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IMG_4855.jpegThe turn into the memorial called up old feelings. We observed the modest speed limit. Clearly we were entering a solemn site.

There was a tower of chimes off to the left. It was the architect’s remembrance of the voices of the 40 heroic lives lost. Our time only allowed for the main visitor’s center.

A park ranger was looking for welcoming ears. I asked her a question. That’s all it took.

She pointed out the expanse of the memorial. Acres and acres of land had captured the vast area to capture our hearts.

Up on a hill, some what far away, we overlooked a slope that led our eyes to a distant pair of white parallel walls. Their placement kept our eyes peering for meaning. A green strip of carefully mowed grass ended at a boulder.

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Our park ranger paused. That’s it, the point of impact. Flight 93 crashed right there.

The tree line was burnt from the explosive jet fuel. Every life on the plane was immediately extinguished. The passengers were heroes.

We are not sure what great disaster their sacrifice averted, but it must have been big.

It was a reflective moment to part ways. Many of us stopped at the visitor center. President George W. Bush words played on a loop, synchronized with slides of the disaster of that day.

His presidential resolve spoke for Americans then; it was clearly resonating with all of us still. A variety of us, very diverse visitors, quietly listened. Few words were spoken among us.

There were nods shared among total strangers. Whispered words from a Vietnam veteran Staff Sgt. broke our silence. We thanked him for his service.

Yes, I recall my promise to never forget. I have kept that promise. It is not possible to forget.

IMG_4872.jpegExperiencing this memorial, feeling the solemnity, hearing Bush 43, and sharing with fellow Americans what words could not capture, remind me not just to remember but realizing what cannot be forgotten. Heroes were among us. Today many still surround us.

A flag flies in front of our home to commemorate this American change from so many years ago. Many of my neighbors have placed a flag to wave along our street so that we can all remember what none of us can ever forget. May God bless America.

photos by brucefong photography 

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The kitchen by no means favors me in its room to ply my culinary art. My skills are definitely in the limited category: primarily survival food. Now, on occasion I can read the directions, follow them, and proudly present the final product. Thank God that His providence functions efficaciously and directs it to be edible!

When the grandkids were en route for a long stay, a menu popped into my mind. It included sweet desserts. One was “Rice Krispie” treats.

They always look inviting. Taste is a big win. Of course there is the sticky gooey fun of eating them.

On a recipe skill level, this dessert treat is EASY. Measure this, melt this, stir this, press it down, add fun sprinkles and let it cool. By the time our grandkids roared through the front door, it was waiting to welcome them.

Our oldest grandchild buzzed over to the colorful tray with a smile as wide as the Gulf of Mexico.

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“May I have some?” he questioned with the politeness that made me want to hand over the entire tray.
“You better ask your parents first,” was my safe Grandfatherly response.
“Daddy?” he looked with a longing hope.
“Sure. Which piece to you want?” his father asked.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the second photo shows the results of his request. It was the deepest part of the tray. He knew where to drop his line for the biggest fish in the lake.

I laughed. He smiled. His munching away was off-the-charts cute!

photographs by brucefong photography

IMG_3104The number 42 made me smile today. Today is the anniversary of my wife and my wedding day. We have been married for 42 years.

In all of that time, decades of years and nearly countless days, she never once considered divorce. Now, temper that with the unsurprising reality that murder was on the table many times. With chagrin I will admit that she was justifiably and understandably well within her rights to make that choice! We had tons of adventures that makes us smile more broadly today than we did when we began our journey together.

Just weeks after our wedding ceremony we packed up our pickup truck and drove to Dallas, Texas. Good ol’ Herman, our pickup truck, didn’t even have air conditioning. My wonderful wife melted in the Texas heat but stuck with me.

Then, we packed up our possessions and moved to our first ministry post in Portland, OR. God blessed us with our three wonderful children. Many lifelong friendships began in the city of Roses.

We crated what belongings we could and moved to Aberdeen, Scotland. Our little family had a ball in the United Kingdom. Each of the children picked up a lilting Scottish Brogue. Wonderful blessings and amazing International friends packed in Highland memories for life.

Then, it was back to Portland for season. That was followed by over a decade of sacrificial ministry in Michigan. God then led us to San Francisco, CA for more amazing service. His perfect and divinely ordered journey returned us to Texas, this time in the amazing city of Houston.

My bride has been by my side through it all: blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and humidity. We have clung on to the best Christians in the world. Together we weathered human storms with His grace. I never would have survived without her.

She is my love, my confidant, my greatest fan, and most patient advisor. Happy Anniversary, My Love! May our Mighty and Merciful God generously grant us many more years of being in His service together. Joy!

UnknownThis movie, Unplanned, was one that I anticipated. Trailers popped up periodically for months. The story was very compelling.

I will admit that I have a strong attraction to movies based on a true story. Real lives, real drama, and real transformation win my attention. Weave in a message that is important to life and I am ready to buy my tickets.

A good person enters into the world of Planned Parenthood. Her personal saga is uncovered and adds to the intricacies of the story. Family and friends and faith all play a part in this narrative.

The movie portrayed the presence of extreme protesters and terse rants on the part of the right to life crowd. The obnoxious ones were a small minority but they were clearly identified in the story. At the same the majority of the life side were depicted as kind, gracious, and helpful.

Thankfully, the side of Choice were also depicted well. They were portrayed largely as good people albeit surrounded in a volatile atmosphere. Desperate young women with few apparent alternatives come to the clinic seeking a solution.

The chief adversary was left unexplained. Thoughts of greed, power, bitterness, and the like were introduced as possibilities. But, more questions than speculation were presented.

The one antagonist was cast well. She displayed and portrayed the intent of the Choice side. It was unlikable.

I liked the movie. Prayer works. Christians need to persevere. Unborn babies need to be protected.

When abortion happens, it is ugly. An innocent life that ends because of human intent, it is heartbreaking. The movie wrencheed my soul.

Reflecting over this film, I have good thoughts that sometimes justice prevails in the courtroom. Family is a genuine support group. Husbands can do well. Forgiveness from a merciful God is wonderful.

brucefong photography

Unknown-8We still are in an age when Christian films fill spectators with fearful expectation. All of us who are people of faith want Christian films to do well. However, we have come to expect a low-budget embarrassment that is a step backward from hoping a transformative message can work its way into the lives of people who are in desperate need to discover a redeeming message for their eternity.

After comfortably settling into my reserved reclining seat, the film “Running the Race” began. Slowly, my anxiety of expecting embarrassment melted away. Very respectable acting won the day. Good!

Character development of key roles and fascinating curiosities unfolded. Fun moments, good humor, anxious developments, clever dialogue, tension building choices, wise words from smart people, and a surprising hero all made the movie worth seeing. Even more so, this is a movie I am pleased to recommend as one worth seeing.

Brother loyalty is a powerful narrative. This film captures it well. Eternity is an unparalleled dynamic in human life. This film represents it attractively. Tragedy in life is a reality from which we must all emerge. This film develops it effectively. Choices turn our lives from loss to gain. This film captured this in the heart of its message.

This is a movie worth seeing. Bring a friend. Then, recommend it to others.

photo by bruce w fong photography

UnknownIf these “smart” devices are what they say they are then how come they don’t even know the difference between Senior citizens and Millennials? We think differently. Our destinations are different. My generation would never go to that part of town.

I will admit that the GPS in our car is easier to use than my truck. It types easier. Notice I said “type” not “key”.

The screen on our car GPS is huge compared to my truck’s tiny one. But, my truck GPS is familiar to me. I know how it works, what its quirks are, and it has my confidence. When we travel in the car, I exit the house a few minutes early just to figure out how to program the GPS.

Last week we suddenly realized en route that we did not know how to cancel the navigation when we did not need it any more. I had a Millennial in the car with me later that week and I asked him if he could figure it out. NOPE. My wife and I tried to do a joint “bail out” while traveling home. FAIL.

On a solo run I figured that I had to resolve this mystery. I pulled over in a parking lot. No, I didn’t pull out the owner’s manual. My wife and I tried that twice but couldn’t find out which volume to use. After looking through all three to no avail, we gave up.

I had parked in the back of our campus facilities. Since I did not park in the front the Navigation did not conclude itself but kept on running during my next venture out. It kept trying to direct me back to my office.

In some business parking lot I did what I do best. I started touching buttons. My peripheral vision caught the destination icon with a slash through it. Ah! I touched it and the GPS asked if I wanted to cancel the Navigation. “YES! YES! PTL! YES!” I exclaimed.

NOT good enough. I had to TOUCH the button to initiate the cancellation. Smart device? Not so smart operator. Sigh.

 

IMG_0836We all share a common experience during election season. How many political groups have my phone number? A number of those irritating calls have those toll-free numbers. The area code gives them away.

Sure, we were taught by our moms to be polite at all times. Politeness and manners wear thin after the rat-ta-tat force of words that stream from the mouth of a volunteer don’t give us room to breathe let alone give a thoughtful response.

Within seconds they have dumped a well-design load of words into our ears. It was just a prelude for them to ask for a financial donation. Yes, they specify an amount. Any hesitation on our part is met with a lesser amount. Of course the desperate need for our hard-earned dollars is vital to the cause.

This midterm election surprised me. The “other” party called and asked me for a donation. They were polite but just as forceful. I was also polite in my refusal and I asked them to remove my name and number from their list.

I did try to lay my telephone receiver down on my desk while I carried on with my work. Their constant barrage of words and salesmanship went on for several minutes before I heard them ask, “Are you there? Hello! Hello!” They hung up. I felt a little guilty.

Enough is enough. No more annoyance. No more guilt.

I went out with my bride as soon as our schedule allowed and we voted EARLY. It was amazing. After that the relentless political ads were no longer troubling. Further, the phone calls started to fall away.

Never doubt my resolve. I love my country and put up with the political wrangling. Yes, I even donated to the candidate of my choosing. But, voting, that is a privilege of great price. Those who fought and died so that I could have my voice heard, I am forever grateful. If we could only put a lid on the political ads, calls and bickering.

photo by bruce w. fong photography

31531388_2135635573119502_1994887011911073792_nEducation has fallen on hard times. Enrollment is one of the non negotiable items in the world of higher education. Administrators lose sleep over declining numbers with each passing academic year.

Private institutions of higher education are feeling the tightening belt even more. That magic number attached to enrollment makes heads spin, competent employees to panic, and media sites to attack the topic in a feeding frenzy. Education finds its identity in the numbers census of bodies in desks.

This is my world too. Education is my field of specialization. There have been hours and days and weeks and months that I have discussed, studied, and pursued students to enroll into our institution.

Here is a lesson that has helped me: Work hard to do all you can. Then, trust the final results to God.

In 2 Kings 6 Israel and Aram were at war with each other. The Arameans were making a killing by robbing Hebrew caravans of rich cargo. Their king secretly plotted ambush and ambush and absconded with great wealth.

Finally, the man of God, Elisha intervened and told the King of Israel all of the Aramean plans. His prophetic foresight thwarted further Aramean raids. Irritated, the King of Aram first tried to blame one of his own officers for leaking their top-secret plans.

A quick thinking officer plays his “get out of jail card” and informs the king that Elisha the prophet tells all of Aram plans to his king in Israel. The Arameans send an army to surround Elisha. His servant sees the enemy threat, panics with desperate fear, and exclaims, “What shall we do?”

Elisha is the portrait of calm. He simply prays that God will open the eyes of his servant and allow him to see what God has done to protect them. In answer to Elisha’s prayer, the servant sees that there are angels and fiery chariots from heaven surrounding Elisha. The words of this amazing prophet are worth remembering: “Those who are with us are greater than those who with them.”

Remember: God will often have a solution ready before we even realize that we have a problem. Use eyes of faith to see what God has already done. Fear not, even with huge problems like enrollment.

 

 

We live in SE Texas. Images of cowboys rounding up cattle, oil donkeys pumping crude, and Bluebonnets decorating miles of rolling hills may be the images that dance in your mind’s eye. For others they have a personal experience and a vivid memory: HOT HUMID summer days of August may come to mind.

This unrelenting summer weather hits visitors in the face when they come out of hiding due to obligations of work, meetings, or life necessities. Texans joke about this weather, “It’s great for your complexion.” “But, look at the other 10 months of the year…PERFECTION!”

It is the wrong time of year for our refrigerator ice maker to go out of commission. We had come home from a West Coast vacation where the cool Pacific Ocean allowed us to bask in its daily refreshment. Then, the Texas heat and humidity welcomed us home.

Inside our air-conditioned home, we dropped our bags and went straight into the kitchen. Our 1.5 year old refrigerator would give us the relief of ice-cold water, right? Wrong! The slowly grinding gears of the ice machine delivered nothing. We tried over and over to coax just a few ice cubes from the relief maker. Nothing.

Laying hands on the unit, prayers, and promises did nothing.

Finally, it was time to read the owner’s manual. Nothing. Even when I found the English version of the instructions. Nothing.

For days we purchased bags of ice from the market. We would make the journey into the garage freezer to collect the ice and have our refreshing beverages. Multiple times during the day, I would think and think more about my options. Warranty? Repair? Purchase?

Finally, one night I stumbled on to several YouTube.com entries. Multiple videos of fixing this problem were listed. Victory! Success! ICE!

The sweet celebration of fixing a problem shared by others online was satisfying indeed. Now, the Texas heat and humidity are at bay once again. It was a close call but refreshing ice is again waiting to be collected in our glasses for a refreshing beverage at our convenience. Voila! ICE!

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I was not interested in anything extra at our Big Box store. My resolve, however, was not resilient enough. My head snapped to the left, both of my feet came to a halt, and I moved our shopping cart out of the busy aisle.

Whoa! It was a 60″ one piece bathroom vanity. The price was very attractive. A display piece had smooth running drawers, well-thought-out storage, granite counter top, quality craftsmanship, sharp-looking colors, and dimensions that would fit in our Master bathroom.

Our house is a fixer upper. Six years ago we knew that we would have to inject large doses of love in order to make this house a winner. Each year we pick a major project and transform this dwelling into our personal home little by little.

Upgrading our Master Bathroom was clearly on the upgrade list. A twin vanity came with the house. The counters were plastic. Counter space was very limited. My bride’s faucet leaked. Craftsmanship on the wood cabinet was non-existent.

We made the leap. This year we would buy that new vanity and have it installed. Professional installers were contracted to do the work.

Yes, I could have done the work myself. In my youthful past plumbing projects were always something that I personally tackled. They did not turn out well.

More than once I surrendered and called a pro to fix the problems. This time I started with the pro. Wow! What a smart choice.

His van was filled with all of the extras. I would have made five trips to the local hardware store to pick up what I did not know that I needed the first several trips. My jobs ended up taking over a week since small challenges would crop up and I would have to read and ask questions to get it right.

These pros are aware of the possible issues in advance. New unseen problems were not an issue. They had the parts and the expertise to keep on working.

On top of that I am getting a lot of my ministry work done while two experts are getting all of the plumbing work done. Most importantly, the job is getting done right. I like it when the professionals come in and together we all do our own thing.

photo by bruce w. fong photography

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