life as a reward for parents who restrained themselves from murdering their teenagers.  The tough years are washed away as if they never occurred.  This blessed bathing of the human memory is not unlike the greater picture of the redemptive story by our Savior.

So much is washed away by a single act of selfless love.  Grandparents know this dynamic.  It is a reason that we stretch the theology of “angels” and apply it to newborn grandchildren.  Don’t you think this is a great way to stretch a Biblical metaphor?

photo credit: Bailey photography

IMG_5801Businesses that do the best are the ones who give their customers a little extra.  It is a selling point to do something more for those who make your business happen.  This is not an old cliché, it is a pragmatic priority.

Our anniversary comes around every year.  We save to make sure that we can enjoy a wonderful meal at a classy restaurant.  Enjoying God’s blessings over so many years is a testimony to His faithfulness and goodness.

I called one of those special places for our 38th wedding anniversary. The receptionist was very pleasant.  She asked, “Is this for a special occasion?”

Without thinking, I just reacted, “Yes, we are celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary.”
“Wonderful!” she exclaimed, “Congratulations and I will make a note of that.”

We parked and waited for a small break in our standard Houston inclement weather downpour.  When a lull came, we scampered from our vehicle and trotted together under one umbrella holding on to each other while we laughed and hopped over water puddles.  Under the cover of the building eave we shook off the beaded up rain water and casually walked to the striking front entrance of the restaurant.

When I announced to the receptionist that we were there for our reservation, she checked her ledger and smiled, “Please follow me.”  The restaurant was elegant and the atmosphere was welcoming.  Every one of the staff that we passed along the way looked up and smiled with a word of welcome.

The receptionist seated us.  A standard setting at the table was appropriate.  Then, we both noticed the added feature on our table.

Scattered on our table-cloth were confetti.  Mylar figures depicting an anniversary celebration made our setting a wonderful surprise.  We both laughed, smiled and played with the pieces of different shapes, colors and enjoyed the extra sparkle from the lights and candles.

It was a simple extra.  But, it was a surprise.  They did not have to do that but we sure enjoyed it.IMG_5810

Admittedly, this dinner at Ruth’s Chris was delicious.  The chefs at this restaurant are extraordinary.  Every bite is flavorful and makes you rehearse in your soul the meaning of savor.

At the end of the meal our very friendly waiter never asked us if we would like to order dessert.  Instead, he brought out a flaming complementary dish of sweets for us to share.  It is the little extras that make a huge difference, don’t you agree?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderA new friend invited me to enjoy a few days on his ranch.  It was a welcoming invitation that my inner pioneering spirit could not refuse.  Life had built up a myriad of stresses to strain the reservoir that was holding back the enormous bulge.

Before the dam could burst I was on the road for some solitude.  As the miles melted behind me the relaxation already began an amazing sense of relief.  Rejuvenating waves of pressure oozed away and a contentment with a smile emerged in its place.

I dropped my gear off in my room and wandered through the muddy path to meet Paul.  He and I smiled.  Even though it had been some time since we first met, we talked about our last adventure together like it was just a few days in the past.

Paul waved me off and told me to go out and enjoy the ranch.  Now, we laid out a quick strategy.  My camera was in my hands and my boots took me to where I would see the wildlife that lived on his land.

The hot Texas sun was dropping low, just caressing the horizon. Diffused light laid a gentle hue on the grounds around me.  In the tall grass I could see trails of animals that knew these woods much better than me.

As if appearing at the wave of a magician’s wand, a beast strolled into view.  It was a fabulous Corsican Ram.  On its head was a 3/4 curl of powerful horns.

Its coat was Palomino over the top but the underbelly was in a contrasting black.  Speckles of black patched its face.  This ram showed no fear.  But, it did not know that i was present, perched on a platform five feet above the ground.

Every part of this male animal was muscle.  Scratches and scrapes on its horn told of past exploits where it had squared off with lessor rams, beat them into submission and carried on with the spoils of the annual rut.  His offspring would someday wander these woods as well.

The Creator designed this fighting machine.  He proportioned it to launch its entire body into a butting of heads.  Now, it was looking for food, to graze on while one human nearby snapped pictures to remember the moment.  I always think of the word majestic when I see and ram with powerful curled horns.  What comes to your mind?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-1Yes, I was thinking about work when my friend was driving me around for a tour of his longhorn cattle.  When he pointed out a feature of his beasts, I could tell that he was proud of them.  Moving in and out of his conversation was something I do all of the time.  Some call it multi-tasking.

The bright sun made me squint.  Turning my head away and raising an open hand to block the almost painful splashes of light gave me pause.  These massive animals suddenly captured all of my attention.

One of them stood up.  It was huge!  We drove our ATV right next to it and she turned her head to take in what she already sensed was near.  The massive horns deftly avoided hitting anything or hurting anyone.

She shifted her position, unfazed by the presence of human beings.  For now she looked around for some other position to take and then laid down again.  Her cud was keeping her casual and completely relaxed.

That was what arrested my busy mind.  She was totally and completely relaxed.  There did not seem to be a care in the world that would make her alert, nervous, anxious or concerned.

She had a calf that was exploring the world.  It was only days old.  Maybe Mama was recuperating from giving birth or maybe she took the down time that she was due.

Who knows what cows are thinking?

I was surprised by the conversation going on in my head.  But it dawned on me that I had not been thinking about work for the last several moments.  Her relaxation was having an impact on me.  I liked it.

Several other cattle were taking her lead.  They too had found a comfortable place in the pasture to lie down.  Their blood pressure levels seemed to be as casual as hers.

I was enjoying the warmth of the sun.  Easy moods seemed to multiply for me.  In that pleasant Texas morning it was easy to “chill” and take in the ease of being alive and stress-free for the moment.

A slow pace, relaxed atmosphere, simple style and basic comforts of the area were all that I needed.  Some how the busy face paced life back in the city melted away.  Who knows what cows are thinking?  I do.  They are thinking about nothing at all.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_5676Houston is my office space.  It is one of the fastest growing city in America and it is the place where God has called me to serve Him.  Falling in love with a city is easy when the love of the Lord for that city has preceded me.

Yet, my professional occupation requires that I keep a direct channel open to Dallas.  That is where our headquarters is situated.  They make the major decisions and determine the course that I follow while serving here.

Periodically I need to be at meetings in Big D.  Getting to the city in the North is a puzzle.  That bewildering choice is due to the nature of flying compared to driving.

I could fly to Dallas.  The actually flying time is only an hour.  However, you know and every commuter knows that air travel is much more than actual flying time.

Houston is so big that it takes and hour to drive to either one of our two airports.  Of course when we all fly we have to arrive at the airport two hours early.  We need to entertain the security folks.

A little arithmetic makes the choice of the journey a puzzle.  To fly takes one hour to commute to the airport plus two hours early arrival for check-in and security and buffer plus the one hour actual flying time.  The total is four hours.

The drive time to Dallas and our headquarters is four hours.  When I fly I have to arrange for transportation once I arrive in Dallas.  If someone picks me up then I do not have transportation around the city once I arrive.

If I drive to Dallas, then I can also leave when I want, makes stops along the way and return when I want.  My seat is always comfortable and frequently my wife joins me so the company is exquisite.  Rest stops on the journey are also up to me.

One of the discoveries on this journey is the meal service en route to our destination.  Remember this is Texas.  In this part of the world BBQ reigns.

Half way between Dallas and Houston is a tasty BBQ location.  It has the unique traveling grill that often marks its location.  The designers shaped it like a giant single action revolver with the BBQ smoke coming out of the barrel.  You can’t see this when you are flying on a plane.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_5813There is an amazing engineering feature in Houston.  It is called the Buffalo Bijou.  This is a creek for most of its existence, meandering from downtown Houston due West and into the region of Katy.

Katy is my home town and the Buffalo Bijou is familiar to me and my fellow residents.  We appreciate this cavernous grassy canyon snaking through our community because it is a constant reminder that it is ready to take away the deluge of water that visits our part of Texas several times a year.

When there is no rain and the weather has no prediction of precipitation, I along with my fellow Texans overlook this massive amount of real estate.  Green grass lines the banks of this very large creek and overpasses allow traffic to flow unimpeded.  But, it is always ready.

Most of the year a small creek travels through this piece of land.  The slow-moving waters do not cut much of a trail through the dirt.  Most adults could easily leap over the creek without much effort.

I bicycle along this body of water and marvel at its great expanse.  For miles my bicycle wheels roll along the cement trail that lines one of its banks.  Several times I cross a bridge to keep my journey going.

But, then there are those storms, those Texas-sized storms that drench our home with lots of water.  Drains, and canals flow into the Buffalo Bijou.  It comes quickly and flash flood warnings dominate the airwaves to keep people away from flooded areas.

Torrents of water turn a normally calm creek bed into a raging river.  In a short period of time a calm quiet creek fills up that entire flood plain and muddy waters threaten to lap against the massive concrete bridges that gives people safe passage over the rising waters.  I paused for a picture and to marvel at what makes people feel so small and helpless.

When God turns on the spillway of the heavens and stalls the weather front to hold a pattern over Houston, we hunker down and hope for the best.  Neighbor encourages neighbor.  It is the way of the image of God seeping through the desperation of men who find themselves in need of a helping hand.

Good engineers designed a lot of Houston to weather such moments.  I am grateful to those very good planners who looked beyond the pleasant sunny days.  Their planning for these occasional horribly rainy days has given me peace.  I thank God for them!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography