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FullSizeRender-3My perch was comfortable and safe.  A modern well-running ATV would speed me away from any hard charging Texas Longhorn.  All of my experience with these creatures is very limited.

Rawhide, the TV black and white cowboy series of cowboys driving herds of beef to the railroad loading points was my first and roughly the limit of my exposures to these fascinating critters.  They did not seem nearly as big on the TV screen as they did now that I was in the pasture hanging out with them.  Now, they were huge and their horns were massive and seemed incredibly large and pointed in the innocuous direction of anything or anymore who needed a piercing.

It was mid afternoon in Texas.  The temperatures were warming up and most of the herd decided to lie down in the pasture and casual chew a cud.  One little calf seemed to have different ideas.FullSizeRender-1

Can you see it in his face?  “Come on you guys!  Let’s do a little jousting.  At least let’s do a few head buttes just to exercise our bones and stiffen up our neck muscles.  Anyone game?”

He is alert and raring to go, while the rest of the herd and his fellow calves yawn at all the noise of a monologue.  I loved the life in his little frame.  His DNA lay right behind him but what did not yet have in girth he clearly had in a rambunctious spirit.

Then, his sister pulls herself up from her lounging and walks away, “Mom, can’t you tell Johnny to pipe down?  He is jabbering about this and that without ceasing.  Then, he deserves a time out of butting whenever I am not looking.  If he keeps it up I am going to shove him into the lake.”

FullSizeRender-2“Now, Penelope, don’t get your tail all in a tizzy.  He is your brother.  Unless you want him caught of in the roundup and becomes someone’s veal dinner, love him while you have him.  Be his best friend.  You are family and that counts for a lot more than just a few inconveniences now and then,” her mother mothered.

“Good afternoon,” Elsie. “I hear your offspring are keeping the herd entertained for the day.  You handle those feisty calves with wisdom straight from the Creator.”

“Well,” she replied between cud chews, “we all had our day of snorting too much fresh air and forgetting that we are all someones’ dinner.  In the meantime get all cleaned up for the rodeo tonight.  The boss has a contest for us all to enter.”

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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wildlife by Bruce 038February 19 is the start of this year’s Chinese New Year.  Of course everything really unleashes on New Year’s Eve, Wednesday February 18.  The firecrackers and lion dances will signal the beginning of the biggest party of the year.

This is the most important celebration for Chinese families in China and in countries dispersed all around the world.  For many in countries where it is recognized, workers enjoy 8 days off of work.  In the western calendar the dates are February 19 to March 5.

Officially work stops for the first three days of the Spring Festival.  However, practice has evolved into including New Year’s Eve and the following three days as well.  Naturally, the following or closest weekends are included.

Central to the festivities is a family time with relatives and the closest of friends.  This is the holiday when families convene for a feast and reunion.  Multi-generational gatherings are the standard.

It is the year of the goat.  Do not laugh.  The goat is highly regarded among the Chinese, especially ancient Chinese.

This 8th animal from the Chinese Zodiac embodies many wonderful qualities.  Those who are born in the year of the goat are calm, gentle, creative, thoughtful, amicable, persevering, frank and honest.  It is suggested that being born in the year of the goat makes someone most suitable to become pediatrician, actor, teacher, interior designer, musicians and editors.

It is also speculated that these persons are tough on the inside, quiet yet powerful in performance.  While they enjoy quality in the things that they buy they are by no means snobbish or ego-centric.  In fact they are often withdrawn, lost deep in thought.

While there are over 4,000 years behind this tradition, the pathway to real life solutions is not found in country or position.  Earthly wealth is not the key and certainly a life warding off evil spirits leaves a lot to be desired for any kind of personally satisfaction.  Yet, the attempts over the 4,000 years of this celebration reveal a telltale sign.

Everyone wants hope.  But, this appetite is not found in superstition or good luck charms. Instead, real hope can be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is real while so much of the Chinese New Year Celebration is built on human imagination.  Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again so that He could show His victory over death.  Put your faith in Him.  Accept Him as your Savior and you will be blessed.  That will be a real reason to celebrate for eternity.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Christmas 2014 105Step away from the pressure.  When life becomes complicated and confusing, make sure that you get away from those issues just for a moment.  Refresh your soul and you will last longer at whatever you are doing.

When our field trip stopped at the end of the road, we were transported to a place where we could rest, relax and release.  Each of us stepped out of our vehicles and quietly smiled.  It was natural reaction to close our eyes and breath in and exhale with a deliberate effort.

The view into Simi Valley, California was wonderful.  Sunny skies enveloped us in our destination.  Off in the valley we could see enough trees and foliage to sense that life was here and tugging at our hearts to sooth our stressful lives.

There was the distance rumble of heavy equipment.  Hard working men were building something.  Vehicles off on a road far away looked like ants on a journey to a particular destination.

Men had built houses in the landscape.  Farmers had planted crops that were growing.  Others had small orchards with fruit that had long been harvested.

The ribbon of man-made roads woven in between parcels of land.  They determined the route of busy drivers going from place to place.  Engineers in part followed the contours of the land for these pathways of commerce.

In the bigger picture the rendezvous between sky and land was a standout.  The skies were grey, purple and white.  They shaded the distant mountains with their lavender hue.

On the earth green captured the lion’s share of the vistas.  Light green decorated the pastures.  Dark green colored the forests and trees.

The details did not occupy my mind.  It was the big picture.  Everyone of the humans running around in that portrait were filled with troubles, stress and problems.

Individual difficulties seem to be diluted to insignificance from so far away.  That thought gave me more reason to pause in a new world.  It was a moment but a moment well lived.

Tranquility is a rare commodity in our busy lives.  For some life is unbearably brutal.  Others it is so filled with responsibility and stress that two lives cannot bear the pressure let alone one.

But, when moments afford themselves and we can decompress, a rejuvenated life can go back and tackle the challenges that will still be there.  Find a place to breath deeply.  Then, return there often and enjoy His design for rest.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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Sharing time with my bride is a blessing.  During our busy days I eagerly look for opportunities for us to merge our schedules into fun times together.  Some times I even take her shopping.

Yes, that is a perfectly allowable choice.  It is in the fine print on my “Man Card”.  The explanation is under point 27, subsection 12, footnote 75.

We entered a specialty store.  The exclusive product was women’s accessories.  There might even be a subset of specialty stores that describes this venue better, but I frankly do not know what it is.

My bride made her rounds.  Women have a peculiar shopping technique.  The must bond with the products by tactile interaction.

When a woman touches a product she is sensing something about a possible purchase.  Some just use glancing tips of their fingers.  Others grab and others hug the items.

Then, there are those who hold the product up in the air.  Maybe they are attempting to get different lighting angles to help them make their decision.  Yet, others pat the product as if to assure it that their decision NOT to purchase is not personal.

My eyes widened suddenly.  She was coming to me with several products in hand.  “Yipes! She is going to ask me my opinion.”  I force myself to remain calm and act confident.

She assumes the role of a TV Show Hostess Spokesperson.  In turn she displays one choice, shows me the features, talks about the pros and cons.  I listen, acting as if I am tracking with her.

While uttering a timely “Um” or thoughtful “Ah” I miss the transition to a question.  My “Uh huh” is obviously misplaced. “What?  Oh, I’m sorry.  I was thinking about this one here.”

It is a clumsy recovery.  I have been discovered.  Yes, I am a dolt.  I do not understand colors.

In fact I was getting dizzy staring at the wild patterns and countless colors.  How does anyone know how to describe these items?  For me to give an opinion is like throwing dice and calling out whatever numbers happen to land on top.

Knowing what the numbers mean is the trick.  But, I can’t get past my panic attack that feels like being asked a question by a professor in front of my learned classmates and I haven’t a clue as to the answer.  Now, the sweat starts to pour off of my head.  Help!  I feel nauseous! Really!

photo credit: brucefong photography

WY 2014 Andy Fall colorsAndy asked if I wanted to join him on an ATV ride through Vedauwoo National Forest.  “Sure!” was my initial and only response.  It was October and the promise of a sensational vision for a Houstonian was all of the motivation that I needed.

God created our world with an annual weather warning.  Before the harsh winds of winter, the brutal blizzards of the mountains and the frigid temperatures of the stormy season He gave us the Autumn.  This is the time of the year to count our blessings of the past Spring and the enjoyable invigorating days of the Summer.

The deciduous trees can feel the cold coming long before any mammals can detect anything.  Slowly but steadily they turn-off the sap that feeds the life from roots to leaves.  The chlorophyll disappears.

Green leaves now turn red, orange or yellow.  The forest is rich with the bright colors that entertain but also signal the coming of winter.  It is time to hibernate, hunker down by a warm wood fire for the next handful of months.

A cold snap had already visited this 7,000 foot elevation several times.  The trees do not fight it. They submit to forces greater than themselves so that in the Spring they can revive and awaken to a new year.

Andy was leading the way.  I stopped.  He kept riding.

That is when I gratefully snapped a picture of his entering into the wonder of Autumn.  There were no freeways filled with vehicles or throngs of crowds rushing to work or air controllers trying to schedule massive airliners on to a crowded runway.  Instead, the sound of a smoothly running ATV carrying a good friend through the spectacular woods was a vision exclusively laid out for my eyes.

The Creator was displaying His masterpiece in motion.  Add texture and depth to this rainbow of colors and I could feel my soul breathing in deeply the refreshment of life.  Every human being should be so blessed.

When I reached for the key to start my ATV, I found myself smiling.  Life is busy.  It is full of heavy responsibility.

Decisions of major proportions no doubt were piling up on my desk back at the office.  People were wondering when they could discuss the next major issue that they were wanting some direction before they pulled the trigger and committed resources.  For now they had to wait while I recharged my batteries with the One who called me into His service.

Thanks for the invitation, Andy.  It was a fabulous ride.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Disney World 2014 191There are popular animals out of every collection of beasts on the earth.  When people crowd into a well designed aquarium, many linger at one display or another.  In a zoo it is easy to spot the popular animals because the lines are longer and they move so much slower.

When God made the animals He unleashed His creative side.  Each animal is a wonder.  However, some just make us gaze longer and smile more broadly.

Whether it is in a zoo, a wild game park or even in the African bush, one animal claims the popular appeal.  It stands out above the rest.  People always look up to this beast of the plains.

The ever tall and gentle-looking giraffe wins the nod.  There is no other animal on planet earth that looks like this.  They have the exclusive view of the Savannah.

Their elongated neck is their distinctive claim to fame.  Anyone in a game of Pictionary or Charades is smiling if they draw the card telling them to draw this picture or mime the name from eager house guests.  This is a slam-dunk winner for children learning about animals from board picture books.

Take those same children to the zoo and they need to file through their memory when identifying animals in real life.  But, the giraffe is an easy association for them.  They simply marvel at how tall these creatures are in real life.

Beyond its unique height and distinctive neck is its patchwork on its hide.  At first the pattern evades our attention.  It does what the Creator designed it to do.

Observers do not focus on the huge animal.  Eyesight naturally sees the breakup scheme and nearly miss the creature that is clearly taking up space.  Camouflage is the purpose and the purpose is achieved so well.

Its long legs give this animal the gait that suits its foraging.  In a gallop the giraffe looks ungainly.  Yet, it covers ground with enormous speed.

Perhaps its best asset with its height is a buffet that no other herbivore can compete.  The delectable leaves in the heights of the trees can only be reached by this tallest of plains animals of Africa.  They not only can eat what none others can reach, they have the vantage point to spot other savory options over great distances.

This is a remarkable animal.  It is not an accident of chance that it is like this.  Rather, it is the smile of the Creator, who knew what He was doing.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3408Some time in my past a revolution took place.  I was completely unaware of this swirling massive historical moment in my culture.  It made me feel out-of-touch.

My awakening took place in a moment in time.  There was a need for me to shop for a new pair of kick-around shoes.  They would be for times when the weather was hot and shorts were in order.

Color was a feature that did not particularly enthrall me.  I just wanted these new shoes to match the colors of Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall.  What surprised me was how much my expectations were to be stunned and shocked.

Normally, aesthetics are not a forte of mine.  I leave color choices to those who have a knack at design and color coordination.  These people never cease to amaze me.

They explain why they chose certain colors to match with others and it perfectly makes sense.  Or least I am so confused I nod in agreement just to expedite the conversation.  After all, grey and black are colors too are they not?  Even fancy color names can handle the never ending conversations around design.  Names like gunmetal, battleship grey or raven black make a lot of sense to me.

My hunt for a new pair of kick-around shoes began at the local sporting goods store.  When I arrived at the Men’s shoe department, what filled up my senses almost took my breath away.  Colors of the rainbow stunned my visual senses.

Frankly, I looked for a sign to verify that these were in fact men’s shoes.  Every color especially bright and pastel selections dominated one shoe or another.  Florescent colors were very evident too.

Maybe the bright colors were to shield your eyes from the prices.  I wanted a new pair of shoes not a second car.  Who on earth can budget for shoe money like these?

Dominant colors were not the only surprises.  Pastels were all over the selection grid as well.  Pink was even a highlight for some shoes.

It took a while for me to find some options.  Two sales personnel asked if they could be of assistance.  They were young kids asking out of obligation.

“Point me to the MEN’S black shoes with silver highlights,” I requested.  They both looked dazed as if I had asked them to solve the problem of world hunger.  Oh well, after poking around I found my new shoes in basic silver with black highlights and in my size off in a lonely section of the store.  They were not on sale.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3088Capturing action in a sculpture is a talent that wins the admiration of the world’s wealthiest.  This specialized craft seizes the attention of normally busy people.  A statue or piece of sculpture that has been the product of a master artist draws out the wonder in people who appreciate such talent.

My early days of art appreciation was more like an elimination than a discovery.  Elementary school teachers introduced me and my classmates to sculpting.  They put a lump of clay in front of and told us to make it into something.

Several of us sat there, staring at our clay.  A rare student was busy shaping, gauging and pressing the clay to match a picture in their mind.  I remember watching a student going after the clay with enthusiasm.

Finally, I saw in my a dinosaur.  It was a triceratops.  In my mind this magnificent reptile was properly proportioned, vivid in detail and ferocious in stature.

When I finished with my sculpture, there was no sense of proportion, details did not exist and “odd” was my only reaction to my product with no ferocity whatsoever.  My teacher walked by and commented, “Nice work, Bruce, what is it?”  She complemented me but could not guess what I had created.

That’s when I looked down at my creation and saw that two of the three horns had fallen off, the tail was more like a hotdog and the eyes were crooked.  While I imagined my ancient creature stomping through the jungle, it looked more like a mythical alien that had tripped and fallen on the art table.  I was given the option of starting over.  Of course I took that offer.

However, God gave the talent of artwork to a very few who make the rest of us appreciate their skills.  Frederick Remington is one of those outstanding sculptors whose art lives on for generations.  It is not just his craftsmanship but the genre of his work.  Remington captured the fast-moving exciting scenes from the Old West.

The world of cowboys and Indians locked in adventures that tamed the wild plains and mountains is the slice of life often preserved in bronze statues.  One of those classic pieces was in the center of a store in the Houston Hobby airport.  It captured my attention.

Nothing else in the store interested me.  In fact I probably would not have stopped except for this Remington piece.  All of us can leave something spectacular for the next generation.  God made us great that way.  Find out what He has created you to do.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2931I am not usually a flower kind of guy.  Like most men I love the reaction that flowers automatically cause in my wife.  Women stop life to adore flowers that are presented to them.

Therefore, fortuitously, I join real men who are thinking of the woman in their life and then buy flowers.  We thrive as foragers, gatherers and hunters.  In our busy days providing for our family, giving flowers is a selfless act done solely for the benefit of another.

Yet, there is something about a special flower that appeals to me.  Orchids are unique.  They attract my attention.

When I am off on a photography excursion, these special blooms make my lens pause, snap several frames in rapid and thoughtful exposure and honestly make me marvel when the images recall our intersections in time.  In a world of big, powerful and fast-moving things, the delicate orchid defies the dangers of life.  It radiates a remarkable beauty amid the threats of our daily duties.

There is something about the shape of these flowers.  Horticulturists have carefully categorized these magnificent plants, distinguishing them from other flowers.   While the Creator has magnificently composed an endless variety in these special lines in these shapes, there is something similar to them all.  These glamorous flowers are stunning.

Of course there is the color.  Orchids come in all sorts of shades and combinations of the rainbow.  Some are delicate, like pastels.  Others are strong and dominant.

Fragrance is a big part of the orchid family.  When I have strolled into a greenhouse full of orchids, the fragrance is very pleasing.

They scream exotic!  Maybe there in lies much of the mystic of these highlights of beauty.  Each variety hints of origins from tropical islands in the paradise of our imagination.

There are places in our mind that we would love to visit, endure a lingering vacation if we could just afford the time or expense.  For a moment in our imagination, we hear a thundering waterfall filling up a splendid swimming hole.  The pond is surrounded by lush vegetation, ripe fruit hanging on low branches and ocean beaches within eyesight.

In our modest homes, living exceptionally busy lives we finish our excursion in our fantasy world.  Our love in this life smiles while she cradles the new gift.  Together we sigh, thinking of far off places that gave us a brief breather together.  This was a journey shared in our minds just because of a simple exotic orchid.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2599My smile erupted on my countenance when we were escorted into the dining hall.  We had served with gusto through a week of speaking, ministry, fellowship and worship.  Our team was joyful and in a mood of celebration.

Our hosts had their culinary staff create a feast for us.  It was part of their expression of love and gratitude.  We were blown away.

An Asianesque theme was mixed in with a Polynesian flair.  I had to read the menu to figure out what the courses were.  All I know was that it was delicious!

Tasting good is only part of it.  The presentation was spectacular. Even seashells decorated the table.  Special decanters were used to serve the beverages.

There was a wonderful variety of food.  A crispy outer shell surrounded sticky rice.  I had seconds.

The main dish was a medley of tofu, seaweed, pork and vegetables.  Freshly brewed tea was perfectly blended with tropical fruit and chilled for the sensation of marquee ice tea.  Others had personalized French coffee presses for the Java option.

Our host thanked all of us for our part in the program.  His gratitude made us all feel honored to be there.  We debriefed on the wonderful week of ministry and we lauded their team, their staff and volunteers for a refreshing week for all of us.

My bride and I finished our speaking events.  We were tired but deeply fulfilled that we could be there to serve.  Then, we returned to our room.

IMG_2597When we entered, she was laughing.  I hurried in to see what was stimulating her funny bone.  Without a word she just pointed and kept on laughing.

I grabbed my camera and photographed the creation of the housekeeping staff.  There on our freshly made bed was a towel art.  They had taken the ordinary towels and like origami they shaped these run-of-the-mill towels into a lamb.

That is a touch of class.  These staff members do not have to do the extras.  Yet, they smile, greet us cheerfully, went out their way to wait on us.  This creative artwork was the climax of a wonderful week.

Whether it was splendid meal, a special towel art, a cheerful greeting or extra attention in their service to us, we were delighted to smile back, thank them profusely and do our part on the speaking side and deliver the Word with passion and precision.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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